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Showing posts from May, 2017

Learning From Somebody Else's Enthusiasm

Because I know nothing about the sport of rock climbing, it seemed like I should at least watch people doing it. When was it -- the early 1990s? -- when this sport became popular where I lived at the time. I had a friend who got sucked in, while I just rolled my eyes at the latest fad.

After all, there weren't good places to pursue the sport locally. So it was likely to turn into one of those sports where one buys a bunch of equipment and spends most of the year planning and fantasizing over a vacation at some exotic location. I have never been attracted to sports that can only be pursued at a few specific locations, far far away from where you live.

Therefore I was not pre-disposed to think highly of the rock climbing that I watched recently. Surprisingly, it was rather interesting.

For one thing the climber was using their entire body, unlike the aerobic sports, which tend to only use the legs, lungs, and heart.

Secondly, there was risk to the climbing. I am not going to offer an ad…

How To Improve Memorial Day

Every year, on Veteran's Day, I suggest a way to improve it by making it more real, honest, and fair. I have gotten one email that praised the essay.

Today I would like to improve Memorial Day. Let's start with the premise that it is a fine thing to remember and honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

The question is, why should those honorees be restricted to members of the U.S. military? Let's honor the civilians killed intentionally or unintentionally by the U.S. military. The civilians' sacrifices were just as real. Why do we discriminate in such an unfair way?

Choosing Rather Than Being Chosen

Is this really happening? I am camp hosting on the first of the Big Three summer weekends, in Colorado, and I am enjoying myself. So is everybody else. And they are such nice folks.

So what's the catch? Oh yea, we did have some obnoxious ultra-lite planes fly over the campground at 7 a.m. at low altitude, for no reason other than saying, "Look at me." But the kids probably enjoyed it.

So why am I jinxing myself by shooting my mouth off on the internet? The gods smite mortals who commit hubris online. At least I won't compound the sin by also committing blabbermouthery about my location.

This experience reminded me of a trick I learned long ago when winter camping in one of the crowded places in lower Arizona. It seemed clever to camp away from the crowd. But invariably, some clown would see me off by myself and move in close. Then they would start off-loading the kiddie motorcycles, contractor generators, etc.

And I would think, what did I do wrong? Actually, what works …

How Real World Experience Affects Political Theories

Although I am not one of them, there are people who enjoy reading political science or 'theory of government' books. It would be interesting to see what a person of that type would go through if exiled from their reading lamp to the right place in the real world.

Let them take a campground hosting job for awhile. Quite aware that my suzerainty is much better than the average gig, or rather, that its clientele is much above average, I am still affected by the experience. It gives me a chance to see how people behave when they act as they really want to act.
Many people immediately turn to generating noise, destruction, or filth. Unmindfulness of the consequences of their own behavior on their neighbors, who have an equal right to enjoy their public land.Using a construction site generator to power a microwave oven to make a cup of tea or coffee. Are they really unable to understand that they can heat a pan of water on the propane stove in 3 minutes?Do they need high power applian…

Outdoor Perfection

I actually got a picture of both of them disporting on the ridge, but it isn't worth showing. After all, that is the whole point.

Chilly, dry air. A mostly blue sky, with a few puffy clouds. And just enough cool breeze to stimulate without annoying. But I wasn't the only creature to respond to the breeze. A turkey buzzard was using ridge-lift to fly along, almost effortlessly.

A mountain bike, a dog, and a turkey buzzard. I thought my dog was tired until she saw that turkey buzzard. Then she blasted across the ridge, using the trail as her route -- quite surprising. The turkey buzzard was curious about her, but didn't taunt her as much as a dastardly raven would.

It doesn't get any better than this. But you're not telling us anything new, the long-suffering reader is thinking. But I don't care. I'm not trying to invent something, I'm merely trying to wallow in something good.

Defeating the Prevailing Tourist Culture

Stepping out of your camper early on a cool windy morning, you don't expect to be greeted by a slithering rattlesnake. But there it was, sidewinding its way from the tow vehicle to my trailer door. Of course, it could have been a bull snake, but I didn't have time to ask questions. It was strange how purposeful and sentient its behavior seemed.

I chased it underneath the trailer. I cringed when it wrapped itself around the axle and then expanded its circle to fill up the inside of the wheel. Hey wait a minute, don't I have holes in the floor? This snake was becoming alarming.

I kept chasing the snake with rocks, a broom, and then a (short!) mattock. He knew I was after him. When I circled around him, he would turn his head to face me, head on. He also retracted into a multiple-sigmoid shape, and struck at me, several times. Finally the mattock cut him in half.

But he didn't die right away. He lacked rattles, so perhaps he was a noble bull snake, who is supposed to be the …

Authenticity Surrounded by Taos Tourism

If you want to lose confidence in your own judgement, just try visiting the famous plaza in Taos, NM. First you will have to fight traffic and struggle for a place to park. Then you will walk around, visit a shop or two, and put up with aggressive store workers and high prices.

Then a seditious thought lays hold of you: that there is nothing "famous" about the place. A visit to the downtown area in any small city in Mexico (or any place with a Mediterranean culture) is more interesting, chaotic, free, colorful, and authentic than Taos, NM.

But if that's true, what are all the tourists doing here? There are a hundred of them for every one of you. Are you going to claim that you are so much smarter or have such superior taste to the hundred?

Perhaps one reason that some of the suckers are there is that the previous president abused the Antiquities Act to declare a gigantic area nearby a national monument. The Antiquities Act is not should not be a way for a presidential signa…

Creating the Perfect Tow Vehicle Out of Imperfection

Wiser men than I have fallen victim to the 'previous investment trap.' That is my official excuse for taking so long to turn an imperfect -- and steadily worsening -- tow vehicle situation into a drastically better choice. 

(Since I refuse to carry a mountain bike on the outside of a vehicle, my tow vehicle choices are restricted to a van or a pickup with a heavy, expensive cap on the back. I am afraid the white cargo van has become such a stereotype that it will receive prejudicial treatment from rangers.)

In fact I haven't been this pleased and excited for a long time. There really is something to be said for agonizing over a problem for a long time before finally 'hitting the ball out of the park.' It adds drama to life.

When I put the doggie door into the rear cargo ramp in my cargo trailer, I finally broke free of the Previous Investment Trap. I abandoned the idea of making a screen room out of the back of the trailer, and decided to see if the mountain bike coul…

Any Way to Get an Authentic Native American Experience?

Long-suffering readers probably think that Native Americans are among my favorite piñatas, but that's not really true. But it is true of the gringo's romanticization of Native Americans. 

Earlier I wrote about how easily charmed I once was by an Indian squaw carrying her papoose around in a laundromat I was using at the time. I insist on believing that she learned that trick from her mother or grandmother, and not from a college course called, "Native American Heritage 101," taught by a professor with a federal grant. This proves I am a bigot with a heart of gold.

The best places to think about this issue of Authenticity versus Romanticization are those where the juxtaposition of the two things is extreme.  Consider the northwestern edge of burgeoning St. George, UT: there an upscale gringo retirement enclave lives only a few miles from a small and raggedy-assed rez. 

Another, and larger scale example, is Santa Fe versus Española, NM. (That latter is a rez town that ma…