In the aviation community, when you need an excuse to fly, much of the time you pick a place to fly for lunch. It became known as the “hundred dollar hamburger,” since with the cost of fuel, such a trip seemed to cost a hundred dollars. A similar tradition applies to motorcyclists when they need an excuse to ride.
Abby and I needed an excuse to go somewhere together on this beautiful, sunny Sunday, and after all that I wrote on The Traveller about the Wichita Mountains recently, I thought it would be really nice to take Abby to the place I spent so much of my recreational time in the last 40 years.
Our first stop was Meers, where Abby was eager to try their world famous Meersburger. She ended up getting the quarter pound hamburger, while I got an order of fried green tomatoes. Everything was great.
Some other stops on our quick tour of these ancient mountains in southwest Oklahoma…
- Parallel Forest
- Roadside stop to photograph a longhorn steer
- Quanah Parker dam
- Prairie Dog Town
- Roadside stop to photograph bison
- Mount Scott, the popular area high point
By dinnertime we were back home in Ada, where we had ice cream for dinner. In the end, it was one of those lovely days with my wife. I hope to add some of today’s images to my recent Wichita Mountains trip report. With so many fun things to do and see in the Wichitas, Abby and I hope to return soon.
Today on Facebook someone I like posted the following: “Obama has to go. His agenda is to ruin this country.”
I unfriended her within seconds, and here’s why: neither the Democrats nor the Republicans want to “ruin” the nation. You have to be pretty small-minded to think such dogmatic, robotic thoughts.
I’ve talked about this before, but I think it deserves further mention. I am very liberal. I think the Republicans, and many of the Democrats, are seriously misguided in their thinking. I thought George W. Bush was a very poor president, and not a very bright guy. Still, at no point did I think he or the Republicans wanted to ruin our country.
I think we all want America to be great. I think we all want to be happy and free. The difference between Obama and Bush, between Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton, between liberal and conservative, is simply that we have very different ideas about how to get it done.
So if you start spouting off about how the other side wants to “ruin” the country, I beg you to reconsider. And until you can break free of your hillbilly flag-waving, I won’t be adding you as a friend or approving your comments.
“We don’t need to lower our carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is a fertilizer.” -U. S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ada Municipal Airport, January 27, 2012.
I am a champion of the notion that almost all television is, for me anyway, unwatchable. I find most programs insulting and degrading to my intellectual sensibilities, and I find most of the musical scores, particularly of commercials, offensively loud. You might call me an intellectual snob for these attitudes, but I challenge you to do the following experiment:
Watch the first four or five minutes of a program on Spike or HDTV or some other themed cable network at a volume level sufficient that you can make out all the dialog, then in the middle of that, mute the volume.
I think you will find that silence as golden as any you have ever heard.
I thought of this today because I was thinking about television from the 1960s and 1970s, and how, for lack of a better word, cheap it was. Watch a 1970s sitcom intro at tv-intros.com and prepare to be amazed by the absolutely sh!tty the production values. Some of these things probably took no more than 30 minutes and a two-man crew with one 16mm camera to produce.
This all got started in my head this morning when I thought of a phrase uttered by one of my childhood science fiction heroes, Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock. In the midst of struggling to recover the Captain during a perilous beam-up, he says, “Cross-circuitiung to A,” followed a few dramatic moments later by, “Cross-circuiting to B.”
When I was 10, that sounded incredibly cool. Now that I am 48, I can’t believe how lame it is. Cross-circuiting to B? Really?
As an outdoors person, one might expect me to have been pretty cold and miserable on any number of occasions, but the truth is that while I love to hike and camp in the colder months, the one time I was colder and wetter than any other in my life wasn’t in the wilderness at all, but at a rock concert.
It was April 29, 1994, and our friend Scott invited about seven of his friends, all Pink Floyd fans, to stay at his home in McKinney, Texas, and for all of us to attend a Pink Floyd Concert together at Texas Stadium in nearby Irving.
I must with some shame admit to being quite ill-prepared to deal with any kind of bad weather, which I should have been given that Texas Stadium was an open-top arena. By the time I was halfway to the Dallas metroplex, I was driving through sheets of pouring rain, thinking about all the rain gear sitting at home in my closet.
Once at Scott’s, the rain continued, but we all very wishfully thought it would clear up by concert time. In fact, the rain did stop in time for the concert’s start. We arrived at the stadium in three groups, and not all at the same time, so we didn’t all end up setting together. I remember the concert started unceremoniously with the band’s lesser-known Astronomy Domine as their lead song. I also remember being very unimpressed with the show in general, since in spite of efforts to dress it up with lights and mechanical devices, the size of the stadium made the band members themselves, David Gilmore, Rick Wright, and Nick Mason (since it was long after the departure of Roger Waters), appear as tiny figures in the distance.
I also noted that in addition to the usual weed that was passed around, at least two people near us were snorting lines of cocaine, which to me doesn’t say “Pink Floyd fan,” but “drug addict.”
I’ve been to better concerts. Probably the best was Kansas, who we saw in 1982 at Lloyd Noble Arena in Norman, Oklahoma, which is much smaller. I could actually tell who was who, and the relatively smaller crowd created a better sense of intimacy between the performers and the fans.
Just about in the middle of the show at Texas Stadium, there was a flash and a peal of distant thunder, which of course was greeted by a peal of cheers. Before long, rain and more lightning started in ernest, creating an environment that was not only dangerous, it was soaking any of us who were seated (read: standing) on the stadium floor.
The concert continued. It seemed like it went on for another 45 minutes, yet my friends and I didn’t leave, nor did anyone around us. I suppose we were trying to be “die hard” fans, but in truth I was getting pretty miserable, drenched in cold spring rain, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and jeans with a hoodie. Within minutes it was all soaking wet and hanging low on my body.
After the concert finally ended, we started to make our way back to the car in drenching rain, much of the way wading in six-inch-deep rivers of ice cold parking lot drainage.
In the end, I found the whole experience a gigantic waste of time, and by the end of the night I had been colder and wetter than any time before or since.
An amusing sidebar to this entry is the fact that I recalled the entire thing from memory and wrote it all, and only then went home and looked it up in my journal, to discover that pretty much every recollection was accurate. I’ve still got it!
For some months, Abby and I have noticed, to our annoyance, that Max the Chihuahua has been licking himself more frequently and more intensely. We tell him, “no licky!” but the next time we check, he is licking himself again.
Chihuahuas tend to be very clean dogs, almost like cats, but this was not only more than typical for the species, it was bordering on obsessive.
I took him to our vet today, where our friend Stephanie examined him, joined by the other vet, Bruce. Together they examined him with great care, then with a tweezer teased out a stitch, which had to have been left behind from when he was neutered, sometime prior to when Abby and I got him in 2006. I have to say I was surprised that it was something as simple as that, and a little amazed that it’s been in his body for nearly seven years. Steph gave him an antibiotic injection and sent him home.
Abby and I spent the day in her hometown, Ryan, Oklahoma, today. As we sometimes do, we bought chicken and side dishes at KFC in Duncan, 35 miles away, and brought it for the family. We gathered at the home of Abby’s father’s widow Ethel, who is always glad to see us.
As the day progressed, we were inundated by a fierce wind storm, and the dust in the air reminded me of late winter or early spring days growing up in Lawton, Oklahoma, 70 miles to the northwest.
It was quite cold and still yesterday, and quite warm and windy today, and when the weather changes harshly like this, it seems to make Abby’s rheumatoid disease flare. I would like to read up on the effects of weather changes on arthritis sufferers, though as it stands now, I can tell you that it is a very real occurrence.
By late afternoon we rummaged through some of Abby’s father’s things in the old barn, including some tools he used to create custom engraving on firearms he made. Finding it brought tears to Abby.
We got home after dark, with dust in our hair.
In ancient Rome, a Forum “was a public square in a Roman municipium, or any civitas, reserved primarily for the vending of goods; i.e., a marketplace, along with the buildings used for shops and thestoas used for open stalls. Many fora were constructed at remote locations along a road by the magistrate responsible for the road, in which case the forum was the only settlement at the site and had its own name, such as Forum Popili or Forum Livi.“ (Wikipedia)
In modern Internet, a forum is also a gathering place, only without civility or common sense. As the years have passed, I have tried to participate in several forums for several interests, but without fail those forums degenerated into mediocrity, and I left.
The first internet forum I visited on a regular basis was Sidehill Salmon, a board for posting tips and hints for those who played the video game Quake III Arena. At first, like all forums, it was true to its calling, and contained information about playing the game. Soon though, other items began to creep in. Politics, mostly. By the time someone posted, “Check out this picture of Osama Bin Laden getting kicked in the junk,” I knew it was time to leave.
In 2000, I was encouraged to join a Yahoo! Group for my high school class, where my classmates and I posted stuff all the time. In one month (April 2001, just three months before our 20th reunion) we posted 3571 items. After the reunion, the number dropped precipitously, and I left the group about three years ago, when there were only 39 posts that year.
In the photography world, I enjoyed two forums, robgalbraith.com and pdnonline.com. Rob Galbraith sold his forum, and pdn switched to an amazingly stupid software setup and everyone left, most of us migrating to prophotoforums.com.
Somewhere around 2007, I got involved in another Yahoo! Group called “Canyons,” but one of the biggest contributors encouraged me to leave and join a new forum called Uutah.com. I did, and became a significant contributor. As the months and years went by, I made some friends on Uutah.com, which led to some great interactions, and even meeting and hiking with people like the Joe and Heather Gardner, or Kev, with whom I have hiked several times.
A couple of years later, due to the threat of litigation, Uutah.com became the Bogley.com “outdoor forum.” From there, things seemed to go downhill. Since the forum was no longer just about Utah, it attracted an increasingly diverse group of internet users. Administrators, for reasons that never became clear to me, created a section called “The Basement,” which mostly housed political discussions. The fact that it was a separate section, however, made it easier to ignore.
The problem for me came when the “General Discussion” section became increasingly populated by posts about things other than the outdoors or Utah, particularly chat about video games. Every day there were notifications about new posts in General Discussion, but when I looked there, it was full of posts about Halo and World of Warcraft and Call of Duty and Gears of War and on and on. When I suggested that forum moderators created a separate section for video games, I was greeted with a cacophony of protests from those video gamers, some hateful, some very rude, and all telling me, a member of Bogley since it’s first year as Uutah.com, to mind my own damn business. “You don’t have to read them if you don’t want to.”
Bogley wasn’t an outdoor forum any more. It was a hodge-podge of political hate speech, animated gif files, and arguments about Grand Theft Auto IV vs Dragon Warrior II. I never wrote, or read, another post on Bogley.
Abby and I are sharing one of the worst head colds either of us can remember, so our sleep last night was marginal at best. Perhaps that, more than anything else, created this bizarre dream:
I was helping a family plant a garden. One of the first things I do is accidentally cut down a medium-sized tree the family had planted when they moved in. I apologized profusely. I discovered that the father was planting salad in the garden instead of seeds, but I didn’t say anything. I went inside to brush my teeth and get ready to go to my own house on the same block. The family insisted they brush their teeth with me, only to be mortified to find the sink was full of dog food.
At some point I got lost looking for my house, which has the oven on the outside. I run into a man with a console stereo on wheels, which seems to be churning out numbers and letters. He gives me multi-turn directions to get back to my street, none of which I understand.
Unable to find my house and facing a very steep street, I revert to robotic baby mode. In this mode, I am wearing a blue plastic diaper and football-like shoulder pads, and am able to ignore my troubles because I am a baby.
My friend Steph shows up, and tells me she can tell who is insane and who isn’t by analyzing small pieces of alphabet soup and carpet fibers that float past us in the street. Our friend Amber is an alphabet soup “M” with a red carpet fiber in her. When we tell her she is insane, she becomes real and hugs Steph, then hugs me saying “your hugs are so smooth!”
She begins to walk away into the sunset, past an overturned KFC truck with changing letters in its logo.
Walking down our 100-yard-long driveway in the cold recently, I thought about times in the past, walking in the cold, my shoes making that tell-tale crunch and grind, my breath streaming, the sky darkening with night.
It reminded me, of course, of hiking, which is one of my favorite things to do in the world. As I walked, I waxed rhapsodic in my head about all our adventures. It’s always best to have Abby by my side, though I sometimes like to venture out alone, or with one of my hiking buddies from around the globe like with Kev, David, Michael, or Robert. Abby and my friends and I have tasted many fruits of the open road as the years have raced by, from the blinding glitter of Las Vegas to the lonely shack of a store in Bedrock in the Paradox Valley of western Colorado. It’s all been amazing.
Thinking about this got me wanting to plan again, and update my “A-List” of places I want to see and hike. One of these places came to mind again and again, since I have been so close to it many times, and sworn again and again I would go. The place is The Maze District at Canyonlands National Park, one of the most remote and inhospitable places in the lower 48 United States. There’s the rub, really. I want to see and hike The Maze, but I don’t own a vehicle quite as capable as it would require (though Abby’s 4WD Frontier comes close), nor am I willing to venture out there alone.
Still, though, it calls. As recently as October 2010, at the end of the Grand View Point trail at Canyonlands, I could literally see it, but it was completely out of reach. In 2008, at the Confluence Overlook, I was less than a half a mile from it, yet it was across the 1000-foot-deep Colorado River gorge. I am currently trying to humbly ask a couple of my more experienced hiking/canyoneering buddies if they are interested in such a trip, and I am hopeful that it will materialize soon.
I might have 20 items on my “A-List,” but the list resides in my head, and changes almost daily based on what I read, how I feel, and what kind of map is before me. But The Maze has been on it every time, and always near the top of the list.
I was young once, and as a youth I possessed a certain recklessness that is common to the young. I think we are all prone to this behavior, and I sometimes think it’s amazing we survive those years.
In the summer of 1981, I hung out with some guys who drove fast, expensive cars. Friends who have known me for many years will recognize the players, but to protect their anonymity, I’ll use the pseudonyms Skip and Eskimo. (Don’t laugh: I knew a kid in grade school who actually went by the nickname Eskimo.)
The game was pretty straightforward: shoot a pop bottle rocket into your opponent’s car while chasing each other through the city streets of Lawton, Oklahoma. Skip was driving “his” (meaning his dad’s) Monte Carlo, and Eskimo had “borrowed” his grandfather’s car, also a Monte Carlo. Eskimo didn’t have his own car or a driver’s license because he was just 14.
I was riding shotgun in Skip’s car. The chase was fun, except for one moment when Eskimo threw a smoke bomb into Skip’s car, filling it with smoke briefly and pissing off Skip because it burned a small hole in the upholstery. Once that hurdle was jumped, the chase was on again. Being 14, and being in a car he should not have been driving, Eskimo had fallen behind. Skip ducked into a neighborhood not far from my house and backed into a driveway, leaving the nose of his car about two feet into the roadway, and turned off his headlights.
Riding shotgun, I thought that this move was an odd play at best. What is he trying to do?
A few seconds later, Eskimo came around the corner and hit the accelerator, trying to catch up with us. The result was predictable: Eskimo’s left front bumper collided with Skip’s right front bumper in a cacophony of tires screeching and voices uttering profanities.
At that point for some reason, ostensibly because it was dark but probably so neighbors wouldn’t become curious about the commotion, we drove directly to the nearby Gibson’s discount store to examine the damage. Skip’s car had nothing but a grey scratch on it, but Eskimo’s car had bumper, headlight, and fender damage. For a few minutes we discussed it, then Skip and Eskimo stepped aside and mumbled to themselves. In a minute skip got in his car, and I asked where we were going next.
“The Valley of Shadows,” he answered.
I knew what he meant. In Lawton in those days was a rough, barely-maintained road called Rogers Lane that paralleled South Boundary Road at Fort Sill. (Rogers Lane today is a smooth, four-lane high-traffic road.) In the vicinity of 82nd street on Roger’s Lane was a low spot though which a creek sometimes flowed, causing trees to flourish around it, and causing the pavement to pothole and fracture. In the summertime, the trees darkened this part of the road quite dramatically, and since it was a valley, we called it The Valley of Shadows.
I asked Skip what our plan entailed, but he was vague. It was only after riding 20 minutes and arriving that what I suspected became obvious: we were going to ditch Eskimo’s grandfather’s car and make it look like it was stolen.
I have to say that at point I urged everyone to just come clean, but Eskimo felt his goose was probably cooked if he didn’t cover up this mess, so there was no talking them out of it. Skip go into Eskimo’s car and said, “I’m going to crash it into those trees. Want to ride shotgun?”
My adult readers will realize what an absurd statement and question these were, but even more absurd was my answer, “Sure, it sounds like fun.”
I remember getting in and tightening my seat belt to its maximum tension against my slim frame, then feeling suddenly very nervous about the whole thing. I did not, however, bail. I was along for the ride as far as it would take me.
We drove east a quarter of a mile, made a u-turn, then sped toward the valley. It was simply luck that intervened, since the road was so rough and the potholes were so deep that it slowed us down in a ruckus of banging and bouncing, headlights illuminating the ground and then the treetops. It was so rough, in fact, that we never reached the trees. The car stopped, enveloped in dust and johnson grass. Skip backed us up slightly, and made another run, finally finding the trees but not really crashing into them. At that point I guess everyone was satisfied that the scene looked enough like a crash that we gave up.
Skip and Eskimo pried open the steering column and yanked out a few wires, intending to make it look hot-wired, which it did not. We then drove Eskimo back to his house, where I assume he climbed back through his bedroom window and pretended to sleep until morning.
I imagine when the deputies found the car later that night, they were wise to the scam, but couldn’t really put it together enough to make any kind of concrete report. I remember feeling helplessly worried about Eskimo’s grandfather and how much stress it must have caused him, but I also felt an immense amount of peer pressure to keep quiet about it. I wouldn’t have known who to tell anyway. My parents might have been able to help, but I imagined telling them about it would be fraught with consequences for me.
At the time, I had no idea what an idiotic risk I was taking, and I suppose the lesson I take from this story is that teenagers are unaware, really unaware, of the potential consequences of things like chasing each other in cars, or intentionally crashing them. It’s also a lesson about the relationship between teens and parents, and the way teenagers are afraid to tell their parents anything because parents think of their kids as above the rest and infallible, and make inflexible rules for them as a result. I knew someone who contracted gonorrhea in high school and was so afraid to tell that she almost died. I also knew several people who got pregnant or got someone pregnant, always because they didn’t talk to their parents at all about sex and contraception.
Even if you are a very open and honest parent, which I tried to be when a teenager was in my charge, they are still sometimes disinclined to talk to you, if only because they perceive themselves as alone and un-understandable.
Robert is in town. He spent New Year’s Eve in Dallas with his lovely girlfriend Katie at a concert by his favorite band and personal friends Brave Combo, whose career and music he has followed for nearly 20 years.
Robert’s just passing through, but even for short periods it’s fun for us to make pictures, which we did all day. In the afternoon we took Abby’s truck to town to gas it up and wash it, and at sunset we drove around downtown Ada looking for the light.
Tonight after dark we made our way to the back yard for one of my favorite country-life chores, burning the brush pile by the garden. We got it going very nicely, then of course had to photograph it. Robert was particularly instrumental in orchestrating our imagery.
It was a perfect clear, cold and still night, and by the end of the evening, a summer’s worth of elm and mimosa was up in smoke, complex and elegant conversation had taken place, and many photographs had been recorded.