Saturday morning confusion…Woe is me

The Log from 2016 —No. 23

& Today there’s an “historic” storm blowing up the East Coast. Gives all those young cable-channel apprentices a chance to put on their parkas emblazoned with the logos of CNN and MSNBC and stand there with flakes falling around their microphone, into which they are telling us that it’s snowing. If not that, they’re standing in a fierce oceanside gale, their parka hoods flapping madly, telling us the wind is blowing. BREAKING NEWS!

It’s a well-timed storm — for the teevee people. It came on a Saturday. That’s the day there’s usually nothing much new to talk about, when Fredricka Whitfield or Alex Witt host a third-string talking head who’s willing to get up on a Saturday morning and shave his beard or do her hair, rehashing all that’s gone by in the week past and all that could come in the week ahead, grinding undaunted viewers into such boredom that they’re grateful, really, when the schedule reverts to canned crapola about eating snails in Sardina and other Parts Unknown or the philosophies of intellectual convicts who scuttle around Big Houses from Riker’s Island to San Quentin.

Saturday morning. Usually the time for NO BREAKING NEWS!

But not this Saturday. Big storm. Ice and snow and stuck traffic and governors and mayors and police chiefs holding press conferences to let everyone know that even though they can’t solve the problems they’re hired to solve, they are, by god, gonna solve this one. So far there have been only eight people who’ve died, fewer than 100,000 are without power, and the New Jersey coastline is piling up in Pennsylvania. Bulldozers at the ready, preparing to push it back, yet again, to what was the Jersey Shore. Jobs!

Look out Mother Nature. You’ve met your match.

& Weather people on teevee salivate for storms like this one. Even before this one started, they were telling us, histrionically, it’s “historic.” How the hell can it be historic? According to my ratty old Webster’s, “history” has something to do with the past. This one just started. Maybe my dictionary’s out of date.

& Some dude’s on the tube, as I speak, waving his arms and raging about this “historic nor-easter.” Those weatherpeep like words like “nor-easter.” Makes us think they are from Maine and actually know what the hell they are talking about. I usually doubt them, so I looked up the word.

noun
noun: northeaster; plural noun: northeasters; noun: nor’easter; plural noun: nor’easters
a storm or wind blowing from the northeast, especially in New England.

Note to the Weatherpeep: This storm, as duly noted above, came UP the coast. North Carolina got hit a day before New England. That would a direction from the south and west, according to my map. But maybe it’s out of date, too.

Here they come, warming up/
I hear the pitter-patter of little people/
on the living room rug./
Woe is me — there goes the teevee…”

Remembering Bobby Russell’s “Saturday Morning Confusion” , I’m outta here.

 

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At least one newspaper hasn’t dropped dead

The Log from 2016, No. 19

& I don’t miss New York. Lived there a while, 35 years ago, and loved it. Walked. Up from the Battery, through the Village, Times Square, Midtown (where I’d climb five stories into the shotgun apartment of the renovated tenement, unlock the six bolts on the door and enter, hesitantly, wondering if my bathroom had been flooded once again because the guy upstairs had fallen asleep again in the bathtub with the water running. That’s another story.) Rode the subway up to the Bronx, cheered for the Yankees, got drunk in the neighborhood pub, ate a billion bagels and smoked cigars in public places. (Yeah. Cigars. Live with it. “A woman is only a woman,” wrote Kipling, “but a good cigar is a smoke.” That too, is another story.)

When I go back to Manhattan, and it’s been some time now, I’ve always gravitated to my old neighborhood. 50th and Lex. We animals are always more comfortable in places we know, even if we knew them long ago.

But I don’t miss it. I live in New Mexico, fergawdsake. Where else to live but New Mexico? New York’s real, sureBut so is New Mexico, and it’s got some benefits: For one, I can always find a place to park my car in New Mexico, even in the Santa Fe Trader Joe’s parking lot on New Year’s eve. (Ah, Trader Joe’s in Santa Fe. That’s another story.)

Well, yeah, I miss some things about New York. One of them is the Daily News. It’s a newspaper with an opinion, like all great newspapers used to be. The Daily News has an opinion — leaning left, thank you — and it wears that opinion on it’s sleeve, its sleeve being the front page. Its opinion is proud and loud and comes at you in GREAT BIG  TYPE. You don’t have to get within 30 feet of the nearest newsstand to know what that opinion is. President Jerry Ford could have read it from the White House down in Washington the day after he said there would be no federal funds to save New York from impending bankruptcy.

ford - drop dead head
The following year, Ford lost the presidency to Jimmy Carter, who won a narrow victory in New York. Ford later said that headline had done him in. That was back in the days when Republicans dealt in facts.

There’ve been many more unforgettable headlines in the Daily News. After the stock market took a dive, under the picture of a man with a broom sweeping under the rear end of the iconic Wall Street bull, the headline was CRAPS. Last year, under the faces of Republican senators who had foolishly signed a letter trying to sabotage Obama’s Iranian diplomacy, the one word headline nailed it: TRAITORS.

One of those stentatorial faces was that of Ted Cruz, who just last week made another bald-faced appeal to the sheep in his evangelical flock by demeaning the values of New Yorkers. Said the Daily News: DROP DEAD TED.

That  “values”  reference made Donald Trump — the greatest of New Yorkers, just ask him– mad enough to retaliate against his old buddy Ted Cruz, with whom he’s battling to win the deranged Americans vote. So he summoned to the political pulpit one Sarah Palin — you remember her — to endorse his candidacy (and just when some people were beginning to think Trump has some smarts.) Palin, who actually believes we are all as equally devoid of intelligence as she, was at her looniest. (You can see a piece of her rant here, if you dare. Even Trump looks embarrassed.)

Which gets us back to the Daily News.
stupid
Jerry Ford, now resting in peace, left a little too soon to be of benefit to the Trump campaign. He could have given them some good advice about the role of newspapers in winning and losing elections.

& Wondering if Para Sailin once again will make history by becoming the first woman to run for vice president twice — and lose twice — I’m outta here.

 

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Kicking the lame-duck dog

The Log from 2016: No. 18

& Funny how things have changed. Democrats were once known for throwing things at each other. The party was and is nothing without passion, thank all dieties. A little passion never hurt humanity. Republicans were the stuffier sort, members of the party of propriety and pomposity.

Now it’s the other way around. In last night’s Dem debate, although the presidential candidates (well, two of them, anyway) were yelling at each other, they were at least yelling about issues. It was loud, but it was civil. There were actually sincere compliments to be heard and a few genuine smiles.

The last debate among the diminishing Republican scrum was, like the ones before that, a verbal food fight. Not something for the comfortable confines of the gentleman’s club. Oh, there were some compliments. Whether they were sincere is debatable.

Whoever programmed the Rubio robot forgot to add a smile. Even R2D2 emitted a little humor, fergawdsake. Trump loves everybody except Muslims, Mexicans, Mediapeep and any opponent-he-once-loved-but-now-doesn’t. At last count, that’s all of them. Opponents like Ted Cruz, who loves all God’s children, except those in Syria — who he’s planning to carpetbomb — and Donald Trump, who he’d probably prefer to simply shoot. Cruz is a Canadian-born transplanted Texan; maybe he’ll show up at the next debate wearing a six-shooter.

I could go on. These GOP guys and a gal essentially hate each other and revere Ronald Reagan, the fella who said Republicans should not trash one another. Every time they snarl at each other, these Republicans get around Reagan’s 11th Commandment by bringing Obama into it, even though it’s Obama who resurrected America’s prosperity from those trickled-down Reagan ruins.

Last time I looked, Obama’s not even running for office — any office — but they kick him anyway. Frustrated humans have been known to kick the dog; frustrated Republicans kick Obama.

& Mark Twain observed that “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. That is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” Wondering if there’s a moral in there somewhere, I’m outta here.

 

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The ocean’s in motion, but is the poetry?

The Log from the Year 2016, No. 9: Jan. 9.

& In a recent issue of The New Yorker there’s a scary report from Miami Beach, where, in some places, you no longer need to go to the shore to get to the ocean. It’s coming to you. You can now just step out the front door of your modest apartment or your multi-million manse into a puddle of water that’s sometimes as high as the wheels of your fancy new Mercedes. Or so Elizabeth Kolbert reports.

You ought to read her story, especially if you’re a fan of Stephen King. Parts of South Florida are like a soaked sponge. Step on your carefully manicured lawn and it bubbles. But this Log isn’t about the result global warming, which is really the subject this Kolbert’s Repour.

This item is about The New Yorker, the only magazine that I read. Many things to say about The New Yorker, too, but it’s Saturday, and I don’t do science on Saturdays. Today’s subjects: Poetry and cartoons.

Andy Rooney, in a lovely little letter to a Ms. Worth, ‘fessed up that although he liked the old bards’ stuff — especially the kind that rhymed — he didn’t understand most modern poems. “I still read some poetry in Harper’s, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker, just to make sure I still don’t like it.”

Rooney reasoned that his aversion to the new stuff “could be a lack of taste or a lack of intellect.” But, he wondered, “am I not a person of average intelligence who should be able to comprehend a poem? Why don’t I?”

I’ve wondered the same. Each time I read the latest weekly offerings from the editor ensconsed in the magazine’s poetry nook at No. 1 World Trade Center, I think of Rooney’s remembrance of the line from Carl Sandburg, who knew of what he spoke: “Poetry is a spot halfway between where you listen and where you wonder what it was you heard.” (Rather like the last time you sat down to listen to Donald Trump.)

I could give you a hundred examples of that poetic point of wonder, simply by flipping to almost any line of verse in my pile of recent New Yorkers. I’ll rely on just one example, from this poem of Robert Pinsky’s, which you’ll find a couple of pages beyond the conclusion of Ms. Kolbert’s repour on the watery Siege of Miami. I’d gotten a few lines into Pinsky’s poem about Greek choruses of dragonfly robots when I came to what is definitely a Sandburg Spot. The line, beyond which I no longer cared to wonder what I heard, was this:

“In varying unison and diapason they will dance the forgotten.”

It was more than enough modern poetry to reassure me that I still don’t like it. And, I don’t mind saying so. Andy’s dead, and so is Carl. Somebody must carry on.

As for the second subject, cartoons: They’re not poetry, but I usually get them. I haven’t charted my guffaws, but I’d say that I usually chuckle at 80 percent of the offerings from The New Yorker’s cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff. But not those in this week’s issue. Most of them I didn’t get.  Perhaps my lack of taste or a lack of intellect. Or, perhaps, Mankoff’s off on holiday and the poetry editor’s filling in? (I didn’t read this week’s poetry. One should avoid over-indulging in self-abuse.)

& I always like The New Yorker’s cartoon contest, in which one of their oh-so-demented cartoonists draw a picture, and we’re then asked to suggest a caption. I’ve entered twice, and received not a smidgen of approving diapason (yeah, I had to look it up, too). I didn’t even rate an honorable mention.

This was my first attempt:

130401_contest_p323

My non-prize-winning line was “We do not come to bury him, but to praise his Caesar salad.”

The winner’s was  “Will you all please bow your heads for the reading of the menu.

And my second attempt:

cartoonfix

But that’s my line. It wasn’t printed.

The winner’s, I’ve just learned, was

Looks like you boys could use some water.

You are entitled to refrain from guffawing. There will be no questions regarding your taste or your intellect.

Wondering how much longer the ocean will be a thousand miles west, I’m outta here.

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There are little people, and bigger little people

The Log from 2016: No. 5

& All those people running for president are asking me for money.

I’ve given, I’ve given, I’ve GIVEN already! To Bernie. Thirty-five bucks — the proceeds from the middle drawer of my dresser, which doubles as a bedroom wastebasket and container for the unused contents of my pants pockets. Maybe Bernie could also use a couple of paperclips and a old dog collar?

I’ve got a problem with giving any money to any Democrat. They’d use it to buy advertising on television stations owned by Republican rich guys who donate their money — my money, really — to people like Ted “The Canadian Cuban” Cruz and Marco “The Cuban Robot” Rubio. Makes no sense.

I gave the money to Socialist Bernie, because Capitalist Hillary doesn’t need it. She’s got plenty.

Bernie gets his donations from millions of middle drawers in the bedrooms of the little people. The average contribution, he says is about $35. Hillary, according to somebody with a calculator at OpenSecrets.org, gets lots from individuals, too. Given some of the recent sums reported from Hillary’s little people, the average donation must be $35, too. $35 with two or three zeros behind it.

Clinton donations

Look at those little people from the big banks. At a recent count, individuals at Citigroup, Inc. had dug up $816,402 for the Hill; the little people at Goldman Sachs scraped up another $750,740; the JPMorgan Chase & Co. penny pinchers pinched their wallets for $693,456; and the Morgan Stanley pauper-people coughed up a measly $631,564. Scrooges. All in all, that’s $2,892,162 that Hillary got for Christmas.  These folks are financial wizards — people who know about stretching a dollar and stretching a law. None of them, last time I looked, know anything about doing a stretch behind bars.

Up Iceland, after the financial meltdown, they sent a bunch of bankers to jail. Made ’em turn in those shiny alligator shoes for soft slippers. America sent none; our bankers were required to hang around in the boardrooms to collect their big bonuses for… for what? For staying out of jail?

It’s a good thing they’re not in jail, as has been suggested by some of Bernie’s supporters. If they were behind bars, their dresser drawers would be filled with… well, they wouldn’t have dresser drawers, would they? Hillary could be broke.

Gimme the Bern boys,
And ease my soul.
We don’t want no fat cats
In control…

& Humming along with the Doobie Brothers and the Wall St. Warblers, I’m outta here.

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The Log from 2016 – #4. A shot at making some sense; ricochet ahead

The Log from the Year 2016, No. 4: Jan. 4.

& News has it that the Prez is about to take another shot (to use an unfortunate word) at trying to make America come to its senses about our ongoing political war over whether we have a right to indiscriminately buy guns from shady sellers.

It says here that he’s got to do something. He’s tired of hearing about dead people piled up in the streets and schools because a cowardly Congress crawls at the feet of those who argue that our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is trumped (another bad word) by an unfettered right to buy and sell stuff that can shoot everything and anything, from pheasants to first-graders.

So, we learn, he’s about to lay down some rules — modest though they may be — that strengthen a rather weak law that the background of those who want to buy guys should be checked before they buy them.

We’ll learn the full details tomorrow. Knowing the intransigence of the forces aligned against any reasonable attempt to stop our national slaughter, opposition is guaranteed. Even if Obama’s new administrative rules include a personal promise to kiss every right-wing nutjob congressman’s ass, they’ll oppose it. Not because the idea is bad, mind you. They’ll oppose it because the idea is Obama’s.

Wanna bet? Stay tuned.

& Tired, very tired, of congressional cowardice, I’m outta here.

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The Log from 2016 – #3. Of Bald Eagles and Brit TV

The Log from the Year 2016, No. 3: Jan. 3.

& It was a few years ago, maybe three or four. I was doing a friend a favor and editing something for posting in our local online paper, The Abiquiu News. (I’m sure I’ll write later in this Log about Carol and Brian Bondy’s nice little effort to do something important for our community. If I forget to, remind me. In the meantime, you can subscribe.)

The copy I’d been sent had something to do with the annual volunteer mid-winter count of bald eagles hanging around the big lake behind the Abiquiu reservoir. When they say mid-winter, they mean mid-winter. This year, it’ll be January 9th. It’s beyond me why people unsnuggle from their warm beds on a weekend morning to go sit in rubber boats freezing their patooties and peering through binoculars at big birds. It ain’t for the free coffee, is it? Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad they do it. They tell me results of this bird-peeping helps bring those big bald bombers back from the edge of extinction. That’s good. I like bald eagles. (Someday, I’ll write about one of those guys, too — remind me if I don’t.)

The point of all this, though, isn’t bald eagles or frozen butts.

I was starting to tell you about this copy I was editing. It was an appeal for volunteers to participate in the bird watch, and assuring readers that it would be done-and-over-with in plenty of time for everybody to get back home and watch our sometime-resident starlet, an up-and-comer named Shirley MacClain, in her first appearance on a popular PBS tv series. The writer of the copy, however, had spelled the name of the show wrong, so I corrected it to Downtown Abbey.

Aside from breaking blah-blah on cable, the World Series and some other championship sports events, I don’t watch a helluva lot of television (let me tell you about local tv news, someday – pu-leeese don’t let me forget), and I particularly shy away from those “series” shows, where they hook you with a mystery in the first episode and drag you through eight weeks of inane sleep-inducing red-herrings and plot-rehash until they unveil final solution, which any single-celled animal has figured out by the end of week two. That is to say I was clueless when it came to the New World of television soap operas, and particularly unaware of Downton Abbey. Hadn’t heard of it.

Be assured I heard about it.

To assuage my cluelessness, I felt obliged to watch the next installment. I haven’t missed one since. Which means I was securely settled in my chaise this evening, wondering if I had missed Laura Linney (oh, the lovely Laura Linney) introducing us to the first installment of the final season of the soap-opera-to-end-all-soap-operas, Downton — and I don’t mean Downtown — Abbey.

In the British Isles, of course, they already know how this all ends. Over There, they aired the concluding nine weeks of the final season last fall, ending with must have been a satisfying finale (how could Downton Abbey be anything but satisfying?) as a Christmas present to Brits, Scots and Irishpeep. Over There, the damned Redcoats already know the answers to a million questions we now have Over Here: Can there be honor among blackmailers; can true love trump wrinkled old bodies; are glorious young women forever doomed to exist as corporate crones; is Mr. Green’s murderer in fact somebody we love; will auctioneers feast on the detritus of Downton; can tormented gay footmen finally find peace; and can gentle old souls can be happy with cold old maids.

And, dammit, Over There they already know who dies in the next eight weeks. Somebody’s gotta die. Julian Fellows, who created this theater of masterpiece, is nothing if not cruel. But Julian: Not Maggie Smith, I hope. Without her, who would be left to utter Violet’s marvelous acerbic one-liner causticisms, such as tonight’s question to the do-gooding Isobel: “Does it ever get cold on the moral high ground?”

I’m staying away from Brit Twitter, which doubtless will give me all the answers too soon. But I’m not avoiding single-cell organisms — they don’t have a clue. Bring it on, Downton, I’m awaiting answers. The bald eagle count will have to wait.

& Still wondering what the hell happened to Laura Linney, I’m outta here.

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The Log from the Year 2016 – #2

No. 2: Jan. 2. Priority buzzers

& The other day in the Abiquiu post office, Elsie Archuleta, who’s been wrestling mountains of packages for a month — our hero — handed me a box marked “Priority Mail”. It might have been one of her last boxes of the holiday season, because there was actual daylight peeking through the shelves behind her, and she exhaled a contented but forceful sigh. I hope that box was among her last; if more gift boxes are to come through our little community’s p.o., my far-flung family is in danger of being displaced as the reigning champions of Sending Stuff Late.

I doubt we’re in any danger, though, because I’m still waiting for something to arrive from China, and that may be never. If it arrives, I’ll put it in another box that already came from China and ship it off to my son, Big Rig, who could probably swim to China before the damn box ever gets here.

Big Rig, so nicknamed because he’s lately been coast-to-coasting behind the wheel of a truck that’s about the size of a medium-sized Wal-Mart, doesn’t know what’s coming from China, but he does know it isn’t china. He eats off of paper plates and pizza boxes.

The box that Elsie handed me the other day, Big Rig told me on the phone, included “just a couple of stocking stuffers.” He also told me he’d ordered something else to be delivered directly to me; no middlemen to muck things up. I’m still waiting for it. Maybe it’s in China, too.

But at least I got that Priority Mail with the stocking stuffers. You’ve been wondering — I can tell — what it was in that Priority Mail box. The card said a little something “to help get you through the upcoming political season — feel free to use as often as needed.” In the box was a bag of caramel- and chocolate-covered pecans and a Bullshit Button.

I’m not sure what purpose the gummy pecans might serve other than keep my lips locked when I’m inclined to yell at Mike Huckabee for hawking religious thought-trinkets in prime time. It’s not easy to scream insults at the tv with your mouth stuck shut. But the Bullshit Button? Now there’s a gift from a son who knows the perfect present for his old man. Even if my mouth is caramel-clamped during the next GOP debate, nobody will escape comment. I’ll just hit the big red button marked BULLSHIT and this little baby will do the job for me.

Ted Cruz speaking on sincerity? Hit the button. It blinks red, and emits a panicked voice: “Bullshit detected! Take precaution!” Marco Rubio on the latest flip or flop on immigration? Hit the button. Buzzzzzzzzer bleats. Angry voice: “That was bullshit!” Ben Carson on how God created the earth 6,000 years ago, shortly before Joseph built the pyramids to store grain? Hit the button. Good-old-boy snorts: “Oh come on now, that ain’t even bullshit. That’s horseshit.” And Donald Trump on anything? Hit the button. Buzzers buzzing, sirens screaming, klaxons pulsing. Pentagon general rumbles: “Warning, warning, bullshit level DEFCON 5!”

Oh I can’t wait for the next debate.

I should mention that the Bullshit Button is clearly marked on the front of the package “For Adults Only.” That’s thoughtful of them. On the back, however, things get confusing in the small print, which says “Adult supervision is recommended when replacing batteries.” I refuse to fault the illogic, though, while I’m marveling at the first-ever understandable English-language instruction to come out of China.

& P.S. The cost of the pecans: $2.99. The button, $1 buck. And the box for Priority Mail? Priceless. Well, not quite. More like $12.67. Next year, friends, mail early. Avoid the priority-price pickle. You’ll save enough to buy a half-dozen more Bullshit Buttons. You’re gonna need ‘em.

& Buttoning my lip, I’m outta here.

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An Old Gringo’s Log from the Year 2016

No. 1: Jan. 1. Gauntlet-dropping.

& This is my 78th New Year’s Day. The next number will be the last one that starts with a 7. That means I’m getting very close to being RFO.

That means Really Fucking Old.

I’m so old that for much of my life nobody (well, maybe Norman Mailer and J.D. Salinger and Jack Kerouac and that bunch of pre-historic literary libertines) ever wrote “fucking,” or any derivative thereof. There was a time when even thinking the word was tempting sudden death from above and guaranteeing eternal existence below. Now I utter it with the abandon of Bill Maher and a couple of thousand rap artists. I hasten to say: Although I utter it, I do so only in sufficiently sensitized company. But to tell the truth, I wince now as I write that word. It still grates to commit it to print. That’s how RFO I almost am.

But age, or the f-word (or the n-word or the a-word or the b-word or the c-word or any other hypen-word) isn’t the subject of this Log. The reasons for writing this are my subject for today. You’ll not need to take notes. There’ll be no test.

Reason One: My RFO amigo, one Gerald Freeman (a.k.a. Hungry Gerald), was growling at me last night over scattered dirty dishes, piled napkins and emptied wine glasses — the spoils of yet another magnificent repast at Chez Librehomme. “Goddamit, Cox, you gotta write more. I’m writing and posting every damn day, and I’m not even a writer — I’m a publicist. You’re a writer. Write more!”

He’s been growling at me too long. I have no respect for his age, which I remind you, already is RFO; I’ve gotta shut him up.

Reason Two: I’m fast-approaching RFO. According to a handy-dandy date calculator, I’ve got 942 days to go before age 80 lands with a THUD! and I’m officially ancient. Less than 1,000 days — the length of the Kennedy Administration. Not a long time, especially when you consider I’ve been hanging around for 28,278 days. That says I’ve got 3 percent left in the battery.

Rationalization being what it is, I checked out the number of minutes in 942 days: 1,356,480. Not quite the nearly 41 million minutes I’ve clocked so far, but that seven-figure number is a little more soothing: There’s quite a bit of pre-doddering time left to say a few things before I start drooling on the keyboard.

On deeper reflection (not my habit), the availability of time isn’t the real second reason I’ve launched this log. The real reason has to do with whether anybody cares — or doesn’t care — what I write. I once had to consider that. Now I don’t.

For damn near a half-century, I was in the news biz. Those were days when we purveyors of information and the now-extinct gatekeepers known as “editors” pondered, long and hard, this question: Does anybody care to know? If no one cares, why go to the toil of writing it and printing it? If a thousand written words printed on a tree’s worth of newsprint fall on blind eyes, somebody asked, why write? Why waste the paper? Blind eyes: The bane of any writer. So we wrote what we thought you cared about.

But that was then. For an entire career, I was restricted by whether I thought it was important to you, or whether an editor thought it was important to you, or whether you might think it important, or — most important — whether there was room on the page to print it. Now ain’t then. The editors have gone bye-bye and readers are mostly card-carrying knee-jerking members of the New Silent Majority and newsprint is used, nearly exclusively, to start fires and collect parrot poop. Nobody’s paying a penny (then a nickle, then a dime, then two bits, then a half, then a buck and…) to buy information. Everything’s free; all you’ve got to do is weather through the fucking (there, I’ve done it again) internet pop-ups and be prepared to disbelieve everything.

There are no longer restrictions. On anybody. For any reason. As Wilbur said to Orville, “let ‘er fly, dude. If it crashes, who cares?”

So who gives a big rat’s ass what I say, what I write, what I offer for consideration of others?

Does anybody really care if I stand out in the pasture and sing “On the Road Again” to the coyotes and write about it? Yep. I do.

Does anybody care if I rant about the sorry state of “journalism” in this world and write about it? Yep. I do.

Does anybody care if I come inside from under the swathing universe in a cloudless New Mexico sky and wonder to my computer screen about what’s it all about, Alfie? Yep. I do.

Does anybody care if I wonder out loud why people say “tweeted out”? Yep. I do.

Does anybody care why, after all of these years, I have a new-found respect and warm place in my heart for an old sportscaster named Brent Musburger and write about it? Yep. I do.

Does anybody care why I can’t abide political correctness and agree, occasionally, with Donald Trump and write about why? Yep. I do.

Does anybody care about a million things that I care, and write, about? Yep. I do.

And, to be excruciatingly truthful, at more than twenty-eight thousand days into an earthly existence that will have far fewer minutes to go than have already gone, I could give a fuck (whoops!) what anybody else thinks. I care what I think, and I’ll write something about that, every day. Maybe long, maybe short. Maybe you’ll care. Maybe you won’t.

I could care less.

& So here goes. With very humble apologies to John Steinbeck, herewith is launched The Log from the Year 2016. Hungry Gerald, the writing gauntlet lies between us. One-a-day, amigo: Let’s duel, WTF?

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A new chapter in the history of a very old trail

& Three Californians riding two mules and a mustang passed through Abiquiu this week, and made some history. Might not sound like much, but if you know even a little bit about the history of this place (Georgia O’Keeffe doesn’t count), you know that’s saying something.

This small band of riders – what shall I call them, reverse historians? – accompanied by couple of lady documentarians and a truck-driving, trailer-hauling equivalent of an oldtime camp cookie in a chuckwagon  —  have been encamped for the past few nights around here – first up at Ghost Ranch for a couple of nights, and then down beside the big barn at the Rio Arriba Rural Events Center.

They’re just coming to the end of three months of re-blazing 800 miles of an old trail – such as it is these days – that was last traversed by a mule train a couple of years before the Civil War began. They called it then the Spanish Trail, and depending on one of three routes you chose, it was 1,200 miles, give or take, across the wildest of the American wild west — from Santa Fe and Abiquiu to Los Angeles and back again, packing goods out, leading livestock in. Now it’s the Old Spanish Trail, and, Congress says, a formal part of our history.

In those early years of the 19th Century, they’d pack up their mules in Abiquiu and set out – the first muletrain headed out in 1829 — for the frontier towns of California with loads of serapes, blankets, socks, buffalo robes, skins, hats, shawls and quilts that had come from the east along the 800-mile Santa Fe Trail or from Mexico City on 1,200 miles of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Those goods would be traded, most of them, for horses and mules to be brought back from California across the same wilderness of desert, high mountain passes and arroyos to Nuevo México.

The commercial caravanning from east to west went on for a quarter of a century, the historians tell us, slowed down about mid-century, when gold-seekers pounded smoother routes to northern California, and were left in history’s dust a decade later, when the railroad barons pounded the Golden Spike in Utah.  We probably don’t have a Guinness Book of Records entry on when the last string of muleskinners made it back across the Spanish Trail to Abiquiu – 1848’s a good guess — but now we know when the last mules walked the Old Spanish Trail back into New Mexico.

It was this week.

Richard Waller of Arroyo Grande, CA, who retired from elementary school teaching to become an “adventurer with a conscience” and became a determined member of the California chapter of Backcountry Horsemen of America, is the visionary and trail boss of this homage to the heritage of the American West. With the backing and support of the national BHA, he lured a couple of others – Otis Calef of Santa Barbara and Jim Clark of Ojai – to forget their ages (averaging in the late Sixties, they call themselves the “Pedo Viejos”), saddle up at Cajon Pass east of L.A. and turn their horse’s heads to the northeast. They headed up the Mojave River, across the southern tip of Nevada and into Utah where, in November, they stopped the trek at Parowan. Last month, they tacked up again and began their final weeks of following a very old trail to its northernmost point at Moab, then turned southeast, across the tip of Colorado and finally down into the valley of the Rio Chama.

Along the way they’ve been accompanied by Rod Thompson of Ojai, who has ferried the animals from day’s ending point to overnight shelter and back to the trail again, across and along nasty stretches of Interstate and other highways that long ago took the places the muleskinners once walked, and around the few unfriendly places that permission to pass wasn’t allowed – Colorado wasn’t the friendliest place they found, and the Jicarilla Apaches never responded to a request to cross their lands up north.

Even so, Waller will remember in the book he’s going to write (if he tells me when it’s going to be published, I’ll let you know) that most everybody– from oldtimers in their 80s to young ‘uns who have fed them and offered them stalls for their animals and soft places to rest their aching backs, “was more than welcoming, more than willing to lend us a hand, open a gate, or feed us a dinner.”

“It has been a ride through magnificent country and wonderful people.”

All tolled, Waller estimates, they’ve covered about 800 miles of the Old Spanish Trail – the other 400 miles they found fenced off or under asphalt. Some of the stories of western hospitality and trials on the trail already are posted on their website – www.osttrek.com – and their Facebook page (it’s Backcountry Horsemen Old Spanish Trail Trek, and has plenty of great pictures, like this one.) OST canyon shotAlso on tap: A documentary, being filmed and chronicled by Benedicte Clark and Marie Bergenholtz, a couple of ladies from, I’m not kidding, Sweden and Norway. What would those old muleteers think about that?

Today (Tuesday), they’ll ride the last equine-friendly leg of their journey, up through Vallecitos and down through the hills and arroyos south of Highway 84 to near Espanola, and pack it in for one more night, before the animals are hauled over the highspeed fourlane hill into Santa Fe for their final ride, on Wednesday, in a parade into the Plaza. That parade is also part of the kickoff of the Three Trails Conference – named, of course, those three trails that funneled the goods into Santa Fe 200 years ago, and came to an end where the Old Spanish Trail began.

The end of the trail for this posse of the Pedo Viejos will be next to the rodeo grounds in Santa Fe, at the friendly facilities of another supporting organization interested in the history, heritage and culture of American trail riders, the Northern New Mexico Horseman’s Association.

And so why, Mr. Waller, did you decide to do this?

“Well,” he says, “to promote the mission of the Backcountry Horsemen of America and, particularly, to interest the public in the protecting the right to ride on our public lands. I hope that the Old Spanish Trail trek will help increase the public’s knowledge of our cultural heritage.”

And, Mr. Waller, how do you think you’ve done so far?

“Well, sometimes we’ve gotten welcomed by lots of people, festivities, and even a mayor or two has shown up to welcome us to town. Sometimes, we’ve ended up camping in the woods. But I’ve come to think of it as you’d think of a motorboat cutting across a lake, leaving lots of little whirlpools in its ever-widening wake. I hope that by riding the Old Spanish Trail, we’re leaving some of those whirlpools and some public interest in our wake.”

& Hoping the mayor of Santa Fe shows up tomorrow, with a bunch of other people, to meet the mustang, two mules and three newest blazers of the Old Spanish Trail, I’m outta here.

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DO NOT BE SHY. JUST BE CIVIL.

 

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