Taking the New Normal for a Spin

Burned Out Four

Valley Fire 2015

Lake County, California

We flew south from Seattle to Burbank arriving over the Thomas Fire where the blaze had just crossed from Ventura into Santa Barbara County. Last summer’s dry season never came to an end. Instead this fall the Southland of California was treated to twenty degree above normal temperatures, low humidity and then the voluble Santa Ana winds.

Last nights flight down the coast was crystal clear, picture perfect. While cool in Seattle less average was the clear sky. Less than common still was the monolithic singular cloudless atmosphere witnessed the entire length of the west coast. As we approached Burbank after sunset we descended over the top of Los Padres National Forest. Looking down off the starboard side of the plane we could see flames approaching Carpentaria and further north near Montecito. The fire had in just twenty-four hours consumed another one-hundred-thousand acres with the most inhabited of those yet to be consumed acres in sight. Both densely populated communities are thickly canopied and in any other moment would be regarded as blessed with a handsome landscape. Not visible were the five thousand firefighters who had cut fire breaks. Standing along the break they braced to snuff out blowing embers that might escape from the national forest and ignite a blaze within the city limits of the two communities. Thousands had been order evacuated. The Department of Homeland Security had no answer to this terror threat.

There have always been wildfires, but there had always been a time of year associated with the fires. In decades before the present California had grown to near forty million citizens. In past times the wildfires happened out there in the wildlands far from the California car crazed maddened clogging crowds. An unintentional a price had come due for our obsessive horizontal sprawling real estate development. And as we all know Mother Nature bats last in the game called life. In this instance wildfire had come to speak about the risks homeowners take when locating their domicile adjacent to a tender dry fuel loaded landscape that with one accidental spark and aided by an ill-timed windstorm can ignite an inferno of unstoppable proportions.

My much loved daughter in Seattle and her partner have put off any thought of having children. Even at just twenty-five they’ve recognized and noted that the climate has changed, they know that the world is in trouble and the trouble that most concerns them is the trouble people make for the people who take climate change as a real and present threat. Stalemates are quaint even useful on a chessboard and existentially suicidal when played on the surface of the earth.

Puerto Rico is in super hurricane ruins, barely able to function, its electrical grid destroyed. Houston pounded by rains and floods- turned into a lake and now is mecca for slightly water damaged furniture. California not to be outdone has put on a wildfire show unlike any other. How we react, what we do, the planning and precautions we might take will tell us all we need to know about how smart, how intelligent, how adaptive and resilient our species is. Stalemate and gridlock might be a useful tactic in our nations capital but it won’t work here. If ever the world needed enlightened leadership now is that moment. If you are an optimist it is never too late, for the pessimists it already is, either way Mother Nature doesn’t care. Facts speak for themselves.

great tree

Piece of Reality Prior to Wildfire

 

Time to Go

ship

Following the Big Boys

We have thrown the baby of leadership out with the bathwater of abdicating any responsibility to govern. That splat you here coming from the horizon is the sound of dunderheads colliding with reality.

We have no idea how to get out of Afghanistan. Until then we extend and pretend. Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Merman were far smarter. Within seventy-two days they’d seen enough and threw the towel in.

Some low flying duster pilot while knocking back a cool one at the local titty bar after a day of crop spraying scrawled his formula for governing on the back of a cocktail napkin. Knots, strangleholds and infinitely regressive feedback loops were doodled on one side of the disposable napkin in the middle an equals sign and on the other in bold caps was spelled out TOTAL LEGISLATIVE GRIDLOCK.

Citizens of Kansas are treated to economic laboratory experiments executed under the misguidance of the the unrepentant failed economist Arthur Laffer. The idea from corn country was if you are going to try something to be sure to try the worst possible ideas in the world and then keep shooting yourself in the foot. Mission accomplished!

Never attempt to do the right thing, or the best thing. You want to do the thing that works for you and your tribe. That’s leadership in a post Fellini’s Satyricon world. Media tycoon and Prime Minister Berlusconi brilliantly pillaged Italy prototyping then perfecting the oligarchic model of bamboozling while cavorting with adolescent hookers. Thanks Silvio!

Leadership isn’t lost so much as unrecognized. Dueling ideologies discredit and delegitimize. Ripe followers are left to rot while lesser well funded minds rush to fill the void. Great ideas are the currency of the realm. Leadership is not happily married to great wealth. We may be having our Ernie and Ethel moment. For the sake of world peace and marital bliss someone needs to pack their bags and go. This indecisiveness, this inability to know when to leave is that un-peaceful, uneasy sucking sound you and the rest of us have been trapped in for a good while now.

porthole

The Way Way Out

Diamond Studded Offshore Love Affairs

Nancy Sculpture

The Balancing Act— Sculptor Nancy Rubins

Wilbur Ross looks like someone who would end up with the name Wilbur Ross. Why all these offshore bank accounts in Cyprus in partnership with Russia clients?

Trying to keep up with the Paradise Papers and Sunday football is an unpleasantness. Needless distraction really. Paradise Papers on the front page Sunday afternoon by Monday morning the tawdry tax dodging affair will be relegated to the back pages.

When the Queen of England needs to offshore her fortune you know that deck by Hoyle is in need of a better shuffle. There’s more cheating going on than there are congressional aids.

I’ve got a friend convinced that climate change is a racket. He’s telling me the government is colluding with the oil companies to force voters into buying insulation, electric cars and savings bonds for Polar bears.

It’s 100% guaranteed that the Central Intelligence Agency is seeding clouds and the Pentagon’s aiming radiation down from outer space with mirrors. The moon is a prop put in orbit back when Cole Porter was still something.

Trying to explain the con game pops circuit breakers inside the already cluttered minds of ordinary Joes and Janes. The jet setters who own international domiciles in Paris, London, New York and Tokyo don’t see citizenship as a duty. Like General Electric they are a globalized enterprise.

My high-net-worth-friends—— it’s all about tax shelters, the Cayman Islands and keeping your money undisclosed and offshore

Any good coming from tax cuts is as likely as a married man finding a lap dance being more inspirational to his vows than the old bride and the cold dinner waiting for him at home.

honey
Sweeter than honey

 

The Life Extenders from Hell’s Kitchen

Inner Babe

A Fate Worse Than Death

I’ve taken my grains more often by shot glass than breakfast bowl. But a boot needs powering up and a trail needs hiking. So it turns out the time had come to cook barley and rye, whole grains, into a porridge.

All this virtuous behavior rattles my self-destructive nature. As I stand here I’m not so much aiming for immortality as merely extending some honest to goodness mortality.

They’ve already rescinded my soap box privileges. Nobody that knows nothing about the sanctity of life would even allow me a shot at a church pew or petri dish.

Happily married and duty bound to uphold my part of the bargain has provided an opportunity to seek out affairs of another kind. Oatmeal has been my baseline morning mistress since I saw my first day without French toast. After a spell putting oats on the stove was a heartless dreary unsatisfactory form of foreplay with a new day.

Homework was required to extract myself from this gustatory dead end affair. First, the new fling had to be organic. Second, the new girl had to be the real thing,  she could not be a genetically modified organism. Rice drink would replace bovine produced milk. Agave sweetener would substitute for refined sugar. Chopped fresh fruit was approved by my quorum-posse-tyranny of life extension advisers.

All that barley, rye and agave put me within spitting distance of an altogether more adult activity than turning me into some sad transsexual version of Little Bo Peep. If this was still a democracy you can bet the election would have come out in favor of the other guy. The voting machines are rigged in this household. Why in hell do Kellogg’s cornflakes keep winning every morning of the week?

The main thing to know is that eventually we’ll all be forced to find an appetite for something other than Pigs in a Blanket, deep-fried-Snicker’s Bars, or Jimmy Dean’s pure-pork-sausages. You’ll be thinner, walk faster and feel like you are starving half to death after having engorged yourself like a tick on a leafy green kale salad.

new hat

All Hat Nearly No Cholesterol

Before death nearly everything held dear including our favorite hunting dog will turn and bite us in the ass. I’m going for a hike with the vipers, this diet is venomous enough. From here on out and back its nothing but bug spray, sunscreen and a handful of fruits and nuts. Save me from the lettuce and lemon juice, how about giving me a sip of that filtered water before death by desire comes show me exit door.

 

What’s in Your Wallet…

trail doctor two

Outdoorsmen have had their camouflaged knickers knotted by the scorched earther’s embedded in the bowels of our Department of the Interior. Secretary Ryan Zinke has risen way beyond his ability to grasp the circumstances his constituents face.

Montana can be divided into many pieces of a kind, but the most common is a man or woman with a job that doesn’t pay much and a benefit package that provides even less. You are in Montana for some kind of love that pertains to other matters than “what’s in your wallet?”

Big mining, big timber, big ranching and gigantic bellyaching are time honored traditions here in Big Sky country. Preservationists are a luxury item. There’s a hay crop to bale and a cow to turn fat before another bout of frostbite comes nipping at the loners noses. —You go sustain some other piece of paradise, move along before we send you back to where you belong.

Whitefish Energy, a two-man operation arrived in Puerto Rico with a 300 million dollar no-bid, no-questions-asked and none given contract. Poor as dirt, hungry as a mouse in an abandon high prairie drought strickened chapel these business operators descended upon the more miserable seeking to pave their way back to gold plated paradise.

Montana does farm some but resource extractive industries, the kind that own mining claims, grazing rights and timber permits tend to bully and bluff the state legislature in St Helena. Mixed into this mortar of citizenry trying to hold the center together are hunters, fishermen, and impossible to understand outdoor recreationalists who go out into the magnificent wilderness areas and do lyrical harm to nothing. —This kind are worse than poets.

Good Old Zink’ knows all about this skirmish. The Interior Secretary even speaks with heartfelt insincerity to the human recreationalists. Hunters and gatherers are living and doing some further learning.

Desperate times require desperate measures and there is not a more determined kind than a retired Navy Seal turned real estate developer, oil and gas pipeline investor and now Secretary of the Department of the Interior.

Willow Lake Two

If the radical environmental activists preservation and sustainability strategies win then the developers and resource extractors lose. On the other hand, if Zink’s crowd prevails, then every last one of us, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends and not friends, folk on both sides, we all lose.

“So, what’s in your wallet?”

 

 

 

 

 

Time is Slow-Eternity is Long

 

 

Five hundred miles later I arrived in Ajo, Arizona pitching my tent first- answering questions later.

My RV pull-through host didn’t disappoint packing a small sidearm while collecting my site use fee.

“You’ll want to pack the tent and be out of here by 8.” His tone of voice allowed me to crawl inside my own personal spaghetti western.

Sizing the hombre up I met his bid. “Partner, if I’m still here likely you best call the sheriff. Tell him another camper didn’t survive the night.”

He almost smiled, almost.

I found a town crawling with tarantulas, sun faded storefronts and bargain made in the basement tacos. I found much to recommend or not.

There exists in this frontier outpost an accelerant, a built into the equation escape velocity only to be impeded by highways blocked by checkpoints manned by Border Patrol Agents urging me to exercise my mother tongue before reluctantly waving the native born liberal mercenary through.

From the spoils of this southern quagmire I rolled into the Santa Catalina Mountains where at 8000’ I’d go hike by day and hole up in a cabin by night squaring a few circles with a stubborn yet still quirky open-minded friend.

The circumstances of my being on sabbatical and quarantine were mostly prose-induced and ‘civilization closing in on me’ fed. You heard of Eat-Sleep-Pray, this was more akin to Drink-Brag-Bray.

Fresh air and cheap whiskey possess medicinal qualities. My doctor urged me not put a lot of faith in one half of that equation.

In some quarters even possessing half a heart is better than none. I mean by shopworn insincerity you are in worse shape than me if that sorry half-heart is a winning hand.

But, whether I vent my spleen, spit out a lung, or bust my ass sometimes even the better of us mixed in with the rest of the rot have to belly up and fight off the demon slothful misery of self-pity and get back to the barricades.

If you are not feeling the vital juices of rejuvenation too damn bad, we are all on aching notice from the ticking clock that time goes slow and that soon enough we’ll all learn that eternity is long.

20171026_171347-1920964979.jpg

KOLD-TV Antenna for Tucson, Arizona

My Broadcasting Career and Welcome to Work Sign

 

 

 

 

 

The Invisible-Glorious-Full-Stop

DTLA-Arts District

Start from Where You Find Yourself

Here on the rotisserie in LA it is expected to go triple digits. For one hot second I’d deluded myself into believing the autumnal equinox had passed, summer was over and that Trump would have folded like a cheap piece of patio furniture by now.

As far as trifecta’s go I’m a raving savant.

The future is akin to a plane on autopilot. Doors locked, we can’t get in, there’s a mountain dead ahead. Believe me I’d rather be on a beach listening to Kenny G, reading my GQ while sipping on my first extra dry-stirred not shaken- Sapphire martini.

Is it just me? Yes, it is evidently just me. Everyone else I know wants beachfront property, doesn’t believe in tsunami’s and dismisses the reports of Antarctica’s demise as premature. Even displaced polar bears sighted south of their ancestral range turns out to be attributed to nothing more than advances in ecotourism.

Even my chakra’s, all seven have told me to just take a chill pill, stop worrying, it’s all coming to an end, but it’s a great ending without the Koch’s, Trump’s or Murdock’s surviving any of what they’ve so fervently wrought.

Today my car still starts, radio works and I know where the hell I’m going for at least the moment. Having been a pilot of the prairie, the daring-do-dude of the desert I can unplug the plug-in-hybrid and go. Blinkered, emotionally bombed out- gutted like a cathedral under renovation I can take my sorry-to-have-to-do-this-to-you-self out into the vast emptiness of the terrifying void where I’ll try to find a can of start-over.

So, there you are and here we go. To the barricades. Helmet on, optimism thermostat turned to full on. The scout will sprint ahead looking for a plausible path through the impasse. Probably to be found under a rock, at the counter of a country store, or maybe locked inside my heart of hearts. I haven’t looked there in a while. Must be a key to my soul somewhere.

 

sign

The Sign I’ve Been Looking For