Monday, February 28, 2011
Aside from the fact that March has a few more days than does February, the days and the dates match. This apparently happens every year except leap years when February gets that extra day and those born on that extra day get life times of being years behind time's march.
This information is presented as a public service in the hopes that it will save others from doubting their grasp on reality orientation.
Besides, it's really neat.
I'm just giving you fair warning. If you come up to me and say, "Guess what," you have just made a commitment. So, you better be prepared, because I am going to run with that, and there are no established safe words.
Please don't think I have anything against cowboys. Some of my best friends have been cowboys. Well, more accurately, cowgirls. But that's another story.
Anyway, Sunday, Feb. 27 was the finale of the Tucson Rodeo's 86th annual go-round. Since my sister and I have a novel out right now, Contrary Creek, that features real cowboys, and rodeo stuff like roping and barrel racing, I thought I might mosey on down and pay my respects to La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, as the rodeo is called.
But Sunday morning came, and Tucson woke up with actual snow on the ground, mountains of white surrounding our valley, occasional sleet, and temperatures that never got above 50 degrees. Listen, I went to school a long time and studied really hard, just so I wouldn't have to be outside in weather like that.
In short, I wimped out.
So this is my attempt to honor the cowboys and cowgirls of my rich, ranching heritage -- if only from a distance.
First, some facts, gleaned from the Tucson Rodeo website. The nine-day event is held at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds where a "who's who" of more than 650 contestants compete for $420,000 in prize money. One of the top 25 professional rodeos in North America, the Tucson event draws an average of 11,000 fans a day.
Even on a cold, rainy day like Sunday. There has never been a rain-out in the history of the Tucson Rodeo, organizers say.
Wimp, they added.
Rodeo cowboys through the years have had colorful names like Trevor Brazile, Ty Murray, Cody Custer, Casey Tibbs, Jim Shoulders, Everett Bowman, and the bull-rider "Tuff" Hedeman.
A glance through the list of the 2011 Tucson Rodeo champions shows that the same tradition of cowboy-soundin' names continues, even if the people wearing the names are different. The All-Around Cowboy was a guy named Clint Robinson of Spanish Fork, Utah. Kelly Timberman was the bareback bronc champ, Josh Peek took the steer wrestling prize, and Jacob O'Mara was the bull- riding champion.
Brittany Pozzi, of Victoria, Texas, came in first in barrel-racing, with an average time of 17.4 seconds for three runs. She would have finished well behind the "16 seconds flat" posted by B.J. Cloud, of Faraway, Arizona, in our novel, Contrary Creek.
But that's only fiction. Kind of the way I like my rodeos.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
I haven't had to look down while typing in so long that I never really thought about the arrangement of the keys until a few minutes ago. I bet the guy who invented the Qwerty keyboard did it because he was also the first cheesy douche to use the pickup line “If I could rearrange the alphabet, I'd put "U" and "I" together.”
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Or rather, make that Baja Arizona.
There's no crazed dictator railing from the fortress wall, but there is an equally off-the-wall bunch of Republican legislators in Phoenix, trying to usurp the job of the federal government on matters such as immigration and presidential qualifications.
Here are some specifics:
- In the wake of the Jan. 8 shooting spree in Tucson that left six dead and 13 wounded -- including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- lawmakers with lightning speed and sensitivity are moving to designate the Colt single-action Army revolver as the "official state firearm."
- Another proposal would scrap Arizona's version of Medicaid and replace it with something that would cut the number of low-income recipients eligible for health assistance from 1.3 million to about 100,000.
- Republican Sen. Russell Peace, riding a wave of popularity after passage of SB 1070 last year, has proposed a new measure to tighten the screws on illegal immigrants, requiring hospitals to demand proof of citizenship before providing non-emergency care and denying birth certificates to children born in Arizona if one of the parents was in the country illegally.
These and other actions by the Legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer have stirred the waters of revolt in Pima County, the Democratic enclave of the state. A group that calls itself "Start Our State" (SOS, get it?) has launched a drive to secede from Arizona and form a brand new state.Hello, Baja Arizona.
This isn't some lunatic fringe idea. The movement was co-founded by Paul Eckerstrom, former Democratic Party chair of Pima County.
Eckertrom told the Arizona Daily Star that the legislature has gone too far to the right, particularly with the round of measures by Pearce that challenge federal supremacy. "This really does border on them saying they don't want to be part of the United States," he said. "Well, I want to be part of the United States."
With a 2009 population of 1,020,200, Eckerstrom added, Pima County has more people than Montana, Delaware, North and South Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming. And with an area of 9,189 square miles, Pima is bigger than Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.
Other counties are welcome to join the breakaway state, he added.
The SOS website states their mission: "To establish a new state in Southern Arizona free of the un-American, unconstitutional machinations of the Phoenix-controlled Arizona Legislature and to restore our region's credibility as a place welcoming to others, open to commerce, and friendly to its neighbors."
I'm completely for all those things. But as a native Arizonan, I don't want to give up the name of "Arizona" for my new state. Let all those people who came to Arizona to get away from the Midwestern snows and infested it with their bigotry and bedrock conservatism find a new name.
Maybe something like "Wiscowandiana."
As we were walking back to our car after the game/show/event, we watched the kids who had been in attendance. Most of their parents had bought them a red, white and blue basketball with the Globetrotters insignia, and they were all trying to dribble the ball behind their backs, or between their legs, or twirl in on their fingers.
Silly fun and exercise, too.
Of course, the greater concern for most everyone here in LaLaLand was the Academy Awards Sunday night in Hollywood. What if the actors got cold walking down the red carpet? What if it rained? What if the intersection of Highland and Hollywood was closed because of the quarter inch or so of expected snow?
I woke up in the middle of last night to look out the window and glory at gently falling snow flakes. I had my camera ready to document the momentous occasion.
Of course, it didn't snow last night. At least not here in Los Angeles and nearby cities. It did rain a lot but today the skies are bright blue.
The Academy Awards are safe as is the city of Sierra Madre.
It never hurts, I suppose, to dust off the old road grader just in case.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
I have been busy achieving unprecedented levels of unverifiable, speculative productivity. For example, today I occupied myself through three meetings by trying to figure out if there's a way to mathematically illustrate the fact that, since light travels faster than sound, even really dumb people can temporarily appear bright for a split-second before you hear them speak.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
With so much on its plate, it’s easy to understand how WAPA could overlook a tiny thing like the placement of one of its power poles.
Now, when I say “power pole,” I mean “giant humongous hulking transmission tower that’s about sixty feet tall like the mast of a battleship, mounted on a concrete base that’s about six feet wide and buried thirty-five feet in the ground.”
A serious power pole, in other words.
My neighbors and I watched in dismay as these transmission towers went in last year, during a street-widening project in northwest Tucson. Then our dismay turned to amazement, when one of the towers ended up nearly out in the street itself, intersecting the sidewalk.
It was clear that something was wrong. Either the tower was in the wrong place, or the road was. Rumors flew. The county and the feds were battling it out in court, one rumor went. Then the word was that the county had won the lawsuit. The tower had to go.
Only problem was, nothing happened. Finally, I got tired of waiting and sent an e-mail to the reporter who covers traffic issues for our daily paper, the Arizona Daily Star, asking her to find out what was going on.
The answer, from Priscilla Cornelio, Pima County transportation director, ran in Monday’s “Roadrunner” column of the Star. If nothing else, it fairly clearly demonstrates why some people are losing faith in the ability of government at all levels to do much of anything.
According to Ms. Cornelio, the county “will be performing minor revisions to the curb, sidewalk and traffic striping in order to install a concrete barrier as well as to provide additional separation between the travel lanes and the pole to protect motorists.”
Cornelio added that the county has been working closely with WAPA on the project and “there are no lawsuits or any other legal actions pending.”
Well, maybe not yet. But the concrete barrier that the county envisions will have to jut out into the street and into the flow of traffic. If only because of Murphy's Law, someone eventually will crash into that concrete wall, despite the traffic striping. I’m not a lawyer, but I predict there’ll be plenty of lawsuits flying then.
Your tax dollars at work.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Saturday, February 19, 2011
This realization manifested itself in several ways, just recently.
As I was making my way up to the entrance of an office building, a strapping young total stranger lunged ahead to open the door for me. "Let me help you with that, Old Timer," his patronizing smile seemed to say.
At a coffee shop, a young, balding man stood by patiently while, with trembling fingers, I took the lid off my cafe au lait, poured in sweetener and stirred my brew. "No need to hurry, Pops," his condescending smile seemed to say. "I've got way more time left than you do."
And then just a little later, as I drove down a busy, four-lane city street, I was startled by the sound of a car horn behind me. A woman driving a Lexus was outraged by something I was doing. I glanced down at my speedometer and discovered that I was driving 38 mph in a 45 mph zone.
The horror! The horror! I sped up, but the woman still couldn't get past me, because there was another slowpoke driving beside me. I could see the woman behind me, a portrait of fuming impatience, in my rearview mirror.
After just a few blocks, I reached the place I needed to go, and moved over into the left-turn lane. But apparently I didn't execute that maneuver quickly enough either, didn't careen over like a Daytona racetrack driver, and the woman again started blatting her horn and gesticulating furiously.
Finally, I turtled out of her way and she roared past giving me a final horn and finger.
I know now how T.S. Eliot's poetic hero, J.Alfred Prufrock, felt:
"I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled."
And as for the woman with the middle finger that she was so anxious to show me: Sorry, Sweetie. I'm sure nothing like what I've got will ever happen to you.
Friday, February 18, 2011
To the members of the House of Representatives who voted for the Pence Amendment to H.R. 1:
How could you?
How could you betray millions of women — and men, and teens — who rely on Planned Parenthood for basic health care?
How could you condemn countless women in this country to undiagnosed cancer, unintended pregnancies, and untreated illnesses?
Your vote was not only against those who seek care at Planned Parenthood health centers, but against every one of us who has ever sought care there, and against every one of us who knows that when we are healthy, when we are in charge of our lives, we thrive.
It was a vote against me.
To every senator who will soon consider this legislation:
I stand with Planned Parenthood to say to you: STOP THIS.
I stand with Planned Parenthood and the hundreds of thousands of people from every walk of life and every corner of this country who join me in signing this letter to tell you that we will fight this bill and we expect you to do the same.
I stand with and for the millions of women, men, and teens who rely on Planned Parenthood, and I expect you to do the same.
To every member of Congress, know that we stand together today against this outrageous assault, and together we will not lose.
I apologize for being a downer. But, I'm tired of being lied to and having to face one disappointment after another. The envisioned futures of "Space 1999" and "2001: A Space Odyssey," along with countless other failed predictions have come and gone. Today, I realized we're only four years away from the future of "Back to the Future II," and I still haven't seen any progress on hover boards.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
On the other hand....
There was a time when small, independent book stores stocked books people wanted to read instead of books the publishing industry giants told them to read. There was a time when authors appeared at those little book stores to discuss their works even if only a hand full of readers showed up on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
Take, for example, Chatterton's book store on North Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles. With my catholic (note the small c) reading tastes, I was always able to satisfy my literary whims there. There I discovered both Charles Reznikoff and Charles Bukowski -- regretted the latter discovery and cherished the first. And once Chatterton's even took a book I wrote on consignment and even sold a few copies of it. I traded the books sales for more books.
And then one dark day the giant corporate book stores started moving into neighborhoods, buying out the small stores and even worse seducing their customers away with late hours and places to drink coffee. Now there are only a few of those independent books stores left. Chatterton's is not among them. Of course I blame first Crown Books and then Borders and Barnes & Noble for all of those little book stores going out of business.
Borders blames Amazon for its financial woes. Maybe another reality to blame is, hopefully, the notion that true readers care about choice and don't like to be told by anyone what to read and what to buy.
If things come full circle we will be seeing the rise of small neighborhood book stores once again.
Or am I just dreaming?
Monday, February 14, 2011
1. Bob Dylan's singing hasn't improved with age, not one whit.
2. The Avett Brothers' "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise" is more than just another song with a long title.
3. Take away the platinum-blonde hair and outrageous costumes, and Lady Gaga is a fairly plain woman with an overbite.
4. Eminem is the most likely candidate I've ever seen for spontaneous human combustion.
5. OK, scratch that. Eminem is the second most likely candidate for spontaneous human combustion, next to the frenetic singers, drummers and bicycle riders of Arcade Fire.
6. Winner of the best new artist that nobody's ever heard of award: Esperanza Spalding.
7. Why wasn't Gaslight Anthem nominated for something? Or Carrie Newcomer? Or anyone else I care anything about, other than Train and Neil Young?
8. Neil Young had a new song called "Angry World?" And it won for best rock song? OK, that's something I definitely didn't know.
9. Black jumpsuited Gwyneth Paltrow and Cee Lo Green, looking like a giant multi-colored moth, out-gaga-ed everyone.
10. Of all the Grammys handed out Sunday night, only one went to a group or song that I have on my i-Pod. Naturally, it was Lady A's "Need You Now."
11 (bonus). Justin Bieber, in addition to being a teenage girl's working definition of "cute," plays the guitar left-handed, just like Paul McCartney. Awesome.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Imagine, then, the degree and intensity of my fear this morning when I opened the letter from my bank. Imagine further my fear when the opening paragraph of the letter read something along the lines of 'we regret to inform you'. I immediately imagined myself in prison serving a sentence for some financial crime I neither committed nor knew about.
I almost threw the letter away without finishing it. Come to find out it wasn't about me at all. It did, though, contain some disturbing news.
The Albertsons' grocery store in Pomona at the corner of Garey Avenue and Foothill is closing. The bank was letting me know about this because inside that store is a little branch of the very big bank with which I do business. I often stop at that grocery store, get some money from the ATM, and buy whatever it is I need because the store is huge and has just about anything anyone would ever need.
It's always sad when a favorite business establishment closes. The closure of this store isn't just about my being inconvenienced or feeling sad. When that store goes the corner of Garey and Foothill in Pomona will house a big, empty area and that's not good. Certainly it's not good for the economy of Pomona. The city will have few if any major stores left in it. It's also not good for safety. Pomona hosts a great many homeless men and women and many of those many homeless folk suffer from severe mental illnesses. Big, empty buildings are wonderful places to hide and live. I'm all for the homeless having more places to live. They shouldn't, however, have to hide in empty buildings. But that's what will happen.
So, yeah, I'm bummed that I have to find another safe place to do my dreaded banking.
The bigger issue is, though, that poor little Pomona can't afford to lose a major chain market. Of course, the building will probably eventually house a swap meet of some kind. Swap meets, though, just don't sell a city as well as does a name anything. Anything, this is, except more homeless and a higher crime rate.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
What does it mean? It's a portmanteau word, blending the concepts of legislator, retardation and illegitimacy. Admittedly, this is a grievious slur against those with mental or parentage challenges. But it is completely apropos for many current political office holders in places like, well, Arizona.
With uncanny accuracy, legislatard describes the species of lawmaker (or governor, or whatever) who would attempt to water down legal definitions of rape, balance state budgets by cutting indigent health care, and waste legislative time and resources posturing about U.S. law on immigration, citizenship, and presidential qualifications.
In fact, Arizonans should launch an initiative campaign requiring each lawmaker to wear a badge identifying him- or herself as a LEGISLATARD. Perhaps this would help restrain the self-important huffing and puffing of politicians like Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, by serving as the slave in Roman times who rode in the chariot beside the conquering hero, whispering into his ear: "Remember, you are mortal."
Sad that they need to be reminded of this.
At any rate, a little rat eventually goes a long way and I called Dewey Pest Control. On Wednesday a guy named Carlos arrived with traps and a smile to assure us we would be rid of the rats in no time at all. He set two traps in the attic and said he would return Friday to remove them and their dead rats. Wednesday night I heard each of the two traps snap and imagined quick deaths. Friday Carlos was a no show. When I called him (yes, we've exchanged cell phone numbers) he explained that he had been home with the flu and sounded surprised that the assistant rat guy had not shown up to cart away the corpses.
Today not quite recovered from the flu but apparently burdened with responsibility and work ethic, Carlos crawled into the attic only to emerge rat-less.
"All rats are smart," he said, shaking his head.
We could only agree. In addition to being smart, all rats apparently really like peanut butter. Wednesday night I had heard the traps snap shut. Somehow the rats tripped the traps and then safely dined on peanut butter.
Carlos left four set traps today and will be back Monday.
I worry that when he climbs into the attic on Monday he will find four tripped rat traps and notes requesting bread and jam.
Friday, February 11, 2011
I am appalled by the suggested revisions to the so-called “Rape Bill.” I’m not making light of this, just illuminating the stupidity with a few suggestions: Extremely Rapey Rape. Strangers With Benefits Rape. Rufie Coerced Consent Rape. I Can't Believe It's Not Rape. Your Eyes Said “Yes” Rape. It’s Not You, It’s Rape. Better yet, why don’t we just apply the recently discarded Homeland Security Color Levels.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
The pear tree in front of the house does not produce fruit. It produces blossoms which, when other parts of the country are watching snow drifts pile higher and higher, float to the ground and sometimes collect in tiny drifts of petals that almost but never will become delicious fruits.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Let's review the circumstances, Mr. Mayor. As reported at the time, you were holding a corncob letting the animal take a few bites, then yanking it away. I have an idea. Let me take you out to dinner, let you start eating and then pull your plate away. Let's see how much you like that.
Huh. I guess the mayor isn't the only one still carrying a grudge.
Monday, February 7, 2011
I just read about poor Lindsay Lohan; trouble just seems to follow her around like an angry Egyptian with a rock. Now, she’s facing criminal charges for allegedly stealing a necklace from a jewelry store. If she’s acquitted, it would be the biggest crime she’s gotten away with since, well, her entire acting career. At least the necklace coordinated well with her alcohol detection ankle bracelet.
I'm hoping that the person who actually did win big cared and followed the game.
On the other hand, do winners have to be worthy?
When I ask the really tough questions I see how really complicated life can become.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Jack's family asks that we educate ourselves and each other about mental illness.
I understand mental illness. I spend my work days in the belly of the mental illness beast. However, there's always more work to be done until perhaps some day another brilliant young man named Jack will have an easier landing from his constantly death defying/death inviting disease.
I spend Saturday mornings skimming as many online journals and newspapers as my wife’s detailed weekend cleaning assignments allow.
Today, I've been looking for one item, which so far I have been unable to locate. Somewhere out there, I know there is a simply worded notice that reads something like: “Dear Egyptians: Please do not destroy the pyramids. We will not rebuild. Sincerely, the Jews.”
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Here's also how I know it's close to Super Bowl time again. By the same invisible energy that compels the swallows to return to Capistrano every year, I start thinking of Clydesdales every year at just about this time.