Monday, December 29, 2008

the state of book publishing...

From Marty Shepard's blog -- he runs very respectable Permanent Press out of Long Island --; here's his blog:; AND he's considering a revision of my book (fingers crossed but I try not to get up hopes). Great take on things from someone who really gives a damn about books.

Pay for Play Book Scams
Drawing parallels between selling books and selling senatorial seats has led me to certain conclusions, since "Play for Pay" exists in both instances. When it occurs in the political realm, it creates Moral Outrage, and justly so. But when it occurs in selling books, it never causes indignation, for it's simply seen as Good Marketing. Yet, it seems to me, that anyone interested in making sure that good candidates and good books rise to the top of the charts will conclude that Pay for Play does society a disservice.Walk into any of the chain stores and you will find up-front tables and counter space filled with large displays designed to catch the eye of wandering customers. "These are the worthwhile books," is the implication. Well, perhaps that might be true on occasion, but much more often than not, these titles are prominently displayed because the publisher "pays to play," by paying money to Borders or Barnes & Noble. This is a significant expense and forecloses exposure for titles published by any small press (of which there are thousands) who, if they are lucky enough to have a book in stock at a chain store, will have it on a shelf, spine showing, under whatever category it fits into.The moral outrage frequently found in the book business usually has to do with how the chains have forced independent booksellers out of business. Or how has also put pressure on all bookstores. But I would like to offer a different point of view, namely applause for both and the independent stores for leveling the playing field, and welcoming the fact that Borders is close to bankruptcy and hoping that Barnes & Noble, which is also facing financial pressures, will not be far behind. Nothing would please me more than seeing a consumer boycott of these chains to hasten this process. It would also help restore the ailing independent bookstores that now account for less than 25% of book sales, where a few decades ago they accounted for approximately 75%.When a book buyer goes to and hits a button for a book they've heard about, there is no pile of up-front competing books to distract them, nor are they tempted to buy something else because Amazon always has stock of titles that are not widely known even if they are well and widely reviewed. Also, the independents--members of the American Booksellers Association--are far more likely to cater to a more demanding clientele, reflecting the taste of both owners and staff. The "Indie's" have also set up their own program to bring quality books to the public through their Indie Next List (earlier called the Book Sense Picks List)--titles chosen from pre-publication copies made available to these stores from which they select 40 books a month from the hundreds submitted.For the past 30 years we've been publishing one book each month, and in that time have earned as many honors per book as any publisher in America. Since October we've had a series of six excellent reviews in Publishers Weekly--the bible of the book business. Three were for novels already released: Roccie Hill's tale of the rock scene in the early 70's, Three Minutes on Love ("A wonderful debut"), Lucia Orth's starred review set in the Philippines, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop ("A stellar first novel"), M.F. Bloxam's eerie The Night Battles, set in Sicily ("Fine literary horror") and for three yet to come: Efrem Sigels tale of the parents reaction to the disappearance of their fourteen year old son, due out in February, The Disappearance ("A powerful and elegantly crafted novel"), Daniel Klein's The History of Now, due in March ("A charming philosophical lesson of destiny and history colliding"), and Ivan Goldman's The Barfighter, due in April ("Brings to life the sleazy underbelly of professional boxing"). You are not likely to find them in Barnes & Noble, however, for we haven't paid that piper his fee for playing. But you will be able to see them and order from and, perhaps, your local independent, or read about them and order directly from The Permanent Press website here is my take on the economy: Last week the Federal Reserve said they would be printing money, as much as needed, to stimulate the economy. This goes beyond borrowing through bonds or from China, for why would anyone lend money to a country that is constantly increasing its astronomical deficits and whose politicians insist on tax reductions that only worsen the situation?The problem with this latest "fix" is that it's reminiscent of what happened in the Weimar Republic in Germany between the two World Wars, where printing money without real reserves led to hyper-inflation, with citizens having to take wheelbarrows full of German marks to the grocery story to buy a few bags of food. Or, more currently, the run-away inflation in Zimbabwe. This printing of money without backing-up its value is fraught with danger. If one dollar in today's currency will be valued at $500 some time in the future, it's easy for the government to pay back its loans: $200 dollars--value-wise--in today's currency would have a face-value of $100,000, an easy way to pay off debt. But it will be hell for those citizens who thought their money was safe if they put it in a bank as opposed to buying securities.One can only hope that the incoming Obama administration will do something to rectify this situation as, for all the talk about our being in recession, the fact of the matter is we seem to approaching the cusp of the next "Great Depression."Marty Shepard
Posted by the book stops here at 10:30 AM 2 comments
Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lone Cone Country v. 1 # 2

LONE WHAT? … The Cone is a cinder plug that floated to the top of the magma heap like a big cork & over the millennia has shed its mantle of surface rubble to reveal the basement rock from deep within the paleocore – above timberline steep scree slopes of fractured igneous, often wreathed in clouds around the storms that buffet its mother mountain peak … As graceful a Grand Teton as Mother Earth provides, but up close a shattered skeleton of slippery stones … I live on Wright’s Mesa, looking south to Lone Cone, as one of my wives used to say.

IRREGULAR? … Was hoping to make this more regular than it’s been (just one column back in November). But still recovering from my father passing, and the campaign hullabaloo. Happily, Obama won in D.C., and I won a fourth term in San Miguel County … Hoping to share my three-dot style of journalism a wee bit more often than once a quarter.

YOUTH VOTE … For the past seven years the Southwest Colorado Chapter of the Green Party in Montezuma County has been sponsoring a candidate forum at the Montezuma-Cortez High School. This year they asked me to moderate, which meant guiding students through a morning civics class in American democracy … I did an intro, and got to do a short summation on the importance and responsibility of voting at the end. But most of the two-hour special program for civics class students from MCHS, Dolores High School and SouthWest Open School got taken up with a roundtable give-and-take directly among students and candidates. Each candidate took a seat at one of eight tables, and the 100 or so kids were parceled out in small clusters of a dozen or so. Candidates included 58th Colo. House District candidates Noelle Hagan of Montrose and hometown favorite Scott Tipton of Cortez; Montezuma County Commissioner candidates Fred Blackburn and Alfred Hughes (incumbent Larrie Rule called in sick and candidate Paul Young was a no-show); 22nd District Attorney candidates, incumbent James Wilson and challenger Mac Myers; and members of the League of Women Voters talking about the many bond issues. Students spent a half-hour with one candidate, and then moved to a second table for the second half-hour … Since I know Commissioner Rule and have attended meetings with him, I took his table, and tried to explain his political philosophy, as best I could, although he is a very conservative Republican. That was an interesting exercise, but soon the kids were more interested in getting my reactions to their questions --- “Do you believe in gun control?”, “Should schools be run democratically?” and a long discussion led by one young woman about Amendment 48 and how making zygotes persons could lead to far more teen pregnancies … It was gritty stuff. Good stuff to be discussed. And I spoke at the end of how democracy only works if we get involved, informed. How voting was a responsibility of a citizen, and how important and precious it was to be able to make our choices known, and to have our choice be honored to represent us … The more I reflected on the afternoon, the more sense it made to offer this kind of program for our young people. And the prouder I was of the Southwestern Colorado chapter of the Colorado Green Party. What better way to further the key value of grassroots democracy than by hosting a forum for youth about to be given the franchise of voting?

NORWOOD … Okay, the t-shirt logo “NorwoodStock” may have been over the top, but the Norwood Arts & Music Festival back in October was one helluva party, with kickass bands and wild women & wild men, dancing & partying. Plus, there were great booths, private parties and the kind of mingling that you don’t see up in Telluride as much anymore – Rastafarians & bikers right up along side ranchers & framers … ‘Course, my fav performance was hearing the illustrious Joan McKinney tinkling the ivories in the old Log Cabin. What a gifted pianist, and she doesn’t read music, does it all from ear. She had many of us, old and young (a category that’s becoming increasingly fuzzy for this paleohippie), entranced or moved to sing along … The first annual NAMF put Norwood on the map as heavy on the happening and short on the once-familiar snores. It was a rock-em sock-em Saturday night along the Gurley Ditch and out back beside the fire station … Huge kudos to everyone connected to this marvelous first timer, but I want to single out Jim and Steve Dabal, Margie Huebner, Pirate Rob, Anatasia Turner and Kristina Stellhorn for all the work they did in getting the event off the ground … It was nice to have the entire Lower Basin community involved – Nucla to Norwood Hill. There may be imaginary county boundaries separating the San Miguel Basin, but it’s all one watershed on the ground … Two Candles and the Livery are GREAT venues, and the Log Cabin is about as historical as it gets beyond Telluride’s mining camp Victorians … So, forget the old nickname, Snorewood. Things are changing on Wright’s Mesa, and Grand Avenue is a happening place at last.

MONTHLY QUOTA … "Republicans believe in socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor." –John Kenneth Galbraith … You know, as a political progressive, passionately interested in social justice since I left the Catholic seminary 40 years ago, it’s embarrassingly ironic to watch a Republican administration propose a bailout, which is really a buy-out, which is really the state taking control of private financial institutions. A textbook case of socialist policy – nationalizing the means of production … It’s hard for me to understand how anyone with the Republicans could claim to be a conservative (no matter how much lipstick you put on the pig) when their highest elected official has chosen socialism (not the free market) to deal with our current financial crisis … No wonder I’m a Green.


-for Bill Hickey

Too damned old & leonine?
No, I’m bolder & wiser,

Hold bedrock values
in spite of the rainbows I wear.
Share citizens’ trust.

Truth is, this job makes you
change your mind
like teens change clothes.

Learn from whatever
you bump up against & can’t move.
Yes I sometimes roar.

Get passionate
about the People’s work.
Parse a certainty

for the lie it may be.
Sniff the wolves in sheepskin.
Know maybe

the best can be done
puts band-aids
on bleeding arteries.

Like Vincent St. John knew.
Like Harvey Milk knew.
And dared to do.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Soda Jerk Aiden, bluegrass picker Robin, and Lawn Chair King Erik playing an un-rehearsed, spontaneous set of old country, rockabilly and punk in Erik's living room. Sometimes the best sets of music happen far away from the theatre, the crowd, and the cover.


Friday, December 26, 2008

A little SW Luv, from the novel The Book of John

He hears the ocean breathe a block away and thinks that unlike here, the sea in the Southwest has turned to rock. Water shadows everywhere, if you know what you are looking at. At Wupatki National Monument, north of Flagstaff, where he worked for a time, Moenkopi sandstone forms in rippled slabs that break off into patio-sized pieces, the shallowed landing of water on sand so evident in the frozen ripples. What stopped time in that trap of sand fused together, then oxidized it to a bright orange-red? Movement caught and juggernauted, such an enigma, a contradiction in its plaster-of-Paris casing. Or more recently, out at the site that has stymied him, has sent him flying here, thick layers of Dakota sandstone crease with Mancos shale, making for roads that undulate as they sag into the shale bands. The shale and coal seams are the products too of water, water-logged plants and animals, quagmired dinosaurs whose energy humanity now releases and destroys the planet with.

From his site, if you stretched your neck around the bend, the glint of the San Juan River, sliding by like a brown snake, can be seen. It’s rare for a crew to be so close to water. A Southwesternist spends most of his or her time in desert territories where water is a secret to be deciphered. If that can occur, you might just get a handle on how the ancient peoples lived here, how the Ancestral Puebloan navigated, in their ships of corn and adobe and pots, this desiccated place. At Mesa Verde, east of the site by twenty miles as the crow flies, the secret is behind the rock shelters that housed the people for their last hundred years – there the shale interrupts the slow drip of rain-time through sandstone, and the water is forced to come out, breaking the rock as it freezes and thaws, freezes and thaws, eventually forming the shelters themselves, and seep springs in the back of them. The rest is just human manipulation, age-old tricks of check dams and a few feeble reservoirs, and perhaps, when John is dreaming up stories at the onset of storms, the hurried footsteps of women with enormous ollas putting them out at the pour-over line, where a good rain will curtain off the top of the mesa and over the rim of the rock shelter.

At Wupatki, cradled in the shadow of Sunset Crater, the secret was the volcanic soil. Things could look bone-dry on the surface, but scratch the knobby cinders and the color of wet would greet you less than an inch down. At the site he has run from, with the bones and residues of blood, two miles down the drainage lies the San Juan. An easy source. A place where, when conditions are just right, say, in early August when the light switches ever so subtly to autumn, the water and the sun do a dance of a thousand winks, and he thinks: So this is joy...

Monday, December 22, 2008

monkey wrenching with a paddle?!

Funny that right as I posted this blog I noticed that B.Frank had posted a similar blog just minutes before. So I have made some changes but it seems that the word is out and the feeling is rising high in the air, and amongst the hearts of four corners enthusiasts. Despite the previous blog I feel as though I need to extend a heart felt salute, and humble bow to Tim DeChristopher, a student from the University of Utah, who took it upon himself to actively disrupt bush's attempt to auction off the Utah wilderness. As many of you may well know over 150,000 acres of sacred red rock country was put on the chopping block this past Friday when the bush administration, walking hand in hand with the BLM, decided to auction off the chosen parcels of land to oil and gas companies for exploitation. Infuriated by the potential sales environmental groups, like the Southern Utah Wilderness, filed a lawsuit to try and stop the BLM from the potential leasing of the sensitive red rock areas. Unfortunately, the lawsuit ended, rather weakly in my opinion, with a deal being struck that allowed the BLM to continue with the auction save a handful of "the most contested portions of land" which will go before a federal judge within the next month.
Hopefully these direct actions will help put a damper on these atrocities and raise the question of what we truly stand to lose by destroying these lands.

My hat goes off to you Tim. There is something to be said for acting on an ethical whim-for seeing a situation to make a difference and taking the chance. I only hope that more action will be taken in the months to come to defend these wild places, and that the upcoming administration will do its part to protect wild lands for future generations. I know I'll do my part-how will you choose to act? Check out the video in the blog below or at

Keep to the low and wild places!

Change - "...we are the ones we have been waiting for."

Last Friday, as George W. Bush sought desperately to defer reckonings for eight years of foreign policy, economic, and environmental blundering onto the next administration, - Tim DeChristopher took a final exam on economics, walked into a BLM auction in downtown Salt Lake City, took a bidding number, and threw a wrench into one of the outgoing administration's machinations to deliver lasting gifts to extraction industries all over our map.

Patrick Shea, a Clinton-era head of the Bureau of Land Management, has offered to represent DeChristopher in any legal actions, and though at this point he lacks the $1,700,000 it would take to claim his winning bids on 22,000 acres, this act of very civil disobedience will delay any re-auctioning of a few pieces of Utah's canyon country until after January 20th. DeChristopher further explains his action on the One Utah blog, where you can thank him, and donate to a legal fund.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dock Ellis, the trippin' no-hit pitcher, passes

Everybody deserves a wilderness to traverse. Long-time pitcher Dock Ellis had many regions he explored and honored. But certainly the most ... elegant, perhaps, is his pitching a no-hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates whilst under the influence of LSD.

Dock Ellis hath passed
. Long may he throw celestial strikes. With sparks trailing the pitches ...

Hear Dock tell the story himself:

Friday, December 19, 2008

The ice is always whiter next door ...

It's supposed to get cold this weekend -- below zero here in Durango, the weather prognosticators say.

For myself, that means a few strategic maneuvers: letting the faucets and toilet drip in the downstairs bathroom, so they don't freeze; throwing a big fatty log in the woodstove before heading up to bed; moving the mailbox down to the tree along the walkway so the mailman doesn't have to scale the glacier that bulges on our front step in midwinter (it is, I am fairly sure, the only glacier on Earth that is advancing).

Beyond that, though, I'm looking forward to it. I like to fully inhale the breath of winter's breadth, and now that I've had some nice deep gulps of snow (three most glorious powder days at Purgatory this week -- now that's the way to start a ski season!), I owe winter its depth of cold. Bring it on.

Of course, here on the southern flank of the Southern Rockies, even in the depth of winter the cold is pretty shallow. A few degrees below zero, maybe, for a week, maybe. Last year, if I remember correctly, winter managed to plunge us to double-digits below zero; still, though, for self-anointed mountain folk, Durango's so-called cold is a mere splash in a puddle.

For real submersion, you need to head to the deep end of winter's pool. There you'll find folks throwing blankets over the hoods of their cars, or plugging in electric heaters attached to the blocks of their cars' engines, or pulling their car batteries into the bedroom with them where they will hopefully awakened warm, refreshed, and ready to crank over a crankcase full of sludgy-cold tranny oil in the morning.

I learned those tricks and many more during the several years I spent living in the Fraser Valley, in northern Colorado, in the 1980s. In the Fraser Valley (which includes the town of Fraser, the self-proclaimed "Icebox of the Nation," even though the town lost a bitter trademark dispute with International Falls, Minn., over that moniker), an unusual geologic feature creates what is essentially a high-altitude sink where the cold pools in a fierce, dense, frigid pool that frequently submerges the towns of Winter Park, Fraser, and Tabernash in temperatures of 40 degrees below zero and lower.

The coldest temperature I, myself, experienced was in Tabernash, when it hit 62 degrees below zero. While I hitchhiked to work that clear, crystal, still morning, smoke from nearby chimneys snaked down off roofs and crawled to the ground, and snow fell from my breath.

After that, Durango feels tropical, and its week of single-digit sub-zero temps a cute little anomaly in an otherwise lovely climate.

Well, what Durango is to the Fraser Valley, the Icebox of the Nation -- whichever one you really believe deserves to be billed as such -- is to Oymyakon. Located in Siberian Russia, Oymyakon holds the record for the coldest temperature for an inhabited place in the northern hemisphere: -71.2 degrees Celcius.

In Oymyakon, according to the news segment below (recorded in 1996), birds freeze to death in flight, but the residents are tough as nails. It gets hard to breath at around 60 below zero, reports the grinning town "weatherman." And even the kids are resilient: At the Oymyakon school, students have recess until 40 below zero, and school isn't called off until the temperature sinks to minus 52.

I'll take Durango -- or even Tabernash -- any winter's day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


So it’s true that it’s not true
that 90% of all colon procedures
identify cancerous growths.

So it’s also true that being 50
gives you only a 50% chance
of finding polyps in the tract

where men (mostly) suffer
the indignities of being
probed for alien life.

Nothing, it seems, is conclusive
except that final breath
where all the fiber you ate

makes no difference
and the trouble you’ve feared
sneaks up from behind.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On getting back from beyond

This is a view I hope to experience only this way, through my laptop window to a big scary world of hoping your trusty avalanche beacon will help your friends dig out your remains, with their trusty avalanche shovels and probes.

[Avalanche in Pau, by an organization listed only as the "Snow Safety Center"]

Think you know how to avoid the rush, and crush of an avalanche? Here's a terrain quiz, from

Want to know more? The Silverton Avalanche School started
enrollment for their 2009 classes today. According to the website, there are still open slots.

Can't wait to start learning more? Here is a
reading list, suggested by the folks at the Avalanche School. Shop indie, and find your bookstore here.

Can't wait to get started? Check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center for snow conditions, before you pack that gear and hit the backcountry, beyond the beacons and safety nets.

Welcome back to winter, gang.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Storm warning and a skiing warning

It looks like a biggie. The National Weather Service just posted this update on the big Pacific storm moving into the Four Corners between now and Thursday evening:





Also, a warning for those (us) skiers licking their chops
over this big dump:
A skier was killed in an avalanche at Snowbird Ski Resort
on Sunday after the area had received a foot of snow
over the weekend -- this even after avalanche control
had been done on the area. Watch the report here.

It's finally come down to this...

An angry Iraqi journalist chucks his kicks at the Bush. 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Purgatory finally sees powder ...

It's been a long wait (especially with a 13-year-old powder-hounding daughter daily asking the ski-bum's equivalent of are we there yet??), but we finally got up to Purgatory ... er, Durango Mountain Resort ... today.
From Purg 14 dec 08

And it was a good day to go: although only the front-side six-pack was open and only a handful of runs were open, the skiing that was there was excellent. Employees reported the area had at last received a foot and a half of light, lovely snow.
From Purg 14 dec 08

We spent most of the day hitting Paradise and Hades, and at midday patrollers opened Lower Pando and Lower Hades -- and we were lucky enough to be standing at the rope when they opened lower Hades, which led to a glorious back-country quality float trip down Hades' steep uncut face.

Changes at Purg? Well, the base area looked quite nice. The wide entranceway courtyard has a nice, cozy, throw-back ski-area feel to it, with it brick cobblestone
From Purg 14 dec 08
and classic lamp posts. And the new Purgy's is attractive and functional (although it seems crazy they didn't put an easy-to-access water fountain near the entrance to the restaurant and bar ...). Out in front of the restaurant, a bonfire gave cold folks -- and it was a cold day of alternating snow squalls and sun bursts -- a place to sit and enjoy a day in the hills.
From Purg 14 dec 08

But, rest assured: other stuff that classic Purgatory haven't changed. My favorite personal gripes were left in tact:
  • It was still that familiar unmanaged chaos at the six pack loading area - people trying to figure out how to merge the entrance lines, and six-seater chairs going up with one or two people while dozens wait below -- while at the loading area three employees, oblivious to the line-mess behind them, rake the snow and watch people load.
  • The lifts and base area are still aurally sterile -- devoid of the festive music that imbue powder-day spirit at the base area and the tops and bottoms of lifts at most ski areas. Even the soundtrack to Purgy's restaurant of was the indecipherable mumbling from the TVs broadcasting two different football games.
It's refreshing to know they're not improving everything at Purg.

And today, it would've been hard to improve the skiing.
From Purg 14 dec 08

It has begun ... Check out the slide show:

And more snow is a'comin' ...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Silverton Mountain owner clarifies backcountry access issue

Aaron Brill, owner of Silverton Mountain ski area, sent the Almanac this clarification of yesterday's posting about public access to backcountry in the upper end of Cement Creek, above Silverton:
There was no request to discontinue plowing by me. San Juan County informed me they had decided to stop plowing the last .3 miles of the road to save money this year. They actually posted signs as such this October near Gladstone. I simply pointed out that since they had already decided not to plow to the end of the road and we would have to ski further to the shuttle, they could likely add another .5 to it without changing how badly it affected us as we may be able to ski down part of the way until it flattened out about .4 miles north of the ski area.

The lack of plowing would have a negative impact on us as we prefer to drive to the end of the road for emergency reasons and our skiers prefer the shuttle from the end of the road, but I suggested we could groom it to make it more tenable. We would still have to run our shuttle up the road, as there is another .4 miles from the end of the plowing to the base area.

There was no request to stop running our shuttles. This decision to terminate plowing early is all San Juan County’s deal and really has nothing to do with me other than I was trying to help them with their budget woes by being unselfish and cooperative when they told me about it. The lack of plowing will create some hardship for the ski area as we also prefer that they plow the road all the way, but we understand that they have serious budget woes and may need to make some sacrifices.

We all need to make sure San Juan County has enough money for county road avalanche control or the entire road won’t be open much at all, which is not a good alternative either. We pay thousands of dollars in direct payments each year to San Juan County for winter road maintenance to help keep the road open and know how bad their budget for CR 110 is this year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Backcoutry skiing access above Silverton threatened

An alert from the 4cornersbackcountryskiers listserv reports that Aaron Brill, the owner of Silverton Mountain Ski Area is requesting the county cut winter access to the popular backcountry skiing terrain in and around upper Cement Creek, in the San Juans above Silverton. The alert says:
Aaron Brill has asked the San Juan County Commissioners to not plow Cement Creek road past his lift. He doesn’t want to run the shuttles anymore [don't know any more motivation beyond that]. This would make the approaches to Bonita Peak/Gold King (Minnehaha), Corkscrew/Hurricane, Gwendaland, etc excessively long. The San Juan County Commissioners are meeting at 8am on the 15th and this topic is on the agenda. If you have an opinion on this, please contact the commissioners at the following by tomorrow, Friday at noon!

View Larger Map

Those concerned are urged to contact the San Juan County to ask the county to continue to plowing the and maintaining access public trailhead and ski access at the top of the Cement Creek road.

Email or call the San Juan County Administrator, William Tookey, at 970.387.5766

The alert suggests points to make:

1) The parking area/trailhead at the end of Cement Creek Road has been kept open by the state or county plows for many decades. It leads to many backcountry areas used from October to May. Backcountry access is important for the county to maintain as it is what makes the Silverton area so popular with backcountry enthusiasts.

2) Those who use this particular trailhead do not wish to ski at Silverton nor do they do want to park along the already crowded road near the ski area, which is a half-mile from the current Cement Creek trailhead.

3) Backcountry skiers from Ouray and Durango help support and "grow" the local San Juan economy, by buying gas, supplies, and other sundries in town.

4) The decisions to purchase many homes and properties in San Juan County have been spurred by the county-supported plowed access to higher elevation trailheads.
You can also contact Silverton Mountain at

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

'Tis the season? A tale of headlines

Food bank's shelves empty
(Durango Herald, November 22, 2008)

Church continues serving meals, despite losing use of Manna Soup Kitchen
(Durango Herald, December 9, 2008)

Not so many years ago, I traveled to a ground zero of disaster headlines with bags of clothing, food and a bit of money (all donated), to help spread around supplies that were dribbling in from all over the country. I'll leave description of the specific place to memory and imagination, but will say that the regional food bank was under water, normal methods of distribution and communication destroyed or, at best, intermittent and unreliable. I stayed until money, supplies and my energy gave out, searching out start-up food banks, meal and soup lines; and helping deliver whatever we could find to keep them going a few more days. They operated out of churches, in parking lots, and at private houses. Warming up with a meal revives hope, and a food bank sustains it with a promise of more to come.

Entering the most dangerous season for living on the edge, the two headlines above are storm warning signs for our little corner of paradise. People need food and warmth all year, 7 days each week. There is urgent need to explore and address the problems described in each story, while realizing that helping sustain hope, through seasonal and economic shifts in supply and demand, is up to each of us.

Here are a couple of places to start:
View Larger Map

View Larger Map

Unlike the disaster tale I told above, none of this is a start-up for Durango, and the Women's Resource Center has already put together a list of food resources.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Point of Interest: Durango high school students make their own damn ski movie

A couple of weeks ago we quenched our ski hungering for a while by going down to the Abbey Theatre and checking out Point of Interest, a ski film entirely shot, performed, edited, and produced by some Durango High School students.

I left hungrier than ever to get out on my boards -- and happy and chipper and feeling damn fine about the shape of the next crop of ski bums.

Filmed in and around Purgatory, and other familiar local San Juan locales, Point of Interest is imaginative filming of good action melded with cool music and laced with witty humor. Produced and edited by the talented Matt Mulligan, and starring the skiing and boarding of Mulligan and other students, including David VanAtta, Ben Southworth, Cedar Jocks, Aidan Sheehad, Jenna Mulligan, and Derek Macguffie, the film was full of spirit and creativity and good fun.

And it struck me as a good, healthy, mountain-town rite of passage: the kids taking over the terrain -- done watching, and out doing.

The future of the mountain culture, I think, is in good hands.

Check it out:


Friday, December 5, 2008

Craig Childs defends the modern forager

I've never been one to try to keep up with the Joneses. I just wait for them to have a yard sale.

As a long-time bum (fishing, ski, van, river, desert, mountain, etc. etc.), I've found there are few things in life that are worth acquiring new. And that there are many, many ways -- many underground economies, and even many sources of free pickings -- to get goods that are plenty good. And cheap.

Which is important when you have built your life around living in the hinterlands of the American West, and around building the time in that life -- generally (at least in my case) at the expense of a more abundant income -- to get out and enjoy it.

Want less; do more. Know what I mean?

Hotchkiss, Colo.-based writer Craig Childs (author of the excellent and engaging House of Rain) knows what I mean. And he waxes philosophic about it -- his own and others' adventures in 21st century scavenging -- in a recent column in the LA Times.

Read Craig Childs' "Man as Scavenger." Then raise a tin-cup toast to hunting and gathering in the modern world!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

From the change research facility...

Odetta (December 31, 1930 - December 2, 2008)

(Video produced by Playing For Change.)
Here's a Bill Moyers interview with the producer, Mark Johnson.

And today...

A Solar Taxi finished an around the world tour at the UN climate change talks in Poznan, Poland.

The ill effects of less habitat and fewer hunters

Every night lately when my dog and I head out to practice our before-bed ritual of sauntering the neighborhood, we've seen the new neighbors. Sometimes they're standing in the dark in the backyard next door, silently eyeing us. Other times, they're in the yard of neighbors on the other side, munching the last apples of fall that lay on the ground under the now-bare apple tree. Sometimes they're just moving down the alley in a gang sporting their (ahem) leather jackets, acting like they own the place.

The deer move as freely through our little city at the foot of the big mountains as do my teenage kids on their skateboards and bikes. We all share this space, even if warily. As do the other longer-term denizens of the Animas Valley, home and byway for wildlife since the glaciers went back to the hills for more rocks 10 millenia ago. Still wandering through our town's alleys and taking residence in our privately-owned backyard pastures are, along the with usual assortment of rodents and varmits, more wild wildlife: bear, elk, coyotes, and mountain lion.

And it's not just here in the remote San Juan Country where this is happening: Wildlife are moving into and squatting on suburban and urban landscapes all over the country. And not without consequence, for both human and non.

The causes and implications of this re-wilding of our urban habitat was the subject of an interesting discussion yesterday on NPR's "On Point," with host Tom Ashbrook. The show looked at the question, "Are animals crowding humans, or is it the other way around? Is hunting the way to solve problems between people and animals?"

Guests discussing the issue on the show were:
  • John Rocchetta, a land steward who manages properties on Long Island.
  • Brian Vincent, founder of Big Wildlife, an Oregon-based conservation group.
It's worth giving it a listen. There's an interesting discussion in the comments on the webpage, as well.

Here, too, is the recent excellent piece on the state of hunting by Matthew Teague in Sports Illustrated.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Indian Dances

Anyone interested in Christmas Dances at the Pueblos in NM please go to: Calendar of Native American Events and Dances in Central New Mexico -- terrific cultural experience and well worth freezing your butt off. Pick your pueblo - great excuse to go to Santa Fe, the City Different. Xmas in NM is like no other. For Feast Days throughout the year at all the pueblos, check out

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Group fights for southeastern Utah forests

Looking for a Christmas gift for that person who can't keep away from the wonders of southeastern Utah? Give that high-country canyoneer a membership with Red Rock Forests.

Red Rock Forests is a Moab-based 501(c)3 non-profit formed nearly 10 years ago, in 1999. Originally called "Friends of the Abajos," the group is now dedicated to the protection of southeastern Utah's unique and fragile high-desert forest lands in and around the Abajo and La Sal mountains.

The organization's staff of six (including Monticello wilderness activist and writer Amy Irvine-McHarg, author of Trespass: Living at the edge of the promised land), with the help of volunteers, is working on several campaigns, including an updated inventory of legal and illegal roads in the Abajo Moutains, monitoring and commenting on Manti-La Sal National Forest management plans and proposals, and an outreach and education campaign on oil-and-gas and mineral development in the Canyonlands area.

They describe themselves thus:
Red Rock Forests strives to protect the sky-island mountains and plateaus above America's Redrock Wilderness in southern Utah, emphasizing the La Sal Mountains, Abajo Mountains, and Elk Ridge in the Canyonlands Basin. We recognize the vital ecological role these ranges play in sustaining Utah's desert wildlife and waterways. For this reason, ecology is our guiding principle, though we use education, public policy, the law, citizen action, and collaboration with other organizations and agencies to achieve protection for these irreplaceable high desert oases.
Read more of their "about us" here.

Check out their newsletters and donate to join here.

Contact Red Rock Forests at

Best Novel of the Year

Time Magazine just named 2666 the Best Book of the Year. I would argue that it's the most important piece of fiction to come out in the last 50 years... which is just a large blanket statement designed for impact... a statement for which I have no argument or proof.

It's virtually impossible to describe this book. I can say that you haven't heard from me in a while because of it, I've been so immersed and so traumatized by it that my dreams have been infected, and I see visions of unnameable and indescribable...discomfort. There are 5 stories, all loosely connected to the enormous number of rape/murders that remain unsolved in the bordertown of Santa Teresa in the Sonoran Desert. Hundreds and hundreds of women have been brutally tortured and murdered without respite for the last decade and a half. The crimes remain unsolved.

Bolano dances around the issue in the first three parts of the book, but part four... part four. Each woman killed, how she was found, who she was, what they did to her. It's awful. He names them, describes them, and humanizes them enough in a paragraph or two to make each one devastating. the sheer number of them, though, no matter how well we know them, or how personal it gets, we just cannot remember them, and therein lies the genius of this section. Each becomes part of a faceless mob of corpses, and they just keep coming. This is why nothing has been done, Bolano seems to be saying. The sheer overwhelming numbers almost makes each death meaningless in the face of the bigger atrocities.

By no means an easy read, but as Kafka says:

"If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skulls, then why do we read it? Good God, we also would be happy if we had no books and such books that make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves. What we must have are those books that come on us like ill fortune, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us."