Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chopping wood, Ohio


Chopping wood with my niece at Fox Hollow, in Lexington, Ohio. The wood splitter was purchased in the 1970s or early 1980s. It's a monster of a machine and works fast. Photo by John M. Breitinger.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Country cousins, Ohio


Two of my cousins photographed at Tally Ho Farm, near Alexandria, Ohio. In the 1970s and 1980s I spent a lot of time at this farm. When this Christmas day photo was taken, I was jetting through the skies en route to Columbus from Phoenix. Photo by John M. Breitinger.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lolo Soetoro

One of my minor accomplishments this year was contributing to the world of human knowledge by creating the article on Wikipedia on Barack Obama's stepfather--Lolo Soetoro. The article required much defending, but at this point I think it is there to stay.

Like Colin Powell, I was offended both by the false charge that Obama was a Muslim and the notion that if true it would disqualify him from office. Smears and guilt by associaton were the evidence provided, including the charge that Obama's stepfather was a radical Muslim. From the research I've done along with reporters and other Wikipedia authors, there isn't much credence to those charges.

If you do a Google search on his name, this article is the number one result.

Check it out at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolo_Soetoro

Monday, December 22, 2008

Avalanche means move . . . . fast

Tony Mason, a man I knew at the end of his life, is one of those rare people I will never forget. He had an even bigger impact on my sister Cari.

From Tony: "Never lose eye of your objective and keep going forward even when there is an avalanche heading your way."

He died in early June of this year and is missed.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

This morning the earth crossed the point in orbit marking the Winter Solstice. For those of us in the northern hemisphere this is when we are furthest from the sun.

This also marks the shortest day of the year. The days get longer starting NOW.

Christmas (the word is a contraction of "Christ’s mass") is most likely celebrated on December 25 because that was the day of the Winter Solstice on the Julian calendar—a calendar introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. Cultures around the world have various ways of marking this day. The actual birth day of Christ is unknown--even the year is uncertain.

I have to confess, this is not my favorite time of year, though I am grateful for the holidays to lighten the mood.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Krugman nails it

This week Paul Krugman wrote: "Yet surely I’m not the only person to ask the obvious question: How different, really, is Mr. Madoff’s tale from the story of the investment industry as a whole?"

And not just the investment industry, the real estate industry, the post-9/11 military-industrial-war industry, the people who have accrued more debt than is prudent industry (including me) . . . and on and on.

Hopefully the economy is more resillient than a Ponzi scheme, yet Krugman's correct, too much of it did become a giant ponzi scheme--and through a crack smoking society we got high on real estate and easy credit in a completely unsustainable way. Hopefully the morning after won't be too rough.

In these times of a crashing economic system it's easy, even proper, to point fingers, but we must also, always ask: How much did each of us individually contribute to and benefit from the boom? Possibly, no, probably, more than we realize. It is amazing how we're all products of our times as much as responsible individual operators.

Monday, December 01, 2008

An area of agreement with W

George W. reminded me in a recent interview with ABC news that he has some good qualities. The bad decisions he made were epic and tragic--and even the following quote is a failure of his years as president. Nonetheless, I couldn't agree with him more, than I do on the topic of immigration reform.

From our soon to be former president, George W. Bush:

"I firmly believe that the immigration debate really didn't show the true nature of America as a welcoming society. I fully understand we need to enforce law and enforce borders. But the debate took on a tone that undermined the true greatness of America, which is that we welcome people who want to work hard and support their families."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

An Edward Abbey loop

I left Phoenix Thanksgiving morning, heading north. I passed by Southwestern Academy and Sedona then climbed up the Mogollon Rim to the Colorado Plateau--the elevated, magical, almost mythical geophysical province that sprawls across northern Arizona, southern Utah, and spills over into Colorado and New Mexico. I continued through Flagstaff, across the "painted desert," over the Little Colorado (just east of the Grand Canyon), and paused at the infamous Glenn Canyon Dam before arriving in Kanab, Utah--where I spent 1.5 days with some friends, and their family.

This morning I began the loop back to Phoenix, heading through polygamist country (at Fredonia and Colorado City), St. George, the Virgin River Gorge (along I-15) and then Vegas where I am currently parked in a Starbucks. The next stop will be Quartzsite, and I'll probably press on to Phoenix tonight.

This is a stunning and unique part of the world. My route until I left Utah was made famous by Edward Abbey (among others), along with his fictional characters George Hayduke, Bella Abbzug, Seldom Seen Smith, and Doc Jarvis. If you haven't read it yet, and you're an American with an interest in the West--I encourage you to read The Monkey Wrench Gang, at your earliest convenience.

Frank Sinatra, hosted by Judy Collins on Sirius Satellite Radio provided the soundtrack this morning.

It was a good Thanksgiving and even with the gloomy economy I am thankful for so much. I'll mention two things briefly. First, I am thankful for my very good friend Kellie Forbes, and her family who took me in for 1.5 days in Kanab. I've always been a tourist or traveler passing through that beautiful and remote town--but this time I got a taste of the local culture which is as colorful and interesting as the culture anywhere. Kanab is American Jesus Country--Latter Day Saints style. The LDS people have become pretty unpopular with many of my friends, but my personal ties to Kellie and her family far outweigh any political opinions of mine. These are very good people.

The second thing I am thankful for is something a little more abstract perhaps. I am thankful to live in times when I can see so much of the world. Traveling is an important part of my life and it's so easy and relatively cheap to do right now. The current crash in fuel prices, while not good for our fuel consumption habits, allowed me to relish (with little financial pain) the open road of the American West--a place where I am very much at home. On this trip I paid my all time low price for diesel fuel, $2.11 per gallon (down from $5 this summer).

In his lifetime, Edward Abbey lamented the loss of the open spaces of the West--and what he percieved as the mindless "Americanization" of some of the last great wild places in the continental United States. While I share some of Abbey's sentiments (please note the word "some" I am no anarchist, for example), even two decades after his death, vast and wide open spaces still exist along the Colorado Plateau. They will likely be there for a long, long time given the scarcity of water in the region--though the inevitiable march of "progress" changes the landscape bit by bit, year by year.

Hopefully, as Americans, we'll follow the advice of contemporary thinkers like Thomas Friedman, and many others, and make American Progress more progressive.

Jim
Starbucks
Las Vegas, Nevada

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

With my main man



With Cosmo on my final day in New York. Photo by Rex Peterson.

Monday, November 17, 2008

As light fades into a New York November night

The past five days were busy with the Equine Affaire in Western Massachusetts. I was helping my sister and Californian Rex Peterson with their horse RJ Masterbug, one of the horses that played Hidalgo in the Disney film of the same name. RJ is one of the two primary horses who played the part (five were used in total). RJ is a true star. Men, women and children went ga-ga over him. People went crazy over meeting Rex as well, one of (if not the) top Hollywood horsemen of our times.

Today I got a late start, taking it easy this morning then finding myself distracted by non-farm responsibilities. It was late afternoon as I rode out from the barn for my final ride of the day on Spanish-native Duende, an Andalusian stallion. Duende is a gray in the horse world, but to most people he would simply be a white stallion.

As the two of us left the property today’s magic began. We rode out for about an hour as the November darkness quickly descended. I am easily taken over by delusions of grandeur, yet what could be grander than riding a horse who could have literally jumped out of the pages of a book of fairy tales?

The pockets of fall color that clung to the trees when I arrived two weeks ago are long gone. Today felt like winter. It was in the thirties and flurries of snow sprinkled down all day. Duende and I walked, trotted, cantered and galloped through the Dutchess County countryside. I relished every moment, knowing that my respite here is just about over. In the woods, a carpet of rapidly decaying leaves was underfoot. In the fields, summer grasses were long drooping as their winter hibernation began.

White tailed deer fluttered by frequently, on the run from fall hunters, and the man on the big white horse. The deer didn’t faze Duende--not much did. He’s a big sweet horse with a generous heart.

The sounds of the ride were memorable too. Flocks of geese squawking, the hooves of Duende clip clapping on the country lanes and pounding the Dutchess County dirt. The rhythm of Duende beneath me made me wish he and I could go off forever—to a mystical land.

As we were walking down the lane into the farm it was dark. A deer hunter straggled across our field toward his Dodge truck. A car pulled in behind us. The two headlights cast two giant shadows, side by side, of Duende and I dead ahead across an expanse of lawn. They were a pair of comically large outlines of a man on his horse, the perfect visual for ending the perfect ride.

I removed the tack, sprayed down the big white stallion’s legs, brushed him, and put his rug on for the cold November night. When I left him he was in his stall, munching hay.

Thanks Duende.

Jim Breitinger
Windrock Farm
Amenia, New York

Duende


File photo from Windrock Farm.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wranger Jim returns


In Springfield, Massachusetts with RJ Masterbug, star horse of the Disney film "Hidalgo." Photo by Joa Sigsbee.

Hangin' with RJ


Photo by Joa Sigsbee.

With Rex Peterson and RJ


Photographed in West Springfield, Massachusetts by Cari Swanson. For more go to http://www.cariswanson.com/wordpress

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Equine Affaire (Massachusetts) and guest blogging at cariswanson.com


Mash. Photo by Lisa Houlgrave.

For the next ten days or so I am guest blogging on my sister's web site. This coming Wednesday we head to West Springfield, Massachusetts for the Equine Affaire. We will be there with Rex Peterson--the world's number one Hollywood horse trainer and real life Nebraskan turned Californian cowboy. Don't miss these--mostly--equine inspired entries at www.cariswanson.com/wordpress.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Twenty years visiting Dutchess County


With my sister Cari Swanson as my hostess, I've been visiting Dutchess County for twenty years now. Here we are yesterday. She is on Bond. I am on Cosmo.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Ang and RJ


Film legend Ang Lee meets film legend RJ Masterbug--my sister Cari Swanson's star horse. They shot a scene together in Lee's upcoming movie "Taking Woodstock" (2009). Woodstock is just across the Hudson River from Dutchess County. Shot on location, September 2008.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Galloping through the new Gilded Age

I am based at my sister’s in New York for the moment—Dutchess County to be precise. I arrived yesterday.

Late this afternoon I took Kosmo out for a gallop through the fields and woods in this beautiful part of the country. Kosmo is an Irish Sport Horse, and he’s also one of my Dutchess County buddies. We met two summers ago when I was here for an extended stay. Our ride today was an enjoyable change of scenery. Nothing beats the feeling of a powerful horse beneath you, his hooves pounding. The surrounding countryside felt like it was floating by, appearing as images brought to life from the prettiest Hudson River Valley landscape you’ve ever seen. There was a light rain. It was enough to support the delusion that I am rugged and I was roughing it in inclement weather. Some of the fall color is hanging on to the trees but it is the cusp of winter here.

Earlier in the afternoon I toured a brand new barn and riding arena. This place was truly over the top. The budget must have been $4 to $5 million on the low end for a place with a modest number of stalls and a maximum amount of showiness (I am talking about the budget for the new barn, not the property in general). To protect the privacy of the owners I will limit the details I write here. The riding arena uses no steel in the structure. Beautifully finished wooden trusses support the substantial roof. A combination of fibers and sand covers the arena floor—it’s a "dust free" type of footing (keep in mind this is a space to work horses). Rubber mats--designed to look like tiles--are inlaid throughout the aisles of the stables. The center aisle is at least 200 feet long with wood paneling from the floor to the arching ceilings. Huge lantern-fixtures, at least a dozen of them, line this spectacular space. No expense was spared. I am a barn connoisseur, this place is not my favorite, but even with all of its excesses, it is spectacular. It is also a barn I will never forget.

I am currently reading a fantastic book called Supercapitalism by Robert Reich. Reich provides one of the best economic histories of the 20th century I’ve ever read. He explains how in the mid-century incomes were closer and how in the late 20th century disparities rose to levels not seen since before 1929. Reich has some interesting and unexpected observations about this that I won’t get into here, other than to say that the new barn I saw today was a physical example of the widely disparate levels of wealth in our times.

PS--The current Gilded Age may very well be drawing to a close, though we are too close to it to know for sure.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Arizona voters saw through the smoke and mirrors on Proposition 105

I was privileged to work with Arizona’s best and brightest leaders in the effort to defeat Prop 105. Our political campaign was cleverly called “The Voters of Arizona.” This name was only partially tongue and cheek since we were passionately defending the voters of Arizona from a deceptively titled constitutional amendment presented to the voters via a citizen’s initiative. Prop 105 was presented as a tool to bring fiscal sanity, but in fact it was nothing more than a cynical rewriting of our constitution in a way that would have voters cut their own throats by gutting the initiative process itself.

Utilizing political outreach efforts old and new, our determined team of crusaders did our job and Arizona voters did the rest. As someone who has been in and around politics for almost thirty years (I was actively involved as a teenager), being part of the defeat of Prop 105 is near the top of my list as one of the more satisfying political victories where I had a front row seat.

Thanks to all of those who worked on the campaign, and thanks even more to the voters of Arizona.

Obama!

God Bless America!

Oh what a night.

; )

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Voters of Arizona unite against Proposition 105

On this last day before Election Day 2008 it is worth noting the diversity of those who have come out against Proposition 105—a deceptive amendment to Arizona’s Constitution designed to kill the state’s initiative process under the guise of controlling taxes and spending. Democrats, Republicans, teachers, firefighters, hunters, fishermen (and women), and many others saw through the smokescreen that the authors of Prop 105 created and they’ve taken a strong position against this proposal.

Tell your friends about Prop 105.

Vote No.

Visit http://thevotersofaz.com/ for more information.

Regards,

Jim Breitinger
An Arizona Voter
Phoenix

Saturday, November 01, 2008

What Pete the Pumpkin thinks of Proposition 105


Last night was a night of sitting around, discussing politics and the world. As I explained Prop 105 to my friend Tom from Utah, my pumpkin Pete just lost it . . . we think the voters of Arizona will agree. Photo by Tom Holmes.

Proposition 105 is like a bad dream

Election Day is just a few days off, for those of us waiting to vote the old fashioned way I want to reiterate—Vote No on Prop 105!

Prop 105 would be a perversion of our state’s democracy by counting people who don’t vote.

America and Arizona made it through the real 1984—let’s make sure we don’t allow this Orwellian proposal to become part of our state’s constitution.

Tell your friends . . . No on 105.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Arizona’s Proposition 105—Part II

On this Halloween it is worth noting that Jason LeVecke’s Proposition 105 asks Arizona voters to amend their constitution in a way that automatically assigns a “No” vote to all dead voters who remain on the voting rolls. Maintaining the list of registered voters is a notoriously difficult and perpetually underfunded task.

Remember Prop 105 is only about changing the rules so that registered voters who don’t show up get their vote assigned for them by Mr. LeVecke and his crew whose only goal is to kill the initiative process. It is a rich irony that they are attempting to do this with the initiative process.

That’s just wrong.

Don’t let this Halloween’s witching hour become a part of our state’s constitution. Vote No on Prop 105. Visit http://thevotersofaz.com/ for more.

As a great Arizonan said "Proposition 105 is a trick, not a treat."

Jim Breitinger
Phoenix

Proposition 105--The Halloween photo


Vote No on Prop 105. It is wrong not only for the dead to vote--it is even worse to presume to know how they would have voted, which is exactly what Prop 105 would do.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Arizona's Proposition 105

The people reserve the power

When Arizona became a state in 1912, one provision in our state’s constitution provided citizens the ability to write or change laws and amend the constitution. It is our citizen’s initiative process. Initiatives allow the people of Arizona to take charge of their state when their elected representatives don’t do something that they want done. The statewide smoking ban that was passed in 2006 is one example of the initiative process in action. In 2008, Proposition 105 proposes to kill the citizen’s initiative process in Arizona.

It is worth a moment to go back to the Arizona Constitution and read the words that the founders placed in that document: “The legislative authority of the state shall be vested in the legislature . . . but the people reserve the power to propose laws and amendments to the constitution and to enact or reject such laws and amendments at the polls, independently of the legislature; and they also reserve, for use at their own option, the power to approve or reject at the polls any act, or item, section, or part of any act, of the legislature.”

“The people reserve the power,” but Prop 105 would take that power away. Proposition 105 is a dangerous and deceptive amendment. It is titled “Majority Rules, Let the People Decide.” That sounds good but the title is nothing more than false advertising. Prop 105 would amend our constitution so that any future initiative would require a majority of all “registered” voters. Registered is the key word. The normal practice in a democracy is that a majority of those who actually vote are counted. Under Prop 105 all registered voters who don’t show up to vote would be counted as No votes. This is un-American and undemocratic. Not a single initiative that was passed by voters, and enacted in to law, since 1974 would have received enough votes under the rules created by Prop 105.

Arizona is part of the bold American journey that began in 1776. Our nation adopted our constitutional form of government in 1787. The U.S. Constitution set the stage for the rise of the greatest democracy ever to grace the face of the earth. Our state’s constitution is modeled after that great document. We cannot allow insidious proposals to undermine our voting rights. Please join me to preserve the voting rights of Arizonans. Prop 105 is a deceptive attempt to take away those rights by counting people who don’t vote.

Vote No on Prop 105!

Jim Breitinger
Phoenix
For more visit http://thevotersofaz.com

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Jakester

Stretching our legs on a day with a lot of driving. Arizona has long stretches of wilderness (or near-wilderness) all over the state. Certainly as much as Utah, if not more.

Dodge on the high plain

Here's my Dodge on the high plain between Flagstaff and Winslow at about 5,800 feet.

Meteor Crater is about a dozen miles to the east-southeast (the right side of the horizon here). Meteor Crater is the first confirmed impact site on our planet--created when a meteorite hit about 50,000 years ago. It is easily visible from a jetliner at 30,000 feet. It's not visible at all here, but is nearby.

You've got to love the Western Sky.

Juniper berries

The most vibrant juniper berries I've ever seen. From Wikipedia: "A juniper berry is the female seed cone produced by various species of junipers. It is not a true berry but a cone with unusually fleshy and merged scales, which give it a berry-like appearance. The cones from a handful of species are used as a spice, particularly in European cuisine, and also give gin its distinguishing flavour."

The Second Amendment

Hunters and others have had fun with this relic of a bygone era. Flagstaff's San Francisco Peaks are in the background.

Monday, October 13, 2008

With a little help from my friends

Finally . . . my place is almost presentable. I've been slow moving in getting it set up. This is especially pathetic since living such a simple life as an Airstreamer means there isn't all that much to do.

Nevertheless, it took me a month, but my new Airstreaming setup with my Dulles/Jetson-esque building is finally presentable to friends and family.

Now I'll have to get motivated and invite some people over. I had major help from a couple of friends and one in particular. The big step yesterday was getting my couch and favorite chair out of storage.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hanging out at the islands

I just returned to town after spending my second night in Arizona's little-known Pinaleno Mountains. I am here for work, but chose to take advantage of being near these gorgeous mountains. The Airstream stayed in Phoenix. I have been truck camping, sleeping under the stars in the bed of my pickup.

As mentioned a couple of years back, I wrote an article on these mountains which is mostly unchanged and available right here on Wikipedia.

I stayed at lower elevations to avoid freezing mornings. I wish I had a week to just explore and be outside. The highest point of the Pinalenos is almost 11,000 feet above sea level.

What a joy to be camped out on the edges of one of Arizona's islands in the sky.

To get a full appreciation for the island reference, go to the Wikipedia article.

Jim
Safford, Arizona

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bounce for me

I too am experiencing my worst ant outbreak since becoming an Airstreamer.

Check this great video out . . . yes that is the same Malibu park I was in earlier this year.

Monday, October 06, 2008

An Airstreaming update

We've been back in the Airstream for a month now and are feeling settled again. The view within the trailer is vintage 1973 with plasticky woods, vinyl coatings on the interior aluminum, and large plastic light covers.

We LOVE it all.

I really do need to get motivated and shine the exterior of this thing up. It may be a project that is impractical within the confines of the trailer park.

The bad thing about my current setup is I have a semi-permanent sewer hookup. It would be very difficult for me to unhook for trips and hook back up here.

I have a George Jetson-esque building that I am parked next to--picture the terminal at Dulles Airport with the big sweeping roof. My little version of Dulles serves as potential guest quarters, and storage. I had the floors and wrap-around concrete deck painted before moving in. The trailer is semi-presentable at this juncture, but the inside of my little building is a mess.

The trailer park is in a not so great neighborhood, but well located in town--close to work and all of my usual shopping spots (Trader Joe's being the most important).

Join the lifestyle of the Airstreaming set . . . buy a new or vintage Airstream and live the life you've always dreamed of.

Cheers,

Jim and Jake

Monday, September 29, 2008

Video from The Voters of Arizona

Econ 101

I took too many econ classes as an undergrad. You don't need college econ 101 though to understand this statement from Dean Baker: "And house prices are not going to come back. This is like Pets.com. We are not going to get the price of $200,000 homes in central California back up to $500,000."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An economic meltdown?

From Jared Bernstein: "Jeez...watching history unfold in front of you like this is sure worth the price of admission, ain't it?"

I'll say. The events this past week in Washington and New York are staggering, breathtaking and unbelievable.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yearnings

He is busy, and work is crazy. He is still settling in to his new place with the Airstream. Tomorrow is perhaps the biggest day yet in a week of big days. The dog is unsettled.

Though the work day had already been twelve hours long, another four hours of work remain. Even with the work pending, he had to get some exercise. With the move and the rising pressures due to the busy post-Labor day rushes on all sides, the exercise routine took the hit.

Without exercise, sanity will go next.

Too late for Bikram and the dog needs a walk, but where?

They truly are in the barrio. Plan A seemed bad when it required parking on a strange, dark street with two vagranty looking types outside arguing. Plan B required almost seven miles of driving each way--damn, he thought, this is a sprawling city. A suburb on steroids.

They got their walk in, but spent as much time getting there. And even with all of the driving, the walk was less than ideal—it was an open area along a canal that is nice during the day, but is a homeless magnet at night—the Central Park of Phoenix.

That is it, he discovered, the worst part about the new setup, which otherwise seems like it has many advantages even charms (for the secretly trailer trash set at least).

There’s a plan C for walks with Jake too, he will try that next time. It is closer.

He yearns for open spaces.

Some of the most epic lands on the planet are not too far away. Even though he doesn’t see them nearly enough, just knowing they are there sustains him.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Zion for all of the Mad Men

The scene: 1960. The Village. New York City. A small bar with random arty acts, one after the other. Next up, a vivacious redhead, a struggling actress who is “artful” in a performance-artist self conscious way. Out of nowhere she takes command of the room with her strong voice:

“Last night
I dreamed of making love to Fidel Castro,
in a king sized bed at the Waldorf Astoria,
‘Viva La Revolucion!’ He roared, as he vanquished my dress.
Outside the window Nikita Kruschev watched us, plucking a chicken.”

The crowd claps, and calls for the redhead to remove her sweater. She does, but in an artful way, only briefly exposing herself.

Our hero, Don Draper, is at the bar with one of his mistresses. As he puts out a cigarette he says in a manly and detached voice "I should go, too much art for me," but she holds him back . . . and then the music begins . . . the act that they came to see. They sing "Babylon” (lyrics by David Carbonara):

By the waters,
the waters,
of Babylon.
We lay down and wept,

and wept,
for the Zion.
We remember

we remember
we remember
the Zion.
The strumming guitar and the voice combine into a powerful song as images of Don Draper’s wife and daughter interact at his suburban home, his other mistress (a client and businesswoman) goes about her business with melancholy—knowing she will never have what she wants most; a partner in the firm and a female employee wrap up their evening dalliance and exit an elegant hotel to go to their separate homes.

Zion?

Hardly.

The haunting music and lyrics mock the contradictions of the lives of the characters.

The writers are pushing each of us to at least ponder: Where’s our Zion? Is there such a place?

The scene is from Mad Men, a show on AMC (cable) that I discovered recently and watch via DVD. It’s set around a New York City ad agency in 1960. The women are treated like dirt, the men get away with inexcusable behavior. Everyone drinks and smokes too much, and the lives of the characters are complex and riveting. Nearly fifty years have passed since 1960. So much change, yet so little.

I wish you could hear the accompanying music, but to these words . . . I bid adieu:

We remember, we remember, the Zion

JAB
Good night from my Zion
An aluminum home on wheels in a barrio of Phoenix

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Moving day plus one

Moving is not a fun thing--it ranks at the top of the list of stressful things in life.

Yesterday I moved out of the Biltmore neighborhood and back to my Airstream in a less elegant part of town. The move came with some serious doubts, but the previous tenants (who were there for seven-plus years) came by this morning and told me how much they'd loved living there. That was good, because I wasn't feelings so hot about things!

I have another new home--or at least a new location for my Airstream that includes the bare basics for now.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The luck of the American

Here I am again, in a spectacular place--and on a tight budget too. Telluride, Colorado is eight hours by car from Phoenix. I got a ride up with a man whose Honda gets close to 50 miles per gallon. We're visiting friends who have a house up here and it's near the end of the weekend in this legendary mountain town.

The entire town of Telluride is designated a national historic district. It is expensive. The town is picture perfect, with quaint victorian houses and a beautiful business district. Telluride is nestled in a box canyon with towering mountains on three sides.

The setting can easily suck you in. When you're here, it's easy to forget the rest of the world. Aspens, pines, and ski runs cover the sides of the mountains.

We're headed back to the sonoran metropolis (Phoenix) shortly.

The Telluride Film Festival is going on this weekend. I saw three films:


  1. "With a Little Help From Myself" A French film set in the ghettos of that nation. The story follows Sonia, a black woman, through the daily trials and tribulations of her life. Her son is arrested, her husband dies, she is sexually assaulted, (and more). Through it all she soldiers on. This small budget film was brilliantly done. The actors shined--especially Felicite Wouassi. It felt like a punch in the gut to me--it was very depressing to see the struggles of life illustrated in the story. As one thing is piled on Sonia after another, you admire her for her ability to press on. At the end of the day, what other choice do we have? The Felictite, lead actress, and the director were there in person.
  2. "You Must Remember This" A documentary by Richard Schickel on Warner Brothers--the studio. Narrated by Clint Eastwood, this documentary goes from 1950 to the present and discusses how the studio and its films have changed in five plus decades.
  3. "Prodigal Sons" By far my favorite film. Directed by Kimberly Reed who took a hard look at herself, her life, and her family. Reed is a transgendered woman. Formerly Paul, Kim became a woman while in her early twenties. He was the quarterback of the Helena, Montana football team, but never felt like a man. The story is about her journey as well as that of her family. Her adopted brother, who has serious mental health issues, finds out as an adult that he is the biological grandson of Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles. The story is gripping, and the film very well done. Kim Reed's entire family was in the theatre except for her adopted brother--who is prominently featured in the film. This was a hard hitting slice of life.

Last, but not least, I was introduced to Kelvyn Davila, a talented Ecuadorian artist . You can see some of his work at http://theaspengallery.com/davila/index.html

The perfect mountain town

A view of Telluride.

Rick the host

One of my hosts this weekend.

10,000 feet over the sea

An Aspen grove on our Saturday hike.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Just Breathe

One of my favorite people on the planet, who I'll call C, gave a talk that I was fortunate enough to hear about ten years ago on breathing. Just breathing. In her talk, C provided a detailed discussion on the power of breath. She pointed out how vital it is to our existence and how unconscious we tend to be of it. Breath sustains us, and if we pay attention, practice, and learn about it, it can be a powerful tool.

Tonight I am back in one of my homes away from home in Sedona. I am en route to a work related event in the morning.

The air is so fresh here. The fact that it just rained helped. The air of the metropolis south of here that is home once again is never, or at least rarely, this fresh.

The infusion of fresh juniper and pinyon pine-laced air is intoxicating. I am taking it in and loving it.

Jim
Sedona, Arizona

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Back in Stanley with a new generation

I was in Idaho for a week helping my sister with her pending move across the country. Here is my nephew John, on the verge of no longer being a little boy. He is nine and will be a teenager in the blink of an eye. We were hiking in the mountains near Stanley, Idaho.

This is the most photogenic kid on earth fighing his innate instincts to ham it up for the camera.
This was my first time back to this part of Idaho in 25 years.

The Idaho high country was the perfect antidote to Arizona's summer heat. The trip a quarter of a century ago was arranged by my grandfather, John Morley. He sent my brother John and I on a trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

The John photographed above is the fourth generation . . . . (labeling my grandfather's the first).


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Laying Low in the Summer Heat

I’ve been sweltering here in Phoenix. Jake and I get out most evenings for a walk after dark. It’s still hot, but more bearable after the sun goes down.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of my favorite politicians in the last month--a fun diversion. Even knowing the flaws of our political system, there are still politicians that I admire. These are the people who somehow learn to play the game, which from many perspectives is hopelessly _____________ (fill in the blank). Yet they rise through the nonsense in their pursuit of policies that make sense for our state and country, and they somehow get good things done despite it all.

Also, I am enough of a political nerd to think of my few favorites as if they were movie stars. I am also the kind of nerd who thinks movie stars are kind of cool, even if intellectually I know better--in both cases.

Tomorrow I head to Idaho for a week to help my sister with her move to Arkansas. Arkansas??!!

Sure enough.

Friday, July 04, 2008

232

America is 232 today.

That's just shy of two and a third centuries since we claimed our independence from Britain.

We're a nation at war, for the sixth Independence Day in a row.

Look at where we've come as a nation since the late eighteenth century. When Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Hancock, and the other fifty-two men put their name to parchment in early July of 1776, they changed the course of history.

They not only created a nation, they put on paper the ideas and ideals that have shaped this nation, and this world ever since. Among those words:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

Happy Fourth to all.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Back to Aluminum

After a week that included the highest highs and the lowest lows of the year, Jake and I are taking a break from the city and heading out in aluminum. We're taking the Airstream north for two nights.

On our agenda:

A fellow Airstreamer's first photo show at a gallery in Prescott.

A party for a dear friend in her mid-thirties who just earned her bachelor's degree in education from Western Governors University! (She chose them before I did.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Wisdom of Obama

I first became aware of Barack Obama, like many Americans, when he spoke at the Democratic convention in 2004. My neighbor at the time recently reminded me how electrified I was by this young senate candidate.

I just read the following in The New Yorker:

“It is, then, not surprising that when it was proposed that America should invade Iraq with the goal of establishing democracy there, Obama knew that it would be a terrible mistake. This was American innocence at its most destructive, freedom at its most deceptive, universalism at its most na├»ve. 'There was a dangerous innocence to thinking that we would be greeted as liberators, or that with a little bit of economic assistance and democratic training you’d have a Jeffersonian democracy blooming in the desert,' he says now."

That is an excerpt from “The Conciliator: Where is Barack Obama coming from?” by Larissa MacFarquhar. It was published May 7, 2007.

That excerpt and the whole article hit home for me in many ways. First, on Iraq, I’ve come to the same conclusions as Obama after initially supporting the war. I believe now that that support of mine was idealistic, misguided, and frankly delusional.

But the quote, and other parts of the article, refers to something in my own life that is troubling. From all outward appearances I’ve been rootless. I had what Obama’s parents apparently had, a wanderlust that has left me refusing to stay in one place.

Though I love to travel, that wanderlust has manifested itself in a way that is contrary to things I’ve always believed in. To this day I love the place where I grew up. I never considered staying though because of what I perceived as the non-existent economic opportunities. So I headed out into the world from Ohio, determined to make something of myself.

I am deeply rooted in America and I am lucky to have good friends all over this great country.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Home

This morning in Florida, at the Kennedy Space Center, Mark Kelly and his crew landed the Space Shuttle Discovery--ending an almost fourteen day mission to the International Space Station.

This was Mark's third mission. I met him between his first and second, but followed this mission the closest. NASA names the missions using the official shuttle name "Space Transportation System" and a number. This was STS-124.

Even though I've known Mark for a couple of years, and personally know other astronauts as well, it wasn't until he invited me to the Kennedy Space Center for his launch that I really focused on the shuttle, and for the first time in my adult life, thought much about America's space program.

Our space program is an emblem of American pride. It epitomizes the can-do attitude of the United States. Far too many of us just take it for granted, but every time a shuttle or any rocket is launched, it's a major accomplishment and a reminder that we are living in the space age.

The investments we've made in our space program have paid off many times over in new technologies and even whole new industries.

The space shuttles will be retired in 2010--this is a good thing since they're based on a design from the 1970s and much of their technology goes back 30-plus years (of course many systems have been updated). The very bad aspect of retiring the shuttle is the fact that our next generation spacecraft is not yet ready, and won't be until at least 2015. This puts a planned gap in our human space flight program.

If we can spend and commit trillions of dollars on a poorly thought out war in Iraq, we can afford the relatively paltry sum required to keep our space program alive, strong, and moving forward. Spending money on a failed war is just a huge wasteful expense. Spending money on space exploration is an investment. As Americans, we need to understand the difference.

On Mark's mission he delivered a lab called Kibo to the International Space Station. Kibo means hope in Japanese. I hope we will jump start our space program and remain leaders in the exploration of other worlds.

Photo from NASA

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Day at the Office


Astronaut Mark Kelly, STS-124 commander, looks over a checklist on the flight deck of Space Shuttle Discovery during flight day 12 activities. Photo and text from NASA

Drifting Away From the International Space Station


A view of the Space Shuttle Discovery soon after the shuttle and the International Space Station began their post-undocking relative separation on June 11. One of the Expedition 17 crewmembers recorded the photo with a digital still camera.
Photo and text from NASA

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Can it be real?


Can it be? How can it be? Think of the marvel of the human mind and human accomplishment. "Here is a fan of solar arrays, a partial view of International Space Station and Earth's horizon. Photo by a STS-124 crew member on the International Space Station before space shuttle Discovery undocked from the station." Photo and quoted text from NASA

Karen Looks Home


A woman gazing at her big blue home. She is the 50th human female to venture into outer space.

"Astronaut Karen Nyberg, STS-124 mission specialist, looks through a window in the newly installed Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station while Space Shuttle Discovery is docked with the station."

Photo and quoted text from NASA

Monday, June 09, 2008

Do you ever think of the International Space Station?


"With the blackness of space and the Earth's horizon as a backdrop, astronaut Ron Garan completes the third spacewalk of the mission." I never thought much of the ISS--I just knew it was there, vaguely. Here is a view of it in all of its glory--and it is so, so glorious. Photo and quoted text from NASA

Mark and His Crew

The STS-124 crew members pose for a portrait in the the Kibo Japanese Pressurized Module of the International Space Station while space shuttle Discovery is docked with the station.

Photo and text from NASA

Friday, June 06, 2008

Thirteen Months of Bliss

Tonight is my last night as a full-time Airstreamer. Jake and I are at home, enjoying our aluminumness for one quiet night--though the AC is so loud our ears are numb.

When I dreamt up this wild scheme in March of 2007 I had no way of knowing how much fun it would be to live in a trailer. Over time I've increasingly embraced my inner trailer trash and have discovered an irrational passion for Airstream living.

As I've said before in this space, the summer heat of the Phoenix sun means it isn't wise to live in the Airstream for the next few months. I found a wonderful place for the summer. We are putting the trailer in storage and moving closer in to town.

I will be scheming for a return to aluminum-living this fall. The jury is out, it may or may not come to fruition. In the meantime I remain an Airstreamer at heart.

Where we were: 2007-2008

1. Arizona
2. Utah
3. Colorado
4. Kansas
5. Missouri
6. Illinois
7. Indiana
8. Ohio
9. Michigan
10. Kentucky
11. Tennessee
12. Georgia
13. North Carolina
14. South Carolina
15. Virginia
16. West Virginia
17. Maryland
18. Washington, D.C.
19. Pennsylvania
20. New York
21. Massachusetts
22. Vermont
23. Wisconsin
24. Minnesota
25. South Dakota
26. Wyoming
27. Montana
28. Idaho
29. Oregon
30. Washington
31. California
32. Nevada

For a slightly more detailed look at where we were last year read the Airstreaming Places entry. For even more detail, read this whole blog! ; )

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Discovery at the ISS

Backdropped by the blackness of space is the forward section of space shuttle Discovery while docked to the International Space Station, partial views of the Japanese Pressurized Module (bottom) and the Japanese Logistics Module are featured in this image photographed by a crew member during the STS-124 mission's second planned spacewalk.

Photo and text from NASA

Astronauts get ready for spacewalk

Another Shuttle/International Space Station story, grabbed off the Internet. I am following Mark Kelly and his crew's time in space. -JAB

By JUAN A. LOZANO

HOUSTON (AP) — Both the inside and outside of the international space station's newest room were getting spruced up Thursday. Space shuttle Discovery astronauts Michael Fossum and Ronald Garan Jr. were headed back outside for their second spacewalk in three days to outfit Japan's billion-dollar Kibo lab, which was delivered by the shuttle.

Inside Kibo, the shuttle and space station crews were set to continue outfitting it with more equipment racks so the new lab can be fully brought to life. Some of the racks contain equipment for the lab's power and data needs while others contain scientific experiments.

The door to Kibo — Japanese for hope — was swung open Wednesday, a day after its installation at the international space station. It was a momentous occasion for Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who hung a banner over the threshold and led the procession inside.

"Enjoy your new module," radioed Japanese Mission Control near Tokyo.

The 10 inhabitants of the linked shuttle Discovery and space station took advantage of all the empty space inside the bus-sized lab and twirled, performed back flips and bounced on the walls. At 37 feet in length, Kibo is the largest of the nine rooms now at the space station. It surpasses the two other labs, belonging to NASA and the European Space Agency, by nine feet and 14 feet, respectively, and an expansion is planned.

The other good news Wednesday was that the space station's toilet finally was working normally again. Russian space station resident Oleg Kononenko put in a new pump that was delivered earlier this week by Discovery, after it was rushed to the launch site from Moscow. Flight controllers gave the go-ahead for the toilet's use once it became apparent it worked.

"We fully expect it's now fixed and we don't have to worry about it anymore," Nelson said.

For two weeks, the three men living aboard the space station had to manually flush the Russian-built toilet with extra water several times a day. It was a time-consuming job and a waste of water, not to mention an unpleasant chore.

On the Net:

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

My Husband, Somewhere in Orbit

ISO My Husband, Somewhere in Orbit

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, staying in touch with her high-flying hubby, astronaut Mark Kelly.
» Links to this article

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Tuesday, June 3, 2008; Page C03

After a busy weekend, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords flew into BWI yesterday, took the train to Union Station, then ran into a bar searching for a TV.

"I pleaded with the bartender, who had it tuned to some sports station, with a straight face: 'My husband is the commander of space shuttle Discovery. They're in the process of rendezvousing with the international pace station. May I please turn the channel?' " Giffords told us. "He looked a little confused and handed me the remote."

The Arizona Democrat, who turns 38 on Sunday, became a NASA spouse when she married 44-year-old astronaut Mark Kelly in November. The two have maintained a long-distance marriage ever since: she in Tucson and D.C.; he in Houston -- and for the next 11 days, 218 miles out in space. She'll watch him on the news every day, and wear her Christmas gift: a meteorite he had made into a pendant for her.

Giffords was in Florida for Saturday's launch and will return on June 14 for the landing. In between, they'll make do with short e-mails ("Obviously, he's a little busy") and calls to her cellphone. (Extra roaming charges?) Family members get to pick the music that wakes the crew; Giffords selected "A Life on the Ocean Wave," the theme of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (Kelly's alma mater) and "Crystal Frontier" by the Tucson-based band Calexico.

This is Kelly's third trip into space. He's shepherding a $1 billion space lab, a pump to repair a broken toilet, a Buzz Lightyear doll and two items from his bride: a flag from the National Day of the Cowboy Organization ("I just thought we needed cowboy representation up there") and her wedding band, inscribed: You're the closest to heaven that I've ever been."And he would know," she said.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Greatest Show on Earth, STS-124


"Standby for the greatest show on earth."
.........................................................................Commander Mark Kelly

Those were the words spoken by Mark just before blasting off yesterday.

Watching the shuttle rocket into the heavens was a better show than I could have imagined. Tears were streaming out of both eyes as they headed for orbit. And they get there fast, just 8 and a half minutes! They're called rockets for a reason.

My weekend in Florida at Cape Canaveral with Kim, Inge, Reed, and the Kelly support crew (friends and family), was wonderful.

Thanks Mark and Godspeed to you and your crew up there.

Photo from NASA

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Beyond Cool

It doesn't get any cooler than this. Mark Kelly (far right) and his crew for NASA's mission STS-124 using the Space Shuttle Discovery. I was in Florida for the launch today. Here they are standing in front of the Astrovan. The rest of the text here is from Wikipdedia: "The AstroVan is a NASA vehicle used to transport astronauts to the launch pad before a launch mission. The current model, a modified Airstream Excella motorhome, has been in use since the beginning of the Space Shuttle program in 1981. Similar models have been used since the beginning of the space program. It has a special built-in cooling system for the astronauts to plug in their orange-colored launch and entry suits, so the astronauts do not get overheated during the trip to the launch pad." Photo from NASA

Monday, May 26, 2008

More on Mark's Shuttle Mission

From the Associated Press:

By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Japan is about to roll out the Lexus of space station labs, a whopper in size and sophistication. The $1 billion Kibo lab — which means "hope" in Japanese — is poised for a Saturday launch aboard space shuttle Discovery. It will be the biggest and, by far, the most elaborate room at the international space station — a 37-foot-long scientific workshop as large as a school bus, with its own hatch to the outside for experiments and a pair of robot arms. Making it even bigger will be a closet and porch.

Kibo is so enormous that three shuttle flights were needed to get it all up.

Seven astronauts, one of them Japanese, will deliver the actual lab on the upcoming mission, along with the larger of the two robot arms. A separate storage room loaded with Kibo equipment went up in March. The porch for outdoor science experiments and the smaller robot arm will fly next year.

Kibo (pronounced KEE'-boh) dwarfs the two labs already in orbit — NASA's modest-size Destiny and the even smaller European Space Agency's Columbus.

"It's usually the other way around, isn't it? Japanese products should be smaller, but this time it's the other way around," Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide said with a chuckle.

Two decades in the making, the 16-ton Kibo is 9 feet longer than the U.S. Destiny lab, which was launched in 2001, and more than 14 feet longer than Europe's Columbus, which flew to the space station in February.

Shuttle commander Mark Kelly calls it "the Lexus of the space station modules."

"It's big and it's capable. I mean, it's got its own dedicated robotic arm. It's got its own air lock. Eventually, it's going to have an external platform for experiments. It's got a lot of capable science racks that are going in. So yeah, I think it's pretty impressive." Kelly and his crew will install Kibo during the 14-day shuttle flight, then attach the Japanese storage compartment that was left in a temporary parking position in March.

Three spacewalks are planned to hook up Kibo and handle other space station work, like replacing an empty nitrogen gas tank and seeing how best to clean a jammed solar-wing rotary joint.

Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's space operations chief, said it seems like simple tasks. "But when you get into the details of what's actually involved ... it's an extremely complicated mission," he said.

Besides all that work, one of the Discovery astronauts, Gregory Chamitoff, will swap places with the space station's current U.S. resident, Garrett Reisman, who will return to Earth on the shuttle following a three-month stay. Chamitoff will spend six months up there.

Just last week, NASA decided to proceed with its shuttle mission as planned, even as the Russians continue to investigate April's rocky landing by a Soyuz spacecraft carrying three astronauts home from the space station. A Soyuz constantly is docked at the orbiting outpost for use as a lifeboat in an evacuation.

Discovery's flight will be a milestone for NASA in more than one way. It will be the 10th shuttle mission since the 2003 Columbia tragedy and will leave just 10 more shuttle flights before the fleet is retired in 2010. That will mark the end of space station construction.

Discovery's fuel tank is the first to incorporate all the post-Columbia changes from the start of construction instead of later in the construction phase. While shuttle managers expect this fuel tank to be the best one yet — i.e., with minimal insulating-foam loss — a full inspection of the spaceship's thermal skin still will be required. That inspection will occur much later in the flight than usual. That's because Kelly and his crew won't get their inspection boom until they arrive at the space station. The 50-foot laser-tipped pole was left there in March by the previous shuttle visitors; it couldn't fit in Discovery's payload bay given the size of Kibo.

Another milestone for Discovery's upcoming mission: Astronaut Karen Nyberg, the lone woman on the crew, will become the 50th woman to fly in space. She will be rocketing into orbit just a few weeks before the 45th anniversary of the first woman in space, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, and the 25th anniversary of the first American woman in space, Sally Ride.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fellow Airstreamers Show Up During My Staycation

You can't imagine the thrill this morning when I looked out the front of the Airstream and saw . . . Fellow Airstreamers!

Not only that, they, and their Airstream, are quite famous.

Here's a shot of the restored 1961 Airstream Globe Trotter that is known to Airstreaming fans around the world thanks to Douglas Keister's book Silver Palaces.

After being stranded in one single metropolis for almost two months, the sight of fellow Vintage Airstream owners was more welcome than you could ever imagine. They were just here for the night, en route from the Pacific Ocean at California back to their land-based home in Santa Fe.

Jake and I have enjoyed our Staycation this weekend. See Tour of America's May 25th posting for more on that.

The Globe Trotting Pup

Jake's image reflected on the side of the Globe Trotter.

Internationally Reknowned Airstreamer Karin W


Even more exciting than seeing this famous Airstream was meeting its celebrated owners. The more well known of the two is photographer Karin Wikstrom of Santa Fe. She became famous in Airstreaming circles by posing in her Airstream's bathtub, which is what she's sitting on top of in this photo. Airstreamers need to utilize space well and in this restored Airstream they placed the bathtub under the seat for the dinette.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Well-read and all that"

I have a new poltical hero: Terry McAuliffe.

I am reading his memoir What a Party! My Life among Democrats: presidents, candidates, donors, activists, alligators, and other wild animals

He literally means alligators--he wrestled one once to secure a contribution to the Carter campaign of 1980.

I just read the following line which I found priceless: "New Yorkers like smart people, so long as it's New York smart, meaning not only well-read and all that, but shrewd and perceptive and open-eyed about how people really are." He goes on to describe Hillary as "whip-smart."

I just love that line: "well-read and all that."

People have told me I'm smart, and I agree I am not stupid--I've also been slow to open my eyes as to how people really are. In other words, my New York smarts have needed some developing. When discussing "how people really are" I am not implying they are generally one way or another (good or bad)--but there are ways of being human that I am often oblivious to.

I am learning though.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Minus Fifty

It's over 50 degrees cooler right now versus a couple of days ago. I am actually chilly. It's also the same temperature in Minneapolis and Phoenix at this moment. That happens, but not often.

We didn't make it down to 42 though--the number of today.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Saddle Up Fool

"Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway."
-John Wayne (1907-1979)

"It's better to be silent and thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt."
-The elders in my family (circa 1908-present)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Parks Heat and Bikram

It was so hot yesterday that when I got home to the Airstream at about 8 PM I found a bottle of water on the counter that was hot to the touch. The water must have been over 100 degrees, or close to it.

And it's only May.

See the photo and entry titled "The Sonoran" (from March) for more on this.

There was an election in Phoenix yesterday, which I sadly didn't know until late in the day. The good news: a measure to improve city parks passed with 80% of the vote. This is unheard of for tax raising measures. Of course very few people were probably voting which no doubt helped the energized group of supporters. Still, it's great for Phoenix, a city whose parks need a boost.

I am back in the yoga studio these days practicing Bikram--the hot yoga. It's sooooo good for me. Just finished three days in a row. Will take today off.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

America's Space Shuttle

Photo from AFP (whoever that is).

Mark is going up!

My friend Mark Kelly is the Commander of the next Space Shuttle mission. I'll be in Florida to see him take off.

Here's a news story this morning on the scheduled trip into the heavens:

Tue May 20, 4:44 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - NASA has given the green light to launch the space shuttle Discovery on May 31 for a mission to the International Space Station, officials said. The Discovery's 14-day mission will include three spacewalks and is to be the second of three missions on which astronauts will install components of the Japanese Kibo laboratory.

The launch is scheduled for 5:02 pm (2102 GMT) at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The Discovery mission marks the third for the shuttle this year out of four which have been planned. The final mission, which could take place October 8, aims to repair the Hubble telescope.

After the Discovery's May launch, seven more flights will be necessary to complete the assembly of the International Space station. Two more launches are planned to bring spare parts necessary for station maintenance in the coming years, Gerstenmaier said.

Friday, May 16, 2008

D-Day plus one--2008

A day after the anniversary of D-day this year, I will be going from 73 to 71.

I'll be moving out of my 1973 Airstream Trade Wind and moving in to a place at Patio71, in the Biltmore neighborhood of Phoenix.

To see a web site featuring my new home (where I will be for 3-4 months) go to

http://www.patio71.com/

When the summer heat begins to fade I hope to return to 1973.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Phoenix One

Quick update. I've just finished my first month back in Phoenix. All's well. The new job is fun and keeping me very busy. Jake gets to come to work with me, which we both love. Just paid for a second month at the RV park here. Will be moving out of the Airstream at the end of that time due to the hellish heat that will be arriving in 3-6 weeks. Don't know where in Phoenix I'll spend the summer, but am thinking I'll be back in the Airstream come October. Time will tell. More later.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway . . .

We is Jake and I.

We were just driving down the Interstate in Phoenix listening to the satellite radio. A duet version of Willie Nelson’s classic On the Road Again was playing.

More than usual, the lyrics hit home for me—because I am essentially off the road again. Giving up the traveling life is fine and I know I too will be on the road again for extended periods, sometime.

While I was feeling wistful listening to the song, I am in fact very happy to be settling in somewhere for the foreseeable future.

On the road again
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends
Insisting that the world be turnin' our way
And our way
Is on the road again
Just can't wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin' music with my friends
And I can't wait to get on the road again

Great sentiments and a great song. Great to be off the road too!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What is America to me?

This morning while walking Jake in north Phoenix the words of the Sinatra song were running through my head:

What is America to me?
A name, a map, or a flag I see?
A certain word
Democracy?
What is America to me?

How to answer that?

This past year, and over the course of my life, I've been privileged to see more of this country than most people ever will. Also, for two years of my life I did almost nothing but study American history. So what have I learned about this most powerful nation state?

Too much to cram in to a blog entry, but here are some thoughts nevertheless.

Last night I was standing around with some friends at a small party in Phoenix. The group included the kind of people who go out of their way to contribute to society. They represented America to me. Nearly everyone there was gay, but that fact is minor to who these people are and how they represent this country. One was a candidate for the U.S. Congress. He may not make it into that lowly esteemed body this election cycle but he's the kind of guy who should and will represent his congressional district if he keeps at it. Smart, savvy, committed to a better America. Those are the kind we need in Washington.

This past year I've met all types of people. Different communities dominated my year, but the breadth of my travels and the generosity of friends and family provided glimpses into hundreds of aspects of our culture as I traveled about. Dominant communities included: the rock and gem world, the Airstream world, the interstate highway world, the world of my childhood in Ohio, and of course the eccentric and diverse characters that came to Quartzsite (don't miss my Portraits of Quartzsite series in this space from January and February of 2008).

America is not just rich in wealth, its richest in heart. We screw up for sure. We screw up on individual levels, at the level of community, and on the national level. The mistakes we've made in our so called war on terror are epic in my book, but that's another topic. The freedom and stability that our society gives its citizens is unparalleled in world history and the manifestations of those things in the lives of our people is a thing to behold.

So what is America to me? A name, a map, a flag, an athlete, a veteran, a volunteer, a teacher, a firefighter, a pilot, a lieutenant colonel, his wife, an astronaut, a congresswoman, a philanthropist, a homeless man, a family, a dog, a horsewoman, a horse, an aluminum trailer (and all those other brands of RVs), a voter, an opinion, a set of facts, a blog, a vast and wondrous landscape, a child, an elder, a city, a desert, a mountain, and two oceans--with so much in between.

That is America to me.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Snagged by Phoenix

When I hit the road last April I looked forward to the adventure of living in my Airstream and trying to make it with my new business. I had no idea what I was in for. I also didn't know where or when I would stop. I figured I would when the time was right.

What a year it's been--epic beyond my imaginings. Business has been good. I've actually supported myself for a year. That's no small feat, especially given the fact that I had no money to launch this little venture, just credit and grit.

En route to Sedona sixteen days ago I got an unexpected phone call. I'd applied for a job six years ago. I was offered a chance to come in and discuss the job. I went in two days later and accepted a new position. It's in Phoenix. More on the job later--I'll just state now that I am very excited and honored to get this opportunity.

Of all the places I've been this past year, Phoenix is the last place I would have imagined as the one that would get me.

I am writing from Quartzsite, where I am for the night after driving over 700 miles today. In the past two weeks I've done an out and back route. I left Phoenix, stopped in Quartzsite, headed to Salt Lake, then Boise, then Salt Lake, and now I am back in Quartzsite. Including driving in Boise and Salt Lake City, I added over 2,500 miles to my truck. That's almost 10% of the total mileage I've driven the Dodge! Included in that mileage is the final leg back to Phoenix tomorrow.

Even Jake's tired from that amount of travel. It's been a busy two weeks that included liquidating parts of my inventory. Utahredrock will continue in the future, most likely as a part-time business. The business is on hold for the short term starting tomorrow.

I plan to continue to live in my Airstream for the foreseeable future. Where in Phoenix I do so remains to be seen. After a year on the road, I am ready to park for a while. Even with summer quickly approaching the Valley of the Sun, the idea of being in one place is appealing--though I may look to land-based housing to better escape the heat.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

4,000

Four Thousand Gone

The media is reporting tonight that 4,000 American servicemen and women have died in Iraq.

4,000

Plus tens of thousands physically maimed and no doubt hundreds of thousands emotionally maimed.

Plus thousands of dead American contractors.

And the Iraqis . . . . how many tens of thousands of them are dead?

4,000 plus so much more.

So much went so wrong in this effort to "liberate a people." So much.

Four thousand gone, and so much more.

Chef Paul

Paul Hansen of Verde Valley School hosted a party last night in Sedona. Paul's been a great friend for almost five years. This was my second visit to see Paul and his family since I became a full time Airstreamer just under a year ago. Verde Valley School and the Hansen's were my first stop after leaving Phoenix last April.

Jake in Sedona

The sweetest dog in the world. Jake and I enjoyed our brief visit to the redrock country of Sedona.

Nate and Son

I last saw Nate in January of 2007--there was no pregnancy yet. Here's the difference a year makes. He joined us with his family last night in Sedona. Nate's another one of my favorites, a comrade in travels, and a former colleague. I met Nate about two weeks after meeting Paul. They're both Hansens but are unrelated.

Airstream Visitor Luke Lamont

My psuedo-nephew (technically he's my first cousin once removed) brought his family to see the Airstream tonight. Thanks to Lisa, Chris, and Lyndsey for coming along! Luke rode with Jake and me in the Dodge on the 15 mile trip from his house to the Airstream (the rest of the family followed in another car). He asked over and over: "Where's the Airstream?"

The answer: "It's down the road Luke, down the road."

The Airstream won over another new fan tonight.

New Airstream Life Reader

Airstream Life brilliantly celebrates the Airstreaming lifestyle. Here's new reader and aspiring Airstream owner Nate Hansen enjoying his first issue.

Nate is an outstanding writer. He is also blessed and cursed with a fertile mind. Check out natespeak.com for an outward manifestation of his inner space.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Sonoran

Other than the two plus weeks of my swing through southern California, I've been here in the Sonoran Desert since late December. It's a great place to winter and Jake and I have enjoyed it thoroughly with many desert hikes and stunning sunsets. Tonight was another. Here are Saguaro Cacti. An easily recognizable symbol of Arizona, they are only found in the Sonoran Desert. With spring here I'll be Airstreaming out of this gorgeous desert next week. As nice as it is in the winter, I don't recommend the summers.

Cholla Cacti

The Cholla is another signature cactus of the Sonoran Desert. In the top of this photo you can see the edge of the RV park. Over the past 50 years, and at an increasing rate in the past 15, the Sonoran Desert has been taken over by pavement and development. While it's hard to forget you're in a desert in Phoenix, it's easy to forget you're in the Sonoran Desert. One of the worlds most beautiful and unique deserts, it is succumbing to a sprawling urban area built using the suburban model of post-WWII America. Sonoran plants have been replaced by exotic species, including lots of palm trees and heavily watered grass.

Park Homes in my "RV Park"

These park homes, clearly not recreational vehicles (RVs), dominate Pioneer RV Park. Of the 600 or so spaces here well over half have this type of mobile home. Even so, and despite my initial entry, this place is quite different from the trashier looking trailer parks that built my biased attitude about trailer park living. People have winter homes here. Less than 15% of the spaces are occupied year-round. The place is well kept, safe, clean, and nice.

Smooshed

Giant motor homes with pop-out slides are the rage in the RV world. Here is shot of my home tonight. My modest Airstream and truck look puny next to these monsters of the road. In the foreground is rig a that's housing two couples this weekend (and two new Utahredrock customers!). In the background two grandparents are hosting their grandchildren for an evening and celebrating Easter with their whole family. This is my tightest quarters since Quartzsite in January.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Embracing My Inner Trailer Trash

When people ask me where I'm from I often begin to answer by proudly declaring that I am trailer trash--Airstreaming around the continent. Where am I from? Phoenix and Sedona are where I maintain a legal residence and get my mail. But I am from wherever I am.

Saying I'm trailer trash, while true, is generally offered as a tongue in cheek declaration.

Today I left Tucson and returned to Phoenix. The place I chose to set up the Airstream for five days, Pioneer RV Park, is trailer trash central.

There's a line that separates RV parks from trailer parks. Some places are both, but if they're both then in my book they're firmly on the trailer park side of the line. This place is a trailer park. There's a combination of RVs and "park homes" which are mobile homes of the type that aren't mobile.

Pioneer RV Park is nice enough, but it's big and crowded. It's exactly the kind of place I've avoided since becoming an Airstreamer. Yet as I truly embrace my inner trailer trash I find myself accepting this type of place more readily. The full hookups and the ability to be in my "own" space are appealing.

I arrived today and set up. This is a process that involves unhitching, plugging in to electric, hooking up water and sewer, unloading extra items, stashing them below the Airstream, and straightening up on the inside.

This "RV park" has almost 600 spaces. It's just huge. When I took Jake on his evening walk we walked around the outside perimeter of the property. It took us a full 45 minutes to complete the circle. Inside the circle: trailer park hell. Outside: the Sonoran Desert in all of its finest glory. The sun was setting, the moon approaching full, the desert shockingly green and fresh.

I am continuing my focus on "office work" including taxes, my schedule, marketing, phone calls, and so forth. With the Internet and my cell phone at hand I can do this work just about anywhere. I now use Verizon Broadband--which accesses the Internet via the cell phone system.

And I am back in Phoenix, Arizona and the Valley of the Sun where this whole adventure was launched last year.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sundown at Davis-Monthan

The end of the day at the Air Force Base. Here's a tiny section of the boneyard, also known as the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. This is where the U.S. military retires its aircraft. It gives you an easy visual reference as to the size and scope of our military--and it gives you an inkling as to how much money we spend for military aircraft. The boneyard is an impressive sight that goes on for miles and miles. There's even a retired Air Force One here. It's from the Kennedy/Johnson/Nixon years. This was my view from my Airstream while I was "stationed" here.

Fellow Dealer Gets Lead Story on Yahoo!

A fellow meteorite dealer, and Quartzsite neighbor, Terry Boswell currently is featured in one of the lead stories on Yahoo's homepage! Yahoo regularly (at least every month or two) has meteorite stories, usually more science oriented. This one, however, hits closer to home for me since we're colleauges in dealing with cosmic debris, and I know him fairly well. It's about a meteorite theft and the subsequent remarkable recovery. (This was an AP story.)

Airstreaming Places

I am approaching my one year anniversary as a full-time Airstreamer. Here is a review of some of the places I've taken the Airstream in the past year:

1. Malibu
2. Bluff, Utah--one of my few Colorado Plateau stops. That region, especially the southern Utah portion remains my favorite place on earth.
3. Fox Hollow--our family farm in Ohio. There's still no place like home.
4. Red Barn Stables, Aiken, South Carolina--Nothing can match a southern hostess. Gina was one of the greats of the past year in welcoming me and showing me a good time.
5. Missoula, Montana--A true gem of the Rockies. I loved this town.
6. Windrock Farm, Dutchess County, New York--the place my sister Cari has called home for over a decade. It was nice to be somewhere so familiar and so gorgeous.
7. GSM Vehicles, Plattsburgh, New York--A focal point in the movement to restore and celebrate Airstreams as icons of stylish living and fun.
8. Perry, Georgia--Host town of the International Airsteam Rally of 2007 and the site of my baptism in to the cult.
9. Whiskey Creek West, Kuna, Idaho--The western location of my sister Elise's farm. Home to one of my self-produced and self-promoted shows.
10. KOA in Salinas, Kansas--The third RV park I visited after becoming an Airstreamer and a nice stop along the road as I headed east last year.
11. 200 East, Salt Lake City--Pippa and Kirk's urban residence.
12. Detroit--Sven and Kristen's urban residence.
13. Sandstone Farm, Mansfield, Ohio--Where I spent a cozy fall evening with my friend Francis on her amazing Ohio property.
14. Nez Perce County Fairgrounds, Lewiston, Idaho--This was the furthest in to the Northwest that the Airstream made it (I continued throughout Oregon and Washington without it). Lewiston is right on the state line separating Idaho and Washington. Nez Perce's was just one of the many fairgrounds I stayed in be they county, state, or private.
15. Quartzsite! The small Arizona town I fell in love with and spent 50 days in, by far a record. There is, after all, something to be said about being in one place.

It's a little crazy because there are over 20 other places I've parked my traveling home in the past year. That's a lot of places. Many traveling businessmen and women (or performers) could easily match this number of places they've stayed. But unless they have an RV, they had to endure them without the comforts of home. And especially if they don't have an Airstream, well, just imagine the hardship . . . .

; )