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Monthly Archives: June 2009

By Reid Wright

God damn it’s hot here. The heat waves penetrate my skull and broil the tender meat within.

Almost a week I’ve been here — sweating hope and bleeding money — trying to corner a managing editor that doesn’t seem to exist. I’m used to sources blowing me off, but it’s different coming from one of my own people.

Meanwhile, I’ve had my feet in the dirt, trying to get a feel for local cultural vibrations. The locals are friendly, but a bit more complicated than Idaho folk. They’ve had an equally hard time wrapping their heads around me.

In one night, one bar and one hour — I was accused of being gay, Mormon, a heroine dealer, and a perfect husband for someone’s daughter.

I was hunched over the bar, sipping Red Stripe and wondering where the post office was, when a thirty-something couple plopped down next to me. The woman was clearly plowed. She introduced herself as Jill and her “man” as Glenn.

Jill staggered to the bathroom. Glenn apologized for her.

“She has a big heart,” he said. I realized later it wasn’t so much an apology, as it was a warning.

I wandered off to ask some older ladies where the post office is.

“You don’t need a post office,” one woman slurred after much muddled deliberation. “You can get stamps at the super market … I’ve got one right here.”

She reached for her purse and it flopped uselessly to the floor.

“That’s alright,” I said. “I’ll get my own.”

I returned to my seat and talked to Glenn about the mechanical problems with my van and how much precious money it was going to cost. I asked him where the post office was, but he was from Fruita and didn’t know.

After what seemed like a half-hour, Jill stumbled back from the bathroom. She sat down and looked at me for a moment.

“Are you gay?” she asked.

All I could do was laugh.

Glenn apologized, explaining that this used to be the gay bar. I said it was fine and explained to Jill that God had cursed me with heterosexuality and an insatiable lust for women that caused me to behave irrationally — often resulting in awkward situations that I’d rather not talk about.

She stared at me.

“Are you sure you’re not gay?”

I sighed and looked down. It must be the shirt. My fashion consultant (sister) had talked me into buying a pink shirt. It had a rather masculine design and the front and she assured me girls liked that kind of thing.

“Actually,” I said. “I reproduce asexually, like a flatworm. Every time I chop off a limb, it grows another person.”

She shook her head and looked a little hurt.

“I guess I deserved that,” she said, then lit up again.

“Are you Mormon?”

My head dropped to my hands. Maybe it’s the haircut, I thought. Please God, tell me it’s just the haircut.

“We’re Mormon,” she said.

I looked doubtfully at the nearly empty pitcher of beer in front of them.

“Well,” Glenn said. “We’re not practicing.”

Clearly. They whispered something between them and giggled as I pretended to be interested in the faux Eskimos bouncing around on the TV screen.

“Are you looking for a mate?” Jill asked with a sly smile.

It was an interesting question. After a long winter hiatus, the sunshine and exercise had stirred up long-forgotten hormones in me. I was still grappling with how to cope with it.

“My daughter is really cute.”

“I believe you,” I said. Oh God, here it comes.

“You should marry the girl,” she slurred, slamming her hand on the bar for emphasis.

“Excuse me,” I said, standing up and taking off for the bathroom.

On my way back, I approached two attractive girls. One of them bore a remarkable resemblance to Drew Barrymore.

“Hi. Do you ladies know where the post office is?”

“Hey I remember you,” said the blond. “You’re that guy who ran from the cops the other night.”

That’s why they looked familiar. It was Saturday night and I was standing behind them in line to get into a crowded bar. They were trying to make conversation, but I was preoccupied with the hostile exchange going on between a drunken girl and the bouncer.

Suddenly, she reached out and slapped the bouncer across the face.

“Oh that’s it,” he said menacingly. He grabbed her by the wrist and had someone call the cops.

The vibes were getting scary and my inner Ritalin kid was getting impatient with waiting in line.

“I’m sorry,” I said, prying myself away from the girls. “I can’t be seen by the cops.”

I walked off into the warm summer night and ducked into a sketchy looking club. It turned out to be one of the biggest skullfucks of the year.

Inside, techno music throbbed and neon lights flashed. On stage, a girl wearing neon green gators and what looked like matching underwear jerked mechanically to the music next to a guy in rock-star makeup, silver pants, a fishnet shirt and nine-inch platform shoes.

The DJ bobbed behind dark glasses and young people in assorted anime-like costumes bopped to the beat. I stood awkwardly in the corner — wanting to leave, but too fascinated with the phantasmagorical spectacle to pull myself away. It was like one of those Japanese cartoons that you can’t pull away from until you have a seizure and drown in your own saliva.

Girls in skimpy tops, micro skirts and furry leggings took turns skillfully dancing on stage — gyrating to showcase their mesmerizing ass motions.

The whole thing reeked of sexual sleaze, but there was fearlessness in the dancers I admired. Besides, it looked like they were having a genuine good time.

“No body runs from the cops unless they have a really good reason,” Drew Barrymore said eyeing me suspiciously.

I explained to her my overly-paranoid tendencies and the fact that I was homeless and living in a van — therefore prone to police harassment.

“No body runs unless they have a REALLY good reason,” she repeated. “You probably deal heroine.”

These days, the truth is the only thing people won’t believe.

I tried to re-assure her that I wasn’t a heroine dealer, but she wouldn’t buy it. I never got a straight answer as to where the post office was. They were probably afraid I’d blow it up. Finally, the blond snubbed me and dragged her friend to another part of the bar.

I sat back down by Jill and ordered another Red Stripe. Glenn had wandered off.

“You think I’m stupid,” she said. “I’m actually more complicated than you think.”

“I believe you,” I said.

“No you don’t.”

“I don’t tell many people this,” I said. “But my underlying is that all people are essentially intelligent and essentially decent inside. That’s my hope that I stubbornly cling to.”

“Then look me in the eye and tell me you believe me,” she said.

I sighed, looked up, and reading the lines on her face — proceeded to tell Jill her life story, starting with a complicated childhood, rocky adulthood and uncertainty with her job and course in life.

“I guess that’s everyone these days,” she said after a long pause. “This might sound strange … but I love you. Is that strange?”

“Yeah, a little,” I said. She reached out and started to stroke my back.

“I have a big heart,” she said. “I love my man … but I have a big heart.”

I sat there anxiously waiting for Glenn to come up and smash my head into the bar. But he walked up smiling and seemed unaffected. They eventually left. On the way out, Jill gave me a lingering hug and kiss on the cheek.

I ordered one last beer and pounded it down. I was just about to leave when a girl walked up and handed me a drink. She said her friend had bought it for me and she wondered if I would care to join them.

Finally, I thought, some normal female interaction.

Her friend turned out to be a guy named Mark. He probably liked my shirt.

While Mark was a perfectly polite and decent guy, I had had my fill of awkwardness for the night. I thanked him for the drink and left after a brief chat, explaining I needed my rest for the job hunt.

Never did find out where the post office was. I think next time, I’ll just Google it.

(The names in this post have been changed out of respect for my fellow drunks.)

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By Reid Wright

I’ve moved out of my car and into a van. The change in square footage leads me to believe I’m moving up in the world.

Now this is living

Now this is living

The van — named “Myrtle” — is the apex of bum technology. She has one good tire, one working headlight and occasionally stalls out on me in front of cute college girls who giggle while licking ice cream cones in the McDonalds parking lot.

Myrtle is the mutant product of an incestuous relationship between a van from the love generation and Doctor Strangelove — both children weaned from the protective cradle of Nazi Germany under Hitler.

In fact, if you crank the van’s steering wheel too far to the right, the horn sputters out “Sieg Heil!” in Morse code.

Makes sense

Makes sense

There’s a sticker on the back that says “Northern Arizona University Mom”— a ploy to throw off the police so they think I’m just another harmless citizen.

Like this guy

Like this guy

Regardless, I was standing with the sliding side door open in the Durango City Market parking lot, ready to brush my teeth when a young lad of about four came skipping up with his mother in pursuit.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s a van,” his mother answered for me.

I stepped aside to offer a view of my clothes and bike gear strewn about inside.

“This is how you live if you don’t have a job,” I explained to the boy, then half-heartedly added the customary, “Stay in school.”

The mom laughed nervously and pulled the boy away.

Only in Durango

Only in Durango

“I want to live in a van mom!” the lad chirped as he was being dragged off.

Another American youth ruined. My work here is done.

I sputtered out of town towards Silverton. Myrtle lurched up mountain passes at near-glacial speeds. Rolling down the other side, the van picked up momentum. I careened around sharp turns carved into the mountainside.

Colorado road builders have no regard for shoulders or even guard rails. Just over the white line is a 1000 foot plunge to the jagged rocks of death below. I saw the occasional road-side plaque to commemorate the brave snow plow driver who found the edge the hard way.

Some sort of buzzer would randomly go off in Myrtle’s dashboard — warning me of impending doom and milking my adrenal gland.

The smell of burning rubber wafted up through the floor. Sometimes the brake pedal would push against my foot for a few inches and then flop uselessly to the floor. I clung to the shimmying steering wheel for dear life as the bald tires screeched around the hair-pin turns.

Two mountain passes later, I decided it was high-time for a beer to settle my nerves. I stopped at O’Brien’s pub in Ouray for an Irish Red. Tourists wander in and out like cattle. There are no bar-flies to provide entertainment, just regular flies.

Colorado mountain towns are the perfect place for a bum because of their cool temperatures and prime real-estate in the form of abandoned buildings and mine shafts left over from the gold rush of 1859.

The servers ignored me as my glass sat empty in front of me. I could see them out of the corner of my eye, looking at me warily as they stood idle at the bar — saving their smiles for the tourists.

I reckoned it was time to move on, to look for a new adventure.

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Bob Wright hits a rock jump out at the Phils World trails near Cortez, CO.

This is a test of the emergency bumcast system. This is only a test.

Biking out at Phil’s, I blast out of the turns and pump my arms and legs through the dips. My legs are rubbery and my lungs are wheezing — not enough blood cells for this altitude.

Point and shoot — pump and pedal. Got to keep that momentum — to make the next climb.

They say momentum is also important in life — that you have to keep giving it your all to keep from sputtering out. So kids rush through high school and college, graduating as children still unaware of the complexities of the world and themselves. They quickly get swept off and wedged into a career.

Got to keep that momentum.

Then one day, they stop and realize how empty and hollow their lives are. They never really liked engineering or accounting or public administration. They rushed blindly through life — forgetting how to live.

Momentum is important, but so is direction. I worry about losing both.

I’ve returned to Cortez Colorado — the ratlands — where dreams go to die. I went to high school here, but have few fond memories of the place. Instead, I see my old classmates — many of them once brilliant and creative students — still working at Subway or the movie theater.

If ever there was a place for life to sputter out, this is it.

I’m here for an undetermined amount of time, to unload some stuff, visit with family and have some time to work on my resume and cover letters. So, I reluctantly sit down and agonize over every sentence, making little progress and hating having my entire being reduced to a single page of text.

As much as I boast about being a bum, I confess needing a job. It’s partly for the money, to pay back that loan and get off the Fed’s debt leash. I also need something for my brain to chew on — so it doesn’t eat me.

And finally, like all who are hard-wired after growing up on Disney movies and Saturday morning cartoons, I need a purpose. While I’m out Kerouacking off, there’s a real world out there with real problems. I can’t just stand by and watch.

Point and shoot — pump and pedal. Got to keep that momentum up — to make the next climb.

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Tatoo this ad on your forearm and recieve 30% off.

Tatoo this ad on your forearm and recieve 30% off.

Porn for geologists

Porn for geologists

When anger management fails

When anger management fails

Life and death in the desert

Life and death in the desert

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Gooseberry Mesa is a must-ride for any rock-wrangling masochist who wants to get a hefty dose of minerals while giving death the finger at the same time.  It is a worthy test of a rider’s skills, endurance and courage while offering some priceless views and candy-sweet fun along the way.

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Route ridden: South Rim trail -> Point trail -> North Rim trail -> Windmill trail (Also known as “Rim Job.” Basically, I only took left turns, taking the recommended clockwise approach, around the mesa’s rim.

Distance ridden: about 13.5 miles.

Finding Primo

The trailhead is pretty easy to find, just follow highway 59 out of Hurricane, Utah. After passing a Chevron on your left, there will be a brown sign for the Gooseberry Mesa. Follow a bumpy dirt road until you see the Gooseberry trailhead sign. I’d recommend driving all the way up to the White trailhead and parking in the fenced-in lot with the red gravel.

Maps at the trailhead offer a little help, as do markers at trail junctions. The trail itself is dotted on the slickrock with white splotches of paint that careen left, right, up and down — leaving you to wonder if you’re following a bike trail or a squadron of drunken pigeons with diarrhea on a death march to nowhere.

Follow the pigeon poop road.

Follow the pigeon poop road

Necessary equipment:

I’d recommend full-suspension bike on this one. Pads aren’t absolutely necessary, but you won’t look like a sissy for wearing them on this savage ride. Bring plenty sun block and water. I drank about a half-gallon and wished I had more. As always, tools, tubes and a helmet are a no-brainer.

Here lies little Timmy, who thought he could ride without a brain bucket.

Here lies little Timmy, who thought he could ride without a helmet to hold his brains in.

Skill factor: 8 of 10

This trail is ROCKY. Rolling slickrock, loose sandstone and gnarley roots make for a technical ride, but one that is manageable for advanced riders. According to signs, trails on the mesa range from intermediate to expert rankings. I’m inclined to agree on the grounds that it wouldn’t be fun for beginners, since they would likely spend most their time hoofing it over obstacles. There is the white trail (double track) for beginners.

Watch that edge. Redbull doesn't really give you wings.

Watch that edge. Redbull doesn't really give you wings.

Sweat factor: 7 out of 10

While there are no long climbs or big elevation changes, plenty of ups and downs will work your legs, especially if you ride the full outer loop. There’s plenty of spurs back to the trailhead if you run out of gas. Pushing and pulling the front wheel over obstacles will work your upper body as well. Overall, Gooseberry mesa is the total body workout Chuck Norris can only dream of.


Fear factor: 8 out of 10

While the trail doesn’t really allow you to reach breakneck speed, rolling and swooping that close to the cliff’s edge makes for some hair-raising moments. Especially if you hit your pedal on a rock or veer towards the edge when hit by a gust of wind.

Fun factor: 7 out of 10

Although tight turns and formidable bumps don’t really allow you to let go of the brakes and really open up, the trail makes brilliant use of the natural contours in the slickrock. This makes for some smooth dishes, fun rolling whoops and banked turns. Thrill seekers can hit drop-offs to the sides of the trail.

Bottom line:  If you make it to the area, this one is certainly worth riding. A great ride for the rider who’s done it all, it offers Moab-quality riding without the crowds and traffic. A little something for every kind of advanced rider.

Here’s a good site for more information. Happy trails.

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By Reid Wright

Gravel crunched under the tires as Astro-Shark crawled to a stop on a mesa near Virgin, Utah. Dusk approached as I pried myself out of the captain’s chair and lumbered awkwardly over to the canyon’s edge.

A brown river flowed gently between its massive sandstone walls, sand bars drifting below the water’s surface. From the lush willow patches on the banks, frogs chirped. The birds and insects chimed in, harmonizing to form tonight’s twilight symphony. I felt at home.

If home is where the heart is, then my heart was launched into the stratosphere and blasted into a million gleaming bits that rained down on all the beautiful places of the high desert — probably to be snacked on by the crows like beef jerky.

I pitched my tent and was awakened twice, having a hard time getting back to sleep. First by a midnight windstorm, then early the next morning by a woman walking her dog. She walked quietly by my tent, not peeking in and not calling the authorities. I sure appreciated that.

I read a study somewhere that said an overwhelming majority of a homeless people suffer from mental illness. I like to think they are just drunk on their own freedom, but it’s true that some of them have wandered deep into guanoland.

If the study is accurate, I’d hypothesize that most of these folks simply suffer from sleep deprivation. It’s hard to get a REM cycle when you’re sleeping in a flapping tent, dripping mine shaft, trickling culvert or noisy back alley. As if the weather and wildlife weren’t bad enough, the authorities go out of their way to harass the homeless — trying to coax them to pick up and move on to another town.

It sounds like paranoia, until they come after you. Bumming it in Arizona as a teenager, I was amazed at how much effort they put in to harassing me — leaving me threatening notes and reporting my car abandoned.

In Utah, you’ve got to look out for the local cops, forest rangers and Utah secret police — with their black SUVs and re-education camps.

There's got to be something behind these razor-wire gates in the middle of nowhere. And it sure isn't uncle Jimmy's porn stash.

Well there's got to be something behind these razor-wire gates in the middle of nowhere. It sure isn't uncle Sam's porn stash.

Not everyone chooses to be homeless, and the faces of homelessness are changing. Since the collapse of the housing market and the start of the recession, middle class families and business tycoons are losing their homes all over the nation — victims of foreclosures, layoffs and the credit trap. Tent cities are popping up under freeways and in vacant lots on the outskirts of major cities like Sacramento and Seattle.

So the next time you see someone sleeping in the park, let them be. You could be next.

Scorching across northeast Nevada, I began to understand why there is nothing on the map. It’s because there really is nothing fucking out here — just valley after valley of hardpan between mountains. I began to get lonely and turned on the radio for company. I pressed the ‘seek’ button and it just kept on seeking.

Occasionally, a station would pop on the radio, startling me. The selection was limited to classic rock, country and Christian talk shows.

On one show, a young caller (she sounded like a teenager) called in to ask how to cope with President Obama turning his back on Israel and embracing the Muslim extremists. The host kept trying to butt in as she ejaculated all her worst fears of this being a sign of Armageddon. I thought he was going to interrupt her by correcting her and saying that simply wasn’t true, but instead expressed his sympathies and said her fears were very legitimate. His recommended solution: read the Bible more and pray.

I know Christians — like any group of perfectly respectable people — have a few idiots making the rest of them look bad. My question is how do these assholes get radio shows?

Obama attempting to reach a compromise between Israel and the Muslim world is not switching sides. Even if he wanted to join with Palestine and the Muslims, there’s no way in hell they would agree to it. For those who happen to be living under a rock, he US is not exactly on good terms with them at the moment.

Based on conversations I’ve had with people (mostly relatives), I think there’s a large population of Americans who grossly overestimate Obama’s ability to fuck shit up. Yes he’s been very busy these last five months and yes, he’s a very sneaky public speaker. But the man is simply not capable of undoing decades of sour relations with the Middle East to join them in the war on Israel.

Obama’s speech tomorrow in Egypt to attempt to reach out to the Muslim community has been promoted by the White House like the super-bowl of presidential speeches. Obama himself has been hinting about this speech since his early campaign. The entire world will be watching.

No pressure Barack.

In reality, this speech probably isn’t going to make much of a difference. The Muslim people have been hearing speeches by western leaders for decades. One more is not going to change much, no matter how groundbreaking it may be. Muslim people are more impressed by actions than words. They rely on word-of-mouth information from friends and local religious leaders and are not easily persuaded by public speakers and mass media telecasts.

In an interview with NPR, Obama simply said the US would have to be more assertive with Israel in their expectations that BOTH sides compromise, not just the Palestinians.

He’s not going to ‘turn his back’ on Israel because it is a crucial geopolitical ally in the fight against terrorism as well as a key player on the global diplomatic stage.

It was exactly the kind of brainless zeal expressed by the Nevada radio host that Israel sought to exploit when they invaded Gaza in January. They gambled on President Bush, then in his last days in office, would put faith before reason and join them in their military attack that killed many civilians.

Questioning the motivations of a political leader is healthy for a democracy, but practitioners of mass media should have at least a modicum of responsibility to know what the hell they are talking about. Otherwise, they are just spreading the ignorance.