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Monthly Archives: July 2009

rocks on boggy draw after a summer rain

rocks on boggy draw after a summer rain

I declaired myself mayor of the ghost town of Alta Colorado. This is city hall ... the marmots are my slaves.

I declaired myself mayor of the ghost town of Alta Colorado. This is city hall ... the marmots are my slaves.

The whereabouts of the previous mayor are unknown

The whereabouts of the previous mayor are unknown

Lizard Head and Mt. Wilson

Lizard Head and Mt. Wilson

heartbroken at the Hollywood

heartbroken at the Hollywood

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"Uh no thanks man, I don't need to see the inside."

"Uh no thanks man, I don't need to see the inside."

And the award for creepiest trailer decal goes to …

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By Reid Wright

Ahh the public library — where degenerate bums and impressionable young children can co-exist in harmony.

I asked the aging librarian if I could get wireless.

“Yes, I have an atlas right here,” she said, rummaging in a drawer.

“I said wireless … wireless internet?”

“Oh sure,” she said with a sheepish laugh while pulling the necessary forms.

I snickered smugly to myself. Why would I need a dusty old atlas? I have the power of Google at my fingertips.

The dawn of the internet has brought about what the media dinosaurs consider an informational ice-age. Newspapers are in a financial tailspin and television news has degenerated to seizure-inducing flashes of celebrity gossip.

It’s time to evolve or die.

This abrupt transformation has shattered the old information model and changed our world in profound ways that are completely lost on the dinosaurs but are being embraced by those who can evolve into media mammals.

As journalists were banned from Iran during the turmultous election demonstrations by the Iran, the Iranian people bypassed the government clampdown using social media to reveal events that would have otherwise gone unnoticed by the global community. Traditional news outlets could only stand on the sidelines and act as an amplifier to re-broadcast online posts. 

This presents the possibility that we may no longer need the old news model.

Also, the sheer volume of information has mushroomed exponentially in the last decades. Also, the speed at which it can be accessed is lightning fast. We can now learn almost anything we want to know with a simple web search.

This will pose an interesting question for the education system in the coming years. If facts are instantly accessible by our children, is a traditional fact-cramming education necessary?

These questions and more fascinate me as someone born between the old and new. Trained in traditional journalism with my other foot in new media endeavors, I’m kind of like a Megazostrodon — the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and mammals, which sounds like a fierce and mighty Triassic monster.

"rawr"

"rawr"

It was actually a small rat-like creature who laid leathery eggs. It cowered in the shadows and likely shit itself whenever dinosaurs neared.

 

It’s a strange and exciting time to be alive. But life in Mcluhan’s global village isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. The streets are noisy, crowded and polluted. Sometimes it seems more like a global New Jersey.

With billions of voices shouting online is it really easier to be heard?

The narcotic cocaine (referred to in my industry as “breakfast”) is essentially a synthetic form of dopamine — or the chemical form of pleasure. Cocaine and dopamine are absorbed into cells naturally, but when overloaded by cocaine, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors restrict the flow of happy chemicals into the cell — numbing a person’s ability to feel pleasure.

Similarly, the daily bombardment of information could be numbing our ability to absorb and retain the knowledge needed for prosperity.

Also, with the troubles of a vast world flashing across our screens, how much can our human capacity for caring handle? It is too easy to ignore the posting on a twitter feed of someone who had a bad day and wants someone to talk to. Behind the screen of anonymity, apathy flourishes.

The digital information revolution teeters on the ever-unstable fulcrum of human emotions. It could be the dawn of a new era of global interconnectedness or degenerate to a world of digital vanity where one by one, hundreds of facebook friends stop responding until the tethers snap, and the child of the information age drifts alone into the empty void of cyberspace.

The moment: July 3, 2009

The  music: Casper and The Mighty 602 Band

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The place: Dolores River Brewery, Dolores Colorado.

By Scott MacDonald

The best way to get to know a city is to wander its streets and take in everything that’s offered. It’s with that in mind that I began my analysis of Portland, Oregon.

After two cups of coffee, I prepared myself for the journey – destination unknown. I armed myself with only the necessities – my MP3 player, a couple of pencils and a little notebook with a gray kitten on the front. I took a deep breath, opened the door, and started walking.
The sun, shrouded by a dense layer of cloud cover, swallowed the city in a faint darkness. Hills abounded the landscape, but after Moscow, Idaho, I’ve no problem scaling the tallest of hills with these scrawny legs of mine.

“Our love, our love is all we have…”  

The words danced through my ears as I strolled slowly through a small park. Thick, giant trees reached skyward in a never ending contest to be taller than the surrounding skyscrapers. Ultimately, they lose. People from all walks of life passed through here. A young man in blue Hawaiian flower print shorts and a bright red Santa hat; a stuffy man in a heavy business suit with a gray tie. A young woman in silver high heels, a skin tight short gray dress and giant black sunglasses walked a black pit bull. These people walked with purpose, but they didn’t rush. For as busy as this city always seems to be, no one ever seems to be in a hurry. A man with long brown dreadlocks and a beard walked by with his bike. His sandals clacked across the pavement as he readjusted his bulky backpack. He acknowledged me with a simple nod of his head. Across the way, a homeless man rested on a wooden bench. A shopping cart waited patiently by his side, perhaps the only thing that waits for him anymore. Inside rested different colored soda cans, a large white bucket and several empty water bottles. A young couple with three rowdy children – at most the age of 5 – walked by. No one seemed to notice the man or his lonely cart.
The wind never dies. Even with buildings, and cars – innumerable obstacles – a gentle breeze meanders through the city. It occasionally whips around a corner, just to make sure you’re still paying attention.

“All the people in the street, walk as fast as their feet can take them, I just roam through town…”  

I stopped at a quiet crosswalk with a few other people. Ahead, the sign blinked, an orange hand forbade us from crossing. The others defied the will of the sign and crossed without a single glance in either direction. Shocked, I hesitantly followed them. At the next street, people crossed even if traffic was coming. It’s like an unspoken rule – cross the street when you feel like it, regardless of what’s coming. And everyone does it – children, the elderly, people who use wheelchairs – They all defiantly cross, and with an air of confidence that seems to me to be absolutely necessary. I’ve learned from all my years in Idaho that just walking out into the street is a surefire way to get run down. This, however, is not Idaho.
At the corner of SW 5th street and Market St. stands the 25-story Portland Plaza. I stopped to count the stories. Even as I stood there in all my tourist-y glory, gawking at the building with my mouth agape, no one stared at me. Passersby regarded me with friendly smiles. It’s the first time in a long time I haven’t been stared at. You’d be surprised how often long black hair gets you a stare, if not a contemptible glare. I’ve only been here five days and already I feel like I’ve been accepted. The plaza stands proudly with others of its kind in downtown, but the Wells Fargo Center puts them all to shame. Visible from anywhere in Portland, it stands so high that it’s a surprise Heaven itself isn’t offended by the tower’s reach.
As I walked down fifth street, it hit me – I’ve no idea where I’m at. I’ve just been swallowed by the city. I don’t panic.
“How are you today, sir?” A young woman asked as I continued my aimless trek down the street. She wore a short brown skirt and matching vest. Her brown raspy dreads were tied back. She was, in a nutshell, a hippy. In her hand she tightly grasped a clipboard. I already knew what this was about. “I’m doing OK, how are you?” I cordially replied. “Good, do you have a moment for the environment?” I said no and walked on, even though I was lost and had all the time in the world. I learned from my single experience in Seattle that I would have been stuck arguing politics, quite possibly forever, if I had said yes.
A block away, a young man dressed in a black shirt had the words, “Ask me about my 10 inch wiener,” printed across the back. I missed the fine print, the name of the restaurant, and snorted and chuckled audibly at the innuendo as I walked by. The man smiled and laughed. I walked away, increasing my pace the more red I grew.

“Do you realize, that you have the most beautiful face…”  

Water cascaded out the Carwash Fountain on Ankeny and fifth. The fountain is composed of five steel pipes that arch and curve into the air. Each has nine nozzles. Water rushes out and crashes into a pool below with a thunderous crash. With so much noise and force, it could almost be the roar of the Columbia River.
On the concrete steps nearby, a young man with a wiry black beard laid with his head in his girlfriend’s lap. She wrapped an arm around his chest and the other around his head. She gripped him tightly, as though protecting him from the world itself. She gave him a single kiss that lasted for at least a minute. His arched legs swayed back and forth. After, she pulled his shirt up and gently kissed his stomach. He smiled, a big wide grin that encompassed his entire face. In that moment, he may have been the happiest man alive. The two walked off hand in hand as she gently rested her head on his shoulder.
“Cabaret” is sprayed in yellow on the side of a two story building with pitch black windows. A yellow metal gate secures the front door. Signs warn minors – this place is not for them. While closed now, I can only imagine what goes on in there. I’m not sure I have the guts to find out for sure.

“Wait in line, till your time…”  

I remember The Roseland, on Sixth and Burnside, from the Apocalyptica concert last year. Not that it helps me find where I am, but it’s a nostalgic moment nonetheless. Numerous posters adorn the inside of the windows; advertisements for upcoming artists. The only artist I recognize, Johnny Lang, will play the 14th. The posters make it almost impossible to see the inside.
“Hey do you know how to get to Park Center?” A woman stood before me. She wore a long denim skirt with long black boots. A silver ring adorned the exact center of her lip and tattoos of all colors twisted and looped up her arms. Startled by her words, I replied, “Um…no, sorry.” I tried to avoid telling her I was lost. I try not to look like a tourist if I can help it. “I’ve only been here five days, so I don’t really know where anything is.” Real smooth Scott. “Oh!” The woman said, “Me, too!” I told her I’m from Idaho and I felt overwhelmed by the size of the city. She laughed, a loud and full body laugh. She doubled over from the hilarity and slapped her knee, like I just told the funniest joke ever. “I drove through that place. I’m from Oklahoma…well, Phoenix actually. This is kind of small for me. Well, anyway, have a nice day.” I wished her luck in her search and watched for a moment as she sauntered down the street.
Several people with shopping carts full of various possessions lined the streets of every business on the street. I always thought the shopping cart stereotype was just that – a stereotype – but that doesn’t seem to be the case. As much as I’d like to stop and talk, I can’t bring myself to do it. At least, not yet. The other passersby don’t seem to notice them. I guess they’ve adjusted to their presence, but I struggle with it.
A nearby street sign reads, “Pearl District.” I recalled that Amy told me about how it used to be a red light district of sorts back in the day. Since the park was full of energetic children, I hoped it wasn’t anymore.

“Given a chance, I’m gonna be somebody…”  

Crossing the park, away from the joyful cries of children, I wandered by a block of ritzy clothing stores with names I’d never heard. For a moment, the sun breached its cloud imprisonment, and threw rays of light off the windows and the street signs. Everything glowed with a soft golden light. As I walked by, I caught myself in the mirror – my tall, lanky body, my long black hair thrown side to side by the wind, my wide honest smile. It’s an inexplicable grin, like I alone am privy to the world’s best secret.  After a moment, I realized this is a city where anyone can be whoever they want to be – I could be anyone I want to be. Maybe I already am.

By Reid Wright

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Rain pattered on the aspen leaves, which shimmered like small coins in the overcast afternoon. The whirr of machinery and sputter of a jackhammer echoed from below. Another lush mountainside was being carved out to make room for more condominiums.

Telluride Colorado is a lavish play land for corporate executives, movie stars and oil tycoons. Complete with ski resort, golf course and all the amenities, it offers a chance for them to get away from it all.

Roughing it

Roughing it

I took one last gulp of thin air and charged for the hill. Muscles strained in my legs, back and arms as I heaved against the stone-laden wheelbarrow on the slippery slope. Mosquitoes swarmed me, despite the rain. One landed on my arm and began to probe for a rich capillary to pierce with its stinging beak. I did not swat it, for fear I would dump my load.

The house was constructed on a knife ridge at 10,000 feet and had no paths to the sides for workers to gain access to the back yard. I was hauling out the flagstone patio in the back, only to haul in new stone for more patios later.

The wheelbarrow hit a clump of grass. My foot slipped on the wet slope, I face planted, and the load of flagstone toppled over and slid over the mountainside with a grinding screech. In that moment, I selfishly hoped the wealthy owners of the house I was working on were very, very unhappy.

After all, they didn’t know the suffering of the people who hauled rocks for their patio, built their houses, planted their trees, dumped their trash, waded through the mud to service their hot tub, or risked life and limb to shovel snow from their roof.

But before storming off to write my own communist manifesto, I calmed down and reminded myself to at least try to understand someone and their way of life before hating them.

An enclosed catwalk extends from the house and descends down a spiral staircase to the garage — effectively creating a $100,000  hamster tube so the rich can get from their house to their SUV without ever having to be exposed to the fresh Rocky Mountain air.

I don’t understand it. In all my years, and all my travels, I’ve never tasted money or been able to comprehend the alien mentality thatIMG_0127 comes with it.

So I should talk to these people and get to know them right? That’s where the real kicker comes in.

They aren’t there.

All these enormous wood-and-stone palaces on the mountain slopes, with their hot tubs, pool tables and indoor bowling alleys are occupied only a few weeks out of the year. The rest of the year they sit empty, racking up tens of thousands in utility and maintenance costs.

Still, I grapple to wrap my mind around it.

The architect of the landscaping outfit I’m working for said the owners are an elderly couple who use the house to gather family and friends on the holidays.

OK, so while I’m a little skeptical, the experts say “family” and “togetherness” are generally a good thing.

We worked on a Telluride mansion last summer that had an entire wing devoted to children. It was wild-west themed with rocking horses, bunk beds, a big-screen TV and an entire collection of western cowboy novels by Zane Grey — ironically a dentist from Ohio.

The children who play here on the holidays will probably never have to dig holes in the rain.

IMG_0129The recession has slowed the manic growth of Telluride, at least a little. The landscaping project we were working on had been scaled down by about 60 percent.

“When billionaires become five-hundred-millionaires, they suddenly don’t want plants anymore,” joked the driver who delivered our shrubs.

To me, landscaping is the ultimate act of arrogance. It is a pompous declaration of man’s power over nature and an assertion that he can create a landscape more beautiful than Mother Nature.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t do it for $15 an hour.

The first large-scale landscaping in western culture was undertaken at the French Palace of Versailles in the 1600’s. It was a demonstration of the monarchy’s power over nature. But it was also a demonstration of power over something else.

Versailles under the reign of Louis XIV was a lavish resort complete with high-society gatherings and balls. It was designed to draw the French Aristocrats away from their power centers and distract them while the monarchy gained centralized power over their lands and people.

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The gardens of Versailles

At the end of the day, I limped dirty and stiff to my van.  A small army of proletariats trickled down the mountain. Carpenters, housekeepers, masons, landscapers, exterminators, electricians, plumbers and irrigators — they lumbered wearily back to their pickups and late-model cars, clutching their lunch coolers and water bottles. Most of them would have a long drive home, since most couldn’t afford to stay in town.

Then I saw them — true Telluride aristocrats — two women and a man, power walking down the path in their jogging suits and sunglasses, pumping their arms like monkeys pounding a drum. The man had slicked-back hair and prattled loudly to his Bluetooth, oblivious to the world around him as he stormed by.

I wanted to stop them and talk, but all I could do was laugh inside. If the aristocrats want a real workout, why don’t they come haul some rock with us? I guess I’ll never really understand them.

After much deliberation, I had made my peace with the aristocrats of Telluride, but decided their mansions and condos must go. It may sound harsh, but anyone who grew up in Colorado and watched picturesque landscapes turned into miles of housing developments will understand.

Someday, these gross symbols of excess will be wiped from the mountainside by mudslide, avalanche or wildfire. While the mountains of Telluride generally have too much rain for wildfires, Mother Nature has a desperate back-up plan.

The great ponderosa pines in Telluride and across the Rockies are dying in record numbers, falling prey to beetles that thrive during warm, dry summers. Dead trees mean more risk for fires and weakened roots create more risk for mudslides and avalanche.

However, if these trees do catch fire, it could poison the water supply for 33 million people across 13 states.

Ponderosa pines killed by beatles

Ponderosa pines killed by beetles

In the end — wealthy or poor — Mother Nature will humble us all.