Monday, December 31, 2007

4 McCullough Haikus for Benazir

Winter Tracks
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
This Time
In each visit here,
defined by worldly events,
Benazir Bhutto.

Wrath of the wind cuts,
another leader goes down.
Barren dirt and drifts.

A World Away
News from Pakistan,
events from a world away.
Knifing cold here too.

Drama in the light
Isolation as always
Wind, cold are given.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Technology's promise and reality

Storm Over Tower
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Laying in bed at the end of the day back in the late 60s, I was often restless as I considered the future and my life ahead. The space program was approaching its pinnacle as our country prepared for its first moon landing. From there, the possibilities seemed beyond my imagination. The future—in my mind, beyond the year 2000—seemed so cool and even though I knew I'd be in my 40s, I was excited and couldn't wait for it to arrive.

Here I am now in the year 2007 with a different kind of restlessness—the kind that doesn't keep me from going to sleep, but the kind that awakens me in the middle of the night. What makes me restless on this particular early morning at 4:00 a.m.—ideas, upcoming projects, caffeine, athletes foot?

Looking back on those restless nights as a kid, it's somewhat disappointing when comparing my ideas of what the future would be like and what it has actually become. Sure there are some things that are pretty slick and are the result of our advancing technology—the cell phone, personal computer and the internet come to mind. However, when I consider how all of these high-tech gadgets are used (or should I say "misused?), that kid's excitement for tomorrow is nowhere to be found. I suppose in my youthful mind I pictured us being a bit more responsible or meaningful in the employment of whatever new technologies that came into play. Had I considered cell phones, I would have seen such calls as legitimate or important rather than the multitude of unimaginative, distracting and dumbed-down calls that are made... "Whacha' doing? Where are you? I'm standing in the isle at Wal-Mart, which margarine should I buy?"

I'm reminded of Springsteen's latest song Radio Nowhere.

I was tryin' to find my way home
But all I heard was a drone
Bouncing off a satellite
Crushin' the last lone American night
This is radio nowhere, is there anybody alive out there?

At 9-years-old and watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, I anticipated that by the time I was, say 47, trips to the moon would be common—even routine. As it turns out, it's still difficult to get there and back. And now that the momentum of the Apollo program has been lost to a program limited to earth orbit, returning to the moon will be like starting all over again.

Perhaps returning to the moon will be more challenging now, given all the new complications that are part of today's intricate technologies. If that turns out to be true, the second part of this saga might be just as exciting for today's 9-year-old kids as it was in the 60s.

For now, let's rename the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey to 3001: A Space Odyssey. Maybe when 3001 finally comes around, Arthur C. Clarke's work will be a bit more accurate of our world then.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Boxing Day & White Rabbits

Murchinson Field
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
December 1 has arrived feeling more like December 22—the first day of winter. It's a Saturday and the girls are away for a swim meet in Worland leaving the cat and I to fend for ourselves.

At about 6:30 this morning, I hit my wife with "white rabbits"—an old English custom that grants you a month's worth of good luck if you are the first to say "white rabbits" on the first day of the month. That's three months running I've beat her to it.

Honestly, I'd never heard of "white rabbits" until I met my wife. She introduced it to me from her youth growing up in the Solomon Islands and New Zealand.

Depending on who you talk to, this silly superstition has been around for a long time—perhaps as far back as the 1400s and there appears to be a number of variations on this first-of-the-month ritual. In our household, we probably conform to the following definition from Wikipedia:

Traditions also extend to saying on the first of each month: “A pinch and a punch for the first day of the month; white rabbit!” White rabbit is declared to be the “no returns” policy on the “pinch and the punch” the receiver felt. Origins of this saying is unknown. A small concession exists, for recipients of the "pinch and a punch," where white rabbit declaration (no returns) is not made. Recipients may in this case reply with "A flick and a kick for being so quick."

Later on I was musing about how there aren't many customs or celebrations that we (Americans) observe with a dominant English tradition behind them, and I'm not counting St. Patrick's Day either. If anything, our celebrations seem to be slanted toward ridding ourselves of our British connections even though English is the dominant (dare I say "national") language here in the U.S. We're so reluctant to have anything to do with the English that we don't even acknowledge something as wonderful as Boxing Day—typically December 26 (a holiday that would give us two days off work, maybe three if one doesn't have to work Christmas Eve). For those unfamiliar, Boxing Day is an English public holiday celebrated on the first weekday after Christmas Day. It appeared sometime in the 19th Century from a custom of giving tradespeople a Christmas box on this day.

Of course, we have our own dictionary of "American" English and our version of rugby has transformed into gridiron football while we devised a game called baseball from cricket.

Most of the other countries around the globe that were once tied to England
still remain somewhat "connected" as they recognize the Oxford Dictionary, Boxing Day and a few other selected English establishments. But here in America we have been so bent on being independent, unique, and doing things "our way" for all these years it's understandable how those outside of the United States see us as isolationist and arrogant—to name a few.

Perhaps we would do well in the global community if we were to adopt Boxing Day (and its original intentions) as an official holiday. Harmless as it seems, it could be just the PR stunt the doctor ordered to give our image a much needed boost throughout the world starting with the assortment of English-based nations.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Thanksgiving Lent

Good Banana Light
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Perhaps it wasn't the most memorable Thanksgiving, but I will remember this year's installation for its cold, silence and my little post-holiday fast.

Usually by this time in the year, we've been hit by several samples of winter weather, but today's temperatures that never made it beyond 30 degrees were the first of the year. A mild autumn/winter thus far—never mind global warming. While out for a walk, I'm confident that it was probably in the lower 20s—almost a biting cold. But the sun was bright and low in the south as if it was following the contour of the McCullough Peaks. I considered how cold it would be that night once the sun's rays were long gone and of the wild animals that live in this area of the country and wondered how they do it.

During my Thanksgiving Day walk, I found the outdoors unusually quiet in the form of less activity and fewer cars on the roads. Beyond the hustle and bustle of the home where the holiday meal takes place, the world seemed hauntingly quiet. I tried to imagine it as being any other day. Blindfolded and removed from any calendar, I would still sense it was a holiday by the day's silence.

When 8:30 in the evening rolled around and after eating a gummy worm, I decided to go on a 24-hour fast. I'd been thinking about it for most of the week and after hearing a story on the radio the other day about fasting, I was ready to carry on with the project. And what better time to start than after the big Thanksgiving Day meal?

By 10:00 a.m. the next day and more than 12 hours into the fast, I felt OK. I was ready to eat breakfast, but it was just water until 8:30 that night. At first I thought I'd catch myself looking at the clock and thinking about food all the time, so I went about to occupy myself as much as possible and away from the kitchen was my plan.

I spent a good portion of the early afternoon at school and although the building was cooler than usual because there was no school, I was extremely cold the entire time. Nevertheless, it was a cold day—20s maybe, so it's hard to tell if my reaction was related to the fast or just my non-conditioning to the year's first cold weather.

By 4:28 p.m. the presence of hunger was constant, but four hours remaining didn't seem too far away. A nagging headache moved in, but I wasn't so sure it was fast related as I had just started wearing a new pair of glasses on Wednesday and was far from accustomed to the new lenses.

I purposely occupied myself with one of my cameras and some outdated Polaroid film. At that point, I caught myself mulling around in the kitchen as if I was going to eat something. This was a poignant reminder about how we open the refrigerator not because we are hungry, but only because we are bored—I felt both tugging at me. I wondered if my sense of creative venture was dwindling as a result of fasting—certainly my enthusiasm for expending energy had retreated and even sitting in front of the computer was challenging.

In those last four hours I was far from feeling upbeat. If not fasting, I would have surmised that I was getting sick. It seemed I was hitting "the wall" in my deprived digestive marathon. My thermostat seemed to be out of whack and by 5:30, I found myself worthless. A sense of nausea came over me and about all I could do was lay down. By 6:00 I was in bed and trying to ride out the last two and a half hours. That's about all I could do. The headache was massive—migraine-like.

I'd like to think that by the time 8:30 rolled around, I leisurely made my way to the kitchen, but it was pretty direct and purposeful when I climbed out of bed and headed for the kitchen. Tanya had a meal of cut-up steak and rice with some vegis waiting in the microwave. By 8:40, food was entering my system again. I ate as slowly as I could and drank a bit in between bites.

I was in bed by 10:00, but up again to eat an orange around 11:30.

With the fast nearly 20 hours behind me now, I can't say that the recovery time was that of a hangover, but there was some recovery time involved. I'd like to try this again and minimize the recovery by starting my fast following a normal meal rather than the a few gummy worms as a late evening treat.

Miraculously my clothes did not fall off of my frame and I'm still wondering if my pancreas is appreciative of the hiatus it experienced as reported in the story about fasting on the radio. There were no real expectations upon entering the fast, but I would have preferred a vision or some kind or epiphany over a stifling headache and nausea. Nevertheless, I did come away from it with a greater appreciation of food—simple and modest food such as rice, fruit, and a thin strip of beef rather than Doritos, Quarter Pounders with cheese and the litany of other processed foods we consume on a daily basis.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Strong Feelings About Weak Coffee

Coffee Cup
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
In the wake of the coffee craze that has swept this country starting with its origins in Seattle (thanks to Starbucks), one would think that finding a good cup of strong coffee would be an automatic thing by now. Well, it isn't.

In a recent 900-mile-trip to Sunburst, Montana and back, I searched again for that elusive strong cup of coffee that might be found beyond the congested metropolitan communities and their perfectly-decorated, Martha Stewart, wi-fi, ain't-I-cool coffee houses (i.e., Starbucks and its many clones). I was sadly disappointed.

It's not like I'm a total coffee snob either. A little picky to be sure, but I'll settle for a strong cup of Folgers any day over a weak cup of gourmet-roasted brew.

All I can say is that the rural mini-mart/gas stations need to twig on when it comes to making a decent pot of coffee that doesn't rival dishwater that's about to be thrown out with only a hint of coffee flavor. Maverick stores seem to have it solved the problem, but they're not quite as numerous as the Conoco or Exxon mini-mart/gas stations scattered across Wyoming and Montana.

I'm guilty of taking on a cup of coffee in those places that are closer to home while never bothering to express my disappointment over a given low-grade cup that was served. I'm unsure which is sadder—to hurt someone's feelings because you weren't impressed with the coffee they served you or to have your feelings hurt because someone told you they didn't like your coffee. So, like everyone else, I just don't return or I'll order something else the next time I stop by. I suspect there are those out there that simply condition themselves to drink bad coffee as well. We're all guilty of that now and then—conditioning ourselves to drink or eat something that we know deep down is inferior; Bud Light and Cool Whip comes to mind.

I know it's not polite to tell someone that they just served you a crappy cup of coffee, but isn't it a bigger sin to give them the impression that their coffee is decent as they continue to serve others with the same terrible swill? Meanwhile everyone (you and I included) talks behind their back about how terrible their coffee is?

Man, it's just coffee!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Old Fruit and Autumn

Wrinkled Crabs
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Sometimes I'll see a nice looking piece of fruit in a bowl, but when I pick it up and inspect it closer or go as far as to take a bite out of it, I realize it isn't very fresh. In fact, the overly ripe fruit is probably closer to rotten than it is fresh. That's the analogy that seems to apply to my life at this point in time. Don't get me wrong, at 47-years-old, I'm not writing myself off as rotten or dead, but I am getting pretty far along like that piece of fruit that's been passed over.

If life were condensed into the 12 months of the year, middle to late August is probably where one would find me. However, as I look at the world around me here in mid-October with the Wyoming autumn on the wane, I seem to relate to much of its imagery.

At first glance, most strangers probably think I'm in decent shape, but any feats of athletics from my youthful past are either impossible or dangerous if I were to try them now. The other day I looked at a wide open field and thought to myself how inviting it was to perform a series of back handsprings (i.e., flip-flops) across the soft turf as I used to twenty-some years ago. Considering the havoc it might wreak on my middle-aged wrists, back and ankles, I opted for a few simple cartwheels and called it good. Another twenty-some years from now, I'll probably have to settle for simply walking across that same field.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Midwest Midnight

Goodyear's Badside
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
The following was written for National Public Radio in response to their request (from listeners) to answer the following question: What music has changed your life?

Growing up in Akron, Ohio, working-class rock-and-roll music seemed to find its way into nearly every home—ours was no exception. And while Dylan, Springsteen, and Mellencamp permeated the airwaves, the one song that stirred me to my soul (and still does to this day) was written and performed by a singer and band that fell just short of national stardom status—Midwest Midnight by The Michael Stanley Band.

Stanley once said that Midwest Midnight was, "...the most honest song I've ever written," and it was the first song that spoke to me about my hometown—or at least that part of the country that I called home. Stanley's anthem left me feeling that there was no denying who I was or where I was from—no matter where I chose to live following my high school graduation in 1978.

It's funny how one can know the words of a song by heart after all these years and still only possess a vague notion of the song's intended message—such is art. Today, the lyrics of Midwest Midnight are still abstract to me and at 47-years-old, I would have thought this little mystery would have been solved by now. Perhaps I really don't need to know what Stanley was trying to say because his song has woven its way into the fiber that defines me, which is understood, but not necessarily articulated.

Living in the wide-open spaces that straddle the Wyoming and Montana border, I consider myself a Westerner now. And while my taste in music has expanded exponentially over the years, every now and then my MP3 player will select Midwest Midnight in the shuffle mode and I'm instantly taken back to the world of Northeast Ohio—its overcast skies, industrial skylines and its proud, working-class ambience.

Excerpt from Midwest Midnight

With thirteen lovers I hid beneath the covers
got staples in my hands for my time
With the radio low so the folks don't know
I proceed with my passion of crime...
And though somewhat obtuse, I've been told this abuse
will more than likely make me go blind
But with a heart that's aching, it's a risk worth taking
'cause true love, they say, is so hard to find...

Why can't she see what she's doing to me
If that bandstand girl only was here
And I'm living the dream, getting lost on the screen,
doing Presley in front of the mirror...
And I'm hanging around, getting high on the sounds
of the ladies and electric guitars
Cross a double yellow line to who knows where
with six sets of glory at night in some bar...

Midwest midnight
Ten thousand watts of holy light
from my radio so clear...
Bodies glistening, everybody's listening
as the man plays all the hits that you want to hear.

Monday, October 08, 2007

New Digs Morning

Bed & Chair
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
My friend Ken just moved into a new home. He's 60-plus-years-old, so I know he's been through all of this before. He slept in his new place for the first time yesterday. I know that feeling—especially the awakening in the morning to the new setting. It's akin to being reborn. The strangeness of the new surroundings at first is momentarily adventurous, perhaps like waking in a new lover's bedroom for the first time.

Typically one is up late the night before getting the new bedrrom properly arranged, so by the time they go to bed and close their eyes, they really haven't spent much time looking at it. I suppose that's why it's so fresh and new the next morning.

This reformed awakening has a stange way of making one feel like they have a renewed lease on life—or at least it's a new chapter in their life. However, there is the downside to this unique sensation—the agonizing process of moving.

I think I'll rearrange my bedroom one of these nights, maybe I'll wake the next day with this same sensation.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Three McCullough Peaks Haikus

McCullough Dusk
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
19 May 2007
Summer Storms
When summer storms dawn,
shelter is not or distant
in the McCulloughs

Southern Wind
Steady southern wind,
millions, billions, trillions now,
molecules of air.

Darkness Wins
Crescent moon tonight.
The abyss lies below me.
Darkness wins again.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Beyond High Gas Prices

Ohio Turnpike Ticket
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Recently I completed a road trip of 1,880 miles from my home in Powell, Wyoming to my parents home in Akron, Ohio. The route of travel wasn't the most direct trip as past trips nor did I complete it in anything close to record time. So, it's safe to say that besides the $500-plus petrol expense, it was a relaxing road trip for the most part.

The trip involved some interstate, national and state highway travel. While the interstates were fast and direct, many of the secondary roads in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, for example, were slower and not as direct. Of course there was plenty of construction along the way and some stretches of road begging for construction—improved simply if the asphalt were ripped up and the surface returned to a graded dirt road.

Perhaps the worst section of road I travelled was a remote stretch of Minnesota's state route 210 winding through Jay Cooke State Park. Some of the bumps and holes in the asphalt made me think of roadside bombs in Iraq—and I was only traveling at 35 mph during much of this drive. Fortunately it was a scenic drive. Beyond SR210, I found the remainder of Minnesota's roads acceptable.

Although I've never traveled New Jersey's Turnpike, I've heard enough horror stories about it throughout my life—even in song. Yet after this recent trip, I'd be surprised to discover that the Ohio Turnpike isn't in the same league as New Jersey's famed ribbon of treacherous asphalt.

Trucks, trucks and more trucks… everywhere on the Ohio "Truckpike!" And many of them don't have time to hang out behind a leisure-driving vehicle from Wyoming. For good or bad, today's truck drivers represent the new cowboy in the 21st century. And if the semis breathing down your back don't give you a migraine, than the jarring potholes in the road and the road construction will. Twice I pulled over at one of the turnpike plazas and neither time did I need petrol or a toilet, I simply needed to dry off and calm down. When I finally exited the Buckeye State's turnpike, I felt payment was owed to me rather than paying Ohio's interstate landlord for such a miserable driving experience.

I'm unsure what it would take to make the Ohio Turnpike more pleasant—more lanes, fewer trucks, smoother asphalt, all of the above? Perhaps they should divvy it up into two dedicated car lanes and two dedicated truck lanes in both directions. No doubt, such a proposal would be extremely costly, but as long as this continues to be a major east-west running thoroughfare, perhaps it could be easily justified and accommodated—once we stop pouring billions of dollars into our country's war-making machine.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Lou Dobbs and Immigration, Part 1

Cattle Sign
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Every night at 6:00 p.m. my folks sit down in front of the television and watch Lou Dobbs and his broadcasts on current events. I suspect there are few nights that go by that he doesn't rail on the subject of immigration here in the United States. I can't say I'm in agreement with everything he says, but I think he's an acceptable alternative to the dumbed-down talking heads on Fox News.

And perhaps his show isn't 100% journalistic given his facial expressions to any given story, but it appears he and his staff do their homework.

Regarding his agenda to put an end to illegal immigration, I watched the other day (what was probably) a typical "American" family work a rest stop on one of our nation's interstates. They were responsible for restocking the vending machines. The two plump children—both teens—walked around aimlessly with their attention devoted to their cell phones while their obese parents waddled about their work. They drove away in a brand new, full-size GMC panel van with handicapped plates on it. Overweight and slow moving certainly, but I wondered who was handicapped?

I tried to imagine members of this family working in the sun-baked fields weeding rows of crops or servicing rooms in a motel... work commonly carried out by our "illegal" friends—who have been doing the majority of this work for years.

My point here is this: in the day of cell phones, internet and 100 things to view on television (all for the most part distractions), how do we get our own legal population who have been exposed to/engaged in these distractions to carry out work that is considered "base," "monotonous" and not very rewarding? Compared to typical Americans of 50-100 years ago, todays American's are for the most part overweight, lazy and unimaginative. Sadly, they are not interested in true, hard work, (and most troubling) they are not physically capable of it. Perhaps all Americans should consider obtaining handicapped license plates as well.

A couple of questions to consider: Suppose we devised a way to automate menial/manual work as mentioned above and people with backs to break were no longer needed. Do you suppose we would still have an immigration problem? Let's say the nation begins cracking down on illegal immigrants that results in exporting them and preventing them from crossing our borders, how much will be have to pay legal citizens of the United States to work the fields and as a result, how much more expensive will that head of lettuce really cost at the market?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

U.S. Constitution & Vatican II

Ritzman Flag
Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
Just for the record: I own a .22 caliber handgun. I also own a 16-gauge shotgun, a Savage .410/.22 double barrel shotgun and rifle, a Marlin lever action .22 rifle and another .22 caliber rifle that I can't remember the manufacturer's name. Not that it matters, but four of these firearms were given to me. I purchased the handgun outright.

After the Virginia Tech Massacre, I'd gladly give them all up. I said the same thing after the shootings at Columbine too.

I'm not a hunter although I've envisioned myself as a bird hunter some day in the future when I have the time for such folly. Further, I don't believe these weapons serve as a deterrent from any criminal action that may find me since I don't keep them loaded, nor do I keep the ammunition for them in the same location.

Really, I don't need them, do I? Certainly not the hand gun.

Some have said that it's my right to possess a gun—a Constitutional right. I suppose. That made a lot more sense in the day of George Washington and a new-born and vulnerable country that didn't have a powerful army to defend itself. I'd like to think that George and other founders would be alarmed to know that today's average weapons are capable of firing 15 rounds in a semi-automatic mode and would therefore be disapproving of any American citizen wielding that kind of fury in a firearm. I guess we'll never know how far they intended that right to go.

In my mind it's high time to revisit our constitution and bring it up to date in a few areas—gun ownership specifics in particular. Even the Vatican Council had enough sense to make a few changes in Church doctrine over the last two centuries in order to keep up with the times. In the same spirit, our Constitution could use a little "freshening up" too—if nothing else, just to clear up a few of these 200-year-old ambiguities.

Gun ownership? Fine. How about a black-powder, single shot firearm? Not only will such firearm limitations/regulations prevent one of us from massacring everyone at a McDonald's during the lunch hour, but perhaps it will level out the playing field during the hunting season too.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Equinox Overlook

Equinox Bones
Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
21 March 2007: Late this afternoon as the sun was making its way toward the western horizon, I headed for the mesa (Polecat Bench) north of town. It was the first day of spring—the equinox—and as usual, I was out to photograph the light on this special day. I do the same when the solstices come around too.

Once the sun was down and the "good" light was gone, my frantic pace associated with photography and diminishing light left me and I found myself standing on a small lip of cliff overlooking an obscure little canyon on the bench's south side. The air was starting to chill in the absence of the sun. Like the Four Corners (Navajo Reservation), the silence was complete. I scanned the horizon and everything in between.

It's times like these when the most profound thoughts come to me. By "profound" I would likely say these thoughts are simply more intense rather than deep or knowledgeable.

Gazing over at the dirtied and cluttered outcropping of oil/gas-extracting related equipment on the other side of the canyon, I couldn't help but think how primitive it all looked—out of place and disgusting too, like a circus clown showing up for a funeral.

I pondered the human race and its harnessing of energy through the ages. Constant of all has been the sun—since crawling out of our caves we have tapped its invisible rays for one thing or another. This lasting relationship of man and renewable energy would seem destined to evolve and refine itself further. Surely future societies will look back on all of this someday and say, "Man, where they ever stupid." And perhaps we'd already be there by now if there wasn't so much money to be made in the business of fossil fuels. I asked my wife when I returned home, "If you owned an oil company and knew that all of your customers could obtain their fuel needs through a renewable and relatively free source, wouldn't you drag your heels as long as you could?"

Next, I spied the crescent moon drifting toward the Beartooth Plateau where the sun had just disappeared. Not far from it was Venus. Even in the blueness of the waning sky, the planet was visible—the first star of the night. I thought of my recently deceased cat and friend, Sadie. I thought about those last moments with her and what happened as she drifted from my arms into that place that awaited her next. I imagined her saying to me, "You can't even grasp 5% of what this is all about." Even a cat ascends so much higher than my simple self once finished here.

Indeed, the silence and stillness touch me. I suppose someone else might experience the same in such settings and interpret it all as the voice of God speaking to them. Perhaps it is and I'm not bright enough to recognize who's speaking to me, but in my mind—I wonder sometimes—does it matter who's speaking to me as long as I hear them?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Is Thomas Timid?

An open letter to Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming

Senator Thomas:

I'd like you to seriously consider backing the non-binding action regarding the war in Iraq. I think it's time for our congress to turn away from its timid practices (or lack of) and look out for our men and women who are in harm's way which has resulted due to the world's largest boondoogle ever committed.

Let's spend the money for redeployment of our troops and anyone in Iraq who really wants out. We did it before in Vietnam, didn't we? I've no shame in our country about what happened in Vietnam in terms of not "winning the war." We've spilled enough of our own blood in Iraq—no one can accuse us of not caring. It would have been nice if things would have worked out better, but there's no indicators that promise a better tomorrow under the current policies and resulting circumstances. I don't believe in beating our head against this wall any longer... do you?

It's water under the bridge, but the money we are spending could have been used for so many other things that would better our country and the world—alternative energies come to mind. Let's not be afraid to say, "We made a mistake in Iraq."


Morgan Tyree
Powell, Wyoming

Friday, January 26, 2007

Haircut Bliss

Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
Tonight I got a haircut. I certainly needed it. The last one was sometime after Thanksgiving and now it's mid-January.

Tanya cuts my hair. Although we are married, we don't talk much during this time; I'm a client and she's the stylist. They are the best haircuts of my life. I hated getting a haircut when I was a kid; especially when having long hair was cool. One could never grow it long enough before our parents forced us to get it cut.

Although these haircuts are second to none, they are quite modest. There's no special chair or equipment—no salon. I usually sit on one of our kitchen chairs, typically on the back porch outside. It's easier to clean up. Even in the winter, if our timing is good, the sun is strong enough to warm us during this activity. But tonight, as mentioned earlier, it's mid-January and the sun has been down for hours. So, we push the kitchen table off to the side against the bench and cabinets and place the chair in the middle of our tiled linoleum floor.

When she cuts my hair, she uses the pair of scissors that are in the cup where pencils and pens are kept on the kitchen bench. They're just normal craft scissors. And the comb she prefers is a standard black, plastic, pocket comb—the same type that James Dean or Marlon Brando pulled out of their pockets in those old movies from the 1950s.

As Tanya goes to work, my eyes are closed as she pushes my head around like the loosened pivot head of a tripod. They only open to look at her face when she is standing in front of me—bent over, with her feet far apart and checking the levelness across the top of my head. Her eyes are dark with determination and her face expressionless until she notices me looking back at her, and then a smile as her eyes begin to dance.

She never went to school for this, she learned to cut hair by watching the beauticians work on her and other customers in the salon. As a child she cut the hair of her dolls—all of them eventually would end up with short hair. And whether or not she takes twice as long as a trained, certified barber/beautician, I prefer her extended sessions.

She comes across so serious at times, flitting about as if she's working on a masterpiece sculpture. But, it's only me and my thinning hair and mug of an ordinary man. How does she become so engaged? This feeling of being fussed over makes me feel like a show dog about to go on stage. What does she think about me during this time? I'm sure there's nothing therapeutic about it for her as it is for me.

With eyes closed I listen to the mesmerizing sounds around us. At first I hear her irregular breathing in the form of short breaths and various sighs—like a form of Morse code, and if I knew the code I could read her mind. Beyond our small space is the steady exhale of the furnace blower through the duct work of the house as it competes with the muffled racket of the clothes dryer on the other side of the kitchen door—a form of do-it-yourself white noise.

When we are outside, there are the sounds I typically don't notice under any other circumstances. I can hear the different vehicles going up and down the street from the other side of the house. Then there are the sounds of birds; not just any birds but the different kinds as well—like the voices of friends and family behind a party's closed door.

Perhaps the sound of the grinding scissor blades as they cut through my hair are the most blissful of all. It's as if she's cutting away huge amounts with each swipe like some guy with a weed whacker in an overgrown, vacant lot. These are the times I'm almost convinced that my hair has somehow become thicker and more voluminous than the day before. Then there is this subtle, irregular ticking when the plastic comb and scissors make contact or when she taps them together lightly to knock off the accumulating harvested hair. Add to all of this the gentle touch of her fingertips to my scalp—and like a box of chocolates—it's as if I'm receiving a sampler of heaven. And like the ending of any good thing, I'm always disappointed when she finally says, "There, all done."

I could care the outcome in these haircuts—she could cut it any way she wants as long as she cuts it. I only wish my hair would grow as fast as Tanya could cut it. Sometime afterwards she'll ask me how I like my haircut. But it hardly matters to me at that point in time. I'm still too stunned by the overdose of bliss, like someone who has been in a sauna too long. My reply is usually something like, "I haven't looked yet."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bad Dog, Bad Neighbors

Lane 35
Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
An open letter to my next door neighbors.

I could have written the following long ago and countless times:

Not that it happens everyday, but when you decide to leave your muttonheaded dog out all morning while you are away (as in today) to bark at every little sound in the air, it once again demonstrates to me (and I can only assume other neighbors who choose not to speak up) how well the two of you have mastered the arts of self-centeredness and inconsideration. I wonder if you are so thick that you believe your dog doesn’t bark habitually or if you just don’t care. I suspect the latter. Thankfully it wasn’t a summer day with all the windows open in the house—which has been the case numerous times in the past.

I’ve grown weary in contacting the Powell Police Department and their hapless “animal control officer” since they seem to neither have the inclination nor talent in truly addressing the nuisance of barking dogs within the city; hence this correspondence.

I doubt it matters to you, but in this particular instance the barking and howling started sometime between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. (in what would have been a “peaceful Saturday morning”) and has continued up to the time of this writing—1:00 p.m.

My only hope in rectifying this sporadic and on-going annoyance will likely arrive in the form of a “sold” sign in front of your for-sale-home in the near future.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Grandma's View

I hate for this blog to seem like it's all about knocking Dubya, but please, just one more little story and I'll leave him alone... Do I have to promise?

My friend Dave's 103-year-old grandmother was recently released from the hospital after injuries suffered from a fall. Before her release the doctor wanted to make sure her mental condition was still satisfactory, so he asked her what year it was.

"1972," came her reply.

The doctor looked at her grandson with concern. He asked the centurion another question.

"Who is the president of the United States," asked the doctor.

"Bush," she fired back.

The doctor then asked, "Which one?"

Without hesitation she replied, "The crazy one!"

She was released without further questioning.

Image of his Grandma's hands by David Vaughan
Dave at Rock Rabbit