Mixed Blessings

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September 29, 2018, Prescott-

I went to an annual event, this morning, with a full intention of serving, to the best of my ability.  The day started at Hope Fest with my joining the off-loading crew, that helped the vendors  of various merchandise transport their wares from vehicle to booth.  That part always goes fairly well, as there is a highly-motivated group, with no ego attachment to their work.

This year, I agreed to serve much of the day, as personal assistant to the headliner group, which, for propriety’s sake, I will not mention by name.  The group and their manager arrived, around 4:30 pm, and after introductions, I helped them settle in to the Green Room.  I took a seat,  in the meeting area, but far enough apart from the artists that they had no one looking over their shoulders, whilst they were practicing and discussing ideas about their music.

When it comes to  these sorts of things, I am like Las Vegas.  What happens in the room, stays in the room.  At this point in time, I could not and would not tell you the things that were discussed, though there was only honourable and uplifting dialogue.

For whatever reason, however, as soon as two security guards showed up, and announced themselves as the band’s detail, one of the teens who was volunteering with hospitality showed up and said the band manager, who was on the other side of the event grounds, wanted all three of us to get out of the Green Room.  We went outside, but were readmitted by the band members, five minutes later. They apologized to us and said they saw no reason for us to be out of the room.  I wondered, though, how did the manager think to get rid of us, at that particular moment?

The rest of the run-up to their performance went fine.  I got them to select a restaurant and had them write down their selections.  The manager was included, of course, via text.  The performance was lovely, and I introduced a Christian friend to the band members.  They seemed to hit it off well enough. I even got my friend, her sister and nephew prime seats near the stage.  Then, I went and got the group’s dinners and set the table in the Green Room, waiting there with another hospitality crew member. When the band returned, I prepared to go outside, whilst they ate.  That was co-opted, though, by what appeared to be a private meeting, to which I was not invited, among the crew on the sidewalk outside, followed by  a loud, angry message from the manager (still elsewhere) to our crew chief:  “Get that guy out of the Green Room!”  Well, certainly- people are normally given privacy whilst they eat. There was no need for such anger, especially when he was not at the site.  Again, I wonder, were the band members being passive-aggressive and messaging their manager, letting him be an unnecessary heavy?

Needless to say, I left the area and went to help with the breakdown of the stage and artist’s row, as I had promised the event’s founders.   That was accomplished with a much larger crew than in past years.

My takeaway, from the behaviours of both the band and my fellow crew members, is simply to take part in the set-up and breakdown of the next such event, and leave the day to the small, self-contained group, which doesn’t seem to like newcomers.  That is, if I am even invited to participate, next year.

The 2018 Road, Day 1: Prescott to Carson City

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May 27, 2018, Carson City-

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One of my consistent stops, on this particular drive, is to check on the condition of Lake Mead,  a major reservoir of the Colorado River system.

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As you can see, the lake’s level is rather low.  In a good year, the lake’s water level would be above the first shoreline ridge.  It’s been quite a while since the last good year.

I began my journey around 9:20 this morning, then drove to West Side Lilo’s, in Seligman, a town about 1  1/2 hours northwest of Prescott.  A Lilo’s breakfast is sufficient for the entire day, so I would need nothing but a bowl of salad, once I got to Carson City, 11 hours later.

I topped off with gas in Kingman, and after the brief welfare check of Lake Mead, zipped through Las Vegas, stopped at Amargosa Valley to pick up gifts at the Area 51 Alien Center, for a little girl up here, and stretched a bit.  The rest of the journey, through territory I have detailed in years passed, was very smooth, with little traffic.  Coffee at Beans & Brews, on the south edge of Tonopah, was my only reason to stop the rest of the way.  B & B is also a staple of my northwest-bound jaunts.

Four hours later, I found my way to this apartment that will be home for the next two days or so.  There are a growing number of places that afford me this kind of feeling, and to me, this is the true wealth, to have what feels like family, in each part of the country.

Ahead of me are a one-day intensive training session for a Baha’i course and quality time with the aforementioned child.

After The Blood Harvest

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October 3, 2017, Prescott Valley-

I attended a small candlelight vigil, this evening, at a Lutheran Church on this town’s near north side.  About a dozen people prayed and lit special candles for the victims of the October 1 mass murder in Las Vegas.

I will be processing this horrific event for some time.  Along with smaller, but no less terrible, if personalized, events happening within my small circle, the Las Vegas massacre  has given October an ominous start.  October is a month traditionally devoted to harvest, in the Northern Hemisphere, and planting, in the South of the planet.

The killer, who may, or may not, have had help and encouragement from as far away as the Philippines, left no obvious motive for his mayhem.  We are only left to speculate, which is ever a perilous thing, in and of itself.

The motives of a person, within my neighbourhood, who has taken in recent days to harassing the family of my departed next door neighbour, are much clearer.  He sees them as something of a threat to the value of his property.  This has led him to taunting them, in the midst of their grief.  I am hoping, and praying, that this state of affairs will be resolved peacefully.

Yet, therein lies a key to the entirety of crimes against humanity, large and small.  The enemy, as I said last night, is anonymity.  Many believe, with Robert Frost, that “Good fences make good neighbours”.  While a measure of privacy is good for each of us, in the course of a day, there is a fine line between that reasonable privacy and anonymity.  No one seems to know much about the Las Vegas killer.  No one knew much about others of his ilk, either, from John Wayne Gacy, through Ted Bundy and Gary Tison, to the ISIS-inspired killers in San Bernardino, Brussels and Manchester.

I am a relatively quiet man, who has lived alone for the past six years.  This could very easily lead to people concluding that I am a threat to their safety, especially if I were to maintain a reclusive lifestyle.  Indeed, there are a few restaurants in my town where I am not welcome, when dining alone.  Thus, for the broader sake of becoming familiar to my neighbours, as well as for my own sense of well-being, I have chosen to be active in certain community groups.  It also helps that I have no hidden agenda or any particular mental health issues, unless one regards my mild autism as such.

The latest national tragedy will only see the silver lining of reconciliation, if we as a nation begin to recognize that anonymity and excessive guardedness are what got us into this mess, in the first place.

Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part LXIV: Vegas, and Then Some

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October 2, 2017, Prescott-

We’ve lost another fifty or so, of humanity’s better angels.

People who just wanted to have a good time,

leave the rat race behind, for a day or three,

found the rats were relentlessly pursuing them.

I have no sympathy for anyone who thinks

that life should revolve around the Exalted Self,

even when that narcissism is cloaked in pain.

One whose life experience is one, in which he

has drawn pain to himself like a magnet,

does not get to decide, as a self-appointed demigod,

what others should do, when they may do it,

and whether they are allowed to live past it.

The weapon really doesn’t matter.

Last night, it was a plethora of loaded firearms.

In past bloodlettings, it was a bomb, or a number thereof.

Vehicles have been accessories of said explosives,

in Brute Fests, from Oklahoma City, through 9/11/01 (and 9/11/12),

to Paris, Nice, Berlin, Bali, Brussels, San Bernardino, Orlando and Manchester.

This time, the brute tried to rule, literally, from on high.

There needs to be an end to anonymity,

to the culture of fences, walls and locking people out.

The weapons are accessories.

It’s the mindset that slaughters.

 

Sixty Six, for Sixty-Six, Part XLII: More Flow than Ebb

6

July 2, 2017, Sparks- 

The drive through northwestern Arizona and western Nevada, yesterday, was quite pleasant, thanks to a well-maintained vehicle and the unusual amount of energy I felt.  This last was despite having had to tend, however briefly, with a neighbourhood emergency, in the wee small hours of the morning. Long story short, when it comes to the welfare of children, or vulnerable adults, I am not going to just look at the clock and roll over, back to sleep.  Police were called, matter was resolved, and I did get back to dreamland.

One of my concerns, along the way, was the water levels of the major lakes, en route.  I stopped, briefly, for a look at Lake Mead, before doing the customary straight shot through Las Vegas.  The reservoir, which has suffered, mightily, in the drought of the past several years, has made a modest recovery, this Spring.

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The shimmering haze reflected the heat, 112 in mid-afternoon.  Needless to say, this is why I don’t tarry in LV, in July.   A brief stop at Snow Mountain, north of the valley, for a turkey wrap, was sufficient.

Another of my interests, in western Nevada and across the Mountain West, is the architecture of various mining towns.  This runs the gamut from Victorian elegance to honky-tonk kitsch.  It’s all good.  I stopped in the eclectic little town of Goldfield, between Beatty and Tonopah,  On the west side of town, there are a few examples of the latter.

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There is also plenty of faded elegance, begging for restoration. In the background, stands the vacant Goldfield Hotel.

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This is not exactly the Arc du Triomphe, but it serves as a reminder of the frontier spirit.

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My mining town fix having been satiated, I headed on, to Tonopah, stopping at one of that fine town’s newest offerings:  Beans and Brews Coffee Shop, for a much-needed boost.  Tonopah, also, has much to offer, in the way of late 19th Century memorabilia, as I’ve documented on prior trips.  I had four more hours of travel, though, so my cup of Joe was to go.

Hawthorne, just above Walker Lake, has seen my smiling face a few times.  This town, you may remember, is where my Nissan began to falter, two years ago, and my angels took over, to get it to Reno. The guys at Pizza Factory,  prepared a delicious baked spaghetti with meat sauce, which I took to an overlook, four miles north of town. Walker Lake also looks in much better shape.

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My Reno/Carson family were glad for my arrival, at 10:15 PM, and we caught up on life, for about an hour.  Today was more of the same, in the modest family home, here in Reno’s neighbour.  The kids made slime, the adults watched family-friendly movies and the menagerie kept guard.

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Wakefulness

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May 5, 2017Prescott-

I  am freshly returned from a visitation for one of Prescott’s genuine champions.The concept of waking, a seemingly odd term for remembering a departed soul, prior to burial or often, in these days, cremation, is perhaps in hopes that death is not a real thing.

I don’t know if that’s accurate or not, but the life of Jayme Salazar (he pronounced his name alternately in English and in Spanish), came back before those listening to the eulogies.His childhood and adolescent antics, presented by his older sister, were reassuring to all, that a full life proceeded from that awkward time.  A lifelong friend of his recounted the man’s intense work ethic, combined with a genuine love of people, which established his Taco Don’s Restaurant as one of the city’s premier lunch venues, and a true gathering place.

He came came here from California, by way of Las Vegas, as so many of us have come here from farther afield.  Jayme found that the mountains, lakes, dells and grasslands of the area, but above all, the earthiness of the people, were a capturing force.  That he gave his life here, in the shadow of Granite Mountain, was the ultimate giving back.

Some six years ago, I saw my beloved wife go homeward, to the Light, in a more prolonged way, but not dissimilar period of service to the children and general citizenry of a western suburb of Phoenix.  Any home in which we ever lived together was open to countless people.  Any school in which she ever worked was the center of our married life, with work and love likewise moving in tandem.

So, I understood, fully, standing in the anteroom of the funeral home, this evening, that priceless spirit, that brings casual customers and acquaintances of a loving soul to a sense that here moved a lifelong friend; here lived a steadfast pillar.

To each one to whom I’ve bid farewell, these many years, let me close with the voice of Enya.

Jayme, Penny, Norm, Dad, Brian, Colonel Mortimer, Uncle George, Aunt Adeline, Margaret, Mike C. and so many standing beside you, in the Legions of Light, thank you, for having lit my way and for lighting the night.

There Is No Empty

7

May 28, 2016, Carson City- The medical emergency which hospitalized an old friend, yesterday, has abated somewhat.  As is usually the case in a responsible medical institution, she has been kept overnight and will be able to leave hospital tomorrow, if her condition holds and tests turn up negative.

So, with my anxiety thus relieved, I headed north from Prescott, at a suitably early hour ( 8 A.M.), stopping for a late breakfast at Westside Lilo’s, my restaurant of choice in Seligman, a fun, touristy town, some 34 miles northwest of Prescott.  Lilo and her husband have had this German-Mexican fusion establishment since 1963.  It, along with several other places in town, do a land-office business, owing to the popularity of the area as a pit stop between Las Vegas and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.   After a lovely chorizo scramble, and some banter with Lilo, I was off again, this time without the transmission issues that clouded last year’s Reno trip.

Being a holiday weekend, traffic through Kingman and Las Vegas was a fraction of what it normally is.  I made it through the metro area in rather short time, choosing to stop at Indian Springs, on the far north side of Clark County, for a refueling.

U.S. 95 was characteristically sparse with traffic, most of it being commercial on this serene Saturday, and much of that was comprised of fuel tankers, of all things.  A spot of rain in and around Tonopah, and again in the area east of Boundary Peak, gave a bit of a shake-up to the droning drive.  Another point of interest is the transition zone between the Mojave Desert and the Great Basin.  The Joshua Trees, and other plants native to the Mojave, fade out near Coaldale Junction, about an hour north of Tonopah.  The Basin is largely grassland, at least in this area.  Salt flats are a bit more common than I remember seeing, in previous visits.  Then again, I was pre-occupied with the car last year, and may not have noticed.

Speaking of which, my stop in Hawthorne, just south of Walker Lake, was brief and uneventful this time.  A tankful of gas was all that was needed.  Looking in the restroom mirror, though, I saw a scruffy face, with an uneven shave, looking back at me.  That may have explained the “30-45 minute wait” I was offered at Pizza Factory, near the Shell station.  I moved on, taking a quick look at the lake, before heading to Carson City in greater earnest.

It is still cool here, in the eastern reaches of Sierra Nevada, and it will be a while before Mt. Grant (above, right) sheds its snow cover.

The old friend whom I am visiting these next few days  has,  this very day, moved from Reno to Carson City, closer to her younger daughter and youngest grandchild.  It is partly my purpose to help with the inevitable furniture moving and unpacking of boxes, as her settling in again continues.  After a lovely drive through the scenic Smith Valley, with its towns of Yerington, Wellington, Gardnerville and Minden, punctuated by the gorgeous West Fork of the Walker river, I found it prudent to get a hearty dinner at El Charro Avitia, on Carson City’s south end.  There, I enjoyed the delights of seafood enchilada and shared in the locals’ joy in their favoured Golden State Warriors’ come-from-behind victory.

It took a bit longer to locate my host’s new residence, but here I am, at the end of the day, and in the process helping her to note that her new apartment complex has two distinct sub-complexes.  Out of confusion comes learning.  I am fortunate to have several places where I feel like I’m with family.  Tomorrow, a little angel will explain to me the world of cartoon dragons.

 

The Road to 65, Mile 175: Northwestward, Day 1

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May 22, 2015, Tonopah, NV- After tending to matters of due diligence, including a chat with a local auto transmission expert, I bid my lovely adopted town farewell, for a month or so, and headed north- with some initial trepidation.  One stop sign or traffic light after another, these butterflies faded, as my Nissan kept on performing like a trouper.  I made it to Kingman, gave the car a fueling and myself a break, then headed further, to White Hills.

Rosie’s Den Cafe lies about thirty-seven miles north of Kingman, just shy of “Last Stop in Arizona”, where an unfortunate gun accident changed the lives of two families, last spring.  Rosie isn’t around anymore, but the raucous atmosphere remains in full throttle.  The bantering continued, between the waitresses, cooks, manager, at least one disgruntled vendor and the local regulars, while I continued with my chili cheeseburger. (This road trip will have its share of guilty pleasures, and plenty of healthy fare to balance them.)  There was a bit more tension in the air at Rosie’s than the last time I was there, so “Pray for Peace”.

Las Vegas traffic wasn’t too bad, and virtually dissipated, north of Summerlin and the Kyle Canyon turnoff.  My next stop was Indian Springs, a half-hour out of town, for more gas.  The ride remained as smooth as silk.  I had kept seeing the name Amargosa Springs, in my mind’s eye, over the past several days.  Of course, that little community is home to The Alien Store, so I stopped and stretched a bit.  Then it was onward, through Beatty, Smitty’s Junction and Goldfield.

Tonopah, with its magnificent hotel-casino,Tonopah Station, was my stopping place for the night.  I had fish and chips for supper, and settled in at Economy Inn.  Rain, which has been my companion, off and on, all day, stopped briefly- long enough for me to get to the Station’s cafe and back, on foot.  I will end this account with a few choice photos.

First, here are a couple of views of the area around The Alien Store.

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Tonopah has a similar terrain, being the eastern foothills of the Panamint Range, and the eastern portion of the Mohave Desert.

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Tonopah Station holds its own as a classic hotel.

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James, the Bear, greets gamblers and diners alike, in the hotel foyer.

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So, this old mining community has given me safe haven for the night.  Tomorrow will bring a brief look at the surroundings, then a 3 1/2- hour drive further on, to Reno, and some time with old friends.

The Road to 65, Mile 37: Visions of Mars

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January 4, 2015, Valley of Fire, NV-  I checked my social media messages this morning, and found a post which compared the temperature on Mars with that in Minnesota.  Mars was reportedly warmer today.

I was reminded of our nearest planetary neighbour, once on the trails at Valley of Fire State Park, between Moapa and Overton, NV, northeast of Las Vegas.  As you will see further on in this post, red soil abounds there.

I started the day with a hearty breakfast at Comfort Inn, joined by a family who were driving to Colorado, from San Francisco.  They will have clear weather for their return, which is gratifying.  After tooling around Vegas,unsuccessfully, in search of a Wells-Fargo branch, I just bit the bullet, paid the ATM fees and headed up I-15 to Moapa and the park.

SAM_3601 I shortly came upon the reason for the park’s name.

SAM_3606 The Beehives are well-named, in more ways than one.

SAM_3608 Balancing Rock, near the Visitor Center, reminded me of a similar formation at Garden of the Gods, in Colorado Springs.

SAM_3625 SAM_3630 The otherworldiness of the Southwest is in full voice, in Mouse’s Tank, so-named for an outlaw who hid out in this canyon.  The westernmost Ancient Puebloans also settled here, in the 800’s.SAM_3641 SAM_3657 SAM_3660 The Tank itself was empty today.SAM_3667 Life in the Great Basin is always a balancing act.SAM_3670 I came next upon Rainbow Vista, so named for the striated Aztec sandstone found there.SAM_3684 The trail goes through a narrow, rough wash, to end with a gaze upon Fire Canyon.

SAM_3689 SAM_3690 SAM_3693 The apex of the journey into Valley of Fire was at White Domes, a mass of limestone and gypsum.SAM_3698 SAM_3699 Several distance hikers were in this area today.  Someday, I will be back and share their experience.  On the way back towards the Visitor Center, I caught a few glimpses of the blend of colours.

SAM_3705 Seven Sisters, a sandstone formation just south of the Visitor Center, is a popular picnic spot.SAM_3720

Near the East Entrance to the park, a memorial is set up to honour Sergeant John Clark, who perished here in 1915, while en route from Bakersfield to Salt Lake City.SAM_3731 Lake Mead National Recreation Area abuts Valley of Fire, to the southeast.  Its terrain has less of the Aztec sandstone and more limestone and gypsum.SAM_3740 The lake may be down, but it’s far from out. The scenery is still inspiring, especially around sunset.  I enjoyed several stops along the North Shore.

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SAM_3753 Sunset hit its true magnificence as I came upon White Hills, AZ, and Rosie’s Den Cafe.

SAM_3756 Rosie’s is another amazing serendipitous find.  A homey, relaxing spot, with well-prepared food and engaging waitresses, it’s perfectly positioned between Hoover Dam and Kingman.  A plus is that one of the waitresses is also a baker.  Tracey’s no-sugar added cherry pie hits the sweet spot, of the palate, that is.

One caution, being in a rural community:

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JK.  White Hills has a competent volunteer fire service. The stuff of holidays was still well in evidence.

SAM_3759 Rosie’s is definitely cracklin’.

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The Road to 65, Mile 36: Glitter, Followed by Reality

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January 3, 2015, Las Vegas-  Tomorrow morning, a couple of “reality stars” will reunite, sort of, in a Federal prison.  They will leave four young girls behind, and all because money mattered more than it should have.  Money is a tool, a means to an end, and nothing more.  Love, especially the love of a child, is beyond all measure, in its value to human life. At the very same time, a seven-year-old girl will live the rest of her life without her parents and older sister.  She was saved by God’s grace- towards what end is known only to the Universe, and found her way to the home of a good man, and a caring community.

We often seek the quick fix, in the rush to a “good life”.  This is the allure of glitter, though Mankind has known, deep down, since the days of Croesus, and of Solomon, that gilt is seldom golden.  Flamboyance, a smooth tongue, glamour have their place in this world, and often that place is to serve as a red flag to the beholder.  In the end, they matter not one whit.  Good people suffer, as do the not-so-good.  “Bad” people appear to prosper, as do some of those who live the Life. We each have our purpose, and all-in-all that purpose is to know and serve the Creator, the Life Force.  We are each contributing to the Whole.

I drove up to Las Vegas today, stopping first in the little town of Ash Fork, AZ, at the junction of US Hwy 89 and I-40.  The waitress in the small cafe appeared to be undergoing a serious amount of stress, but was keeping a fair focus on her work, and a brave face.  Mentally, I found myself in thought-hug mode.  As a stranger towards another man’s wife, though, what was mental did not become physical- except she got a bigger tip and “have a better day”.

I took a room at Comfort Inn, a ways north of the Strip, which I don’t frequent, being a non-gambler.  I have enjoyed the shows and the exhibits at a couple of Steve Wynn’s properties, in times past.  My purpose this time was to visit some friends, who turned out to be busy, and to spend some time in the Valley of Fire, which looked fascinating, from I-15, when Penny and I drove through to St. George, from California, so many years ago.  Las Vegas has a burger shop, Farmer Boys, part of a chain that seems to be rooted in Southern California, as many chains are.  The difference is that the ingredients are guaranteed fresh, hormone-free meat and organic vegetables.  There is a genuine sense of warmth and graciousness about the staff.  This is the reality that will bring about stability and success.  It was a soothing meal, which I can’t always say, with respect to a hamburger.

Tomorrow, then, will feature the grandeur of nature, followed by a return to the reality which I have come to treasure.  Work that is based on service is always that way.