The Democrats are in control of Congress and the White House now, and some folks are worried as hell that our country is becoming socialist. Meanwhile there are others who are happy as hell. They see capitalism as the root of all evil, and are looking forward to a big dose of socialism.
But I think this is all just another way that politicians pit people against each other, and in fact, pit us against our own nature. I think each and every one of us is part capitalist and part socialist, by nature.
We all respond to individual incentives, like good ol’ capitalists. Everyone has their price, and even the laziest amongst us will get up off our asses and do some work, if enough money is passed under our noses.
But we all depend upon each other also, like good ol’ socialists. I wonder how an avowed capitalist would feel if his house caught on fire, and he had to write a check to the fire department in order to get them to dowse the flames. But he doesn’t have to. Socialism saves the day, whenever taxpayer-funded firefighters keep a house from burning to the ground.
I was in the military, and that was about as socialist, or even communist as things could get. The government provided me with free meals, clothing, housing, and medical care. And I could not be laid off my job.
Nor could I quit. And that’s because, just like in a communist country, you lose a lot of individual rights when you’re in the military. You lose freedom of speech, and especially the freedom to demonstrate against your employer. You have to shut your mouth, take orders, and be part of the team, or else you can find yourself in a heap of trouble. Just like in a communist country.
And yet, look how much conservatives support our military. They claim to be against socialism, while at the same time they strongly support a communistic system.
But liberals who think we’d be better off getting rid of capitalism, have a lot to learn about human nature. People tend to become very lazy when they have no individual incentive to be productive. But rub some dollar bills together, and suddenly they’re at your command, like Aladdin spewing out of his magical lamp.
I will admit that socialism can simplify our tax forms, and make it very easy to file. If some of the more extreme Democrats in Washington have their way, here’s what our new tax form might look like:
Line 1. Enter your gross earnings for the year: $__________.
Line 2. Enter amount from line 1. This is your tax: $_________.
Line 3. Don’t worry, the government will take care of you.
Under pure socialism, I think productivity in our country would plummet. We must have capitalism, to keep us off our asses, and hard at work, with our noses to the grindstone. And yet, we must have some amount of taxation and government programs. Government programs help to keep capitalism strong. And capitalism, with the tax revenues it generates, helps to keep socialism strong. There’s a symbiotic relationship between the two.
Here’s a list of a few socialist programs we must have, in order to keep our capitalist economic system from falling apart:
Road construction and maintenance
National Weather Service
Social Security & Medicare
Wait a minute. Lawmaker salaries? I think so. The very lawmakers who denounce socialism draw large salaries and generous benefits funded by you and me, the taxpayer. So even though they may claim to be capitalists, I believe they’re also socialists.
And that means even Ronald Reagan, who railed against the evils of socialism, was himself a socialist. Or at least, part socialist.
I think we’re all a mix of capitalist and socialist, whether we want to admit it or not. I think it’s impossible to be otherwise. So I don’t listen much to politicians who try to turn us against either one. They’re being unrealistic. They’re just trying to scare the hell out of us, to get votes.
As an avowed capitalist, I support socialism. And as an avowed socialist, I support capitalism. So wake up, you mossback conservatives and bleeding-heart liberals.
I thought I was the first to use the word, “interblogging.” Then I discovered it had already been thunk up by a bunch of other people. The Urban Dictionary defines “interblog” as something of a portmanteau, used by those who haven’t a clue about blogging and the internet.
Interblog: When discussing blogging and the internet to a much older person, who knows nothing of the web, they get confused and combine them.
To cover up my stupidity, I came up with my own definition, which I think is much more sophisticated. I now define interblogging as the involved interaction that occurs between bloggers, mainly in the Comments section of their posts. And really, that’s what I’ve been thinking the whole time I’ve used that word.
I like my definition, because it makes me look less stupid. But more importantly, it puts a label on a netherworld of blogging that exists just one level below the surface of the blogosphere. It refers to an inconspicuous passage that bloggers can travel through. A wormhole of sorts. A hyperlink, that leads to a speakeasy world of free-form forums and direct interaction.
Some bloggers just seem to be putting out their message, without interacting much with the public. They’re what I call “broadcast bloggers,” engaged in one-way communication. Some of these broadcast bloggers can be popular. They have hundreds, or thousands of followers. Some also receive a large number of complimentary comments to their posts.
But their responses seem taciturn. They say stuff like: “Thank you.” “Thanks for following.” “I appreciate it.” “You’re nice.” I wonder if they copy and paste some of these remarks. It seems obvious they’re not looking for a conversation. And maybe that’s because they don’t have much time for chatter. They’re too busy posting.
Then there are the interbloggers. When you check out the Comments, it’s like opening the door into some sort of wild party. Well, not always so wild, but at least something less tame than an empty library full of cobwebs.
The commenters are doing a whole lot more than just complimenting the post, if they’re complimenting it at all. Hell, they could be insulting it. But mainly they’re offering their own profound insights and experiences, debating issues, making smart-alecky remarks, telling a joke, or just shooting the shit.
And the author of the post is often responding with thoughtful or unthoughtful remarks going well beyond a two or three word sentence. It’s an actual conversation. It’s involved interaction. It’s what I call interblogging. At least now I do.
I’ve been interblogging for over six years now, thanks to a long-time blogger named Cranky Pants. Six years ago she had a blog called Gibber Jabberin’, and the interaction that occurred on her site was the quintessence of interblogging, in my view. Gibber, er, Cranky, inspired me, and so I shut down my broadcast blog and began a new one, called Golden Daze, where I put an emphasis on interblogging.
But the theme of Golden Daze didn’t quite feel right to me, so after about a year I shut it down. Exactly five years ago, on January 25, 2016, Chasing Unicorns was born, and I’ve stuck with this blog ever since. Today is Chasing Unicorns fifth birthday. And after five years I’ve managed to almost reach 1,000 followers (994, at latest count). It was up to 999 a few days ago, but I think I might have pissed a few people off. As usual.
Yes, I realize that 95% of my followers are just trying to sell me something, but I’m still proud of my illusory fame. And yes, I’ll admit the growth has been slow, but I don’t follow other blogs just to get them to follow me back. I follow them because I genuinely want to try reading them for awhile. And that doesn’t happen very often. Even more rare is me continuing to follow a blog. I’m very picky.
Most of my followers don’t interblog much, if at all. But a few do, and they’ve made this endeavor worthwhile. I appreciate the friendships we’ve developed. And I invite anyone who’s been reading from the sidelines, and who’s interested, to join the fun.
I think interblogging is the most enjoyable way to run a blog. I’m sure I would have given up on this shit a long time ago if all I did was broadcast blog. Interblogging brings blogging to life. It turns it into a human experience. And it’s a lot more fun, with all the smartasses that leave their smart-alecky comments. I’ve made good friends from interblogging. And a few good enemies.
So thank you to all who follow my blog, and who put up with the smartass remarks I leave on your blog. Thank you for the good badinage and the bad goodinage. You make it fun. I wouldn’t do this without you.
I’ve heard that a little squabble arose over last year’s presidential election. Some claimed that Biden was the benefactor of widespread election fraud. But others claimed that there is absolutely no evidence of such election fraud, and that this is dangerous, fake news, that must be suppressed from all social media platforms.
Apparently, both sides were calling each other liars, and became slightly hysterical about it. Not only that, but one side staged a protest at the U.S. Capitol building. I wonder how that went over.
The protesters alleged that various state governors unilaterally changed the election rules in their states, without the consent of their state legislatures, and that this is unconstitutional. They argued that the changes made voter fraud much easier to commit, and claimed that such fraud did occur, on a large scale. And they claimed that Trump would have won the election by a landslide if this fraud had not occurred.
In other words, Trump and his supporters believe the election was rigged. This is concerning. Whether one likes Trump or not, most citizens don’t want to see anyone winning or losing an election due to fraud. So I put on my super-sleuth hat and investigated this matter. I wanted to know if Joe Biden is our legitimate, constitutionally elected president, or if Trump actually won a second term.
I found everything I needed by turning to our U.S. Constitution. Article II, Section 1, Clause 2, establishes the procedure by which electors to the Electoral College are chosen. It reads as follows:
Each state shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct [emphasis added], a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress . . .
U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 1, Clause 2
Notice that this is in regard to how electors are chosen, and not how elections are run. This seems to mean that state legislatures determine the manner for choosing the electors that cast votes for president and vice-president, in the Electoral College.
And because this rule is in the Constitution, no federal law, state law, governor’s decree, judge’s ruling, or anything else, can interfere with whatever way the state legislatures direct, when choosing electors. Hell, they can flip a coin, spin the bottle, or play one-potato-two-potato. Whatever way they choose is what goes.
In fact in the early days of our Republic, there was no popular vote for president, in most states. Only five states used a popular vote of any kind, to influence the choice of electors, when George Washington was first elected. And that was a sparse tally, because the general rule was that only white, male landowners could vote.
Choosing electors without a popular vote was perfectly legal under the U.S. Constitution. And in fact, it can still be done this way. And that’s because the Constitution allows state legislatures to use any manner they want, for choosing presidential electors (see quote of Constitution, above).
Today, just about anyone age 18 or over can vote. But that doesn’t mean the state legislatures have to go along with the way they vote. They can thumb their noses at the apparent will of the people, and choose whatever electors they want. It’s their call, under the U.S. Constitution.
If you want to get real technical about it, the popular vote in any given state means nothing. What matters is whether or not the state legislature wants to go along with the popular vote. Because ultimately, it’s the state legislatures that choose the electors. The popular vote is strictly advisory.
So let’s assume there really was widespread election fraud in our last election. And let’s assume that it’s not even debatable, and that everyone agrees there is plenty of evidence to prove this fraud. Still, it wouldn’t matter. If the election was rigged and there was no doubt or debate about it, who cares? What matters is how the state legislatures decided to choose their electors. And that’s all that matters.
And every state legislature across America chose to certify their election results, based upon their respective popular vote tallies, even in the face of many, many election fraud allegations. They could have decided not to certify. Or they could have ignored the election results and certified their own winner. Hell they could have said, “Screw Trump and Biden,” and chosen electors for me, Tippy Gnu.
They could have decided that their governors thoroughly fucked up the elections by making unilateral changes to how the elections were conducted, and used this as an excuse to disregard the election results. But they didn’t. For better or for worse, they decided to go along with their governors.
Therefore, Joe Biden is our legitimate president, whether or not the election was rigged, or stolen, or otherwise fucked up beyond recognition.
So the next time you hear a Trump supporter claim the election was rigged, you can save yourself from an endless argument and go ahead and agree. It doesn’t matter. Who cares? The U.S. Constitution is the law of our land, and under the Constitution, Trump lost.
“Use that toilet over there, to void your bladder. Then take off all your clothes and put them in this bag. Then put on this skimpy gown, and I’ll tie it in the back,” she instructed. Thus began the humiliating process of my surgery.
Why tie it in the back? It doesn’t reach completely around, so she’s going to see the crack of my ass anyway. But it’s de rigueur. I suppose it’s so I can put on a pretense of modesty. But in truth, there ain’t no modesty in a hospital.
She walked me down a hallway in my flimsy gown, my bare ass greeting any and all hospital personnel who might have glanced back at me. Then into a room with a large, white, highly technical-looking machine, called a fluoroscope, where I was ordered to sit on the operating table.
A beautiful, young Asian woman quickly untied my gown, that had just been tied about a minute earlier, and proceeded to apply all kinds of sticky, cool electrode patches to my naked back, chest, and thighs. Her touch was supple, and felt sensual, soft, and soothing. If my wallet hadn’t been in my clothes bag, I would have tipped her.
Her next step involved giving me a shave. This would require a great degree of concentration, on my part.
But before she could get the razor out, the damned anesthesiologist slammed an oxygen cup over my face and told me to inhale deeply. I felt a caustic poison burn its way up a vein in my right arm, from the IV. I wondered if this is what it feels like to be executed by lethal injection. If so, it’s cruel and unusual.
The ceiling started swimming away from me, and then it was off to Dreamville. Or Deathville.
The next thing I knew, I was hearing jumbled voices. I realized I was being wheeled to the Recovery Room. My stomach felt like it had been kicked by a jackass, and so I tried to turn over on my side, to alleviate the pain. Hands grabbed me and ordered, “No, no, sir! You must stay on your back! Keep your legs down and straight, or your sutures will come out!”
My head was whirling and I could hardly breathe, due to my aching belly. My throat felt raw, also. That’s because the preliminary part of this catheter ablation involved a Transesophogeal Echocardiogram (TEE). That’s where the surgeon drives a train down your esophagus and into your stomach. There, the train sounds it’s horn loudly, and the echos that result produce an image of the Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) of the heart.
The LAA is where blood clots can form, from Afib events. It must be free of blood clots before an ablation can be safely performed. Otherwise there’s a danger that a clot could be dislodged and travel to the brain or elsewhere, causing a lot of damage.
Having found no blood clots, the ablation procedure got the green light. The train utilized a roundhouse in my stomach, chuffed back up the tunnel of my weasand, and choo-chooed out my mouth, knocking a tooth loose in the process. But this is only what I can surmise after-the-fact, as I was asleep during the TEE procedure.
Next came the ablation. One-quarter-inch incisions were made at the top of each side of the front of the groin. The surgeon rammed thin catheters through these incisions, then guided them, with the help of the fluoroscope, up through my femoral veins and into my inferior vena cava, and then on up to the right atrial chamber of my heart.
There, the catheters burrowed through my atrial septum like flesh-eating worms, to reach the left atrium, and slithered up inside my pulmonary veins (which receive oxygenated blood from my lungs). In each of the four pulmonary veins, one of the catheters threw a party, and inflated a balloon. This balloon was supercooled to sub-zero temperatures, and it pressed against the inside walls of the veins, and gave them frostbite.
The frostbite damaged the veins, which will create a ring of scar tissue when healed, similar to ringing a tree. Scar tissue does not conduct electricity well. Now, if my Afib is the most common type, then overactive cells on my pulmonary veins have been sending stray electrical signals to the left atrium of my heart, making it fibrillate. The scar tissue will act as an insulator to block those signals, thus preventing future Afib events.
This procedure works very well on 70% to 80% of Afib patients. My doctor is gambling that I’m one of them. But if not, he’ll have to try this again, and look for the source of the stray signals elsewhere in my heart.
In the Recovery Room, my mouth felt dry as a chalkboard. My tongue was a stick of chalk. I felt a desperate need to swallow, but could not. You need saliva as lubricant, to swallow, but there was no spit in my mouth.
I found that screeving my chalky tongue over the insides of my chalkboard mouth, I could stimulate a few precious drops of saliva. But it was arduous work, like drilling for oil. I ran my tongue along the gumline of my bottom front teeth, and managed to conjure up a few more soothing drops.
And that’s when I noticed that my #24 central incisor was loose. It posted back and forth with each touch of my tongue. And so I had to avoid this area, in my search for saliva, lest my tooth wiggle completely free. And this made the oil drilling all the more challenging.
After they wheeled me into the Recovery Room, I looked to the right and saw a big, round, white, institutional clock hanging on a distant wall. The little hand was past the 10, and the big hand was near the 37 hashmark. It was 10:37. I looked to my left and saw a similar clock, hanging on the wall close to me. And it too read 10:37.
And so I calculated that my surgery had lasted about two hours. A little later I wondered what time it was, so I looked to my right, for the clock. There was no clock, just curtains that surrounded the bed next to mine. So I looked at the wall immediately to my left. And again, there was no clock. Just a big computer monitor displaying my vital signs.
I guess I had been hallucinating the clocks. And yet, it checked out that my surgery had lasted two hours, and that I had been wheeled into the Recovery Room a little after 10:30. Weird.
I felt cold, and began shivering. Soon the shivering turned violent, and nurses started piling warm blankets all over me. But it wasn’t enough, and the shivering and shaking persisted. This was similar to what happened to me about ten months earlier, when I’d been taken by ambulance to an Emergency Room, with an Afib episode.
Apparently, my body was going into shock, because when you’re in shock you feel extremely cold. I guess I go into shock easily. I’d probably never survive a major car accident.
Finally the warmth from the blankets managed to permeate my body sufficiently to stop the shivering. But now there were so many blankets I felt like I was suffocating under the weight. I managed to flag down a nurse, and she removed about half of them. That felt much much better.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best I could feel, I felt like a zero going into the Recovery Room. Three hours later I was up to about a 2, when the charge nurse decided I was well enough to go home. And so I was 86’d from the hospital, via wheelchair, and tossed to the curb, where my wife picked me up and drove me home.
The doctor instructed that I was to rest, and not to lift anything, or exercise for a full week. And yet here I am, the day after surgery, lifting my fingers to type this stupid post. And my blog, of course, is an exercise in futility.
Worse than that, my wife fixed a bowl of chicken noodle soup for me after I got home. I advised her that since I wasn’t allowed to lift anything, I could not lift the soup spoon. She would have to feed me. But she lifted her eyebrows and refused. I guess this was her way of practicing tough love. She wants me to be as independent as possible, so I had to lift that dangerously heavy soup spoon all by myself.
But seriously, my wife has been an indispensable help to me throughout the past week. This reminds me how invaluable it can be, when we have a spouse who loves us.
As I write this, the surgery was yesterday. Today I have a badass headache, from a severe cold I contracted at the hospital. And my throat feels like it’s been run over by a train. I’m moving around a little more, but am finding it hard to concentrate. I must follow the doctor’s orders, and rest. And so I will keep this post short, and go back to bed now.
Although I wrote this the day after my surgery, I continued to revise it throughout the week, following my recovery, as my mind cleared up and shifted into damage control.
During this past week, I developed bruising, swelling, and soreness on my right wrist, where the IV had been inserted, that hurt like a son-of-a-gun for a few days, and that is still somewhat swollen and sore.
I also developed bruising above and below my left incision, but while ugly, it has been painless.
My throat remained sore for about three days following the surgery. My tooth is still a little loose, but seems to be tightening up. And I caught a severe cold at the hospital, but it’s much better now.
I’ve had one arrhythmia event, that lasted for an hour, on Sunday. These are to be expected during the so-called “blanking period.” Inflammation and irritation of the heart, due to the surgery, can trigger arrhythmias for up to three months following the surgery. This is why it can’t be known if the surgery was a success until after three months.
However, I was having arrhythmia events nearly daily, prior to my surgery. So I consider it a good sign to have had only one short one, this past week. I will also note that I feel more mentally clear and alert than I’ve felt for years, in spite of all my aches and pains, and this cold. I’m hoping this is also a sign of success.
Thank you everyone, for your well wishes and yes, even your prayers. Knowing that there are people out there who care about me, has helped me get through this.
As I write the first part of this post, it’s December 5th, 2020, and I ain’t in rhythm. Right now the electrical currents in my heart are zinging about helter-skelter, dancing to the beat of a drunk drummer.
This is a heart arrhythmia event, and it can go on for hours, even days. I get them just about every day, nowadays. I think they began when I was a teenager, or at least that’s my story. I can’t prove it, but I’ll use any excuse to vindicate my life-long laziness.
But I may be running out of excuses. Some damned doctor has decided I need heart surgery. And if this surgery is successful, I’ll have to get off my shiftless ass and start doing more chores around the house. Fuck.
My last cardiologist was more than willing to do nothing. But he and I got into it and I got feisty and found a new heart doctor. It’s my pride, you see. I don’t like to lose.
My new sawbones is an electrophysiologist (EP), and EPs specialize in heart arrhythmias. The surgery he’s planning is called a cryoablation. This crazy son-of-a-bitch plans to run a thin catheter from my groin, through my blood vessels, up to my heart, and freeze the hell out of the supercharged areas that he believes are short-circuiting my ticker. Talk about a cold-hearted thing to do.
I only hope he won’t make a mistake and freeze my balls off in the process.
And hopefully this will put an end to my nuisance heart condition, that has been diagnosed as Atrial Fibrillation (Afib). Except that I won’t have an excuse to be lazy anymore.
Arrhythmia events feel so unusual, that they are hard for me to describe, and hard to remember how to describe. So if the cryoablation is successful, I fear I may forget altogether what an arrhythmia event feels like, or how to identify it, should this mutherfucker pop up its evil head again.
And so this post is about describing, to the best of my ability, what Afib feels like. I’ll use it for reference, in case my frozen arrhythmia ever thaws out and revives, like The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.
Presently, I feel weak and shaky. And I feel congested, as if I have a bag of dry sand in my chest. It’s the kind of stifling sensation you can get in your lungs when driving down a dirt road, inhaling the dust.
But because I feel shaky, let’s make it a bumpy dirt road.
Another analogy is feeling as if I’ve just run a marathon. I’ve never run a marathon in my life, but my heart has, so I think I know what it feels like. My chest feels raw during an arrhythmia event, and my limbs feel weak, as if I might collapse.
Most of my episodes begin gradually. Afib sneaks up like a slow-acting toxin. In fact sometimes when an event is coming on, I’ve worried that my wife has poisoned my dinner. But I don’t dare accuse her anymore. I’m tired of those dirty looks she gives me, and her threats to never cook a meal again.
When I tell people how I feel at these times, they sometimes act like amateur physicians and diagnose me with hypoglycemia. They advise that I should eat something. But when eating doesn’t help, I realize that these folks are practicing medicine without a license. That’s why they’re wrong. About as wrong as most licensed doctors, who are also piss-poor at diagnosing Afib.
Afib events are uncomfortable and damned tiring. But they are rarely fatal. Which is too bad. There are many times in my life when I’ve wished I was dead, rather than continue to feel this way.
But no, this damned heart condition is only fatal when it leads to a massive stroke, or heart attack from tachycardia. I think my grandfather had Afib. He had a massive stroke when he was 77, that left him partially paralyzed, and with the mentality of a blubbering fool. That’s how merciless Afib can be. But when he was 82 it finally it had mercy on him and took him out of this world, with another massive stroke.
Despite popular belief, it’s common to have an Afib event without a racing pulse. In fact, that’s how my events almost always occur. With no tachycardia. But if you get the racing pulse, you’d better check into an emergency room quick, before your heart gives up from working too hard, and takes an eternal nap.
Some people have Afib events and never even notice them. They’re the asymptomatic ones. Lucky bastards. But also unlucky, because if they don’t know they have this heart condition, they won’t take the anticoagulant medication that prevents massive strokes. They’re walking time bombs, and might be in for a big, unpleasant surprise, someday down the road. The same kind of surprise my grandpa had.
However, the anticoagulants can give you a big surprise also, and right in your wallet. I take Eliquis. There is no generic version available, so I’m stuck with the expensive brand name. A 90-day supply of Eliquis costs about $1,500, without insurance. Thankfully, my current insurance cuts this expense down to about $500.
When I have an event I just want to lay down and sink to the center of the Earth. I want the universe to fold up around me and take me away to an unconscious place where I can rest in total comfort. A place with no weakness and no shakiness.
But when I lay down, the symptoms don’t go away with bedrest. They are only somewhat ameliorated. It beats being on one’s feet, trying to get chores accomplished, but it sure ain’t like a vacation at Sandals.
When I do the opposite of rest, and force myself to be active during an event, I run the risk of getting a splitting headache. I don’t know how the heart connects itself to the forehead, but a strong relationship seems to exist. It sometimes smacks me in the head, and keeps smacking me in the head, as if to tell me I’m a dummkopf for not resting.
When I walk during an event, I stagger like a drunk. That’s because I relax all my limbs, like a ragdoll. It saves energy. But it also makes me appear intoxicated. And my speech slurs and I mumble a lot, as articulate speech requires too much effort.
When I was in the military, my CO’s ordered me to be drug-tested several times, after I was observed in ragdoll form, probably having an arrhythmia event. And so I offered up jars of pure piss, of the finest amber, to military labs, which exonerated me every time. And which no doubt left my CO’s in a pissy mood, for being so wrong.
And speaking of piss, Afib makes me a piss-poor conversationalist. Animation and repartee go right out the window when I’m in an event, and I possess all the charm of a cinder block. You might as well be in the company of a zombie.
I won’t miss having Afib, even though I want to remember what it feels like. It seems impossible that my decades of heart arrhythmia hell may soon come to an end. If indeed, my problem really is arrhythmia, and not laziness. I could just be a lazy bastard, you know.
And maybe the cryoablation surgery won’t cure me. Ablations are successful 70 to 80% of the time, which means 20 to 30% of patients are left shit-out-of-luck. They often have to undergo additional ablations, for any chance of success.
It takes three months to know if the surgery is successful. But I hope one day in the not-too-distant future, my ragdoll days will be over. I hope these events will become a thing of the past, and that my heart will start behaving itself, so I can get back into the rhythm of things.
Today it’s January 11th, 2021, as I’m posting this. Tomorrow I’m going in for the surgery, so this blog will be idle for a little while. I’m taking at least a few days off from blogging, up to a week, depending on how I feel.
Perhaps forever, if I croak in the middle of the operation. That can happen, but it’s rare. Sometimes doctors have butterfingers, and sometimes they get in a hurry and make mistakes. But who can blame them for not wanting to miss Happy Hour?
I have a post scheduled for a week after my surgery, with a simple message that reads, “I’m dead.” But if I survive I’ll unschedule it. Goddamn, I hope I remember.
But either way, it’s been nice knowing all the people who follow my blog. I hope to see everyone again on the other side. And I mean within the next week, on the other side of the surgery.
The forecast had called for mild, clement weather, with temperatures in the 70’s for the Amargosa Valley. But then a strong, Mojave breeze seized the region. The November wind was howling nearly gale force when I arrived at Ash Meadows. It would continue this way all day, and the temperature would never rise above 67.
But I wasn’t going to let that deter me. I surveyed the blowing dust ahead, steeled my determination, and pressed the gas. Within a hundred yards, my car left the pavement and vibrated over a dirt road, toward the Visitors Center about a mile away.
It’s a national wildlife refuge, not a national park (except the 40 acres around Devils Hole), so I didn’t expect amenities like paved roads, food kiosks, or public transportation. Nor did I want those things. They attract crowds, and I hate crowds when I’m trying to enjoy nature.
Although it’s a wildlife “refuge,” hunting is allowed, ironically. At Ash Meadows you can deploy a shotgun and bird dog to bag quail, geese, ducks, coots, moorhen, snipe, dove, cottontail, jackrabbits, and jackalopes. But at least no fishing is allowed, so the fish have a true refuge here, safe from humans.
The Visitors Center surprised me. It was a huge, modern building, and promised things like maps, souvenir shopping, and public restrooms. But it was closed, due to Covid. But that was okay, because I had procured a map at a rack near the entrance. And I have little use for souvenirs.
Behind the Visitors Center was a boardwalk, leading toward a patch of green in the distance. The wind flung my hat off, and I had to chase it down. I waved a white flag of surrender to the breeze and walked my hat back to my car for safekeeping. Then off to the boardwalk I returned, struggling against the near-gale, with bald pate exposed to the skin-cancerous sun.
This was the Crystal Spring hike. A 0.9 mile loop, according to the sign. During the first of this walk I was surrounded by a low-shrubbed, beige desert, sprinkled with salt. An informational sign revealed that this was a rare alkali meadow, due to the presence of salts. As such, it was a unique kind of meadow that harbored rare plants.
It’s one of the starkest sort of landscapes you might ever witness. Takes a bit of getting used to, to find the beauty in it. But it’s there. After all, how often do you see a white-covered landscape, where the white is salt, and not snow?
Beyond the alkali meadow lies Crystal Spring. According to the informational sign, the bottom of the spring is 15 feet deep, and every minute, 2,800 gallons of fresh water flows into this spring from the earth below. It comes from limestone bedrock, that has been collecting water for thousands of years, in an aquifer. “Fossil water,” they call it, due to its age. The water is 87 degrees, year-round. The Amargosa pupfish swims in this water, having evolved and adapted to the unusually warm temperature.
There were informational signs at every one of the three featured hikes at this refuge, by the way. The signs were well-maintained and educated the visitor about this unusual environ. All three hikes are short boardwalk strolls, and make for easy walking. And the boardwalks were in good repair. In fact I was impressed with how well-maintained I found nearly everything at Ash Meadows. And there were pit-toilet style restrooms available at every trailhead (Except the Visitors Center, which likely has more modern restrooms. However, like I said, it was closed).
Crystal Spring overflows into a creek that eventually trickles into the Crystal Reservoir. This is a man-made reservoir, constructed by farmers back in the 1960s. It makes for a surprisingly large lake that visitors are allowed to swim, and even boat on. But today there were no boats, due to the high winds and swollen waves sweeping over the water’s surface.
I made it back to my car without blowing away, and proceeded to Devils Hole. This was a 3.6 mile drive from the Visitors Center, over a fairly bumpy dirt road. Devils Hole is both impressive and a letdown. It’s a short, five-minute walk from where you park, but you can’t go down into the hole itself and get close to the water.
The water is where the famous and extremely rare Devils Hole pupfish reside. Tourists can’t be trusted to get near that water, or who knows what foreign objects they might throw in there, that would disturb the fish. So you are relegated to an observation platform, high above and away from the Devils Hole opening, with a cage-like structure that prevents any tossing of anything into the home of the pupfish.
You can’t see any pupfish from that distance, unless maybe with binoculars. Which I did not bring. Nor can you hear them barking, if indeed pupfish bark. But I did feel amazed, knowing I was staring at a hole in the ground that had been there for 60,000 years, and where one of the world’s rarest fish evolved. How that resilient fish managed to stick it out in this confined, isolated hole in the ground for this long, is truly one of the wonders of this world.
My next stop was a four-mile drive to Point of Rocks. This is a 2/3 mile boardwalk hike that leads to Kings Pool. Kings Pool is another warm, artesian spring. In ancient times, natives believed this body of water possessed special powers, and they gathered here for celebrations and other solemn occasions.
The waters of Kings Pool are crystal clear, with a hint of turquoise. The contrast of this pool, against the surrounding barren desert, is stark. Like Crystal Pool, Kings Pool overflows into a stream that meanders away toward Carson Slough.
I could tell just by casual observation that one hell of a lot of restoration work had been completed at Ash Meadows, over the past 36 years that it has been a national wildlife refuge. But much more work remains. The Carson Slough is still mostly straight, due to the modifications made by Spring Meadows, Inc. Restoring it to its former, windy, twisty watercourse where it can create the kind of swampland that once attracted large flocks of migratory birds, remains a project for the future.
If such restoration was left to nature, it would take many thousands of years. The human hand destroyed this watercourse, so the human hand must be employed to bring it back to its former self in any of our lifetimes.
But there was one restoration project that had been completed, that I wanted to see next. And that was Jack Longstreet’s restored cabin. It had been destroyed by a flash flood in 1984. But fortunately, there were enough extant photos of it that it was able to be restored, in 2006, to look very much like Longstreet’s original design.
The drive to his cabin and Longstreet Spring was 3.4 miles, one-way, from the Visitors Center. The road was bumpy and I dared not damage the suspension of my precious car by driving faster than 10 to 15 miles per hour, even though the speed limit sign allowed 35 mph.
I parked at the trailhead, and only had to walk about 3 minutes to reach the cabin and spring. Visitors can step inside and get the same view through the door and windows that ol’ Jack must have enjoyed more than a century ago.
One bonus to my excursion this day, was that there was hardly anybody else at Ash Meadows. This must have been due to a number of factors including: Hardly anybody knows about this wildlife refuge; it was the middle of the week; the wind was blowing hard as a cheap whore; and Covid. I met nobody on the trails, and only passed by three vehicles on the dirt roads, the entire time I was there.
I spent about six hours at Ash Meadows, enjoying the hikes and scenery, in spite of the powerful, cool wind. Once I exited and found paved road, the drive back to Longstreet Casino was an easy 10 minutes. But by the time I got back I had a splitting headache, probably from the effects of both the wind, and my frickin’ heart rhythm going out of whack, due to all my physical activity.
But it was worth it. I love nature, and I’ve fallen in love with Ash Meadows. I only hope this beautiful jewel of the desert will soon be completely restored to all of its former glory.
The migratory birds are anxiously waiting.
This has been the final installation of my series, The Amazing Amargosa. Thanks for reading! Click here to read the previous installation. Click here, to start at the beginning.
In 1980, Spring Meadows, Inc sold their water rights and land in Ash Meadows to Preferred Equities, Inc (PEI). The good news about this was that PEI planned to put a stop to all the agriculture that had so extensively damaged this wetland. But the bad news came when PEI announced a development project, called New City. The plan was to build a small city on top of Ash Meadows.
Environmentalists were aghast. This was the largest oasis in the Mojave Desert, and now it was going to be destroyed completely. They immediately established a Nature Conservancy, and fought back to preserve Ash Meadows, so it could be restored to its natural state.
But the executives of PEI seemed determined. They launched a public relations campaign, promoting the proposed development. They spelled out all the practical reasons why this New City would be so beneficial to the Amargosa Valley.
Why, it would bring good-paying jobs to the area. And they pointed out that where water is, life is. It would be a retirement community, where folks who had worked hard all their lives could live the good life, until the end of their lives, in a desert paradise with a warm, sunny climate.
There would be houses, golf courses, shopping centers, paved streets, and sidewalks for exercising the legs. Every house would have a well-watered, beautiful green lawn. And there would be enough water for swimming pools in every backyard, and an artificial lake for fishing and boating.
Their vision of New City gave little consideration to all the many unique species of plants and animals at Ash Meadows, that would very likely go extinct. Because that would be impractical. The practical thing was what all that water could do for human beans.
But the newly-established Nature Conservancy pushed back. They pressed the government to stop the development. And a legal war ensued.
PEI began its tractor work, in spite of the public outcry. They sent in bulldozers, and managed to clear some of the land for new roads and buildings. But that was about as far as they got. As the legal battles heated up, further development was halted.
Finally a reprieve came for all the wildlife in Ash Meadows, and all the people who love nature. In 1984, the U.S. government negotiated the purchase of Ash Meadows from PEI. It was to become a national wildlife refuge.
The Carson Slough once drained Ash Meadows like the Mississippi drains the Midwest. It wound about on a curvy, tortuous course, forming oxbows and overflow areas, which in turn created marshlands. This caused Ash Meadows to be the largest wetland in Southern Nevada, at 5,600 acres.
Tens of thousands of migratory birds stopped, rested, and refueled at these wetlands, every year for eons. And over those eons, these wetlands also created tons and tons of peat.
Peat forms in swamps, bogs, marshes, fens, and other wetlands, where water doesn’t drain efficiently away. The stagnant water deprives dead plants of oxygen, and this keeps them from decomposing completely.
Suppose you put a dead guy named Pete in a hermetically sealed, plastic bag. Oxygen would not be able to reach his corpse, and poor old Pete would never decay properly. That’s what peat is.
Sphagnum moss is one of the most common components of peat, which anyone can appreciate. After all, moss is one of the most common plants we see growing in swamps. But any plant will do, as long is it can’t completely deteriorate, due to a lack of oxygen.
Because peat consists of old, dead, non-decayed plants, it makes an excellent fuel. Human beans have been harvesting peat for hundreds of years, and burning it just like coal. In fact, peat is often the first stage in the formation of coal.
Back in the 1960’s a rancher drained the Carson Slough for the purpose of getting to all the peat that had formed for millennia. He mined the peat and sold it to those who wanted to burn it for fuel. And this is how one of the greatest, lushest, wetlands in the American West was destroyed, for peat’s sake.
After he’d mined all the peat out, he sold his now desiccated land to Spring Meadows, Inc. They filled in the empty peat bottoms, by bulldozing nearby sand dunes into them. They then used their bulldozers to straighten out Carson Slough, converting the ancient winding streams into straight, concrete ditches. And they also constructed several reservoirs in Ash Meadows, called Crystal Reservoir and Peterson Reservoir.
Spring Meadows, Inc used this newly-created irrigation system for large-scale ranching and farming. But in the process, they reversed hundreds of thousands of years of wetland formation, by straightening out Carson Slough and its adjoining tributaries. Now very little wetland remained for migratory birds that relied upon this oasis on their journeys south and north.
Today, only a small fraction of the birds that once frequented this area, bother to stop by. The ecological devastation is mind-numbing, and we are left with only our imaginations, when we wonder how Ash Meadows appeared for most of its long life.
This is the latest installation of my series, The Amazing Amargosa. Come on back in a few days for the next installation, entitled, Chapter 12: New City.Click here to read the previous installation. Click here, to start at the beginning.
Another beautiful monument to impracticality, besides Marta Becket, is Devils Hole, at Ash Meadows.
About a half million years ago, great caverns formed in the Spring Mountains, next to Ash Meadows. Warm groundwater filled the caverns, and about 60,000 years ago a small hole opened up and exposed the groundwater to the sun and fresh air. Human beans have recently named it Devils Hole.
Devils Hole is a cave that branches into the caverns at least 430 feet deep. But nobody knows how much deeper it goes, because the bottom of the caverns has never been mapped.
Soon after Devils Hole opened up, one of the world’s rarest fish evolved. It’s called the Devils Hole pupfish. The water of Devils Hole remains very warm the year round, at 92 degrees Fahrenheit. And the water is low on oxygen. But somehow, this strange fish managed to evolve and adapt under such extreme conditions.
Devils Hole is the only place on Earth that this species of pupfish can be found. The fish is blue in color, and about 1.2 inches in length. Its population fluctuates between 100 and 500 little fishies, depending on the seasonal availability of algae, which it eats, and the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water.
In 1952, President Harry Truman designated and declared 40 acres of land that surround Devils Hole and its pupfish, to be part of the nearby Death Valley National Monument (now a national park). It can feel strange standing there, knowing that you are in the same national park whose main boundary lies 10 crow’s flight miles away.
In 1967, the Devils Hole pupfish was included on the very first official listing of endangered species. And what was endangering this fish was declining water levels. This pupfish lives just above a shallow rock shelf near the cave entrance. And it must have this shallow area, for feeding and spawning. This is where the sun shines, and where the algae grows.
But nearby wells were dropping the underground water levels, putting it in danger of losing the shallow rock shelf it needs. The pupfish cannot survive in the deep, dark recesses of the caverns. If levels were to drop so low that it’s forced down to those depths, it will die off and go extinct.
So a fight began, between farmers and others with large wells, who wanted to keep pumping massive quantities of water out of the ground, and the pupfish lovers, who love pupfish. The Justice Department took the side of the pupfish lovers, and filed a complaint, and in 1976 the case went all the way to the Supreme Court.
And the high court ruled in favor of the pupfish. Now, when water levels decline, all groundwater pumping in the Amargosa Valley must cease and cannot resume until the water has risen enough to satisfy this poor, defenseless piscine.
Yeah, it’s impractical. And none of us will probably ever see a Devils Hole pupfish in our entire lives. Not even those few of us who visit Devils Hole, since it must be viewed from a high platform, far above the water’s surface. This height makes it nearly impossible to detect their tiny swimming bodies. I know. I was there, and I sure couldn’t spot them. I probably should have brought binoculars.
And yet somehow it feels reassuring to me that we still have this rare fish. I find it fascinating that this unique species is still swimming around in that tiny hole in the ground, as it’s swam for the past 60,000 years.
The government spends a lot of money monitoring the water level and water quality of Devils Hole, in order to keep the pupfish alive. It’s a damned impractical way to spend our tax dollars. And yet I’m glad it’s being done. I hope the pupfish continues to survive in Devils Hole for many more generations to come.
This is the latest installation of my series, The Amazing Amargosa. Come on back in a few days for the next installation, entitled, Chapter 11: For Peat’s Sake. Click hereto read the previous installation. Click here, to start at the beginning.