A Man’s Voice

I felt outraged at what women had been doing to men for all these years. But things were slowly, gradually, turning around. At least there was that. Men had fought long and hard for their rights, and bit by bit, year after year, were winning more and more respect and support from women.

But we still had a long way to go. The hottest issue in this gender-battling political firestorm was the vasectomy issue. Most women were against vasectomies, but most men were for them. Vasectomies had been made legal many years before, by a Supreme Court decision. But that didn’t stop the Pro-Wife movement from trying to overturn that decision, commonly known as Scro v. Laid.

No sperm is more sacred than a man's voice.

No sperm is more sacred than a man’s voice.

I belonged to the Pro-Voice movement. Which figures, because I was a man. I wanted a voice in what I did with my own life and body. But believe it or not there were still many men who were Pro-Wife. They bought into the argument that every sperm was sacred, and had the right to compete in the great swimming race for the egg. Even if that meant men would have unwanted babies, forcing them to marry and raise children at home while their wives pursued lucrative and fascinating careers.

I hated the label Pro-Wife. To be anti-Wife implied I was a misogynist. And I loved my wife. Why couldn’t we all just agree to the terms Pro-Vasectomy and Anti-Vasectomy? The label made things very confusing. But that’s just an example of how clever and tricky women could be, in their efforts to manipulate and dominate men.

Women controlled everything. They controlled the Supreme Court. They controlled Congress. And there had never been a male President. Never. Ever.

That’s why the upcoming election was so historic, and so important for men. For the first time in history a man had been nominated by a major political party. And lucky for us men, he was Pro-Voice! Rod Clippin had fought very hard for this nomination against, you guessed it, a woman. Her name was Berniece Panders. And she was very popular with a lot of men, so it wasn’t easy for Clippin to beat her.

But he did. And now he faced another woman. A rich, megalomaniacal lady with greenish-blonde hair, named Donna Dump. Nobody really knew where Dump stood on the vasectomy issue. First she was Pro-Voice, but then she was Pro-Wife. But one thing was certain. If Donna Dump was elected, she’d appoint a female Supreme Court Justice who would vote to overturn Scro v. Laid.

Men could soon be forced into having back-alley vasectomies.

Election Day. I stood in the voting booth and gazed at the list of candidates. I reflected on the centuries of repression men had endured at the hands of chauvinistic women. And I trembled with resentment at the thought of men losing their voice. More than ever, I wanted women to get their damned hands off of our man parts. And there on the list of candidates glistened the name, Rod Clippin. For the first time in my life I had the chance to vote for a man for President.

I was so excited! I made my selection with hands aquiver. A vote for Clippin. Fuck you, Donna Dump!

This was an archaic voting machine, with a long red lever. I had to flip a smaller lever to make my selection, then pull the long lever. Ah, to vote for a man by pulling a long red lever seemed powerfully symbolic to me. You can bet I gripped that lever tight and yanked it as hard as I could.

That’s when a sharp pain scissored through my groin. Then everything all around me faded. The voting machine dropped out of sight. The curtained booth vaporized. Suddenly I found myself lying flat on my back, writhing in agony. My groin was on fire from an injured man part.

Wow, that was crazy!

As the fire subsided and the fog lifted from my brain, I realized I had just woken up from the weirdest nightmare I had ever experienced. It was all just a terrible dream. And I felt so relieved and grateful to remember that the world I lived in was not dominated by women, after all.

I let go of the big red lever, and stretched and yawned. It was time for another day of conquering the world.

And thank God it was still a man’s world.

Ten Cheap Ways to Beat the Heat

Don't be as cheap as me, or you may end up here.

Don’t be as cheap as me, or you may end up here.

I’m a cheapskate. I’m damned if I’ll spend triple-digit money to avoid triple-digit heat, by switching to refrigerated air conditioning. Even though our swamp cooler seems to be spitting in the wind against this summer’s wall of xerothermic weather. With spit that sizzles and evaporates in seconds.

Yes, I’m damned. I’ve condemned myself to Hell. It must be karma. Cheapskates like me must go to Hell.

But I haven’t given up. Instead I’ve become innovative in my effort to keep cool, while keeping out of debt with the electric company. I’ve devised some cheap ways to beat the heat.

And now I offer these ideas to you, for a donation. Please don’t be as cheap as me. After you read these ideas, please donate. Otherwise, you may find yourself joining me in a place similar to the painting, above.

Ten cheap ways to beat the heat:

  1. Take a cool, refreshing swim in your neighbor’s swimming pool. Not your own swimming pool. Never throw away money by owning a swimming pool.
  2. Go to a convenience store. Open one of those glass doors where you buy sodas and beer. And then just stand there until they kick you out.
  3. Take the ice bucket challenge. That’s where someone else gives money to charity for the privilege of dowsing you with free ice water.
  4. Hitchhike to Canada. I’ve read that their average highs in the summer are only about 25 degrees. Celsius, whatever that means.
  5. Become a nudist, and lobby for laws to make the summer season clothing optional.
  6. Look for fat people in a crowd and stand next to them for the shade.
  7. Stand by the side of a busy highway. Enjoy the breeze stirred up by passing traffic.
  8. Restrict sexual activities to phone sex only.
  9. Quit smoking. You’ll save money, and at the same time you’ll stop putting glowing hot embers close to your face.
  10. View a solar eclipse. Temperatures drop dramatically whenever the sun is obscured by the moon. (This is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Much of our nation will experience a total eclipse in August of next year. We’ll feel cool and refreshed for a precious few minutes. And then the world will come to an end.)

There, now wasn’t that worth a donation? Send your donation to: Tippy Gnu, 7734 Styx Avenue, Hades, Hell, 66666. All funds will go to a worthy cause. Me! If I raise enough money, I’m going to buy an air conditioner.

Dearest Donald

I like Hillary Clinton, but she has one big weakness. She’s technologically challenged. Which makes her emails super-easy to hack.

I decided to get in on the action. I mean damn, why should all those other hackers have all the fun? So I, too, decided to hack Hillary’s emails.

It was a cinch to guess her password: “Feeling_Berned”. But most of what I found in her server was disappointing. It was just a bunch of banausic, everyday stuff. For example, there was a message to Bill, reminding him to do the laundry. And there was a small missive to her son-in-law, Marc, asking for the definition of the word shemozzle.

And then I stumbled upon a bombshell. A real smoking gun. An email that could blow the lid right off the Clinton campaign.

I really want Hillary to win. But I’m going to shamelessly share this email with you, and the rest of the world, anyway. That’s because I want the credit for this scoop before some other hacker takes credit. I’m trying to become rich and famous, you know. I just hope Donald Trump will keep his mouth shut for at least one friggin’ day, so that this real Hillary scandal can get enough oxygen to survive and grow.

Otherwise this email, like all the others, will be completely ignored, and lost like a needle in a Trump-hair-shaped haystack.

So here goes. This is the bombshell email from Hillary that I hacked, that I desperately hope will make me famous:

HillaryEmail

Dearest Donald:

I want to thank you once again for being such a good friend. Remember that conversation we had eleven years ago, when I attended your wedding? Hell, I thought you were joking. Especially since you were a Democrat at the time. But it turns out you are a stand-up man who really keeps your word.

When you joined the Republican Party (for the third time) in 2012, I still didn’t think you’d actually go through with it. Until June of last year, when you rode down an escalator, insulted Mexicans, and announced you were running for the job I want.

Donald, you are a genius! Who would have thought that a billionairre could win over all those Republican voters by acting like a redneck hillbilly? You did what you promised me, so many years ago. You won the GOP nomination!

And now you are doing such a tremendous job at throwing the election my way. Just as you promised. For every gaffe I make, and every scandal I find myself in, you match me ten times over. You seem really determined to make sure I’ll get elected.

One suggestion: It’s my goal to win all 50 states. But I’m still lagging badly in Texas. Now you know how Texans are so proud. And you know how much it hurts to have a bruised ego. If you could piss off the Texans by, say, commenting on their actual penis size, maybe their damaged egos will enrage them enough to vote for me.

But with all your scripted and unscripted lapsus linguae, please don’t let this secret arrangement of ours slip out. Remember, this email is highly confidential. Bill and I have dealt with enough shit, like Whitewater, Troopergate, Travelgate, Vince Foster, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, Juanita Brodderick, impeachment, Benghazi, speaking fees, The Clinton Foundation, and private server whatchamacallits. We don’t need to add “Trumpgate” to the list.

Anyway, keep up the good work. And if you ever need anything–anything at all–please let me know. Just wait until after January 20th. Remember, I’ll always be indebted.

Yours Truly,
Hillary

Pink Trump and The Wall (a politically slanted review)

One July day in 1977, Roger Waters spit on his fans. Well, they were acting too damned loud and too damned excited. And he’d never played in a stadium before. All those people! All that noise! It was too much for him.

PinkFloydWallCoverOriginalNoText

As he wielded his axe before the wild, adoring throng, he imagined building a wall between the audience and the stage. Something that would isolate him. Forever. From people. That’s when he spit on a group of fans near the stage.

What was he becoming? An anti-social pyschopath? It gnawed at him. So he withdrew inside and reflected deeply. And from these reflections was born the inspiration for one of the biggest selling rock albums in history.

“If you wanna find out what’s behind these cold eyes,
You’ll just have to claw your way through this disguise.”*

The band Pink Floyd released their album, The Wall in 1979, and it has gone on to sell over 20 million copies. This makes it the third best-selling album in U.S. history, behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Led Zepellin’s Led Zepellin IV.

Waters wrote most of the material. The Wall is about a character named Pink. Pink is based upon the lives of Waters, and another guy familiar with walls, named Syd Barrett. Syd Barret was Pink Floyd’s original band leader, and the one who named the band. He was forced to leave his rock group in 1968, due to mental illness. A few years later he secluded himself from the public, and lived the rest of his life as a recluse.

“When we grew up and went to school,
There were certain teachers who would
Hurt the children any way they could.”

Pink has a messed up life. His problems begin in childhood when he loses his father during World War II. He also endures abuse from his schoolteachers.

“We don’t need no education.
We don’t need no thought control.
No dark sarcasm in the classroom.
Teachers leave them kids alone.
Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone.
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.”

And his mother is overprotective. And later in life his marriage falls apart. Every heartbreak he experiences at the hands of others is represented by a brick. And he uses each brick to build a metaphorical wall. A wall of self-imposed isolation from society.

“Hush now, baby, baby, don’t you cry,
Mama’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true,
Mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you,
Mama’s gonna keep you right here under her wing,
She won’t let you fly but she might let you sing.”

I think of Donald Trump when I listen to this album. He promises to make us great again by building a wall between us and Mexico. And he says Mexico will pay for it.

“Did you see the frightened ones?
Did you hear the falling bombs?
The flames are all long gone,
But the pain lingers on.
Goodbye blue sky, goodbye.”

I have no doubt Mexico will pay for it. As will everyone else. Don’t we all pay, in pain, for the walls that are built between us?

“What shall we use
To fill the empty spaces
Where we used to talk?
How shall I fill
The final places?
How should I complete the wall?”

Was Trump like Pink? Did he go through hardships that led to a wall-building attitude? Of course. Don’t we all?

“I don’t need no arms around me.
I don’t need no drugs to calm me.
I have seen the writing on the wall.
Don’t think I need anything at all.
No, don’t think I’ll need anything at all.
All in all you were just bricks in the wall.”

The main purpose of Pink Floyd’s album is not to condemn wall building. It’s designed to help us understand what’s behind it. And for showing a way out.

“Hey you! Out there beyond the wall,
Breaking bottles in the hall, can you help me?
Hey you! Don’t tell me there’s no hope at all.
Together we stand, divided we fall.”

People can be a real pain-in-the-ass. So sometimes we have to put up barriers between ourselves and others, just for our own protection. I think we can all relate to that. Otherwise Donald Trump wouldn’t be so popular.

But if we live in solitary confinement for too long, we start to go mad.

“There must be some mistake.
I didn’t mean to let them take
Away my soul.
Am I too old. Is it too late?”

Too much living behind a wall leads to paranoia. We imagine there’s nothing but danger out there. And everyone becomes our enemy.

“That one looks Jewish and that one’s a coon.
Who let all this riff-raff into the room?
There’s one smoking a joint and another with spots.
If I had my way I’d have all of you shot.”

Wall building is what nationalism is all about. But look where nationalism got the world during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Over 60 million people perished.

“Would you like to see Britannia
Rule again my friend?
All you have to do is follow the worms.
Would you like to send our coloured cousins
Home again my friend?
All you need to do is follow the worms.”

I think a temporary wall can be a good thing. It gives us rest. It buys us time to strategize. And it allows us to get in touch with our inner selves. But after a while, walls become dreary and oppressive. Just the same, if you’ve spent too much time behind a wall, you might want to stay there just a little bit longer, to figure out how you got there in the first place.

“I’m waiting in this cell
Because I have to know,
Have I been guilty all this time?”

Signs were waved at the Democratic National Convention that read, “Love Trumps Hate”. Hate is caused by fear. Fear can be overcome when we face our fears and understand them. And then we can learn to relax, be vulnerable, and love again.

“Since, my friend, you have revealed your deepest fears,
I sentence you to be exposed before your peers.
Tear down the wall!”

We can do this for ourselves, personally.

And we can do this as a nation, on November 8th.

“All alone, or in twos,
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall.
Some hand in hand,
Some gathering together in bands,
The bleeding hearts and the artists,
Make their stand.
And when they’ve given you their all,
Some stagger and fall.
After all it’s not easy
Banging your heart
Against some mad bugger’s wall.”

  • *All quoted verses are excerpts from Pink Floyd’s album, The Wall.

Scratched

This race has just started, on the turf infield, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar, California.

This race has just started, on the turf infield, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar, California.

Britt Layton was a rising star in the world of horse racing back in the 1950s. He even dabbled in show business. He played the part of the “Jockey”, in the 1950 movie “Riding High”, which starred Bing Crosby, Colleen Gray, and Charles Bickford. But enough with the name-dropping. This is about a different story. A story I call Beauty and the Beast.

The beauty is the spectacle of horse racing. The beast is its dark underbelly. But I love horse racing. No sport has more beauty than these muscular equines barreling down the racetrack at breakneck gallop. My adrenalin runs wild. My heart soars. I love seeing the wildness and freedom of tons of horseflesh vying and stretching for the finish line. It’s absolutely beautiful.

But with any beauty comes a beast.

Britt met the jaws of the beast on a racetrack in Canada. A multi-horse pileup sent him to the hospital. He never fully recovered and was forced to retire from racing. No one knows if he began drinking before this accident or after. But if before, it’s certain that he increased his alcoholic consumption post-career.

A turf finish. Turf races are often reserved for older horses, and horses with soreness from racing too frequently. The grass is easier on their hooves and legs.

A turf finish. Turf races are often reserved for older horses, and horses with soreness from racing too frequently. The grass is easier on their hooves and legs.

My mother met him in an alcohol rehabilitation center, where she worked. They fell in love in a whirlwind romance, and married two months later. I was eleven years old, and excited about this new stepfather. He was fun. And unlike my previous stepfather, he was not abusive.

He owned a riding stable, and introduced us to the world of equestrian life. And he stayed sober.

For three months.

One day he took us to the Del Mar racetrack, in Del Mar, California. That’s the place in the Bing Crosby song, where The Turf Meets the Surf. You could get in free in those days, and that’s all we could afford. We were railbirds (couldn’t afford seats). But the rails is where you get the best glimpse of the beauties, anyway, as they sail past.

Britt was animated as he taught us all about the thoroughbreds and the behind-the-scenes aspects of racing. That’s when I learned that horses were often doped.

“It’s illegal,” he said, “but they do it anyway.” And then he added with a heavy, sad voice, “You’d be shocked with what they get away with here.” Of course I was eager to know all the details, but he shut up after that. A little while later I smelled vodka on his breath. The beast had him again.

A scattered field is finishing this race. The guy on the tower at the right is finishing line judge.

A scattered field is finishing this race. The guy on the tower at the right is the finishing line judge.

Three months after the wedding, Britt returned to his former habits of a stumbling-down, sleep-in-the-gutter drunk. He lost the riding stable. We had to move into an old house way out on a dirt road, with no utilities. He and my mother fought. It was pathetic to see this erstwhile successful, fun man reduced to such a helpless slave of the bottle. My mother annulled the marriage before their first anniversary. She scratched him out of her life. A few years later he was scratched again, when he died a broken, drunken man, in his mid-40’s.

Finishes can be pretty exciting. Especially when the horse you bet on wins.

Finishes can be pretty exciting. Especially when the horse you bet on wins.

But he inspired a love for horses in my older sister. She could see the beauty, and she held onto it. In fact she made a career of working in the equine industry. Today she owns a large ranch, and specializes in training gaited trail horses. This is such a highly specialized niche that she has practically cornered the market on it in Southern California, and has become well-known and highly reputed in the local horse world.

She has a few friends in the horse racing business, who follow the racing circuit. This time of year you’ll find some of them working behind the scenes at Del Mar. In fact, last year around this time, one of them gave my sister a “backstage” tour, and she actually got to meet American Pharoah, the Triple Crown Winner. My sister says it was one of the most exciting days in her life.

I think this was a photo finish. I hope the horses remembered to smile.

I think this was a photo finish. I hope the horses remembered to smile.

A few days ago I treated her to a day at the races. We met at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. We watched the thoroughbred beauties roar past us like hurricanes, sometimes observing from the rail, and sometimes watching from the seats. And we recounted that palmy day when Britt took us to this very track when we were kids.

Then she got on her cell phone to call one of her racing friends. We were hoping for another backstage tour.

“He’s too busy,” she announced with sadness in her voice, as she set down the phone. “He says there have been two euthanizations, and he has to assist with the necropsies.”

“Wow! Two?” what’s going on, I asked incredulously.

“He said two is about what they average per day,” my sister glumly answered. “He said they often die of overdoses. Illegal drugs.”

The beast.

I mentioned that some people say that horse racing is cruelty to animals. My sister agreed with that. And it certainly seemed so to me.

But then a pack of thoroughbreds rounded the far turn and flew down the stretch. Everyone stood and shouted and urged the horses on. Including me. I felt that same old, familiar thrill. An electric frisson raced up and down my spine. I tell you, there’s nothing more beautiful and awe-inspiring than these magnificent horses at a full-tilt run.

I have to believe the horses also feel a thrill. How great it must be for them to be out of their paddocks and free to stretch their legs as fast as they can, with a herd of their own kind. Is it really cruelty to animals? Aren’t they doing what comes naturally to them, and with a release of pent-up wild gusto?

The close races are the most exciting.

The close races are the most exciting.

I studied my racing program, to make my picks for horses in upcoming races. I noticed that a few had been scratched. I wondered, were some of these the ones who were devoured by the beast today?

A name caught my eye. Sid the Squid. What a name! I have a highly sophisticated betting scheme. I bet on the name that best strikes my fancy. And Sid the Squid was ready to race. He had not been scratched.

Yet.

I headed down to the wicket, with two bucks in hand.

“Two dollars on Sid the Squid.”

“To Win, Place, or Show?” the man behind the counter growled.

“No, just to not be scratched.”

“We don’t take bets on that.”

“Well, I just want him to show up.”

“All right, to Show then,” and he took my money.

He ran seventh in a field of eight. And lived. That was showing enough for me. It was a good race.

Because in the case of Sid the Squid, beauty was not scratched by the beast.

Sid the Squid.

Sid the Squid.

Volcanic Peace

There once was a people who lived in a high, lonely desert. These poor bastards could barely scratch out a living. They ate anything that moved. Lizards, bugs, worms, whatever. If it was alive, it was fair game.

They also planted crops, but never reaped much of a harvest in that damned dry desert. Usually they starved beneath blue skies.

But they lived together in peace. Hell, they had to. They had to have everyone working together in harmony, pooling their wits, talents, and efforts, to put food in their mouths. Their peace was born out of desperation.

They lived this way for who knows? Hundreds? Maybe thousands, of years? It was a long time, that’s for sure, spanning many, many generations. And so naturally their peaceful way of life became custom and ritual. Peace became a skill learned from birth. Resolution of conflict became second-nature to these people. Everyone was a diplomat, in their coordinated quest for food.

And as hardscrabble as that quest for food always was, one day it became even harder. One morning as they went to work in their wilted, scraggly fields of miserable crops, the earth began to shake. Giant cracks spiderwebbed for miles around. Fire and smoke belched out of the earth and shot thousands of feet into the air.

A volcano was born in their midst.

Everyone ran like hell for their lives. Within days their farmlands and hunting grounds were completely destroyed. The volcanic mountain lifted their land a thousand feet and buried their homes and meager livelihood beneath rivers of lava, piles of rock, and tons of ash.

And after the main eruption, a blanket of gray ash covered the desert for miles around.

Everything about their lives was knocked balls up and arsy-versy. Now what the hell would they do? They could point fingers of blame at each other for their misfortune. They could seek a scapegoat. Perhaps sacrifice a virgin. But none of that could put food into their mouths.

They could turn to cannibalism. That would put food in some of their mouths. At least for a while. But cannibalism is kind of a deadend street. And it runs completely counter to a people who know only peace and team effort.

Amazingly, nobody died in the eruption. Together, they managed to escape the cataclysm, so together they must manage to pick up all the pieces and figure out how to keep from starving to death. So these peons who’d been shit on so cruelly by the gods, went to work in a community effort to recover what they had lost.

Initially they had to resort to eating insects and all sorts of foul things. But then some rains fell, and they discovered that the volcanic ash underfoot was like a sponge. It absorbed and retained water, and actually increased the fertility of the soil. So they got excited about that, and got back to the business of planting crops.

And oh, how those crops grew! Their next harvest produced an abundance they had never experienced before. As did the next and the next. Before they knew it, their stores had more food than mouths available to eat it.

Starvation became a thing of the past.

They grew prosperous and did what many rich people do when they move on up in life. They made babies. Their population multiplied. And they built many houses of stone to accommodate their large families, and dotted the landscape with settlements surrounded by fields of bumper crops.

Trade developed, because in spite of all the new babies they still had more food than they could consume by themselves. People from all over traveled to this new civilization to trade luxury items for their food. The volcano, with its belching black smoke, served as a beacon for travelers, guiding them to this flourishing region.

A large complex was built to accomodate all the new arrivals. People of many tongues met at this business center. They intermingled, traded, and played games. And they cohabitated in peace, following the example of their hosts, who retained their peaceful customs and way of life even during this time of great wealth.

Many wonderful things were carried from afar to these people. Traders from the south brought scarlet macaw birds and exotic copper bells. Woven cotton textiles from the north were proffered and bartered. Red clay pottery arrived from the west, and black and white pots were imported from the northeast.

Their civilization became known and celebrated far and wide.

This is no bullshit. It ain’t a fairy tale. Believe it or not, this story is based on true events. Okay, so I might have embellished a little. I always embellish some when I tell a story. But I’d say it’s about 97% to 98% accurate.

Historians call the people I’m writing about, the Sinagua. But nobody knows what they actually called themselves. They lived in present-day northern Arizona about a thousand years ago.

Around 1065 AD, the volcano we know as Sunset Crater was born, kicking and screaming. It was the newest offspring in what geologists today call the San Francisco volcanic field, in the San Francisco peaks area. But nowhere near San Francisco, California.

Sunset Crater, in Sunset Crater National Monument. It formed from a violent eruption in 1065 AD, then smoldered and poured out ash for the next hundred years.

Sunset Crater, in Sunset Crater National Monument. It formed from a violent eruption in 1065 AD, then smoldered and poured out ash for the next hundred years.

Humprheys Peak is a volcano that formed earlier. At 12,637 feet, Humphreys Peak is the highest point in Arizona, and is found 12 miles north of Flagstaff. Sunset Crater lies 10 miles east of Humphreys peak, and can be found in Sunset Crater National Monument, at an elevation of 8,041 feet.

Lomaki Pueblo, with Humphreys Peak looming in the background, Wupatki National Monument, AZ.

Lomaki Pueblo, with Humphreys Peak looming in the background, Wupatki National Monument, AZ.

The Sinagua got a big kick in the teeth from the eruption of Sunset Crater. But then they turned lemons into lemonade. Or pee into tea. Or a big shit into a bit hit. Or their knocked out teeth into chiclets. Okay, okay, enough with the metaphors. I think you know what I mean.

After the eruption, this resilient people resettled just north of Sunset Crater, in what is now called Wupatki National Monument. It was here they started farming those big bumper crops, and here they built their great civilization, that flourished in trade and other multicultural exchange.

Wupatki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument, AZ. This hundred room complex is the equivalent to our modern-day shopping mall. Traders traveled for hundreds of miles, to meet and swap good here. And of course, teenagers, bums, and proselytizers may also have used this as a hangout.

Wupatki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument, AZ. This hundred-room complex is the equivalent to our modern-day shopping mall. Traders traveled for hundreds of miles, to meet and swap goods here. And of course, teenagers, panhandlers, and proselytizers may also have used this as a hangout.

But after about 100 years of spewing smoke and ash, Sunset Crater ran out of batteries and grew dormant. The lifegiving cinder ash ceased to fall. The Sinagua’s manna from heaven disappeared.

This pueblo in Wupatki National Monument is known as "The Citadel".  The rich folks who could afford this view would probably have seen far-reaching fields of maize, squash and corn.

This pueblo in Wupatki National Monument is known as “The Citadel”. The rich folks who could afford this view would probably have seen far-reaching fields of maize, squash and beans. And perhaps a few succotash bushes. Yes, I think they also grew succotash.

Within 50 more years the remaining ash was tilled to exhaustion, lost to the high plateau breeze, and washed away by the thunder gods. Nothing remained to absorb and retain moisture from scarce rains. The desert recovered its territory. This forced most of the Sinagua people to move on to new horizons and different fortunes. And all that remains today is the ruins of the great civilization they left behind.

This sports arena near Wupatki Pueblo, hosted teams such as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, and Arizona Coyotes.

This sports arena near Wupatki Pueblo, hosted teams with names such as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals, and Phoenix Suns.

Think of all the human stories that have been lost forever here. Tales of love and exotic travel. Of derring-do. Of warm family gatherings around evening fires. All lost. All absorbed by the soil. These stories have become too faint to hear, from the echoes of the crumbling walls.

Lomaki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument. The walls were made of fieldstone, cemented together by some sort of mortar. The few windows were very small. The roofs were constructed of large timbers overlayed by smaller branches, that was then coated by mud. After the pueblos were abandoned, the timbers were scavenged for firewood.

Lomaki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument. The walls were made of fieldstone, cemented together by some sort of mortar. The few windows were very small. The roofs were constructed of large timbers overlayed by smaller branches, that was then coated by mud. After the pueblos were abandoned, the timbers were scavenged for firewood.

But not all was lost. Again, they still had each other, and they were still a people of peace. The Sinagua eventually came together again to form the Hopi tribe of Native Americans.

What the heck is Hopi? Well Hopi is a spiritual word, with a meaning that goes beyond it’s literal translation. Hopi is religion. To be Hopi is to strive for a total state of reverence and respect for all things. It is to be at peace with the world, and to live in accordance with the instructions of the Caretaker of the Earth.

Lomaki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument, AZ. Crops were often planted in box canyons such as this, which tended to collect more water. The box canyons were actually earth cracks formed by the Sunset Crater volcano.

Lomaki Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument, AZ. Crops were often planted in box canyons such as this, which tended to collect more water than could collect in open terrain. The box canyons were actually earth cracks formed by the Sunset Crater volcano.

Hopi sounds much like the word “hope” to me. But it literally translates to, “The Peaceful People.” And so here’s a homily. Here’s a chance to preach a message. And by all means, please be generous when I pass the collection plate. It’s all going to a good cause. Me!

Anyway, it seems to me that Hopi is the attitude we need, to transform difficult times into good fortune. We can apply it by learning how to revere and respect anything, including those things that disrupt our lives and cause unwanted change.

Hopi can tune and harmonize us with the world. It can prepare us for anything.

It can even help us make peace with volcanoes.

Box Canyon Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument. The rooms in these pueblos were used for sleeping and food storage. And perhaps by lazy people like me, seeking a place to hide from all that hard farm work.

Box Canyon Pueblo, Wupatki National Monument. The rooms in these pueblos were used for sleeping and food storage. And perhaps by lazy people like me, seeking a place to hide from all that hard farm work.

Pie in the Sky

My wife and I spent a week last month hunting for unicorns. We were pretty successful. We drove all over the south of Utah, and spotted many of these magnificent one-horned beasts.

At the edge of the Valley of the Gods, near Highway 163. This area has served as a backdrop for western movies, commercials, and TV shows.

At the edge of the Valley of the Gods, near Highway 163. This area has served as a backdrop for western movies, commercials, and TV shows, including a few episodes of the BBC TV series, Doctor Who.

Early one morning we were cruising down Highway 163, just outside of Bluff, through prime unicorn territory. Highway hypnosis crept into our car and I got the urge to nod off. My masculine mindset told me to stay in control and handle it like a man. So instead of turning over the wheel to my wife, I got the clever idea to rest one of my eyes. But to forfend tragedy I put all my mental effort into keeping the other eye as wide open as possible.

Problem was, my other eye started to demand equal time. It was begging to rest for “just one second.” It pled so earnestly, and felt so heavy, that I finally acceded to its demand. My groggy brain reassured me that I’d be able to see clearly through both my eyelids.

I was flooded with a feeling of blessed relief, until my wife broke my reverie with a blood-curdling scream.

Mexican Hat, at the north entrance to the Navajo Nation.  This geological formation is named after the sombrero of a giant Mexican, who hung his hat here, then forgot to return and retrieve it.

Mexican Hat, at the north entrance to the Navajo Nation, on Highway 163.

My heart surged, and blasted my eyes open just in time to witness a purple unicorn the size of a Del Mar thoroughbred, standing athwart the roadway. There was no time for brakes or evasive action. Its legs were mowed under, and its back hammered the hood before it bounced over the roof.

I pulled over.

“Holy shit!” we both yelled.

The one-horned equine was thrashing about on the shoulder of the road as I ran up to it. I feared I’d have to shoot the poor thing. But then a miracle happened. The unicorn gathered its legs, struggled to its feet, shook itself, then cleared its throat.

It glared at me with fiery pupils, quivered its lips, and ordered in stentorian English, “Get on my back!”

By now you might think I’m crazy. But you must remember that unicorns are magical, and full of many surprises. Every unicorn is different. This one just happened to possess the power of speech.

And it spoke sublimely, and with gravitas, from the depths of its barrel chest. I couldn’t resist such an authoritative voice. So I helplessly swung my leg over its bare back without argument, and it galloped away, carrying me off while leaving my bewildered wife by the side of the road.

Monument Valley, Utah, in the Navajo Nation.  This small area has been featured in many photos and films that depict the West. Director John Ford often used this backdrop for quite a few of his famous western films.

Monument Valley, Utah, in the Navajo Nation, from Highway 163. Perhaps you recognize it. This small area has been featured in many photos and films that depict the American West. In fact, director John Ford often used this landscape for his famous western films.

It took on the role of a cicerone, and gave me a guided tour of the Navajo Nation. The air all around glowed with sparkling stardust. It seemed we were passing through a fairytale land. The unicorn used its long sharp horn to point out sandstone escarpments and majestic spires.

It solemnly explained to me that this was a country for dreamers. For those who longed for peace, love, equality, and brotherhood and sisterhood, and who actually imagined these things to be possible.

Then the magic horse growled a warning, advising me to respect this land and use it wisely. I was instructed to spend my time here in deep meditation. And I was to relax in the shade of giant obelisks, while reading cool, dulcet philosophies that strike a soothing tone deep within the heart.

My four-legged tour guide adjured me to cultivate lofty ideals. To bake pie in the sky. And it quipped that pie in the sky was the lightest pie of all.

Monument Valley, with the formation known as "Rabbit Ears" in the middle.

Monument Valley, with the pinnacles known as Rabbit Ears in the middle.

I was taught that this was a land for impractical dreamers. For the hippy-dippy, and for those who wear rose-colored glasses.

A lifetime of watching western movies will familiarize anyone with scenes like this. That's Rabbit Ears on the left. I believe the butte on the right is called the Eastern Mitten.

A lifetime of watching western movies will familiarize anyone with scenes like this. Rabbit Ears is to the left. I believe the butte on the right is known as Rain God Mesa.

We loped between inselbergs that appeared more fantasy than reality. The unicorn revealed that in this desert, fantasy and imagination are the water that slakes the thirst of the people. Mossback reactionaries cannot sustain themselves here, and wizen and dry to dust in the eolian breeze. To survive, you must be able to dream.

Silhouette of Monument Valley.

Silhouette of Monument Valley.

We returned to my automobile at an easy hand-gallop. I settled into the driver’s seat, anxious to blurt out to my wife all the wonders I had just witnessed.

But just then she blazed at me with shotgun eyes, and screamed, “Oh my God, wake up! AHHHHHHHHHHH!”

The fantastic cinema screen of my eyelids instantly lifted. I detected peril approaching at 65 miles per hour, and in a trice, guided the car back over the center line, and into the right lane.

I shook my head to make sure I was fully awake. Then I glanced with trepidation at the passenger side, expecting a scolding from that quarter. But my wife was snoring with her head thrown back, and apparently had been oblivious to everything. Phew! What a break!

I decided I would never confess. Hell, I’m no fool. She’d go batshit if she knew I’d fallen asleep at the wheel. Besides, I rationalized, at no time was she in any real danger. It was still early in the morning. Traffic was light. And that approaching truck had been a good hundred yards away when I corrected our lane. So no harm, no foul.

Over the next horizon I spotted a line of mammoth sandstone cliffs, and aiguilles that reached for the sky. Perhaps for pie in the sky. I recognized this scene, and remembered my dream. Amazingly, this was the selfsame dreamscape I rode through on the back of the unicorn!

I shook my head again, to make positively sure I was fully awake. Then it occurred to me that I should get a picture of this landscape, so that I would never forget the beautiful dream I had just experienced.

I pulled the car over and dug out my camera. Right next to some road kill.

It was a dead unicorn.

My wife suddenly screamed, “AHHHHHHH! Wake up!”

Highway 163.

Highway 163 passes through Monument Valley. You probably recognize this roadway from numerous commercials and films. It seems to evoke fantasy, and lures dreaming travellers into pulling over to take aim with their cameras.

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