25 October 2010


The annual Leaf-Peeping Madness compels swarms of people to inundate the Peaks looking for special golden stands of quaking aspen.
But aspen, like spotted owl, are a delicate breed, too-sensitive to climactic whims, the ebb and flow of time, and change.
Gambel oak, though perhaps lacking in coloration and stature the majesty and grandeur of quaking aspen, are nevertheless a hardier lot, ready throughout the millennia to withstand drought, fire, harsh climatic change, and rocky, alkaline ground.  For all this, and its many beneficial uses, as well as for its uncommon beauty, the oak merits respect and attention.
It's altogether too easy to overlook the oak.  And yet, the woods all around us, not just those at elevation, are filled with impressive color these days.  This is the height of oaken-Autumn.  This is the week of the year when the oaks turn together.

18 October 2010

Cold, Dry, And Far South

Once upon a time we traveled to Mexico every year.  Year after year after year.  Some years, twice.  In October, for sure, and then again often in March.  It was grand.

We were younger then.  And thinner (at least I was).  Newly married and childless.

It was just Puerto PeƱasco (Rocky Point), and a white-washed rented villa on the beach; within our means, and nothing too exotic.  But it was ours.  At least for a week at a time.

And, as I said: it was grand.

But, almost six years ago now, we got pregnant and (wonder of wonders!) we had a kid.  Afterward my wife became a stay-at-home mom.

And that has been a wonderful thing!

But as a single-income family living on a mid-career public-school teacher's salary, we had to make a few adjustments in our lifestyle in order to get this arrangement to work.  And, I'll admit, with some sadness, our annual trip(s) to Mexico was among the first of many extravagant things that found its neck on our fiscal cutting block.

But it's all been worth it.  Our daughter's older now.  In kindergarten.  And (in my humble opinion) so smart and well-adjusted and interesting.

Worth it, indeed.

But we miss the beach.  A lot. And the food.

More than that, we miss our favorite Mexico-beach-vacation traveling companions, Mike and Kathy.  Over the course of many years, we spent nearly every trip down there with them, save only a few.  Like us, they're both school teachers.  Plus, they're friendly, intelligent, and extraordinarily intrepid travelers.  They were a real pleasure to travel with and I know of few noteworthy places in the world they haven't been.

Of course, Antarctica always came to mind.  At least until recently.

Mike retired a few years ago.  But Kathy's still teaching, after like 30 years in the classroom.  In the interim, since he shuffled off the rigors and constraints of a work-a-day job, Mike's been working as a river guide, running regular trips down the Colorado for an array of important clients.

However, just a few months ago, Mike sent out an excited email to many of his friends (us included) indicating that his long-time dream of living and working in Antarctica for a season was finally going to happen, during the southern hemisphere Spring and Summer this year.

He left Flagstaff just a few weeks ago.  To spend five months "on the ice."  Without his very-understanding wife, I might add.

He's there right now.  In the cold.  Living at McMurdo Station.  Driving Ivan The Terra-Bus back and forth between Happy Campers Camp and the Ice Runway.  And blogging about it.  He calls his blog, which he updates almost every day, Cold, Dry, And Far South.  It's fascinating.  Totally fascinating.  I promise.

I'd like to encourage you to give it a read now and then.

10 October 2010

The Resurrection of Rock Lobster #06

The Rock Lobster is rebuilt (You may recall: it broke).  And it is good!

02 October 2010


Fridays at school the kids go home early, right after lunch.  And most weeks, after the kids leave, we're given a few solid hours to collaborate with our coworkers and make plans and grade papers.  It's great.  Except for the grading.  I'm not a big fan of grading papers...

While I work on planning and grading I usually fire up Songbird and use it to listen to the new slate of songs posted on my very favorite music website, Cover Lay Down.

Songbird is a multi-platform web-browser built on the same code as Firefox.  But, what's cool and different about Songbird is how it lists all the songs embedded on any given website in a neat little file-index window below the browser window.  All ya gotta do is press the play button to listen to all the music on the site.  I think Songbird's a pretty neat deal.

The blog Cover Lay Down, as the name implies, features mostly cover-songs.  In their own words:
"At Cover Lay Down, we believe that familiarity breeds contentment — that is, that coversongs create an especially powerful comfort zone for fans to discover new artists and composers. As such, all songs included herein are ultimately shared for the purpose of introducing you to new and previously-unappreciated musicians, that you might follow the threads to those artists’ original works, and in doing so, become part of the base of support which allows musicianship to continue to be a fruitful way to make a living, and allows the creation of new music itself to be subsidized."
I think that's a great policy.  And, thanks to Cover Lay Down, I have encountered a bunch of great new folksy artists and composers.  Plus, I'm fascinated by cover songs... the new ways in which a familiar song can be recreated and take on the unique nuances of an artist's voice and musicianship while still maintaining much of its original melodic and lyrical structure.

Some time ago Cover Lay Down featured a cover of one of my favorite songs, Thirteen, by the '70s band Big Star (whose co-founder Alex Chilton died this past March, by the way).  I'm sure you know it.  It's a great song that's probably been covered a gagillion times.  But, this particular cover of Thirteen was done by two artists I was only marginally familiar with: Beth Orton and Sam Amidon.  They do it as a lovely, kinda jangly, down-tempo acoustic duet.  It's nice.  And it got me to thinking about other covers of the same song that I've enjoyed over the years.  So I browsed on over to The Hype Machine and searched around.

BTW: Thanks to this blog, Cover Lay Down, and a few others for having a very similar opinion of this song to my own, and for posting many of these covers online, saving me the trouble (and perhaps the liability, too).

Finally, this live version, by one of my favorite bands of all time, Travis, is pretty darn great, too!

Last of all, as a bonus, here's Travis again, this time doing a different and really surprisingly great live cover... of Britney Spears' Baby One More Time.

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey