Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Grizzly cub in evening light

Kestrel on wing

This Must Be The Place

Beep beep

I went to church yesterday. I was due.

My holy place is not a temple however, it is a nature preserve. About an hour away.

My teachers are not sages, but the trees, animals and wind.

I always leave feeling better about things.

Beats the hell out of analysis. And they never pass the plate.

I spent three hours at the reserve, talked to two other humans, a guy on a tractor and a nice ranger with the Department of Fish and Game.

Got a lot of good pictures I don't have time to sort through and process right now.

Besides this roadrunner here, I saw many kestrels, seemingly in every tree, harriers, hawks, ibis, coots, ducks and more.

Looking forward to digging into my swag. Gracias, San Jacinto.

hard rain is gonna fall.

I'm leaving for a show. I wish I had time to write about climate change today but I simply don't. I am going to leave you with a few links if you choose to educate yourself, on both sides of the argument.

This is an earth warming graph, by five reputable scientific groups. My uneducated eye tells me that it is getting significantly warmer on Terra.

Here is the recent IPCC report. Read it yourself and draw your own conclusions. If you are short on time you might try Summary for Policy Makers. 97% of the world's leading scientific bodies are in agreement about man's contribution to global warming and the need to take resolute action.

This is a graph by University of Alabama Huntsville scientist and climate skeptic John Christy, who believes that the human contribution to climate change is overstated and that the models are overly pessimistic.

The organization at the heart of the anti-climate change battle is the Heartland Institute, which favors free market solutions and doubling down on the usage of fossil fuels. This is their website. I believe that they are funded by the Koch brothers, among others.

Doubling down on coal and oil is a bit like stepping on the gas pedal when the car is heading for the cliff. Ice is melting, sea level is rising, insect species are being decimated, severe weather events are increasing exponentially. By all means make it worse. With the lord coming back soon, isn't all this environmentalism silly anyway?

And the economists say that the fixes are too expensive. We need to split some more hairs and count the devils on the head of a pin before we do anything. Zeno's law. Sure the climate changes, it will probably change back.


Monday, October 15, 2018

Strange landform

Off the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway.

Check Out Her Mama

Queens gutter trash


If there is a lasting message in the sad chapter of American history that will be titled Donald Trump, it will be that truth and facts are unimportant.

And the ends always justify the means. Winning takes care of everything.

One has to wonder what this sort of ethical message imparts to children, this loose association with the truth.

Trump doesn't want to kill the Saudi arms deal so he signs on to the ridiculous proposition that it could be a "rogue operation." In this way he gains a bit of cover.

Hieronymus Bosch - Prince of Hell, garden of earthly delights, c.1495-1505
Utterly contemptible human being. With no respect for the truth, whatsoever.

It is like we are in some particularly hideous chamber of Dante's Inferno or Bosch's Hell and forced to confront our worst and most horrid failings as human beings for eternity.

It is getting played out right before our eyes.

Prince of Hell.

Nature's pinstripes

Trini Lopez

Devil's snare

I weeded my succulent and palm garden yesterday. Every so often I have to clear the jimson weed out because it takes over everything in these parts, grows everywhere.

Pulled up what I could yesterday. Its trumpet shaped flowers have such a sweet, intoxicating smell. It is sort of funny, I give the plant a wide berth and have a lot of respect for it, which almost borders on the superstitious.

Why? Because it is one of the most, if not the most widely used plants for spiritual and magical purposes on the planet. New world or old world, it has been used for centuries across the continents.

Datura Stramonium is a powerful hallucinogen and anticholinergic. Used improperly, it can be very deadly. I first remember hearing about it when I was in boarding school in 1970. Two kids in the desert died back then after smoking it. They stopped breathing, if my memory is correct. It was a particularly gruesome end.

Jimson weed was a very important part of Southern California native ceremony and culture. The Chumash used it to find their spirit guide, the atiswin, one time only, after an appropriate abstention from sex and meat. It was used to make zombies in Haiti. Believed to be Shiva's favorite potion in India.

It is noted in Beverley's book on the Bacon's rebellion, that British soldiers sent to quell the rebellion ate datura and went completely bonkers for eleven days in 1676.
The James-Town Weed (which resembles the Thorny Apple of Peru, and I take to be the plant so call'd) is supposed to be one of the greatest coolers in the world. This being an early plant, was gather'd very young for a boil'd salad, by some of the soldiers sent thither to quell the rebellion of Bacon (1676); and some of them ate plentifully of it, the effect of which was a very pleasant comedy, for they turned natural fools upon it for several days: one would blow up a feather in the air; another would dart straws at it with much fury; and another, stark naked, was sitting up in a corner like a monkey, grinning and making mows [grimaces] at them; a fourth would fondly kiss and paw his companions, and sneer in their faces with a countenance more antic than any in a Dutch droll.
In this frantic condition they were confined, lest they should, in their folly, destroy themselves—though it was observed that all their actions were full of innocence and good nature. Indeed, they were not very cleanly; for they would have wallowed in their own excrements, if they had not been prevented. A thousand such simple tricks they played, and after eleven days returned themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed.

— Robert Beverley, Jr., The History and Present State of Virginia, Book II: Of the Natural Product and Conveniencies in Its Unimprov'd State, Before the English Went Thither, 1705
The local natives, the Luiseño or Payómkawichum, also used the datura plant in their rituals. I remember once reading about how their medicine men would rub the roots of the plant on the bottom of their feet in order to gain the ability to fly.

I thought about this as I handled the roots yesterday. Wouldn't it be wonderful to fly? Datura has large amounts of both scopolamine and atropine, which differ both with the various parts of the plants, its age and the season. They can obviously be deadly. But when I was a kid scopolamine was the main ingredient in Contac allergy medicine and I remember the odd and very pleasant feelings of weightlessness it would sometimes produce.

The following passage is from The Religion of the Luiseño Indians of Southern California, by Constance Goddard DuBois - 1908. This is a recount of religious ceremony of my local Pala Indians, based on an interview with Lucario Cuevish.



The jimson-weed, Datura meteloides, in Spanish toloache, Luiseño naktamush, is one of the most imposing plants of Southern California. Its gigantic bluish-white bell-shaped flowers, opening towards evening and fading when the sun of the following day becomes intense, contrasted with the dull green leaves, attract the most casual notice, as they occur in waste spaces in field and roadside, growing by hundreds where conditions favor their increase. The plant is remarkable in the extent of its distribution. Undiscouraged by the intervening wastes of desert, it appears throughout Arizona as in California.

The roots of the toloache contain a narcotic principle which has a marked effect on the mind; and the taking of this is the center of an important ceremony. It is fifty years or more since the toloache ritual has been celebrated by the Luiseños; but for convenience the present tense is used.

At the time of the Mani, the toloache ceremony, a big fire is lighted at the main place of gathering. They have two places, and the one where they actually give the toloache is at a distance from the other. The places are made ready in the day time, but the ceremony does not begin till evening. In the main place the sacred enclosure of brush, the wamkish, is built in a circle to about the height of a man. On the ground inside are placed the sacred ceremonial objects: the tamyush or sacred stone toloache bowls, large and small,—all but one which is to be used in the other place in drinking the toloache; feather head-dresses and eagle-feather skirts; and the paviut, the sacred sticks with flint in the end.

The tamyush, which since the last celebration of the ceremony have been buried in the ground, in a place known only to the chief, are taken out in good time and freshly painted so that they look nice. They are painted red, white, and black. Of the sacred ceremonial objects the tukmul is not in the main enclosure but at the other place. The tukmul is a flat winnowing basket sacred to the Chungichnish rites. It belongs to the men, that is, is possessed by every initiate, and during every ceremony is placed on the ground containing grain, the sacred stone pipes, or other objects.

When it grows dark the people gather at the main place. The chief has charge of the religious conduct of the ceremony; but to see to the correct performance of every part of it during the four or five days of its continuance, two officers, Paha, are selected, with varied functions.

They must go around to the different houses to collect the candidates for the Mani, carrying some of the little boys who may be found asleep. One Paha is detailed to supervise the main place; the other, the place for drinking the toloache. By a well understood law no one is allowed to run around or make any noise. The Paha must be a hechicero, or shaman, of repute; and he could tell by looking at the mother of a boy whether she had been doing wrong in any way. No woman could be admitted to the ceremony who was unclean, unchaste, or menstruating.

It is dark in the place where they take toloache. The large tamyush selected for the purpose is placed on the ground before the chief. It contains the root, previously prepared and dried, perhaps a year before.  The chief pounds the dry scraped bark with the stone mano (muller or pestle) to the accompaniment of a curious recitative, not a song: "Chanyoko, yoko," while the boys stand waiting in the darkness. The powder is then placed in a small twined sifting basket and sifted again into the tamyush, which is filled with water. The Paha goes about whispering: "Keep quiet all of you. Do not talk. Everyone keep quiet."

The chief superintends the drinking, and as the candidates kneel in turn before the big tamyush to drink out of it, he holds the head of each with the palm of his hand under the forehead, and raises it when they have drunk a sufficient quantity of the liquid, watching to see that they do not drink too much. They drink from the tamyush in which the toloache was mixed.

They give the toloache to the boys in the dark; and while it is being administered, the Paha goes over to the main place three times in succession, and the third time tells them to get ready, for Mani is coming. He sings a curious recitative.

The men and boys in this ceremony do not wear clothes. Before they start, each man takes charge of one of the boys who have partaken of the drink, and they stand and get ready. Now begins the marching song or recitative as they march to the main place, taking the boys along. The words of this recitative are: "Tamyush noya kwoya, Tamyush walks by twisting." In the early days this tamyush, finely painted, out of which they drank toloache, when it was time to march to the main place, would walk along by itself. This was done with a twisting motion from side to side,—as a heavy barrel is moved.

Tukmul, the sacred winnowing basket, would do the same thing. He would run by himself to the main place; so would the other sacred basket, piavala, a small basket in the shape of an olla. These three, tamyush, tukmul, and piyevala, would have to stop three times on their way to the main place.

The dancers crawled in on their hands and knees, making the noises of birds and animals. They had some secrets about this, shamanistic power, and could talk in the language of these birds and animals, hawks and owls, and ravens and weasels. One could hear this but could see nothing.

Then they march around the fire, and dance singing the toloache song. The boys soon grow dizzy and fall down, and they carry them to the other place and leave them there, under the charge of some of the old people, until the toloache intoxication wears off.

After this come the dances and the Chungichnish songs, and sometimes new songs are composed at this time. Some of the old men have composed them to teach to the boys, and they dance all night long. At daylight they sing the song: "Tukaina wonipa," which means to go off; and they march to the other place where they took toloache, where they remain during the day.

The boys cannot eat anything. The Paha watches to see that they do not eat more than two or three spoonfuls at most; but the others eat.

When night comes each man takes one of the boys to the main place; and before all the people these old men do magic tricks (Pl. 1) to teach the boys how to perform them. In the old days when they took Mani these people could do anything. They could put the feather head-dresses in the fire, and they would not be burned; and they could make the raven talk and everything was done as he said. They were so full of Chungichnish.

Not so very long ago, a shaman cut his tongue off, blood ran all over his breast, and he held it out so everyone could see. Then he put it back and it grew together again. This was while the Indians all lived where Trujillo's land is now. This spot was a prehistoric Indian village site, the author's camping place at Potrero.

In the same place at this time a shaman stood up and another one shot him with bow and arrow. The arrow went deep into his breast, and he vomited blood and fell down apparently dead. The people all began to cry when they saw him shot; but the second shaman pulled the arrow out, doctored him and blew on him, and he got up perfectly well and went on dancing.

One man named Turiyo threw his feather head-dress on the big fire that was burning. One could smell the feathers burn and everyone saw it. He walked around and began looking about and there was the same feather head-dress on the ground.

They would do these things when they got ready to put the fire out, singing the Chungichnish songs and dancing. They wore no clothes but the feather head-dresses and breech-cloths, but they were painted with white clay and black charcoal on their backs to protect them from the heat.

They put the fire out by witchcraft. They would have a very big fire, "as big as a house," and when they got ready to put it out several of the old men would jump right into the middle of the fire and stand there several minutes. You could smell the feathers burn and know that they were burning, but they would jump out again unhurt.

This was not so very long ago. Everyone knows about it. These were the things they taught the boys to do.

The Paha would superintend the putting out of the fire as he did everything else, calling out: "Come up to the fire. Don't be afraid. Don't shirk."

They put the fire out by pulling the burning logs out and stamping on them and putting them out by witchcraft. The chief would not let anyone come near with water, as the hot steam would burn. They would tramp with hands and feet, and had the Chungichnish sticks. In the early days they would not feel fire. 

It is the men of the same village where the boys live who give them toloache; but the next day, perhaps, the people from another village will come; and their chief men will take the boys and teach them their ways and ceremonies, and dance all night long. The men that take the boys to instruct them will talk to them and tell them how they must behave. These men bring the dancing feathers, tukmul, and other objects belonging to Chungichnish. During the time they are teaching the boys and giving them presents of the feathers and objects, the fathers and mothers of the boys give back the same value in baskets and other possessions.

Then the instructors dress the boys in the feathers, paint them all over, give them the wonder-working sticks, and go home.

Next day the men of another village come and do the same thing, and so on for four or five days, different parties coming and going.

The boy has to fast from salt and meat for two or three weeks.

Then they use Wanawut, and the boys all jump. (The account of the rope ceremony is given below). If anyone should fail to do it rightly he would not live long. When he comes through this he is free. He joins Chungichnish. (The narrator stood and reverently pointed upward. "The spirit is always sent up.") They have Wanawut for long life, and the boys must believe in it, and obey the rules.

After the fasting is over, they make the sand-painting. (The description of this is also given below.) The instruction is then given in the proper rule of life for the initiate, the Chungichnish rule of life:

No one must eat immediately after rising. They must wait so long that their spirit may return to them from sleep, and then they can eat. In the same way they must not eat immediately upon their return from a journey among the hills. They must wait for their spirit to return to them. They must not eat before the old people have eaten, and no young person can eat the last of the seed or grain, the harvest of the previous year. This must be kept for the old. A boy may eat deer's meat when he has grown to the height of his father's shoulder and not before. They must eat sparingly and observe all these rules so that they will live long and have sons and grandsons to perform the ceremonies at their death and to burn their bodies. In the old days they lived to be so old that they became like little babies again, and would lie down and die of old age. Now they eat too much, and they have no rules for eating, and they die young.

They must be kind to the old and not turn their back upon a stranger when he comes to their house. They must not whip their children, for the spirits will be about and will steal their spirits away so that the children will die.

A bath must be taken every morning.

There were many other rules pertaining to the rites and ceremonies and the requirement of secrecy.

If any of the rules were disobeyed, Chungichnish would send the bear, mountain lion, or rattlesnake to bite, and stinging weeds to injure the transgressor. Sickness would come upon him. The earth would hear, and the sun would spy out the guilty by day and the moon by night.

Sage seed ground and mixed with salt is made into a lump, and with this the chief touches the forehead, shoulders, breast, knees, and feet of each boy in turn, telling him that whenever the sun rises he must make the sort of invocation used at this time, sending his spirit towards it,—in an indescribable sound, for which we have no word. Three times this is done,—Ugh-ugh-ha-a-a.

The lump of sage-seed and salt is then put into the mouth of the candidate, who bends over the sand-painting, kneeling before it with arms extended one on each side of it. He spits the lump into the central hole, which is then carefully covered by the old men, who obliterate the sand-painting by pushing it from the circumference towards the center. (See again the special account of the sand-painting below.)

This ends the first part of the toloache ceremony. It is probable that a race was made by the boys and that a rock was painted as is described in the account of the ant-ordeal, and in the girls’ ceremony; but my authorities did not mention this here.

The chief has to take care of those who are under him, and he must save all he can in food and valuables and plan to finish the whole ceremony, notifying his people when it is time to burn the sacred enclosure, which is done four or five weeks later to end the Mani.

The sacred enclosure (Luiseño, wamkish or hotahish;  Spanish, casa grande) is made in a circular form of willow and other brush. The ceremony of burning it is performed in the day time. First the Paha takes the food collected by the chief and distributes it among the different houses to be prepared for eating; then when all is ready he brings it to the main place, where they have a feast.

Instead of burning the whole of the sacred enclosure, a part of the brush is taken from it and this is burned while they dance and sing the appropriate songs.

This ends the ceremony of Mani which came to the mountain people from San Luis Rey. They do not have it regularly, perhaps every two or three years. During the march which ends the ceremony the mothers of the initiated boys throw away baskets and other valuables among the guests.

The following comments on the toloache fiesta are by Salvador Cuevas: Mani was a training for boys. In it they were told how to act in all ways, to old people, to be kind to strangers, not to eat too much, so that they could run miles and miles, and could live long. They were instructed how to dance and how to perform the ceremonies.

Part of the ceremony Salvador hesitated to describe as it was too sacred to be told; but having confidence in me he was willing to do so if I would promise not to repeat it to the Indians. He was willing that I should give it to the white people.

I am long past the time where I would feel comfortable on a datura fueled psychedelic excursion. Still, I have a healthy respect for the powers of this plant.

Many garden books suggest that one only handle the plant with gloves, so as not to absorb any particulents through your skin or lungs. I don't, preferring to be barehanded. If it is my time to fly, it is my time to fly.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Blue Wind

out of this world.

Leslie and I are going to join friends at the coast for some himalayan food tonight. It has never been high on my culinary hit list but there is a first for everything! You know how hard it is to find dried goat dung to cook with in these parts?

I read a lot of early accounts of travels to Llasa, Alexandra David-Neel, Heinrich Herrer, etc. and the food always sounded positively dreadful, e.g. rancid butter and gruel. Will yak later.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


Lying liars

I was blown away by the way the Commerce Department concocted some new lies yesterday to get their boss Wilbur Ross out of hot water. Sort of a three card monte sleight of hand move.

This administration, obviously from the top down, is setting new records in the prevarication department. Records that will probably never be broken, at least in our lifetime.

The big orange boss is the out and out lying champion, something over 4200 lies as of August, at a healthy clip of 7.6 whoppers per day. This is like Ted Williams or Lou Gehrig material, he is setting the lie bar so high I don't think anybody else will ever get near touching it.

He has that rare talent of lying so much that he starts to believe his own lies and that kind of self deception don't come around very often. and it doesn't bother his party much, because they are getting their agenda enacted.

But his subordinates are pretty good  fibbers too. I had some time and started looking into various falsehoods spread by his cronies and cabinet members. Each one of them listed has been accused of some lie or deception. We have some serious comers here folks. I like Zinke as the number two contender but he has some serious competition here and we will have to see how it all shakes out.

I readily admit that Heller and Hawley are not in the cabinet. I threw them in for a little extra spice. When all is said and done this is a murderer's row of liars, sort of like the 27 Yankees of deception. And we get to see and live it in our lifetime. Something to tell the kids about some day. I include a link to each individual and their dishonesty. Don't feel like you need to go through the whole batch. You will get ill.

Wilbur Ross - Liar
Kirstjen Nielsen - Liar
Josh Hawley and Dean Heller - Liars
Mike Pence - Liar
Betsy DeVos - Liar
Mike Mulvaney - Liar
Ben Carson - Liar
Ryan Zinke - Liar
Steve Mnuchin - Liar
Mike Pompeo - Liar and deceiver
Sonny Perdue - Blatant cronyism
Rick Perry - Liar
Alex Azar - Liar
Elaine Chao - unscrupulous self dealer
Jeff Sessions - Liar
Jim Mattis - little white lies to save his job, not so big a deal.
John Kelly - ditto. But the people who actually work for him tend to disagree.
Robert Wilkie and Alex Acosta pretty much get a pass. They don't seem to lie. Probably not long for this administration, they'e just not a good fit.
Andrew Wheeler may be a racist but I haven't seen any evidence that he is a baldface liar yet. But he is new. There is still time.
Dan Coats - not a liar
Gina Haspel - not a liar
Nikki Haley - not a liar
Linda McMahon has been accused of lying but she merely seems really sneaky to me.

upsy downsie

share a little joke with the world

Middle Teton, occluded

Friday, October 12, 2018

Low blow

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) is getting down, dirty and despicable with his opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar in my 50th Congressional district. Enough in fact to earn four pinnochios from the Washington Post. As in baldface liar.

Ammar bears about as much responsibility for his grandfather's actions as Hunter and his father do for the My Lai massacre. As in none. A grandfather who he in fact had never even met.

This is identity politics as its worse, a desperate, vile, bigoted action from a very vile man. By the way, Ammar Campa-Najjar is Christian. And Campa is his Hispanic mother's family name. Unfortunately the nasty and false campaign will probably resonate with some of the numbskulls in my district.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


59 year old Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Turkey but he never came out. In one piece anyway. Evidently some spook caught the whole thing on tape. Khashoggi was trying to obtain wedding papers.
This took place in Turkey, and to the best of our knowledge, Khashoggi is not a United States citizen, he’s a permanent resident,” the president said. “We don’t like it, even a little bit. But as to whether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country, knowing they [Saudi Arabia] have four or five alternatives, two very good alternatives, that would not be acceptable to me.
And the United States is really sorry about the whole thing but damn, we have been selling the Saudis a lot of weapons and we don't really want to upset the apple cart. They mean jobs. After all this is just one guy. Not like he is an American or anything. And did we mention that we are selling them lots of weapons?
"That would be hurting us," Trump told Fox News when asked about the option of blocking the sale of weapons Saudi Arabia is largely using to wage a war in Yemen that has come under harsh criticism."We have jobs," Trump said on Fox News. "We have a lot of things happening in this country. We have a country that's doing probably better economically than it's ever done before. Part of that is what we are doing with our defense systems and everybody is wanting them, and frankly, I think that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country."
Remember when our country actually stood for something? Besides filthy lucre?

Palm Springs Modernism

Come join me in the desert next weekend. The Blue Heron Gallery will once again be exhibiting at Palm Springs Modernism. More info here.

Tracy Nelson & Mother Earth

The pool where Winslow Homer sleeps

Miles Beyond

minus google plus

We Google + users have recently learned learned that our favorite social media sharing forum is shutting down within the next eight months, due to a past security breach. Google is very good at cutting the cord on their products when they no longer serve their purposes, often leaving users without oxygen. I have read a lot about the forum in the news, the past few days, usually it is mentioned with terms of derision, a failed venture, a virtual ghost town.

I personally loved it.  Many users but intimate enough to get to know people. I developed friendships with people from every culture, from Africa, to Mongolia, France and all points in between. Saw remarkably good and powerful work from people from supposed "primitive" cultures.

And there was remarkably little of the snarky slagging that you see in places like Facebook. People on Google + are much more well mannered. In addition you tended to congregate with an entirely new set of people rather than prior social contacts.  Facebook gets insular and balkanized that way. Google + is more international and wide open. I will really miss it personally. Might be a ghost town but personally I like being at a place where the majority of people ain't.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Big Swifty

Although I still love Hot Rats the best, this is my second favorite Zappa album. The music was so jazzy, sensitive and fluid, exceptional work and talent.

Fill the frame

No Regrets

Wyoming black and white

Monday, October 8, 2018

Wayne Raney and the Delmore Brothers

Cracking Wise

tennis anyone?
My buddy Barry is an excellent writer. Formerly a longtime professional comedy writer, he has written a couple of books about trade blankets, of which he is recognized as the world's foremost authority. In the summer he is one half of the fabulous comedy team of Morty and Schecky with yours truly.

But he also is a great writer when he plays it rather straight. I was knocked out by his blog entry for this month and he said I could repost it.

In my July entry I predicted my own death in Costa Rica – my killer a hooked giant tarpon that would trigger a fatal heart attack. I’m usually kidding when I write, but this time I was not. I had an overpowering feeling that I was going to meet my end on this trip and decided death by very large fish would be a relatively pleasant way to go. I’ve led an interesting life…if the final curtain came down fishing in the Caribbean Sea it would be far better than eventually withering away in assisted living…assisted dying, actually.
My instincts were… you’ll excuse the expression… dead-on. There was a death. It just wasn’t mine.
I did due diligence in the choice of a fishing destination. Trip Advisor, Yelp, fishing forums and I just kept coming back to the same place in northeast Costa Rica. Glowing reviews…the fishing was unparalleled…the food delicious…and the owner was “colorful”.
So was Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. Meet Dan Wise, the onerous owner and emperor of the Rio Colorado  Lodge.The place was established nearly 50 years ago by a gentleman named Archie Fields. Wise, at the time a Mississippi criminal attorney, had gone there to fish and managed to finagle his way into Fields’ good graces. Fields was dying of cancer and Wise eventually acquired the lodge. Rumor has it he swindled the widow Fields out of the place and never paid a dime for it, but let’s say for the sake of avoiding a libel suit that couldn’t possibly be true.Twenty-two years later at his jungle headquarters Dan Wise at age 69 reigns supreme.
This is a picture of a much younger Lawyer Dan holding a snook. If Dr. Seuss was captioning this picture it’d be Good Snook Bad Schnook.

What the Rio Colorado Lodge offers is access to the the greatest tarpon fishery in the world. Schools numbering in the tens of thousands are commonplace – literally acres of fish. It’s an unforgettable sight. And they’re huge – the biggest weighing in at well over 200 pounds.
I enter into evidence this picture of my son Jared battling an enormous tarpon that took an hour and forty minutes to land. The fish launched itself high out of the water like a Tomahawk missile 9 times and towed our boat three miles during the duel. The beast was released to fight again another day and so was the fish.

Such fish do not come cheap. It costs roughly $600 a day per fisherman plus cash tips to your guide and the lodge staff.
The lodge is a creaky, deteriorating semi-slum that hasn’t been updated in decades. Your room is a dump. The hardware in the shower is completely corroded…the toilet bowl stained a permanent grotesque shade of yellow. The bedspread can likely be carbon-dated to the Bronze Age, but that would require actually touching it, which is unthinkable.
One tends to forget you wouldn’t let your pet weasel stay in such a wretched room when you are catching monster fish all day. If the fish aren’t biting you wonder why you’re paying the world’s most annoying man a small fortune to sleep in a hellhole.
No jungle adventure is complete without bugs and the lodge delivers world-class bugginess. Every evening at dusk a blood-crazed army of degenerate mosquitoes defile every square inch of your body just for sport, but when all is sad and dung, it’s your time in the company of Dan Wise that makes the Rio Colorado a destination forgetaway.
It’s impossible to describe Mr. Wise’s voice, but I will try. It is the most grating nasal ear-piercing high-pitched grits-thick Southern-fried accent you’ve ever heard and that intolerable voice never stops. It’s the first thing you hear in the morning and the last thing you hear at night. When you can’t tolerate it any longer and flee to your room he parks himself outside your window and continues to talk. Sinatra had to sing. Astaire had to dance. Dan Wise has to talk.
Question..what would you expect to eat at a fishing lodge? Fish? Sorry. No fish today or for that matter any other day…enjoy the meat loaf!
To be fair, it’s not the worst food in the world. It’s just the worst conversation. The mad king holds court at every meal and hijacks every conversation. What might start out as talk about the day’s fishing or the weather immediately leads to a Dan Wise story and there are three critical elements to every Dan Wise story. First, every story is about an event that happened either in Mississippi or Louisiana. Two, every tale occurred at least 25 years ago and third, every story is a story he’s already told you.
I should also mention that Dan can’t go four words without swearing and his favorite topic is prostitutes. It seems that over the years many of his fisherman customers have just been using the fishing aspect of the trip as a cover story to their wife or girlfriend. Their real interest is female companionship and businessman Dan is apparently not unwilling to put consensual adults together. My son and I opted out on that possibility – I believe I said I was interested in catching a fish, not a disease.
Dan sees enemies everywhere. There’s another lodge close by – the Silver King. Dan on the competition: “We’re partyin’ like rock stars over here and you know who fishes there? CIA. Drug dealers. I’ll tell you this much – they’re all a howling pack of goddamn wackadoodles.”
You might say Dan is not a champion of women’s rights. His girlfriend is a Costa Rican much younger than himself and doesn’t say much. None of the women who work for Dan say much. Because Dan has high standards when it comes to women and when a female doesn’t measure up “she sure as hell would not be on my preferred whore list.”
He’s also not a leader on racial relations. He mentioned at dinner one evening that “evidently it’s just not politically correct to tease Negroes any more. They’ve taken all the fun out of it.”
A typical yarn begins with, “Now that reminds me of a little itty bitty somethin’ that happened in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1962. So I’m on the phone with T.C. Hicks and you know that bubba is slipperier than a frog on ice. Turns out he’s mixed up in some kind of wackadoodle deal with L.C. Paisley and he wants me to be his attorney. Well, I can’t do that because I’m already representing Junior Senior, Jr. in a trumped-up bestiality case. I had to use all my considerable powers to convince the jury that goat had just been leading him on.”
Our fishing guide each day is a local named Wendell, who speaks perfect English and is a very gentle and religious man. His older brother Noel is the leader of the local church and works at the lodge as a mechanic. His specialty is Mercury outboard motors and he’s been keeping them humming for 30 years.
On our fourth and final day fishing our boat engine misfired returning to the lodge. Wendell didn’t want to keep running it so made a call and another boat came out and brought us in.
My son immediately headed for our hideous room – he loathed Dan and couldn’t tolerate another encounter. I, on the other hand, decided to grab the opportunity to hear one final muy loco rant.
Dan’s phone rang. It was Wendell, who had just received the worst possible call moments after we had left him. “What?,” Dan said. “They lopped his head clean off?”
Dan’s girlfriend was so alarmed at this point she became bold enough to speak. “What’s wrong?”
“Now just hush, woman, and don’t start carrying on like you do. It’s Wendell on the phone. Noel’s dead. He was fishing on the beach and somebody crept on up behind him and decapitated him with a machete.”
Possibly the look on my face reflected this was not the reaction I was expecting to a man’s horrible death and he said, “And by that I mean this is TERRIBLE news.”
The killer was a 25 year old kid with a history of mental illness and thought he’d slain a guy he’d had an ongoing dispute with. It was a case of mistaken identity… Noel was not that guy. It was the first murder ever in the village’s history.
I thought it was me who would die in Costa Rica, but I picked the wrong guy, too. Two men enter the Rio ColoradoLodge, one man leaves. Dan Wise stays. Right now he’s probably telling a group of fishermen a wonderful story about “some fatass bitches in Biloxi”. Good times.

Dimming Of The Day

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Teton Bound

It had been well over a year since I had taken a personal vacation and I was certainly due. Ken had invited me to accompany him on his scheduled trip to the Yellowstone/ Teton region but I was vacillating. Pretty broke, certainly stressed and depressed, I didn't think I could responsibly take off but I also knew that I really needed to get away and somehow break my pattern of funk. Tough times.

Thankfully I had a small sale at the last minute. Although my problems were in no case resolved, I figured that I could put them off for a matter of time, especially since I am now headed back into my show season, after an ever expanding summer break.

I called Ken and asked him if the offer still stood and he said that it did. I would fly into and out of Denver and he would pick me up and ferry me up to the parks, deliver me back after our car trip through Wyoming. Wonderful man, great friend and teacher. Leslie is a master of scoring cheap fares and she found a round trip ticket for me at a little over two hundred bucks.

Ken had also reached out to our buddy Pat for company. Pat was on, then off and after I signed on, he assented as well. He would fly to Jackson a day early and then meet us in the park, having rented a large SUV. Cool. Neither Ken nor Pat had ever visited the region before. Pat needed a vacation as bad if not worse than I did. I sold Pat my old camera some time ago, the excellent Nikon D810, and let him borrow my Sigma 50-500 so he could shoot some long range photos on the trip. Fairly new to serious photography, Ken and I have both been mentoring him.

Leslie drove me to the airport last Sunday. There was a serious accident down there on Sunday and both Hawthorne and Sassafras were not moving. I was more than slightly freaked that I would miss the flight.

I made it. Arrived near dusk and then we drove four hours or so to Casper where we holed up at the Motel 6, our road domiciles of choice. Since they remodeled the rooms resemble little bauhaus prison cells, only without the kleenex and thinner bath towels. A modernist's dream.

antilocapra americana

Hit Mickey D's for a breakfast McMuffin and drove towards Jackson late morning. We were in the Wind River Reservation when we were startled by a wolf chasing pronghorn through the fields somewhere north of Shoshone. It was quite a thrill, a first for me. Didn't get a shot of that, too unexpected. But if we had a dollar for every pronghorn we saw this trip, we would be very rich men.

Met Pat at the Teton's visitor's center and transferred our voluminous photo gear and tripods into his SUV. A huge crowd of people was assembled in front of a tree and being herded by a Park Ranger. Evidently we had just missed a black bear and her three cubs. I probably could have seen them but there were way too many people gathered and I chose to lay back.

Brother Pat had nailed a nice picture of a bull moose out of the gate that very morning. Obviously beginner's luck. I was happy for him. Never got one myself this time.

The area was beautiful. It was the perfect time to visit. The aspens were just past their moment of perfect ripening, the gold, orange and amber tones just beginning to fall off the trees. The park is at its quietest these early weeks of October, kids back in school, and many of the tourists back in Shanghai or elsewhere. Great time to visit.

We had been told to expect snow and rain but managed to avert everything but a few sprinkles the whole trip. But the sky was pretty patchy and overcast. You take what you are given.

Having been visiting these parks for over thirty five years I took the liberty of appointing myself tour guide. There was a lot to see and limited time. Ken had scheduled two and a half days in the parks and in my heart I knew that it would not be enough. But I was a guest and kept my mouth largely shut. Wasn't my rodeo. Would try to push it as hard as I could. Lot to see.

I after all, could be there for an entire year and it wouldn't be enough. There is always something new around every corner and the atmosphere is constantly changing. I feed on this stuff like a remora on a whale belly.

Our first stop was a drive up Signal Mountain. It affords great southerly views of Mt. Moran. Although not occluded by the clouds like I usually shoot it, the light was still far from optimal. It was marginal.

Afterwards we drove into Yellowstone and headed for Old Faithful. Also pretty blah. I prefer to shoot this area at first light, alone with the wildlife.

I think that my companions were a bit shocked about the distance from Jackson and the parks and the time we spent on the roads. I am used to it, part of the equation. I started to get a little pissy. I am honestly an animal, I tend to shoot about eighteen hours a day on these sorts of adventures, these guys were merely trying to have an enjoyable vacation. Can you imagine? There was definitely some tension in the car.

Thankfully I was never duck duct taped up and strapped to the roof but I think they seriously considered the possibility at one point.

Ken says that photography is not a hobby for me, it is an obsession. He said that if I had my way we wouldn't get back until 10:30 every night. And he is of course, right. He has seen my ten minute hikes take over two hours plenty of times, short bypasses end up taking hours if not days.

We have logged thousands of miles shooting together in parks throughout the west, have sort of worked up a working truce. With Pat the dynamic changed slightly and I was clearly outvoted on occasion. Poor baby me couldn't have his way all the time. Waaugh... In any case a six legged beast is not so nimble. Whatever came out of the trip would be wonderful and have to do. And it did.

But I had to stop being Captain Queeg and chill out and I think I finally did, to their immense relief. Stopped being so dictatorial and let it ride. But it was tough. I felt like maybe the trip was going to be an opportunity wasted or squandered. Last time I was here I was up at 5:00 every morning at some overview, awaiting the golden hour and first light. Never saw the golden hour this time. Was seriously missing my wife, who is always game for whatever.

As I said, Old Faithful was sort of a drag, we didn't wait for it to show its storied fidelity. There were fewer animals around in the whole park in general than I have ever encountered. Hardly any elk, few buffaloes compared to the norm. Kerry thinks the wolf herds have winnowed the herds down, I don't really know what is going on?

By the way, both of my pals are conservative, I am a centrist dem. I asked what some sound was one day and it turned out that it was a Hannity notification from Fox. Ken and I have a rule that we never talk politics on the road but this time I was outgunned. I pretty much kept my mouth shut. It's not worth it to argue. Nice to not be thinking about politics during such a miserable week nationally.

We drove back to Jackson at sundown, a reasonable hour, and straight to the Gun Barrel restaurant. I had their wonderful elk chops, cooked as perfectly and wonderfully as I remembered. Then back to the Motel 6, feeling pretty bushed.

Next morning I laid in bed and watched the local news from Idaho Falls or Pocatella. The newscaster was talking to a local fashion maven about the wonderful couture of fine flannel, a local favorite. The dresses looked like a hideous bizarro flashback to the fifties, quite dowdy. Fashion for homicidal clowns.

I will never get tired shooting Oxbow Bend
We went to the famous Bunnery for breakfast, at a reasonable and consensual hour. I had lox and eggs, would try to start the day on the right foot. We drove up to Oxbow and took some lovely shots then headed up towards my intended ultimate destination, the Lamar Valley. Had several reports of wolf and grizzly interactions over buffalo carcasses in the last several weeks.

My cohorts and I

We made a few pits, one at Artist's Point for a waterfall shot, never caught the other side. Unfortunately the light sort of sucked. As Ken Seals son once said "if you don't go, you won't know."

I am a bit of a victim of past success. Because I already have so many good shots in the region, I always want to raise the bar. This can be a drag for companions. That is why photography is sort of a solitary pursuit. Not easy to do by committee. I was jokingly allotted three stops for the day.

Stopped and shot a pair of trumpeter swans at one point. Lovely creatures, might have some nice ones, will have to carefully check.

We got to Slough Creek but didn't see any action. The herds were pretty far away. Pat, a gourmet cook, made us a wonderful lunch from provisions that he had graciously purchased and brought. Second day was far better than the first, all of my tsoris and angst evaporated in the beautiful scenery, in the company of truly good friends. I was finally starting to chill.

the elk at Mammoth hang out like statues
I figured we might as well see the whole park and we headed over to Mammoth afterwards and back around the loop counter clockwise to our beginning point. My buds were cool with it and I figured that I had done my job.  I had forced them to visit every practically accessible area of the park.

Grabbed upscale pizza and cocktails later at the renovated Teton Theater before bed. Pat wasn't real happy with the crust.

Next day after a quick reprise at the Bunnery we headed out to the National Elk Refuge. We didn't see any bighorn like Leslie and I did but did encounter a bitchy ranger who got pissy about the direction we parked.

Saw a herd of antelope. The alpha male was diligent in keeping his harem together and in constant alert for his competition.

He would quickly herd any stray wanderers back into his fold. We captured some beautiful pronghorn shots and then headed up to the large panoramic views from Curtis Canyon. Here is a picture of Ken taking it all in. This was both of my friends first trip to really explore this country.

Afterwards we went back down the hill to the Gros Ventre River and Mormon Row. I wish that we had time to stop at the Gros Ventre Campground, Leslie and I had scored moose there before but it was unfortunately not to be this time. We were on schedule.

Afterwards we shot a bit at Schwabacher's Landing, a little windy and blown out but always wonderful.

We drove back and got our car after that at the hotel. Drove the Moose Wilson Road and then out to Pilgrim Creek. Pat followed us in his car. No grizzly. Did see a cow moose and calf in the dark woods. As you can see, you'll have to take my word for it.

We said goodbye to our good friend Pat. He was going to spend a couple days at the lodge by himself and explore in solitude.

We headed towards the Fishing Bridge and the Eastern entrance.

Saw a crowd of cars and stopped along the way, grabbed some shots of a large female grizzly. From a considerable distance, one the ursine beast could cover in about 1.6 seconds.

After a period we headed a hundred yards north and whoa, there was another blond grizzly cub.

It turned out that these two were Raspberry and Snow, a mother and daughter that Leslie and encountered on the ridge two years ago.

A very nice ranger told us that Snow was now three and one half years of age. Ken was very happy, seeing his first wild grizzly and nailing excellent and sharp shots with his Nikon D500 and Nikkor 200 - 500 combination.

I am not that happy with my shots of Raspberry. I should have grabbed my tripod but things were too fluid and I chose to handhold.

This was a big bear and I had to stay on my toes. But I should have done much better. Nothing I can do but brush off my defeat and wait for another opportunity hopefully one day.

I must say, I am very happy with my shots of Snow. What a beauty! I didn't get the bison coming out of the icy river shot, mainly because there were no icy rivers. But this one I am proud of.

To think I knew her when she was a baby!

We drove through the Sylvan pass, my favorite spot in the park. I had never seen it without snow before. Followed the Shoshone River to Wapiti and the wonderful town of Cody. Ken was hankering for a cowboy bar and we went to the Silver Dollar for an excellent burger. Forgot to take a picture of the Hippies must use back door sign. Nice waitress.

Local guide was killed by a grizzly recently. People around here say it doesn't add up. Guy is getting mauled and the rich client supposedly threw a gun at him and said take care of it, ostensibly mounted up to get help. She said no horse in the world will let you on its back with a grizzly so close.

I checked into my hotel, the Legacy. Nice but no elevator and I had a lot of gear. Knees were starting to ache. Great sign at the door.

Ken and I drove to the Irma the next morning, Buffalo Bill's Hotel named for his daughter. I had the best biscuits and gravy I have ever tasted and I never eat biscuits and gravy. Grizzled local cowboys held court at their own nearby table.

Cody is a neat town. At one time in my life I wanted to live there. The saying goes that Jackson Hole is for billionaires, Driggs is for the millionaires, Cody has regular folk, something I kind of like.

My class envy rears its ugly head once again. The chip on my shoulder was most evident in Jackson when the rich manservant in the base price $206,000 Bentley SUV tooled past us at the Albertsons. Capable of 180 mph +, because that is so necessary when you are off road. Picking up crumpets and brie for the masters no doubt. I reflexively flipped him off, no doubt causing my companion some minor embarrassment.

People buy such vehicles for two reasons I guess, because they can and to rub other people's noses in their pretentious wealth. Well, f*ck you. I'm very happy for you. But I would be more impressed if there was some actual utility to the purchase. May I suggest a G-Wagon?

We drove out to McCullough Peaks, a 120,000 acre wild horse sanctuary. We opened up a secondary gate with a come along and drove about four miles on an extremely overgrown and little used road. We passed two bowhunters hunting pronghorn. I was starting to get nervous about getting stuck, still gun shy after my Cochiti experience earlier this summer.

We turned around and found the main gate. Drove on a nice gravel road about six or seven miles to the #75 pipeline marker. You enter an incredible expanse that reminded us both very much of the Dakota Badlands. Drove down into the valley. Just spectacular.

We passed a large watering hole and soon found our first mustang. Gorgeous horse. There are lots of strange piebalds and odd colored paints up there. The story is that the Queen of England gave Buffalo Bill some Cleveland Bay horse stock and that they went wild when released in the area. I saw a couple more horses and a small herd in the distance but never got into the main herd, which I guess is sequestered on the eastern border.

Love the blond mane.

Got incredibly close to some pronghorns. Closer than you are supposed to be able to get.

I am just loading my pictures from the trip, can't really assess them totally at this point. Not going to dog them yet considering the conditions and the fact that I am pessimistic and they usually turn out slightly better than I initially figure.

Always wish I had done things differently, always learning. Took over four thousand pictures, hopefully a couple will be decent. Had a great time in any case, got better every day.

Next day we got up early and visited the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. This is five museums in one, one of my favorite museums in the whole country. Ken was fascinated and really thoroughly checked it all out.

I love the Plains Indian Museum but it seemed like there were less weapons this time, always objects there of immense interest for me.

After touring the Natural History, Whitney, Plains, Buffalo Bill and Gun Museum. The latter was under construction and slightly abbreviated.  After we attended a raptor show and met Kateri and Hayabusa, a golden eagle and peregrine that a group associated with the Draper Museum were caring for.

Lovely birds, unfortunately injured and not able to ever return to the wild.

Afterwards we decided to take the 120 north and get on the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway which some call the most beautiful road in America.

I took this shot near Dead Indian Pass. The road is absolutely spectacular!

I am not sure if Ken would agree but this area was arguably the most wild and beautiful of our entire trip. Wish I could have kept going but we ran out of clock.

I took a lot of shots and will be processing them for a while. Mining visual gold from Wyoming.

We met a local cowboy at a pulloff who was explaining to a friend how he pulled about ten of his cows up the steep grade. Told me they get a bear mauling livestock from time to time.

We drove to Casper for the last night. The next morning we drove to Denver where I caught my flight.

This is my last sunrise, leaving McDonalds in Casper. I am plum tuckered out.

It was a good great trip, we packed a lot in. I want to thank my friends Ken and Pat for both putting up with me and letting me tag along. Hope that we can do it again.