This bites

August 16, 2022

Glass don’t be even half full, yo.

It’s bleakly amusing that The New York Times water scribe is named Henry Fountain.

And that’s about the only giggle in the “news” that we’re draining the Colorado River like a parched gaggle of Draculas tapping a hot blonde while not doing much to answer the question, “Why does the Southwest have so many vampires working out on this one skinny gal?”

It should go without saying that when you’re long on bloodsuckers and short on arteries you’re gonna start running a deficit. Is it too late to hit the Home Depot for a shitload of wooden stakes and hammers?

My fellow Burqueño John Fleck is on the case as per usual. See “How We Got Into This Mess on the Colorado River,” and a “strongly worded letter” from John Entsminger of the Southern Nevada Water Authority about the failure to reach a deal on Colorado River cutbacks.

NPR also has a piece, from The Associated Press.

And yes, I know, having spent much of my life bouncing around four of the states that draw water from the Colorado River, that I am part of the problem. What can I tell you? I am a creature of the desert, known to howl at the moon of an evening.

The children of the night! What music they make!

Just call me Bozo Lugosi.

Possibilities

August 10, 2022

Possibly rain.

Partly to mostly cloudy. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible.The Weather Underground forecast for The Duck! City

The gods are pulling my chain again.

Actually, they may be peeing on it.

We just got more than a half inch of possibility in about 15 minutes and Your Humble Narrator beat the deluge home by the chromoplastic skin of his mudguards.

I hadn’t intended to go for a ride. The original idea was to drive to Dick Missile’s Galaxy O’ Grub for a couple hundy worth of disco vittles.

But about halfway there I realized I was short one wallet (mine). So I pulled a U and in a cloud of blasphemy motored home, where I swapped the Subie for a Soma.

Some explanation is in order. I like to buy my groceries early, when most people are working, schooling, or riding their own damn’ bikes. This has the effect of broadening product availability, widening aisles, and shortening lines at checkout.

By forgetting my wallet I had squandered my chronological advantage over the Little People, so I thought I might as well go for a ride instead. Which I did. And it was very pleasant, thanks for asking.

About an hour in I noticed the clouds bunching up and darkening. As I looped around High Desert en route to El Rancho Pendejo things looked positively moist down by Four Hills.

“No worries,” I thought. “It never rains before noon, when it rains at all. Plenty of time.”

Uh huh. I felt the first few drops just off Tramway at Manitoba, and on Glenwood Hills Drive they were bucketing down in quantity. I had fenders on — all the Somas have fenders — but I had to mind my manners in the corners as I slalomed home at a quarter ’til noon, just in time for lunch, if I had any food.

“If only we had some ham we could have ham and eggs, if we only had some eggs.” You said a mouthful, brother.

Bats, man

August 9, 2022

“Uh, sorry, Batgirl. Misdial. We were trying to reach The Taxman.”

“Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.” — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, speaking at a U.N. conference on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Oh, good. I’ve often wondered what it would take to put an end to the proliferation of dumbass superhero movies. A global thermonuclear holocaust might just get ’er done.

Or maybe we just need the right supervillain.

It wasn’t the Joker, the Penguin, or the Riddler who croaked “Batgirl” in her crib. No, the killer was the Green Eyeshade at Warner Bros-Discovery-HBO Max p/b AT&T, who discovered — with tens of millions already pounded down this particular Bat-hole — that writing off a made-for-streaming Bat-flick on the conglomerate’s Bat-taxes would not be at all, well … batty.

Industry insiders cite two changes between concept and execution. The first, in ownership, makes this one-time “purchase accounting maneuver” possible, as long as the movie is never released in any way, shape, or form; and the second, in strategy, aims to once again give theaters a head start over streaming as in days of yore.

With a budget made for television, “Batgirl” apparently began life as a B movie in more ways than one. But it can’t be a net positive when the entertainment press is quoting sources as saying that “the film tested once, and the result wasn’t that bad. …”

Too bad for TV? Have these people seen TV?

But when studio CEO David Zaslav tells investors in a second-quarter corporate earnings call, “We’re not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it. And that’s it,” well … piss on the fire and call in the bats, son. If a cameo from Michael Keaton can’t save you, you’re fucked.

Speaking of fucked, how many of you have bomb shelters? Raise your hands … yes, you there, crouched under your desks as if we were all reliving Those Fabulous Sixties.

Which we very well may be, if you listen to the U.N. secretary-general.

“The clouds that parted following the end of the Cold War are gathering once more,” Guterres warned in his remarks to the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

“We have been extraordinarily lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy. … Eliminating nuclear weapons is the only guarantee they will never be used.”

Yeah, well, good luck with that, Tony ol’ tiger. We can’t even cut back on “Spider-Man” movies.

While we’re debating whether “The Sandman” is true to Neil Gaiman’s original vision, you can bet your Batarang that some miscreant is trying to steal a tactical nuclear weapon from the Russkies, hoping to vaporize a hospital full of nuns, widder women, and crippled children in Ukraine, and then sit back and watch the fun.

The subsequent tit for tat as old scores get settled would quickly strip the planet of its tits, and also its tats. Anyone who can swing a bat (har de har har) will be stepping up to the plate, and the game will not be called on account of accountancy. Not even Michael Keaton can save us.

The good news is, this will make for some spectacular TV. The bad news? It will be on every channel at once. Welcome to Fyou Island, folks.

Not everyone will get voted off the isle, of course. There will be survivors, in remote spots like Tierra del Fuego. And people being what they are, some bored techie-turned-sheepherder in the former factory town of Rio Grande will eventually link one of the locally produced netbooks, powered by a solar panel, to the scattered strands of the once-mighty Internet.

Of an evening, weary of sheep, he will follow this thread, and then that one, and who knows? He might even unearth the digital archives of Warner Bros-Discovery-HBO Max p/b AT&T, buried deep beneath the glowing remains of Tinseltown in a blastproof vault.

Maybe he stumbles across that unfinished “Batgirl” movie, with its Latina star, and watches it.

“Hijo de la chingada,” he will mutter to himself. “This sucks.”

The Dog, the Cat, and the Voices

August 2, 2022

Dark-thirty at the DogHaus.

Tuesday is “Pay Your Dues Day” at El Rancho Pendejo.

Herself gets up at stupid-thirty to prepare for the first of two weekly 10-hour shifts at the Death Star, and somebody has to make her breakfast and lunch. I keep hoping this somebody will turn up and clock in, but nix.

So I crawl out of my coffin like a dime-store Dracula with the insomnia, head out to that kitchen, and rattle those pots and pans.

By this time Herself has brewed a cup of what she calls “coffee,” given Miss Mia Sopaipilla an amuse-bouche, and returned to her sanctum sanctorum. So I toast a thick slice of bread, slather it with Irish butter and French jam, and deliver it posthaste. Miss Mia gets a butter-finger out of this and another small helping of cat food.

Next it’s lunch, which is usually leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. But honey-chipotle chicken tacos with black beans and Mexican rice seemed a tad aromatic for a business lunch, and so this morning I whipped up a basic tuna salad and built her a sandwich with provolone, lettuce, and tomato, plus a side of watermelon chunks.

Miss Mia is always very interested in tuna or anything even vaguely tuna-adjacent, so she got a couple tidbits in the process.

After Herself hits the door running at 5:30 I’m free to do whatever. Going back to bed always seems attractive, but so does a midafternoon nap, and what the hell, I’m already up.

So I have a couple mugs of authoritative black joe and sit in the dark living room for a while, half-listening as the birds sing up the sun, Miss Mia snores on the back of the couch, and the voices in my head start tuning up.

This is the sweet spot of a Tuesday morning. No NPR, no Zoom meetings, no phone calls, no online exercise/yoga classes … just the Dog, the Cat, and the Voices. And the distant grumble of traffic, which is someone else’s bête noire.

Going nowhere fast is just my speed on a Tuesday morning. I’ve paid the toll and everything.

Stormy weather

July 30, 2022

The AcuRite is wrong.

Yesterday’s power outage apparently electroshocked our weather widget into insensibility, so now come morning I have to step outside for a quick assay of the meteorological situation.

How tedious. A fella could get sunburnt, windburnt, soaked, frostbitten, lightning-struck, run over, or shot like that.

When Herself joined that long line for AcuRite’s online support chat yesterday their people proved less than supportive, shrugging their virtual shoulders and mumbling, “Hey, what could I tell you?”

However, I see from their website that AcuRite will happily give us 10 percent off purchases and keep us abreast of “exclusive offers, new products, and other useful content” if only we will sign up for their email list.

Nope. Let ’em step outside and holler if they have something to say to us. We are currently experiencing a heavy call volume. Please continue to hold (me bollocks).

Toasted

July 29, 2022

Skeeters drove Herself indoors to sit in the dark and play with her iPhone.

A power outage woke us at 5 a.m., and the usual comedy ensued.

I keep a largish Mag-Lite under the nightstand for the illumination/bludgeoning of evildoers, so I grabbed that and wandered around El Rancho Pendejo trying to remember where all the other battery-powered lights were hiding as Miss Mia Sopaipilla followed me ahead of me yowling, “WTF, dude?”

With the Petzl headlamps and BioLite lantern located I stepped outside for a quick assay of the situation. It was the usual weirdo, with half the cul-de-sac dark, and an iPhone peek at the PNM website disclosed a 40-something-user outage, no cause determined, restoration of power guesstimated at a couple hours.

Some dope fiend probably liberated a transformer, I thought as I made coffee on the gas range by Petzl-light. Afterward, Herself went outside to feed the mosquitos on the patio while I dug out my little JBL Bluetooth speaker, dialed up R.E.M. on YouTube, and cranked “It’s the End of the World (As We Know It)” at maximum volume for the amusement of the neighborhood. Or not.

“Shut that shit off,” Herself advised. But I played it right to the end and then danced around the house singing, “It’s the end of the toast as we know it,” because our toaster is not gas-operated. Oatmeal would have to do.

Let’s go get stoned

July 25, 2022

I don’t remember Jesus mentioning all the lovely lawns he saw
during his sojourn in the desert, where the Devil does his gardening.

John Fleck tells us that the Rio is not so Grande these days in The Duck! City.

In point of actual fact, it is dry. As in no longer flowing. Just enough mud for a smallish election; p’raps a school-board contest.

Notes John in a subsequent post:

Between the levees, the river in 2022 has begun drying in the Albuquerque reach for the first time in four decades, as we grind through the summer of our third consecutive terrible spring runoff. By one measure I’ve been using, this is the worst three-year stretch here since the drought of the 1950s.*

*When Your Humble Narrator was hatched.—Editor

Now, some of that green in our lawn pictured above is courtesy of the 2022 monsoons, which are supposed to resume this week. But a lot of it came spritz-spritz-spritzing out of our sprinkler system earlier in the year, when the sun was doing its Death Star thing on our back yard.

I guess even a dumb dog can see a Milk-Bone by daylight. Because Herself and I have agreed it was long past time we engaged a landscaper, and today she picked up the phone.

We’re gonna rock out, is what. If we absolutely have to have grass we can get it from the cannabis shops like everybody else.

Sketchy way to earn a living

July 17, 2022

Back to the ol’ drawing board? Nope.

Back in the late Seventies, when I was more yappy pup than Mad Dog, one of the editors at my second newspaper asked me why I was dead set on becoming an editorial cartoonist.

“I think you’re a better writer than you are a cartoonist,” he said.

Well. Shit. Nobody else around the newsroom seemed to think I was a fledgling Woodward N. Bernstein. Especially me.

I didn’t love reporting, which precedes writing and can be a very heavy lift indeed. When bored witless at school-board meetings I often doodled in my reporter’s notebook. As a consequence coverage could be less than comprehensive. And now here was this authority figure telling me that words, not pictures, were my forte, my future. Bad news.

This wasn’t the first “Check Fiscal Engine” light on my career dashboard, either. An adviser at my first college had told me how many editorial cartoonists were earning a living in the United States (not many then; even fewer now). Might want to cast a wider net, the adviser advised. Instead I dropped out and fished blue-collar ponds for a while.

At my second college another adviser advised that I’d never find any kind of work at a newspaper, unless maybe it was with Ed Quillen, who even then had a reputation for blazing his own trail. As it turned out, this wizard’s palantír was off by seven newspapers, and I didn’t do a lick of work for Ed until I had quit No. 7 and gone rogue. Those who can’t do, etc.

But I digress. Back to Newspaper No 2.

Your Humble Narrator at Newspaper No. 3, circa 1980.

The writing was on the wall, as it were. Happily, I could read. And even write, a little, as long as it didn’t involve first walking up to strangers like some Monty Python constable: “’Ello, ’ello, ’ello … wot’s all this then?” I didn’t care for regular haircuts or wearing a tie, and I only liked meeting strangers over drinks in some dark bar.

But a few years earlier, at Newspaper No. 1, where I was a copy boy, I got to sit in at the copy desk now and then, and I really enjoyed the work. It was why I eventually quit and went to College No. 2, the managing editor having advised that I would pretty much top out as a copy boy without a degree of some sort.

So at Newspaper No. 2, after scanning the writing on the wall for typos, grammatical errors, and AP Style violations, I petitioned to relocate from reporting to the copy desk. And I spent the next decade moving from one copy desk to another, editing other people’s stories, writing headlines and cutlines, sizing photos, laying out pages, and occasionally slipping a cartoon past an editorial-page editor.

And rarely — very rarely — I wrote something under my own byline.

Almost exactly 10 years after I read that writing on the wall, I found myself inching toward the exit at Newspaper No. 7, where I had bounced from the copy desk to the sports desk to the arts magazine to the features desk. There were no chairs left unoccupied and the music was winding down. The idea of courting Newspaper No. 8 — and then Nos. 9, 10, 11, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum —felt like a long pull into a cold headwind.

And yes, I had taken up bicycle racing a couple of years earlier.

Your Humble Narrator post-newspapering, in his second act as a pro cartoonist.

So imagine my astonishment when I stumbled across an ad in Editor & Publisher, the industry’s trade mag. Something called VeloNews wanted a managing editor. I applied. Got an interview. Didn’t get the job.

But I did get hired as a cartoonist. Finally! Pro at last, pro at last, thank God Almighty, I’m pro at last!

Cartooning for VeloNews was my first gig outside newspapering, and cartooning for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News would be my last. The Alpha and Omega of my second act, as a freelancer.

In between I did a lot of other stuff, of course. Covered races and trade shows, wrote commentary, edited copy for print and online, dabbled in video and audio. But it was cartooning that brought me in, and cartooning that saw me out.

And you know what’s really funny? I retired six months ago and haven’t drawn a line since. But I just wrote 700-some-odd words, and for free, too, simply because I love doing it.

Maybe that editor was onto something after all.

Microdozing

July 12, 2022

“Like, wow. Like, bow wow.”

It could’ve been an acid flashback, or maybe a contact high.

But after getting pretty deeply into “How to Change Your Mind” by Michael Pollan, I started to have some truly bizarre dreams, especially in the morning, just before officially waking up.

My favorite so far: I was the new guy at some newspaper and an artsy bunch was trying to arrange coverage for some event. I was asking who, what, when, where, and why, and also whether the artsy bunch might be able to provide, like, y’know, some art, an’ shit, when an old hand snickered and nodded toward the photo department.

“I beg your pardon,” I told the artsy bunch. “I’m new here, and I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes until I find out how big their feet are.”

Black and white

July 7, 2022

White Nobilette, black Privateer.

I was compelled to go to the Dark Side today.

The plan was to roll down toward the Rio and climb back up again, but I got no further than Tramway and Montgomery when the rear tire on the Nobilette went pssssshhhhhhht.

No biggie. In fact, it was my first flat since January. So briskly I relocated from the highway shoulder to the nearby bike path and effected repairs.

But this left me with just one spare tube for a 25-mile loop through goat-head country on a sunny July day in The Duck! City.

Well. Shit. Back to the ranch. Not to stay, mind you, but to grab another bike.

The New Albion Privateer was off its hook and leaning against the Subaru in the garage. Bingo. There were two tubes and tools in the saddlebag and a frame pump slung under the top tube. Moved the headlight and taillight over and off we went.

It’s not so bad, the Dark Side. Just a horse of a different color. Who’s your daddy, Luke?