Archive for the ‘Bad news’ Category

R.I.P., Mary Pigeon

November 20, 2022

Heather, Beth, Mary, and Shannon in 2004.

Herself the Elder, a.k.a. Mary Gaye (Kerr) Pigeon, went west on Thursday in Albuquerque. She was 89.

Born in 1933 on a farm in East Texas, the youngest of 10 children, Mary raised three girls of her own and spent a quarter-century working for Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Her father, B Kerr, was a sharecropper. Her mother, Mary M. Kerr, was a homemaker.

Mary attended schools in Nacogdoches and Abilene, graduating from Abilene High School in 1951. Afterward she studied at Massey Business College in Nacogdoches.

In 1958 she married Robert Pigeon of Ontonagon, Mich.

Their first child, Beth, was born in 1960 in College Station, Texas. Shannon (Herself) was born a year later in Nacogdoches. And Heather was born in Frederick, Md., in 1962, after the family moved east so Robert could take a position with the Atomic Energy Commission.

With all three children in school, Mary went to work. In Frederick, she took a job with the First Baptist Church. When the family relocated to Oak Ridge in 1980, Mary signed on with the First Presbyterian Church.

Two years later, the couple divorced. Her ex eventually remarried, but Mary never did.

In 1992, Mary began working at ORAU, in a temporary position. It proved anything but. By the time she retired 23 years later — at the age of 82 — she was the executive assistant to a vice president in health communication. Mary loved that job and was proud of her accomplishments at ORAU.

Armed with quick wit and sharp tongue, Mary did not suffer fools gladly. But she had a lighter touch with animals, particularly cats, and supported the Helping Paws Animal Network of Oak Ridge.

She devoured mysteries on her Kindle, especially Susan Wittig Albert stories. Other pastimes included crossword puzzles, dining out, shopping, spending time with family and her wide circle of friends, and binge-watching episodes of “The Big Bang Theory.”

Beth, Mary and Shannon share a giggle in The Duck! City circa July 2021.

In her later years Mary wanted to be closer to her daughters, moving first to an apartment in Palm Bay, Fla., near Beth, and then to assisted living in Albuquerque, near Shannon.

She arrived in The Duck! City just as the novel coronavirus began triggering lockdowns in elder-care facilities, and endured quarantines in tiny rooms, conversations with loved ones through closed windows and/or over the phone, vaccinations, and masking, all piled atop the traditional indignities of advancing old age.

In her final year, with restrictions lifting, Mary was able to rejoin the wider world, enjoying in-person visits with family and friends, getting her hair and nails done, shopping, and going out for meals.

Shortly after her 89th birthday, COVID finally found her. It did not keep her long.

Survivors include Beth and Darren Morgan of Woodsboro, Md.; Shannon and Patrick O’Grady of Albuquerque; and Heather and Bill White of Smyrna, Tenn.; two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

No services are planned. Come spring, Mary will return to East Texas, where memory took her in her final days.

Out out out!

November 16, 2022

They said they wanted to get everyone outside. Turns out they just wanted them out of the building.

Well, Outside Etc. is at it again, driving an additional 12 percent of its staff into the vast publishing wilderness.

Newspapers and magazines made it possible for a wastrel like Your Humble Narrator to earn a meager living and even have a bit of fun while doing it. But at times it seemed that half the job was keeping one step in front of the headsman.

I got laid off once and frequently fled under my own steam upon hearing the thin keening of file upon blade. Oh, it’s not good here. How about over there? Or there? After a half century of this I managed to coast across the finish line more or less intact, albeit with two flats and a broken chain.

Lucky doesn’t even begin to describe it. I could’ve been broomed off the course and into the tumbril at any point, and plenty of spectators and competitors would have cheered as the ax finally fell.

It was and remains a rough old road. Betimes I miss it. But not often.

“Information wants to be free,” someone once said. Not someone who actually collects and distributes the information, of course. But plenty of their customers feel that way, even as they insist on being paid for their own labor.

I haven’t “joined” Outside Etc. for the same reason I don’t watch “sports” on the TV. I’d rather be doing something than reading about it, listening to it, or watching it.

Hell, I didn’t even want to work for Outside Etc. Not once I’d seen the contract. And they were proposing to pay me, not the other way around.

Maybe some things just don’t scale up well. I think I grasp the general concept — build a one-stop shop for all your sweaty fun — but it struck me as sort of a Spandex Ballet, some anonymous cable company with a thousand channels I didn’t want to watch.

It sucks to get the heave-ho. And I know a few of those heaved, and also ho’d. But some of them will stagger away from that crumbling tower of babble to build something a little homier, maybe more like the corner bike shop instead of the sporting-goods section in Sprawlmart. The rumblings are already out there, in forums, on Substack, even Twitter (though this last may be about like shouting “Fire!” in Hell).

Who knows? Without all those grandiose schemes weighing them down, Outside Etc.’s refugees might just find a living in it. And maybe a bit of fun, too.

Goodness, gracious. …

October 28, 2022

Oculartober

October 4, 2022

HAL 9000? Eye of Sauron? Nope. The last of the morning coffee.

Some people say I suffer from ocular rectitis — a condition that causes the nerves of eyeballs and asshole to switch roles, leading to a shitty outlook on life — but I knew that the PNM project PNM says it has not been doing in the arroyo for the past couple of weeks would eventually provide some entertainment around El Rancho Pendejo beyond the monotonous “beep beep beep” of heavy equipment in reverse.

So color me unsurprised when Herself texted me at the grocery to say our Internet had gone down as she was trying to do a bit of eBay bidness before heading out on her own errands.

Not a PNM project. We were never here. Now you gonna believe me or your lyin’ eyes?

Now, our elderly ActionTec modem takes a conniption from time to time. But I knew this time would be different. Just ’cause I got the ocular rectitis doesn’t mean I’m blind, y’know.

And sure enough, when I got home, the DSL indicator on the modem was bright red. And it stayed that way through three reboots.

So I step outside, stick my head over the back wall, and ask one of the hard hats, “You guys didn’t happen to clip a cable by any chance? Our DSL is down.”

And yea, all was revealed to me. The backhoe giveth, and the backhoe taketh away.

Neither PNM nor CenturyLink* could give a rat’s ass about our little predicament, so it seems we will be MacGyvering our online presence here for at least a week. An iPhone 13 makes a swell hotspot, but Lord, does that shit ever burn through a battery.

That’s the bad news. The good news is, Eric Idle isn’t dead yet. Cue the crucifixion scene. …

* Props to Raoul at CenturyLink for getting us back up in running in less than 24 hours, not the week-plus we had expected. He was down in a hole on a rainy day, which is a good deal more like work than cycling a DSL modem/router on and off while swearing a lot.

R.I.P., John O’Neill

September 25, 2022

Some of the Dogs take a break at Rampart Reservoir Back in the Day®. John and Cindy O’Neill are front and center, with Your Humble Narrator at right. At left, Michael Porter; behind, Herself and Michele Porter.

Our old pal John O’Neill has gone west on us. He was 69.

He’s probably already telling stories about his unscheduled departure over margaritas on the Other Side.

“I said I wanted to go doing 69, not at 69!”

That’s how John rolled. He would say anything at any time to anybody, and how you felt about that was strictly your problem.

We met John and his wife, Cindy, way Back in the Day®, after we moved to Bibleburg from Fanta Se.

They were both cyclists and runners, with side interests in the winter sports, and as he and I were both irascible potata-atin’ tosspots who had married well above our stations in life we naturally hit it off.

John and his spirit animal. Photo poached from the CRC website.

If you were in John’s orbit it was not uncommon to pick up a ringing phone and instead of the usual “Hello” getting a growling earful of “You suck.”

At least once, after he dropped by Chez Dog to find me not at home, I returned to a note on my car.

It read (wait for it): “You suck.”

A mutual friend, Michael Schenk, eventually declared that John’s Hebrew name was “Usuk.” I don’t think he consulted his rabbi on that one, but it stuck nonetheless.

John quickly became one of the mainstays of Team Mad Dog Media-Dogs at Large Velo, the storied cluster of strays too big for their bibs that rolled around the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado calendar to no particular purpose in the Nineties and Oughts.

While the rest of us double- and triple-bunked in single rooms at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic or Rage in the Sage, John and Cindy would rough it, camping in the sleet at some RV park, mostly to keep our horndog mutt-mate Bill Baughman from trying to drink Cindy’s bathwater.

John was working at Blicks Sporting Goods on Tejon when Herself lured him away to be her assistant manager at the Eagles Nest, at the Citadel Mall. As regulars know, she eventually fled retail, taking a circuitous route through office work, banking, and sports nutrition to become a Titan of Library Science.

But John stuck it out, a lifer in that vast army of people who see to it that you get what you came in for, even after Amazon started carpet-bombing customers in their homes from Sprinters dispatched via the Innertubes.

Today, John’s Buttface page lists him as “assistant janitor” at Colorado Running Company, and for sure he spent a ton of time on the floor over the past couple of decades, but not with a mop (as far as I know, anyway).

He helped Jeff Tarbert launch the shop back in 2000 and he’s been there ever since, though lately his contributions have mostly been from a distance, at a high-country condo, with a few days of each month spent in-house at CRC.

The original Colorado Running Company was at Cache la Poudre and Tejon, next to Colorado College, just a hop, skip, and jump from Chez Dog. It was a welcome bit of quality local retail, with regular group runs and holiday parties in addition to the solid product and customer service.

Now it’s way up north on Nevada, closer to the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (and Trader Joe’s, Pulpit Rock, and the Pikes Peak Greenway). I didn’t visit that shop so often, especially after we moved to The Duck! City, but I have no reason to believe that a change of location affected the way John did business.

But like the rest of us he was starting to notice the mileage on his odometer and thinking about the future, or what remained of it. We chatted now and again, most recently via iMessage, and he told me he had been thinking about hanging up his jock at the end of this year. Once Cindy did likewise maybe they might roam around the country in search of someplace fresh to land. Taos? Flagstaff? Albuquerque?

He’d mentioned some health issues — fainting spells, maybe a touch of something called “orthostatic hypotension” — but we did what dudes do: talked shit about it, told Death he sucked. Anyway, he had the medicos on the job and told me just last week that he thought his health might be back on the upswing.

But that was then, and this is now. John’s gone, and we miss him terribly. When we answer the phone henceforth, the callers will just say, “Hello.” It sucks.

R.I.P., Barbara Ehrenreich

September 2, 2022

She took what they were giving ’cause she was working for a living.

Barbara Ehrenreich, the journalist, activist, and author who never lost touch with her working-class roots, has clocked out. She was 81.

Her New York Times obit draws from the introduction to “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” in which she recounts wondering with a magazine editor how the unskilled survive on the wages paid them and then blurting out something that she “had many opportunities to regret: ‘Someone ought to do the old-fashioned kind of journalism — you know, go out there and try it for themselves.'”

Which is exactly what Ehrenreich did, of course, working and living as a waitress, hotel maid, nursing-home aide, and Walmart “associate,” among other things. Then she came back and told us all about it.

And though she would be writing it up, she wasn’t phoning it in:

People knew me as a waitress, a cleaning person, a nursing home aide, or a retail clerk not because I acted like one but because that’s what I was, at least for the time I was with them. In every job, in every place I lived, the work absorbed all my energy and much of my intellect. I wasn’t kidding around. Even though I suspected from the start that the mathematics of wages and rents were working against me, I made a mighty effort to succeed.

She was not, and is not, alone. And in her Evaluation at the end of the book, Ehrenreich proposed that those of us who live in comfort while others barely scrape by should feel not just guilt, but shame.

When someone works for less pay than she can live on — when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently — then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life.

What a gift was Ehrenreich’s life. Peace unto her, her family, friends, and readers.

Toe jamb

August 19, 2022

Habitually hobbled.

Well, I’ve gone and put my foot in it again.

I was in the Reading Room the other day, thumbing through AARP the Magazine, when I stumbled across an article headlined “Good Habits That Might Age You Prematurely.”

One of them, according to author Leslie Goldman and podiatrist Emily Splichal, is wearing supportive soles and insoles. It seems swaddling your dogs in Hush Puppies all the time can take them right out of the hunt.

“Our toes need to push into the ground to maintain balance, and our foot muscles contract to maintain balance and posture,” says Splichal.

Nerves in the feet sensitive to texture, pressure, vibration and other stimuli work with the brain to help you maintain proper posture, stay balanced and avoid falling.

The more you go shod, the less your brain practices those essential skills. The solution: We should all go barefoot at home for at least a half hour daily.

Ho ho ho, I chuckled smugly to myself. I already do this, if only because I am a bog-trotting hillbilly too lazy to bend down and tie my own shoelaces. In fact, I was shoeless while reading the article.

I was not chuckling yesterday afternoon, however. Not after meandering down the hallway sans shoes and spectacles and absentmindedly stuffing my left little piggie into the bedroom doorjamb. The neighbors probably thought they were hearing a Sam Kinison-Bill Hicks doubleheader at maximum volume.

An X-ray tech and a PA agree that nothing’s broken, except my spirit. But my left foot is presently propped up on a pillow with the two portside toes buddy-taped together. So don’t expect me to kick any ass for the next couple days, barefoot or otherwise.

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.

Empty rituals

May 25, 2022

Mia’s bagged it.

In a perfect world, I would be writing about a cat in a sack, the hummingbird snuggled into a nest outside my office window, or the bunny that just hopped by underneath it.

This is not a perfect world.

I have nothing pertinent to add to what James Fallows has written on the four themes in “the empty rituals of a gun massacre.”

Closer to home, Texas Monthly Dan Solomon reminds us that Gov. Greg Abbott, who has overseen a steady expansion of gun rights, is even more clueless than the rest of us if he really thinks the latest massacre is “incomprehensible.”

Abbott, who first won election in 2014, has had a lot of opportunities to learn how to comprehend this kind of violence. In November 2017, a man entered the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and killed 26 people. Six months later, a seventeen-year-old high school student shot and killed eight of his classmates and two teachers at Santa Fe High School, outside of Houston. A little more than a year later, in August 2019, a far-right gunman who had posted a manifesto online drove from Dallas to El Paso and murdered 23 shoppers in a Walmart. Later that month, a shooter killed 7 people in Odessa and injured 25 others. Thus far in 2022 alone, there have been 21 mass shootings in Texas. Uvalde is just the deadliest.

I’m not singling out Texas. Here in The Duck! City we have teenagers shooting up gas stations (and killing all the wrong people) over drug deals gone sideways. Plus, New Mexico leads the nation in pedestrian deaths per resident population, traffic deaths being another problem we have decided to do nothing about (beyond jacking our jaws, that is).

These are problems with solutions. We have decided not to solve them. We love our SUVs and our AR-15s. The body count is something the survivors have agreed we can live with.

Outside+ looking in

May 20, 2022

Ask not for whom the bike bell tolls.

Ring-a-ding-ding, bitches.

It was never a question of if, but of when. The Greater Outside+ Globe-Spanning Vertically Integrated Silo O’ Sports & Fitness, LLC, has begun excreting magazines and scribes, because that’s what vulture capitalists do: Gobble and shit, gobble and shit.

I knew my time was up last year when I saw the thousand-pound sack of boilerplate contract Outside’s drones expected me to sign if I cared to keep drawing funnies for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

After a quick semantic analysis boiled their bullshit down to its smoky essence — “All hope abandon, ye who enter here!” — I trimmed it to a few salient grafs that cut straight to the chase, sent them off, and never heard another peep.

Not long afterward, I retired.

Now, the folks who stuck around and did the work are getting the old heave and also the ho. Talented types like Ben Delaney and Nicole Formosa, to name just two. It’s basically v2.0 of Competitor Group Inc., which gave Charles Pelkey and John Wilcockson the bum’s rush Back in the Day®. Same old guillotine, just different heads and an Outside Gear Box instead of the usual basket.

I can’t speak to the quality of the publications that lost staffers or are going dark entirely. I don’t read them. My subscription dollars are spent elsewhere.

But if these pubs aren’t profitable, I’m guessing it’s probably not Ben’s fault, or Nicole’s. Might have something to do with an overabundance of supernumeraries who don’t write, edit, shoot, sketch, or sell.

If I were showing people the door in an effort to save money I might start with anyone who uses the bloodless words “product” and “content” to describe “stories” and “photographs.” There’s always work for people who think everything is a commodity, including their souls.