Posts Tagged ‘Desert Oracle Radio’

Space cowboy

April 24, 2021

“Night has fallen on the desert.” That’s Ken Layne, beginning each episode of “Desert Oracle Radio.”

Daylight has fallen on the desert — and in celebration, I just dropped a few coppers into Desert Oracle Radio’s tin cup over to Patreon.

It felt overdue. I’ve been eavesdropping for free, the way you do when you can. But suddenly, while listening to this week’s episode, I thought: “If I’m gonna keep riding this old greydog through the Mojave, I should really buy a ticket.” So I did.

There’s a lot of talk lately about what new “technology platforms” are doing to “traditional media companies.” Yeah, I suppose. You get to write, or talk, or whatever, with a minimum of interference from “gatekeepers.” And if you’re lucky, maybe the audience will forget that information wants to be free, become subscribers, and kick a few Dead President Trading Cards your way.

Most of what I read about the newsletter boom centers on its threat to old-school newsgathering operations. But Will Oremus at Slate seems to hit the nail on the head when he notes that the Substackers are mostly about commentary and analysis, not straight, original reportage of the kind we used to get from our daily blats before Gannett snatched ’em up.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the commentariat has snuck off the reservation. Even in my little backwater, cycling journalism, management realized early on that “analysis” was a whole lot cheaper than sending staffers to the scene because it could be done on the cheap, at the office, where they could keep both eyes and at least one thumb on the indolent tippling slackers. No airline travel or rental cars, no hotel rooms or restaurant meals, no credentials, no worries. Plus the office has reliable internet. Crank up those MacBooks and pound out the thumbsuckers, bitches.

Now the commentariat has realized they don’t need management skimming the cream from their milking of the audience, assuming they’ve built one and can monetize maybe 10-15 percent of it. Good for them, and good for us, especially if it drives management at “traditional media companies” to think about actually suiting up for the game, which is to say covering the news.

As a bush-league blatherer myself I try to keep semi-informed, so I help nurture a variety of operations, from large to small, outfits and individuals I’d like to see thrive. The New York Times and The Washington Post. The Atlantic. Charles P. Pierce at Esquire. Adventure Journal. Padraig and the gang over at The Cycling Independent. And now Ken Layne at Desert Oracle.

Sometimes it’s about the news. Sometimes it’s about the commentary. I’m a sucker for a nice bit of writing, like I heard in last night’s Desert Oracle Radio episode. It put me in mind of some of the grumbling I’ve heard from Hal Walter lately as Weirdcliffe starts to seem a little too big for its Wranglers.

What if, some day … what if we stopped working hard and stopped doing what we’re told? What if we moved to little specks of towns all over the country? Not the places that already have an organic bakery and four coffee shops with more almond milk than coffee beans, but the places built for things that no longer happen and where nobody ever came up with another workable idea. Old mining towns, old cattle-ranch crossroads, the mostly abandoned towns on Nevada’s U.S. 50 or U.S. 6. The real Las Vegas, an hour east of the wealthy island of Santa Fe. Far-eastern Oregon and Washington state. Places where you could maybe afford a house for your family, your friends, whatever arrangement makes sense. Clean air; hopefully, enough water. Clean streams for fishing. Walk your dog out the back door and into the wild. Keep a garden to attract the bees and the hummingbirds. Why not? What are you waiting for?

And now, here’s Patrick with the weather

April 17, 2021

The maple shares the eastern horizon with blue sky
and a few clouds … for now.

The furnace was chugging away when I woke up this morning. This, after some days of riding around and about in knickers and arm warmers. (Not the furnace. Me.)

Our weather widget in the kitchen told me the temp outside was smack dab at freezing — 32° Fahrenheit. No wonder I was wearing pants, socks, and a long-sleeved shirt, I mused.

Miss Mia Sopaipilla says she would like her meals delivered.

In my office Miss Mia Sopaipilla was tucked away in the Situation Room, monitoring developments, largely through closed eyelids.

The forecast calls for snow, which some of you are already enjoying. Any inclination I might have to bitch about it is tempered by the ongoing grim news about the state of the Rio Grande, which is likely to be drier than the proverbial popcorn fart this summer. Pinning our hopes on a stout monsoon season seems about like asking Santa Claus to lay a few bazillion gallons on us. We have not been good girls and boys.

Speaking of water, if you are fortunate enough to find yourself restricted to the great indoors by inclement weather you might have a sip from this week’s episode of Desert Oracle Radio. Ken Layne discusses the “accidental miracles” that spared so much of the American Southwest’s mountains and deserts from growth for growth’s sake, which Ed Abbey dubbed “the ideology of the cancer cell.”

Then change channels to KLZR-FM in Weirdcliffe, where my man Hal Walter — who seems to be Mister Multimedia these days — chats with Gary Taylor about the joys of running and other things.

Hal is enjoying a bit of snow himself up to Weirdcliffe rather than running his ass off at the Desert Donkey Dash in Tombstone, Ariz., where the forecast is for a high in the 70s. If he has any regrets about this as he feeds the woodstove he is keeping them to himself.

Going to town from the desert

March 6, 2021

Triggered by a listener’s letter, Ken Layne at Desert Oracle Radio rang up Phoenix scribe Jason P. Woodbury, and the two of them demythologize desert life a bit by trading observations about a few Southwestern communities — among them the Duke City, home to Your Humble Narrator.

Layne says our town “has a reputation as sort of the ugly stepbrother of Santa Fe,” which he argues lends it a skosh more soul than its pricey neighbor to the north. A working-class, salt-of-the-earth vibe, don’t you know.

Albuquerque “is sort of famous for eight of nine cars around you in the process of falling apart all at the same stoplight,” he says.

The ninth, of course, is stolen.

Also up for review: Palm Springs (Woodbury likes hanging out at the Ace Hotel) and Sedona (Woodbury’s a fan; Layne, um, not so much).

“Sedona’s like a vortex of intelligence, you know? And it all disappears as soon as you get there,” he says.

Vox clamantis in deserto

February 21, 2021

If you’re feeling the strain of a year spent sheltering in place, occasionally pulling on the mask(s) and nitrile gloves before carrying your 10-foot pole into the grocery store like Little John facing off with Robin Hood over the last sack of whole-wheat flour in Sherwood Forest, you’ll appreciate this week’s episode of Desert Oracle Radio, “Out of Our Holes.”

Ken Layne talks about the urge to join the coyotes on the night shift, the struggle to write in an age when the word has faded, and the joy of finally coming out of our holes to once again tell strange stories around the fire.

‘Atmospheric River’

January 30, 2021

Ghost anglers in the sky.

Can you fish an atmospheric river? Maybe. But you’ll need a strong casting arm or a flying longboat.

What Ken Layne has is a leak in his roof (or two, or three). But he’s fishing that atmospheric river anyway from the pier at Desert Oracle Radio. And he wants us in that celestial skiff with him.

“So get a bucket or a cereal bowl or something and we’ll all paddle to Hell together,” he sez. Row, row, row your boat, gently down the sky. …

Go tell it on the mountain

January 23, 2021

Yoo hoo … anybody home up there?

Here we go again, up into the high country where the gods hang their magic sombreros.

This time we’re in Pat O’B country, Cochise County, Arizona; specifically, the Dragoon Mountains, where the Chiricahua Apache leader Cochise bunkered up in the final years of his struggle against the white man in general and the U.S. Army in particular.

Ken Layne of Desert Oracle Radio takes us there, not by flying saucer, but in search of same. Climb aboard, and buckle up — there may be more than gold and the ghosts of Apache guerrilla fighters in them thar hills.

‘Better Call Santa,’ or ‘Breaking Bethlehem’

December 26, 2020

No snow in them thar hills for Christmas.

Father Christmas has done his usual drive-by on us. A few donuts around the cul-de-sac and off he shot into the frosty Duke City suburbs. Couldn’t ID the plate on that rig, but it was probably stolen, so why bother?

Anyway, all the John Laws on this side of town were tied up with some act of misbehavior down on Copper (and no, the irony did not escape us). We saw their Mickey Mouse ears all aglow to the west like some SWAT-team Star of Bethlehem as we turned off Copper onto Tramway, homeward bound following a visit to Herself the Elder’s assisted-living residence.

Earlier, Herself distributed freshly baked molasses cookies to the neighbors in a brazen act of socialism as I contemplated the verities.

Father Christmas,
give us some money.

We walked off our breakfast pancakes with a brisk hike through the foothills — “Merry Christmas!” shouted a happy family from their backyard hot tub, and no, I am not making that up — after which we motored off for the aforementioned holiday chat through HtE’s bedroom window, like family members visiting a jailed relative.

“I know, I know, you didn’t do nothing, habeas corpus and all that, but they still won’t set bail, and that abogado pendejo Saul Goodman won’t return our calls — ‘Better Call Saul’ my ass — so you’re just gonna have to wait a while longer, OK? Next time we’ll bring cigarettes and commissary money, I promise.”

Back at the shack we rang up my sister and her husband in Fort Fun, after which it was my turn in the kitchen barrel. The main dish was a largish Alaskan salmon filet (h/t Matt Wiebe) drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled generously with salt and pepper, and baked at 425° for 10-12 minutes, after which it got a squeeze of fresh lemon. Sides were white asparagus, arroz verde, and a green salad. Fake beer for me, a nice Provençal rosé for Herself.

As we ate we finished our binge-watching of “Breaking Bad,” because nothing says Christmas like an apocalyptic settling of old scores among meth kingpins.

Speaking of holiday entertainment, at some point during the day I gave ear to “Desert Oracle Radio,” a podcast recommended by Adventure Journal magazine. I’ve only listened to two episodes so far, but I’m gonna give it a tentative thumbs-up based on the Christmas show alone, which touches on our beloved Land of Entrapment and a few of its holiday oddities.

Herself thinks Ken Layne sounds like the Motel 6 guy. (“We’ll leave the light on for you.”) I think he sounds like the Motel 6 guy (with a smack habit). Take him for a quick spin around the Mojave and tell us what you think he sounds like.