Posts Tagged ‘Desert Oracle Radio’

Don’t blame the dogs (or the cats)

June 19, 2021

The weather widget hits that C-note again.

Summer doesn’t officially arrive until tomorrow, but I’m already pretty much over it.

This sweaty conga line of triple-digit temps is starting to remind me of summers on Randolph AFB outside San Antonio. Your options were the swimming pool or some indoor sport, like Monopoly under the Fedders window unit. Venture outdoors for the usual boyish hijinks and you risked sinking into the asphalt like a Pleistocene mammoth stumbling into the La Brea tar pits.

Eventually we’d flee by car to Sioux City, Iowa, to visit my maternal grandmother. This was not an upgrade.

Our neighbors have been scurrying off to the high country on weekends to camp or VRBO it for a couple days, take five from the heat.

We’ve been sticking it out for a variety of perfectly unsatisfactory reasons. For instance, rather than join me in blissful sloth and torpor, Herself persists in gainful employment. Extra-credit tasks are assigned regularly by Herself the Elder, lest the devil find work for her daughter’s rarely idle hands. And finally, Miss Mia Sopaipilla is not an agreeable travel companion. The sounds she emits in a moving vehicle make a Marjorie Taylor Greene screed sound like the “Ave Maria.”

But we can’t blame this on the cat. Even the dogs are out of bounds, according to Ken Layne over at Desert Oracle Radio.

“Take the dog out at 8 o’clock and it’s still 100 degrees. The dog’s looking at me like, ‘What did you do?’ And I say, ‘Look, I did not do it.’ But of course I did; my species, anyway. The dogs just went along for the ride. It would be nice to blame them. ‘You’re the one who always wanted to get in the car and stick your head out the window when the A/C was on.’ But it’s not their fault.”

Just deserts

June 12, 2021

Even the cacti are hunting shade.

“Just put a chair underneath the swamp cooler and deal with it all like a pro.”“When Everything Goes Wrong,” Ken Layne, Desert Oracle Radio

Gonna be a hot one — or two, or three, or four, or more — throughout the desert Southwest.

Especially out there in Desert Oracle country, where Ken Layne chats with author Claire Nelson about the time when her day hike suddenly got too hot to handle.

Here in the Duke City I’ve finally bowed to the elements and switched the Honeywells from “heat” to “cool,” because we’ve been having too much of the one and not nearly enough of the other.

And it will only get hotter. The National Weather Service predicts high temperatures of 5 to 15 degrees above normal for about a week (!) as a strong high-pressure system blisters New Mexico like a chile on the grill.

We didn’t need no steekeeng air conditioning back in Bibleburg. Nobody made us move to the upper edge of the Chihuahuan Desert. We knew it was wrong, but we did it anyway.

And whaddaya wanna bet one or both of us goes out onto the sunbaked trails to get the ol’ heart rate up for a while? No brain, no pain. If you don’t hear from me for a couple days call the Duke City trash collectors. I’ll be that bag of bones under the prickly pear somewhere in the Sandia Foothills Open Space.

The voice of the Wet Mountain Valley?

June 5, 2021

The Wet Mountain Valley with the Sangre de Cristos for backdrop.
| Photo: Hal Walter

I’ve gotten in the habit of listening to Desert Oracle Radio on Saturday mornings, while I inhale a few cups of java with one bleary eye half-focused on whatever news broke while I was bagging Zs.

So naturally I thought it was an acid flashback this morning when Ken Layne mentioned Westcliffe while running down a long list of places recommended to him for a Western hideout come August, when even the most hardened Mojave Desert rat starts to feel painted in not enough sauce but laid out on the grill anyway, working up a nice blackened crust.

He got a hundred or so suggestions, and Westcliffe, a.k.a. Weirdcliffe, was right there in the mix, rubbing shoulders with Santa Fe, Flagstaff, Salida, and any number of other places with better PR.

Someone even shilled for Albuquerque. Probably some flack at USA Cycling, which will be bringing its 2021 Masters Road National Championships to the vicinity Aug. 5-8. I don’t think any of their geezers will be zipping up the jerseys and fretting about frostbite when the road race tackles Heartbreak Hill.

‘You went to bed with a functioning vehicle. …’

May 22, 2021

Base camp at the overflow area in McDowell Mountain Regional Park, circa 2004.

Ken Layne kicks off this week’s installment of Desert Oracle Radio with a nod to a critter I know all too well — the “truck roach,” a.k.a. the wood rat.

Back when we were camped on that windscoured rockpile near Weirdcliffe in Crusty County, Colo., the deer, bears, ring-tailed cats, buzzworms, mountain lions, coyotes, and wood rats paid us regular visits. Once or twice the rats found their way into our laundry closet via the exhaust ductwork from the washer-dryer combo, which I then would have to disconnect and drag onto the deck so the furry little burglar could make his getaway.

On one memorable occasion, after we had relocated to Bibleburg, we drove back up to the Weirdcliffe place for a relaxing weekend in the boondocks. Herself dashed inside for a wee, and in short order I heard a screech worthy of a slasher film. An invading wood rat had managed to escape the laundry closet only to drown in the downstairs toilet.

But the pièce de résistance of our rodent experience centered on our 1998 Toyota Tacoma pickup, pictured above.

This outrageously expensive machine was practically brand new when one day it developed a hitch in its gitalong, an inexplicable stutter in its step. “This won’t do, not at all,” I thought, and lurched down Hardscrabble Canyon and over to the Toyota dealer in Pueblo that had sold me the thing.

The shop dudes said they’d have a quick look-see and suggested I go grab a bite of lunch. When I returned they were having themselves a huge hee, along with a haw or two or three.

Seems that when the young wrench assigned to my problem popped the hood, a giant wood rat leapt out of the engine compartment, then took a high-speed lap or two around the service bay before rocketing back into the truck somewhere.

The sonofabitch had been gnawing on the wiring harness, which explained the spastic nature of the vehicle’s operation. I got a new one of those along with some advice about various potions for discouraging peckish ratoncitos.

We never did figure out what happened to that particular wood rat, who must have been the most widely traveled member of his clan. I often thought of him holding forth to his grandchildren about the time he surfed a Toyota all the way to Pueblo and back.

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.