Posts Tagged ‘Hal Walter’

Resurrection

January 29, 2023

Desert Oracle, Vol. 1. May there be many, many more.

Weirdos and those who love them, rejoice: Ken Layne says he’s reviving his Desert Oracle quarterly, which many of us thought had died and was buried without ceremony somewhere in the desert, like Cactus Ed Abbey.

I bought and enjoyed the first book, a collection, compendium, companion, whatevs. And I help underwrite Desert Oracle Radio, the only audio project I support, though I subscribe to a wide range of virtual and actual magazines.

My next step along this twisted trail is probably subscribing to the quarterly. In for a penny, in for a pound, as the fella says.

In his “An Ode to ‘Desert Oracle'” in Alta Journal, Layne cuts straight to the heart of the beast:

Publishing a little magazine is attractive to exactly one kind of person: a writer who doesn’t want to work for somebody else’s magazine.

My old Pueblo Chieftain bro’ Hal Walter, who didn’t want to work for somebody else’s newspaper anymore, did something similar with Mountain Athlete, which lasted about six or seven years back in the late Eighties and into the early Nineties. Denver Post columnist Ed Quillen did likewise with Colorado Central, which has outlived him.

I contributed to both efforts in small ways, once loaning Ed one of my trucks so he could make it to a speaking engagement.

“Now remember, Ed, you can’t smoke in my truck,” I told him before he motored off. The trip took him about twice as long as it would have taken me because I wouldn’t have stopped and climbed out to burn one at every other mile marker.

But the closest I ever came to “publishing a little magazine” is this comosellama you’re looking at right now. The deadlines are flexible and the audience tolerant, and I can bear the small expense without having to sell a few bikes or vintage Macs.

Not adding books, podcasts, and road shows to the to-do list helps, of course. Saves trees, eardrums, and gasoline, too.

Besides, someone’s got to rustle up the grub around here. There are only so many hours in the day.

A matter of degrees

January 26, 2023

Bare trees, gray light. Oh, yeah, it was a cold night.

We’re still in the freezer section here in The Duck! City.

The thermometer has been pegged at 13° since I got up way too early this morning because I was feeling chilly even in the bed, which Miss Mia Sopaipilla appropriated after I had adjusted the thermostat (and provided her a couple helpings of kibble, a tuna-water ice cube, and a soupçon of butter from my morning toast).

“I’d like my meals delivered, please.
As in ‘now.'”

Of course, 13° ain’t shit to you stolid Midwesterners, Canucks, and other polar explorers. And my man Hal reports minus-11° this morning at his compound in our old stomping grounds of Crusty County, which makes me miss the place not at all, not one itty-bitty bit.

I remember stuffing chunks of cedar, oak, and aspen into our Weirdcliffe woodstove like a Vegas bluehair shoving nickels into a one-armed bandit. But Hal can’t even do that, because his stove is on the DL.

Thus he burns propane and electricity like a city feller while he awaits parts for his wood-burner, a Drolet Outback Chef, some Quebecer deal with an Eyetalian overlay.

I don’t suppose Hal will pass the time by reading the continuing adventures of The Count of Mar-a-Lago, now available on Twatter and Buttface. But he does have a perverse streak. How many people do you know who cook their meals on a woodstove in the the Year of our Lard 2023?

Shoes for industry

October 23, 2022

The shoes say “Yes, yes, yes,” but the cold feet say “No.”

My old copy-desk comrade Hal Walter and I have a habit of carpet-bombing each other in the morning with news items hot off the digital press, guaranteed to elevate the heart rate.

This morning he hit me with a grim item about a cyclist bludgeoned to death by Florida Man, observing, “Cyclists piss people off for some reason.”

I fired back with some AAA advice for driving in winter weather, since Hal has to take his son Harrison up to Leadville today and snow is in the forecast.

Next, since the lads were doing a 14-mile run before leaving Weirdcliffe, I doubled down with a running mag’s top-10 tips for legging it in the cold — guidance that seemed heavy on the buying of various items.

And finally, for the coup de grâce, I tacked on a hastily freestyled top-10 list of my own, possibly because the wind was blowing about 666 mph here in The Duck! City and the going outside seemed contraindicated. Also, I may have been slightly overcaffeinated.

Dr. DogByte Sez: “Run Right Out and Buy Some Shit!”

Tip No. 1: Buy shit.

Tip No. 2: Buy more shit.

Tip No. 3: You know you can’t be happy without buying shit, so buy some more shit.

Tip No. 4: Buy some shit, then run around the corner to the coffee shop and buy some more shit there.

Tip No. 5: Buy some shit, then step outside, mumble, “Fuck me, it’s cold out here. I should really go back inside and buy some more shit.”

Tip No. 6: Buy some shit for your squeeze. Maybe your squeeze will then buy some shit for you, or even suggest taking your exercise indoors and under the covers, where it’s warm.

Tip No. 7: No, probably not. In fact, she’s out running. So while the cat’s away, you might as well just buy some shit for yourself.

Tip No. 8: Now that you’ve got the carpal tunnel from buying shit, you should probably schedule an appointment with a physical therapist. Which is kind of like buying shit, except you can’t brag about it while showing it to your friends.

Tip No. 9: So fuck that shit. You’d have to go outside, if only to get in the car. Better stay inside and buy some more shit, using your good hand.

Tip No. 10: That knock on the door? Not UPS. Collection agency. Looks like it’s time to run after all. If you don’t have a back door use a window. Think of it as parkour. We’ll have some tips for that if you make it back. With a viable credit card, of course.

Time travel

October 8, 2022

Truckin’, like the doo-dah man.

• Editor’s note: It’s a gray, gloomy day here at El Rancho Pendejo, and Hal Walter’s road-trip tale has put me in mind of my own meditation from the spring of 2000, when the vile Crusty County weather had me thinking about snorting that long white line to wherever.

“I have been buggered to near death by the clock.” — Jim Harrison in “The Beige Dolorosa,” from the novella collection “Julip”

“How do I shut this alarm off?” my wife asked some years back. Her sports watch was cheeping incessantly, like a baby bird in a sack of crack.

“Like this,” I replied, snatching the watch from her, placing it on the kitchen floor and pounding it into a flattened silence with a claw hammer. We both laughed, but warily; killing time just isn’t that easy.

Still, when you see time limping along like it does in a snowbound April in the Colorado mountains, scraping the slush off its boots on the welcome mat of spring, there arises a murderous desire to put it out of its misery. So Shannon has begun hiding the hammers as I glare at the clock, as if I could will its crawling hands into picking up the pace, spinning me up some sunshine.

• • •

“We’re going to be late,” I warned my friends Hal and Mary as we dawdled first over stout, then over coffee, in a succession of Bibleburg bistros. It was my 46th birthday, and we were headed to Colorado College for a poetry reading by one of my favorite authors, Jim Harrison. Harrison seems the sort to bark at nitwits who interrupt his work, and I wanted his autograph, not his antipathy.

Jim Harrison laid his Jim Hancock on my copy of “Warlock,” though it was not among his favorite works.

As it turned out, we were right on time, and Harrison was late. A student of Zen Buddhism with his own temporal compulsions, Harrison announced: “I’m not a long reader. This will be exactly 52 minutes.” A koan for a birthday present.

Frankly, I’d have settled for a little less light and a little more warmth. Spring brings Colorado the heavy snows that we used to get in winter like everybody else, and the way my mental batteries were running down under the gray-flannel skies had me convinced that I was solar-powered.

My last escape attempt, a mid-March road trip to a cycling festival in California, was too short and not nearly sweet enough. I’ve been contemplating another to someplace where the locals’ knowledge of snow is limited to what they’ve been able to glean from the Encyclopedia Britannica, but you can’t pilot a Toyota truck to the Virgin Islands, not even in four-wheel drive.

And then there’s the expense. The rising price of gasoline aside, it’s not always possible or desirable to sleep in a pickup, which lacks certain amenities — like a toilet, shower, sink, stove, furnace and elbow room, especially when the camper shell is stuffed fore to aft with a bicycle, a cooler full of beer and a day pack crammed with computer gear and drawing tools.

Even if you pack camping gear and spend your nights outside the truck, you’re doomed to an occasional Motel 666 if for no other reason than hygiene, an impulse that will cost you anywhere from $30 to $60 a pop, depending upon your ZIP code at the time.

So lately I’ve been eyeballing used RVs and wondering whether I’m old enough to own one. This is not unlike like cigar-smoking; you have to be of a certain age to pull it off without looking ridiculous.

Too, as a cyclist who has played mirror-tag with many a blue-haired land-yacht captain over the years, the notion leaves me feeling a little like a Lakota warrior applying to join Custer’s 7th Cavalry.

And the entry fee for the RV lifestyle is a high curb to hop — even an elderly, smallish Toyota RV can run from five to ten large, while free-lance cycling journalism pays on the small side.

• • • 

In the essay “Going Places,” from his collection “Just Before Dark,” Harrison advises: “Do not scorn day trips. You can use them to avoid nervous collapse.” So with a light snow falling and the promise of more on the way, I jumped into my ’83 Toyota 4WD and headed north to talk to a guy who had a used, slide-in, pop-up camper for sale.

As I bounced crazily down our steep, corrugated goat path to the county road — this truck, which under a previous owner carried a camper, has springs apparently salvaged from a buckboard — I realized I’d forgotten my watch. A moment of dismay, then satori; I had more than enough time to make the noon appointment, and there was nothing of pressing urgency requiring a timepiece, so screw it.

So, after checking out the camper — affordable and nicely minimalist, with a cabover bed, a small sink and stove, a pedestal table and bench, and a furnace — I spent the afternoon idling around downtown Bibleburg, where it was not snowing, the roads were paved, and distractions were available in variety.

Drank a pint of Guinness and ate a burger in Jack Quinn’s; looked for Harrison books in the cavernous used-book store Gateways; sipped a tall Americano in a Starbucks staffed by two pleasant young women chattering away like magpies. Then I took my sweet time getting home, and not just because I was following a snowplow and an 18-wheeler up a slushy Hardscrabble Cañon.

Again, Harrison, in “The Beige Dolorosa” from “Julip”: “The clock is the weapon with which we butcher our lives.”

The character who writes this line on an index card — an academic rebelling against the tyranny of the clock as he comes to terms with a vastly altered life — then wraps his watch around the cord of his Big Ben electric clock and dangles both in the toilet, flushing and laughing.

He continues: “The damnable watch still worked. I put it on the floor, stepped up on the toilet seat and jumped, smashing the watch to bits. It occurred to me that I was getting a little excitable, so I took the remnants of the two timepieces outside and peed on them to complete the scene appropriately. I reached back in the cabin and turned off the light, the better to see the stars. They were so dense they made the sky look flossy, almost a fog of stars which had drawn infinitely closer to me than ever before, as if my destruction of time had made me a friendlier object for their indeterminate powers.”

Smash your watches. Pee on your clocks. Go look at the stars.

Truckin’

October 5, 2022

The Road goes ever on and on. Photo: Hal Walter

• Editor’s note: It’s your lucky day, folks. We have a guest post by my old pal Hal Walter, who invested a portion of his increasingly rare downtime in telling us a tale of that long and winding road.

By Hal Walter

I do a lot of driving these days. Between coaching a rural 2A cross-country team at Custer County School, and overseeing my autistic son Harrison’s transition to college life this fall, I am becoming more intimate with the Central Colorado highways than I really care to be.

Our cross-country team is traveling to nine different meets this fall, from one to three hours away, by bus. Sometimes I am the bus driver too.

My son is attending Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, where he also runs on the cross-country team — which means even more mountain driving to see his competitions. Because of issues surrounding his being on the autism spectrum I spend some nights and partial days in Leadville and also bring him home for weekends.

Recently on a Sunday evening, I conned my wife into joining Harrison and me for dinner on our way to Leadville. After an excellent meal at the new Thai restaurant in Westcliffe, Mary headed back to the ranch while Harrison and I pressed on to the Timberline Campus as the sun sank behind the Sangre de Cristo range.

About 12 curvy miles north, nearing the small settlement of Hillside, I saw something cross the highway in the dim light ahead. It seemed fairly tall so I immediately thought it might be an elk and slowed down. I don’t want to hit anything after some road debris tore a hole in my gas tank on an earlier trip, but I especially do not wish to hit an elk in my 10-year-old Suzuki SX4.

I also encounter a fair number of Amish travelers in this area, on horses, in carriages and more recently, riding e-bikes, which I reckon to be their version of motorcycles.

I hit my brights but they were useless in the twilight. Slower, slower. I finally rolled up to the place where I was expecting to see elk, but instead spied an odd-shaped object on the left-hand side of the highway where there is basically no shoulder. I’m thinking, “What the heck is that?”

It was initially a tallish Thing, segmented and rectangular. Then I realized it was a hand truck stacked with white boxes. It seemed at once to be moving yet standing still. That’s when I saw the smallish guy behind it, head barely above the load, pushing it along.

I coasted forward and looked to my left as I passed but could not get a good read on what sort of person this was. As I drove on I saw in the rearview mirror the hand truck crossing the highway right after I passed. Was that a homeless dude or an Amish person? It almost seemed like an apparition, yet I knew it was real.

At the next curve I slowed down again for a big Amish carriage in the oncoming lane with clomping horse, headlights and flashing taillights. A mile or so later at a ranch driveway I made out the silhouette of an Amish man astride a horse. After I passed he spurred the horse out onto the highway and in the fading red glow of my taillights disappeared south into the darkness. I drove on, still puzzled by the guy with the hand truck.

It’s about 105 miles from Westcliffe to Leadville. After a short stop at the Salida Safeway to stock up on some necessities for Harrison’s week ahead, we arrived at the CMC residence hall after 9 p.m. We schlepped the clothes, electronics, groceries, running shoes, and other items into the room. We straightened up a little, got the coffee ready for the morning, and went to sleep.

The next morning Harrison wandered off for breakfast in the cafe. I did some more organizing of his things, then headed off to the nearby trail system for a hike-jog. I then accompanied Harrison to meet one of his instructors before his first class. I spoke with the assistant dean. I talked with Harrison’s counselor. I went back to the room and did some cleaning, got a shower, packed up, and left Leadville right after noon, bound for cross-country practice back in Westcliffe.

I stopped about halfway home, in Salida, and got lunch to go and the necessary coffee. I also went to the running shop, tried on, test-ran, and bought new shoes. I ate while driving, then stopped to change into my coaching/running gear just before Hillside. I drove on. Just as I arrived at Westcliffe I saw up ahead something curious on the road.

As I drew near in the bright daylight I realized it was indeed a homeless guy still pushing his hand truck of white boxes, like something right out of “The Road.” He was moving so slowly the motion was barely discernible. In the time I had driven more than 200 miles and done countless other tasks that I viewed as necessary, this man had pushed his hand cart of boxes about 12 miles.

The testament to human endurance notwithstanding, a flood of thought coursed through my road-weary brain about the pace of our lives and the pace of others, what we view as necessary and how little others have. The spectrum of my own First World problems as compared to someone living at a snail’s pace. The craziness of our lives, and of our times.

Hal Walter hangs his hat outside Weirdcliffe, Colo., whenever he’s home long enough to take it off.

A Monday mooning

January 17, 2022

A smattering of Oliphant from the Mad Dog library.

A few observations under the Wolf Moon:

• A Puck in the gob. The Albquerque Journal has a little piece on my favorite political cartoonist, Pat Oliphant, who spent 60 years pantsing the powerful before failing eyesight finally pushed him away from the drawing board. I met Oliphant in the Seventies, when the Fine Arts Center in Bibleburg hosted an exhibition of his work. He was very gracious to a dumbass hippie kid who claimed he was a cartoonist too, enduring a bit of grilling and even volunteering a few tips.

• Dave’s not here. Hal Walter’s dad, Dave, recently passed away. The two had had their differences over the years, as fathers and sons often do (see O’Grady, Harold and Patrick), but Hal took a moment to remember the good times with the man who introduced him to the great outdoors.

• And The Biggest Midget in the Room Award goes to. … The Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. Every niche needs its shiny object, I guess. But if you can get to it via paved road it’s bullshit.

2022’s not so hot

January 1, 2022

It’s a wee bit weatherish in the ’hood today. First rain of the new year.
We’ll take it.

During the night, I heard what sounded like a brisk rain or maybe some wind-driven sleet peppering El Rancho Pendejo, a soothing musical overlay to the percussive fireworks, gunfire, and general revelry that traditionally accompanies New Year’s celebrations in The Duck! City.

Sure enough, when we arose to greet the new year we found a stiff wind, gray skies, and chilly temps. The weather widget reported 0.24 inch of precip. Yay, etc.

Checking in from Weirdcliffe, where temps were in the teens with a light snow falling, my man Hal Walter reported: “I have looked outside and see no good reason to get out of bed today.”

Of course, his neighborhood is not on fire. Hal confines all fire to his kitchen wood stove. Which he had to get up and feed (see video). Still, a man can dream, yeah?

We have a very slight chance of snow, but I won’t be breaking out the skis or snowshoes. It may be a new year, but I’m the same suspicious old dog. I’ll believe it’s snowing when I can write my name in it.

Happy happy joy joy to all of yis who keep popping round no matter what the calendar or your better judgment advises.

Born to run

November 13, 2021

Harrison Walter (center) signs a letter of intent to run for Colorado Mountain College. His dad and coach, Hal, is third from the right.
Photo: Joy Parrish

My man Hal Walter recently arranged a small signing ceremony for his son, Harrison, who will be running cross country and track for Colorado Mountain College next year.

Harrison is on the autism spectrum, and so making the leap from high school to college may involve more gymnastics than it did for thee or me. Writes Hal in his Substack newsletter:

It’s been a long run for Harrison, who began his scholastic running career in middle school cross-country and track at Custer County, and then continued into high school. Seven years in all. In the first few years we didn’t know what direction he’d run when the gun went off — or if he’d actually run or melt down. We’re still working out the transition to college. He may be splitting his time in Leadville between online and in-person classes, and doing some workouts next fall with his old team — and coach — here in Westcliffe.

A tip of the Mad Dog mortarboard to Harrison and Hal for a job well done.

And speaking of jobs well done, Hal recently announced that he would be stepping down from MetaFaceButt to spend more time with his Substack newsletter. You can subscribe to that here.

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.

Saddle up, buckaroos

April 6, 2021

Longtime Friend of the Blog Hal Walter got a little teevee time on the Tube of You recently when Nancy Hobbs, executive director of the American Trail Running Association, popped round to his place with a videographer in tow.

Nancy wanted to chat about burro racing, which Hal has been doing for more than 40 years, winning seven world championships along the way. So naturally he had a few thoughts on the topic.

The video is a three-parter. The first is up top, and you can catch the others here and here.