Posts Tagged ‘Hal Walter’

Fathers and sons: Going the distance

November 2, 2018

Harrison “The Blur” Walter hits the creek crossing at the 2018 Colorado cross-country championships. | Photo: Hal Walter

Kicking off his interview with John Cleese last week, Marc Maron talked briefly about being invited to play guitar alongside Slash and Jimmy Vivino while hosting a benefit show for The Blues Foundation and The Americana Music Association.

Maron plays, but not at that level, and noted afterward: “The thing I always seem to learn over and over when I am around real musicians is they have committed their lives to a magical art. I am always amazed and excited at how consistently they nail songs and take you on that journey.”

Hey, I can dig it. Now me, I’m a professional rumormonger, which is to say that I get money to mong rumors, mostly by writing, occasionally by cartooning. And after more than a few decades of practice, practice, practice, which has yet to get me to Carnegie Hall, I can mong a quick rumor with keyboard or pen at the drop of a hat full of cash.

And a very small hat it usually is, too. More of a cap, actually. The sort one might find on a pint of Jameson or a bottle of Advil.

But podcasting? It feels like typing with boxing gloves, or drawing with a banana.

So, yeah, I get it when Maron — who is a podcaster, among other things — says of his hobbyist guitar-playing: “I can show up, and I can play, but I’m gonna clunk up something … that is not my craft, that is not my art, that is not my form. …”

Which is the long way around to saying that yes, we have another episode of the distinctly unprofessional and gratuitously hobbyist Radio Free Dogpatch on tap. It is quite literally an amateur hour, and you might need the Jameson and Advil to get through it.

In this one I chat at some length (and some distance) with my old comrade Hal Walter about his son Harrison, who just wrapped his first year with the high school cross-country team.

It was an up-and-down season for the 14-year-old, and he didn’t qualify as a varsity athlete for the state championship meet, held last Saturday in Bibleburg. But as an autistic athlete it seems he was eligible to race an event for special-needs kids.

Now, Hal prefers to keep Harrison in the mainstream whenever it’s possible and practical. But Harrison had been talking all season about going to states, and while he hadn’t made the varsity cut, he did have a strong finish to the regular season.

This left his dad with a tough call to make. Give it a listen.

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with a Shure SM58 microphone and a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB audio interface plugged into a a late-2009 iMac, using Ecamm’s Call Recorder for FaceTime, which apparently will not survive Apple’s transition to macOS Mojave. I edited the audio using Apple’s GarageBand. The background music is “Matador’s Entry” from ZapSplat, and the race-day audio was stripped from a couple video clips forwarded by Hal Walter.

Bang a gong, get it on

May 2, 2018

The stars of The Pueblo Chieftain copy desk circa 1984. Two of us are still walking the earth. Guess which ones.

The news biz is a tough racket. Yeah, I know, “stop the presses.”

Up in Colorado, The Denver Post is in a bad way, thanks to the vulture capitalists who have been treating it like an ATM at a Vegas casino. They may be wiping their overfed asses with your local daily, too.

And now The Pueblo Chieftain is said to be in the midst of a sale to … well, someone. Some thing.

I worked at The Chieftain for a spell back in the early Eighties. It’s where I met my man Hal Walter, who helped me get off the cigarettes and back onto the bike — at that point, a $320 fire-engine-red Centurion Le Mans 12.

As I wrote in my journal in 1983 — you remember journals, a sort of analog blog with a readership of one — “I can’t wait to get it and start riding all over fucking town. I may take it with me during my vacation so’s I can get some exercise between drinks.”

Yeah, I still had a ways to go. But still, baby steps, amirite?

Anyway, Hal has penned a recollection of the glory days — and some observations about The Chieftain‘s future — for Colorado Central magazine. He makes mention of Your Humble Narrator, and yes, my lawyers have been informed, so you’ll want to read the piece before HBO makes a documentary of the entire sordid mess and we’re strolling along the red carpet at Cannes giving the finger to Tarantino, the Coen brothers and del Toro.

I see T.J. Miller playing me, or perhaps Rory McCann, and probably Justin Timberlake as Hal, whom we used to call “Teen Angel,” for reasons that should be obvious. I mean, just look at that fucking picture, f’chrissakes.

The long run

February 25, 2018

Harrison Walter (#575) competes on his school’s
cross-country and track teams. Photo | Hal Walter

The Walter family’s struggle with autism came in for a little attention in the press over the weekend.

My friends Hal and Mary and their son Harrison have been enduring the tender mercies of the Medical-Industrial Complex as mom and dad strive to get their teenager the expensive behavioral therapy that may help him with the impulse-control issues common among the neurodiverse.

Harrison focused on his schoolwork. Photo | Rebekah Cravens

Regan Foster of The Pueblo Chieftain — where Hal and I first met back in the Eighties — wrote about the Walters’ difficulties in a straight news piece and a more personal sidebar; both made the newspaper’s home page this morning.

The details of this particular tale of woe may be new to you, but the overarching theme is all too familiar: What happens when circumstances upend a hard-working American family that earns a bit too much to qualify for public assistance, but not enough to cover the out-of-pocket costs associated with private insurance?

“A $3,000 deductible plus a 30 percent co-pay is the same as not having insurance, except you have to pay for the insurance,” said Hal.

Harrison is designated as disabled, but does not qualify for a Children’s Extended Services waiver for Medicaid because his sleep habits, “while not great, are not entirely horrible,” according to Hal.

The amount of paperwork required in raising a neurodiverse kid (like appealing a Medicaid waiver denial) would be enough to put anyone to sleep.

That this is a stumbling block instead of a side note seems absurd; Harrison’s abilities as a student and athlete can be offset by his impulsive, occasionally violent behavior, which seems a greater concern for society than how many Z’s the family bags nightly. Someone is definitely on the nod here, and it’s not the Walters, who are appealing the decision to deny a CES waiver.

Hal and Mary are both long-distance runners, with all the stamina that requires and then some, but theirs is a race against time. Harrison is 13 going on 14, and as special-ed teacher Carrie Driver notes: “We have four and a half years to get him ready for life and to give him skills that are appropriate for him to be independent.”

• Editor’s note: You can read more at Hal’s blog, Hardscrabble Times (which is updated irregularly), and in his column at Colorado Central.

En pointe

January 9, 2018

Let’s dance.

Blogging is a sort of ballet, a piece of performance art originally done largely by amateurs.

But what if you don’t feel like keeping yourself on your toes?

Happily for me, I have you to keep me hopping. But my man Hal Walter has a smaller, less boisterous audience over at Hardscrabble Times, and he’s been wondering whether the game is worth the candle.

We have similar professional backgrounds, Hal and I. And we both dove headlong into the so-called “gig economy” long before it was cool and as a consequence have wives who outearn us six ways from Sunday.

But we find ourselves in wildly different situations at the moment.

Hal rattles around the rarified boondocks of Crusty County, Colo., whilst I reside in the tony suburbs of the Duke City. Hal keeps burros; I keep cats and what Herself claims is a dog. Hal mostly runs, and occasionally rides; I do it the other way around.

And Hal has an autistic son, while I do not.

That may be the kicker right there. A kid “on the spectrum” can be a real time-suck, and something of an unexpected and ongoing expense, and so Hal naturally feels compelled to devote the bulk of his attention to (a) his son, and (2) feeding the beast that dollars up fastest on the hoof.

This would not be his blog, in case you were wondering.

I hate to see it lying fallow, and say so now and again. But Hal replies that feeding the beast and shoveling up the mess afterward turns his brain to mush and leaves him with little left to say for free at Hardscrabble Times.

Where little is said, there are few to listen, and if the house is full of empty seats when the lights come up, well, shit, why bother to put on your red shoes and dance the blues?

So here’s my question: What brings you to a blog like mine or Hal’s? How many of these shops do you visit while making your daily rounds and what do they have on tap? Is it all about the words or do some folks do compelling photos, audio and video as well?

And if you like something you see on this blog or any other, do you comment, and then spread the word elsewhere?

Holler back at me in comments.

Recycled 5: The best of ‘Mad Dog Unleashed’ 2017

December 30, 2017

• Editor’s note: Since my Bicycle Retailer and Industry News column won’t survive into the New Year, I’ve decided to resurrect a six-pack’s worth of this year’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” screeds between now and then. This is No. 5, one of those rare columns that actually managed to elicit a comment (and a positive one, too) from one of my editors.

Harrison Walter expanding his horizons. Photo courtesy Hal Walter

The wheel goes round, whether pushing up or coasting down

“I wanta bicycle in hot afternoon heat, wear Pakistan leather sandals, shout in high voice at Zen monk buddies standing in thin hemp summer robes and stubble heads. …”—Japhy Ryder in “The Dharma Bums,” by Jack Kerouac

By Patrick O’Grady

“The Zen of Standing Around,” he called it.

Nobody would describe the Tour de France like that. But my friend Hal Walter wasn’t talking about the Tour, which isn’t even a blip on his sporting radar screen. He was talking about a stop-and-go mountain-bike ride with his son, Harrison.

“An hour and 45 minutes for four miles,” he noted. “About an hour slower than I usually run it.”

A short, slow ride with your kid, even on rugged, single-track horse trail, probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to you. And strictly speaking it wouldn’t be one to Hal, either.

His idea of a good time is the annual World Championship Pack-Burro Race out of Fairplay, Colo, a 29-mile run to the summit of 13,185-foot Mosquito Pass and back. He’s won it seven times.

Hal has some experience racing the bike, too, most of it from the Mount Taylor Winter Quadrathlon in Grants, N.M. The 43-mile Quad starts and ends on the bike, but in between competitors run, ski and snowshoe up and down 11,301-foot Mount Taylor.

So, yeah. Four-mile mountain-bike ride with your kid. No big deal.

Unless your kid is autistic—or as Hal prefers to say, “neurodiverse.”

Then every mile deserves its own milestone.

Saddling up. Hal came late to the bike. He was about 7 when he taught himself to ride his mom’s three-speed step-through, which was too big for him.

Hal recounted the experience a couple years ago in his column for Colorado Central magazine.

“I remember one day taking this hulking steel steed out to the sloped driveway behind the duplex where we lived, determined to learn to ride it. I started at the top with my feet to either side and shuffled along astride the bike while coasting down the short drive. Then I pushed it back up and tried again. Over and over.

“Each time I was able to coast a little farther between steps. It seemed like hours went by, and then suddenly I coasted the entire driveway.”

Rock and roll. Pushing it back up. Trying again. Over and over. Welcome to Team Sisyphus.

I learned how to ride early, with my dad’s help, in Canada. After the old man got transferred to Texas in 1962 we went for regular evening rides around officers’ country on Randolph AFB. It was a nice slice of family time, and remains a fond memory.

Here in Albuquerque a neighbor would like to get in on a little of that. After asking me for advice she and her husband have been bike-shopping, hoping to squeeze in some rides with their daughter before she goes back to college.

I can recommend it. And so can Hal.

Sport as medicine. I expect Hal wondered whether he’d ever be able to share his love of a good sweat with Harrison, who was late to a lot of things, not just cycling.

He’s had at least four speech therapists, but still has trouble with communication and comprehension. This frustrates him, and he lashes out, sometimes physically.

But with a little assistance, and a lot of patience, Harrison has been able to attend school like all the other kids—it helps that the Walters live in rural Custer County, Colo., near a very small town with an equally small school—and he’s inherited enough of his parents’ aptitude and appreciation for running to participate in the track and cross-country teams.

Spinning your wheels. The cycling is mostly recreational. Hal rides as a respite from the pounding of long-distance running, and he thought he might share this activity with Harrison, too.

But like his old man, Harrison took a while to master the technique, enduring failure after failure, until one day the nickel finally dropped and the music started playing.

He quickly progressed from a BMX bike to a Diamondback mountain bike, and got to where he was comfortable logging some serious gravel mileage alongside Hal as he ran one of his burros around and about.

Harrison raced the school triathlon, and started exploring the neighborhood single-track. And this summer dad gave him a nice attaboy, trading in the old Diamondback at Absolute Bikes in Salida for a used yellow Specialized Hardrock.

The truth(s) of the matter. None of this means Harrison will be chasing a famous jersey to match his new-used yellow bike.

He’s a skinny 13-year-old who’s been known to stop on training runs to call an imaginary friend on an imaginary phone. He can be loud, and occasionally unsettling. Your finish line may not be his.

The kid is doing his own race, at his own pace, and sometimes makes his own rules. Hal’s along for the ride, and if it takes nearly two hours to cover four miles, well, that’s how long it takes.

While Harrison fusses over the stickers in his socks, Hal practices the Zen of Standing Around, like Kerouac’s Ray Smith contemplating the first of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths (all life is suffering) and the third (the suppression of suffering can be achieved).

“The funny thing is he seems to have no problem pushing that thing,” says Hal. “Like it’s just part of the deal. You push the steep stuff and ride the downhills.”

• Editor’s note v2.0: This column appeared in the Aug. 15, 2017, issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

Dude, where’s my column?

August 24, 2017

The homebound leg.

Whew. Finally, chucked another Bicycle Retailer column and cartoon over the transom, just in the nick of time, too.

This fake-news bidness isn’t as easy as some folks would have you believe.

Yesterday the brain-lock was so severe that I had to resort to vigorous outdoor exercise to shake the nickel loose and set the music to playing.

Apparently I wasn’t the only sufferer. The trails were alive with folks running, riding, or simply enjoying a beautiful day in the Duke City.

Today — not so much. Gray, cool and damp, which is to say fine weather for making up stuff indoors and enjoying a rare cup of afternoon coffee.

A fella who’s not making it up is my old comrade Hal Walter. Check out MotivRunning for one of Hal’s stories about his neurodiverse son, Harrison.

Bear with me here

May 17, 2017

Peak load: Restoring the Internets the Western way. Photo: Hal Walter.

Ever have the Innertubes go out on you? Irksome, innit?

You ring up your service provider, if you remember its contact info (the Innertubes are down, remember?). If you don’t, then you get to pursue a long and painful search for same via tiny smartphone screen before enjoying an extended stint on hold, being reminded over and over again how important is your call.

After a few days of this someone who gives the name Nathan or Monica but sports an accent reminiscent of the Subcontinent pops up to lend you what you suspect is a very long-distance hand indeed, oh my goodness yes.

And you begin turning on and off or unplugging/replugging bits of this and that; rooting around in dark corners of your computer that, like a rough neighborhood, family gathering or all-hands meeting in an economic downturn, you’d prefer to avoid; and chanting magical yet remarkably futile incantations like “Fifteen-inch MacBook Pro, mid-2014, 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7, 16 GB DDR3, OS X Yosemite, yes, I’ll hold.”

Anything to eat in here? Nope. Photo: Hal Walter.

In the end, of course, you find yourself curled, unshaven and filthy, on the floor, in a puddle of your own tears, cradling your phone and its fading battery as though it were a dying baby bird, wailing, “I have to have my Innertubes! Do you have any idea what’s going on in Washington? Neither do it!”

Well. Suck it up, snowflake. That’s a day at the beach compared to what my man Hal Walter endured the other day to get his Innertubes barfing out the 1s and 0s again.

Hal texted me to announce that his Innertubes were blown, something that occurs even more regularly in rural Crusty County than it does in more civilized environs. Being a wag of no small renown, I quipped, “Dude. It won’t do. Did a b’ar eat your dish?”

Well. Yeah, as it turns out.

It’s not a dish on the house, which is how we used to get our Innertubes when we lived just west of Hal’s place outside Weirdcliffe. There is a tower, which sits atop Bradbury Ridge on Bear Basin Ranch, and it is powered by a solar-battery setup (the tower, not the peak).

Some of the guts of this line-of-sight wireless setup reside in what looks like an Igloo cooler, which to a bear looks like a pizza-delivery guy’s shitbox Toyota Tercel does to thee and me. The bear tried to find the delicious pizza inside the shitbox, but the innards proved undercooked, and off he trundled, leaving behind a cooler whose security had been dramatically compromised by bite marks in opposite corners, and whose contents soon would be done to a turn by the notoriously vile Crusty County weather.

Thus, instead of unplugging bits of this and that in the comfort of his own home, Hal found himself hauling 100 pounds of new batteries up to the tower via pack burro while a tech-support dude who was decidedly not from Delhi refreshed the coolers’ innards.

“They like to use coolers because they protect the batteries from extreme temperatures,” says Hal. “However, there is some discussion of a metal box. Our wildlife officer agrees with me that the bear likely had previous experience with ice chests.”

• Late update: The man himself chimes in with an on-the-scene report.

Looks like snow

April 30, 2017

Hal Walter demonstrates the capabilities of the Suzuki SX4 Snowplow Car.

And now, here’s Hal Walter with the weather! (Not brought to you by the Greater Crusty County-Weirdcliffe Association of Realtors®).

Curtis Imrie goes west

January 23, 2017
Curtis Imrie (left) and Hal Walter in a photo lifted from one of Hal's columns at Colorado Central magazine.

Curtis Imrie (left) and Hal Walter in a photo lifted from one of Hal’s columns at Colorado Central magazine.

Just when the Republic needs every man jack it can muster, one of the true wild ones, Curtis Imrie, has left us.

Longtime readers of the DogS(h)ite are familiar with my old friend Hal Walter; we’ve known each other for the better part of quite some time. But Curtis is the guy who introduced Hal to the manly Western art of pack-burro racing, and they were friends, rivals and friendly rivals for more than three decades.

As soon as Hal posts a proper obit, I’ll provide a link. Meantime, the long and the short of it is that Curtis Imrie was (among many other things) an actor, and while he played other roles — including that of the murdered Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Mike Rust — the part he was born to play was that of Curtis Imrie.

A scion of privilege (among his forebears was Robert S. Brookings, founder of the Institute for Government Research, which would become the Brookings Institution), Curtis drove a Triumph motorcycle across Europe and the USS Enterprise across the galaxy, and nearly got killed by a wandering 18-wheeler near the National Western Stock Show complex (where he finally did die almost exactly a dozen years later, reportedly of a heart attack, at age 70).

He worked in front of the mic at Salida’s KHEN-FM on Tuesday evenings; worked both in front of the camera and behind it on a movie that seemed to have no ending (and now never will); won the World Championship Pack-Burro Race at Fairplay three times; and ran quixotic campaigns for Congress from his ranch in the Upper Arkansas watershed nearly as often as he ran for the top of Mosquito Pass. That race, he never won.

Curtis was an honest-to-God, sure-enough character in a world of ciphers, devoted to democracy, donkeys and drama, a spiritual cousin to Ed Abbey, Doug Peacock, Ken Kesey, Thomas McGuane and the Pilgrim from Kris Kristofferson’s “The Pilgrim, Chapter 33”:

He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction

Taking ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

He’s gone back home now. Peace and comfort to the friends and family he left behind.

• Update: KHEN will host a live memorial tribute to Curtis beginning at 5 p.m. Salida time on Tuesday, Jan. 24. You can stream it at their website if you’re so inclined.

The ‘Scoop’ on burros and autism

January 14, 2017
The latest book from Hal Walter on fatherhood, autism and the outdoors.

The latest book from Hal Walter on fatherhood, autism and the outdoors.

My man Hal Walter is on something of a virtual whirlwind tour of the digital media landscape.

Hal recently discussed burros, autism and “Nature Deficiency Syndrome” with the folks at the “Stable Scoop” podcast. He comes in around 21 minutes into the show to talk about how he has tried to share his love of burro racing specifically and the outdoors in general with his son, Harrison.

You can also catch Hal on “The Outspoken Cyclist,” from longtime friend of the DogS(h)ite Diane Jenks. Hal’s segment begins at 26:44.

Give him a listen in both places.