An Evening in Moab with Author, Adventurer, Naturalist and Poet, Craig Childs
Each year since 2005, I have visited Moab Utah in the fall. For my taste, the summers in Moab are too hot and the winters too cold. In the spring, the wind blows and the dust kicks up. In October 2006, I experienced almost fifteen inches of rain, but this fall the weather was as dry as a bone.
In October 2007, I was in Moab for a week and wanted to learn more about the town and its culture. Checking the events calendar, I saw that Craig Childs was in town, introducing his then new book, “House of Rain”. Until then, my only connection to Craig Childs was hearing him speak on the NPR program, Morning Edition. Not having read any of his books, I decided to go and hear him speak.
That evening, I arrived early at the Moab Information Center. With an auditorium that holds no more than seventy-five people, I was happy to sit in the front row. In the left-front corner of the room stood a stocky man dressed in clothing from the trail. As the attendees filed in and took their places on chairs or the floor, the man softly played a wooden flute. Only when he moved to the podium did I discover Craig Childs was the flautist we had just heard. Craig’s lyrical flute had created a mood for the slideshow and discussion to follow.
Demonstrating how important the book, “House of Rain” was to the career of Craig Childs, his personal website still goes by that name. Never using the phrase, “Great Disappearance” in that seminal book, his subject was the displacement Native American cultures from the Colorado Plateau around 1200 CE.
With painstaking academic research and fieldwork, alone or with paleo-scientists, Craig charted a course of migration that defined the culmination of the pre-Puebloan era. With Craig’s written guidance, I later visited and wrote about many of the places mentioned in that book. From Homolovi to Hovenweep and Mesa Verde beyond, Craig painted word-pictures of each sacred place.
In October 2008, I had the privilege of attending Confluence: A Celebration of Reading and Writing in Moab. Among the many guest authors, Amy Irvine, Jack Loeffler and Craig Childs each taught classroom and field seminars. The class was limited to forty budding authors, each paying $450 for the honor of close work with three authors. For his part, Craig Childs took our group a few miles north of Moab to a place called Seven Mile Canyon. There, among petroglyphs and sacred sandstone grottos, Craig encouraged each of us to feel the canyon sands barefoot before writing that day.
In October 2012, Craig Child’s latest book, Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth arrived at Back of Beyond Bookstore in Moab. With a crowd of about 250 at Moab’s Starr Hall that opening night, Craig Childs proceeded to electrify the audience with stories of catastrophe and redemption. From a campsite on the rapidly melting Greenland Ice Sheet to the still warm lava flows of Mauna Loa Volcano in Hawaii, Craig elucidated the constancy of violent change occurring all over the Earth.
Not wanting to use an electronic flash that night, I tried to photograph Craig Childs in a still moment. Gesturing to his own image on the screen behind him, I watched as Craig’s animated motions transported him into his own photography. Craig on the stage merged into Craig, sitting on the front porch of the doomed Greenland camp. Later, as he swept his arm toward a small patch of island greenery surrounded by an active lava flow, Craig Childs could have been Moses, pinpointing the place where he had found the stone tablets.
Although I had videotaped parts of the presentation, I later erased all of my video from that evening. Electronic media cannot do justice to the poetry of Craig's words and voice. Standing barefoot on stage that night, reading excerpts from his new book, I saw and heard the essence of author and naturalist Craig Childs.
at 03:45 PM |
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Refraction of Sunlight on a Kiewit Crane Creates Potential Air Disaster in LA's Sepulveda Pass
On January 29, 2012, I visited the Mulholland Drive Bridge replacement project and got a close-up look at progress there. Starting in Hollywood on a clear afternoon, I drove Mulholland Drive until its intersection with Interstate I-405. There I traveled west across the remaining north side of the Mulholland Drive Bridge. After parking my car and surveying the scene, I soon found a perch that overlooked the freeway and construction project.
With the natural light on my back, the late afternoon sunshine provided good visual contrast at the ongoing project. Along with the remaining half-bridge, new support structures and construction cranes fought for dominance of the scene. The Kiewit cranes had the upper hand, with their great, latticed booms dominating the vertical scene. Less than half as tall as were the twin derricks, massive new freestanding bridge-supports imparted strength and security to the scene.
Each of the massive crawler cranes had a cab painted in the signature gold color of Liebherr Cranes, a German manufacturer. That company, through its U.S. affiliate offers a wide range of mobile and fixed construction cranes. Each of the Sepulveda Pass cranes crane had a single latticed boom, which could be up to 89-meters (226 ft.) in length. With its boom painted black and sporting a white tip, the west-side crane created a high visual contrast against a clear Los Angeles sky. At that time, the east-side crane stood in full sun. After lifting a load with the crane, an operator came out of the golden cab and stood upon the huge crawler treads.
On the east-side crane, I could see the bridge contractor’s logo, with the name Kiewit painted boldly on the side of the long cab. Since the Mulholland Drive Bridge project required demolishing and rebuilding the bridge one-half at a time, these cranes shall see service at this site for years to come. Rather than simply leasing them for this job, it appeared that the contractor had purchased both of these cranes.
For some reason, I kept looking back to the golden crane on the east side of the freeway. Since so much of sunlight falls into the yellow and gold portions of the visual spectrum, the entire crane appeared to glow in the lengthening light. To me, the huge crawler crane appeared as a beautiful piece of kinetic sculpture. If I starred at it long enough, the golden crane virtually disappear into the scattered light of the sky. A shake of my head brought the skyward-reaching boom back into focus.
Before I departed the west side of the bridge, I stopped to take a picture of the lane closure created by the partial demolition of the bridge. When I turned the camera from horizontal to vertical, I realized that an old friend was standing guard there both day and night. It was Coney the Traffic Cone, of course. Too shy to speak, Coney had stood there for months hoping that someone would notice him as he warned motorists that half the bridge was missing.
When it was time to leave, I drove east across the bridge and then headed for the northbound on-ramp of the I-405. That ramp has a straight downhill run and enters the freeway just south of the summit and the bridge replacement project. As I descended the ramp and then drove under the bridge, I fired my camera shutter repeatedly. After entering the freeway, I stopped shooting as I passed close to the east-side golden crane.
Later, I uploaded my photos and began writing this article. As usual, I selected the pictures first and then wrote the text to match. It was then that I discovered the incredible disappearing crane. As you view the accompanying animated GIF image, you will see four frames in which the golden crane fades into the northern sky. Whether the golden crane poked through the veil and into another dimension, I cannot say. Perhaps it was simple refraction and diffusion of sunlight through the golden lattice boom of the crane.
Once I got over the metaphysical possibilities inherent in the scene, I realized that no matter the cause, the beautiful golden crane was a hazard to aircraft flying near the Sepulveda Pass. Although there are minimum elevation restrictions for commercial and private aircraft in Sepulveda pass, Kiewit’s Golden Crane still represents a danger to public safety.
Police chases on the freeways of Los Angeles are a regular occurrence. The first line of defense is the police cruiser or perhaps a CHP cruiser. Following in the air, is usually an LAPD helicopter. Above that, typically there are several TV news helicopters. With the golden crane disappearing into the haze of the northern sky, a Sepulveda Pass police chase could easily become an air disaster. If the angle of the sun is right, the pilot of a fast moving helicopter might not see the crane until it is too late.
As beautiful as the golden crane may be, it should be lowered and its boom repainted in high contrast black, with a white tip, just like the crane on the west side. Until then I will not sleep easily knowing that there is a huge Kiewit crane materializing and then dematerializing next to the busiest freeway in Los Angles.
Email James McGillis
at 05:35 PM |
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If You Think That Politics Stink, Then Give Generously to Sewer PAC
It has been over four years since the 2007 Quantum Leap Celebration in Taos, New Mexico. Since that time, new energy has been available for those who wish to partake. Yet, with the current global face-off between Old Energy and new, change is stifled. Entitlement thinking among self-appointed elites leads to abuse of power. In the news, selfishness, fear mongering and greed are the current winning strategies.
The 2010 Supreme Court decision favoring “Citizens United” is a good example. Through that decision, the court allowed shadow groups an unlimited voice in federal elections. Without divulging their contributors, “Super PACs” may now accept and spend unlimited amounts of money. In August 2011, Mitt Romney said, “Corporations are people, my friend”. According to our Supreme Court, perhaps they are.
After taking “appropriate expenses”, Super PACs use the remainder to produce negative political ads. Most of that ad money will go to media corporations that are key Super PAC contributors. For the energy, entertainment and media moguls, it is a case of having your cake and eating it too.
As they say, “Negative ads work”. With so much to lose, Big Money quickly pledged tens of millions of dollars to Super PACs. The resulting Super PAC ads have created a negative aura around the Republican primaries. With their inevitable negativity, Super PAC ads are likely to determine the outcome of the Republican primary race.
During a recent TV news show, I heard someone say “Sewer PAC”. What a fitting moniker, I thought. After my recent miss in registering “ChristianTingle.com”, I quickly bought the URL http://sewerpac.com.
If corporations and billionaires need a place to flush their money down the toilet, I can now provide one. Rather than writing about new energy and the environment in 2012, I plan to sell out. So hold your breath against the stench and watch for further developments at SewerPAC.com.
SewerPAC.com is for sale. The minimum bid is a “billionaire’s bargain” at only $1.0 million.
Email James McGillis
at 10:53 PM |
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In LA Traffic, Design Purity Outmaneuvers Common Sense
In July 2011, Caltrans contractors demolished the southern half of the Mulholland Highway Bridge, which spans the busy Interstate I-405 Freeway at Sepulveda Pass in Los Angeles, California. The reasons for replacing only one-half of the stately structure at a time are obscure. Suffice to say that local homeowner groups held out for purity of design. Rather than allowing the road to jog at either end of the bridge, those groups forced Caltrans to build the same bridge twice, one-half each time. As they say, “Only in Los Angeles…”
People who drive in Los Angeles know that “The 405” is the only freeway route through the Santa Monica Mountains within twelve miles. Connecting the San Fernando Valley with West Los Angeles, the I-405 is an ever-widening ribbon of concrete, and one of the busiest highways in the world. In January 2012, I drove southbound past the construction site to Marina del Rey. My return trip that afternoon took me northbound over the same route.
On that morning, I timed my approach to the Sepulveda Pass for 10:00 AM. With luck, the morning rush would be over, producing a lull before afternoon traffic built to yet another peak. All went well until I neared the intersection of I-405 and U.S. Hwy 101. There, traffic slowed to a crawl and did not regain equilibrium for the next ten miles.
As I ascended the Santa Monica Mountain grade, traffic snapped and bucked like a Chinese dragon. In terms of vehicular energy flow, it was equivalent to an acute myocardial infarction. As I approached the crest, I could see why our traffic moved so listlessly. Appearing atop the hill since my last visit, two enormous mobile cranes stood like sentries, one on either side of the freeway. From my viewpoint, the cranes appeared to be twice the height of the 100-foot tall bridge. The scene was so startling that traffic slowed to a crawl and then stayed that way until I was well beyond the construction scene.
Based on traffic delays alone, the current replacement plan makes no economic sense. Once this slow motion economic disaster is complete, Los Angelinos can then look forward to doing it all over again. From the coming Carmageddon II, right through construction and opening, those who drive in LA shall experience traffic jam déjà vu all over again. With the uncountable hours wasted by drivers sitting in traffic below, we hope that the hilltop locals who blocked the single-phase project are happy now.
Thanks to the local “design purity movement”, motorists will experience inconvenience for years to come. I wonder what the late Steve Jobs would think of this version of design purity. Unless he personally owned a house with an unobstructed view of the finished bridge, I doubt that he would have supported this cause.
As traffic loosened up, my vitriol for the Mulholland Drive locals faded from my consciousness. Traffic broke free near Wilshire Blvd. in West Los Angeles, and I sailed along at 65 mph. After crossing under Interstate I-10 (the Santa Monica Freeway), I observed a complete absence of vehicular traffic on northbound I-405. As I approached Venice Blvd., I witnessed the culmination of a California Highway Patrol traffic break on the northbound side of the freeway. Led by an animal control van, two CHP cruisers and several CHP motor officers sped away from a phalanx of stopped traffic that stretched for miles into the distance.
Listening to a later radio traffic report, I learned that someone had called to report an injured cat on the freeway. For the sake of that feline and in honor of the kind soul who reported it, perhaps 25,000 vehicles came to an extended halt on the busiest freeway in Los Angeles. Upon entering an LA freeway, a small animal’s chances of survival are almost nonexistent. I am an animal lover and have a pet cat myself. Still, I hope that iPhone toting animal lovers do not report every small animal that enters the roadway. If they insist on doing so, Los Angeles traffic may never move smoothly again.
On my return trip, later that day, I approached Sepulveda Pass from the south. From there I could see the Mulholland Drive Bridge and its attendant cranes. Silhouetted against the northern sky, the two cranes, new concrete bridge supports and the remaining bridge deck manifested as art. It is a sight so awe-inspiring that despite traveling uphill, many drivers involuntarily slam on their brakes. As traffic-engineers know, if enough motorists hit their brakes, somewhere behind them, traffic will stop. My morning traffic had stopped three or four miles short of the dramatic hilltop scene.
As witnessed by their reactions to car crashes and brush fires, LA motorists have a perverse relationship with those who trail behind them. During such events, the collective reaction is predictable. To themselves motorists say, “I’ve been delayed by the unknown and now I can see it, so I am going to slow down and gawk to my heart’s content”. That day, of course, group consciousness among LA motorists was true to form.
My slow trips through Sepulveda Pass that day allowed me to see the sights. If you hope to view this high art sculpture for yourself, come to LA before 2016. If you miss the first round of bridge building, plan your visit for the second round in 2013 or 2014. Perhaps Caltrans can rejoin both halves of the new Mulholland Drive Bridge by 2015. Then, hilltop homeowners can emerge from their survival shelters and enjoy the purity of design that they forced upon us all. Thank you again, local homeowners, for triggering the super slow motion Carmageddon that we now endure.
Email James McGillis
at 02:06 PM |
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