Recently Read Books

  • A Delicate Truth- John Le Carre (fiction)
  • Perfect - Rachel Joyce (Fiction)
  • The Expats - Chris Pavone (Fiction)
  • An Event in Autumn - Henning Mankel (Fiction)
  • Winter in Madrid - C.J.Sansom (Fiction)
  • The Brothers - John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles - non-fiction
  • LIfe Among Giants - Bill Roorbach (Novel)
  • Empty Mansions - Bill Dedman (non-fiction)
  • Woodrow Wilson (non fiction)
  • Lawrence in Arabia (Non-Fiction)
  • In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helpren (Fiction)
  • Lesson in French - Hilary Reyl (fiction)
  • Unbroken- Laura Hillenbrand (Non-Fiction)
  • Venice, A New History- Thomas Madden - (Non- Fiction)
  • Life is a Gift - Tony Bennett Autobiography
  • The First Counsell - Brad Meltzer (Fiction)
  • Destiny of the Republic - President James Garfield non-fiction by Candice Millard
  • The Last Lion (volume III)- William Manchester and Paul Reid (non-fiction, Winston Churchill)
  • Yellowstone Autumn -W.D. Wetherell (non-fiction about turning 55 and fishing in Yellowstone)
  • Everybody was Young- (non-fiction Paris in the 1920's)
  • Scorpion - (non fiction US Supreme Court)
  • Supreme Power - Jeff Shesol (non-fiction)
  • Zero day by David Baldacci ( I read all of Baldacci's Books)
  • Northwest Angle - William Kent Krueger (fiction - I have read 5 or 6 books by this author)
  • Camelot's Court-Insider the Kennedy Whitehouse- Robert Dallek
  • Childe Hassam -Impressionist (a beautiful book of his paintings)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In the News

I love the news. I watch news shows and I read many online news sources to see what is actually going on in the country and the world or to see what someone wants us to believe is going on. The problem with the news is that it is no always apparent what stories have at least some semblance of truth or accuracy and what stories are essentially totally bull pucky. I suppose I have come to the point as a news reader that it doesn’t really matter to me if a news story is accurate or a total fabrication and I have taken to reading the news purely for its entertainment value. I treat many news stories as fictional short stories and try to get some kind of “gee whiz” pleasure out of them. Here are a few recent items in the news that may be true, may not but who cares they are nice reads.

Yesterday it was announced that 84 year old Hugh Hefner is now engaged to a 24 year old woman. I am sure there are plenty of skeptics about the motivation of both Mr. Hefner and his lovely fiancĂ©e, Crystal Harris, for deciding to enter into an engagement and presumably marry in the near future. I for one have concluded they are a perfect match and have much in common. Crystal was born 24 years ago. Hef started collecting social security 24 years ago. Hef likes like women that look good in skimpy clothing. Crystal looks good in skimpy clothing. When Hef was born in 1926, Calvin Coolidge was president. When Crystal was born in 1986, Ronald Reagan was president. Both presidents were republicans. If Hef was an 84 year old man working part time at 7-11 rather than the fabulous wealthy founder of the Playboy empire he would still want to marry Crystal, a 24 year old sex goddess. If Hef was an 84 year old man working part time at 7-11 rather than the fabulous wealthy founder of the Playboy empire, Crystal would still want to marry – ok forget that comparison, it may not be the best example. Anyway if Hef wants to marry Crystal and Crystal wants to marry Hef, who cares. Congratulations to the both of them.

There have been a lot of news articles lately debating the issue of whether Oprah and her friend Gail are lesbians. Why is this news? Does anyone truly care whether Oprah is a lesbian? I don’t. I think Oprah is a self-made, successful person who has become an iconic cultural force. Her recommendations cause books to become best sellers. She interviews entertainers, politicians and ordinary folks who have had extra ordinary things (good or bad) happen in their life. She has produced movies and starred in movies. She has developed several television shows that have become successful. I think she seems like a decent person. Who cares if she is or isn’t a lesbian.

Here is a story I read on December 9, 2010 written by Buck Wolf:

“I had no idea Harry Potter was so... erotic. On the other hand, the name "Harry Potter" does have a certain porn-star quality to it. In any case, police in South Carolina say this man was caught in a theater touching his own magic wand during a showing of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," which I'm going to have to see now. Police say they received a 911 call from the theater. When officers arrived, employees took them to the "projection booth" (doesn't that sound dirty, too?) where police say they were able to watch the man cast spells all over himself, according to Savannah Now. No idea how long they watched, but the man was ultimately charged with felony exposure."

I really don’t have anything to add to this story.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Spirit

Last night something happened. For the first time this season I got in the Christmas spirit. What triggered it ? Well I will tell you but you need to wait until you get to the end of this essay.

Monday morning I woke up around 4:00 am in Palm Desert to catch a 6:30 am flight from Palm Springs to Salt Lake City. Although I usually wake up early, it seems as though when I get up early to fly back to Salt Lake it seems too early. After a goodbye kiss from a sleepy Lovely Sharon, I drove through the dark desert morning to the airport. It was so early that when I arrived at the airport even the car rental companies were not yet open. I left my key in the Budget Car Rental key box and made my way to security. I made it through security relatively quickly and headed to gate 18. As I waited in the terminal, I looked at my fellow travelers. Everyone looked sleepy or otherwise subdued; no smiles, no laughter and really no conversation. People were reading papers, drinking coffee and listening to overhead boarding announcements. I finally got on the plane and sat in Seat 2C, an aisle seat on the Canadair Regional Jet. I tried to read but ultimately fell asleep for almost 45 minutes. We arrived in Salt Lake and I was at my desk by 10:00. My Monday work week had started.

During the week I had a number of client meetings phone conferences, contracts to draft and a court hearing in federal court. Monday and Tuesday were unusually warm in Salt Lake and snow from the previous storms had melted. The green grass again was visible. It didn’t feel like Christmas, it felt like March. My Salt Lake house does not look like Christmas either, no tree, no presents, no decorations and for that matter no people, just me. Coming home from work each late afternoon to cold and quiet house certainly did not feel Christmassy. Tuesday night I had dinner with 8 or 10 fellows from my Thursday golf group, each of them dear friends. It was a wonderful evening of friendship, laughter and man hugs. These fellows mean a lot to me but the evening did not trigger a Christmas feeling in me. I was happy but I did not yet have the feeling of Christmas joy in my heart. You know the feeling; it’s a different feeling than just happy. It’s a feeling of peace on earth good will to all. The feeling that Ebenezer Scrooge felt when he awoke on Christmas morning after a night of seeing Christmas past, Christmas present and Christmas future,

Wednesday morning I awoke to find that it had snowed heavily over night. The yard, driveway and walks were covered in snow. It was cold, it looked like winter but still I was not yet in that elusive Christmas spirit. It just felt like life as normal.

On Friday, I delivered blankets, clothes, diapers and other items to a giving program I have been involved with for the last 21 years. The recipients are the Rescue Mission, Women and Children in Jeopardy and a program that feeds the homeless under one of Salt Lake City’s viaducts. Some years making this delivery puts me in the Christmas spirit, but for some reason not this year. On my way to the place of delivery, the Utah State Bar Association building, I was on the cell phone talking to a client about a number of issues concerning his business. Almost absent mindedly, I dropped off the donations that were in my car. From there I drove to a craftsman who was blocking and cleaning six of my fedoras. I was sort of irritated because the hats were supposed to be ready the previous week but they weren’t and now only four were done. I need to go back again for a third time next week to picked the remaining two hats.

After the hat store, I stopped at an office supply store, a drug store and then home. Home was too quiet for a December, Friday afternoon. I walked from one room to another, but none seemed inviting, they just felt like rooms, even the Bud Cave. I decided to go to a movie. The theater was full of couples and groups of folks quietly talking waiting for the movie to start. I selected a seat on the far side, away from every one and watched the movie. It was very cold when I left the theatre to find my car. The house was still quiet when I arrived home. I microwaved some frozen food for dinner.

After eating dinner, I finally turned on the television and was surfing through the channels and came upon show called “Christmas in Washington”. This was a musical program from Washington D.C. that was attended my many, including the President, his wife and daughters. There were a number of performers and a large chorus. As I sat on my sofa, the sounds of Silent Night, O Holy Night, and Away in a Manager filled the Bud Cave.

It struck me how much I love Christmas music, particularly the old traditional songs, the ones that seem to stir your sole or give you chills when the volume is cranked up. I was humming with the songs coming from the TV. As the President sat in the audience, his arm was draped around the shoulder of his oldest daughter. The youngest daughter was leaning against the First Lady, holding hands, mother and daughter. Somehow listening to these beloved Christmas songs and watching the first family looking like any other American family at Christmas turned the light of Christmas spirit on inside of me. When the program finally ended, I felt at peace. I felt Christmas joy. I realized again that Christmas does mean something to me apart from gifts, from commercialization and from hoards of shoppers. For me it is a time to contemplate my actions of the last year. Was I helpful to others, did I show kindness and love enough to those around me? Did I help the unfortunate as much as I could have? Were my actions worthy of the spiritual gifts of Christmas that we have all received? Probably not. I need to do better.

Today is a new day, Christmas is still week away and just like Ebenezer Scrooge awakening on Christmas morning with joy in his heart and relief that there was still time left to do right, there is time for me and time for you to do something for others. Something that means something.

Merry Christmas to each of you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Important Stuff I have Been Thinking About

I have been home alone quite a bit for the last 45 days or so and have had plenty of time to think about important things in life. Ideas that need to be explored. Questions that need to be answered. Maybe it will expand your horizons and bring a certain amount of enlightenment to you if I share some of these intellectual and, yes, somewhat mystical ideas, questions and comments with you. Maybe you should not read this essay unless you are relaxed and are enjoying a nice warm cup of herbal tea, or a glass of that special wine. For those of you in a contemplative mood consider the following:

Just how big is a “rounded teaspoon”? I cook fairly often and I find myself frequently making a recipe that calls for a rounded teaspoon of something. I struggle with the concept of exactly just how high above the top edge of the spoon do you go for a properly rounded teaspoon. If you think about it, the volume of spice, or flour or sugar that can be put in a teaspoon can vary tremendously depending on how high you pile it. Does the word “rounded” mean literally what it says “rounded”? I doubt it because if you attempted to make the volume of content exactly round it would fall out of the spoon. Does rounded mean a slight arc above the sides of the spoon? I really don’t know. What is the difference between a rounded teaspoon and a heaping teaspoon? I suppose these culinary mysteries will continue to challenge me.

I just read an article about a Russian Billionaire who bought an island just to house his art collection. I know how the fellow feels. If you have the art and you have the money what’s wrong with spending some of your personal wealth for the beautiful and important things you love. I am thinking about doing the same thing. In this economy my “wealth” has plummeted but I still have enough to buy some things. I have decided to buy a new toaster. My current one does not seem to be doing the trick for me. I don’t want to go crazy so I think I will buy a two slice toaster as opposed to the more expensive and luxurious four slice toaster.

I just read another article that reported that Walmart is going get involved in the war on terror. What does that mean? I imagine while in Walmart you will be hearing announcements like: “There is a blue light special in the diaper department, just go through the body scan and pat down on aisle 13 and grab a couple of bags of diapers made in Malaysia by workers making a dollar a day. If you see anyone that looks suspicious, please let a store employee know. If you see an unattended shopping cart, please notify security immediately”. I think we may be over reacting on everything.

I send a fair number of notes and cards to folks. I think a nice note received in the mail is a little more special than an email even if the email expresses the same sentiments as the written note. Don’t get me wrong, a thank you email or other nice sentiment sent to me by email is well appreciated but I do love to send and receive a note or card delivered by one of God’s own, a member of the US Postal Service. Because I send cards by mail, I buy a fair amount of stamps. The post office has a big variety of wonderful stamps. Stamps that are colorful or historical or whimsical. Stamps celebrating a particular season or holiday. Wonderful stamps are indeed available. A month or so ago I bought some special stamps in addition to the just regular first class stamps. I bought stamps that say “Love”. I bought a sheet of stamps with the black and white photo of old time singer Kate Smith. Finally I bought a sheet of stamps of famous sailors who are each depicted in a black and white photo. In retrospect these were not very good stamp choices.

The persons who in the group of appropriate addressees for the Love stamps is fairly small. I mean I may like someone or even really like someone but do I really want to express the sentiment of Love to such addressee by affixing a stamp that explicitly expresses the concept of Love on the envelope? Not really. So who do I send the Love stamps to? Certainly the Lovely Sharon in a proper candidate. But do I put a Love stamp on the thank you note I send to the yard guy for his good work for the last season? No, I don’t.

The other day I made my car payment and without thinking, I put a Love stamp on my payment to GMAC. I like GMAC, I appreciate their loan that allowed me to buy my Buick Enclave, but I cannot honestly say I love GMAC. Once I put the stamp on the envelope, I was locked in. I could not throw a properly addressed and stamped envelope away could I? So I mailed it. When GMAC gets my payment mailed in an envelope with the word Love on it what social obligations do they have to me? Are they obliged to send me a thank you note? Do they reduce my next payment? Do they invite me to the company picnic next summer? I mean the tax payers bailed out GM and its GMAC subsidiary with millions if not billions in loans and guarantees. As a tax payer I was one of those people helping with the bailouts, right? After I help with the GMAC bailout, I send them an envelope with Love written on the stamp. They must be wondering what I am after.

I have also had a conceptional problem with the Kate Smith stamps and the Naval hero’s stamps. What do I really do with them? They are too unusual to use on regular bills and who would you be sending a note to that upon receipt would think ”What a nice stamp with Kate Smith on it” or “ Wonderful,, Bud sent me a card with a stamp that has William S. Sims on it”. One of the Naval heroes stamp is a black guy whose first name is Doris. Really, a naval hero named Doris? Makes you wonder what is up with the “don’t ask don’t tell” controversy when we have already celebrated in our stamps a fellow named Doris.

The other thing I have been thinking about is the Tea Party leader who suggested that only property owners should be allowed to vote. According to this fellow, if you don’t own property, you should not be allowed to vote. You don’t have enough vested in things to be able to vote as an American citizen. Regardless of your political leanings, do you really want a political movement that wants to take away the right to vote? Remember in the beginning of our country’s history, women could not vote, blacks could not vote and for the most part only white property owners could vote. Is that what the Tea Party wants? Why does this kind of thinking not outrage all of us.? I think I am going to send this guy a letter telling him he is crazy and un-American. I think I will put a Kate Smith stamp on the envelope. Wait, maybe I should put a Love stamp on the envelope. The mixed message between the content of my letter and the Love stamp might drive him crazy.

Kate Smith and I send you holiday wishes.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Loneliest Highway in America

After a wonderful Thanksgiving week in Palm Desert, I left early the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving to drive back to Salt Lake. My journey from Palm Desert to Las Vegas was my normal route through Twenty Nine Palms, Amboy, Kelso, Cima and then Primm, Nevada. I have described this ride through the Mojave Desert before in this blog (http://www.bheadman.com/2009/10/off-beaten-track.html). It’s a beautiful ride through a desolate but beautiful landscape. After leaving Las Vegas, I made a last minute decision to take a different route home. Rather than take I-15 all the way from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, I decided to take Highway 93 (the Great Basin Highway) north through the middle of Nevada. I was on this road when I was about 13 years old when my family drove home this way from a boating trip to Lake Meade. That was 45 or 46 years ago. I don’t remember actually taking the drive I just remember we that took it and it seemed to take forever. I have wanted to try this route again but I always seem to be in a hurry to get to Palm Desert from Salt Lake or get to Salt Lake from Palm Desert so I have always saved this ride for another day. Last week I finally took that ride.

About 15 miles on the east side of Las Vegas Highway 93 turns off of I-15 and heads north approximately 200 miles until it intersects with Highway 50. For the most part this 200 mile stretch of road essentially runs through a series of valleys with mountains or both the left side of the road (the Sheep Range Mountains) and the right side of the road (the Meadow Valley Mountains followed by the Delamar Mountains). This 200 mile stretch of road is frequently referred to as the loneliest road in America. There are no cities along the road and only a few small towns and hamlets.

Approximately 70 miles or so up Highway 93 is the hamlet of Alamo. About the only thing I saw there was a truck stop with a small store. The truck stop was packed with cars, pickups and a semi’s. It was the only place to stop for 50 miles or so in either direction. Alamo is near the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, approximately 90 miles north of Las Vegas in Lincoln County, Nevada, is located in the Pacific Flyway, and encompasses 5,380 acres. The name, Pahranagat, comes from the Pauite Indian word meaning valley of shining waters. Established to provide habitat for migratory birds, especially waterfowl, the refuge is a unit of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex. More than 230 different species of birds use refuge habitats.

The next town I came to was the town of Caliente. This town was founded as a railroad town. There is a beautiful train station in Caliente. The train station was built in 1923.


                              


Some 25 miles or so from Caliente is the mining town of Pinoche.  This town may be called ghost town by some but there are an estimate 800 people living there.  Here is some information from the town's website:

In 1864, William Hamblin, a Latter Day Saint missionary, was led to silver deposits in the vicinity of Pioche by a Native American Paiute. In 1868, San Francisco financier Francois L.A. Pioche purchased claims and constructed a smelter in the area, forming the Meadow Valley Mining Company. The mining camp was called "Pioche's City" and later became known as Pioche. The town rapidly became the largest mining town in southeastern Nevada in the early 1870's. Population estimates showed 10,000 people by 1871.  One of the worst fires in the West took place in Pioche in 1871. It began in a restaurant during a celebration commemorating Mexican independence and quickly spread. When it reached the Felsenthal Store, a stone fireproof structure where 300 barrels of blasting powder were stored, the subsequent explosion shot nearly 400 feet into the air, blowing a 1,000-pound door clear out of town and showering the town with flaming debris. The explosion of debris killed thirteen and injured forty-seven, and the accompanying fire left virtually the entire population homeless.  he fortunes of Pioche diminished in the 1880's due to the shutdown of the principle mines in 1876. During World War II, an economic boom occured when Pioche was the second largest lead and zinc producer in the nation. Present day Pioche has little mining activity, and in being the county seat, the main focus is now government.



After my escursion through Pinoche. I got back on Highway 93 and continued on some 90 miles through the desolate Lake Valley where I finally reached Highway 50.  If you turn left onto Highway 50, it is 30 miles to Ely. Nevada.  If you turn right, which I did, you head toward Great Basin National Park, the Nevada-Utah border and Delta, Utah.  This was truly a beautiful, lonely highway. It was about 30 miles to the Utah-Nevada border. There is nothing at the border but what appears to be dozens of miles of unoccupied land in all directions.  This land must look like it looked 150 years ago when the pioneers were heading to California.

When I reached Delta it was dark and cold.  I stopped for gas and a burger.  From there I drove on in the dark to Nephi, Utah which I reached during the town's Christmas parade.  It took about 15 munutes to get around the parade and get on Interstate 15 which took me home.

The trip was at least 2 and 1/2 hours longer than my regular trip but it was truly a memorable drive through a part of the west that is still unsettled. Beautiful mountains and valleys, antelope grazing and hawks flying overhead.  I probably won't get back to the road again, but maybe I can talk the Lovely Sharon into sharing this adventure with me sometime.

Expand your horizons and get off the beaten path sometime.