World Gets MORE Ridiculous...
This issue of The Zephyr went to press on November 17 and I had assumed
that, in the week after Election Day, I'd be able to make some predictably
negative, cutting and sarcastic comments about the election of President-elect
George Dubyuh Bush. For me, always the optimist, a Bush victory seemed
inevitable. In fact, I put my predictions on paper and pinned them to my
office bulletin board on November 4. This is the way this
seer and revelator saw the outcome:
320 electoral votes
218 electoral votes
0 electoral votes
Certainly my confidence in a Bush Sweep depressed me almost to tears, but
then some people think I thrive on being miserable and gloomy. So how could
I let them down? One of my goals in this weird thing we call Life
has been to live up to the expectations of the vast global Zephyr Readership,
and so I've been wearing a lot of black lately and have even chain-smoked
a cigar or too ("So what if these damn fire sticks kill me? What value
does Life have in a Bush Presidency?").
The only advantage I could personally derive from Dubyuh's victory was
the comfort that I could zip off a few politically-oriented cartoon ads
for the December/January issue that reflected the Bush Landslide--and I
had some great ones too. Real side-splitting, laugh-a-minute humor...political
satire at its best. This time of year, as winter sets in and I want
to get the hell out of here, the old creative juices start to flow about
as freely as 20W50 Castrol on a cold winter morning--thick, black sludge.
So the presumptive election results gave me some easy cheap shots that
required little if any imagination.
On Monday, November 6, I was busy cranking out cartoons and looking forward
to having the ads finished by mid-week, when I got a phone call from my
good friend John Hartley. John is a former Grand County Councilman, with
a long work history in municipal government, so one might argue that he
has a background in politics and that his election prognostications should
be given serious merit.
But when he told me that he was calling the election for Gore in what John
predicted would be the tightest race in the history of modern American
politics, I chuckled and shook my head. That morning the CNN tracking poll
still showed Bush with a 5% lead and almost all of the other polls gave
at least a slight advantage to The Shrub. Besides, all week, I had tuned
in my radio to the Rush Limbaugh Show and the former "Big Fat Idiot" assured
his listening audience that Tuesday would be "an early night" for the Republicans.
"John," I said incredulously, "You have got to be kidding. I wish you were
right, but it looks more like 1980 to me."
On the eve of the 1980 election, the race between Jimmie Carter and Ronald
Reagan had also been "too close to call," but by 8 PM on Election Night,
it became clear that a Reagan landslide was in the making. Now, twenty
years later, I knew that history was about to repeat itself.
"Nope," said John, "I think it's going to be unbelievably close, with Gore
winning the electoral vote by an extremely narrow margin, but with Bush
winning the popular vote by a fraction of a point...a couple of hundred
thousand votes, tops."
Well, I thought that was pretty funny. Poor John, I pondered; he's been
licked in the face one too many times by that goofy new dog of his. Here
was irrefutable proof that puppy slobber from a dog that constantly licks
itself can adversely affect human brain cells.
Nevertheless, Hartley put his prediction in writing:
275 electoral votes
We didn't put any money on it--I didn't want to be cruel, but I could not
help but feel a tad smug, even if I hoped he was right. One of my specialties
is "grim satisfaction," and I expected to be full of it in the next 24
And as Election Night dragged on, I proved to at least be right on one
count...I was full of it.
So here I sit at my computer on the Sunday afternoon following the election,
bathed in a halo of indescribable humility that almost borders on humiliation.
My best guess was about 5 million votes off target, while Hartley
has come within a couple hundred thousand votes of nailing this electoral
nightmare on the nose.
In fact, whether Bush takes Florida or not, John's prediction was correct--it
should be obvious to anyone now that Gore won the most votes in the Sunshine
State and that he should be the next President of the United States. How
Bush can go to court to block a hand count of the votes in Palm Beach County
is incredible and, should he prevail and win the presidency by technicality,
he will take office with a shadow cast over him that's about as black as
one of my moods. Dubyuh's only hope is the attention span of the American
People, which has recently proved to remarkably short.
As for Hartley, I'm not making another Life move, major or minor, without
consulting him first, and I intend to let his dog lick my face as often
as she wants to.
CLOUDROCK: The Drama
It is indeed a rare occasion when I ever wish this publication could go
back to its old monthly format, but last month, when a copy of Cloudrock's
confidential proposal to the Utah State Institutional Trust Lands Administration
(SITLA) fell into my hands, I could scarcely contain myself. Press day
was still a month off and it was information that needed to reach the people
of Moab and Grand County. So, as many of you locals know, I took out a
one page ad in the Advertiser--a "one page special edition of The
Zephyr"--and ran large excerpts from the Plan.
Finally, Cloudrock's pitch to SITLA sees the light of day in The Zephyr.
The laughs begin on page 16.
Clearly, Cloudrock is not for very many of us; in fact, I doubt if most
potential Cloudrock owners would want to live here if they had to
have us as neighbors. And vice versa. To paraphrase Groucho Marx,
"I wouldn't live in an exclusive, ultra-elitist development that would
have me as a resident."
But like it or not, if Cloudrock comes to Moab, those people on the top
of the hill will be our neighbors, no matter how badly they try
to hide from us. One of the aspects of the Cloudrock Plan that cracks me
up is the solemn pledge from its PR man, Michael Liss, that Moab residents
will not be able to see the homes or the condos or the lodges from the
Moab Valley. They intend to create a view shed zone, which moves all the
construction away from the edge of Johnson's Up-on-Top.
Honestly, who's doing who a favor here? If you take a good look at the
cover of this issue, or the photographs on page 17, is it any wonder they
want to fall back from the rim? My guess is, the proud owners of $5,000,000
homes on $600,000 lots do not want to aim their 20 x 30 foot plate
glass windows at Tom Tom's VW junk car lot.
And why? Because these people have no taste for "real beauty." The beauty
of our junk, whether many of us have stopped to think about it or not,
has been a determining factor in Moab's slow evolution as a Telluride Wannabe.
I mentioned the visionary talents of John Hartley in the first segment;
now let me toss out the name of another prophet. Almost ten years ago,
Moab native Carl Rappe, one-time owner of the now vanished Main Street
Broiler (the Vortex of Moab), proclaimed that only our junk could save
Real Moab from absolute extinction.
He proposed that, to hold the line against out-of-town investors and mostly
vacant condo developments, the governing bodies of our community needed
to take immediate and drastic action.
Specifically, Carl wanted the enactment of a city and county ordinance
that required the presence of junk in every Grand County resident's
yard. I cannot recall the exact details, but I believe his proposal called
for at least one inoperative vehicle on cinder blocks, three door-less
refrigerators, and 500 square feet (minimum) of waist deep weeds, preferably
noxious, per yard. And it seems to me he mentioned smelly farm animals
in small pens as a very seriously encouraged option. Maintaining pigs guaranteed
a major property tax break.
Rappe was convinced, and his logic is still sound, that no money-thirsty
developer would risk the investment in real estate, if he saw his newly
acquired property surrounded by rusty '63 GMC pickups and the scent of
hogs. Remember one of the key points in Cloudrock's proposal to SITLA:
"The potential of less sensitively conceived or lower-priced projects on
the mesa would greatly diminish the overall value of the lodges and homesites."
What could be clearer than that?
I know I'm being a bit flippant here and I doubt if junk alone will deter
the Cloudrock people. But the point is, Moab's way of life, weird and ugly
and unstructured as it may be, will be altered forever, in ways most of
us cannot begin to imagine, if Cloudrock comes to Southeast Utah. And it
is an issue that should and could unite the various factions of a community
that often seems polarized and divided. Cowboys and bikers, environmentalists
and miners, Mormons and Heathens--you all have a common interest here.
And so much to lose.
I read, with interest, last week's editorial endorsement of Cloudrock by
the Moab weekly, The Times-Independent, calling it "a natural happening
in a community that is changing."
I admire the T-I's...consistency.
Since the mid-1980s, this is the third major potentially community-transforming
project to be laid at the steps of Grand County residents and the Times-Independent
has supported them all--at least in the beginning.
On December 3, 1987, a terrible idea, a proposed toxic waste incinerator
to be built upriver at Cisco, received this comment from publisher Sam
"I've read all the letters...studied all the information, and I admit that
I face the issue with mixed feelings. I can understand the feelings of
people of both states (Colorado and Utah) that a facility here would increase
the transportation of wastes through our communities.
"But I'm convinced that something relatively safe must be done with these
wastes, and incineration appears to be a whole lot safer than burying it
in the sand."
Then the editorial sarcastically referenced a similar incinerator proposal
at Tooele, west of and up wind from Salt Lake City. "It's funny we don't
hear the same hue and cry from Salt Lakers over the Tooele plans as we
hear from Western Colorado."
Two years later, we endured the equally insane Book Cliffs Highway project,
a goofy plan to use county mineral lease monies to build a major highway
from I-70 over the Book Cliffs to Vernal. On May 25, 1989, the T-I
threw its support behind this project as well:
"I have been one of those who have worked hard over the years to see a
major highway up the east side of Utah. There are a lot of sound economic
reasons for it...I still want to see that road built, and I believe we
now have the vehicle to get the job done."
As public opinion in Grand County grew steadily against both projects,
the editorial opinion of the Times-Independent also shifted against
them. But the good people at the local paper were behind the curve on these
issues, never in front of them.
I only mention this, because some Moab citizens have the notion that Cloudrock
is a done deal---It's NOT. And historically speaking, at least in
the last 15 years, an early endorsement by the Times-Independent
has not necessarily reflected the will of the people.
But I continue to love the Times-Independent and especially enjoy
searching the old micro-film copies at the library--they are an invaluable
A Life to Emulate...
David Brower passed away last week at the age of 88. He was a genuine American
hero to many of us and his passage is a great loss--you can almost hear
the planet sigh.
He always reminded me of a modern-day Don Quixote, tilting windmills (like
the Bureau of Reclamation) against enormous odds, and never letting a defeat
slow him down. He always climbed back on the horse and carried on. That
kind of courage and fortitude with integrity is rarely seen these days.
In the 1950s, Brower led the charge against the Bureau's dam-building plans
on the Colorado and Green Rivers and successfully stopped BuRec in its
tracks at Echo Park on the Green and at the Grand Canyon. Post-war proposals
to "tame" the rivers of the Colorado River Basin might have left us without
a single mile of free-flowing water--Brower, more than anyone else, deserves
our never-ending gratitude.
Still, his efforts were never good enough for him. Brower never
forgave himself for the one compromise of his life--signing off on the
construction of Glen Canyon Dam. It haunted him to the end, but he was
heartened by serious efforts in the last five years from a growing legion
of voices who are determined to set things straight again at Glen Canyon.
A living, free-flowing Glen Canyon--now that would be a tribute
to the memory of David Brower...a tribute that would put a smile on his
A Serious Omission on
the Incinerator Story
The October/November issue of the Zephyr carried a story (by me)
on Grand County's successful effort to stop the construction of a toxic
waste incinerator at Cisco in 1988. Somehow I failed to mention the tireless
and valued efforts of Lance and LaRue Christie. As members of the Board
of Trustees for the Association of the Tree of Life (then and now), their
contribution was instrumental in the defeat of the incinerator.
My thanks to both of them and sorry about the oversight.