The 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:

George Dubyuh...49%   320 electoral votes
Big Al...44%   218 electoral votes
Earnest Ralph...6%   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:

Bush...49%   263 electoral votes
Gore...48.5%   275 electoral votes
Nader...2%   0 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 hours.
     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 Continues...
     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.

Cloudrock Addendum...The Times-Independent "Endorsement"
     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 Taylor:
     "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 historical resource.

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 face. 

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. 

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