I was having lunch with a Moab friend of mine, a man even grumpier and more cynical than I am perceived to be, if that’s possible. Chewing absently on his cheeseburger he said, "So what’s the theme of your next issue?"

"Perfect moments," I said.

He reflexively squeezed his burger, gripped it until ketchup oozed around the edges and dripped on his jeans.

"Damnit," he said. "Look what you made me do!"

"It’s your burger," I argued. "If you want to choke your burger til it bleeds, that’s your problem, pal, not mine."

He mopped himself up, the best he could and fired back, "What the hell are you talking about? ‘Perfect moments.’ In the Zephyr...are you insane?" He started at me intently. "Who are you?"

I shrugged. "It’s still me...your lovable little buddy and fellow curmudgeon."

He shoved a mouth full of fries into that gaping hole that passes for a mouth and tried again. "Okay...maybe I don’t understand the answer. ‘Perfect moments.’ Are you going for laughs here? Is it supposed to be ironic? You’re going for irony, right?"

"Nope," I explained. "I’m going for the real thing. I want my readers to share their most perfect moments with the Zephyr and I’m going to print them in the December/January issue."

He folded his hands and placed them on the formica. "I’ve lost my appetite," he said.

"Not an easy thing for you to do," I answered, staring at his waistline. "Who knows...maybe this issue will be good for you too."

And so I attempted to explain to my heartless friend that the "Perfect Moments" edition of The Zephyr had been conceived and proposed and was now in the process of being executed with an effusive, almost unheard of sincerity.

I really wanted to know what readers thought of, when they considered the perfect moments of their lives. Or if they even had any to remember.

What I hoped my little survey would prove (and it did) was that when all of us truly consider the times in our lives that we treasure the most, those moments rarely have anything to do with the accumulation of physical wealth or the flaunting display of our ‘stuff.’

To repeat myself—it’s my mantra really....We live in a greedy, materialistic culture in which our success, even our happiness, is supposed to be measured by the size and number of our homes, by the high tech toys we show off for our friends, by the gross income we can boast of. And yet, when Time really matters, it’s not the new Mercedes SUV that brings tears to the eye—it’s almost always the warmth of a friendship or the beauty of a sunset or the kindness of a stranger that we remember.

In the end, what else is there?

My grouchy friend looked up from his meal and smiled. "That reminds me of a ball game I saw with my dad...it was the first time we’d spoken in years..."


I’ve given this some careful thought, and here is my Top 10 list of perfect moments, offered in chronological order. I’m grateful to have ten of them; in fact, to my surprise, I had many more than I realized. That discovery was, in fact, a perfect moment all its own.

June 18, 1966...Tucumcari, New Mexico

July 24, 1968...South Rim, Grand Canyon

August 1, 1971....Comb Ridge, Utah

June 29, 1972...near Cantwell, Alaska

October 20, 1975....North Fire Point, Grand Canyon

April, 11, 1976....Arches National Park, Utah

November 12, 1988....Moab, Utah

December 27, 1997...Castledene Farm, Western Australia

April 16, 2003....Perth, Australia

January 23, 2007...Halsham Farm, Western Australia

As to what happened on those days and at those places, I think I’ll just keep those memories to myself for a while longer.


I was in the market for a new straw hat. After 23 years, my old straw fedora had seen its better day, and was only being held together with about three pounds of Shoe Goo. So I ventured out into cyberspace to see what kind of haberdashery might be found there. I stumbled upon a web site that took me by surprise. I’m not in the habit of promoting businesses on this page, though for the second time in two issues, I’m doing just that.

They’re called VillageHatShop.com and their president is a guy named Fred Belinsky. I found a hat to my liking, bought it, and inadvertently signed up for their email updates. To my surprise, the first email I received wasn’t trying to sell me anything at all. No specials. No Summer Closeouts. Instead Fred had this to share with his customers:

Regular readers of our emails know that periodically I use this forum to convey a sense of the tenor –– the values and business culture - of this e-retailer that you trade with. (Those only looking for coupons or deals can skip today’’s newsletter.) Back in the 1970s, I taught a college course that used the text SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F Schumacher. In a nutshell, Schumacher argues that size matters greatly if the objective is an economy that meets our needs for more than simply money or goods. A nobler economics includes a moral purpose, education, a discussion of spirit and conscience, the elevation of people. These ideas were in mind when I enthusiastically gave birth to The Village Hat Shop in 1980. Our stated business goal of "Harmony and not quantity," and our motto seen along with our logo, " We fit the mind as well as the head," are examples of this ethic.

SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL was published in 1973 and could not have foreseen the Internet, but Schumacher does opine for a "technology with a human face" and many of us who have pioneered ecommerce believe this is its promise. Not surprisingly, big money coming from gigantic faceless corporations attempts to overrun this new channel in much the same manner as is done in the bricks-and-mortar arena. The jury is still out, but those of us who remain optimistic believe small ecommerce merchants can compete as long as the web remains democratic and we have this means to communicate directly with our customers, with both words and deeds, the simple but powerful truth that we are in fact good people looking to trade with good people.

Thanks for your patronage,

Fred Belinsky

I was gobsmacked, to be honest. I was so impressed, I ordered two more hats. I should have enough straw hats now to carry me to my grave and beyond.

And to Fred...keep up the good work. You’ve made me feel just a little less cynical than I was before.



But then there’s this. (Oh NO...not AGAIN!)

In the August/September issue of The Zephyr, I reported that Bert Fingerhut, once a powerful board member of several mainstream environmental organizations including the Grand Canyon Trust, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the Wilderness Society had pleaded guilty to securities fraud and was awaiting sentencing. According to the Wall Street Journal, Fingerhut "made $12 million over the past decade by trading in the IPOs of mutual savings banks. He targeted banks that were about to go public and used the names of friends and relatives to open accounts at the banks." He targeted over 65 banks.

As part of the settlement, he agreed to return $11 million in illegally obtained profits and faces 57 to 71 months in jail. Sentencing is in September. U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said, "Fingerhut used his Wall Street acumen to concoct a cunning scheme. He made millions by robbing everyday depositors of an opportunity to which they were entitled and deserved."

Now another SUWA board member, Mark Ristow, who also served as SUWA’s treasurer, has pleaded guilty to similar charges.

According to the SEC web site: "The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a retired Indiana real estate entrepreneur (Ristow) and two of his relatives with securities fraud for defrauding savings banks and their depositors in connection with the banks’ conversion from mutual to stock ownership."

"These defendants engaged in a calculated scheme to defraud savings banks and their depositors," said Mark K. Schonfeld, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. "For more than a dozen years, the defendants lined their pockets with money that should have gone to legitimate depositors."

The SEC story continues: "Earlier today, Ristow pled guilty to parallel criminal charges filed by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. In connection with his guilty plea, Ristow agreed to pay a total of $2.85 million in forfeiture, representing his own illegal profits from the scheme."

Fellow SUWA board members had, as recently as last year, praised Ristow for his ability to invest the organization’s ever-growing revenues. Net assets increased by over $600,000, to almost $5.5 million in 2005 alone.

While there is nothing to suggest that Ristow did anything illegal or unethical in his handling of SUWA funds, I hope that SUWA’s remaining board members will be eager and anxious to clear the air completely. They should be willing to assure their members and the public that the actions of these two men do not reflect a culture of corruption within their organization, or the environmental community at large, that betrays their broader and nobler goals.

I keep looking for outrage from my fellow environmentalists---outrage at one (or two) of their own. And at themselves. But instead, all I can detect is deadly silence, and perhaps the shuffling of bodies, ducking for cover.



If my writing a book called "Brave New West" wasn’t enough to scare you, here’s more ‘good news!’ The highly regarded documentary film company, High Plains Films of Missoula, Montana, is putting the final touches on a film about The Zephyr and it bears the same name: Brave New West.

About two years ago, I was approached by HPF’s Dru Carr and Doug Hawes-Davis with a proposal to shoot a short film about The Zephyr; they showed up, a few months later, with lights and cameras and a thousand or so questions and followed me around for a week or so. They came back again and again, until they could not stand the sight of me anymore.

Now they are working on the final cut, which has grown to over 80 minutes.

I have no idea when it might be available for sale as a DVD, or reach the airwaves (if ever); in fact, even the DVD may be a long ways off. Who knows. But you can find a two minute trailer of it on YouTube—yes, the skinny kid with the muttonchop sideburns is really me. Here’s the link:


Or you can just go to YouTube.com and type ‘brave new west’ in the search bar.

And please note the soundtrack....that crazed rocker is our very own, the beloved Ned Mudd.

To hear Ned’s extraordinary music for FREE go to:



If you are reading this online because your print subscription stopped last April for no apparent reason, but you never got around to contacting me, it’s our fault. For reasons I cannot explain, about 50 paid subscribers were deleted from the computer last April. The error was confined to subs expiring in 2/08 and 3/08. I have finally caught the mistake and have reinstated those subs and extended the expiration date to 10/08.

I’m really sorry about this and I hope it never happens again. If you continue to have trouble please EMAIL me.


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