HAS THE ZEPHYR GONE SCHMALTZY?
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
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
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
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..."
MY TOP 10 PERFECT MOMENTS
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
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.
THE PERFECT SMALL BUSINESS
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,
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 to Fred...keep up the good work. You’ve made me feel just
a little less cynical than I was before.
ANOTHER SUWA BOARD MEMBER
COMMITS SECURITIES FRAUD
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
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.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, COMING SOON!
’BRAVE NEW WEST’...THE MOVIE
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
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
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:
SUBSCRIBERS...WE SCREWED UP
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.