Placebo Christmas (?)

Christmas morn blossomed brightly this year on the eastern Wyoming sage-brush prairie. A Christmas unlike all others for me. For in my wakening, no sounds of fellow brother or kin didst I discern. Only the usual blanched hush of yon simpleton's bachelor pad did register on hammer, anvil and stirrup.

But don't despair friends, for though the day began in singular fashion, the previous night's company was fresh on my wits, only taking priority behind the next social engagement soon to begin.

And thus I spent most of the Twenty-Fifth in the ranks of lovely familial townsfolk. Eating, chatting, even opening a gift they'd gotten me. That's quite awesome, thought I.

And so the day wore on, and the babies' ensuing meltdowns triggered an under-the-tree booty cease-fire. There's always tomorrow.

The sun set on opposing terra and it was over.

I'm not certain if being "away" for Christmas was as looming a banshee as the notion seems in theory. Perhaps it's just a grand placebo effect. A giant, neatly wrapped, tinseled sugar pill.

We may never know.

But regardless I felt the love of a new brethren who, though belonging not of similar bloodline, have welcomed me "home" to their prairie fences and couch-side hitching posts time and time again since my arrival and specifically on Christmas Day.

And that's something to be thankful for.

There's something I've learned in my months in Wyoming: Smalltown America is about relationships. First and foremost. There's not a lot of glitz on the Western way, but it will hold you up in the stiffest of winds it seems.

So, with nearly five months in country, the relational investments are getting some returns in deeper ways, I think. Yes, rootin' tootin to that!

So. 'Nog and cookie yourself, compadres. Here's to new, Wyo mighty mates.


Christmas dinner carne: prime rib from Douglas Grocery's legendary meat department. Dericious!

And then I got some sunset shots, per usual. Looking southwest, over the nearby Laramie Range.

Double time. I-25 runs over the tracks in the distance.

Laramie Peak, elev. 10,274. booyah.

I know, the traffic is pretty bad sometimes. But only during rush hour.

Yule horse.

In other news, I took this stress test recently. Scored like a 340. I guess that means I'll have serious stress-induced physical ailments if it continues. Hmm. Curious. I think I need a vacation or something. Oh, wait. I'm on one. Bonus.

See you all next year.

Happy 25th Berfday to Me


Used to Could:
a quarter century birthmas haiku:

Clunk bunk goes my trunk
Olding joints yawp grievances
Trunk funk no more youth

Today's high was six below, with signs of it getting even colder tonight. The windchill factor had it at -35 F this morning. Love that Wyoming wind. I want a Hot Toddy...

Here's the weather rolling in on Douglas' main drag. There's my office over there amid the blustering. On Saturday it was 50 degrees at 2 p.m. At 7 p.m. it was below zero.

When it Snows it Showers

POSTED IN | 10:12 PM

I was starting to think these proud, upstanding Wyomingites were all a bunch of liars. Ever since I crash landed here in my space pod on these Mars-esque rolling hills I have been hearing about the Wyoming winters. It always went like this with people I met:

Me: Yeah, I'm from Oklahoma, blah, blah, blah...

Proud, upstanding Wyomingites (PUWs): OKLAHOMA! Oh boy, are you in for a cold winter, sonny boy! Whew doggie! Rootin' tootin! Sweet fancy Moses! Gordon Bennett! (blah, blah, blah)

So. With such a delightful fall that came to roost here in eastern Wyoming, I accepted their climate forebodings in stride and only internally slandered them equivocators.

Then, as they say, the bottom dropped out last week. The cow troughs froze over, bears found their seasonal holes (woohoo!) and I started to see a very different vision of this remote outpost land. That vision came in long-underwear and wintry mix form, as last week posted a low of negative 3 degrees F. Cold as bollocks, one could argue.

So, amigos, it seems the cold is here to stay. Pass the milk and cookies, I guess. 'Nog? Plumb diggety! Packing on the Winter 15 is the way people roll around here, so I hear...

Some pics around my block from last week:

The back alley of my pad. Note the white wolf, nestled keenly immediately by my front door basically. My place is about 300-400 sq. feet and quite nice I have to say. Beauty, Clark...

My hood is all about the alleyways. Looking down my block to the south.

My landlords live here, immediately in front of me. They're nice folk, and invite me to dinner here and there, bake me bread and let me use their washer/dryer. We haven't talked room service yet, but it's on my long-term to-discuss list.

And there's the crib, folks. Part garage, part bach pad. Straight up. Interestingly, on the right side of the frame you see a hot tub. Also on the to-discuss list with the landlords. "Well, you see, the warm water is really good for my war wound!"

I shot him in the leg

POSTED IN | 10:51 PM
I startled awake at 06:45, with a pounding heart and adrenaline aplenty. As my alarm ripped me from the REM zone (time for Army band drill), I realized I had been amidst yet another nightmare of sorts.

I am happy to report there were no bears involved, and yet the highlights remain somewhat disturbing (at least at the time):

-I got kidnapped by a very nasty man.

-My hands were tied to a couch and he tried to kill me by smothering my face with a pillow.

-I escaped to the backyard where a handgun standoff commenced.

-Somehow I got the gun and shot the bad hombre two times in the leg with a Glock .40 (i knew i didn't want to kill him) while yelling like Tarzan.

-Suddenly another antagonist showed up and held one of my co-workers hostage at knife point.

-I called 911 on a suddenly appearing house phone. How convenient!

-I raised the gun at the antagonist and yelled bloody murder at him to release my co-worker while pondering my chances of shooting the bad guy in the head w/o harming my amigo.

-I cocked the pistol hammer back menacingly (like they do in the movies).

-Then the alarm went off and I awoke with a sprinting pacemaker. Game over. Seems I'll have to tune in next season for the finale...

So. Somewhat disturbing to the dreamer. If only I could have a gun in my bear dreams! Level the playing field at least. I think I need to stop watching LOST for awhile...

In the end I'm putting a fluffy, unicorn and rainbow filled episode in my Stuflicks Dream Queue next. Something light and enjoyable would be nice. Haven't dreamed one of those in some months.

And I'd rather not have to shoot anyone else, non-lethal wounds included. That's just kind of stressful...

(input? interpretations? suggested shrinks?)

Hot on the Press

POSTED IN | 11:06 PM
An interesting thing about being in the newspaper biznass is not the grit of a life spent chasing after the ever indubitable story. The story that always seems to be cresting the horizon as you pull into sight of it, and which has you always in a place of flux — never quite arriving or allowing you a proper requite. Though I have to say that part has its own charms, as maddening as chasing the wind becomes at times.

No, no. An interesting part (and one that is perhaps most often overlooked) of writing stories for a news outlet is how it's created, each year, month, week or day, depending on your publication's particulars.

It's the great relative of Gutenberg's epiphany at work, and it brings Frankenstein to life every week here in rural Wyoming.

Behold, the printing press! (cue stirring music)

The Budget goes to press every week here in the Douglas metropolis. (cue laugh track) Usually (depending on the four newsroom slackers) we get it written by about noon on Tuesdays and it's printed by about 7ish in the p.m. It hits the paper drops late Tuesday or early Wednesday for the spellbinding dissemination of Converse County's most cutting edge news. We're the leading paper of the county, might I remind you (read: only paper of the county).

But none of this would be possible without one veritable super man. He dresses in civilian clothing and is more often covered in ink than not. He is Richard the Great, and he's SOLELY responsible for getting the paper printed every week (this is a lot of responsibility, fyi). Here is Ol' Ricardo flashing a toothy edge of competence while printing some high qual action.

When the newsroom gets slow, boring or I run out of nutgraph ideas, I go to the backroom and just watch the press churn. It's a nuts 'n bolts symphony that grooves. I like to just sit and watch it. Puts my head back in order, likely giving my upstairs brain-rat some motivation to turn his wheel faster.

CYAN! Each paper goes through all the CMYK stations. Cyan! Magenta! Yellow! blacK! (here's where you call on Captain Planet). The newsprint rolls through, picking up the according colors and making a pretty paper that Ma and Pa can be proud of. It's a nifty process. I have no idea how it works. I like to think it's just magic. All of it. More interesting that way.



blacK! (cue Cpt. Planet!!!)

note: i guess cmyK sounds better than cmyB? who knows...

Looking down the line. Starts with yellow.

...rollin, rollin, rollin...keep those doggies rollin...

(note: i think we print like 5,000 copies of the paper every week)

And so I leave you with a parting shot of Richard the Great. He's a great guy, obviously. It's always good to just talk sensible things like press mechanics and tools and stuff. Being a reporter can be kind of convoluted. It's hard work pretending like you know what you're talking about all the time...

The end!

A peaky sunset

POSTED IN | 12:46 AM

If you use your imagination, you can wish away the power lines and telephone wires obstructing Laramie Peak's view. Sometimes there's just no time to get a good vantage point in the photograph of life.

A Thanksgiving Boot in the Rear

POSTED IN | 11:46 PM
When I was little I had several higher profile vices. Among "little to no concern for others' feelings" and nestled beside "extreme desire for maternal rebellion" was perhaps the most insidious of my sins, though it often hid in the others' shadows.


Sheer and simple.

"Mooooooommmmm," my voice would ring out on any given day of the year. "I'm sooooo boooorrrreeedddd!"

My mother would wince. My siblings grated their teeth.

I had resigned myself from an early age that my life was destined for nothing more than a curling linoleum of experience. That each waking breath, at times, was a waning chronology bringing me unceasingly closer to the grave of existential demise. It was my cross at an early age and I took it up with unparalleled passion at times.

I was the kid with 1,001 hobbies growing up. They came and went. I poured myself into them and dropped them with equal fervor (my parents were saints for supporting all my ventures, btw). My curiosity for the present was matched only with my interest in the future.

This is where my love of road trips comes into play, I think.

So as the hourglass oozes life in 2008, bringing us closer to a new year – and with it my 25th birthday - I realize my youthful vice of old is still with me, a shadow of my soul, clinging close and in real ways impacting my life in the present.

"The boredom is strong with this one," Darth would say.

If I could amputate my soul I would try to cut that out of myself I think. Maybe cast it into an unsuspecting covey of swine. Instead of running off a cliff they would probably bore themselves to death. Maybe that would be less offensive to their owners. Hard to say.

But if I'm honest, a thing that scares me most about the future is the possibility of being bored. Of being uninspired and uncreative. Of being uncontrollably rooted in one unaltering place or way of life. Seriously. More than concerns over future wife, job, living location, etc., though it certainly affects those things. The fear gnaws like a Langolier on steroids, and it gnaws often.

And while I don't think my boredom sentiments are all wrong, there are particulars to repentant for, I think.

Some people wish for uniformity in life. For things to continue according to plan. For familiarity to be permutation's master. And certainly there is much merit in this philosophy. Adventures make one late for dinner, after all.

And part of me so wishes I were like this predominantly. Seemingly finding contentment in every corner and each routine. But it seems I've been dealt a more transient hand.

And in light of the recent holiday, in which we are implored to an action of praise, essentially, I have to conclude that boredom lies in cahoots with discontentment. With discontentment being the anti-thesis of why we gather and eat turkeys. Discontent and boredom plot in a Dark Camp together, scheming plans to internally attack their victims. I'm probably on their Sitting Duck list.

So, friends, how do we overcome the negative aspects of our life-long characteristics, refined through years of nurture? Sweet Georgia B.!

Or how do we deflect the arrows of the Dark Camp that strike deep and seek to insignificize our very existence?

I think it's done like this:

"God. I can't do this. No, seriously. I will likely never be content with this life. No. I will NEVER be content with this life. Please help me to remember that. But please be/do contentment for me. Please change me too. Please! Please? Amen."

And then you go enjoy your third Thanksgiving feast with new friends who purposefully invited you (as did the previous two parties) to partake in the holiday bounty with their family and treat you like one of the team.

And lastly, as thoughts of gravy-strewn delights surge in the visualizers on your way to the gathering, you strike yourself on the face, saying 'I'm a damned fool! (repeat if necessary) for not appreciating the 1,001 distinctives that have evidenced God's love toward my often unthankful, uncaring being!'

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

(Mine was a much needed kick in the arse)

Oh, Christmas Tree

POSTED IN | 12:34 AM
I stooped down to inspect the packages laying neatly at my meager door. Excitedly (who doesn't like to get packages?!), I stepped through my door frame, cradling the soon-to-be opened postal booty. One from Oklahoma. One from Fort Worth.

I opened the wrong one first, revealing two Sooner Christmas tree ornaments from Father and Mother. "Oh, that's nice" I thought, but thinking I had no tree from which to let them hang.

Then I opened the big package and it all locked together like a con in shackles. (Good things obviously come in the BIG packages, people)

And now I have a Christmas tree, however small it might be. The Chubby Giant (Sister Laura) and the Tiny Pet (Bro-in-law Sam) gifted it from Texas Christian land.

Boy howdy.

Makes a man's one room apartment quite full of holiday might.

So to all a good night.

Windowside Words of Wisdom


as seen on a vehicle in Laramie, Wyoming.
starting to sound like Texans, i fear...

Farewell Oklahoma (sort of)

POSTED IN | 11:46 PM
My tag was two months overdue and I knew it was time. A trip to the county clerk's office and $140 later I walked out with two shiny new plates. I don't know if they were made by felons in a remote prison somewhere, but I like to think so. Just more interesting that way.

I guess this means goodbye to my Sooner state. I don't really know. I still have my Okie license, but no longer is my vehicle tied to the state where the wind comes sweeping down the plains (though admittedly, the wind does A LOT of sweeping here in Wyoming too. good gravy!). So, I guess you could say I'm kind of confused, legally speaking. Who am I?

But I thought it best to commemorate the event. But don't worry, I'll always bleed crimson and cream. I'm down but not out...

Preparing the patient. "Scalpel...I mean screwdriver..."

out with the old.

Off she comes. i had to soothe the Camry. She was getting a little nervous. Kind of an identity crisis of sorts. I calmed her with talk of a premium petrol fill up and a nice oil change. Seemed to work for now.

True sign of a road warrior. Ol' Cam is pushing 200k these days.


BLAST OFF! Is it coincidence that the letters "O" and "K" are randomly in my new license plate? Or that I'm currently 24 years old? I think it's a sign, just don't know what it means.

Ol' Cam has never had a front license plate before. This also took some calming and comforting on my part. She's not one to tolerate a lot of changes. And she's already complaining about the cold.

The full picture. This is the hood where I live. Quite nice really. Better when there are leaves I think.


Sca-wing! Provides front bug protection too!

Farewell, Native America...*tear*...

Go Wyo!

Then we celebrated.

Another memento for the wall of family history.

Special thanks to Hannah for the photo documentation. Truly your heroic efforts will not be forgotten on this most historic occasion.

Backseat Faithfuls

POSTED IN | 10:43 PM

...waiting patiently for master to arrive.

There's a Bad Moon on the Rise

POSTED IN | 11:27 PM

...that's no moon, it's a space station...

A pinch of snow

I awoke, groggily and looked out my front window. Thus:

Upon further exploration I found it was real. (note: the jeans. i wear them regularly now. i know, where are my morals? wyoming has corrupted me, friends. what can i say?)

sunshine and snow is the best combination.

Helping others a non-ballot issue

POSTED IN | 11:52 PM
A column I wrote that appeared in last week's Nov. 5 edition of the Douglas Budget newspaper.

It’s a rainy day in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose, and the heavy tropical rains beat on the tin roof of my friend’s home. It’s October, and the monsoon season weather is apparent in the mud streets and surging drainage ditches of La Carpio, one of San Jose’s poorest slum neighborhoods.

A raucous wind brings rain spray through the yawning sheet metal and wood doorway and I hold my mug of weak-brewed coffee tighter as chickens run across the dirt living room floor, paying little heed to the gringo visitor.

Marvin Garcia sits across from me, telling stories of his life, refilling my coffee and prefacing sentences with my nickname (Juancholo) for affect. I do my best to understand his Spanish — an ethnic baritone twang that has me clawing on each word.

Marvin, like 90 percent of La Carpio’s residents, is Nicaraguan. He is like the thousands of others in the barrio who immigrated across the border into Costa Rica in the 80s and 90s amid adverse national economic and political turmoil after the toppling of the dictatorial Somoza family rule.

My friend shows me scars of when he was a soldier, fighting for the socialist, militaristic Sandinistas that replaced Somoza’s national guard. The same Sandinistas the United States indirectly subverted by supporting opposing forces. Marvin was following orders, the same as many others.

Wanting a more stable life and amid Nicaraguan economic hardship that saw spectacular inflation rates (topping out at 33,000 percent annually in 1988), he came to Costa Rica with his family for opportunity. A chance at getting ahead while leaving behind imperialistic oppression. A sentiment that closely resounds with our own tradition.

So today as we are no doubt taking survey of yesterday’s election unfoldings, I come to the political table pensively, thinking of my friend Marvin and the thousands like him who I met in my three months of mission-aid work in Costa Rica last fall. People who, in fleeing abuse of power and mis-government came to a place of relative peace and prosperity in Costa Rica, but in which political and social freedoms continue to wane.

So my purpose is to point out that which we often talk about but for me personally, rarely reflected on meaningfully until last year. That being the ability to mark a ballot and deposit it inside a secure receptacle, cementing my voice among the masses as individual, important, free.

Certainly we should reflect on this privilege and, in my reckoning, pray for those who go without equal privileges in their lives.

Do we know who these people are? People like Marvin? Do we care? There are millions of them, speaking numerous tongues, hailing from multiple continents. We should know about them, and be contrastingly thankful and compassionate.And if not hint at means of greater freedom, hope that those in influence would seek a higher personal integrity and unified well being for their subjects.

But as all powerful as the ability to voice one’s political sentiments remains, my time in Costa Rica further taught me another lesson of civic duty that lies outside the political sphere entirely.

It was a lesson that joins neighbor with neighbor in philanthropic discourse and action for the betterment of a community.

The Nicaraguans have their own way of doing this: whether it’s coming together to pour concrete neighborhood streets in lieu of mud ones, watching their neighbor’s seven kids while they’re at the market, or inviting a lonely kid from Oklahoma into their homes to make humble food offerings with utmost hospitality. Certainly their culture is one of mutual support, as there is often little alternative.

So I hope the power of the ballot is powerfully impressed on us. Whether it’s in running for office at any number of levels or simply showing up and earning a nifty sticker on election day, these abilities are a big, cool deal.

But in light of this, I have a second point, in hoping we don’t lose sight of personal responsibility while placing our trust in higher authorities.

Whether your politial leanings sail under a standard of deep blue or crisp red, it does a community much good to look first horizontally for mutual assistance before looking up vertically to a higher power.

As a new member to what, in my mind, I’m discerning to be a wonderful community, I can certainly attest to the numerous personal invites, comments of concern, offers for home cooked food and undeserved hospitality lavished upon me during my short three months in this Jackalope City.

And for the most part it comes not from those in elected office, but neighbors, friends and even complete strangers. I’ve had needs arise and they have often been met. And this is the way it’s meant to be, I think.

So as the torch of camaraderie is lit in my hearth, so is it my privilege and for the betterment of the community to see how I can then use my time, resources, and knowledge to assist those in my workplace, around town and at my back fence. An anti social-consumerism and self-centeredness of sorts, that can be the bringer of much change.

The needs are present. The needs are numerous. What will we do about them?
What are our personal platforms and promises of civic duty to bring about change on a city, neighborhood, street level?

At our core that’s what we’re called to do, I believe, though we fight against an often unwilling frame.

But the call is there nonetheless. Perhaps it will take a trip to Costa Rica to convince you. If so, I can give you the names of some amazing Nicaraguans. But maybe you won’t need that much convincing.

And if you need ideas of where to start your philanthropy pursuits, feel free to contact me directly. I might know a guy from Oklahoma who would probably endure some home cooked meals.

Just maybe.

Hail, Veterans

POSTED IN | 10:23 PM

So I Went Outside

POSTED IN | 10:03 PM
10 scenes from the Wyoming landscape on a particularly enjoyable November day.