Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hotter N Hell 2010

Last summer, I decided to ride 100 miles at the world's largest cycling event, the Hotter N' Hell Hundred.

But I didn't ride 100 miles last year. I knew I wasn't ready. Instead, I rode 50 miles on a borrowed Schwinn Paramount bike. While riding, I began thinking about attempting the century ride in 2010.

After a lot of research, I picked up my first real road bike, a 2009 Trek 1.5. Starting in late March, I began riding at least 3 times a week (except during travel or intense periods of work).

I rode in the heat (sometimes up to 103 degrees) and the wind. In Oklahoma, the wind never stops. I biked into the strong south winds that blow in hot from Mexico. I biked on roads that felt like a blast furnace, complete with those ominous, squiggly waves of heat dancing on the asphalt. By the end of July, I'd become accustomed to riding hard in extremely hot conditions. Cycling in July and August became a thing to be endured, not necessarily a thing to be enjoyed.

Still, I never managed to ride more than 50 miles in a single day. What would it feel like to ride twice that distance? Would my body break down?

The HHH is far and away the most important single event in Wichita Falls. Fourteen-thousand cyclists, much of the local police force, and an army of volunteers gather before dawn on the ninth day before Labor Day. My good friend and riding partner, Brent, and I unloaded our bikes in the dark and made our way to the starting line. But with 14,000 cyclists, it was impossible to even see the starting line. In fact, when the ride began at 7:00 (after a dramatic Air Force fly-over), it took nearly 30 minutes before we made it to the starting line. Riders can't really mount their bikes; you simply straddle the frame and walk a few steps forward, pause and repeat.

At 6:00 a.m, an endless line of cyclists drive toward the starting line.

Eventually you're able to start moving, but you've got to be cautious. Bikers are everywhere, on your left and ride, and close behind. Some are slow, but be careful when passing, or you're liable to cause a big pile-up.

Self-pic at 6:55 a.m. I got four hours sleep last night.

Even before 8:00, you see lots of locals standing along the road shouting encouragement and waving at us. They understand how important the HHH is to their city, and they clearly appreciate us. It's a good feeling, much better than the general contempt cyclists sense from aggressive drivers the other 364 days of the year.

I was feeling strong as the morning progressed, but Brent was beginning to feel sick. In order to complete the 100 mile course, riders must reach mile 62 (called "Hell's Gate") before 12:30 pm. At 12 noon, we were 10 miles away from Hell's Gate, and Brent was feeling worse. He's successfully ridden multiple century rides at the HHH, so he knew what he was up against. He wisely knew his body just wasn't feeling right on this particular day. He urged me to ride ahead for Hell's Gate, and with a fist bump, wished me luck. He would wait at the finish line for me.

But Hell's Gate wasn't a given. I now had to cover 10 miles in 30 minutes, which meant riding at a 20 mph clip, or waiting another year to complete my first century. All my training, all my preparation would have been for naught. I had a little pep talk with myself and rode as if my life depended on it.

Accelerating past slower riders, I rode on a smooth patch of flat asphalt at 24-25 mph, quite fast for me. My heart was pounding. But when the smooth road suddenly turned into a gravely aggregate, my speed dropped considerably. I was now riding at 17-18 mph, even though I was spinning as quickly as before. The bumpy road gave my wrists a beating as they absorbed the rough surface. I pushed hard, never allowing myself to be passed, only passing other riders. Hell's Gate was mine; I would rest later.

Indeed, the first rest stop after Hell's Gate was sweet. I took extra time to rest under a shade tree; speed was no longer foremost in my mind. During the push to reach Hell's Gate, my heart rate reach 170 bpm; now I let it ease back into the 110 range. I thought about the rode ahead. With 62 miles under my belt, I only needed to ride 40 more miles. If I broke those 40 miles into two 20-mile rides, with frequent breaks, there was little doubt I'd finish. It was now 1:00 pm. Riding at 13-15 mph, I could expect to finish around 3:30 pm. Not too shabby.

Treeless prairie, scorching heat, West Texas in late August.

But the West Texas heat was beginning to intensify, and the wind was blowing strongly. For a time, my 13-15 mph pace slipped to 10-12 mph. I settled in behind a line of riders to let them absorb some of the wind. I drank constantly. In fact, I drank so much that I started to bloat. A sloshy mix of Gatorade and water chugged around in my stomach, leaving me feeling heavy and slow, not lean and quick. But I was parched and I emptied my bottles so fast that I had to stop to refill (and subsequently pee) twice before reaching the 70 mile mark. This ate up valuable time.

Then, at mile 75, my front tire started to wobble in a strange way. My speed dropped. I looked down at the tire. "Dear God, no..."

My heart sank. I most definitely did not want to deal with a flat tire, not now. After several hours of riding, my brain had entered a comfortable, trancelike state. Now, the trance was disturbed, and my brain was required to shift gears into problem solving mode.

I sat under a large shade tree in front of an old-fashioned orchard storefront. An old coot (and I mean that in the kindest way) was literally sitting on a rocking chair while a scruffy old dog slept at his feet. It was like the Cracker Barrel logo had suddenly come to life. And the logo wanted to chat.

"Where 'ya from?" the old coot asked.

"Oklahoma City," I said, without elaboration.

"I've never been to Oklahoma City," the coot replied.

It's not my character to disengage from a conversation with a kindly stranger, but I didn't reply. I was busy trying to change a inner tube so I could get back on the road.

"If you need to fill up your water bottle, there's a hose over yonder by the sign." The old coot used the phrase "over yonder." I couldn't believe it.

"Thanks," I said. "Actually, I've got plenty of water. I'm just trying to fix a flat tire."

I looked up at the waves of cyclists passing me. This only made me more frustrated. "Focus, Grizzard," I told myself. "Don't worry about the coot, don't worry about the other riders passing you by. Just focus on getting this tube replaced."

Still, I struggled. My pump wouldn't work. The tube wouldn't fill up with air. I pumped and pumped. Nothing happened. I didn't know what to do. I looked toward the sky in exasperation.

The old coot was kindly beyond all human goodness. He offered to go fetch some sort air pump that he used for his old tractors. I thanked him but told him by inner tube used a special valve size that wasn't compatible with larger tires. As wonderful a man as he was, the old coot was sucking away all my mental energy. Besides that, my clumsy hands kept fumbling around with the tire, and I was becoming more frustrated by the minute. A quick tube change turned into a 15 minute ordeal. Still, I thanked the old coot before riding off. "Thanks for letting me use your shade tree," I said with a smile. "It's my pleasure," he said. "Best of luck to 'ya."

With my front tire working again, it was time to put some miles behind me. A 3:30 finish was now out of the question. Four o'clock was more likely. I rode hard, past the orchards of Burkburnett, TX, through the barren, treeless prairie. The wind was blowing hard, but I zipped past other riders, one after the other. As I passed one young woman, she shouted "Miyf ryte!!" At least that's what it sounded like.

"I'm sorry?" I said, slowing down.

"I said, 'Nice bike!' And it matches your jersey!"

"Thanks," I said. "I bought this jersey yesterday at the Expo."

Her compliment gave me an extra burst of speed. In my mind, I was riding great (and with style, to boot!) At least that's what I let my vain self believe.

Pushing onward I passed rider after rider. Everyone else seemed to be weakening, but me. I was becoming stronger! The finish line was no longer a question; the only question was how quickly I reach it.

That's when I noticed my front tire was flat. Again.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Arcade Fire: Are They The New U2?

It took me a while to discover Arcade Fire. They seemed kind of pretentious, and way overblown. I wondered why their live performances required nearly a dozen people. I wondered why so many people loved them (they've played high profile gigs at Coachella and Lollapolooza, not to mention TV appearances on Letterman, SNL, and The Daily Show).
So, I ignored them.

But then, by chance, I heard "Ready To Start" off their just-released third CD, "Suburbs." It immediately hooked me. I listened to their brand new CD,"Suburbs." I was blown away. I watched some YouTube performances. Each live performance showed a young band singing and playing as if their lives depended on it. They clearly made a conscious decision to always perform with intensity and focus, like a "War"-era U2. There aren't many rock acts that approach their professions with this sort of work ethic. I've seen a lot of sloppy shows by bands with huge names. When you watch Arcade Fire perform, you realize they're simply head and shoulders above their peers. Their only comparisons are big names, like Springsteen, Bowie, Radiohead, The Cure, and yes, U2.

Some more things to like:
• The band is from Montreal, probably my favorite city in the world.
• As a Montreal band, they have a unique, Francophilian approach to art (i.e., they're not afraid of sentimentalism that teeters on the gauche). This is a good thing.
• Though Montrealers, the lead singer and his multi-instrumentalist brother are former Mormon kids from a rich suburb of Houston.
• These brothers, Win and Will, went to elite schools like Philip Exeter Academy, Northwestern, Sarah Lawrence College, and MacGill University, but managed to escape the establishment.
• Win is married to a woman named Reginé, who came to Montreal from Haiti. She is also in the band.
• Reginé wears stylish dresses and has a full head of dark brown, naturally curly hair.
• Reginé plays drums, keyboards and the hurdy-gurdy (pure Montreal).
• Win is vaguely Nordic, and sort of suggests a younger Christopher Walken.
• Win sounds a LOT like Bruce Springsteen or John Cafferty.
• Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters once said he listens to "Keep The Car Running" the first thing when he wakes up in the morning.

Enough gushing. Check them out, they're big, epic and passionate, sinister and sullen.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What Is "Indie" Rock

I'm 42 years old.

Over the years I've listened to a lot of music. I've seen a lot of bands. I've attempted to write and record rudimentary songs. A couple of them aren't half bad!

A long time ago, I taught myself to play guitar (with a friend). I've entered and won (with a different friend) a college talent competition, even though I'm terrified of performing in front of an audience. In fact, I would almost rather die than be asked to perform in public.

As a moderately educated white man, my musical tastes lean toward Indie Rock. If you're not sure what I mean by "Indie Rock," well, I'm thinking about bands like The Smiths, early R.E.M., The Replacements, and more recently, Arcade Fire.

Niche bands. Bands with a cerebral bent. White bands.

Here's my take on "Indie" Rock.

• There's an established social/economic caste in the United States. These families make decisions that affect entire country. They have names like "Bush," "Hilton," and Kennedy." Their children listen to indie rock.
• Indie rock audiences love to watch live music, because it gives them a chance to (a) stand completely still in one spot; (b) smoke cigarettes; (c) not dance.
• Indie rock pretends that black music simply does not exist. Remember the MTV racial controversy of the early 80's? (Basically, MTV refused to play videos by Black artists until an asexual, sanitized Michael Jackson arrived on the scene.) Indie rock continues to avoid any acknowledgement of soul, funk or hip-hop.
• Indie rock is white, but it's beyond "white." It's white, upscale, college-educated and professional.
• If you're the child of an elite U.S. family; you will likely be drawn to indie rock.
• Elite, white audiences in places like France, Spain and Germany, enjoy U.S. indie rock, even though they're inclined to be skeptical of Americans and American culture.
• Indie rock receives disproportionate coverage in the media.
• Fans of indie rock are likely to read books.
• Fans of indie rock are skeptical of religion, capitalism, and The Establishment.
• Indie rock is often about ideas. Large ideas.
• You rarely see African-American faces in the audience at an indie rock show, but you will see Asian, and occasionally Latin faces.

I sincerely hope this helps.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Is it me, or does paleo-conservative Rand Paul bear more than a passing resemblance to another radical thinker, Lee Harvey Oswald?

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pat Metheny on Kenny G

Asked to recall his first impressions of frizzy-haired saxophonist Kenny G., jazz guitarist Pat Metheny lets loose:

"He had major rhythmic problems and his harmonic and melodic vocabulary was extremely limited, mostly to pentatonic based and blues-lick derived patterns, and he basically exhibited only a rudimentary understanding of how to function as a professional soloist in an ensemble..."

But he did manage to give him some left-handed praise:

"...he did show a knack for connecting to the basest impulses of the large crowd by deploying his two or three most effective licks (holding long notes and playing fast runs - never mind that there were lots of harmonic clams in them) at the key moments to elicit a powerful crowd reaction (over and over again)."


Bottom line: Metheny thinks Kenny G. is a hack (albeit a rich and successful hack).

Full article here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Get Ready For Green Walls

We live and work in environments that separate us from nature. Why?

I suppose there's a reason for this — our natural world is beautiful, but it can be a dangerous and deadly place.

When we hang a painting of a nature scene on a wall, we're trying to bring a bit of the natural world inside. We're trying to make the wall seem a bit less lifeless. We're trying to reconnect with our natural spirit.

This is why architects are finally experimenting with "green walls," which are exactly what they sound like. They're literally walls constructed with living, green plants, not dry, painted Sheetroc.

Most of has haven't been exposed to green walls, but I predict we'll see a them everywhere in years to come.

We'll see high-rise buildings completely covered in green, not granite. Retail stores will use green walls to make a statement. Architects will absolutely crave the chance to spec green walls, because they represent offer the chance to make an environmental statement, an intellectual statement, and a creative statement. What architect could resist?

Most of us working in cities spend our waking lives completely surrounded by lifeless, drab walls.

We're seeing more and more interesting uses of green walls, I can almost guarantee they're coming soon to a wall near you (maybe your own walls).

Rand Paul & The Business Good, Government Bad Argument

A few thoughts about this Rand Paul/Rachel Maddow dust-up:

While I certainly don't believe he's a nasty, overt racist, Paul's mish-mash of Libertarian/Republican/Tea Party tenets certainly revealed his beliefs to be incongruent with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (you know, the one that forced racist restauranteurs to serve black folk).

Here's an exchange about a specific effect of the '64 C.R.A.:

Maddow:... How about desegregating lunch counters?

Paul: Well what it gets into then is if you decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into a restaurant even though the owner of the restaurant says 'well no, we don't want to have guns in here' the bar says 'we don't want to have guns in here because people might drink and start fighting and shoot each-other.' Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant? These are important philosophical debates but not a very practical discussion...(emphasis mine)

Maddow: Well, it was pretty practical to the people who had the life nearly beaten out of them trying to desegregate Walgreen's lunch counters despite these esoteric debates about what it means about ownership. This is not a hypothetical Dr. Paul.

Paul is basically suggesting that he has a philosophical problem with government imposing civil rights laws on business owners. His defense? Well, business are owned by people, not by the government, and should be allowed to operate their business in any manner they wish, even if it's offensive.

I've never been impressed with this argument. First of all, it ignores the symbiotic relationship between private business and government. If I operate a restaurant in the United States, I benefit from the support of the government in a host of ways:

• Highways, bridges, and tunnels (built by the government) make it easy for customers to drive to my restaurant.
• Subsidies paid to farmers help ensure that I'll be able to buy fruit and vegetables at an affordable price.
• Our public school system provides me with a literate, educated pool of workers to choose from.
• The Federal judicial system lets me defend myself against lawsuits, insurance claims, and other legal matters.
• Environmental protection laws let me rest assured that my customers won't get sick and die if they drink the water I serve them.
• I don't have to worry about serving rotten hamburger patties to my customers, thanks to meat inspection laws, mandated by the government.
• The Federal Reserve helps stabilize the dollar, protecting me from wildly unpredictable, Zimbabwe-style inflation
• An infrastructure of satellites, telephone lines and broadcast frequencies allow me to advertise my restaurant to a huge audience of potential customers
• I'm protected from foreign threats thanks to a highly advance, standing military force.

So when I hear Paul suggest that business owners should be able to decide whether or not they should be allowed to serve black people, because, hey, it's none of our business, I've got to disagree. We're fortunate enough to live in a nation that literally moves mountains to help businesses prosper. Defiance of federal Civil Rights legislation isn't just ugly, it's un-American.

Update: Paul made a clarifiying statement today:

"I unequivocally state that I will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

Can you believe a political candidate in 2010 would need to make such a statement?

Friday, May 7, 2010


"Glee" fans know her as the ditzy Cheerio, but Heather Morris is a tremendous dancer. She got her first big break with Beyoncé, and she's spirited and energetic in this clip.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why The Arizona Immigration Law Is Unconstitutional

As a White man, I won't enjoy equal protection under Arizona SB 1070 — I'll enjoy enhanced protection. Super-sized protection. Protection that violates the 14th Amendment. Here's why:

• If I am attacked and beaten in a random act of violence, I won't hesitate to report the crime to the police, because I know that, as a White man, I won't be asked to "show my papers."

• If I'm at a party that gets too loud, the police officer will not demand proof of citizenship from everyone attending. That's because we will all be White and we will be listening to Indie Rock.

• If I'm caught watering my lawn on a "no water" day, I may or may not receive a warning. This is because I'm White, and it will be presumed that I'm the owner of the house, not an illegal day laborer.

I could go on and on with other examples, but hopefully you've gotten the idea.

Here's where things get complicated for non-White U.S. citizens:

Suppose I'm a former professional baseball player from the Dominican Republic (yeah, it's a stretch). I'm a naturalized U.S. citizen, my wife is a naturalized citizen, and my children were born in the United States. We all have very dark complexions, and we are clearly not Caucausian.

While driving through Arizona, we're pulled over for a traffic violation. The officer asks for my driver's license. Whoops, for some reason I don't have it. I actually don't have any identification, and my wife doesn't, either. My English isn't very good. My wife's English is worse. The officer becomes suspicious. Under SB 1070, not only can I be arrested, the officer is obligated to arrest my wife and I. My children will be taken into custody, too.

Would this happen to a white family? Of course not. I've been pulled over on two occasions without my driver's license, and managed to drive away with a smile and a warning.

The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution ensures that states must guarantee equal application of the law. This is essential to prevent institutionalized racism within a state.

As a White man, I'll be able to move through Arizona freely, above suspicion. My skin is light. I don't speak with a Spanish accent. I get a free pass. Under SB 1070, Latino men won't get the same free pass. How does this reality uphold the principle of Equal Protection under the law?

It's interesting that Arizona legislators didn't pass a bill that would require police to check the immigration status of every single individual, during every single call. This would ensure that Latinos would not be unfairly targeted because of their appearance. But this didn't happen. White Arizonans would never stand for such a law.

The architect of the bill, attorney Kris Kobach, offered a spirited defense in a NY Times Op-Ed piece. But despite his best efforts, vagaries in the language resulted in a hasty re-tooling of the bill, even after it was signed. That's because police officers are expected to make judgments based upon skin color and appearance.
Kris Kobach. It's doubtful he'd be subject to scrutiny under his bill.

Does U.S. immigration policy enforcement need to be urgently addressed? Of course. But this is a bad (and innately racist) law, which swings the barn door wide open to racial profiling, fear and intolerance. It reveals an ugly side of America, but thankfully, I'm confident it won't survive legal challenge.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Poetic Wall

The design, the photography -- "lyrical" is the best way to describe it.

A wall is just a wall. But with some creativity, it can become a poem.

(more here...)

Conan: Take a Reality Check

Conan O'Brien didn't get to be Johnny Carson, so he's very sad and depressed. If you don't believe me, check out his beard. As every White American Man knows, when we're sad and depressed we grow a beard. We just can't be bothered with shaving.

I sort of felt sorry for him, until I remembered a few facts:

• He was paid $32 million to walk away from his contract. When most of us lose our jobs, we're lucky to get 2 weeks' severance pay.
• He's spent much of his adult life hosting a late night talk show on a major TV network. This isn't a bad gig; in fact, only a handful of people on Earth can make such a claim.
• He's a smart guy. He's fully aware that the TV business isn't about grace and honor; it's about cold, hard cash. Loyalty means nada.

Conan O'Brien is a brilliant comedic talent, but is he really that much funnier than any "Onion" staffer? Did he deserve the "Tonight" show more than, say, Jon Stewart, or Stephen Colbert? Of course not. Conan should be more than pleased with the way his life has played out. He was never a natural performer; he was a writer who was promoted to become a performer, bypassing thousands of talented performers to take the reins of "Late Night." He done good, much better than he deserved.

Conan, you're still young. You're filthy rich. Take some time off, see the world, take up a hobby, and please stop whining.

The World's Biggest Josh Groban Fan

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tucumcari Tonite

Tucumcari, New Mexico epitomizes the Route 66 Boomtown.

When the highway was built, Tucumcari capitalized on her location and built dozens of motels to cater to travelers along that stretch of road between Amarillo and Albuquerque.

"Tucumcari Tonite!" billboards invited drivers to spend the night in one of 2,000 sparkling new motel rooms.

But when I-40 was completed, travelers began to zip past this one-industry town.

Today, the main street is lined with crumbling old businesses, a harsh reminder of the old days. Route 66 has become a sort of American Appian Way.

We made a point to stop here. Walking past faded old signs, weathered by decades of sunlight, your mind fills with images. You picture an old Chevy station wagon. Mom & Dad are in the front. You're sitting in the back.

Dad still has a full head of dark hair, and Mom is lean and lovely. They're both smoking cigarettes; neither wears a seat belt. Their windows are rolled down, and you can see that their arms are starting to get sunburned.

All you can think about is swimming in a pool. Any motel will be fine, as long as it has a big, blue pool.

But today, the pools are dry, and the travelers are gone. Walking down the street, past the spectacular, faded signs, you remember the days when you were in the back seat, and Mom and Dad were in the front. They've finally settled on a motel, and yes, it has a big, blue pool. They picked it because they wanted to make you happy.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Albuquerque: A Quaint Japanese-Inspired Home

Many of the homes in Albuquerque subscribe to a neo-Pueblo architecture. That makes this modest, Japanese-inspired home (situated near Central Avenue) all the more captivating.

Note the gravel-strewn front yard; this a staple in desert metropolises like Albuquerque and Phoenix. Here, grassy lawns are a folly, a fool's game, a battle you're bound to lose.

A pair of forboding yucca plants create a spiky symmetry to the front yard, fully situating this home in the high desert, not Osaka.

I picture an aloof, complex and mysterious artist living here, perhaps a divorceé with dark hair and curious habits...

Albuquerque: An Actual Conversation

Setting: The Albuquerque Museum of Art. The "Grizz" is at the ticket counter, purchasing a single adult admission to the Museum.

Grizz: One adult, please.
Ticket Girl: OOOOOO-kay, could I get your zip code?
Grizz: Sure, it's "7-3-1-1-8."
Ticket Girl: Hmmmm, what state is that?
Grizz: Oklahoma.
Ticket Girl: (Beaming) OKLAHOMA!! I love that song!!
Grizz: It's a great song.
Ticket Girl: It IS a great song! I love that song!
Grizz: Rodgers & Hammerstein, you can't beat it.
Ticket Girl: (Making direct eye contact) You know, I learned how to spell "Oklahoma" by listening to that song.
Grizz: Wow.
Ticket Girl: (singing) "O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A, Okla-HOMA... OK!
Grizz: (Nonplussed) You guys need a song like that to help kids learn how to spell "Albuquerque."
Ticket Girl: No doubt! I've lived here all my life, and I still don't know how to spell "Albuquerque!" It still takes me like, five minutes to figure it out.
Grizz: (Sympathetically) Hey, it's a tough word to spell.
Ticket Girl: (handing over one ticket) Enjoy your visit.
Grizz: (winking & smiling) Oh, I plan to.

photo from Wikipedia Commons

Santa Fe

If you were born and raised in Santa Fe, the rest of the U.S. would seem very strange to you.

You would wonder, "Why isn't the sky as blue? Why isn't the air as crisp?"

You wouldn't understand why the buildings outside Santa Fe look so formal, so English, so... fake.

You would miss the sound of the snow-melt dripping onto the street.

Though your city is wealthy, you would miss the unpretentiousness of your surroundings, the raw, wooden logs that support your home, the earthen tones that fill the horizon.

Simplicity and harmony. Earth and sky.

Sun and rain, night and day. The beauty of a simple, turquoise etching telling a story on someone's front door. Sixteen strokes capturing the sweep of history. This is the sort of thing you see in Santa Fe.

Santa Fe is the smallest capital city in the United States. It's far smaller than most of the suburbs surrounding cities like Houston and Chicago. It also sits at the highest altitude. You can quickly lose your breath strolling across the Plaza.

Yet people are drawn to this city, this old town filled with art galleries, cutting-edge restaurants, and adobe buildings. Artists come here, because of the sky, that ancient cerulean sky, ever-changing, ever the same. Santa Fe is a place to escape from life in the U.S. It's a place to discover the artist inside of you.

Santa Fe makes you think, "I need for my life to change. I need to approach things differently." Each time you visit, you hear the silence. It's deafening. You feel yourself becoming a better person. This is why you never want to leave, yet you can't wait to get back home.

Albuquerque: A Most Poetic Moment

Crossing the intersection of busy Rio Grande & Indian School Road, in Albuquerque, we spot a tiny Yorkie galloping across the street.

Cars slow down to avoid this little creature, running with joy and confidence, completely indifferent to danger. In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd swear the Yorkie was smiling.

A small white van suddenly swerves onto the scene. It's the county dog catcher, in hot pursuit of this rogue mutt. A dog catcher? Am I in a dream? Do people still earn a living capturing stray dogs?

The dog catcher gets close to Yorkie, but at the last minute, BAM! The Yorkie sprints away, literally bounding with glee. Those of us driving slow down to watch. It's comical, like something from a Little Rascals short, watching this tiny critter repeatedly elude authority (and capture).

We drive on, watching through the back window, as the Yorkie continues to confound the dog catcher... so much delight, so much poetry, all in the space of less than 15 seconds. We are all Yorkies now.

Go Yorkie, Go!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Places I Miss: Quincy Park, Parkersburg, WV

I'd spent an entire year in Parkersburg before discovering this jewel of a park. It's a bit off the beaten track, not that easy to find (if you're not a local), but the view is glorious.

The park overlooks downtown Parkersburg, the Ohio River, and Belpre, Ohio, just across the river.

The view from Quincy Park inspires me to seek out the most stunning, panoramic views of any city I visit. These photographs, found on Flickr, are wonderful, and capture a charming side of the old city of Parkersburg.

When I climbed the picturesque steps of Montmarte, in Paris, I thought, "This reminds me of Quincy Park" (only not as steep).

I look at these pictures and I'm 19 again, sitting on a park bench with friends, gazing off into the horizon, wondering where life will lead us...

photos by Andrew & Courtney Holbrook

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pebbles The Cat Enjoys The Snow

Pebbles the Cat has enjoyed all of the freaky snow we've had this winter.

It's easy to understand why: Pebbles is a Maine Coon, which means she's from Maine, where it snows all the time. She has a tremendous amount of hair to keep her warm, which, in Oklahoma, is typically useless (because it's so hot here). This winter, though, her furritude has served her well.

Interesting fact: Maine Coon cats are created when a racoon mates with a kitty cat.

(not really, but people used to believe that story.)