Thursday, January 9, 2014

Weed and Typewriters

Something groundbreaking and equally unremarkable happened as of January 1st in Colorado: anyone over the age of 21 can legally buy marijuana. Of course you loyal Telegraph reader already know that. Everyone knows that, it’s plastered over every paper from USA Today to the New York Times.

As someone who voted for the measure I’m proud to be a part of what will hopefully be a trend setting law for our country, and across the world. One of the major reasons I support the legalization and decriminalization of the herb is that people should simply not be going to jail for marijuana use, simple as that. If alcohol is legal, then weed should be too.

I contemplated filling my column on the legalization of marijuana, but I simply don’t have it in me. I’m bored just thinking about a thousand words dedicated to weed. Maybe the Telegraph needs a proper marijuana editor like the Denver Post? I’m sure there wouldn’t be a shortage of applications, or perhaps we could hire within?

No, you won’t find me painting my face green, wearing a weed necklace and waiting in line for an hour to buy some legal marijuana, I’ve got work to do. There are enough champions for this cause. Plus, I’m working on my New Year’s Resolution: to write on a typewriter.

I got the idea from my friend Brian. Each year he makes practical, achievable New Year’s Resolution. Last year his resolution was to wear more blue jeans. He also has a sock addiction and owns nearly 40 pairs. He prefers women’s socks, and says he likes the colors and they fit better. He also doesn’t smoke weed, but loves the smell of it. He sent me a text last week that read, “Finally I can smell in the open without fear of prosecution.” Brian’s full of quirks. Once on a road trip to Yosemite we brought a dictionary and kept ourselves entertained by looking up new words. It was formidable.

I bought an old typewriter at a local thrift store this summer, and figured why not put it to use. I once attended a party where people wrote poetry on a typewriter, and I felt like a beatnik. I’ve always wanted to be a beatnik. Other than that I’ve never used a typewriter. I’m part of the very first computer generation, and like the 13 year olds with iPhones these days, I take it all for granted.

But since I’m old school and was born in the seventies, I’m starting to do the whole, “When I was your age” thing. For example, “When I was your age, we couldn’t text girls, we wrote them notes, and they had to circle yes or no if they liked us, and you had to risk getting your note caught, or other people finding out who you liked.” Or, “When I was your age, we didn’t have cell phones, we had beepers, and my Mom found my beeper and took it back to the store because she thought I was going to use it to sell weed.”

I once had an English professor say there’s no way we’ll know how the computer has affected literature until years from now. I mean in some ways I’m envious of the writers who never used a computer. No Facebook and Twitter to distract you, no iPhone buzzing texts while you’re typing out your great masterpiece. No wondering if your personal information has been compromised by Snapchat or Skype or Target. Just you and your thoughts at the typewriter. And, aside from my desire to be a modern day beatnik, that is why I wanted to compose something on my typewriter, that meditation, that lack of distraction, that beauty which comes from a singular, meditative focus.

My typewriter, it sat around for months until one day I got motivated to replace the old ribbon, and put it to use. I took a picture of it and went to the one office supply store that I thought might sell typewriter ribbons. They saw the picture, told me it was super old, and I’d have to order one online. So I did. Five dollars.

People have either laughed at me when I tell them about my typewriter or they say things like, “that’s sexy.” Then they see it and its covered in cat hair and dust, and its like 70 years old, and they just say, “eeeewww.”

To me this typewriter is like my shelf of books. There’s no rational reason to have this shelf of books, I live in a small room, where I could expand my yoga floor by getting rid of my books and simply putting everything on a Kindle. But I hold onto my books because they make me remember when I read them and fell in love with them, and made me want to become a writer, because there’s magic in beautiful stories and the book is a work of art, and its perfect and people will go on writing books forever because we need them to live.

So, when I returned home from the holidays my ribbon arrived and I cleaned off the typewriter. After watching a YouTube video the ribbon was successfully installed. And then I started writing on it. The words are blurry and I had to use a single finger keystroke, and play around with the mechanisms to type. I started getting frustrated. But this thing is 70 years old, and it still works! Looking at my computer and my iPod and my iPhone and they are all going to be in the trash in five years.

Now, back at the computer I appreciate it a little more. I also want to buy a better typewriter. Maybe my old one is just something nostalgic, something to sit around like my bookshelf and make me appreciate this juxtapose in time, where we can have the luxuries of modern technology, and the nostalgia of the past. And we can go to the store and buy weed (no beeper required). 

This piece was originally published in the Durango Telegraph, January 9, 2014.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Freedom Mobile's Last Stand

I wish I could have afforded to keep "The Freedom Mobile" but nothing lasts forever. Here's a final reflection, originally published in the Durango Telegraph, January 2012

I’ve waited until the last minute to compose these words. Not because I’m slacking off, but because I caught the flu during a trip up in Salt Lake City, Utah for the Winter Outdoor Retailer Show. For the past couple days I’ve been laid up on the couch, unable to write. This morning, as my deadline is staring me right in the face I feel much better, grateful that this nasty bug seems like it’s going to pass.

Even though I do feel better starting to write something feels like I’ve never written before. It feels like this bug has attacked some brain cells, in addition to the other havoc it has wreaked on my body.

So as I was working through this post-sickness writer’s block, I decided to look though last week’s issue of the Telegraph online. Since I was out of town last week, I hadn’t seen the paper yet. The title for Missy Votel’s La Vida Local “Germ Warfare” caught my eye. As I read through her comical take on the flu season I felt grateful that my bug seems like it wasn’t going to stay around for as long as it does for some folks.

Anywho, after that dismal introduction, what I wanted to write about this week was cars, specifically The Freedom Mobile, my graffiti-ed, red, white and blue 1988 Mazda that I recently replaced with my dream ride, a Subaru Outback.

Before it was Freedom, it was just a car I bought for a thousand bucks. I drove that thing all over, from Mexico to California, even before we spray painted it. It was reliable and got great gas mileage. I lived out of it for months at a time, camping, climbing and devising systems to get around that pesky 14 Day Limit rule. One of the most hilarious antidotes happened when my Dad was taking a look at my car, and opened up the flap under the trunk. To our surprise, there was a plant growing out of some dirt that had found its way down there. Further investigation revealed a bag of beans I’d bought in Mexico slipped down there, and so had a patch of dirt. Yes, this car was fertile.

The patriotic, spray-painting was inspired by the 1969 American road movie, Easy Rider, with Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda, where they travelled the country in a red, white and blue motorcycle, donning the clothes of the same color. I’d already put some 40,000 miles on this car, and figured it would last maybe another year or so, why not graffiti it up?

When I painted the car I was living in Gunnison, gainfully employed, and I could have easily afforded a new ride. Instead I decided to spend my money on things that seemed more important at the time: gear for the outdoors. I had two bikes that were both more valuable than the car itself, not unusual for a mountain town resident.

When the economy tanked my job got cut to half-time, and I was ready to move on from Gunnison. I packed up everything I owned into The Freedom Mobile and hit the road. I knew I was moving to Durango, but wanted to take a big road trip first. I’d planned the trip with my buddy Dave from Telluride, and at the last minute his truck blew up. We’d have to take The Freedom Mobile.

We drove into Utah, to Red Rocks in Las Vegas, over to Joshua Tree, California and over to Yosemite. Now well over 200,000 miles the Freedom Mobile just kept rolling. Never mind that every single warning light was lit up, and it made weird clicking noises and smelled like leaking antifreeze. All over the American Road we got positive responses, my favorite, a woman sitting passenger in a truck who passed us in Utah, hooked up to breathing oxygen, she looked at us, and gave us the biggest grin I’d ever seen and two big thumbs up.

At the end of that trip I just prayed it would take us back to Colorado. I scored a house sitting gig in Durango that would start soon, and had to meet the owners of the place. They lived in a plush home in Durango West 2, and upon seeing the car remarked, “it looks like it’s been through a war.”

Every time I thought the Freedom Mobile was going to die, it just kept going. Nothing lasts forever though, and as winter was approaching I considered getting a new ride, something with four-wheel drive to be a little safer in the snow. I started looking around, and really started getting serious when my friend and mechanic, Andrew Kubik took a look under my car and said, “You need to get a new car.”

Andrew helped me find a 2000 Subaru Outback, with a mere 150,000 miles. To me it feels like a new car, and drives like a dream. The first question my parents asked me was, “you’re not going to spray paint it are you?”

I ensured them that I wasn’t going to, much to their relief. I do still love the concept of art cars though, and there’s nothing like someone rolling up next to you at a stoplight and giving a big smile. There are some cool art cars in Durango, more than I’ve seen in any town in Colorado. I even met a lady in Telluride one time who organizes an art car parade in Houston, Texas, apparently the biggest in the world; who would have thunk it?

In the end I quit while I was ahead with Freedom. It could have easily broken down somewhere out in the Utah desert (that became the furthest I would take it after the big trip), but it didn’t. When I got the new Subaru my friend Katie Brown asked me if I was going to miss the Freedom Mobile. I replied, “definitely not.” I’d taken Freedom so far I was just glad it didn’t leave me stranded in the middle of nowhere.

I’m more excited about where the Subaru will take me; it’s a good feeling to have spring around the corner, and to have a new ride. But, for now, I’m headed back to the couch to nurse the rest of this sickness.

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