Friday, March 4, 2016

Shit I Miss About My Brush Creek Artist Residency

Seeing our jackrabbit friends at Artist Camp

Being around fellow kindred artists on a daily basis
Waking up at 9 a.m. most days
The view of the snow-filled field and surrounding rock outcrops from my bed every morning
The ritual of taking off my boots and stepping into my slippers whenever I stepped into my writing studio
The view from my writing desk

The comfy couch in my writing studio (great for afternoon naps)
All the quietude and solitude
Becoming acutely aware of the shades and play of light and shadow within my studio as the day passed, as well as out on the various trails
Wearing a scarf and mi chullo on a near daily basis

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Miss Sally (or My First Snow(wo)man)

Last Wednesday, I built my first snowman ever.

In seven weeks I will turn thirty-seven.

Before I came out to Wyoming for my three-week winter residency, I figured I would have ample opportunities to build a snowman or two or few. I knew it might not be as easy as it seems in movies and TV, so I was wise enough to ask a few of my coworkers who hailed from cold-weather regions for any tips on building one. The one tip I received—and it proved to be quite helpful—was to begin by simply pushing a snowball along the snow.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Shit I’ve Learned About Wyoming (Thus far)

February 5th, late Friday evening, the tiny United passenger plane I rode from Denver, CO landed on the small airport runway in Laramie, WY. It was my first time in The Equality or Cowboy State, only my second time in the Mountain Standard Zone. (My heart still aches for you, New Mexico!) The following morning, I contracted the services of the good people at Snowy Range Taxi to take me west from Laramie past Saratoga, the nearest town from the artist camp that I will call home for most of this month.

On my two-hour cab ride to the Brush Creek Ranch, and from conversations with locals and others who have passed through Wyoming before, I’ve learned a thing or two about the 44th state admitted into the American Union:

Wednesday, February 10, 2016



Since I arrived at the Brush Creek Ranch five days ago, I’ve been surprised to find horseflies buzzing in and outside of my writing studio. All around us, the fields are covered in at least two feet of snow. Thin icicles still hang and drip droplets of water from the slanted roofs. Winter in Wyoming doesn’t strike me as a hospitable place for horseflies. But they are here in most of our artist studios.

Last night, while our communal dinner was wrapping up, a horsefly flew onto my pant leg. It rested on my thigh for a long while. He was a fairly big fly. While the other artists conversed, I snuck glances at it. I was unsure if it was a fly that was ready to die like the one I had seen the day before, lying wings down, legs lethargically moving to and fro on one of the snow-covered walkways. Without noticing it, the fly eventually flew off my leg and landed in the bowl I had used to sip a pea soup. Its six legs dangled in the air as it lay in the bowl. I took my napkin and held it over its legs. It clung on and unglued himself from the soupy remnants coating the bottom of the bowl.

Four of us artists remained at the table. I stared down at the fly while they conversed. I saw the fly flap his wings futilely a few times. Then, it took its front legs and seemingly wiped their tips a few times before it reached up and over to clean the top of his head. He did this, over and over again. I began to smile as I watched. Usually, flies this close to me would zip away. This was the first time I could remember seeing a fly use its legs for a specific purpose.

Beverly, a visual artist with a fantastic mischievous grin, noticed me and the fly.

Just smush him, she said.

I know, I know, I said. But I already did that last night to a fly I saw lying in the snow. I just—

I hesitated to smush it because I couldn’t tell if the fly simply needed to groom the sticky soup off its wings, or if it was in its death throes. Besides the fly I saw lying in the snow the day before, I had seen a few dead horseflies by the windows of my studio.

As so, I continued to watch the fly wipe the ends of its front legs a specific number of times before it proceeded to wipe the top of his head a number of times. There was a rhythm to it. By now, I was looking at the fly with wonder—and affection.

Just put him out in the snow—or you can take him with you! Beverly said with a smile. You can call him Fred.

I laughed.

I’ve already been thinking of that. I can take to my studio. There are two other flies there he can die together with.

I stood and grabbed a teeny cup from a cabinet. I carefully held the napkin that Fred clung to over it. Gently carrying the cup, I stepped out into the cold night. When I got to the end of the building, where the lights end, I stepped out into the snowy path that led up to my studio. It was dark. I couldn’t see what I was stepping on. I stumbled through the lumps of snow. With my free hand I reached into my pocket to grab my cell phone. Fortunately, its dim light illuminated the way.

By the time I flicked the overhead lights on in my studio, I saw that Fred was very still on the edge of the napkin. Somehow or another, the piece that he stood on was now wet. I laid the napkin on a table next to the wall. I cranked the heat on. For the next two hours, I wrote at my desk. From time to time, I stood to check on Fred. He continued to stand in just about the same spot. He looked like he had shriveled up a bit. Oh no, I said. There was a yellow crumb—or something—on his furry thorax. I tried to gently wipe it off. This was all new to me. I had never cared for a fly before. When I was a young boy, I often took delight in whacking horseflies inside our house with a swatter.

Once it was time to turn in for the night, I stepped over again to Fred. I leaned over him. He took a few steps, which comforted me. But once I was packed up and stood at the door, ready to flick off the lights and leave, I looked over at him and grimaced. I felt awful about leaving him alone in the pitch dark for the entire night. I figured I wouldn’t find him alive in the morning.

The next day, I stepped over to the table where I had left Fred. I did not find him on the tabletop. I bent and peered over at the floor around, to see if perhaps he had fallen off. I found two dead flies, but both were smaller than Fred. They were stiff, as though they had been in repose for a while. Once I began to study the floor in the entire room, I was surprised to find many dead flies. I swept them up and dropped them in the trash can. There must have been about 10-12 bodies—and there are more stuck on the blinds, or on the windowsills.

Today there were four horseflies buzzing about the studio. With the sun shining, they stick to the warm glass windows. I peered at each one. Fred? I even called out, once or twice to them. Two of the flies were hobbling up and down the window. I think one of them is my dinner buddy, but I can’t be sure.

I’m not sure what is becoming of me out here. I’ve never cared about one seemingly measly horsefly before, but now two of the four that were buzzing about this morning have dropped on the ground. It pains me to see one of their legs twisted, or their wing bent and broken, their legs struggling to and fro as though they still have the instinctual desire to live. I don’t know what to do with them when they’re like this.

I’ve been having a hard time with death lately.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Clown Without Pity’s 2016 Super Bowl Pick

Boy was I wrong about that AFC Championship Game! But I don’t think I'm whiffing on my Super Bowl pick.

But before I get to that, let’s talk about the Super Bowl festivities in San Francisco, you know, that hilly liberal bastion 45 miles from Santa Clara—that uninspiring sprawl of suburbia that will actually host the game. Since last week, San Francisco’s Embarcadero and downtown area have been teeming with cops, military servicemen, and guys dressed for a Will Smith action film

Citizen! Feel like relaxing at Yerba Buena Gardens? 
Go right ahead! Just ignore my assault rife! This is freedom.

So dear NFL: thank you for viscerally reminding us how militaristic your sport is. Boy was George Carlin spot on about that:

And yesterday, my sweetheart, Maria, who works in a building situated near “Super Bowl City,” told me she saw the Budweiser Clydesdale horses stomping through downtown pulling their iconic carriage. A slew of motorcycle cops—she estimated about 30—roared through the streets to clear the way for them so San Francisco’s police force was basically utilized for an in-person commercial for Buttwiper. Just fucking great to hear how our civic funds are divvied.

But onto my pick: I think it’s going to be Carolina over Denver. On Ross Tucker’s podcast, NFL Film guru Greg Cosell said the key matchup of the game is Denver’s run defense versus Carolina’s rushing attack, and I totally agree. It’s simple as this: if Denver can slow down the Panther’s rushing attack and continually force Cam into long 3rd down passes, we’ll have a game on our hands. If not, Denver’s going to get bowled over again in the Super Bowl though it probably won’t be as bad as the 55-10 drumming to the 49ers, or the recent 43-8 ass-whopping to the Seahawks that I, as a Raider fan, absolutely savored.  

For me, the true wild card of the game’s outcome is Wade Phillips. Homeboy’s probably the best, if not one of the top-three defensive coordinators in the game. (I think Phillips and Vic Fangio are the best. Rex Ryan used to be up there.) If he can draw up another masterful plan to slow down an offense that couldn’t be more different than New England’s offense, Denver has a chance to win a low-scoring game. But even then, somehow or another, I think Old Man Sheriff and Denver’s lackluster offense will have to score 20 points against a ferocious Carolina defense. Like Bill Barnwell in his Super Bowl preview and prediction, I just don’t see that happening. In too many ways, I think this game is a bad, bad matchup for Denver.

Cue "I Shot the Sheriff"

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Clown Without Pity's 2015-2016 Championship Game Picks

Picture says it all: who brings the real fire? Who's got the true killer instinct?

AFC Championship: New England at Denver 
So in my 2015-2016 playoff predictions I correctly picked this championship matchup, but after watching the games this past weekend, I’m changing my pick: I’m picking the Pats.

My rationale (which has a funny way of going out the window when the two teams actually take the field): despite the home field advantage, Denver’s defense doesn’t impress me. Before the playoffs began I was well aware that this is no great defense, not like the 2013 Seahawks. But last week, without Antonio Brown, without Le'Veon Bell, without his capable backup, DeAngelo Williams, a banged-up Big Ben and their 3rd RB on the depth chart piled up 396 yards on the Burros. It took a crucial 4th quarter fumble for Denver to escape with a win.

With LT Sebastian Vollmer back in the fold, I think Brady and McDaniels will attack Denver through the air with a thousand-cuts, 40-50 pass attempts approach. I think their offense will put up more than 20 points—and that should be enough to put down the Caballitos.

This may be the last time Brady and Manning’s teams face off. (Here's a link to ESPN's Ultimate Brady-Manning Quiz; I scored 8 out of 10!) Right now, Manning may have greater regular season stats but I’d still take Brady any day, especially an elimination game. Like my buddy J-Oro wrote in his conference championship game picks, Brady is this generation's Joe Montana. From my vantage, Manning has always seemed like a more emotionally brittle QB than Brady; too many elements have to be rolling on offense for him to succeed and when they don’t he’s far more likely to implode. Just go back to the second play of Super Bowl 48. In retrospect, Manning and—subsequently—his team, never psychologically recovered from that safety. Put Brady in that situation and I think Denver would still be in the game because he turns to pissed-off anger when his back’s against the wall instead of cowering like Manning tends to when facing a stout defense in pressured situations.

NFC Championship: Arizona at Carolina
Boy was I wrong about that Seattle vs. Carolina game! Obviously, Carolina’s offensive and defensive lines really impressed me in the first half of that last game. On the flip side, Carson Palmer played like a guy who was 0-2 in the playoffs and desperate to not lose (which is different than winning) a game at home in the Divisional Round. He looked really shaky in the 2nd half of their game against Green Bay.

I’m taking Carolina for this game:
  • Their home crowd was deafening last week.
  • I trust Cam more than Palmer in a high-pressure game.
  • And football is almost always won in the trenches. Carolina should put together a more complete game this week.

However, the Cards best chance to pull off the upset is for their defensive line to have a monster game. If they can shut down Carolina’s running game, the game shifts to Carolina’s receivers vs. the Card’s secondary, and that should be a very favorable matchup for Arizona. At some point or another, you figure Carolina's lack of talent at that skill position will catch up to them...

Cam throwing some dumbshit-choad's 12th Man flag: I wholeheartedly approve

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015-2016 NFL Playoff Predictions

One of the kicks from following sports is making predictions, right? Or maybe I just like being horrendously wrong with my sports predictions? If so, this blog is a testament to that.

Anyway, after what felt like the most unpredictable, topsy-turviest NFL season yet, we have arrived to the playoffs. In both conferences, the 4th seeds—not surprisingly—appear to be the weakest teams while the 6th seeds look like the most dangerous teams playing in the opening round. The NFL should take the NBA’s lead and change their playoff bracketing to eliminate mediocre to piss-poor division winners from automatically qualifying for the playoffs and instead reward teams based on their records. It just seems more practical, which is why the League of Denial probably won’t do it.

But enough pish posh! Here are my playoff predictions.