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


from http://swattingflies.weebly.com/

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"