Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Archive for the tag “Boulder”

Being the Best He Can Be

So, like I said yesterday, Sugar and I went with another couple to eat at a nice restaurant on Valentine’s Day.  It was a Brazilian steakhouse.  They had a special for only $110.00 per couple.  I made sure that I got my money’s worth.  It is easy to get enough to eat because these servers called “gauchos” bring skewers of various meats to the table.  They keep coming until a diner says “uncle” by turning over the wooden thing on the table from green to red, signifying stop.

While gorging ourselves, the subject of weight came up.  Mark’s wife told us proudly that Mark had lost nearly 50 lbs. in two years.  We asked how he did it.  I asked just to be polite because, as those of you who are loyal readers already know, I am the perfect size for an NFL linebacker.  Being the perfect size means that losing weight could jeopardize my NFL career, so I diligently work to keep my weight up. 

Mark, on the other hand, was a high school wrestler, and had experience “making weight.”  I helpfully told him that he should have just wrestled at whatever weight he was at the time.  I told him about my cousin Bob, who used to be a wrestling coach and did not push his wrestlers to lose weight.  I don’t know why that is so rare.

Anyway, Mark has not wrestled for a few decades, so his attempt to lose weight in recent years was for another reason.  I suppose it was healthy.  It might have been for vanity.  I do not relate to either of those reasons to lose weight, but to be polite I listened to his explanation.

In a nutshell, he said he had read some article in a magazine that inspired him because it was not about dieting but, rather, what he took from it was “to be the best Mark that he could be.”  He got the magazine in Boulder, Colorado, which means it is obviously some kind of liberal peace and love, I’m okay, you’re okay, I’d like to teach the world to sing publication.  Personally, I look to Mike Ditka for advice on how to live.

Anyway, it worked for Mark to each day ask himself what he should do to be the best Mark he could be.  Apparently, the best Mark he could be is lighter than the earlier version of Mark. 

Sugar was impressed.  She made some crack about my bum knees and how putting less weight on them would be a good idea.  I listened attentively and ordered flaun covered with caramel for dessert. 

Today she wondered if I got anything out of the inspirational message from Mark.  I told her that I did indeed and I am being the best Mark that I can be.  I decided that Mark won’t make it in the NFL unless he puts on about 50 lbs, so I am eating accordingly. 

“But, Al,” Sugar said with frustration, “you missed the whole point.  You are supposed to be the best Al that you can be, not the best Mark.”

“Oh, why didn’t he say so?  Please pass the sugar, Sugar.” 

“All my coaches, without exception, told me that I was already the best that I could be. I don’t really consider myself perfect, but apparently they all did.”

“They did not tell you that you are perfect.” Sugar was skeptical. Even negative.

“Well, maybe not using that word. How would the other, less talented, players feel, hearing that? They said, ‘Al, we are not seeing any improvement whatsoever!'”

Thanks, Coach. I know! It is just the way I am — can’t get any better!

Close to Home

When I see something in the news about a tsunami in faraway lands, I have compassion for the victims, but the victims are strangers to me and I have never been to those places.

When there is a natural disaster, such as tornadoes in the Midwest or hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, or wildfires in the West, I can relate better.  The victims are Americans, like me.  Maybe I have been to the location of the disaster.  Maybe I have friends or family in the area.

But enough about people I don’t know.  Now let’s talk about me, me, me.

Now the news is showing the clean-up from the flooding in northern Colorado.  This is my neighborhood.  I have been on those roads now destroyed, like Highway 34 up the Big Thompson Canyon to Estes Park.  I can’t get to Estes now.  I love going to Estes Park.  It is a beautiful little tourist town in the mountains, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.  We camped there this summer.  My wife did an art show there in June.  We have been to the stores shown on the news as being flooded. We live in the very same county.

We have family members in Boulder and Longmont.  They were not harmed, yet we worried until we learned that.

I called a lawyer friend last week to see how he was doing because he lives in an area that is a mountain valley.  Last summer, his family was evacuated during the High Park fire.  This year his family was not evacuated, but his home was damaged by some of the flooding.  Still, they stayed.  The road to his house is not a priority in the rebuilding efforts.  He was told that it might not be repaired for a year.  In the meantime, he literally has to use a ladder to cross a washed out section of the road that is now an open crevice in order to get to a car he parks on the road.  He has to hike quite a ways to get to that car.  For a year?

We have been to his home.  It is in a lovely setting.  I understand why they moved there.  Now I have difficulty grasping how they can stay there, cut off from vehicle access.

There are many stories like that.  Worse stories.  True stories.

The people who lost everything in a tsunami can feel compassion for families like my friend’s, and probably do.  Even so, Colorado is a faraway place to them.

I guess you had to be there.

It helps to remember that God, who knows when a sparrow falls from a tree, is here and was there with the people in the tsunamis, the hurricanes, the tornadoes, the wildfires, and the floods.  For nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Rainy Day

In the movie Primal Fear, Richard Gere plays a criminal defense lawyer.  In one scene, he says about himself, “First thing that I ask a new client is ‘Have you been saving up for a rainy day? Guess what! It’s raining.’ ”

Guess what!  It’s raining.  Again.

A meteorologist on TV last night said that 10″ of rain, which we have gotten in Northern Colorado, is the equivalent of 100″ of snow.  That is difficult to imagine.  In a normal year, we only get about 14″ on average.

The court house and other government offices in Boulder County and Larimer County are closed due to flooded roads.  Schools are closed.  And our law office is closed.

With the inventions of the telephone and internet, I am able to work from home.

With the invention of the Ford F250 SuperDuty Supercab diesel 4-wheel drive pick up truck, Miss Sugar might be able to make it to the grocery store for provisions for a rainy day.  I sure hope she does not have to go “off road.”  Our ranch is 20 miles from town.

horse and dallas days

We have saddlebags.  Maybe she would be better off taking one of our horses because a horse can swim, whereas a Ford F250 pick up truck cannot.

Maybe we should have gotten a Hummer.  Or an ark.

Car Status (and lack thereof)

Advertisements for luxury cars appeal to a desire to be “cool” by appearing wealthy.  You have seen them — Cadillac, Lexus, Lincoln, Acura, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, and Porsche.  If you get one of those, your status with neighbors, friends and strangers who see you drive it, will undoubtedly increase.  I have succumbed to that myself, so I am not writing this to be self-righteous; rather, I am writing to tell you about the opposite of status.  I am writing about my personal degradation.

Miss Sugar, my trophy wife, and I have a vehicle which has humiliated me, but not her.  Apparently, her self esteem is more secure than my own.  There are many reasons for her to have good self esteem, including being a former beauty queen and professional model.  I, on the other hand, am a fragile creature.

As a fragile creature, I am self-conscious about being seen in a vehicle with reindeer antlers sticking out on either side and a red “nose” on the grill at Christmas time.  I am self-conscious about having a window sign saying “Sugar ‘N Spice Clowns” with the telephone number.  As a fragile creature, I cringe at a bumper sticker that says, “I’m not going SLOW, it’s the CLOWN in front of me that is.”

The vehicle so decorated is a 1997 Nissan Pathfinder.  Nissan Pathfinders are cool, normally, but our Pathfinder has cheerfully tolerated much abuse in fifteen years, as it traveled 270,000 miles.  It runs great.  It reliably starts in cold weather.  It did not choose its decorations.  I empathize with its loss of dignity. 

It is integral to your understanding of the loss of dignity to be told that Miss Sugar and daughter Michelle have performed as children’s entertainers in their roles as Sugar ‘N Spice Clowns.   Thus the Pathfinder became The Clown Car.  (The history of Sugar ‘N Spice Clowns includes a television show and local fame,  street performances in Boulder and Fort Collins, county fairs, countless company picnics, and birthday parties, a period of her life that Michelle said she “does not wish to re-visit.”) 

I, on the other hand, am not part of the act.  My contributions are limited to carrying the cotton candy machine and directing traffic for the lines of children waiting for face-painting and balloon animals.  The IBM picnic had at least 150 children.  (He also serves who only stands and waits.)   As a non-clown, I have nevertheless been transported in and even been seen driving The Clown Car.

As Miss Sugar has phased out of the clown business, The Clown Car has transitioned into becoming The Dog Car.  Not wanting to ruin our (other) prestigious luxury SUV purchased in order to gain acceptance in the parking lot at work, we use the Pathfinder to take the dogs with us to their frequent trips to the veterinarian, as well as doggy day care and boarding at “camp” when we go on trips.  (See archives for Deadly Dangers at Cross Creek Ranch and Water Dogs).

Consequently, the Pathfinder has acquired an abundance of dog hair, so much so that at one of its infrequent trips to the car wash for a “detailing,” the employee who returned the keys to us remarked, “We vacuumed up half a dog from from your car.” 

Even as The Dog Car, the Pathfinder is still equipped with a special horn that offers a selection of sounds, including a siren, machine gun, and five animal sounds.  The sound of a cow mooing is the most popular.  When our fifteen-year-old nephew visited recently, he delighted in causing the Pathfinder to “moo” at people crossing the street.   Last year, while driving “off road” in open range, Miss Sugar thought it funny to have the Pathfinder moo at a herd of cattle near us.  Maybe its moo is a recording of a bull or something rude to the ears of cows because we started a stampede. 

There is an additional bumper sticker on the Pathfinder.  It says, “You have to be real secure to be seen in a car like this.” 

I’m not.

The Abbey

Last weekend, from Friday night until Sunday afternoon, Miss Sugar taught a water color art class at a women’s retreat hosted by the sisters at The Abbey of St. Walburga, which is just ten miles up the road from  our place.

The sisters have crossed paths with us before.  Sugar and I immigrated to Larimer County from Boulder County, Colorado.  So did the convent of St. Walburga.  I never visited the Boulder County location except to drive by.  They had a farm on a busy road east of Boulder.  Surrounded by subdivisions, they no longer felt so cloistered, I presume.  They sold what had become valuable real estate there and purchased or were given a beautiful valley in northern Colorado, just a few miles from the Wyoming border.  They made the move in 1997.  The distance between the locations is approximately 100 miles.

The sisters started out living in modular buildings.  Over the years, a beautiful building was constructed, which includes an inspiring sanctuary in which they worship, as well as living quarters, dining area, offices and even a bookstore.

Although the religious order is considered cloistered, the members are not isolationists and welcome visitors.  They are part of a Benedictine tradition that emphasizes hospitality.  Accordingly, they host a number of retreats during the year.

(You could look at their website, they are technologically advanced nuns.)

Life’s Challenges

Presently, there is a wildfire in our county, Larimer County, Colorado, near Fort Collins.  It has been named The High Park Fire.  This wildfire has burned over 43,000 acres, an area that could contain both the cities of Fort Collins and Boulder.  The fire is not in the cities, that is just a size reference.  The fire is burning in the mountains where there are many trees dead from beetle kill and the underbrush is dry from lack of snow and rain this spring.  So there is plenty of fuel.  And wind has fanned the fire out of control.

Over 100 structures have been destroyed, including homes, of course, but not all are homes as the count does not distinguish between residences and outbuildings such as barns, sheds and garages.  Regardless, that is a lot of property loss.

One life has been lost.  A 63 year old woman, who had twice been called by phone to evacuate, either chose to stay or did not receive the messages.  It is sad that she died in the mountain cabin that she loved. 

Many others, hundreds, have evacuated.  They are dealing with the fear of the unknown about whether their homes will burn.  Others already know their homes have burned.  Others have been allowed back in.  Others on are pre-evacuation alert.

There is an evacuation center at the county fairgrounds.  It used to be at a middle school but had to be moved farther from the fire due to smoke.  At the fairgrounds, large animals of evacuees may be kept as well.  Small pets were taken to the Humane Society until filled to capacity.  Now a vet clinic is taking overflow.  Many of the evacuated folks are staying with friends and relatives.  There are kind people helping those in need in addition to Red Cross and Salvation Army.

The real heroes are the firefighters, of course, ranging from local volunteer fire departments to professionals from other states.   The number keeps growing as the fire has grown.  Today there were more than 500 firefighters, including “boots on the ground” and pilots of planes and helicopters that drop retardant and water on the flames.

There are many to praise and no one to blame.  The fire was started by lightning, not even negligent humans, and especially not evil terrorists like those responsible for 9/11/01.

The Bible says that “It rains on the just and the unjust.”  I pray it will rain on this fire.

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