Friday, August 26, 2016

It’s the People, and Something More

During the 1970s, the Olympia Brewing Company of Tumwater, Washington ran a beer commercial which included the slogan, “It’s the water, and a lot more.”   Several years later, James Carville, strategist for Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 campaign against incumbent president George H. W. Bush, coined the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  Although Barry and I know little about beer and even less about economics, at Twin Rocks Trading Post we have developed a similar rallying cry:  "It’s the People!”  Barry wanted to include something about turquoise and silver, maybe even Navajo rugs and baskets, but we just could not make that work.

We have been advised by individuals who know a lot more about advertising than we do that, “It’s the People!" is not an exceptionally creative motto and likely will not move people to tears or incite an artistic or philosophic revolution.  While we think that may be accurate, we have at times wondered who would have believed McDonald’s could make a go of, “I’m Lovin’ It”.  It just goes to show you that with enough money and persistence you can move mountains.  The problem for Barry and me, of course, is that we are short of cash and have precious little patience.  Nonetheless, we care a lot about people and believe the saying accurately reflects our most fundamental values.  No matter how eccentric, unconventional or unorthodox they may be, just like Ronald McDonald we are lovin’ ‘em.

Lately, however, the Twin Rocks folks have been embroiled in a number of divisive issues that threaten our peaceful existence.  The Clinton-Trump presidential campaign, for example, has split us along ideological lines.  Some feel Trump has long ago gone off the rails and is nothing short of dangerous, while a others believe he is the sorely needed catalyst for change we have been seeking.  There are even a number who believe Clinton is not to be trusted and will surely land this country in the ditch if she is elected.  No matter what our political alignment, we universally long for a viable alternative.  After months of waiting, hoping and even praying, however, nothing has appeared. 

Despite the unusual presidential campaign, the most heated debate presently circulating around the shop is over the possible designation of a new national monument right in our back yard, and front yard too.  That issue has those of us at the trading post, everybody in San Juan County and a majority of Utah citizens heatedly talking.  Several months ago the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition proposed a mammoth area of almost 2 million acres for protection under collaborative management by local tribes and federal agencies.  The Obama Administration seems to be listening, and we are closely monitoring the situation to see what happens next.  All parties agree the land is of great historical, scientific and scenic value.  The rub comes in how it will be administered and used.  Many county residents, citing long use, desire local control.  The federal agencies seem to believe more control and better oversight is necessary.  Hopefully, there will be a sensible solution that will work in the long-term.

Despite Barry’s fears I will alienate our friends, family and clientele, thereby destroying our primary source of income and leaving us destitute, I have publicly supported the designation.  While there has been passionate debate, and many people have candidly informed me they do not favor my position, Twin Rocks is still in business.  This experience has led me to conclude Barry and I have developed the correct slogan.  We care passionate about the people of Twin Rocks, whether they be customers, staff, friends or just casual visitors.  Fortunately many of them care about us too.  Nevertheless, as insurance against against a complete financial collapse brought on by this extraordinary situation, I have bought Barry a supply of pencils and a tin cup, he already has dark glasses.  Priscilla stenciled the words, “Will work for frybread” on a cardboard sign and she and I jointly scoped out corners on which Barry can hit up the tourists for donations.  We think that may have settled his stomach and calmed his nerves.

Despite their disagreement with my monumental stance, even those residents of San Juan County who feel I too have too gone off the rails and am as dangerous as Donald Trump are mostly kind and generally patient.  These are the people Barry and I have grown up with, spent much of our lives with and Barry has gone to church with.  Consequently, their opinions are important to us and we listen.  Over the years Barry and I have learned that we are not defined by the things that divide us.  Instead, we believe we are the product of issues we have earnestly debated and come to a reasonable compromise. I have personally found that it works best when Barry comes over to my side.  He disagrees.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Biophilia; The new Hozho

It's been far too long since I have had an outdoor adventure. My intentions are good, but time and circumstance have worked against me. Being immersed in the art of the people is a fabulous lifestyle, but there must be more to life than this. As I often mention, getting into the back country is something I do to maintain harmony and balance, my personal hozho. I have blatantly appropriated the word hozho from my Navajo neighbors because, in a nutshell, it best describes where I want be both mentally and physically. A deep primal need to affiliate with the natural world and the fulfillment of that desire keeps me in sync with all other aspects of consequence in my life.

It seems I am not the only one who feels that way. I recently had a customer in the trading post that had an extremely sad story to tell. His name was Hank, and he was a worried, wrinkled fellow who looked far older than his 57 years. Hank explained he married young, right out of high school, and went directly to college to earn a degree in engineering. Three children were born of the marriage during his college years, two girls and a boy. After university he and his small family moved to Milwaukee, where he landed a mediocre job with a large construction firm. He worked hard, invested heavily in his employer's investment program and bought a few stocks and bonds in hopes of helping his kids through college and having a satisfying retirement.

Hank also told me he became a workaholic, spending far more time at the office than with his family. As his children grew, went off to school and moved far away, they grew distant. His focus on fulfilling financial obligations cost him dearly when it came to his offspring. When he turned 55 his life was turned upside down. His precious partner contracted breast cancer and died, and the company in which he had invested his life ravaged his retirement account and filed for Chapter Eleven bankruptcy. He was emotionally and financially devastated, and thought seriously about taking his own life. Although this begins as a sad story, there is an upside, so please hang with me.

Hank described an extremely close relationship with his wife, much of which stemmed from their mutual obsession with nature films and documentaries. When he was home from work, he and she would sit together and wonder at the majesty of the natural world as it was presented to them on the small screen. Upon retirement their plan was to travel the American continent and visit every national park and monument they possibly could. Just before she passed, Hank's wife made him promise to follow through on their dream; she would travel with him in spirit and he could expound upon his experience through meditation and prayer. They would maintain their connection spiritually until they met again on a heavenly plane.

Luckily their home was paid for and some of the outside investments he had made secured a minimal retirement. He sold his house, bought a Ford truck with a Duramax diesel engine, equipped the pick-up with a cab-over camper and hit the road. As he traveled and immersed himself in nature, Hank began to heal. He told me that in the last two years he has discovered peace and solace through his witness of, and immersion in, the many wonders of the natural world. I had to laugh when, as if he had read my mind, he told me, "If you think I look bad now, you should have seen me a few years ago."

Hank kept his promise by treasuring his wife's memory and keeping her updated through whispered messages. Hank told me he has, "Knelt and prayed on mountain tops and canyon rims; in deep, thick forests; and upon the driest and most desolate of deserts." He has also reconnected with his children, and their children as well. He was on his way to Portland to pick-up two grandsons to introduce them to the Northwest coast. Hank was an exquisite storyteller; through him I felt a world of emotion; his joy, pain and rebirth. I was flattered he would take the time to share his story with me.

Just today Laurie forwarded me one of those electronic messages that gets passed around her workplace. It was an essay on how nature has a restorative effect on people and how spending time in the natural world exhilarates and rejuvenates the body and brain. For me, being immersed in nature is an uncomplicated therapy rich in visual, auditory and textural impressions. I am much more settled after a hefty dose of the great outdoors. After reading the article Laurie wrote, "I better know now why you love the mountain so much." The email also referenced a National Geographic You Tube video titled; This Is Your Brain On Nature.

The lecture revealed many interesting fact, one of which was, “As of 2010 human beings have officially become an, "Urban species!" That means more people live in cities than don't, and the trend is accelerating. The scary part is that the average American and European spend ninety percent of his or her time indoor and an additional five percent in their car. That leaves only five percent to commune with nature. No way! Yes, way!!

As for Hank and me, we choose to be known as biophiliac’s. Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist Edward Wilson coined the term to describe, “The connection human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.” For me, being a biophiliac means I have a deep need to interact with nature. I do it because it positively effects my mood, lowers my blood pressure, keeps me healthier and helps me to better interact with other people. (Especially Steve when he goes off on a tear and publishes controversial letters to the editor.) To me, biophilia involves spending time on the mountain. Anyone who knows me knows I am a mountain-junkie! Just being in the midst of the peaks, smelling the pine-scented air, listening to the wind blow through the trees, hearing the cry of a hawk or seeing wildlife leaves me relaxed, centered and at peace.

With warm regards from Barry Simpson and the team;
Steve, Pricsilla and Danny.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Egg Leather

Earlier today I walked into the cafe looking forward to my usual morning cooler, two fingers of lemonade, a twist of lime and water over ice. It looked like another hot one in Bluff, and I wanted to begin hydrating as soon as possible. Forecasters were predicting a high of 105 degrees for the fifth day in a row, and the resulting convected air would surely extract moisture from anything and everything that showed signs of life. With these temperatures it is best to top-off early and often, otherwise you might shrivel and petrify like the ancient wood and dinosaur bone commonly found in this area.

Entering the kitchen, I greeted our staff and was pleased to see everything was as it should be. Our compliment of cooks, dishwashers and servers were in place and working industriously, whipping-up our special Eggs Atsidi and Eggs Manuelito, and serving them to hungry guests. As I mixed my drink and bantered with the cooks one of our servers walked up and asked if I could check-in on the people at table 12. "Why?” I asked, "What's-up?" Kerri, who always wears a bright and appealing smile, projected something between a nervous grin and a grimace, overlaid with the beginnings of a twitch. "Well," she said, "there is a family of four on that table and we can't seem to get their food right." "No worries," I said, putting aside my drink, "I will take care of that."
Barry, Kerri, and Justin

Confidently I strode toward the table, taking-in the overall situation as I went. The foursome consisted of a mother and father in there 40s, a daughter who looked to be about twelve and a son of close to fifteen years. The father and children appeared fidgety and on edge as the woman stabbed at her food aggressively. Walking up to the table, I asked if there was a problem with their meal. The kids bowed their heads in embarrassment, while the father pushed back his chair, lifted his head and exhaled loudly. The mother, however, let me know just what the issues where. Pointing to her husband and daughter she said, "We are disappointed, his pancakes are cold, the milk for her oatmeal is warm and my scrambled eggs are too moist; I ordered my eggs dry." "I can fix this," I assured them and went back into the kitchen.

Taking the coldest milk from the back of the refrigerator I poured it into a stainless steel container and placed it directly under the fan in the freezer. Next, I ordered-up a new plate of pancakes and extra dry scrambled eggs and told Justin, our cook to, "Make it snappy, because we had unhappy guests." He went right to work and had the order out fast. The hot cakes were steaming; the milk ice cold and the eggs dry as toast. I placed everything on a tray and delivered them myself, feeling proud of our speed and efficiency. "Ah wonderful," said the man. "Perfect!" said the girl. "Still wet!” said the woman poking at her eggs. Three members of the family ducked their heads in embarrassment, while the fourth, the woman, looked me directly in the eye and in a peeved voice said, "Take two eggs, crack them onto the grill, break their yokes and cook them, cook them hard!" "Got it," I replied and headed back into the kitchen to relay the message.

Steve and I and our managers Marc and Lori are known to be sensitive to the wants and needs of our customers and do our best to make them happy. This woman, however, was putting my patience to the test. I went back into the kitchen and relayed the angry woman's message to Justin. He complied perfectly and handed me the 3rd plate. As I looked upon those eggs my mind flashed-back to when Steve and I were young barefoot boys roaming the graveled streets of Bluff. Just to the south of our family’s property, in the old Jens Neilson home, dwelt a bent and miserly woman we knew as Mrs. Bourne. She was a woman of indeterminable age and immense ingenuity. I recalled the day Steve and I watched her cut heavy duty strips of leather upper from an old boot she had dug from someone's trash can and fashion hinges for her dilapidated gate. Through the years we learned many similar lessons from Mrs. Bourne. Flashing back to the present and the eggs on the plate, I was reminded of those leather hinges.
Egg Leather and Hammered Nails

Twenty minutes later I found myself sitting upon the rock bench on the front porch flicking ice chips to the thirsty lizards hot footing it back and forth along the concrete walkway. I watched as the family snapped photos of the Sunbonnet and Twin Rocks then pile back into their high mileage Plymouth, preparing for departure. The young girl waved through the side window as they drove off into the heat waves emanating from the asphalt, while the woman left me with an icy stare. I picked-up my dilapidated hammer and began straightening rusty nails. Looking to the plate of fried eggs resting next to me I wondered how they would hold-up as hinges on our now busted gatepost behind the trading post. I was about to find out because, like Mrs. Bourne I hated to waste anything and hinges were about all this egg leather would be good for anyway.

With warm regards from Barry Simpson and the team;
Steve, Priscilla and Danny.