Sunday, June 28, 2015

Superday was the end to a pretty super week

Promoting the brand at Cheyenne's Superday.
When asked to describe Cheyenne's Superday, I sometimes say, "It's like Denver Capitol Hill People's Fair -- without all the hippies."

I get puzzled looks from those who've never attended the People's Fair. That's OK. The People's Fair was -- and still is I guess -- a sprawling street fair started by the counterculture types at Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods (CHUN). This may be hard to believe, but 45 years ago, Capitol Hill was largely unexplored territory, populated by winos, ethnic minorities, longhairs in crash pads, culties, and Greatest Generationites who never got the memo to escape to the burbs.

Adventurous long-haired entrepreneurs bought old houses, staking out a claim in the territory. Enough of them arrived to form a united front, which turned out to be CHUN. That, of course, led to a People's Fair and, much later, legalized marijuana, coffee shops on every corner and craft breweries on every other corner. Hipsters, too. Who needs to read long boring histories about the Front Range when you can come here and get an encapsulated version?

Superday is Middle America's street fair. It was political parties and candidates, during even years anyway.   Non-profits of all kinds have booths. Alzheimer's Association, NARAL, Latina Conference for Youth, Head Start. YMCA. There's a big car show and lots of play areas for the kiddos. Military recruiters are on hand, as are a host of evangelical orgs. Many of the flyers I carried home from Superday featured offers to save my soul and that of America, which seemed to be in particular peril this week after some historic SCOTUS rulings. Save your soul -- all hell is breaking loose. And don't forget to make a generous donation!

I worked the booth for the Laramie County Democrats and its fund-raising arm, the Grassroots Coalition. We were sited adjacent to Head Start and an empty spot that was the site of an unspecified org which chose to take their cause elsewhere when they saw the neighborhood. They were OK with the U.S. Army booth next door. But Democrats? No way. They didn't even stick around to see our nifty "Love is Love" rainbow T-shirts and the life-sized cardboard cut-out of President Barack Obama, who had a pretty good week.

Democrats are woefully outnumbered in Wyoming and Laramie County. But we tend to show up at things like Superday. Republicans don't have to show up as FOX News does the work for them. We get plenty of dirty looks. And more than one person said they didn't want to have their photo taken with the Prez. They were polite about it. Wyomingites are polite, except when you turn them loose on online forums. That's when they vent their spleens, anonymously, of course. There are some pretty ugly spleens out there.

One middle-aged woman made a beeline to our booth and announced that she was an ex-lesbian. That was fine with us. We supposed that being an ex-lesbian was just as good as being an ex-husband or an ex-NFL linebacker or an ex-Republican. Unfortunately, she didn't let it go at that. She contended that homosexuality was a choice. And now we were all going to have to recognize gay marriage and that it was the Democrats' fault. I had seen this person at Tea Party rallies. She crowded our booth and asked each of us, in turn, if we were homosexual. At that moment, none of us were, so that's how we answered. She responded that we could all change that status and become a protected class, thanks to the Democrats and now, the U.S. Supreme Court and its judicial tyranny.

This went on for some time. We tried to reason with the poor woman but to no avail. She eventually moved on, leaving us a bit flustered. Instead of arguing with her, maybe we should have called out the gendarmes? But she probably would have screamed about "government overreach." We could have calmed her with soothing music or therapy-speak which, to Democrats, is almost like a second language. But we all got into the spirit of the debate/shouting match. When you're a liberal living in Wyoming, you tire of these shouting matches. No attempt at logic tends to reach the blunt skulls. Liberals, for our part, tend to be condescending, which doesn't help. Eventually you have to throw up your hands and walk away, heading to the nearest bar.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

"Out West in the Rockies" lands at UW

At my day job, scores of press releases arrive daily. Occasionally, I read one and say "Wow!" It happened in March when I saw that artist Ai Weiwei's monumental sculptures were leaving China for display at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson. In Laramie, Dancers of the Joffrey Ballet will be the artists in residence in July at the Snowy Range Summer Dance Festival. Wow! Short story master Tobias Wolff will be the featured presenter at the Jackson Hole Writers Conference later this month. Wow!

But I was doubly impressed last week when I saw the following news release from Rick Ewig, associate director of the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming. This highlights a good year for equality in Wyoming. The LGBT community is finding its footing in The Equality State. Or rather the state is taking a turn for the better. Witness the big turnout last weekend at Cheyenne's "Pride in the Park." So many attended that the police arrived to tell us to move our cars as they were blocking traffic. We complied, of course, believing in blocking traffic only when absolutely necessary to get a point across.

But I digress.

Here's the news:
The American Heritage Center (AHC) at the University of Wyoming (UW) in Laramie, which houses several significant collections related to slain UW student Matthew Shepard, is currently developing “Out West in the Rockies,” a first-of-its kind regional lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) history and culture archive of the American West.

The scope of of this collecting area welcomes collections from eight Rocky Mountain states: Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. Retiring AHC Director Mark Greene helped inaugurate and Associate Director Rick Ewig will oversee this effort.  
Gregory Hinton, creator of Out West, an acclaimed national LGBT western museum program series, introduced the concept to the AHC and serves as project consultant.  Hinton announced Out West in the Rockies at the recent LGBQT Alliance luncheon of the 2015 American Alliance of Museums Annual meeting and Museum Expo in Atlanta. 
Growing interest in the rural LGBT experience underscores the need for a visible, dedicated, centrally located LGBT Western American archive. 
"The LBGT communities are under-documented in many established national archives and historical repositories, but particularly in collections dedicated to the history and culture of the American West,” says Greene, who is a Distinguished Fellow of the Society of American Archivists.  “An archive of this kind is long past due.  The AHC is proud to be committed to this effort.” 
The AHC ranks among the largest and busiest non-governmental repositories in the United States.  In 2010, the AHC was recognized as one of the nation’s premier archives when it received the Society of American Archivists’ Distinguished Service Award.  The AHC currently houses 75,000 cubic feet of materials, with 15,000 cubic feet remaining to welcome new collections.  Thus, with ample storage space, an experience, dedicated, and nationally recognized staff stands ready to accommodate substantial LGBT holdings. 
Rural Montana-born Gregory Hinton recently drove from Los Angeles through the Rockies in blizzard conditions to hand deliver his personal and professional papers to the AHC.  
"Too many LGBT men and women evacuate our rural western backgrounds seeking community, companionship, and safety in the bit city,” Hinton says.  “Happily, not everybody leaves.  And more and more of us return.  Thanks to the AHC, our stories are welcome in Wyoming.” 
A distinguished advisory board of respected western scholars, artists, and activists is being assembled, including W. James Burn, director, University of Arizona Museum of Art; Wyoming State Representative and UW faculty member Cathy Connolly; Rebecca Scofield, Ph.D. candidate, American Studies, Harvard University; and civil rights attorney Roberta Zenker, author of TransMontana. 
"Out West dispels the myth that LGBT history (and communities) are bi-coastal,” says Burns, recent chair of the LGBTQ Alliance of the American Alliance of Museums.  “Rural western LGBT populations are thriving and make significant contributions to the communities in which they live.” 
A call will soon be put out for significant regional collections of organizational records and personal papers consisting of a wide variety of materials, from emails and correspondence to speeches and manuscripts. 
“Everything from scrapbooks and photo albums to press clippings and marketing/promotional material; from digital and analog photos to diaries and blog entries; from professional contracts and grants to minutes and annual reports,” says Rick Ewig, also recent president of the Wyoming State Historical Society and editor of Annals of Wyoming. 
Seeking to immerse themselves in the vast landscape of the rural American West, scholars and historians from all over the world visit the AHC every year.  The AHC is UW’s repository of manuscript collections, rare books, and university archives.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Update on Laramie County Democrats' Flag Day fund-raiser

Here's an update on tomorrow's Flag Day fund-raiser in Cheyenne. I have it on good authority that Uncle Sam (or someone who looks a lot like him) will be there:
The Laramie County Democratic Grassroots Coalition is hosting a Flag Day Garden Party oSunday, June 14 at 3626 Dover Road, Cheyenne, 2-5 p.m
Tim Fields from Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing will make a presentation about this worthwhile program that assists our local veterans. 
Aimee Van Cleave, Executive Director of the State Democratic Party, will update us on Dem happenings around the state. 
There will be desserts, beverages, and musical entertainment  provided by Terry and Theresa Barbre who will play the bagpipes and drums
And maybe even Uncle Sam
The cost is $15; $5 will go to Healing Waters and $10 to the Laramie County Democratic Party. The Dems will pay the entry fee for up to 10 Vets who are not members of the LCDGC.
We're asking the Grassroots Members to bring a dessert which has the colors red, white and/or blue. No cream pies or anything that needs refrigeration unless you want to bring a cooler too. We are going to cut some of the desserts to serve that day, plus we will set aside some of them to be auctioned off as a fund-raiser for The Laramie County Democrats. We will also have the cards to play 50/50.
If you choose, wear the colors red/white and or blue. We want to take this day to honor the flag and to honor our vets.
Let's have a great turn out for this special event! Bring a friend(s).
If you have questions, contact Kathleen 421-4496 or Ken 433-4394.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Democrats' Flag Day fundraiser features Project Healing Waters presentation

I'm on a committee with the Laramie County Democrats Grassroots Organization that stages fund-raisers for for Dem candidates, mainly local and legislative. The committee raised $10,000-plus in 2014. In the political world, that seems like a drop in the bucket. The Koch Brothers, before they finish their morning coffee, donate $10 million to Repubs. But those thousands in local funding paid for yard signs and flyers and even paid advertising, all things crucial to name recognition, especially for newbies.

It appears that another election is on the horizon. How does this happen? A dozen or so Republicans have already announced for president in 2016. Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have announced on the Democrats' side. Locally, Lee Filer has announced a return bout with fundie Repub Harlan Edmonds. Filer held the seat for two years. Did a great job. Ran again in 2014. Dems stayed home and Repubs voted in Edmonds. You have to get out a vote, people! GOTV efforts will be crucial in 2016.

The LCDGC is staging a fund-raiser this Sunday. You are welcome to attend If you're a Dem who has publicly declared your allegiances, You are welcome if you're a lapsed Dem. You are welcome if you're a closeted Dem, uncertain about making your feelings known in a sea of conservatives. Veterans are doubly welcomed, as it's Flag Day and we're a friendly bunch. 
On Sunday, June 14, Flag Day, the Laramie County Democratic Grassroots Coalition is sponsoring a fundraising event at 3626 Dover Road, 2-5 p.m. Tim Fields from Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing will make a presentation about this wonderful program that assists our local veterans. There will be desserts, beverages, musical entertainment and maybe even "Uncle Sam". The cost is $15; $5 will go to Healing Waters and $10 to the Laramie County Democratic Party. The Party will pay the entry fee for up to 10 veterans who are not members of the LCDGC.
We're asking the Grassroots Members to bring a dessert which has the colors red, white and/or blue. No cream pies or anything that needs refrigeration unless you want to bring a cooler too. We are going to cut some of the desserts to serve that day, plus we will set aside some of them to be auctioned off as a fund raiser for the Party. We will also have the cards to play 50/50. If you choose, wear the colors red/white and or blue. We want to take this day to honor the flag and to honor our veterans
See you there for another fun FUNdraiser!
If you have questions, contact Kathleen 421-4496 or Ken 433-4394.
For more information on Healing Waters, go to http://www.projecthealingwaters.org/. PHWFF is sponsoring its third annual fly-tying competition. According to its web site, the contest is "open to individuals who meet the definition of a PHWFF participant."

For those locals curious about the art of fly-tying, visit the Art of the Hunt exhibit showing now at the Wyoming State Museum.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Wave good-bye as the Boomer train leaves the station

We staged a farewell lunch for a work colleague today. She's moving on to greener pastures, and by that I mean another job. That's what young people do, move on. It's the circle of life.

Ten of us dined at the Albany which, as you locals know, is right across the street from the UP train station, now known as the Cheyenne Historic Depot. Twentieth-century passengers used to eat at the Albany before their trains departed for Chicago and San Francisco. There also was a Burlington Northern Depot, which has been torn down.

I rode trains as a kid growing up in the fifties. By the time I was in my teens, I had switched to air travel, as did most Americans. At 16, I was driving a car and have been ever since. Train travel was passe. Slow and annoying. Kind of like us Baby Boomers, now reaching retirement in alarming numbers.

I thought about this at lunch. Half of us were new employees from several different departments. They all had moved on from other jobs, as young people do. I was the oldest one at the long table. We conversed, had fun, teased the departing one. As the only one with a camera, I shot photos. Not to say nobody else could take pictures. I probably was the only one there lacking a smartphone equipped with the usual snazzy camera. I have a dumb phone. "They won't trust me with a smartphone," I sometimes joke. My colleagues have heard it more than once.

Pretty soon, I will head out the door of my workplace for the last time. Retired at 65, wondering where all the time went. I'll walk on down to the Historic Depot and climb aboard the train that takes Boomers to wherever we go when we retire.

All aboard!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

New Flash Fiction Review: "Welcome to Zan Xlemente, Zalifornia"

New Flash Fiction Review published one of my pieces April 27 in its "New Work" section online. It's a fairly new online mag with a wonderful group of editors: San Francisco's Meg Pokrass, the excellent Boston short story writer Pam Painter, Texas short-short fiction writer Tiff Holland, and advisory editor and anthologist James Thomas. I read on the W.W. Norton web site that James and his colleagues Robert Shepard coined the term "flash fiction." I met Meg Pokrass through Facebook. She's one of the few writers daring enough to feature new work on FB and ask for feedback. She talked about this experience, and read some of her work, on a snowy mid-September day at the 2014 Equality State Book Festival in Casper.

I consider myself a writer of short stories that aren't that short. Stories in my first published book are of traditional length and follow a structure similar to those penned by writers I've studied, everyone from Hemingway to Tobias Wolff.

But over the past 20 years, I've published three short pieces, including the one below. I had a 1,000-word piece in the Norton anthology, In Short: Brief Creative Nonfiction. I published a short-short called "Flying Nurse" in High Plains Register a few years ago. I've been writing short blog pieces here for ten years. In my youth, as editor and columnist for a Denver arts and entertainment weekly, I wrote columns that were 750-1,000 words. Most of my magazine and newspaper pieces have been fairly short, although I've also written some long-form mag pieces. Humor and satire, which I purport to write on these pages, is better short. It's challenging to write short. And fun. Which is why I'm going to stop right here, referring you to my latest flash fiction:    

WELCOME TO ZAN XLEMENTE, ZALIFORNIA 

My daughter M went to a nuthouse in San Clemente and all I got was this lousy metal keychain with CALIFORNIA writ large the blue of the sea under a gold-and-orange/red sun.

Read the rest at New Flash Fiction Review.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

May showers bring August tomatoes -- we hope

During my recovery from April's knee replacement surgery, my friend Liz brought me a Roma tomato seedling. I placed the sprout in my kitchen's south-facing window. If I lived in a more temperate climate, I would have marched the plant outside and put it into the ground. But I live in Wyoming, where April is still winter. Many of us have turned to the use of high tunnels or cold frames or other sheltering devices to ensure an adequate harvest. But not me. I continue to wait for those frost-free days of late May. Very late May, or even early June.

Two weeks ago, on a rare sunny day, I bought some flowers. I sat out on the porch, repotted them and set them out to enjoy the sun. While I was at it, I repotted the Roma and two cherry tomato plants brought over by my neighbor.  The dirt had a calming effect on my throbbing left knee. The sun, a welcome visitor. Still, I knew I was tempting fate to ignore the first commandment of High Desert gardeners: "No outdoor planting until Memorial Day."

True to form, rain and snow and frost arrived in southeast Wyoming this week. I could have hauled the potted plants inside, as I'd already done once. Instead, I pulled out my trusty tarp and covered them. It traps heat and moisture, and keeps snow and frost from the leaves. It's a big tarp -- I can cover the entire garden plot adjacent to my back porch. There was no need as I had kept to the letter of the law and not planted anything in the ground. I did cover the strawberries, But there's really no need, as my strawberries are hardy varieties cultivated at the Ag Dept.'s old High Plains Research Station. These babies can take the snow and ice and, to prove it, keep coming back year after year.

The tarp covered the plants four days and four nights, through a light snow and two overnight frosts and days of rain. I uncovered them Thursday evening after work, the moment I glimpsed the first ray of sun. The weathercasters assure me that the frosts are over, with low temps going down to 40 degrees but no colder. Soon, the usual warm, low-humidity days of summer will take over and I can put away the tarp.

This morning, the sun is out. Soon, so shall I be.