Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Fires of Hell

June 29 update: As of this morning, the Boulder area fire is reported at 40 percent containment, and the worst appears to be over.

Wildfires have raged here in Colorado for weeks now. They're getting a  little closer to home.

The scariest by far are the fires burning down in Colorado Springs, where we used to live and where both of my children were born. This is the Waldo Canyon fire. At least one person has died in this conflagration.

Brushfires started yesterday just west of Boulder, not too far from where I live. It's almost funny – almost – that my mom emailed me (from 1,500 miles away) the day before knowing only what the national media has reported. I assured her we're quite safe.

We're still safe, but it's getting a little too close for comfort.

The fire began yesterday afternoon. Last night around 6:30 I jumped on my bike and rode to a place where I could get a better look. I took a series of pictures, including the one at left. As you perhaps can tell, this fire is in a canyon located behind the mountains in the distance. (These are the Flatirons, part of the Front Range of the Rockies.)

I emailed a few friends last night. So far, everyone I know is well out of harm's way.

As of this morning, the fire is reported at about 300 acres. This is peanuts compared to the Waldo Canyon inferno and the High Park fire, which is burning north of here, near Fort Collins. But these situations can escalate rapidly, so there is still plenty to worry about.

I never got very close to the fires on my bike ride last night. Not that I wanted to, and not that I could have if I'd wanted to. I reached a point where the road I was on turned into a narrow lane of cracked and broken asphalt, and this gave way to a rutty old dirt road. At right is a detail of a photo I got from this locale.

While I was there, the wind really picked up. The fires are already aided and abetted by tinder-dry conditions brought on by low precipitation this past spring, and by soaring temperatures over the last week or so. This is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. High winds are an X-factor, a frightening part of the equation.

When I turned my bike around to start heading home, a few stray raindrops dotted the ground. I felt a few of them splash on me. A tease, really. A tortuous tease.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Here’s a recipe for the best lemonade I've ever had. I've been thinking about it now that it's summer, and temps have already soared into the mid-nineties.

My son squeezes out the juice
This lemonade is made from equal parts of three ingredients. It's quite tasty and tends to go quickly, so we like to make as much as possible.
  1. Lemon juice
  2. Water
  3. Sugar
We usually buy at least a bag of lemons and take turns squeezing it. But you can make whatever amount you'd like, even just a glass, provided you use equal parts.

We have a simple, manual juice squeezer. There are fancy ones that would make the job easier. But it would be hard to justify a purchase like that, considering how seldom we'd use it.

Anyway, start by squeezing out a bunch of lemon juice. However much juice you end up with, measure out equal portions of water and sugar.

(I'm duty-bound to say that. When I first got this recipe – I don't remember from where – it said "equal parts" of juice, water, and sugar. But in truth I always cut back on the sugar. You can do that in just about any recipe. If it says a cup and a half of sugar, I'll use a little under a cup.)

(You gotta be careful with this one, though, because lemon juice will pucker you like nothin' else, if it hasn't been sweetened enough.)

Anyway, three equal parts, except perhaps a little less on the sugar.

Pour half the measured water into an ordinary saucepan or small pot. Heat. Once it's hot, but not necessarily boiling, add the sugar. Stir until completely dissolved. This is critical. No one likes lemonade with sugar granules at the bottom of the glass!

Now pour the lemon juice into a large pitcher, preferably one of glass. Add the sugar water. Then add the rest of the water.

Mix. Let cool. Add ice. Stir. Pour. Enjoy. Tweak recipe according to personal taste.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Another Roadside Attraction

My daughter's horseback riding lessons are at a stable way the hell out in the middle of nowhere. When I take her there, there's nothing for poor little me to do – no Starbucks, no library or bookstore – no nothin'.

So I like to bring my bicycle along. And on a recent ride out in the boonies, I came across Blake's Small Car Salvage, Inc.

Blake's is a couple of miles from my daughter's lessons. It's right there off the side of the road, plain as day – but the first time I rode by I didn't even notice it right away.

I think that's because of the art studio on the property adjacent to Blake's. (To call it "next door" doesn't feel quite right, out in those wide open spaces, but I suppose that's what it really is.) The art studio's roof is very eye-catching, as you can see in the photo below. Once my eye was caught, I stopped for a closer look.

I saw these roadside attractions in early May. I didn't have a camera with me but vowed to return, which I did on June 3. It just seemed so very odd – this auto salvage business with its distinctive neighbor and imaginative sign, way out in the boondocks.

I don't know how noticeable it is in the top photo, but if you squint, maybe you can tell the sign for Blake's is made of old Colorado license plates, which someone – Blake, or perhaps someone from the art studio – has re-fashioned. In modern parlance, "re-purposed."

Here's a photo detail that should be a little easier on the eyes. Blake's is on County Road 5 in Weld County. "WCR-5" in the middle probably represents that. Now that you know where it is, you can junk your next car there!

(By the way, I hope "re-purposed" turns up on someone's list of words and phrases to be banned from the English language. Matt Groening, for one, used to do such lists in Life In Hell, usually at the end of year. But that's another post for another time.)

Final note: Along the property line, Blake or whoever has erected this interesting barrier, below. I didn't shoot the whole thing. Portions of it are made of old school buses.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Faruq Z. Bey, RIP

Faruq Z. Bey was never exactly a household name. As a composer and player of jazz music that is not at all surprising.

He died recently at the age of 70. I had not seen him play in a lot of years, but back in the 1980s I saw him play a lot.

I saw him most often with Griot Galaxy, a Detroit-based band he founded in the early 1970s. I think it's fair to say Griot Galaxy was in the mold of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, although such comparisons are always risky.

The Griots went through a number of lineups over the years. What I most saw was Faruq on tenor, with David McMurray also on tenor, Tony Holland alto, Jaribu Shahid bass, and Tani Tabbal drums.

They released two albums in this lineup: Kins and Opus Krampus. They're also on two tracks of the Montreux-Detroit Collection, Vol. 3.

These albums are on vinyl. A year or so back a friend of mine digitized them, and it's on my iPod. I'm listening to it as I write this: a tune called "Fosters," a humorous, drunken blues, on the Montreux-Detroit Collection.

Faruq also founded a band called Synchron, with whom tenor man James Carter often played as he established himself as one of the pre-eminent players of his generation. More recently, Faruq performed with an outfit called Northwoods Improvisers.

His obituary appeared in the Metro Times, an alternative weekly in Detroit.

I carry this vivid image in my head: Faruq Z. Bey onstage, standing like an oak tree as he takes a solo.

I gathered up some of my pictures and copied them into a video program, and used the aforementioned "Fosters" as the soundtrack. It's the tiniest of homages to Faruq Z. Bey.