Sunday, December 26, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Forward

It's common to make New Years' Resolutions. But, what do we base them on? Before we talk about what we will do, let's talk about what we did wrong, and maybe can learn from.

Top 7 Biggest Mistakes of 2010

1) Rushed through Utah's Ghost Towns in September. I could have spent three months doing this instead of just one. Most of the cost was in gas. I could have paced myself, taken more photos, explored more, and had a better Autumn than just hanging around Durango homeless waiting for winter to happen.

2) Did not personally check the Purgatory Ski Resort's website for when their hiring fair was. It was not until November 15th. If I had checked this before I got here mistake number 1 up there would not have happened. This would have gotten me better photos too, as I'd have had more time to photograph during the early morning and late evening, when the light is the best.

3) Did not personally speak over the phone with the mother of a girlfriend that said girlfriend said I could stay with for two months. The result was that the mother was unclear about the situation, and I realized the mother, and estranged father, were both potentially violent lunatics whom I have no business hanging around.

4) Paid Don Hatch River Trips $450 for their training program to "maybe" have a job there in May. Showed up and it turns out there were 6 of us applying for the same job. Got weirded out by company's irresponsible decisions to raft in the snow in light wet suits, and their willingness to take money from people they clearly were not going to hire. On the bright side, at least, I found a way to live at the Moab Hostel for free when this plan fell through, I made some great friends, managed one way or another to do all the trips on my list, and probably wound up working for some better companies.

5) Didn't pay someone to run our shuttle for us on a Desolation Canyon river trip. The resulting cluster of trying to run our own shuttle cost me more personally than just pitching in for a shuttle driver would have cost.

6) Tried to back down a dirt road at night instead of turning around in a nice turn around spot where I might have possibly bothered someone who was sleeping with my headlights and engine noise for a brief period of time. Result: backed into a wash. Cost $250 and took two tow trucks to save the vehicle, which could have been damaged a lot worse.

7) Went to an emergency room to have a strep test done when I felt sick before a river trip. Cost: $483 + $69. Doctors are thieves and hospitals are evil. I will never go to one again this side of mass trauma as long as I am physically able to resist it.

Top 10 Greatest Accomplishments of 2010

1) Visited almost all (except for three) the Ghost Towns of Utah on my list, explored them, and took photographs of them.

2) Became a whitewater captain in Utah.

3) Ran all the river sections on my list: Lower Dolores, Cataract Canyon, West Water, Gates of Lodore, Desolation Canyon

4) Got out of my rut in Denver. Converted myself to a Western Slope seasonal tourist economy existence.

5) Did "the right thing" on several occasions even when it was costly. Still waiting for the karma to come around but I have my fingers crossed.

6) Escaped homelessness and unemployment twice in one year.

7) Was able to date two very special women.

8) Lived rent free from May to December. Pay only $150 a month in rent from December on.

9) Built a 16' 4" cardboard viking ship. Won the Grand County Public Library First Annual Cardboard Boat Race and the Red Rock Regatta boat race and the Red Rock Regatta costume contest. Took the boat down the Colorado River from Rocky Rapid to Takeout Beach. Hit some rapids but saw the boat we built of out duct tape, polyurethane, and cardboard hold together.

10) Bought a cab over camper that sits on a flat bed trailer. I now have a mobile home that is a HOME that I can drag back and forth across Western Colorado to live in from winter to summer.

Top 10 Goals for 2011

1) Buy an inflatable Kayak

2) Run the entire Dolores River

3) Run the San Miguel from Telluride to the confluence with the Dolores.

3) Run the Grand Canyon

4) Work full time as a paid guide in the 2011 river season, not part time as in the last two seasons.

5) Write the best researched, best photographed book about Utah Ghost Towns

6) Build a roof over my camper so it does not leak on me

7) Work many, many shifts at the ski resort this winter so as to save $$

8) Survive

9) Produce written versions of my river talks...

10) Have more of a political impact and push others to have more of a political impact.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Support the Georgia Prisoners' Strike!

Bruce Dixon article:

NYT Article:

Nation Article:

The strike has been going on since Dec 9. It has been blacked out by the media. The Georgia Department of Corrections is refusing to recognize it, has not yet released any statement, and has refused to answer any of my questions when I called them on the phone.

These are the prisoners' demands:


Read the articles for details.

Despite that the prisoners’ protest remained non-violent, the DOC violently attempted to force the men back to work—claiming it was “lawful” to order prisoners to work without pay, in defiance of the 13th Amendment’s abolition of slavery. In Augusta State Prison, six or seven inmates were brutally ripped from their cells by CERT Team guards and beaten, resulting in broken ribs for several men, one man beaten beyond recognition. This brutality continues there. At Telfair, the Tactical Squad trashed all the property in inmate cells. At Macon State, the Tactical Squad has menaced the men for two days, removing some to the “hole,” and the warden ordered the heat and hot water turned off. Still, today, men at Macon, Smith, Augusta, Hays and Telfair State Prisons say they are committed to continuing the strike. Inmate leaders, representing blacks, Hispanics, whites, Muslims, Rastafarians, Christians, have stated the men will stay down until their demands are addressed, one issuing this statement:

“…Brothers, we have accomplished a major step in our struggle…We must continue what we have started…The only way to achieve our goals is to continue with our peaceful sit-down…I ask each and every one of my Brothers in this struggle to continue the fight. ON MONDAY MORNING, WHEN THE DOORS OPEN, CLOSE THEM. DO NOT GO TO WORK. They cannot do anything to us that they haven’t already done at one time or another. Brothers, DON’T GIVE UP NOW. Make them come to the table. Be strong. DO NOT MAKE MONEY FOR THE STATE THAT THEY IN TURN USE TO KEEP US AS SLAVES….”

When the strike began, prisoner leaders issued the following call: “No more slavery. Injustice in one place is injustice to all. Inform your family to support our cause. Lock down for liberty!”

To support the prisoners, call the GA Dept of Corrections at 478-992-5246 or 478-992-5261 and tell them to negotiate. It is also requested that you call the individual prisons and tell them to back off:

Macon State Prison is 978-472-3900.

Hays State Prison is at (706) 857-0400

Telfair State prison is 229-868-7721

Baldwin State Prison is at (478) 445- 5218

Valdosta State Prison is 229-333-7900

Smith State Prison is at (912) 654-5000

The state of GA Dept of Corrections website is:

* * *

My view is that the criminal justice system is deeply flawed. Not least of all because it sends innocent people to prison, or because hundreds of thousands of Americans are sent to prison for non-violent drug offenses. There is tremendous bias of race and class. If you are wealthy and white and you commit a crime in Georgia you are most likely going to be able to afford a good lawyer and you will get a reduced sentence if not get off completely. If you are poor and black you will be presented with a marginally competent lawyer who will be overworked and not willing to devote himself fully to your case. You will be pressured by him, as well as prosecutors and judges, into accepting "plea bargains" which admit guilt in order to get a "reduced sentence"- even if you are innocent in the first place.

Our country has 5% of the world's population but 25% of the world's prison population. Not everyone in prison is there for murder. In fact rather few of them are, and not all all of them are guilty. Most people are in prison for the simple reason that they are poor. People from wealthy families don't need to sell drugs, rob or hustle. People with few opportunities and less education find crime more attractive.

If we abolished poverty we'd abolish 95% of crime. But our government doesn't want to abolish poverty. It is run by people who get rich off making other people poor and when poor people's lives break down they are thrown in prison- which generates lots of money for prison construction companies, lawyers, judges, sheriffs, guards, prosecutors, and the sensationalist media. But it does very little to lower crime. The growth in prisons isn't even about crime. Since 1981 the prison population has increased 450% to over 2 million, while crime and drug use rates have remained relatively the same.

But the prisoners are not asking us to abolish the prisons. They are not asking us to make college degrees free for everyone- something that our country which has $78.6 Billion a year to spend on military R&D could easily afford. No. They are asking to not be paid under minimum wage. They're asking to be able to control the money that their own labor makes. They're asking for the right to education. They're asking to be able to have contact with their families other than the 15 minutes a week they get from Global Tel-Link in exchange for a $55 a month bill.

And for this audacity, of non-violently proclaiming these demands, they are being beaten. They are having their personal effects trashed and this December they are having their heat turned off. Your tax dollars at work. It's a disgrace.

So take some time out of your day to make a few calls. Don't take "No" for an answer. The DOC works for you. This is not a police state. You are a citizen and you have the right to control your own government. You have the duty to check its abuses.

An Injury to One is an Injury to All. Abolish slavery in Georgia!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tell us Who the Terrorist is

LowKey is a British-Iraqi rapper. He was recently introduced to me by a Colorado Division of Wildlife worker while we were rock climbing. Compared to the money, sex, misogyny, and homophobia of most Rap today, in particular, most rap that you will see on TV, LowKey stands " one man over the grand canyon."