March 2014

Doing the Denver political scene

By Art Goodtimes

TRIP FROM HELL … Sometimes things just don’t go right. Especially when you’re traveling … I’d kind of taken a break from attending Colorado Counties Inc. (CCI) meetings in Denver after years of deep participation on the state level – birddogging bills the state legislature dreamed up that affected county government. CCI runs a great bevy of lobbyists who watch out for county interests. But with Commissioner Fischer in recovery and Commissioner May loaded up with meetings, I decided to step in for the February round of committee meetings – two days of discussions of legislation and politics … Unhappily, those meetings started early on a Thursday morning, and the Wednesday before was our regular meeting day. That meant a madhatter’s drive over the mountains to Denver, leaving late afternoon and arriving late that same night. I booked a hotel I thought was right down the street from the CCI offices. It seemed pricier than I remembered. But I knew I’d be groggy from driving and didn’t want to have to get up early and fight Denver traffic … When I encountered snowflakes in Montrose, I knew this would not be an easy drive. By the time I hit Gunnison it was snowing steadily, and Monarch Pass was before me. There wasn’t much traffic, but the snow got heavier the higher I climbed. My trusty Honda Civic with its 320,000 miles had good snow tires, so I wasn’t sliding. But before I reached the summit, the windshield wipers iced up and I couldn’t see. So I had to pull over on the road’s steep slope, get out and hand-strip the ice chunks off the rubber blade. Luckily, when I hopped back in, the tires gripped and I made it to the top. Nothing like a whiteout to get the adrenalin pumping … Famished, I got some great Thai takeout at a cozy shop at Poncha Springs. Then it was decision time. I’d been across South Park in a snowstorm, and knew it could be dicey, but taking the route through Salida and Cañon City would add an hour or more to the drive. So I thought I’d risk it. Maybe not the best choice. By the time I got near Fairplay the wind was howling and completely horizontal. It was a struggle to find the road between gusts. I learned later three or four cars flipped over and wrecked. By the time I made it to Bailey I was exhausted. At least the snow had abated. Still, I didn’t make it into Denver until 11 p.m. I knew the route to the CCI offices by heart, but it had been many years since I’d been to the hotel I thought I’d booked. And so I was flabbergasted to discover the building was gutted, the parking lot fenced up. It was late, I was beat and I didn’t know where my hotel was. It took stopping at a couple places before someone directed me downtown. It was on the same street as the CCI offices, but smack dab in the center of the city. Then I realized the name had been familiar because a poet friend had worked there. But it was a high-end joint with valet parking, not the free parking of the hotel I thought I was booking. It was midnight before I made it into bed in a room far bigger than I needed … Stressed, I woke with a bad cold. I’d forgotten all the nice clothes I’d intended to bring, and ended up with only my traveling threads. Things were not going well … It was good seeing old friends at CCI the next morning, and annoying having to deal with old enemies (well, just one in particular). For most of the day-long series of meetings, the issues were ones we all agreed on. A proposal to paint all cell towers orange and white and put lights on them to protect crop-dusters (which we don’t have in the mountains) was one I knew would create havoc with San Miguel County residents. Luckily, CCI was firmly opposed … After a long day, I went to visit an artist friend. He wasn’t in. But I managed to crush my right-hand ring finger in a wind-flung door. It bled badly. And the pain was excruciating. I found a bar and cleaned up in the bathroom. With a throbbing hand, I drove to a health-food store and got tea-tree oil as antiseptic and band-aids. After dinner (on my own dime) with old buddy Jonathan Hauck of Gunnison County and new friend Kit Shy of Custer County, it was back to the hotel to sleep until the next morning. By this time my cold was worse, my muscles ached and my finger was a nasty black. I sat through another day of meetings, then headed over the mountains in late afternoon. I had thought to make it home that night, but by Gunnison I couldn’t keep awake. I found a cheap hotel (about the price of the valet parking for two nights in Denver) and slept from 8 p.m. until 10:45 a.m. the next morning … By the time I got home, sick, finger hurting, and exhausted, I realized why I had given up going to Denver. For the county’s sake, someone has to do it. I just hope it isn’t me next time.


This Night

Still. This night is still. Seamless lung
bellows. Air drawn in and out.
Nothing retained or restrained

Molecules slowed to a hum and vibration --
insane rotations and zany trajectories hushed.
Energy sipped lazily -- thick, sweet port wine.

By tranquil darkness he shuffles languidly
in muffled felt plaid mules. Dark robe hems
wistfully sweep across Earth’s high cheekbones.

Reminiscent of gentle fingertips across
vulnerable skin. The horizon continues to rotate.
It covers more and more of the Sun.

Shadows are born. Shadows age. But they
do not die in the diminished light. The Moon perches
on Martian mesas. Eludes capture by camera lens.

A displaced sand dollar? She retains
all her marine magic. Frozen snow crust shimmers.
Billions of minute minnow scales lit silver

by serene sunlight reflected. Sage, rabbit brush
and tumbleweed transform desert flora -- now placid
harborage -- for mystic winged creatures

equipped with glittering fairy dust pouches. The rose
petal face of Venus, unblemished, shines arias
of admiration and creation from Southwestern skies.

Jackrabbits bound forcefully
from shadow to shadow. Fearful for their lives.
Even in this tranquil black. Even on this night.

— Zoey Benally
Crownpoint, N.M.

THE SHAPE OF CAUGHT WATER … Few wait 30 years to publish their first book of poetry, especially an émigré San Franciscan with Santa Fe roots, who ran with the pack in the Poetry Flash world of the Sixties/Seventies

Bay Area and its Renaissance lit scene. Robyn Hunt hung with the Cloud House poets of the Mission. Knew North Beach and opened her own bookstore and poetry venue in the Duboce Triangle … Now she makes an adobe home of New Mexico with a writer husband and college-age daughter … “The Shape of Caught Water” (Red Mountain Press, Santa Fe, 2013) may be a first book, but it’s not the product of youthful practice. Robyn’s is a seasoned voice. Just the title catches us up short. These poems will be interrupting the flow of things – grabbing a little of the uncatchable to see what shape can be made. They cup their hands in the quotidian rapids and trap what can be seen in the net of language – how life feels, how it flashes a moment before it spills and is gone … Traveling is a central trope of this collection. As it is for most of us. We are a driving culture. Restless. Picking up roots and relocating to places where we find ourselves “alone with our sentences.” … Life is on the move. It’s persistent like water. Only curling into eddies and side streams as it gets caught up and held. Robyn opens her book of illusory lyrics and lays them before us like a fresh-caught string of rainbows. Her images leap and swirl, bunch and bump, toss one across chasms. They mean one thing, and then slip into something else. ... She hammers together “porches that lean one against another.” Grows restless with “arguments like foreplay.” Makes us party to “lips of truancy” that “ignore night’s instruction.” With her as guide we visit “a widow’s house heavy with keepsakes.” Learn that “this life is made from scratch and prayer.” Voyeurs, we watch ”wrists tied to the bed frame of obligation.” Explore the “expansive torso of the imagination” … Like the best women writing today, Hunt is fiercely honest. Her poetry uses a marvelously American cadence. … This is a brilliant book. Like the works of my friend Michael Daley of the Pacific Northwest. It isn’t a quick read. Nor always an easy one. What of the invisible gets caught and seen depends on how much time one spends, swimming in its waters. But the rewards are great. The more you read, the more it will come to mean … Highly recommended.

POT SHOTS … Kudos to the Rico Hotel for advertising “marijuana-friendly rooms.” It’s difficult to find a safe and smoking-friendly place to partake of legal cannabis, if you don’t live in Colorado. So, it’s nice to see regional merchants recognizing the value of providing safe venues for enjoying Colorado’s newest attraction … Disappointing, however, to find some cannabis edibles with artificial flavors, corn syrup and other unsavory ingredients. What sense in having “organic” grow operations and then bad food compounds mixed in with one’s delectables? … Hardly unexpectedly, the Telluride Clinic has seen increases in cannabis panic attacks – a surefire indicator you ate too many brownies. But even experienced smokers are not always ready for this new era of commercial edibles … It used to be all edibles were homemade versions, and it took a lot of weed to make ’em potent. But with our state’s decriminalization of this powerful and ancient plant ally, small goodies can pack a wallop … Kudos to the folks at Alpine Wellness for self-limiting their edible milligram count to 50. That’s still a good buzz, but I’ve seen edibles twice that in other stores. And anyone who’s had more than their comfortable dose of cannabis knows it can make you pretty woozy, to the point of nausea. And with new users that can lead to an anxiety attack … Usually, if you have an experienced compatriot to share the experience, you can be calmed down and relax into it. Cannabis in the appropriate dosage is often used exclusively for relaxing. But people react to mind-altering substances differently … So, caution is advised. Dr. Andrew Weil would always recommend non-stoned companions if you’re trying any mind-altering substance (or dosage) for the first time. But not everyone is cautious. So I expect we’ll see another handful or two of “overdoses” this winter. Only we’re not talking here about lethal consequences, like with painkillers or aspirin. At worst, expect nausea and what Dr. Simon Kotylar of the Telluride Medical Clinic calls a “hyperadrenergic state.” Not pleasant, but rarely life-threatening.

Art Goodtimes is a poet, author and county commissioner in San Miguel County, Colo.