American Metaphors

Elk, Yellostone National Park

While Yellowstone is posting record numbers of visitors this year, National Parks as a whole have seen attendance slide in recent years.

In hopes of reversing the trend and re-introducing folks to our wonderful public lands heritage, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced back in June that the Department would waive entrance fees nationwide to all parks on three prime summer weekends. This is no small offer as park entrance fees have really climbed in past years. Nearby Yellowstone sits at $25 for entrance (that does give in and out privileges for 7 days).

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I suppose I also wept a fair bit because his suicide frightened me. It raised the specter of suicide as a kind of foreordained trajectory, a price one pays for a Wallaceonian empathy, for a DFW-tuned brain. This is an age-old notion usually dismissed as sophomoric and romantic. Still, it’s not often in your life you read someone who reminds you that you’re not alone only to wake up one morning and find that once again you are.

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Science has a way of creeping up on you. It’s sneaky—like classical music can be sneaky. One day you’re thrashing to the Ramones and Nine Inch Nails and the next you find yourself in tears in the middle of your living room because you just heard Lazlo Varga play a cello in ways you never thought possible and the strings’ vibrations reached out and bent you into a kind of fetal position of perverse ecstasy.

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Each June I become perversely interested in the Stanley Cup. Like a migratory bird, I wake up one morning in spring with my homing beacon dialed in to the NHL. It never fails. I don’t watch much hockey during the regular season, but from mid-to-late May through June I’m a crazed hockey fan.

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Two Rivers Detention Facility, Hardin MT (photo courtesy city of Hardin)

Al-Jazeera? Yes, that network. The local news gave it all the shock-value of an invasion of the Taliban. In reality, the crew was two white dudes — one from D.C., one from Canada. It looked more like the invasion of the Nordic News Network. Not since Dick Cheney and his fishing guide swooped down in a Blackhawk helicopter to fish the nearby Bighorn have two white dudes garnered so much attention in Hardin.

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When Fluitt and I used to travel on business together, we sought out the reptilian, the amphibious, and various forms of aquatic vertebrates for dinner. We went for alligator in Texas, frog legs in France, what we could only semi-translate as “pot-of-fish” in a tiny, dark, Korean restaurant off the Champs-Elysee; and something that looked like a half-fish-half-kimodo-dragon, perhaps more suited to an evolutionary exhibit than used as culinary enticement, that pulled us in off the street in a back alley walk up in Hong Kong.

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Last night, like many around the globe, we shut off our lights in solidarity with Earth Hour. Now, it’s easy for me to get really cynical about these kinds of things. The event is, after all, a symbolic and licensed subversion which rather than producing the effect it desires, produces only a spectacle of that effect without any meaningful change (which is a kind of fascism, but I digress!

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