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Chapter #361: 2018 - Is The Future a Mirage? - January 20, 2018


1970 Deja Vu Album by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Once, We Had A Future To Believe In

I found myself humming the 1970 song by David Crosby, “Almost Cut My Hair”. The first half of the song goes like this:

“Almost cut my hair
Happened just the other day
It’s getting’ kind of long
I could’ve said it was in my way
But I didn’t and I wonder why
I feel like letting my freak flag fly
And I feel like I owe it, to someone, yeah
Must be because I had the flu this Christmas
And I’m not feeling up to par
And increases my paranoia
Like looking in my mirror and seeing a police car…”

Before the conclusion, Crosby elects to go south and enjoy some “sunny southern weather”. Birth, death, birth, death. In a succession of previous lives, we have all experienced that endless cycle. We raped, murdered, made war... and occasionally, made love. How many times did we burn at the stake? If you are forced to decide, always take drowning over death by fire. Neither is quick, but the human body takes to cooling more easily than burning.

Times have changed. If we choose, we are now more conscious of life and our place within it. Even in this lifetime, we have seen so much and come so far. Do you remember when personal computers displayed words, but no pictures? I remember first reading in the glossy pages of Time Magazine about the world-wide-web, now known as the internet. It was largely a free offering until July 5, 1994, when Jeff Bezos founded the now ubiquitous Amazon.com. Many complained that Bezos had ruined the free nature of the internet by charging money for books. In the early days of Amazon, Bezos picked, packed and shipped physical books from his home garage. I say “physical books” because in recent years, half of all adult books sold arrived in digital format. In 2017, according to Time.com, Jeff Bezos became the wealthiest person in the world. If you are into making money, Bezos accomplished that feat in only twenty-three years.

Mosaic Browser 1.0, was later to become the Netscape Navigator of early internet fame - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Also in 1994, the Mosaic Netscape Navigator 1.0 appeared in a beta version, free to all non-commercial users. Before that, some school systems, universities and other non-profit entities had created their own text-only internet browsers. In those early days of internet access, most websites were textual documents created with raw Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). With the advent of the Netscape Navigator browser, web masters quickly created both text and graphical versions of their websites.

Displaying graphics on the personal computers of the day was problematic. For most users, “broadband” was a fantasy. Computer displays were mostly converted TV monitors. The most common method of connection was via a dial-up telephone modulate/demodulate (modem) device. Older users will remember a series of squeaks and squawks that coincided with an internet connection attempt on a telephone modem.

America Online logo, later to become AOL, and still later to slip into internet obscurity - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Also around that time, America Online (later AOL) offered dial-up services to anyone with a modem. For $19.99 each month, you could use a proprietary browser to access exclusive content provided by that company. For years, America Online attempted to be a complete alternative to the internet, providing news and information across a broad spectrum of interests. Soon, however, other internet providers, such as EarthLink undercut America Online, while bundling the Netscape Navigator for equal or less money.

By the late 1990s, a few of us who lived within a mile or two of a telephone switching office began to access the web via a “digital subscriber line”, or DSL. Unlike dial-up, DSL utilized a carrier frequency on a standard phone line. In addition, its newer style modem allowed simultaneous use of both voice and data on the same telephone line. As such, it was “always on” and ready for connection via Netscape. Years later, cable TV companies figured out how to carry both a television signal and data on the same line. Again, a specialized modem was required.

After Bill Gates of Microsoft failed to collude with Netscape to divide up the internet between them, he released Internet Explorer, which later failed - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)With the burgeoning success of Netscape, Bill Gates of Microsoft realized that personal computers might access more than his Microsoft Office software applications. After failing to collude with Netscape to divide up the internet browser business, Gates initiated one of the boldest and most underhanded takeover attempts in history. At Gates' direction, Microsoft cobbled together their own Internet Explorer (IE) browser. By 1995, Microsoft began including IE as a free addition to its Windows operating system. Simultaneously, Microsoft initiated a viral “whisper campaign”, claiming that anyone who had signed up for Netscape Navigator would soon be charged a fee by Netscape for the use of its browser. As IE ascended, Netscape tanked, becoming a marginal player, and later failing altogether.

An early version of the Google logo, before it began its inevitable slip into internet obscurity - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Ironically, when Google released its now ubiquitous Chrome browser in 2008, its software core derived from Firefox, which in turn derived from the 1998 public release of the Netscape Navigator source code. Today, Chrome is a complete operating system rivaling Microsoft Windows. Ironically, Internet Explorer is now a discontinued product, surviving like a zombie in older Microsoft Windows computers. Google has since degenerated to the point where in 2015 it strayed into autonomously driving vehicles, including the Google Pop Car, a prototype railroad safety vehicle. Google is now seen largely as a service name, owned by Alphabet. This brings me around to my thesis, which is “Nothing is permanent. Like electronic devices and computer applications, we all are born and die, often within a brief time period”.

From the return of Steve Jobs to Apple, Inc. in 1997, through the Mac G4 Cube era and on to the last of its breed, a small form-factor slice one-tenth the size of the original in 2013 (background), the whole world appeared to get smaller - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)At last count, I own almost 200 internet Universal Resource Locator (URLs). After ten years of collecting, curating and publishing blog articles and websites, I ask myself if there will be enough time to write and publish them all. If I died tomorrow, or if the person who operates my internet servers died tomorrow, the deprecation of my online data would begin. Within a year or two, all the contracts would end and most all of my internet presence would disappear. All of my internet personas, including Moab Jim, Durango Jim, Taos Jim, Yuma Jim, Reno Jim, Marina Jim, Kauai Jim and Fiji Jim would reenter the public domain, destined for recycling.

As hard as it might be for a current day teenager to believe, until 2007 there was no iPhone or any other “smart phone”. Even in 2009, the iPhone 3G internet browser was slower than a dial-up modem circa 1994. Now, you can buy the “all new” Amazon Alexa personal home spy for $79.99. If you do, Alexa will sit quietly in your domicile and listen to your questions, comments and mad rants all day long. Already, you can buy supplies (ex. toilet paper) based on how often you have ordered in the past. “Oh”, I remarked recently, “The toilet paper arrived just before I had to utilize my corn cob collection”. How nice. I then imagined saying, As with the Christmas Tsunami of 2005 and the Fukushima Tsunami of 2011, will a new wave sweep clean the use of personal spying devices like Amazon's Alexa? - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“Oh, it arrived two weeks after I died and every month thereafter, until my PayPal account was drained”. How many of your dearly departed friends or family remain as friends on Facebook or LinkedIn?

The clash of the titans in our world is not on a cinematic screen in a theater near you. The real clash is between Old Energy power mongers and us, the lovers of freedom. Over twenty years after the advent of the popular internet, Old Energy federal agencies continue to remove scientific data from every federal government website. In a blow to "net neutrality", the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently voted to allow corporate internet providers to throttle-down competitors’ websites. Old Energy politicians use computer analytics to gerrymander congressional seats for a permanent “conservative” majority.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos, pictured here in 1999, portrays Amazon a a New Energy company, when in fact it is an Old Energy juggernaut running roughshod over consumers, competitors and employees alike - Click for larger image (http//jamesmcgillis.com)In short, Old Energy uses computer power to find every loophole and rig every system they can. At any time, the United States federal government could declare a state of emergency and censor or cut public access to internet data, as Iran recently did. When the pressure on the current regime became too great, all internet access in Iran disappeared for approximately thirty minutes. Who is to say a similar outage could not happen anywhere?

For $52 billion, the Walt Disney Company will soon buy the majority of 21st Century Fox assets. I remember when they were “20th Century Fox”. As usual, press releases from both companies tell us that the transaction is "good for consumers". Prior to the 2016 presidential campaign, Comcast NBCUniversal promoted a New York Real Estate developer as a celebrity television star. In keeping with their “Universal” moniker, that failed land developer soon attained almost “universal” name recognition.

Another in a long line of now-forgotten shows premiered on the Fox TV network in September 1998 - (http://jamesmcgillis.com)The NBC television network broadcast that developer’s first twenty-five presidential campaign rallies live, uncut and uninterrupted by commercials. After helping to elect him as president, the same corporation realized that the man was attacking NBC and other mainstream media outlets as purveyors of “fake news”. Realizing that their own corporate power could erode or disappear, they quickly dedicated their MSNBC cable network and their NBC Saturday Night Live (SNL) television broadcast to un-electing the same man in 2020. In the name of Old Energy and profits, "Hollywood" had turned against the very man who they had shamelessly promoted during the campaign.

The changes in media and entertainment over the past two decades are too myriad to chronicle here. A few of the highlights not previously mention include the rise and fall of Google, the introduction of “fair and balanced news” on Fox Television and the rise of Netflix and Amazon as media and entertainment giants. As late as 2007, MySpace.com had eight-times as many users as Facebook. Does anyone remember Yahoo, which positioned itself as the “web portal” of choice for young people, entrepreneurs and sports fans? Now for some good news. In separate press releases, Netflix and Amazon announced plans to create over 100 feature-length movies each year, much of it streaming exclusively on their respective “web platforms”.

In 2007, MySpace had eight times as many users as the fledgling Facebook - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)While at home today, I checked the screen on my Samsung Galaxy 8 "smart" phone. When I touched the YouTube icon, it immediately connected to my 65", curved-screen Samsung “smart” TV. Somewhat enamored of seeing YouTube on the large screen, I watched a video of an old locomotive crash, staged for the movies around 1930. I went on to watch the 2011 tsunami hitting beach houses in Japan. To me, the scene looked similar to Malibu, or perhaps Montecito, California. When the waves hit, they splashed three or four times the height of the two-story houses. Then the video cut off, just before the houses disappeared into the rubble. “Is that real?” I asked.

Bus-wrap advertisements like this one of 'Nurse Jackie' soon gave way to full building wrap-ads, as originally envisioned by Ridley Scott for the original Blade Runner movie of 1982 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)For the original Blade Runner movie in 1982, Ridley Scott (of Thelma & Louise fame) created print advertisements that supposedly covered entire buildings. His building wrap-ads were part of a future that no one expected to materialize. By 1993, Pepsi Co. deployed the first transit bus wrap. Soon thereafter, someone developed the full building wrap-ad.

Even today, we can discern the fakery from reality... most of the time. If we so choose, we are both conscious and free. As Pete Townsend wrote for the Who in their song, “Going Mobile”:

“I don’t care about pollution
I’m an air-conditioned gypsy
That’s my solution
Watch the police and the taxman miss me!
I’m mobile!”

Facebook, which under Mark Zuckerberg's direction allowed the Russians to throw the 2016 presidential election, pretends that it has no power in American life... as if - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In a metaphor to life, we spin many plates on the ends of tall sticks. As is our custom, we keep adding more and more plates to the spin cycle, until they all crash to the ground and break. In this life, I still have plenty to do, see, write and feel. Eventually, however, there will be a lien sale. All my collected t-shirts  and posters will go to auction at 7 AM on a Tuesday, at the Salvation Army in Santa Monica, California. What will you bid for all my remaining possessions? Something? Nothing? Either way, by then it will not matter to me.

If we stay healthy, do not smoke or drink too much and participate in regular exercise, we could easily live to 80-years-old. With a bit more luck, 85-years-old is attainable. Actor Kirk Douglas, who appeared “live” on the 2018 Golden Globe awards celebrated his hundred and first birthday in December 2017.

MySpace, which once was the dominant player in internet social media, met it demise under the ownership of Rupert Murdock, thus proving that Old Energy cannot play in the New Energy game - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In a possible end of this life, the auto wreck that kills you (or me) might not register as more than 30-seconds of dash cam video. In my neighborhood, some speed demon struck and killed a gray squirrel yesterday. It was one of the last squirrels in our neighborhood, surviving on the produce of a large oak tree. I always slowed my Jeep when I passed that tree.

Soon after the squirrel’s death, I stopped, got a plastic bag and removed its beautiful body from the street. Now the squirrel is gone for good, relegated to the trash bin where I tossed his lifeless body. Someone in my neighborhood knows who killed that squirrel. On the other hand, perhaps they were texting on their smart phone and never saw the squirrel at all. Today, I saw the squirrel’s mate, searching for him from the relative safety of the oak tree.

Sorry, if I sound a little bit dour. Finite reality comes home to roost. I suggest that you chose now if you do or do not wish to return. By that, I mean, if you die in a hit-and-run collision, do you wish to be born again into this world? As your brain cools beneath the tsunami's wave or the car bumper hits you in the head, there may or may not be sufficient time to decide.

Humans bear responsibility for the care and perpetuation of all natural species here on earth (Gray Squirrel, pictured) - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As humans, we tie our identities closely to our physical presence in body. Not remembering the freedom of being non-physical, we fear death. Then again, if we elect not to return to Earth after this lifetime, it will not be easy for us to have and enjoy a future non-physical dinner party.

In the non-physical realms, amorous behavior is not a problem. In our current “physical life”, we can only catch a glimmer of the ecstasy. If you elect to bypass a return trip to Earth and transition to non-physical, you could visit a New Earth or come back to this Earth and observe the hipsters from Snapchat as they continue the ruination of Venice, California. Either option is possible, since the speed-of-light does not apply to the non-physical realms.

Let us ponder our interpersonal relationships. Most would agree that they are not so easy to maintain here on Earth. We love the idea of interpersonal relationships and occasionally find a great one. Do those relationships last forever? We may die, the other may die. Wireless communications cards of several generations represent our ability (soon) to communicate directly with any consciousness in our universe, and those beyond - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Alternatively, we often just move on. Perhaps you and your mate are that “one in a million” couple who remain in love together until one or both die, many decades hence.

To me, the Clash song, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” is about life, not about a one night stand. Those of us who are the Baby Boomers have definitely been here for the best part of world history. From the end of WWII, despite the dawning of the nuclear age, until now has been a great time to live and love in LA.

Be at peace. If you stay, I hope you enjoy every moment. If you decide to go, every so often make a soft knocking sound up in the upper corner of the room, late at night. I will know it is you.

Someone or something just made a small sound up there. For a moment, I thought it was you.

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By James McGillis at 03:42 PM | Personal Articles | Comments (0) | Link


Chapter #360: Return of the Moab Burro Crane - November 15, 2017


Moab Jim and Plush Kokopelli at the closed entry to Arches National Park in October 2013 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Return of the Incredible Shrinking Moab Burro Crane

In the spring of 2013, I made one of my many visits to Moab, Utah. The shutdown of the federal government and national parks was still five months away. Arches National Park was open and visitation was climbing. As I approached the main entrance at Arches, hundreds of vehicles waited for entry. Bypassing the turnoff, I drove north on U.S. Highway 191, toward the airport and Crescent Junction, beyond.

With no respect for Moab history, highway crews destroyed this traditional signage near Moab in 2013 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As I approached the turnoff to Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands National Park, I noticed an interesting piece of equipment, parked on a railroad siding. The siding was part of the Potash Branch, which is the rail line from Brendel to Potash. That rail line also carries radioactive, contaminated soil from the infamous Moab Pile to a disposal site at Brendel, near Crescent Junction, Utah. After turning on to State Highway 313, I stopped at a barren, windblown area adjacent to the Seven Mile siding.

Resting on the siding, along with its tender car, was a Union Pacific Railroad Model 40 Burro Crane (#BC-47). The Burro Crane is a “maintenance of way” (MOW) vehicle that is self-propelled, and able to lift and move railroad
track and materials. With sufficient supplies on its tender car, a small “road gang” can actually build a rail line as the Burro Crane extends the tracks The Union Pacific Railroad BC-47 Moab Burro Crane, as it appeared at Seven Mile in 2013 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)ahead of itself.

With its steel doors and security panels closed, the Burro Crane looked lonely and deserted. That is the thing about Burro Cranes, with their quaint name and anthropomorphic looks. One almost immediately ascribes a personality and other life forces to this mechanical contraption. Although the area was deserted and desolate, I could picture the Moab Burro, as I named it, waiting for nightfall and then scooting up and down the Potash Branch as it pleased.

After taking a few pictures of the Moab Burro, the Seven Mile sign and the La Sal Range to the east, I climbed back in my truck and drove toward Moab. The Moab Burro Crane disappeared from the rail siding at Seven Mile before 2015 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Upon returning home, I began researching the rich history of the Burro Crane. Built in Chicago by the Cullen Friestadt Company, there were many twentieth century iterations of the Burro Crane. Like a 1950's Chevy, the Model 40 Burro Crane was the classic of all Burro Cranes. It was compact, featured a diesel engine, was easy to maneuver and had tremendous lifting capacity.

Later, I was fortunate to meet Frank J. Cullen, the last family member to run the Cullen Friestadt Company as a private business. I like to call Frank J. Cullen “The Father of the Burro Crane”. After researching the Burro Crane online, I compiled all of that history and published it at www.BurroCrane.com. In addition to the official history of the Burro Crane, I also enlisted Plush Kokopelli and Coney the Traffic Cone to help tell the Moab Burro story.

in 2017, Plush Kokopelli hovers near the Seven Mile sign, searching for the Moab Burro Crane - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)After standing alone on the rail siding at Seven Mile for several years, the Moab Burro had become a fixture of the landscape and a landmark to those who knew it. It even appeared on Google Maps satellite photos of that era. Although the Moab Burro still appeared on Google Maps as of late 2017, the Burro Crane itself went missing by 2015, never to return. Since Plush Kokopelli and Coney the Traffic Cone love a good mystery, I asked them to help find the missing Moab Burro.

Some say that the dynamic duo found the Moab Burro, but that radioactivity from the passing Train of Pain had caused a dimensional shift around it. In October 2017, The Other (a shadowy figure) drove with Plush Kokopelli back to Seven Mile. There, they searched for the Moab Burro and Coney the Traffic Cone, who had both gone missing. Did both the Moab Plush Kokopelli and Coney the Traffic Cone waiting for the Moab Burro Crane Crane in October 2017 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Burro and Coney shrink so small that they became invisible? That was what Plush Kokopelli and The Other hoped to discover.

Upon arrival at Seven Mile, The Other carried Plush Kokopelli to the railroad tracks. Neither Coney nor the Moab Burro was visible. Soon, Plush Kokopelli floated up like a drone, overlooking the scene. As he landed on the tracks, the Moab Burro reappeared, right next to him. Soon, Coney the Traffic Cone reappeared, as well. Neither of them seemed to notice that the Moab Burro had transmogrified from a large piece of railroad equipment to the size of a toy.

To Coney the Traffic Cone and Plush Kokopelli, the Moab Burro looked as big and powerful as ever. Now, let us see if we can get the Union Pacific Railroad
Plush Kokopelli is reunited with the now diminutive Moab Burro Crane in October 2017 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)to reconstitute the Moab Burro back to its original size. If the full-sized Moab Burro were to reappear at Seven Mile, that would be magic.

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By James McGillis at 04:57 PM | | Comments (0) | Link


Chapter #359: Moab - Desert Rocks Festival 2011 - September 6, 2017


Who am I? The lost history of Desert Rocks revealed - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Lost History: The Desert Rocks Music Festival in Moab, Utah

On Memorial Day Weekend 2011, I was in Moab, Utah. After a brief economic slowdown in 2008 – 2010, everything in Grand County was booming again. Organized and ad hoc activities tend to peak on Memorial Day, making it the busiest time of year. On that weekend, 20,000 vehicles per day passed through Moab on US Highway 191. Campgrounds were full and all the usual tourist spots were packed. For me, it was time to get out of Downtown Moab and see something new and different.

That new thing was my attendance at the 2011 Desert Rocks Music Festival, celebrating its seventh anniversary at Area BFE. Located thirteen miles south of Moab, on Highway 191, Area BFE is a 320-acre off-road recreational area. For that long weekend, it transformed into a camping and partying venue, In the shadow of the La Sal Range, near Moab, Utah, Desert.Rocks 2011 was the final classic music festival of its kind - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)featuring live music on three outdoor stages. Although I was decades older than the average-attendee, it sounded like fun to me.

Since the Desert Rocks Festival ran around the clock for three days, Saturday afternoon seemed like a good time to visit. That way, I could scope out the event and plan my return for the headliner acts that night. At the trailer that served as a check-in point for performers and press, I showed my “Moablive.com” business card and obtained a press pass for that day and night. I promised to write a blog article about the event. In this article, I shall keep my promise to the promoters of Desert Rocks 2011, then known as DesertRocks.org.

The Desert.Rocks Music Festival near Moab, Utah featured two main stages - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)The venue consisted of a natural amphitheater, which sloped down toward two main stages. Around the upper rim of the amphitheater, there was room for concertgoers to relax on blankets, while the more ardent fans could stand a few yards from the main stage. Food trucks and vendors completed the large circle, with easy access to tie-dyed clothing, organic food and coffee for a dollar. Beyond the music venue were art installations and many campers, who had pitched tents among the boulders and throughout the pinion and juniper forests.

When my friend, Jim Farrell and I arrived, there was a young woman playing solo acoustic guitar and singing. She was playing from a third stage, which was uphill and closer to the main entrance. With gentle amplification and her sweet voice wafting through the air, I was pleased to hear a message of peace A lovely young woman plays acoustic guitar at Desert.Rocks 2011and love all around me. The whole festival looked and sounded like my kind of place.

At that time, Jim Farrell owned the Moab Rim Campark. Without overreacting, Jim commented that one of the picnic tables at the venue had been “lifted” from his RV Park and brought to the festival grounds. As we mused on who had absconded with the bench and transported it thirteen miles to Area BFE, we experienced another surprise.

Without warning, a young woman emerged from a clothing vendor booth. Her hair was up, her makeup was fresh and she was smiling at us. She wore a chiffon skirt and a handmade necklace. Beyond that, she was topless. Jim Farrell, who is one of the pillars of Moab society, was speechless. As a photojournalist, I asked if I could take her picture. “Of course”, she replied. After smiling for a couple of snapshots, the young woman disappeared back Proving that angels really do come to Earth, this celestial being briefly visited at Desert.Rocks 2011 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)from where she came.

Jim and I decided it was time for lunch. Almost immediately, we found
Justin Dietrick, preparing organic soups, sandwiches and wraps in his RV, which he had converted into a mobile kitchen. His business went by the name, “Yonder Mountain Sandwiches”, or YOMOS, which seemed wholly appropriate for this location, in the middle of nowhere. The organic wraps we selected were perfect. We ate nearby, on the previously stolen picnic bench, enjoying our lunch.

It was a hot afternoon, So Jim and I decided to retreat to the air-conditioned confines of our respective abodes. In my case, that meant taking a nap in my travel trailer and spiritually preparing to return to Desert Rocks after sundown. Justin Dietrick of legendary Yonder Mountain Sandwiches at Desert.Rocks 2011 - Click for larger imaqge (http://jamesmcgillis.com)After a nap, a shower and donning some fresh clothes, I quaffed a glass of wine and then headed down the highway to Area BFE.

Upon arrival, I flashed my Desert Rocks wristband and received directions to a secondary parking lot, half a mile down a dirt road. The darkness and lack of traffic directions created disorientation among the throng of drivers. Ultimately, consciousness returned and we all managed to park in rows, so as not to block ingress and egress to the festival. Even though most of us were stumbling around in the dark, people were friendly and helped each other find the music venue, which glowed in the distance, over a hill.

Growing up in Southern California in the 1960s, I did not attend the San Francisco “Summer of Love”, Monterey Pop or Woodstock, whatever that was.
These two hitchhikers are credited with inventing the website name 'Desert.Rocks' at the festival in 2011 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Here I was, in my sixties, attending my first music festival. Around me in the parking area were people who had driven or even hitchhiked to attend Desert Rocks. Two young women, who had hitchhiked for days, had utilized a cardboard sign that read, “Desert.Rocks”. That sign inspired me to purchase the internet name, “www.desert.rocks”.

Although I could not get a good picture of any fire-spinners, they seemed to be standing on every large boulder. Holding double-ended torches, five or six feet long, they were content to stand and offer spinning flames as a backdrop to the entire festival. No one paid them to stand for hours on end, spinning their fire. It was just what they had come to do.

This joyous and beautiful fan was fully present at the Desert.Rocks Music Festival at Moab, Utah in 2011 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Inside the venue, there were art installations in yurts, teepees and many other shelters. There was no additional admission charge to go inside and see strobe lights bouncing off pans of colored oil or an artificial celestial scene projected on the inside of a yurt. For those who had consumed magic mushrooms or other hallucinogenic compounds, it probably appeared quite normal. I decided to go feel the music.

After a group performed rockabilly classics on the second stage, everyone’s attention turned to the main stage. This is where my story gets strange. With no printed lineup of bands available, I do not remember who the headline band was. Soon, they took the stage and performed a great rock & roll set that lasted for over an hour. The lead guitarist looked like Yeshua, but with enough curly hair for three people. He sang and played his heart out, as did A mystery band headlined Saturday night at Desert.Rocks 2011his three bandmates. As the crowd packed in close to the stage, the band entranced its fans with that performance. The whole concert was great. Looking back, six years later, I have no idea who that band was. Maybe someone can send an email with the band’s name. I would love to give them credit.

Although the festival would go on all night, it was time for me to rest on clean sheets and a comfortable bed, back at my RV. By the next morning, a dust storm covered all of Grand County, including Area BFE. Having spent some time Behind the Rocks, covering the 24-Hours of Moab Bicycle Race, I knew the festivalgoers would have sand in their hair and grit between their teeth. I left the final day of Desert Rocks 2011 to the young people. Instead, I went down to the Colorado River to watch the spring flood, as it cut into the toxic Moab Pile.

The Desert.Rocks idyllic campground of 2011, became Desert Sand Storm during the Desert Rocks 2012 'festival of consciousness' in Green River, 2012 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)While preparing to write this article, I researched Desert Rocks 2012… and beyond. Because Desert Rocks had outgrown Area BFE, the promoters moved the 2012 festival fifty miles north, to Green River, Utah. There, at Jenkstar Ranch, the promotional team planned a “consciousness festival”. As with the past Desert Rocks Festivals, there would be visual artists, art installations, a poetry slam, health-food vendors and performance art, all in a three-dimensional time-space reality (3DTSR).

Although I did not attend, quotes from Desert Rocks 2012 include the following: Party’s over, dude—but it’s for the best. Once one of Utah’s biggest outdoor-camping party events, Desert Rocks Festival is now a celebration of consciousness. “It means so much to me that I’m not just throwing a party in Desert Rocks 2012 in Green River, Utah was billed as a 'Transformation of Consciousness', which is a lot to expect from a music festival in the desert - Click for large image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)the desert anymore,” festival founder John Ripley Corkery said. “I’m [now] putting on an event that can help people change how they live. I was a little depressed that we’re not back in Moab, but once we lined everything up, all of a sudden it started to have very serious meaning. I feel like there was some higher purpose for us to move to Green River,” Corkery said.

After the 2012 Desert Rocks event, Austen Diamond, columnist for the Salt Lake City Weekly said, “Desert Rocks might be one of the best experiences that I probably won't ever do again. Drum circles, hula-hoops and hippies everywhere. Nearby Green River Beach was the only way to avoid the beginning of an all-consuming dust storm at the festival, which was nearly empty by noon. We had a comfortable view from the car as we try to salvage our camp from being destroyed. We then drank lots of tequila in other cars.”

With an able staff, security was never a problem at Desert.Rocks 2011 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Diamond went on to say, “A collective, 1,000-person group hug knelt in the dirt before the main stage to ‘send energy into the universe’ at the ‘Consciousness Ceremony’ Friday night. Led by Desert Rocks festival founder John Corkery and executive producer Ron Johnson, the crowd began a low, resonant hum - similar to ‘om’ -, which rose in volume and pitch to a massive orgy of animal howls. That essentially sums up the eighth-annual festival: setting a decent intention, which then turned primal.”

City Weekly copy editor Kolbie Stonehocker had a memorable time. “Whenever someone found out it was my first-ever music festival, they’d say, ‘Whoa, Desert Rocks is a hell of a festival to be your first.’ Were they ever right! I will never forget you, Desert Rocks,” Stonehocker wrote. “I brought
Whether you attended Desert.Rocks 2011 or 2012, you made history in the desert - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)home enough sand in my clothes and hair to remember you forever.”

What no one expected was a three-day dust storm so strong that it shredded the campground. Most musicians could not risk ruining their equipment, so music was at a premium. Water supplies in the campground ran dry, with no further replenishment. The only refuge for many attendees was to sit in their cars or leave altogether. In any event, it was the last and final Desert Rocks Festival. If you search the internet for "http://desertrocks.org", it leads to a "403 Forbidden" error message.

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Chapter #358: Moab, UT - Negro Bill Canyon Remains - August 17, 2017


As a compromise, Plush Kokopelli and Coney the Traffic Cone suggest calling the place Bill Canyon - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillisa.com)

In Moab, Pioneer Settler and Cowboy, "Negro Bill" Rides Again

In the Old Testament, the land of Moab, also called “The Far Country”, lay east of the Dead Sea, in what we now call Kerak, Jordan. During the 1855 LDS General Conference in Salt Lake City, forty Mormon men “were called” to establish the Elk Mountain Mission on the banks of the Grand (later, Colorado) River. As memorialized on countless souvenir t-shirts, the “Far Country” would become Moab, Utah in 1902.

Plush Kokopelli and Coney the Traffic Cone lament that even natural areas near Moab are up for sale - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)One goal of the mission was to minister to the indigenous Ute Indians. After the “missionaries” built a stone fort and planted crops, conflict soon arose between the apostles and the Indians. Having built their stone mission in what is now the Matheson Wetlands Preserve, river flooding, a plague of mosquitoes and rotting potatoes characterized the growing season of 1855.

Depending on which version of history you prefer, either the Indians repeatedly raided the mission’s meager food supply or the Mormon men spurned the offering of Ute women as potential brides. Either way, a gunfight ensued, resulting in the death of three missionaries and the wounding of The Colorado Riverway, looking north from Moab toward Negro Bill Canyon - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)others. With their hay and corn stocks burned to the ground, the Elk Mountain Mission decamped. The survivors retreated north, seeking shelter at other Mormon settlements.

For the next twenty-two years, only trappers, traders and the Spirit of Kokopelli visited Moab. No one dared settle there until two pioneers, a Canadian fur trapper named “Frenchie” and a cowboy named Bill Granstaff divided the spoils and resettled the area. Since it was a full generation after the missionary debacle, the two men managed to live in relative harmony with the Ute Indians. Frenchie took the ruins of the Elk Mountain Mission as his home. Bill Granstaff ran cattle and lived in a box canyon three miles north, along the Grand River.

Utah Highway 128 leads from Moab to Negro Bill Canyon, three miles upstream - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Although Frenchie was of Canadian origin, Moab-locals variously identified Bill Granstaff as Black, African American or with the more popular and catchy "N-word" epithet. Years later, the good people of Moab ran Bill out of town, ostensibly for selling liquor to the Ute Indians. As usual, there was an alternate version of Moab history. In the alternate version, the white folks in town trumped up false charges in order to steal Bill’s cattle. Either way, for the next eighty-five years, locals called Bill Granstaff and his canyon home “N-word Bill” and “N-word Bill Canyon”.

This Google Street View photo shows how the Negro Bill Trailhead looked in 2012, prior to the BLM inspired name-change - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)By the 1960s, in deference to the civil rights movement, the canyon where Bill had lived was renamed “Negro Bill Canyon”. Somewhere along the line, writers and historians added the letter “d” to Negro Bill’s name and he became Bill Grandstaff. Later still, around 2010, some high-minded Moab folks decided that Bill’s name was actually “William Grandstaff”. The new, politically correct name made no mention of his racial heritage.

In the 1960s, Moab began preparing for the hoard of tourists to come. As part of that plan, the State of Utah paved Highway 128 from Moab to Cisco. This newly paved highway provided easy access to the Colorado River (formerly the Grand River). Other than some tight turns overlooking the river, the automobile trip from Moab to Cisco, Utah and on to Interstate I-70 became easy. Until the late 1970s, travelers on Highway 128 barely noticed the unsigned and poorly identified “Negro Bill Canyon”. In 1979, an incident involving the “Sagebrush Rebellion” changed all of that.

In 2015, Plush Kokopelli and Coney the Traffic Cone tested a new Moab Bank ATM at Negro Bill Trailhead, near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In this case, the “rebels” included a loose coalition of off-roaders, states’ rights advocates and other radical fringe elements. Among the luminaries who expressed sympathy or support for the rebels were then-Colorado Governor Richard Lamm, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and presidential candidate Ronald Reagan. The collective ire of these loosely affiliated groups and individuals focused on then-President Jimmy Carter. In his attempts to protect precious natural resources, the rebels accused President Carter of usurping state and local power.

In order to open more land to off-roading and prove their point about states’ rights, a small group of rebels used a bulldozer to cut a new dirt road up Negro Bill Canyon. The hiking trail, which bears his name, leads to both Morning Glory Bridge and the Negro Bill Wilderness Study Area. Although now largely rehabilitated, the remnants of that 1979 road are visible to hikers in the midsection of Negro Bill Canyon.

The old Moab Sign, at the intersection of Highways 191 and 128 in Moab was secretly destroyed one night in 2015 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)After the rebels defiled the canyon with their bulldozer, no one knew quite what to do. Over the years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) gated the trail, paved a small parking lot, installed pit toilets and erected signage identifying the place as the “Negro Bill Trailhead”. By then, participants in the Sagebrush Rebellion had moved their activities to other parts of Utah and the West. Still, with the recent advent of smaller quad-type off-road vehicles, more land has fallen prey to motorized destruction than the Sagebrush Rebels ever imagined possible.

Around 2010, some high-minded residents and politicians in Moab and Grand County, Utah decided to sanitize several historical places and names in the area. The first to go, they decided, was the offensive name, “Negro Bill”. It was demeaning and inappropriate in the twenty-first century, they said. Three times during the next five years, the Grand County Council voted narrowly to keep the name. When they could not eliminate all references to Negro Bill, the
After the Moab Meanies destroyed old Lions Park, Plush Kokopelli and Coney the Traffic Cone conducted a peaceful protest at the site - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)political elite of Moab settled for defiling and destroying old Lions Park, three miles downstream.

Old Lion’s Club Park stood on the spot where the 1855 Elk Mountain Mission first camped on the Moab-side of the Grand River. Stately cottonwood trees that may have shaded the missionaries at their first campground disappeared on March 31, 2015. Along with any vegetation in the park, all of the classic stone and wooden signage around the intersection of Highways 191 and 128 disappeared, as well. In place of the historical wooden signage was a hodgepodge of sanitary looking metal signs.

Plush Kokopelli and Coney the Traffic Cone took it upon themselves to restore the Negro Bill Trailhead to its former glory.Like a plague of rats, the sanitizing of Moab history was on the march, heading upstream toward Negro Bill Canyon. This culminated on September 27, 2016, when the all-knowing BLM Moab Field Office “pulled a fast one”. In the grand tradition of destroying old Lions Park, the BLM made a stealthy move. Overnight, and without warning, the BLM changed out the historical “Negro Bill Trailhead” signage and all the road signs referencing the site. If the motto of the United States is, “In God We Trust”, the motto of the Moab BLM Field Office might be, “The BLM Knows Best”. Two nights later, the new “William Grandstaff Trailhead” signs disappeared. As of this writing, no one knows who or what spirited the new signs away.

Without a vote or any public comment, the Moab Field Office had dealt with the issue directly. In their infinite wisdom, they had relegated Negro Bill and his former canyon home to the dustbin of history. Thank you, Moab Field
After destroying all vegetation at old Lions Park in 2015, the Moab Meanies turned it into a temporary construction yard - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Office for saving us from our own history. Thank you, “Monkey Wrench Gang” for removing and safely storing the new trailhead signs for the edification of future generations. Because of your actions, Moab Field Office and you, the politically correct members of the Grand County Council, we are now closer to the treeless, sanitized history that you crave.

Then, on August 4, 2017, like a thunderbolt from Mt. Olympus, the Utah Committee on Geographic Names voted 8-2 in favor of retaining the name, “Negro Bill Canyon” as its official geographical "place name". Since the BLM controls the trailhead and parking area, they can keep their newly sanitized signage in place, unless the “Monkey Wrench Gang” or some ancient spirit steals them again.

In the late 1980s, ET, the Extraterrestrial appeared on the cliffs just south of Negro Bill Canyon - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)The three-mile stretch of Colorado Riverway from Moab to Negro Bill Canyon is of both historical and spiritual significance. In that area, the Spirit of the Ancients is still active, as seen by the image of ET (The Extraterrestrial) recently carved by nature in the sandstone cliffs. In addition, Plush Kokopelli and Coney the Traffic Cone have been active in the area. As seen in the accompanying photographs, everywhere Plush Kokopelli and Coney go, the names on roadside signs spontaneously change. “William Grandstaff Trailhead” reverts to “Negro Bill Trailhead”. Various arches fall, spiritual paths begin and end. According to the signs, a new “Moab Jim Canyon” also appears, just half a mile south of Negro Bill Canyon.

After the Moab BLM Field Office vaporized the history of Negro Bill, many road signs in the area spontaneously changed - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Author’s Note - Although the mischievous Plush Kokopelli and his shy partner, Coney the Traffic Cone were photographed near the scene of the William Grandstaff Trailhead sign-disappearance in September 2016, there is no evidence that either character played a role in that theft. In fact, Plush Kokopelli and Coney were there to install a new Kokopelli Federal Credit Union automated teller machine (ATM) at the trailhead parking lot. All fees collected by that new Moab Bank ATM will be used to install new "Negro Bill Trailhead" signs, should the need arise.

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By James McGillis at 03:13 PM | | Comments (0) | Link

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