I-70 WESTBOUND (BY THE RAILBENDERS) A Colorado Song

Interstate Highway 70 (I-70) is a major East-West highway running from western Utah to Baltimore, Maryland.  It passes through ten states.  In a sense it is the alpha and omega of the interstate highway system.  That system was initiated by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, signed into law by President Eisenhower on June 29, 1956.  Less than 90 days later, paving began on a portion of U.S. Highway 40 in Kansas, which became a part of the I-70 and was the first work performed under the 1956 law.  The very last part of the the interstate system, as originally planned, was completed in 1992 with the opening of the portion of I-70 passing through Glenwood Canyon in western Colorado.

Besides being a major cross country thoroughfare, I-70 is the primary route for people in Denver and the Front Range to access the recreational opportunities of the Rocky Mountains.  Driving westward out of Denver, one has access to Lookout Mountain, Evergreen, Idaho Springs, Georgetown, the central Colorado ski areas, through the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel ( at an altitude of 11,158 feet, the highest vehicular tunnel in North America and one of the highest in the world), Silverthorne and Breckenridge, Vail, Eagle, Glenwood Springs, the Colorado River, and on to Grand Junction and beyond.  Not surprisingly, on weekends and holidays the highway becomes an extended traffic jam causing drivers to spend several hours to travel 50 miles or less.

I would like to paraphrase Yogi Berra and say that nobody uses I-70 anymore because it is too crowded, but that is not true.  Everyone still uses it, and though there are frustrations, many appreciate that they are able to enjoy the beauty and ruggedness of The Rockies because of this smog-generating engineering marvel.  Jim Dalton seems to be one of those people.

Jim Dalton is a singer, songwriter and musician who is involved in several bands in Colorado and nearby states.  It seems that he spends most of his time these days as the lead guitarist of Tempe, Arizona – based Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers and he is one of the founders, with Johnny Hickman from the band Cracker, of the Hickman-Dalton Gang.  Before becoming involved with those bands he started a group called The Railbenders with bass player Tyson Murray.  The original group included drummer Gordon Beesly and guitarist Chris Flynn, but they have since been replaced by Graham Haworth on drums and Tony Asnicar on guitar.

The Railbenders first got together in 2000.  Westword Music Showcase named them Denver’s Top Country/Roots Band in 2002 and 2003.  In 2004, the Denver Post chose them as “Best of the Underground” and Coors Brewing Company named the band the Coors Original 2004 New Sound Throwdown Champions, which included a sponsorship.

In 2006, the Railbenders released an album called Showdown that included Jim Dalton’s song, “I-70 Westbound.”  The group has played regularly in the Denver/Front Range area since then and the song has become sort of a favorite of their local fans.  Essentially, it tells us that we can drive west on I-70 and enjoy the mountains.

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REAL ID Act

It is hard to believe that Donald Trump has only been acting as president for about two weeks, and it is already getting tedious to think about his attacks on civil liberties and his actions making travel unnecessarily difficult.  Of course, Trump is not the first president to infringe on our rights in those areas.  Today, I want to look back at the REAL ID Act, signed into law by George W. Bush in 2005, and which will soon start having a large impact on many Americans.  You may read the text of the Act here.

First, let me engage in a little personal digression.  As I write this, my wife and daughter and grandchildren are visiting Southern California for a few days.  When we woke up this morning, there was freezing fog and freezing rain and multiple accidents on the highways.  It was a harrowing drive to the airport, and the plane was delayed in taking off, but they made it safely to their destination.

For some reason, our family seems to pick days like this to have to go to the airport.  Back in September of 2013, our daughter, Suzanne, and son-in-law, Jeff were flying out of town, and the time for scheduled departure coincided with the worst rainstorms and flooding Denver has experienced in more than 100 years.  There were trees washed away, roads flooded and closed and multiple travel advisories.  Nevertheless, I drove them to the airport.  It took longer than usual, but we made it.  That is not the happy ending, though.  When we arrived at the terminal, Jeff realized that he had forgotten to bring his driver’s license and had no identification.  Because of the road and weather conditions, it would take at least an hour’s driving each way to go back to get the license, and he would miss the plane, anyway.  Luckily, our son, Michael, was in town that day, so I called him and had him go get the license and bring it to the airport.  It all occurred timely, and that is the happy ending.

At least we knew that his driver’s license would be accepted for identification.  The situation would have been more complex if not for that given.  However, in the not-too-distant future, many of you are going to learn that your driver’s license will no longer be accepted.  We can thank the REAL ID Act of 2005 for that result.

That law essentially makes state-issued drivers’ licenses the equivalent to a national ID Card.  Certain documents must be provided and other requirements met before the license may be issued.  The license, itself is required to have certain information and be in a machine-readable format , which will facilitate the setting up of a nationwide database.  The information in that database is to be shared with our friends the Canadians and with Mr. Trump’s “bad hombre” boogeymen in Mexico.

Half of the states are not yet in compliance with the law (it is “voluntary,” after all), though the effective date has been postponed several times, and a number of the states have been granted extensions.

Presently, January of 2018 is the date that is important for identification at airports.  It seems that after that date, drivers’ licenses from Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington will no longer be accepted because those states have not complied nor have they asked for an extension.

An extension until June 6, 2017, has been granted to Alaska, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Virginia.  If they have not become compliant by then, drivers’ licenses from those states will no longer be accepted for entry to federal buildings and facilities.

An extension until October 10, 2017, has been granted to California, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Texas.  Similarly, if they have not become compliant by that date the drivers’ licenses from those states will not be accepted as identification at federal buildings and facilities.

As the effective dates get closer, we may look at the civil liberties issues that should be addressed.  For now, consider this a heads-up so that you in the affected states can start working on getting your alternative identification documents together.  Alternative documents include U.S. passport or passport card; DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST); U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians); U.S. passport or passport card; DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST); U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians); permanent resident card; border crossing card; DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license; airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan); federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID; HSPD-12 PIV card; foreign government-issued passport; Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card; transportation worker identification credential; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766); and U.S. Merchant Mariner Credentials.

YEAR OF THE ROOSTER – 2017, PART 1

The new moon on January 27, 2017 (in the United States, which will be January 28th in many parts of the world) marks the beginning of a new year under the Oriental lunar calendar.  As you probably know, each year is symbolized by one of twelve animals and each of those animal years cycles through affinities to the five elements – fire, earth, metal, water and wood. This will be the Year of the Fire Rooster (or Fire Chicken, as it is called in Vietnam), which occurs every 60 years.

For the past several years, I have posted predictions for what may occur in the world during the upcoming year.  Rather than claiming to be any more (or less) psychic than you are, my approach has been to assume that the traditional cycles are valid.  Then, by looking at what occurred in previous Rooster years, we should be able to extrapolate forecasts for the coming year.  The posts of previous predictions are available for review, and most have been quite accurate.  If you would like to check what was prognosticated for 2016’s Year of the Monkey, you may do so by clicking here.

This year I am taking a slightly different approach and dividing the prognostications into two parts.  This first part is intended to be general, and look at matters in different areas of the world, which is pretty much the format I have used in the past.  The second part will focus on the political situation in the United States since it seems that will have a major influence on what occurs this year and for many years to come.

First, let me say that this Oriental system of astrology is not really intended to make detailed predictions based on years.  The system is actually much more complicated and there is an animal-element rulership of each hour and each month, in addition to that of the year.  When looking only at the year, as we are doing here, one can imagine a pervasive annual vibration that interacts with the vibration that each person acquired from the year of his or her birth.  When those two vibrations come together, the resulting wave forms may be considered positive, negative or neutral.  Still, they only set the underlying tone.  It is the actions of each person that ultimately lead to a good or bad result for the year. Continue reading

YEAR OF THE ROOSTER – 2017, PART 2 American Politics

The new moon on January 27, 2017 (in the United States, which will be January 28th in many parts of the world) marks the beginning of a new year under the Oriental lunar calendar.  As you probably know, each year is symbolized by one of twelve animals and each of those animal years cycles through affinities to the five elements – fire, earth, metal, water and wood. This will be the Year of the Fire Rooster (or Fire Chicken, as it is called in Vietnam), which occurs every 60 years.

For the past several years, I have posted some predictions for what may occur in the world during the upcoming year.  Rather than claiming to be any more (or less) psychic than you are, my approach has been to assume that the traditional cycles are valid.  Then, by looking at what occurred in previous Rooster years, we should be able to extrapolate predictions for the coming year.  The posts of previous predictions are available for review, and most have been quite accurate.  If you would like to check what was prognosticated for 2016’s Year of the Monkey, you may do so by clicking here.

This year I am taking a slightly different approach and dividing the prognostications into two parts.  The first part was fairly general, and looked at matters in different parts of the world, which is pretty much the format I have used in previous years.  This second part will focus on the political situation in the United States since it seems that will have a major influence on what occurs this year and for many years to come. Continue reading

A POETRY PRIZE Eufeeling Haiku

Wouldn’t it be great if this blog was written by a prize-winning poet?  Wouldn’t that give it a little bit of class, perhaps a sense of gravitas?

You bet it would.  So, I would like to say that Nobel laureate Bob Dylan will be writing several ….. Oh, never mind.  I would like to say that, but wouldn’t be true.  If Mr. Zimmerman won’t return the Nobel Committee’s phone calls, I don’t have much chance of talking with him.

I guess the only way a prize-winning poet is going to write something here is for me to go out and win a prize, myself.  How would I do that?

Well, there is a gentleman named Frank Kinslow, who is a chiropractor with extensive transcendental meditation training turned guru of sorts.  He has written half a dozen books, which have been translated into many languages, teaching what he initially called “Quantum Entrainment” or “QE”; which has now expanded into the “Kinslow System.”  This is not the time or place to try to explain that system.  Let us just say that he recognizes a state called “Pure Awareness,” which is likened to David Bohm’s concept of implicate order.  It is also similar to Tao and Advaita in that it is that from which both consciousness and matter arise.

Even though Pure Awareness is always and everywhere with us, most people do not know or recognize it.  Dr. Kinslow’s books teach that it is possible to become aware of Pure Awareness, and we can start in the space between our thoughts.  As a part of becoming aware, one experiences what Kinslow calls a “Eufeeling.”  That is a made-up word that combines the Greek prefix “eu-,” meaning well or good or pleasant, with the word “feeling.”  It is supposed to be the feeling that comes with the first glimmer of individual awareness of oneself as both separate and a part of a single unbounded field.  Dr. Kinslow wrote a whole book on Eufeeling, so I won’t try to explain it any further.

Anyway, a few months ago I received an email newsletter about the Kinslow System, which included an announcement of a contest seeking poems on the subject of Eufeeling.  I felt like writing a haiku that day, so I wrote a “Eufeeling Haiku.”  Whoever the judges were, they liked the poem enough to award it third place and I am to receive an autographed copy of Dr. Kinslow’s book on Eufeeling.  The winning poems are not yet on the Kinslow System website, but I will include a link when they are posted.

For now, let me share the poem with you:

Eufeeling Haiku

In silence, nothing.
Breathe, pause, feel — and nothing blooms:
a perfect flower.

ON THE NATURAL (BY HOYT AXTON) A Colorado Song

In preparing this series, I have looked at a number of other people’s lists of Colorado Songs. Can you believe that none of them have included “On the Natural,” by Hoyt Axton?  I am putting it on my list to set that travesty to rights.

I previously mentioned this song in passing while discussing Chapter 9 of the Tao Te Ching, and I wrote a few things about Hoyt Axton in commenting on his song, “The Devil.”  To avoid redundancy, I will be brief here.

You probably know that for many years Hoyt battled the “demons of addiction” that came in the form of alcohol and cocaine.  In the late 1960s, when he got his first major record label contract, he was also experimenting with LSD.  That, or Columbia Records’ attempt to make his music relevant, seems to have influenced his 1969 album, My Griffin Is Gone.  Unlike most of his other work, the songs on this album are heavily produced and almost lushly orchestrated, resulting in a folk/country/psychedelic mélange.

That sounds like a strange combination, but the approach worked well on songs like the anti-war “Beelzebub’s Laughter,”  It was not so successful on some of the others.  The album was not a commercial success, and today it is usually referred to as “obscure.”  In his “Consumer Guide,”   Robert Christgau, of Village Voice fame, and the self-proclaimed “dean of American rock critics,” grades the album as a D+ and says, “Hoyt Axton, who can’t sing, has written two good songs, ‘The Pusher’ and ‘On the Natural.’ The latter is on this record, produced by Alex Hassilev, who can’t produce.”  Though I would disagree with the more smug portions of that smug assessment, it shows that My Griffin Is Gone was not well received.

Hoyt Axton was born on March 25, 1938, making him 31 years old when My Griffin Is Gone was released.  He was old enough and smart enough to understand that he needed to overcome his problems with substance abuse, and it was during this period – the late 1960s and early ’70s – that he wrote some of his best anti-drug songs.  Two of them are found on this album, “Snow Blind Friend” and “On the Natural.”  Here, we are looking at “On the Natural.”

Shortly before recording the album, Hoyt lived for a time in Crested Butte, Colorado.  It was a slower paced lifestyle than he was used to on the road or in California.  He seems to have realized that if one just catches his breath and looks around, Nature (especially in the Colorado mountains) is miraculous and a better and more lasting “high” than is possible with chemicals.  He tells us that in “On The Natural.”

In the liner notes to the album, Hoyt wrote,  “Someone once told me in a dream that truth was a great white bird. Here are some feathers I found.”  “On the Natural” is a feather from the Bird of Truth.

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COLORADO BLUEBIRD SKY (BY THE STRING CHEESE INCIDENT) A Colorado Song

The String Cheese Incident (“SCI”) is your typical Colorado bluegrass-Afro-Latin-Calypso-electronica fusion jam band.  The group started in 1993 when several musicians from Telluride and Crested Butte got together to do some jamming.  During

A Bluebird Sky
(Photo from Pintrest by @epidote1)

their early days, they played at various Western ski areas for lift tickets.  As their popularity increased, they moved to Boulder in 1996 and began playing for money.  Over the years, they have released several studio albums and some live albums, but they are mostly known for their tremendous performances.

Like other great jam bands such as the Grateful Dead and Phish and Widespread Panic, SCI has a very knowledgeable and devoted following.  A quick search will find several websites devoted to the band’s set lists, lyrics, upcoming shows and news.  As the years have passed, SCI has moved from playing small clubs to much larger venues such as multi-day performances at Red Rocks, Austin City Limits and the Bonnaroo Music Festival.  Leading into this coming New Year (2017), SCI will play for three nights at the 7,500 seat 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado.

Like the Grateful Dead, R.E.M. and Pearl Jam, SCI has tried to develop its music without becoming a slave to the music industry.  Before releasing any albums, the band members formed their own record company, SCI Fidelity, which also records a number of other local groups.  SCI filed a complaint against Ticketmaster with the Federal Trade Commission and sued Ticketmaster when the FTC did not act.  That lawsuit was settled so that SCI now is entitled to additional tickets to be sold without the seemingly exorbitant Ticketmaster charges.  The band has actively worked to give back to the communities it visits by promoting “Green” shows and tours and contributing to various nonprofit organizations.

All of the band members are involved in writing songs, but this particular song – “Colorado Bluebird Sky” – was written by guitarist Bill “Hershey” Nershi and his wife, Jillian.  Nershi moved to Telluride, Colorado when he was 20 or 21 years old, in 1981 or ’82.  In 1993 he moved to Crested Butte for a short time, and that was where he met the other band members.  That is pretty much the story he tells in this song.

The song title hearkens back to the days when the band members were skiing and playing for lift tickets.  A “bluebird sky” is the clear, blue, cloudless sky that is often seen the morning after a snow storm.  It could be called, simply, a “blue sky,” but it is more than that.  It is a term that incorporates the happiness (“bluebird of …”) felt when the weather clears and a whole mountain of fresh powder awaits.

The YouTube video below is the version of the song on the 2014 album, Song in My Head; and it lasts for about six and a half minutes.  Since this is a jam band, however, you can find other renditions online.  If you would like to hear a version that is more than twice as long, just click here.

And the name of the band?  Where does that come from?  It seems it either relates to a broken mandolin string or a late night food fight or something else.  They have never tried very hard to explain it.

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COLORADO GIRL (BY TOWNES VAN ZANDT) A Colorado Song

van-zandt-albumSinger-songwriter Townes Van Zandt (whose full name was John Townes Van Zandt) was an enigmatic, perhaps singularly talented individual.  He never had a hit song, and most people probably don’t even know his name.  Nevertheless, he was quite influential in the music business and his songs – the best known of which are “Pancho and Lefty” and “If I Needed You” – have been recorded by numerous artists, including Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, Cowboy Junkies, Lyle Lovett and many others.  A documentary film about his life, entitled Be Here To Love Me was released in 2004, and he has been the subject of at least three full length biographies, perhaps the best being A Deeper Blue:  The Life and Music of Townes Van Zandt (2008), by Robert Earl Hardy.  I can’t hope to give much insight into his life in this brief post, so let me simply tell you why this is a Colorado Song.

First, of course, the name of the song is “Colorado Girl,” which probably qualifies it for inclusion even though it comes from a quintessential Texas songwriter.

My maternal grandparents settled into Sulphur Springs, Texas, which is between Dallas and Texarkana, in the latter part of the 19th Century.  If you were to travel to the southwest for less than an hour from their house, you would be in Van Zandt County, which is nothing at all like Colorado.  The county was named for Townes’ great-great-grandfather, who had been the official diplomatic representative of the Republic of Texas to the United States, and who had died while he was running for governor.  His great-grandfather was one of the founders of Fort Worth.  His mother’s maiden name was Townes, and she was a direct descendant of John Charles Townes, for whom the main building of the University of Texas at Austin Law School was named.

With that pedigree, he might have spent his life in Texas and become quite influential in matters other than music.  However, his father was an attorney in the oil industry and his business required the family to move frequently.  In 1958, when Townes was 14 years old, they moved to Boulder, Colorado.  He attended school there for a short time, but because of his extremely high IQ he spent his last high school years at the exclusive Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Fairbault, Minnesota, where the son of Senator and soon to be Vice President Hubert Humphrey was one of his classmates.  After graduating from Shattuck in 1962, he returned to Boulder to attend the University of Colorado. Continue reading

MOSE ALLISON 1927-2016

mose-allisonAfter recently writing about Leonard Cohen’s passing and some thoughts about the recent presidential election, it is appropriate that I should mention, too, the passing of a unique musical talent, Mose Allison, who died on November 15, 2016, four days after his 89th birthday.  Although his work has been called too bluesy for jazz and to jazzy for the blues, it has been accepted and honored in many fields.  In addition to his many recordings, many of his songs have been performed by the likes of the Who, the Clash, Elvis Costello, Georgie Fame, Van Morrison, Blue Cheer, Paul Butterfield, Bonnie Raitt, Leon Russell, Roy Rogers and many, many others.

One of the most memorable things about Allison’s writing was the wry sense of humor with which he observed the world around him.

I would like to share a couple of his songs that seem to be relevant to our current political situation.  First, here are the words to “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy”: Continue reading

ANOTHER DISCLAIMER ON BEHALF OF GOD* About Choosing Trump

There are some folks who have written that it was God who chose Donald Trump to lead this country and God who is going to make America great.  On behalf of God, I Trump's posturewould like to point out that God certainly loves Mr. Trump — just as he loves Hillary Clinton and you and me and the homeless man you see walking around with a grocery cart. However, the president-elect was not chosen by God, but by a reasonably healthy, though distinct, minority of American voters.  God gave us the free will to make that choice (and accept the consequences).

God has warned us about what we should expect, though, in these words (slightly paraphrased to bring them up to date) from 1 Samuel 8:10-22:

 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a [president]  He said, “This is what the [president] who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.  Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.  He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.  He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.  He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use.  He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.  When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the [president] you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a [president] …

When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord.  The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a [president].”

That is how free will works.

Jesus, too, made it clear that there is a clear dichotomy between the things that belong in the realm of politics (the things that are “Caesar’s”) and those in the realm of the divine (the things that are “God’s”), as we see in Matthew 22:20-22, Mark 12:16-17 and Luke 20:24-25.

Now, just because the election of the president was the work of mere mortals does not mean that everything is not in divine order.  It is.

Also, it does not mean that the election is not an important symbol for our world.  It is.

For many centuries the world was predominantly patriarchal, with women forced into a subservient role, with the richest 1% of the population exploiting the other 99%, and with various tribes and racial groups competing with one another for control of limited resources.  Although that worldview is becoming less common and must soon be replaced by one that is more sustainable, Donald Trump clearly represents the vestiges of the past and his presidency will keep them in the spotlight, “warts and all.”

Imagine, then, what it will be like two years from now when Trump’s presidency ends early due to his health problems, which may begin manifest within a fairly short time.  As sad as that may be to many, it will be a powerful symbol of the changes that are taking place right now and are not going to be stopped.  I think it will happen.

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*The previous disclaimer my be seen by clicking here.