My Ideal Bookshelf – Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies, William Golding

So far, the books from my Ideal Bookshelf are books I’ve read multiple times.

The Invasion, twice.

Marvel 1602, lost count.

Lord of the Flies, at least three times, possibly four.

The first time I attempted to read Lord of the Flies, I was in 5th grade and was reading it at my mom’s behest. I don’t really remember much about my impressions the first time reading it. I think it was a bit over my head for a 5th grade reading.

I am pretty sure I read it again, sometime in middle school, but alas, I cannot put my finger on exactly when. Mayhaps, in 8th grade?

My freshman year provided another opportunity to read it, as it was assigned reading along with The Pearl (which made me think I would always loathe Steinbeck, not the case) and Romeo and Juliet (which made me think I would always loathe Shakespeare, also, not the case).  Whether it was my disdain for the other two assigned readings (and how they were presented in class) or my finding Lord of the Flies to be a more mature version of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, I loved it.

A survival story, sans adults, but with a look at how society works and how society thinks.

A Hatchet with constant moose attacks where the good guy doesn’t walk away unscathed and may not even walk away at all.

Kind of like life.

My Ideal Bookshelf – Marvel 1602

Marvel 1602, Neil Gaiman

I’ve always enjoyed comic books and superheroes.

I spent many a childhood weekend morning watching the likes of the X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, and others save the world again and again. I had a small stack of random back issues and my sole graphic novel, The Death of Superman, in my adolescent space-then-fishing room and would read and reread them over and over again.

I no longer have any of those back issues, having given them to my mom for various art projects over the years.

Much to the disappointment of others, I did not grow out of my comic book reading. Heck, I spent the weekend Robert Kirkman’s Invincible series, Jason Aaron’s incontinuity Star Wars run, and the wildly fun Greg Pak series, The Totally Awesome Hulk. Let’s just say that the Hoopla app and the Marvel Unlimited app make my little ol’ nerd heart happy.

While I did read a comic book issue here and there, I never considered myself a comic book reader. This shift occurred during the summer before my junior year of high school. On my first trip to New York City, a trip to see musicals and sightsee, one of the tour guides kept telling me about the Batman: Hush story arc. I eventually made my way to Midtown Comics and purchased the first volume and wanting to pick up a souvenir for my brother walked away with the first volume of Ultimate X-Men, an alternate Marvel Universe series, which reintroduced the origin of the X-Men in a modern day setting and bypassed decades of continuity.

Batman: Hush was good, well written by Jeph Loeb and fantastic art by Jim Lee, but I still wasn’t a comic addict, yet. After returning from New York City, I wanted to find the second volume for Hush, and I made my way to a Tulsa comic book shop. It’s there that I found my fix and Neil Gaiman’s Marvel 1602.

I’d settled in for the long haul of reading the Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Spider-Man series, but it was not until I found Marvel 1602 that I truly became a comic book reader.

On the bus to a contest speech tournament, I was admonished for reading it and not reviewing my lines, but I couldn’t put it down.

It was a fun and clever.

It was an escape.

My Ideal Bookshelf – The Invasion

The Invasion (Animorphs, 1), K.A. Applegate

Prior to reading the Animorphs, my series reading consisted of The Hardy Boys and Hank the Cowdog. In 4th grade, I discovered the Animorphs series, much to the dismay of my grade school teacher. Dismay because as an author herself, she loathed that I was reading a book series that was not written by the author, instead by an army of ghost writers.

Years later, I would try to look back and see how far I went into the series, fairly certain it was book #32, The Separation, a storyline where a character in the story is more or less “cloned” after morphing into a starfish. All the plots of the books meld together in my memory, in a similar way that plots of individual comic books begin to be forgotten, only remembering overarching storylines. But in my research into the series, I was surprised to discover that very few books in the series were actually ghost written.

Of the entire series, I have only have ever reread The Invasion, which I reread during my first year of teaching after purchasing a copy at one of the Scholastic warehouse sales. It was just as fun as the first time I read it. Five kids come across a crashed alien spaceship, are given the ability to transform into animals, and find out about an evil plot to take over planet.

I mean, how much fun is that plot?

Young adult literature really seemed to take off once I got to college, following the rise of The Hunger Games and Twilight fandom. But, at the time I was in elementary, middle, and high school the selection of YA was pretty limited. Goosebumps was all the craze, but I never was drawn to the series, having only read Deep Trouble, a teen Jaws knockoff. Animorphs became my obsession, which would eventually lead me to more and more science fiction and fantasy, culminating with my high school reading teacher asking, “What are you trying to escape?”

That question both offended me and struck deeply, staying in the background of my mind nearly every time I picked up a new comic book or finished another fantasy novel. I eventually accepted what I had been trying to escape, and it wasn’t easy. But, by that time, my sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book fandom had been cemented. The Animorphs series was my gateway into the realms of Narnia, Westeros, the Two Rivers, and so much more.

Although, I do wonder if there was something more to my gateway of choice. Was I drawn to this series for its transformation storylines? Or, was it simply a fun comic book-esque series about the triumph of good vs. evil?

On Facebook, Now

Fast forward to now.

Why the return to the realm of social media?

Because in the gap between my last Facebook post with my original profile and the first post with my new profile, I only prowled around on Goodreads, a book rating and tracking social media service.

Why return?


Because at the end of January, the 45th president began implementing his attacks on America by pushing forward with his administration’s Muslim ban.

That night as protesters stormed U.S. airports and news pundits stood flabbergasted that the president was trying to deliver on his promise for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States.

It was chaos.

And, I cried.

I cried knowing that this was only the beginning, and what made it evens worse was knowing many of my family supported and voted for the 45th president.

This was a policy they, in casting their vote, wanted to see occur.

It was wrong.

And, that night, as chaos reigned across the country, I followed it all with a newly created Twitter account. I could follow it in real-time, no longer waiting for a news website to update a story.

I livestreamed CNN from my iPad and constantly refreshed my Twitter page obsessively.

Days before, I had felt hope walking the streets of downtown Albuquerque as part of the nationwide Women’s March. Thousands of people gathered together to protest against the xenophobia, racism, corruption, and so much else that the 45th president and his administration campaigned on and would soon begin to implement.

As I watched the ACLU lawyers begin their legal proceedings to put a halt to this biased attack, I felt hopeless again.

And, I knew that I had to do more.

When I returned to work on  Monday after the ACLU successfully blocked the ban, a coworker announced during the “what-are-you-thankful-for-minutes-of-sharing” that children she volunteered with asked to go to the airport to protest the ban after a local protest organized through Facebook and began at the Albuquerque airport.

I had missed this.

With no Facebook, I missed a chance to do something about something fundamentally wrong.

It wouldn’t happen again.

In the next month, I made a new Facebook profile.

I made a new Facebook profile because I wanted a blank slate, and I was fundamentally aware that my parents did not want any of my extended family or their friends to find out what they wanted kept back in the closet. A new account allowed me a chance to enter into a social network with people I hoped had my back.

I wrote my post “To Whom It May Concern” and sent it to my parents and brother.


I videoed a reading of that post and posted it to my new Facebook profile and to my Twitter feed.


And over the following months, I would be informed that my mom would not Facebook friend me because she did not want to “hurt” my sisters, and I would inform a family member that while I have a Facebook profile, it would probably be in their best interest not to friend me.

The impending storm of disgust, prejudice, and shock always thundering in the background.

And, so to now.

Now, when my mom posted pictures from her and her parents trip to visit me, I added a friendly comment to her post.

Now, when I think to a time on my high school yearbook staff, I refriended someone, who I had not spoken to in years.

Now, when a friend posts an article in support of the transgender military ban from a blatantly conservative website, blatantly conservative because its is literally called the Conservative Tribune, I commented back with my personal point of view and evidence to support it.

Now, when I go back and forth with this person, I have to decide when enough is enough because neither of us will come to a consensus on this.

I don’t understand her point of view.

The bottom lines is this.

It is discrimination.

It is wrong.


Things are only going to get worse before they get better, and with a presidential administration in perpetual chaos, Facebook is still there.

It is there to “like” a picture of the Sandia Mountains.

It is there to hope for social justice.

It is there to celebrate a friend trying the build-your-own sushi shack.

It is there to resist.


“Gaga Attacks Trump Trans Ban, Then Has Bad Encounter With Iraq Vet”


“Here’s What Actual Trans Military Voices Have To Say About Trump’s Ban.”

“Assessing the Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly”

“Trump: I consulted the military about the transgender ban. Military: no, you didn’t.”

On Facebook, Then

On this blog, I have mentioned my, how should I put it, my tenuous relationship with social media, more specifically with Facebook.

There’s something about social media that is inherently intriguing.

Why post this?

Why not that?

Why “like” this post?

Why not that one?

I have only rejoined the Facebook world since last February, a little over six months. But, I had had an account before. I had a profile and friends on Facebook, but that profile of who I was is now lost into the nether regions of a dormant side of the web.

I found and still do find Facebook fascinating.

In college, when I had my original (non-trans) profile, I wrote two college papers about Facebook. One was for my Modern Monsters class, which I took my freshman year after I was exempt from taking basic college English when I passed on of my high school AP exams.

I honestly don’t remember which one I passed. I took both AP Language and AP Literature on the same day during my senior year of high school. I had wanted to take one during my junior year when I was in that specific AP class, but when I had expressed interest in taking the exam, no one took me seriously because so few people actually took the AP exams, which is why I ended up having to take both exams my senior year.

Concerning the Facebook paper I wrote for Modern Monsters, I honestly have little idea what it was about. Sometime around my sophomore or junior year of college, my college Dell crashed, and I lost a lot of my essays, pictures, and music I had collected over the years. Perhaps, the tagline for Dell computers should have been, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell . . . which is unlikely to survive through the entirety of your four year program . . . and also all the cool people will have Apple and you will instantly regret your decision to have a Dell the moment you step on campus . . .” Alas, that was not their marketing strategy, which is why I no longer have much of an idea of what that essay was about.

Here’s what I know. The class was about monsters in all of their forms. We read Frankenstein, studied the Holocaust, read about fast food culture and its impact with Fast Food Nation, and dived into the American counterculture of the 1970s and the rise of the horror film genre. The last topic of the class was about technology as a monster, and I chose to write about Facebook and walked away with a B in the class, a first in over four years. That B was fairly devastating, and I, for the first time ever, felt inadequate at school. I felt surrounded by people who were smarter than me, and it was clear to everyone that they were smarter than me.  

It was about as Twilight Zone-feeling as walking onto the campus and thinking I would quickly meet friends and have a picturesque Central Perk hangout spot as I worked my way through college in an amusing sitcom manner, but alas, I discovered my own naivete.

The second paper about Facebook was written for my autobiographical writing class and was entitled, “Nick’s Five Gnarly Facebook Rules,” which is a very cringeworthy title, not just because of the unpreferred “Nick” but also the use of the word “Gnarly”.

Not cool past self.

Not cool.

But also, reading back through it, I was reminded that the paper was just an excuse to write about asking my then girlfriend on a date via Facebook.

What’s worse, I began my essay with “Oy vey! Do you remember a time when technology didn’t dominate our measly little lives?”, which is about the lamest way to start an essay, but I did it anyway.

Look, I was in college, from a small town, I didn’t know any better.

But, I did my best to type out a written version of the old dial-up modem sound. This was the best I could come up with, “errrrrr-ba-duba-duba-duba-errrrrr-ba-dubba-dubba-dubba”. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

The rules I developed were as follows:

  1. Don’t Post Anything You Wouldn’t Want Your Mother to See.
  2. Avoid Excessive Foul Language and Poor Grammar.
  3. Know the Difference Between a Wall Post and a Message.
  4. Don’t Breakup with Someone Via Facebook.
  5. Never Ask Anyone Out on a Date Using Facebook.

Oy vey, this paper was rough. And, as I stated, this paper was pretty much a veiled to write about my then girlfriend.  

But, my tenure with Facebook would soon be coming to an abrupt end. I began my original Facebook profile in 2006 when I was first admitted to college, when only college students could have an account. It felt like such a privilege then. Something critical to achieve in the modern age. Then, as the website began to open up to high school students and more and more people began to join, it felt more and more like Facebook was creating a fictionalized mirror of the real world.

It felt fake and staged.

Where once I was eager to write a status update and post a new profile picture, I suddenly began to use it less and less, then rarely at all.

I left Facebook because I was just tired of it. I was.

But, there was another reason I left.

A reason I could never say out loud.

Sometime, most likely in 2013, Facebook announced that gender options beyond male and female would soon be available.

They were implemented in early 2014.

Facebook was becoming a mirror of the real world, only superficially so.

A version of yourself you wanted to be and show off to the world.

The mere knowledge that gender options on Facebook would soon be available made me deeply uncomfortable, and I deleted my first Facebook profile and pushed the thought of gender variations out of my mind.

I was hopeful these gender discomforts would vanish.

I was wrong.


Also, can I just point out how lame, again, how terrible that second Facebook paper was. I ended with a terrible allusion to a line from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, jesting that my five Facebook rules were more like guidelines.

Sometimes, I really don’t know how I made it through college.

Valerian and the Series of a Thousand Disappointments

I had lofty goals for this evening.

I did.

With school around the corner, my classrooms still in a state of unreadiness, a book still needing to be read, and family arriving on the morrow, I just needed a mindless break for a good two hours and an episode or two of Star Trek: The Next Generation was just not going to cut it tonight.

My plan was to go see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets at the theater a hop, skip, and a jump from my place; finish doing a little tidying up in preparation for family arrival tomorrow, which involved cleaning, laundry, and, yes, ants . . . ; read for work, which I have been putting off; and do some blog writing.

All of these tasks would have been manageable. The theater is less than five minutes away when driving. I had just cleaned thoroughly for a friend’s going away party, and I was going to stop by the store to pick up some friendly ant-killing spray on the way to the movies. I’d motivate myself to read my work text by interspersing chapters of the book with back issues of Guardians of the Galaxy or an issue or two of the highly entertaining Rat Queens series.

And, finally, I would get down to some blog writing. I had several ideas already jotted down for potential posts, doing a third edition of “The Vagina Rocket Attempts to Summit a Mountain”, which this time would be about my actual trip up Pike’s Peak, or I considered writing about a particular dream I had had recently, which woke me in a cold and angry panic at 3:31 AM, a dream in which I told certain people exactly what I thought of them, and by certain people, I mean my father. But, I also had other ideas, non-jotted down ideas, that I was considering writing about. Family coming to visit being one of them, still not sure what to take my grandparents to and wondering how much I should de-rainbowtize my place. Some Facebook musings, centering on my Facebook stalking of my mom’s profile and seeing her posting/tagging of her recent visit to my brother’s and knowing I would not be receiving the same treatment on this weekend’s visit. And, one in which I just had some vague ideas for, but a pretty decent title, “It’s Easy to Hate Yourself When Your Father Believes You’re the Devil’s Puppet”.

Once I decided, for sure, to proceed with my evening plans, it began without a hitch. I stopped by the local store near the theater and picked up some environmentally friendly ant poison, which later when I sprayed it could not stop thinking about how it smelled like root beer. Heading to the theater, I tossed the aerosol can of poison into my car and hoped it wouldn’t explode while I was in the movies. Albuquerque sun can be miserably hot, but the evening was already cooling off. The Vagina Rocket was also safely shaded in a parking garage. I believed myself to be in the clear.

I purchased my ticket, stamped my parking ticket, and took my child-sized soda (a soda the size of a small child) into the theater, where I promptly posted a lackluster Facebook check-in to my wall.

The trailers before the film were unmemorable, for the most part.

Although, it might be interesting to see Kylo Ren in a redneck, NASCAR robbing role in the upcoming Logan Lucky. And, while it does not look good, I know I will still see Pitch Perfect 3 because aca-I-want-to, dammit!

I had skimmed through a few reviews for Valerian before deciding to go. Even though the reviews were very average, which is being kind, I was still hoping for something entertaining for two hours. Maybe not The 5th Element good, but hopefully at least a little enjoyable . . .

Unfortunately, I was finding that the reviews were right.

The movie was pretty to look at, but that was about it. In a weird sci-fi smash up of Star Trek ideals with Star Wars prequel visuals, mixed in with even worse acting/interest/chemistry than Anakin and Padme, the two leads in the movie seemed to be even more bored than I was annoyed at the movie’s focus of reinforcing gender stereotypes.

With only fifteen or so minutes left, I just wanted to see how the movie ended. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the screen went blank, the lights started flashing, and a recorded voice told the movie patrons to evacuate.

Like curious and mindless sheep, we circled around outside the theater to try to figure out what was going on. We huddled together as the fire truck arrived and were told to stand clear of the area, being forced to congregate at the Brazilian meat stick place.

After twenty minutes, it was clear that no one knew what was going on. The crowd speculated that someone pulled the alarm, but no one really knew for sure.

After another twenty minutes, the movie theater folks announced they would be letting people back in, issuing rainchecks, and the movie would pick up right where it left off.

After another ten minutes, I had my rain check in hand. But, we were still all outside the theater.

While waiting, I posted another Facebook update, and I began to think about all the things I had to get down the next day at work, which led me to think about all the things I needed to get done tonight.

I kept waiting.

I did want to see how the movie ended. Even though it was rife with gender stereotyping, was poorly plotted, and led by two lackluster leads, the movie still looked pretty. It still had some interesting moments.

It wasn’t too late for it to turn itself around, right?

It might end of a high note.

In the end, I decided my two hour diversion had turned into a three hour ordeal.

It wasn’t worth waiting around to catch the last act. Sure, it might look good, and it might be trying, but sometimes, effort and appearance can only hide the substance underneath for so long.

Sometimes, whatever you are waiting for isn’t worth the wait.

I slipped my rain check into my wallet and began to make my way to my car.

The Vagina Rocket Attempts to Summit a Mountain, Part 2: Here’s Looking at You, Apple Maps

Perhaps, I can blame my GPS.

I am looking at you, Apple Maps.

But, something felt off as I made my way to Pike’s Peak.

The exit Siri led me down was all kinds of, well, residential roads. I kept waiting to see the sign that screamed “Pike’s Peak This Way” with a large white arrow pointing the way. Alas, no such sign existed.

After meandering through neighborhoods, I eventually found a highway that looked liked it could lead to a famous mountain.

I began passing signs for The Garden of the Gods, a cave of winds, cliff dwellings, and other possible Coloradoan tourist traps. Unfortunately, when I approached the road to turn and begin heading up in elevation, the lane used to turn was blocked off with caution cones and a police car.

That should have been my first read flag.

Yet, I only came to the conclusion of, “huh, this is odd” and continued down the highway, as Siri demanded I make a u-turn and headed back to the base of the mountain road.

With so much traffic around every touristy spot in Colorado, from the Denver Aquarium to Rocky Mountain National Park, I should have noted a second red flag when the road up to the Pike’s Peak park entrance was completely empty. Even the odd 1950s-esque North Pole mountainside amusement park seemed vacant. Yet, I was too concerned with my phone not wanting to charge (I was beginning to fear it was not a problem with the charger) and filled with excitement to head up the mountain that I put little stock in these observations.

As I approached the entrance to the park on this particular early Sunday afternoon, there was only one car in front of me. But more alarming was that above the three lanes into the park, a red neon X shown brightly.


I drove up to the park ranger and listened as he informed me that I unfortunately had chosen the one day out of the year that the mountain was closed.

Some kinds of well-known mountain scramble event, which was unknown to me, clearly.

I tried to hide my disappointment, as he thanked me for understanding, and I turned around to drive away from the closed entrance.

I don’t know why it meant so much to me to drive to the top of the mountain. I just felt like I needed to. I felt a drive to do this thing that I had done as a child, and since so much has happened since then, I wanted a redo. I wanted a redo of that drive. That drive with my ten-ish year old self sitting in the back of a white van, surrounded by swirls of clouds as we climbed. A ten-ish year old self who could not possibly understand the journey ahead. A journey filled with heartache and loneliness and acceptance and denial and disappointment.

Look, I know I was putting too much importance into this summiting, but I couldn’t help it. It’s not like I am going to redo all of those meaningful life experiences I had before coming to terms with my identity. For starters, I can no longer fit into some of my amazing hide and seek spots.

But, this one, this one felt necessary.

Perhaps, because it was in Colorado Springs, where I was born.

Perhaps, because parts of the trip stands out so vividly. Like, waiting to get the all clear before we head up. Like, my brother slamming back cups of coffee like there was no tomorrow. Like, seeing the edge of the road while surrounded by clouds, feeling like we would roll off at any minute.

Perhaps, because every chance I have to enjoy nature feels like a middle finger to the 45th president’s administration.

Perhaps, I don’t need a reason. I just felt a drive to do it.

Yet, this would not be happening.

As I headed back into Colorado Springs, I saw a sign for The Garden of the Gods and took the exit. This wasn’t what I had planned to do, but it would suffice.

The Vagina Rocket Attempts to Summit a Mountain, Part 1: Nomenclature Backstory

I have only ever named two of my four cars.

Although, that is not entirely true because I believe my first car was named by its previous owner. So, my ‘99 silver Saturn 3-door coupe maintained the name, the Silver Fox.

I loved that car.

And, it is not just because it was the first car I ever made out in, although that definitely doesn’t hurt. And, contrary to the belief of one, I also paid for a third of it when I turned 16, which equated to a lot of lawn mowing and stacks and stacks of dishes washed at my grandparents’ diner.

So, there was a bit of blood, sweat, and tears with that car. Although those three attributes could all be applied to lawn mowing or waiting tables, alas, they do not.

It was fun to drive.

It was a stick shift, low to the ground, with a CD player to blare all the cool hits from bands like Blue October, Green Day, and, of course, The Barenaked Ladies. Emphasis on the cool hipness of The Barenaked Ladies, those Canadians really know how to jam.

Aside from my current vehicle, my previous vehicles consisted of a ‘05 silver Ford Escape, another family legacy vehicle, and a ‘15 slate gray Honda CR-V, which I have written about its ghosts before. Yet, neither these cars earned a name, for various reasons. Still, it wasn’t until I stuck my ichthys/rocket decal onto the back on my Honda Fit that she became known as the Vagina Rocket.

Now, unlike the nomenclature, the Silver Fox, who I assumed earned her name because she was low to the ground and sleek, like a fox. Also, silver. But, hey, I cannot say for sure of the why behind the nickname, because I am 99.9, er, at least 77.7% sure my stepmom dubbed the sportscar the Silver Fox.

Yet, with a name like the Vagina Rocket, I feel that some explanation is required.

Ever since I first saw a chrome-looking ichthys on the back of someone’s car sprouting two legs with the name “Darwin” in the center, I knew I had to have one. Yet, before I ordered my own, I felt the need to do a bit of research. I wanted my decal to truly be a parody of the so-called Jesus fish. I wanted to make sure that the symbol had no other hidden or obscure meaning. Also, I had to make sure the “Darwin” look was right for me. There were all kinds of various parodies on Amazon, from a rocket to a Flying Spaghetti Monster to Lovecraftian inspirations.

In various Christian publications, there were vague hints to an ungodly pagan origin to the ichthys, but if you will pardon the pun, these publications always seemed to beat around the bush. Yet with further browsing into articles, I was happy to discover that the symbol has ties to a sea goddess, Aphrodite, and Egyptian mythology.

As far back as 6000 BCE, the symbol is found, and it has specific links to fertility, female sexuality, and the natural force of women. Learning this, there was only one decal option and one name option for me. Hence, the Vagina Rocket, because, duh. A name like that uses its tiny hands to trump all other names.

One last, quick, tangent before we get to the mountain summiting.

A person can only learn so much history before realizing that Christian mythology plagiarizes worse than one of my former 8th grade students who turned in his essay that began with “As a young mother of two . . .” The ichthys is only a small blip in the plagiarism allegations.

Don’t get me started me on Jesus or Noah’s ark or Christmas or Easter . . . Let’s just say if Christian Mythology had been one of my students, there would have been many a phone call home to discuss blatant plagiarism, not to mention bullying, sexual assault, misogyny, and that is just the icing on the plagiarism cake . . . yikes, there is some dark and depraved shenanigans in the so called, “good book”.

So, alas, we arrive at the Vagina Rocket’s first attempt to summit Pike’s Peak.

Spoilers: it wasn’t a success.

Not a disaster by any means, just not a success.


P.S. – It brings me a small nugget of joy, when I do go back to Oklahoma, to see so many drivers unknowingly showing their support for “the natural force of women”, especially considering this state tried to legislate the dehumanization of women by legally recognizing them as “host” for the unborn.

Memory Isn’t Dead, Chapter 5: Traffic

On the road, you can be moving along at a quick pace, say seventy-five miles per hour only to suddenly come to a slow standstill.

A standstill of five minutes that becomes ten that becomes fifteen that suddenly picks up again. It’s as if nothing happened. A path becomes clear. A dispersal of vehicles suddenly projecting forward to their destinations.

Only to come to a slow standstill five minutes later or an hour later or several hours. The pattern repeats endless until the destination is reached.

*          *          *          *          *

Another standstill.

In Pueblo, Colorado, the line of cars stretches endlessly before and behind me. At a snail’s pace, I creep forward in the line of cars.

Construction zone.

Time creeps forward as boredom sets in and exponentially grows.

Eventually, I approach the overpass, concrete barriers on either side create two stagnant lines of traffic. One northbound. One southbound.

And, northbound, there is no movement. My car sits unmoving as the southbound cars sporadically pass by, heading to their destinations.

Nothing moves northbound.

Time creeps forward.

Ahead of me, people begin to exit their cars and walk along the road between the cement barriers and the stopped vehicles.

Enough is enough.

I pull over to the shoulder of the road and maneuver around the caution cones. Approaching the exit ramp from the highway, I finally see the cause of my northward delay. An RV has stalled on the under-construction-bridge. Because of the concrete barriers, no one can move.

After exiting and returning to the highway beyond the stopped RV, I continue north, on a nearly empty highway, with miles of stopped cars behind me.

*          *          *          *          *

This is the second Jesus sign I’ve noticed. I don’t remember the words of the last one, but for some reason this sign sticks with me. It reads in large black and bold letters, “Truth, Jesus is the only way”.  

My first thought is not about how ridiculous the sign is. Truth, I muse. Is a story still true if it pulls from the mythologies of the countless religions that come before it?

Unlikely is an understatement. 

Rather, what’s true is that the story of the sign’s messiah is a piecemealed history of countless gods and demigods.

Ah, the power of basic research.

No, my first thought was of the number below the bolded message. Below the message is a number to call for more information.

Yet, that number contains more than ten numbers for a curious person to call.

How’s that supposed to work?  

*          *          *          *          *

Climbing inclines and coasting down valleys, a line of tan army vehicles passes me by, only to be passed by me as I climb the next hill in Colorado Springs.

Jet black smoke plumes from the exhaust tailpipe. A black cloud drifting into the clear, crisp air.

These are machines of death, machines of war.

I don’t know what they are called, nor do I necessarily want to know. But, I can tell where it’s weapon will sit, on the top of the cab, overlooking the terrain. I have seen enough of these vehicles in movies and shows to know how they operate, to know what they do.

Jet black smoke plumes from the exhaust tailpipe. A black cloud drifting into the clear, crisp air.

These are machines of death, machines of war.

How many people see these and feel pride?


I simply feel disgusted.

Jet black smoke plumes from the exhaust tailpipe.

*          *          *          *          *

Through mountain towns filled with ghosts of another life, I drive through Estes Park to arrive at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Settling in at the campsite with friends, the self-proclaimed Women of the Wild, the flames of the campfire rise up to the star-filled sky. Sounds of nature echo through the mountains, meshing with our statements of feminism, hope, change, and the rise of deceits and fears that led to the Brexits and Trumps of the world.

Memory Isn’t Dead, Chapter 4: Mountains

The farther I pull away from Albuquerque, the more the terrain becomes mountainous. In the distance, mountain peaks appear as hazy blue mounds.

They seem so small, these blue mounds. Yet, with their white snow-capped peaks, they must be of an incredible size.

Towering and imposing the closer you are, but for now, they seem almost painted in the background of the New Mexican landscape.

The road continues north, and the tales of New Crobuzon ramble from my car’s speakers. The road continues.

*          *          *          *          *

Coming to the border of Colorado, the hazy blue mounds sharpen into focus. The blues of the mountains reveal dark green forests hugging the sides of the mountains. From the dark green sides, grey peaks erupt above the tree line.

Within the grey rocky peaks, veins of snow trickle down to the tree line. Like white blood vessels or snowy capillaries, it seems almost impossible that in the ninety-five degree heat, water remains frozen, so near and, yet, so far away.

*          *          *          *          *

I’ve taken this route before, nearly a year ago. But, this time the road, a four lane highway shifts. Two northbound lanes of traffic become one. The one shifts onto the southbound highway.

It wasn’t like this before. It was an easy six hour drive the last time I drove to Denver. Yet, now, the road slows, crawls forward.

The views are simply breathtaking and beautiful, and at a slower pace, I can revel in the natural beauty of the mountainous terrain.

The crawl of traffic begins to pick up, and I finally see the reason for the crawl. Covering the northbound lanes of the highway are large white and tan boulders covering the road. Chunks of rocks with jagged edges block any passage through the northbound lanes.

After another mile or so, the flow of traffic returns to normal. Two northbound lanes flow at a rapid pace.

The road continues.

*          *          *          *          *

A lone windmill stands in a seemingly endless field. And, I remember the windmill on my grandparents’ old homestead. Near their lung-shaped pond, their silver windmill stood pumping well water into a stock tank, which would allow the grazing cattle to drink and when filled, would overflow into the catfish pond.

My brother and I spent weekends and summer days at the fishing hole. Casting out hope for a large bass or a catfish dinner.

As I watch the windmill to the east turn, I remember when, upon walking out to the pond one day, finding the metal basin riddled with bullet holes. While problematic for the cattle, our immediate concern was for the critters that we had plopped into the tank the day before.

We had spent our previous afternoon catching small bluegills, tadpoles, and infant turtles to watch them swim in the clear well water, freshly pumped into the basin. Fearing for the lives of our captives, we managed to grab all the small aquatic creatures and throw them back into the flooded pond before the stock tank drained.

I try, as my car continues northward, to remember what my grandfather was doing as my brother and I saved the young aquatic lives. I try to remember why the stock tank had been shot with holes. I feel like there was a story to it, but it seems like ages ago. I simply can’t remember.

*          *          *          *          *

A black Dodge Ram passes me, and I notice its decor and affiliations. A Kansas City Chiefs decal decorates the rear of the driver side and passenger side windows. And where a trailer hitch should be, a Confederate flag gleams.

I imagine the driver of this pickup proudly voted for the 45th president.

And, I am sure the individual driving would greatly disapprove of the vagina rocket attached to my vehicle, if they understood the symbolism behind it.

I am sure the driver finds no issues with exploiting Native American culture with the Chiefs decals. Yet, at least, they aren’t Redskins stickers, a mascot term that even Oklahoma has banned at its higher institutions of learning.

The Confederate flag scream white supremacist at me. As cities and towns across the south finally remove statues of Confederate leaders, this Dodge Ram owner celebrates an attempt at a country whose goal was to maintain the enslavement of an entire race of people. As the rest of the world began to denounce slavery and move beyond it, the Confederacy held firm, justifying their morally righteous views with their faith and the Bible.

Echoes from the past, haunt today.

Mountains slowly begin to come into a hazy blue focus again.

And, the road continues.