Saturday, June 15, 2002


At least part of my punishing course of June action is now behind me – the convention is over and I'm home at my desk in my little office/library, surrounded by my oversized bookcases, my overstuffed file cabinet, and all of the books that don't fit on or in either (this room for a normal tenant would doubtless be a bedroom, but my priorities differ; with only four in my little Unabomber cabin, why would I devote a whole room to something I never do anyway?) – but the World Cup rages on and so do I, though my eyes feel prosthetic and I'm not sure what day it is or what I've got to do tomorrow (go to the office? Sunday dinner? A council meeting?)... because sometimes the fugue state is just what is needed!

Were I enjoying total wakefulness and clarity this morning at 8 a.m. when the convention's headline speaker (whose name I'm too bushed to dig through my convention schwag to check on, but she knew Erma Bombeck personally among others; even has a nodding acquaintance with my old Greek tragedy watching seatmate John Kenneth Galbraith, so, yeah, pretty heavy duty old gal, that one) started in on her "nine elements of leadership" analysis, I doubt I'd be sitting here the way I am at 12:26 a.m. of a Sunday after my marathon, typing away when I should finally be sleeping... but no.

Through the fog of a too-intense caffeine buzz and too little sleep, came a reminder of something very, very important.

I am where I am because I chose to be. I chose to let that wacky town clerk of ours "put my name in the hat" to go on the general election ballot in 2000 (a procedure for drafting those who got write-in votes in the primary) even though I half-suspected – quite correctly! – that mine would turn out to be the only name in said hat. I chose to let my parents buy me a campaign ad. I chose to turn on all my rhetoric and speech team mojo at the League of Women Voters forum attended by... my mother's Tai Chi class and a few stray husbands.

I chose to swear the oath of office. I also chose to take the chamber job. And help coach the speech team. And take a big fat steaming commission to write a bunch of "real world financing" articles for a state teen retention magazine. I chose it all.

And yeah, a lot of people look at me and say "sucker," as happened to the groovy housewife from Guernsey who just got appointed to a council vacancy there and whose "mentor" I was for the convention (but I think I learned more from her, actually). I get lectured that I need to learn to say "no," etc.

But this week has helped me remember that I didn't just passively accept the burdens. As did so many other truly amazing people around the state, like my mentee, who is still, a grueling six months since taking her own oath of office, in wide-eyed awe at the honor she feels her council and her constituents did her in asking her to serve.

I saw that awe and the love that accompanies it – that absolutely has to accompany it – in hundreds of faces, heard it in hundreds of voices, all week long. Even as we also gathered to commiserate and bitch, to swap tales of crackpots and cranks who drive us almost as crazy as they are, to coo over each other's difficulties with the media (you'd better believe my blogging lessons were met with enthusiasm – I predict a mushrooming growth in municipal blogs in Wyoming pretty soon), that awe and love are still there and they are communicable, easily passed and renewed because essentially infinite.

And yeah, I envied Sheridan its fabulous downtown, its full storefronts, its obvious prosperity. And yeah, I envied the mayor of Gillette (my total hero in lots of ways) his full and competent staff of people who help him handle all the stuff that I have to do myself here), but also, I saw Saratoga in a clearer, more beautiful light than I have in months, my hopes for her, my plans, why I'm doing all of this, as they envied me my community support for popcorn contests, my stunningly gorgeous natural surroundings, my backyard fishing hole, my capacity for Guiness (heh). My own envy was put in perspective; all envy is, at bottom, after all, is a niggling little by-product of the unavoidable lifelong process of making choices, which commit one to one path or another while closing off others.

I could be serving in a larger or richer city – but to do so would require me to live in a much less beautiful place (apologies to Mayor Frank - but hey, that Camelplex aquatic center has to be a nice consolation for having to live in the middle of a coalbed methane nightmare), which doesn't interest me right now.

But here's the kicker – I can make a different choice later on! We all can. If suddenly my envy or whatever other ugly little "poor me" demons start getting the better of me, I can chuck it all and move to Chicago or Athens if I want. We all can. Sure, there are sacrifices involved in doing something so drastic. I doubt I could take my dog to Greece, for instance, and I'd have to drastically reduce the size of my library (at least until I got to Greece and started accumulating Greek books; I know myself). But the options are still there, the choices. And no one is ever really holding a gun to our heads. Mortgages, cars, habits – these look like guns sometimes, but they're not. They're not!

And that, perhaps, is the most valuable thing I've taken away from this crazy weekend. The pointers on how to improve water account tracking, the chance to keep our association from wasting its time encouraging stupid legislation that isn't going to go anywhere anyway, the networking, that's all good stuff and worth the time right there, but what really matters right now, is that I chose all this. And I can un-choose it if I want.

But, right now, I'm pretty happy with the choices I've made.

I hope you are happy with yours, too.

Friday, June 14, 2002

I'm showing blogger to a bunch of local elected officials so they, too, can follow Lydia Lunch's advice - DON'T HATE THE MEDIA, BECOME THE MEDIA!

We blessed the WRONG CAR this morning! Fortunately, Uncle Mac has been closely monitoring the situation and clued in on a later patrol. Squeaky has nothing whatsoever to do with cowboy hats, and one is prominently placed in the back seat of the car we originally thought hers (try to identify small green cars with city plates at a city council convention. Just try. For that matter, there are TWO giant green Tahoes with city plates parked at our hotel. I have yet to try to unlock the correct one on the first try - but at least I haven't triggered any alarm systems yet).

She was LATE this morning, see (and we were early - World Cup early rising on my part, habitual dawn worship on Uncle Mac's) so we could not have blessed her in any case.

But the situation is being remedied forthwith.

I'm glad I managed not to giggle at her when I saw her a few minutes ago (resplendent in a lilac-colored suit and matching shoes! I think we're overpaying her).

Now, back to finish learning about how to do a water audit. Such is the life...

So last night had us conventioneers dining and drinking at the fabulous, historic Sheridan Inn, a full service restaurant/events complex complete with a ferocious parking problem. Enter the Saratoga contingent, trundling around downtown Sheridan, Wyo in an enormous Chevy Tahoe. We park where we can, we park where we can.

And that is how we earned a little love letter from Sheridan's finest! Yes! Not a parking ticket, but a sternly worded warning, addressed to our one and only hypersonic town clerk, Squeaky (not her real name), whose name of course appears on the Tahoe's least I have to assume this is how it came to be; the notion that anyone could mistake my fellow harrumphing councilman Uncle Mac (not his real name), a seven foot tall ex sergeant-major with a booming, gravelly voice that sounds like god's own master-at-arms, for Squeaky (also tall but of a more delicate frame, titian hair and a taste in clothing and couture that makes her look like she's perpetually preparing for an Easter parade) is just too absurd to contemplate.

What could we do in such a situation? We saved our parking ticket and delivered it to its intended recipient. There's a 3x6" time bomb planted on the windshield of Squeaky's car. She is, of course, parked perfectly legally in the middle of the Sheridan High School lot, so I'm sure that her outrage will overcome her basic sense of shame and I'll hear about it over lunch.

Either that or I'll hear the refrain with which she frequently greets both my father and myself: "Damn you, Sherrod!"

Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 13, 2002


Woo hoo! Now I know how the Crips and the Bloods feel! There's nothing like walking into a room at the head of a posse to make a girl feel tough and scary. I may start wearing a doo-rag!

Yup, I'm back with the Carbon County Mafia, the combined tequila-drinking, jail-building, antelope-shooting, river-floating might of the local elected officials of Carbon County's ten municipalities. No other Wyoming county has near so many towns, so no other Wyoming county has near so many delegates here at the annual convention of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities. We're a faction, a bloc, a gang! It's plumb intoxicating!

Speaking of intoxication, well, that's what the mafia does best. We take over bars, mostly - last night's victim was the Mint Bar, here in Sheridan, a wonder of warm cedar driftwood, panels of real brands from real Wyoming ranches (I found two from Saratoga just in the nook where we sat - one for the Mowrys and another I couldn't read) and an ample supply of Jackson-brewed Zonker Stout (for some reason, the Mint has concluded that Guiness is a "winter" brew and has a policy of replacing it in the summertime with an Alaska Amber, drinkable but certainly no substitute), followed by some cheesy kid bar that, in its defense, did have dance music (nobody dances like party-starved municipal clerks: it's quite a sight), but in its debit column was infested with...


Prompting Radical Ron (not his real name), Rawlins' economic development officer, and I to engage in a favorite pastime: haiku wars. Below is the finest flowering of this unusual art form, a joint effort of ours that evolved over the course of about 500 agonizing hours sucking down Amber Bock (best they had, alas) and trying not to listen. But enough on that subject.

Karaoke hell.
Tone-deaf singers keep it up.
Take away the book.

Ah, conventioneering.

And what was the big topic of contention at this morning's public safety policy committee meeting? Why, liquor licenses, of course!

Justice, like government officials in Carbon County, can be quite poetic.

More later (aren't you glad there's full-bore internet access available at convention headquarters?)...

Wednesday, June 12, 2002


Purely to soothe the terror and stave off the ire of those of you who have been checking this site and wondering when the hell I'm going to write something new, I'm writing something new, though I am soon to board the Town Tahoe for a six-hour drive with a fellow harrumphing council member to go attend the annual convention of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities. Never say I don't do what I can to keep you happy. It's all for you. Feel the love.

I have missed a Spanish goal in the last round of their pool play. They are ahead of South Africa 3-1. Kind of meaningless, though, since Spain has already advanced to the elimination round (so for once I slept - are you proud?). But still, I sacrificed seeing this goal, which excited Ty Keogh very much, because I care about YOU. Yes, you, dear reader. I'm thinking of you right now. I'm putting you ahead of my quadriannual (no, I don't know if that's the actual word and I'm on the tightest deadline of my life here, so no time to look it up, so pretend it is one, okay?) soccer orgy. I hope you appreciate how special that is.

While I'm babbling, lately I've been wondering what kind of readership I still have. I know the persistent readers, commenters, hecklers (most common heckling text: "I'm serious! You need to get a life!" -- advice I take with a grain of salt since it comes from a man who earned the designation of Sewer King. But I digress. It's what I do when I'm not busy having a life). But what about the rest of you. Who are you? Where do you live? Grey Poupon or French's? Less Filling or Tastes Great? Legs or breasts?

Seriously. I'm curious. I know there's people reading me in Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, Illinois and Tokyo... anywhere else? People I'm not personally acquainted with?

Wow, now that I've posed the questions, I'm bound to lose sleep over it until I have some idea of the answers. And there's still two weeks of World Cup Wackiness to go. That's a lot of sleep I'm not going to have. Which will affect the quality of the blog. So do your part for making LIANT the wonder of the Wyoming Wide Web and drop me a line. There's a little thingie on the left hand side of this page where you can e-mail me (I'd put in a mailto link, but I'm just discombubulated enough not to be sure of the syntax, and I don't have my HTML guide handy).

So do it already.

OK, off to Sheridan. I'll bring you back something nice. Kisses and hugs!

Don't drink all the beer while I'm gone.

- The author