Friday, August 23, 2002


Jack: “Why do you come here?”
Marla: “It’s cheaper than a movie and there’s free coffee.”

- Early support group scene in “Fight Club”

As I struggled mightily to get out of bed this morning, my head slightly aching, this question would not leave me alone: why do nighttime meetings always and only have free coffee? Why not, oh, I dunno, icewater or raspberry kool aid or juice or milk? Yeah, milk. Why not milk?

There’s coffee at town council meetings. Coffee at water and sewer joint powers board meetings. Coffee at planning commission meetings. They serve coffee at all of those support group meetings for any kind of addiction or daunting personal problem on the list. The overeaters get it, the heroin addicts, the people with brain cancer, the alcoholics (“I’m not an alcoholic, I’m a drunk! Alcoholics go to meetings,” my dear Aunt Scarry likes to say), all discuss their woes or their programs or their dinner plans over cup after cup of free coffee.

Last night was a board meeting of the Carbon County Economic Development Corporation in Rawlins. Of course there was coffee, and plenty of it, and it was distressingly, overwhelmingly, dangerously good. Good enough to where I’m pretty sure it wasn’t decaf (the very concept of which offends me highly). Good enough to where I drank, oh, about five cups. I couldn’t help myself, because, well, good god do I love coffee.

I have a pot before leaving the house. I have a cup or two with my own dear personal mom after we take the Collie of Folly on her morning constitutional/pelican hunt (a comic sight if ever there was one, watching this very agile and energetic sheep herding dog go charging into the water to chase a pelican and then, wallowing awkwardly in the water, decide after a few flailing motions that what she really wanted was just a drink, thank you. Border follies are maybe not the greatest water dogs). I take a traveler cup to work. I drink maybe another pot’s worth my 10 a.m. coffee klatsch with the Sewer King, the Fat Cat Republican Bastard, the Lord Macklebrains, Obie the Artist, Tad the Grocer (not their real names) and many others. Then usually in the afternoon I dash off to Lollypop’s for some kind of hot or cold latte concoction, unless I’ve switched to iced tea.

I mean, I LOVE coffee. Maybe even more than beer, though I know that’s sacrilege for Lady Steinley to say... so maybe I’ll say I love it as much as beer. No, wait, some of my brewer friends may be reading this. Almost as much as beer.

Anyway, I like coffee a lot.

So what happens when I come to all these nighttime meetings to discuss things like Ki-Nitrifying bacteria or whether Joe Blow’s new outbuilding sticks out a few feet past the setback line or how we’re going to get this here Carbon Bucks program started... and there’s a whole big lovely urn of coffee to guzzle to my heart’s content?

Why, I drink it, of course.

And then curse myself at midnight, at 1 a.m., at 2 a.m., at 3, 4, 5 a.m. for not being able to wind down and follow the advice of pretty much everyone in my life, the many who care enough about me and my future to follow me around like some demented modern day Greek chorus and chant “Get some sleeeep! Get some sleeeeeeeep!”

Of course, some of my best ideas come out of these wacky restless twisting and turning and collie disturbing nights. Of course they do! Of course!

Like the idea for this column.

Thank god I don’t have anything particularly important to do today. Dinner at the parents’ house and then sleeep, blissful sleeeeep, for the first time since many days before the Steinley Cup. No conferences, no meetings, no nighttime coffee, no need to rise early in the morning. Just sleep.

Until it’s time to make the coffee.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002


(Or maybe that should say McGruff)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the new dog park is about up and open and will soon contain among its other features a series of fire hydrants set aside for the park’s denizens to do with as nature dictates. As I also mentioned, one of the sponsoring group’s fundraising gimmicks has been to sell space on these hydrants on which donors can arrange to have a “favorite” person’s name painted.

As I did not mention, however, because I did not yet know that I had been so honored myself, I have been so honored myself!

My monstrous vanity ate this up almost before I could properly swallow it. Someone in this town considers me so interesting for whatever reason that he or she (I asked the park organizers not to reveal to me who was my benefactor) chose to leave a lasting monument to my name and work in this, our sexiest new facility! I rule!

Of course, (Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up) I asked the crew if I can pick the color (bright neon yellow or flaming, flaming red) and how big the letters were going to be – naturally I want it vividly visible from a good distance and from outside the fence – but alas, I get no special privileges for being a council member.

Phooey. I’m really starting to wonder what holding elective office is really good for.

So anyway, it seems that my dream, long expressed shyly and only to very good friends, of someday having my name on a place to which hundreds, if not thousands, will make daily pilgrimages is going to be realized long before I even get a proper publishing contract.

God, I love this town.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002


I have a feeling your numbers, dear readers, are about to swell. I have learned this evening that someone around town has been telling at least a few individuals that derogatory remarks are being made about them personally and by name on this here web page. None of said individuals (including, I suspect, whoever started the rumor) has read this page, obviously, or they would know that's completely impossible.

Well, unless my dog knows how to read and takes umbrage at my accusing her of having pulled the curtain rod down on my head, but she has no case and no one else to pin it on. And she comes running gaily when I call to her by her extended name, "Molly the Collie of Folly" and gives me doggie kisses.

Speaking of doggie kisses, everybody mark your calendars for August 31 at 4 p.m., when we'll have a ribbon cutting for the doggie park up by the baseball fields. This is the kind of project that I love, because the people who really, really wanted it to happen didn't just sit around and bitch about how "someone" should do it: they drew up some plans, figured out the costs, dreamed up some really clever fundraising efforts (my favorite is "fire hydrant" sponsorships: anyone can pay a small sum of money and get someone's name painted on one of several fire hydrants being installed on the part for, um, marking by park visitors) and made it happen! All the town did was donate the land and a little bit of money.

So even if you think it's a silly idea, come on over to that ribbon cutting and pat them on the back for their efforts. It's something we can promote as a town amenity that will enhance our dog friendly image (something dear to the hearts of many in our business community especially) and maybe keep a little poop off the sidewalks.

Hell, if it weren't raining right now, I'd be taking the Border Folly up to check it out right now. But I suppose that will have to wait for another day.

Hope everybody remembered to vote! Polls just closed!

Monday, August 19, 2002


One of the ladies with whom I walk the Collie of Folly out at the lake mornings likes to say that she wants to come back in her next life as a pelican.

I can see her point – pelicans seem to have a pretty groovy life, floating around with other pelicans, eating fish (of course you know they spit out the trout; they only eat trash fish. So sayeth certain state-certified wildlife experts in our area, anyway. Well, I made up the part about spitting out trout, because, well, I think it’s funny), occasionally flying away when the train goes by, and once in a while just floating off by oneself to contemplate the mysteries of pelicanity. No deadlines, no pissed off constituents, no questions about heating costs for the hot pool, and the only bills they ever see are attached to their faces. Looks like fun.

But then again, a lot of my coffee buddies would like nothing better than to get to shoot every last big-billed one of them out of the sky or off the water. So it looks like a happy life, but maybe not a very long one.

No, no, especially after this weekend I know what I want to be in my next life.

I want to be a microbrewer.

I had a chance this weekend to spend most of my time working with and for microbrewers from all over the region as part of the Steinley Cup, the official Wyoming state microbrew competition we hold every year on an island park here in Saratoga, and without exception they are some of the happiest, most easy going, generally delightful people I have ever met. Even when I approached them with the Pitcher of Judgment (to be filled with a generous sample of each brewer’s competition ale – pale ale this year – for extensive examination and criticism by the panel of brewing hot shots from Colorado who join us each year for this purpose) I saw huge smiles, open and affectionate faces, a generosity of spirit that is rare indeed in this modern world of ours.

And who wouldn’t grin, to be called upon to do what one loves to do anyway and to receive the kind of enthusiasm that only serious and devoted beer fans (a class apart from mere drunkards, beer fans love the beverage for itself, drink it with passion and pleasure, and maybe occasionally overdo it enough to be a pain in the ass but mostly they just drink a lot of it and sink into a happy daze) can express in return? They love what they make and take tremendous and justifiable pride in the results even before anyone else tries the stuff, and on days like Saturday they get to share it with everyone without having to mess with mundane stuff like making change.

I suspect most of them of having been nerds like myself back in the day, nerds who got hung up on weird enthusiasms for organic chemistry or microbiology but who didn’t have the personality or temprament to hole up in a lab somewhere in a long white coat with just petri dishes of goo for company. These are the true “A” students my old biology professor used to reminisce about, the truly unusual and gifted ones who did NOT go to medical school or seek PhDs and fellowships and all the academic/scientific rot that goes with them. They saved that for the B+ students, he maintained, and as I watched my own colleagues I could see exactly what he meant. The B+ers were worker bees, diligent studiers, organized and driven. The As, the As... the As liked to talk to people, and to do off the wall things like, well, like brew beer. One of the best science students Bard had seen in years brewed beer for his senior project – the actual research was something on yeast cultures – and is probably happily cranking the stuff out for some groovy little pub somewhere in upstate New York now, as he was underenthused about the graduate program he was sort of supposed to go into after we graduated...

Anyway, it’s largely these people who make this weekend my favorite of the entire year (I used to joke about it as my Christmas), even though now much of it is my responsibility. I was on my feet for 12-13 hours crossing the island back and forth, everyone bugging me about something, dealing with pissed off people who wanted to bring their dogs on the island and were unaware that my board had voted on Thursday to ask people not to bring dogs because at that point it was too late to do anything much but put up a sign – with predictable results. Fire all the rock salt in my ass you want, I really don’t care; for one day out of the entire year there’s a substantial population of my favorite people right down the street from Kate’s Landing and nothing can kill that.

And it was worth it, worth it all, the sweat and sunburn, the sore, sore feet, the “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink” effect (after I awarded the cup I just couldn’t take it anymore. Carrying all that beer around for judges and volunteers and the band without having time to try any myself, I stood there on stage and finished my awards presentation by saying “somebody give me a drink” and somebody did, Saint Danno as he will henceforth be called) (though it’s largely because of him that I seem to have acquired a new nickname, Lady Steinley. He kept asking, during the ritual pre-Steinley bash at the Wolf/Cantina in which the brewers and judges and tournament officials drink Maker’s Mark from the Steinley itself, if that was “Lord Steinley’s Cup” the way hockey’s Stanley Cup is Lord Stanley’s cup, and my volunteers en masse informed him that it was LADY STEINLEY’S CUP, DAMMIT and that I was Lady Steinley. It appears to have stuck. Oh dear.). It was worth it seeing all of the smiles and the dogs and people playing and dancing (damn, Coda d’West gets my vote for Best Party Band Ever), and then... and then...

Then I announced the winner, an incredible release after walking around for a good hour or so being the only person on the planet who knew who the winner was. It’s kind of the best and the worst part of running a competition like this, keeping the secret, watching the doings of the person who will shortly be hoisting the cup over his head, seeing the nervous, hopeful little glints in the eyes of the three people whose beers I’d had to pull extra samples from for the last round of judging. Watching the winner at work, especially – a guy whose entire cadre of volunteers had deserted him at the last minute and left him pulling his beer all afternoon in the sun, by himself – was both fun and excruciating. I wanted so badly to just pull him aside and whisper in his ear, just to see that smile get wider...

And when it did, it really did. Some smiles are bigger than the face that holds them, and this was one. The winner was dazed and glowing all night, holding the cup close to him and cradling it like a newborn – except when the crew were drinking from it (as I live and breathe, no more Maker’s Mark for... at least a year). He kept saying, over and over, that he had already had a blast even before he won the Steinley, and those of us for whom this wasn’t the first Steinley weekend knew exactly what he meant.