The wind is blowing harder now, blowing dust into my eyes.
The dust settles on my skin, making a crust I cannot move in,
and I'm hovering like a fly, waiting for the windshield on the freeway...
The semi-warm temperatures herald the beginnings of spring in Grand Junction, but my past experience tells me that March is one of the most unsettled months of the year. I've been feeling it since the beginning of the weekend, and continuing through today.
A general sense of recklessness, sadness, disingenuous behavior, moving to downright stupidity, has pervaded the last few days, and I feel directed to let them off here and thank God that my loved ones are safe, despite questionable decisions and bad judgment all the way around.
Friday's final edition of the Rocky Mountain News was a sad but not unexpected event. I won't elaborate beyond that other than to say that I didn't read it enough to really miss it. There is another tabloid-style paper in Denver that could pick up some of the slack, even if it's a weekly and has a slightly more irreverent style. But when I'm in Denver, I never miss an edition of Westword, nor their robust online presence.
Best of luck to the Rocky staff, and the remaining Scripps papers in the Denver metro area.
Sunday's Sentinel printed a column from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, written by one of their columnists who lives in my hometown. He said it very well:
The recklessness continued into Friday night, and to the credit of our local law enforcement they are doing whatever they can to stem the tide of some of the behavior that has resulted in an inordinate amount of fatal accidents involving young people.
The irreplaceable service of newspapers is the practical presence of that legion of reporters they employ and dispatch to monitor government in all its forms, starting at your local town hall...Democratic societies need facts to function. They need watchdogs to bark and arouse us to certain facts -- and those watchdogs need to be paid somehow.
As today's Sentinel reported, a task force of local police and state liquor enforcement was out over the weekend targeting potential underage drinking parties and liquor sales to minors. Unfortunately, one of the places they happened upon was my house, while I was at work.
It looks like I have my work cut out for me in more ways than one.
I was working when the victims from the latest fatal crash (right in my neighborhood) descended on St. Mary's. I'm hoping that when the names of the deceased are released, they will not be people that I know or know of. That's happened one too many times already this year.
On the safety front, I was flabbergasted when I read the account of the events at the old County Courthouse that precipitated a discussion about permitting county office employees to arm themselves. The gun part wasn't what floored me. This did:
An upset county resident made the clerk feel so threatened she clandestinely sent an e-mail to (Commissioner Janet) Rowland, who was in her office on the third floor at the time, while the man stood in front of her desk...Rowland said she did not know what to do and called Mesa County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Heather Benjamin. Deputies arrived within minutes, but by then the man was gone.The various public safety agencies across the county, along with the Regional Communication Center, spend thousands of dollars annually on public education and emergency awareness and preparedness training. Yet one of the county's highest elected officials, who approves much of those expenditures along with many more thousands to pay law enforcement and the county's lone Emergency Management professional, did not know what to do when faced with a perceived imminent threat to her staff?
Isn't it obvious, or were there other mitigating factors, such as message control? God forbid we call 9-1-1; that might bring a quick response, but also the media behind them.
The county says there are emergency plans and training, but they haven't been exercised or trained on in some time. Fail to plan, plan to fail, or as an old girlfriend admonished me almost 30 years ago, "complacency is death".
Media watchdogs, keep an eye on those consent agendas for contracts with a certain security consulting firm run by a local legislator.
Among other things the Sentinel reported on this weekend was the so-called 6th Man that is credited with giving Grand Junction and Central High's boys' basketball teams superior records at home this past season.
I went to the GJHS-Central game a couple of weeks back, and watched the student section for some kind of inventiveness, irreverence, something to really get inside the heads of the visitors. Instead, the atmosphere was almost subdued in its' predictability. Two Assistant Principals and the Athletic Director stood guard in front of the student section, quickly admonishing any call or taunt that they found out of line.
To add to the surreal atmosphere was a PA announcement at the beginning of the contest, encouraging all spectators to engage in something called "sporting behavior". I thought that was too weird even for District 51, and after some research I was right.
It seems the Colorado High School Activities Association, which governs high school athletics here, put out a list of these little announcements on their website, along with articles on enforcing political correctness and tolerance in the athletic arena.
I agree with a lot of this, especially when it comes to racial and cultural issues. It just seems that the heavy hand of administration is taking all of the original thinking and innovation out of athletic fandom at the high school level. An example is the 2001 and 2002 Fruita Monument fans, one of which dressed as a can of PAM cooking spray when the Wildcat football team was playing Loveland High. Details here. Classic stuff, that.
Of course, the schools have the right and responsibility to see that their athletic events are conducted in a way that makes the participants and spectators feel safe. Safety is one thing; impinging on creativity and free speech rights is something else. Don't count on seeing me there again anytime soon.
Speaking of statements of personal freedom, today marked the first sign of spring for many of us in the Grand Valley, and perhaps the last great act of defiance for the valley's agricultural community. I saw it on the way to church; the high, almost mushroom-shaped column of smoke from a controlled agricultural burn.
To be sure, the fire departments were running fast and furious today for those folks who let their fires get out of hand, but the air was still hazy with smoke from the big, well-managed burns on both sides of the valley. This provided a twist of irony to the first day of the "Breathe Easy" restrictions imposed by three of the valley's 4 hospitals. As of today, all tobacco products, including smokeless, are prohibited from use on the property of St. Mary's, Community, and Family Health West. Indoors and outdoors.
Breathe easy, breathe carefully...it's burning season.
I was unable to contact anyone at the Grand Junction VA Medical Center to clarify their smoking policy, but imaginary sources report that budgetary restrictions prevented the VA from joining the 'Breathe Easy' effort. Seems they don't have the funds to keep a SWAT team on standby all the time...
Seriously, we appreciate your sacrifice for us. Smoke 'em if you've got 'em, boys.
I'll close on a congratulatory and cautionary note. I was impressed by the accolades heaped upon our local print media at the annual Colorado Press Association awards. A special shout out to Denny Herzog of the Sentinel for receiving what amounts to statewide recognition for his lifetime achievements as a newspaperman.
One recent development on the virtual side of the Sentinel's product has raised some eyebrows, however. It seems that the Junction Daily Blog has been removed from the list of community blogs on the Sentinel's website. This without any explanation or notice to Ralph D'Andrea, the Daily Blog's creator and Curmudgeon in Chief.
The Sentinel can put whoever they want in their list of blog links, and I appreciate their appreciation of the content produced here. Ralph says he isn't angry about it, but that doesn't excuse the lack of some type of private or public explanation for the Sentinel's move.
There, I've got all that out. Time to get ready for bed. Along with that will be prayers for patience, firmness, perseverance, balance, and organization. Perhaps the month ahead will be better than its' opening weekend.
Have a blessed week ahead.