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Monday, August 24, 2009

In strong support of Ketchum


The first year I moved here, there was an incident on Main Street, involving two women in a fender bender. Instead of bolting out of their cars to blame each other, they both emerged to apologize profusely and peacefully. They each made sure the other person was alright, then gave each other sweet bear hugs. They then agreed that they would have to get together soon, because it had been too long since they had seen each other.

This remarkable event defined for me what is the essence of everything good about Ketchum and perhaps for what is great about many small western towns. People who care about each other, more than they do for their material possessions.

Therefore, it grates at me, when I hear intermittent comments that disparage the town and townspeople of Ketchum (and the WR Valley). Some will say, “I have no desire to visit Ketchum, or any of the people up there.” That’s too bad, because if you take a closer look; this pedestrian-friendly town offers much for young and old, rich and poor, sick and well.

Like most Idaho towns, Ketchum has changed over the years. Yet it still retains many high-quality aspects of a hardy western town. When it comes to weather, Ketchum is in the top ten percentile of sunniest towns. The people here are equally sunny and there is ample reason for this. A river runs through it, offering opportunities for enjoyable fishing and water sports. We have a popular YMCA. On summer Tuesdays, a vibrant farmers-market attracts vendors and customers from throughout South Idaho. After that, live-music performers play freely til twilight in the Forest Service Park.

For the spiritual, Ketchum has more than a handful of sacred places to worship. When someone becomes severely ill or is in a crash, our community often bonds together, helping with fundraisers.

Wagon Days brings a festive weekend of olden-times coming alive; as craftspeople, blacksmiths and storytellers demonstrate their trades and speak their lore. Wagon Days also features North America’s largest non-motorized parade.

Ketchum’s Community Library has an extensive regional history section, with helpful staff and an oral history program. The library also hosts frequent lectures and enlightening events, featuring respected authors and adventurers from near and far.

Ketchum has dozens of fine restaurants. We have movie theaters, nine outdoor parks, live stage and swimming holes. Free newspapers, magazines, maps and Wifi are widely available. We also have a water park, bringing boundless glee to splashing kids. On the edge of town, Sun Valley Company is installing a Gondola for thrilling Bald Mt. rides.

Sometimes Ketchum shopkeepers can be found purchasing items from other stores within town. They then will mark the items with a helpful sign, indicating where such a product can be found in this town.

This list of what good things our fine town (and valley) has to offer is much longer than this, but I hope for now this gives some hesitation to those who are quick to sneer at lively Ketchum.

I sometimes wonder if some of Ketchum’s harsh critics have even spent much time here.

~

Postscript:

After Hailey’s candlelight vigil march, last month for Bowe Bergdahl, the Hailey Soldier captured in Afghanistan, I sat with some friends, one of whom described an image she thought captured Hailey’s best essence.

One of the men attending the vigil had left his work-tools in the open on the back of his truck, parked in front of Zaney’s, where the event began. He had drawn a large sign, asking passerby to leave his tools alone, because he was standing for Bowe. And the aura of respectfulness permeated the atmosphere so thick that evening, that nobody dared tamper with his tools.

This reminded me of an incident, where another friend described the essence of true Hailey, by simply saying it’s a place she feels is safe for mothers and grandmother’s to walk around town, without fear.

In strong support of Ketchum


300 word version


Intermittently, I’ve heard comments that disparage the town and townspeople of Ketchum. Some will say, “I have no desire to visit Ketchum, or any of the people up there.” That’s too bad, because if you take a closer look; this pedestrian-friendly town offers much for young and old, rich and poor.


Like most towns, Ketchum has changed over the years. Yet it still holds many elements of a true western town. When it comes to weather, Ketchum is in the top 10 percentile of sunniest towns. The people are equally sunny and there is ample reason for this. A river runs through it, offering opportunities for enjoyable fishing and water sports. We have a popular YMCA. On summer Tuesdays, a vibrant farmers-market attracts vendors and customers from throughout South Idaho. After that, live-music performers play freely til twilight in the Forest Service Park.


For the spiritual, Ketchum has more than a handful of sacred places to worship. When someone becomes severely ill or is in a crash, the community often helps with fundraisers.

Wagon Days brings a festive weekend of olden-times coming alive; as craftspeople, blacksmiths and storytellers demonstrate their trades and speak their lore. Wagon Days also features North America’s largest non-motorized parade.


The library has an extensive regional history section, with helpful staff and an oral history program. The library also hosts enlightening weekly lectures with respected authors and adventurers.


We have dozens of fine restaurants. We have movie theatres and live stage. Free newspapers, magazines and Wifi are widely available. We also have a water park, bringing boundless glee to splashing kids. On the edge of town, Sun Valley Company is installing a Gondola for thrilling Bald Mt. rides.


I’m out of words, but I hope this aids those who are quick to sneer at Ketchum.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Suggestions for new Sun Valley airport


Only a handful of airports in the nation offer free parking and Twin Falls is one. Offering free parking at the proposed Sun Valley Airport would offset expenditures for travelers who complain about the extra drive and help to compete with Twin. Free parking would also help jumpstart the popularity of the new airport and encourage air travel, which lately has been inundated by higher security and fuel costs.



Another thing airport planners should consider is a large indoor heated deicing structure for aircraft to taxi through, minutes before flying off. Such a structure could be designed with environmentally friendly drains for collecting the used deicing fluid and perhaps recycling it later. Another possibility would be to remove the dangerous ice from aircraft with modernized microwave systems. Having a heated hanger for either of these options would lessen the amount of deicing fluid and / or microwaves required.



The deicing booth could double in summer as a car wash. The airport authority could advertise this airplane ‘car wash’ and remind pilots who spiff up their wings there, that they are also helping to offset the cost of free parking, thus popularizing modern Idaho airport travel.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What about carriers selling stamps?

Another area, where the Post Office could improve their service is to encourage letter carriers to sell stamps. Recently, I went along on a local route with a man here who has delivered mail for over twenty years. I asked him how often he sold stamps on his remote route. He said never. With a little ingenuity from several parameters, it shouldn’t be so hard to post a sign on his vehicle that says, “mail stamps available here” – or something like that. However, they would probably then use the excuse then that the carrier would be carrying money, subjecting him to potential robbery. However, there are several ways around even this, if the Post Office was to focus truly on innovative solutions and improving service.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The illuminating crown of thorns


Not long after this letter ran, I dreamt that I was in the basement of my old newspaper haunt, briefly hanging out with some former colleagues. Suddenly several of us had inkling to rush out to the back ‘smoking’ lot, where we found an enormous pin oak illuminated by a brilliant golden light, coming from within the tree. The oak had about sixty branches shooting out to the sides, roughly in an equilateral circle. Thirty of these were large branches, too large to encompass with your arms and these were intertwined with thirty smaller branches. Another strange thing about this tree is that somebody had recently lopped the trunk off from its base, which caused the branches to fall out in their great circle. This was also causing the tree to levitate three feet off the ground, as the branches held together like a large crown of thorns.


Well the newspaper couldn’t have a levitating crown of thorns like that, just blocking their loading dock, so the cartoonist figured he could cure this problem by slowing plucking away some of the smaller branches, which might in turn loosen some of the larger ones. After some serious yanking, he pulled out several smaller branches, which did indeed loosen some of the larger ones. Meanwhile, passerbies brushing right alongside the edge of the branches were oblivious to the danger, causing me to act as sort of a flagman.


Then I awoke to a slightly less miraculous world. Or was it a slightly more miraculous world?

Sports gems & baubles with Dad


Sports always charged through dad’s veins, energizing his blood. He seemed to have memorized team standings at all levels, from professionals down to the high schools. He probably inherited these enthusiastic traits from his father and maternal grandfather as they both competed at or near professional levels in their eras.



In 1968, even though fires were still smoldering in Washington D.C. from the riots following Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, dad took me to see the Opening day baseball game at what became RFK Stadium. This was one of the few opening games where not every seat was filled, but we made sure to attend.



The next year we attended another baseball game, this time with our Cub Scout troop. Hall-of Famer Ted Williams was the coach now and the team was finally becoming a contender again. As the game wound down to the final outs, the fans began slowly trickling towards the turnstiles. I followed some of the group’s lead, pausing at the exit to watch one or two interesting plays. As the game suddenly ended unexpectedly on a double play, a mad rush ensued –as always happens at such endings. However, being too young to foresee this, I was swooped along the concourse with the crowd, while desperately looking for friends from either group.



Finding nobody I knew, I walked the full perimeter of the outside of the stadium, where the crowd was more spread out, in my search for family or friends. It was to no avail, but following the Cub Scout creed of “be prepared” I clenched my emergency dime on a mission over to some pay phones attached to the stadium outside wall, just past where two motorcycle police officers were surveying the crowd. I inserted the dime with a small degree of confidence to call ma, then deliberately dialed the rotary, “5252-654.” Problem was that the phone didn’t work. And it swallowed up my dime too. Immediately, I started swallowing my little boy pride and begin crying at this unfairness.



As I walked by the motorcycle police officers, they could see I had been bawling and asked what the trouble was. They called a squad car, which took me to their precinct headquarters. Meanwhile, both sets of station wagons hauling the cub scouts back to Virginia, assumed that I was in the other car. When dad got home, mom asked him if he had forgotten anything, as she had received a call from the D.C. police.



The police placed me alone in one of their offices, which had a bunch of mug shots of bad guys posted on the wall. After forty-five minutes they let me out in their side yard, where I played a game of self-catch by repeatedly lofting a baseball high in the air and then catching it. As he made the return trip to D.C., Dad had been wondering how I had been doing. When he saw me peacefully tossing a baseball in the fresh air of the police station side yard, it brought him some sense of relief.

*

As a young lad I used to bring my glove to the games, thinking that I might actually catch a foul ball, but the reality was the one time a ball came near us, ten people strongly grasped at the souvenir, until one of the strong men finally pulled the ball free.


Tagging change



Once, my brother David and I were walking around the interior of RFK stadium by ourselves, when we were confronted by three black kids, two of whom were slightly larger than I, and one who was between David’s and my size. They asked us for some money and we lied that we had none; even though we had just received change from the Ball Park Franks we were holding. A larger kid asked the smallest one to check us out and he actually put his hands into our pockets and touched our change – then he too lied, and not desiring some sort of confrontation, reported that our pockets were empty. Looking back on it now, it was an amazing diplomatic truce displayed by the small black kid. He certainly must have been fearful of what trouble might have ensued had their group actually stolen our money, as he was probably equally fearful of being punched by his bullying mentors had he not gone so far as to actually reach inside our pockets to tag our invisible change.


*

Back in the 90’s one afternoon, Dad and I were driving through Fairfax, when we drove past one of the old Germantown Road baseball fields. Dad pointed over to the diamond and remarked that back when I was ten years old, he remembered me catching a ball in center field and then in one motion throwing the ball well over 200 feet to catch a tagging runner at home plate with a perfect throw. Not only that he said that he remembers that play every time he drives by that field.


*

A few years ago, Rob Catlett, old friend from the neighborhood contacted me and we talked a bit about the legendary days. It was so easy back then to get a group of kids together for a game of baseball, hide and seek, or smear-the-queer.[1] Rob remarked told me that his best memory of that era was when my dad packed a bunch of us neighborhood kids into a VW microbus and drove us all down to a ballgame at RFK.



[1] Not a politically correct term anymore.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Planned obsolescence?

After submitting this letter, I went to the local Ketchum Post office to pick up a package that was too large for my box. Since I knew they always closed at 5:30, I went immediately after work, which ends at 5 p.m. Imagine my surprise, when I saw the lobby already locked down, learning that they cut back their hours and now close at 5 p.m.!

Therefore, any working stiff who gets off work at five, cannot pickup a package or even buy a stamp, unless they go to the Post Office before work or at lunch. I wonder if this is the case with other Post Offices in the area.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Is our Post Office even trying to be competitive?

A few decades ago in most areas, dedicated postal workers used to pick up mail from neighborhood drop boxes in both mornings and afternoons, where neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night stayed those couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Now they’ve uprooted many of these old neighborhood boxes. Of the ones left, they’ve cut their diligent pickup efforts back to afternoons; meaning that if you mail a morning letter into your neighborhood postal box, it will now arrive a day later than previous.

Currently, your post office is considering cutting back Saturday deliveries. If they “succeed” this means whenever we have a Monday holiday, home delivery will be absent for 96 hours, from Friday to Tuesday. This makes me think that for better service, many people will shift over to UPS, Fed Ex, or txt mssg.

Another thing that chaffs me about the Post Office trying “to save money” is that they have eliminated the stamp machines from their own lobbies. Although they broke down occasionally, those innovative machines were the kind that dispensed dollar coins for change, and were prime examples of good government efficiency. The dollar coins put into circulation from stamp machines last 10 to 20 times longer than bills, thus lessening the cost of printing more money.

Although there are some indicators that the Post Office is trying to stay completive with its online services, when we see the basic bread and butter services offered for so many decades sink to the wayside, Postmasters in general are sending us mixed messages.

Monday, August 03, 2009

New poll suggestion:

What do the SV online blogs need most?
1. More Cyber bullies
2. More Whine & Cheese-eaters
3. More creative writing with a positive spin
4. Poetry & with background harp music
5. Haiku contest
6. Crossword puzzles pertaining to local issues.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Questioning Bolts from the blue

While I found Jason Kaufman’s recent article about safety precautions during lightning storms to be informative and enlightening, I remember reading somewhere years ago, that one of every 17 lightning strikes in the United States occurs on a golf course. I wonder if that statistic has remained static.

What else would account for so many lightning strikes in Florida compared to Idaho? They have more golf courses there, and theirs are open year-round. The weather is warmer, so Floridians are probably outdoors more often. They probably even have more attractive metal than we do.

On the other hand, for the decades surveyed in this report, Florida has had a consistently higher population density per square mile than Idaho has. For instance, the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau results show Florida with 296.4 people per square mile. Whereas Idaho had 15.6 people per square mile, this gave Florida lightning bolts a nearly twenty times larger probability of striking people. Moreover, since Florida has suffered 455 lightning fatalities in the past fifty years, compared to Idaho's 26, this gives us a nearly identical ratio. With this in mind, I'm not sure that Idahoans are any more lightning-bolt resistant than Floridians are.