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Category Archives: Holiday Related

Stranded In Big Cottonwood Canyon: My first date gone awry

The following is a re-working of an article I wrote for the Tooele Transcript Bulletin a few years ago.

Maybe some things are just meant to be—no matter how hard you try to screw them up.

“We’re not too far away from the city, are we?” Meadow asked, veiling the uncertainty in her voice as best she could.  “Nah,” I reassured her, not elaborating that my definition of the term “far” at this particular moment was wildly subjective and that 4.5 miles by foot, in the mountains, at midnight, might be pushing the upper boundary of “not far.”

“Not way far,” I clarified.  What else could I say?

In hindsight, a night hike along what my friends and I referred to as “Certain Death Trail” in Big Cottonwood Canyon might not have been the best idea for a first date.  Especially given the fact that Meadow had just moved to Utah from the utterly flat state of Texas and had never been hiking before.  Somehow these thoughts failed to cross my mind a few days prior, when we met at a gathering of friends and I was arrested by her sultry hazel eyes.

“I’ll take her hiking,” I thought. “Girls dig outdoorsy guys who can take them on awesome hikes.  One look at the city from a canyon and she’ll be mine.”

Turns out my mistake wasn’t driving up the canyon or dragging her on a steep-ish two mile hike.  My slip-up occurred between those two events, but became apparent only after we had returned to trailhead parking lot and I noticed my keys were missing.

Initially, I convinced myself they must have slipped out of my jacket pocket at the overlook near the top. But a return to the top, scouring the mountainside by flashlight along the way, ruled that option out.  Meadow was incredibly patient with the repeat of the hike.

(Miles walked so far: 4)

I didn’t even want to consider the second possibility—that this strapping trail runner who, prior to the second two mile hike was well on his way to getting the girl, had accidentally locked his keys in the trunk of his 1991 Dodge Spirit.

The date, by all logic, was unsalvageable.  It was time for me to suck it up and somehow get this unfortunate girl back to civilization.  It was decision time.

Plan A: Somehow break into my car without shattering the windows and before she starts getting cold.

No dice.

Plan B: Start Walking. Stay upbeat. Avoid mountain lions and potential serial killers offering us rides. Then pick up the pieces of my shattered pride at the bottom.

“Hey, at least it’s downhill,” I told her.  She didn’t seem amused.

We joked about our misfortune, but our guarded laughter dwindled as we rounded curve after curve of quiet mountain road. We walked at least a mile (miles walked to this point: 5) before a normal-looking couple in a pickup offered to drive us to a pay phone (my phone was with my keys in the trunk). The awkward chitchat made the ride seem much longer than it was, but we were glad to be out of the mountains.

“So what are you going to do now?” The driver asked with all the compassion he could muster and still keep a straight face.

“Probably call a friend,” I lied as we climbed out of his cab at a grocery store in the valley, knowing full well that calling a friend would prove even more tragic than locking my keys in my car 4.5 miles up a canyon on a first date. The only thing worse than scaring a girl off is seeing her the next week at Leatherby’s, sharing a Banana Split with your friend that so nobly rescued her from her nightmare first date with you.

No, friends were definitely not an option. I picked up the pay phone and dialed the only person who could look past my idiocy and get me out of this mess. My mom arrived in short order, and we were soon driving back up the canyon with my backup key.

When we retrieved my keys and pulled out of the trailhead parking lot, I looked at the girl I was certain I’d never see again.

“I’m at a loss,” I blabbered, feeling about an inch tall. “I just don’t know what to say. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” she assured me, hinting that all hope wasn’t lost.. “This will be a great story!”

I agreed, and 14 years and 6 kids later, I still do.

 

Sandstone, Detergent and Train Track Mirages: My Obscure Thanksgiving List

Wife.  Kids.  God.  Country.

Those are givens on any Thanksgiving list, but I’ll save those for the family gathering.  There are countless inconspicuous, even obscure, everyday things that also make me happy.  Here are the first ten that came to mind:

Stuff My Kids Say
Like this from my 7 year old on a recent desert road trip: “Dad, I think I’m having a mirage; there’s no way those train tracks are real!”

Stuff Steve Friedman Writes
Like this piece about wilderness survival, or this one about a folding bike.

Cherry Coke Zero (ice cold, of course)
The pleasure of Real Cherry Coke but without the sugar, the guiltlessness of Coke Zero, but without the weird peppery taste.

The Plants Outside My Office Window At Work
That took root in a concrete nook and remain defiantly lush and green all winter.  I keep meaning to ask somebody what they are.

Entrada Sandstone
The stuff natural arches are made of. Naturalist Edward Abbey said it best when he described the Moab area’s most famous landmark, Delicate Arch, as “an illogical geologic freak, a happening— a something that happened and will never happen quite that way again, a frame more significant than its picture, a simple monolith eaten away by weather and time and soon to disintegrate into a chaos of falling rock.”

This song by Matisyahu
That makes me want to scramble up a wall of Entrada sandstone.

Redeye Flights
Being really tired makes the prospect of a 5 hour flight much less daunting.  Chatty Patty is too bushed to make small talk, and I can be in downtown Manhattan before rush hour.

Beach Boys Session Recordings
Have Surfin’ USA and Kokomo become a little stale for you?  Spotify the Smile and Pet Sounds Sessions to enjoy hours of backing tracks, isolated vocals, and scrubbed takes of some of the greatest Beach Boys tunes.

Netflix
The Missus and I were too busy to catch shows like Heroes and Prison Break during their TV runs a few years ago.  We’re even busier now, but when we do snag an hour of couch time, nothing beats no commercials and no wait between episodes.  I can almost forgive them for those incessant online pop-under ads.  Almost.

The Off-Brand Laundry Detergent We’re Currently Using
The scent of which reminds me of the the bug repellent Mom used to to slather us with on summer camping trips to the Manti-LaSal National Forest, just before sunset.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 
 

Some Halloweentime Reading

Halloween is once again upon us, so here are a few spooky stories from the archives to get you in the spirit!

Ghosts in the desert? Past and paranormal meet in Old River Bed

Ghosts of Mercur Cemetery don’t reveal themselves easily

Spring Canyon Spooks: In search of the White Lady

‘There’s a body in there!’

Saltair’s spooky side shines in “Carnival of Souls”

 

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Christmas tune of the day: TobyMac

Count me among the many music fans who don’t naturally associate urban hip-hop with Christian music.  In theory, it just ain’t right.  But in practice– at least when it comes to the artist known as TobyMac– it’s a marriage made in heaven.

Here’s my thing with music:  There are certain genres I tend to write off altogether.  Three of them happen to be urban (I lean rural), hip-hop (meh), and Christian (a bit cheesy for my taste).  But good music is good music.  If you dig an uber-modern sound but cringe at modern lyrics, you’ll love TobyMac.  His stuff is clean and uplifting, yet perfectly blastable on the car stereo.

Weird, huh?  Now that you’re curious, check out his new Christmas tune.  “Christmas This Year” folds both the fun and spiritual aspects of the holiday into a bright, catchy track.  This tune will stick in your head, but the great thing is you’ll want it there.

TobyMac – “Christmas This Year”

 

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2010 in Holiday Related, Music

 

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Christmas tune of the day: Elvis’ anachronistic duet with Amy Grant

I’ve been a casual Elvis fan ever since Disney’s Lilo & Stitch movie introduced me to him several years ago and .  Since then I’ve noticed a trend of revisiting and releasing reworked versions his original work.  I really liked Viva ELVIS, a collection of re-imagined favorites that was released this fall.

Today’s Christmas Tune comes from 2008’s Elvis Presley Christmas Duets, which splices the voices of modern country/gospel artists into classic Elvis holiday tunes.  The result is a mostly seamless marriage of old and new.  My favorite track here– and the one that sounds most like a genuine duet– is White Christmas with Amy Grant.

Unlike some of the other singers on this album, Miss Grant realizes the star here is Elvis.  She doesn’t try to upstage The King, but makes a fine presence nonetheless. It’s interesting to note that Elvis recorded this tune back in 1957– three years before Grant was born.  Yet it almost seems like he recorded it in anticipation of her joining him in a duet more than half a century later.

Elvis Presley – White Christmas (duet with Amy Grant)

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2010 in Holiday Related, Music

 

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Christmas tune of the day: Dido

Today’s tune comes from British songstress Dido.  “Christmas Day” appeared on a rare 2001 EP and sort of fell through the cracks.  More about love than holiday cheer, this is classic Dido with subtle, yet rich holiday touches.  It’s an excellent addition to any newer-school Christmas playlist.

Dido – Christmas Day

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2010 in Holiday Related, Music

 

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Christmas tune of the day: Peter Cetera

This idea came late in the season, but I think it’ll be fun nonetheless.  Christmas music is a funny thing.  I love it, but timing is key.  There’s something about the big holidays that makes them all-encompassing when they’re upon us, but somehow…wrong… when  they’re out of season.  Not sure what I mean?  Turn on Burl Ives’ “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” in June or Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash” in December and tell me how it goes over.

But there comes a time late in the year when some mental switch is thrown and Christmas music becomes an absolute must.  For me, Christmas Music Season officially runs from Black Friday to Januaary 2– a pretty standard range, methinks, for most Americans.

My favorite Christmas songs will always be the old-timey standards, but I like to explore the newer stuff too.  I make two playlists for the family car every year– one old-school and one more contemporary.  I’m always looking to mix things up, and maybe you are too.  So every day until Christmas I’ll post a “Christmas tune of the day” that you might check out and add to your own custom playlist.

We’ll start off today with “Deck the Halls” from Peter Cetera’s 2004 album You Just Gotta Love Christmas.

Who wasn’t devastated when Peter Cetera left Chicago?  They replaced him with a decent fake Peter Cetera (no offense, Jason Scheff fans), but it could never be the same.  Thankfully, Peter C added a Christmas album to his solo repertoire in 2004.

You’ll notice a few things on this album– first, that Cetera’s voice almost eerily defies age.  Seriously, the guy sounds exactly the same in his 60’s as he did in his 20’s.  Oh that we could say the same for Brian Wilson or Bono!  Second, the production on this album is flawless.  Saccharin, like his other post-Chicago stuff, but flawless.  Third, if you listen closely to my favorite track, “Deck the Halls,” you’ll hear vocal goddess Alison Krauss singing background.  Exactly what more could you ask for?

So here’s the Christmas tune for today:  Peter Cetera’s “Deck the Halls”

 
 

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