Posts Tagged ‘Arizona’


(Here’s a slightly updated version of one of the first pieces we ran on this blog back in the halcyon days of 2013.)

Free Radicals front cover

by Zeke Teflon, author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia

Long, long ago, in a far away place—so long ago and so far away, in fact, that the statute of limitations has expired—I had the privilege of serving as a staff engineer at pirate radio station KDIL, “The Big 16.”

Shortly before KDIL went on the air in 1972, its CEO and main announcer, Ray the Reptile, was browsing through the religious paperbacks at the annual Visiting Nurses Book Sale when he laid his pudgy paws on the book he was destined to immortalize: “Dildo Torture,” by Arthur Fox. Not only did the book provide KDIL with its call letters, but it proved invaluable during KDIL’s short time on the air: It provided an entire graveyard shift’s worth of programming, as Bob the Gimp and I read the entire book over the air one hot August night, stopping only to punctuate its steamy passages with ads for Globe Shopping City’s narcotics department (“This week’s manager’s special: Blotter acid, two hits for three dollars for school children with I.D.!”) and Black Sabbath’s “Live in Jerusalem” LP, which we assured listeners had been recorded at Gethsemane at Easter sunrise.

But KDIL was more than porn and pranks—it was a textbook example of how not to put together and operate a pirate radio station. Perhaps the only thing right about KDIL was its location—an old, secluded mansion with overgrown grounds, surrounded by other mansions, in downtown Phoenix. There were two primary advantages to this: 1) KDIL’s site was in a white, affluent neighborhood, and cops (in this case FCC inspectors) are always more reluctant to kick in doors in such areas than in poorer neighborhoods; 2) the site was secluded and covered with vegetation, which not only made observation of our activities difficult, but also allowed us to hide a half-wave dipole antenna approximately 300 feet long in the eucalyptus trees surrounding the house.

That seclusion and privacy is what ultimately saved our butts, as, after selecting our site, we did virtually everything else wrong. That started with our choice of co-tenants/co-conspirators. Unbeknownst to most of us, one of them was a junkie who normally kept small amounts of heroin in his room. If the FCC had ever tracked us down, he (and we) could have ended up in jail for years as a result of his (and our) stupidity. As well, we were in the habit of smoking dope and occasionally dropping acid in the control room. That, and our roomie’s smack use, wouldn’t have mattered but for the fact that we were ignoring an elementary safety precaution (legal variety) by having our studio and transmitter in the same place, in fact, in the same room. Thus, if the FCC would have found the transmitter, they would have found us (and god knows what in the way of drugs), as well as our studio, and they would have seized all of our equipment.

In itself, that would have been a disaster. What would have made it doubly disastrous was the fact that a good part of our studio equipment was stolen. At the time we put KDIL on the air, all ten or so of us involved in the project were working as either DJs or engineers at local radio and TV stations, and to equip our studio several of my compatriots simply helped themselves to “surplus” gear sitting in various stations’ storerooms.

(My compadres felt no compunction about liberating equipment from the faceless corporations that owned the stations; it only aggravated matters that they hated the stations’ managers and the commercial sleaze those managers were foisting on the public. My friends were well aware that the FCC mandate that stations operate in the public interest was [and is] a sick joke.)

And of course those who equipped the station didn’t bother to eradicate the serial numbers on the equipment, so all of it could have been traced easily.

The down side of this was that we were exposing ourselves to a horrendous amount of danger for no good reason; the up side was that we were better equipped than some of the commercial broadcast stations in town. We had cart machines for playing commercials and PSAs, broadcast turntables, and even a compressor/limiter. About the only thing in our studio not of commercial origin was our control board, but even that wasn’t a problem as Blue Cheese, one of the other engineers, had built an ugly but quite functional board in a couple of weeks of his spare time.

So, prior to going on the air, we made the following mistakes: 1) we had our studio and our transmitter in the same place; 2) we were using drugs in the studio; 3) we were using stolen equipment; 4) we hadn’t eradicated the serial numbers on it.

We then proceeded to compound our mistakes through our operating practices. Rather than occasionally and sporadically appearing on different frequencies using a low-wattage signal, when we went on the air we did it in a way calculated to attract maximum attention—with 24-hour-a-day broadcasting, on a fixed frequency (1600 KHz), with a relatively high-wattage signal. I had modified an old 200-watt ham transmitter to work on the broadcast band, and it, combined with the dipole strung in the trees, was powerful enough to cover the entire metropolitan area of our city, an area of over 2,000 square miles.

Amazingly, it took the FCC nearly a week to home in on us. (They had been alerted by one of the bootlickers — a category which covers a curiously high number of broadcast engineers — at a local TV station.) This was no thanks to our station IDs, which declared that our studios and transmitter were located high in the Mormon Tabernacle in beautiful downtown Salt Lake City—that hadn’t fooled anyone, not even the local Mormons, as we were hundreds of miles from SLC—or, alternatively, that we were broadcasting from the Satanic Tabernacle of Wickenburg. (One of our IDs was “KDIL, getting it said for Satan!”) The reason the FCC was so slow in tracking us down was that we weren’t reported for a few days, and it then took the FCC personnel some time to rouse from their bureaucratic slumber, load their direction-finding gear into their cars, and drive the several hundred miles from their regional office in L.A. to our town. Once there, they were on to us in no time. But they never found us.

What saved us was our secluded location, hidden antenna, and that we saw them before they saw us. As soon as we spotted the white car with the telltale direction-finding loop, our DJ, the Yuma Llama, went into a short rant about censorship, commercial monopolization of the airwaves, and the fascism of the war on drugs (yes, it was a social blight then, too). As the Llama’s vitriolic verbiage faded into the ether, we disconnected the transmitter, lugged it down to the basement, hid it in a hole in the foundation, lit up a joint, and settled back to watch the FCC car pointlessly scurry up and down our street on its fruitless search.

Over the next few years, KDIL resurfaced sporadically as a late-night, 1-watt FM station operating from the Cheese residence. But the thrill was gone, as were most of the people involved, and KDIL breathed its last in the late 1970s. Still, even though it’s gone, it’s not entirely forgotten. One day in the mid-1980s, while in the FCC’s Los Angeles office on business, Ray the Reptile walked into a stall in its restroom. As he settled on the throne, the first piece of graffiti to meet his eyes was “KDIL Lives!”

The point of all this is that despite doing a number of monumentally stupid things, we, KDIL’s staff, got away with it—because we took a couple of elementary precautions. You can get away with it too. (Well, probably—there are no guarantees.) If you put a pirate on the air and take reasonable precautions (especially having your transmitter and studio in separate locations), your chances of being busted by the FCC are probably no greater than your chances of being struck by lightning or eaten by hogs.


Well, it’s finally happened. My favorite Mexican restaurant, El Torero, closed tonight and won’t reopen. By happenstance, I dropped in for some typically great Mexican chow and some beers with a few friends tonight, had one of the final meals El Torero served, and got to talking with the owner (and chef). He’s been threatening to close the place for a good five years, to which my attitude has always been, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll believe it when I see it.” Tonight, I believe it.

El Torero is a South Tucson institution, and has been around as a family place for over 60 years.

(South Tucson incorporated as a 100% Mexican, one-square-mile city in 1939 as a self-defense measure against the virulent racism in the City of Tucson. Things really didn’t begin to change here until the 1970s, and Tucson proper is now the most integrated city of over a million in the country, and the population within the city limits is currently close to 50% Mexican. Racism persists, but it’s a shadow of its former self; Tucson is at times referred to, with some justification [the arts and music scenes], as a “mini-Austin”; and the City of South Tucson [now entirely encircled by the City of Tucson, but still over 90% Mexican] persists as a poverty-stricken monument to resistance to racism.)

Enough with the history lesson.

El Torero is gloriously tacky with formica tables, a chewed-up linoleum floor, flame-throwing salsa, and a stuffed (or fiberglass) swordfish on one wall outlined with Christmas lights. It’s the only restaurant I know in Tucson where during slack periods the owner will sit down uninvited to shoot the shit with you, and during really slack periods the on-duty cook will come out of the kitchen and likewise sit down uninvited to shoot the shit. I love it.

As homey as it is, the food is (or was) great — every bit as good and a bit cheaper than the ultra-trendy Mi Nidito three blocks down the street (the food there is good and reasonably priced), which is the place to go for trendoids who don’t mind waiting an hour to be seated while there’s no waiting at El Torero. (Rigo’s, The Crossroads, Michas, and Guillermo’s are all at least close in quality and equivalent in price, within about a mile, and there’s never a wait at any of them. Mi Nidito became the place to go after Bill Clinton visited the place maybe 25 years ago, did his best impression of a human rotorooter, and consumed mass quantities.)

Anyway, El Torero is gone. When I spoke with him tonight, the owner (in the center in the photo at left) told me, “Just go to Lerua’s” (about two miles away on Broadway) — owned by the same family, with the same recipes. That’s good advice while it applies. Lerua’s will likely be axed when the Broadway “improvement” project kicks in sometime within the next few years.

Damn! but I’ll miss El Torero.

(P.S. For anyone in the area, my blues duo, Cholla Buds, will be playing two jobs downtown tomorrow, Dec. 1: from 1:00 to 4:00 at Crooked Tooth Brewery on 6th Street at Arizona Avenue, and from 5:30 to 6:00 or 6:15 at The Hut on 4th Avenue and 8th Street. Both shows are free. Please come on down and have some free fun.)


(Well, even 24 in 96 is stretching it a bit — but it sounds better than 24 in 114, which is still pushing it because there are a few of the 24 that I’ve tried previously and that are lurking in the ‘fridge. Anyway . . . )

A few days ago, I got an offer I wouldn’t refuse from TotalWine: 15% off 24 beer singles.

I decided to use the offer to sample a bunch of brews I’ve never tried before — almost all microbrews, and mostly regional (Western US, and especially Arizona) microbrews. Here are the results, which were nowhere near as good as I’d hoped, but there were some bright spots.

I’ve omitted a lot of brews I’m familiar with and that I think are very good but overpriced (Rogue, Anderson Valley, Dogfish Head, Stone), and am sticking here with the ones I tried for the first time, and, from memory, a number of the good local beers available in bottles at a reasonable price. I’ve put the states or countries of origin after the beers.

First, what I consider the really good:

  • Breckenridge Brewery amber ale (Colorado)
  • Breckenridge Brewery vanilla porter (Colorado)
  • Nimbus Monkey Shines (extremely high octane brown ale — overpriced, but very good) (Tucson, Arizona)
  • Boulder Shake chocolate porter (Colorado)
  • Moose Drool brown ale (Montana)

Next, what I consider the good:

  • Alaskan amber (Alaska — duh!)
  • Full Sail amber (Oregon)
  • Left Hand milk stout (Colorado)
  • Foster’s Extra Special Bitter — labeled as just “Foster’s Ale” — a great buy (Australia)
  • Nimbus red (Tucson, Arizona)
  • Barrio rojo (Tucson, Arizona)
  • Nimbus brown (Tucson, Arizona)
  • San Tan Devil’s Ale (an over-hopped but good pale ale) (Arizona)
  • Lost Coast Stout (California)
  • Nimbus pale ale (this used to be a great beer, but the yeast mutated about 20 years ago, and now I’d only rank it as good) (Tucson, Arizona)
  • Alien amber ale (brewed in — where else? — Roswell, NM)

After that, what I consider only okay:

  • More than half of them

Now, two that I consider bad:

  • Grand Canyon amber ale (I find it sour) (Arizona)
  • Barrio Blonde (I find it bland and skunky, almost as bad as Corona) (Tucson, Arizona)

Now, two that I consider horrendous:

  • Magic Hat not quite pale ale (I find it like drinking perfume mixed with vinegar) (Vermont)
  • Estrella Jalisco (I had a few sips from one several weeks ago and poured out the rest of the bottle) (Mexico)

As for the best buys, I’d have to go with the Foster’s ESB ($2.29 for a 25.4-oz. can), Full Sail Amber ($6.99 a sixer). Moose Drool Brown ($7.99 a sixer), and Boulder Shake chocolate porter ($7.99 a sixer).

Enough beer snobbery. What’s your favorite brew?

 

 


Western Diamondback

“Rattlesnakes are attracted to beer and tattoos.”

— Poison Control Center worker overheard at a party a few years ago commenting on the fact that guys in their teens and twenties account for most rattlesnake bites and that — how did you ever guess? — alcohol is often involved. Not coincidentally, almost all Gila Monster bites involve the same demographic.

(Just in case you’re wondering, the above is a Western Diamondback, the most common type of rattler here in the Sonoran Desert.)


Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are here in Arizona, up in Wickenburg at The Meadows, a very expensive ($58,000 for 45 days) 12-step treatment program.

This is ridiculous on more than one count, most importantly that Spacey and Weinstein are not afflicted with “sex addiction.” Rather, they’ afflicted with power-over-others “addiction,” and the abusive behavior that results from it. Give people power over others, and it’s a safe bet that a great many of them will abuse it.

Second, “sex addiction” is not a recognized disorder in the standard handbook on mental disorders, the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (5th ed.). It’s a pop culture term dating from the 1980s, whose roots seem to lie in the anti-sexual attitudes of conservative Christians and in the authoritarian, prudish feminism of figures such as Andrea Dworkin. It’s more of the “same old same old” pathologizing of sex that’s been such a dreary part of American life for centuries.

Third, the type of “treatment” Spacey and Weinstein are receiving for this trumped up malady is 12-step treatment, which is ineffective across the board. (See “Alcoholics Anonymous is Not Effective” for info on the granddaddy of and model for all subsequent 12-step programs; see also the authoritative Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches, by Reid Hester and William Miller.)

So, Spacey and Weinstein are receiving (insofar as it’s 12-step based) ineffective treatment for an imaginary addiction, while their real problem — their willingness to use their positions of power to exploit and abuse others — goes unaddressed.

In the end, it seems that all they’ve done is find a convenient way to remove themselves from the spotlight, while giving the appearance of doing something about their awful behavior. They’ll emerge from rehab in January, their PR flacks will proclaim them rehabilitated — and they’ll quite probably go back to business as usual, insofar as they can get away with it.

That’s a shame for both Spacey, Weinstein, and their victims, and for the rest of us, because sexual abuse by the powerful has wider than individual implications. It’s a symptom of the sickness at the heart of our current authoritarian, hierarchical political and economic organization that gives some vast power over others. This whole affair could have spurred much needed discussion about that sickness. But it hasn’t, and likely won’t, especially as it’s being addressed as a matter of individual failure rather than pervasive sociopolitical failure.


Howdy from Tucson, where the final day of Spring came in at (depending  on which forecast you believe) somewhere between 112 and 114 degrees F (45 degrees C for you furriners). (Update: it was actually 115 F.)

It’s supposed to be even warmer tomorrow (make that in a few hours). (Update: It was warmer: 116 (47 C) ; in Phoenix it was 119. As I write, the high today was a mere 115, and we’re in for a major cooling spell this weekend, where the highs won’t get much above 110.)

About three weeks ago, after our first string of 100+ degree days, one of the local weathermen (Kevin Jeanes on KOLD — and sorry for the political incorrectness, that should be “weatherperson” or “person of weather”) with, shall we say a dry sense of humor, commented that the temperature was “all the way down to 99, and it’ll be even cooler tomorrow at 97.” (Again, for those of you who use a rational temperature scale, that translates to 37 C and 36 C.)

For those who haven’t been paying attention to U.S. climate models, they predict that this region, the desert Southwest, will be the hardest hit of the “lower 48.” And indeed it has been. We’ve been in a prolonged drought for nearly 20 years (broken last year by “normal” rainfall), and two of the last three years, 2014 and 2016, were the hottest on record. We just experienced the second warmest Spring ever, with the hottest March (high and mid 90s temperatures starting around March 1).

So, yeah, global warming is a “hoax.” We need to burn more coal. Donald Trump is an intelligent, honest, compassionate human being. And the unfettered greed inherent in capitalism isn’t a death sentence for the planet.

Things seem bleak, but we’re not totally screwed. There are things we can do individually and collectively to adapt and to counter global warming.

One thing damn near everyone can do is to plant trees. If done on a mass scale, this can reverse desertification. Even on an individual scale, it’s one of the best things we can do.

Gardening is another individual approach that makes sense. It involves far less expense than transporting food for thousands of miles, and involves far less waste. It also yields health benefits via relaxation, if nothing else.

Another individual approach, in arid regions, is to use xeriscaping, using native plants and a carpeting of rocks in place of lawns and non-native plants. This saves water — a lot of it, and it looks better than lawns.

Then there’s water harvesting — again, something damn near everyone (at least every property owner) can do at reasonable cost that will be amortized in a relatively few years. Even if you’re just channeling rain water from your roof and patio into wells for your fruit trees (as I am), it helps.

And then there’s passive solar heating (just think big picture windows facing south with an overhang that cuts off the sun in the summer months) and solar hot water heating (ultra easy — I built a solar hot water heater out of two old hot water heaters painted flat black [stripped of their external metal jacket and insulation], plumbing fittings, an old window, and scrap plywood and 2X4s about 20 years ago — a friend is still using it).

Then there’s ultra-insulation. Think straw bale and rammed earth construction. These energy-saving approaches can be used almost anywhere, and will often result in extremely energy-efficient dwellings.

To go even further on the individual scale, basements make a hell of a lot of sense in desert areas. Temperatures in them are a good 25 degrees F below surface temperatures, and there aren’t even seepage problems in deserts. The only reason they haven’t been adopted on a mass scale in the sprawlopalises  of the Southwest is that land, historically, has been so damn cheap that builders have foregone them in place of slab construction, which yields better short-term profits. If you’re having a place built in this area, think about adding a basement.

As for societal approaches, they’re so obvious that I’ll mention them only in passing. First and foremost, a direct tax on carbon emissions — screw carbon “offsets”: they’re a recipe for fraud; massive public investment in clean energy; energy-efficient transport and appliances; mass investment in public transit, including bicycle projects; tree planting on a mass scale; and subsidies for individual clean energy projects, passive-solar retrofits, water harvesting,  and energy-efficient construction.

Why do I think all of this is important? There are a couple of reasons.

One is that if adopted widely all of this would help save the planet (or at least make the lives of our children and their children better). The other is that it would keep people involved, and at least marginally hopeful. People without hope are easy to control and manipulate. Real, positive change is possible only when people have hope.

If you haven’t already done so — even on the smallest individual scale — please join those of us trying to create real change, please join those of us creating hope.

 

 

 


scottsdale

(For those fortunate enough to never have set foot in the place, Scottsdale is one of the most loathsome suburbs of Phoenix: rich, nearly all white, right-wing, snootier than hell, and spreading like a cancer on what used to be a beautiful part of the Sonoran Desert. Thanks to fellow refugee from Phoenix, Al Perry, for passing on this completely-nails-it graphic from his co-conspirator, Hashimoto Nukeclear.)