Goodbye 2013 … Goodbye 2014

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to end this blog. And because I’m not one to fool around with my New Year’s resolutions, I’m ending it today. It was a fun four months; I hope you enjoyed it.

If you miss me, you can hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine … or, you know, just call me.

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Some links for you sinners

It’s an ICYMI day here at It’s All Hood, El Paso.

First up, the El Paso Times had a good Sunday piece, Payday-lending official: Borrowers responsible for their decisions. Everything about it was fascinating, and it says a lot about Texas.

First, you find out that the man Gov. Perry appointed to be the watchdog for Texas consumers, William J. White, is also “vice president of Cash America, a major payday lender that the new U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last month socked with its first sanctions for abusive practices.” Thanks for nothing, Perry.

The article goes on to quote White blaming any problems with payday lending on the borrowers: “People make decisions. There’s nobody out there that forces anybody to take any kind of loan. People are responsible for their decisions, just like in my life and in your life.”

It’s not a bad argument, really. I’ve known a few people who have received payday loans, and, yes, they’ve generally been people who make a lot of bad decisions in their lives. But it does seem kind of dirty to base your whole business model on hoping people will make a dumb, desperate decision.

The kicker of the story, to me, was toward the bottom:

A report by Texans for Public Justice shows that between 2009 and 2012, prominent Republicans such as Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus were the biggest recipients of campaign funds from the payday lending industry. But it also showed that more liberal-leaning officials and groups such as state Sen. Letitia Van de Putte and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus also received five-digit contributions.

The Democratic candidate for governor, state Sen. Wendy Davis, is a major proponent of increased regulations and is not on the list of big recipients.

The idea of Wendy Davis becoming Texas governor gets sweeter and sweeter every day, doesn’t it? Sadly, I doubt Texas is ready for that.

Toll roads

Today, the Times told us the Border Highway toll lanes to open by Jan. 8. I still can’t imagine anybody is going to use those, with two free lanes sitting right next to the toll lane. I’m guessing in 5 or 10 years, when we’ve all forgotten what the deal was, they’ll make all the lanes tolled.

We’ll see. Maybe I’m wrong and there are a bunch of El Pasoans who can’t wait to spend some money driving Downtown.

Casting stones at sinners

Biblical literalists trip all over themselves to throw stones. (And, yes, this gif is inspired by all the great ones Anson Mills has been doing on his blog.)

Biblical literalists trip all over themselves to throw stones. (And, yes, this gif is inspired by all the great ones Anson Mills has been doing on his blog.)

Though I’ve been saddened by Phil Robertson’s biblical defense of his hateful words — and the many Christians who have chimed in to defend him — I haven’t felt like writing much about it. I’m not intelligent enough to do it well. But Rachel Held Evans is. I highly recommend reading her entire post: Everyone’s a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony.

Here’s an excerpt, but seriously, go read the whole thing.

The biblical language employed in these contexts is actually pretty strong: eating shellfish is an abomination, a bare head is a disgrace, gossips will not inherit the kingdom of God, careless words are punishable by hell, guys who leer at women should gouge out their eyes.

Heck, you could make a pretty good biblical case for gluttony being a “lifestyle sin” that has been normalized by our culture of “Supersized” portions and overflowing buffet lines, starting with passages like Philippians 3:19 (“their god is their belly”), Psalm 78: 18 (“they tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved”), Proverbs 23:20 (“be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat”), Proverbs 23:2 (“put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite”), or better yet, Ezekiel 16:49 (“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”)

Yet you don’t see weigh-ins preceding baptisms or people holding “God Hates Gluttons” signs outside the den of iniquity that is Ryan’s Steakhouse.

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Art house movies … what have I missed?

My wife and I watched “Before Midnight” (Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy) last weekend and it reminded me how much I miss the art house movie scene. I had started to think great movies like “Before Midnight” just didn’t get made anymore. I certainly haven’t seen one in a long time.

But more likely the truth is that those movies just aren’t on my radar anymore. El Paso doesn’t have an art house theater. And even if it did, we’d never go because our daughter would hate anything playing there. (I actually paused once during Before Midnight just to laugh at how mad our daughter would be at the scene we were watching, which involved nothing but Hawke and Delpy talking in the car for about 15 minutes.)

Growing up in Lawrence, Kansas, I knew I could pretty much see anything at Liberty Hall and it would be good. Later, when my wife and I lived in Salem, Oregon, we had Salem Cinema for good art house movies. (Though for a while it was located underneath a parking garage, and in the middle of the movie you would suddenly hear the skateboarders coming down above you.)

In El Paso, you have to hope an independent movie gets big enough to be shown here, which doesn’t happen often. Or you can make your way up to the Fountain Theater in Mesilla, but that’s a long drive to do very often.

So, because I have been out of the art house scene for about … let’s see, how old is my daughter? … 11 years now, what other great movies have I missed? Let me know. Until then, I’ll be watching Before Midnight on repeat.

Trilogies

“Before Midnight” is the third part of a trilogy that started with “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset.” All three are great movies. What is it about trilogies that works so well?

Think of how Star Wars used to be great, back when it was a trilogy. Now it’s just a mess. There’s too much to it now. Should have stayed at 3.

Though some great concepts can’t quite make it to “great trilogy” status. R.Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” was amazing for the first hour and even the second hour. But when he came back a few years later with the third hour … ugh. “Trapped” was headed toward becoming a classic of western culture, but now we’re just left hoping he doesn’t try for a fourth hour.


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The 10 Best Hikes/Geocaches in El Paso’s Franklin Mountains

I originally thought I’d do a post about the 10 best geocaches in El Paso. But, I decided that most of my favorite geocaches revolve around hiking. There are some pretty good geocaches in El Paso that wouldn’t make my top 10 because they don’t involve a walk. So, instead, here is my list of the 10 best hikes and/or geocaches in El Paso’s Franklin Mountains.

Note: Any hike in the Franklin Mountains requires either a Texas State Park Pass, or a $5 daily entry fee.

10. Is that your calves making all that wracket

A view toward Juarez from the site of the "Calves" geocache. (Photo by RockDawg350)

A view toward Juarez from the site of the “Calves” geocache. (Photo by RockDawg350)

This geocache hike takes you up the 1000 Steps Trail on the west side of the Franklins after parking at the end of Stanton Street. There is another geocache halfway up the 1000 Steps Trail. Once you get to the top, you’ll connect with the trail that takes you around the Wyler Tramway. Then there is a fun, difficult hunt for the cache. A lot of fun, and, yes, your calves will feel it.

9. Peacemaker 44-92071

This hike takes you to the site of to the B-36 bomber crash site on the West side of the Franklin Mountains. Back when I did this hike in 2009 and again in 2012, it was a tough slog. After starting at the end of Stanton Street, you eventually had to get off the 1000 Steps Trail and bushwhack your way to the site. But in the past couple of years, volunteers and park officials have added monument markers at the site and have been working on making trails in the area. If you can find the right trail, it’s a bit easier now, but still very uphill. Takes you to a somber piece of El Paso history.

8. The High Point of El Paso

This hike takes you to the highest peak in the Franklins, North Franklin Peak. The hike starts in the Tom Mays Park section of the Franklins, takes you up to Mundy’s Gap, then down a bit before taking you back up to the peak. It’s a long challenge, but there is a good trail the entire way, so that’s nice. Much of the trail is actually an old road, built when there were dreams of designing a mighty tourist hotel at the peak. That dream died quickly, but your dream of hiking to this peak is alive.

7. The Window

The Window, along the Ron Coleman Trail. (Photo by Mr. Waldo)

The Window, along the Ron Coleman Trail. (Photo by Mr. Waldo)

There are a few caches along the Ron Coleman trail, which takes you from McKelligan Canyon over to Smuggler’s Pass on Transmountain Road. But this cache is near the signature rock formation of the hike, The Window.

The window shows up after you climb up a wall, giving you a great view of Northeast El Paso.

The Ron Coleman trail is a great hike, and various hiking groups get together to do it every so often. I recommend joining one of those group hikes for your first time. Otherwise the route can be confusing, and the wall can be nerve-wracking.

6. Every Cache Has Its Thorns

A hiker along the Upper Sunset Trail (Photo by Tlepinski)

A hiker along the Upper Sunset Trail (Photo by Tlepinski)

This hike takes you on a 5-mile loop of the Upper and Lower Sunset Trails in the Tom Mays portion of the Franklin Mountains State Park. Though there are certainly some ups and downs, this trail has a lot less elevation gain than many of these hikes. This is a good one to test your ability in the Franklins before moving on to steeper terrain.

5. The Twelve Labors of Hercules: Labor Nine

I’ll include this one on this list despite that fact it is the only geocache in the Franklins I haven’t found. Despite three attempts, I’ve never made it to the top of Anthony’s Nose, where this cache is located. There is no trail to Anthony’s Nose, and my attempts to find a good path to bushwhack my way to the top have been unsuccessful. But it’s a popular cache for those souls stronger than me, so here it is. I’ll get you one day, my pretty. And your little dog, too.

4. By Request

Though this hike is steep at times, it is only two miles, roundtrip. Best part is, it will take you up to see Aztec Cave. It’s no Carlsbad Caverns, but it’s an interesting area to check out. And the park service has another geocache you can grab on the way up.

3. The El Paso Tin Mines – II

The fun part about this hike is you get to explore some tin mines at the end. It’s a great hike for adventurous kids because, although it’s long (about six miles, roundtrip), it’s not very steep. And kids will love the adventure of exploring the mines. Luckily, for safety’s sake, there aren’t many twists and turns in the mines, so it would be nearly impossible to get lost, but best for kids to stay with the group just to make sure. Here is a bit of history from the cache page:

A search for domestic deposits of tin-bearing ore in the United States was a failure. Small quantities of tin were produced during the early 1900s in the Franklin Mountains of El Paso County, Texas. The only tin mine in the United States was located in the Franklin Mountains, where its ruins are visible today.

2. Claustromania

A light snow was on the ground on the day I did the Claustromania geocache.

A light snow was on the ground on the day I did the Claustromania geocache.

This 3.5-mile round-trip hike begins near Arroyo Park in the Kern Place neighborhood. It makes its way up to a small cave for the geocache. I found this one back in 2009, and here is a bit of my write-up from then:

A cache can be a lot of things. A good hike. A little adventure. Logging in with a fraternity (and sorority) and the few and the proud. This one was all that, plus helped me rediscover my love of El Paso.

First up, the hike was great, with interesting sights along the way. A light snow had fallen in the morning, making it that much more beautiful. Next up was the arroyo climb, which I never like, but at least it’s a good workout. Then a great adventure finding the cache and logging a difficult find.

I don’t know if it was the exercise, the mountain air, or some poisonous thorn making me feel estatic, but the hike back down to my car had me feeling the El Paso love.

1. Mount Franklin

A view of Sugarloaf Mountain, looking east from Mount Franklin.

A view of Sugarloaf Mountain, looking east from Mount Franklin.

Mount Franklin is the fourth-highest peak in the Franklins, according to the cache page. Highest is North Franklin Peak, second is Anthony’s Nose and third is South Franklin Peak. There are several ways to get to Mount Franklin, but my favorite is parking at the end of McKelligan Canyon, then following the trails west and up. There is some rock climbing/scrambling required on this one, so you have to be comfortable with that. Once on top, there is a beautiful trail along the ridgeline where you get great views of West and East El Paso at the same time. And because it’s El Paso, most of the time you’ll have the entire trail to yourself. Put it all together, and it’s my favorite hike to a geocache in El Paso’s Franklin Mountains.

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Oh, you flatter me, Brownfield

That Jay is so skinny, he has to run around in the shower to get wet. Say, what?

That Jay is so skinny, he has to run around in the shower to get wet. Say, what?

I don’t know enough about Brownfield’s politics or blog yet to know whether I should be linking to him. But, God bless him, he called me skinny.

Brownfield really knows how to make a girl swoon. No one has called me skinny since high school.

So, here’s a link to his blog: brownfieldempire.blogspot.com

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Hiking in Quitman Pass

With Jason slowing down over at Basecamp El Paso, (Though his work was recently featured on Huffington Post.) I guess it’s time for me to step up my hiking game.

I woke up early Sunday morning and drove out to Quitman Pass in Hudspeth County. I got out there early enough to catch some fog and the last of the ice melting off the trees and cactus. It was some beautiful countryside.

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Republican party bankruptcy, and the way forward

In Time Magazine this week, Mike Murphy gleefully declares Obamacare a complete disaster that will win the Republicans elections for years. Here’s the column. Murphy is pretty excited about his team.

But then he moves on to what Republicans need to do to keep that advantage, and gets to this:

Our Republican policy cupboard is embarrassingly bare. What are our new ideas to help the middle class after years of economic pain? What’s our plan to address the rising costs of health insurance? How do we create economic growth — for everybody, not just the most successful 10% of the country? How do we rebuild the ladder of upward social mobility? How do we fix public education?

When you have a Republican operative admitting the party has no ideas or plans to deal with the country’s problems, isn’t it time to start looking at why you are a Republican in the first place? This shouldn’t be about just cheering for the team you grew up with, but it apparently is for Murphy. He admits the Republicans have no ideas, but he can’t wait to see them win the next election.

I’m guessing it’s because Murphy, like many non-Tea Party Republicans, hasn’t yet admitted to himself how bankrupt the Republican party has become. He asks the questions, thinking the Republicans are still searching for answers. He hasn’t come to terms with the fact that the Republican party of today is stridently anti-solution. Government is always the problem, right? Here are the answers Murphy doesn’t want to admit:

What are our new ideas to help the middle class after years of economic pain?

Republican party of today: The middle class? They are just lazy. If they want to feel less economic pain, they should work harder and become rich.

What’s our plan to address the rising costs of health insurance?

Republican party: Quit being so lazy! Work harder, become rich, and then you can afford to see a doctor. Gosh, what a society of takers we’re created.

How do we create economic growth — for everybody, not just the most successful 10% of the country?

Republican party: What? I don’t understand the question. You lost me at “not just the most successful 10% of the country.”

How do we rebuild the ladder of upward social mobility?

Republican party: That’s an easy one. Social mobility is still easy for those who aren’t lazy. Quit complaining, and start getting rich.

How do we fix public education?

Republican party: We don’t need to. People should get rich and send their kids to private schools. Public schools are swirling dens of Socialism.

In El Paso

The anti-solution crowd is not just a problem nationally. You see it among the Tea Party Democrats here in El Paso, as well. Recently, City reps. Eddie Holguin and Lily Limon even voted against allowing golf carts to deliver our Christmas packages. Why? Because it’s a solution to a problem. The Tea Party is against solutions, even when they cost nothing, like this one does.

If we want our city and country to do better, we need to send a message to the anti-solution crowd. It’s time to quit voting for “your team” and start voting for those with solutions, whether Republican or Democrat.

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