Daily Archives: January 9, 2009

Some Thoughts on the US-Mexico Border

The REAL ID Act allows the Department of Homeland Security to disregard all environmental laws to protect our borders. I don’t think they’ve started filling in the canyon on the border near the Tijuana Estuary yet, something that will cause all sorts of environmental problems with run off, erosion and effect plenty of birds, but it’s in the works.

Today I just read a story about the DHS using the REAL ID Act to start building roads in designated wilderness east of San Diego in preparation of building the triple border fence. Wilderness designation is supposed to keep the land free of human influence, a road and border fence are definitely human influence. A couple of years ago a border patrol spokesman said the area wouldn’t need fencing because the rugged land was fence enough, but apparently something has changed and they’re going ahead with it anyways.

One of my favorite things about much of the designated wilderness areas east of San Diego on the border are that they’re not wilderness for humans. There are few trails, few natural wonders for people to visit, but plenty of wide open space for the environment to be left alone. What wilderness designation was meant for. But no longer for the Otay Mountain Wilderness Area.

The blog post linked above (and here it is again in case you missed it, because I think it’s important to get the word out) is the first mention of this I’ve seen. Nothing in the newspapers, no other press. The DHS is doing a lot of stuff with very little public input.

The Best Haircut of My Life

Straight Razor Shave. Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Straight Razor Shave. Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Last night I went down to Two Roses Inc, a tattoo parlor, barbershop, and cafe in Barrio Logan for a full service haircut and it was amazing. The place has a good feel to it, everyone was friendly, at least three or four tattoo artists introduced themselves to me and chatted while I was waiting including the owners.

By the time I got in the chair Carlos the barber was chatting and we were having a good time, looking back on it, I’m not sure why I turned down his offer of a glass of Scotch while I was getting trimmed, but there will always be a next time.

After the cut he started prepping me for a shave with a straight razor. I was really looking forward to this because I hate shaving, so someone else doing it for me seemed pretty nice, and because of the old-time-machismo-getting-shaved-with-a-big-ole-sharp-blade thing. He started by putting some moisturizer on my face. Then wrapping me in a hot towel. He did this about three times to soften my skin and get it ready to shave. He put on some warm shaving cream and started shaving. By this time he’d been chatting it up and built some rapport so I wasn’t nervous about the blade at all.

he shaved all around, taking extra care around my beloved moustache. When done he toweled me off, put some sort of after-shave on that burned, but as he said “it doesn’t quite hurt, just makes you feel alive”. He put some more moisturizer on there and then toweled all the hair of my face, back and everywhere else it ended up. I was feeling great, in a sort of relaxation-haze, about to stand up when I pulled out a massager and gave me a little back and neck massage. It was already the best haircut of my life, but that just put it over the top.

He even recomended some waxy like stuff for styling my moustache, I’m gonna give that a try tonight to see if it holds up better than the Clubman’s wax I’ve been using.

Not only was this the best, most relaxing haircut ever. It was cheap too. The haircut was just a bit more than Supercuts would charge, the shave was $16 as well. The best part about it was the comfortable, old time feel they’ve got going.

Santa Ana Winds

Santa Ana winds are my favorite weather phenomena. Santa Ana winds happen in Southern California (I wonder if they happen other places in the world?) in the fall and winter, the wind blows in from the east towards the ocean, usually getting warmer closer to the coast. They’re unseasonably warm and windy. I’m not really sure what causes them, scientists say it’s a misconception that it’s hot air from the desert, something to do with adiabatic compression but ya got me.

Santa Ana winds are coming back to San Diego this weekend and I’m excited. Most people hate them but I love it. I heard on the radio this morning that it would be in the 80’s this weekend, but this weather report says only low 70’s. Either way it’s going to get dry, windy and warm. A bad combo for fires, but otherwise nice and balmy weather.

Fire Lookout Towers

A few months ago I was reading through The Paris Review when I came across a story called Diary of a Fire Lookout by Philip Connors (you can read an excerpt online, and maybe find it at the library to read the rest). It’s a diary of the authors time spent as a fire lookout in the rugged Gila National Forest in New Mexico.

Fire lookouts are becoming more and more rare as modern technology encroaches upon the task of spotting forest fires. Which is sad because some of my favorite writers spent summers high up in a lookout tower thinking, writing, and watching for signs of smoke. Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels. Ed Abbey’s Black Sun. Doug Peacock spent some time as fire lookout after Vietnam, I’m not sure that he ever wrote about it, but it probably helped clear his head and help him to readjust.

As Connors’s story shows, not all fire lookout towers have been shuttered, but most aren’t in service anymore. The Forest Fire Lookout Association has a list of links to retired lookout towers available for rent, most from the US Forest Service.

A recent article in the UT talks about the old fire lookout tower on Palomar Mountain reopening to be staffed by volunteers.

There’s something romantic about fire lookout towers, spending all that time in the woods. The solitude. The open space. The few journeys into town, via steep mountain trails, to get supplies. The chance encounters with passing hikers. Connors’s story captures the mood perfectly.