Hell Canyon

Arizona Flagstone crushing and rail station in Drake...

The community of Drake, Arizona is on the dirt Yavapai County Road 71 and is in the midst of beautiful ranching country in Hell Canyon. The most noticeable thing is Drake Concrete where Arizona Flagstone, composed of grains of quartz and cemented by silica, is produced.

Located there is a rail station of the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway where the flagstone is loaded and transported. It is also the junction of the western terminus of the Verde Canyon Railway. The Hell Canyon Bridge once used by US Highway 89 is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The current Arizona Route 89 is the direct route to Ash Fork from Prescott. The dirt road through Drake connects to paved Coconino Route 73 and is the shortcut route to Williams. It goes through the high desert valley and up through the higher elevated alpine country of Arizona. Hell Canyon and Drake is a a peaceful place in a moderate climate well worth traveling through.


Is It A Blur or Visionary?

Struggling with my creative self...

Pushing the envelope.

Some of my best writing and photography is not by design but by mistake, a fuzzy outline, a blur. They just happen. I will have an idea of what I want to write but end up writing something vaguely similar to what I started out with in the original thought. My struggle is with what I think is mediocre that I can easily produce and still elicit a good response. What I mean by mediocre is work that although it might be very good it is not unique or stands out from similar writing or photographs. How many photographs of a desert sunset can there be before they all become the same? I do my backyard landscape well now but how to do it originally or differently is what I struggle with.

I don't think I'm unique in that struggle but I do think it can be a struggle to be unique in this ubiquitous age of the internet. Some people have hobbies or play sports and that is their outlet to stand out or be a part of the crowd. For those of us who are creative that is our outlet regardless of our talent or how we express ourselves. We may never be a Rembrandt or Mozart but the challenge is to produce the best work we can and keep raising the bar.

Lately I've been experimenting with my Droid X taking pictures as they happen or something strikes me. Since I like to do as much as possible "in the camera" with relatively minimal editing as an enhancement I try to do different things while taking the shot. Recently it's been in motion or playing with settings. I still take the best possible landscape and street photography I can but I regard a lot of it right now as stock photography. The idea is that in the future I'll look at them again with a renewed eye and realize they still have value. Right now I'm a malcontent, a dissident against my own average, not willing to settle for mainstream, forcing myself to edit a photo blunder to turn the picture into a different wonder. If I were a painter I'd say that it is a fight against painting-by-numbers and struggling with an explosion of colors while taming them at the same time. Also by contrast toying with lack of color in black and white.

It seems I turned a corner with writing this year although I'm not where I would like to be, I don't feel as if I'm cranking out the same political and economics commentary I once did. Previously it was a struggle to get out of the same old habits writing history. Really that is the contest with all my creative enterprises, writing, photography, video and editing all of them. Building upon what I've already done while still bursting out at another level with something rejuvenating and vibrant. Currently it is photography. When I become bored with my own work then I know it is time to experiment and make mistakes or redirecting what I started to a different channel. In trial and error suddenly there comes a surprise, something different, a breakout moment that begs to be continued.


Buzzing Lines

High power, low overhead...

These high power lines are so low to the ground that you can hear them buzzing, singing and crackling in the wind.


Get Your Kicks

On Route 66...

Road Trip!

Leaving for the week on a road trip to Northern Arizona to shoot photography and video as well as do some historical and geographical research. Taking state highways to Paulden, the back road from Drake to Flagstaff.  Then west to Williams on I-40 through to Ash Fork and at Seligman picking up Route 66 to Kingman. Return trip on the infamous "Highway of Death" US 93 back to Phoenix. See you later!



There Is No Place

Like Our Place...

Since 2008 I have been taking road trips through Arizona, New Mexico and the Inland Empire of California sometimes alone and other times with my partner. During my trips I talk with local people, observe local color as well as visit friends and make new ones. I've also watched the area change during this economic period and how it has affected people and the landscape. It is clear there has not been an economic recovery or that we are merely in a double dip but in some sort of disruptive economic contraction that is of greater magnitude and will take time to resolve. The question now is how do we cope and make the best use of what we have and keep ourselves alive and prosperous in mind and spirit?

There are pockets on the map that are doing fairly well, some in a temporary mini-boom. The majority of places of any size are at a minimum in a holding pattern of stagnation at best while there are areas that are clearly in a doomsday bust. You see it in small things such as service at a decent hotel is slightly degraded to entire blocks of buildings empty, broken down and facilities lacking. The most telling thing is people and what is in their eyes.

Many people are clearly not doing or handling the downturn well. There are others who keep going through their daily routine seemingly happy enough but you can sense by looking in their eyes many of them have troubles. Others eyes are clear and bright, full of the knowledge that times are getting tougher but there is still life to live and make the most of. Those are the people I'm drawn to and hold fascinating conversations with about the condition of our region and how to make the best of it.

The mainstream media, politicians and special interest groups would have us believe all kinds of things about each other. One thing that has been consistent in travelling this region as time has tattered and worn down structures and people is the resilience of a significant percentage of the population. That has not changed. They come in all sizes and shapes, colors and age but all of them carry a spirit that is healthy to be around. These are the people I'm surrounding myself with to maintain a high level of energy and optimism so I may return the favor. In the long term our place is in our minds and souls and how we choose to preserve and uplift ourselves and others.


Power On The Plains

Passing through to end users in Phoenix...

Silver Dollar Moon

Hanging over ashen landscape...

Road trips are a great departure from everyday life, especially since I am able to travel the US desert southwest frequently for short three to five day trips. There is a lot that is unique and unusual that people all over the world visualize and want to visit that I am fortunate to see. At the end of a driving day, with prior stops to interesting places, the road to the stopover for the night can occasionally seem long. In between destinations the road and wide open spaces may be monotonous and run by as a blur.

If you are looking though a gem will appear, such as this full moon at dusk, a treasure find at day's end. It takes imagination to find gifts in the desert and many natural occurrences are traces of the elemental table of an oasis. Very often it is simple and at first glance the seemingly mundane things on the spur of the moment stand out. Every day life can be like that and the challenge is to find that overlooked wellspring worthy of attention to turn an ordinary day into one with a pleasant diversion.


The Journey

Is the destination...

Suddenly something happens that changes perspective and after them life is different. Incidents such as the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the Challenger exploding after takeoff, the events of 9-11-2001 are collective experiences that changed the individual outlook of millions. For many it initiates a shift in thinking and an insight that forges change.

It happens with more personal events also. The moment when I knew my Jeep Wrangler was starting to rollover on a freeway froze time for me into an unspecified period of pure white until I consciously recognized I was on the side of a freeway staring up at a blaring sun with emergency personnel and bystanders surrounding me. It redefined my clarity of thinking to a new perspective in the days after causing me to start a long road of making changes in my life and ultimately thinking how to institute them permanently.

That is because changes keep coming and are reshaped resulting in life improving due to them. They never stop since you can make a list of things you want to accomplish or overcome but even when you reach a goal the next natural step is to keep going. Sometimes I think people are not successful at certain goals because they decide they're going to lose a certain amount of weight, work out to reach a certain look, read on a topic until they know what they want, learn to speak a language enough to be fluent and so on. After they reach their original goal they stop at that point rather than continuing and revising the goal to another level. Maintenance rarely succeeds at holding changes in place, except perhaps for short breaks to regroup, since it requires constantly raising the mark to keep it going. Maintenance really means continuously improving and learning.

My experience is life works that way. It took awhile for me to figure out the reason why I sometimes felt I hadn't accomplished arriving at a predetermined point was because I had reached and surpassed it but didn't recognize it since I kept on going. It is habit ingrained within me after learning from failure and a determination to figure out how not to lapse back into what I had decided to change. The pilgrimage doesn't end at the designated destination but progresses onward for a lifetime to keep learning and developing.


America's Biggest Concern

Is not economic depression but a psychological one...

No fear, no defeatism, no going backwards.

Personally I think political, education, corporate and financial institution leaders want to keep the populace off balance as a method of control. They view the despair and anger that fuels different corners ranging from the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street demonstrators as silly little distractions to keep the masses occupied with infighting. People need to wake up and channel their energies into a more proactive plan of action. The first place to start is with you. It behooves us to take stock of what we have or don't, what we owe and what we don't, own up to the mistakes we may have made with money and constructively deal with it. However you do it, whether it is liquidate everything and repudiate debt, give up the escapism of consumerism, complex relationships, drugs and alcohol and own up to who you really are and embrace a self image as a strong individual. The road to mutual help is laid by being a powerful person that can help themselves so they may help others. It is a matter of survival and will; individuals must fight to keep their inner fire burning and continue moving forward.

To stop is to risk never getting started again and I refuse to do that although it is a battle within at times. Personally it makes no sense for me to get mad at behemoth institutions I have no control over. If your temperament is to get involved and shake down the windows and rattle the walls then doing it as an ant on a hill of thousands doesn't do much for you personally. It is why the large power brokers prefer it.

Far better to note Tip O'Neill's observation that "All politics is local" as far more useful since getting involved locally empowers you as an individual that effects change. Everyone is different in goals. What is my "local" thing? During general election years I work for the County Elections Board running precincts as a non-partisan Inspector. Work for the local political party, any local organization to make change. There's plenty unattended situations needing help, leaders and an answer.

Do anything but stand still doing nothing or moving around making a lot of noise with little result for the effort. Our biggest concern as a country isn't just an economic one. It is an economic depression that leads to a psychological one because people fall into the trap of feeling like failures. They believe they failed because they screwed up their finances, education, income, career or wasted time on banging the drum at the bank, the school or employers to no avail. They mistakenly escaped into complex relationships, sexual arrangements or drugs and alcohol. Even if you have fallen into trapdoors there is always some way out but it is rarely easy and takes effort.

This does take work though. Personal hard work, one foot in front of the other with times that every step of progress is painfully bought. There is also satisfaction that you are moving forward going somewhere rather than running from something. Run towards the light away from fear. The biggest fear most people have is living in a weekly motel collecting change for food and splitting their blood pressure pills. That fear will carry you there as a self-fulfilling prophecy if you take it to its ultimate end. Conversely being optimistic, working at moving forward, putting effort toward reaching light is a foregone conclusion of destiny. Refuse to allow the government, financial institutions, consumerism, corporations, marketing, political class to force you into a life of submission and manipulation you don't want. In doing so you become a strong individual of character that as a consequence will be supported by others and surrounded by people you can influence to make real change occur.


Sun Setting

 Not waiting for poet...

Sanctuary Electric Blue

The soul and spirit are eclectic...

Let them conduct freely outside the walls.

Too many people are bound by religion and tied to beliefs that are tight and rigid. The message there is only one way, one path, one road rang different bells for me than the ones traditionalists hear. When I broke away from the mold shaped by thousands of years of interpreted history and read the authentic and verifiable origins for myself I gained a new knowledge. An open passageway that was truly free.

There is a difference in what is commonly meant as religiously holy and what is spiritually holistic. The thoroughfare to freeing the soul, spirit and mind is not a toll road encased in the narrow paths many religions consider holy. The constraints of religion in actuality turn people away from spiritual enlightenment rather than open the door. Spirit is everywhere, conducted by us that choose to be open to it and not confined to the walls of a building and the minds of self anointed officials. We all have a direct link to the Holy Spirit of God and a Higher Power if we choose to make the connection.


On The Other Side Viral

A lost week to some imported microrganism...

Since last Saturday afternoon for 15-18 of 24 hours in a day I have slept due to some kind of virus. I blame the winter visitors who annually always bring some unwanted gift from Back East. The bad news is I lost almost five days. The good news is apparently I didn't have it as bad as some people who didn't get a flu shot, therefore I missed the grizzlier aspects of it.

I'm determined to stay awake for the rest of the day with the help of pseudoephedrine and caffeine. Since I can't share the offending microbe I will share the unedited version of an unshaven bedheaded me. On the lighter side the last time I succumbed to anything was early 2006 and when I recovered I had a burst of creativity. My mind is already cranking, photos and videos that need editing with stuff in my head that demands to be written.


Selfy Sunday | 10-09-11

Feeling Blue...

Jeff Smith and Levi Moore collaborate on a project called "Selfy Sunday" open to photographers on Google+ for posting and sharing a self-portrait taken that day or the week before. This photograph is my contribution to Self Sunday - Oct. 9 | 2011.

My contribution and the associated comments can be viewed by clicking on Feeling Blue | Jr Snyder Jr and clicking on +JR Snyder Jr will take you to my Google+ posts and profile. You may also want to visit my Picasa Web Photo Albums.


Home On The Range

Occupied by Desert Rats...

Desert rat is a term used regionally in the vernacular for someone who lives in the desert. Sometimes they live marginally but quite happily. This place is in the middle of southeastern Arizona and is occupied. There are a few other mobile homes close to it that are in a little better shape so I assume this is the oldest one in the small remote group.

There are a wide variety of desert rats and many have nicer digs and are self-sufficient with electric power, water and connection to the outside world via satellite dish. Remote desert areas may seem sparse but if you scratch the surface you will find all kinds of interesting and creative people who embody the spirit of the desert. Deserts are places where the hardy, both natural and human, create maximum use of the minimum of resources.


Urban Desert Revival

Dust storm followed by rain changes the season...

Yesterday was quite the day for weather in Phoenix tipping the balance from hot urban heat island summer to cool winter. Simply put we only have two seasons here: very hot summer and temperate winter; for all practical purposes we skip the in between seasons. The leaves on deciduous trees don't turn and drop off until late November and then bud green and mature in late March. During four blasting months of summer we get cabin fever in the reverse of colder climates since June through September our temperatures are in triple digits ranging around 110 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit (45 Celsius). We get some rain but due to the urban heat island effect most rainfall doesn't move into the city so we get dust storms instead.

Yesterday was a classic shift of weather in from one season to another that occurs with a transitioning storm. In the morning a balmy wind started blowing and the sky was overcast and appeared as if we were getting another mild dust storm. It turned out to be a full blown dust storm by midday slowing and even stopping freeways and enveloping the city obscuring buildings and distant mountains. After the storm blew through there was a brief period of weak sun but by late afternoon storm clouds were gathering. Around 17:30 from on top of my roof I could see rain falling in spot cells off in the distance. Then the unique tint that comes from the desert sky when weather is mixing cast over the desert floor in its beautiful way.

A little while later came steady rain washing summer's dust and grime off roofs, streets, trees and ground giving everything a good wash down. This storm brought with it cooler air from Alaska no less and we had turned the page from our long parched summer to the fair pleasant cool season starting our winter. All summer scorched time has stood still while we waited for salvation from the weather and now it is time for our winter revival.


Tucson AZ

Down and out in the boondocks...

Hit by the economic downturn and tragedy but not out for good.

The Old Pueblo is showing its age through this economic downturn. Tucson is a bit tarnished from the transition in the previous decade from a quaint small city with a university to a popular relocation destination with a lot of lookalike housing surrounding it. It once had a thriving film location business and attractions that suffered unfortunate fates both fueled by fire. The original Old Tucson movie studios and the community on top of Mt. Lemon both burned down and never restored to what they once were.

The natural beauty of the Sonoran desert around Tucson is still alive. The two rainy seasons, winter and summer, keeps the desert lush. Tucson and Pima County made wise decisions decades ago to reduce light pollution by having little street lighting due to the nearby observatories and preserving the desert landscaping by ordinance. It escaped the importation of plants and remaking the desert into a California-like city as Phoenix did. Due to its geography and these measures the urban heat island effect is limited.

For seven Biblically epic long years I lived in Oro Valley just north of the city. In those years I witnessed the town transform from a sleepy stable horse and ranch village to a suburb that rivaled those of Phoenix with seemingly endless miles of stucco and red tile roof houses most people could not really afford. I lived at the base of Pusch Ridge and my home was immune to the worst of it but Oracle Road, the main thoroughfare, became nearly impossible to navigate to get there. Worse, I lost three jobs due to companies disappearing from the area. Tucson metros major problem is employers such as AT&T, Lucent, IBM, Qwest, UPS and others departed to be replaced by low paying contract call centers. The remaining employers, defense contractors, military, aviation, Pima County and the University of Arizona have entrenched employees subject to frequent cutbacks and layoffs.

Tucson stands alone as a liberal political island surrounded even in its own county by a conservative constituency more aligned with the rest of the state. In my recent visit there it seems the tragic event of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords took away what confidence was left out of the area. The city itself  and the territory around it also appear worn down and bereft. Its close proximity to the border has taken its toll also. This once thriving alternative to Phoenix seems to have lost its way, unsure of what to do and where to go next. My estimation is that Tucson metro still has a lot going for it and although it will take time the region will pick itself up, dust off and revitalize into an even better place than it once was.


The 99% Is 75%

The other twenty-five percent recognize reality of the New Era...

Sheep who want shepherds rather than personal responsibility.

Personally I have little in common with the Occupy Wall Street movement, a consortium of "unions, students, teachers, veterans, first responders, families, the unemployed and underemployed." These are not my people and I doubt they represent all of the groups they list as "...the majority" and "...are the 99 percent" who will "...no longer be silent." I would venture that a large segment of "99ers" whose unemployment is running out is among them. What I think is they belong in the seventy-five percent majority of Americans, that number my purely anecdotal guess, which doesn't yet fully understand the 21st Century has arrived but not in its fullness. They are still looking backwards to institutions, government, public education, banks, politicians and private employers for overhaul and reform when by the nature of this disruptive period these entities are on the verge of collapse.

Your right to protest is honored, your protest may not be honorable.

What I do support is their Constitutional and common law right to assemble and protest by exercising their free speech peacefully. It seems to me that has been breached by the New York Police Department but there is a disconnect that bothers me. The place of umbrage is while I support their rights they totally miss the point of those of us who pursue the cause of liberty and free speech. To them we are out on some right wing limb and they do not see the correlation to their dependence on Statism. What the NYPD has done to break up their protests is the very thing that many of us warned about post 9-11 when the federal government subsidized police departments all across the country in obtaining equipment and training in the name of anti-terrorism. It has created a militarized de facto national police force that was never intended for our country.

Mainstream America is still listening to the Mainstream Media and watching reality TV shows. Their gut instinct tells them something is terribly wrong but they cannot articulate what. It is a result of years of dumbing down the population by the very public schools and institutions they are now beholden to. My calculation is the majority of my rough estimate of this three-quarters of the population will not go quietly into a new era and adjust their expectations about how they obtain consumer goods. They feel entitled to a "middle class lifestyle" and that is their "right." Since the mid-nineties anyone who knows me has had to listen to my saying that our biggest concern should be what happens when the mass population figures out they actually have to work for something when the bubble bursts. Then I was referring to the tech/telecom bubble. The majority like bubbles since they easily provide them consumer goods even though they become fuel for the "one percent," really the institutions they're rallying against now, to ensnare them into debt and a contemporary version of servitude. This escapes those demonstrating on Wall Street.

Being one of 99 percent will be the loneliest thing they ever do.

What they also misunderstand is globally we are in the midst of a 500 year crash of civilizations event that breaks up empires and reshapes the world. They just want their SUV. It is fair to make comparisons to the Great Depression and use the history of it and previous Panics as a guide for what will happen next on the economic markets front. What is happening though is bigger than a Panic or Depression and much larger than the social changes of the sixties and seventies. Loosely about twenty-five percent of us understand that and recognize we are not only in an economic crisis but a disruption of high magnitude that may take more than a decade to play out. It is economic, political and social; permeating all areas of our culture and lives and will create the New Economy but won't be one the "99 percent" envision. You will have the right to be entrepreneurial, creative thinking, a free agent to live and earn a way of life of your choice. You will not have the right to be entitled to a desultory lifestyle based on what was considered "middle class."

"He who is not busy being born is busy dying."

Those of us who understand that we must go on with our lives know that in disruption there are opportunities if you choose to seek them. A chance to reinvent your life depending on how hard you work and what you want to surrender to rise above current conditions. We channel our energy towards that rather than banging a drum asking to be dependent on a reformed government and institutions to make us happy. These are difficult times but not insurmountable if you are willing to take a long term realistic view of what you want to do with your life and are willing to get on with it despite obstacles. This is a forward looking view recognizing that we may have to endure another bubble (the education bubble comes to mind) before we get to the other side. Post WWII institutions and method of governing must fail in order to restore what America was originally and is meant to be. It is a new reconstruction, a tough one just as Reconstruction was after the first Civil War. This war will not be fought geographically but between those with internal motivation versus those who expect external awards. It will be a new structure based on an old one although a more advanced version that is resurrected as the false storefront of the twentieth century collapses.