Monday, March 26, 2007

The Road to Roosevelt: A Photo Essay

Last Friday I had to go out to Roosevelt to attend an instructor conference for the USU Extension. Since I had to teach my 1010 satellite course the night before (from 8-10:30), I had the option of starting my 2 1/2 hour voyage at 11pm Thursday or at 5:30am Friday morning.

I opted for Friday.

It may have been due to Daylight Savings, but when I left Friday morning, it was still quite dark outside. As in, "anyone else you see walking around at this hour is a criminal" dark. At least that's what I thought. As I drove past my gym, I saw dozens of cars in the parking lot. Dozens.

These people have a problem.

I had a problem, too. I had to drive out into the middle of Eastern Utah by 8:30am in time to skip the complimentary continental breakfast and slip in for the formal opening ceremonies.

Roosevelt, man...Friggin' Roosevelt.

In order to create a proper meditative mood, I opted to play my "slow-down soul" playlist on my iPod, featuring grooves from Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Otis Redding. Not exactly "Utah Road Trip" music, but I've never been too big on slavishly playing music that fit the area I was driving through. As a kid, my parent's would play Simon and Garfunkel on our trips to Yellowstone, which seemed completely rational to me until I realized that Paul and Art were writing and recording all that stuff in Greenwich Village, New York. Oh well.

Eventually I made it out of the Salt Lake Valley and up past Parley's Summit on I-80, still with black, star-studded skies above me. I turned off onto Highway 40, which would account for 114 of the 151 total one-way journey (according to mapquest). As I curved past Heber City and began to head due east, I realized that I might be in for a nice sunrise.

So I made the most of it.

I had already passed a pair of formal "viewing areas" before the sun began to emerge, but as the morning drew on, I still got some progressively better shots.

But the shots really got good right as I hit Starvation Reservoir. Can't really tell you where Starvation Reservoir is, other than to say if you get on Highway 40 and drive past Heber City, eventually you'll find it.

Shortly past Starvation, I hit Duchesne*, and realized just how far I would have had to drive to take up my last band offer. A student in one of my composition classes last year told me his band was looking for a new drummer. Thing is, this student's band worked the Uinta Basin bar circuit, mostly in the Duchesne area. I was intrigued by the notion of hitting the Utah equivalent of the Chitlin' Circuit of the deep south, but I would have had to get paid like the Stones to match the travel costs.

By this time the sun was up, and directly in my face, so I just pushed on to Roosevelt and zoned through six-seven hours worth of presentations, panel discussions, and academic banter, nicely split by a catered dutch oven lunch that featured six cobbler options for dessert.

I shouldn't have left my camera in the car.

By 3:45pm, I was back out on the road home, this time paying considerably less attention to the scenic grandeur around me, and considerably more attention to the slowpokes that had crowded up the two-lane highway in the meantime. But once I got past Duchesne again, I started to notice some more picturesque venues, and so I pulled off into a muddy viewing area near a reservoir that was still frozen over, and sacrificed my "good shoes" in order to grab some photos of the mountains, the frozen tundra...and a corn dog.

The black spot on the left side of the photo is a bird. Or Robert Redford.

So am I a morning person now? Wholly converted with the new motivation to rise early and take advantage of the natural beauties of daybreak, grateful for the wonderful state of my nativity?

Nope. But at least I feel better about driving to Roosevelt at 5:30 in the morning.


*Pronounced "Doo-SHANE", as in, "Hey Vinnie, take this .45 out behind the pizzeria and do Shane."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Me and the Desperate Housewives

At 10:15AM this morning, while miming Kung Fu moves to a rave version of “Rock Me Amadeus” with two-dozen desperate housewives, I started having flashbacks to my days at Centerville Junior High.

Back in the seventh grade, Friday gym classes during the winter months were spent in haggard rows facing a small television set, staggering around to an aerobic workout that was usually led by Jane Fonda or Lyle Alzado. I liked the Alzado workout the best, because he would sneer at the camera.

Eighteen years later, I bounced in place while tossing out badly-formed upper-cuts and jabs in the Body Combat class at XCel Spa and Fitness. Ironically, the class instructor was a girl I had gone to junior high with.

In a determined effort to work out the bits of my body that actually needed working out, I’d joined one of the free classes that came with the gym membership I wasn’t using. After glancing nervously at the class from my weight bench for two weeks, I had worked up the nerve to try the class myself.

I had two primary concerns: the first was the fact that the class seemed to be made up entirely of women. Usually such odds work in my favor, but I had the suspicion that a guy infiltrating a gym class full of women would be seen as a pervert, especially since I guessed most of them would be married. I also figured they’d assume a guy who attended a gym class at 9:30AM was unemployed.

My other concern was that I am horribly out of shape. It would be tough enough to walk into a class full of females, but it would be even worse to have them watch me get carried out on a stretcher five minutes into the workout.

But life is all about taking risks, so this morning I marched onto the hardwood floor of the workout room as if I were bravely facing a firing squad. I took up a position two strides from the exit, in case I needed a quick getaway to go throw up or spontaneously combust. While waiting for class to begin, I darted my eyes around the room, being careful not to land on any one class member long enough to make anyone think I was leering.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. Once the workout started, I was too busy watching the instructor and trying to figure out what the moves were to get distracted staring at any of my classmates. It also conveniently prevented me from getting too tired, since I spent a lot of time standing around while everyone else kicked and punched in precision time. Plus there were two other dudes at the front of the class, so I was in fat city.

Actually, if I manage to make it to a few of these classes, I’m hoping to get myself out of fat city; at least out of the fat city that has been going through an urban renewal around my midsection. I don’t know that my Kung Fu moves will help much, but if I ever go to a rave in Salt Lake I may spontaneously burst into a killer series of jabs and roundhouse kicks.

So after an hour of kicking, punching, hopping, and standing around, all while listening to the kind of music they usually use to flush out hostiles in hostage situations, I made it through my first Body Combat workout, and left with the full intention of going back next week. I may even try the Yoga class sometime. Just as long as I can stay close to the door.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Seven MasterCard Moments

In the week and a half since moving for the third time in four months (all of which took place in a five-mile radius) I’ve rekindled an odd habit: over dinner or lunch, I watch the second half of one of my DVD’s. The theory is that by starting the film halfway through, I won’t feel guilty for taking the time to watch the entire thing. I just can’t sit at a kitchen table and eat; I have to be watching something.

With that in mind, here is a sampling of some of the half-films I’ve taken in recently. I recommend each to you in its full non-meal-edited form.

The Great Escape

OK, so you’ve got Nazi’s, Steve McQueen, the dude from Rockford Files, and a young version of the guy that created Jurassic Park. Plus you’ve got James Colburn hanging out with the French Resistance and one of the all-time great movie themes. At nearly three hours, “The Great Escape” is an investment, but it is certainly a worthwhile one.

MasterCard Moment: Bartlett gets to “stretch his legs” before the “long journey ahead”.

* * *


Even better…this time you’ve got Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, and Pele playing soccer against the Nazi’s. And the craziest thing about it is the movie totally works.

MasterCard Moment: The voluntary arm-breaking to spring Rocky from solitary. “Make it a clean break, will you?”

* * *

Napoleon Dynamite

I finally lifted my two-year moratorium on this one last weekend in Vegas. And it’s just as good as I remember it.

MasterCard Moment: Uncle Rico hits Napoleon in the face…with Kip’s steak.

* * *

The Empire Strikes Back

I don’t know if it was Lawrence Kasdan’s writing, Irving Kirshner’s directing, or John Williams and George Lucas hitting their creative peaks at the same time, but the final result is astounding. Plus this time the Special Edition stuff actually works. (Aside from over-dubbing Boba Fett with the New Zealand accent.)

MasterCard Moment: Most would vote for “I am your father”, but my favorite moment is when Artoo finally springs the outside door and Lando and Leia flee Cloud City in a hail of laser-fire.

* * *

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

I watched this thing about a dozen times during November of 2002 while writing a paper on Ricardo Montalban, and I still love this movie. This is the one to show people that insist they hate “Star Trek”. If they convert, great. If not, then at least you get the satisfaction of forcing an anti-sci-fi snob to watch William Shatner for two hours.

MasterCard Moment: Kirk inside the Genesis Cave: “I don’t like to lose.”

* * *


The western for the generation that missed out on westerns. Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, and Kevin Costner’s second-greatest onscreen performance (next to his role as the dead body in “The Big Chill”). Plus you’ve got John “Monty Python” Cleese playing a local sheriff and Jeff Goldblum’s sleeve-loaded single-shot pistol.

MasterCard Moment: Glover and Glenn inside the cave: “They took the little boy with them.”

* * *

Arthur 2: On the Rocks

For a brief, shining moment in the early 80’s, Dudley Moore, John Geilgud and Burt Bacharach combined forces to create one of the funniest drunks of all-time. The original was a classic, the sequel a clear step down, but it still delivered some great one-liners.

MasterCard Moment: In a local bar, Arthur—who despite a clear rejection of any discipline in life has somehow managed to become a jazz pianist—serenades the local patrons with an improvised song about fabricated half-inch pipe.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

An open letter to my five loyal readers

Dear reader (and I do mean "dear", albeit in a purely platonic way, assuming that some of you may be in legally sanctioned committed relationships),

I feel terrible that the last two or three weeks have seen so little activity on The Wounded Mosquito. Please understand that I am aware of my lack of productivity, and mourn it exceedingly. I could provide a list of excuses for this lapse, such as writer's block, the various injuries to a number of Jazz players, the fact that the government is trying to milk me for a further $300 on my taxes this year, or the fact that much of my recent material has been shipped to various KSL representatives in an effort to win a spot as a contributing editor on the Nightside Project. I could even man up and admit that my last post--the one on Utah drivers--was only 50% new, and was largely a recycled piece that I pulled off the old Planet Venison site, a site that hasn't seen a sincere update in nearly a year now.

No, all excuses aside, I must give you the real reason for my MIA status: for days I have been unable to turn away from the media frenzy surrounding Anna Nicole Smith. Yes, dear friend, every moment I am not firmly committed to teaching or doing whatever it is that I do professionally these days, I am cycling through channels 41 through 49, eager to get the breaking update on the demise of the former Miss Smith. You can toss aside the Grammy's, the Oscar's, (also known as the "We Hate President Bush Awards, Vol's I and II."). I really don't care about why Britney went to la-la land and decided that the Mr. Clean special was the hot haircut to score. I can't even be bothered with the official opening of Presidential Election 2008 festivities, and all the tired references to polygamy and Mitt Romney it is already making. No, I'm just too fascinated with the Anna Nicole Smith story. Thank goodness it's on every channel. I would sincerely hate to see any pebble of news left uncovered in this one.

It has occurred to me, however, that maybe there is something wrong with this obsession of mine. Maybe there is more to life than slavishly following the fallout of a former reality-TV star's death. Maybe Fox News and CNN and Larry King really should find something more important to report on. There was that former Jazz player that just came out of the closet--maybe we could hear some more about that.

In the meantime, my friends, if you'd really like to see some more material on this thing, and I know you do--your jobs really aren't all that interesting, are they?--why don't you drop me a line, fire off a little message, and tell me what you want to hear about. Let's go for a little stimulus-response, eh? You can post comments here or just e-mail me at

I need your help. Get me back on the wagon. Save me from the netherworld of Anna-land.