“Coco,” a Story About Borders and Love, Is a Definitive Movie for This Moment ~ The New Yorker

By Jia Tolentino ~ June 16, 2018

 

Tolentino-Coco

Coco” is a movie about borders more than anything—the beauty in their porousness, the absolute pain produced when a border locks you away from your family.

Photograph Courtesy Pixar

 

In the weeks since that viewing, “Coco” love has continued to spread among my demographic—thanks, in part, to the movie’s release on Netflix in May. “Coco” is unlike any film I can think of: it presents death as a life-affirming inevitability; its story line about grudges and abandonment makes you feel less alone. The protagonist, Miguel, is a twelve-year-old boy in the fictional Mexican town of Santa Cecilia—named for the patron saint of musicians—and he is trying to get out from under the shadow of his great-great-grandfather, who left his family to pursue a career as a musician. His wife, the ferocious Mamá Imelda, was left to take care of their young daughter, Coco. She instituted a permanent household ban on music and started making shoes.

We meet Coco as an old woman. Her daughter, Miguel’s grandmother, now runs the family and its shoemaking business with an iron chancla. Earnest, sweet Miguel teaches himself to play the guitar in the attic, watching and re-watching tapes of the bygone star Ernesto de la Cruz. On the Day of the Dead, he accidentally shatters a framed photograph on the family ofrenda, then spots a hidden detail in the picture, one that makes him suspect that his wayward ancestor was in fact de la Cruz himself. He sprints to the town mausoleum, hoping to borrow de la Cruz’s guitar and prove the value of music to his family. Instead, the guitar turns Miguel invisible, and whisks him across a skybridge covered in thick, soft marigold petals that glow like lava. He falls to his knees in the petals, and then looks up to see a grand floating metropolis, confetti-colored in the darkness: the Land of the Dead.

The second and third acts of the movie are mostly set in this city of jubilant sugar-skull skeletons, where you exist only as long as you are remembered by the living. (You can cross over to the living world on the Day of the Dead, but only if your photo is on display.) Miguel joins up with a raggedy show-biz hustler named Héctor, who’s desperate to get his picture back up on an ofrenda, and who says he can bring Miguel to de la Cruz. Héctor lives in a waterfront shantytown filled with people who are about to be forgotten; at one point, he begs a guitar for Miguel off an ill-tempered cowboy named Chicharrón, who vanishes as soon as Héctor finishes singing an old dirty song.

Eventually, Miguel realizes that Héctor is his real ancestor, and the movie sprints to a conclusion that’s as skillfully engineered to produce waterworks as the montage at the beginning of “Up.” But until the end, “Coco” is mostly, wonderfully, a mess of conflict and disappointment and sadness. Héctor seems to have failed everyone who takes a chance on him. Miguel’s face, painted in skeleton camouflage, often droops as if he were a sad little black-and-white dog. “Coco” is animated by sweetness, but this sweetness is subterranean, bursting through mostly in tiny details: the way that both Mamá Imelda and Miguel’s grandmother brandish shoes when they’re angry; or how the daffy Xolo dog that accompanies Miguel on his adventure is named Dante; or how the skeletons return to their city through the Day of the Dead’s efficient T.S.A. system, declaring the churros and beer that their families gave them for their journey home.

~~~  MAS  ~~~

In Japan, Haiku on the Rocks

24Japan4-superJumbo.jpgMatsuyama Castle, one of Japan’s 12 original castles. Credit Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

Welcome to the world of the haiku bar trail. Matsuyama, Japan, is celebrating its 19th-century haiku poet, Masaoka Shiki, who coined the term haiku, with related events.

 

By Adam H. Graham

On a cold and rainy night earlier this year, I found myself at Hoyaken, a matchbook-size bar in Matsuyama, a city in the southwest corner of Shikoku, the least visited of Japan’s four main islands.

 

In Shikoku dialect, Hoyaken means “but anyway,” and there at the bar, chopsticks rested on a perfectly still peanut shell, while sake and literary conversation flowed. The bar’s owners, husband and wife Tomoko and Satoshi Kadoya, talked to me about their favorite poets, both Japanese and American. But haiku was never far from their minds.

Hoyaken is stocked with magazines and bilingual glossaries of “kigo,” haiku words used to connote the season like cicada for summer, scarecrow for autumn and the winter-blooming camellia. It is an ideal setting to write these 17-syllable seasonal poems using the classic 5-7-5 syllable stanzas or to drop the syllable form altogether and go freestyle as most haiku enthusiasts do these days.

 

A haiku-inspired cocktail at Riff Bar in Matsuyama.Credit Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

 

Welcome to the haiku bar trail.

Matsuyama, Shikoku’s biggest and liveliest city is known for its 19th-century haiku poet, Masaoka Shiki, one of Japan’s four haiku masters. Shiki coined the term haiku.

This year, to celebrate Shiki’s 150th birthday, the city launched a program of haiku-related events, including a recent haiku photo contest, a haiku sensory trail where you can experience the hourly chimes and dancing figurines of the Botchan Karakuri wind-up clock or the scent of incense at Ishite-Ji temple, and the haiku bar trail, where you can hone your haiku techniques while nursing a boozy concoction inspired by your own verse.

The idea of the haiku bars comes from the Matsuyama resident Kim Changhee, a haiku writer, illustrator and editor of Haiku Magazine’s 100-Year Haiku Plan.

“New Orleans has its jazz bars, so Matsuyama should have haiku bars,” he said in terms as simple as a haiku itself.

Dogo Onsen, a neighborhood known for its ancient hot baths. Credit Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

 

Three bars have joined the haiku trail so far and a few hotels in nearby Dogo Onsen, an outlying neighborhood known for its ancient hot baths, are expected to join in 2018. At each location, visitors are expected to write their own haiku. Haiku pen names are given for free and it’s 900 Yen (about $8) to experience a haiku-inspired cocktail. I tried my hand last winter at Bar Caravan, a now-defunct bar in the city center.

Instead of a drink, the bespectacled bartender Chieko gave me a pen and paper. I wrote on it:

“1,000 cold grays

at Dogo Park, until

Kawasemi blue!”

I handed it to the bartender. She read it, looking puzzled, then exclaimed “Ah, Kawasemi!” Kawasemi is Japanese for the colorful kingfisher bird. She scurried away and returned, smiling with a martini glass filled with the unmistakable crystalline blue Curaçao liquor and vodka. By day, Chieko is a member of a jazz haiku group, but by night she pours spirits in exchange for verse. She now serves haiku cocktails at Riff Bar, a few blocks from Hoyaken.

Haiku cocktails run the gamut — some are subtle and emphasize local liqueurs made in Shikoku’s Ehime Prefecture, known for its unique varietals of citrus like iyokan, mikan and even yuzu, while others feature technicolor concoctions using Midori and Curaçao. (Unless you love those syrupy spirits, be careful which colors you wax poetic about.)

Haiku boxes are found around historic sites and parks in Matsuyama for visitors to pen their own haiku and deposit it. Credit Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

In addition to experiencing the haiku bars, I dropped by a haiku jazz bar called Monk with a group of haiku writers where we listened to the all-female Japanese jazz quintet Ladybird. I also spent a few days exploring the city’s haiku trail, stopping to write additional verse at some of the 93 haiku boxes (including 10 new ones) around the city’s historic sites and parks, like hilly Dogo Park, with its ponds, cherry trees and Shinto-shrine lined trails. It was there that I spent a gray afternoon bird-watching for Kawasemi, the common kingfisher who would later inspire my haiku.

Haiku boxes can be found at the 7th-century hilltop Hōgon-ji Temple, at an ice-cream stand on the trail along the 400-year-old stone walls outside Matsuyama Castle, one of Japan’s 12 original castles, and outside the famed Dogo Onsen, a vintage bathhouse that inspired Studio Ghibli’sanime classic Spirited Away. At each box, there’s a pen and paper for visitors to compose haiku and deposit it in a drop-box where it will later be collected.

Every two months, the best Japanese haiku are chosen and presented in the local newspaper, Ehime Shinbun. The best haiku by foreign enthusiasts like myself are only selected once a year. A man and his kingfisher can dream.

 

By day, Chieko is a member of a jazz haiku group, by night she pours spirits in exchange for verseCredit Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

David Lynch On ‘Room To Dream’ ~ LISTEN

NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro asks David Lynch about Room to Dream, the director’s new memoir.

~~~  LISTEN  ~~~

         ROOM TO DREAM

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An unprecedented look into the personal and creative life of the visionary auteur David Lynch, through his own words and those of his closest colleagues, friends, and family

In this unique hybrid of biography and memoir, David Lynch opens up for the first time about a life lived in pursuit of his singular vision, and the many heartaches and struggles he’s faced to bring his unorthodox projects to fruition. Lynch’s lyrical, intimate, and unfiltered personal reflections riff off biographical sections written by close collaborator Kristine McKenna and based on more than one hundred new interviews with surprisingly candid ex-wives, family members, actors, agents, musicians, and colleagues in various fields who all have their own takes on what happened.

Room to Dream is a landmark book that offers a onetime all-access pass into the life and mind of one of our most enigmatic and utterly original living artists.

THE BOOK REVIEW PODCAST Michael Pollan on Drugs ~ NYT

Michael Pollan on His Acid Test

 

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Tune in, turn on: This week on the podcast, Michael Pollan talks about his new book, “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.” Pollan is best known these days as a food writer, but he reminds listeners that his chief interest has always been the natural world and the ways it intersects with human culture — so psychedelics were a logical next step. “Most of the people listening to this podcast have probably used a plant to change consciousness today,” he says, “whether it was smoking a cigarette or having a coffee or eating a bite of chocolate. Or something more serious. I’ve always found that to be a very interesting and universal human desire worthy of explanation. So when I heard about this research going on using psilocybin, the chemical in magic mushrooms, to treat people and to induce so-called mystical experiences, I thought, Well it’s really time to get back and to get a harder look at that whole subject.”

Among other things, Pollan discusses the ways that psychedelics dissolve our sense of self, and the potential mental health benefits they bestow as a result. “Psilocybin gives you such a powerful psychological experience that it kind of reboots your brain, your mind,” he says. “A lot of depression is a sort of self-punishment, as even Freud understood. We get trapped in these loops of rumination that are very destructive, and the stories that we tell ourselves: you know, that we’re unworthy of love, that we can’t get through the next hour with a cigarette, whatever it is. And these deep, deep grooves of thought are very hard to get out of. They disconnect us from other people, from nature, from an earlier idea of who we are. The mystical experience, as it’s sometimes called, or the experience of the dissolution of the ego, gets us out of those grooves and gives us a break from the tyranny of the ego, which can be a very harsh ruler.”

~~~  LISTEN  ~~~

An American editorial cartoonist has been fired for skewering Trump. He likely won’t be the last. ~ The Washington Post

June 15
“Oh, good lord.”

That was my reaction the day after the election of Donald Trump in November of 2016, when it dawned on me that I would be serving my year as president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists during the same time as the guy who wanted to “open up” libel laws and weaken the First Amendment so he could sue journalists more easily. Instead of the usual loss of jobs for editorial cartoonists that a president of the AAEC has to address during his or her tenure, now I’d be dealing with a much more fundamental threat to our profession: a president of the United States who has no idea or respect for the institution of a free press and its role in a democracy.

I did worry that editorial cartooning would be the next target of a president so enamored of visuals. That didn’t happen. In retrospect, I’m fairly certain it’s because Trump doesn’t read; he gets all his news from the television (Fox News) and uses Twitter as his megaphone. And I’m guessing his staff doesn’t cut out cartoons and tape them to the White House refrigerator so he will see them as he goes for his regular two scoops of ice cream. But with the firing of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist Rob Rogers, we now see that suppressing a free press can be accomplished without an authoritarian president’s orders. Michael Cohen isn’t the only “fixer” Trump has at his disposal.

Rob Rogers has been the editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for more than 25 years. Most working cartoonists have had an occasional idea spiked by his or her editor. But in the past few weeks, editorial director Keith Burris and publisher John Robinson Block have refused to publish six of Rogers’s cartoons, all criticizing Trump or his policies. Block and Burris have also rejected many of Rogers’s rough sketch ideas for several months.

This wasn’t the first time Block has used his position to defend President Trump’s actions; in January he demanded an editorial run in the Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade (where he is also the publisher) supporting Trump’s use of the term “shithole countries.”

I realize now I didn’t recognize this other danger of an authoritarian president: his enablers and the willing supporters who squash dissent and help attack the free press and subvert the Constitution. The fact that Trump will use any opportunity to spread lies and whip up hatred toward journalists only enables his powerful supporters in the media to do his dirty work for him. In April, another disturbing example of journalistic manipulation was exposed when a video surfaced showing news anchors from 45 Sinclair-owned stations reciting word for word the same script criticizing the mainstream media and spouting the “fake news” accusations that Trump uses in his diatribes. While Trump used the opportunity to blast its critics and offer his support for the “superior” Sinclair Broadcasting, he hadn’t orchestrated this abuse of journalistic integrity. He didn’t have to; there were others willing to do it for him.

Through satire, humor and pointed caricatures, editorial cartoonists criticize leaders and governments that are behaving badly. The purpose of an editorial cartoonist is to hold politicians and powerful institutions accountable — and we all know how little President Trump thinks he, his family or his sycophants should be held accountable. Rogers was the first American editorial cartoonist to lose his job as a result, but he won’t be the last. Trump has many “fixers.”

This newspaper owner (on right) is behind the firing of an editorial cartoonist who dared criticize . Here are 10 of the cartoons he wouldn’t let see print. https://thenib.com/pittsburgh-post-gazette-anti-trump-cartoons-rob-rogers  @Rob_Rogers @thenib @laloalcaraz @TheRickWilson @davidaxelrod

Below are five recent cartoons the Post-Gazette refused to publish.

Immigrant Children cartoon:

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Pardon cartoon:

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Ambien cartoon:

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~~~

Sensitivity Training cartoon:

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~~~

Memorial Day cartoon:

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~~~~~~

I Was Fired for Making Fun of Trump

By Rob Rogers

Mr. Rogers joined The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as an editorial cartoonist in 1993. He worked there until this week. In 1999, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

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~~~  READ  ~~~

Ry Cooder’s Elegant Indignation ~ an old New Yorker piece from 2011.

I can’t write briefly about Ry Cooder, the virtuoso guitarist who has a new record, “Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down.” Admiration for his accomplishments, his singularity, and the longevity and diversity of his career intervene. For more than forty years, since Cooder released his first record, “Ry Cooder,” in 1970, he has been a musician other musicians have followed closely, and no popular musician has a broader or deeper catalog. He has played songs so simple that they are hardly songs, and songs so complex that they would tax, if not overwhelm, the capacities of most lauded guitarists. He had quit making rock ‘n’ roll records sixteen years before Rolling Stone, in 2003, named him the 8th greatest guitarist on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time (three of the seven ahead of him are dead guys). Even so, his influence has been felt more than his records have been heard, with perhaps one exception: the group of elderly Cuban musicians whom he assembled and recorded in 1997 and called the Buena Vista Social Club.

Cooder’s guitar playing is expressive, elegant, and rhythmically intricate. It frequently has a pressured attack that he has described as having the feel of “some kind of steam device gone out of control.” His sense of phrasing was partly imprinted in his childhood by a record of brass music made by a group of African-American men who found instruments in a field left by Civil War soldiers during a retreat, and played them according to their own inclinations. If you wonder what his sensibility sounds like when applied to rock ‘n’ roll—one version of it anyway—the most widely known example I can think of comes from the period when Cooder had been hired to augment the Rolling Stones during the recording of “Let It Bleed.” He was playing by himself in the studio, goofing around with some changes, when Mick Jagger danced over and said, How do you do that? You tune the E string down to D, place your fingers there, and pull them off quickly, that’s very good. Keith, perhaps you should see this. And before long, the Rolling Stones were collecting royalties for “Honky Tonk Women,” which sounds precisely like a Ry Cooder song and absolutely nothing like any other song ever produced by the Rolling Stones in more than forty years. According to Richards in his recent autobiography, Cooder showed him the open G tuning which became his mainstay and accounts for the full-bodied chordal declarations that characterize songs such as “Gimme Shelter,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Start Me Up,” and “Brown Sugar.” The most succinct way I can think of to describe the latticed style that Keith Richards says he has sought to achieve with Ron Wood is to say that for thirty-five years the Stones have been trying to do with four hands what Cooder can do with two.

Cooder might have been heard more widely except that he doesn’t like to perform. He doesn’t care for being watched so closely or having to entertain. “I couldn’t go out there anymore and say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, and especially you ladies,’” he says. The people who like the applause should have it, he feels, but he says he doesn’t care for it. After performing, he used to feel like a withered balloon under a chair on the day after a child’s birthday party. He grew up in recording studios and is more at home there, privately trying to capture something ephemeral and elusive—“the big note,” a friend of his has said, the one that makes all the other concerns fall away. In the last few years, he has toured briefly in Europe and Japan and Australia, with his son, Joachim, playing drums and Nick Lowe playing bass—but not in North America.

For most of Cooder’s career he arranged songs from other writers and various historical sources ranging from Depression era songs, to Bix Beiderbecke’s repertoire, to folk and drifter and cowboy songs, miner’s songs, work songs, surf songs, jukebox songs, calypsos, roadhouse and dance hall songs, protest songs, and songs from the registry of rhythm and blues—but in 2003 he began recording albums of his own material. (My own introductory list of highlights from Cooder’s earlier period: “Great Dreams from Heaven,” “How Can you Keep on Movin’,” “Get Rhythm,” which has a fantastic video, “In a Mist,” “Ditty Wah Ditty,” “Smack Dab in the Middle,” “Tattler,” “France Chance,” “Little Sister,” “Dark at the End of the Street,” “Maria Elena,” “I Think It’s Going to Work Out Fine,” “The Very Thing That Makes You Rich,” and I’ll stop, but I could keep going happily.) The recent records formed a kind of Los Angeles trilogy. The first, “Chavez Ravine.” was inspired by black-and-white photographs of the hill town community inhabited by Mexicans and destroyed to build Dodgers Stadium. The second, “My Name is Buddy,” concerned a red cat named Buddy and his adventures during the most virulent period of anti-workingman and anti-communist feeling. One of the songs he sings is “Red Cat Till I Die.” The third record, “I, Flathead,” is a desert narrative about salt-flat drag racers and an alien racer entangled in a complicated moral dilemma.

What “Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down” shares with them is an indignation over the economic and ethical disparities of American life and the destructive and scoundrely meanness of the privileges given to the rich. “No Banker Left Behind,” ridicules the considerations extended to the prosperous men and women who grabbed everything not nailed down during the last few years. The norteño “El Corrido de Jesse James,” a lampoon of the notion of honor among thieves, has Jesse James, sitting around in heaven, wishing to have his forty-four returned in order to persuade the bankers to “put that bonus money back where it belongs.” In the sleek country rocker “Quicksand,” a Mexican man describes a border crossing during which the guide for his group leaves in the middle of the night, and the man who takes over dies the next day in the sun. “Then a Dodge Ram truck drove down on us / Said I’m your Arizona vigilante man / I’m here to say, You ain’t welcome in Yuma / I’m takin’ you out as hard as I can.”

“Dirty Chateau” is an exchange between a man with a big house and inconsiderate habits and his maid whose people were farm workers. In the reggae shaded “Humpty Dumpty World,” God deplores the insubstantiality of his creation, with its rabble-rousing politicians and craven television commentators. “I thought I had built upon a solid rock / but it’s just a Humpty Dumpty World,” he sings.

“Baby Joined the Army” is a haunting, mesmeric lament by a young man whose simple girlfriend signs up to become a solider. She’s tired of her town and was lured by the assurance that “If I get killed in battle, I still get paid.”

In the trancy moan, “Lord Tell Me Why” a baffled, older working man wonders why, “A white man ain’t worth nothing in this world no more.” And “John Lee Hooker for President” is a hallucinated description by John Lee Hooker of his Presidency, where all the Supreme Court Justices are “fine looking women,” and mealy-mouthed corruption is not tolerated. “I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democratic / Under John Lee Hooker everything’s going to be copastatic”

~~~  MORE  ~~~

Sunday Reading: The Beat Generation

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The poet Allen Ginsberg was born ninety-two years ago today, on June 3rd, 1926. To celebrate, we’re bringing you pieces about the Beat Generation and the ways it changed American culture. Subscribers can read Jane Kramer’s twopart Profile of Ginsberg, which follows him across America, from Greenwich Village to San Francisco. In “Drive, He Wrote,” Louis Menand explores the composition and legacy of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”; in “The Outlaw,” Peter Schjeldahl chronicles the extraordinary life of William S. Burroughs, whose “Naked Lunch” “brought to social notice themes of drug use, homosexuality, hyperbolic violence, and anti-authoritarian paranoia.” Writing in 1967, Renata Adler provides an unforgettable snapshot of hippie life on the Sunset Strip, in “Fly Trans-Love Airways,” while Dana Goodyear travels to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to meet the ecological poet Gary Snyder, in “Zen Master.” Adam Green browses the Strand bookstore with the actor Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Ginsberg in the film “Kill Your Darlings,” while Jonathan Lethem recalls his days as a Brooklyn bookstore clerk, when he encountered Herbert Huncke, a New York City character who “may or may not have been the source of the term ‘Beat,’ ” and who appeared, in fictionalized form, in “On the Road” and other books. We hope these pieces energize your reading list—or inspire your next road trip.

—David Remnick

“Drive, He Wrote”

“Books like Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ have a different kind of influence as well. They can, whether we think of them as great literature or not, get into the blood. They give content to experience.” Read more.


“The Outlaw”

“William S. Burroughs wages literary war not on perceptible real-world targets but against suggestions that anyone is responsible for anything.” Read more.


“Fly Trans-Love Airways”

“What seems to have brought the Sunset Strip to its present impasse was an economic battle with, and over, teen-agers; and what apparently drew the teen-agers to the Strip in the first place was a musical development.” Read more.


“Zen Master”

“Even Gary Snyder’s most intimate poems can have an impersonal quality: the ‘I,’ sometimes suppressed, is unobtrusive—a vehicle for exploring the world, not a world in itself.” Read more.

 

~~~  CONTINUE READING  ~~~

 

 


New photos on old film

A year ago an acquaintance of mine, who is a photographer,  made the decision he was going to abandon film photography.   I was invited over and he gave me stacks of boxes of photographic paper and a box of expired TMax 100 4×5 sheet film.
The film expired in 1997.   I promptly put it in my freezer with my other stash of film and forgot it.   A few days ago I decided to test it.   I loaded 5 film holders (10 sheets)  and the day after Memorial Day drove up to Idaho Springs, where I turned off on the Mount Evans road.  Traffic was light, it was cloudy, with sun and shadow.  About eight miles up there is a pullout at a picnic area know as  ‘Chicago forks’.   A tributary creek drew my attention and I got out, set up my camera and made 10 exposures. The film was fine.
Stephen Collector

Stephen Collector was an old friend of Gaylord Guenin — the longtime voice of Woody Creek and the co-author of a definitive book on Aspen history.

Guenin was a longtime writer and editor who happily retreated to Woody Creek and Lenado after he lost his comfort zone in Aspen.

Guenin was an instrumental character in the Mountain Gazette magazine in the 1970s and later wrote the “Letter From Woody Creek” column for The Aspen Times, writing from the perspective of “Woody Creatures.”

He also was a bartender and manager of the Woody Creek Tavern when it was the frequent haunt of Hunter S. Thompson.