Pot dispensaries may be proliferating on Main Streets across the West, but a new sign that weed is going mainstream can be seen in Durango, a college town in southern Colorado that attracts lots of hikers, climbers and mountain bikers. Just turn on Durango’s public-access television channel, and you can watch pot-inspired recipes come to life on a new cooking show catchily called Cannabis Cuisine. It’s aimed at medical-marijuana card holders who “prefer to eat their medication rather than smoke it,” reports the Durango Herald. But the recipes demonstrated on camera by Ian Curie, a chef who works at Steamworks Brewing, aren’t for mere kitchen dabblers. The debut show included Southwestern specialties such as jalapeño popper appetizers with marijuana bud ground into the cream cheese, a main course of pineapple-chipotle double-roasted pig “that had been sitting in a marijuana marinade for 12 hours,” and a chocolate chile tart dessert topped with “Gooey Ganja Mango Sauce.” Curie, who says just about any recipe can incorporate marijuana — “especially ones that use butter, oil or flour” — obtained his medical marijuana card for a slipped disc because he couldn’t handle the side effects of oxycodone or other prescribed painkillers. “I was done with having my skin itch,” he says. Cannabis Cuisine is the first show of its kind in Colorado but not the first in the region: California inaugurated a program called Cannabis Planet, which includes a cooking segment.
In other food news, there’s a restaurant in Phoenix called Mini Mercado Oaxaca that specializes in a dish that’s not even on the menu, reports the Arizona Republic. It’s available only in the summer, and people in the know — mainly people from Oaxaca in Mexico — have to ask, “Do you have chapulines today?” If chapulines are in season, what you get is a plate “full of little fried things” that you sprinkle in a tortilla and flavor with salt, lemon and maybe some salsa. “Mmmm. These grasshoppers sure taste good,” says writer Daniel Gonzalez. And, he adds, they don’t taste a bit like chicken. From Willamette Week Online in Oregon, we learned about a great part-time chocolate-tasting job in Portland. Well, actually, a one-day job. To become part of Oregon State University’s “Sensory and Consumer Group,” wannabe participants first had to complete a questionnaire: “Hint: Answer yes to question No. 1 — ‘Do you like and frequently eat chocolate?’ ”
Why would you bring pepper spray to a cooking contest for local chefs in Portland? Well, let’s just say that it was not employed to spice up one of the entrees. Instead, it was used by police to halt what Willamette Week Online described as a brawl featuring “drunken head-butts, chefs being ejected from a local bar and a pair of food industry pros being Tasered, pepper-sprayed and arrested by the cops.” The food fight was sparked mostly by the pièce de résistance — pork — because the pig whose meat was used in the winning recipe was not from Oregon, but from Iowa. Chef Eric Bechard took exception to the foreign food, and after engaging in several fistfights was arrested for disorderly conduct, harassment and interfering with a peace officer. Bechard suffered cuts and bruises to the face, but another chef, Randy Lowe, must have hit the bar floor even harder. Lowe, who was also arrested, went to the hospital the next day to take care of “a leg fracture, which was compliments of the situation last night.” Bechard explained that the foodies began throwing punches because everybody was drinking and that he, perhaps, had become too “Oregon-centric, maybe to a fault.”
After Mountain Gazette magazine asked its readers to send in “incendiary verbiage” about that quirky human habit of naming inanimate objects, Walt Read, now of Fresno, Calif., went back 45 years to his student days at Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., to recall the time he shared a funky house — for $40 a month — that quickly became known as “Poverty Flats.” The Flats became a hangout for artists, musicians and even some professors, though it had no phone and a bathroom that was marginal at best. Read says that one day, when the toilet overflowed, his roommate proposed a novel solution: “Let it run a while till we see the water get to a low spot.” Once the water pooled in the kitchen, “John got out his .22 rifle, shot a hole in the floor, and away the water went.” As for the vehicles students drove in the mid-’60s, Read says a lot of people back then called their car a Pisashit: “But I think that was a brand name, not a personal name.”
In April, staffers at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game decided to correct what they perceived as nature gone awry by sprinkling a handful of hungry predators around an island swarming with birds. The agency introduced three badgers and two skunks to 6-acre Gull Island in the Blackfoot Reservoir in hopes the animals would scare away some of the thousands of American white pelicans nesting there. Pelicans are blamed for devouring too many fish, says the Associated Press, “including sensitive Yellowstone cutthroat trout, as well as stocked hatchery-raised trout coveted by anglers.” Unfortunately, the predators, perhaps alarmed by the prospect of too much free food, bailed: Two badgers swam to the mainland and a third can’t be found. Of the skunks, one “skedaddled,” leaving the other alone to stop the pelican population from exploding. But, explained a regional supervisor of the Fish and Game Department, “This is exactly what adaptive management is. You try something, you learn something from it and decide what the best approach to take is.” The newbies may also have found the tiny island confining: Badgers and skunks both prefer around a 1,000-acre range.
A woman tried to ride her horse up to a takeout window at a Dairy Queen in Southeast Portland but got turned away, reports OregonLive.com. Some might call this discrimination, since many new restaurants in the area are adapting to the increasing number of cyclists. After a customer complained, for example, Burgerville revamped its 39 drive-throughs to make them “bike-friendly.” But unless your horse has training wheels, you’re out of luck: Most fast-food chains interviewed said that they would never serve anybody on a horse.
If you live in Utah, you can get a permit to carry a concealed weapon even if you have never fired a gun and don’t know a trigger from a teapot. This does not sit well with New Mexico, which recently told the Beehive State that its concealed weapon permits will no longer pass muster in New Mexico. In an editorial, the Salt Lake Tribune sympathized with New Mexico and agreed that its home state’s permissiveness was inexplicable: “Would Utah issue a driver license to someone who has never driven a car or passed a driving test?” New Mexico requires permit applicants to show they know how to fire a gun safely after taking a 15-hour firearms course; Utah, meanwhile, “has positioned itself as the supermarket for people around the nation to receive concealed-carry permits at bargain basement prices and with minimal training.”
Some Salt Lake City crooks easily get away with audacious heists, while others are, well, inept. The first caper involved the theft of Mayor Ralph Becker’s bike, locked in front of the main library while folks inside took part in an all-day Utah Bike Summit. The thief used bolt cutters to break the bike lock and presumably cycled away undetected. It was in the middle of the night that a less-successful crew targeted an ATM machine, stealing a pickup truck and using it as a battering ram to dislodge the cash machine from the sidewalk, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Though the noisy technique worked, the ATM unfortunately toppled through the window of a neighboring hair salon. Then the two men realized that the cash machine was stuck to the bottom of the truck, which ruined the whole robbery. Fleeing the scene on foot, the pair ran right into police, who’d been alerted by a witness.
The Vail Mountaineer in Colorado reports that adolescents aren’t the only ones who try to cheat by using someone else’s pricey ski pass. A city judge said he found that the 50-to-60 year-old crowd was surprisingly well represented among the freeloaders. In Arizona, the lodging industry decided to fight back after protests against the state’s punitive anti-immigration law went viral on the Web, and conventions started canceling en masse. The Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association retaliated by creating its own Facebook page, reports the Arizona Republic, urging tourists not to stay home and “punish 200,000 tourism employees.” In Idaho, Rex Rammell, a candidate for governor in the Republican primary against incumbent Gov. Butch Otter, has begun dragging a giant blowup of a Tyrannosaurus rex on a trailer to spice up his campaign rallies. The beast symbolizes his intention to “stand up to the feds,” he told the Spokesman-Review. In Helena, Mont., a team of scientists from Montana State University found that wolves were no match for people when it comes to scaring elk. This is not news to hunters, reports The Associated Press, since many report that “as soon as the first shot goes off, those animals are off to some protected area.” The elk made only “modest adjustments to their behavior when wolves were close by.” And from Dublin, Ireland, dispiriting projections for polar bears. Paddy Power, the country’s largest bookmaker, has been taking bets on how quickly the polar bear population will decline. “With global warming now generally agreed to be the most significant threat to the polar bear, we predict that their population will move in only one direction” — down — dipping between 15,000 to 20,000 during the next two years. The bookmaker adds that not a single bet has been placed on the polar bear population going up.
It became official Feb. 22: Visitors to national parks can now tote loaded firearms, openly carrying legal handguns, rifles and shotguns. But oh, the many restrictions, as noted in a handy brochure available at parks. Here’s a major one: Although it is legal to carry loaded weapons in national parks, existing laws and regulations prohibit their use, meaning no hunting and no target practice. You also can’t carry a gun into a federal facility within a park, which makes us wonder where tourists will stow their weapons when they walk into visitors’ centers to ask questions or use the bathroom. What’s more, a permit is required to carry a concealed weapon, and not all guns are legal: Most states prohibit fully automatic weapons. You also can’t get on a shuttle bus, ferry or boat in some parks if you’re carrying. Visitors to parks who can’t bear to be parted from their arsenals should check state laws to see how they apply to the new federal regulations.
With mordant humor, Salt Lake Tribune columnist Casey Jones skewers his state for its peculiar distinction: It is one of the few states that allows a prisoner condemned to death to choose his or her manner of dying. Choices, however, are limited to lethal injection or firing squad. Ronnie Lee Gardner, a death-row denizen for 25 years, picked a firing squad for his upcoming execution June 18, making him one of the last of a “dying breed,” Jones says dryly. Only Gary Gilmore and one other man have been so killed in Utah since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976; state law prohibits anyone sentenced after 2004 from choosing “between a cold needle or hot lead.” Volunteers from the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office “will send Gardner to hell Utah style.” But Jones complains there’s just no good way to kill a person these days: “The guillotine causes separation anxiety. The electric chair makes the lights dim. Burning at the stake contributes to climate change. …” Still, the state has to do something once someone is sentenced to die, he concludes, and we all know that the death penalty is a proven deterrent: “That’s why there are hardly any murders in America.”
COLORADO AND UTAH
Mesa State College on Colorado’s Western Slope displayed a bit of insensitivity to its Grand Junction neighbors recently, announcing that it was planning to create a “body farm” in one of the city’s fastest-growing residential areas. A body farm is a place where criminal justice students study the slow process of decay in donated cadavers. To put it mildly, this did not go over well with a few residents, reports the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. They worried about odor and bugs and the ugly razor wire on the fence enclosing the site — not to mention declining property values in the neighborhood. The college has since apologized and plans to move the project to a more remote location. Meanwhile, some Salt Lake City residents are outraged by the notion of a pet crematorium on a residential block. More precisely, the owners of a 115-year-old house want to turn it into a pet funeral home, complete with a crematory in the backyard and a mourning room for families in the front room, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. The owner of a nearby deli started a petition to protest the business, though the proprietors have assured neighbors that the crematory will be odorless, emitting only water vapor and carbon dioxide into the air.
Everyone loves dogs, right? Don’t be so sure. In its spring issue, Earth Island Journal reviewed the book Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living, by New Zealanders Robert and Brenda Vale. The Vales found that the carbon impact of a dog is double that of an SUV, that a dog of medium size chowing down on store-bought food eats 360 pounds of meat a year and 200 pounds of cereals, and that it takes more than two acres to grow the food for just one pooch. Dogs and house cats also attack wildlife and devastate the bird population. The Vales say the best pet is one that serves a dual function, like a chicken, which also lays eggs, though rabbits are good, too, “provided you eat them.” Dogs have their champions, of course, and in Wyoming they even have a life coach in Beverly Morgan, who calls herself a “dog listener,” reports the Cody Enterprise. Morgan says that when a dog owner comes home after a long day, the dog’s proper response should be to lie down and face front, sort of the equivalent of a curtsey, rather than jumping up and down. You don’t want to reward rambunctious behavior, she says. Morgan came to respect dogs while working as a rancher in Nebraska: “I employed dogs because it was cheaper than a man. I found a good dog not only can do excellent work but ended up saving my life.” A dog’s nature, she added, is so generous that the animals “deserve the best life they can have.” This almost certainly does not include ending up as an entrée.
In a freak accident, a huge elk apparently fell into a deep sandy hole and then got trapped, hung up by its massive antlers, reports the San Juan Record. Pictures verified the animal’s startling demise, though elsewhere, in an ad, the weekly paper acknowledged that 100 percent accuracy was elusive: “We leave some mistakes for you to find. Enjoy your reading.”
The folks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium named their new exhibit about climate change “Hot Pink Flamingos: Stories of Hope in a Changing Sea.” With the help of humor, a hopeful tone and charismatic animals such as penguins and jellyfish, exhibit planners hoped to get visitors talking about the contentious topic of how too much carbon dioxide is changing the atmosphere. There were interactive exhibits, including a woman standing inside a washing machine who touted using cold water to save energy. A helpful frying pan explained that vegetarian meals were a smart choice these days, while a refrigerator offered advice about buying local produce. But not everything was having fun: One black-and-white dairy cow appeared to be suffering an identity crisis. The hapless beast was fitted out with a gas mask because it was distressed by the methane that it and its colleagues around the world are burping into the atmosphere. The cow was not entirely unselfish in its motives: It also urged visitors to eat less beef and dairy. It offered other advice as well, suggesting that farmers start using cow patties to make alternative energy. On the aquarium’s blog, Montereybayaquarium.typepad.com/sea_notes, the exhibit was described as being “all about starting the conversation around a difficult topic,” but the resulting conversation featured some bellyaching, with critics complaining that the aquarium maligned cows by using inaccurate statistics about their methane output. How come cows have to take the rap for global warming while gas-guzzling cars and polluting industries got a pass? they demanded. And so on. “We will be avoiding the aquarium until that Cow is down!” concluded one visitor.
When it comes to the Cowboy State, comedian Jeff Foxworthy gets it, or so say some locals who’ve been e-mailing around some of his spot-on observations. He says that if “you’ve ever refused to buy something because it’s ‘too spendy’,” if “you’ve worn shorts and a parka at the same time,” if “your town has an equal number of bars and churches” and if “you know how to correctly pronounce Dubois, Kemmerer, Thermopolis, Meeteetse, and Fontenelle” or recognize all four seasons — “almost winter, winter, still winter, and road construction,” then you probably live in Wyoming.
The following tidbits are either true or false. (Answers appear below.) (l) Some lawmakers in Utah are growing “weary of bashing feds,” reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, says that since the Beehive State tries “to get every federal dollar we can,” let’s “put an end to this excessive posturing.” (2) In Portland, Ore., Willamette Week interviewed Bigfoot, who complained bitterly about a pipeline project that would rip up the Mount Hood National Forest. (3) In Lake Havasu City, Ariz., a woman was arrested for selling marijuana out of her ice-cream truck, reports the Associated Press. (4) In Billings, Mont., the Billings Gazette said “hundreds of people” waited for hours to see a doctor who might vouch that they required regular doses of marijuana. (5) Bob Moore, 81, in Milwaukie, Ore., gave away the store — Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods — to his employees, telling the Seattle Times that “these people are far too good at their jobs for me to just sell it.” You probably guessed it: All are actual reports, although Bigfoot’s comments were part of an April Fool’s prank. Or at least we think they were.
Sometimes you have to look a little silly to get the job done. It’s a risk Mark Renner, an avid bowhunter, was willing to take when he designed a hat to fool pronghorn antelope. The wily animals were always quick to flee once they spotted Renner standing up to shoot, so he tried outfitting a hard hat with real antelope horns. But the resulting headgear was too heavy, while the cloth horns he sewed onto a ball cap flopped over. Finally, reports Brett French in the Billings Gazette, Renner invented a hard polyurethane foam cap that resembles the entire head of a pronghorn and founded a Web site whose name reveals his invention’s purpose: BeTheDecoy.com. Renner’s father-in-law admits that wearing the hat “looks goofy” if you’re just standing around your truck, but out in the field, the disguise seems to fool the pronghorn. Even when the animals spotted him, he says, “they’d run only a few feet and then start feeding again.” Renner, who calls his $25 hat the SpeedGoat, says that with headgear under his belt, his next goal is to come up with a scent-free T-shirt and a face mask designed to look like a pronghorn.
Police responded recently to an unusual urgent call, reports the Seattle Times. Apparently thinking he was a ninja, a man had tried to leap over a 4- to 5-foot metal fence, but impaled himself instead. A police account dryly notes, “Clearly, he was overconfident of his abilities.” The man was taken to a nearby medical center.