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Know the West

Heard around the West


"WOW! Did I miss something?" asks Patrice Mason in her letter to the Moab, Utah, Times-Independent. Then she jumped into the fray: "I have a vagina. Half of the people in Moab have vaginas. And let us not forget that each and every one of us passed through one on the way into the world. Yes, boys and girls … even Jesus!"

Vagina, vagina. For a while that seemed all letter-writers to the Moab weekly cared about. Scores wrote in recently to praise or damn Eve Ensler’s play called The Vagina Monologues, performed by a local theater group in Moab after its long run in New York City. Freeing women to accept their sexuality was one of Ensler’s aims; it’s a safe bet that another was firing up a debate. And thanks to the venerable weekly in this mountain-biking, former mining town, readers of the Times-Independent got to shoot off lots of fireworks.

"Trashy" and "vulgar" were some of the words locals lobbed at The Vagina Monologues, though some could not bring themselves to spell "vagina" past the letter V. Other critics urged greater community oversight of what plays got performed, which led L.T. Atkinson to thunder: "Censorship? Not in my town!" Damian Nashtook mocked three of the letter-writing critics: "I want to commend them. It takes courage to write so passionately against a play that you haven’t seen and clearly don’t understand." Beverly Davis fired back: "If something looks like garbage, and smells rotten, one does not need to ingest a plate of it to determine it is garbage."

Outrage probably worked to swell the ranks of the play’s supporters, who had an advantage since they’d actually seen one of the four sold-out performances. One told how it felt to be there: "I saw no one leave because they were offended," wrote Randy Evans. "I saw no one degraded. I saw no evil. I saw love and sharing and joy. Is there a problem with that?"

In Idaho, there is a problem these days with a foul word for vagina. It’s the word "squaw," understood by many Native Americans to signify the word "cunt," always degrading to women. Montana removed the word from place names, reports the Boise Weekly, and Idaho Democrats would have followed suit for close to 100 "squaw" names in their state. But Idaho Republicans in the Legislature recently balked, calling the move confusing, costly, political correctness and an Indian obsession.

So to illustrate how it might feel for Native Americans to see "squaw" in names for everything from dams to mountain peaks, the weekly’s Mindy Kay began her mock "Idaho Road Trip" this way: "Ever want to escape to Cuntberry Spring? Or load up the kids and dog in the RV and head up to Cunt Creek Campground for the weekend? Don’t forget to get your kids’ picture taken at Cuntit – a name that’ll keep the family laughing for hours. Ah. Good times in Idaho. Good times."

Move over, SUVs, the T-Rex of all sport utility vehicles is coming to town. Or so says the Aspen Daily News, about behemoths called Unimogs, made in Germany. The boxy vehicles weigh up to 27,500 pounds, extend 20 feet and get 10 miles to the gallon. But what are they good for? According to enthusiasts based in Walnut Creek, Calif., the Unimogs are "fun to drive off-road as a recreational vehicle." The importer, a branch of Daimler Chrysler, says the vehicles are more accurately described as "work trucks," not off-road vehicles. There’s just one problem with that assurance, says the Aspen daily. A brochure initially distributed for the Unimog tells potential buyers that "wanting to conquer the great outdoors is simply not a good reason to give up leather and air conditioning." In the U.S. in 2002, 300 Unimogs are expected to go on sale — if "sale" is the right word for a social Darwinist vehicle that ranges in price from $84,000 to $150,000.

For those interested in less — much less — rather than more, there’s always the scooter, once considered a toy for kids. Thousands of adults have bought motorized versions featuring rechargeable batteries and portability, so there’s never a need to hunt for a parking space. Working backward, California company Zapworld.com just introduced an electric scooter for 6-year-olds, kick-starting, perhaps, a yen for carless commuting, and a generation of fat kids.

Heard around the West invites readers to get involved in the column. Send any tidbits that merit sharing — small-town newspaper clips, personal anecdotes, relevant bumper sticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or [email protected]