« Return to this article

Know the West

Banned books, a punk pastor and a mischievous art project

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


A wonderfully ugly California condor that vanished from Grand Canyon National Park and was feared dead was found alive and well in southern Colorado. Franz Carver, a seasonal park ranger, spotted the 2-year-old male near Dolores. At first, he thought it was a turkey vulture, but with a wingspan of almost 10 feet, it looked way too big, he told the Cortez Journal. When he closely examined his photos, he noticed a tag on the bird’s wing, reading N8. California condors have wandered afar in both Arizona and Utah; now Coloradans who think they’ve seen the giant birds can proudly declare: “Yes, that was a condor!”

North Bonneville, a remote town of 1,000 in the Columbia Gorge, had just $20,000 in the bank a year ago and little hope of repairing its dilapidated “tot lot” playground. Without a retail sector bringing in sales taxes, the city would stay “on its knees financially,” said a consultant hired by the town to analyze its fiscal crisis. What could the little town do? Try selling drugs, of course. It might be unorthodox, but with marijuana legal in Washington, town officials wondered if they could create a public agency to run a municipal pot shop. The legal answer was yes. So, in early March, North Bonneville opened “Cannabis Corner” in a plain-Jane building on, yes, a corner, reports TheJointBlog. Cannabis Corner is a one-stop shop, selling buds and marijuana-infused cookies along with coffee, glass bongs and rolling papers, with sales averaging $2,200 a day, according to The Liberty Eagle blog. It’s strictly regulated: Pot shop workers, who start at $11 an hour, take the same drug test as town employees. The only difference is that they’re expected to test positive for pot, not negative. As one town official explained, “It’s important to have informed workers. We need to be doing constant trial and testing.” And what will the town do with the profits? Renovate that crumbling playground.

His “diverse content” and vivid depictions of -bullying earned the Native American writer Sherman Alexie a dubious honor last year. His semi-autobiographical book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, topped the list of 2014’s most frequently challenged and banned books in libraries around the country. Though it won the National Book Award in 2007, Alexie’s account of leaving the Spokane Indian Reservation to go to an all-white high school was criticized for being sexually explicit as well as profane. In Idaho, which removed the book from all of its public schools last year, critics also called it “anti-Christian,” containing words “we do not speak in our home,” reports the American Library Association. Alexie was undaunted: The book-banners “want to control debate and limit the imagination. I encourage debate and celebrate imagination.”

Some call it a mischievous art project, others a new form of trolling, but shoppers in a West Hollywood bookstore are finding strange titles in the self-help section: So your Son is a Centaur: Coping with Your Child’s Confusing Life Choices, and The Beginner’s Guide to Human Sacrifice. Actually, they’re fake jackets placed over other books, explains the Los Angeles Times. A group called Redditor ObviousPlant claims credit. Still, we can’t help echoing “author” Dr. Pinder Chipps’ wise advice about raising centaurs: “Whether your children have two feet or four hooves, your love for them should come first.”

She’s a 6-foot-1 pastor who wears jeans and a clerical collar. She spurns what she calls “priggish Christianity,” sports colorful arm tattoos and is proud to be “anti-excellence, pro-participation.” Her name is Nadia Bolz-Weber, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation she founded in Denver in 2008 is a far cry from holier-than-thou, reports Kirsten Akens, who profiled the minister for the Colorado Springs Independent. Bolz-Weber, 45, holds church services for some 200 fellow sinners, telling them, “Oh, my gosh, I admit some horrible things about myself. I would stop telling the stories if they would stop happening, but I’ve not run out of material to offer people of me being an asshole and what I’ve learned about it.” Bolz-Weber and her husband share a small, walkable life, focused mainly on her neighborhood and church. Being a Christian, she says, isn’t about doctrine or lifestyle: “The one thing that you are more and more convinced of is how desperately in need of God’s grace you are.”

Goodbye to coalbed methane in the Powder River Basin, says WyoHistory.org: “Few of the 24,000 wells drilled during the heyday of the 2000s produce much gas, many sit idle, and approximately 3,000 wells are left orphaned (and) a liability for the state to clean up.” Instead of “R.I.P,” maybe say “A.E.C.,” for Aftermath is Expensive Cleanup.