Wednesday, May 27, 2015


I took a walk around town earlier today and looked at the houses on the various streets. Lone Pine has a eclectic mix of architectural styles, so it's sometimes kind of interesting to see modular homes next to century-old houses next to ranch styles from the '60s. A lot of things stand out when looking at any house; how the paint looks, the stucco holds up, the whole of the building is maintained, and the yard appears, and since we're in a drought here in California I spent a lot of my focus on the latter. Some are weed patches, others are overgrown, and a few actually look pretty great, but one question wouldn't leave my mind:

What's even the point of a yard?

A common thing I'd noticed with the most manicured yards in town was their... blandness. A swath of solid green, uninterrupted except for possibly a cement walkway, a row of bushes or flowers in front and a house in the background, and the evidence of it being meticulously mowed and watered are all that's left to show for the work and resources put into it. It's like a blank wall; there's so much ignored potential to actually make it interesting but it's left as just a boring empty space. It's something someone can look at and say, "I'm proud of that monochromatic patch of land, even though it's automatically watered and tended to by gardeners and serves no purpose other than... I don't know, status, I guess."

I don't get it. I mowed lawns for a long time, and aside from using a lot of water and harboring mosquitos in the summer I never really grasped what the appeal in a big yard was. According to the Association of California Water Agencies a 1,000 square foot lawn can use up to 75,000 gallons of water a year, which is bad enough even if one doesn't consider that it's 75,000 gallons use on growing something that's actually literally useless. It's water that's not used for drinking, cooking, washing, or pooping (unless you're a dog, I guess); it's used as a sacrifice to potentially impress your neighbors and maybe keep some dust down in the least efficient manner possible.

Opting for smaller lawns, planting local and drought-resistant flora, utilizing rock work, planting an actual garden instead of a lawn, and other more creative landscaping ideas would help save water and potentially better utilize the water used outside residential homes. Plus, it can help a home look a hell of a lot more interesting than some 1950s idyllic image of what a place should look like, which can at least help make a block look a bit more in touch with the reality of the state's situation.

Basically, all I ask of you, dear reader, is to consider what the point of your yard is. Save some money, save a lot of water, and get creative with your landscaping.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Camping Gear Catalog

When I was a kid in Cub Scouts I had a subscription to Boy's Life Magazine. To be honest, I don't remember much about the magazine. It probably had articles on being an active member of the community, being physically fit, and other stuff that Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts are supposed to be, but one thing I remember about it is one of their sponsors: Campmor.

Campmor had a catalog, and growing up in the age before meant the catalog was the only way elementary school me could ogle at outdoor gear, so I convinced my mom to get me a subscription. Most of the images in the newsprint catalog were illustrations of products, and the product descriptions weren't the most descriptive, but I loved imagining what it'd be like if I could be outfitted with the Campmor packs, tents, and clothes I could never afford. Aside from a t-shirt printed with multicolored frogs (it was the 90s, I was a kid, and that shirt was hella rad), I never bought anything from them, but they sent catalogs all throughout my childhood and well into my teen years.

At some point, the catalogs stopped coming. I discovered online shopping, and I became well acquainted with the gear shop in town. I have backpacking gear, a car camping kit, hiking stuff, climbing equipment, and trail running accessories, and I'm pretty content with what I have. It's been awhile since I've been in the market for a new pack or tent, but I still check out the latest additions to Backcountry's inventory and the new stuff at Elevation here in Lone Pine, because it's fun to see what I can add to or upgrade in my inventory. That's been the case for me ever since I started getting the Campmor catalog.

It's getting close to a couple decades since I talked my mom into subscribing to the catalog, and since that point I've moved to a few different addresses, moved away from home, and never bothered to re-up my subscription to Campmor. However, when I checked the mail today, the little newsprint catalog for Summer 2015 was sitting in my post office box. I thumbed through it when I got home, seeing some of the items I wanted as a kid were taken out and some stuff in it were things I already own, but the illustrations and vague descriptions are just how I remember them from childhood.

How did it find me, though? How has it managed to follow me for nearly 20 years now? Should I be worried?

Are the deals in the "Super Special Deals" section really that special? Were they ever?

Should I finally get the crap I wanted as a kid?