Yep, they did it. The Catalan government voted to declare independence.
No one knows where this goes now. It’s all uncharted territory, as everyone is saying.
We could hear the sounds of the police helicopter overhead last night as enthusiastic Catalans gathered outside the Generalitat at the city’s center. The chopper was just keeping an eye in the sky on things, I guess.
–Remove and replace the Catalan President, Vice President, Chief of Police, Ministers, and perhaps other high officials of the Catalan government
–Call new elections for December 21st, 2017
As far as life on the street goes, it all seems pretty normal. I can still get my chocolate-filled croissants from the corner bakery, and I still plan on climbing at Montserrat on Sunday. It does look like there will be an anti-independence protest today and I am sure we will see more pro-independence protests at some point as well.
But, I wouldn’t expect any serious violence at all. Both the European Union and the Catalans don’t want that. The latter have always tried to keep this movement tranquil and peaceful over these past years, albeit with constant vocal and popular pressure against the central Spanish government.
There are really no guns around, so its not like there will be an armed insurrection any time soon and no one really expects anything like that. If you have plans to travel to Barcelona, I wouldn’t change them–just don’t step in between the police in riot gear and a crowd wrapped in Catalan flags if you happen upon such an unusual scene. Most anywhere you go you should be fine.
(Not-so-random factoid and violence comparison: Somewhere around 11,000 Americans are killed by guns every year–and there isn’t even a revolution going on there. Folks here cannot even begin to wrap their Mediterranean heads around that statistic and they figure America to be a way more dangerous place to visit.)
At least, that is what I have taken to saying to my friends.
From Trump’s Great and Wonderful America, we have moved to Barcelona for the foreseeable future. And the times…well…they are interesting here, too.
Two Catalan officials have been jailed for sedition, the Spanish Police came down somewhat excessively during the recent non-binding (and illegal, according to the Madrid government) independence referendum, and now Rajoy & Co. are invoking the never-yet-exercised Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution in order to take control of the Catalan regional government.
Where this ends is anyone’s guess.
It seems to me that the only way to really put this whole thing to bed for a siesta would be to hold a real and binding Scottish-style independence referendum in Catalunya (something Madrid so far has absolutely refused to do). Yes, it would be a risk for Madrid…yes, it might prompt other European regions to ask for the same thing, causing a cascade effect…but it is not entirely clear that the result would be “Sí!”. Polls seem to indicate a fairly even split between those opposed and those in favor of Catalunya as a separate nation.
The debate would almost certainly be harsh with all kinds of rhetoric, including outright lies, emotional appeals, wringing of hands, twitching of eyebrows, and so on.
At the same time, Catalunya would need to carry out some serious preparation with the European Union to assure a smooth and quick transition into that community in the case of a “Sí!” vote. This, in order to avoid a huge disruption in the financial sector (to date, some 1,000 businesses have apparently re-registered their headquarters outside of Catalunya due to the recent unrest–although some Catalans say, at least in part, at the urging of Madrid).
So, we had yet another massive (450,000 people) protest today. Here are a few images from the tiny Sony RX100iv point-and shoot…
Note the symbols here–the unofficial Catalan flag of independence with its solitary star, the yellow ribbons, the Tweety Bird (symbol of pacifism against agression?). The political prisoners referred to in the signs are the “two Jordis”, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez (Jordi is George, or Jorge in Spanish), who were both apparently involved in organizing these large independence protests. They are being held without bail by the Spanish government and are accused of the crime of sedition:
These protests are often a family affair, with grandparents, kids, folks of all ages out on the street dressed in the Catalan colors. What I don’t see a lot of? People of color, recent immigrants, etc., of which there are a high number in the region. Perhaps they don’t feel like this is their fight? Or perhaps they are simply content to be part of Spain?
Sometimes the crowd would grow hush and everyone would raise their hands–’twas amazing to “hear” the silence of thousands of protesters–then the clapping and slogan-shouting would begin anew. A “Llibertat Jordis” (Freedom Jordis) sign is just visible left of center:
There were odd juxtapositions at times…here, modern consumer society and a street protest merge on Passeig de Gràcia:
Those big white rings are handcuffs basically asking, ‘Is this Really a Spanish Democracy?’ The poster depicts Franco, the Spanish dictator from 1936 to his death in 1975 (a fellow fascist chum of Hitler) and it reads, “This dead man is very alive”, a reference to what the Catalans view as fascist tendencies on the part of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the national government. Indeed, Rajoy’s center-right political party, the Partido Popular (PP), can trace its lineage back to former members of the Franco regime:
Many very young folks were at the protest. Are they being sold a costly bill of excessive and unrealistic expectations, without understanding the huge list of technical and economic details such independence would necessarily imply?
Whenever the chopper from the Spanish police would fly over, everyone would flip the bird toward the heavens and shout (as if the helicopter pilot could hear!):
A giant “senyera”, or Catalan independence flag is unfurled, then furled:
Here is a close-up of the handcuffs (esposos). The small sign reads, “Europe, when will you apply Article 7 to Spain to avoid abuses of power against Catalonia?” Article 7 is a European Union provision designed to curb human rights abuses by EU member countries, the threat being sanctions and loss of EU voting rights. So far, the EU has the official position that the Catalonia crisis is an internal issue for Spain to resolve:
This could be it: Hanging Lake, just a few minutes drive east of Glenwood Springs.
You have easy, quick access off of I-70, and about three miles of hiking (total, round trip).
You DO need to be in something better than Standard American Couch Potato Condition, however, as you climb over 1,000 vertical feet in just over a mile. Then you come back down. If you just came from sea level, you might even find the walk challenging, asphyxiating even. Plan on 2-3 hours for the adventure.
Wear supportive footwear as the trail is rough and rocky in places.
Also, be aware that you’ll have to backtrack a bit on the Interstate before you can motor east toward Denver again, if that is your intended direction of travel.
I chose a beautiful autumn day to finally stop and check out Hanging Lake. I can’t believe a have never stopped before…
A small shelter you’ll find along the trail (off limits, however). The autumn changing of the leaves was in full swing and turned the walk into an idyllic odyssey:
You follow beautiful Dead Horse Creek (what a contradictory name, eh!?) as you climb. This is a hand-held image with the Sony RX100iv…that’s right, no tripod was harmed in its making. The key is to snap maybe ten photos at various slow shutter speeds–brace on something if you can (or against the stretched out camera strap on your neck as I did), hold your breath, and gently squeeze the trigger. With luck, at least one will come out sharp and not blurred from camera movement. This one was taken at 1/5 of a second:
A lone cloud hangs over the narrow slot canyon:
The actual Hanging Lake is really more of a pond–but a very attractive one with ribbons of water pouring in from all sides. In the early spring this must be roaringly spectacular. In winter, it must be a quiet paradise of vertical snow and ice. Another hand-held image, this one at 1/8 of a second:
Ah, the warmth of autumn colors–but the air was dry and crisp:
Another, wider, view of Hanging Lake. I spotted trout in the pond–how did they get there?
Just because you might be a bit tired and shagged out from your prolonged walk, don’t blow off the short (five minutes, I promise!) trail to Spouting Rock, just above Hanging Lake. The water pours out of a hole in the cliff above and is almost more interesting than the Lake itself:
On the way back down–they made me pose:
Dead Horse Creek detail:
A view of the main Glenwood Canyon, the Colorado River, and the railroad tracks:
These two showed up since my last visit to the Old Pueblo. And there are apparently six or eight more I need to locate…
This masterpiece, near 6th Street and Stone, was painted earlier this summer by Joe Pagac, a cycling enthusiast and, obviously, a very talented mural artist. Go to his Kickstarter page HERE for more details and the thoughts behind his imagery:
Across the street from Joe’s mural is the old Tucson Warehouse building, a structure I’ve always admired for its classic signage on the roof (unfortunately, due to storm damage, missing all but the wheels of the Mayflower moving truck). As of the summer of 2016, thanks to the Tucson Mural Arts Program, it has been adorned with a new and impressive work called “Goddess of Agave”, by Cristina Perez.
If you ever find yourself on vehicular cruise control floating across the simmering heat waves on the rather isolated (and deadly, according to California accident statistics) stretch of State Route 62 between Twentynine Palms and Parker, through the Mohave Desert, stop, wake yourself up, and pay humble homage to these two unusual monuments to human creativity, boredom, and excess…
First, the “Iron Mountain Sign Pole” at the intersection of Route 62 (Rice Road) and Iron Mountain Road:
The Roadtrip America website has what appears to be a legit explanation of the origin, evolution, burning of, then the re-evolution of this telephone pole cum signpost. It seems the credit goes to an Aussie couple who, for God-knows-what-insane-reason traveled the road “extensively”, back in the day. So, it was Steve and Wendy Page who nailed up the first mileage marker in 1993 or 1994, which read, “Perth, Australia, 9,469 miles, 15,246? kms” (it is no longer there–casualty of fire?).
You can read their personal letter to Roadtrip America, with all the details, HERE.
A bit farther east, punch off the cruise control once again and pull over with your camera at the intersection of SR 62 and the Rice-Blythe (or Midland) 4WD road–on which, by the way, on this particular day, I ran face-to-face into a full-sized semi-truck and trailer rig, stopped and stuck deep in the sand at a narrow wash crossing. He claimed that his GPS made him do it. Once committed, just out of Blythe, he had nowhere to turn the rig around, so it was onward to the north and hope for the best! He said the cavalry (with his boss) was on its way, it was cool out (70s), and he had plenty of water, so I turned my dusty rental car around and retraced some 13 miles of desert track back to Route 62, from whence I had bounced and sand-surfed.
ANYway…The Shoe Tree and The Shoe Fence (amazingly, the latter marked on the all-knowing Google Maps with a camera icon) will be found here.
Here is an image of the current Tree. The old one was apparently an actual semi-alive tamarisk on the opposite side of the road, so this is a modern version that has sprung up after the demise of both the original tree and this service station:
Here is what Wikipedia currently says about the origins of The Shoe Tree/Shoe Fence:
“Rice became noted for its Shoe Tree, originally an underwear tree, a lone tamarisk on a turnout just south of the highway, adjacent to the main entrance to Rice Army Airfield. This hallmark for a trailer-based business that catered to personnel at what is now the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, customers passing on Highway 62 (also known as Rice Road) to and from the Colorado River would toss a pair of underwear in the tree’s branches. After a fire burned most of the tree and all the underwear, the custom changed and the tree’s burned husk became a collection point for old shoes. The tree was featured on California’s Gold, a PBSprogram hosted by Huell Howser. The tree burned flush to the ground in 2003 after which a ‘shoe garden’ replaced it; a fence on which people hang shoes. Also in the immediate area, travelers occasionally stop to spell their names and initials on the nearby Arizona and California Railroad right-of-way with the multi-colored volcanic rock used as track ballast. Hand-assembled graffiti lines the railroad for the entire distance that it parallels Highway 62.”
So, carve out a personal mileage sign and bring an old pair of shoes with you on this stretch of desert highway! Leave your mark!
…you will find this abandoned site. It was originally an Air Force Station, operating ground-controlled intercept radars, from the 1950s into the 70s, then the place was converted into a minimum security prison (a “Club Fed”!) from the mid-70s to the year 2000 (See the end of this post for some curious factoids).
Flirting with ghosts…faint voices floating by on the dry desert winds…
I didn’t see the No Trespassing signs (8 1/2 x 11 photocopies on a wall) until I was on my way out. Regardless, I feel like it is important to document such sites and their reaction to the wind, rain, human abuse, and the passage of time. Touch nothing, take nothing but pictures, and be careful where you step…and definitely stay away from the radar dome as that is an active FAA site.
Better yet: If you see signs, comply, and don’t trespass!
The still-active FAA radar dome sits above the abandoned Air Force Station/prison site:
The Bureau of Prisons seal by the main offices slowly disintegrates as the passage of time and the elements do their relentless work:
Main offices? Purpose? For visitors?
I’m not sure if the “Don Vito” here refers to Don Vito Corleone of Godfather fame, and I am also not sure if any of the many Don Vito’s in history actually came up with this quote. But, it is indeed a wise quote:
The visiting area as of the fall of 2017:
The sunset view from one of the bedroom suites:
A toilet of penal luxury in its time:
I’m guessing young vandals (or, perhaps, Goths or Visigoths), threw these mattresses out of the building so they could take turns jumping onto them from the roof. Just a guess, though:
The graffiti is everywhere, as it always is in such places:
It appears the handball court makes a nice secluded gangland bonfire site and art studio:
A basketball court with a view of the empty (yet teeming with hardy non-human life) Mohave Desert:
An eerie eye peers out onto a courtyard:
This looks like it was once fairly nice family housing for the Air Force Station folks. From what I have read, the structures were converted into group housing for the low-risk inmates:
This dark corner must have tremendous meaning to someone, somewhere:
The slots below were telephone booths. Imagine the place full of inmates calling home to family or friends (or to their stock brokers or lawyers) far away. On the vertical posts, it said “Monitored” and “Vigilado”:
This I saw on the way out, posted on a low cinder block wall. Oops:
Some interesting details about the site when it was refurbished as a prison…
–This “Security Level 1” facility housed some 300 to 500+ mostly white-collar-type criminals (“paper crimes” mostly).
–The prison had no walls–unless you interpret the vast desert expanses surrounding the facility as “walls”. Very few tried to escape as getting caught likely meant getting sent to a “real” prison with all the abuse that implied.
–The prison included dorms, classrooms (profs from Barstow Community College came calling), various workshops, a chapel, a medical clinic, a fire department, racquetball and basketball courts, two libraries (one specializing in law since many inmates worked on their own cases to some degree), and so on.
–Inmates were paid a small wage to work for Unicor’s Vehicular Component Factory, fixing up government vehicles. Rehabilitation work at its best, I’m sure.
–Some of the more interesting characters who resided here: Grant Affleck (real estate fraud–victims were primarily working class Mormons), Ivan Boesky (insider trading; he was mostly at Lompoc, but apparently served a few months here, too), Senator Joseph B. Montoya (a CA state senator convicted of corruption and misuse of funds), Michael Milken (insider trading; still alive and now worth a couple of billion dollars), Harold Rossfields Smith (embezzled over $20 million from Wells Fargo bank–money not recovered), David Jenkins (Olympic athlete convicted of distributing steroids), and Rueben “Porn King” Sturman (convicted of tax evasion and eventually of extortion, briefly escaped, then eventually died in federal prison in 1997).
Ah, the landscapes of the American West. I have a love affair going on with that zone of extreme geographic contortions and distortions. It’s canyons, slick rock, skies, clouds, mountains, rivers, basin and range undulations, forests, and all creatures contained therein, large, small, venomous and not (though the West does desperately need more wolves, lynxes, wolverines, jaguars, black-footed ferrets, and grizzlies)…
A West of not too many human beans, thank God.
I’m off on a CO-CA-AZ circuit of nearly 4,000 miles in barely ten days to visit family in one last nostalgic embrace of the West (and of family and friends) before heading off to new and much more citified digs in Barcelona, Spain.
Or would that be Barcelona, Catalunya?
From one divided country to another, I am fond of saying lately. From the Divided States of America to the Bourbon-occupied principalities of the Spanish Empire. Interesting times, these.
But first, one last embrace of the land that is in my bones.
Somewhere near the Utah-Nevada border on a lazy, autumn-cirrus afternoon. This is trilobite country for those who collect such fossils:
2016 Black & White Magazine, Spotlight Award Winner! (Issue: June, 2017, #121)
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