Dave Chappelle and The Closer; Funny, but it cuts deeper

The Closer

Almost every review or comment I read about The Closer was negative. The reviewers attacked not the content as much as Chappelle. He’s always been controversial, especially on the topic of trans people. He also cuts deep into race relations.

Thus, after reading the reviews, when I watched the show on Netflix, I was surprised. I thought he made many great points using the mode of comedy, which often tells truths we can’t hear otherwise. He touched on the absurd inconsistencies in so many people and movements. He acknowledged what he knew the critics would say. Some of the reviews even attacked him for those acknowledgments, but for me they were a sad reminder that being offended is a past-time for many.

There are those that say I have no right to weigh in on his comments about things that don’t directly affect me. Fine. But the reality is, we all affect each other. Extremism, regardless of which end of the spectrum it comes from, is not good. It ignores the bigger picture. Our country is burning down around us and there are people worried about where exactly they’re going to be standing when it collapses on all of us.

The core message of the routine was one that has to be at the forefront: empathy. We have an entire part of this country that has sworn allegiance to a man who not only lacks any empathy at all, but is the exact opposite. He has publicly stated many times how much he enjoys hurting people. It gives him pleasure. He views his followers with contempt yet they literally are dying by the hundreds for him on a daily basis.

We’ve suffered close to a million dead from the deadliest pandemic in our country’s history and yet, a group of people have managed to politicize it to the point where over 1,800 people died yesterday, almost all unvaccinated, and no one even notices. We’ve had close to 100,000 unnecessary deaths of unvaccinated people who had access to it and yet the pundits, themselves vaccinated, and isolated from the masses, continue to press on with their disinformation campaign. To make money.

We have health care for profit, war for profit and now death for profit. Every time there is a mass shooting the utter lack of empathy on the part of firearm advocates sickens me. It’s not their position as much as they simply don’t give a shit about the victims, even when they’re kindergartners. There are people on the other end of the spectrum who also have little to no empathy while proudly proclaiming they do. They destroy people’s lives over a tweet.

Here’s the deal. It’s a routine. It’s billed as entertainment. No one is forcing anyone to watch it. Feel free not to. We live in a society that is becoming more and more siloed. Where we limit ourselves to consume only that which agrees with our preconceived notions. Where anything that goes against those is attacked. We rip apart freedom in the name of freedom.

M. Night Shyamalan is great at ideas; not so much story

We watched Old last night and, overall, really liked it. And, overall, the response of viewers and critics to the movie has been harsh and negative.

As a writer, I approach movies and books somewhat differently. There’s entertainment value, which I think we all share. But I also search for the core idea in every work and then how that idea is buttressed by story and characterization.

The idea in Old is great in that it allows a story to explore aging and how people change, or don’t, over time, in a compressed format.

M. Night Shyamalan burst on the scene with Sixth Sense. Which had a remarkable twist in it. Ever since then, I’m not sure he’s lived up to the promise. One good idea can make a career and he’s proof. We see that in the entertainment field.

The idea of rapid aging in Old and how a handful of characters react to it while under a stressful situation was great. But as a story-teller, it leaves a lot to be desired. You can see him setting up later reveals and scenes rather clumsily. When the two boys run around the resort pool asking everyone what they do for a living, it was cringe-worthy. Especially when you realize what it’s the set-up for at the end. There are a number of scenes like this.

There are enough plot holes, that there is more hole than plot. There were inconsistencies in the basic premise and how it played out on the characters. Off the top of my head—how did this effect actually transport people back to the beach, besides aging them?

But offsetting that, my wife and I enjoyed some of the character arcs. Well, okay. One. Prisca and Guy were interesting and were allowed to live to near the end. The rest went down in various ways. How people react in a crisis was also an interesting sidebar to the story.

Overall? If you’ve got nothing better to do, it’s not bad. A lukewarm recommendation at best. Shyamalan really needs to team up his ideas with a plot person. There were two other writers on this, which was based on a graphic novel. Perhaps the story didn’t translate as well to film as other graphic novels?

Romantic Comedy/Suspense. Banter is ping-pong where you want your shot returned.

It’s not just banter, but any narrative where characters who are on the same side are sparring. They may disagree, not even like each other, but they are aligned in their goals, even if they’re not sure what the goals are at the moment. In Agnes and the Hitman there was a kitchen scene where Agnes is dealing with several character, and dialogue at the same time. In Shane and the Hitwoman there were several scenes where a group of characters came and went in the setting and interacted. Including in the same kitchen.  Here’s an excerpt pretty far into the book, spoiler alert, on the morning of the climactic scene:

“Hope you’re hungry,” Joey said as Lisa Livia entered the kitchen of Two Rivers.

She’d woken tucked in and comfy, but to an empty bed. She had no memory of Lucien leaving. Then again, she’d collapsed utterly exhausted and completely content into a deep sleep only to be awoken by the irritating chirping of the alarm on her phone after not enough rest. There were things she did have memories of and she’d reveled in them for a few moments before reluctantly sliding out of bed and getting dressed. There was, however, a large blood stain on the sheets and she’d stripped the bed. The last thing she remembered was telling Lucien to see Vicente and get re-bandaged. She was afraid she’d over-exerted him, but didn’t regret it at the time, although she felt a surge of guilt now.

Joey was working several pans and the smell of bacon filled the room despite the powerful exhaust running.

“What about the army?” Lisa Livia asked as she made a beeline to the coffee pot.

“That’s why I’m cooking here,” Joey said. “Don’t want to waste the food. They ate army stuff—called them iron rations– at the barn. Stuff in packets.” Joey was appalled. “The Field Marshal told me they were on a war time footing and needed to act like it. Can you believe they packed rations for a wedding?”

“I can,” Lisa Livia said as she poured the coffee. “They also brought guns and grenades.” Although she doubted the Duchess had packed any in her luggage. She took a sip. It was obvious Joey had made it as she immediately perked up.

Joey was still on the food. “When we hit the mattresses, I ate some of the best food of my life. It’s where I learned a lot of my recipes. Everyone took a shot at it, no pun intended, and there were a lot of great cooks among the fellows.”

“Cooks among crooks,” Lisa Livia noted.

“Lucien snuck out the front door a few minutes ago,” Joey noted. “Like he was on some sort of super-secret mission. Or coming from one.”

“He did?”

“He did. Guess he missed breakfast with the men.”

“Where’s Shane?”

Joey pointed toward the dock, visible in the first light of dawn. “Speak of the devil and he appears, bringing all sorts of folk with him. Guess I need to put more bacon on.”

Lisa Livia looked out the window. Shane was coming down the walkway. Xavier next to him, along with a man draped in what looked like wet Spanish moss and Phoebe from the night before. Shane was carrying a rifle. “This will be interesting.”

“Seems like your morning was already interesting,” Joey noticed as he peeled off slices of bacon and dropped them on the grill.

“Remember, Joey, I’m a Fortunato,” Lisa Livia said. “I can hurt you.”

Joey laughed. “You’re a Fortunato for sure.”

“That’s the biggest gun I’ve ever seen,” Lisa Livia said as the group approached the house. “Why do men have to compensate so much?” Now that they were closer, she saw in daylight that Phoebe was a young woman with badly colored reddish-black, damp hair slicked back and dressed in a one-piece black outfit. With a sword on her back. “This is going to be really interesting. But not good interesting.”

One of Lucien’s men came running over. Xavier and Shane halted, along with the camouflaged man, who had a bloody shoulder and hands flex-cuffed behind his back. They were discussing something as Phoebe came up the steps and entered the kitchen.

She looked at the stove. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” She stuck her hand out. “We weren’t properly introduced earlier. You must be Lisa Livia. I’m Phoebe. I’m a, uh, a colleague of Shane’s.”

Lisa Livia automatically returned the handshake, noting that Phoebe had finely honed facial features and the muscles under the skin-tight outfit rippled. The look in those deep blue eyes reminded her of someone, and then she realized it was the same as Carpenter’s and Shane’s and Joey at times.

Phoebe turned to the cook. “And you must be Joey. Love your book.”

With that, Lisa Livia knew Joey would throw himself on a grenade for this stranger.

Xavier came in behind Phoebe. “Smells good.”

“Who invited you?” Joey demanded.

“Circumstances,” Xavier said.

“More like an ill wind blew your boat off course,” Joey griped.

Lisa Livia noted that Lucien’s soldier was pushing the wounded man in the direction of the barn, none too gently. She suddenly realized that was the person who would have died if Lucien had pulled the trigger. She shivered at the thought.

Shane entered. He put the rifle down on the far counter and Lisa Livia winced at the potential for scarring the top. Phoebe placed her short sword next to the rifle. Lisa Livia was glad Agnes wasn’t here to see her counter top turned into an armory.

Shane’s phone buzzed. “Excuse me,” he said and stepped outside and walked out of earshot.

“You’re from Carpenter?” Lisa Livia asked Phoebe who was helping herself to the coffee, pouring it into a Mob Food mug.

A line creased Phoebe’s smooth forehead as if that was an inappropriate question. “Who?”

“Carpenter,” Lisa Livia said. “Big guy. Black. Says ‘stay centered’ often. Runs some sort of super-secret group for the government. Worries a lot. Sound familiar?”

“I meet a lot of people in my line of work,” Phoebe said. “And I’m bad with names.”

“What line of work is that?” Lisa Livia asked.

“I paint houses,” Phoebe said and Joey paused, looking at her. Phoebe graced him with a sweet smile and cold eyes.

Xavier had been behind Phoebe and poured himself a cup of coffee, then waved the empty pot. “Coffee’s out.”

“Make more,” Lisa Livia snapped.

“Where’re the grounds?” Xavier asked as he opened the top of the brewer to add water.

“You’re a detective,” Lisa Livia said. “Figure it out.”

Shane spoke up from the doorway. “Be nice, Lisa Livia.”

“Was that Carpenter?”


“Is he coming?” Lisa Livia demanded.

“He’ll be here in time for the wedding. There were some problems he had to deal with at work.”

Lisa Livia tried to tamp down the surge of anger; that Carpenter would tell Shane but not let her know, despite what she’d said. Then she remembered Lucien and the anger dissipated.

Shane looked at Phoebe. “There was trouble last night in Technical, but we know who the infection is.”

“Anyone else you want to invite in to discuss classified material in front of?” Phoebe asked Shane as she checked the frying bacon. “I like it crisp,” she informed Joey.

“That’s the way I make it,” Joey said. “How do you want your eggs?”

“Surprise me,” Phoebe said.

“My kind of gal,” Joey said.

Phoebe shifted back to Shane. “What happened in Technical?”

“Louise was hurt,” Shane informed Phoebe. Lisa Livia noted that name grabbed Phoebe’s undivided attention.

“How bad?” Phoebe asked.

“She’s in the hospital,” Shane said, “but will be fine. Hit on the head, some blood, but nothing broken. Cut on the face. No internal injuries.”

“Fromm,” Phoebe said.

Shane nodded. “He set me up, set you up, and when Louise discovered it, he attacked her. Luckily, he’s incompetent in that area. He’s gone dark.”

“I’ll find him and kill him.” Phoebe said it was such calm conviction that even Joey paused in his stove work once more. Then the old man nodded approvingly.

Lisa Livia figured he was probably thinking this was the daughter he’d never wanted but wouldn’t mind having, then he flipped an omelet.

“I am an officer of the law,” Xavier reminded them. Which everyone ignored.

“First things, first,” Shane said. “Let’s get through today.”

“Roger that,” Phoebe said. “One clusterfuck at a time.” But her jaw was tight and she emanated raging cold as if the Duchess upset about sunburn was mixed with Joey in vengeance mode.

“I’m behind on a few things here,” Lisa Livia said as she sat down at the table. The binder was in the center, but no one was paying attention to it. She gestured at the big rifle. “You got that over on the shoal?” And then she realized that the young man who’d had it could have as easily shot her or Lucien and she shivered. And then she realized that Lucien had given her his pack and put it in front of her as protection. Which meant he’d been exposed. She gripped the coffee mug tighter.

Joey tore off some paper towels and put them on a platter. Then began laying bacon on it.

“Don’t worry about it,” Shane said, preoccupied with the news from Carpenter.

Lisa Livia picked up the binder and threw it at him.

Shane was bringing his hands up to protect himself but Phoebe snatched it out of the air. “Breakfast always this much fun here?” She put it on the counter, out of range of Lisa Livia. She tapped it and Lisa Livia noticed that her fingernails were gnawed to the quick. “Hey, tabs. Cool. I love organization.”

“Food,” Joey announced putting the platter of bacon on the table and rapidly loading plates with omelets. “Chow down.”

“Scooch over,” Phoebe said to Lisa Livia as she slid onto the bench against the wall, next to her. “Better eat up. Big day ahead.”

Lisa Livia gave way barely an inch but it was enough for Phoebe to fit.

Joey finished the plates and took one of the chairs and Shane took the other. Xavier grabbed a chair from the corner and dragged it over. Rhett, smelling bacon, ambled in and pushed his way through the legs to take his rightful place underneath the table.

“Want me to do the blessings?” Phoebe asked.

“What?” Joey asked.

Phoebe laughed. “Pulling your leg, old timer.”

Lisa Livia could tell by the scowl on Joey’s forehead that he was reconsidering the daughter I never wanted but would like, but then Phoebe tore into the food and the look disappeared.

Lisa Livia felt Rhett’s nose push between her leg and Phoebe’s.

“What’s his name?” Phoebe asked.

“Rhett,” Lisa Livia said.

Phoebe gave the dog a piece of bacon. “Great balls of fire! It’s Rhett’.”

“They don’t quote that movie much in these parts,” Lisa Livia said.

“I didn’t name the dog,” Phoebe said as she fed Rhett more bacon.

“What’s going to happen?” Lisa Livia asked, addressing Shane. “Please tell me this has all been a bad dream.” Not all bad, she reminded herself.

“I’m afraid not,” the Duchess said from the kitchen door. The Duke was behind her. While she wore her long red coat over an ornate red dress, the Duke was dressed in red breeches and a red, puffy sleeved shirt. He had not donned his armor yet, but had a foil at his side, the blade exposed. Lisa Livia noted that the Field Marshal and Lucien remained on the porch, both dressed in the ceremonial outfit, sans armor, but plus swords. A new, thicker bandage, decorated Lucien’s upper right arm. Lisa Livia felt a surge of guilt, but not regret.

“Want some hot chow?” Joey asked, pushing back his seat and hurrying to the stove.

“We ate with the men,” the Duke said as they came in. “But a cup of tea would be wonderful.”

That threw Joey off. “’Tea’?”

“I’ll make it,” the Duchess said which threw Lisa Livia off even more. The Duchess went to the stove, took the tea pot and filled it, then set it back on the stove and fired up the burner.

“Thank you, my dear.” The Duke glanced over his shoulder. “Lucien? Would you like some food? You missed the Field Marshall’s iron rations this morning.”

“I’m fine,” Lucien said.

“I’m sure you are,” the Duchess said, glancing at Lisa Livia who met her gaze.

The Duke nodded at Shane and Phoebe. “Thank you for securing the back door. Ronaldo is a misguided youth and Drusilla has exerted dangerous influence on his family. I am glad you spared him. He is redeemable.”

Phoebe snorted, but it was more a lazy yeah, right, than anything that would rate on the Duchess disdain scale.

“You still think they’re going to follow the law of the Lacessere?” Shane asked. “So far they’ve tried to mine the bridge and positioned a sniper. That’s not exactly covered in the Great Charter, is it?”

“Wait!” Lisa Livia said. “The bridge? Agnes loves that bridge.”

“Don’t worry,” Shane said.

“It’s all she talked about on the phone for like a month,” Lisa Livia continued. “About drove me crazy. I learned more about trusses and spanners than I ever wanted or needed to. It was like she was building the Golden Gate.”

“Don’t worry,” Shane repeated. “We stopped him.”

“Who stopped him?” Lisa Livia asked. “Stopped who? How? Is that how Lucien got shot?”

Shane exchanged a look with Phoebe as the tea kettle began to whistle. The Duchess busied herself putting tea bags in two cups and pouring the hot water, while no one answered Lisa Livia’s question.

“You gonna eat that bacon?” Phoebe asked her.

Lisa Livia eyed the knives and the hanging frying pans, deciding which would be the most convenient weapon.

“Can we speak outside?” the Duke asked Shane, now that the Duchess had her tea.

“Sure,” he said. He walked outside with the royalty.

Xavier was leaning back in his seat, watching and listening carefully, but not commenting.

“Can I have some more?” Phoebe asked Joey, holding up a plate that appeared licked clean to Lisa Livia. “Pretty please?”



Publication Great Disasters III and pre-order Shane and the Hitwoman

I’m very excited about my next book coming out in November. Did you enjoy Grosse Pointe Blanke? RED? More so, did you enjoy Agnes and the Hitman? Shane and the Hitwoman picks up eight months after Agnes and the Hitman. It will be published on all platforms. I’m already working on the follow on to it, Phoebe and the Traitor. Also being developed, Shelter from the Storm, the next Will Kane book and an Area Study workbook. It’s going to be a busy several months of work for me, but I’m really thrilled about these projects.
The Green Beret Guide to Seven Great Disasters III publishes today. In celebration the first book in the series, Book I, is free today and tomorrow (4 and 5 October). It covers the Cascade events that caused the Titanic to sink, the New London Schoolhouse Explosion (the event which caused propane to have an odor added), Little Big Horn and more. On the last one, I never understood what really happened there until I visited the battlefield. Once I saw it, I understood. In the same manner, in the new book, I walked the Fetterman battlefield from where Fort Kearny once stood to where the troops were massacred. Also, SYNBAT, is free today and Walk on the Wild Side, the best reviewed of the Will Kane books is only .99 or Kindle Unlimited.
As the leaves change and the weather cools, we wish everyone to stay warm and safe! I began posting about my western trip but not long after I got back, the Wanderer, my Jeep Gladiator, died and is in the shop so it felt like bad karma. I’ll do more posts soon about a beautiful road out of Great Sand Dunes National Park; the pretty back road to Los Alamos; a dirt road that follows an old railroad line to a mining town in Colorado and walking with Scout to the Continental Divide above Moffat Tunnel– which some of you might remember from the climactic scene in Chasing the Ghost. We’ll still get up into the Smokies to enjoy this best time of year and we hope you enjoy the changes wherever you are!
Bob and Deb and Scout and Maggie

The Many Saints of Newark isn’t awful, but it’s bad

Tony Soprano

I watched the Sopranos episode by weekly episode as it came out. I’ve rewatched it at least twice since. All of it. I still marvel that Melfi only figured out Tony was a psychopath in the next to last episode. After the first viewing I’d thought it was much earlier. But the joke was on all of us, wasn’t it? That we watched, enthralled, as this evil man committed murders and so many other crimes. It was definitely foreshadowing for our current state of affairs where we have over 700,000 dead and yet we watch as ‘influencers’, themselves vaccinated, question the vaccine to their followers so they can gain profit and influence. The power of the psychopath should never be under-estimated.

Prequels are harder than sequels. Because in a prequel, we know what’s ahead. I enjoyed the Deadwood sequel. It tied up a lot of loose ends, particularly giving the antagonist his come-uppance. But a prequel? It has to reveal some truly insightful and shocking things. Unfortunately, The Many Saints of Newark reveals little we didn’t already know.

In fact, watching actors imitate their future characters was irritating. It must be difficult for an actor to act an actor rather than a character. You could really see them trying to pull it off, which made it very, very uncomfortable to watch as you remember the original.

We saw the relationship between Tony and his mother, which we already knew, sucked. Hell, she tried to have him wacked. We saw baby Christopher scream when teenage Tony wanted to hold him and the wise, old Italian woman prophesizing that babies can see the other side or some other BS; we know Tony kills Christopher later. Even the Christopher voice-over tells us that. Duh.

They tried layering on the race riots and a black power movement but it didn’t go very far, nor was it particularly insightful. Yes, there are criminals of all persuasions.

The only revelation was who killed Dickie Moltisanti and really, who cares? Tony didn’t know in the series, but used the mystery to get Christopher to kill someone else.

I’m from the Bronx and my sisters still have the accent. I’ve been told my accent is sort of Bronx-Southern since I left at 17 and roomed with guys in the military who were from the south. But the Jersey accent these people are using? Gimme a break.

As you can see from the poster for the show the big hook was supposed to be: Who Made Tony Soprano? Well, David Chase did. The reality? He was born from bad genes, had a father who went to prison, a mother who was borderline, and a man who was a murderous psychopath as his mentor.

Oh yeah. There is also a literal TOO DUMB TO LIVE moment when Moltisanti’s goombah (sp?) reveals something to him on the beach. They share a very happy moment and she gets what she wants (a beauty parlor– hey, it’s Jersey) and she then feels compelled to tell him something. It is perhaps, one of the stupidest moments in television history.

The popularity of The Sopranos impelled me to watch this, but that well is now dry. Let’s not try this again, shall we?

Midnight Mass is awesome and thoughtful and terrifying, yet uplifting.

Just binged Midnight Mass. Actually, binged isn’t right. I had to spread the seven, hour-long episodes over 3 nights because it takes time to process what happens.

Which actually, upon reflection, isn’t much. If you’re expecting the usual blood and guts and viscera horror, this isn’t it. It’s got plenty of scary moments, but it has a lot more talking and reflection than most shows. Characters often go on almost soliloquies for several minutes.

Midnight Mass is a story about faith, religion, death, love and more. Redemption, which is the strongest character arc of all? What happens when we die is at the core of it, but the fear of death is the set up. After all, isn’t that a large motive for organized religion? The promise of life after death?

I was raised Catholic. Went to 12 years of Catholic school. Was an altar boy and can still do some prayers in Latin. In fact, I took Latin at Cardinal Spellman High School (side note—a famous alum, who graduated a few years before me with my brother, is named Sotomayor)

But I hadn’t been in a church in decades when I went a couple of years ago with a visiting uncle. It was a stunning event for me. The words, the ceremonies, the church itself.  Midnight Mass encapsulates the cultish atmosphere and pushes it to extremes.

Zach Gilford, from Friday Night Lights, is superb as Riley Flynn. Hamish Linklater as Father Paul, fits the role perfectly as he seduces the congregation with the best of intentions—or so it seems, but perhaps it’s a bit more personal than that? After all, the most dangerous people are those who do terrible things, believing they are doing good.

 Perhaps the most chilling role went to Samantha Sloyan as Bev. We all know a Bev. That person so convinced of their own righteousness that they believe they can rule everyone else while pretending to do good. At the end she proves what that kind of person she truly is.

One key to the series is how there is a Bible quotation for every single situation and stand a person wants to make. Seriously. Want to kill someone? Got a quote for that. Bev had a Bible quote for everything, right until the end.

Yeah, it’s a vampire story. But it’s not about the vampire, who has minimal screen time and is, actually, a lot less scary than the people. It’s about the humans. About faith and the dangers involved. I know I’m being vague but I don’t want to give too much away. There are moments of great poignancy in the series and also some terrifying ones.

Well worth the time.

PS: I wrote my own vampire story in Area 51: Nosferatu, and interestingly, it turned out to be mostly about love, which wasn’t I thought it would be. The same with my Bible story, I, Judas: The Fifth Gospel.

How To Find Places To Disperse Camp W/Vehicle

Off-Road Camping in Arkansas

The first leg of my recent road trip was across Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and into New Mexico. One of my goals, as it is every time I hit the road in the Wanderer, was to stay in the wilderness and avoid civilization except for the need to gas up.

As I noted in my previous post, I usually sleep in the cargo bed of the Wanderer. During this trip, I tent-camped only once. Using the cargo bay has a lot of advantages: it gets me off the ground on a smooth and level platform. It’s much faster than putting up and taking down a tent. I used a bug net over it several times until I got up to altitude. I never had to use the camping tarp to prevent rain, because the weather never threatened rain.

Here are keys I look for: National Forests, Wilderness Areas and BLM land.

National Forests generally allow dispersed camping, unless it’s specifically marked off-limits.

Understand that National Forests are not National Parks. A good example of that is when I did the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you’re on the parkway or the roadside adjacent, you are in a National Park. Dispersed camping there is a no-no, but they have well marked campgrounds (usually all spots reserved during high season and on weekends). But if the Park goes through a National Forest, as it does in many stretches of the Blue Ridge, if you get beyond the Park on a dirt road into the NF, you’re good to go.

Wilderness Areas all have different rules. I’ve found it useful to stop and google things ahead of me to see what the rules, especially state parks.

BLM land is land we all own out west. Dispersed camping is allowed there.

To determine boundaries, I use the Gaia App, which has as one of its overlays, a shading showing what land is what. This is often key as many National Forest contains private tracts. Also, often the public roads crossing privately owned land to get into the National Forest, aren’t marked.

Other options? Campgrounds. Some of these aren’t well marked. State parks often have campgrounds. National Parks have designated campgrounds or camping locations. Occasionally in a NF, along a NF Road, will be a sign “Camp in designated locations only”.

My free slideshow on maps describes how Gaia works but also points out the value of paper maps. I’ve often found campgrounds on the state topo maps I buy on Amazon. Local National Park/National Forest maps are invaluable.

The bottom line? Every night I was able to find a place to park and spend the night with little trouble. Sometimes I drove up an overgrown trail in a National Forest that obviously hadn’t been used in a long time. My first night in Arkansas I went about a quarter-mile in on a rough trail and parked next to a nice stream in the Ozark NF. The image above is from there– although I did adjust the Wanderer to be more level before crashing for the night.

Sometimes I got lucky, such as the night in southern Colorado as I began looking for a forest road to pull off into as the sun went down and saw a campground site and spent the night there—the only night I pitched a tent. Also, the only night I paid to camp—the staggering figure of $18.

Locally, I love going into the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests and the Cohutta Wilderness in Northern Georgia. They have very little private land in it and lots of NF roads.

One technique I’ve used is to find where a NF Road is gated off (lots of those) and back into it, up to the gate and camp there. I’m off the main NF Road but able to pull right on in the morning. I’ve seen people simply pull off to the side of a NF Road and set up camp.

Another thing I’ve done, such as in Big South Fork, is park the Wanderer, shoulder my backpack, and walk in to a camp site along a trail and tent camp. This is why the gear I have stored on the truck is light and can easily be packed in a few minutes.

More to come including Whites Sands National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park and the beautiful hidden drive out of the latter.

How I prepared my Gladiator for an extended off-road trip


This month, I took a trip west in my 2020 Gladiator. I’d spent a while since buying it used, outfitting it in numerous ways.

I’m starting with explaining that before getting into the details of the trip, and the interesting roads and places.

Because it’s image-heavy, I’ve put it into a free slideshow.

Free Slideshow

How Did Tennessee Become “Tennessee”?


I’ve been in Tennessee a while now and never really thought about the state’s name. I assumed it was Native American, but figured it might mean “Lots of Rocks” or “Hilly on one end, flat on the other”.

I was on a All Who Wander wander the other day in the Jeep. I have two Gaia maps open, one via Apple Car Play and the other on my iPad. Saw an unimproved road (my favorite kind) in Cherokee National Forest next to the Little River. I could tell it was a dead end on a peninsula into the river, so, of course, I took it. Just to see. Whatever. (Honestly, Scout told me to turn, but if I tell you that, then you think I’m the guy who just left the soup on the stove and forgot about it).

Gaia Map

You can see the peninsula jutting upward and road in the center. That’s the Little Tennessee River, also known as Tellico Lake because of the dam just downstream. The road ends at Jones Cemetery, so I went to see that. Some of these old cemeteries are interesting.

I didn’t even notice the monument on the way in (might be why I just burnt my soup). On the way back out, I saw this off to the right.

The Tanasi Monument was erected in 1989 and I wonder how many Tennesseans even know it’s there?

Here is the inscription and the explanation of why Tennessee is called Tennessee (because we anglicized the Cherokee and drowned the original location of the town)

The site of the former town of Tanasi, now underwater, is located about 300 yards west of this marker. Tanasi attained political prominence in 1721 when its civil chief was elected the first “Emperor of the Cherokee Nation”. About the same time, the town name was also applied to the river on which it was located. During the mid-18th century, Tanasi became overshadowed and eventually absorbed by the adjacent town of Chota, which was to the immediate North. The first recorded spelling of Tennessee as it is today occurred on Lt. Henry Timberlake’s map of 1762. In 1796, the name Tennessee was selected from among several as most appropriate for the Nation’s 16th state. Therefore, symbolized by this monument, those who reside in this beautiful state are forever linked to its Cherokee heritage.

And that’s the kind of stuff you learn when you wander down dead-end forest roads.

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How To Prepare for and Deal with Crowds, Civil Unrest and Riots


Crowds act differently than individuals. What was a peaceful protest or event can quickly escalate. No matter what your role, even as an innocent bystander, it pays to be prepared. Also, you can unexpectedly become caught up in an incident while in transit from work, school or traveling.

This also applies to any crowded environment where things can get out of control: Sports events. Concerts. Movie theaters. Any time there is a crowd, there is a possibility for an incident that will get out of control. People have been killed and hurt at these events.

On the left is the crush at the Hillsborough Soccer match where poor crowd control led to a crush that killed 96. On the right is the Station Nightclub Fire which killed 100. Any gathering of a number of people can turn dangerous in a myriad of ways.

11 people were killed at a Who concert because of the crush for festival seating. 39 people were killed at a soccer match in Belgium while trying to escape a fight between fans. 96 people were killed at a soccer match in England when fans were channeled into too tight a space with no exit. Crowded night clubs have often been the scene of disasters. The Station fire in Rhode Island killed 100 people when pyrotechnics started a fire. Many died rushing for the same door and getting caught in the stampede.

Think about what would happen if a fire broke out or an active shooter occurred at any large event. Always know where the exits are. Have a plan to get out. Remember: people will instinctively go toward the way they came in. Find the emergency or other exits as soon as you enter any venue. Make sure you can find them in the dark and in a panicked crowd. If going with a group, make sure you have a rally point outside the venue to meet at, even if just in case someone loses their cell phone.

Know the area where you live, work, and go to school. Check out and know alternate routes. Get familiar with the area. Check maps by looking at your phone apps. Every so often, take a different route to familiarize yourself with alternatives. You might even find a faster way. If driving, make sure you have a physical street map. If you can prepare and have to travel through an area that might have a riot, carry a solution for rinsing your eyes out in case of tear gas. Make sure you have identification.

The best way to avoid problems is to avoid the riot. Social media, hashtags and local media can give warning of where crowds are gathering. Avoid places where security forces/police are gathering.

Eye protection is critical as rubber bullets are not soft. The same with gas pellets fired by ‘paintball’ guns. If either strike your eye, you can lose your vision. In 10th Special Forces, we were issued ballistic eye armor at one point, both clear and shaded, to protect our eyes during close quarters battle drills (room clearing). While it might be tempting to film things, this also puts you in the line of fire of whatever you’re filming.

Note the gear an experienced protestor has. For those not involved and bystanders, consider which parts of this you can improvise for your own protection. Do not shine laser pens into anyone’s eyes.

When traveling, aim for as many crossroads as possible because they give you three options to go in. Try not to get channelized. Remain calm. Hide. Avoidance is always best. Blend in while moving away. Avoid law enforcement if they have donned their riot gear because they will tend to arrest first and ask questions later. If you must pass through rioters/looters/etc. wear long sleeves, long pants, consider a motorcycle, bike or other helmet.

Walk, don’t run, as you might attract attention. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t confront people. Don’t stop. If you’re with someone from your team, hold hands tightly. Don’t get involved. It’s not your riot. Stay close to walls, on the edges of crowds. Avoid bottlenecks.

If you’re in your car, back up and get away from any crowds. Never attempt to drive through. If you are caught in a crowd, don’t drive through, speed up or act aggressive. Keep your doors locked and your windows up. Riots usually happen on streets, not in buildings. Get off the street and into a building. Stay away from windows. Look for another exit. Be careful of fire.

If necessary, on foot, go with the flow. Become part of the crowd and edge your path away from the violence. Don’t go against the flow of the crowd. Walk away; don’t run as it will draw attention. Avoid being filmed as much as possible. Remember there is CCTV everywhere. Keep your head down. Cover your face. Even if innocent, you can be considered a suspect.

If pushed to the ground, curl into a ball. Cover your head with your arms and remain still until the crowd moves away. If possible, try to get against a wall. If shooting breaks out, drop to the ground, lie flat, and cover your head with your arms. Try to find any cover close by. Underneath parked vehicles works.

If arrested, do not resist. Go along peacefully. If overseas and arrested try to contact the embassy immediately. Civil Unrest and Riots