One wife, two wives, three wives, four? Five wives, six wives, seven wives? Really? More?

July 27, 2011

Suspending judgement tends to be a good policy for the intellectually inclined. So much of our human knowledge is frail, fraught with errors, subjective, or misinterpreted as deterministic. Yet, far too often, we acquire a bit of knowledge and feel compelled to castigate everything around us that doesn’t dovetail nicely with our new information. A sort of irony masquerading as enlightenment like when you blame the dog for your fart simply because the dog lacks the vocal chords to effectively lodge a retort to your outright lie (and before you think too long about it, the previous analogy doesn’t stand up logically).

Live and Let Rape?

In the normal course of daily events, I tend to believe that the rationale “live and let live” is compatible with the concept of suspended judgement. People should execute the details of their lives to the best of their ability and allow others the opportunity to do the same so long as neither party is adversely impacted (certainly difficult to quantify) by the other’s choices. Simple concepts to grap, however, real-world implementation remains a challenge since it is difficult to clearly draw the lines (especially with broad legal language) to articulate where my rights end and your rights begin.

Take the issue of polygamy. Personally I don’t give a shit if Jed has 100 wives so long as he:

  1. doesn’t receive preferential tax treatment as a result of his choices, and
  2. the most vulnerable among us are not subjugated, oppressed or otherwise victimized

Personally, I’m happy not to be swimming in that estrogen-fueled madness that Jed has to endure, especially when the menstrual cycles of five score align with a full moon. No amount of sexual variety can properly temper so much hormonal insanity.

Unfortunately, for one isolated Arizona town, polygamy is merely a gentle cover for a culture of oppression, subjugation, rape, abuse, racism and even disease. In this community, Jed’s not marrying a stable of educated, adult women of their own volition, rather, Jed is being given 13 year-old brides, with 9 year-old educations by an all-powerful “prophet” enabling Jed to relieve his pedophilia tendencies on multiple child-brides under the guise of religion. Furthermore, much of this activity is financed by tax payers because Jed believes it is his duty, as a man of God, to “bleed the beast” (ie: US Gov’t) of funds to support his unmanageable large household of incestual rape.

Now I give a shit and can’t suspend judgement.

Westward Bound

So I found myself out west last week (not in the existential sense – simply on a quick visit), far from my cramped Brooklyn apartment and spared from the 114 Fahrenheit radiating from the concrete. On a high-speed romp through the desolate, crusty nothingness north of Las Vegas (still can’t figure out why anybody likes this place), I was compelled to pass through the little town of Colorado City while en route to visit my Jack Mormon friend up in Salt Lake. Colorado City, you may remember, is the community of FLDS polygamists formerly ruled over by FLDS ‘prophet’ and imprisoned serial rapist Warren Jeffs. My interest here was a sort of sociological one; an itching curiosity to attain even just an outsiders glimpse at such a secretive and brainwashed community. My intent wasn’t to gawk so much as it was to simply experience whatever there may be on offer. I set the GPS to northern Arizona.

A Stop at Big Devil (WalMart)

On the advice of my SLC buddy, I paid a visit to a Walmart about 30 miles outside of Colorado City. The site, he claimed, provided an excellent juxtaposition of new-world consumption with old-world polygamy. It did feel a little weird stalking grandmas and kids in a retail establishment, but curiosity has done far worse to the cat in the past. I did my best to enter stealth mode and because of it, I’d say my pictures are mostly crap. I’m a terrible spytographer:

polygamists shopping

polygamists buying goods from Satan

It was odd to say the least. Not quaint, simplistic and old-worldly like a visit through Amish country, more like a sort of white-trash-come-wanna-be-wholesome with a dash of Little House on the Prairie. A mashup of “yes, I made this cotton dress with…aren’t these Nikes just to die for?” A blending of beehive hairdos and trailer-park braids. A “fuck you outside world” mixed with a bit of “how much did you say this digital camera costs?”. I hope this is coming across clearly. I hope you get the picture. You’ve got Grandma’s furiously punching buttons on her smartphone while daughter(or more probably, sister-bride) is pushing the cart full of Lay’s potato chips to the Ford F-150. Modernity appears to be perfectly acceptable beyond the thin veneer of an ugly hand-made night-gown thing. Strange. Fascinating. I stalk on.

Arriving in Zionborhood

It only got increasingly odd after entering the pearly gates of Colorado City:

welcome to colorado city

welcome to colorado city where "We Lik'em Young"

Straight away it was clear outsiders were not welcome as “No Trespassing” signs hung from every fence, gate and building. Houses were massive and crudely built with nearly all of them sided with plywood Spackled together at the seams. Many houses had boards or plastic sheeting as windows. Every house had “Zion” emblazoned above the front door. Few people were out and about. The few kids that were outside stared us down, scowling; it felt like a segment from Children of the Corn.

plywood polygamist palaces

plywood polygamist palaces

victims, I mean kids

victims, I mean kids

Unfortunately, many of the pictures are fuzzy because I rushed, fearful that some crazy fundamentalist might fly off the handle (at this point I’m thinking Waco, Jonestown, Taliban, and on and on). We drove around the dirt roads for about 25-30 minutes snapping pictures and trying to get a feel for daily life in this isolated community. Some houses had industrial metal trash bins out front. Several houses had massive, metal shipping containers in the backyard (storage?? extra lodging??). Each house had multiple cars parked in front of it. We did spot traces of kids playing behind corrugated aluminium fences…normal stuff…jumping on trampolines, riding plastic cars, smacking at a water tank with tree branches. All the while, huge puffy white clouds drifted along a brilliant blue sky and massive red cliffs provided a beautiful backdrop to the community:

Colorado City backdrop

Colorado City backdrop

We did happen upon one Zion which had a clan hanging out of it (given the size of the home, it most likely belongs to an apostle fleecing the community of its meager, gov’t subsidized funds):

pious plygs party on the porch

pious polygamist porch party

As we were leaving, we happened upon Mother Plyg and her little ducklings; can’t help but wonder how many of those kids have already been sexually assaulted. Sad.

mother plyg duck

mother plyg duck

Final Thoughts

All up, the visit to Colorado City was strange, surreal. It would have been interesting to have a conversation with some folks, but without anyone on the inside, it is difficult to engage. After the visit, propped up in some dingy motel dive about 40 clicks east, I dove into a late-night Google-hole of an evening and learned about the timing coincidence of my visit. In July of last year, Warren Jeffs’ multiple rape conviction was overturned due to deficient jury instructions. His new trial is set to begin this month (July 2011) with potential life sentence hanging over his head. Unfortunately, this trial will probably not get nearly as much coverage as the Casey Anthony trial. White trash is Florida is apparently much more broadcastable than an isolated rape factory in the middle of nowhere Arizona. Sad, because the many victims rotting away in FLDS communities around the country could certainly use popular support and media attention to bring about much needed change.

Ironically, even through his years of incarceration, Jeffs has held a rather substantial grip on power – conducting sermons from his jailhouse home and breaking up homes at will. Even after he admitted that he lied about being a prophet in jail, many FLDS members still believe he is their prophet.  Since admitting he lied, he has retracted the statement, gotten back to health, and retained power among many FLDS members. Currently, he is being challenged by another power player (William Jessop) in a struggle to wrestle hearts, minds and property from the followers from Jeffs. Time will tell who grabs the reins. It is difficult to determine the power structure (if there is a formal one) in Colorado City today, however, one thing seems clear; FLDS leaders are clearly centered around a perverse ideology and will continue to abuse power and rape kids until outside forces intervene.

There are many interesting documentaries/reads out there on the FLDS. Here are some I highly suggest:

Finally, a weird sort of “drive-by documentary” (in three parts) done by a former polygamist. Basically, this is a Lost Boy doing a driving thru Colorado City 3 years after being kicked out of the community. He drives around the city pointing out places of interest. He also stops by his parents house in an attempt to talk to them. It is a fascinating view and explanation of some of the specifics from the community: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTv4zVyTk_8&feature=related
********************************************************************************************************************
If you have a moment, check out my debut novel, Where’s Unimportant. It can be found in any major online retailer (or on my website at http://www.danielshortell.com) in ebook ($2.99) and paperback ($10.99). (Disclaimer: no children were raped in the process of writing/editing/publishing the book).

Extreme Fire Escape Gardening – Part II

July 11, 2011

This Part II post is a continuation from the Part I post on Extreme Fire Escape Gardening. It’s been about 1 1/2 months since the bulk of the garden was planted and things are growing, well, a bit unevenly:

uneven growth

uneven growth

The cayenne plant pictured above has been a real asshole. He produced two small peppers then proceeded to halt growth and drop all of his leaves apart from one brownish-yellowish thing dangling from one side.  As a contrast, many of the other plants are doing well, as evidence, I present the Thai Chili above. To teach the cayenne pepper a lesson, I ripped it out:

Game Over, I Win

Game Over, I Win.


MODIFICATIONS

Since the last blog post on the fire escape garden, there have been some additions & expansions taking place. After a pretty successful dumpster-dive in a skanky nook of Bush Terminal, I scavenged a decorative metal wire thing which I clamped to the fire escape ladder. Inside it, I planted the newest addition: 2 tomato plants bringing the total garden to 50 plants (also includes 2 lychee trees currently being grown in tomato sauce cans from seeds):

tomato plants clamped to fire escape ladder

tomato plants clamped to fire escape ladder

Another modification made to the garden spawned from my father’s debilitative addiction to mitigating what he perceives to be safety threats. Convinced I would fall to my death from the fire escape, during his last visit, he spent an hour or so tying together a rather elaborate safety net out of rope, closing off the large hole leading to the level below. This netting was an excellent addition as it increased the footprint of the garden allowing me to replant some quickly growing plants in bigger containers. For the containers, I walked down to a construction site a couple blocks from my apartment and hit the jackpot: three 5 gallon paint buckets and some 2″x4″ scraps. Unfortunately, one bucket was clearly used as a toilet for the construction crew, so, there was a rather lengthy bucket cleaning process required, the details of which I shall withhold.  After shoving the 2″x4″ into the safety netting and cutting the 5-gallon buckets to size, the garden looked quite a big larger:

Fire escape garden

Fire escape garden

You’ll also notice there is now some sort of trellis thing sitting atop the two dresser drawer pots. It’s actually an IKEA chair I picked up on 40th Street and DORKTURPIDVAARTED to stabilize the growing plants. Working like a charm so far, and proving that IKEA furniture is not 100% useless crap.

WATERING THE NEIGHBORS

Unfortunately, my neighbor below me hasn’t been spending much time on the fire escape, so I haven’t been able to douse him with water. Pity. Instead, he appears to be using his fire escape section for a couple new purposes:

  1. dirty dish staging area – for several weeks I’ve noticed the same half-eaten burritos and sandwiches rotting in the summer sun on these plates (a half-dozen of them complete with utensils).
  2. large stuffed animal storage area – the kind of human-sized stuffed bear that I recall seeing (in my childhood days) being carried around in large plastic bags at Six Flags by dudes with wife-beaters and thick gold chains.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the trash gets taken out and new neighbors are inserted below.

SO, WHAT’S WORKING, WHAT’S NOT?

So, for the most part, things are taking off, peppers are coming in quickly and a few things have been harvested:
some of that sweet, sweet booty

some of that sweet, sweet booty

Ok, the harvest has been rather meager thus far, but many of the plants have a dozen or so buds on them and I’m expecting big numbers for the next post. Current harvest is at: 3 Banana Peppers, 1 Thai Chili, 6 Cayenne, 1 Jalapeno, 1 Cherry. Part of the problem I’m noticing is that the plants in the clear pots getting the most sun tend to be the bitchiest. I think this has to do with too much sunlight getting through to the roots. I’m planning to do a little re-potting this week if I can find the right kind of trash to fix the issue. I noticed a new dumpster at a build site over on 43rd, so I think I may go get vertical and see what I can find. The plants in the wooden and opaque plastic pots are doing the best…big dark-green leaves, lots of buds.

FUCK BASIL

So the basil plant has been a pain in the ass here lately. I’ve planted basil numerous times in the past and it always grows like a freakin’ weed. This year I had to pretty much ravage the damn thing just to cook up one pot of pasta sauce. It droops, it has brown spots all over, it’s not growing and my pesto is moving further and further away. I’ve tried threatening the plant and even showed it the lifeless body of the recent cayenne fatality as proof of my ability to execute on my threats.

Just last week though, basil and I had a bit of a breakthrough. When I replanted it in one of the 5-gallon buckets, it’s health started to improve and new shoots popped out of the top. We are in the process of rekindling our relationship, but until I see substantial progress I’ll continue to use the carrot and stick approach.

Join me next week as I’ll be in southern Utah scoping out the polygamist communities attempting to test-drive FLDS as a potential religion to immerse myself in next:

HERE IS THE POLYGAMY POST: https://danielshortell.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/one-wife-two-wives-three-wives-four-five-wives-six-wives-seven-wives-really-more/

***************************************************************************************************************************************************************

I wrote a book called Where’s Unimportant. It’s a literary fiction piece about one man’s failed attempt at the American Dream. For a mere $3 you can buy the ebook at your favorite ebook retailer. Or, for $11 you can buy the paperback on Amazon. Visit me at www.danielshortell.com.

Debut novel - Where's Unimportant

Debut novel - Where's Unimportant