Wednesday, April 07, 2010

April 7, 2010
Got a call from my road warrior daughter yesterday. She was driving from Chicago to Green Bay, Wisconsin to give 401K presentations at a slaughter house (they recommended she stop and buy Vick's to rub under her nose to combat the smell). She was supposed to fly into Milwaukee and fly straight in, but flights were canceled and she ended up in Chicago with a rental car. I told her I hoped the scenery was good and she told me it was foggy and rainy and she couldn't see much of anything.

When I venture out on the road, like my trip to Lubbock last week, I am always reminded of Deena's world, because she is battling road and flight problems almost every day.

Reticular Activator
My therapist wife turned me on to a concept called the reticular activator (not sure of that spelling). As I understand it, your mind is looking for solutions to problems and often when we are doing other things, a recessed part of your noggin' will activate and, butting in, remind you that a solution is nearby. The most profound example of this, to me, is when, in 2002, True West was losing $30K a month and my brother-in-law told me the only way we were going to survive is if I could find someone with national magazine experience. I told him that was a tall order in remote Cave Creek, Arizona and he said, "Not my problem." About two weeks later my staff was arguing over a cover design at Robert Ray's computer and, over the wall, I happened to hear the word "Hearst." I excused myself, went out front in our little store and saw four or five people standing there. I said, "Who just said 'Hearst'?" And this guy near the door said, "I did." "Why did you say Hearst?" And Bob Brink famously replied, "Because I ran the magazine division at Hearst for 26 years and I just retired to Carefree."

So I'm a firm believer in the power of the reticular activator.

A couple days ago I ran a diary entry from Martha Summerhayes (Vanished Arizona) where she described being on a Colorado River steamboat, named the Gila, and that the steamboat pulled a barge where the soldiers from her husband's company were loaded for the trip up river from Yuma to Fort Mojave. I wondered what that would look like, but didn't have much hope that I would find any photos of such a specific combo at this late date. And, I have never seen any photos of this phenom in all my years of researching.

We had a design meeting two days ago in the conference room and when we finished and were coming out someone stopped me and asked me a question. I answered it, but as I did I just happened to look over at an overflow bookshelf we keep in the makeshift hallway, behind the production department. For some reason, this title jumped out at me:

"Steamboats On The Colorado River: 1852—1916." I grabbed it and took it into my office, but I got sidetracked by other problems and finally put it in my bag to take home.

Last night, at home, I sat down on the couch and took a gander inside the book. Here is a photo of the Gila, which is the exact boat Martha was on, and along side are two barges:

The Gila is the boat in the middle and the barges are docked on either side. There are also photos in the book of a barge being pulled (they just strung a big rope back behind the paddle wheel) and also of the Gila towing a barge full of coal.

Amazing, that we had this book in our library and that I happened to get stopped right in front of it on that particular day.

Reticularisish, no?

Needless to say, I started reading the book and now I've got steamboats on the brain. And, of course, I want to do a piece on it for the magazine. Unlike the Mississippi, the Colorado River would all but dry up in stretches during the winter, but the really good steamboat captains and their pole wielding deckhands could literally move these multi-ton boats over sandbars and through two inches of water? Amazing, but true.

Here's my morning sketch of the Gila tied up near Castle Dome:

So that's my incredible reticular resource example for today. Gee, I wonder what ol' Luc de has to say about this?

"The greatest achievement of the human spirit is to live up to one's opportunities and make the most of one's resources."
—Luc de Clapiers

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