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What happens when you don’t call your mom (or dad)

Klaus Lauterbach is already 20 years old but, like a small child done wrong, he may deserve a spanking – at least figuratively.

This German fellow is in the midst of a trek across North America and had spoken to his dad, back in Germany we presume, on Aug. 8.

Dad was left with the impression his boy would be visiting the Grand Canyon on Aug. 9, according to a press release from the National Park Service.

The Grand Canyon/Ryn Gargulinski
The Grand Canyon/Ryn Gargulinski

Then young Lauterbach disappeared. His dad had heard nothing since Aug. 8, and finally took action on Aug. 14.

Dad contacted the police to report his son missing, prompting a search by Grand Canyon National Park rangers and the Flagstaff Police Department.

Investigators learned Lauterbach was last seen getting off a shuttle bus near the Maswik Lodge on Aug. 9, but then his trail went cold.

Maswick Lodge is one-quarter mile from the canyon’s edge, the lodge’s website said.

Recent tragedies may have fueled the worries. A body believed to be missing Grand Canyon hiker Bryce Gillies, 20, was found July 25. Ghoerghe Chiriac, 57, was found dead near a car he drove over the edge of the Grand Canyon on July 13.

These are not positive signs.

Nine days after the Aug. 8 phone call, however, Lauterbach decided to call his dad, telling him he was merrily on his way to British Columbia, Canada.

Shame on you, Klaus.

You got your family and many others in a tizzy.

“The National Park Service would like to thank local and national media, as well as local communities, for their assistance in reaching out to the public for information about Mr. Lauterbach’s whereabouts,” the most recent National Park Service press release said.

Even I know to check in with my folks at least once a week to tell them I’m not dead (and I’m sorry for all the times I didn’t!).


Worries/Ryn Gargulinski
Worries/Ryn Gargulinski

What do you think?

Was Klaus being irresponsible? Was his dad over-reacting?

Do you check in with your parents or expect your kids to check in with your regularly?

What would you do if your parents or children were visiting a foreign country and the same thing happened?

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Happy Birthday: Smokey the Bear turns 65

One dude who just turned 65 is still so hot, he’s smoking. Too bad he’s just a cartoon.

Smokey rocks/Ryn Gargulinski
Smokey rocks/Ryn Gargulinski

But he’s a cartoon with a big campaign, bigger shoulders and the very big message that “Only you can prevent wildfires.” Well, you and Mother Nature.

In any event, Smokey the Bear celebrates his birthday this week, perhaps with a cake sporting battery-operated candles, and he doesn’t appear ready to retire anytime soon.

Forest fires, or in the case of southern Arizona, dry brush desert area fires, have already eaten up more than 4.18 million acres of America this year alone, thanks to careless campers, severe storms and that stuff called lightning.

This week alone, more than 30 large wildfires were raging across the nation, according to Smokey’s online Real Time Wildfire Map, with four and one-half of them in Arizona. The one-half was partly in New Mexico. One of the most visible has been blazing in the Grand Canyon.

Perhaps our area’s mot notable was the Aspen fire that wiped out most of Summerhaven in June 2003.

Smokey must have had the day off.

But his efforts have earned him the distinction of being part of the longest running public service announcement in U.S. history and one of the most recognizable icons of our time.

A whopping 97 percent of adults recognize Smokey’s image at the drop of a ranger hat, according to an Ad Council survey, and three out of four folks can recite his sizzling wildfire mantra without looking at a cue card.

Because Smokey is one of the hottest spokespersons to hit the market, we have to ask why he has been so successful.

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski
Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Few other cartoon spokespeople have achieved such heights, although we do have the pleasure of McGruff the Crime Dog and his little sidekick Scruff, neither of whom can hold a candle to Smokey.

Smokey has staying power for a number of reasons. One is his sob story of origin. The icon had a real live counterpart when folks found a baby bear cub cowering in a charred tree after a New Mexico wildfire.

The cub was rescued, tended to, healed up and dubbed “Little Smokey.” His new home became Washington D.C.’s National Zoo.

You can’t help but love any icon with a beginning that sweet.

Another reason Smokey is effective is because of his delivery. He doesn’t hit folks on the head with a shovel to instill his message. He uses the age-old method proven to work almost every time on almost everybody: guilt.

One of Smokey’s 1940s-era posters features a disappointed-looking bear sadly pouring a bucket of water on an unattended campfire.

Another depicts dear Smokey actually kneeling down in prayer with the words, “And please make people careful, amen.”

A 1950s poster shows Smokey cradling the near dead body of a doe while a fire rages in the background with the words, “Our Most Shameful Waste.”

OK, OK, I promise to put out my campfire.

Smokey’s final claim to fame is the fact that he’s so dang personable. He may be big, burly and potentially deadly, but he caters to our compassionate side.

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski
Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

He got his start because of the massive news coverage following the discovery of the charred-up New Mexico bear and has been in the limelight since.

Smokey has been featured in Ladies Home Journal, the star of entire comic books and is a regular on countless posters, radio and TV, not to mention the thousands of schools and other venues he’s visited over the years.

That’s quite a campaign. But then, he’s quite a bear.

Happy birthday, Smokey.

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who never started a fire or killed a gerbil on purpose.  Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. E-mail


Do you care about Smokey the Bear or are you more into Woodsy Owl?

Do cartoon icons deter you from acting stupid?

In addition to Smokey, Woodsy and McGruff, what other icons do we need?

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97 illegal immigrants found chilling in a frigid tractor trailer

What started as a routine traffic stop for a refrigerated commercial tractor trailer ended up as a hefty illegal immigrant bust on July 29, according to a press release from the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

An Arizona Department of Public Safety officer stopped the trailer for an equipment violation after getting a tip, perhaps ironically, from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol.

Packed in the back with chilled out cargo/Ryn Gargulinski
Packed in the back with chilled out cargo/DPS photo

The DPS officer pulled over the truck on Interstate 19 at kilometer 24, north of Nogales, to take the driver into custody on a misdemeanor warrant.

He then peeked in the back of the truck.

In addition to a load of produce chilling out in the 34-degree temperature, he found 97 illegal immigrants. They included adults and children, the latter ranging in age from 9 to 12.

The produce type was not specified but photos of the empty truck show chewed up watermelon rinds along with water jugs and bottles, a mere 2 degrees above freezing.

The aliens, who were found to be from both Mexico and Guatemala, were taken to the Nogales Border Patrol station where they will be processed and returned to their native countries.

Smile for the camera/DPS photo
Smile for the camera/DPS photo

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are coordinating the investigation into the smuggling scheme.

“This is yet another frightening example of the callous disregard human smugglers have for those who entrust their lives to them,” said Matthew Allen, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Arizona.

“These people were treated like cargo. They were crammed inside this truck and subjected to near freezing temperatures. Fortunately, due to the swift action of the law enforcement agencies involved in this case, none of these people came to any harm.”


What do you think?

Are you appalled at the precarious situations people put themselves in just to cross the border?

Would you rather be smuggled across the blazing desert or in a freezing tractor trailer?

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Sit down, shut up and meditate

The world would be a better place if we all took time to meditate.

We have a chance to try it in a group setting Tuesday afternoon (today!) with a global meditation right here in Tucson. This particular hour-long session will be held all over the world, with Tucson’s version at Tucson Yoga.

Before meditation/Ryn Gargulinski
Before meditation/Ryn Gargulinski

What: Global group meditation
When: Doors open 3 p.m. Tuesday (today), 60 minute meditation starts 3:19 p.m.
Where: Tucson Yoga, 12th Street and South Fourth Avenue, northwest corner
Why: Because it makes the world a better place
Yes, it’s free
Click here for more on the global event

Taking as few as 10 minutes – OK, make it five – to sit quietly every day can make a huge difference. I began the practice of mediation about 10 years ago and have been transformed from a perpetually discombobulated, negative person into an occasionally discombobulated, positive person.

You, too, can do it in three easy steps: Sit down, shut up and breathe.

I’ve also started some days without meditation and got disastrous results. These included but were not limited to: missing an airplane, having to repack dozens of boxes that were thrown together haphazardly instead of systematically, falling off a cliff. Well, I didn’t fall off a cliff, but I could have had I not been grounded by meditation.

Folks don’t meditate for many reasons, but one is the myth that they don’t have the time. Starting the day in a calm, soothing way will actually help the brain function more productively, ultimately saving you time throughout the day.

After meditation/Ryn Gargulinski
After meditation/Ryn Gargulinski

Things are less scattered and tragic. You focus on positive energy rather than worry about the sink overflowing while defrosting raw chicken. You can block out long bus rides, boring board meetings and even a movie you hate when you meditate.

Other meditation myths:

Meditation is for sissies. Folks who take time out to soothe their soul are going to be stronger than the average man – or woman.

I can’t meditate because I don’t want to chant. Then don’t. No rule says you have to chant. Meditation has no “rules” about anything.

Meditation is for Buddhists. No religious beliefs are involved at all in meditation. You can meditate as an atheist. Or a Satanist. Or following Wicca. Or with no religious convictions whatsoever. There is a huge difference between spirituality and religion. Spirituality puts you in touch with the universe. Religion, well, let’s not get into that.

I can’t meditate because I can’t sit in the lotus position. No matter. You can sit on the floor with your legs crossed, on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. You can even lie down and meditate. Heck, you can even engage in walking mediation with or without your dogs.

Meditation also gives you the ultimate excuse to use incense. If you’re lucky enough, you may have room to set aside a whole room for a mediation chamber where you can chill out and decompress in secret, blocking out the chaos of the world that infringes upon what really matters.


What do you think?

Have you engaged in meditation?

How do you go about it?

What were the results?

Do you think the practice is creepy?

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Artist’s Sketchbook: How to make art out of junk

Creating an artistic masterpiece can be as easy as playing with a hunk of junk. Since I get so much joy out of my own recycled creations, I am passing my secrets along to you.

How to Make Art out of Junk

Busted PVC pipe/Photo and art Ryn Gargulinski
Busted PVC pipe/Photo and art Ryn Gargulinski

Obtain junk. Visit your local salvage yard, such as Gerson’s Used Building Materials, or scout for random debris in washes, alleys, riverbeds and on the side of Ajo Way.

Scrape and hose.
Get a paint scraper, sand paper, metal files, scouring pads or whatever else you want to use to scrape off rust, dust and caked-on mystery substances. Hose down for good measure.

Allow to percolate. Throw the debris in random areas around your yard, making the place a virtual minefield for your pets, guests and your own bare feet. This allows the junk to dry in the blazing sun and, if it’s metal, soak up enough heat to leave searing burns if you dare touch it at high noon.

Leave the junk there for days, weeks or months until you are so sick of tripping over and looking at it that you either transform it into something or throw it in the ever-growing slush pile. Caution: pack rats love the slush pile.

Slush pile/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Slush pile/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Coddle and paint. Coddling is a highly technical artist term that refers to kicking, denting, snipping, wiring, welding and otherwise getting the item into some type of shape that works to the piece you envisioned during the percolation stage. You know what painting is.

Mark at some ridiculous price.
The final step in your piece’s transformation is to mark it way up. Folks are not going to pay $5 for a lump of twisted metal. If you mark that same lump to $500, however, they will realize it is art and willingly shell out the cash to own such a masterpiece.

While I generally keep my prices reasonable, I will mark up items for this example. Busted PVC pipe: $379.50; Snazzy Totem Pole: $999.99; Dark Theater Shrine: $8,056. I’ll also let the slush pile go for $1.2 million.

BEFORE: Junky wine rack/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
BEFORE: Junky wine rack/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
AFTER: Snazzy totem pole/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski
AFTER: Snazzy Totem Pole/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski
BEFORE: Decaying fire place grate/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
BEFORE: Decaying fireplace grate/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
AFTER: Dark theater shrine/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski
AFTER: Dark Theater Shrine/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski


Dark theater shrine/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski
Dark theater shrine/Photo and artwork Ryn Gargulinski

Have you ever transformed junk into art?

Have you ever transformed art into junk?