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Stephen Colbert joked in mid-September about Joe Biden being so cool (in an old-guy way) that he hopped “into the sidecar of Steve McQueen’s motorcycle and jumped a fence.”

I wondered if younger people would get the reference to The Great Escape and its iconic 1963 chase scene. Folks my age may remember the thrill of Steve McQueen outrunning the Nazis and sailing on his Triumph over razorwire and into Switzerland. In a quick survey of my Millennial kids and their circle, no one got it.

I went back and watched the scene on YouTube. I’d forgotten that McQueen doesn’t make it. He clears the first fence — but lands in no-man’s land and skids into a second fence. …

(As the 45 days of Secretary Zinke’s “review” of #mymonuments tick down, I’m going to post a story and a picture nearly every day. I’ll post to Instagram, share on Facebook, and collate all of those here on Medium, so you can find every rant in one place! This will be my small gesture to #standwithbearsears and #standwithgrandstaircase Please share widely!

Remember, #monumentsforall!)

Day Twenty-Nine, May 25th

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Dancing juniper snag, Cedar Mesa, Bears Ears National Monument, Utah. photograph © Stephen Trimble

This is the last day. Today. We have no more chances to speak to @SecretaryZinke about why we #standwithbearsears. Go to and make your case.

Though the administration evidently is already drawing maps for a 90 percent reduction in protection for Bears Ears, we cannot be discouraged. Robert Gehrke wrote in the Salt Lake Tribune that “sources” say that “Trump will likely dramatically shrink the Bears Ears monument, down to two and possibly three parcels totaling fewer — possibly much fewer — than 150,000 acres.” …

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The Washington Monument. (photo © Stephen Trimble)

My wife, Joanne, and I spent some time researching the best charities to fund the good fight in the Age of Trump. Here’s our list of top picks for national organizations. These match the issues we care about most, and the fundamental rights we think will be most endangered. You would have others, but we hope this will give you all some ideas for those last-minute end-of-year donations — and on into the next year and the next.

Steve & Joanne’s picks for charities to fund The Resistance

Center for Public Integrity (4 stars; 90% rating; 85% to programs)

“To serve democracy by revealing abuses of power, corruption and betrayal of public trust by powerful public and private institutions, using the tools of investigative journalism.”

On Harper Lee, Flawed Novels, and Finding Myself in Scout Finch

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What I Couldn’t Tell My Brother 50 Years Ago

Fifty-eight years ago this summer, my brother Mike was declared mentally incompetent and committed to the Colorado State Hospital.

I was six when Mike left home in 1957; he was 14. Diagnosed sequentially as retarded, schizophrenic, and epileptic, Mike spent ten years in the hospital before his release to halfway houses — a transfer the hospital called a “parole.” He was sent back into the world carrying the stigma of institutionalization and mental illness that’s as damning as prison time. Mike lived for another ten years, but I never spoke to him again.

Here is the letter I wish I had could have slipped into Mike’s bags when he left home, a letter he could have pulled out to read any time during the 20 years he lived without family. I couldn’t write it then. …

Remember when she almost met Frank Sinatra

My aunt Charlotte had an undeniable spark. She loved jazz, and she befriended many of her favorite musicians. Once, in Las Vegas, when she had ringside seats for Frank Sinatra, she told me that she stood up and started crying when the entertainer she adored sang one of her favorite songs. She made eye contact with Sinatra’s drummer, whom she knew. Sinatra noticed. An hour after the show “here comes my friend Tony to the bar in the Sands where I’m standing talking. He says, ‘Sinatra invited you to his suite. He’d like to meet you.’ ”

Charlotte told me that she “panicked — ab-so-lute-ly panicked. I had always wanted to meet him, but do you think I knew how to act? I’d act like a damn fool. So I told Tony, ‘Tell Sinatra he put on such a great show and I know he’s tired.’ (He was no spring chicken then). ‘Tell him it was my pleasure and I’d rather not bother him now.’ And to this day, I’m sorry.” …

On riding the rewriting rollercoaster

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My mother and my brother, 1943.

Three years ago, I yanked myself out of a professional depression by beginning work on a memoir. I’m writing my brother’s story. But my great-uncle Myron keeps sneaking into my narrative. I’m going to have to kill him.

My brother, Mike, was diagnosed sequentially as “retarded,” schizophrenic, and epileptic. He was committed to the Colorado State Hospital in 1957, when I was six, and he never lived at home again. Mike died in 1976, in tragic circumstances.

I waited until pretty much everybody involved in this story had died before I felt safe in beginning this book. I knew few details. I’ve done tons of research. This spring, exhilarated, I finished my first full draft.

My most trusted first readers responded unanimously — some with embarrassment because they couldn’t bring themselves to keep reading. …

How Cheryl Strayed and I both hiked through wildness and solitude—and found our families on the other side

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Olympic National Park, 1972

As the film based on Cheryl Strayed’s bestseller, Wild, opens, I’m still trying to understand my response to the book. As I reached the last few pages, I began to sob uncontrollably. The intensity of my reaction astonished my wife. I was just as startled. So what got me?

My tears came not when Strayed finished hiking her stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail, not when she eased out of her monster backpack and onto a white bench — where the Bridge of the Gods spans the Columbia River — to celebrate her triumph as “Queen of the PCT” with an ice cream cone.

No, my emotional wave hit two pages later, when in the book’s final paragraphs Strayed returned to that bench 14 years later with her husband and two children. Her second visit to the bench ignited in her an emotional spark of connection to her earlier self. This moment lit the fuse that led to her book. …


Stephen Trimble

Gotta write. If not, I get depressed. Photography brings me great joy, but writing takes everything I’ve got.

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