Editorial: Cliff's notes on the hole story

It was one of those days when the phone wouldn't stop ringing, so when the first thing I heard after mumbling "Newsroom, this is Rich" was "How's the redesign coming?", I panicked.

The fact is we have mentioned the redesign on these pages, and a lot of thought and a lot of work has gone into it since the mention.

Your Miner is going to look different next Sunday.

But that didn't explain the phone call and the voice that sounded vaguely familiar. Was it the boss? You know, the big boss we only see maybe once a year?

"Still there?" The voice snapped me back to the present. And then I recognized him.

"It's Cliff, isn't it?" I said into the receiver. Cliff doesn't call often, but my experience is that when he does, ending the conversation can be a challenge.

"Right the second time," he said to break the silence. "And for the record, Cliff Cerbat doesn't sound anything like 'the big boss.'"

I pulled the receiver away from my ear. Did I say "big boss" out loud? I certainly didn't mean to. Was this a sign, perhaps, of early onset ...

"And no, there's no way you're getting Alzheimer's, at least not until next month," Cerbat interrupted my thoughts again.

I gave up on the idea of trying to stay just two steps behind the conversation. "What can I do for you, Cliff?"

"It's about your underground mystery story in Friday's paper," he said. "You've already gotten several emails from other people, each talking about Kingman tunnels they are aware of.

"Aside from the fact the tunnels are perfect for that zombie story you're thinking about submitting to Amazon as an ebook, and trust me, no one in their right mind is going to spend $2.99 on it, I know a lot about Kingman's underground history."

"What's your specific insight - and I mean on the tunnels, not my bad fiction."

"First of all," he said. "I am Cliff Cerbat, and I've been around for years. I was here when the first tunnels were excavated, back about the time of the Powerhouse."

"Why build them then?"

"Popular theory is that the tunnels were a heat source for downtown homes and businesses, the heat coming from the powerhouse," Cerbat continued. "Others say they were opium dens.

"Fact is, people used to come down to the tunnels at night to escape the summer heat. Someone figured 16 feet under in a wide tunnel, with no more than two people every 10 feet, would give you a comfortable, consistent 71 degrees year-round."

I remained silent.

"You're skeptical, I know, but just explain those "Hotel Elbow" signs painted on the sides of old buildings downtown."

Now that I did remember, the "Elbow" so time-worn and weather-beaten you could barely make it out. It was on at least four buildings I could think of.

"The Elbow thing," Cerbat explained, "was the product of a professional sign painter with dyslexia. It was supposed to be "Hotel Below."

"Where did people check in?" I asked, starting to believe the story.

"Right next to the opium den," Cerbat said.

"Opium den?"

"Yeah, they reopened it in the 1960s when the underground railroad that ended here helped people get away from Mao and communist China."

"Underground railroad ... Mao ...," I'd been suckered again.

"Sure," Cerbat snickered before he hung up. "Why else would Amtrak have a station here?"

•••

There has been an extended back-and-forth in the online comments regarding a recent letter published in the Miner about Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl walked away from his unit in 2010 and into the arms of the Taliban, and there were mixed reports about how many Americans stationed in Afghanistan died trying to get him back.

What I remember most regarding the first news of Bergdahl's release was the AP reporter's perplexed reaction when Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's announcement to some troops in Afghanistan was met with silence. That was followed by more extensive reports of Bergdahl's disappearance, and by now pretty much everyone is aware the guy deserted. Getting Bergdahl back, especially for the price we paid, is nothing to celebrate.

One popular argument online, though, is that Republicans would be castigating Obama if the president hadn't done anything regarding Bergdahl.

At this point I'll note that I generally avoid TV news, but if I do watch it I prefer to view what the happily uninformed refer to a "Faux" news.

In the days following Bergdahl's release, soldiers who served with Bergdahl in Afghanistan were frequent guests on Fox News. The hosts were mostly smart enough to let the former soldiers - about eight of them - talk all they wanted, and not one of them found much nice to say about Bergdahl, including a former best friend.

I didn't check with the networks or the other cable news channels, but I figured they, too, would be out there getting the same guys on TV. But if they didn't, then the few who watch CNN and MSNBC and didn't read followup AP stories wouldn't know about Bergdahl. And that's why I could see the argument about the Republicans attacking Obama for not getting the soldier back - the people making the argument just don't know any better.

There's no doubt in my mind those bloodthirsty terrorists we released in exchange for Bergdahl will kill again, and that Americans will be preferred targets. I don't blame Bergdahl's parents for doing all they could to get their son back, but if Bergdahl's father encouraged his son to desert (and he did, in so many words), I think it's incredibly poor judgment for the president to stand next to the man at the White House to announce the release.

Which brings me to a conclusion I came to shortly after Bergdahl was released: Bergdahl is a sympathetic character to many people who, in general, hold the military in contempt. Bergdahl, to those people, is a role model, a soldier who did what they would do if they were in uniform.

•••

You know, those people who lecture us on tolerance sometimes seem to be in short supply of the same thing.

For example, former NFL head coach and now NFL TV analyst Tony Dungy, an all-around nice guy, said recently he wouldn't draft Michael Sam, that doing so would be a distraction to a team. The Associated Press's own take, in a preseason capsule on the St. Louis Rams, is this: "(Coach Jeff) Fisher and GM Les Snead deserve kudos for making Rams trail blazers as first NFL team to draft openly gay player, Sam, a move that figures to build unity."

Pardon me for being squeamish, but after watching Sam and his boyfriend kiss (no peck on the cheek) after he was drafted, I'm kinda thinking Dungy may be on the right track, the AP not so much.

It appears Dungy will survive and keep his job despite the outcry from people who are apparently a lot more tolerant than me (and if 3 percent of the population want to do the alfalfa kiss with members of the same sex, who am I to make a fuss?). Meanwhile, we have our own gender issue here in Kingman.

A Friday morning caller summed it up best, noting her neighbor "came unglued" when Janice Palmer was referred to as "she" and not "he" in the Miner's report on candidates for Kingman City Council.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's a lie," the caller said.

The issue isn't Janice Palmer's sexual orientation, it's the fact that at some point she stopped buying menswear.

We'll continue to refer to Palmer as "she," at least until Palmer tells us to do otherwise.