The first time I met Ed Abbey, he monkeywrenched a perfectly good draft beer, a Heineken, by taking the light and dark versions and pouring the two bottles into one glass. In my view, one of the more unnecessary acts of eccentricity I'd ever seen him perform ... and it's a long list. I had met him in Tucson, Arizona for an interview for the campus newspapers, The Arizona Daily Wildcat, where I was a reporter who preferred to ditch a class than miss a story. Abbey's included. We met at The Big A, an off-campus burger joint that he always used for interviews. A strange fact by itself, in many ways, since it was a sports bar and he thought football was a pox on the earth (but then, what wasn't a pox on the earth, as far as Abbey was concerned?). Yes, he'd done many, many interviews at The Big A, and I can't tell you how many times I cringed whenever the next reporter deigned to describe Abbey's iconoclastic persona with the following observation: Mixing light and dark drafts of Heinekens.
That was in 1982. But now his death 25 years ago is being commemorated with a new documentary, "Wrenched."
According to the official web site for the film, "Wrenched captures the passing of the monkey wrench from the pioneers of eco-activism to the new generation which will carry Edward Abbey's legacy into the 21st century. The fight continues to sustain the last bastion of the American wilderness - the spirit of the West."
The last time I saw him, in Prescott, Arizona, I think he was a tad upset with me since I'd written that he looked like "Mo Udall's evil twin." This was in print for an advance story I'd written prior to his appearance for a packed house reading in Prescott, Arizona. Most of the reading was from his quite underrated fictional novel, "Fool's Progress." He had the whole house in stitches for the reading, which one person (not me) described as "a portrait of an artist for a dirty old man."
The other thing I remember about the last time I saw him was this: He told a woman that he regretted ever repeating any suggestion that someone should blow up the Glenn Canyon Dam, which holds back water for what he called, "Lake Foul," i.e., Lake Powell. In the same conversation, he said most environmentalism is a defensive action. So, at that point in his life, he had, shall we say, mellowed on the agitprop side of himself.
The official record on the man and his monkeywrench, I believe, needs to be settled on that kind of thing.
The entire story of my relationship as an awed student of Abbey as what kind of teacher he was at the University of Arizona creative writing program in the early 1980s is included in the book, "23 Roads to Mythville."