Getting Out Into The Sunlight . . . And Moonlight

With vaccines becoming more widely available to all age ranges — Ohio is getting ready to open vaccine distribution to everyone over 16 by the end of this month, for example — people are hopeful that we may be inching back toward what we remember as pre-pandemic normalcy. But I think everyone also realizes that a big part of the “getting back to normal” process depends on people, and just how comfortable they feel about returning to the acts and practices that we took for granted before March 2020.

And here’s a key question: how comfortable will people be about being in a crowd, even if they are vaccinated and/or masked up?

On Gay Street, in downtown Columbus, we’ll begin to get a sense of the appetite for the pre-pandemic activities next month. The Gay Street District will hold its first “moonlight market” on April 10, from 6-11 p.m., and its first “sunlight market” on April 18, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The markets give visitors a chance to do some shopping from street vendors who will set up along Gay Street and grab some food from the restaurants lining Gay Street. Part of the fun of the events is being in a bustling crowd while moving up and down the street. This year, organizers no doubt are wondering how many people — vendors and visitors alike — will show up.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit everyone hard, but small businesses, street vendors, and street festivals have been particularly devastated. As we work on making our way back to “normal,” keep an eye on events like the Gay Street District markets. They are the kind of leading indicators that will tell you whether there is a pent-up demand on the part of cooped-up people to get out into the sunlight, and moonlight, or whether people are holding back because of lingering concerns that the coronavirus is still lurking out there, and that maybe it is wiser to just stay home — again.

Godless

Most of our video watching these days relies on recommendations from family and friends. Godless, a 2017 Netflix mini-series, was an exception. We hadn’t heard anything about it, but flipping through the Netflix offerings it looked interesting, so we gave it a gander. Boy, are we glad we did!

Godless is set in the American West of the 1880s. Frank Griffin leads a notorious outlaw gang of more than 30 men that has been terrorizing the territory, and he is searching for a former member of the gang that has betrayed him. The former member of the gang, Roy Goode, finds shelter with a widow and her family who live on a ranch on the outskirts of the off-the-map town of LaBelle, New Mexico. LaBelle has its own interesting back story: a devastating mine disaster has killed every able-bodied man in the town, leaving the women of LaBelle to fill the void. When Griffin’s search brings his army to LaBelle, fireworks ensue.

Godless is a powerhouse of a drama that grabs you by the throat from the get-go. It reminded me of Lonesome Dove in that its presentation of the old west is unadorned, random, and dangerous, with people coming in and going out and violence, death, and disaster seemingly around every corner. And the show is full of carefully sketched characters–from Mary Agnes, one of the LaBelle widows who finds that she likes wearing the pants in the family, to Bill McNue, the sheriff of LaBelle who is battling self-doubt caused by his declining eyesight, to Truckee, a boy who is trying to overcome his fear of horses, to Callie Dunne, the former LaBelle prostitute who becomes the town schoolteacher because she can read and write. Two of our favorite characters were Iyovi, the Native American grandmother of Truckee who can heal a bullet wound and shoot and dress a deer without blinking an eye, and Whitey Winn, the sweet, skinny deputy sheriff who has developed impressive quick-draw skills but can’t play the violin to save his life.

There’s a lot to this show, and any description can only scratch the surface of a dense plotline. The focus of Godless, though, is strong women on one hand and Frank Griffin on the other. Jeff Daniels, who won an Emmy for the role, is fantastic as Griffin, the sociopathic, quasi-religious leader of a ruthless band of killers who can be sensitive and willing to help strangers dying of a disease in one instant and then slaughtering an entire town the next. Griffin believes he has seen his own death, and therefore faces every deadly scenario that doesn’t match his vision with supreme confidence that he will survive and the statement: “This ain’t my death.”

This is a great show that is well worth a watch. The only bad thing about it is that it is a one-season wonder. When Godless ended, it left us wanting more Godlessness in our lives.

Saturday Morning, Revisited

Here’s some good news to brighten your Monday morning: classic cartoons, long gone from the Saturday morning schedules on network TV, are now being broadcast on Saturday mornings on a network called MeTV.

The MeTV schedule for this coming Saturday morning, for example, starts at 7 a.m. with an hour of Popeye and Pals — featuring a classic in which Olive Oyl runs for President — followed by The Tom and Jerry Show and then the pinnacle of Saturday morning cartoons of days gone by, an hour of Bugs Bunny and Friends. The Bugs hour for this next Saturday includes the cartoon where Bugs plays baseball and a Roadrunner cartoon featuring Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius.

It warms the heart to know that kids can once again camp in front of their TV sets, eat sugared cereal, and watch wide-eyed as cartoon characters get blown up, crushed, blasted by shotgun shells, conked with hammers, fall off cliffs, and experience the failures of Acme Products. That, and learn that eating spinach gave you super strength.

Watching these cartoons in my PJs and eating cereal on Saturday morning was a key part of how I grew up. Now, if only MeTV could expand the programming to include The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, their Saturday morning schedule would be just about perfect.

I’m not sure if kids of the modern era will watch the MeTV schedule — they would probably need a violence warning in any event — but I’m guessing that the true target audience is the grown-ups like me who want to relive a few of the Saturday mornings of their youth.

Breaking In The Hikers

We did a fair amount of hiking last summer and really enjoyed it, and this summer we plan to do even more. But this time, we decided to go out and actually buy some legitimate hiking footwear to better deal with the rooty and rocky trails of Maine.

We visited the L.L. Bean store at Easton and were helped by a very knowledgeable staffer who is a hiker himself. (That’s a good reason to go to L.L. Bean for hiking and outdoor gear, in my view — you are helped by someone who knows what they are talking about from firsthand experience.) After assessing the various options and important qualities like weight, tread, and heat retention, I decided on the Oboz Sawtooth II low summerweight hikers. I also bought two pairs of the excellent, well-padded LL Bean socks.

Since then, I’ve been wearing the hikers around the neighborhood in order to break them in before using them on the trail, in hopes of avoiding unwanted blisters when we start hiking in earnest. The Oboz are heavier than my sneakers, obviously, but they are very comfortable and really hug your foot when you get them fully laced up. And the difference in the sole and tread, and the kind of grip you feel, is quite noticeable. So far, though, I’ve resisted the temptation to step in puddles just to test the waterproofing and have limited myself to tromping around on the sidewalks and streets, and the only climbing I’ve done is stepping up on curbs. Still, I think the breaking-in process is working pretty well.

Kish had to prod me a bit to buy the hikers, because I am a notorious cheapskate by nature. But I’m glad she prevailed on me to do it, because I think they will make the hikes more enjoyable, and having the shoes makes me think with pleasure of the approaching summer and the hiking to come.

Generational Monikers

I’ve never understood the silly urge to coin names for “generations” — which basically seems to exist because, once you name a “generation,” you can make grossly overbroad generalizations about the people who are members.

It started with the “Baby Boomers,” which in my view shows just how stupid the generational naming is. “Baby Boomers” include anyone born between the end of World War II and 1964. That’s my generation, although my personal experience as someone born in the late ’50s is a lot different from someone born in the late ’40s. I wasn’t at risk of serving in Vietnam, for example, I didn’t go to any Beatles concerts, and I didn’t participate in any anti-war protests. Nevertheless, I’m designated as in that “generation” that is supposed to be hopelessly narcissistic and self-absorbed and now has become the source of the “OK, Boomer” putdown that younger generations like to use.

I think the Boomers were the first example of a named “generation.” And because sociologists thought that was a good idea, they gave names to other generations–including the “Silent Generation” that came before the Boomers, with members who had somehow been able to live their lives without a generational name until somebody decided, post-Boom, to give them one. Then came “Generation X,” immediately after the Baby Boomers, followed by “Millennials” (also apparently known as “Generation Y”), then “Generation Z.”

Now CNN is suggesting that the little kids of today–as part of the as-yet unnamed generation coming after “Generation Z”–should be called “Generation C,” because their outlook on life has been permanently transformed (and scarred) by the COVID pandemic. You can make the same arguments about how stupid it is to generalize about an entire generation, some of whom may well have been traumatized by COVID while others have simply accepted the changes and gone on with their kid lives without much concern. But the core point is how unfair it is to give a generation a name based on a disease. The coronavirus period has been tough, but it shouldn’t define a generation of little kids who will now be expected, going forward, to all be brittle and hyper safety conscious.

Can we please stop giving “generations” stupid names and generalizing about their members and their experiences?

The Weirdness Of Sleep

After more than 60 years of direct, personal experience, I’ve decided that sleep is weird.

Some nights I’ll go to bed and sleep as deeply as the dog shown in the picture above. I’ll be out for hours without any periods of wakefulness, and so far as I can tell during that time I’ve had one long, continuous dream that is like an extended feature film. I wake up and feel refreshed, but the sleep state lingers and it takes me a while to sharpen up and get going.

Other nights I’ll start off with a good period of rest, but then hit the sleep wall at about 3 a.m. I’ll wake up and struggle a bit to get back to sleep, and from then on until I get up for good, sleep will come in hour-long snatches, with lots of tossing and turning in between and dreams like sitcom episodes. When I finally give up trying to sleep any longer, I don’t feel particularly well rested, but I’m immediately alert.

And then there are nights when I hit that same sleep wall, wake up long enough to realize that I’m awake and need to try to get back to sleep, and then shift immediately into vignette mode, where I have brief, strange dreams interrupted by a minute or two of awareness before plunging back to get the next dream snippet. It’s as if my brain is shuffling the deck to sift through the day’s events and needs to lurch back to consciousness briefly before moving to the next selected short on the dream roster. And when I have one of those nights I finally wake up abruptly and get up immediately, wondering just how much strange stuff is lodged up there in my hippocampus.

I’m sure there are a lot of things that affect sleep patterns — what you’ve had to eat and drink that day, things that are going on in your life that cause concern, stress, physical fatigue, and so forth — but I suspect that much of it depends on subconscious stuff that just needs to be expressed for some reason. Sleep is intrinsically weird, and there’s not much we can do about it. Every night when you go to bed you just need to get ready for the show.

Major’s Minor Incident

Poor Major Biden.

The three-year-old German Shepherd has been sent from the White House back to the Bidens’ home in Wilmington, Delaware after a recent incident where the dog bit the hand of a Secret Service agent. The Secret Service said the injury was “extremely minor” and “no skin was broken.” However, some anonymous White House sources — there apparently are anonymous White House sources about everything, even dogs — said that Major also has been having issues with aggressive behavior, including jumping up on people, barking, and charging at White House staff and security. In a recent interview the First Lady said she has been focused on trying to get Major and the Bidens’ other dog, 13-year-old Champ, settled since the Bidens moved into the White House. She noted, for example, that the dogs have to take an elevator and have a lot of people watching them when they go out on the White House South Lawn for exercise.

I feel sorry for Major and other White House dogs, because the White House has got to be a tough environment for a dog. There are strangers coming in and out at all hours, and lots of people feeling stress and pressure–including, at times, the President and First Lady. Dogs are sensitive beings, and I’m sure Major feels the increased stress levels and is unsettled by all of the new faces. At the same time, if Major is nipping, jumping up, barking, and charging people, that poses a tough predicament for the Bidens, because dog misbehavior can escalate. You’d like to have your dog around, as one of the members of the family, but you can’t run the risk of the dog jumping up on a foreign dignitary or a member of Congress or the Cabinet, or really biting someone and doing some damage. And if the dog is barking and charging people, that’s got to be really tough for White House staffers, who can’t be sure whether Major is going to be a good boy or a growling threat the next time they see him in one of the White House hallways or the Oval Office.

Sending Major back to Delaware seems like a sensible approach to the problem and a good way to keep Major’s minor incident from becoming a real major problem.

Broken Windows And Gutter Masks

As we inch closer to reopening America and trying to get back to the way things were before the Great Shutdown, here’s a thought for hopeful business owners, bar proprietors, and restauranteurs: remember the “broken windows” theory.

As long-time readers of this blog know, “broken windows” theory holds that the physical surroundings communicate important messages to people about social order. If you see a broken window in your neighborhood, and after a few weeks it becomes apparent that no one is going to fix that window, you get the message that your neighborhood isn’t as orderly as it once was, and it causes concern about personal safety and appropriate behavior. The same message is conveyed by the appearance of graffiti on buildings, and increased litter on the streets. All suggest a breakdown in the established social compact that will make people jittery.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented broken windows theory on a national scale. Everything changed abruptly about a year ago. Many businesses closed during the initial shutdown, and some of them never reopened. There were fewer people on the streets, and many of those who were out were obviously fearful. Neighborhoods started to look more trashy because people who might otherwise pick things up and throw them away were afraid that loose trash and debris might be vectors for transmission of the disease. And all of those bleak visual cues have a compounding, reinforcing effect.

I was in downtown Columbus yesterday, and I thought about “broken windows” theory as I passed yet another gross, discarded facial mask in a gutter in front of a business. I think those gutter masks send a pretty unmistakable message that things still aren’t back to normal or even close to normal — because if they were, the business owner or a cleaning crew obviously would pick up that mask, and any other litter on the sidewalk. If I were a business owner trying to get the wheels of commerce to really turn again, I would go on mask patrol and make sure that the area around my establishment was free of dirty masks and other negative visual cues that might cause people to refrain from entering.

There are still a lot of nervous people out there. Many of them want the world to get back to normal, but they’ve been cautioned and conditioned to avoid risk. Filthy facemasks in the gutter subconsciously communicate that the risk is still out there.

That Outdoor Urge

Yesterday the temperatures were still cold, but it was bright and sunny. It’s clear that we are on the cusp of spring, and I felt this irrepressible urge to go outside and do something. Not just take a walk — actually do something that would fall into the “outdoor chore” category.

So I gave in to the impulse, bundled up against the cold breeze, put on my sunglasses, and went outside ready to do just about anything. I swept out the back porch to remove all of the leaves and dirt and dust that had gathered there over the winter, swept the patio stones and the brick walkway, surveyed the trees and shrubs, and picked up leaves and twigs so that the backyard and patio would be free of debris and our little pod of grass would have the best possible spring growth conditions.

Then I moved to the front of the house, swept the front steps and the brickwork, swept the front sidewalk, and collected and disposed of the flotsam and jetsam that had emerged from underneath the accumulated pile of snow in our front beds. I even retrieved a plastic grocery bag that was blowing down the street like a tumbleweed, and then used it as I walked up and down the street to pick up some of the inevitable post-snowmelt litter, so that our neighborhood would be ready for spring, too. At the end of the process I surveyed my efforts and internally pronounced them as good.

I’m a big believer in the notion of human beings reacting, instinctively, to seasonal changes. I certainly feel that I do. The days grow longer, the sun shines, the world grows greener bit by bit, and you can feel a surge of energy after the winter doldrums. It’s a good feeling.

“Advanced Toast Technology”

Yesterday morning our old toaster gave up the ghost. It had been a good toaster, faithfully performing every toasting service we required of it for years and delivering delightfully golden brown slices at our command, but yesterday morning the heating elements failed. I tried banging it around and plugging it into different electrical connections–in short, the standard actions of someone who has no earthly idea how to repair a toaster but figures it’s worth a shot–but neither of those pointless exercises had the desired effect. As a result, it was clear that we needed a new toaster.

This had a thrilling benefit: it gave us a reasonable excuse to get out of the house and buy a new toaster. Sure, we could have ordered one from Amazon and had it delivered to our doorstep within minutes, but as the shutdown period nears its one-year anniversary we’re looking for any reason to get out and about. So, we seized the opportunity presented by the dead toaster development to don our masks and head to the local Target and support the brick-and-mortar merchants who provide local jobs.

When we arrived at the Target, we were surprised to find an extensive toaster selection, shown below. Target not only featured the expected two-slice and four-slice options, but also toasters that offered significant and unexpected complexity in exchange for added cost. After careful deliberation befitting the significance of the decision, we grabbed the cheapest two-slice toaster–which even so promised “Advanced Toast Technology.”

The promise of “Advanced Toast Technology” concerned me, frankly. If you think about it, toasters have been a rock of reassuring stability in an ever-changing changing sea of technological advancements that has affected even the straightforward world of kitchen appliances. The toasters of the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s would perform perfectly well in a modern kitchen. Decades later, toasters still feature slots for the toast, heating coils, and a knob to be depressed to start the toasting process. No one needs a instruction manual to operate a toaster.

So when I opened our toaster and saw that it had a multi-page manual, it sent a chill down my spine. What unnecessary complexity has been injected into the tried-and-true toaster design? What new parts or elements have been added that might break down and interfere with the core toasting function? Fortunately, “advanced toast technology” turns out to be pretty basic stuff, befitting the timeless toaster functions: extra wide slots “to accommodate a variety of foods,” a removable crumb tray, “bagel & frozen options,” and seven (7!) toasting settings. I was grateful to find that there were no “smart appliance” features that require you to give your detailed personal information to toast a slice of bread. And our new toaster does a pretty good job of toasting, too.

All hail the timeless toaster, ever-immune to the confusing tides of pointless technological advancement!

Vax-O-Matic

Yesterday we went to get the first of our two-part COVID vaccinations at OSU East Hospital, just off Broad Street between downtown and Bexley. We signed up for an appointment as soon as we became eligible under the Ohio vaccination distribution protocols — age hath its (few) privileges — and when we arrived at the site we immediately became part of a impressively well-oiled machine.

As soon as we entered the building — masked, of course — our temperatures were taken, the results showed that we were clear to proceed, we applied hand sanitizer, and we followed a marked trail to the vaccination room. We got there early, and there was no line, although the vaccination room itself was full. Outside the room we showed our drivers’ licenses, confirmed our identities by answering questions, signed some forms, and then were guided into an open spot for two at one of the tables in the vaccination room itself. Every station was identified by a circular sign, depending on its status: “clean,” for open spots, “on deck,” for people who were waiting to get their shots, “COVID-19 warrior in training,” for people who were getting the shots, and “antibodies in training,” for people who had received the injection and were in the midst of the 15-minute post-vaccination waiting period to see if they had a bad reaction to the shot. As soon as the 15-minute period ended, the newly vaccinated left their spots, their areas were promptly and thoroughly disinfected, the signs were changed, and a new person came in as the process started all over again.

The person who guided us to our vaccination station changed the sign for our station, gave us an overview, and advised us to hold on to our vaccination confirmation card for dear life and “treat it like a passport.” Then we were met by a cheerful woman who asked us additional medical history questions, retrieved some forms that we had signed, gave us our timers, and then scanned some stickers that were placed on our vaccination cards to show which lot and dose we were receiving, distributed the vaccinations themselves, and changed our sign. Next up was our vaccinator, who entered more data, started the 15-minute period on the timers, and deftly gave us our shots after we rolled up our sleeves and bared our upper arms. The needle is long, but the shot was totally painless. After the vaccinator left, yet another staffer came by to change the sign, fill out our vaccination cards, and schedule us for our second shot in three weeks — which helped to fill up the 15-minute waiting period. We had no reaction tto the shots, so after our 15-minute periods ended we left our seats, which were then immediately sanitized for the next patient.

Kudos to the friendly folks at OSU East Hospital, who handled the entire process without a hitch and in very impressive fashion. All told, we were there for less than an hour, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. And we’re going to take very good care of our vaccination cards, too.

One other point to make about the vaccination room: everyone involved in the process was cheerful to the point of giddiness. I asked our vaccinator how she was dealing with the steady stream of arms to be injected, and she said that she believed what she was doing was the single more rewarding thing she had ever done in her entire medical career. All of the other OSU East people were seemingly thrilled to be playing a key role in the fight against the pandemic and the process of getting the country back to normal — and we were too, and so was everyone else who was there to receive their jab.

I don’t remember being this happy about getting my booster shots as a kid, but a pandemic has a way of changing your perspective.

Toothpaste Dilemmas

We’re coming to the end of one tube of toothpaste, and we’ve got another one in queue. So this morning, as I prepared to brush my teeth, I faced a difficult decision: should I go for Colgate “sparkling white” with “mint zing” flavor, which promises to whiten and help protect teeth from stains, or for Colgate “optic white stain fighter” with “fresh mint gel,” which purports to remove “6x more surface stains” with “micropolishing action”?

After careful deliberation and consideration about whether I should simply protect my teeth from stains, or actively fight them, I decided that, even though I wasn’t feeling particularly “sparkling” at the moment, I could use some “mint zing” in my life and I may as well use up the old tube of toothpaste before going all “optic” on my teeth. I brushed and flossed but, alas, my teeth — having sustained the onslaught of countless cups of coffee over the course of decades — did not reach the “sparkling white” level, and instead remained firmly stuck in the “dingy” zone.

I don’t think going with the “optic white stain fighter” would have made a difference, either. You’d need a product that removes “600x more surface stains” — basically, toothpaste akin to forced sandblasting — and offers awesome “macropolishing action,” rather than wussy “micropolishing action,” to make a discernible difference in the drab color of my aged choppers. In reality, I’m mostly just grateful that they all are still firmly rooted in my gums.

Nevertheless, I appreciate the aspirational element of toothpaste whitening options. Whether it’s “sparkling,” or “optic,” or “3D,” or “radiant,” they set a lofty goal–and also remind us of the importance of adjectives.

The Great Unmasking

We all remember how the COVID pandemic started, as cases climbed and state and local governments closed businesses, put restrictions on activities, and imposed mask mandates. Now we’ll see how the pandemic will end — and how long that process will take.

On Tuesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an order, to take effect next Wednesday, that will end the state’s mask mandate and allow all businesses of any type to open at 100 percent capacity. The press release from the Governor’s office, linked above, recognizes that “COVID-19 has not disappeared,” but notes that more than 5 million Texans have been vaccinated and about a million vaccinations are being administered each week, and concludes that state mandates are no longer needed and reopening Texas “100 percent” is necessary to “restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans.” Under the Governor’s approach, Texans, and Texas businesses, will decide for themselves what practices they will follow.

Abbott’s decision has been strongly criticized. President Biden called it a “big mistake” that was the product of “Neanderthal thinking,” for example, and the CDC Director says “now is not the time to release all restrictions” because the next month or two will be “pivotal” in determining the course of the pandemic. And Texas businesses are taking different approaches to mask issues in view of the order, with some lifting restrictions and others still requiring employees and customers to mask up. Some businesses note that the Governor’s order puts them and their employees in an awkward position: if they decide to continue to require masks from customers because the CDC thinks that is the right course, they are putting their employees in a position of enforcing the requirement–and increasing the risk of confrontations with customers who refuse to do so.

One of the more interesting consequences of this pandemic has been the spectrum of risk tolerance we are seeing from businesses and our friends and colleagues. Some people have been out and about for months, traveling and dining out, others have stayed at home and are continuing to avoid any public places, and still others occupy every permutation in between. I think we’ll see a similar range of actions from state authorities, guided by the specific economic and health conditions in their states. Is an abrupt, total lifting of requirements the best course, or a gradual easing of restrictions, or keeping all mandates in place until it is crystal clear that there is no longer any risk whatsoever of a COVID resurgence? And do public health authorities really have the ability to give conclusive advice on when the pandemic, and the risks, have ended?

When you were a kid and scraped your knee in a childhood mishap, you put on a Band-Aid. After the Band-Aid did its work, you had to make a decision on how to remove it: rip it off, tug it off gradually, or do something in between. Texas’ Governor has taken the “rip it off” approach. Now we’ll see how that works out.

Yellowstone

We just finished the three seasons of Yellowstone, a drama about the grossly dysfunctional Dutton clan. The Duttons fight with each other and everybody else who is trying to take away or break apart their beautiful and enormous ranch, Yellowstone, located close to the national park of the same name. Kevin Costner plays John Dutton, the tough, gravel-voiced head of the family who is both hated and revered and who always seems to have a plan to hold the ranch together.

This is a show that seemed to take a while to find its legs, but eventually it sank its teeth into us at some point in season two. The Dutton family back story is filled with death and horror, and all of the members — father John, kids Cayce, Beth, and Jamie, and head hand Rip Wheeler and his cowboy crew — have a terrible dark side. They look good riding horses, wearing cowboy hats, and standing in front of some of the most stunning countryside you’re likely to find in America, but they’re also ready to ruin you or kill you at the drop of a Stetson. If watching people get shot or hung bothers you, this is not the show for you.

In fact, after a few episodes you’ll wonder just how many dead bodies are buried in those magnificent meadows and mountainsides, and whether every person in Montana is a soulless killer. And nobody seems all that troubled by casual murders, either, including normal law enforcement and the livestock police that the Dutton clan controls. Add in the fact that some members of the family hate each other with a withering contempt, a neighboring Native American community would love to take the Yellowstone ranch and return it to the way it was before the Duttons took it 150 years ago, and greedy developers and fellow ranchers who don’t mind pushing the legal envelope themselves want desperately to turn that gorgeous countryside into Casino McMansionland, and you’ve got a pretty combustible mix.

Kevin Costner is good as the formidable head of the family — you might call him Don Vito Dutton — who shows his tender side in his interaction with his grandson Tate but won’t hesitate to do what is necessary to preserve the family legacy. Other characters also show their tender sides from time to time, but don’t let that fool you — the next death is only moments away. Our favorite characters are the ever-wide-eyed Tate, played by Brecken Merrill, who is the only true innocent in the whole show, and Beth, played by Kelly Reilly, the outrageous, insult-ready, tough-as-nails daughter who will stop at nothing to protect her Dad, but who is wrestling with her own set of demons.

We’re looking forward to season four and more exposure to that beautiful Montana scenery. Yellowstone makes us want to get back to Big Sky Country in person, but if we go we’ll be bringing along our own bulletproof vests–and we’re not going to be stopping on any dusty roads, either.