Sunday, March 12, 2017

Farm March 2017—Outhouse Edition.




I.      Wood for which the flames to lick...

Farmhouse fajitas, nachos, Helm at the helm, old time music, fiddles, a nearly full moon, clean
cool air.  Chucking my banana peel toward the brushline, cabbage shards.  My nose is cold and runny.  Hat on, hoody, vest, thermal, two pair sox, crox.  Hot dog on the stove in foil this morning, baked potato on and then in the stove last night.  Splitting wood, getting wood, arranging wood, burning wood.  Excursion to Iberia via Brays Church Road, church there at 42, Mount Gilead, cemetery too.  Pastures, cows, farm dogs just chillin not chasin.  I cut up a fallen ash that wasn't nearly as dead as I thought, somehow still going at a forty-five degree angle and living on and through the v-trunk of another tree, maybe the second hickory species here, without shaggy bark and difficult to split—pignut?  The four horses are still here, two white, one black, one...Appaloosa?  I thought that word and then Helm said that word so it must be so.  A sparse, low fog rolled in.  I spoke of Misty at Chincoteague, we talked about wild horses.

The fajitas were good.  Tortilla, mex rice, refried beans, shredded cheese, sauteed onion cauliflower and broccoli.  Sour cream.  That means the beefaroni once again will have been packed only to go uneaten.  Helm is cleaning up.  I've poured a vodka tonic but I'm feeling torpid, tired.  No soap on the skillet, hot water and a wipedown.  Love is a rose. Salsa container, scotch tape.  3M, 4M, 5M.  A $1 paring knife.  A coozee that says, "Tell Me Again How Lucky I am to Work Here."  Neil Young, Dr. Dog, water in a one-gallon jug.  A spork.  Water through the coffeemaker not for coffee, not for tea—for cleaning.  More wood for the wood stove.  Split, dried, seasoned, split again, like pellets, there is almost no smoke just warmth to live by.

A creek, an outhouse, a woodstove, a whip-poor-whil and I can be happy.  Magnets, a collander, reading glasses, paper plates, a chess set.  Leftover refried beans dumped into a paper cup.  Expletive.  Photograph of a man who did good work here.  Headshot.  Cancer.  Cardinals 94.3 FM, Kleenex, shims, Jim James. Chainsaw, axe, wedge, sledge.  Inadequate splitting stumps.  Wood cache.  Wood marked in Sharpie.  Ash, oak, hickory, wood from the stand by Planet Sub.  Oil spill.  Expletive, expletive.  "Could be worse."  Soothing reggae riddims.  $1 paring knife out for an encore.  Lemon on this green plastic cutting board.  "We could be looking for the same thing, if you're looking for someone."  Lemon, gnarled lemon, a large Myers?  No, it's from a bag.  Trash fire.  "I've got a gal that lives on a hill."

Helm continuing to clean, down with the oil spill towels.  "Skyy's the limit."  The Band.  The third disc is just the first two discs live, after all that anticipation.  Expletive.  Next pod, please.  Chess, queen, queen down, move on.  "I could have used that playlist a couple of weeks ago."  Thank God, closure.  Nicotine hitter, oh to be home again.  Nest in the outhouse, nest and nesty, dust and grass and clipped twigs, pod of honey locust.  Hexagonal hole in the seat, roots in the dirt below, where oh where to go if not below?



II.  Aged at Sea.


to the melody of "Lost on the River"

Sittin at the table
in the cold
listening to the Dead

No calendars this year

To the fridge for ice cubes

Sun and showers,
aged as rain

aged in the ocean,
aged on the plains

Aged in the Aege-
the Aegean Sea.

Raised on the plains,
aged on the sea
Aged in the Aegean,
the Aegean for me.

Big Muddy River,
close to the sea
The sea that I sounded,
when it crashed on me.

Minds colliding,
at th'estuary,
overdue books
at the library....



III.  The Take Home Jug.


Filling my take home jug
with water from the farm

When will I get back here,
by wing or by arm

Weather vane romance,
end of the line,

Wade the creek together,
some other time

Crawdads and tadpoles
laundry line

Can I get you to get here
some other time?

Crummy service,
message won't send.

It's coffee in the morning,
no breakfast in bed,

chickens in the outhouse,
that's how these things end.

Cross behind
that dusty old shed

I'm here mining for roses
but I keep finding lead

They don't want it in gasoline,
they don't want it in bread,
but it's stuck in my head.

Floors are a-tatter,
the families, they scatter

And the onions get rusty,
like that broken-down shed.

Don't steal this trademark,
don't fight this fed

By the time I'm done singing,
the memory'll be read.


IV.  Saturday Morning, Czechoslavakian Dateline.

Sources: Country to split into two,
czech czech czech.  One two, one two.

Writings songs and drinking coffee.  Hot dogs in foil sizzle on top of the wood stove while I play this Feelies album.  We leave today, it's cold out there and cloudy.  It's not red meat that gives you cancer, it's the char.  The czar, the tsar, just a little czar is ok, the rest gives you cancer though.  First hot dog accomplished, the second sizzles because it is NEXT.  Gonext.com, where is everyone is waiting—but for how much longer!  Cooking dogs on the stovetop, no condiments.  Just a little char, char boy.  Cedar, locust, hickory dickory dock, dry dock, repairs.  Fears of pears, tears of pearls, tiers of earls.  The music has stopped, the music has left the building, to pursue opportunities in another field, of sorghum.








Tuesday, February 21, 2017

NOLA: 2017



I.  Preface: Not there Yet.

I imagined what it would be like if I did Dwight Yoakam's "1000 Miles From Nowhere" as karaoke and it wasn't a pretty vision.  Bad vision, bad vocals, song sad, not letting me do my thing.  I heard him do that song in Milwaukee in 1999 in clothes I no longer wear.  I drove up there with my best friend from high school.  He lived in northern Illinois.  Where is he now?  Last I saw him was in San Francisco in 2011.  He drove up from San Diego.  We spent an evening together, all of us, I think I disappointed him because I did not go all out.  I called him the next year, left a message, never heard back.  Then just two weeks ago, I stepped out my front door to go for a run, so early, and this guy on the opposite side of the street, windbreaker on, hood pulled tight over his head, the way he walked—australopithecan—I think it was him.  Improbable.  Ejphoop@imsa, was it you?  I miss you, I miss having a connection to my high school years.  I've bounced around like that, I have no one from the IMSA days. Only Roy from the year prior and even that is tenuous of late because of a divide that was always there, the awful donkey-elephant frankenstein in the room, even though I am neither and maybe he isn't either either.  Oh, pass the ether, it's awful and ether and good morning, America, how are you?  Don't you know us, we're your native sons?  We are just incommunicado for a while here and not even savior son of the north Joey Votto can save us this time, regardless of how many times he gets on base, how tight his pants are, or how many doubles he lands.


II.  Strep To.

Who wants to riverboat gamble?  Bramblewine, Charley Pride, kiss an angel good morning.  At 4:35 a car on St. Ann honked, a woman whooped, and I coughed this cough I've got, craning for health, for a clear cranium, for enriched uranium, for heavy water—Enough.  It's not a cough I've got but a sore throat and a wicked one.  All my life I'd hear about other people getting strep throat and I can't recall ever having it myself...until now?  Dunh, dunh, dunhhhh!  I have been under the weather for weeks and now I'm in New Orleans, Louisiana—what am I doing here?  Sipping room coffee at five a.m. because I can't sleep and my throat hurts and I don't have my trusty foam contour pillow, to which I have grown heavily reliant.  The day will unfold, though, and it might just get better.  The only tool of destruction I have here is the liquid kind—no gas and no compacted particulate.  I might remember the good time I'm going to have out on those patchworked cobblestone streets in this old amorous city on the river.

I have little else factual to report.  It's Friday morning.  This is vacation.  B and I sprung this trip on ourselves, by ourselves.  I fear we might get a little lonely.  We had no trouble getting here.  The security line at Lambert-Southwest was no line at all.  Indeed, I'd fly on a Thursday evening again.  The plane was full because there is never a shortage of people heading to New Orleans.  The flight is not quite an hour and a half.  I finished a sudoku and read just a little of Peter Reading's, Perduta Gente.  There's no reason you should have heard of it.  I bought it, used, at Subterranean Books on the Delmar Loop back when that store sold used books.  It's considered a work of poetry but I'd call it mixed media, a poetic collage.  There are stanzas of verse but also handwritten "diary" excerpts and photocopies of newspaper articles and ads spliced into the story, which deals with street people in London: winos and dipsos.  Dipsomaniacs I take it—drunks.  There is frequent mention of peoples' 'meths', which I conclude is a neologistic mashup of meds and methods, or maybe he is simply talking about methamphetamine but I don't think so.

I was struck by a line in the second diary entry, handwritten, torn from a small wire-bound paper notebook not unlike what I'm writing in now, with the derbis hanging like loose textile at the top.  It goes, "Tuesday: In the crypt of St Botolph's we got a mug of tea and some bits of bread.  It's like a sort of air-raid shelter with us all waiting for something awful to go away, or worse, to happen."  I've run with my erstwhile college friend Bill Williams's great line, "It's all a wash—we move, we walk, we travel and, yet, we rarely really talk" as the tagline for my blog for years but I think it's time for a change.  This line of Reading's, penned 27 years ago, fits today as well as any could.

I am struggling in this New Era of the Great America because I am afraid of broaching disagreement but yet I don't want to find myself agreeing with someone either: afraid to disagree, unwilling to agree.  An act I took in favor of myself and some family, for non-monetary purposes, is condemned by those who would tell me what else it was I was supposed to have done for them or for their wards.  I find myself then in some sort of self-imposed exile, having placed my own mind in quarantine, my opinions like germs I must keep suppressed.  If I let them out the arguments and recriminations will become bigger than my reality, swamping a vacation, killing a friendship, stunting a family tree, poisoning the water supply for the whole damn town on down.  Not gonna do it, wouldn't be...prudent.  Ah, those were the days, when I didn't know what a politician was, when I wasn't interested in the fight.  If I could just get a pen and some paper, and observe a lot just by watching—where is Yogi when we need him?


III.  Magazine Subscription.

We're on Magazine, 3000 block, east of Lafayette Cemetery.  The first time I was in New Orleans, with Brett and Tab, we took the streetcar down to the Garden District, went to the Cemetery but weren't sure what to do with ourselves once we'd toured the graves.  Magazine Street is what we were looking for, a tight corridor of neighborhood bars, restaurants, and stores.

I went to the American Apparel and bought a couple of their deep V-neck t's.  In the last twelve months I've bought deep Vs in Portland, Chicago, and now New Orleans.  This store was on the sparse side, dazily attended, what you'd expect from a store whose outfit is in bankruptcy, again. I've been drawn to the Am App deep Vs as a replacement for my nasty-pit white undershirts.  The last time I tried to buy more large tall Jockey V-neck t's they were not nearly as long/tall as before . With the Am App I can give them a second wear as a running or gym shirt after first having worn them to work as an undershirt—less wash.  And they're made in the U.S., which makes them something of a dying breed.  I am getting them while I can.  A couple of my old jaundice-pit whities will get the ax when I get home.  [Ed. note: Apparently Gildan, the activewear company, has bought Am App out of bankruptcy, and has made clear its intent to start manufacturing some American Apparel-branded textiles in other countries.]

We're gonna walk down to a deli at 2290 Magazine.  We've done a fair bit of walking already today (plus the 4.5 I did on the hotel treadmill).  Worth the walk was Willa Jean at Girod and ________.  The shrimp and I grits I had was as good as any shrimp dish I've had her in three trips.  The grits were gritty and creamy and then there was a reddish sauce that I feared might give me heartburn but hasn't yet.  B had a biscuit, eggs, bacon, grits.  The place was doing a brisk morning business but we got seated within minutes and the service was attentive.  I had a grapefruit juice.  I'd give the place four out of four or five out of five stars.  They have a lunch menu, too.  We would go back.

My fear of some major sickness having taken root in me has come and gone in the wake of whatever it was that moved through me earlier.  My throat is still sore but I've discounted the possibility of flu, which is widespread in this area, according to Weather Underground.  Can you imagine if there really were an epidemic, of flu?  Or something else?  Are any of us prepared?  I don't think we have a sense of what emergency really means.  The best argument I can imagine as to why we should let refugees into the United States it is so they could tell us about what it means to live life with true urgency.  But I'm not sure how many of us would stop and listen.  Would I?  Would it strike me right, or would I be just too damn busy carrying on with my carrying on?


IV.  Widespread Accounts of Progress.

Jackhammers, stone cutters, cement mixers, bricklayers, orange cones, yellow tape—this city is Under Construction.  Fences throughout Jackson Square.  Sidewalk ends torn up corner after corner to splice in half-hearted attempts at ADA compliance.  Sidewalks closed altogether for major building renovation.  There was a house on Sophie Wright stripped down to the studs and it looked like even the old studs themselves were being swapped out for new ones in a complete and total retro-fit.

Other properties, which we saw walking through the Garden District, are wood-exterior homes in dire need of paint.  For some, the moment for paint is long passed and rotting wood needs to be excised and replaced altogether.  It made me think of our stucco bungalow, with its wood trim.  The maintenance requirement is never-ceasing but manageable.  There is no freezing and thawing here but plenty of rain and nearly year-round moisture.  I have no doubt those parcels are worth a lot but it's not a hold I'd be interested in taking on myself.  We might get back down there.  If we do I'll want to look at the houses some more.  We saw one that a restoration company's sight out front.  The house looked clean and trim and fresh and made me envious and happy.

I meant to do some study on parts of buildings in advance of this trip so better to describe them.  I want to call everything a balustrade or a parapet.  Wall.  Stairs.  Balcony.  We saw two gents working on either side of the railing of a porch along the front of a bed and breakfast.  One kneeling up top, one standing below.  They were scraping and chipping the paint from the balusters making up the railing.  They watched me watching them as we walked by, first in the wrong direction, and then again as we doubled back.

We took the bus back.  We had taken the St. Charles streetcar down to the Garden District after Willa Jean this morning.  The bus seemed like the better way to go—quicker and roomier.  It was the 11 we took back up to Canal.  There were other riders but they seemed more like locals as opposed to the streetcars being more of a tourist vehicle.  But we wouldn't turn down the streetcar if it were the better option considering time of trip and the amount of walking involved.  Same cost: $1.25 per ride.  We each bought a $10 pre-loaded card this morning.  After one trolley ride and one bus ride we are down $2.50 each to $7.50.  There is a machine on either the trolley or the bus into which you slip the card and it pops back out minus the fare.

I've had a few Andy Gators.  I just poured a vodka and tonic.  We have new neighbors on floor 3, who appear to have us surrounded.  They are flitting back and forth between their numerous rooms making enough clatter with doors banging to distract me from this task.  My job is to deal with it.  Unless it gets ridiculous and then I'll ask the hotel to move us.  I don't like being surrounded.  The only fail safe is that we've got this "split-level suite"—an oddball of a room where we have entrances on both three and four.  These old party folk shuttle diplomats are not on four.  They might have the balconies I can see out our floor three window, on either side of us.  There is now an ashtray out on the balcony to the left I'm pretty sure wasn't there before.  If I were Pat or Roy they'd probably make friends with these folks but I have a hard time of that.  I'm unsure where else I could go just to hang out, perhaps the lobby like I did last time or the wrap-around staircase mezzanine near the lobby.  I'll have to pull that cord at some point.

WWOZ, currently a string of funky jazz, is playing upstairs on the actual FM radio (90.7) and downstairs I have it going on my phone using their app.  It is filling our split-level nicely, though the timing is a little off.  "It's a round, don't you get it?  The delay is intentional.  It adds to the effect."  The two guys sitting next to us at Stein's were talking movies and seemed to be old friends.  One was quoting and making references left and right.  He said something about Matthew McConnaughey in "Mud."  I don't know that one.  There might have been references to comic books or a comic book movie.  My memory has been mud lately.  I've had a hard time remembering some of the expenditure amounts.  I need my recall facility to work if my style of travel writing is going to yield the expected result.  They mentioned some specific other flicks but I just can't remember.  Perhaps I got distracted when one of the sandwich baristas yelled at a customer who must have been picking up his finished sandwich while also being on his phone.  "Hang up the phone, motherfucker!"  My back was turned.  Was the patron in offense merely because he was on the phone while picking up the finished order?  Or did this patron try to converse with the barista while on the phone, therein angering the sandwich maker?  I am uncertain but I know for sure that it created an air of tension in the place.  I went up to get our finished order soon thereafter, phone far away, and the yeller was still fuming, muttering "fuckers..." under his breath.  The sandwiches were good but we opted to eat them outside once we had them in hand.

Ship's left the station now, another little vodka and tonic, this time with a lemon.  WWOZ played an advert about a food festival being held, alas, after we leave but the location is one Central City BBQ, a destination on my list of 14 "Other Food Options."  It's at 1201 S. Rampart, 26 minutes away via the 28 bus, open from 11 a.m. Thursday through Monday.  I had visited and left New Orleans the first time, having stayed a block "east" of Rampart and never stepped in that direction once.  My second time here I had a sense of where it was and could apprehend that it was "a complete mess" and had no reason to scale it.  Things could change this time around.  Rockets red glare and the ramparts they wail.  To quote Dayn Perry, "National anthem, bitch!"


V.  Writing in the Dark.

It's 3:05 a.m. Saturday morning.  I've not slept well the last couple hours.  Woke up a lot between two and three.  Dreamt of June, doing a crazy jump.  I dislike the pillow arrangement here.  Two crummy pillows.  I've become a pillow prig.

I looked out the window, took my earplugs out.  There isn't a whole lot going on.  A group of seven fifty-ish black gals walked by.  One of them stopped, looked back up St. Ann in the direction of Bourbon and said, "Whatch'all doin?"  A minute later three more gals and a guy walked by.

There is a trickle of taxis and other cars, their lamps washing over the ceiling of our room as they coast by.  My ears were starting to hurt from the plugs so I pulled them.  I'm a little tight.  I can feel yesterday's walking in my calves.  The fridge kicks on, sounding kind of like an oink.  We saw a pig on a leash yesterday.  It somehow reminded us of June.  The whitish fur, being low to the ground, and the placid look on its face.


VI.  Say It's Saturday.

a.  Room Coffee.


I went to an ATM and withdrew some cash.  It's 7:30 a.m. and chilly outside—low forties.  But it's clear and it's Saturday and the mercury's got nowhere to go but up.  B went to grab some breakfast at her favorite bakery, Croissant d'Or Patisserie.  I am going to put in a couple of miles on the treadmill and then do approximately five exercises with the dumbbells in the fitness center.  I've had one room coffee and one lobby coffee.  WWOZ flows from the radio upstairs.  Stevedores were unloading boxes and boxes of "15 dozen eggs" for consumption at Brennan's on Royal.  The street machines have doused their cobbles, making it look like there has been rain.  Activity begins to percolate in the hall.

b.  Day Errata.


A wild-eyed man in a hoodie at the streetcar stop on Canal and Dauphin was saying, "There's an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.  Half the people don't know."  Anything's possible.  I should have stopped to see if there was anything more to go on, or if this was his annual message, irrespective of current events.  But I was headed to Crescent City Books and I was not stopping.

                                                                            *

My feet are beat.
My feat is a beet.
My feta are beta.
My fate is bait.
My fete is bet.
My fat is bat,
enough of that.

                                                                            *

I just snagged a copy of J.F. Powers's Lions, Harts, Leaping Does from the compact labyrinth that is Arcadian Books, right across Orleans from our hotel's main entrance.  I had heard Annie Proulx read "A Losing Game" on a New Yorker fiction podcast a couple of weeks ago.

"J.F. Powers," said the proprietor when I handed him the book.  "I haven't heard that name in years.  He used to be a big deal."

He checked the cover for the penciled-in price.

"And that's an old price, too," he told me, looking over his glasses."

I didn't say anything but inside I was feeling like I had won something important only to me and him and he was playing the good sport.  I recall Proulx suggesting Powers was out of print.  So, a tip of the hat to the New Yorker fiction podcast and its host, Deborah Treisman.  So too a nod to Annie Proulx who said she had wanted to read Powers because she thought he was in danger of being forgotten.  I've never read Proulx's most famous work, The Shipping News, but I would by it or a collection of her own short stories were I to encounter them.

Powers might have fallen from favor because, according to Proulx, he writes mainly about religious professionals—priests, deacons, vicars, prelates, and bishops.  Not a subject I would otherwise be drawn to.  But "A Losing Game" was a remarkably clean, well-dialogued, straightforward, secular story in my estimation.  Character-driven on the small scale.  I like short stories because they allow me to get in and out without having to lend hours and weeks to one story that might curdle three hundred pages in, having grown maudlin or politically quagmired.

I just wish I could write a decent short story or two.  I had a chance years ago.  I feel very far from being able to do so now.  I wrote two pretty bad stories in 2015.  They were bad to the point I left them both unfinished because I didn't care about them.  They were the epitome of me writing just for the sake of writing.  I'm too hostile and red in the face and sodden and I spend too much time in a car related to work to write something decent.  I fear I will be unable to write a decent story until I can still everything out.  I can't see achieving that now or soon from now.  But this helps.  Just to go through ink and paper does help.  Yet, getting to a state where I can create characters who have important lives or who have something important to say....  It's the old joke about asking for directions, "You can't get here from here."

After visiting the ATM this morning I put in 3.4 on the treadmill and did three weight exercises: bicep curl, tricep raise with dumbbell behind head, and incline bench press with dumbbells.  I tried some lunges with dumbbell but my left big toe could not brook the flex required of it when I lunged forward with my right leg.  I tried a couple of other things only to conclude, "That's not an exercise."  Or, "No, that's not an exercise either."

I've opened an Andy Gator, fourth of six from yesterday's sixer.  Bottles.  I am heavily emphasiZing aluminum lately but I know I like the Gator and it's not in cans to my knowledge.  The Gator is an 8.0% ABV doppelbock, not at all like an india pale ale, or a stout, or a belgian ale, or a barleywine.  It's a "high gravity, strong, slightly fruity" badass German-style beer, made by Abits in Abita Springs, Louisiana.  There's also a strawberry version, which B and I split one of last night.  Not bad.
As previously indicated, I went to Crescent City Books after running.  It's below Canal now, having moved about a year ago.  They had a handful of books temporarily corralled in their "New Arrivals" section that I wanted to buy.  I did snag one of them, classified as Nature writing, about a guy in England who tracks the "comings and goings of a pair of peregrine falcons across the flat fenlands of eastern England."  I picked it up, looked at the neat drawing of a peregrine falcon on the cover, read the description, and said to myself, "Oh, I am buying this book!"

I also bought a travel writing volume called Expats by Christopher Dickey.  The subtitle is "Travels in Arabia, from Tripoli to Tehran."  I read a lot of fiction and I'm not sure it's always educative.  Plus, the type of writing I have managed to pen is best called travel writing so I might as well see what's been passing as some of the best of the form.  I then went and scanned the expansive fiction area.  I was working from a list of list of writers or readers from the New Yorker fiction podcast: I always look for Donald Barthelme, and I never find him.  (I have his Sixty Stories, one of my desert island books, but I did not realize until 2015 or so that his Forty Stories is not a tighter version of the sixty stories but forty distinct stories unto themselves, and I search for it, unsuccessfully on end.  WTF, Kenneth?)

I looked for David Means.  I looked for Mary Gaitskill, and there was a volume of the sort I sought but it was not only hardback but also "signed by the author" and cost $24 so I passed.  There was a J.F. Powers hardback, $10, I passed.  Tobias Wolff's A Boy's Life is reputed and I have enjoyed the work of his I have read—Old School is worth reading, and I read one of his short story collections, liking it—but I couldn't pull the trigger on Boy's Life.  There was no Sherman Alexie, that's the surprise gay Indian sex story from the podcast series.  No Muriel Sparks.  There was a huge tome of Nadine Gordimer; a pricy hardback of Coover; no Peter Stamm; no George Saunders; only a novel by Joseph O'Neill, carrying a president's endorsement on the cover, which I took to say, "This is an overtly political work" and I passed; only a novel of Antonya Nelson's; no Joshua Ferris, etc etc.

I started getting texts from B so I bid the cat adieu, paid $17.05 for my two books and then went in search of a USPS mail drop box...









Friday, January 20, 2017

2017, Year of the Flying Squirrel



2017.  Year of the Turd.  That's pretty crude, I can do better.  OK.  2017, Year of the Flying Squirrel.  I like the idea of a flying squirrel, they have pluck.  No wings but they make do.  They fly somehow anyway, though not as well as a bumblebee.

I've heard references to 2016 being a bad year.  Because of Trump?  Please.  My dog died—or, rather, I had my dog put down.  I invited some horrible woman with a needle to come into my house and kill my dog.  If 2016 was a bad year it was because I had to make that hasty and rude introduction with death, the reaper.  Or for the people in Aleppo was 2016 a bad year.  It was a bad year for the people who lost mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, wives and husbands, friends they have known for most of their lives.

If I said 2017 was the Year of the Turd it was because I'm sitting here feeling sorry myself, with a head cold, rainy drear outside.  It's January, it's not supposed to be pleasant.  Spring is ahead.  Baseball, the full 162, is out there on the schedule, yet to be played.  Good music is going to be released along with thousands of free podcasts.  I got a new iPod for Christmas—ask and ye shall receive still works for me.  God, I've been spoiled and lucky.  The iPod I was replacing, which I'd stuck in a creaky drawer, suddenly woke back up when I plugged it back in on a whim, once more 'round the old ballpark, for kicks.  Lo these last few months it was merely hibernating, much like the flying squirrel would do.  Wait—

"Google, do flying squirrels hibernate?"

As it happens I've set my default browser to Bing but as I type "do flying" the first suggestion in the auto-complete is, "Do flying squirrels hibernate?"  This is too much.  Sadly, though, according to the website for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, flying squirrels do not hibernate.

"Though seldom seen, flying squirrels are interesting animals.  With their loos folds of skin (called a patagium) stretched between all four legs, they are able to glide considerable distances under full control.  Many people who think they see birds flying across highways at night actually are seeing flying squirrels.  Flying squirrels do not hibernate but slow their body activity in winter and sometimes nest in groups to stay warm."

I'm taking a moment to add "See a flying squirrel" to my bucket list.  They're nocturnal so I'm going to have to stay up late.  Their habitat includes northern states as far and wide as Maine and Oregon as well as a wide swath of Canada.  Maybe one will glide across some cold Canadian highway one night as I drive in search of my number one bucket list item, the aurora borealis.  Here's to 2017, Year of the Flying Squirrel.




Monday, January 16, 2017

Trip Up East 2016



September 3, 2016.

He and I are laid up, stuck, at Lambert.  Our flight was scheduled for 11:05, pushed back to 2:25p.  The plane is detained in Oklahoma City for maintenance.  There was an earthquake north of there this morning, about seven o'clock.  Some in St. Louis—my mom—said they felt the tremor.  B and I were running, felt nothing.

I went and got us coffees, long line at Starbucks.  There is TV noise, there are children, there are many aboard the blunderbuss of airport confusion.  The board is clean except for our flight.  Bad luck, bald luck, bad eagle.  It's been awhile since I've had an unpleasant flight experience, not since a layover in Miami coming back from The Mexico in 2010.  I can't recall what amount of time that required.  There's a lady from my eventual flight on her phone, talking away.  One call after the next, as if her talking keeps the phone charged.  She's telling people the flight was canceled, and rescheduled.  Not true.  Alarmist.  Unruly kids, agitated mother.  I'm not long for this seat.

"I just turned 59-and-a-half, that was a milestone for me," she says.

She can now take a distribution from her IRA penalty-free.

"I gotta pay taxes on it?"

And they pump the CNN into this terminal like it's laughing gas.  "This was not in the plan, I can tell you that."  Like Dad said—what I lobbied for—we take the direct flight and it backfires.  Egg on my face.  We asked at the desk about going through Hartford but that option wouldn't get us there any faster.  "Manchester, NH?"  Nope.  A guy is restocking the soda machine.  I should have packed more than just one little bourbon.  The wait is on.  It was, all along.  The earthquake announced it, the vouchers, denounced it, all I can do is sing this song.

I'm slinging my "old" iPod, the one with the cracked-windshield screen.  What was my current iPod just stopped working.  I didn't drop it—it dropped me.  Cold, dark screen.  We had a good run, many of them in fact.  How many tubes of caulk did I crush listening to 'casts on that pod?  Several, many several.  How many baseball games did it succor me with?  Many, very many.  Lots of John and Suzyn.  Plenty of Tom Hamilton.  It's uncanny too that the earphones I'm now using are new.  The old ones were going, getting slip-shoddy just before the pod checked out.  Maybe the pod knew it, stepped away just in time—Wow.  I was getting to this but the old Pod has forced my hand.  On random it breaks out Daft Punk, DJ Koze, then Modest Mouse.  You give me chills, old Pod!

There's a little, tan lady lying down on a row of seats, watching something on an iPad at a weird angle.  Neck vertebrae of steel.  Maybe she is Wolverine's mama.  Talk of lunch.  Audible audibles.  Dad suggests Chico's, just down the tarmac from here.  I realize he means Chili's.  Loud noise from the vending machines, just short of a soda explosion.  There is a lull all through the terminal, like the morning window for arrivals and departures has closed.  The shopkeepers and clerks have all gone out for their noon-time break.  Smell of apple cider vinegar on my fingers.  I sent B an SOS re: my sweaty pits.  She did some research.  Next thing I know I'm wiping ACV on my armpits.  I'll try anything.  In college I wrote a story about a guy—Jackson Middler—who had a terrible sweating problem.  Much of the story took place, as it happens, at the airport.   But that was pre-2001 and I used the airport as a peripatetic landscape where people could come and go, regardless of whether they held a boarding pass.  This imagined airport had a strip club, where Jackson had an encounter with a woman named Samantha Spumoani.  It's all coming back to me now.  I spent a lot of space in the story talking about the speed ramps in the airport—the motoriZed walkways, the horiZontal escalators—and how they allowed people to move at different speeds.  A person could use the speed ramp and walk; could get on the speed ramp and stand; or, a person could choose not to use the walkway at all.  Jackson Middler didn't use the walkway at all.  That's who he was.  I am pretty certain I have no remaining copies of that story.  11:27 a.

                                                                              *

I'm reminded of that line from the Beach Boys' "Sloop John B", a line I first really heard in a laundromat in Munich in 2008, there on a trip with B and Roy.  This isn't the worst trip I've even been on but this is top five worst flights—most miserable flights—of all time.  Considering first the delay.  Second, sitting in this window seat with BFR in the middle seat to my left: his elbow is encroaching my space in an inconceivably great way.  I have a couple of poses to choose from, as I am a statue in torture en route Boston.  Third, there are a disproportionate number of young kids on this craft and they are all taking turns screaming their heads off.  Are they being operated upon with blowtorches?  One is in the seat right behind us and if he is in a quiet stretch it is because he finds that kicking the back of one of our seats is a basis for placation.  Now one of the stewardesses warns we are going to hit some turbulence.

I just downed the pitiful sole bourbon bullet I loaded in my carry-on bar gun.  What was I thinking?  Why did I not plan harder?  Music, turned up as loud as it can go, will have to keep me aloft the rest of the way.  I've heard some of my classics.  Black Keys, "The Only One"; Future Islands, "Back in the Tall Grass"; a Pearl Jam song I never hear any more; Led Zeppelin, "Ten Years Gone."  How good was that Future Islands album?  Anything I'm hearing from it now has held up well or gotten better.  Now Neil Young, "Out on the Weekend."  Not loud enough but good.  What state we're over I can't begin to say.  Pennsylvania perhaps.  I didn't pack my cigarettes either and damn I wouldn't mind one right now or when I step off this p(l)ane.  It'll be like a victory.  A race run, not won, but survived.  And that's the name of the game for this adventure, this jaunt.  Survive this trip.  Get on the other side of it.  September, LouFest, birthday, beer, some time off, Scratch, work on the wall.

                                                                              *

We made it to Boston and off that plane.  Walking the walk to baggage claim (cabbage blame?)  I ate a Chick-fil-A that I'd been caching in my fanny pack since STL.  It tasted alright.  I was hungry enough and I didn't want it to go to waste.  I also ate a chocolate granola cranberry cookie that was surprisingly good.  A chunk fell on the floor near the baggage carousel and I really wanted to eat it but thought better and tossed it away.  

Tammy was waiting on us in passenger pickup.  She had been there for a little while and had, she said, almost given up on us.  Our walking was at a slow pace, and our baggage was toward the tail end of what was spit out onto the carousel from our flight.  We must have been the last Southwest arrival.  The terminal was quite vacant as we coursed through it toward cabbage blame. 

It is about 90 minutes' drive from Boston to Ludlow, assuming copacetic conditions on the Mass Pike, which we had.  BFR asked his cousin Tammy question after question the whole way, like it was a de-briefing of her role as herself since the last time he had seen her.  I didn't say much.  I spoke up to talk about dogs, running, and my wife.  Apart from investing, drinking, baseball, and caretaking work on my house that's all I'm really interested in, at this time.

Elsie's house—she's my dad's aunt, though they are separated by only seven years—is as I remembered it.  It has been five years since I've been here and walking in, sitting down at dinner, getting cold water out of the Poland Spring container in the fridge, it's like I never left.  

Talk at the dinner table was of import, and had some tone of drama.  But there has been death in this family and drama follows death.  Death and business and generations and money.  We all had some drinks but upon me the effects of the alcohol were felt perhaps the least.  Michael—who was at my wedding, who had left the picture, but who has now re-entered it—made me a manhattan which he called perfect.  And at first I'm thinking, "OK, yeah, you've just made THE perfect manhattan.  Thanks, but whatever."  Then I realized he had made the drink called the perfect manhattan.  You use some dry vermouth in addition to the sweet.  It was a good cocktail and I wanted it.

I had a little wine and then a winter ale that might have been from last winter but tasted quite good actually, a scotch ale, not unduly spicy like some so-called winter beers.  We ate lamp chops and corn on the cob and sweet potato spears and green beans and salad.  I passed on dessert.

It is remarkable to listen to Elsie and her three daughters talk about serious subjects at the table.  Not as much the business here, Randall's Farm, but late Billy's business north.  I am not going to elaborate.  It is not my place.  But I am honored and pleased to consider that they wanted me to hear what they had to say.  23:16.



September 4.

I'm sitting on a rocking outdoor sofa on the screened-in porch at Elsie's.  The stand—Randall's Farm, now a much larger operation than when it was just a produce stand—is to my right.  There is Karen walking out of the greenhouse and through the nursery area, where there are flowers and shrubs for sale.  Mums.  Sunflowers.  Roses of Sharon.  Vines—wisteria?  Karen is the CEO and has become a local celebrity, due in part to spots on local news where she gives planting tips.  Tammy was giving her shit about it.

Most of the Randalls in this area have worked at Randall's Farm at one time or another.  My dad likes to say something about being their first youth employee.  Sometimes I think about having B get a job at Hampshire, or Amherst, or UMass.  And I could get a part-time job at the stand, see where it leads me, work my way up.  The winters would be a drag but I have a lot of family here, around here.  Summer, spring, and fall would be pleasant.  A day like today, sixties and seventies, not a cloud in the sky, looking out past the maple, to a field of sunflower, corn, empty greenhouses.

They sell beer and wine.  There is a deli serving formidable sandwiches.  It is a small business, of which there seem to be more of, pro rata, pro capita, here than in St. Louis.  After Tammy, Karen, Anna—who is the next generation of Randall that is going to work the stand?  Johnny, Judy, Will, Taryn?  It could be me, involved to some degree, around at least.  I'd live here more readily than metro St. Louis.  Or Chicago.  There are plenty of options to be by the sea.  Two hours down to Naragansett, RI.  Three hours to Portland, ME.  Hampton Beach, NH, is two hours.  I've been there.  It's tempting to go now, it's been a while since I've seen the sea.  And I imagine there is all kinds of camping in New Hampshire, Vermont, upstate New York.  Tammy said she's doing interviews for a vacant dishwashing position.  Someday.  No reason B and I couldn't rent a place somewhere nearby for a month, have a kitty of camping gear stashed in some storage locker.  Take a month, or two, and camp New England.  Fish, read Thoreau, stock up on provisions at the stand.

It's 10:40 am.  My dad's cousin, a client, will be here in twenty minutes.  Enough future rumination for now.  There's a gentle breeze.  What a beautiful day.

Much later: "I'm too tired to write and there is more to tell about than I can do.  I want to get up early and go take photos of the farms and fields up toward Amherst."



September 5.

I didn't get up early and I didn't go up toward Amherst.  But I did the loop around the grounds of Randall's Farm and I took a handful of photos.  I didn't go anywhere today.  There are a lot of little moments and details and nuances I'd love to recall and relay but all I want to do right now is listed to Vin Scully call this Dodgers game and keep on reading my Cheever book of short stories.

Today felt like a poem day, the gusts thrown off by a hurricane remnant, distant cousins talking about ancient history, walking to the stand for sandwiches, the honeybee boxes, the pond where my dad wants 1/3 of his ashes scattered, an attempted nap, what sounded like a gunshot turning out to be a car accident bringing down a utility pole, exploding a transformer, Keurig coffee, work on my fantasy team, listening to Vin, reading Cheever.









Untitled Late 2016



1

al Qaeda in the desert magreb
trump in the desert casino
hail red hail black hail bright
alt right alt country control alt delete


2

I used to write like
this in bed, in the
dark, by sense,
umami, inhaling
the dark
nostril

I used to have something
to say, now I am
quiet, in fear of
the fashion police,
the reprimanders,

They know I'm wrong,
not my-self,
bag-eyed,
trumpet-minded,
stuck in my throat,
brisk on the ground

White swan
black swan
any news event that comes along that
is real news not
pundits,
the e-haw,
see-saw
I'll take it.


3

gummy bear
righteous dude
crickets.

choco-lot
monster
room 36

square root of
9 is still 9/3!



Trip Up East 2011



October 3, 2011

10:55 eastern time.

I have moused this little notebook from a cupboard at work.  The market is bouncing again this morning: first down 95, then up 30, then down 90, now down 62.  The S&P 500 is at 1125.  I will wait until it hits 1080 to buy again.

My dad and I leave tomorrow to travel northeast.  We will fly into Boston, spend one night in Ludlow (MA), drive up to Vermont for the Contrary Opinion Forum (three nights, Tues-Thurs), then return to Ludlow for four more nights.  B—and my sister!—fly into Hartford on Saturday the ninth.

I am worried that the market (1) will fall—it's already been such a crummy three-month stretch; and (2) will hit my buy tripwire while I'm gone.  I am also worried about ongoing furnace and AC installation/replacement while I'm away.

Flight info:

Depart St. Louis Oct 4 8:05 central time
Arrive Boston              11:40 eastern time
---
Depart Boston Oct 11 5:00 eastern time
Arrive St. Louis          7:10 central time

*

October 4.


8:45 eastern.

On the plane.  BFR got to the airport before I did.  He went on through, I waited.  He texted me and said he was at gate 14, so I checked my bag and went on through.  The full body scanner couldn't get my arms so I got an arm pat-down too.  When I was standing in the security line I could see BFR standing and waving his arms at me, waving, waving—yes: I see you.  Shaking my head, smiling though.  How is it I am so very self-conscious and would never do something like that short of a life-threatening situation and there he is waving, waving.


11:00.

The plane will soon begin its descent into Boston Logan.  I ordered a cranberry for my drink.  BFR has been reading financial stuff.  Before we departed I ordered a double espresso at SBUX.  I ate the peanuts and Lorna Doone the flight attendant handed out.  I did a sudoku; it took awhile.  It was one where I could say that three boxes all had to have one out of a group of three numbers, e.g. 7 or 8; 3 or 7; or, 3, 7, or 8.  That left only two other open boxes, which had to contain the only other two numbers remaining, e.g. one or nine; or, nine or one.

My neck hurts.  I will need to lie flat later.  I have to urinate (not urgently).

Is "broll" a word?

What is "K Pareve" vis-a-vis food?


16:26.

We landed...at 11:30 or so...I turned on my phone to see that the market had been down big early, down through 1080 on the S&P 500.  Down to 10,404 on the Dow but that it had come back respectably since then.  I checked and saw that the Q's had a low of $50.25 where I had orders.  I wonder if that was them hitting there.  BFR had an INTC order in at $20.40...its low.  We listened to Bloomberg, then CNBC on the XM in the car.  By then the market had gone positive on some indices including the NASDAQ and the S&P 500.  We drove through the tunnels of the Mass Pike, 90W.  Through the neon lights and out through the city, past Framingham and Natick.  By Auburn the S&P was negative again, the NASDAQ was struggling to stay green, baby, stay green.  It started to rain.  We had paid $4.75 in tolls and taken a ticket.  We passed seemingly numerous McDonalds and Gulfs.  The XM was hissing static with regularity.  Bear market, bear market.  I called Elsie to make sure we could stay at her house.  BFR wanted me to ask her to see if she'd go to the deli to get us some sandwiches but I wouldn't.  He was chagrined.  It kept raining but Ludlow wasn't too far away.

Will helped BFR in with his bags.  We turned CNBC back on.  The market was back down, seeming to want to catfish its way back down to the morning depths.  Negative 105, negative 150.  I went nihilist, BFR defended his charts.  I got frustrated and went to make an unrelated call.

I came back out and ... "It's only down 15?  You gotta be kidding me."  I took my eye off it again as I tried to plug Elsie's password into the house wi-fi.  I said hello to Johnny Ruple who said he was up to "playing hockey and eating potato chips."  BFR's trying to tell me something...I'm talking to Johnny Ruple...he leaves...I look over again and, "It's up 60?"  BFR says, "I was trying to tell 'ya!"

I sit back down on the couch.  At that time it was 15:45, 15:50...it hits 100 to the plus side, but it isn't done there.  It's the opposite of the sheer drop.  I wonder about what rumor has to be kicking around about now.  110, 120.  The FT reports that eurozone finance ministers are coughing up more details on what a European TARP might look like.  The euro goes back over 1.33 and the Dow continues to pound the clouds up 130 with just a few minutes to go.  Throw out the script.  What will tomorrow bring.  The Q's are up $2 from their low with AAPL and AMZN still both negative.  It's a short squeeze to end all short squeezes.  The final number is around 150, meaning a 300-point reversal in the last 30 minutes.  The Russell 2000 up 6% today after losing 5% yesterday.  Words can't describe this action.


21:42.

John A., my dad's cousin's husband, is talking with BFR and me.   BFR is in Elsie's chair asking John if he is working tomorrow.

John:  Yeah, we've got a Department of Corrections audit tomorrow [where he works as a guard].  I don't think they'll shut us down, though.

BFR:  Well, you've got most of my IRAs.

I have a puzzled look on my face.  John says nothing.

Me [to BFR]: What?

BFR:  Where'd that come from?

Hilarity and belly-aching laughs ensue.  Later, John says that it didn't make any sense to him, he was processing it and was gonna roll with it.  BFR says he was starting to drift off but that he did hear himself say it and immediately knew he had just said something that made no sense.  But I'll also say that there was a moment when what he said almost made sense, and I was ready to just shrug it off and move on.



October 5.


8:00.

I arose nearly an hour ago.  I flipped on the coffee, snuck a cup, and sat down in front of the computer.


9:06.

I have eaten a couple of pumpkin and cream cheese muffins.  I have had not quite two cups of café.  Water.  I showered, and shaved in the shower, as is my wont.  It is mostly cloudy out, but I was able to visage some blue ceilingless.  Azureglass.

"What about Irene?"

She is a popular topic here, still.  So much rain have they had.  We will leave here in an hour and a half, head north to Vergennes, VT, to see where some of the rain fell so often.

I have been in contact with my wife by e-mail.  The smartphone makes that easy.  I am on house wifi. The 3G has been in and out: disappointing.  It's not like I'm in the middle of nowhere—an hour and a half from Boston, twenty minutes from Springfield.  I am perplexed by the network sparsity.

The market looks to open lower.  I am not surprised.  The afternoon pole-vault was way too steep and will need to be leveled out.  I could stomach only ten minutes of CNBC this morning before my temper started to rise.  I cannot watch the financial news coverage anymore.  Hopefully I'll never be able to watch it again.  It is manipulative, whether intentionally so or not.  Watch and your chances of making a destructive more increase.  To that end, participating in the market—any market—is like trying to hit a baseball or play golf: the harder you try the less success you will have.  This is not to say "don't practice" or "don't train" or "stay in shape".  It is to say that when the time comes to swing it is your years' worth of practice that you must rely on to take you through the moment...not the events of day in which you are swinging.


22:02.  

Recap.  Five-and-a-half hours in the car, winding, winding, and bending our way to Vergennes, VT.  WiFi at Basin Harbor Club.  Dinner with Mark T, Brandon C, ... Drinks with David Fuller, David Kodrick, Symon/Wymon...damn, can't recall.

NEWS: Steve Jobs dies.  Roy sends me that text, I see it as I am leaving dinner.  I was really checking to see the Cardinals score.  They won, beat Philly, tying the series 2-2, sending it back to Philly for a Friday night game.

I sat and had a beefeater martini, the Cardinals game had just ended, and I watched a couple minutes of Jobs obit coverage on CNN.  It's so sad to me.  I have been using Macs all my life.  I was ridiculed for doing so at IMSA and a little less so in college.

Then I switched it to Cardinals post-game, Brewers pre-game on TBS.  I was sitting by myself in the little TV room, the bar area was empty.  The portly bartender poured me a good martini: a full chilled martini glass with olives.  The bill was $8.48 and I gave him $10.  That made five drinks: a little Hendricks and ice; gin and grapefruit; gin and grapefruit; the martini; a beer at dinner.



October 6.


9:05.

I woke up at six and three-quarters, made the in-room coffee.  I checked and saw that the Brewers lost.  Ha!  They gave up ten runs.  Ha!

850 on the S&P 500...where was it in July 2009?


Sometime later.

I am sitting in a florally decorated chair over in the main hall, near the dining room.

Sounds: "Good Cider", silverware clinking together (probably being pulled from the dishwasher, lunch's ware, prepped for dinner), "Not as dry as Roger's cider", "Where'd you guys go?", a little air squeezed out heavily as a man plods quickly for the bathroom, an auto piano doing a ragtime ditty, sunglasses clacking closed, the bathroom door opening, these cider folks are...British?...Something about a travel agent, quibbling about a collared shirt being required in the main dining room.  Distant conversation from the front desk.  Air blowing (from) somewhere, probably the kitchen.

Anyway, back at Elsie's I was telling Will about my writing exercise where I try to write everything I hear.  I had to borrow a pen from the front desk.  I decided lately to bring my notebook with me over here, figured maybe I'd write and drink, not just look at my phone.  So I went up to the front desk and asked if I couldst borrow one.  The comely (Jamaican, Trinidadean?) gal gave me two.  She is dark-skinned, with a lovely voice, and heavy neon-greenish mascara.

I skipped both of the afternoon talks.  None looked all that interesting.  I'm tired of the market in most respects.  I like it on my own terms.  I become easily annoyed by BFR when he is reading out all these CSS stocks that "gave buy signals" today, as if nothing else gave buy signals today.  The best buy day in over a year washes up on the shore Tuesday and where am I?  On a fucking Avis bus in Boston, MA, schlepping my way toward this slog of a conference in Nowheresville, VT.  I had strict orders to a colleague to put in about a dozen mutual fund orders when and if the S&P 500 hit 1080 but it didn't get done.

Of course, if we weren't at S&P 1175 as of today's close but instead at 1065 I wouldn't be nearly as upset.  So I try to look at it this way: if the low on Tuesday morning turns out to be the low for this August's air-pocket decline then great, the carnage is over: we'll move higher and do some selling and everything we bought from August until now will be black and shiny like anthracite.

If that was not the low, then I'll be able to put the orders in at some later date.  In the "grand scheme" I guess it really doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of difference either way.

I'm alway going to find something to be mad about, aren't I?  It's a problem, a condition.  It's something more than just being human.  I suppose it is akin to neuroticism, but I think it's worse.
I kicked a chair and felt not knee-deep but chin-deep in the boil of my own bloody blood and decided, "I'd better get the hell out of here."  Am I going to be this prickly, saturnine, aloof, bristly, jaded, jaundiced for the rest of my life?  When did this happen and what can I do to reverse it?

I went out and started walking.  I had a pretty good general idea of where I wanted to go.  All around.  To investigate, explore, define, and re-name.  Across the cove.  To the party tent along the water.  I am distracted by the baby squabbles about some guy at the front desk saying he ought to get his boarding pass printed instantaneously upon his request.  I walked and walked for about an hour.  I saw a portable disc-golf goal and wondered whether there were a course here.  Then I saw a bunch of pretty flowers, zinnia being the only one I knew for sure.  These flowers were so well-kept, in a plot measuring fifteen feet by thirty feet, with several distinct rows.  Upon a closer look I saw some peas strung up along one of those tepee-like structures.  I thought, "I need to do more beans next year."

Then I heard what I first identified as a titmouse but when I turned I saw a chickadee buzzing at me.  I saw that it was perched in a tree bearing fruit.  Apples?  Indeed, a tiny little orchard: a copse of seven or eight apple trees, at least a couple of different kinds of apples among them.  Now the boarding pass guy's buddy is telling him to calm.  At first I said to myself, No, they're not my apples, I'm not going to take one.  "She's cute.  Heavy but cute."  I was looking at all of these apples and there were a lot on the ground.  I said fuckit, I went back to the apple I had touched initially and clipped it easily from the branch with my thumb.  I rubbed it a bit.  Are there pesticides on it?  Nah.  I bit into it and...ahhhh...so juicy, so firm, not so mealy, not grainy, not too sweet, not too sour, probably a McIntosh, probably the best I ever had.


17:39.

I returned one of the pens.  Those two guys talking about the boarding pass were about as priceless as it gets.  The griper's buddy was talking about some real-estate deal and the possibility of doing a 1035-exchange.  The other guy says, "It's been fifteen fucking minutes!"  The buddy is like, "Why don't you just calm down?  Whether you get it now or after dinner, what difference does it make?"  And he suggests they get back to talking about something that really matters, i.e. his real-estate deal.  These guys are like 75 and the griper doesn't care about the real-estate deal.  He's hung up either on his boarding pass or the gal at the front desk.  "She's cute," he says, "heavy, but cute.  Look at the size of those legs!"  Ha!  You can't make this stuff up.

I have moved writing perches.  I hate this pen.  I had someone across from me at the mini-table I was sitting at.  Older.  I got up to take my martini glass to the bus tray.  I came back, she was very gracious, said, "I thought you had forgotten it."  Meaning my glasses case and notebook.  But I said, "No, I was just setting my glass back."  And I thanked her.

A little ways away now in the next seating area over from where I am is the guy from White Plains, NY.  Who I've heard a lot from.  Not directly but because I've been within five, or ten, or as the case is now, forty feet from him.  And I can hear him easily.  He is loud.  Does he want to be heard or can he just not talk in a lower voice?  Based on tone I think he is just unable to talk in a lower voice.  Someone comes up to me and asks me if I'm guarding the door and I say, "No, I'm monitoring, I'm monitoring."  He says, "Even worse, even worse."

Ha.  I'm getting on over half into my second martini and I'm feeling it...already.  My drink rationing is working.  The cocktail hour starts at six.  It's ten 'til and the thirsty ones are going in for the kill.  I'm chewing on a plastic sword from my first martini.  My dad is probably wondering where I am.  I hope not.  I hope he knows.  Where is JBR?  Check the bar.  If that's the worst thing they'll have to say then let them say it.


After 18:00.

The encampments have moved barward.  I am very pleased with the spot I had staked out, two candy-striped loveseats opposite one another.  "They like to drink 'til the very last minute," says one of the organizers of this event.  I am waiting on BFR, like he was waiting for me inside security on the day this all began.  I also did, as I just hear spoken the words "blue heron", see one out fishing in a puddle on the airstrip near the restaurant here, the Red Mill.  I had seen signs for that place but didn't know where it was until I stumbled upon it during my meanderings this afternoon.


October 7.


10:00.

A couple of people are looking for S&P 1250 as a sell signal...


12:20.

I am waiting for this thing to wrap up.  It is the panel session now.  Should be over any minute though.  Folks are starting to make their way out.  The market is mixed but basically flat.  The clean tech guy didn't seem to think the investing prospects were very good for those types of companies.  The options guy was the cranky Yankee season ticket holder from last night.  Ha!


October 10.

I'm in South Hadley, MA, in the plume of someone's cigarette.  How long's it been since I had a cigarette?  Not ages, but...I got to NE last Tuesday (10/4)...I didn't have one on October 3...could've been 10/2 or 10/1.  I haven't hung out with Roy in awhile is part of the reason.  Plus, the American Spirits I had went stale.

Later: I'm over at the stand now, a.k.a. Randall's Farm.  It is remarkably warm here.  Well over eighty degrees, in record territory.



November 1: Postscript.

Can we start from scratch?  I have my second cold since coming back from MA.  I am thinking of making my beard the fall guy for everything negative from August on and shaving it.

I have been depressed, pathetic, desperate, and unfriendly.  I hate a lot.  It's no way to live.  Work sucks.  My neck hurts.  Writing could be a way out, at least a relief.  At least it is seventy-two degrees and sunny outside on this first day of November.  How come there isn't a Yes-vember.  Ever wonder that?

I'll work from home tomorrow.  That's a saving grace.  But I've got to go out for a meeting with a client at 14:00....






Monday, January 02, 2017

The Ones that Needed Telling (Spring Farm 2015—Thursday Only)


I wasn't going to write anything, I didn't write anything.  This is the first of it I've written.

I was my usual, edgy self Thursday morning.  The night before we ate sushi, the maguro and the sake both so...not just good...better than good: exquisite.  I had two of the big Sapporo, from glass though they are better out of those cold, impenetrable cans.  From there to Walgreens.  I bought a six-cans of Modus and a twelve of Kraftig.  The plastic six-ring holding the Modus cans together failed and two of the six Modus skittered across the floor.  My instinct was to exclaim, "I'm not drunk!"  B will want me to say Walgreens was her idea, and it was.  Dierbergs, earlier, had been a warm beer can fail.  For camping I want to start out with warm cans.  If you have more than about one-and-a-half your expected first-night's volume of beer taking up room in your cooler you aren't packing the cooler efficiently, I have realized.

We got stuck in traffic just east of Maritz on 44.  Even with my drive to and fro Illfallon...and a visit to LA and its vicinity recently...this was the worst traffic event I've been caught in in years.  We were listening to the In This League fantasy baseball podcast.  I looked into the cars of the people around us.  I mean, really, what else is there to look at.  The traffic started moving once we were past 141.  I had to go to the bathroom.

Having to turn around only once we parked at the LaBarque Creek Conservation area south of Eureka (109 to FF to F to Doc Sargent Road).  The sign was barely a sign, faded, hand-shaped, the final turn onto Valley Drive.  There's a loop trail there.  Park, go across the drive/road to where the trail starts, a spur leading you out to the loop itself.  The loop was at least three miles.  We walked alongside a creek for the first several minutes, LaBarque Creek.  Then it was rolling woods, a fairly constant up and down.  At one point we flushed a large bird from some brush.  I thought it was a turkey because it flew so heavy.  There was a lot of rock along the trail, rock bed I'd call it, flatter rock.  The trail itself was not rocky except in a few places.  We stopped for a moment where a tributary to the creek fell and slid peacefully over an unusually smooth continuous rock face.  It was sunny and increasingly warm.  We each shed two layers, down to t-shirts.  We needed the water we brought.  We saw only one other hiker, a lip-pierced woman on the spur as we were headed back to the car.  Hers must have been the Civic couple with Kentucky plates.  How does someone from Kentucky find that trail?

My thoughts quickly then turned to Culver's.  We headed there by going back under 44 on 109 and hitting the Eureka access road.  I didn't like the spot I pulled into.  I had to go contortionist to get out without banging my door against an old Buick, the kind my dad drove at one point.  I calmed down a little when I saw the faded blue tie in the backseat.  Or maybe the car was faded, its windows dusty, and tie was actually a normal color.  I really don't know.  We went into Culver's and killed it, though.  I had a double deluxe, no onion, got some fried (something I had strongly considered not doing...).  I had one of B's chicken tenders and some of her cheese curds.  I refilled my water multiple times, interacting minimally but adequately with the friendly Culver's employees who took our order or brought our food, asked how the meal was, cleaned the exit double-door windows as I walked out to the car only to change from my boots into my sandals.  When I came back in the person said to me, "Hello, welcome to Culver's."  And I was thinking, "I didn't ever really leave.  I've been here, I was here, I am here right now.  Don't you recognize me?"

B got a butterscotch sundae.  I helped her crush it.  That's really the point where our visit went from just a "hit", as in "We hit Culver's on the way down" to more of a crushing as in, "Yeah, we f*cking crushed it, too."  I don't really talk like that, but I kind of like writing that way.

The drive from there seemed shorter and more piecemeal than before.  To St. James on 44 is nothing.  Road work is going to begin along 68 in St. James today, Monday, April 20, 2015.  It's the stretch from Vienna to the Farm on 42 that I still don't appreciate—it feels long and I want it to end.  I want to drive it slow but there's always someone on my ass ruining my roll.  It curves.  It goes up and down.  I drove it as fast this time as ever.  I had a full-sized pickup and a small delivery truck right on me for virtually all of 42.  There were stretches where I thought, Well, I can do this part faster than they can.  But I'd do the stretch, do it good and I'd have gained only a smidge on the trucks, looking at them still right there in the rearview mirror.  They were in a hurry to get to Iberia I guess.  I lost them only when I took the left on TT.  To Adler (rock road), to Redbird, across the creek and there is the Farm, so green, and old, and windswept and august and   .

We walked down to the amphitheater, the fairgrounds, the grotto...what is the name for the place where we have the fire?  Someone had had a fire there since I had been there in January.

We tried to set up our tent where we had done so in January (for just one night) and before that last fall—at the near end of the long shed, to the left of the road leading up to the pasture gate.  But the wasps—mud daubers—were so insistent at examining every aspect of what we did ad what we had that we moved, though they followed us.  The sun and the color of the early spring clearly motivated them because they were much more subdued as the weekend played out in cloudy fashion on Friday and Saturday.  Still, the persisted even then as a nuisance over by the house—their commune—nearly the whole time we were there.

We carried our ten-on-tarp to a different spot and got the tent set up, unfortunately not without some bitchiness from the author.  I'd really just rather put up a tent by myself, not because I'm adept at doing so and everyone else is not but because it is somehow very hard and frustrating to erect a tent when two people must be involved.  It can be hard to say exactly what you are trying to say and have someone else on the other side of the tent understand you in the way you would expect them to.  I get in such a rush to get the tent set up so I can move on to the expanding universe of things I want to do.  I get irascible and impossible.

Next we turned to wood.  I had eyed a large fallen limb just off the creek as we drove in.  I wasn't sure it was part of the L-V Farm but I figured the Little Tavern was the boundary and at least part of this limb was in the creek.  The wood wasn't quite as good as I had hoped.  Some of it was crawling with ants.  Ants can be good if they have carved large, flame-alluring holes in an otherwise hard piece of wood.  Not so much for a smaller limb piece though.  On down Redbird Lane, toward the back entrance, I could see a downed oak limb.  I cut it up and B and I hauled some of it back to the fire area.

She pointed out another piece, in from the road a little, a different kind of oak.  It was in a brushy area.  I've seen people go in there when we were playing disc, but I was wary of ticks.  Still, I wasn't enthused by what we had yet found so I went in and it was the best yet.  Heavy, the bark a little paler and smoother, the oak bark that almost has a little of a blue-gray sheen.  The branch was so heavy and my back was whining.  We grabbed a good bit of it, hauling it about 100 yards down Redbird Lane and then a little farther to the fairgrounds.

It was getting later.  We figured Aaron and Missy would've already been there.  Helm was a possibility, per text.  I needed a shower bad, damn the circumstances.  I needed one after the hike much less the cutting and hauling.

The pump room was waspy.  I plugged in that old-style, wiry plug.  Then turned the red pipe-knob...screwed around with the could and hot handles over the bucket...I had them both turned full open...initially there was nothing but then the water started gushing...turned one handle back off, nothing...I turned the second one back off...stream cut...go empty the bucket...the pump making all kinds of action sounds, I didn't know why.  Then I went into the house and the kitchen faucet was on, I turned it off, went into the bathroom, water going, four wasps in the window.  I killed the water and then the wasps.  That's why the pump was humming...the faucets were all on.  I flushed the toilet, maybe not used since January, its water a blue tinge from the anti-freeze.

I took a shower.  Dial soap.  I thought of, "Don't you wish everyone used Dial?"  I had never showered there before.  The stall is dingy.  So what.  I'm gonna replace that shower curtain though—single shooter.  It's not a very good curtain, it doesn't cover anything.  I'm surprised it wasn't moldier than what it was but that's just it—no one uses the shower.  I'd heard only ghost stories of people using it.  I didn't need shower shoes.  It wasn't the Bull Durham fungus and algae shower show—fungus and algae need moisture, warmth is good, too.  The floor of that shower is dark and dreary but not teeming.  I used the Ivory body wash as shampoo.  The shower was fantastic.

We might have done our first tick check then, too.  It's Tuesday now and I'm talking about Thursday.  This is it.  Tonight or never.  I stood at our car in my boxers, enjoying the still-light evening, the halcyon evening.  It was bliss.  If I had heard a car I would have hurriedly gotten clothed.  And did once one came along, but it wasn't anyone we knew.

Someone had left a small collection of kindling, mostly small cedars, down by the fire-ring.  I used some of those and some of what we had collected and put a beginning structure on top of four or five medium-sized rocks—to keep my fledgling fire off the ground, using the rocks like fire-dogs, a.k.a. andirons.  It helped.  I never had to set light to the fire again the rest of the weekend.

Helm got there only a couple of minutes after the fire started, his blue car fighting up the hill past the creek.  We were resigning our night to the reality of it being just the two of us—but Helm had come through.

He is among several who sleep in the house.  So there was no tent to set up.  I went up and greeted him.  B was looking after the nascent fire.  She came up and said hi.  I walked him through what I had done vis-a-vis the water and faucets, to make sure I hadn't done something wrong.  He came down and joined us at the fire.  We were heating up the cans we had, Chef Boyardee and Chunky soup.  He ate a ripe banana.  He must've brought his chair down.  He had gotten a text from Aaron (his cousin) which indicated that Aaron was indeed just past Kingdom City and headed this way.  It was only a matter of time and even more arrivees would make it a much more than solitary Thursday night.

I said it was Tuesday but it's not.  It's still just Monday and clearly I'm flagging.  I'm not remembering much about Aaron and Missy getting there.  It was still awhile before they showed up.  It was dark by then.  We had a fire going and, yes, a Blues playoff game.  The Cardinals had already played.  So had the Royals.  I was trying to get KMOX clear on my little yellow radio, with the aux cord all strewn out doing duty as the antenna.

Me and B and Helm went up to greet Aaron and Missy and just a minute after they had arrived another truck came barreling down Redbird and...it pulled up the driveway!  None of us had any idea who it was.  Aaron said something about wishing he had brought a gun.  With full confidence this truck whipped right into an open parking slot between our car and Helm's...and we were all like, "Who the f*uck is this?!"  But then, it was Ryan, and with him Doug!  A Ryan and Doug Thursday surprise.  We all relished the surprise and the relief of the moment and had ourselves a typically awesome Thursday evening at The Farm.



—[I wrote this in April 2015 but didn't type it up until now, January 2, 2017.  Obviously, there was more to the weekend but I never wrote it and I haven't written anything since at or about The Farm.]



Sunday, January 01, 2017

Air Methods



Note: I have now added the ending to this story.  I wrote both the first part of the story and the ending back in the summer of 2015 but I had previously only typed up and posted the first part.



They walked over to the campground store with a few desired purchases in mind.  He wanted newspaper and wood.  He wanted to check their ice, to see if it was any good.  Usually it would be him looking for beer but this time it was her—Bud Light or Bud Light Lime.  It didn't make sense to expect anything better, such as Heineken or Stella Artois.

There were three ladies sitting behind the counter, on the older side, looking like they didn't have much else to do, here or anywhere.  He figured they must all be family, part of whatever family owned this land, the base of a business that included running a campground and its store, selling some of the adjacent timber, charging non-campers for day use, and taking a cut on float referrals they'd be glad to make to one of the nearby outfitters.

The store was a slimmed-down dollar store, mostly full of junk.  Anything worth buying they'd brought with them already.  He didn't immediately see any of the big, commercial refrigerators, the kind you'd see in a convenience store.  But they were there, toward the back.  It was just soft drinks, though, colas and sports drinks and water and tea.  It was a disappointment but not a surprise.  He'd get the wood in any event.  What a bunch of crap else wise, though.  A tent?  Who would buy a tent here?  It couldn't be any good.  Toys, pool toys.  Noodles and yet-to-be-inflated beach balls and rafts. A whole other section of regular toys.  A tractor, a car, a helicopter with one big propeller on top and another little one inside its tail, like a fan—a tail fan.  There was a blue cross on one side of it and on the other side a snake and staff emblem, like for The Hippocratic Oath.  There was a company, publicly traded, that ran medical transport helicopters.  They charged thousands upon thousands of dollars to fly people from one hospital to another, for special procedures like transplants.  Or they'd fly into the sticks and pull the broken people out.  He knew the stock from work.  His father, a chartist, had seen a secret pattern emerge in the up and down movements of the stock.  The fundamentals were terrible.  The insurance companies were still writing the checks but that was going to come to an end at some point.  He'd dabbled in the stock, bought it for a few clients.  At the moment it was a loss.  He could handle a small loss but if it got any bigger he'd have to cut and run, find something else, a train company, a car company, or a company that cut down timber and sold it for a hundred times cost to campers like him at campgrounds like this, where old ladies behind the counter refused to stock beer in the coolers.

One of the women sneezed as he walked up to the counter.  "I'll take three parcels of wood," he said.  Normally he'd call them bundles, and that's how the sign outside referred to them: "Wood—bundles—$4.50".  But these weren't wrapped in twine or encircled in cellophane.  These were in little plastic sacks, hopefully fairly heavy duty plastic, something with a generous amount of "mil".  Ten mil at least, maybe twenty.  Heck, he didn't know how many mil were enough.

The lady was coughing now.

"I've got a tickle in my throat."

"Allergies?"

"I suppose so.  Something came over me all of a sudden.  Maybe I'm allergic to you."

"I hope not!"

But it made him think of a sneezing attack he'd had that morning.  He decided it was best not to mention that, even though he was grasping at straws trying to think about what to say next. He just gave her the money, a $50, and took a half step back.  The lady squinted at the bill, seeming to say with her body language that she wasn't quite sure why it had been handed to her.  She didn't hold it up to the light to see if it had that little strip in it.  Nor did she take a marker to it.  She just set it on the keys of the register for a second, letting it rest there.  She turned away and coughed a few more times, dryly.  She consulted a note on the register that told her how much the bundles cost.  And then she gave him his change.

                                                                             
                                                                               *
They would be in the cabin just for one night.  She had called and made the reservation.  The place had a two-night minimum but she went ahead and booked it anyway.  She'd pay for both nights but she wouldn't tell him about the second night.  It was the kind of thing that didn't really matter that he would get himself hung up on anyhow.  He would allow himself, even require himself, to get hung up on something like paying for a second night without being there for the second night.  If he knew about it he'd scotch the arrangement altogether and she didn't want that.  So, mum.  This was better than being in a tent here for the night and then breaking it all down hurriedly tomorrow morning, floating, stopping, setting up the tent again somewhere along the river and then breaking it down again the next morning.  Besides, the cabins were supposed to be nice.  A friend of theirs had stayed there before and recommended them.  Nothing fancy, simple but clean, with air conditioning and satellite TV.  She was eager to tell him about the satellite TV after she'd made the reservation.  In her mind, she saw them in the cabin, with a baseball game going, and she thought he'd enjoy that.  But when she told him there was satellite all he did was say, "Uh-huh."  He'd see.  He'd find a game and they'd drink a little, and they'd have a happy night.

In fact there had been a game on, a day game at Wrigley.  They started a happy hour, maybe an hour earlier than on a regular Friday, but this was a special occasion, a vacation of sorts.  It was a vacation day on the time card at work, anyway.  The campground and the river weren't quite two hundred miles from home.  It wasn't like they were flying somewhere tropical but it was still a getaway.  And Missouri really was quite beautiful.  People didn't realize that.  It was "underrated".  It should be in the top ten if there were any top ten lists for "The Most Underrated States".  It had hills.  Not mountains, sure, no one was claiming that.  It had rivers, not oceans.  So there weren't beaches, per se.  But there were gravel bars and float trips and some of the rolling farmland you would cross to reach the rivers was very pretty, especially when the grasses were let to grow high and sway in the breeze, waving like an ocean unto themselves, ungrazed, uncut, and unseen.

He had asked her to help him get a few rocks for the fire.  He had concocted what sounded to her like an elaborate idea for what she knew he was envisioning in his head would become not just his best fire yet, but the ultimate fire—a perfect fire, the perfect fire.  He had brought with them a bag of sticks he had picked up throughout the neighborhood in the weeks leading up to this little trip.  He was adamant about kindling and newspaper and turned up his nose at lighter fluid.  She appreciated the purist in him, theoretically, but every once in a while he was craft a fire design that choked on itself, smoking a lot, but never really becoming a fire.  Lighter fluid, for him, was just too easy.

They scavenged rocks from remnant fire rings at various vacant tent sites not far from the cabin.  He expected her to know exactly which rocks he wanted her to pick up.  But she didn't know, how could she inherently know something like that, what were his criteria?  Who knew?  She stood there, perhaps with her hands in her pockets, looking off at the river, as he tried to get at least two rocks in each hand.

"Are you going to help me at all?"

"I don't know which ones you want."

He shook his head not quite imperceptibly.  She reached for a rock.

"Not that one.  I need it to be...it's got to be the same height as these.  These are all the same height."

She managed to pick a couple that made the final cut.


                                                                                 *


He had to admit that this fire had been a disappointment.  Where did he go wrong?  The rocks had worked in previous fires, they had kept the wood off of the ground.  Wood on the ground wouldn't really burn, it would just smoke and get in people's eyes.  No one liked wood on the ground.  He wanted a smokeless fire, the chewing tobacco of fires, if he could get it.  That was his goal.  All along in school they were always preaching about "goal setting".  He had shrinked away from setting goals.  It seemed so artificial, such an exercise, so clunky.  Life didn't work that way.  You couldn't just set goals and then strike out along the path of, "OK, here I go, I'm going about my effort of achieving Goal Number One!"  But he did have a goal in mind for that fire and he had failed.  He had formally failed to achieve his goal and this embarrassed him.  He hated that one cabin over they had gotten a nice little fire going whilst he flailed with his.  They had used lighter fluid, naturally.  Cheaters.  Still, with the kindling he'd brought, and by continuing to add crusty old sections of the USA Today Money section, he was able to conjure enough heat to allow them to roast three rounds of all-beef franks.  They tasted good—no residue of lighter fluid on them either.  Who wants to eat an oil refinery?  Anyone?

He shook his head but he was shaking it for a number of reasons.  It had been a long-enough drive just to get down here.  Elephant Rocks was crawling with kids.  Not exactly a romantic getaway.  Then there was that one town draping itself in Confederate flags.  Not exactly scenic.  They drove close enough to Doe Run to contract a solid case of lead poisoning.  Now this fire, the disaster that never caught flame.  Hot dogs for dinner and too much beer on top of it.  He was starting to feel a little woozy.  It was probably the cigarettes.  She was sitting at the picnic table and didn't seem to be having a bad time but she wasn't saying much either, was she?  He looked all around the campground in the gloaming light.  There were several respectable fires.  Kids rode bike and played grabass.  People ten, maybe even fifteen years younger gleamed and shined and rocked away with their music. The only thing that made sense to him was to have another cigarette.

                                                                                __


I wake up and my dog is licking my face, which is weird because he wouldn't normally do that, so I lift my head a little to check and see: is this really my dog?  Yeah, that's him.  I'm dead, that's it, I must be, I'm definitely dead, which—at least I got here without killing myself—but, how did I here, why am I here, and—what's that on my dog's side, or—where is the dog's side, it's just gloop, bloody gloop that's kind of oozing down, a string of it is just about to hit the ground and I—

                                                                               *

She is making coffee and he is sleeping in a bit, it does appear, it does seem.  The water was almost boiling on the range. With these electric ranges, remedial as this one was, water started boiling in about a minute, much quicker than on gas.  It was just a basic little kitchen but the range was nice and the countertop was no worse than what they had at home. They lived hardly a stone's throw from Granite County USA—they drove through it on the way down here, hill after hill bursting with new countertops and—  Well, the coffee was going to taste good.  It was Via, nothing fancy.  It packs up easy.  Strong taste.  Micro crystals, who knew?  The stretch of humankind that went through a couple of generations of Sanka before this stuff was invented deserves some sort of medal.  The Awful Coffee Endurance Medal.  Something like that.  It would be a ring of golden coffee beans lightly roasted from a very sustainable harvest spot in the mountains of Peru or the most agreeable swathes of Ethiopia.

The smell of bacon beckoned her back.  They didn't bring butter.  It wasn't on his "Camp List #3".  That was the most exhaustive pack list, the one that had every supposed possibility on it.  They never had cause to call for butter, apparently.  So she put the bacon in and it would render down and she would cook the eggs and toast the bread in that.  The way generations before had done it.  She could hang when she had to.  But he was gonna have to stir pretty soon, snap himself out of whatever dream he was enjoying.  The van was supposed to get them in ninety minutes.

She sipped her coffee, went and looked out the window.  Hmmmm.  She opened the cabin's front door unto a puddle.  It hadn't just rained last night—it had poured.  The river was going to  be higher.  Maybe too high.  Did a river move faster if it were higher?  Or did the height flatten it out and slow it down?  It wasn't gonna break her heart if the plans had to change.  It was 58° outside, not sunny.  Canoes kill marriages.


                                                                              *

The van driver arrived with typically bad news.  They could come with him but he was going to have to take them back to the office because the part of the river they were supposed to start on had already been closed.  At that point the river's level had spiked into flood stage territory.  They could probably get on the river a little below there but an overnight was probably not viable.

At the office they hemmed and hawed.  He stood at the counter hunched over the in-laid river map, a gal that worked for the outfitter on the opposite side of the counter.  She wasn't telling him that they couldn't get on the river but she wasn't endorsing any one idea either.

His wife wasn't much help.  She had been so...quiet...this whole trip.  He was starting to think she was holding back.  His preparation, his sense of how a trip was supposed to go was weighing her down.  He couldn't accept anything going wrong, he didn't want any surprises.  It wasn't very romantic, he supposed, but this wasn't a courtship.  They'd been married for ten years.  Having his shit together was meant to make things easier, not just for him but for her too.  For anyone he was camping with.  But he had to acknowledge a growing sense that he was turning other people away in his fervor.  He imagined himself becoming a caricature of himself, the ultra-prepared, uptight camper.

He knew his wife was wavering on the canoe.  Fine.  Forget the canoe.  The overnight float plan was toast anyway.  She never even wanted to do it in the first place.  He could grasp that now.  So they'd still float, on kayaks, and it would be like any of the other floats they've done.  Basic, simple, easy.  Stupid.  All of his planning and packing, down the drain.  He stress amounting to nothing.  It was all just a soliloquy with an audience of one, not applauding.

                                                                              *

That first part was a little tricky, right where they got in.  It seemed like there were a lot of rootwads, rocks, some white water.  It was going to be a really long day.  She could imagine herself tipping, and him getting mad at her to boot.  She'd be freezing and he would be embarrassed.  Seventy degrees was a dream, what a bust.

                                                                             *

He was impressed they didn't tip right away.  It was actually a little tricky right off the bat there.  But the river then calmed and he figured, We're here.  It's a grey day but at least it has stopped raining.  He was going to enjoy himself.  His head still hurt a little from last night but this is what other people did on floats: they drank, played music, laughed.

Paddling up alongside her, nudging her kayak a little with the nose of his, he said, "You want a beer?"

"Nah.  I've still got a lot of breakfast in my stomach."

Well, he would be drinking alone, then.  No one else on the river, no friends to show for himself, and now a teetotaling wife.  Jee-zus.

He crushed one beer and then a second.  The river was definitely moving quicker than usual but other than right at the beginning there wasn't a moment he thought either of them was in danger of tipping.  Up ahead was a clearing on the bank with a couple of trash cans.  It had to be part of a campsite, maybe one of the primitive sites he had seen listed on the map.  Maybe it was the place he figured they could have camped at had they done the overnight.

"I want to stop here," he called up to her as they approached the clearing.

She put the tiniest effort into trying to slow herself so she could pivot over to the bank.  The river kept moving and so did she.  She could have made it over to the bank if she'd wanted.  It would have taken some paddling.

"I'm still stopping," he announced, not caring if she could hear him or not.  She could figure it out.

He breached, threw his paddle up onto the bank, got out, peed.  He cursed his body for feeling just a little woozy.  He'd only had a couple of beers, a little whiskey.  It was early yet, no time for feeling woozy, body: I can't give you coffee all damn day.  He pulled the kayak up a ways more.  She would be downstream at least a quarter of a mile already.  He grabbed his paddle and smashed it into the sand a few times.  He wanted to yell out, boy-crying-wolf style, he wanted her to feel bad.  But he knew that was dumb and petty and he wanted to remain above that.

The trash can was empty.  Not a single thing in it.  Did that mean someone had been here recently, to clean it?  Or that no one had been here for quite some time, even to stop and toss away their beer cans and Pringles canisters and condiment-smeared sandwich bags and napkins?  It was a mystery, an enigma.  Like the case of Schrödinger's Cat.  There was a path, a narrow trail, leading along the bank.  Part of it had swamped over, covered either by rain water that hadn't yet made it to the river or river water that had risen up and been stranded there like surf left behind in a tide pool.  He jumped over one of the pool puddles, grunting, and something of not insignificant size was startled and scuttled—slithered?—away into the brush between him and the river.  Maybe this was a bad idea.  But he continued.

After about 100 yards he came to a parking lot.   There was another of the same sort of trash can there.  He really wanted to know if there was anything in that trash can.  Parked next to the trash can, with its motor rumbling in idle, was an old, black GMC Jimmy.  This was the sort of vehicle that he imagined the lamest burnout from his grade school days was probably out there driving, when it wasn't undergoing another repair.

The windows were tinted, of course.  Someone was in there.  Maybe it was the person who maintained, and had just emptied, the trash can on the river.  Maybe it was a teenager, or two, getting high.  He pictured two kids in there, huffing it up, hotboxing, listening to one of the two or three FM stations that came in clear.  From the tailpipe came a thin, greasy smoke.  Also in the parking lot was an information board, the sort you'd see at a trailhead in a park.  He wanted to read it, thought about the exact path he would take to get to it without coming too close to the Jimmy.  The engine cut off.  He bolted.

He didn't quite run back, that wasn't really possible in his water sport-appropriate sandals.  Plus, when he had turned tail he had kicked up a few pesky little bits of gravel from the parking lot which now were trapped in the sandals, causing him discomfort with every stride.  He tried to think of something else. What was that parking lot doing there?

He whipped the nose of the kayak around and tossed his paddle into the water, a little farther out that was advisable.  This river, this poor river, usually so clear and now so silted and muddy that, even getting in you couldn't quite see what you were stepping on, or into.  It was not better than lake water.  Helped by the muddy river, the kayak was just now working itself clear of the shore, getting a little distance from him.  He thought he could hear the sound of footsteps and someone whistling.  He plunged into the water and groped wildly for the kayak.

                                                                             *

She had been pulled up on the next decent bank for half an hour, maybe.  She didn't have a watch on.  Her watch, the watch he gave her—not expensive but of an attractive color, and a brand she liked—was water resistant, but what does that really even mean?  She had the bucket on her kayak and hat gotten into it for Pringles.  She had her own water and she sipped on that.  The sun was trying to peak out of the clouds, a minor miracle.  It had been back there behind those clouds, working up a sweat the whole time, setting its flamethrowing gaze to the blanket of clouds, slowly cutting through to where it could look upon that place its people called Earth.  He had the cooler, though.  If it was going to get sunny then she was going to have herself a beer.  No one passed by.  The only sound was the river.  A green heron had landed twenty feet upstream on the other side of the river and croaked a bit here and there as it seemed to squint against the water, making only one stab, coming up empty, croaking again and flying off downstream.  It wasn't going to be any more clear down that-a-way, fella.  But the bird knew that. A half an hour.  What the hell was he doing?

Now she was squinting, looking back upstream.  Someone on a kayak.  Her eyes were good but it was a hundred yards off yet.  Seemed to have his hat on.  Kind of looked like him.  Paddling hard.  Real hard.  The paddle seemed to be moving around in a circle, like a propeller whirring.  She thought she could hear the sound it made against the air, a deep droning whoosh, the sound a helicopter would make if it could whisper.  It was the sound of someone coming, for her.









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