Thursday, December 05, 2013
Seattle 2013: Day One
Monday, November the 25th.
It has felt like morning all day. I am all packed. B is out getting sandies and little bottles of gin.
The guy gave us a card saying we were in spot 315. We were the only two people on Shuttle 28. "Shuttle 28. Are we clear?" "10-40, Shuttle 28. You're clear." Alaska Airlines. We did the self-service check-in, paid $20 to check a bag weighing 44.4 pounds. Then we breezed through Security Checkpoint A. That was some Checkpoint, that Checkpoint A.
When I raise my hands for the panorama x-ray machine my hands hit the top of the compartment. I was kind of worried when I stepped in—not because of that—because the TSA guy kept generically saying, "Take everything out of your pockets—and I mean everything." And I was thinking, "I nailed this. My pockets were already empty even before he announced that." But then at the last moment I realized I had a once-folded Post-It note in my front right pants pocket. It was my final checklist, that I didn't want to leave out at home because then it would be obvious we were out of town. So I was planning to put it in the first trash can I saw, which obviously I forgot to do.
But the x-ray guy waved me through anyway and then another TSA agent right on the other side of the machine issued said, "You're clear." So now I'm writing all of this and B is getting a coffee. There's a trio of Wash U kids right near us and I was listening to them disinterestedly. One of the gals asked the guy if he would do her psych experiment. I went through that—having to get enough "participants" for my study for whatever class that was—Psych Stats with Dodd?—that's a guess.
Ah. One of the gals and the guy are bro and sis. I find that endearing. The other gal is fooling with her laptop and it's not really cooperating. Her experiment is some EKG thing? I find it kind of uncanny that all five people sitting here a second ago, with no one else that close by, were all Wash U people....
The EKG gal just came right over and sat by me to hand the guy her laptop so he could do the experiment. I was worried she'd look over at what I was writing and see the letters EKG and totally make me. But if she did, she didn't let on. Now B is back. The only thing I have left out is about how an older guy that came and sat down by us said that his son graduated from Wash U last year! Did they know him? He was on the baseball team, etc etc. They conversed briefly and then abruptly the conversation ended. Awkward!
Is he still over there? I'm not sure. I feel it would be rude to look considering I'm over here just flailing away. But now B is drinking her coffee and getting all coffee paranoid and I think she's going to try to see what I'm writing.
But my real fear is that the EKG gal is going to try to get me to participate in her study. I'm either going to walk away for awhile or just stop writing. B just looked over—she is definitely trying to read this. Which is why I love my Pilot G-2 ultra fines (.38 tip). They write like a chicken-scratch fart-in-the-wind. One minute I have a thought and then: BAM! It's down on paper—and not so easy to read, except by me of course. Except I've had what has now become a recurring problem with my .38s, where it's like the tip splays and there's a little piece of metal sticking out—this piece of metal is like a sliver, very sharp—I could cut the page with it. The ink won't flow except in sort of a bloody, spotty stain fashion—so the ink cartridge is obviously done as a writing instrument. I can keep the chassis but if I don't have another cartridge I'm done.
I went online and Pilot says they guarantee their products 100 percent. So this afternoon I sent my most recent busted cartridge off to their Customer Service department in Jacksonville, Florida. All I put in the envelope beside the cartridge was an index card on which I said pretty much what I just said about the guarantee. I'm real interested to see if they really will honor their policy and if so will they send me just the one-for-one "straight up" cartridge replacement, or will I get a two-pack, which is how the refills are offered online (I never see .38 refills in the store).
The coffee B got is a "tall americano," in which she put a little bit of half-and-half. I let her use my Starbucks card. That card had $48.41 on it when we started this trip and now it has—we'll see if she can tell me: she hands me the receipt and the card. I'm down to $45.89. She tipped them $1 out of her petty cash. She's reading now. She offers to let me keep the receipt. I clear my throat.
[17:59 or so]
I went for a quick stroll down the concourse during which I drank one of my four small bottles of Beefeater, holding it in my right hand/fist—trying to conceal it because what else do people have to do while they wait to board besides either screwing around on their mobile device or people-watching the people who are walking down the concourse?
B: "The plane is here, they're getting off."
I chased the gin with water from a water bottle I was holding in my left hand. Then I went to the bathroom. At first I tried to go in the men's room near our gate but it was kind of crowded so I did a u-ee and went back to another one farther away from our gate that I had seen on my stroll and had briefly considered stopping at but didn't. After that I filled my water bottle. The plane wasn't quite there when I got back. I looked down the gangway but all I saw were airport/airline personnel.
The incoming flight was due at 17:53. We are supposed to leave at 18:30. The area around the gate is pretty full—full enough so that I can't say, "This flight might not be full."
The Wash U folks were in the midst of talking about what they'd be doing during the summer—internships, I guess. I heard the phrase "Wells Fargo" and then one of the gals was talking about how she had Capital One, and their website was confusing.
B is standing up. I guess the incomers disembarked. Then someone was talking about going abroad—or knew someone who was abroad in El Salvador.
"Is she coming back (for Thanksgiving)?"
"No, She's with a group. They're having it there. Like, they're killing their own turkey—plucking the feathers from it themselves—."
Some kids now are on the chairs right at the back of me—flailing and wailing. Here's where I pray I'm not seated anywhere near them. Maybe this is why B got up—did she see them coming, and didn't mention it to me because she thought I was so deep into whatever it was I was writing?"
We are seated in Row 15, I'm on a window. It's three seats to a row—the other denizen was here when we got here. Alaska Airlines does a pre-board group, I guess that you can pay for on a one-off basis. Then they do all their clubs. Then they did service-men and -women. Then they Row 6 for whatever reason. We weren't sure what their boarding process was because we've never flown with them before and it didn't say anything about the boarding process on the ticket.
So after Row 6 they open it up to "travelers who do no need to put anything in an overhead bin: who either have nothing to carry on or whose carry-on will fit under the seat in front of them." (The lady with us in our half-row has a cough but there is no sign or sound of the kids from the seating area.) We had checked our big bag and whatever we were still carrying could fit beneath the seats in front of us. So in that group we boarded.
That was a nice, unexpected perk—an approach to boarding neither B nor I had ever encountered before. But as we're getting seated some lady who was camped out right near the gate but who had a roller carry-on walks right by us, looks up to the luggage compartment over us and says, "Oh, look. There's the carry-on items that the people who boarded before us could supposedly fit under their seats." Oh, that irked me. Was she not paying attention there at the gate during the first fifteen minutes of boarding when it was all of the pre-boarding groups: families, the airplane club members, the service-men and -women. Whatever.
The crew on this plane was trying to back us up on time but it was gonna be tough. Close quarters on these planes bring out in me the same sort of derision I feel most mornings driving into work. There's got to be a good place to put this negativity but in this cramped, capacity plane I do best just to keep it to myself, or let a little bit of it spill, if I must, onto this page.
"Flight attendants, prepare for cross-check."
We've got a cross-check, here people—let's do it!
At [18:37] we back away. Not bad. It's dark out, plenty dark. Boeing 737. A guy outside with red wands, one each hand. A voice over us—not a recording—delivers the emergency instructions while a flight attendant mimics the specified actions. B is reading, not paying attention. I look up intermittently. I'm afraid I'll have to go to the bathroom on this three-hour, fifty-nine minute flight to Seattle.
There's a little tag on the interior plane body right next to my seat. It says: "Seats in this row do not recline."
I guess because there is an exit row behind us. The lights go out in the cabin, but mine stays on—it must have been left in the on position. We're rolling along the runway. We're told that if we accidentally hit the call button all we have to do is just hit it again and that will cancel the call. I had never heard that. A truck goes by us in the opposite direction. We pass Terminal 2, the Southwest Airlines terminal. All of the Luvbirds are queued up at their respective gates, blinking.
I see a sign outside that says, "Please follow noise abatement procedures."
Along the runway are red lights in a row, blue lights in a row. We stop behind a row of green lights that are inset in the runway concrete. The plane has come to a stop but it is thrumming. Now we are moving and it's for real: gunning, gunning hard, roaring, lifting, totally up. As we rise the curvature of the earth becomes less relevant—the horizon opens up and lights further away become visible, uneclipsed. It strikes me as dark out there on the ground, darker than I thought—like we aren't flying over a metro area. Have we gone that far northwest in such a short time? I have a pang for my compass, unpacked again.
The engine right outside my window seems to have a floodlight shining on it. Otherwise, I can't see a g-d thing.
A few side notes:
(1) I'm tempted to fork over the $7 for an in-flight Alaskan Amber. But they only take credit/debit.
(2) I can't imagine paying for in-flight wi-fi.
(3) The Alaskan Airlines logo—the guy on the tail of their planes—I've always thought it looked like Johnny Cash.
Drink service has come and gone. They offered a meal, too: homestyle chicken for $7. The potays in the promo looked pretty good but we came heavy with sandies. And I'm not hungry anyway.
I am now three little Beefeaters in—the one in the airport concourse and then the two I just swigged with the cran juice I ordered. B says she's drunk on her one Smirnoff. She's got her headphones on now. I've had mine in for awhile, sometimes pausing the muse-ay in lieu of announcements over the intercom—or to interact politely with the cabin staff.
It's DJ Koze, Amygdala. A bit of a dance party, to the extent I can actually move. I had to take my cord sport coat off a few minutes ago—not just because I was a tad toasty but because it was getting pinched downward along my back by the seat, resulting in the sensation that someone was yanking downward on it, causing undue strain on my neck.
I was feeling like that contortionist, what's his name? Not Liberace—I always think of Liberace when I'm trying to think of this guy, don't ask me why. Not Mesmer. It's the guy who dies when someone punched him in the stomach, and his appendix burst. He thought that when he flexed his abs he could withstand any punch. Or maybe I'm making all of this up. The Fabulous _____________. Hell, I can't think of it. Houdini! Christ.
I did see some lights on the ground a while back. It might have been Columbia, MO. This was awhile ago. The gin is working on me a bit here. I see a few lights now but they're faint.
I've never been to Seattle. It's where B is from (though she was born in Germany). This vay-kay doesn't feel like a vay-kay yet. It hasn't sunk in. Maybe it won't until we're in the hotel. Until then, everything just feels like work. Every minute of this flight is like some protracted exercise or ridiculous yoga pose. I wanted to put my "tray table" down but then my legs were pressing up against it, tilting it. So for the moment I have my cord coat balled up and sitting in my lap, with my notebook on top of that, to get it a little closer to me, so I don't have to crane my neck so much.
I did not eat that little snack pack they gave us, but I will. It's a King Nuts product. I've had their work before, and I approve. Or as Chuckie from SoA would say, "I accept that."
The lights came back on in the cabin when drink service started—probably forty-five minutes ago. They brought some sort of e-reader by on a cart before that. I didn't pay much attention. ALK, hustling. Can't blame them. Our fellow Row 15 D-E-F denizen is now knitting. I'm into it. Her hands are going—moving in perfect rhythm to the beat from DJ Koze. OK, I might be exaggerating that. Seriously though: DJ Koze's Amygdala and Daft Punk's Random Access Memories are my two nominees for Album of the Year. With both I've gotten a bit obsessed, whereupon once I started listening to each album I listened to just that one album exclusively for a period of a week.
Right now is the fifth or sixth day of my Koze binge. He's German I believe. It's an eclectic house album bringing in vocals from different artists on different tracks: Caribou, Ada, Matthew Dear. (This is the same concept as Daft Punk bringing in talent on some of their tracks—but I can't name any of the vocalists they brought in.) Koze utilizes a variety of horns/tooting objects and a few samples/non-song audio snippets. Beats. Some soul-style, some jazz-style. Electronic, electronica. Minimal in spots. A bit of steel drum. As one sample says, "We need to eat, we need to drink, and we need...music." Most of the language is English but German is a close second.
I have been writing at a pretty thick pace. I probably can't keep it up—and that's fine. In some of my other travelogues, I spit heavy to start out and then I get distracted/lazy. For Jamaica/Farm/Pere Marquette, my densest, most-detailed, most carefully wrought writing has been about "getting there". This is because I don't have much to do but write when I'm on a plane or in a car, but when I get to the destination I'm out doing this or that and not sitting down to concentrate on describing what is happening or what is going through my mind. I hate to flame out in this way but the only trip I've ever kept up a constant writing pace for was Europe 2002, some of my best work ever.
The service cart comes by—I smell and I want that coffee but it'll send me right to the loo and that I can't have. Go, Koze, go!
Matthew Dear is on a couple of these songs. "Why do my plans always change? / And why does this make me laugh?" I listened to one of his solo albums—or previewed it, anyhow, on iTunes. I'd call him an acquired taste, Tom Waits-ish. At some point I'll give Mr. Dear another once-over. Koze throws him in with all kinds of other noise and verbs and sounds and it meshes well. Some of these songs come on and it's like running into an old friend in an unexpected place. "I remember you...." There are 15 songs on the album and only two are under four minutes. That's what I call value.
Multiple people are coughing/hacking on this plane. Theory: the rise of flu shots has somehow made us more susceptible to common colds. Can I prove this? No. But I had a dickens of a cold about a month ago that lasted for about a dang month—bad at first but then very much hanging around, and around. Two other people at work had the same thing: respiratory infection I suppose. Now, I haven't had a flu shot anytime in the last ten year. But—B is fighting something and she had a flu shot last year. And all of these people on here coughing and hacking (B just coughed!), I bet the lot of 'em had flu shots last year! This flu shot business in not a zero sum game, people: you take from the viruses and you give to the bacteria. Who are we to play God? And this the cost.
Aside: the last two albums I've downloaded on iTunes are German electronica.
Aside: The cabin crew has drawn the sheer, mosquito-net type curtain between "us" and those flagrantly rich bastards in first class. This curtain is the flimsiest, most inconsequential thing I've ever seen proposed as a "divider" of airplane sections. I might call it a dead man's mosquito net. I guess that eighteen-inch wide section of grommeted pantyhose really keeps the riff-raff from trying to sneak into the VIP section.
Aside: A guy in the row in front of me is playing Uno on his tablet and has been doing so for the last hour.
Just when I think I'm through 15 songs another one comes forth—don't stop, Koze! This song is somewhat industrial/electro. Very Munich/Kunstpark Ost. The knitter is taking a break. B is blowing her nose. Travel: it just makes you sick.
In flight WiFi—"GoGo fuck yourself!"—send photo to Roy.
A voice somewhere in my head says, "Oh, yeah. GoGo InFlight Internet. The stock has been crazy."
"Hey, no stock talk in here," I say. "That's your other life. You'll just ruin this thinking of stocks you never bought or sold way too soon. Go away for awhile, whoever brought up that thoughts of stocks."
"You want me to go away?" says the voice. Let's call him J2. "You think it's that easy?"
"I've got work to do," I say, "beat it."
"Fine, fine. But you'll regret it," says J2. "I'll haunt you, flash ticker symbols in your decrepit, disjointed, jumbled dreams. GoGo Fuckyourself!"
A third voice comes along and says, "What's going on here, guys? A little bit of therapy?"
In unison me and J2 say, "Oh, fuck you too!"
The cabin is dark. I need to remember to position my little drink bottles right side up in my ziploc slider bag next time. If they are lying on their side or upside down they will leak because of the cabin being pressurized. Also, make a note to bring a stir stick for B for her vodka/cran. She prefers to pour the liquor in as opposed to using her drink merely as a chaser.
I'm on to Pantha du Prince, the other German album. It's minimalist. The only vocals to speak of are macro in nature: chorals or chants. There is a bells motif. There is an incredible painting on the album cover.
I've been seeing plenty of cities of late, lit up and laid out. As I crane by head and put it right up close to the window...I see the stars. It's the Big Dipper, hanging out along the horizon, plain as day. Three stars make the handle, four the ladle.
[23:56 central, 1:56 11/26 in Seattle]
Seattle 2013: Day Two
Tuesday, November the 26th.
The highlight of breakfast was a kind of Tazo tea that I had never tried before. China green tips. Yum. Otherwise the breakfast offerings at the Talaris Conference Center were pretty remedial. They had English Muffin breakfast sandies that had egg and cheese in them. I had two, adding salsa to the second. It was something to put in my stomach and go about the rest of my day from.
Looking out from the breakfast room at Talaris we looked at a serene pond scene, marked by a fountain running in the middle of the pond. There were ducks. As we walked from the breakfast room along one of the various paths at Talaris I had to stop and take a photo of one of the cracks in the pavement path. The cracks, I think, are tree-root induced. But much like any slowly developing crack around here—whether on the ground or in a tree's trunk—the moss moves in the fill the void with its spongy, brilliant green frill. I put the photo on Instagram but I didn't feel like I really nailed it.
We went and saw B's parents at what I will refer to as the BP Station (BP=B's Parents). They are a mere four-minute walk from Talaris. They are renting a little bungalow here along a quiet street in the Laurelhurst area of Seattle, a neighborhood that is upscale but not gaudy. JO is teaching a couple of quarters at the University, so this is a great spot considering the campus is about a ten-minute walk away.
There was some original, unique art on the walls of their place. B and I were both particularly taken by a painting of a couple of barns. I then perused the library and saw that the owners of the house had a healthy collection of books on hiking, flora, and fauna.
Walking back from the BP, I saw at first one and eventually a second enormous northern flicker. A flicker is a type of woodpecker that spends more time on the ground than most woodpeckers would. One of them was on the ground before we startled it. The second was hanging around on a nearby chimney. They were plump! The markings I relied upon were the black throat band and the white rump-spot that is visible only when the flicker takes flight.
We were walking to the very nearby bus stop. I had downloaded a Seattle transportation app at breakfast called Roadify. It had a timetable in it, the only timetable we could find. We weren't sure about the price for a ride. B had looked online and said it would be $2.50. But the sign at the stop for the 25 bus to downtown said it would be $2.00. So when we got on? It was $2.25. We didn't need a transfer but we didn't stop the driver from handing us each one.
There is a bit of fog yet. It's cold enough to see one's breath, but there is no wind. There was no one on this bus when we got on. One of the hikes in one of those hiking books caught my eye: along the straits of Juan de Fuca. The photo had a vibe of: raw ocean landscape, with skeletons of whales washing up on shore. But I ask B and she says that the Straits of Juan de Fuca are up in the San Juan Islands.
[Pend Oreille Rd.]
The bus marquee lists what stop we are at or approaching. Before I forget I want to remember seeing the indicator Kleenex peeking out of our Kleenex box in the bathroom this morning. The indicator Kleenex isn't white, but peach-colored.
I did not sleep well. I fooled with the Keurig coffee for a few moments this morning before I respected the sequence and managed to get some coffee going. We pass the Burke-Gilman Trail. There are hills, students. The University of Washington.
I haven't been on a bus since Puerto Rico in January. A couple of other people had gotten on but they just got off so we're the only ones on the bus again. The campus is cozy. It's like UT in Austin but with mist and moss and evergreens. Just now we see some sunlight for the first time.
[15th Ave & NE 40th St.]
I was telling B—the streets and the avenues—what gives? We stop at a stop where people are standing but they don't get on; they want another bus. We stop for a guy in a wheelchair. Cigarette smoke. There's a gal with him who gets on first and quickly moves to fold up the seat where he'll sit, then does his seatbelt, finally sits behind him. She is methodical and practised.
B points out the stadium, ascending in the fog. We go over a bridge that marks the boundary between Lake Washington and Lake Union. It's [9:53]. I haven't been on pacific time since...San Francisco, 2011.
There are lots of rock gardens. Ferns. The grass is still green. The bus is winding and wending, lurching around turns. I see piles of leaves but I'm wondering whether there is the sort of concerted leaf pick-up that we have at home. Something tells me these leaves decay quickly enough. A marina. This is a monied area we are going through, pretty similar to where Talaris and the BP are. It's not a country club sort of atmosphere but it's money saying, "I want pretty. I'll accept some modesty in terms of house size. And I'm willing to give up the garage and park my Porsche or Mercedes on the street if I have to."
So many rocks. Igneous, I'd say. Thrown from the body of Helen?
[E. Shelby St.]...
[I-5 and Roanoke St.]
We are taking a bus downtown mainly because there isn't a whole lot of parking down there. We're gonna hit the market and then take a ferry to Bainbridge Island. At some point I'm gonna have a cigarette in this cool damp and it's going to be amazing. Runners, cyclists, ivy coursing up trees. We are getting closer. There are bigger boats in whatever body of water I am now seeing. I see the Space Needle. A guy in a Seahawks jersey. I had a beer last night called "The 12th Can." A Play It Again Sports. The Salsa N' Seattle Dance Studio. [1200 Stewart St.]
Lofts. A guy with a huge backpack gets on. The people downtown seem to be, on average, older, harder up, carrying more. Smoking more, too. [Stewart St. and 7th Ave.] There are some big hotels down here.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Pere Marquette State Park, November 9-10, 2013
I. Preface (11/8/2013).
I have cut an 11' x 10' piece of the new 6 mil plastic sheeting—doubled over (11' x 5') it looks a good fit for under the tent. For Pere Marquette, I will still bring the tarp and sandwich the plastic sheeting in the tarp for under the tent. For the Farm and other multi-night camps—if I have the room—I would still bring the old shower liner as a "throw down" for by the Jeep—to keep from stepping on dew, e.g.—for a spot to stand on while changing. Maybe it's not necessary, but it's worth trying.
The old plastic sheeting I have in the garage has staple holes in it and can be tossed. This plastic sheeting will puncture if I set it right on a new tree sprout and press down...and there's lots of those at the Farm. So I'm not sure what to do about that. It was $25 for the roll and I can get two tent-fit cuts per roll...cheaper than a tarp.
II. Saturday morning, 5:20 a.m., 11/9.
I have finished my first espresso. I'm listening to a college football podcast and coughing a little bit. The packing is coming together; not much more to go. Two buckets, one box, a backpack, and an empty cooler in front of me. B is up. I slept OK but not great. I didn't need the taste of conny I sipped while managing just a couple of pages before I fell asleep. A text from Roy greeted me on my phone this morning, from some time last night. Saying he had just gotten home and would soon be making his first. Dislocation, dislocation.
III. Getting There, Saturday, 10:17 a.m.
We have left Squirt in Bellevegas and we are headed past The Shrine toward E Saint/Alorton where we'll patch into 255N. I am seeing two pyramids...the white-line triangle shapes of the new Mississippi River Bridge. It really adds to the skyline, filling in to the north of the city's downtown 'scrapers.
Thoughts: I forgot the g-d tarp! So it'll be a real test for the plastic sheeting. I did not think to bring my fanny pack, which is standard for my hikes but which I did not pack for other camp outings because I did not plan to hike. We plan to hike at Pere Marquette.
I never ask the question: what will I do on this current excursion that I did not do on prior excursions (from which I constructed my pack list)? And what does that tell me about what else I might need to bring?
It is a beautiful day. Cloudless. 59°. Not much wind. I'm not driving. Thanks, B. I think I'll have a cigarette!
I will add to the "Forgot" category: my iPhone lanyard. You know, I used to have it tucked into this little pocket along the passenger's side door. And for some reason I took it out of there. Twice now I've needed it: Farm Fall '13 and now.
There are plenty of ways to get from here to Pere Marquette but we are taking the Edwardsville Road exit and heading left/west into Wood River. After passing a Shop 'n' Save and a couple of car dealerships, it becomes more of a "town" and we pass a house where the family is getting its Xmas yard display ready.
Then it quickly becomes incredibly industrial. This is major refinery territory. Deer Park. A little bit of Texas up here, and as easy as it is to scoff at the smoke I can't be sure that what came out of there isn't now getting this Jeep on down the road. We pass a union hall. Through this area there are lots of roads going lots of different directions: Roxana, Alton, Bethalto, Edwardsville, Hartford, Granite City, you name it. There are levees. Bike trails along those levees. A business park. Koch Nitrogen (Wood River Terminal). This is bottomland. Power lines. A barge, and other barges. Is that THE river already? A chute goes over the road above us, reaching toward the river from an industrial complex sporting a long, sloping pile of coal. We can see the Melvin Price Lock & Dam. The Clark Bridge. East Alton Pumping Station #1. Alton, population 27,900.
A great blue heron. A flock of starlings. The road we've been on has changed names several times since we've been on it—now it's called Landmarks Blvd. The Argosy is up to the left. "Welcome to Alton" is written on the big ConAgra grain elevator. Commerce happens here and it excites me! Now we do a left onto the Great River Road. We pass under another structure over the road: what looks like a walkway leading to the grain elevator. As we get past the grain elevator, up and to the left we get our best view of the river yet: it is open, running, and wide.
We pass a cyclist. A pickup with a dead deer—its rigored legs sticking up out of the bed—passes us. On the right is the Piasa Bird, painted up on the face of the bluffs. There is still fall color up in the bluffs, near and far: golds, reds, rusty brown. A running/biking trail speeds along to our right, at the foot of the bluffs. There are a couple of runners. I see something about the "Great Rivers Land Trust." More joggers.
There is a little bit of chop on the river. A few specks of white cap. On the edge of the river closest to us, not going anywhere, is the Patricia Anne—a towboat. On the Missouri side is that heaping, hulking, smoking, skanking—light-giving—power plant with its honking smoke stack pouring the bad stuff up into the crisp blue yonder. There's a towboat pushing a load of barges out in the middle of the river. Houses on our side, Clifton Terrace. One time we took a wrong turn trying to get here and got the un-scenic tour of Alton/Bethalto/Wood River. We jogged over to the Great River Road somewhere around here, dropping down on something I thought was called Stiritz Lane. [author's note: that's correct, except by the time it drops down and hits the Great River Road it's called "Whitford Drive".]
There are some big white birds sitting on a log out in the middle of the river. I can't believe they are anything other than pelicans. The Great River Road is also called Highway 100. It's like our Pacific Coast Highway (except that's "Highway 1"). The river branches into two or more channels here, making islands in its midst. The birds love it. Ducks and gulls. "Piasa Creek Public Boat Access Area." A gas station (if we need wood?)
We are just north of the power plant now. We've somewhere lost the hike and bike trail. Is it above us? [author's note: no.] The statue of the lady in white is across the river from us. Portage des Sioux, MO. Their water tower, their steeple. A sail boat out on the water is cutting and jibing, full of sail. Although the hike and bike trail is gone, there is now a bike lane. Village of Elsah.
It's windier up this way. There is now the little community of Chautauqua to the right. We pass a really slow moving Buick. Foam on the river, "falling rock ahead". We enter Grafton, population 650. Raging Rivers. We were here MLK Day this year, not since then. Looking for eagles, and saw a couple. On the right is a BP station that has firewood. We see a guy sitting on a deck drinking a beer. And lady with him has a hefty glass of white wine! It's 11:15, I love it. We're out of Grafton. Will we need to come back for any reason?
The trail is back. Windy road. Brussels Ferry, 1/3 mile. We pass the "Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge," where we looked for eagle that day but did not find any. It's closed right now. Out of the woodsy area and now into a bucolic setting. We pass a guy taking a photo of a barn. The barn has a stone foundation. It's nice. To the left, for the first time, we don't have the river. It's open field. There is a dairy not too far, the Duncan Hill Youth Camp, Pere Marquette, the Illinois River, and everything else.
IV. Rest of Saturday, A Summary.
So we get there, set up camp in the Class B campsite area, and then launch out on this more-than-we-can-chew three-plus-hours hike. We had noted that the ladybugs were crazy on us while we were setting up the tent. They got crazier up on the bluff at one point, clinging to our clothes and hanging around for awhile.
But we ran into something of a problem when we decided to push on and make it out to the "Lover's Leap" scenic overlook. The piece of the trail that goes out there is called the "Rattlesnake". It's listed as being 1/4 mile—it's not 1/4 mile, not even close. It probably is drawn to scale on the map, but its listed length is wrong. It's a mile at least. It really took the wind out of my sails. I did not have the energy to walk all the way back via the trails so we walked part of the way back along the road, which sucked.
By the time we got back we had about an hour of sunlight left. I went into a creek bed to get firewood. B was busy unpacking stuff and getting ready to cook once we got a fire going. I actually found some really nice pieces of wood in the creek bed—like, actual firewood that somebody at some point cut...and for whatever reason tossed down into the creek bed.
Well, what can I say? We made a fire, made sandies, drank. I smoked some Parlies. We listened to my iPhone on shuffle, its speaker end placed into one of our metal campfire cups. The stars were badass and we looked at them for an hour. B saw a shooting star that I missed.
We retired. At some point during the night I heard the guy at the nearby campsite ralph. I got kind of paranoid. Not because of the guy barfing—that was oddly comforting—but because stuff was hitting our rain fly and I got kind of creeped out. I prefer camping in numbers.
V. Sunday Morning Ramblings.
• Get some camp plates—something we can reuse instead of the use & chuck Chinet.
• Pack a spoon.
• More wood, more wood.
• Sharpen the loppers.
• Had to use some newspaper. Getting the fire going a second time Sunday morning (after we got back from a walk down to the river at sunrise) was difficult.
• I got up at 3:31. I couldn't get back to sleep. I was uncomfortable and a little paranoid.
• No phone reception. I got a few texts to and fro with Roy, who updated me on college football. Instagram or Vine was not possible.
• I could use a portable speaker, especially something that could simultaneously charge a phone. The extra battery pack for the phone also would have come in handy.
• Sandwiches in the morning, so good. Turkey, ham, swiss, cheddar. Texas Toast. Mix and match.
• There was a "vault" toilet on the Class B campground. It really didn't smell bad. But I put my headlamp light up on some spiders in the rafters and got a little creeped out. There are flush toilets in the Class A (RV) area but the vaults are fine.
• To drink last night I had: four Stellas, George Dickel in the disposable/reusable flask, and then a little bit of B's vodka, which I chased with Canada Dry seltzer water.
• There were two water spigots—the old-style kind like you'd see on a farm—on either side of our camp site. They worked. I had to yank them all the way "up" and then give them a second. I would hear the water rising first and then it would just come shooting on out. It was kind of fun. The water tasted fine.
• The hunters started shooting at 5:45. I had been out scrounging for kindling for a while by then. I found myself comforted by the knowledge that other people were not only awake but going about their business for the day.
• We walked out to the harbor right across 100 while there was still color—pink and orange—in the sky. It was quiet, serene, and peaceful. I took some photos. I walked up the stairs into this old kind of shack that was really decrepit and creepy. Considering how beautiful the world was, it was rather quiet and so few other creatures were stirring yet at 7:33.
• I had a headache and when I gave it any thought, my blinking body cursor told me: you really don't feel that good. I took two headache pills and did a Doubleshot. The part of me that is truly scared the most wonders if that will still work when I'm 44, 54. Not likely. We had water boiling by the time B was ready for a Via with a little Doubleshot poured in as a creamer.
• It was pretty awesome how we could just barely see the arch from some of the lookout points along the trail system. If I did not know that there was some sort of "arc-thing" along the STL skyline, could I have seen it through the miles and the power smog/petrochemical daze/river fog/haze-of-life?
• Scrounging for wood this morning like Orwell's tramp...I was trying to be quiet. I got back into the creek bed, sort of desperate. I checked several of the Camp B "sites" that had their own grill pits (ours did not). I shuffled quite a few old coals into my log carrier, thinking they were radio gold. But considering how stubborn my fire was to start after we got back from the harbor, I have no alternative but to conclude: something was wrong with those "radio-gold" coals. They were wet or just not good or both.
• If it's just me and B, we don't really need the big trash bag. Yet, I like a trash bag with a string because it's a good idea to rig the trash bag up at the end of the picnic table and have it hanging there so you can drop trash into it.
• Our "site" up on the hill in the Class B area had two picnic tables and a stone-rung fire ring. Though we did not have a grill at our site, there are several grills scattered throughout the Class B area.
• Used a paperclip.
• The Mesquite Krunchers! were good. The pretzel braids were good.
• We enjoyed our tentside tattered towel mats, one mat thrown down on each side of the tent. That way you can take your boots on/off with your feet hanging out of the tent and you don't have to worry about dirt or wet or frost.
• The buckets worked well.
• The plastic sheeting seemed to have formed a pretty good vapor barrier between us in the tent and the ground.
• I burned a hole in my fleece. It's a blue fleece I've had for eight or nine years. I feel kind of dumb. I don't even know when I did it.
• The Home Depot lawn refuse bag really worked out well. I put wood in it at home, stapled the top shut, and took wood out beside the fire as I needed it. Then for packing everything up on Sunday morning I shook the bag out real good and threw random things in it. Those bags can hold a lot of weight without any give.
• My hiking boots are just about done.
• On Sunday morning I was still in my pants and t shirt from the day before, though I did change my socks.
• Ate a pepsid at one point.
• I was wearing my Ken Onion attached to my right pants pocket. If I used it once, it was just the once.
• I had remarked to Roy over text on Friday that I could not find my battie anywhere. He suggested I look in the garage. I figured it'd turn up before long. I found it in the right breast pocket of my blue & black flannel shirt on Sunday morning.
• It was $10 to camp ($10/night). I used a ten. I hung the tag/permit on the tent. It flipped and flopped against the rain fly repeatedly during the night and startled me repeatedly until I realized what it was.
• Conceivably, we could have used a little radio—a MUST if there is a Cardinals game.
• We did not use the face wash or the wash cloth(s). I'd still bring them both, though.
• When we got there Saturday at 11 a.m. or so there was only one other site occupied in the Class B area but including ourselves there were campers on five sites Saturday night/Sunday morning.
• I'm strongly considering converting the emergency kit marked "A" into a camp box—thereby replacing my current cardboard box (the brandy box). It will only work if I can get a divider to function properly in the emergency kit (a big plastic container). The e-kit has handles and it seals shut—two things the cardboard box can't offer. Could be a major upgrade.
• We are suddenly short of decent twisty ties! I have cut a length of wire into smaller sections and put it into the camp box.
• I do not believe it got below 40° last night. My compass/thermometer was in my backpack and I thought about checking it at least a couple of times...but never did.
• A little charcoal for that morning fire re-start would help. Just like we did up at Mark Twain Lake a la J Brett.
• Sounds in the night: in addition to the permit popping on the rain fly and the guy the next site over doing a vomit at 3:00 or so, there was another sound: something falling to the ground in the wind and reverberating slightly. I could not place it. Later this morning when a Chinet was whisked off the table I knew what it was I had heard. It got windy during the night!
• We looked at the stars for an hour Saturday night. B nailed Cygnus (the Northern Cross). Everything flowed from there: Altair, Vega, the Corona, Draco, Cassiopeia.
• But this morning Orion was upside down (I think!) and it stumped me. We stared at the brightest star in the early morning sky—it had to be Sirius—but comparing that to Orion, and looking at the star chart...it didn't add up. Is it possible we were not in fact looking at Orion? But the belt, three stars, in a straight line, I've seen it a thousand times. It was frustrating.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Farm Party, Fall 2013
1. Getting There.
We left at 8:30 a.m. It was cool, 48 degrees. We drove south down Hanley and it was sunny. There was a speed trap on Hanley before 64/40, a cop on a bike in boots with a gun. It was twelve minutes down Hanley to 44. It was another five minutes to 270. We passed a deer opened up. Billboards. 84 Lumber. We saw a county cop out past Lone Elk Park. Fall colors.
I'm congested, a cold I can't shake. The Meramec. Two miles to Eureka. A guy in a Civic was reading a road atlas, alternately looking over bifocals at the road ahead. Fastenal, Sherwin Williams. Six Flags. A tiny field with hay bales.
We lost the sports talk station signal at Union/50 West. A Meramec Caverns advert: panning for gemstones. Vistas, hills. Maples gone orange. Pacing, rhythm, tepees. Jesse James Wax Museum, Rolla in 50. A turkey vulture, a field of sorghum. A store in Sullivan called Outdoor Gear. A red pickup's bed full of pumpkins. The sky interspersed with just a few smudgy clouds. A car pulled over by the Bourbon Police.
Speed limit 70. Hay bales for sale, some maybe from the spring. Grapevines. 4M Vineyards. St James. A little stand where grapes are for sale, brimming bowls on the counter. Exit 195, which we reached in 91 minutes. 68 West. Country Bob's Café—always packed. Jct V, Missouri out in front of us. The Bourbeuse. Longhorns lying down. Speed limit 55.
Fallen limbs and trees that would make great firewood. A robin flies across the road. Then a blue jay. Wood: $100/cord. Jct 63. A right—north. Hundreds of hay bales, the airstrip. What's left after the hay is cut and baled? Clean, green grass. Getting passed in a no-pass. Spring Creek Gap Conservation Area. The vista looking southwest. The Gasconade.
An uphill, an additional lane. We take it and are promptly passed. Signs for The Catfish Patch. B says she likes it out here but that there's a lot of meth. How do you know I ask her. I see a lot of meth billboards, she says, I'm assuming there's a bunch of meth.
A fire at the Dairy Park. We think it's recent. Forty miles to Jeff City. Vienna. G & W Foods. We stop for gas and the restroom. I pass up a penny in the parking lot. I do the windshield. Done, I lean against the side of the Jeep. The sun's been working it. It's warm against me while a light breeze is crisp. I see something glinting. It's a nickel. That I don't pass up.
A guy adding a new coat of paint to a huge propane tank. 42W to Iberia. Fly Creek. I'm on my phone and B sees an eagle—fanned out white tail, white head—as big a bird as one can find 'round here. Little Maries River. Jct 133—the jog. North, then a quick right—a car or two parked out in that island—commuters? A Sinclair, the brontosaurus logo. Little Tavern Creek. Entering Miller County. Donkeys. Greasy Creek. Tt.
2. Early Outfitting Thoughts.
even more trash bags
waders/Ryan's yellow rain outfit (Gorton's)
3. A Rainy Night, The Morning After.
A Friday night in October,
standing in the rain, Cardinals Game 6
on the radio—warming, drying ourselves
by the fire. A steady, spitter of a rain—
going under the tree for a break. More wood, more
wood—the cedar, sloughed together by
the summer's flood. Foil caps for our metal
cups. Coals under the grate. Potatoes, in
foil, set on coals in a group. Turned,
took—70-80 minutes? Eaten plain, its
skin the condiment.
The next morning: "Fought
through a shitty night for a glorious
Saturday." Bars, Kind Bars. Wiffle ball,
disc golf. Chairs, the log carrier. Holding
a jacket, a shirt over the fire to dry it. Holding
gloves there, a hat. The grill glove. Croissants
w/ pumpkin filling and whip cream. A garbage
bag as a poncho.
4. Sunday morning Solo.
Baked potatoes, 4 for $10!
The Shrimp Boil was—
corn, potays, scrimp; garlic
cloves—strewn out across the
table on newspaper.
Sixteen camping chairs,
nine coolers. The wood we'd piled high
on the trailer is almost gone. My phone is
charging in the house—that was
my only time in the house this trip. Two
pickup trucks down here, one stubborn
tractor, two full trash bags, one
that could be full.
On water: got most of an Evian tall-boy left,
about one full 2-gallon jug, one-sixth of my
Nalgene. The Old Crow is 80 percent gone.
A paper bowl with ten meatballs. Another
bowl with scallions and a black plastic spork.
Imitation bacon bits.
Two 26 ounce iodized salt containers—one
empty, one fill (for stumps, among other things).
An open, two-thirds full plastic container of sour cream, with
a metal spoon in it. Spray butter,
hand sani, two rocks, a
barely opened bottle of Sour Splash
sour apple liqueur, an unopened can
of raspberry pie filling, an opened
half-full can of blueberry pie filling, a
metal knife, two beer cans (High Life,
empty, partly crushed, a Bud Light
mostly full). A Coca Cola Cherry Zero,
mostly gone. One ziploc with tea,
Via, and Emergen-c). One of our metal
cups, a blue plastic cap to a mostly empty
two-gallon jug of water, salt shaker,
pepper shaker, plastic cap to butter spray,
ziploc with twelve plastic knives and three
plastic forks—dogs howling and barking
in the distance—crows—cardinals chitting—
eight paper bowls, stacked, unused—a
ziploc with dirty rice, a bottle of Zatarain's
concentrated shrimp and crab boil—at least
two of the three people in tents down here snoring—a
four-and-a-half pound glass jar of Zatarain's
CRAB BOIL, half full. A fairly hefty metal
knife with a black plastic sheath, metal tongs, two two-
pronged roasting spits, unused newspaper (mostly
ad inserts), three unused styrofoam bowls, a glass casserole
dish of mostly eaten cornbread, now mostly crumbs and
Now away from the table.
Four pie irons, my hoodie draped over the back
of my chair. On the ground a survey of beer cans:
Bud Light, 14 (one unopened)
Founder's All Day IPA, 2
Bud Select, 1
Third Shift Amber Lager (bottle), 1
Paul's Pale Ale (bottle), 1
O'Dell's IPA, 1
Also on the ground:
A Black & Decker flashlight—a mozzarella cheese singles pack, one slice left—one half-gone twin french bread—a mini red lighter (it works)—wiffle ball—can jam canisters (2)—can jam frisbee—a crushed empty water bottle (with the lid on)—
Another two-pronged spit—a metal set-up table (contents listed later)—the picnic bench (contents listed later)—hammock—two of the camping chairs, downwind of the fire, have all kinds of soot and ash on them—a blue bag, for storing a chair—our grill gable—the box for said "Lumberjack" grill—the box has a second pair of tongs on it, the ones with the red plastic handle coating—my metal cup (with Old Crow in it, some of which I poured last night and some of which I poured this morning)—three of four sheets of still-connected toilet paper (does not look used)—some freshly trimmed branches—some cedar branches with the green still on—the yellow plasticky/nylon cord we used to tie down the haul of wood we went and got on put on the trailer late yesterday afternoon—the can jam box—more sounds of crows—all kinds of wood detritus—shovel—paper plate—wiffle ball bat—a black skull banner—wrapper for Al Capone mini cognac cigars—insert tag for "Timber Ridge—Zero Gravity Lounger"—an Aqua Fina bottle almost empty—a prop-up, old-school tope-colored metal card table with faked leather top—four chairs for that table, two at or under table, two further away—an orange, really long extension cord that I plugged my iPhone and charger into, hoping for a major charging coup, only to find that the cord must have been pulled from its source at the house at some point early this morning (said cord powered the boom box last night)—a plastic, 20-gallon sterilite container with black rectangular, snap-up handles—a tent bag—the pants part of Ryan's rain suit—
The box—what old, wet cardboard is that?—for one of our chairs I think—seven discs, six are mine, the white Valkyrie is not—a green plastic bag [author's note: it was not even a green plastic bag, it was a green plastic poncho, which I now have!]—the fire—two or three stones near the fire that give a vague sense of someone thinking about making a fire pit/ring—a baker's dozen of foil-wrapped potays—Nick comes down and gets sunglasses off of the first-mentioned metal prop-up table (before I have a chance to catalogue them...)—
5. Sunday Morning Rendezvous.
Just thinking out loud here. A compost/pitch fork would be useful for the fire...to sift...
As of eight o'clock Sunday morning? We have seven pieces of texas toast left. We've run out of paper towels down here. Also, I had to go back to the Jeep for more tin foil at one point because.... I've got burrs in my sweater, dozens of them. They are brown, not round, not quite diamond-shaped. Two centimeters wide? I'm wasting time trying to pick them off of me. Already this morning: business; ate the rest of a left-open bag of sea salt and vinegar kettle chips; drank a double shot and a coffee + energy drink; brushed my teeth; changed from crox to boots—
B and Doug up. Doug was technically second, I neglected to mention him make a cameo earlier before ducking back into his tent down here. Nick Mick was third, he who had come down for his shades and now, sadly, has left the farm altogether—got to get back to Louisiana, 11 hours...
Then Patrick, then AM—gun shots in the distance—"Clothes-wise, I had the right amount."—"I'll make y'all some cinnamon rolls."—"How 'bout a potato?"—trash bag filling up—pick a couple more burrs off—I think my not-brought fleece would have been better to imperve/frustrate would-be burrs—or puffy coat—or rain jacket—"There's three more cookies."—"The toilet pipe filled up."—with all this ground 'round us—a 1.5L of Diet Mountain Dew, half full—a burn mark on the right cuff of my long green T, peeking out from 'neath my grey wool sweater—Patrick in an orange puffy coat—AM in a light blue puffy coat—B in black fleece—Doug in a grey, zip-up hoody—Patrick with only one black glove on (left hand)—"Somebody's quail hunting or somethin."—"Shotgun."—"Quail, dove—whatever."
A breeze. Light, pleasant. Blue, blue sky. One wisp of a cloud in all the sky I can see. More crows, chirps of dozens of other birds. A blue jay's "kee-auk". Ryan P and Candy still in their octagonal orange tent. I fretted and crept earlier but it did not stir them. There is yellow light in the tops of the trees. Around us, these two days, a million leaves have fallen. A trillion ashes collected at our feet. Patrick has the kettle on, his back to the fire. Miz is next, with cutoff sweats as outer shorts over jeans. "We've got a survivor," he says, picking up the unopened can of Bud Light. He is going around and picking up the beer cans over in the Can Jam area that so willingly participated in my informal survey. He snags the wiffle ball bat and a chair.
Ryan K, in Washington Nationals shorts and a t-shirt, drains a cooler, grabs a chair or two. Then Ryan P and Candy. Then E Van. E Van unwraps and tosses a potay—it lands with a thud. I go and get more wood from the creek bed. Patrick helps, drags back a cedar. E Van is working on the tractor. Will it start? "Putt, putt, huff, huff." "Come on, baby!" "Now we have liftoff!" "Don't start counting your chickens yet."
Patrick saws. B offers up the last two cinnamon rolls. Bucky and Sarah are down, getting their stuff together. There was a day, down here, the first Sunday, when we were eager for getaway....
E Van backs the tractor up the hill. Proud, with an orange plastic spool, is rolling up that extension cord.
"How did you and Ryan meet?" someone asks Candy.
"Pat set us up."
6. Epilogue: Need/Thoughts.
• Bring at least one other bucket—empty?
• Bring veg oil and a ziploc for pie iron storage; take it home ready to store.
• How can we use Chinet more efficiently? Mark on bottom with pen? Stash in a bag? (So it doesn't get thrown away.)
• My boots were OK in the rain but the Bean boots would have been better.
• Seal bottom/floor/edge seams of tent.
• I could've used more socks—a variety of thicknesses—two thin, two mid, two thick.
• Get another tarp.
• Are we gonna use a liner/tarp inside the tent? We had some water come in at the edge—but it rained for hours. The fly seemed fine. Water also came up from the bottom—condensation? Hard to say.
• The bucket was a great waystation.
• Get another Ken Onion—good knife—I'm always taking it in and out of the e-kit.
• The chainsaw chain is dull and needs sharpening.
• I really like using the shovel to move coals, dig a hole, play with the fire—it was Eric's—if enough room: bring own? Did see a compost fork-type implement in the screen room.
• I liked getting there early. I would gladly do another night—Thursday—"the chill night"—go for a hike at Ha Ha Tonka Friday a.m.
• I did not use the safety pins but they were needed at one point. I didn't have them on me and didn't want to go get them. (Magnets might also have done the trick.)
• The canopy a la Doug saved us for the homestretch of the Cardinals win. Either me or Patrick needs to get one.
• I didn't use the Neosporin but it's a "must bring".
• Think more about what to have in pockets, or in a cache by the fire (bucket)—lip balm, lighters, drugs mix, paper clips and safety pins, extra gloves, hat, foil, sharpie, pen and paper, bars, etc.
• I did not use the long johns but I did wear three different pairs of pants. It got down to 36 degrees (my estimate) on Friday night, so it wasn't exactly warm but to go through the process of changing out of my current clothes and into longies...I'm saying it would have to have been below 30 degrees. It's always warm by the fire and I didn't really spend much time away from it, other than to use the telescope.
• I thought about taking a shower Friday after the chainsawing I did. But I never took it.
• My phone got rundown when I started an audio recording Friday night and then forgot about it. Two hours and forty-nine minutes later, in the tent, half-conscious, I realized the phone was still going and might battery had gone from 97% to 50%. The audio recording was not useful.
• Wipes. The wipes are big time.
• All kinds of plastic bags. Ziplocs, grocery bags, trash bags with strings. And they'd be a nice add to the fire bucket.
• As far as cleaning myself, I used those wipes and then I did alcohol/cotton pads.
• I parked up by the barn. Kinda far away, but I wanted to leave room open for other cars and I also moved a second time for disc golf reasons.
• Disc golf: Not nearly as easily done. Didn't play a whole lot—played three or four holes early, then played five the next day. The field was grown out, bearded. It would have been impossible to play out there. Pat and I played one hole out there and I nearly lost my Nuke. So we make-shifted around/through the house/camp area and it was alright.
• Both of our rain jackets failed an albeit tough test Friday night in the rain. We were standing in a steady rain for five to six hours, but still. Ponchos would have done better. There was a poncho in the Jeep (that thing has been in the Jeep for like twelve years, unused) but I never gave it serious thought. I think my fleece would have been better, because rain would have beaded up on it. I also now have Pat's green poncho! To dry our coats afterward I held them over the fire. That did, perhaps, get them dry faster but they also absorbed a lot of campfire smoke and they now reek.
• There was only one tick sighting. That was Jeanie and she said it was because she had just walked through a bunch of brush. I sprayed my boots and pants really good early. That said, the flies and bees were a pain in the ass. Fly paper?
• Should I have brought a bit of sunscreen? My face is red. Today (10/20) it hit 70 degrees, believe it or not. Sunny. Yesterday was 64 degrees and sunny.
• Hand sanitizer—can't have enough.
• Water—same deal. We brought 5-6 gallons and probably drank/used 4. Had it been warmer, we would've needed more. I was good to have: some water in the Jeep, a gallon at the tent, a couple of gallons at the campfire.
• Boots—B's boots did well. Mine might be slightly too small.
• I didn't need any newspaper, but it's essential.
• Batteries—I stashed some AAAs and some AAs in the pockets of the Jeep seats. At one point I might've had my headlamp on in my pocket for awhile—not sure.
• I really like my Old Navy "Broken-In Khakis". They are comfy enough to sit around in but also rugged enough for firewood duties. The black Nike warm-up pants are on their way out—the pockets are terrible—but the pants themselves are very water-resistant and were admittedly good in the rain.
• Those cedars—how many did we burn? Ha. Dozens.
• It's 17:30 Sunday night. I'm whooped, I still haven't showered.
• We got more rocks—maybe only 15 total, but bigger ones. Two bigger, mini-boulders.
• Sleeping bags, tent, rain fly, clothes—they're all out on the deck airing out.
• That bag of sea salt & vinegar chips I ate this morning at 5:45. Ha! Loved it.
• B did awesome cooking for me—made me four turkey toasties.
• For rain conditions—pack and take the time to put newspaper sleeve footies on.
• Goddam! I miss the place already.
• My grey sweater. I was just now picking those diamond-shaped burrs off of it and tossing them over my deck's railing. Their mission is accomplished!
• Hammer—that is some rocky ground up there: rocky and not that even. One needs a hammer and some serious stakes.
Until next time, friends!
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Ampersand, Rotated 90˚ Counterclockwise
Here I am
Death, death, death, and destruction
Bourbon at 13:00—
a Nobel would do better.
Hand to forehead,
elbows on desk—
staring, stoned, bereft
all of the past up to the present
& this is what's left.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
"Enough planning, un-planning, re-planning, and planning for a lack of a plan.
I am packed, I am ready, I am waiting."
— John Randell Cabot, Lake Superior, 1687
rain on the pavement
good light, power lines & their
Toluca, Tonica, Winona
Mammatus clouds, water
drips down, hits my
I open the
A nut bar, worry of heartburn.
I went around the corner only to
have a cigarette. But then Pat
has one and I wonder why I hid it.
State highway 6, Ottawa/La Salle-Peru
On the Illinois River. Nice place?
There are a lot of windmills, and
an exit for highway 30 to Sterling,
to Aurora—where I went to school once...
We can't make it to Pattison, State Park, WI.
The choices then are:
Brunet Island State Park
or Lake Wissota State Park. We go
with Burnet Island. We'll take 53 to 29 to 178.
Site 38, our tents go up
as the sun falls. We sup at
Foster's Riverview Inn. The walleye
is half a fish; the Leinenkugel's is
honey weiss on draft.
It is the morning of September 16, 2013.
It is cool and foggy. I work to get the fire back up.
I am surrounded by no one.
I find a few good pieces under the picnic table at a nearby site.
We are breaking our camp's back already.
That structure in Cornell—it is a
pulpwood stacker—not a
bridge, not an oil derrick, not the
Pat is driving, Anne is in her nest. That leaves me,
riding shotgun, with nothing to do but—
The bag on my lap feels cold—
the mists have risen, mostly—
the morning light is a mix of clear &
yellow, a touch of corn, a touch of
how a power line lay against a
background of bluest sky.
Sumac goes to red—Wisconsin
is pretty country, like a mix of
rural Missouri, Tennessee, broken
up by the purloined farms of Illinois—
Monday, September 16, 9:43 a.m.
The edges of the corn fields are cut away,
cut clean, and being cut away moreso this
morning, two guys out there—I
would've thought it was machine-done.
State highway 64, west
yellow, even brown—does that
mean it's ready for harvest—or has
some gone brown because it's dead?
A yellow house, a red barn—
Corn does it, too—goes brown—now
a field fully harvested, now one...
partially so? with even cuts along the
edge but also through middles, making
a clear path to....
A stand to encourage an osprey
nest—a few twigs, not formed—
I look, I list. But this NPR show
my glimpse at futures this
morning—up, up—I think of
capitulation—I am lost,
I have lost, I'm losing—I think
of battles (accounts) to concede—
toxic, toxicity seeps into me—
I make my North Country Camp List—
names of stocks I've heard, that I
cannot evade: COST (your fucking muffins),
YELP (the all-knowing), SBUX (micro-tasty),
FB (out of the owner's mouth), RAI
(everybody's doing it), TAP (do they really
own Leinie?)—we saw wind farms &
I thought of GE, Vestas—we saw
solar panels, on a swivel arm to track
the sun—this is America, this is
the Assembly of God, this is life
that never stops, all around me—
We saw a UNP loco hauling a dozen,
two dozen frames of Pacers, stacked
two high—oh, three SHW semis,
their logo the same all these years,
cover the earth, cover the earth—
News, now, of fatalities at the naval yard,
in Washington, D.C.
We heard barred owls last
night. First, across the river—
—I thought first a great horned owl,
I just heard part of the call, the
first part, the "hoo"—
But there was more:
mischievous barking, a
laughing huffle-trill, wild,
maniacal, definitely not coyotes, but
not far from what I'd ascribe to hyenas.
Crows, in the new-cut corn,
finding odd kernels, crunching
them in their stony beaks, and then
flying over to the next field,
to talk about it.
Rice Lake, WI—8,320—
sister city, Miharu, Japan.
Stopping at Norse Nook—"Restaurant &
Bakery"—"bakery implies coffee to go, right?"—
I thought yes—bakery implies a counter,
separate from, and in addition to—the restaurant—
I smell like a campfire short of
mid-range sticks—we have been
seeing and just passed through a quarter of
The sun is strong this morning,
I do not see a cloud in the sky—
halcyon, pellucid—I get senses of
being in Mass./VT at near this time of
the year for family, for my father's home—
Ludlow—& into VT, Vergennes, Lake
Champlain—the Contrary Opinion Forum—
Question: in a song by Houndmouth—a reference
to Ludlow: dad's Ludlow, that Ludlow?
Let owls not be creepy.
Get Beastie Boys,
No engine braking
No engine compression brakes
The biggest pile of firewood we ever saw—
County road 2 toward Superior
Walleye Pike—one entree on a menu, how
I'm recalling her now, the restaurant proprietress
saying how her husband, on the way home in a pickup
pulling a catering trailer had
"smucked" a deer. He went to look for it,
but he couldn't find it; was sure it was dead.
Duluth: Electric fetus. Mostly
little businesses, brand-resistant.
Bright, sun off of the water. The bridge to Superior, WI,
South 35. Kids on scooters, walkers waiting to cross
what seem to be crosswalks, Taco John's. At a Holiday, a
Train, audible, a couple of miles away.
We played disc golf at Mont du Lac—
it was a hike, I lost two discs—
one was Pat's—that one I could see
but I could not retrieve it, for the
mud was too quick.
The sound of an ice bag? Yes, the
plastic and then Pat dropping it on the ground,
then dumping it over beer in the cooler.
We are set now against a racy sunset.
On Tuesday the 16th, we make for Minnesota . At 13:33 we are at the Ledge Rock Grille along the coast of Lake Superior. The day is sunny and comfortable, we ask to sit outside. Everything on the menu looks good: walleye cakes appear as an option on both the breakfast part of the menu and on the lunch section. All parts of the menu are served at all times of the day. With a mind to making this trip a "walleye tour," I know I'm getting the walleye cake, but I want it in a sandwich. I also get a fingerling caesar salad and Pat says how he can't help thinking that "fingerling" is a dirty word every time he hears it. The flies are kind of bad. Regular house fly-looking flies but there seem to be more of them than I might normally expect. They keep trying to land on us, on the table. Other than that, it's nice sitting outside with a view of the lake. It's sixty-plus degrees, the breeze is only light, and the sky is almost cloudless. But I feel a little grimy—hemmed in by campfire smoke and clothes I've been wearing maybe a bit too long—there is a flag flapping, audibly—the tea is good. I wonder myself whether it's flavored or if it's just tea qua tea. Pat and Anne says it's just "good black tea". Either not from a machine, or if it is from a machine, the restaurant operators make sure to clean the machine. There are cottages here, more or less uniform—it's a resort or a retreat-type place—from 61 North we hopped over—toward the coast—to 101.
At 14:19 I write:
These days....they slip away
Mid afternoon lunch becomes a plan
for a better sunset shot—
I am hungry and weird—
just thinking of her
I spillt half a cowboy.
ice & croutons
I can't make believe it
Voices outside at the
wanting to quiet them.
I cannot fight
For the moment the only representatives I'm sending from 9/17 are
she drank that hot
spicy shrimp mary—
she can't sleep now
I can push away reality
for a while—but
it's not a season that
has an end—it's
there again at every turn
of the page.
Pageantry and the infantile
"You weren't quiet enough last night."
Ah, we bring secrets in our
luggage, but we won't
bring all of them back. A coin tossed into
the bottom of a fountain,
some things, thought of,
Bad handwriting, cramped prose—
all of these are possible—
but I don't have to write about them.
We played our cards, we drank our drinks
such is love
such is love
such is love.
We saw a raven not in
Baltimore, we saw
not along the shore,
such is love
such is love
such is love.
We said hello on Instagram,
we did our shopping at the
five and dime,
We counted down against
the start of time,
such is love
such is love
such is love.
There was a sleeping pot of chili yet
there was a stinging swib of anisette
such is love such is love such is love.
Echo star chamber
fish lime boat
ripple loon hat
bacon butter chips
change, gear, tears, states
bread dinner alcohol
A ghost opened a cupboard &
iTunes shuffle fell out.
We threw coffee onto the fog,
to break it up a bit.
But instead our hair went gray,
what hair we had, that
hadn't already been claimed
by microscopic ticks
or slightly rabid skunks.
Hedstrom Lumber Co.
Smell of pine.
The color is starting to see out
gold and red (maple) and orange.
We are on the Gunflint Trail headed N/NW.
It's been raining most of the day.
We passed but did not see:
Northern Light Lake
We pass Bearskin Lodge,
the other lodging option we looked at closely.
Flour Lake, Golden Eagle Lodge.
Windigo Lodge, with
moose statues out front.
Pulling off to a look out over Birch Lake,
we see a sign marking the "Laurentian Divide":
water at this point
flows northward into
Canada's Hudson Bay Watershed and
eastward into the Saint Lawrence Watershed.
Question: how are determinations as to
divides made? Is somewhere out there pouring
marked water ten feet to the left, ten feet to the right
of that point and measuring it in said watershed days later?
A raven flies up out of some trees and crosses the road.
It looks like a crow, big and black, but more of both.
We could hear its wings flapping audible
like the blades of a great big loping fan.
I read multiple places that the bugs
are supposedly gone in northern Minnesota
at this time of the year. Really? I don't think so.
These mosquitoes are militant and vigilant.
We turn off onto Cook County Road 92,
there is a National Forest Campground out here.
The clouds are dark and billowy; mammatory; puffy;
There is no one at the campground. A vast fire has
swept through the forest nearby. Now it is
quiet but wow are these mosquitoes vigilant,
aggressive—knowing and immediate.
How do they know to be here when we arrive?
Things I'm thinking about:
The drive back
How out of shape I feel.
We douse ourselves in deet;
they are going hard after Pat,
who is working on getting a good photo
of the clouds as they evolve over the lake
No loons but Pat calls it
"the prettiest I've seen so far,
"lots of little coves." I.e., promontories
popping out, falling back away. Ten
minutes from Canada, no
We go by an overlook, bang,
it all opens up, elevation change,
burnt land and trees in silhouette on
letting the rain call our stops—
when the rain stops, we
get out, look, eat sandies, sip
water, have a cigarette, see
the first loon—then
when the rain picks back up,
raining hard now,
visibility down, grey, misty
man on horse signs
"Well, we're just about all the way there."
Pat: "Not a bad route."
Trailhead for Kekekabic Trail.
Trailhead for Magnetic Rock Hiking Trail,
but it's raining too hard—
Seagull Guard Station.
Through another burnt area, tall skinny—
"a natured black and white"—on
both sides of the road—spindy, branches
all but gone—rock outcroppings
Reminiscent of Jackson Hole—
are there already books or a movie
where the plot surrounds the fact that
Old Faithful has stopped geysering?—
rain, rain—with the Gillian Welch, I
am getting sleepy—
Seagull Lake—Seagull Creek looks
says someone else—
The rain lets up a little, but we are still
in a burnt area, the largest we've encountered—
We are very near the end of the Trail—
Moose Pond Dr.—
"Let's check it out"—
there is a phone box, the old kind.
Question: Where do
birds go when it rains?
Pat is parking in the handicapped.
"That's kind of a dick move."
"If suddenly there's an influx
of people in wheelchairs
I'll gladly move the car and get out
and bow down and
kiss their feet, which
they won't be able to feel
because they're handicapped...."
Last Full Day.
It is September 20th after all—not raining here—and I haven't yet been outside—but I can tell it is cooler—I can see that there is more of wind than we've had. It's probably low fifties, wind out of the west at 6-8 m.p.h. The humidity is gone from the air.
I got up around 8:30; I had gone to bed at 2 or 2:30. I was pretty sure I heard a gunshot or two around that time. I got a little paranoid after that.
I have done a few odd dishes, emptied the dishwasher, and made coffee. I have begun to think about packing; the drive back. Sure, there are many different activities we could tackle today but it's the going back that's on my mind—characteristic of a last day. I've got my coffee though—and a half bottle of gin's gonna need be drunk.
We played a no-real-rules game of Tri-Bond last night (Trivial Pursuit-like cards; read the group of three nouns, verbs, e.g, and then the other players guess as to what the group of three has to do with). The game was a bit dated. Answers included: "Parts of The Love Boat", "former Miss Americas", and "Actors of Dukes of Hazzard."
We moved on to another round of Cards Against Humanity, this time annexing the third booster pack.
I don't know if I happened to get another shitty round of cards but I had only one of my submissions accepted all night—in like fifty plays. The Random Player (Rando) whipped me good. Maybe I'm resistant to playing the game the way it must be played if one wants to have any success—or maybe I just suck at it.
Wishing to go back
to day one...
When the place was new
and it was our chance