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.





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 come 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.









Thursday, July 21, 2016

Meramec Cabin


6.11.16.


It is just shy of three in the morning on Saturday.  I am here with B and our dog June.  It was warm out yesterday, 91° or so, and it'll be warm soon enough here again today.  I've got the AC going, set to 74° but the thermometer I've got has it at 75.9° in here.  We brought a box fan along with us, and that's going, back in one of the bedrooms where B and June are sleeping.  I couldn't really sleep or I just don't want to sleep.  I like being awake when everything else is so quiet.  I can take a nap today if I want.

We've camped here in the Park a couple of times before.  This time we wanted to bring June and stay in a cabin.  I can't sleep even a little at these temps in a tent.  It's a little buggy in here.  I know it's not a hotel room but within minutes of getting into the cabin I noticed a large spider clinging to the wall between the door and the sink cupboard, about nine inches off the ground.  I am no authority on arachnids but this was the largest spider I have yet encountered and if it was not a tarantula it was some not-too-far-distant relation.*  Maybe it snuck in as we were unloading the car, who knows.  I killed it.  Fear got the best of me.  I suppose I should have just tried to carry it out in the dustpan.  Then I pick up this logbook and read about not killing the "six-legged spidey".  I think this poor spider had all eight legs, and how anyone would be comfortable shacking up with it I'm not sure.

There's a few of those small, fluttery Indian moths, the kind that infested some bird seed a while back and broke out in my basement.  I used the glue traps with the little green pheromone square to get rid of them finally.  Those traps were called "Pantry Pest" and could go a distance here.  I confess to being particular and wish I had brought my hand-held vacuum.  Seeing how other visitors to cabin number Nine have enjoyed it and visited again I could see myself doing the same.  It just needs a good once-over, like under the beds and under this nice big round table (shine a flashlight up in the middle there).

I do love that back stoop, the seclusion, the stone, the sounds from the river.  What looks like a trail can be one.  I'd like to walk it again with a machete and clean it up a bit.  There's a lot of poison ivy at the moment but you can follow it down to where it connects with the bluff view trail.  Then a few steps past there is a small cliff overlooking the river.  The hike back up had our lungs going but it felt good.  I can see that at one time it might have been a bit more clear down through there and there are some stone outcroppings that are intriguing.

We've done a few of the trails here before.  Walking Fern trail is a short loop rising about the Fisher Cave entrance.  I did that at night and enjoyed it.  River Trail we accessed by walking along the road along the river leading from the main campground back toward where the group sites are at.  It was a decent hike—good birds.  Then we were on Deer Hollow but only briefly.  I can see how we could find the Deer Hollow trailhead up by the store and take that all the way down to the campground and Fisher Cave.  Not sure what we'll do tomorrow.

—JR—

* It was probably a wolf spider.


Sunday, June 12, 2016.  2:41 a.m.  


It took me a while to fall asleep earlier because it is just a little warm.  It was mid-nineties today and although we kept the shades closed and have the AC and a box fan going there is only so much they can do.  I guess I like it cool at night.  I fell asleep around ten I suppose.  My wife woke up a little while ago because she thought she had a tick on her and wanted me to look at it.  Yeah, it was a tiny little tick about this big   °  .  It is most likely the dog picked it up and the dog being dosed with Frontline (tick repellant/preventative) it traveled to her?  We were out and about today but we did not really hike; nor were we messin' around in brush.  We got up and ran down the hill to the campground—yeah, along the road, not my favorite.  We were gonna get on the river trail down there and patch into the bluff trail but the river trail was pretty swampy so we turned around and ran all the way back up the hill.  This was at 8:15 or so and it was already getting hot and trafficky but we did it.  Then we picked up the dog and took the car out and parked over by the other pod of cabins (1-8), over by the trailhead to the wilderness trail.  There were a handful of hikers geared up and ready to do that hike, maybe even backpack camp along the trail.  My wife and I went and found the unmarked nondescript entrance to Sheep's Cave, right over by cabin 4 like the unofficial map in the cabin indicted.  ...




Monday, May 09, 2016

Portland



I.  Sitting in His Apartment.


I have my old things, my talismen, my curios and artifacts, croutons of life dropped along the way, telling my story.  Roy does, too.  I can spot them, uncoached, in this two-bedroom place of his and Joyce's in Portland, a.k.a. Fog City, Raintown, CoffeeShopLand.  Cronos the dog is eight.  He is mellow and sweet, curled up on his pillow, waiting for the others to rise. I was there on Shenandoah in St. Louis the first weekend Roy had gotten him.  I've always thought Cronos remembered that, held an affinity for me because of it.  Or maybe he's just a sweet happy dog who can love everyone without condition or reason.

Roy's got a few of our paintings.  A blind portrait I did of him in November 2005 (I just checked to see if the date was on the back, otherwise I wouldn't've known it).  Then there's the collaboration he and I did in his Allen apartment, a painting we dubbed "C.E. Gogh," consisting first of a sketch he did of me, with us then painting in the room scene all around it.  In that painting is a table and one of a set of four orange chairs that Roy has had forever, and which are here, having meaning to me but appearing to be underemphasized.


II. Shopping List.

Tea—black, green, Calm
Coffee—Sumptown?
Hatchet
Pole Trimmer?
Steel-cut oats—bulk
Playing cards
Magnets
Wine
Candles


III.  Portland Trip Bird List.

Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Mallard
Osprey
Bald Eagle
American Kestrel
American Coot
Downy Woodpecker
Western Scrub-jay
American Crow
Violet-green Swallow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Varied Thrush
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Robin
Marsh Wren (??)
Rock Dove


IV.  Plane-ride Home.

I put the iPod on, to shuffle—imagine if it had little feet and little arms and it could shuffle—and the song is Jimmy Smith, "Funk's Oats."  Tap those keys, Jimmy.  Let all the air out of that organ.  Like a semi truck using its air brake out on the highway.  Imagine if there were signs in neighborhoods aspiring to quiet—No air braking, and no organ playing either, Ordinance 33A-7(f)(b).

The song has me starting the recall process.  No, not Grey Davis or Stephen Kraft or even "Mayor Shelley Welsch."  The trip.  It's over now.  Kaput, defunkt, erstwhile.  I wrote just one page while I was in Portland.  No time, it wouldn't have worked.

Joyce made oatmeal is what I've been trying to say.  With just the regular oats.  She was out of steel-cut oats, of which I can't say I've ever had the pleasure.  The difference has to do with what is or what is not still part of the oat.

Courtroom scene.  Lawyer:  "Are you or are you not a steel cut oat?"  The oat is sitting there quivering.  Lawyer: "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury...."

Still, it was good oatmeal.  Hot and with blueberries, walnuts, and fresh strawberries.  Later Roy and I went to the New Seasons grocery and from the bulk section walked away with a bag of steel-cut oats.  I imagine the oats being conveyed along a belt moving through a factory, happy and innocent until—wham!—down comes the sharp, steel cutting implement, slicing away everything that cannot remain in a steel-cut oat.

That was Friday morning.  Oatmeal in belly, Joyce drove us out to Saddle Mountain for a challenging four-and-a-half mile hike, elevation gain: 1600 feet.  Those specs put it in line with Angel's Landing, a hike in Zion I have merely heard about.  I was moving slowly up the final, steep stretch.  Sweating but not too winded.  My legs were tight and thick and felt to me like trunks I was continually re-positioning higher and higher along the mountainside.  We could see the ocean just barely at the summit, thin lines of wave crests, seeming not to move to the shore: an ocean on pause.  North of there the town of Astoria, the bridge spanning its bay our best indication that what we were seeing was, in fact, the seaside town of Astoria, OR.  Where the Columbia loses itself finally, with some relief, into a body of water so much larger than itself that it would have been impossible to imagine until ultimately encountered.  Some fish get to the ocean and change their minds, attempt to turn around, become anadromous.  They still had work to do in the river, had friends left there, liked one of the villages dappled along it.  The Pacific too large, too salty, too diverse for them.  And I can understand.  The ocean is not for everyone.

Joyce took some pictures of me and Roy, and then of me and Roy and Cronos posing with Astoria and the confluence way, way in the background.  My belly looked fat and round, my cheeks rouged.  Roy looked about the same as he does in other photos from over the years, just a little older.  We watched a couple of olde crows fly around, then a pair of violet-green swallows.  Farther down there were a couple of raptors I couldn't identify but which had tan tails.

Joyce drove back, too.  Roy dozed, I looked out the window.  I was trying to get some snaps for my continuing Instagram endeavor to capture photos that Pat hashtags #lonesomecrowdedwest.  It is my genre, my oeuvre, my pathos.  We went for sushi when we got back, buying it out of a beached Airstream trailer.  These immobilized food carts stand out as a distinctive feature of the Sellwood neighborhood they live in.  The sushi was fine.  On Saturday Roy and I visited another food cart, this one part of a "pod" of like trailers set in a  group, each offering its own type of food.  The one we hit was called PaPa Lee's, the menu eclectic.  Roy had a "double-smoked" bratwurst (they smoked that shit and then they smoked it again!)  I had a caesar salad and fish tacos.  The fish was rock fish, fried.  The tacos were quite good and there were plenty of them.  Eight dollars.

                                                                                *

I just snuck a couple of swigs of some Portland-made vodka I bought Saturday betwixt and between the hike and the sushi.  There was a couple in the store purveying their liquid wares.  Roy and I were both interested in getting vodka but I was indecisive and relented.  I knew once I went and sampled these folks' vodka I was done for; I'd pick up a bottle no matter what it cost and regardless of whether the sample I had was any good.  As if vodka could strike me as all that good, warm and on no ice, served in a little thimble of a cup like something used at communion—the body and the blood.

They were slinging both vodka and gin, though personally I never pour gin and vodka together.  After trying the vodka and only grunting in response when the fella, who was scruffy looking and soon I realiZed of British descent, asked me what I thought.  Warm vodka is what it tasted like.  We moved on to one of two gins.  Not something I'm going to slug warm either—unless I'm on an airplane!—but the first and then the second gin—green, fancy, and botanical—were not at all bad.  I said, "I like the gin but we're drinking vodka tonight so I'll pick up a bottle of that."  The fella started his bit about this vodka:  "The thing with good vodka, your Grey Goose, is that they use soft winter wheat."  He uttered these words with such delicacy that they might have been the precise movements of a spell.  I'm looking at this fella, his teeth are clean but misaligned, his right eye is twitching.  And I'm thinking, "I haven't had one drop of Grey Goose in my entire life, why are you talking to me about Grey Goose."  He says that this vodka of his also relies on, you guessed it, soft winter wheat.  Then he mentioned some other way in which his vodka was similar to Grey Goose but I had stopped listening and was thinking only about getting out of there with a bottle of vodka that was going to cost me $26.

I felt like a sucker.  Walking out of there I said to Roy, "It's over when I have the sample."  The name of the vodka was getting jumbled in my head.  I was thinking to myself it was called "Raw Deal."  I had myself convinced that that is what it was actually called.  When we got back Roy put it in the freeZer.  We drank some beer until rounding the turn of the night and getting to the first hard liquor we would have in my short time there.  I looked at the label of my vodka.  The name was "New Deal."  And, it turns out, it wasn't such a bad vodka.  A little oily, a little rum-y: an aftertaste and a smell of an aged rum.  I can't explain that.  Nonetheless it's fine on the rocks, not as good as Tito's but better than Smirnoff.

                                                                              *

The trip to Saddle Mountain was our only excursion.  I didn't want to spend much time in a car while I was there.  We took Cronos for numerous walks.  I thought a lot about Squirt.  We went for two runs.  The first was right away Thursday morning, a four-and-a-half miler out and back to the Reed College campus, uphill on the way out and overall quicker than is my custom, miles of 9:15 on average.  It felt great to have that run in my pocket.  I described it as, "The gateway to the day."  Later I thought  I could have dubbed it, "The gateway to the rest of the trip."  And damn, now it's over and I'm on a plane over Nevada or somewhere.  Gone are the fallen magnolia petals, the carpets and sheathes of the spongiest, hairiest, happiest moss I have ever seen.  Goodbye then, green oasis.  Goodbye for now, anyhow.

I slept in V's bed, which wasn't as clown-car-ish as it might sound.  I had not one bad hangover.  Last night I went to bed rather early.  I was feeling the curtains falling down around me and I was ready to leave.  I wanted to step into a transporter.  I was prepared to be sucked into a Hyper Loop.

There were stretches when the two or three of us 'really, rarely talked' but I wasn't particularly talkative on the whole.  Roy and Joyce probably would have talked politics or policy for hours but it wasn't something I wanted to get into.  Roy and I talked a little about a bill Georgia is putting through that would afford private businesses a sort of safe harbor from anti-discrimination laws if e.g. a business did not want to hire a homosexual.  This is a topic they are adamant about and I can't seem to find the energy or the interest necessary to participate in a discussion wherein I would do anything but agree with the person who wanted to have the discussion.  Life's too short for me to let what the legislature in Georgia is up to raise my blood pressure or occupy more than a little slice of my mind.  There is still a Constitution and there is still a court system.  If the law isn't constitutional then it'll come down.  My view of America is not so cynical and jaundiced that I believe a bigoted legislature somehow also has on its side a corrupted, multi-tiered state and federal court system.  When there is so much locally—and personally, individually—that can be corrected and over which I actually exert some degree of control I won't give up five minutes of a vacation in Portland to wring my hands over the transgender person in Gwinnett who can't get a job at Chick-fil-A.

                                                                                 *

Second little bottle of vodka, though this bottle is a little larger and it is made of glass.  It once
contained Sambucca.

I liked Sellwood.  B and I could be happy there.  It seemed a neighborhood of amalgam.  Transplants.  More young family and young professional than hipster.  I could see that it was a city fast growing that was putting ample pressure on its infrastructure.  It is a city of bridges, the ones I saw spanning the Willamette.  At least I think they were bridges—as opposed to culverts, the difference between which we were unclear.  I liked the walkability.  I was not floored by prices but then again I do not know what the state income tax is.  There is no sales tax.  Roy made an allusion to rent being stiff, like a strong drink handed to someone who doesn't drink much.  They take a sip, "Wow—."  Cringe.  "That is strong."  He said he was going to rent out the second bedroom this summer (Joyce will be in DC).  We saw a young, hooded person going through the recycling I dumped in the the blue container outside the apartment building the day before.  There is a bottle deposit in Oregon and we had gone through some glass: Ninkasi, Rampant bomber, Buoy bomber, Yellow Wolf imperial IPA.

Portland composts.  It rained at least a little every day I was there.  We had tasty curry and I had some ridiculous pork spring rolls the first night I was there, from this place "Jade" right on 13th in Sellwood, a simple stroll from their a-p-t.

I did not see V.  This is spring break and she was out of town with her mother.  That's it for the second bottle.  So long, Sambucca!  A Ratatat song comes on.  Roy had Ratatat going in the car when he left me off at PDX.  That was "Wildcat," this is "Seventeen Years."  Seventeen years ago today...March 26, 1999.  Where would I have been?  In college.  I had not met B but I probably did see Roy that day.  We might have been scoping out our first place together.  1997-98 was Liggett Dorm; 1998-99 was Dauten dorm with Scroggins and Ebel; 1999-2000 was 7330 Forsyth, the upstairs unit, which I would now run past frequently, if it had not been torn down.

We didn't talk much baseball because the season has not yet begun.  And because there is already a little bit of a hush and a pall over the Cardinal season because the Cubs appear so loaded and primed and formidable.  We did, however, draft the 2016 version of Andrew Jones, a keeper-league team in the Smokey League, as played on yahoo.com.  (I pass on the coffee that goes by, even though I'd love some...sock dreams...bathroom problems).  We drafted a disgusting relief core that contains the likes of: Wade Davis, Andrew Miller, Tony Watson, Dellin Betances, Drew Storen, Sam Dyson, and Brett Cecil.  Then on offense it was a supplementary cast of Swiss Army knife position players (who don't strike out) such as: Daniel Murphy, Ben Zobrist, Yangervis Solarte, Stephen Piscotty, and Logan Forsythe.  Strikeouts count against you.  So do losses.  I like the team.  I paid up for Maikel Franco, who is the only draftee I believe could be a keeper in 2017.

Fantasy baseball.  Guesses, prognostication, and forward thinking.  It makes me think of the stock market, something I worked diligently not to think about the whole trip.  I had checked the market action early Wednesday, but I didn't check at all after 11:30 a.m.  I don't know how it closed Wednesday.  And I shut Thursday out entirely.  I did look and see that the FTSE (London) was down 1.62% early Thursday.  But that was it!  The market was closed Friday (thank You!)  In the car on the way back from Saddle Mountain, the NPR news reader could not help himself from reviewing some of the market action in Asia.  Why?  I don't get it.  Because NPR listeners are so concerned about what the Nikkei has done in overnight trading?  And the stupid Nikkei was up point-seven percent.  Japan has been a poorly run nation for decades.  Abenomics is a scam and a slow-motion robbery of the Japanese people.  And more countries will try the same recipe.  Leave the fish uncooked, I say.  It's fine raw.  God gave it to us and we don't need you in there picking around with your tainted turmeric and corrupted curry.  Or your bad basil, your crummy cumin, your contaminated coriander.  For these mistakes we have no Supreme Court, no appeals mechanism of any kind, and no ballot box!  We have only our wallets and our pens.

Before I get carried away I want to do a little housekeeping.  Alaska Airlines.  The boarding process is by way of rows.  There is no silly feedlot-style queueing up.  There is no "fastest finger" check-in 23 hours and 59 minutes before the flight.  I like this.  No games.  No chicanery.  No tomfoolery.  No digital grab-ass.  I used a "mobile boarding pass" for the flight to Portland.  I had checked in online, probably 21 hours in advance, but I didn't have any way of printing the boarding pass.  I sent B a copy of said mobile boarding pass (sent to my email) and had her print it at work.  But it looked so spartan and generic.  It was a long security line at STL.  Eventually I did see people sticking their phones under the boarding pass scanner.  I was worried that no one else seemed to be using their phone passes and all I had was a paper copy of the "mobile" boarding pass.  For this current flight I didn't check in until I got to the airport.  I used a check-in only kiosk to print my boarding pass.  That approach worked well.

I did not check a bag.  My backpack is stuffed pretty good but it did fit in the overhead with a little shoving.  In it that was not in it on the way out: three deep v-neck tri-blend American Apparel ties that I bought in downtown P-town on Thursday.  I don't look real good in them but I use them as undershirts, for work for instance.  And then I'll run in it the next day.  Forget the white undershirts with their liver-yellow pits and insufficiently deep Vs.  (And as Pat and I discovered separately about a year ago buying Jockey: the talls aren't as tall as they used to be.)  These Am App tri-blend deep Vs are deep alright.

In addition to the three t's are two books: one DeLillo, one Beattie.  From Powell's Books, an incredible place, sprawling, trafficked, but bountiful.  I bought four used books there, all Vintage paperback, an Exley and a Dybek in addition to the aforementioned.  Oh, one more, I also got William H. Gass's, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, which contains one novella and four short stories.  They didn't have any of his used books.  I was looking for a particular work of W.P. Kinsella's.  They had plenty of his books—the Canadian Indian stories—but not Alligator Report, which contains the short story, "I Am Airport."

Otherwise there is some change in my bag that wasn't there before, and some receipts but nothing substantial.  I had told B about a black and white photo of a barn I saw and liked in The Ugly Mug Thursday morning.  It was $150.  I thought I could box it and ship it back with my t-shirts and books. I was also going to go to Sock Dreams, just to check it out.  But these were first full day thoughts and I lost my luster and my gusto and eschewed and simply "made do" once I realiZed I only had so much time and the trip was beginning to get away from me, as all of them eventually do.



—I write this in memory of my loving friend Squirt, who died not long after, leaving me bad and broken and bereft, and not ever quite the same—

March 2016.






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