A glance, fleeting

The boots were black, leatherette, and reached to just below her knees and tightly covered her calves.
It’s funny what you see, at first glance.
A wrap dress. The pattern was black mixed with the color of a freshly peeled banana. On her neck, a dainty silver chain.
No ring on her left hand.
Clear polish on the nails, which were short, well-kept but not labored over.
Dressed to go out, she pushed a skinny girl through the crowded room. The girl, maybe 12, wore her corn silk-colored hair in a pageboy, the bangs held back by two hairpins. Her dress was black with silver sequins. A small purse hung from her shoulder, on spaghetti straps.
It was a night out for mother and daughter. A blues concert at our lovingly restored art deco theater.
The woman was tall, striking.
Dark brunette hair that flowed around her head as she moved. Dark eyebrows, nicely shaped.
Creamy skin, a tone that accentuated her every feature.
Her eyes. Oh, those eyes. Blue-gray and piercing.
Was I staring?
I was staring.
She returned my gaze, just once. I did not look away.
Friends said she had trouble written all over her.
I don’t know. I will never know.
Their seats were in the balcony, mine in the orchestra.
It was the first – and last – glimpse I got to take.

Slings and arrows

I have a new-found lust to sling arrows.
I went to target archery shoot Sunday at the local range. It was a 3-D trail shoot, meaning you walked through the oak-studded hills of the range and stopped to try and stick two arrows in each 3-D target from marked yardage.
All the targets had a Halloween theme.
There were 28 targets in all.
Now, I do not have a compound bow. They run like $500. And I’m left-handed, which makes buying one used all that more difficult. Do I want one? Hell yeah.
I am seduced by the power and the simplicity of the weapon system.
And I’m a natural.
While doing a story on archery in May, the folks at the range found out that I had “the eye.” They gave me one of the club’s children’s left-handed bow, a little teal blue number that pulls like 40 pounds of force on the string. No sights, you just have to go by feel.
I started sticking paper targets at 30 yards. Consistently.
"He's got the eye,," the 79-year-old instructor told me. "Kid, you're a natural."
Cool.
“You want to warm up?” the club president said Sunday.
“Naw, let’s just shoot.”
"Oh, that's right, I remember. You just like to pull back and let fly. Shit, this aught to be interesting."
I have a healthy respect for guns. I have guns. I shoot guns.
But there is something just sexy about standing 30 yards from a target – in this case a little three-foot-tall green blob creature, the booger-man, with eyes and a nose and a round white target on its chest – and drawing that arrow back to your nose. Letting go.
And sticking the little dude right in the chest with an aluminum-shafted target arrow.
We had scorecards, and actually kept score on the top half of the range, but kind of gave it up. We were bullshitting too much and started making up our own yardage on certain targets.
“What the hell?” my buddy said at one station. “That’s not very scary, or very Halloween, if you ask me.”
On the target station were the busts of four prairie dogs. The targets were maybe a foot-and-a-half tall. We had to shoot from 20 yards.
My buddy managed to place both his arrows into one prairie dog; I hit another – and a hay bale behind the targets (I got a little tired).
“Oh, see, they are scary,” I said as we pulled our arrows. “Dave painted the eyes red. They’re demonic prairie dogs.”
After the shoot, one of the “range ladies” – she ran the concession stand – said she had a left-handed compound bow.
“It was my brother-in-laws and he shot it maybe twice. You’re welcome to it, if ever you want to mess around.”
Ooooohhhhh, I’m all about messing around.
Especially with ancient weaponry made even more dangerous with the use of pulleys and carbon-fiber components.

O.P.P (Other people's poetry)

Hilda is a remarkable poet, who tends to keep her poetry and musings to herself (even though I beg her to share her little online journal).

We had a lot of great, frank, discussions over the weekend. She wrote me a poem last week, and I asked if I could post it. She said fine.

And after a Saturday conversation, I told her that the poem was as much about her journey as my own. And here's Hilda's poem:

One October from Now, 10-10-07

It's my first and second October Anniversary,
and I'm back in the swing of things,
momentum continues to build,
moving me forward,
not backwards, finally.
And in his dark eyes,
I see the sadness,
the unsteadiness,
that was me,
only one October ago.
He's restless,
uncertain,
terrified of his future.
And so I attempt to nudge,
pull,
push him
forward,
one painful,
unsteadying
step at a time.
I promise him, daily,
it will be better,
that the grass really will
be greener,
one October from now.

Some writing stuff I did

I wrote this piece over the past couple of weeks. I think, in the end, I had close to 14 hours invested, from interviews through a couple of drafts.
It was published, but edited to take out some detail and some of the edginess (in my opinion).
Hey, I'm not saying everything I write is untouchable, but I'm proud of how this piece turned out.
And I wanted the original to get some love, too.

William Nelson York, piercer, punk, businessman

Billy York sat, folded up somewhat like a teenage girl sits all angles and elbows, on the carpeted floor of his split-level, West Redding home. The carpet may once have been cream, but a bachelor’s life has ground it into something close to dirty snow.
The laptop was open and beeped every so often, as did his mobile. He drank loose green tea – every once and again he’d move the thumb and index finger to pluck a leaf from his lips – in an oversized Coca-Cola glass (no logo, just the large bell-shaped opening that tapered to a slender base that screamed “Coke”).
A glass plate heaped with sliced banana and apple — Fujis — sat on the coffee table, with two forks.
The coasters were old CDs, decorated by Sharpie.
On the bookshelf, one of those pressboard jobs you construct yourself, sat copious amounts of vinyl records. A place of honor for “Black Market Clash,” The Clash’s nine-track, 10-inch EP that features the very rare first recording of “Capitol Radio One.”
The high-end stereo components were stacked on a side table; the music was loud enough to hear the lyrics, but not so much as to interrupt the conversation.
Moose, York’s gentle, cream-and-tan pit bull terrier curled up on a secondary, tumble-down couch, just for that purpose.
The coffee got a warmup. More boiling water for the tea-filled Coke glass.
“I love punk rock,” said the 34-year-old entrepreneur — and lead singer of Redding’s The Gamut. “It’s in my heart. The energy. The sincerity.”
York unfolded a bit, then repositioned. The navy work pants rode up and showed off the Chuck Taylor low-tops. A black T-shirt emblazoned with the logo for Naked Raygun, an influential 80s Chicago punk band.
Dark mutton-chop sideburns, heavy nasal septum piercing — a circular barbell — and a tattoo “sleeve” that covers his entire right forearm.
It’s Joan of Arc.
“I love history,” he said as he put his left palm over the work. “She was incredible. She spoke the truth.
“I try to be just like her.”
You could sum up William Nelson York as just another Gen X slacker with too much time — and not enough drive. Enough tattoos and piercings to be called profuse, pit bull, the mutton-chops, the dark hair that jabs like spikes over hazel eyes.
That’s what people see, in a casual glance.
Stereofreakingtypical.
York grew up in Catasauqua, Pa., a community of 6,662 about an hour’s drive north of Philly with his two sisters and brother. He played football as a kid, free safety. Spent three years in the U.S. Army in a Patriot Missile battery, stationed in Germany and Saudi Arabia, to pay for college.
The bachelor’s degree in business and logistics from Penn State University.
York rose quickly in the corporate world, with Toyota in New Jersey and Los Angeles (where in the North American Parts Division, he was responsible for correctly shipping $1.5 million in spare parts a day to shops and dealers across the greater L.A. basin) and then with Stryker Corp., a “world leader in medical technology.”
(His first day on the job — Sept. 11, 2001 — was spent watching the World Trade Center buildings smolder and topple from the roof at Stryker, just eight miles away.)
Suit and tie. Fabulous apartments, money — a girlfriend. The American dream, right?
Yeah. Until that pivotal moment that may or may not come for everyone. Another promotion, another position. More money, but under a new supervisor.
“I hated the new position,” he said. “That was it. I hated it. It tore at my soul.”
Since 2004, he has owned Nathan’s Anthems Tattoos & Piercing on Market Street in Redding.
“First thing I did was join the Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “Meetings are interesting. I tell them I’m not here to pierce you — but I am here to pierce your sons and daughters.”
It was punk rock that more-or-less saved York from the corporate hamster wheel.
York tells it best:
“I’d met Nathan at Penn State, when I was deejaying punk rock and doing promotions for punk bands, just trying to find a place to play, just trying to make 50 bucks in merchandise so we could make the next gig and play,” he said of business partner Nathan Peterson, who owns Nathan’s in Canoga Park. “We’d kept in touch — I’d visit when I was back in SoCal and we partied, he’s big in the punk scene. We were pals. We started talking and then we said, ‘Let’s do this.’
“I left my girlfriend, I left my apartment, I left it all behind to be a piercer apprentice. I mean, I never thought that sticking people with a needle was all that cool, but it was my job, and I wanted to be great, so let’s be fantastic — and I really wanted to be clear ‘Let’s just blow it up.’
“I learned real quick, with the hopes of one day owning my own shop.”
For two years, Peterson and York tossed around locations for a second location. Hollywood. Redding. SoCal. NorCal. The West Coast in general.
“Redding was always up there on the list,” York said. “A lot goes into picking a shop. But we looked again and said, ‘Let’s give it a shot, let’s do it.’€”
It does help that Peterson’s family owns the Sherven Square building where Nathan’s is located, along with other eclectic enterprises, like KLXR AM 1230’s Music & Memories studios, Cheesecakes Unlimited and the Door to Paradise Orthodox Church bookstore.
And on Sept. 30, 2004, York put a sandwich board on the sidewalk — Suzie’s Shop on the Corner occupied what now is Nathan’s storefront at Market and Tehama streets — and waited to pierce and tattoo north state denizens in an upstairs space where tattoos and more private body piercings are still done.
“It’s been awesome,” said York as he brushed the hair from his eyes. “It’s been good; it’s had it’s ups and downs, but I don’t ever want to go back to the corporate world.”
His world now percolates between the traditional and accepted — to the new and newly accepted.
“Here’s my store, what can I do for you?” York said. “I don’t want it to be intimidating. I want it to be a place where anyone can hang out.”
Neon in pinkish-purple, blue and gold glows from the corner windows at Nathan’s. The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily and you’ll find York there Sunday through Wednesday.
“Dude, this is the compilation we made of all The Clash’s reggae stuff,” piercer Dallas Beldon said in a quasi-question of the background music while he worked to bend shut 10-gauge titanium earrings for a customer.
An elderly woman walked in and inquired about piercing.
“I will be with you in one red-hot minute, ma’am,” Beldon said.
Kendra Quan, another piercer who will soon jump next door to open Sugar Mamas coffee shop and bakery (but she vows to continue piercing), talked in low, calm tones to a 20-something woman who was moments away from a stick — and a jeweled nasal stud.
Hats, from beanies and straw cowboy to trucker and rose-stitched ivy style caps, frame a wall. Punk rock buttons and flip-posters of tattoo art. Glass cases filled with all manner of piercing jewelry in wood, bone, metal and precious stones. Leather goods with metal studs and spikes. Swag from the latest Redding Ink Tattoo Convention, an enterprise York now owns. A rack of dog-eared tattoo magazines next to black swivel chairs with metal bars to rest your feet.
Then there’s the wall filled with certificates and diplomas. Education is important to York, and he makes sure he’s up on every new thing, every new procedure and practice — and his staff is, too.
York is a Red Cross instructor who teaches first aid, CPR and bloodborne pathogens. He’s a member of the Association of Professional Piercers. His employees are all Red Cross certified.
“I want to do it right and I want to have fun,” he said. “I love teaching Red Cross. There’s just a lot of good people in Redding. I want to be there to help.”
To that end, he has begun to explore more of this community and said he relishes being more involved in things like growth plans and policy (hey like it or not, in 20 to 30 years the President of the United States of America will likely be tattooed — and possibly have nipple rings).
And to have fun doing it.
“Every day, we smash stereotypes,” York said. “I’m a happy-go-lucky guy, but I look different. It can be challenging for some, but I do not care one bit what people think, ‘cause I’m a good person.”

Those beer league blues

Here’s a truth: You cannot expect to come into a softball game after seven years of not swinging a bat once and expect your play to be anything close to Cal Ripken Jr.
Even if the game is part of the Friday night beer league.
I cannot move without pain.
Holy shit.
Yes, I warmed up. I even put two bucks into the batting cage – 40 balls (and I wiffed on two) – just to get some timing back. To feel the sting in your palms when you make contact. To widen your feet a bit to pull the ball to left, when you’re a left-handed batter.
“We’re missing a girl, so you’ll probably start on the bench,” coach said.
Hey, fine by me. I was a substitute for another player anyway. I have not played organized ball in years. Hell, I haven’t even played unorganized ball in years. Sort of a doctor’s orders thing with the knee.
Another girl was procured from another team.
“You’re gonna play. How about you catch. In this league, you don’t even have to crouch down.”
My kind of position.
Stand behind home, soft-toss back to the pitcher.
Until our slick-fielding third basewoman decided to take a Ninja-like header trying to beat out a soft single. Put quite a strawberry on her knee.
“I can catch,” she said.
“OK, ThomG, you’re playing third.”
Shit. Balls get hit to third all the time.
Yes, I did flub a couple of plays. But I also made a couple of slick plays, too.
At the plate, I was 1-1 with a beautiful single and a strike out. Yes, I struck out. Looking. In slowpitch softball. I’m so embarrassed.
We lost, 11-5.
Everyone said I should be a permanent team member. I was thrilled just to be asked to play.
Even though I could feel my back beginning to freeze up on the way to the parking lot.
And even though I step gingerly and with the speed of a man twice my age, I feel pretty smug. While the back hurts, the knee did just fine.
I just wish the Ibuprofen would kick in.

A bad day all around

If you try and make sense of it, the world goes all soft and fuzzy.

She arrived to work fresh from a painful divorce with a new degree and an idea of what she wanted to do. But wide-eyed and quiet, to be sure.
And they stuck her in a cube with myself and Our Man in the Far East. Baaaad influences.
Since we played silly games to see who could unnerve the other on deadline. Stuff like staring at the other and saying, “Hey, you” over and over again until the other broke down and looked and then you said “Fuck you.”
Childish stuff, I know.
She heard a lot of swears. It’s that kind of business.
We taught her, the best we could, to cuss. We were so proud when she’d throw a few swears our way.

She was “separated from her employment” on Wednesday. After a 10-year career where she did nothing but work her ass off. To a point where she became beloved both in the community and at the office. She made a difference in people’s lives, and was told so every single day.
But it wasn’t enough, in the end. She stood up for her beliefs. She stood up for herself. And was asked to leave immediately, don’t stop to clean out your desk, come back when you won’t be such a distraction.
She held her head high, but could not stop the tears.
We followed her out the door and made circles with our feet in the lawn as she told us everything would be OK.
She hugged us all.
More tears came.
It came time for my hug, and when we broke apart, she smiled though the stream of tears that ran down her face and said:
“Fuck.”

Burning from the inside

There’s a ball in my stomach. And it squirms.
It’s warm, too, like it has its own pulse.
And it has mass.
I know I have to put it aside, put it out of my conscious mind. I cannot deal with it now. I’m too busy and I need to be creative. I need focus.
But how do you ignore something so hot, heavy and ugly?
I stared at a blank page for an hour. Ready to pour onto my sketchbook that is The Tension, and all I got were dry eyes and a slight headache.
This ball, this knot, paralyses me. It calls me to question more than I need to question now.
It gets in the way of everything.
I have a twitch, even when I’m not stressed, where I tap my right leg up and down. Right now, both legs are under the desk, working like pistons. It is something I cannot stop, less I will my mind to stop it. It takes that much focus.
There are bits of clarity, here and there. Little times where I know everything I going to be OK (and not because everybody tells me that it’s going too be OK). I know because I believe.
But the mass and weight of this ball in the pit of my stomach won’t stop glowing fire-hot.
And no matter what, I cannot will it to go away.

Scrub brush for the soul

A buddy recently returned from eight days in the backcountry to hunt mule deer. It was so cold, water bottles froze inside sleeping bags.
He didn't even bag a deer.
But what he saw - and experienced - was far better. He got to walk in the woods.
And it reminded me that all I need do for myself is to take that walk myself.
So I have been plotting my escape from the concrete and asphalt to the woods. A week, I think, should do the trick.

I wrote this a couple of years back and have tweaked it a bit here.

A Scrub Brush for the Soul
A walk into the woods is a scrub brush for the soul.
Thoreau knew that, as did Whitman, Muir and certainly Leopold. Drawn by respect and awe, they all ventured into the woods and used their words to paint broad strokes of wonder and wisdom that now are used in motivational posters pinned to cubical walls.

"Talk of mysteries! Think of our life in nature, daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The solid earth! The actual world! The common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? Where are we?" Thoreau wrote in "The Maine Woods, Ktaadn."
"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness," Muir wrote in "John of the Mountains."
"There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot," Leopold wrote in "A Sand County Almanac."
I side with cannot. This is where I'm supposed to be. Surrounded by the wilds of Northern California and enough gear and time off to explore. A walk into the woods, a chance to repair the mental weight of modern life.

With all the fortitude of Atlas, you heft the pack and of giddy heart, start up a dusty trail that splits tall pine. A sweat begins to rise at the small of your back and on your brow. You notice that for the first time in too long a time, it seems the only thing you hear is the beat of your own heart, the breath through your lungs and the rush of air though the pines.

A scrub brush for the soul. Nothing matters but that next step, the next switchback, the next creek crossing.

Simpler times for men like Thoreau and Muir led to an all-consuming awe of the natural world. If it was that easy now. Four miles up the trail and my mind begins to wander ...

What does the future hold? Can I pay that bill? What about groceries?

And then you enter a meadow that's split by a cool-running stream, with old-growth pines that stand watch like Centurions. The scent of pine, grass and clean water washes over you and instantly you're snapped back into a clarity of thought and senses. You stop to lie in the cool grass in the shade of a pine ...

and ... just ... stare ... into ... a ... sky ... so ... blue.

But the trail beckons, another few miles to another campsite, another lake.

Curse the modern man, whose problems weigh the mind down as to cause a stoop.

You swear you can't help it.

What do I do now? How can I be successful and still be happy? Why the disrespect at work? Why? Why?
At the end of the trail, there is fellowship and cold beer at the Etna Brewery. We recount trail tales that won't make it to wives and girlfriends. We plot our next walk into the woods with the innocence of children.

Unfortunately, the stress we left behind begins to creep back. Projects to complete. Family issues. Work, politics, mortgages, traffic, road rage.

And then, a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker walks in the door. The weight of his pack makes a sweaty "H" on his grimy shirt. He's gaunt later he tells us he's lost 30 pounds and has the stare of a man who has had lots of time to think. The PCT is 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada; from the PCT, it's a 13.8-mile trek into downtown Etna.

He wolfs a burger and three beers, tells us he quit his job, just for the chance to walk into the woods. We pay his tab for PCT hikers, it's called Trail Magic and he's more than grateful. Handshakes all around, and a look of pleasure from a man who has miles to go, which for today is another 10 miles before bedding down for the evening.

He'll average 20 miles a day, every day, for six months. But he says it's where he needs to be.

And I think back to my problems, my life. What lies ahead. Luckily, I live in Northern California, where the woods are just a walk away. A scrub brush for the soul.

"We need the tonic of wilderness ... We can never have enough nature," Thoreau wrote.

And I know this is where I'm supposed to be.

Missed opportunities

Because of a mood.
A mood I created.
I missed out.
Missed opportunities.

I missed out on the company of friends, many of whom know the trials and tribulations of The Tension - and welcome me anyway (even though I am in a "mood").
I missed out on trying an ice cream cake made by the best pastry chef in town. An ice cream cake where the ice cream was infused with Pop Rocks.
I missed meeting - and talking with - an author who has had a novel on the New York Times Best Seller List.
I missed punch.

I could make the statement that never again will I miss things because of my mood. Or my need to be "by myself with my thoughts." that I will power through those thoughts and experience all the offers that come my way.
To be in the company of friends.

But let's be honest here. Human nature being what it is, it will happen again.
And it will be my loss.
Once again.

On the homefront

I was honest.
“All morning, I’ve been dreading this meeting,” I told the agent, as I leaned on the sink in the kitchen. “But I know it needs to happen.”
“Hey, I understand,” he said, as droplets from the pounding rainstorm ran off his Gor-Tex jacket onto my kitchen floor. “But it is the right move, I think, for you.”
I put my home on the market Friday.
I’m having trouble keeping up with the mortgage, along with everything else (like eating).
And it is priced to sell.
At a break-even point.
“You must be pissed at you ex,” a friend said.
Why? Because I refinanced to pull money out to create a business? That was the right move at the time.
I refuse to second-guess the past.
But plan to move forward.
And while I am sad to have a red, white and blue “For Sale” sign in my yard and a lock box on my door that allows for strangers to come in for a peek while I am away, it is the right thing to do.
The house represents a last anchor point that has me grounded to a past life. It has me tied down to past things.
Get free or the mortgage, and I am free to move to the next great adventure in my life.
The next chapter.
I see that.
Still, the move has made me melancholy and introspective. In a place where alone time is good time.

Some more Fiction in 58

How often is it that we connect with strangers in strange places. I got to thinking about how we look around, how we look at others, and sometimes connect.
Then I put the characters in a lousy situation.

All in 58 words. See what you think.

In Your Eyes
Lauren rolled her Corolla after softball and a pitcher.
Cory fell asleep at the gas pumps after five Long Island iced teas.
From across the courtroom, their eyes met.
In that instant, a kiss, an embrace. A date, a marriage, children, careers, travel. Much to love. And then, death.
She blushed as her eyes fell away; he smiled.

A TiVo for your dreams

The most vivid dream to ever register into my conscious thought – I’m pretty sure my mind has come up with doozies that don’t register – I believe was the direct result of a hotdog omelet.
Senior year in college, right before my final round of finals. Nothing in the house but a carton of eggs, some milk and a package of all-beef wieners.
I remember being pleased that I was getting so much protein into my system.
I actually woke from the dream in sweats. Paranoid, dazed and truly confused.
I vowed never again too combine chicken embryos and, well, whatever wieners are, together and ingest it. And so far, after 22 years, I have stuck by that vow.

It was weird, then, when my eyes snapped open way too early in the morning. The blankets were a tumble; I was breathing hard. It was a dream, a doozie, but one that dissipated like a fog once I turned the light on to reach for the notebook.
I had a nutritious dinner; soup and a small piece of baguette. Sugar-free peach iced tea.
All I can remember is that I was climbing. I remember the red down suit I was in. The sound and the feel of the crampons on the boots, as they made purchase on the icy slope.
And that’s it. Maddening.

I wish there was TiVo for your mind. Digitally record your dreams for later playback. In high-def Technicolor, 5.2 Surround Sound.
It would either be very, very cool.
Or it would scare the bejeebers out of you.
Could go either way.

Another 'Act of God'

Electricity is a good and handy thing.
Not that I am a weenie or anything – I am a fully-functional human being in the backcountry without it – but when I’m around the homestead, it is nice.

It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly a crash! The neighborhood plunged into darkness.

It was somewhere around 11:30 p.m. I thought it was a lightening strike – the storm had been moving through since 8 p.m. – that temporarily interrupted service. I shifted to a more comfortable position and tried to go back to sleep.
When the waggle of flashlight beams began to dance across the ceiling.
“Call 911,” my neighbor said as I threw open the window.
Four houses down, an oak tree came down, and took with it four power poles. Lines were down all over the street; the power pole next to my driveway was shattered and splintered.
“We’re not going to have power for quite some time,” my neighbor said.
OK by me. I went back to bed.
Or tried. The city utility began work at about 1 a.m. With chainsaws, sodium-vapor lights, bucket trucks and diesel generators.
I did managed to nod off for about 40 minutes - until the doorbell rang. I checked my watch. It was 2:58 A.M.
“City utility,” the guy at the door said. “Were you aware that your power was out?”
(Why, no, gosh and golly – I thought five bucket trucks and the generators were part of a parade!)
“Yeah. So what’s up?”
“Well, you’re going to have to call an electrician before we can hook you back up. When the pole went down, it took out your weatherhead and your T-bar.”
The weatherhead is that metal pole thingy where the power lines come into your house; mine was twisted and bent down to a 30-degree angle.
“How much is that going to run me?”
“Dunno. But we can’t do anything until you get it looked at.
“Act of God, you know?”
Fuck.
Me.
The one electrician I know, who would have come over for free, was on his way south to an electrical convention; the soonest the guy he recommended could get here is “between noon and 2 p.m.”
It’s not like I can get out of the house to get anywhere anyway. There’s a bucket truck parked across my driveway, anchored into the asphalt.
“We’re going to be here awhile,” the guy in the bucket said.
I have my iPod, my mobile and a cup of French press coffee – have camp stove, will brew – and scant little else to do but wait for the Calvary to come.
Dingle with my weatherhead.

Butt plugs and bows

I’ve a buddy, who unlike myself, has so far failed to renounce Satan.
When it comes to being a Merry Prankster.
A certified deviant.
Not that it’s such a bad thing.
(Yes, I still think up the nastiest of pranks; I just stopped putting them into play.)

He was such a nice young man. Until he met the likes of ThomG.
He is a chemical engineer by profession. Cool, calculating. Successful, family man.
Back when, he was one of 14 in his high school graduation class. I remember the day we had our formal pictures taken for the fraternity picture. He looked like he was wearing his dad’s dress shirt, the collar was so big. Ugly striped tie and a tan, cowboy cut suit. Of course, he wore cowboy boots.
He was quiet, bookish. I was good for him. I kept him from choking on his own studious vomit during a too-stressful freshman year for anyone.
I’d burst into the room – his brother, the same age as me, wanted the kid to chill out so it was decided we’d put him with the crazy writer – and ask for $1.69.
The price of a cold sixer of Carling Black Label. At the liquor store around the corner.
“Study break,” I’d say. “All work and no play…”
He did as he was told.
And turned out to be my greatest pupil ever.
Fucking deviant.
He may or may not have helped in several legendary shenanigans during the early- to mid-80s at our large Midwestern university.
He may or may not have helped change a movie marquee from “St. Elmo’s Fire” to “Feel Elmo’s Tit.”
He may or may not have helped set fire to a neighboring fraternity’s new landscaping.
He may or may not have helped attach a blowup “doll” to the top of the student union fountain – and drop a box of Tide into the water for added confusion (and sudsiness).
He may or may not have “borrowed” a two-ton frontloader for an innocent joyride.
He may or may not have started a food fight at the Elks Lodge during an awards banquet (Spaghetti dinner + Halloween + Costumes + Pre-banquet drinking = Police Action).
And so far as I know, he’s never stopped pushing the envelope.
Things I know, but will not reveal (I’m no squealer).
(Besides, statue of limitations and all.)
He called me a couple of weeks back. Out of the blue.
“I’ve got it.”
“What?”
“The greatest office prank ever.”
“Better than ‘Poof Said the Fairy Man?’”
“Even better.”
He’s still in the chemical engineering bidness. But to move up the ol’ ladder of success, he took a transfer last year to another department. Where he found his immediate supervisor – a real mico-manager wonk – was seven years his junior.
“A real dick,” my buddy said. “He deserves anything he gets.”
Which gets us to the telephone call.
“So you know what Oct. 16 is, don’t you?”
I did not.
“National Bosses Day. Like those fuckers need their own day.”
(He, like me, has a wee bit of a problem with authority.)
“Yeah, so?”
“So, I’m going to get the biggest butt plug I can find, with a big bottle of anal lube, and I’m going to wrap it up nice – with a bow and everything – and have it delivered to the office by courier.
“With a card that asks that he open the present so the whole department can share in the celebration.”
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. There’s like 20 people in this guy’s sector – and from what I understand, everyone shares their distain for this asshole.
“Genius.”
“I know. (Wife’s name) said it was completely juvenile. (Brother) thinks I’m nuts. But (another college prankster) said the same thing as you.”
“Hey, what’s the first rule of Fight Club?” I asked.
“Don’t talk about Fight Club.”
“What’s the second rule of Fight Club?”
“Don’t talk about Fight Club.”
When in a mood to commit deviant acts, you cannot – must not – tell anyone. Not one soul.
Not for months. Years.
This is the one absolute truth for pranksters.
“You realize that you can’t go through with it,” I said.
“Yeah, I know,” he said, dejected. “But it would have been great, huh?”
“The best.”
“It’s not like I’ve lost my edge or anything.”
“Nawww, I understand. Maybe my little protégé is growing up. Getting all mature and shit.”
“Yeah, fuck you,” he said. “I still owe you one. Don’t stop looking over your shoulder.”
Twenty-two years ago next month, I shaved his eyebrows off.
The week before he went to meet his wife’s parents for the first time.
At Thanksgiving.
Having renounced my own demons, I can tell you this.

Blog Action Day (poetry delivered)

It's ain't over until...
It's still Blog Action Day on the West Coast of the United States.
And I promised a poem.
Stressful day, but I wanted to make sure I got this posted.

Mother Earth
A whisper in the woods;
Soft, like a breeze through pine.
It calls to Mother Earth,
Do not despair, please not yet.
A murmur now, voices unite;
Mother Earth, we feel your ills.
Voices rise, begin join as one;
Mother Earth, the disrespect must end.

Three things you can do to respect Mother Earth:
1. Buy a water bottle – and stop buying flats of bottled tap water.
2. Recycle. Everything and everything.
3. Replace all your bulbs with compact fluorescents.

Blog Action Day (Moon Over Marin)

Today is Blog Action Day.
More than 14,000 bloggers have come together to post something on the environment.
And while I still hope to post a poem I have been working on, I did want to share a punk rock classic.
The Dead Kennedys "Moon Over Marin."



That song, off Plastic Surgery Disasters, is 23 years old.
The message never gets old.
Don't mess up the oceans.

Here's the lyrics:

The crowded future stings my eyes
I still find time to exercise
In uniform with two white stripes

Unlock my section of the sand
It's fenced off to the water's edge
I clamp a gasmask on my head

[Chorus]
On my beach at night
Bathe in my moonlight

Another tanker's hit the rocks
Abandoned to spill out its guts
The sand is laced with sticky glops

O' Shimmering moonlight sheen upon
The waves and water clogged with oil
White gases steam up from the soil

[Chorus]

I squash dead fish between my toes
Try not to step on any bones
I turn around and I go home

I slip back through my basement door
Switch off all that I own below
Dive in my scalding wooden tub

My own beach at night
Electric Moonlight

There will always be a moon
Over Marin

The cool thing is, in the past 23 years much has been done to clean up the Marin Coast.
Because people came together to say enough is enough.

The Magic 8 Ball fails to tell its secrets

I keep a Magic 8 Ball on the nightstand by my bed.
It is fairly dusty, as dusting really is not my forte.
I see it every day, even if the sight of it doesn't register.
And I fail to ask it the really important questions in my life.

Saturday evening and I didn’t feel like going out. So I went to mass, went to the grocery, cooked dinner and read.
“Hike Your Own Hike” by Francis Tapon. A gift from a friend who is concerned about me.
“Here’s hoping the hikes you’ve yet to take on your journey through life will reward you with well-deserved joy and very worthwhile experiences!” he wrote inside the cover.

My eyes grew droopy and the cool air filtered in from the window – and it made me smile that I had switched the sheets to the flannel ones with the moose and bear on them – and sleep was near. I turned to shut the light off…
And picked up the 8 Ball.

“Is my life on the right track?” I fairly whispered, even though the neighborhood was dark and quiet – and wouldn’t have responded had I shouted.

“Better not tell you now.”

Figures.

But it makes sense. Not one person, not one thing, can tell you the answers you truly seek. They are there for you to figure out. In your heart and in your head.
And there are no wrong answers, either. Just missteps. Tangent paths that peter out in time.
Funny thing is, the book is helping to solidify some issues (other than a new lust to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail sooner rather than later) central to my life now at 44. Reading passages has given me insight to my own heart.
And my heart has told my head that this is a good time to be ThomG, even if my head can’t wrap itself around all the fits and hiccups.
“The uncertainty of the future made me addicted to my daily routines – at least they were relatively comfortable,” Tapon writes. “I cling tightly to the known, instead of letting go and venturing into the unknown.”

I am ThomG; the unknown is where I function best.
So just get fucking on with it.
Still clinging to those daily routines; don’t want to let anyone down.

And that remains the dilemma.

And just so you know, on the other nightstand is my Obsessive-Compulsive Action Figure (a gift from Boots). I suppose I could have just as easily asked him if I was on the right track.
He’d probably just tell me to go wash my hands.

ThomG explains the male of the species

(Disclaimer: ThomG is not a licensed marriage and family therapist, nor does he play one on TV. The thoughts presented here are purely his own, and we all know he’s likely full of shit much of the time.)

The following question(s) came in an email Friday from a person from my past – the late juvenileous period, I believe – who has resurfaced after 25 years:

“Sounds like you ask your women friends a lot of things. So, how about some turnabout? What are some things that you believe women do not in any way understand about the male gender? God knows I've tried.”

Contrary to the popular pop culture notion, men and women do reside on the same planet.
Same species, but both quite nuts.

And really, I don’t think I am that hard to figure out (but then again, I reside in my own skin, so there you go). I don’t think men are particularly difficult to understand (and again, I am one, so there you go).

We all want the same things. We all want companionship and the touch of the opposite sex (or, if gay, the same sex). The ability to discuss things, to share ideas and opinions, dreams and desires.
But completely on our own terms.

I don’t think most men are adept at talking about their emotions. I believe we’re just as emotional as women, but have learned over the course of time that this isn’t “macho” and repress this.

We also don’t like to be poked into “discuss our feelings.” It can be seen as a sign of weakness (and it took me a few months of intense therapy to realize that). Women, start asking men to share with you their feelings and the monosyllabic words start tumbling out, am I right?
Men tend to keep their feelings to themselves, where only we can take them out, look at them, roll ‘em around a bit – very much in private.

I am reminded of the D.H. Lawrence poem:

To Women, As Far As I'm Concerned

The feelings I don't have, I don't have.
The feelings I don't have, I won't say I have.
The feelings you say you have, you don't have.
The feelings you would like both of us to have, we neither of us have.
The feelings people ought to have, they never have.
If people say they've got feelings, you may be pretty sure they haven't got them.
So if you want either of us to feel anything at all
You'd better abandon all idea of feelings altogether.

Women, you have to be crafty.
We do want to talk, to open up. But with less emotion – and more problem-solving, thought-provoking solutions.
What to know about our feelings? Then stop asking us how we feel. Observe us. Do not propose hypotheticals, because we’re lousy at them.
And please, do not interpret what we say. Just take it at face-level (even though to you it makes no goddamn sense whatsoever).
We don’t want to talk about every little thing that comes up. Sometimes, we’re just in a pissy mood. And no, thank you, I don’t want to discuss it. Just let me have this pissy mood.

Men, myself included, tend to shut down for periods of time. To sulk.
To think. To plot, plan, prepare. Solve.
When we’re there, women, cut us some freaking slack.
It is a natural process that actually is good for us.

When you sense that the sulking has begun to pass, ask – without the hint of emotion – “What have you decided?”
Again, listen, but don’t interject any emotion. Ask pointed questions that are problem-solving in nature.

I drive women crazy. I know this. And I think I am pretty good (now) about talking about my feelings. But I still hold a great deal back. I keep it boxed up, where only I can look at it in the dark, in private.

I think it’s good to encourage male friendships. Men tend to open up to other men – even if women were to listen in, it wouldn’t seem like it.

Men want what women want. A great relationship that makes each other happy and content. We just go about it differently.
Men have to work to remember to give little compliments.
Women have to work to remember that not everything is an emotional issue.
Men have to be open to discussing their emotions.
Women have to be open to not bring up the emotions all the time.

Women, let us be.
And be there when the emotions come tumbling out.
With a touch and without conversation.
That is, until we ask what you think.
And we will ask. Trust.

Another pub night

“We can’t go in together,” Boots said as she was about to make her triumphant return to a Wednesday pub night. “I’m being followed by an unmarked police car.”
You never know what she’s mixed up in.
(I kid.)
“Maybe they’re following you. They’re going around the block.”
“I have to pee.”
“I’m going to get my mail, then.”
Turns out, the unmarked car carried two big fats guys. They were looking for the post office.
“I still think they were undercover cops.”
Boots came from the gym, by way of Costco (sporting a new jacket made by 2-year-olds in Myanmar).
I came to the pub by way of the Westside Trails.
The Meat-Eating Robot came by way of the Boulder Creek Trail at Whiskeytown.
It was a disjointed night at the pub. Boots was cruising for a fight (and why not? her news was good and her mood bouncy), politicians stopped by the table and friends old and new stopped. It was another chaotic, loud, spectacularly fun night.
“I’m Switzerland,” a friend said in response to something I didn’t catch.
“I’m Belgium,” I said to the Robot. “’Cause they have good chocolate.
“And they have those things, I dunno, they’re like waffles.
“Oh, Belgian waffles.”
And the Robot gave me a look.
And we both started to laugh.
It was that kind of night.
Silly.
(And yes, Boots broke out a costume; the gal loves her costumes.)

Grrrrrrrrr face

First, I thought it might have started with the broken Nordic pole (and the fact that the one person I know can fix it without sending it to the company is in Italy).
It could have been a result of not getting a sufficient raise in brain endorphins. The walk lasted all of a half-mile.
Maybe it started with low caffeine levels in my system (I left my French-pressed coffee on the counter).
(Not even my $2-a-day crack addiction, called Rock Star, did any good; and not to get good joy – and a buzz – is just wrong).

Later, it came to me.
I spent Monday lost in a funk – angry and sullen – because I shipped $100 to a person who said the $40 here and the $50 there (which was for charity, for chirssakes) wasn’t really a gift.
That there was a score being kept.
And that friendship came with a cost.

That even when the whole money issue was brought up in the first place, I blurted out “I’ll send you a check.”
And with all my life has going on, promptly forgot about it.
Until the person emailed to ask when that check would be in the mail.
Sheesh.
That’s what I emailed back.
And didn’t bother to finish the rambling response.
I asked that the person not contact me ever again.
I sent the $100 – five twenties in a little thank you card – Monday. Just to be done with it.
Still, it pisses me off.
That $100 represents my grocery budget for the month.
It represents the little desktop laser printer I desperately need to buy.

It represents the difference between true friendship and, well whatever the fuck the opposite is.

Because friends do things for friends without having to keep a scorecard, or a fucking guest check.

As much as I wanted to wallow in a stew of black clouds and furrowed brows and “fucks” that came out randomly, like little spears, or the venomous fangs of a rattlesnake, I couldn’t. Because people kept checking in. They kept me in their thoughts.

One friend asked if I’d go to spin class.
Another asked that come over and share slow-cooked carne asada.
One asked if I could go to lunch.
One asked if I shouldn’t go ride off the mood on the Westside Trails.
Another asked if I just wanted them to come over to have a beer.
And a conversation.
Or even a good cry.

I thanked them all and begged off.
I went home and hugged my dogs.
I walked with them.
I ate a salad and drank some soothing tea.
And filled the bath with warm water and soap bubbles and read a book.
Turned in early, too, and slept.

In the darkness before the dawn, I let it go.
And vowed to let it all go.
And just take down my pants and slide on the ice.

'Momentum is your friend'

“Momentum is your friend.”
The Factor said this, as he tried to lead me through a steep, rocky technical section of trail.
He might as well have been talking about life.
Forward progress to carry you through the steep, rocky technical section of life.
Momentum is your friend.
I’m not sure my wheels are not gaining any traction.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve slept like crap; I went down somewhat hard Sunday, skinned my right knee and elbow and got my left shin caught in some manzanita and got scraped up pretty good. There’s an interesting bruise coming to the surface of my left ass cheek (not sure how that happened) and Saturday’s activities waxed my left shoulder.
I couldn’t find a position in bed that was comfortable. Past midnight, I got up to down some ibuprophin and pray for relief.
I still know what needs to be done (or what I consider the steps that need to be down). I do the steps. I don’t see big results (hell, I’d be OK with small results – tangible stuff – just so long as I see and feel them).
Right now, I’m off the bike. I’m stepping through the really scary parts. Walking through them.
When all I need to do is let the momentum carry me through.

More paddling pictures

Ok, I'm headed out for a ride (if I can find my Visenka socks, that is).
I'll bring my camera, just in case. Maybe I can take pictures of the guy's butts I'm going with, as they drop my ass on the climbs (although the Trek is supposedly fixed).
We're going to check out the new trail at Mule Mountain.

In the meantime, here are a few more photos from last week's circumnavigation of Whiskeytown Lake. If you want, read the story here.





Cooking, but with no sparks

It wasn’t a date, because Boots is very happily married.
But it was date night at the meal preparation place. And I was a perfectly willing replacement part to make a single into a double.
“Ready for our pseudo-date?” I said in the parking lot.
“It’s not a date!”
It’s one of those franchise meal places. Go in, put meals together, package them up and take them home and put them in the freezer. Take them out, pop them in the oven, make a salad and boom – dinner.
Interesting concept for people with money and not a lot of time.
Great meals, too. Coconut crusted chicken, Moroccan chicken with pumpkin, pork chops with sweet ginger and apple, chicken enchiladas.
Every time you go, they call it a session.
And Boots found out on Thursday that Friday’s session was date night.
“I may need your help Friday night with a menu thing,” she emailed.
“What, a dinner party and I’m not invited?”
She sent me the menu – her six meals that needed to be built.
“You can go ahead and laugh now.”
Told her I was honored. I wanted to see this place in action.
“But it’s not a date!”
No date. Think of me as a relief pitcher.
Or male escort.
We got on our aprons and washed our hands – and explained to basically everyone that THIS WAS NOT A DATE. I was not the husband.
I was simply the male escort.
(Hot male escort.)
Each station had room for two groups to put together two meals. Spices, wet ingredients, protein, vegetables, condiments were all in easy reach. The Moroccan chicken was split with ingredients for the chicken Mirabella; the peanut-crusted tilapia was next to the giant filled Italian shells.
Most everything went into gallon or quart freezer bags.
And that meant it was tough for four people to work at one station. And lead to questions like, “Did you put the turmeric in?”
Boots ended up stepping back a couple of times.
“Did he just take over?” a helper said. “Guys never want to come, but they end up doing nearly everything once that get here.”
It was not a date.
We did run afoul of the little old owner-helper-lady at the coconut-crusted chicken station. We had put the components together in individual bags – buttermilk in one, coconut and panko breadcrumb coating with the spices in another – and I went about my bidness putting it all together in another gallon Ziploc.
“It’s like OCD cooking,” Boots said.
I took the chicken bag – six small frozen chicken breasts – and inserted it into the bag; the coating mix went next, followed by the buttermilk. I smooshed all the air out and zipped up the bag.
“Oh, no, you can’t do that,” the little old-owner-helper-lady said as she wrenched the bag from me. “You have to go to the labeling station for that.”
And deconstructed my carefully, OCD-inspired bag of meal parts.
And reconstructed it at the labeling station – a shelf really, with a file folder that held recipe index cards for the meals you bought – by simply dropping the recipe card into the bag.
(She didn’t even smoosh the air out of the bag.)
“Yeah, I can see where that was important,” I said.
(Rebels that we are, Boots took all the index cards for her meals from the labeling station and stashed them in her apron; we put together every single meal at the prep stations – Ha.)
We put together all six meals in about an hour.
“Gosh, you guys are quick,” the owner said.
We sampled some Tex-Mex sauced flank steak over rice and had some really good apple crisp with walnuts and raisins while we waited for a cart to take Boots’ food to her car.
“So, what did you think?” the owner asked.
“Pretty interesting.”
“You think about it and the biggest part of cooking is the prep work,” she said. “This just eliminates that whole process; there’s no mess and no time wasted.”
And while I appreciated the ease of everything, from a cook’s standpoint, I like the prep work. That’s the time where I get the most satisfaction out of what I’m doing. It is the fun part.
But I can see the benefits for someone who doesn’t have a lot of time, but still wants to put a really cool, really tasty meal on the table.
It wasn’t a date.
But it was a fun way to spend part of a Friday date night.
(And for my fine escort services, I got a pan of chicken enchiladas; not bad for an hour’s work.)

The many Hells of the DMV

Ben Harper just got to the point in “Better Way (War Mix)” where he screams “…Everyone is in the fight of their lives…” when through the headphones I heard:
“Hey, don’t mean to bother you, but aren’t you the guy from TV?”
The local field office for the California Department of Motor Vehicles – the dreaded DMV – is a catch basin of humanity. Mostly the lower rungs, folks who don’t have access to computers to get things like registration renewals and new plates done without physically going to the only field office in a city of 90,000 people.
(The only other place to witness something similar would place me squarely in the aisles of Wal-Marts – and unless I’m in the Midwest with my dad, you will not find my ass in Wal-Marts for any fucking reason.)
Interspersed with the guys in dirty wife-beater T-shirts (seriously men, if you have all the arm definition of a sausage, DO NOT wear a sleeveless T-Shirt) and large-bottomed women in black stretch pants (no, they do not flatter the cottage cheese that is your ass) are a few seemingly regular men and women – hey, like me - who had to make the DMV pilgrimage to take care of something that couldn’t be done online (like a new photograph for myself).
I was trapped. I had finished all my business, they had printed a receipt, but the computers at the home office in Sacramento went down. They had to get confirmation that the photo went through – and the receipt for the license went through (“Even though we have your check in the drawer, and we have a receipt printed, I can’t let you go yet, if you wouldn’t mind sitting, we’ll get it as soon as we can,” the nice lady at the counter said).
Two long rows of chairs. Each chair physically touched the other, and meant it was more than likely that you would make contact with the person in the next seat.
(I slathered myself in hand sanitizer after, I surly did.)
The question came from a tall, skinny guy, dressed in a dress shirt that was snow-white once, a yellow tie and navy dress slacks that were worn enough as to make the fabric shine at the thighs.
The black dress shoes were old and scuffed; his beard was black, flecked with gray, and somewhat unkempt. He had blue eyes.
“Really, sorry to bother you, but you look really familiar.”
Two years ago, we had a cross-promotion with the local television station. Three reporters did three-minute segments; mine ran between 5:30 and 6 a.m. Fridays (and people were amazed that I would get up to do them that early; through the magic of television, we shot them before the 5 p.m. broadcast on Thursdays).
“I’m the outdoors guy at the paper.”
“Oh, yeah, you do a great job. I wish you still did the TV thing with (TV personality). That was really good.”
He went on to tell me that he was a minister. Instantly, I mentioned that (TV personality) and I were very involved in the Catholic church (I sensed he was getting ready to “witness” my ass).
He kept talking (even though I still had my left earbud in my ear, and the iPod shuffled to “Born to Run” by the Boss) and I nodded patiently – and cut my glance to the nice counter lady, pleading with my eyes to hurry the fuck up – and tried to keep the small talk to a minimum.
The guy on my left looked like a smaller version of The Chief from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest;” and yes, if I had a stick of Juicy Fruit, I would have been tempted to give it to him. Dirty gray hair in a ponytail, dirty jeans, grimy T-shirt and a denim jacket, frayed at the cuffs. Black Chuck Taylor All-Stars on his feet.
“I knew I knew you,” he said through yellow, picket-fence teeth. “You’re the guy from TV.”
“By way of the newspaper.”
“I used to work there, in the back,” he said. “Until I keeled over. Fucking place. Worse insurance I’ve ever had.”
I close my eyes for an instant and open them and let everything go out-of-focus.
The Replacements, “Can’t Hardly Wait” filled my left ear; all I can think is I can hardly wait to get the fuck out of the DMV.
And that’s when I notice it.
The mushroomy, wet smell of shit.
It emanated from The Chief.
He smelled like shit. Like he washed his clothing with a couple of turds tucked into the pockets.
And I seriously consider asking Mr. Minister for a prayer of expedience.
I remain quiet and both Mr. Minister and The Chief grow silent. I slip the right earbud in as Liz Phair’s “Stratford-On-Guy” began. The nice counter lady waved me over. The receipt, as well as my new picture, has been received at the home office.
Goodbye’s are said all around.
“Hope to catch you on TV again,” Mr. Minister said.
Total elapsed time in the DMV field office: 84 minutes.
Time I will never get back in my life.

Coppery tendrils in the darkness

In the cool darkness, you can feel it.
Icy tendrils, a cold fog, fingers that barely register.
Lie there, still, and you can taste it. The coppery taste in your mouth after you’ve bit your tongue.
Defeat. Despair.
Cap’n never asked, nor did I go into great detail about the difficulties in The Tension. He didn’t give any advice, either. He just talked about his experiences and where they left him.
Doing exactly what he wants to do. Or damn near it.
“Of course, you’re a writer and that’s different,” he said.
I know and like my present. But defeat and despair clouds the future. And I will not give in.
The Cap’n has been bankrupt several times. He has made a lot of money and he’s done amazing things. Like me, he is a survivor. Unlike me, he has tremendous faith.
(I’m trying, hey.)
“You have this thing that is you. You’ll be OK.”
I write. It isn’t a business. It isn’t tangible. Marketable, yes, but how? I don’t need to make a million; I just want to be comfortable. I want to grow as a writer, but still live the life I have begun to carve out for myself.
So the despair and the defeat lurk in the shadows. I cannot help but feel the tendrils, taste its coppery taste.
All these feelings came rushing back, like the cold that filtered through my open bedroom window, after Tuesday night’s outing. I watched the Banff Mountain Film Festival’s “Radical Reels” films. Eight in all, all about extreme sports and the man and women who pursue them.
One, “Hustle & Snow,” followed ski bums around Tahoe. Guys who work crappy jobs all summer, live on $10 a day, just so they can ski.
“I’m such a slacker,” one guy said. “used to be, I’d get up, grab a shower, stretch and go ski. Get done, grab a shower and stretch and walk the dog. The way it snowed every day last year, it was all I could do to walk that dog.”
Such a singular purpose. Such a release to do what you love, and not worry about the bills and the house and the car.
“I want to have this life, between my 20s and 40s where I’m not working for a house and a car,” a South African kayaker said. “So that when I’m in my 40s, I can work for a house and a car and look back on the life that I had and be Ok with sitting around all broken – with a house and a car.”
I see freedom in that.
But I feel responsibility to be true to this talent that I have.
So I meander on. Fending off the darkness with exercise and friends.
I listen to the world and try to understand what it is telling me.

Just blowin' in the wind

The wind raked the rocky point, an onslaught that just beats down anything and everything in its way.
“I dunno, bro, but this is like 30 miles an hour,” Cap’n P said. “You going to be able to light your stove in this?”
No way. The picnic table is exposed. Our tents are exposed. We’re exposed, in full raingear, with our backs to the punishing wind.
“You could always cook in the bathroom.”
“Or we could just call it a night.”
It’s 6:30 p.m.
“Hey, this is nothing,” said the Cap’n, a former Navy SEAL. “Try being in Honduras where you’re not really supposed to be.”
That’s the thing about being out-of-doors; even in less-than-ideal conditions, for a few of us, it beats being inside.
We’d just paddled a little more than 12 miles on Whiskeytown Lake. The idea was to get a little hot food in us, chat a bit and go to bed. We had another 14 miles to paddle on Monday.
We watched a patio boat instead; the wind and the waves tossed the little boat – with nine people on board and a woefully too small engine for propulsion – like a cork.
“Why don’t we wait it out? It can’t blow like this for much longer.”
But it did.
The Cap’n got desperate and opened a jar of olives.
“OK, how about sandwiches?”
We ended up in the alcove of the bathroom, out of the wind – but not actually in the one-holer. Eating pepper salami and cheddar on wheat bagels, the glow from our headlights cast drunken shadows out onto the oak and pine that bent in the wind.
“This is good salami,” Cap’n said. “Of course, anything Italian and I’m on it. It’s the ‘ee;’ salami, linguini, porcini.”
After a few ginger snaps, we stretched out in the alcove as best we could to talk (it was interesting and yes, I will blog it). The wind never let up. We laughed and joked and wondered – out loud – what kind of day we’d have on the water come the dawn.
And that’s when we noticed the sign.
Taped to the bathroom door was a sign about bears. It is a $175 fine for leaving food unattended in the campground. The recreation area is lousy with black bear.
“A fed bear is a dead bear,” the sign warned.
“That’s a grizzly bear,” Cap’n said of the photo that went along with the warning.
They’ve been extinct in California since the 1840s.
“Leave it to the Park Service,” we said, in unison.
Finally, the cold concrete and cramped space got to be too much.
“I’m headed for the tent, if it hasn’t blown away,” Cap’n said. “And my nice, warm sleeping bag.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
It was 8:30 p.m.
And except for the blue heron that decided to start making all this crazy noise past midnight – “Bro, did you hear that bird? I could have killed it.” – we slept until 7 a.m., through the wind and through a pretty good rain.
And I felt better for the experience.

Paddle pictures



Man was that fun. Two-day paddle around the shoreline of Whiskeytown Lake. Perfect paddling weather Sunday, big storm Sunday night and beautiful paddling weather on Monday.
Lots more to talk about. But i needs to get into the office.
Enjoy the photos, for now.