Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Another hot day. My managing editor, Clint, bitched at me for only having one news story today. That's because the drunk politician story fell through and I spent the rest of the afternoon writing a 40-inch feature story about the highest point in Wisconsin, Timm's Hill. I almost think he likes to fight with me, so I indulged him. I understand his position. Bill Barth, the editor in chief, is supposedly on his ass to get more production out of us reporters. What are they going to do, fire me? If I took all the negative criticism in the world to heart I would be a wreck of a person. I've got to let it roll of me.

Strange thing happened to me today. I was feeling negative and pissed off as I was driving from Beloit to Rockford and then to Janesville. I attended a press conference announcing the opening of a collection agency in downtown Rockford. The mayor and all the suited dignitaries were there. It was funny when Doug Scott entered the room. He had a whole entourage with him. Self-absorbed, self-important people. And I knew not a one. Usually I socialize after these affairs, but decided to just book out of there. I was the first one gone. A security guard collected my badge. They wanted to make sure everybody left the building.

But the strange thing wasn't the press conference. Well, yeah, that was strange, all the self-important politicos of Rockford. But afterwards as I was driving to Janesville I was feeling all pissed off and even more negative after the press conference because this world, this journalist world, is not for me. I can't put on the perma-grin and continue to slick back my hair and pretend I'm interested a collection agency is opening in Rockford, even if it will create 300 new jobs. Blah blah blah boring and obvious and bland and party line modern journalism. Whatever happened to the investigative story, the issues story? I don't have time for that. Covering every lame ass press conference to come down the pike. Okay, I got to get beyond that whole scene, even though it is integral to my narrative.

So, regroup, here's the scene. Greg is all pissed about getting bitched out by boss and not fitting in at fake people press conference. And as he's driving to Janesville, he has all these close encounters with vehicles, as if the very forces of vehicular nature were working against him because he was full of negative energy. When a truck almost side-swiped me on the Interstate, it shocked me back to reality and the ephemeral unimportance of all my worries, the existential angst of the unimportance, grand scheme, of this organic struggle. But strange how even the very forces of nature work against you when in a negative frame. The converse is true. With positive energy and great conviction, all the forces of nature work for you. Even on the interstate.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Just got back from a bike ride. It's very humid. My back is wet. Esther and I rode along the river and the insects swarmed in spots, pelting like little pinpricks. We move to fast for proboscises to find purchase. We just got these fancy lights for our bike so we can be seen riding at night. I put them to the test all confident. Wore black shirt, shorts, but white shoes. The rear lights flashes. The front light just has a low beam and high beam.
I was in court today at the Rock County Courthouse. I think people make bad fashion decisions before they break the law. There was this one skinny bleach blonde woman in there with her two kids and slacker boyfriend. I knew it was her boyfriend because he refused to discipline the children and the little boy called him by his first name. I could be wrong. But the woman had a cheeseball tattoo of the yin-yang symbol, as large as a drink coaster, on her neck. She had another indistinguishable tattoo on the webbing of her thumb. And then there was Angie, or at least that's what I think her name is. That's what she had tattooed on her arm. Angie also had a small heart on her ample, nearly exposed breasts. I was there to report on a sentencing hearing for a former Beloit City Councilman who was arrested for drunk driving after he was caught sleeping off a drunk in his car, which was parked in the post office. I picked him out of the crowd. He looked clean cut and professional. I ended up meeting him in the washroom afterwards. Struck up a conversation as I pushed urine out of me. I tried to act all casual, but it was difficult. To him, I was the enemy, exposing his misdeeds to the light. But we talked out in the lobby and he told me he turned his life around, admitted to being an alcoholic and having a relapse. Said he was going through a messy divorce at the time. Said he was remarried now. I was upset because the judge delayed his sentencing to Sept. 12. I wasted an hour and a half of my time observing the Rock County riff raff being shuffled through a legal system they can't even begin to understand.
There was this one with a series of charges (Judge holds up case files dictionary thick, takes a breath as he lists case numbers) who tried to ask for lenience after he missed a court date. I could hardly understand him as he pleaded. I looked over at the public defenders sitting in the jury box waiting for their time before the judge. They looked at each other and rolled their eyes. Cynicism. Meat market system. Only the judge seemed to be in a good mood. Above it all. As the incomprehensible one was being led away he turned around and yelled out to a woman in the gallery. An "I Love You" babe before orange jumpsuited he was pushed through a side door by a stone-faced bailiff.
Today has been a good eating day. I did not eat any junk food nor drink any soda. I was cranky and tired and had a headache this morning. Recent relapse to caffeine, especially over work crew weekend. Withdrawal is a bitch. But I ate plenty of fruit, had a light lunch, light dinner. Went for the bike ride. I still got my gut, but if I can string together a few months of days like this I'll be a perfect man.

Monday, July 29, 2002

So, yeah, I work at the Beloit Daily News and you can link to my stories there. I do the odd conservation story now and again. Speaking of, this weekend tree-hugging old Raru (that's me, or my trailname, my nickname) chopped down trees and picked brush in the name of the Ice Age Trail. Esther and I worked on a Mobile Skills Crew project on the trail in Taylor County, WI in the Chequamegon National Forest. We arrived late Friday and worked all day Saturday and half a day Sunday. It was hot work and the mosquitoes were murder. Desk jockey me is still pretty sore from shoveling and chopping and digging and scraping and... But we re-routed a 200-foot section of trail, cleared brush and established the trail better on a half-mile segment and built a boardwalk over a boggy section. The weather cooperated. It didn't rain Saturday until just when we finished.

We stayed at a campground, a first. I haven't done that in a coon's age. We much prefer stealth camping, which doesn't offer the amenities of a shower, privy and general store, but is less buggier, pestier and more quiet. We shared a tent site with Sharon from Racine, a fellow Appalachian Trail thru-hiker (1998) who has since thru-hiked the Continental Divide Trail and the Ice Age Trail earlier this year. I think she also said she thru-hiked the Long Trail. But very unpretentious about it. Still, I did the old Wayne's World I'm not worthy routine. I aspire to her level of experience. We had a cool moment Saturday night. Sharon and I were on kitchen detail, so had to get dinner going while everyone else went off to the lake for a much-needed swim (we stank to holy high heaven). I wanted to join them, but get to the car and realize it is all locked up and no keys, they are locked in the trunk. Sharon was parked in front of us, so she could not get out either. No problem. Very casual. I said I hope Esther's got her set and if not the county sheriff could get it. Sharon remarked that was a good trail attitude to have. One of the greater gifts of avid hiking. You have this sensibility that fortune always works in your favor, even if it isn't. Funny that I had that attitude in the woods, albeit a campground, but not in "real life." This morning the grand experiment, on deadline, as I tried to incorporate that attitude in my job, you know, water off the duck's back, it's all good and all that jazz. Slacker mentality. Zen peace. However you see it. It's good to have that edge too.

Sunday after another swim and saying goodbye to our fellow Mobile Skills Crew mates, Esther and I drove to the highest point in Wisconsin, Timm's Hill (1,951 feet). It is our 10th state that we've been to the highest point. The others are Arizona, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Illinois and New Jersey. Only 40 more to go. On the way home we stopped at Rib Mountain outside of Wausau. A quartzite hill (I won't deign to call it a mountain, only one of extreme midwestern sensibilities would call it such), it rises more dramatically from the surrounding landscape than Timm's Hill. But both have good views from a lookout tower. And Rib Mountain, at 1,940, is 11 feet shorter than the state record holder. It's slight, so ever so slight inadequacy pointed out in the language of the sign at the top, ``ONE of the highest peaks in Wisconsin." In so many words, not the highest. Ahh, there we go again. This western sensibility, nay American fondness, for competition, for extremes for distinction. Does the fossilized quartzite care. the abiding erratics mossy on the hillside care about the satellite laser measured distances of man?
Fond memories of our two years in Antigo. Every trip to the northwoods is refreshing, but sad. Rockford, with a population of 150,000, and part of a 250,000 metro area, is almost too large. But I'm torn. The desolation of the northwoods would grate, but a simplified (i.e. boring?) life beckons. I sip on my Guinness and recall it was unavailable in Antigo. Amenities in the big town. Me caught between the antipodes: short hair v. long, beard v. clean-shaven, woods v. society, poetry v. journalism, darth vader v. Luke Skywalker, you get the gist of the struggle. I longed for the city when I lived in Show Low and long for small town now in the city. Arggghhh!

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Listening to Jonny D laberto, trippy far out stuff distant guitar repetitive melody lines echoes. Dust on my journal. Ennui in the soul, like a man disintegrating. Hadn't realized how sad I'd become in the mundane, and yet tired of the search for diversity too. Caught between boredom and anxiety over the complexity of my life right now. So busy. So many faces. So many words written and spoken. Thank god I don't own a TV. The strange reactions when I say I don't have one, and how now I look for reaction while inside I am nonchalant about not having one. Still miss my ball games. Good discipline not to have it at home. I long for time to spend in the woods. For those quiet moments in my day when symmetry, good karma, alignment, peace and calm the moment when you doze and daydream. I hectic fast-paced knuckle cracking fidgeting fool me toe tapping kinetic electro had to have surgery cause of too much juice in my heart. My very nature one of ferocity, speed and indomitable will. That is why I seek what I cannot naturally attain. It seems to ego me wisdom lies in conquering the opposite of your nature. And yet to just flow crazy flow the real you revealed why even try to change? As natural as the kinetic ways are to me, so is the longing in my heart for that quietude to balance that energy. To seek that opposite and find elusive Hallmark card thing called balance. Banal balance. Challenge Jack Pallance. My lip is twitchy to a conga piano echoes-y kind of repeto-techno-jazz. More on me and the not-me everything in between as I go forward, alone, into this world of words. You, that audience I perceive is out there in the pixelated hinterlands, you can come along too.
This is my first entry to rantings. I just got back online and read about blogging in a Time Magazine while sitting in the Beloit (WIS) Public Library.