Sunday, August 25, 2002

Bugs, bugs. Today was about the bugs. Spiders mainly. Morning I was in Big Hill Park north of Beloit. I'm on call this weekend so had to, for the last time, go check at the police and fire department Saturday and had to get up right at 6A. But it was the last time, so I savored the sight of the fire department in early morn, pet the golden retriever mascot dog and even got into a howling duo with him, much to laughter and amusement of clean cut and infinitely more sane firefighter personnel cleaning an ambulance! I asked once why they didn't have a dalmation, and someone said dalmation's were a pain the ass to take care of.

Then it was back to downtown Beloit and the police department. Most of my memories there are bad. One morning got into an argument with an acting sergeant about not giving me information on a shooting. This acting sergeant tells me that he's not supposed to talk to the media and it's your problem all tight zip lipped arm crossed jingle when walking cop. You know, I got really nothing against cops, some are decent, but most have butch, bully attitudes. And they're militaristic. The uniform, badge symbols of power, the confusing lights, barked orders, domestic disputes, protectors of the peace, traffic stings, five cars pulled over for speeding at a time, drug charges against the destitute and addicted, good old boys network, necessary cogs in society maintaining the capitalistic machine. I felt no sense of reminiscence about not having to visit the Beloit PD again. Just got in my car and drove back to the paper.

After, it was on to South Beloit, where I read the Rockford Register Star over a big breakfast - Mary's Place Huge Breakfast -- all but-gusting two eggs, American fries, sausage patty and french toast. Then to Big Hill Park, where I had my first encounter of the day with bugs walking a grown over cross country trail on a hilly ridge above the Rock River. Cobwebs everywhere and I could hear them snap as I walked through. Had to brush my arms all the time and worried all city boy priss about spiders crawling on me. Fantasized getting bit by a brown recluse spider and my flesh rotting away, a bloody, sore crater growing ever larger. All my nightmares are dermatological.

I covered a workshop for Raising Successful Parents at a middle school in Beloit. I go there thinking I will walk into classrooms with couples hunkered over notebooks. Only a token male or two there. The rest women getting child care credits for day cares. As I know, married to a teacher, they must get 15 hours of "training" outside work to remain certified. Topics: Preparing your teen for work; Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; financial management; and, of course, talking to your teen about sex. Typical lame-o boring Saturday story stuff. I did my reporter thing and left.

Jetted over to Clinton, WI, to cover Water Tower Days, one of only a jazillion festivals I have had the privilege of covering this summer. I interviewed Clinton Fire Chief and Town of Turtle Chief when they raced against each other in the soap box derby. Talked with a lady selling pies, and a member of the historical society in the shadow of the historic water tower, built 59 feet high with native limestone and in service for more than 90 years, 1896-1987. No cell phone equipment here, even though it's the highest point in town. Tour of historic homes and parade Sunday with no vehicles allowed. All that is cool.

I had fun, even though I had to coax and beg one of the pie ladies to talk to me. "Oh, why don't you talk to one of the kind men over there... He's in charge." Finally, when one agreed to talk, she took my notebook out of my hand and wrote her name down, and I look at it now, signature old women shaky hand but trained, well-formed letters. People don't write like this anymore, no emphasis on handwriting in the schools. A lost art. So, thank you JOAN R COEHOORN, for talking to me when the feeble-minded shy pie sales ladies for the Emmanuel Lutheran Church would not.

She said she would talk to me because she has experience with the media. When her son lived in Marquette, Mich., she was interviewed for a TV station by a friend of her son's when they attended a civil war reenactment. And I thought about that marker on the Appalachian Trail, someplace in Maryland, in dedication to a Michigan regiment that fought a battle there. I never knew soldiers from Michigan saw active duty in the Civil War. And then we talked about all the cool places in the UP to visit, and the places I've gone, like Lake Gogebic, the Porcupine Mountains, Keweenaw Peninsula. [I realize after exploring web sites that Lake Gogebic is the largest lake in the UP, the Porkies the largest wilderness area and Keweenaw Peninsula most northern destination. Guess I reach for extremes.]

I could live up there. Joan said only 300,000 people live in the entire UP. I believe. Lots of open spaces. Me and the old lady connected. I remember at one point she laughed, leaned, put her hands on my arm and gave me kind of a mini hug.

Then it was back home for a while, talked to Esther... MY old lady, all biker speak. We ended up at my parent's house as I napped in basement on two benadryl (my allergies were murder today) with Cubs game on. Cubs won, 4-0, over the team with the best record in baseball defending World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks, on a shutout by upcoming starter, Matt Clement, who closely resembles a trail buddy, Hollywood, a.k.a. Jeremy Hickey. The strangest things, like Michigan Civil War reenactments and Cubs' pitchers, bring me back. But so nice to zone the afternoon away, lazy cicada pollinated August Saturday.

Tonight more baseball as Esther and I go to Rockford Riverhawks home finale. They were giving away more stuff than usual because it was the last game. And it turned out to be a great game. Trailing, 5-4, in the bottom of the ninth, two outs, runners on first and third, DH Richard Austin down 0-2 hits a seeing eye single, his third hit of the night, between first and second to tie the game. Runners at first and second, the next batter Tony Pigott hits a bloop fly, but Dubois County Dragons first baseman Michael Peerman drops easy catch and winning run slides home for the come-from-behind victory. Fireworks afterwards. My favorites the loudest ones, the simple bright burst chest thumpers.

Under Marinelli Field lights a thick, teeming swarm. Spiders built tiny webs in the backstop netting. Enterprising buggers, and strong. On the way home from the game a spider hitched a ride on our windshield. Esther would announce when she hit 40 miles per hour, 45, 50, legs fully splayed arachnid holds strong. Esther and I clapped for it when we got home. The spider survived a journey far from its home. I have faith it will adjust. There's plenty bugs here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Just got back from hanging out with Shawn Robinson, one of only two roommates I had in college, who used to go by the nickname Goat Boy because he would forget food in the microwave for days and then eat it when he found it. Iron stomach and all that. He has always been cool about that nickname, even though I would hate it if tagged with such a moniker. Still, when I kissed Esther good-bye, I said "I'm off to the goat palace."

We drank beers together while he chain smoked and played Slayer and the Cult and New Order and New Wave Hits, including Puttin' on the Ritz by Taco. That was a quiz song two days ago I heard on the radio, 97.5 WZOK, name the artist and title and win free tickets to see Bill Cosby in DeKalb. Except I didn't know. And I didn't have a cell phone and I was in my car. The Slayer tunes really took me back. Not that I ever listened to them, but the tape jackets (yeah, really retro listening to cassettes) had art work I recognized from high school. You know, all macabre and skulls and airbrushed art a la Iron Maiden. Guys with feathered hair who smoked in the bathroom in high school would cut up their Slayer t-shirts and pin the shirt remnant cheesy death metal album art on the back of their blue jean jackets. 11-12 years later I'm finally giving them a listen. Not bad, for genocide pop. Quite prescient to these Afghani mass grave times.

Shawn also allowed me to have the Cubs game on TV, on mute, and was a nice background to our discussion. His apartment is air conditioned now. It used to be so hot I didn't want to go over there. But now it's cooler than my place. The Cubs, after winning 14-12, the previous night over the Astros, lost tonight, 4-0.

On Monday I made a great discovery when my Uncle John, Dad and brother Ken came over. We went to St. Mary's Cemetery less than a block away from my apartment and visited my great grandfather John Locascio's (1856-1918) grave, which is less than 200 feet from our apartment. My great-grandmother Calagera (Virzi) Locascio (d. 1912)is also buried there. Her grave is unmarked. We can only approximate her location. It is along the fence line. After that we drove south of town to Calvary Cemetery and visited my maternal great-grandparents on the Fiorello side. We also stopped at my grandparents' graves and my Uncle Vince's. At dusk Uncle John found the six graves of the Nelson children, who were all murdered in Rockford in 1978. All this death and decay! A murder trial last week, visiting cemeteries and Slayer! The cemetery visits were heartening, a connection to my roots. That's what I love about this town. So much of me is here. So much of my history. There are no mountains nearby, but this is my home. My DNA touches everything.

Seven more days left at the Beloit Daily News. I got to get to bed now. Back to the grind one more time tomorrow. It is thundering pretty good now. I wish to slumber and listen to the summer storm.

Sunday, August 18, 2002

Update on events. Last night I got together with Andy Jestafie for the first time in over six weeks and we listened to some cool tunes and talked while splitting a liter bottle of Captain Morgan's. I've never been that much a rum drinker before, but I like the Captain and did not wake up with a hang over. I fell asleep for a little while on the back porch, lulled to drunken slumber by the cool evening and the whine of cicadas. No hangover this morning, though. Surprising. I usually pay a high price for such fun.

During the course of the evening I was on call from work because the State of Wisconsin v. Tywon Barber trial was still in jury deliberation. Half-lit already, I received a call from a guard at the Rock County Courthouse that a jury declared Barber not guilty. I called Barber's mother and got a few quotes from her and then proceeded to write the story. Got it sent out within an hour, efficient with a buzz.

A word about Andy. He is a friend from drum and bugle corps days and we've known each other since I was 13. A nice enough guy, to be sure, a little old world, a little simple minded, but can surprise one with his recall of events, statistics and quotations. Has a good head for music. That's why we remain friends. We like to listen to music together. He likes to camp, but camps alone, usually, car camping with a big mildewy canvas tent you can stand up in. Andy tends to bring out the bully in me because he is a skinny and slight man with low self-esteem. When he gets a drunk on he can get pretty depressed and bitter. Often, when he greets me he wears a scowl. That is the expression he wore when he came over last night. But he cheered up and we had a good time. I did my best to keep my bully side in check.

Today went to a picnic for Forest Hill Evangelical Free Church. We don't attend there anymore, but it was free food. Also saw my brother Ken for the first time in months. He is home from Paris for three weeks as he looks for work in the Chicago area. He showed me some beautiful photographs from his recent trip to Corsica and also brought a stack of pics from his summer tour of Scandinavia. From what I've seen, it's beautiful stuff. He and I share a similar ethos -- experience in lieu of acquisition.

I also worked with my mother to sew a tarp. It took hours for me to learn sewing machine basics, like how to thread the needle and load up the bobbin. I also practiced a perimeter hem seam and folded hem. Still don't quite have it right. But we cut the shape of my tarp and sewed the two pieces together. Tomorrow I do the perimeter hem and hope to finish the tarp before the weekend is finished.

My allergies were HORRIBLE today. Many many sneezing fits followed by runny runny nose all salt and water and irritation. Felt like there was a feather up my nose. Midafternoon I took two benadryl, found in the basement that had expired in 1998 (my mother works for the same company that makes it and has a huge backlog supply). I took two of those and they knocked me out. I had to be practically shaken awake to eat dinner. I fell asleep sitting up on the couch in the spare bedroom watching U.S. Marshalls with Dad and Ken.

I am also happy to report my brother Mike got a job. He starts Monday and will be staying at an extended stay motel in Fort Wayne, Ind. until he can get a permanent place. I'm very happy for him. It has been more than six months since he last worked. Hope this job lasts and he can get back on his feet. He'll never be able to control his finances - that's too much to ask - but I'm glad he is making his earning potential again as a pro-e draftsman. Don't ask me what he does. He draws parts for engineers, and that's about the gist of it.

It's late now. Actually early Sunday morning. I'm probably only awake because of the benadryl-induced nap earlier this evening. Tomorrow it is back at the big sewing project. Yippee!

Saturday, August 17, 2002

I posted the following message on mytrail journals web site. If you ever want to check that out, which will be more about my upcoming hike on the Superior Hiking Trail, go to that site and search for raru.

It's a cloudy, quiet Saturday morning in my little corner of the world. I look out the front window of our humble apartment to the old livery stables across the street, a brick facade and big wooden door. No more horses here. The guy who owns it stores boats and luxury vehicles for the Rockford elite. One side of the facade is covered in ivy, and has reached the stone words over the door which say "Rockford Riding Club."
I've enjoyed doing something I cannot do while hiking. And that is watching this ivy slowly creep up the brick this season. Ivy is also creeping up the aluminum siding near the back door of our apartment. It moves across the kitchen window and has even attempted to snake its way into our back door. Per a suggestion by Carlos Castaneda, I talk to the ivy every day, speak to him as an ambitious compatriot. I apologize for not letting him into my home. Smashed tendrils are at the foot of the door.

In the spring Sisu scattered handfuls of wildflower seeds on the east side of the apartment, which faces into an alley. Shortly after a big weedy plant started to grow. I pulled it out by its roots because I wanted room for the more beautiful wildflowers to come. Sisu, in her feminine wisdom, argued that the "weed" should stay. We should leave this area alone. Let the wildflowers fight for their right to grow. The weed is now blossoming beautiful red trumpet flowers. I suspect they are morning glories.

In the spring Sisu and I had grand plans for a garden, but the plot we tilled in the backyard of our apartment turned out to be too shady. Our Appollonian hopes for a vegetable plot were dashed. Plus, sad to admit, we are too busy to tend a garden. Through no effort (or minimal effort on Sisu's part) there are some beautiful plants growing. There is even a runty corn stalk growing next to a telephone pole right out our back door. I've identified the squirrels and cats and even birds, including a favorite crow, which share our backyard. It is a way my nature side can connect in an urban environment and am thankful each day to have such attuned sensibilities. In many ways it is the greatest gift the trail has given me.

Well, I started this thing out with the intention of writing about my love and fascination with the northwoods, but will hold off on that for another entry. Right now I've got to go over to my parent's house and sew a tarp and sleeping quilt, a la Ray Jardine, as described in his book, "Beyond Backpacking." Jardine is a good read and has many good ideas, but I don't buy all them. A discussion of Jardine is yet another separate entry. I'm splintering here, so will leave.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Played tennis tonight with John Panek and, after losing first set, felt strong and on the comeback trail when kind little Rockford Park Service lady came over and interrupted us and said the court we were playing on was reserved. It was our first time at the Guilford Tennis Center, the only place in Rockford to play (and pay) under the lights. She said it was $4 an hour, which is no big deal, but I brought no money with me. But I was heartened. All the courts were being used. There are tennis freaks in Rockford. Of course I knew that. I have the list of men to call and play with, but have stuck with Panek because he's a friend too. Still thinking about calling some of those middle aged dudes I played with back in June. Also plan to join the indoor league. It's $70, plus $10 an hour per court for court time. That's not too bad. Still hate the elitist tendencies of the sport.

Day two of the Tywon Barber murder trial focused on DNA evidence, the gathering and explanation thereof. Most of the testimony by DNA expert John Urtl of Wisconsin Crime Lab went way over my head. Bottom line, that which I reported, is that Barber is linked to crime by DNA found on a bloody glove which also had murder victim Michael Sims blood on it. Well, heck, here is a link to my story, which tells all. Why repeat ground I've already covered. Untold in the story is all the gangsta types coming in and out of the gallery, including a sad small high yellow woman with straight hair wearing a T-shirt with photo of deceased drug dealer Sims striking a gangster pose. Others in the gallery have tattoos on neck, corn rows and gold jewelry. I'm not making a generalization here. All such fashion statements are fine with me, but seem to also denote an identity with the Hood. And the Hood is an alien world to middle class white boy university bred boy me. My only exposure to this mizundastood culture is through rap music and pop culture and the courtroom.

I read an editorial in Sports Illustrated about the Driving While Black syndrome where black athletes are pulled over by police simply for owning and driving nice vehicles. The system that I see, the little small microcosm world of Rock County, is down on blacks. It is a white-dominated world trying to keep the brothas and sistas down. The jury in this trial I'm covering is all white, five men and seven women, but all white... Again, I speak from a white middle class position. And as many blacks contend, you cannot comment on the repression of the system unless you are being repressed by the system. And, clearly, I am not. But forgive me for treading the fine line of racism (which I am not, a racist. Racist a much misused and polarizing word, like fascism, which has lost meaning through chronic overuse. But for the sake of reference, I believe racism to be the inherent belief that one race of people are GENETICALLY superior to another), a lot of the problems in black culture are self-caused. The high-rate of illegitimate parents and drug use can only loosely be linked to the racist society. For the most part, those problems are self-caused. The persecution by law enforcement and, to a lesser degree, shunning in the job market, cannot be blamed for these twin ills of black culture. I have personally experienced more hatred and mistrust from black people than I have ever given. But I also find if I smile and make eye contact and treat people like people, no matter what color or race, goes a long way towards breaking down those prejudicial walls. And that's all I can do, this one small voice. Treat all people as kindred spirits worthy of dignity and love.

I picked up my Golite pack and other new lightweight backpacking goodies yesterday at my in-laws. Esther and I get our mail sent to her parent's place in Belvidere because we only have one mailbox in our fourplex. And even though we only have one other neighbor, a young woman kitty corner upstairs who is very religious and can often be heard yelling in tongues (she told us her church believes in ALL the gifts of the spirit. Duh, like you had to tell us), we still get most of our mail sent to Belvidere. Its been our address since we moved away from Antigo. In fact, having that address allowed me to write off most of my living expenses when we lived in Arizona last year. Can't believe it has been almost a year since that incredible experience. A year ago now we were living in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. I boiled water and added it to one of those port-a-showers, which I hung from a tree, already spray painted and ready for logging. I remember the ranger came by and said they cut the forest to prevent rampant fires. See how well this worked as the forest we lived in was part of the largest forest fire in Arizona history. Where is the logic of your words now, bureaucrat in puke green truck?

I received fabric materials to make a tarp and sleeping quilt. Very lightweight material: 1.1 ounce silicone impregnated nylon, permethrin filling, another nylon fabric, all of it ripstop, durable little squares. Going lightweight. After last year's AT debacle when we hiked some 70-something miles and, upon return to Arizona I had to see a chiropractor to fix my ailing back. And now my lower back hurting for a different reason. Shelf butt and courthouse wooden bench seating. God, I'm only 29. What will my back be like at 50? But at least I know the solution. I must work the back, put it through its paces. Tighten the muscles. Keep the vertebrae in line. They are too loose from so many daily crackings.

I used to suffer from insomnia until I took to heart something I read. I must go to bed at around the same time each night, which I will be doing soon. But what also works for me is the RITUAL of bedtime. I always do the same things, brush my teeth and then crack my back, set the alarm clock, take off the glasses (one modification: I will often read) and lay on my back. Cuddle with Esther and then eventually turn away to my side. I still have sleepless nights, but they are few and far between, and are often caused by caffeine or too much worry. Sometimes I need time to think rather than sleep, although my late night thoughts are worthless repetitions of pop song lyrics or images or work-related worries circling ever circling down the toilet drain. That's another thing I love about hiking, besides the freedom of nature and joy of exercise. No insomnia. Speaking of, it's almost 11 p.m. Time for beddy-bye.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

I'm listening to the Woodstock 99 soundtrack I checked out from the library, remembering that famous photo of a barechested youth silhouetted by a bonfire. The public was appalled by such a display of riotous energy, stark contrast to the peace and love of 30 years earlier. But listening to this Korn, Rage Against the Machine, Limp Bizkit, et al. I feel that angry white boy energy. I'm glad they burned those price-gouging vendors to the ground. Sometimes you gotta riot or you really go crazy.

But who am I to talk sitting in the relative comfort of apartment, drinking a wimpy-assed Young's Double Chocolate Stout? Well, it ain't that wimpy, being a stout and all, but the double chocolate decries a feminine sensibility. Who cares? I like it. Feeling a good, mellow buzz. I've been good about keeping vice in check. Been eating well and haven't gotten drunk in ages. Not that I have ever had a problem with alcohol. It's more about calorie reduction than anything. Consider me a moderate drinker. A couple beers here and there throughout the week, every once in a while a Friday night blowout, followed by head-spinning Saturday hangover. And even wise old man me is getting better about avoiding hangover, drinking lots and lots of water before going to bed, even if that means getting up in early morn to piss it all away. I visualize a round perfect cell with egg yolky core all shriveled up. And remember how drunk I envision the inside of a urinal to have horns (you know, those raised channel runners, every drunk guy's bad trip). Take some tylenol.

And therein in lies another thing. I used to depend on 25mg of benadryl to get me to bed. Haven't taken one since April. No pill-popping at all. And that was my only pill. I think about all the dependent people of the world. My own addictions. To smoking, now almost four years gone and $4 a pack later. I know addiction. Love, and crave for meat. At one time sweet things. My oral fixation chewed up end of pens. Wasn't breast fed see where it got me? I don't believe in all that psychobabble bullshit. Guess the reason I am not addicted is I like to be in control. So I'm really just a neurotic control freak. See where it gets you? We're all compulsive obsessive anally fixated cosmically out of tune Woody Allen head cases. Strange factoid #233: I share Allen's birthday, Dec. 1. Stranger factoid: I've never seen an analyst. Even stranger: during a particular stressful time in college, burned out on weed in fateful depressing 1997, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. Later, in early 1998, I had heart surgery for having too many electrical signals in my heart. A congenital condition (Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome) specific to my personality. But I've since found nature, have found a calm center, a place I can return to. The trail and the love and rhythm of that non-human-o-centric existence has saved me, at least in doses, from the fast track existence that clouds the American majority from truth and beauty and lasting peace. Yeah, sure, I can say I'm separate from the rat race. And I am when in that perfect center awareness. But that feeling is fleeting and the majority of the time the Megadeth Godsmack fast guitar drums noise noise cacophany move move groove fast like modern tv commercials all zip and flash our lives are modeled on the capitalistic experience consume consume BOOM!

Today was spent in court covering my first and, as it probably turns out, only murder trial. State of Wisconsin v. Tywon Barber. The charge: party to the crime of first degree homicide. Five caps to the body, including three to the head. Listened to opening statements and witness reports from dead guy drug dealer Michael Sims' girlfriend and girl who lived in house, forensic pathologic a C. Everett Koop lookalike with hirsute Amish beard and ego-eccentric ways a joy to watch. You could tell Irving Huntington (even his very name is pretentious) was an old hat at trials. But he spoke eloquently and with a wry sense of humor, better than the nervous incomprehensibilty of women witnesses and stoic brevity of the cop. Fun to be in court all day, out of the office. Plus, it's a high-profile murder case, the only one in Beloit in 2001. Front page stuff. Lurid details, blood spattered on the ceiling kind of stuff.

But court proceedings are full of boring processes. I fill the time reading Tolkien's the Two Towers, ghoulish World Trade Center connotations. But fantasy and reality blur in the theater drama of the courtroom. My neck and back are sore from sitting on hard wooden bench all day. Twelve members of the jury get the comfortable chairs.

Monday, August 05, 2002

Sting is such a sell out. All AOR and none of the genius of his Police days or early solo work. No faulting him for doing the TV commercials, but to have such a bland sound on Brand New Day. Wife likes it, all mellow and sultry. Sting hits to the femme eros. But I long for British reggae We are spirits in the material world or even 1987 Englishman in New York. Pretentious too that Nothing Like the Sun, but good LP.

Another displaced unheard wilderness cacophany. Poetry reading saw an awkward fool from early college Rock Valley Forge newspaper days John Hardt, cousin to best man bald man in my wedding, Steve "puffy cheeks" Hardt. He's living at home again after wife left him, along with his brother and sister. Kind of like my bud Todd Stanley who lives at home with all his siblings. Wish I too could have so close a family. Siblings near so much to take for granted. That's the long-running joke with Paris Ken considering jobs in Chicago. Every time I see sis Carol and Ken and Bob it is family gathering all crazy and super social and no one on one and sharing. But you take what you can. I don't know that I'd get along with them, anyways. Brief family gathering type visits don't test patience.

Rare sugary treat given me by Amy Stanley at work. She bought M and M's and didn't want to finish bag. Handed em to me when I was on phone. Now my teeth feel all sugary. Add a coke to that and plaque buildup on back teeth and behind front ones. Caffeine afternoon anxiety as I wrote about West Nile Virus crazy acting crows in Beloit. Deaths in deep south. Southern wisconsin no humans contracted the disease. Nobody gets out anymore. Too urban. No faith in permethrin and DEET and the almighty bliss of the great outdoors. This air-conditioned detachment from natural world, but nature reminds you of your central role in it. West Nile Virus, Chronic Wasting Disease, drought, fire, deformed frogs, sea lampreys in Lake Michigan, Garlic Mustard, chicory on the roadside. Pesticides roundup ready. Shiny fruit, plastic aisles, green shoots through the sidewalk cracks. Old timbers stately home rot and are reclaimed. Nature the perfect cleaner, perfect mistress. Annie Dillard the eating and the eaten. Horrible hollowed out frog skin body.

And at the poetry reading tonight this big black cornrowed flabby armed dramatis nubian femme waxed proper bout da hood and crack and dime bags and love and the angst and ennui and emotionalism of the Rockford black experience. And then there was the old lady who creaked up to microphone and rambled on about her dead son, youngest son, bipolar manic depressive like her who killed himself 10 years ago. And she writing about him on his death day. Admits schizophrenia in herself. Talks about angels, wild eyed and frail, as if they were there. And the usual old person complaint and wish for release from the pain to heavenly permanency. Me, I'm young, and can afford a bit of existentialism, the void a concept and not a gaping maw at my feet. I was so caffeine tense when I arrived at wood-paneled auditorium, and, fooey, I still feel a little bit of that fake energy, but something about the reading and the environment mellowed me.

Two young guys, anger and energy a la Zach de la Rocha and beastie boys and Neal Cassady flip rap rip down on the system up on the rhythm their anger and rhythm the cause, the only true cause and here I am pushing 30 establishment me still connect to that bull force, spittle spray rap scrap routine. And of course there was the odd mother, the burned out hippie, rapping all rhyming and sweet, talking about their children or the struggles of the life. Host a spaniard who loves sports and made boxing and football metaphors for work and drinking tequila. Another old lady mentioned a local Logli supermarket in two separate poems. I much preferred the crazy schizo angel talking smell of death lady.

Sunday, August 04, 2002

Sunday night in the world. Beautiful Sunday morning. All peace and quiet and cloudy muffled. Finished a book, "The Journey to Ixtlan" by Carlos Castaneda. A trail buddy who worshipped psychedelic mushrooms and yurts, Yurtman, was really into Castaneda. The guy wrote three books about his experience with a Mexican mystic, don Juan. Lots of new-agey incomprehensibility, but some advice good. Like talking to plants. Like there being power places on earth. Like the power of the earth being strongest at first light and sunset. Curling your fingers as you walk gives you more stamina. Stuff like that. But a lot of it, like learning the art of "not doing" and "stopping the world" were beyond my grasp. Maybe I need further enlightenment.

After the book I returned it to its owner, John Panek, an old tennis buddy from college who recently moved to Rockford. He's like my newest closest friend. He's married and his wife, Julie, is very cool. They are both a nice couple. Esther and I need more "couple" friends. Most couples our age have children, and the ones that don't aren't living around here. Panek and I played tennis for the first time together since he moved here. I have been lax about playing tennis this summer, and I have no excuse. I have a list of numbers of guys who love to play, and I haven't called them. I can still do that, but it is hard to find the time. No excuses. I could make the time. I want to seriously diminish the gut before my 30th birthday. Got to lay off those stout beers, junk food and desk jockey ways. Bad habits all. Cannot neglect this prime of life. Must develop healthier habits.

So John and I played tennis, and old beer-gutted me whomped on Panek, 6-0, 6-2, in front of his wife. I had some good strokes. We both had some good volleys. But there were too many unforced errors, dink second serves. But as usual I remained cool and detached and analyzed my game and slowly got my stroke back. John grew more and more frustrated and threw his racket a few times. I think John was trying too hard to impress her. He kept swinging for the fences and way more often than not he was out. The few wicked strokes he got in were nearly unhittable. But there was no control. Maybe he's coming around to his game different than me. Some guys like to whallop and whallop, and control will come with touch and repetition. I'm more about process and technique, and only going for the sure shots. Does tennis reflect one's life values? Is John more of a foolhardy risk-taker than I? I admit I like to take risks, but, in tennis and in life, they are always well calculated ones. We played at the Auburn High School tennis courts. John and I both talked about substitute teaching there. Beforehand, I drove around downtown Rockford, 7th St., and then near Kent Creek, showing John some of the seedier side and talking a little history. What little I know. I was going to go by Fairgrounds Park, where baseball was played in the 1860s and Albert Spaulding played, but we didn't get around to it.

I showed John and Julie where we lived and it turns out John had been in my apartment before. An old friend of his used to live in our place years ago. Strange small world. I have this childhood belief in ghosts, but don't think they are conscientous disconnected spirits, but the residual life energy of those people and things which dwelled there before you. And now I am trying to pick up on the ghost energy of John's friend, but nothing is coming in on the radar. Only very rarely do I get the sense of things past. Each time I have it has been a magical, transcendent experience. Okay, now I'm speaking like Castaneda. But at least I'm not talking Borley Rectory. Or the evil faces that appeared in the tile of a Peruvian kitchen that haunted me for weeks. Or the Amityville Horror or Helter Skelter or any of the other whacked out literature from way back in the day that I once bought into.

The Cubs won, 4-1. I caught the last three innings. Covered a Grand Prix event in downtown Beloit. Go-Karts. Hay bales and tires. Seedy hick element gaudy NASCAR element. The winning team for three years running is the only one to have its own trailer. Beefy fat guy whose skinny son competes professionally. Beefy fat guy I could never imagine in one of these little carts. But he's crew chiefed the winning cart team the last three years running. Guess we all got to be good at something. Better than sitting at home watching TV, potato chip crumbs collecting on the navel. Wrote two stories in dark office air conditioned comfort then was back home.

Steak dinner at parent's. Mike is still unemployed, but used very clever word play when I asked him how his job search was going. He said there has been a dwell in interviews lately. And I reply, don't you mean 'lull?' And he says no, dwell. Typical argument settler in my family, Mike takes well-thumbed dictionary out of kitchen pantry (my mother does a lot of crossword puzzles in the kitchen) and looks up dwell. Of course there's all that verb stuff about living, residing, being in a certain place. But at the end of the definition there is a noun version of the word, from the world of computer programming, in which dwell means a programmed space in planned activities. Basement boy brother used the right word in the wrong context, but was right on with his intended meaning. I'm impressed. There is some wisdom to be found in Mike's odd ways. He is so easily dismissed as something of a crackpot, and, yes, he does not have any sense of self control over his finances and is socially awkward, but he possesses an original mind, and that gets my respect.

Backtrack to Thursday, Aug. 1. We had a special meeting of the Rock County chapter of the Ice Age Trail foundation to select a proposed trail route through Rock County to include on the county's five year parks and outdoor recreation and open space plan (POROSP). For the eastern corridor from Janesville to the Walworth County line we reached a consensus on a trail corridor and I actually made the official proposal to include that corridor on the plan. Secretary Carla Hanson wrote every word I said and it was approved by all in attendance. Sure, it was a procedural move, and I only put it into words, but it is the first official act I have ever made after reporting on countless official acts of others. Sadly, there were no newspaper reporters in attendance.