Monday, September 30, 2002

A little tornado in my beer. And I just get rolling. It's my second beer of the night. I've been a good boy, a clean life of sobriety and reason. Not that I ever really cut loose. Even three sheets to the wind I retain that sense of being. Cannot escape the mortal coil of me. Don't really want to. It's all about control.

But there is a little tornado in my beer. A Hacker-Pschorr. Wheat beer. We live in a snobbish age, where the best beers from around the world are reproduced here in America and available at the corner grocery. And this Hacker-Pschorr is my favorite of the wheat beers. I'm not a fan of lagers. Don't like beers you can see through. Want my beers to have a little body. More flavor that way. Give me a Guinness any day. Having said that, I'm not a snob. I'll throw back an Old Style or Butt-wiser or any other swill with the boys. But I prefer...

Almost done with my journal entries from the Superior Hiking Trail. Should finish them tomorrow. But have not done what I promised myself on the trail by putting in good chunks of time writing. Can't say I haven't had the time. Today I got depressed from too much time alone. Especially after a weekend of activity. Still got some things done. Went to the library and over to Rockford Mattress Company to get new bed frame piece. Funny experience at Rockford Mattress. Explained we only had the frame for a few months and it seems that a rivet to hold part of it in place was missing. I said I looked all over for the popped rivet, but could never find it. Main sales guy says the installers check all that when they put the mattress in. I say I'm only telling you what I saw and stand there silent with defective piece. Main sales guy looks at me tells me I'll have to drill out piece and put a bolt in. I ask, is there anything you can do? Bottom line, he replaces whole piece, no questions asked. Thank you very much. We went with Rockford Mattress because they are local and it is what our first bed was. Traditional. Brand loyal. I joked with the guy, said I felt real self conscious because the frame collapsed on my side of bed. And since then I've joined a gym.

This weekend was all about the Ice Age Trail -- again. Got two more nights sleeping outdoors at a YMCA camp near New Auburn, WI. On Saturday went to Interstate State Park (the first state park in Wisconsin) and saw many uniformed dignitaries as the western terminus of the Ice Age Trail was dedicated. Met Gaylord Nelson, former Wisconsin governor (1958-62) and senator (1963-81), and founder of Earth Day. There was also a spokesperson for Gov. Scott McCallum, Mary Willett, who I got into an argument with on the phone when the Beloit Daily News was not informed of a McCallum appearance at the Janesville GM plant. Always strange to match faces with voices. She's a fakey, political kiss ass courtesan type. Political hair, Tipper Gore hair. Perfect appearance. No conscious. Power suit. I quickly dismissed her and instead paid attention to a girl scout sitting on the floor in front of me (ceremony dedicating terminus and Gaylord Nelson originally started outside, but was moved inside to the state park's visitor center when it started to rain) wearing a fake bob of blond barbie hair on top of her head. Obvious and plastic, just like McCallum's hench-wench.

On the hour and a half ride over to Interstate State Park, Adam Cahow, a geologist with UW-Madison gave a tour of features along the way, and I learned about a geologic feature unique to the Chippewa Moraine region: the ice-walled lakes. As these lakes formed, they became collecting grounds for debris, so that when the ice melted they formed plateaus. The Chippewa Moraine visitor's center is on such a plateau. Ah, the power of water pervades everything. Truly the source of life and landscape formations.

And as the rain fell on us all, a ranger at the Interstate State Park told how the outpouring of glacial lake Duluth carved the channel of the present-day St. Croix River out of the hard basalt rock, volcanic rock millions of billions years old. Can't help but feel small and insignificant against the shaping and abiding forces of geology. Kind of makes hunger and financial concerns pale to insignificance. I saw potholes, deep wells in the basalt, carved by swirls of water and debris. Ranger lady held up a round stone a little larger than a golf ball and said the same silt which formed the potholes rounded the stone, which also played a role in grinding out a pothole. She said on the Minnesota side of the river they emptied out the potholes and found the detritus of tourist nation: cameras, wallets, umbrellas, etc. And two weeks ago, on the Wisconsin side, some old lady fell in the pothole. She survived. No matter. She'll be dust and bones and the pothole, the raised cliff edge formerly bottom of a river, will remain. Water water everywhere. Wash away this folly of humanity. Two inches of topsoil, that's what our society, 6 billion self important top of the food chain humans, amounts to against the grinding, eating forces of nature.

So good to be with our Ice Age Trail friends. Like-minded people, trail-minded people, are hard to find in our neck of the woods. And this lifestyle I've chosen, this trail life, away from the Appalachian Trail, is so distinct and separate from the mainstream as to be considered weird. But it's the only life I know. Something I fell into, or stepped into, to keep the analogy more closely aligned with the activity, and am I to blame if no one else gets it? So thankful, blessedly thankful, that trail life is something that keeps me connected to good wife. Something we share. Mutual interests. The desolation of those wild places makes us cling close.

We stopped in Wisconsin Dells on the way up and way down for bland roadside food. I swear interstate travellers want the comfort of not feeling as if they went anywhere. All the chain restaurants serving the same user friendly food. We ate at Paul Bunyan's All You Can Eat on Friday the way up there. The typical motif crap hanging from the walls. One was a set of horseshoes and I swear a little sign next to it says "horseshoes." We stopped again on the way back and ate at a Famous Dave's. Good ribs, same bland blues music and aw shucks industrial chain restaurant authentic roadhouse feel. I imagine some suited committee decided the look of the place. Had the aura of corporate-ness, as does all of Wisconsin Dells. All the worst of tourism America, from the Yogi Bear campground to the "extreme" mini-golf course to the cheeseball theme restaurants to the Jesse James Museum and Ripley's Believe it or Not. Like the Gatlinburg, Tenn., I never saw, I told good wife Esther.

Sunday we took a chainsaw safety course, taught by man's man Lee Schuman, a middle-aged barrel-chested silver back alpha male. He showed gruesome photos starting with cut fingers, exposed tendons and purple fingernails, to stumps of arms to the coup de gras, a man with his head cut halfway off. Bob, a fellow Mobile Skills Crew member, got very pale faced and broke out in a cold sweat, looked away when the photos were shown. I looked on in morbid curiousity, almost wanted to study them further... just before lunch.

After lunch we go out and chop down some trees. I realize I've never seen a large trees chopped down. Heard many a chainsaw in my walks in the woods, but never heard the ol TIMBER and watched a tree fall. Well, not only did I crack the cherry of that experience, I was one of two class participants to actually fell a tree!! The chainsaw a loud, whirring churn tears through trunk like butter. Then the blocks pound into cuts to direct the fall. Then all dust and cracking and thud. I'm a convert. From tree hugger to tree feller. Well... it was a dead tree, after all. I might have different feelings about a live, leafed one.

Poor Esther, enemy of all loud, dangerous things, was one of the few class participants to not handle the chainsaw. She'll get a chance yet.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

More than a month gone by and here I am, ten pounds lighter and bearded. I have not showered in two days, despite a heavy workout this morning. Got the krusties. My socks are brown and loose, like a favorite pair of blue jeans. I had my first workout at the YMCA today. God, those fitness freaks are such narcissisists. "But staring in the mirror when I lift just helps my form!" Bull. Vanity smurf. And I'm a wimp. They got these machines where all you gotta do is sit on it and punch in the weight on a keypad. All lights and beeping noises/ The machines are in a circuit, the idiot's guide to total body workout. I only made it halfway through before all twitchy arm and legged giving up. I could just see old no-neck in the corner looking at me in the reflection in the mirror. Nah! He's focused on his reps, his form.

Beautiful day. Noticed how the squirrels round here in Rockford, IL, the Forest City, are mutant size large. Never seen bigger squirrels anywhere else. They import our squirrels to other places to bully the rest into submission. Ours is the red squirrel. Saw a pair of dark brown, almost black, squirrels (still mutant size) near the Rock River on my bike ride this afternoon.

Hung out with Shawn Robinson tonight, my old friend and roommate from college. I played a keyboard loaned to me from another college friend, Ron Heinscher, plugged into Shawn's guitar amp. Shawn has another amp he never uses, and I hoped to borrow it for the keyboard, but it doesn't work. Explains why Shawn never uses it. We had a very mellow get-together. I fell asleep, slumped sitting up in a chair, watching the original 1931 "Dracula" with a musical score by Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet. It was a promotional copy, so every few minutes "property of Universal" text would scroll across the screen, along with an 800 number to call if you've rented or purchased this film. I don't know if I like the movie with a soundtrack. I still fell asleep. No bite marks on my neck upon awakening, although Shawn hovered over me with a glass of grape juice. Mwu-ha-ha-ha.

"I don't drink... blood."

"You have certainly obtained a lot of knowledge for one who has lived but one lifetime, Dr. Van Helsing." Good old heroin addict Lugosi.

Had a mortality moment as Shawn and I noticed how beautiful Helen Chandler (Mina) and Frances Dade (Lucy) looked. Then Shawn, typically blunt, but correct Shawn, said, "They're all dead." Either that or they're old, really, really, undead old. Ah, this frail body, this temporary vessel, but made of eternal substance which lives on after consciousness ceases.

It's actually early morning Thursday. My how the week flies by, even when unemployed. I kept busy today burning compact discs, reading Chuck Palahniuk's (author of Fight Club) book, Choke, and entering journal entries from my recent trip on the Superior Hiking Trail. Just realized how freakin tired I am. Off to beddy bye. Lovely wife is already asleep. She spent the evening with friends from work, engaging in a trio of vices: television, drink and gossip.