Thursday, October 30, 2003

I went to Wings alone for the first time ever. Esther decided to stay home for once. Nothing exciting happened in her absence. I ate my wings, marveled that there was no baseball to watch, played my pool, met Rob and his Russian girlfriend Lena. They both smoked 120 length cigarettes, which reminds me of Billy K.'s mom from drum corps day. Speaking of Billy, I found out about an old high school friend, Larry E., who I haven't seen in 10 years. He used to live next door to Billy. Nancy at Wings said Larry is in the National Guard, but other than that doesn't work and still lives in his parent's basement, just like he did eons, nay, lifetimes, okay, 15 years ago, when I was good friends with him. What a trip! I always thought he was a spoiled brat loser. Talk about arrested development.

God, did the depression ever hit me hard this morning. I just felt a blackness come over me. I swear the only thing that keeps me from freaking out sometimes is the gift of blessed detachment, a little place deep inside me where those awful feelings or any other feelings can't touch, a place of calculation and reason, from which, perched and peaceful, I determined that the rest of my miserable self just needed some sunshine and exercise. So I took a bike ride to the library. That did the trick, lifted me from my sunlight-deprived malaise.

I wasn't called in to work today, the first missed day in over two weeks, because I didn't call last night. That's how the system works. You gotta call the sub caller.

I applied online for employment at UPS. Gotta work two jobs now so I don't have to work any for five months or more next year.

I was going to mow widow Mary's lawn, along with some other lawn stuff, this afternoon, but realized Esther left my gas can at her parent's. So... I either have to go pick it up or go to my parent's and borrow theirs. Now it's getting all cloudy and dark and threatening skies. There's always tomorrow...

This weekend is the last workday of the year for the Rock County chapter of the Ice Age Trail. We are establishing tread on a 700-feet segment of trail near Vincent and Manogue Roads in Milton, WI, which, when completed, will finish the year-long project of blazing the trail through the city.

I called a lady with the Milton newspaper about covering the work day. She was really mean and bitchy to me and accused me of being condescending to her. She said she probably couldn't come out to the event on such short notice. The only thing I said is "I understand, considering the limited resources of a weekly." Now, tell me, is that condescending? I attributed her testy behavior to the weather and daylight savings time, the same elemental forces mucking up my brain chemistry. Screw her if she can't come out. I'll take better pictures and write better copy for free.

Below are some lyrics from one of my favorite discs of all time, which I listened to while writing this entry, Brazil Classics, Vol. 1: Beleza Tropical compiled by David Byrne. I got this at the library about a year ago and have checked it out many times since. Please check out the link for more lyrics or, better yet, download some of the tunes or buy the album. This album opened me up to Brazilian pop music, which I've thoroughly enjoyed since, even though I barely passed the Portoguese courses I took in college.

Excerpted from "Calice" by Chico Buarque (part vocal Milton Nascimento)

Form getting fat the pig no longer walks
From so much use the knife no longer cuts
How hard it is, father, to open the door
This word sticks in the throat
This homeric drunk across the earth
What use is it to have good will
Even if the chest is silent, the brains remain
In the drunks in the center of the city

Maybe the world isn’t small
And life isn’t a consummated fact
I want to invent my own sin
I want to die from my own poison
I want to once and for all lose your head
And my head lose your common sense
I want to sniff the fumes of diesel oil
Get drunk until someone forgets me

Can modern American pop music even hold a candle, lyrically, to this?!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Esther went out to get coffee this morning and stopped at the North End coffee house for the first time. She ordered a couple espressos, something different for a change, and was surprised by the demitasse portions. Pre-caffeinated, she’d forgotten how small an espresso is.

She went to Road Ranger gas station and got a couple cappuccinos as well (she’d have gotten the caps at the coffee house, but didn’t have enough money, and had a free one coming at Road Ranger). I drank most of my espresso and all 20 ounces of my cappuccino, and even though it’s noon I can still feel the rush. "I am cornholio! I need teepee for my bunghole!" It would probably be better for me if I gave up caffeine – better for my mood, hydration, sleep cycle – but I’m caught in this evil cycle of addiction where each morning I wake up craving caffeine’s invigorating elixur.

Todd S. arrived around 5 p.m. Friday. We couldn’t play tennis, as planned, because it was raining, and instead of played music. Todd brought his bongos and our impromptu band, “Tallheaded Woody,” pumped out a few fresh jams, including a Jesus Christ Superstar-inspired paean to trees. After dinner Esther joined in the jam and kept really good time with a bean shaker. Shawn R. also came over, but didn’t join the jam. He messed around on the computer instead.

“Without fail you always ask to get on the Internet when you come over,” I said. He replied, “Without fail you always raid my fridge when you come over." Touche. He got me.

Saturday was sunny and cool. Todd and I went to the Guilford High School tennis center, the crème de la crème (with the cash bar in it) of Rockford tennis. I warmed up extensively because of the cold, stretching, jogging, situps and pushups while Todd used a beach towel to soak up small puddles.

We both played tentative, error-filled tennis. Christian Life High School had a football game nearby. One of the end zones is just outside the court’s fence. When the announcer started to pray, Todd yelled “God sucks!” Then, during the national anthem Todd sang “O, Canada” at the top of his lungs. When the song finished a spectator screamed back, “God Bless America!” Todd, always one to get the last word in, yelled “God bless Canada.”

I won the match, 6-7, 6-4, 7-5.

Mark L. and his wife, Beth, arrived at our apartment at 3 p.m., and we drove in their car to my parent’s house to watch the NIU-Ball State football game. Mom cooked some barbecue and I got the grill going for some slow-cooked baby back ribs. I overindulged on ribs, chips, macaroni salad, cake and beer. NIU lost its first game of the year, 34-18. It wasn’t much of a game after Ball State went up 14-0 in the first three minutes.

The party then moved to Shawn’s apartment for Game Six of the World Series. Carissa and Andy J. joined the festivities around 9 p.m. Andy arrived drunk and continued to whoop it up when he got there. We went for a beer run and when we came back he dumped a case of Miller Lite in the middle of the floor. He randomly blurted “F--- You, man” or “God Bless America” throughout the evening, but everyone was cool with him, a testament to the inherent weirdness and accepting mindset of these friends. Esther drove us home in Andy’s car. Andy opened a bottle of beer in the car. Boy, did Esther get pissed about that! I encouraged Andy to come in, sober up and sleep off his drunk a bit before going home. We got him a blanket, pillow and air mattress, but he stayed all of 20 minutes before staggering off into the night. I didn’t see his name in the paper Monday. Dude’s setting himself up for a DUI or worse.

“An ounce of convention is worth a pound of primaries – Arnold H. Glasgow” The King Features cryptoquote in today’s Rockford Register Star.

Yesterday I was depressed. It was cloudy, cold and the kids in my afternoon classes at Auburn were lil’ bastards. The day started out well enough, but as the morning went on I felt heavy and dense and filled with a non-definable malaise. I know why I feel this way. The baseball season is over. Daylight savings time is in effect, and it gets dark before 5 p.m. I was also psychically hungover from the wild weekend of active socializing. Just because I know the feeling doesn’t make it go away… Well, it kind of does…

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Ahhh... the joys of sluggo-headedness. Esther and I had a cheap tab at the bar last night, but I had a slight hangover this morning only because I cadged two beers off pool players who left without drinking their beers. Everybody gets the $1 drafts and everybody's glass looks like the same golden piss, so nobody knows whose beer is whose.

I've been getting so cheap lately I cook wings at home to save $3.50 or whatever they charge. It's 25-cent wings, but they charge $1 extra for ranch and another 50 cents more for celery. Yup, capitalists. It's a nickel and dime world. Watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.

We were the last ones of the Woodie crowd to leave last night because we are the only ones who are baseball fans. Around 10 p.m. I stood in bar near exit as gay Yanks' Ruben Sierra worked the count from 3-0 to 3-2 before pounding a mealy fastball off Marlins' closer Ugueth "string beard" Urbina to the right corner, scoring two runs to tie the game. Three innings and more than an hour later the Marlins atoned with an Alex Gonzalez walk-off screaming mee mee homer over the 330 sign in left. I followed the game in fits and starts throughout the night and watched what could have been Roger Clemens' last inning of his Hall of Fame career.

Rob, a good pool player who trounced both Jason and I, watched the rest of the game with Esther and I, and then asked us for a ride over to the Sports Page, less than four blocks away from LT's. I laughed and called him a lazy ass when he got out. He said Esther and I are lucky to have each other and that we seem like good people, and then he walked off into the video game poker silent TV screen blipping lonely night.

The last two days I've taught at West Middle School for Mike T., who also happens to be the grandfather of my godchildren, formerly Steve H.'s father-in-law. Science room among the tanks with African frogs, Malayan turtles, salamanders in a bucket, goldfish hidden one algaed tank, rare tropical fish in other murky green tank. Oh, yeah, and two snakes... A regular menagerie. And that's just the living. Of course in one closed glass cabinet stood the pig and deer fetuses, frogs and insects forever preserved and peaceful in liquid stasis. Plastic models of cell structures, stuffed squirrels and some well past its prime bald stuffed duck.

The students are "gifted" eighth graders, well behaved future leaders of America, corporate scions, well-heeled and socially conscious. They don't cause this sub too much trouble, giving me time to daydream, finish reading "Lonesome Traveler" by Kerouac, reminding me of my mountain wanderings and Paris street scenes, work on a short story and play hearts and freecell.

It's a cool, sunny day and the leaves are past their glory. The ones left are the hardy oak leaves that can often be seen still clinging to parent tree throughout dark winter only to fall off reluctantly with the first shoots of spring.

Back to work. The living and dead creatures await.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

I apologized to the first tree before I marred it with the bark peeler.

“I’m sorry, tree.” I said. “This wound will protect you from the sawyer’s ax. May you live long and mark the path for hikers.”

The peeler’s got handles on either side with a grooved blade between. Field Coordinator Tim M. partly nailed in a plastic yellow blaze. Before I removed the blaze I used my hand saw to cut through the bark and set the parameters for the peeler. I then removed the blaze. Esther painted a yellow blaze after I peeled the bark down to moist white meat.

Most of the time the Ice Age Trail is marked with a plastic blaze, nailed in with at least an inch space between the blaze and tree (room for growth), but the DNR manager here in Lincoln County wanted blazes painted, I guess to maintain uniformity with the rest of the section. Direction changes were made with plastic blazes.

After the morning’s work the remaining crew sat around the tool shed near the trail and ate lunch. We looked at a photo album of other work weekends this year, reminiscing on all that’s been accomplished. I felt a little sad because this is the last Mobile Skills Crew weekend Esther and I will attend for probably the next year. Who knows where we’ll be next October? No doubt our journeys will return us to Wisconsin.

It was nice to talk to Luke K. about his thru-hike of the Ice Age Trail this summer. He’s really lost weight, going from a pink-cheeked cherub to a bearded mountain man. We also picked Sharon D.’s brain for stories and information about her Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike this past summer. She’s the only person I know who has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Ice Age Trail, Long Trail and PCT. And she’s so unassuming about it. She’s also the brainchild behind the Ice Age Trail companion guide.

I had a dream this morning about blueberries – I was in a supermarket and a lady with an apron on stood next to a table displaying a wide variety of blueberries. Some were small purple beads, others bright blue and as large as a plum, but with the tell-tale crown of the blueberry.

One of the bigger ones was cut up into smaller portions in a glass dish with salt water. I knew it was brine because some of the salt lay undiluted on the bottom of the dish. When I tried this saltwater humongous blueberry piece it tasted sweet and salty, like taffy, and the salt seemed to eliminate the blueberry’s tartness.

I woke up, booted up and walked over to the cooking area, where I enjoyed, you guessed it, blueberry pancakes…

Saturday, October 18, 2003

So there I was standing in the middle of a gravel road out in the middle of Wisconsin nowhere with a bottle of beer in one hand and animal crackers in the other. Must be another Mobile Skills Crew weekend.

Saturday I teamed with fellow skillers Drew H. and Mike W., along with newbie and local Lincoln County resident Greg Something-something to clear brush around trail markers in the New Wood segment of the Ice Age Trail. It made for a fairly unremarkable day of trail work. We cut tree limbs around yellow blazes and carted off the fresh pine pitch smelling limbs deeper into the forest (at least 15 feet, crew leader Drew said). The day was warm and sunny and there was no cover because all the leaves were gone. Greg S. said a wind storm blew through about a week ago. Figures I’d forget my cap on such a day.

But the biting lady bug/Japanese beetles were out in full force, and even a few confused mosquitoes and gnats. We stopped for lunch in the shade of a beautiful hemlock. Most of this section of trail follows old logging roads and changes direction at once-clearcut intersections. Posts with arrows need to be put up to direct the wandering hiker on the proper path. New Wood lives up to its name. Except for a few majestic white pines and hemlocks, the only other evidence of the once-great forest are huge moss-covered stumps.

Greg S. objected to cutting down saplings that blocked the view. He said it would only widen the trail. I felt the same way once, thinking this destruction we do for the trail is counterintuitive to my environmental preserving predilections.

We finished about 3:30 p.m. and were sent on a beer run into Merrill. Shortly after we got back, the rest of the crew arrived. We all stood by the road with beers in our dirty hands, talking trail and watching the golden evening sun creep up the birches.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Man, I’m tired, tarred and feathered, one of my witticisms, a nod to the duke and dauphin of Huck Finn fame. Stayed up late last night watching those Damn Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox, 6-5, in 11 innings in Game Seven of the American League Championship Series. This sets up the least desirable World Series matchup between the Yankees and Florida Marlins. Yawn… I’ll watch the darn thing, but who really cares? I’m just stupid diehard fan of good baseball.

Once again Bosox manager Grady Little committed a sin of omission and left tired starter Pedro Martinez in the game a little too long, allowing the Yankees to post a seventh inning rally and tie the game 5-5. Aron Boone smacked the game winning homer in the bottom of the 11th off Boston knuckleball hurler Tim Wakefield, brought in for late relief because he won two games as a starter in the series.

Now Esther and I are off to the wilds of Lincoln County Wisconsin for a weekend of trail work with the Mobile Skills Crew. Just by looking at the trail notes, it doesn’t seem like too technical of work – no retaining walls, bog bridges or major constructs. Just clear some brush, establish better tread, a couple major re-routes. I’ve been going through some major jonesin’ for trail, prolly cuz the weather’s been so nice and fall colors so beautiful, and I’ve been cooped up in the bright lights big city a bit too long.

I got work today at West Middle School, which went well because I played the Mary Poppins angle, kind but firm with stern voice and ready smile. I taught one of my godchildren, Laurine, who I haven’t seen in a long time. Her “father” Steve is a childhood friend, the best man in my wedding. Steve’s not Laurine’s biological father, whose never had anything to do with her, but he’s supported and taken care of her since she was a few weeks old. I remember when she was the tiniest infant. Today I taught her how to compute perimeters and area in her 6th grade math class.

Steve and his ex-wife Michelle went through a very acrimonious divorce, and Steve has to sneak around to spend time with Laurine because he has no legal rights to see her. Michelle’s father is a science teacher at West, and condones Steve seeing Laurine. Seems he agrees with Steve that Michelle’s kooky. My impression of her is flighty, prone to rash, unpredictable behavior. She was always bitchin’ at Steve. I always left their house thankful for the wonderful even-tempered-ness of Esther.

After school Steve was in the hallway waiting for Laurine, and after they visited, all too briefly, before she jumped on the bus, we talked with gramps and then went out to a local diner for lunch and talk. Steve likes his truck-driving job, but wants to quit it to get a local run. He misses his kids and worries about their welfare with Michelle and her new boyfriend Nick. Steve told me about the truck driving life, checking in at weigh stations, messing around with other truckers on the radio, women flashing him as they passed, others caught in the act giving fellatio to drivers, one woman pleasuring herself with a vibrator, both feet on the dash, both hands on the wheel. “Guess she’s got cruise control,” Steve said.

Steve said he likes driving because long hours on the road gives him time to think, or not think. I said trucking is a lot like hiking. He said his favorite state so far is Oregon, the forests and mountains green and lush and out of this world. He told me about the 49-mile downhill off Donner Pass. I told him the Pacific Crest Trail goes past there. He said some of the women in the small, desert towns of the southwest were beautiful beyond belief. So weird for me to see Steve talking it up about other women. He was married so long and never talked like this. Not that he’s become a pervert, but sex never came into our discussions.

I woke up this morning about 7: 15 a.m. and called West to find out what time school started. When they said 7:30 I had to throw clothes on and cruise out da doh. Less than half an hour after entering consciousness I faced a classful of students, strangers, with a given coterie of rebellious punks wanting to test the subs’ limits. Thankfully the teacher had the lesson plans ready and they were easy to follow. And I stayed in the same classroom. The last few times I’ve worked I’ve been a “floating” sub, which means a heavy pocketful of keys and much confusion wandering the halls all day.

Well, I’m hitting the showers and gotta get packing. Have a great weekend whoever you are wherever you be…

Thursday, October 16, 2003

The Cubs broke my heart in Game Six, so I had no more negative emotion left when they lost the NLCS to the Marlins last night. The hopes of Cubdom rested on the arm of Kerry Wood, who, like he did so often this season and in his last post-season start, proved to be fallible. Too many hittable pitches on 0-2 counts.

I played pool at LT's during the debacle and managed to win my last three games in a row, finding my vision on the table, inspired somewhat by frustration over the Cubs' fortunes.

Gotta hand it to the Marlins. They are a young, scrappy team with a lot of heart. And manager Jack McKeon did a hell of a lot better than Dusty Baker. Baker's gift is creating good clubhouse chemistry by respecting his players. This gift worked against him when he left Wood in too long last night and refused to bring starters like Clement and Zambrano out of the bullpen. The ill-fated fan-interfered/Alex-Gonzalez-error 8th inning of Game Six was the dagger in the heart. The Curse reared its ugly head once again. Wait 'til next year.

Tonight I'll be rooting on the matchup of the century: Martinez vs. Clemens II. This one oughtta be a real barn-burner. Go Sox!

My arms are sore from working out Tuesday and Wednesday. I also mowed a big lawn yesterday, which is always tough on the arms. Two more lawns today. I'll call all my customers next week and see if they need any last mowing jobs done. Grass is dying. Leaves yellow, red, brown and fall. Tis the season.

This weekend we're going up north to Lincoln County, WI, to work on the Ice Age Trail. It is the last weekend of the year for the Mobile Skills Crew, and the last work weekend Esther and I will participate in for a long time. Next year we'll be hiking in lieu of building trail. I've spent a lot of time at lately living the vicarious life. There is a life to be lived here, now, but the future beckons.

I haven't bought groceries in almost three weeks, and we're slowly running out of food. There's a lot of canned goods and pantry items, like certain canned soups, canned fruits, pop tarts, hiker meals, etc., rejected fare that I will never buy again, that needs to be eaten. It's a fun challenge to make do with such limited stores. I put together an awesome potato soup the other day, using the last of the carrots and celery, cans of mushroom and cream of chicken soup, sour cream, cream cheese, spices... Yum. It turned out delish. I also made a veggie chili. Last night I cooked the last of the chicken wings and a couple boneless, skinless chicken breasts. We're drinking powdered milk.

I've figured out how to eat well, which is good, considering my age. I know I have the physical disposition to get a fat ass and big gut, what I call the "Smith curse" because a lot of the relatives on my Mom's side of the family are similarly proportioned. The key to good eating is not contained in fads like the South Beach or Atkins diets. It's really quite simple. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, white meat, fish, red meat sparingly, olive oil, drink lots of water. Processed food bad, organic good. Except for Wednesdays, when I drink four or five $1 drafts of Miller Lite, I don't have more than three drinks at any one time.

Since the beginning of summer I've been living pretty healthy. There's always room for improvement, but I also recognize I'm a helluva lot better than I used to be.

Which reminds me, 10 days from now it will be five years since I quit smoking. Interesting that I quit smoking less than two months after my first backpacking trip...

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

It's a cool, crisp fall morning. Colors are changing big time, a last fireworks foliage burst. Condensation runs down my windows. The sun'll burn it dry. Had a Christmas flashback as the condensation reveals the circular pattern created by the suction cup that held up our flashy lights. The snow and holidaze are coming.

I'se listenin' to tracks from the latest Radiohead album, Hail to the Thief. I've managed to download 10 of the 14 tracks off Kazaa. I do the Kazaa thing at night, when I go to bed, adding to my collection as I sleep. I'm totally selfish and don't share any of my files. This allows me to download more music with my puny 56k modem. I've been trying to do stuff with my web site, but find it very difficult to use the web-based editing software because of the slow connection speed. I could go back to the library, but what about uploading pictures and other files that are only on my computer?!!!

The Friggin' Cubs broke my heart last night. Fan interference on a fly ball to Alou and an error by Alex Gonzalez on a double play chance kept the 8th inning alive for the Florida Marlins, who stormed back to score 8 runs and beat Cub ace Mark Prior en route to an 8-3 victory. Game 7 is tonight with Kerry Wood on the mound. I'm hopeful for a Cubs win, but apprehensive... These are the Chicago Cubs... I'm having 1984 flashbacks, the year I went to my first Cubs' game. Last night left me empty, depleted, defeated. I've never been so depressed about the outcome of a ball game. I've invested too much of my heart and soul into this team.

I know next year I will not be able to follow the Cubs that closely because of the Pacific Crest Trail adventure. That's why I've been such a baseball junkie this year, following my beloved Cubs and attending about 20 minor league games. They MUST WIN tonight. The personality of this club is to take things to the wire. They did so in the regular season and in the division series against the Braves. And here we are in game 7 of the NLCS. The dream season and the hopes of all Cubdom rests on the arm of Wood.

Last weekend in Chicago was fun. We got to Ken's apartment in time to see the start of the Cubs-Marlins game and Aramis Ramirez' first-inning grand slam. Then we took a cab to Wrigleyville and enjoyed the rest of the game across from Wrigley Field at Murphy's Bleachers. The place was really crowded, but Ken said it wasn't too bad. The weather was so warm and pleasant we sat outside in an enclosed patio area and watched the game on a large television on top of an ice cooler. The strangers we sat with were fun to talk to. Ken only drank orange juice because of the marathon... Each time the Cubs scored a run the bartenders rang bells. After the game we walked back to the apartment, looking in store windows and yelling at celebrants. A party was going on in a clubhouse area at Wrigley Field and the privileged partiers waved at us as a disco ball flashed out onto the street. The streets were closed in Wrigleyville in a three block radius around the park.

We got up at 5:50 a.m. Sunday and rode with Ken on the 'L' to downtown for the start of the Chicago Marathon. The subway was crowded, like sardines, most people wearing their jogging outfits -- warm-up jerseys, running shoes, and the plastic sling bag of goodies given out by race organizers. But Ken was all low-key about it. He said this is nothing like London on a weekday morning. Ken likes to downplay crowded situations and brag about the situations he's been in, like the 200th anniversary of Bastille Day when he was near the Arche-de-Triomphe and was so crushed in a crowd that he could barely breathe. He mentioned that after the nightclub deaths in Chicago earlier this year.

I wasn't holding onto anything when the subway started and smacked this real mean-looking black guy in the face with my hand. I grazed across his nose and got snot on me, and had no way to wash my hand. I was conscientous not to touch my face or any other body part with my right hand.

We hung out with Ken at the starting line. Ken was all nervous about what he would do if he had to take a dump. I think he pissed three times in the last hour before the start. He kept making calls on his cell, and tried to arrange a pit stop with a friend of his who lives along the route. The downtown skyline looked all beautiful and golden in the early morning light. Rainbows arced in the spray off Buckingham Fountain.

The minty pungence of Ben-Gay permeated the air. The odor of ache, smell of the superfit. We walked to the charity tents past a veritable armada of ambulances -- rows of wheelchairs, walkie-talkie clad, red-vested emergency workers. A marathon's a serious thing, and with 40,000 participants, many of them first-time runners like my brother, race organizers planned for statistical certainties.

An announcer clicked off the start of the race, but it took about five minutes for those in the middle of the pack to get moving. Ken had a little micro chip on him that didn't record his time until he crossed the starting line.

As Esther and I walked back to the subway, we stopped on a street corner downtown and climbed scaffolding to get an aerial view of the race. I looked down the skyscraper canyon, leaned out and took a picture of the undulating sea of runners. It was the first marathon Ken'd ever run, and the first I'd ever seen. It's much easier to be a spectator.

We joined my brother Bob back at Ken's apartment and after a quick bathroom break we walked down the end of the block to Clark Street, just past mile nine. Bob set up his video camera and we cheered on runners who put their names on their shirts. Some wore costumes. I saw a few dressed in Cubs regalia, some Supermen, capes and all, an Incredible Hulk and one guy painted red with rings bouncing on his pierced nipples. Yeowtch! When Ken approached he got off the race route to hug some unknown woman friend and then came over to us. We patted his sweaty shoulders and he started to take off. Then he came back and asked us if we had any aspirin or ibuprofen. Sorry, we didn't. Afterwards, he said he had some aches in his knees, but they went away after awhile.

We dropped off Bob's camera and went up Clark to a greasy spoon diner, Francesca's, where we watched race coverage on channel Nine while slower runners went by outside the window. Before we finished breakfast the winner, some Kenyan, Eddie-something, running his first marathon too, crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 5 minutes. We finished breakfast and walked back to Ken's apartment as the slow runners --the fat, elderly and out of shape -- and walkers passed by. One guy waved a bottle of Miller Lite and cheered on the straggling participants. It was a little after 10 a.m.

Ken made it back home by 1 p.m. He walked with a wide stance and dragged his feet. He took off his shoes and his toes looked like hamburger, all huge blood blisters and blackened toenails. He tore off one of his nails, threw it on the coffee table, and popped the blisters with a needle. After a small pasta lunch he went to his room and slept for an hour. He got up as the first guest arrived for his post-race party. We moved the television and couch into the larger living room for the Cubs game. Good food, great company, the Cubs lost, then it was back home on the Interstate in light traffic.

Times 15K Half 15M 20M 40K Pace (min./mile) Predicted ETA ClockTime ChipTime OverAll OverSex OverDiv
1:22:18 1:54:42 2:10:10 2:51:48 3:34:43 8:38 03:51:57 03:46:24 6962 5579 1170

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

On mornings when I’m not called in to work, like yesterday morning (evil, white Spanish Empire disease-spreading Columbus Day) and today (teacher’s institute), and on weekends when I’m home, I play around on my acoustic guitar and write songs. In the last month I’ve written a couple new ones. Here are the lyrics. Someday I may record them and put them out on MP3 for the world to enjoy or revile.

“Barbie Chair”

And you want to be in pictures
And you want to be a star
With good ideas and a bright imagination
The best intentions will take you very far

Chorus: But you sit there in your inflatable Barbie chair

Another loser dreaming in your basement
Alien creature in orbit from afar
Stare in the mirror and pout at your reflection
Stream to the future pulse transit techno bar

As you sit there in your inflatable Barbie Chair

Bridge: You think it’s in you
Blood and sinew (3x)

And you’re so real, so hip and so together
Cool and sincere with all the latest style
You quickly cheer what catches to your fancy
Taste, touch and feel the sensomatic whirl

Can you sit there in your inflatable Barbie chair?

It doesn’t matter, your empty aspirations
Faded and tattered, a billboard in the sky
Forget your baggage, just leave it at the station
Purge all your sadness and move on with a smile

And you sit there in your inflatable Barbie chair

Bridge and outro


There’s a star outside my window
It’s been there a long, long while
It’ll burn a supernova

Chorus: I don’t mind (2x)

Water seeps in secret canyons
Sinking deep beneath the soil
On a path of least resistance

I don’t mind (4x)

If there’s a god up in the heavens
Saving souls to serve her will
She could wear a day-glo jump suit


And just for the sake of continuity, here are the lyrics to the other songs I’ve written in the last year.


Free stand free wheel jump fly through the air
All rocked out with nowhere to go
And plenty of time to spare

Fool’s scam, fool’s gold
only fools follow the dream
Future is past present is gone
Nothing is what it seems

Chorus: Can’t be seen by naked eye
Gone before you recognize
Criticize or ostracize
It will not be satisfied (2x)

Big man big deal don’t matter in the end
All I know is this moment is real and it’s all I can comprehend

Bird on wing, butterfly, fleeting moment so soon
Faded print and passersby, nothing is ever immune


Deek doddle deal doddle boodle de bang
Bip boddle biddy de bay
Rim rockin’ ride in the afternoon
Sunset the end of day

Go so fast, someday I’ll be old
Hair growing outta my ears
Bury me deep in the ground so cold
After I have used up all my years


“So Damn Tired”

Fire in the iris
Glinty steel reflect the light
Cool crystal comfort
Fading to the edge of the night

Meat in the market
Drink from a frothy mug
Feed every hunger
Before giving into the urge

Chorus: So damn tired
Stop eating on me
Cancer, bacterium, amoeba
Spread the disease

Smallest of things
Eat at one’s resolve
Hangnail, hemorrhoid
Pathogens in the blood

Simple brute force
Wage war inside the flesh
Cough syrup, pain pills
Anything to get some rest


Skin flake genetic
Scratching dust to dust
Breathe in each other
Filter cilia lung

Mites in the eyebrow
Culture intestinal walls
Part of the system
As we slowly dissolve


“When You Comin’ Home?”

Baby, baby, baby
When you comin’ home? (2x)
I been waitin’ for you
By the wood fired stove
When you comin’ home?

Darlin’ darlin’ darlin’
Take it easy on me (2x)
I gave you my heart
My eternal soul
When you comin’ home?

Sugah sugah sugah
So pale and pure (2x)
I can hear your cry
On the Nordic winds
When you comin’ home?

Friday, October 10, 2003

Mmmm... 'm cooking up some pork ribs, all fat, meat, sinew and bone, indirect cooking on the grill. I bought 'em at Gray's IGA on Auburn St. Gotta go to dah hood to get real good ribs. That ain't a racial statement, but fact. The good bruthas and sistahs of da woild knows they ribs. IGA was on the way home from my teaching gig at Auburn High School.

Homecoming assembly today, and I felt old to see the senior class is '04, pumped up students flashing four or five fingers. I never got into homecoming or any of the pomp and circumstance of the high school assembly. More often than not I read a book or skipped out and smoked cigarettes in the back stairwell behind the gym. All that energy, pumping up, seemed so contrived. Too much yelling and screaming. Painted faces, proud banners, cheerleaders dancing, pom pommers jumping. Homecoming court all sashed and crowned, a showcase for the beautiful and socially privileged. When I was attending Harlem High School in the late 80s early 90s the football team was mired in a state record-tying losing streak. They never won a game from 7th-12th grade.

I'm listening to Dave Matthews' Band Everyday album, which brings me back to Show Low, AZ adventures, when this disc was one of the few in my possession. I listened to it ad nauseum and haven't much since. I'm having Grand Canyon flashbacks, hikes after dinner through the red sandy soil Ponderosa pine forest behind our condo, the fireplace fire we lit on a snowy April day, Humphrey's Peak and the Perry's primrose flower I discovered that only grows between 10-12,000 feet and smells like rotting flesh. Who was Perry? Did he die near this flower? Of course I'm ranting. Interesting associations music as memory auditory chemical trigger time capsule.

Another DMB disc, the live Listener Supported, transports me back to the last couple months we lived in Antigo, when in wintertime dreaming I pored over Appalachian Trail maps, sorted through gear and mail drops, getting ready for our adventure of a lifetime. Because my obsession with DMB happened just before we left, I had his songs floating through my head often on the thru. "My head won't leave my head alone, and I don't think it will till I'm dead and gone." "Treading trodden trails for a long. long time." Shizzit like dat.

Yesterday I took a drive to DeKalb, NIU days, another life chapter again, we're working backwards madman memory me. I went there to pick up a copy of my official transcripts. I drove around town. Not much different. My favorite post-tennis Chinese joint, the Mandarin, just near the Goat Palace on Lincoln Highway, closed down, so that was kind of depressing. But the chintzy stupid Hallmark store in the old bank building at Third St. and Lincoln has been transformed into a cool coffee house/cafe/restaurant/jazz joint called The House. Last time Esther and I were down there we visited Ron Heinscher and heard some cool live tunes. I remember it was cold and they had a curtain separating the coffee house from a lounge area you had to pay cover to get into. Since the facility is smoke free, all the smokers coming in and out let arctic drafts and second-hand smoke in upon their return. I'm also impressed by the mosaic tile at the entrance.

(I've rescinded my no last name policy) (those with the initiative to look up their own names and come across this site will maybe read it) (henceforth last name anonymity shall only be granted to nefarious assaholic characters)

I tried to track down Ron yesterday, calling his new cell phone # before I left and when I got down there, each time getting his answering machine after the first ring. And Ron has NEVER returned a phone call. He's kind of a throwback college daze bud, someone I see on the few occasions each year when I go back to the alma mater. He still lives there, delivers pizzas, re-enrolled, pursuing his bachelor's after taking a few years off. Intelligent guy. Politically conservative. Last time together we came to loggerheads over the war in Iraq. That was last April. He was living next door to the Goat Palace, in the place that used to belong to the Magnificent Ambersons, a bohemian group of late 20-something grad students that had a quirky in a Mad Magazine humor kind of folk rock band. I have a couple Amberson tracks on a DeKalb music scene collaboration called "Eat Your Corn." One is a folk ballad about a "junkie named Celine." The other is called "Show me your tits, I'm a fisherman baby." The title says it all.

Well, anyways, Ron has since moved out, and his roommate, Jim, the organist at the Episcopal Church, has also moved on. I don't know where either live. They were my last DeKalb connection to the college days. No, wait. Ted McCarron still lives there, probably still driving his crappy beat-up Volvo and living in his cramped one-room studio with the framed certificate from the John Birch Society hanging on the wall above his bed. I was never tight with Ted, though. We only hung out a couple times. He was TOO weird. Shawn "Goat" Robinson and Todd Stanley still keep in touch with him.

I just picked up my transcripts and skedaddled. Made it home in time to take a nap before going to my parent's for the Yankees-Red Sox ALCS game. The Yankees won, 6-2, thanks to strong pitching by Andy Pettite and a bad decision by Sox manager Grady Little leaving starting pitcher Derrek Lowe in a couple batters too long late in the game.

Tonight is Cubs-Marlins action at Pro Player Stadium. Kerry Wood's on the mound. I got a good feeling after Wednesday's monster 12-3 blowout. If the Cubs win they regain home-field advantage. They lose and it's jeopardy time. For the Cubs to go all the way, Wood and Prior must win all their starts. Zambrano and Clement haven't put together a quality post-season start yet.

Them ribs are just about done. Gotta roll.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

I just ate breakfast – a cup of yogurt, a peach and two eggs, over medium. A weird combination. I’ve been eating eggs a lot lately. Used to be I’d eat three at a time, but now limit it to two… We’ve been buying these organic eggs and unlike most organic foods I’ve sampled in recent months, I can really taste the difference with the eggs. The yolks are brighter too. “What’s the difference between brown and white shelled eggs?” Mom asked recently. The answer below is from a University of California-Davis web site:

What is the difference between a white and a brown-shelled egg?
A brown or pigmented egg shell is the result of the hen depositing pigments on the shell during egg formation. Ultimately this is determined by the genetic background of the bird. Our typical commercial egg layer, the Single Comb White Leghorn, is one of the Mediterranean breeds. Developed in Leghorn (Livorno, It.), Italy, the hen always lays a white-shelled egg. Our American breeds, such birds as the Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire, and Plymouth Rock, lay brown-shelled eggs. The brown pigment is ooporphyrin, a break-down product of hemoglobin. The Araucana, or Easter egg chicken, from South America lays green or bluish-green eggs. This pigmentation is due to oocyanin, a by-product of bile formation.

The color of the egg shell is not determined by the diet of the bird. The egg shell color is in no way related to the quality or nutritional value of the egg.

For the third time this week, I did not get called in to sub. Luckily, I’ve got a few lawns I can mow, but at my current income level we’re not putting enough money in the bank to save for our big Pacific Crest Trail trip next spring. Starting in November I’m going to get a night job in addition to whatever sub work comes along.

Yesterday I took a nice, long, enjoyable bike ride in the native American summer sunshine to Rock Cut State Park, where I rode around Pierce Lake, a man-made lake of dammed Willow Creek. On the south shore I noticed a picnic table right off the trail half-hidden in the shade of a pine grove. I stayed there a while and did some creative writing until I got tired (about five pages). I cleared a few twigs and cones and lay down in the soft bed of needles for who knows how long. I woke at the roar of a motorcycle on a nearby road. When I sat up I noticed a guy in a boat about 10 feet offshore. I slowly regained my senses as the fisherman cleared phlegm from his throat. Buuhurack!

There really is no escaping humanity around here.

Rock Cut State Park was my stomping grounds when I was a kid, but last Sunday afternoon Esther and I explored a part of the park I’ve never been to, the northwest quadrant between the service road and Hwy. 173. The horse trails took us close to 173 and then south through rolling hayfields and forest patches of small pine, alders and honeysuckle brambles. The horse paths are seriously eroded, deep gravelly channels. Horses and humans alike bypass the channels and the trail is now wide enough to drive an SUV through. Esther and I encountered a mouse that kept flipping over when it tried to escape, exposing its white underbelly. I think it may have had a stroke, because it couldn’t move its left front or back legs. We both pet it, marveling at its softness. I’m sure it’s now providing sustenance to some abler creature.

I noticed a picnic area in the park is now called “Puri Crest,” after Rockford developer Sunil Puri, the head of First Rockford Group. His name’s been in the paper recently because of the Group’s plans to allow a McDonald’s to go up right next to a subdivision. The neighbors didn’t want the fast food empire to encroach so close to their ant village McNeighborhood, and formed a coalition to fight the development plan.

Puri displays a hallmark nouveau riche behavior – a desire to plaster his name all over his empire.

First Rockford Group owns most of the land just north of Hwy 173 across from the park. This area is a hotbed of development. Winnebago County just approved a plan to extend Perryville Road north of 173, a Target, Kohl’s Department Store and Chili’s restaurant opened in the last year or two. New subdivisions dot the hilly countryside. Retail follows people. Sunil and pals’ property should skyrocket in value. And the taxpayers will fund public works projects that ultimately benefit the developers. The next big things include expansion of 173 to four lanes and an exit/entrance ramp to I-90. Someday golden arches will greet visitors at the park entrance. I wonder if the fiberboard panels used to construct chain store meccas contain traces of honeysuckle.

Monday, October 06, 2003

I had a chance encounter with Jason C. after I finished off a mowing job on Prospect. It was a beautiful fall day today, sunny and kind of faded washed out bleachy fall sky. The trees are changing color, brilliant reds and yellows. The evil smaller waste tree honeysuckles and alders drop their leaves with no pomp. So, I was thinking about Jason and Amy, or not really about them, but about their polydactyl cats, and that I had to cut a small tree down for them. I get done with the lawn, swearing because I had a hell of time setting the wheels to the lowest setting, per my old lady customer’s request, and then it was too low and the mower wouldn’t move and chomped down to dirt a couple times. So I had this red-faced sunnuvabitchin’ time moving the wheels up a notch and cut my finger in the process. Then my arms got all red and welty, eyes itched, from bagging all the grass clippings.

I was impressed with the mower. It bagged an entire can of Red Bull. I threw the can on the edge of the parking lot. I guess I could have thrown it away.

So I finish the job and am on my way back home to pick up a $40 check for my aged particular customer to sign. She sent it a couple weeks ago and forgot to sign it, but I forgive her because she’s got macular degeneration and has to do all her paperwork using this devise that magnifies everything and shows it in black and white on a monitor. I was also going to stop home and grab my bow saw to cut down a tree at Jason and Amy’s. Just when I turn left on a street after finishing a job, there’s Jason in his Geo Metro! I hung out with them for a little while before dinner and cut down their tree. Jason showed me his 1980 Toyota Camry convertible. He said it is the convertible version of the first car he ever owned, and the reason he bought the convertible is because only 4,000 cars were made. Jason likes rare, weird things. That explains the polydactyl cats.

Jason said he heard about polydactyl cats from a web site and decided he wanted a couple. He and Amy plunked down $1,000 total for the their two bobcat-housecat multi-toed freak animals. One was delivered air mail to Rockford Airport. Another they drove down to Missouri to pick up. Some guy’s got a farm down there and raises them. Imagine making a living off bobcat-housecats with extra toes. Now that’s a niche market.

Amy said she spent another $1,000 when Jim, the shy one, came home after being missing for a couple days with maggot-infested wounds and a mangled face. She took it to an emergency vet, who referred her to a animal orthopedic surgeon, who operated on the cat’s jaw, wiring it shut. The surgeon forgot to put one of those plastic collars on it and the cat tore off the wire and had to go back to the vet twice. Amy said the cat’s missing half its teeth.

But it’s got plenty of toes…

“She was into S&M and Bible studies and admitted it’s not everybody’s cup of tea to me…” Belle and Sebastian