Friday, November 14, 2003

I just finished watching some high drama involving squirrels and a cat. I was drinking coffee at my kitchen table and noticed a cat, a huge gray tabby with a silver ID tag on its collar, hanging out next to the neighbor's garage. Then a big, fat fox squirrel (N. Illinois has some of the biggest squirrels I've ever seen, anywhere, owing to the oak savannah habitat that still dominates the urban landscape) strolled into the scene along the fence line. It crawled right towards the cat and when it got within three feet kitty pounced. The squirrel leaped away on a tree, one that apparently was the territory of another squirrel, and was chased around the tree by another squirrel as the cat looked up expectantly. The first squirrel finally got away, leaping off the tree out of sight of the tail-twitching sentinel of death.

My favorite moment was when the cat made its initial attack, all muscular leap and fur, spread legs and claws.

The friendly kittens out at the in-laws' farm aren't doing so well. Up to 10 cats from three or four generations mob us whenever we come to the door. One kitten had a real bad eye infection -- its eye almost closed by a big ball of pus. Another kitten went into a body-shaking coughing fit for five minutes before it settled down to eat its food. Such is the life of a farm cat deprived of pampering vet care. Nature is brutal and efficient. Those kittens have to adapt to new life in the onset of winter. It won't be easy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I read a Time Magazine article recently about community supported agriculture. Like all good ideas, it's simple really. Farmers, instead of working with government subsidies and the vagaries of the open market, sell their produce to local customers who buy "shares" in the harvest. This concept spreads the wealth and the risk of farming on to the consumer and eliminates shipping, which in turn is better for the environment.

King's Hill Farm in southern Wisconsin delivers to Rockford and is one of the few CSA's I've checked out that provides produce to its customers year-round and allows you to pay on a weekly basis.

Monday I went to Woodman's and bought a free-range chicken raised in Janesville, WI and grass-fed certified organic ground beef and sirloin steak raised on a farm in Brodhead, WI, both locations less than 100 miles from Rockford. Are any of these things going to save the planet, or even contribute to better health? It certainly can't hurt.

On the flip side, I had a weak eating moment yesterday on the way home from my sub assignment at Auburn High School when I pulled into a Popeye's chicken outlet. I had to wait in the drive-thru for 15 minutes while the lady in front of me on a cell phone in her silver Mitsubishi got chicken and sides for all her corporate cronies. Then, when I finally got my chicken, it was lukewarm and the thigh was no bigger than the average wing.

I was feeling kind of weather-related down in the dumps last night, and kind of restless too. When Esther returned from her dinner date with Florence S., one of her childhood mentors, we went on a bike ride on the bike path out to Machesney Park Mall and back. The night was very foggy. My glasses collected condensation. But the fog had a mysterious beauty that, along with the exercise, lifted my spirits.

When we rode through Sportscore we scared up a whole flock of Canada Geese resting at the edge of a lagoon. The collective rustle of wings and honking startled me. But on the way back I decided to sneak up on them and as we passed I screamed. Ha Ha. Well. A-hem. Guess you had to be there.

Today I'm at McIntosh Elementary teaching Physical Education. I'm home for lunch. I had turkey, chard, tomato, sauerkraut and mayonnaise between two thick slices of homemade bread. Yuma, Arizona. I'll eat my Granny Smith apple in the car on the way back.

Tonight I'm doing the Wednesday wings thing. I may arrange an appointment for a sauna at Cliffbreakers.

The weather today is sunny, warm and windy as hell, with gusts supposedly up to 40 MPH. Leaves rustle and the apartment windows rattle with each gust. No bike riding in this weather.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Cool, cloudy November morning, but warmer than the last few days. It's foggy and misty. Moist. My hair is extra curly.

Woke up this morning to adrenaline rush of ringing phone. It was my sub caller Carol. I'm working at Auburn High School. I was once friends with a fireman who said in addition to the inherent hazards of fighting a fire, getting startled awake takes years off a fireman's life. A constant feed of adrenaline is bad for the body.

So I deal with some of the same hazards as firefighers, but in a profession not as noble or heralded. There are no monuments in public places to the substitute teacher, though a movie out now, "School of Rock," has a substitute teacher in a leading role.

Esther said there's an opening in the school age room at her center. I think I'll apply for the job. This would allow for a more stable working environment. I'm tired of the on-again off-again nature of the sub gig. I'm just not making enough money. I still have to get a second job, but maybe I'll just sell off my collection of books, comics and records E-bay instead. Maybe all three, and sell plasma to boot. Gotta crunch the finances to pay for the trip. It'd be a trip in itself to work at the same place as Esther. We could ride our bikes to work together.

The Packers lost last night to the Philadelphia Eagles, 17-14, on a last-minute drive by the Eagles. My brother Mike, who wasn't watching the game until the end, cheered loudly when the Eagles scored their last touchdown. I told Mike he was such a contrarian spirit that if Mother Teresa was on the team everybody else was rooting for, he'd root for the opposition, even if Satan was on that team. "Take that back to Calcutta, Mama T."

Hmmm. Contrarian. That's Mike. He goes out of his way to piss people off. Sunday night he wouldn't join Esther, Dad and I eating out for dinner because he didn't want to support anyone who worked on the Sabbath. I told Dad Mike has such a strict code of ethics because it helps keep his life disciplined and gives him a feeling of superiority over others. I respect Mike for standing by his Mormon beliefs. Just don't impose them on me or judge me by their standards.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Friday night Sisu and I walked to a local bar, Leisure Tyme, and watched a blues band. The bar has the dimensions of a double wide trailer, with an O-shaped bar in the middle and full-length mirrors on both walls. It's a cool effect that allows you to check out the patrons to infinity and beyond. I only go there when they have live music. A lot of seedy characters hang out there. It has the reputation of being a cokehead bar. But they attract some good musical acts, mostly mid-profile blues and jazz tours, and no cover... That's key in this trail-savings era.

I drank wine and vermouth before going to the bar and some Icehouse beers after I got there. Woke up Saturday morning with a mad hangover, though I didn't drink THAT much, and even threw up. Good wine, vermouth and cheap beer = bad news.

Saturday I spent outside doing yard work for Mary, 88, whose husband Ben died two months ago. I kind of feel sorry for Mary, who now lives alone in a semi-rural home. No kids or relatives, but kind neighbors who check in on her. When I went to Ben's funeral I was the youngest one there by a couple decades. I call to check on her every once in a while. She complained that everybody's trying to get her to sell the house and move into a nursing home, but I told her she's doing the right thing staying because she can still get around and her mind's together.

I spent the whole day at her place, cleaned out her gutters, trimmed the hedges and raked leaves. A very peaceful time. Mary invited me in for coffee and she told me how she and Ben met. They grew up in the same small town in Wisconsin, but didn't marry until they were 50 because both took care of their parent's. She said Ben never dated anybody else because he was so shy, but she'd gone out with a few men. "He still waited for me," she said.

Saturday night I took pictures of the lunar eclipse and performed some of my original music at Minglewood, a hippie coffee shop gift store. We're friends with Brian, a guy who makes soap and sells it through the store. There were a bunch of other hippie-vegan-freaky types there, including a couple poet friends of mine, and I was invited on stage again to read some poetry and do a freestyle word jam... Muchos fun...

After my musical performance some drunk guy in a leather jacket came in off the street and said, "I love you motherfucker, yeah!!" He then rushed the stage and gave me a big bear hug before kissing me on the cheek. Ewwww!!! Nasty stubble drunken kiss. He came from the Jerry Seinfeld show at the Coronado Theater. Tried to give me his ticket stub to get back in.

Sunday I raked more leaves and visited family. It was sunny and cool, and a breeze thwarted my efforts to collect every leaf. Guess I'll have to go back to finish the job.

Today there's no school because of Veteran's Day, so I went to Woodman's, got groceries, and watched a DVD, "What About Bob?," a movie I've seen only in bits and pieces over the years, but never in its entirety, until now. Tonight I'm watching the Packers-Eagles Monday Night Football game. Of course, after my bike ride.

I bought chard for the first time today because the lettuce they had for sale looked so brown, wilted and nasty. We'll see how that tastes in a salad with dill, basil, spinach and romaine lettuce.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Oh, sublime beauty rise above the gray mass and matter…

Damn school district didn’t call me in today, so I’ve spent idle Tuesday reading the papers, went out for a bike ride and got my backside muddy. There are still many puddles after two straight days of steady rain. I ate my first persimmon a little while ago. I read an article about the tree fruit. They are ripe right now. Esther said it tasted kind of like a tomato and a pumpkin. It certainly had the texture of a tomato and color and smell of a pumpkin. It was also super sweet and the skin left a bitter gritty coating on my teeth, tongue and upper palate. I’ll peel the skin next time.

Stopped at 320 Store and bought some fruits and veggies, along with some texturized vegetable protein. I would have bought more, but I had to fit it in my pack. They’ve got some rye flour. Esther and I learned how to bake bread from Mom Larson Sunday. We’re going to do it again Sunday at the Larson’s, this time with guidance, but no assistance from Mom. Bread making is a very tactile process, shape and knead the dough, watch the yeast rise and bubble, smell its fermentation. Making bread is life- affirming. And fresh bread tastes really good!!

Halloween night we went up to Madison to see our friend Susie, who drove us out to a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere to a party. We each got one beer before the keg went dry. Esther was cat girl, with cardboard animal ears, a felt trail, brown gloves and black lines on her nose. Susie was space cadet, with silver and black makeup and a tin foil hat, shoulder pads, belt and spats… I was the pervert hiker. Susie said I couldn’t just get by as a hiker (even though I wore shorts over long johns, gaiters and head lamp). So she gave me some supplies from her sex toys business, including handcuffs, cheesy naked playing cards, a novelty condom and lipstick shaped like a penis. I walked in the door to a room of complete strangers and announced “no good porn has been made since 1983.”

We stayed up almost all night, then got up at 7 a.m. Saturday and drove to Milton, WI, to lead a 10-person trail crew as we finished establishing tread for the 700-feet railroad segment. After noon Esther and I put blazes through the section. Esther marked areas where directional posts should be placed.

Came home super tired. Esther took a nap while I did mindless computer work, downloaded pictures and journal entries to our 2000 AT online journals. I’m really excited to get this journal back online. It was originally placed on, but the guy who runs the sight took it down shortly after the end of the season. I thought I had a copy of the journals on disk, but I only had a few entries… until our friend Trainwreck discovered the journals on a disk and e-mailed them to us. It’s nice to share the pictures for the first time. I’ve finally learned how to use the scanner.

Sunday night we went over to Susie’s Dad’s place in Loves Park with Shawn. Susie cooked up this really good pizza with pesto, pickled garlic cloves and pine nuts. I’ve always wanted to cook with pine nuts because they are a staple of Italian cooking, but this was the first time I’d had any. I love the subtle nutty burst of piney-ness in each bite.
I also ate fresh horseradish for the first time, with fake crab meat. Yum!

Last night I participated in a poetry slam at the Rockford Public Library. Fourteen participants in two groups of seven. After the first round the audience votes, narrowing the competitive field to six. I made the second round, and though I did not win I was voted “most creative” and got a care package, including a wooden frame, journal, necklace, book, and word refrigerator magnets. It’s the first poetry reading I’ve gone to, well, since last fall…

This time of year my social calendar slows down. Next weekend I don’t have any trail activities planned. Tonight I’m going to do something novel and stay home. What am I going to do with this great maw of time?