Friday, June 30, 2006

okay, I lied

Posting pictures is easy on blogger. It's just that sometimes, even though I follow the rules and compress my images so they're easy to load, it takes forever. And sometimes blogger is down. But this is where I've been the past four years...

Darn-tootinit, I'm staying.

I hope to do a little photo essay soon on Country Acres, the divey rooming house where I live. I cleaned my room this week, top to bottom, dusted even, cleaned out and organized the closet. I have contemplated moving elsewhere to get away from crazy Wade and drunk, loud, negative obnoxio Steve, but now my place is so homey. The real motivating factor is the cost. Rent is cheap. $225 a month.

Compared to other rooming houses I've visited and places I've stayed at in my travels, Country Acres is a pretty clean, quiet house. Wade and Steve excepted, I get along with my neighbors pretty well. Even the drug lords and convicts next door don't bother me. They even invite me to their parties, now that their convinced I'm not a cop. I visit to be cordial, but don't stay long. They're not my people. I don't have any tattoos.

The minefield driveway got a little repaired yesterday as the old man landlord next door at the regally-named Augusta Inn smoked his cheroot and poured kitty litter and sand into the potholes. Of course, he did a half-ass job of it. The potholes are still there, just not as deep. I almost wiped out on my bike riding through the sand/litter mix.

The starlings love the Mulberry tree at the end of the lot. A pair of cardinals live nearby. I put apple cores on the back porch for the squirrels. I often throw the bunch of hair that accumulates every few days in my brush off the back porch. Soon I will look around for birds' nests and check to see if my hair has been incorporated.

I've contacted a few people about sharing a place. It would be nice to have my own kitchen and bathroom. I can afford a better place. But why? I have all the space and amenities I need at Country Acres. Because rooming house life is beneath me? Because I'm worried that one of the many shady characters lurking about may try to break into my room or steal my bike?

There really is no strong, compelling reason for me to move. So I'll probably stay. It saves me the hassle of coming up with the chunk of change (around $1,000) required to put down on a new place and I could probably live month-to-month once my lease expires in August.

It's just that the possibility of living at Country Acres for the next couple years really depresses me. I need to look at this as some kind of penance. I've lost everything. Country Acres is where I hunker down, work hard, get through school, and get my life back in order.

Coming soon...

a photo essay of Country Acres. My home. Near a bend in the river where the weeping willows grow.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Link to photos page

I've created an online database of the best photos I currently have on discs. Check out this link:

This link is also on the right sidebar on the right under the heading "Photos." Original, eh?

Posting pictures on blogger is a pain in the butt! Yeargh!!!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Happy naked hiking day!

Today is the first day of summer, and a proud thru-hiker tradition is to hike naked today. In 2000 I hiked naked few hours in Shenandoah National Park (crowded, lots of drive-up overlooks) and got a severe chafe on my hip for my indiscretion.

I kept a bandanna on my waist belt in case children came along, but I lowered it over my privates when a group of 15 middle-aged women passed. They all had wry grins when they saw me, and the last one in line pointed at the bandanna and said, "Aw, c'mon. That's cheating."

In 2004, on the PCT, we hiked over Donahue Pass (11,000+ feet) naked and into the Evolution Basin (crowded) in Yosemite National Park, donning our clothes just before approaching a huge group of Boy Scouts (whew!). No waist belt, no chafe this time. About two dozen day hikers saw us naked. We saw more people than we had the past three weeks.

Wish I had photos to post. On the other hand, maybe not.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sidewinder on the CDT

"Never did I think so much, exist so vividly, and experience so much, never have I been so much myself - if I may use that expression - as in the journeys I have taken alone and on foot. There is something about walking that stimulates and enlivens my thoughts." -- Jean-Jacques Roseau

Trail friend Sidewinder wrote that on his Continental Divide Trail site:

He quoted it from an article in The Mountain Gazette. I remember reading the Mountain Gazette during my 7-month stint in Arizona in 2001. I picked it up at the outfitter's shop in Flagstaff. It's a great magazine. And if I remember right, it's free. But I haven't read it since. Thanks, Sidewinder, for the Mountain Gazette memories, and Mountain Gazette for the great quote.

The only trail journal I'm reading faithfully this summer is Sidewinder's. He's a real close trail friend, though we haven't hiked a whole lot together. He's someone who was with us back in 2000, early in the Appalachian Trail, when all this thru-hiking craziness began, and hiked the Pacific Crest Trail the same year as us, but we never hiked with him. He finished at the border the day after us (Sept. 25, 2004) after getting ill early on and falling behind.

Probably my favorite photo from the AT has him in it:

This photo was taken at some cliffs near Muskrat Creek Shelter in Georgia. I remember seeing plane wreckage on the side trail to this lookout. Coming back at dusk I checked it out, including an intact cockpit (though all the electronics were missing), and felt spooked out over the thought that someone lost their life here (I later had the same feeling in Virginia, near Catawba and Dragon's Tooth, taking a break at the Audie Murphy memorial, a stone monument at the place where his plane crashed).

Sidewinder is now attempting and will most likely complete the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking. The triple crown is hiking in entirety the three major National Scenic Trails -- Appalachian (Georgia to Maine), Pacific Crest (Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington), and Continental Divide (also Mexico to Canada, mostly through the Rockies) -- over 7,000 miles of trail. Obviously, the triple crown is in reach for me, though my thru-hiking days are over for awhile. My goal is to complete the CDT in month-long section hikes, however long it takes me to connect the dots. For now I follow the adventures of Sidewinder and others as they face the elements and follow their dreams.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Valenti Angelo's works

A Google images search of Angelo's name produced these images, amongst others. He was a prolific illustrator. I like his style. His drawings are simple, graceful and suggest something more than what is seen.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Two more book reviews

Whoo hoo. My Amazon rating broke through a million. I'm now ranked 612,093 and have 11 of 14 positive reviews.

"Dago Red" by John Fante

Good woodcut drawings, stories of Catholic youth
June 14, 2006
Greg A. Locascio (DeKalb, IL USA) - See all my reviews

This is my first John Fante book. Little did I know the copy I checked out from Northern Illinois University is a rare first edition. One of the five copies available through Amazon is signed by Fante and sells for $2,000. The cheapest copy is $180. No matter. I don't collect books.

The woodcut drawings by Valenti Angelo are beautiful, as is the feel of the thick pages. The 13 short stories revolve around a Catholic Italian family living in or near Denver. Fante's style is very simple and direct. Some of his phrasings -- "Oh, boy!" -- have a dated 1930s charm.

The childhood stories, like "The Road to Hell" (which describes the spiritual battle of a good Catholic boy who steals a $5 baseball glove) are pithy, a little too aw-shucks and sincere, but well-written.

The last few stories feature adults and are the best in the book -- "Odyssey of a Wop," "Home, Sweet Home," "The Wrath of God," and "Hail Mary" all give a glimpse into Italian-American family and community life and into the consciousness of a fiery young man, good at sports, angry at his father, and struggling to make a name for himself.

I have no doubt I'll read more of Fante. I doubt my next selection will be a rare first edition.

I first heard about Fante through Charles Bukowski, who was a fan and even wrote a poem about Fante meeting William Faulkner. I met my friend George the other day and he asked me what I was reading. When I told him Fante he said Fante introduced him to Bukowski.

That's kind of nice when two authors of two generations, mutual friends nonetheless, steer their fans to each other.

"One Life at a Time, Please," by Edward Abbey

Hit and miss collection of Abbey essays
June 14, 2006
Greg A. Locascio (DeKalb, IL USA) - See all my reviews

Edward Abbey's curmudgeonly persona permeates this collection of essays organized by topic (politics, travel, books and art and nature love). This is one of Abbey's later books, a mish-mash of essays, magazine articles and book prefaces, and it has a disjointed feel.

When Abbey describes a journey, like his description of a houseboat trip on Lake Powell, he is magical. When he decides to be political or critical, when the desert rat Abbey comes to fore, he just comes off as too ranting, too artful, trying to hard to be clever and angry at the same time. This is always Abbey, or, I could argue, any artist, at their worst -- when they become so self conscious of their persona that they have to pander to it to maintain the illusion of it. That's at least how Abbey comes off to me in the rantings in this book.

His article about a trip to San Francisco shines when it describes his visit to Robinson Jeffers house, but could do without the pithy descriptions of his daughter and meeting with the magazine editor.

Read "One Life..." one story at a time. If you don't like one, skip it and move on. There are enough pleasing nuggets to satisfy both avid fan and neophyte alike.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Genius of the Crowd

This poem is dedicated to the anonymous hater who chooses to comment on my insignificant life on this insignificant blog.

The Genius Of The Crowd

there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day

and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

those who preach god, need god
those who preach peace do not have peace
those who preach peace do not have love

beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
seeks average

but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody
not wanting solitude
not understanding solitude
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully love
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect

like a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
like hemlock

their finest art

-- CHARLES BUKOWSKI (1920-1994)

Abbey quotes

Quotes from Edward Abbey's "One Life at a Time, Please"

"When my wino days descend upon me I want to enjoy them on the porch of a rotting shack on the bayou or in a crumbling adobe hut under an athel tree beside a spur line of the Southern Pacific Railroad. In the swamps or on the edge of the desert, reading old books, feeding the lizards, awaiting the monthly visit of my personal social welfare lady. (I can see her now: she will be black, plump, kind, willing to laugh at my ancient bawdy jokes, not too strict about how I spend my relief check." (56)

"As always when I'm alone in a deep and solitary canyon, I become intensely aware of the stillness around me, of a need to be strictly attentive, fully alert, cautious, and delicate with every step, as if I were under some kind of preternatural observation. Something is watching you..." (101)

"Except for crystals and stratigraphy, there are few straight lines in nature." (103)

"When my own turn comes to lie down, die, and decay, nourishing in the process some higher forms of life -- a clump of sage, a coyote, a prickly pear, a pissed-on aspen tree -- I hope the blessed event takes place high on a canyon rim, with a final vision red cliffs, magenta buttes, and purple mesas in my fading eyes." (126)

"Awful lot of traffic. Awful lot of people out here in the wilds. Awful lot of people everywhere; that's the kind of world we live in now. You get used to it, I guess. If you have to. But I'm not worried about it much. Nature will take care of things in her same old way, sooner or later. You know: famine, plague, war. The usual. Nobody lives forever. Neither do civilizations. They come and they go, like you and me. That doesn't bother me either." (148)

" in its various forms goes on, continues despite our human efforts to overcomplicate civilization and oversimplify nature." (153)

"In the United States we have thousands of newspapers, TV and radio stations, magazines and newsletters, but when nearly all say about the same thing on any issue all the time, what becomes of the value of the First Amendment?" (162)

"Most scientists in the East as in the West -- sold their souls to industry, commerce, government, war, long ago." (165)

"The typical American writer has knowledge of very little but opinions on everything." (167)

"Contempt for animal life leads to contempt for human life." (171)

Quoting the preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman:

"This is what you shall do. Love the earth and the sun and the animals. Despise riches. Give alms to everyone that asks. Stand up for the stupid and crazy. Devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and the young and with the mothers of families... Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book and dismiss whatever insults your own soul..."

"Resist much, obey little." (175)

Renaissance timelines

About the Renaissance. One of my favorite periods. I look on it with sadness because I think it represents the height of Western civilization before industrialization ruined everything.

Putting together a timeline is difficult because the Renaissance, like any cultural movement, given its label post facto, doesn't have any clear start or finish. Each discipline, whether in art, architecture, civics, philosophy, or music, has its own timelines.

But generally speaking, if pressed for specificity, I'd trace the Renaissance to the rise of the Medici family in Florentine politics in the late 1300s to the beginning of the rule of King James in 1603.

Here's what wikipedia has to say:

Multiple Renaissances

Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, an example of the blend of art and science during the Renaissance.
Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, an example of the blend of art and science during the Renaissance.

During the last quarter of the 20th century many scholars took the view that the Italian Renaissance was perhaps only one of many such movements. This is in large part due to the work of historians like Charles H. Haskins (18701937), who made a convincing case for a "Renaissance of the 12th century," as well as by historians arguing for a "Carolingian Renaissance." Both of these concepts are now widely accepted by the scholarly community at large; as a result, the present trend among historians is to discuss each so-called renaissance in more particular terms, e.g., the Italian Renaissance, the English Renaissance, etc. This terminology is particularly useful because it eliminates the need for fitting "The Renaissance" into a chronology that previously held that it was preceded by the Middle Ages and followed by the Reformation, which many believe to be inaccurate. The entire period is now often replaced by the term "Early Modern". (See periodisation, Lumpers and splitters)

Other periods of cultural rebirth have also been termed a "renaissance"; such as the Harlem Renaissance or the San Francisco Renaissance. The other renaissances are not considered further in this article, which will concentrate on the Renaissance as the transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

On anonymity and another animal encounter

I forgot to mention my most memorable animal encounter of the week... I met Jon and Esther on a Sunday morning after finishing work at Jewel. We met right after work because they were going to Rockford for the day to visit family, so we walked over to the lagoon park nearby on campus. I held Jon cradled sitting up in my arms as a train of about 30 Canadian geese and their goslings swam past in a long train. Jon was mesmerized. He follows objects so well now and even reaches out for anything that's close to him (like my nose).

As for the pitiful anonymous commentator to my blog posts, if you wish your comments to remain permanent on this page, however dastardly they may seem to make me appear, you need to identify yourself. All anonymous posts, positive or no, will be deleted.

It kind of flatters and annoys me that someone takes the time to leave rude comments on my blog page. Flattery because not too many people read this darn thing. Annoyance because they have nothing of substance to add.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Turkeys gone wild

Strange week for animal encounters. Last Thursday en route along the Prairie Path to substitute teach at Jefferson Elementary School I saw a turkey vulture feeding on a carcass right in the middle of the path. As I approached I thought it was a crow, but it's head was too small. It let me get to within 20 feet before it stepped away and spread its wings out halfway. Then within five feet it spread them all the way, a majestic eight feet or so, and with one swoop lifted off the path to land in the field and wait for my departure.

My most memorable encounter with a turkey vulture was on the Appalachian Trail, hiking into Pearisburg, VA. The trail near Pearisburg is on a ridge line that U-turns around a steep, cliff-lined valley, with all sorts of side trails going to lookout points. At one of these lookouts I approached and saw a turkey vulture perched on a gray boulder. Just like the most recent sighting, it let me get within five feet before it casually dropped off the rock and swooped off into space. I'll never forget the sight --the whoosh and rise... the green mountains in the background... the effortless grace of such a homely bird.

Saturday morning, walking home from Jewel, I saw a turkey and a male/female pair of mallard ducks under an old oak tree on Augusta. Yeah. Go figure. My first turkey sighting in the city limits.