Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pablo Neruda poem

From Isla Negra, A Notebook by Pablo Neruda
“Loves: Terusa (II)”

The year arrives, four numbers
like four lucky birds
perching on a wire
Against a backdrop of bare time.
But now
they are not singing.
They consumed the harvest, they defeated
that spring,
and flower upon flower, all that is left
is this vast space.

Now that you come to visit me,
my onetime darling, my love, my invisible girl,
I implore you to lie with me
once more
in the grass.

Now it seems to me
that your head has altered.
in this coming,
did you cover over with ash
the wondrous coal of your hair
that I ran my hands through
in the starry cold of Temuco?
Where are your eyes?
Why do you narrow them at me
to see if I am the same?
Where did you leave your golden body?
What became of your opening hands
and your jasmine glimmer?

Come into my house, look at the sea with me.
The waves, one by one,
have exhausted
our lives;
it is not just the foam that has disintegrated
but the cherries,
the feet,
the lips
of a time of glass.

Goodbye. I beg you now,
go back
to your amber throne
under the moon,
go back to your honeysuckled balcony,
your burning image,
match your eyes
to those
other eyes,
turn yourself gradually
into that
glowing portrait,
go into it
deeply, deeply
with your smile,
and look at me
from its stillness, until
I see you again
at that point,
at that time,
as the one I once was in your flowering heart.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Simile similarities smiles hilarities

Jonny had a wonderful day visiting Nana (grandma) and Nanu Locascio. He kept my folks active, running around the house and getting into as much as he could. I left him alone with them for a few hours while I visited my friend Andy and got in a round of disc golf at Page Park. I drove my dad's bright yellow Ford Focus, "the bumblebee," (yes, he even has bee stickers near both passenger doors). My Dad is utilitarian. I guess he read somewhere that bright yellow vehicles are statistically less likely to be hit. But I felt a bit garish tooling around town in the bumblebee.

I see many positive similarities between Jon and I. He is curious and outgoing. He always has a smile for strangers and is very loving and affectionate. He loves books and words, and is a talker. He thinks out loud and you can see the gears working in his eyes. He is a non-picky eater, but really loves tomato-based foods and meat. He notices little things on our walks together, like a butterfly sunning itself on a flower leaf. He loves balls and is entranced if any organized sport occurs in his vicinity.

But this evening, waking him up after a car ride back to his mother's, I thought about some of the negative similarities he shares with me. He is mischievous. When I tell him not to do something, he gets this look on his face, a look I know well, and will proceed to do the exact opposite of what I say. He's a little reckless and has no fear of climbing to some high spot just to be there. He's strong-willed and stubborn. When he's hungry there's no consoling him until he gets what he wants. And sometimes when he wakes up from a nap, he can be a real crabby sourpuss.

Yep, just like his old man.

Of course, he's a lot like his mother too -- empathetic to other's moods and feelings, obedient and cautious (most of the time), and has a strong sweet tooth. Some of his stubborn streak's gotta be a little Larson-inspired. And he's a bit wary of water, very unlike his aquaphilic father.

The templates of our predecessors are laid upon us. Nature vs. nurture rages on within our souls. But we are all unique genetic blends, made even moreso by individual experience. Yet certain habits, reactions, facial expressions, and physical poses cross eons and long-dead relatives to see the present in our lives.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"That's the hard part right in there, nephew!"

Follow my logic here for a minute. I've just returned from meeting the parents of my Upward Bound students. They are all packed and ready to go on a trip to South Dakota, many taking their first trip ever away from family. I love meeting parents and sharing with them insights/concerns I have about their children. They seem to really listen and usually affirm what I have to say. Only a couple memorable times have parents really laid complaints out on me. Of course, this is only the third time I've met parents, and the two previous times were as a long-term substitute teacher, which is a different set of expectations than for a certified teacher.

After meeting the parents, there was a short program presentation, and I introduced one of my students, who read her research paper about immigration reform. It was by far the best of the bunch, and I take great personal pride in helping guide this student to her good work. This is one of the many reasons I love teaching, to see improvement, a polished, finished product, and the look of pride in my student's eyes.

I had no problem giving a short introduction, speaking before a large group of people. And as I sat down, I remembered what Dr. Callahan said about teaching: "You have to be a little bit of a ham to be a teacher." And that quote inspired a musical memory from a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Of course, typical me, I committed a malapropism with the lyrics and sang "hambone" as I walked out to my truck. The actual word is "crambone," but the connection from teaching/ speaking in public hamminess to "crambone" is clear.

Also, in my memory, it was "Mama went a courtin'," but "mama" is really "froggy." YouTube set me straight and I got to enjoy one of my favorite cartoon's from childhood. Hmmm... I have some time on my hands. Should I take the time to learn the song?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

geography video

I've been messing around with the Windows Movie Maker, learning its very user-friendly applications and toying around with some old video clips I had on disc and downloaded to my hard drive. This clip is from a trip to southern Illinois at the end of 2004. I messed around with transitions between clips and saved a bunch of Google Earth images to set the scene. The soundtrack music is from "La Fiesta/ Sometime Ago" by Chick Corea. I didn't include that in the credits because I don't want Corea, an ardent Scientologist (you know how wacked out and possessive they can be), to come after me.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Tell me all your thoughts of god"

Love, Devotion, Surrender by John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana. Love that idea… total sublimity to an ideal, a god, something higher, greater, more incomprehensible than self. It reminds me of the Christian devotion experiences of my youth, and how now I realize I got away from that because my intellect didn’t want to accept the bible. Now I realize how foolish that approach to godhead really is. That god is not something to be intellectualized. god is something felt, known bone core deep, the life force joy euphoria raging through every moment and every thing. The gawd of the bible is the gawd of patriarchy, the god of society and rules, the god of Law, an important construct in the development of Western civilization, sure, but not godhead, no. god is too personal for that.
How does one learn how to write? By writing. How does one get closer to god? By kneeling in surrender, giving over to the mystery, accepting, living in the now, meditation, devotion….
Enough, enough. Bullshit mysticism. god is too big for words. I guess that’s the source of my biblical disillusionment. The god I felt in my heart didn’t match up with the god on the page. Or the god I sang about in church, the god of song, wracking through the rib cage, in time, for that moment, then gone. Not the smoting god, the god who turned the heart of Pharaoh or prophesied the betrayal of Judas. Not the god of miracles outside the laws of nature, but the god of miracles within nature, like the moving mist along the river in the early morning. And all that other happy horseshit, like a dizzy spell standing up after a crap. That’s God.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

disc golf video

Todd visited Friday and we went to Kirkland City Park and played 18 holes of disc golf. Todd has been an avid disc golf player for the last couple years and travels all over to play. He's given me five discs that he found and now I'm hooked. Disc golf is a good mixture of sports and nature. And it's free! Can't beat that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Life, or a reasonable facsimile thereof

I sent a post to a friend recently describing how I've presided over many others' discoveries this past week. On Saturday Andy discovered canoeing, and his enthusiasm helped me get through my motion sickness and enjoy the day as well. He reminded me that despite the heat and waves and wind in our face, we were having an adventure, dammit. And even more of an adventure for him.

Monday, during the storm that drenched my apartment, Jonny stood on a chair by Esther's front door and painted his fingers across the open screen, writing trails of water in the holes. This fascinated him and he kept saying in his cute as hell little boy voice, "Wet, wet, wet, wet." Touch his nose. "Nose!" His ear. "Ear!" My arm. "Da da. Ar. Wet!" No swearing now. He'll repeat it. And he loves the alphabet song.

Tuesday at Founders with my juniors, helping them find sources for their research papers. Up and down the stairs, checking with them at the computers, helping them with their searches, then marching them to the stacks with call numbers written in loopy scrawls on scrap papers. Bianca was amazed when we found her book in the long rows of stacks. Wow, that's neat how that works. Then sending her own her own, fledgling researcher, to find the next one. A proud, triumphant return with book in hand. Edward, finally at the shelf with books about the Amazon rainforest. "Here's what I always do when I find a book I'm looking for, Ed. I look on the shelf all around it for other titles that might help me." "But what I do when I've got the book?" "Look at chapter headings and find what interests you." Most of them had never used the library before, and while they are up to date with the latest technologies, cell phones, MP3 players, and all the easy information gathering resources online (Wikipedia anybody?), the card catalog and searching through the stacks was a new experience.


From Gerald Nicosia’s article about Jack Kerouac in the Chicago Tribune Book section, June 30, 2007. This year is the 50th anniversary of the publication of On the Road, the beat manifesto that launched Kerouac to fame and spoke to my love of the road when I read it half a lifetime ago at age 17. I think I'll read it again soon.

"Kerouac writes not about the rich and powerful, but ordinary, working-class people, and sometimes those even below them – the homeless, the hobos and junkies, the outcasts of society – but he writes about them in a way that makes you care about them and root for their eventual triumph…
It would be hard to find anything in literature more authentic that Kerouac’s compassion for the poor and suffering; anything more alluring than his insistence on personal freedom; or anything more hopeful than his clarion call for absolute personal honesty."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The deluge and its aftermath

I returned to my apartment Monday night to find the kitchen floor and living room carpet swamped with water. DeKalb was hit with almost five inches of rain in about an hour and my basement apartment got flooded. Luckily, the laptop was not on the floor, as it often is, and the only regrettable damage was my teacher certification portfolio, a large three ring binder full of lesson plans and writing samples. I will most likely have to make copies of the entire thing, about 200 pages, and reformat all the tabs and dividers.

My landlord, Dawn Halverson, appeared personally to check up on her tenants and the maintenance man vacuumed up the standing water and got as much out of the carpet as he could. This morning they shampooed the place and I write this to the sound of two huge fans. One fan blows underneath the carpet, making it undulate in waves. It's very Hunter S. Thompson flashback trippy.

My apartment is in shambles as I had to pile everything on the bed and move as much as I could from the living room into the kitchen. I didn’t realize how much stuff I have cramped into a small space until I had to move it around. I think when I reorganize I am going to assess the necessity of many of these things and put together a couple boxes to put in storage at my parent’s and even put together a pile of things to sell on E-bay.

Then, coming into the Upward Bound office this morning, I reached into my duffel to get a pen and my hand got all covered in ink from an exploded pen. My MP3 player that I found Friday got marked up. Nothing a little rubbing alcohol can’t cure. [I found a Samsung k5 MP3 player Friday evening playing disc golf over at Prairie Park. It has 2 GB memory and is worth more than $150. I went to Wal-mart and bought a power adaptor/USB cable for it. My transformation to what I despise -- disconnected techno-freak -- is complete. It really pays to look where you're going when walking.]

Coincidence of coincidence, I saw my estranged goddaughter, Lauren, this morning. She is at NIU with the Winnebago High School cheerleading squad. We talked for a couple minutes and I showed her a picture of Jonny. She is kind of shy and awkward. It’s cute, but it meant we only talked for a couple minutes. Small world. Too bad I was caught up in the tumult of exploding pens and flooded apartments to appreciate our reuniting. I haven’t seen her since the spring of 2004, when I taught her 6th grade class at West Middle School for 9 weeks. That experience motivated me to return to school and become a teacher.

She is not allowed to see her former stepfather, my best friend from childhood, Steve, who raised her from infancy to age 11, since he and Lauren's mother, Michelle, went through a bitter divorce. When I saw Steve on the Fourth of July, he had a newly-taken family photo hanging in his living room. In it are Steve and Brianna (Steve and Michelle's kids); Lucas (Steve's current wife Xira's son); Steve and Xira's infant daughter, Julianna, and a photo of Lauren. She is not forgotten.

Steve was my best friend growing up. We lived in the same neighborhood and have known each other since third grade. Although we're not super tight any more, we still get along like old times whenever we get together. As a longtime friend, I think Steve being denied contact with Lauren is one of the toughest things he has had to deal with in life. I remember the first time I met Lauren, she was only six weeks old. Now she's in high school and attending cheerleading camps. She's always been a tough, quiet girl, and I worry for her because her mother is flighty and vindictive.

Now it is after 10 a.m., and I am with my small class – four students – Tonisha, Samantha, Christian (f) and Anselmo. We are listening to “Aquarius” by Charles Earland, off his Black Talk album. Good, fast, organ-driven jazz. I’m in total cornholio mode after running around the library the last 90 minutes helping students in my other class track down sources for their research papers. They are not allowed to check out books from the library or use the computer lab (at the library). I worked around that by checking out books on my card and having them e-mail me Internet source materials to print in the lab.

I didn’t get to bed until 1 a.m., staying up to the wee hours watching YouTube clips and checking out places like the Australian Outback, Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, my childhood home, etc. on Google Earth. Many of the images – especially those of desert climes, would make good abstract art. The outback is cut by ridges and looks like the close-up of a scarred face. The deserts have wispy strokes of color, aquamarines, surprisingly, and every shade of tan.

But, man, I’m tired as hell. I’ll take a nap this afternoon if I can clear everything off my bed and get the apartment back to some semblance of normalcy.

Monday, July 09, 2007


A long time ago (2003) I self-published a collection of short stories that all take place on the Appalachian Trail. Here, finally, is a link to the .pdf document, including the original layout. Unfortunately, I can't change the view from its sideways aspect because I don't own the Acrobat software.





Click on the following link: THRU

Or go to: http://greglocascio.googlepages.com/thru.pdf

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Google Earth images of the Rock River

The image below is the Rock River at Sterling/Rock Falls. The take out point is a landing next to where the Hennepin Canal joins the Rock River. Notice how wide the river is here. Because of the gentle, rolling terrain that comprises the Rock River valley, the river widens dramatically at each dam.

This is where the east branch of the Rock River flows into Horicon Marsh, a birdwatcher's paradise. The south and west branches also flow into the marsh and join at a dredged channel. The Rock River leaves Horicon Marsh a unified river with all its branches joined.

I started my trip down the Rock River in late June 2005 (can't remember the exact date) after finding this pool spring off Highway 41 near Allenton, WI (about 45 minutes northwest of Milwaukee). I camped illegally behind a hedge grove along the railroad tracks. The next morning I walked along the tiny rill flowing from the spring and, in an act of symbolism not to be repeated, drank from the stream.

Canoe trips

In the past week I've had the chance to get out on the water twice and work on my everlong quest to canoe the Rock River from one of its sources to the Mississippi River. On Sunday, July 1, I canoed from a boat landing a few miles north of Lyndon to Prophetstown with my friend Brandi. Skies were sunny, temperatures in the 70s, and the wind to our backs. This stretch of river, while lacking the dramatic cliffs and woodsy scenery of Oregon, IL, or north of Janesville, WI, was still very peaceful and serene, with few houses or development along the shoreline.

Brandi said she was impressed at my canoe set up. I installed a rack on my truck the night before. The canoe sets on the rack and leaves the bed open for bikes, paddles, pads and the cooler.

I skipped ahead of my last take out point in Dixon because Mike Svob, in his book, Paddling Illinois, recommends against the stretch from Dixon to Sterling (more on that later).
(Click on the picture below for more.)

I decided to go back to Dixon Saturday and cover some of the stretch I missed. I invited my old drum corps buddy Andy J. to come with me, warning him that this may not be the most scenic stretch of water. Maybe it was due to the actual conditions or Svob's warning, but I consider this my worst day on the water. Andy, whom I've accused of being a pessimist, bolstered my spirits when I complained. He seemed to really enjoy himself on the water and made fun of me: "I thought you were a tough guy with all that hiking you've done." Okay, I'll shut up now.

But the conditions were miserable -- a 20 mile per hour wind in our face so that whenever we stopped we were blown upstream, temps in the 90s with high humidity, lack of shoreline trees for shade, and the heaviest boat traffic, by far, I've ever encountered on the river, producing wake upon wake that left me queasy with motion sickness.
Exhaust fumes from the boats didn't help. High gas prices has not deterred recreational traffic. Jet skis are the worst carbon offenders because they, like lawn mowers and other single stroke engines (including snowmobiles), don't have catalytic converters.
For Andy, though, this was an entirely new experience. This was his first canoe trip and he was caught up in the novelty of the moment. I told him he'd make a good backpacker. The heat and waves seemed to have no effect on him.
(Click on the picture below for more)

We were on the water from noon to 8:30 p.m., and the last hour on the water was by the far the finest. In the few miles leading up to the Sterling dam, the river widens over a mile from shoreline to shoreline. The wind finally died down and boat traffic lessened. The air cooled to the 80s. Fatigue made the peace all the more profound.

The bike ride back to the truck was reverie, but one last hurdle remained. The truck, en route to the river, had acceleration problems and didn't start again when I wanted to move it away from a carnival shanty village in Dixon. Andy and I had to push it to its spot beyond the tents and RVs. When I finished my 11-mile ride to Dixon and tried to start the truck, it wouldn't even turn over. This has happened in the past, and I had to jiggle the shift column to put in park to the finicky satisfaction of the starter. But nothing seemed to work. After 10 minutes of shifting in and out of park and turning the engine, I was on the verge of calling for a tow (mind you, Andy was waiting with the canoe and equipment in Rock Falls), but decided to try to start it in other gears. It turned over with no problem in neutral. Whew! Yet another crisis averted.

After dropping off Andy, the truck once again lost power and I couldn't get it above 45 mph. I took lesser-known country roads all the way back to DeKalb. The truck's going to see a transmission specialist this week. Ouch.
My next trips on the Rock River will be to connect the dots of sections I missed, including Watertown to Jefferson, WI, and the short stretch from beyond the dams in Sterling/Rock Falls to the landing north of Lyndon. I'll cut and paste some maps to the blog to highlight some parts of the overall trip.
The end is coming... and I'm ready. In many ways, this is a dumb quest. The Rock River is not the best for canoeing. It's too wide, too windy (the river flows to the southwest and the prevailing winds most often work against you), and there's too many dams and not enough current, and too much power boat traffic. That said, I've had many wonderful moments on the water, and the experience has helped me gain a greater appreciation for the nature in my home turf, which I've always ran away from for more scenic mountain and desert climes.
Thanks again to Brandi and Andy for joining me this past week and being part of the journey. Your company and extra paddle are appreciated beyond measure.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fourth of July memories

My favorite moment this Fourth of July was waking up from a short nap on the couch in my parent’s TV room and looking up to see it was the top of the fifth inning in the Cubs-Nationals game. Baseball, family, a lazy summer afternoon, the tiger lilies in bloom, a cold bottle of beer at my side. Ahhhh….
On the long hikes, huffing it up to an 11,000 foot pass, boulder-hopping, exerting every ounce of energy to make it to yet another wind-swept vista, my soul, crying out in exhaustion and release, would imagine such a moment as I experienced yesterday. My dreams of comfort involve a baseball game and/or a backyard swimming pool and one of those inflatable recliners with a drink holder in the arm rest. To just float… at complete rest… hearkening back to first amniotic consciousness.
Back to reality, the Cubs lost 6-0, but they’re still a game over .500 and have the best record in baseball over the last month.
I was put in charge of grilling the chicken breasts and hamburgers. I make the patties my own special way, mixing in fresh chopped garlic, season salt and, when I form the patties, a pat of butter in the middle. Culver’s is an overpriced evil chain fast food restaurant, but they inspired my burger making with their butterburgers. I flattened out the patties on wax paper and put in the fridge for a couple hours. They grilled up marvelously. The patties cooked up to bun size and flat enough to get a mouth around. Yum!
We also had my mother’s famous baked beans, potato salad, and really good, sweet corn on the cob. I was surprised to eat such good corn this early. Stands are already popping up all over the countryside. I saw my first one Sunday on the way to the Rock River. It seems too early, another symbol, along with pre-Halloween Christmas hype, of cultural hastening.
Other highlights:
· Saw Steve Hardt and my godchildren for the first time in months. They moved into a new house in Machesney Park and Steve proudly gave me a grand tour. Nice place. Half the basement has as much square footage as my entire apartment. Steve Jr. (13) and Brianna (10) are getting so big.
· As I was driving towards downtown Rockford I saw a motorcycle completely engulfed in flames at the intersection of N. 2nd and Riverside.
· Watched the fireworks on the State St. bridge with another old friend, Shawn Robinson. We talked geo-politics and I played devil’s advocate and argued in favor of the Iraq war, saying we need a military presence in the Middle East, Iraq being a no-brainer because of Saddam and its central locale. Shawn’s moving at the end of August, and he doesn’t know where he’s going to end up. I congratulated his rootlessness. He says he may move to another bigger city, either Madison or Chicago.
· Hair roles have reversed. Now Shawn’s got long hair and a ponytail. I look as Republican as I sounded.
· The only downside of the day was the absence of Jonny. He makes every holiday new. Without him there, the fireworks show just wasn’t as fun. A year ago I saw the fireworks reflect off his awestruck eyes. He and Esther are on vacation all week visiting family in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
· More awe-inspiring than fireworks was the sight of pink-hued cumulonimbus clouds at sunset. Anvil thunderheads rumbled through the area all day, but it never rained.
· I found time in all this socializing to spend an hour grading papers. Such is the life of an English teacher. It can’t be avoided.
· Mom and Dad enjoyed telling stories on video. They are young and healthy enough that I’m not worried about their imminent demise, but old enough that I want to get their stories on the record before it’s too late. I guess I’m destined to be the family’s version of Alan Lomax, despite no direct connection to the Library of Congress.