Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday morning ramblings

The crickets are chirping. It's sunny, but cool. My apartment is actually clean, though I have to bug the landlord to replace the mildewed carpet padding.

Yesterday was a tough trip down memory lane. My parents still attend the church Esther and I were married in. We drove to Loves Park to visit and Mom and Dad invited us to the annual church picnic. Esther and I debated and agreed to deal with the awkwardness so grandparents could show off their grandson. It wasn't as awkward as I supposed, but it was a tough reminder of time's passage, of different situations in life, and the linguistic difficulty of defining relationships post-divorce. Of course Jonny was oblivious and cute as ever. He knows how to work a crowd with lots of smiling and hugs.

I read a book about the Continental Divide Trail this week, Along the Continental Divide, by Michael Robbins, and, of course, am full of trail visions. This was also kicked off by an e-mail I received from a town along the trail by German Tourist, who hiked many miles of the Pacific Crest Trail with Esther and I in 2004. She said hello from Lint, also hiking the CDT, who we've done trail work with on the Ice Age Trail. More evidence of the smallness of the long-distance hiking community.

But no real planning is in the works... I may take a two-week trip along the Arizona Trail again this winter, despite long nights and desert snow. It would be an even cheaper trip because I can hitch/hike to the trail right out of Tucson on Redington Road and take a bus back to Tucson from one of the towns along the way. Last year, I had to pay over $100 for a shuttle from Tucson to the border.

Next summer, funds willing, I may hike for a month somewhere. Talking about going back on the AT and doing a poverty hike, hitting the trail for a month with only $100 in my pocket and credit cards left at home. There's lots of hiker boxes at post offices and it's possible to eat reasonably well for $25 a week. My food budget is normally only $100 a month. Gotta love Aldi's.

Student teaching is going well. I had my first review and got kudos for my delivery and rapport with students, criticism for how I handled a grammar question. No stage fright here. And no fear of criticism. Here I am. Rock you like a hurricane.

No horrible bad seeds amongst the 109 students. They get a little tittery at times, but respond well to my countdowns. "You're going to be attentive and listen in 5..4..3..2..1 and a half... 1." I also got praise from my NIU assessor for saying "please" and "thank you" a lot. One of my stock phrases: "Respect is a two-way street."

The students DO NOT like my Green Bay Packers tie. Most like my Cubs tie. White Sox fans are appropriately quiet these days.

Allergies were horrible bad earlier this week. The sneezing is gone and fountain of snot reduced to a trickle. Jonny inherited my intolerance for pollen and suffered as well. Expectoration continues indefinitely.

Labor Day weekend was chock full of activity. A week ago Friday I helped my friend Shawn move from his downtown Rockford apartment to a bigger place a couple blocks away. This would have been an easy move, but for On The Waterfront, a huge festival. Shawn's friend Dan's wife, Mari, had to hang out in front of the building to preserve our parking spot, and I had to dodge waves of human traffic to get from one place to the next.

Saturday Todd visited and we did all the usual things a Rex Lex (Todd's self-proclaimed monicker) visit entails: disc golf, many grueling sets of tennis, evening cookout, no talent, but fun Tallheaded Woody jam, and, something different this time, we went out to the newly-smoke-free Annex for a pitcher of beer. Sunday another two sets of tennis, Todd left for home, and I relaxed most of the day recovering and visited Esther and Jonny in the afternoon/evening, even though it wasn't "my" weekend. I stopped over at her place to borrow a kayak from her landlord, Earl.

Monday I awoke early and drove with my canoe and Earl's kayak to the small town of Dahinda, on the banks of the Spoon River, to rendezvous with my brother Bob and his son-in-law, Dave Fox.

There I was -- small town America again -- Dahinda nothing more than a post office and collection of houses -- barking dogs, chickens, southern accents. As I waited, an old man backed his truck up to a former storefront building next to the post office. Another old man rode up on a Schwinn bicycle, streamers off the ends of the handlebar handles. A younger, camouflage t-shirted man pulled into the gravel lot in a rusted red pickup. They stood there chewing and spitting, and since they were so close I felt obliged to say hello.

I was surprised they all had drawls. This is, after all, only west central Illinois. The pace of conversation also had a southern slowness. "Whatcha been doing out here at the shop?" (one minute pause) "Drinking beer, mostly." (spit, move hunk of chaw from one cheek to another) "Why? Erma don't letcha drink at home?" (spit again, crickets chirp) "Nope."

The river trip took us from Dahinda to a one-lane bridge landing near another one-horse town, Maquon. It was nice and wild. No houses. A few bridges, including a covered one. Narrow, winding river, shallow, a few riffles, none of the floodwater we've got up north, tall sandstone cliffs, herons, startled deer, a bass jumped out of the water to eat a dragonfly.

It was good to hang out with Bob. I don't see him that often. His wife Beth has never liked our family and I hardly know his two daughters, Candy, and the soon-to-be-mother newly-married Cathy. His son-in-law Dave seems like a nice guy. Eagle Scout. Marine Corps vet. Gainfully employed. I asked how he met my niece. "We originally met on Myspace. But then I saw her in a bar [Egads, my niece in a drinking establishment!] and worked up the courage to go talk to her. After that, I hung out at the Steak and Shake [where Cathy works] for the next week." They sealed their love with matching tattoos.

Yup. Bob and his people are townies, yokels, etc. But that's okay. I am too, I guess. Sure, I have a good vocabulary and am on the cusp of completing my master's degree, but I feel comfortable with folkways. Still, I don't think I could live the country life. I've been spoiled living in the intellectually fertile environs of a university town. Townies would label and deride me for the egghead I am. I'm accepting of them. They're not so accommodating.

I plan to get out on the water a few more times before the canoe goes in storage at my parent's. Maybe another stretch of the Pecatonica or Sugar River in Winnebago County. I still have to finish my Rock River trip from Prophetstown to the Mississippi River. Power boat traffic should be greatly diminished.

It's hard to believe I've been at my current address more than a year. I haven't lived in one place for more than a year since 2003. I don't plan to move any time soon (my lease is at least until next August). It would be nice to get a teaching job either in DeKalb or somewhere along the Metra West line for an easy commute. Esther is taking a class this fall and planning to take a full-time load this spring. I have no incentive to relocate. In spite of flooding and its tiny size, this has been one of the best living arrangements I've enjoyed. Nice lawn. Quiet. Chew. Chew. Spit. Yup. I'm staying put.

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