Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Word of the Day is "Flaneur"

Sometimes, when I learn a new thing, I coincidentally encounter it again many times like a media blitz. Today's example of is the word of the day. Today's word is:

flâ·neur (flä-nûr')
n. An aimless idler; a loafer.


[French, from flâner, to idle about, stroll, of Germanic origin; see pelə-2 in Indo-European roots.]

When I read this definition I thought of a bum, a penniless, aimless wanderer; a bearded, smelly, mentally ill misanthrope. That's the picture I got from the word and kept it with me all day. In many ways it defines me. I like to often wander aimlessly, but not, I figure, in true flaneur style. I usually have a location in mind, but how and by what means I get there is up to chance. Flaneur. These days I can only aspire to be one.

I'd never seen that word before today.

Tonight, back home after visiting Jonny and Esther, I got online, checked e-mail, etc., and then did a Google search for down parkas. As I typed, the drop down menu of other searches I'd made came up, and the search for "hiker+blogs" appeared. I clicked on that link and clicked on Hiker Dude, and then a link from there to an article about a nerdy professor who hiked every street on Manhattan.

I checked out one titled A WALK TO REMEMBER, an advertisement/review of a Los Angeles urban art fair, where giving historical walking tours is treated like performance art.

In the article I found the following quote:

“For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the middle of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite.” - Charles Baudelaire

And this text:

[The exhibition relates to Walter Benjamin’s concept of the flâneur as a figure who derives pleasure from the hustle and bustle of the city streets, who moves purposelessly among the urban crowd with the eye of an artist: a spectator of contemporary life and urban scenes. Yet, A Walk To Remember diverts from Benjamin’s idea when it examines a specific European phenomenon of the early 20th century: the postmodern condition of Los Angeles in which walking is clearly a thing of the past. In addition, in giving each walk a purpose and in trying to bring various locations and social and cultural relations of the city to the audience the exhibition reaches beyond what Benjamin described as an “aimless affair.]

The Flaneurs that Baudelaire references are Dandys of the 19th century, men who wore makeup, dressed flamboyantly, and acted out scenes on the streets of Paris to draw attention to themselves. Toulouse-Latrec's immortalized them in his paintings. Like this one:




(I first heard about Baudelaire ate age 16 when I read the biography of Jim Morrison, No One Here Gets Out Alive. I have a book of his poetry, but don't remember the title and haven't read it in years. )

Flaneurs, as it turns out upon further research, were men obsessed with their physical appearance in late 19th century Paris society. When I read the definition of it this morning, I imagined a classless Walt Whitman roaming the streets of Brooklyn and painting street scenes into his poetry. This image is the opposite of the Flaneur. Flaneurs are flamboyant, class-conscious, effeminiate precursors to today's metrosexuals. Flaneurs are nothing like the rugged, ragged image I kept with me all day.
"Burrows and Wallace show how New York embraced the idea of the flaneur -- of the disinterested, artistically inclined wanderer in the city, of what they call "city watching."-- Jed Perl, "The Adolescent City", New Republic, January 22, 2001
"The restricted hotel lobby has replaced the square or piazza as a public meeting place, and our boulevards, such as they are, are not avenues for the parade and observation of personality, or for perusal by the flaneur, but conveyor belts to the stores, where we can buy everything but human understanding.-- Anatole Broyard, "In Praise of Contact", New York Times, June 27, 1982
"Baudelaire saw the writer as a detached flaneur, a mocking dandy in the big-city crowd, alienated, isolated, anonymous, aristocratic, melancholic.-- Ian Buruma, "The Romance of Exile", New Republic, February 12, 2001

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

such a lie

The title of this blog will remain, though I rarely live up to the spirit of it. I haven't been blogging because I've been busier than hell, but really no excuse. I use my downtime to fart around and check out videos on Netflix and YouTube. Oh, well.

I have been busier than heck with school work, grading papers and writing lesson plans. This exemplary student teacher award nomination thingy requires me to video tape a class and submit a 300-500 word critique of the lesson and provide any supplementary materials. I also have to put my resume together so I can do a mock interview with my current school principal and the team of teachers. And then there's the portfolio and reflections, which we talked about tonight in our student teacher's meeting at NIU. But there's a carrot. A month from today I'll be sleeping outside in the Arizona winter, enjoying a much-deserved respite from obligation or care.

In the meantime enjoy this latest fun video:

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

James Burke Connections techno meltdown



Off to the 3rd St. laundromat for quarters. One car parked outside, some Chevy economy, vanity plates “LILDVA.” Inside the Laundromat a human bowling ball, legs like ham hocks, billowing rolls. I hope she can sing.

Vanity plates. Something I’ll never do. One of many things, like bumper stickers, decals, spoilers, rims, or other urban flair adornments I’ll never come across. Though I wonder sometimes what bumper stickers I would put on my vehicle. Some trail logos. “I brake for hikers.” Something about rivers, Calvin pissing on a kayak. Two slightly contradictory stickers, like Jesus Saves and People Suck. I could also get window decals of Rock Valley College and NIU. My vehicle must be a total expression of me, my ego, my interests. Whatever.

Over 10 years ago I drove a school bus. Every day on my route I saw a car with vanity plates, “BRYMNLW.” It got so I looked for it everyday and gauged our separate schedules by where we crossed paths. Once, we stopped at an intersection, me facing west, she east, and I got a good look at her in the rising sun -- a fat, bespectacled, unadorned, short haired sexless woman. I figured she had many cats. And she reminded me of some of my own female relatives who never married. I also laughed inside when I thought about her being a fan of Barry Manilow. How schlock can you get? What next? The Franklin Mint.

Fast forward to July 2000 on the Appalachian Trail. I got a fever that lasted five days and knocked me off the trail for about three days. A Pennsylvania Dutch family, the Franz’s, took us in for a couple of days, and on the second day Mrs. Franz drove us to a grocery store. I was finally feeling better, fever broke the night before in a pool of sweat, and I had my appetite back. I was itching to hit the trail again.

At the grocery store a Barry Manilow song, “I Made it Through the Rain,” came on the radio. I listened to it and remembered the lady with the vanity plates from my bus route. I hadn’t thought about her in years. And then, I kid you not, true testimony to what a sentimental sap I am, I cried when I heard these lyrics:

I made it through the rain
I kept my world protected
I made it throught the rain
I kept my point of view
I made it through the rain
And found myself respected
By the others who
Got rained on too
And made it through

Why? Because it was a wet as hell summer for us on the trail, and it is harder to face the trail and elements when you’re wet all the time. And I had just beaten a horrible fever and was feeling refreshed, alive, right there, in the moment. I know now, over 7 years removed from that experience, how significant that moment was. I’ve heard the song a few times since, and it hardly moves me. I’m kind of embarrassed how affected I was when I heard it in that grocery store.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I’m walking around DeKalb and I come across a car, same vanity plates. Fandom unwaning. Vegas calls.

I have included a video clip with this post of the first episode of James Burke’s “Connections” TV show for the BBC. It’s an odd mix of history, philosophy, literature, travelogue, and prophecy, all spiced with Burke’s witty earnestness and attention to detail.

I’ve included this clip because it highlights an essential modern dilemma -- our enslavement to technology. Burke uses an apt symbol, an elevator, to highlight the perils of technological dependence. Cut out the electricity and most people trapped in an elevator would not know what to do. I don’t know if that is necessarily true, what with so many TV and movie depictions of people trapped in elevators. Isn’t there always a trap door in the ceiling. But how often do you check for that trap door when you get in an elevator?

Burke talks about a world without electricity as he walks across a gray, asphalt road littered with abandoned cars. He uses this simple scenario to illustrate how ill-equipped modern man is to face the world without modern contrivances. As Burke flees the metropolis, he manuevers from elevators to his intended target, the plow, one of the first technologies that dramatically altered how humans lived and interacted with one another.

The integration of gasoline and electric powered tools into society is so complete that modern society could not function in their absence. Never before in the history of mankind has civilization depended so much on forces not within a grassroots control of the populace. As humankind changes the forces of nature, a hubris sets in. So few realize how razor thin is the veneer of social stability or how much our lives are shaped by the tools we use.

***********

Gawdammit, I sound all preachy there. Me self righteous recycling eco-warrior, all guilty because I drive a vehicle with a V-6 engine. Me thinking, bring it on, Armageddon, because I would survive, when in truth I’m as dependent upon the technologies as anybody else. Though, unlike most, I am a neo-Luddite and would not mind seeing the machines stop and slow down the system for a while.

****************

Just past Marshfield there was a wind storm.

He couldn’t fathom that only the grocery stores sold liquor, and at limited hours, but the bars could be open any time and sell whatever kind of alcohol. He walked to work in the mornings and saw the gentlemen drinking at the bar across from the bowling alley at 7 a.m. On his last day in town he stopped there on the way to work, drank a shot, and breezed on into the office. He did not linger long at the bar because his shirt and tie stood out against the grimy,grease-stained factory shirts of those around him. He’d always admired the bar from the outside, these couple years walking past it, hearing the laughter, seeing the neon lights in the windows, an air of cheeriness, the smell of stale cigarette smoke. These were fine witnessed from the outside, and from the outside it would be easy to give the scene a certain romanticism -- as if bloody mary’s and griddle-fried eggs and hash browns carry with them a certain dignity and poignance because they are witnessed wistfully from the outside.

When he finally experienced the bar from the inside, when what could be became what is, of course, it was a set up, no doubt, the romanticized notion of this place far outstripped the rather mundane reality of it all. There was laughter and conviviality here, to be sure, but only shared by those who lived and worked side by side in a place he, the outsider, did not know.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

blah blah blah blah blah

Keep it light. Breezy. The breeze off the bay. Elmore Leonard. A shotgun through a window. The flash of muzzle powder? Sulfur stink in the air. The body thuds. A pair of plastic framed glasses skitters across the wooden floor. A figure in black dashes off to an awaiting two-door late model sedan. The wheels squeal and kick up dust as it drives away. No one got a license number. No one saw anything at all. There were no witnesses.

A man sits dead by the riverside, a bullet hole through the temple. He was a working class man who lived in a working class neighborhood of tract homes. No weapon was ever recovered. No tracks. .38 caliber bullet. At his visitation the funeral home had done a good job, but the lines of his forehead abruptly faded in the center of his brow, giving his death face a somewhat whimsical expression, as if he faced death cool and aloof. Which he probably did because he was fishing, and it was a beautiful fall day, and his killer left no footprints. If some ghosts are ghosts because death happened so suddenly and they do not realize it, this guy would be a good candidate.

Of course, I’m revisiting a childhood trauma. One of my best friends from childhood, age 9, to be exact, when we were good friends his father was murdered in that fashion. And his murder remains unsolved to this day.

The river is an uncaring cataract. It carries bodies and evidence and logs and junk indiscriminately. Unseen, below, boulders, pebbles, sand, eartha moves steadily, glacially, toward the sea.

Such dark, murky, underwater thoughts on a sunny Sunday morning… Thinking novel thoughts, even though whatever fiction I seem to start gets stalled somewhere… due to… honestly.?.. Short attention span. Too critical. Gotta get over that. Keep it light. Breezy. Like a 60s skinny tie loafer coolness hipster.

Maybe a road trip movie, where our protagonist meets five interesting characters on the path to both a material goal and a spiritual redemption. The hero’s tale. But light. Breezy. Motive for travel. The funeral of a friend? Too unbelievable. A planned hiatus. The bum at 50?
Or… for the sake of the national novel writing month… 50,000 words. Five characters. A small town. Interweave five distinct characters in a landscape. The landscape itself is a character. A backdrop and a mood setter. Thought about doing a highly fictionalized version of Antigo, the sports editor/reporter for a daily newspaper in a small town in northern Wisconsin town. It will be easier, considering the time constraint, to cull loosely from my own life. Plus, I remember the distinctive details of that time and place.

I honestly don’t know how I’m going to find the time, in light of a slew of other things I am doing, to write a 50,000 word novel this month. But I like the challenge, and am going to take it up… starting now… No, wait, I have to outline first. The procrastinator’s creed. Well… let’s come up with a basic plot. Or do the characters first? The fear of failure. Of seeming stupid at it. This is why I don’t write fiction. I don’t feel qualified. I am dissatisfied so much with my past efforts, though I have written a few reasonably good short stories. What will carry me past writer’s block is not caring about quality. I can always fix things on the second draft. It’s like I tell my students, “just get it out there. Don’t worry about it just keep the pen moving. And so it is this morning. But this is just for the sake of 1,000 words. The end goal limits the creativity. Cuts it off midstream.

Not going to worry about that today. Sunday. My weekend with Jonny. May go outside to another forest preserve. Yesterday went to Pratt’s Woods in DuPage County. IT is just one of many forest preserves along the Kress Creek and DuPage River corridors. I am going to explore this area on foot and eventually canoe the river. My canoe season is officially over. Next weekend I take the canoe up to my parent’s place for storage, remove the rack from the truck, and put the bed liner back in. Of course, this week I have to remember (yeah, right) to epoxy seal the holes in the bed liner. And dat dere’s the crappy t’ing ‘bout bed liners; they can promote rust if water gets trapped in the bed by the liner.

See? I went from writing about my small town idyll / tale of discovery novel to mulling over the mundane details in my life. But, see, this procrastination. I could put it in the novel. Our hero who I haven’t given a name yet. Just call him Protagonist 1/ character 1/ the young man, fresh out of college, without a face, but a vague history that resembles, in certain ancillary details, my own life at the time that I lived in Antigo With some key differences. He arrives in Antigo still single. Because his navigation fo the single life, or lack thereof, in this small town, will provide some of the fun, breezy, comedic elements of the overall story. Now I’m thinking… The gears are turning. I want to have this still unnamed hero / protagonist / human being / find love and learn to compromise his career goals for the sake of that love. Yeah, that could the be the climax. He’s offered a higher-paying position at a larger mid-market daily, Green Bay, and that ends the novel as our hero leaves, and takes his love with him…. See? Light. Breezy. Soap opera. A bit of the ol’ Garrison Keilllor with eccentric oddball characters milling on the fringe, based, of course, on actual oddball characters I’ve met there and in Antigo over the years.

One of the other main characters will be an oddball. The town eccentric. The guy who lives out of his truck. The guy who wrote the Jesus Christ mind control machine manifesto. [there really was a self-published book by some local oddball in the records of the newspaper office]. There has to be an antagonist. A scandal. A bugaboo or two to keep things exciting. I like making the sheriff the bad guy. Another bad guy would be the city attorney guy, a nerdy, professional, non-small town mastermind kind of guy. Not like our main character, who is aloof and a little put off by living in the north woods. I admit there will be a bit of a Northern Exposure vibe to this, though not as Jungian, and possessing none of the remoteness that is Alaska. But, like Northern Exposure, the politics and quirkiness of small town life will be exploited to maximum effect.

************

More soon… This is actually my thousand word cutoff, but closer to word 1,150.…

****************

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Gear freak Part One

The cannibal drive is an idgit a digit tidbit
Burnished to shine, homey, can you dig?

Aw, whoo you foolin’?

Drooling pacemaker. Digitalis’ll solve that ticker. Rigormortis imminent.
Blood cools and congeals.

Orchestrated eggs also…
Sunshine boil to green
Protein thick sticky
Whites smooth

Surging thrombosis. Electrical signals crossed. Thrumming bird wings flapping, caught in bush, palpitations. Fading, fading, flutter.

Zounds! Great booming chest cave!
Kerchok little bird
Little engine warm
Filling capillaries

Finagle it. Forget it. 8 p.m. of a Monday evening. Again thinking I shoulda gone on with this writing gig a bit earlier, because now, time change, fall back, I’m all tired thinking it’s 9 p.m. But I filled my after school time with Internet crap (YouTube and Netflix) and cooking. Gotta treat the laptop less as a source of entertainment and more as a tool.

Registered for classes this morning. Also don’t know if I wrote this already, but I am also going to teach a section of ENGL 104 in the spring, hopefully on a Tuesday / Thursday schedule, take the last two classes I need to earn my master’s degree, and also take the comprehensive exams. Next May I’m done. My plan is to supplement my income teaching FYCOMP, about $1,000 a month, with substitute teaching. If I can keep my finances low and save up about $500, I’ll take another hike sometime in May or June. Possible trails include the Ice Age Trail, the Colorado Trail, the Long Trail in Vermont, or the Wind River Range, Wyoming. Or back on the Appalachian Trail for a tramp in the woods and a dose of thru-hiking culture.

I’ve done a thru hike every election year since 2000. No thru hike is planned for 2008. That kind of sucks, but such is reality. I can at least get a long hike or two in when I can find the time. Truthfully, I don’t think I’ll miss not thru hiking in ’08. That’s a hell of a lot of work, time, planning, and just plain ol’ physical endurance and prolonged discomfort. From blisters to blowdowns, high winds, cold, rain, all the rest… A month at the most is a good dose of the outdoors life.

Backpacking is low cost once the gear is acquired. And for those who know how to sew, even the gear can be inexpensive. A certain percentage of the backpacking culture are devoted gear heads. MY friend Dave Long, who introduced me to backpacking in the spring of 1998, shortly before I moved to Antigo, is a total gear freak. He’s the same guy who gave me a GPS for my Arizona Trail hike last year.

I’m not a gear head. I like to make the right gear decisions, and look at other people’s set-ups for ideas. I have seen probably every style of tent, tarp, sleeping bag, bivy sack, backpack, boot, gaiter, and hiking pole imaginable. But I don’t by any means have the latest or greatest gear. None of my clothes are made of brightly colored fabrics.

Here’s a partial, completely off the top of my head list of gear items I plan to take on the Arizona Trail in December.

Go-Lite Breeze backpack -- The top drawstring broke, so I tie it down with a shoestring on the outside. Even though this has gone the length of the AT, the ripstop nylon, while faded on the bottom and part where it rubbed against my back, is holding strong, as are the shoulder straps. This is the simplest, lightest (13 oz.) pack on the market. I don’t know if you can buy it anymore. A basic design for anyone who wants to sew this pack on their own is in the book Beyond Backpacking, by Ray Jardine. Funny that I mention Ray Jardine because I had corn pasta for dinner. Ha!

Homemade 10 x 12 foot tarp -- I bought the fabric and was going to sew it myself, thinking, hey, for a first sewing project what could be easier than a tarp? Until I discovered the expensive, silicone impregnated nylon fabric was slippier as hell and super hard to handle in a sewing machine. My mother, an expert sewer, bailed me out and sewed this tarp herself, per my specifications and design assistance. It is an awesome tarp. I have weathered many a dismal storm, albeit fitfully, under its cover. A tent can’t be beat for sure protection against the elements. But a tarp can’t be beat for versatility. I also carry a bag with 6 tent stakes. Some bent up no-bendy-ums and other aluminum stakes going back a couple generations.

OR two-person bug bivy with nylon floor -- This is a great summer or winter time accessory for the tarp. The nylon floor negates the need for a separate ground cloth. To save weight, I may pack a piece of tyvek (you know, the stuff that covers houses while they are being built) instead. I won’t need protection from bugs in December on the AZT. Last year I remember sleeping with the netting down the entire time.

In lieu of a pack cover (to keep the pack and contents dry when it rains), I put a garbage disposal bag (thicker plastic and just the right size) inside the pack.

Clothes

Two pairs of wool socks -- One pair for hiking, another for camp/bed. Always, always, always, have a dry, thick pair of socks.

New Balance tennis shoes -- model #485 I believe.

Ancient old Farm and Fleet polypropylene long johns -- not too thick, a little holey, I’ve had these babies forever and keep them more for sentiment than function.

Thicker fleece long johns -- These are newer and pill up a lot. I almost never hike in them. They keep the legs warm at night pretty well.

Yellow swimming trunks -- my version of hiking shorts. No undies allowed.

Hanes white cotton t-shirt -- OF course I lose this if it gets wet, but it’s my preferred underlayer. Cotton is absolutely shunned by most hikers.

Old as hell Farm and Fleet long john top -- also a little holey and beset with a funky odor that I find endearing. Others may not.

Smart wool merino wool long john top -- not as old, super light weight, super warm. I love this shirt.

Polypropylene turtleneck top -- I’ve had this shirt about 8 years and it too is getting holey, but it is still oh so warm. It’s made it through two thru-hikes, so give it some props.

TO BE CONTINUED ON NOVEMBER 2 entry….

Friday, November 02, 2007

Gear Freak Part Two

Cotton/ wool Enjoi panda bear pullover hooded sweatshirt -- this is the one bit of gear I worry most about. Is it warm enough? Will it endure getting wet? It’s also heavy as hell and bulky. Honestly, when I’m not wearing it, I don’t know if I’ll have room in my pack for it. I’ll have to tie it to the outside or fit it somehow in the long mesh pocket on the outside. I’ve mulled over getting a down jacket, but am going to postpone that gear purchase until gainfully employed.

Campmor nylon rain jacket -- This is a $20 rain jacket. It still works and has all the zippers and vents of a costly jacket. The only thing that sucks about this jacket is that it drips water on my legs. I curl and adjust it to send the drip elsewhere, and that sometimes works, but not always. Anyways, it provides hours of diversionary entertainment on rainy trail days. I plan to spray it with Nikwax before the upcoming trip.

Floppy wide-brimmed boony hat -- I got made fun of when I showed this hat in trail presentations because I look like a miner, but this hat is super light, super waterproof, and provides ample shade. This is a desert rat hiker hat, beotch. I have no excuse for the yellow swim trunks over navy blue, holey long johns. 80s jazzercise goth? The hat just fits in a wacky ensemble.

Fleece balaclava hat -- This combined with my sweatshirt hood will keep my head warm at
night.

Cheap sunglasses.

Zero degree sleeping bag -- This bag served me well on the PCT. It’s insanely warm, but in serious need of a bath. I’ve never washed it, and it has weathered 3,000 trail miles and daily use the past two years.

Other items:

Quart cook pot, pot gripper (I am leaving the stove and fuel at home. All cooking this trip will be
by fire. I plan to have a fire every night, for warmth and light through a long night. I remember well the hours from 5 - 9 p.m. in total darkness and cold, awake. Tending the fire and reading by its flame, when my hands weren’t too cold, helped wile away the hours.

Ridge rest ¾ length -- I cut this into two segments. This provides the “frame” for my pack. I unravel the roll inside my pack and put most of my gear inside it. This provides further cushioning and protection from the elements. But the ridge rest doesn’t compare to my luxury thermarest for comfort. I have to choose my camp site with care and look for soft ground with thick cover. Bare ground is too cold, especially in the winter. This gear choice is the only one available to me in this lightweight setup.

Nylon food bag -- I won’t have to carry more than four days of food at a time on this upcoming trip.

Ditty bag -- containing contact lens case, solution, toothbrush, toothpaste, fine tooth comb (to get out really tiny cactus needles), Swiss Army knife, LED headlamp, MP3 player and headphones (a first!!) first aid kit (aspirin, anti-diarrhea pills, moleskin, needle, dental floss, almost empty tube of Neosporin, a candle, spare waterproof matches), toilet paper, travel size alcohol disinfectant gel, a small bic lighter, sunscreen, and probably a couple other things I’m forgetting right now.

A book -- For this trip something light and small print.

A journal -- for this trip maybe just some looseleaf notebook paper.

GPS unit and carrying case

a disposable camera

Four one liter water bottles -- Including at least one Gatorade bottle. Why? Gatorade is good for coffee because the plastic doesn’t melt or contort. But the bottle gets all stretchy when it’s warm. No doubt some carcinogen is passed on to my morning coffee, but it’s still lighter than Nalgene. Two of the bottles will be wrapped in duct tape. Duct tape is a hiker’s best friend. I use duct tape and toilet paper for band-aids.

Polar Pure crystallized iodine water purification -- I know, this sucks in the cold weather, but I plan to let my treated water alone for a looong time -- hours, before use. The colder it gets, though, the less effective iodine is. And in the cattle country along the AZT, I better be careful where I get my water. What I did last year was treat the water, and then, in camp, heat up the water by the fire (another diversionary job) to pour in my Gatorade bottles. This disinfected the water further and kept me warmer at night. I’ll probably do the same this trip. Iodine alone is foolish in the cold at a cattle pond.

I think that’s about it. Golly, gee, that seems like a lot of stuff. And this is my lightweight setup. What seems excessive are the clothes. But I have to consider that in the cold weather I will be wearing those clothes while I hike. I’ll feel stupid and weighted down if it gets warm. I also remember that I will go over only one major mountain range, the Santa Catalinas, right at the beginning, and will do more lower desert hiking, including a crossing of the Gila River.

This is also why I, after studying the map, have an ambitious secondary goal in mind. If I average 14 miles a day over the 10 days, I will end up at Superior, AZ, with 36 hours to spare to hitch and bus my way back to Tucson. But if I can average 19 miles a day, tack another 50 miles, and “bag” the Superstitions (mucho wilderness, legendary badass desert mountains), I could get off the AZT at Roosevelt Lake, close to the halfway point.

Even though the Superstitions are a tempting carrot, and the easy terrain could make it possible, I have to admit I’m not in the best shape ever. Sure, my legs are in great shape from frequent long, 5-6 mile walks. I’ve just got a little extra baggage in the middle to lose. Averaging 19 miles a day on a thru hike is impressive enough. Doing it on a short-term trip nearly impossible. Adding to the difficulty are the shorter days and lack of trail in many sections. Route finding is time consuming, even with a GPS.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

a thousand words a week?!!

There it is. This challenge that lies before me. To conjure up words after a day of words. This constant involvement in language, reading, and writing invigorates the creative juices. But I think I make the mistake of making time for this too late in the day. In order for me to fulfill the 1,000 words a day goal, I will have to write more earlier in the day. Maybe get up a little earlier than normal and knock off a couple hundred words. Another couple hundred at lunch… here… there… throughout the day.

This could make for very disjointed writing, but not leave me with this hourlong burden actually not an hour long tonight because I am going to keep on typing no stop at all to even formulate or copulate a thought. What an idea. Copulate a thought. Dirty mind. Active mind. Motion mind.
The yelling, clapping, crowd, all moving in time to the funky beat the band young vigorous in time to a simple funky beat, gets all scatty and yelling to the wah wah groove steady high hat drums just that moment the groove

And tell me you love me. What do you really mean? Love is covetous? Love is service? Love as sacrifice? Concern? Care? Mutual respect? And love the most talked about misunderstood subject with all its heavy individual commitments love the cliché love the burden love the sacrifice love supreme the blue light that Coehlo talks about the blue light of love for everything that embraces the universe that blue light special energy Kmart defeated dinosaur chain blue light special a reference Jonny and company won’t get.

About Jonny. Halloween last night. The first time I’ve been trick or treating in about 20 years. Jonny had a lot of fun. It didn’t take long for him to get the concept of Halloween. AT the first house where he was able to pick out of a bowl, he went for a mad grab and had to put some back. Jonny went as Voltar the Viking. He’s got this cute little Viking outfit, plastic horn sided helmet and sash front and he practically waddled all obese with this black ninja jumpsuit thing over his fleece jacket and other pants. Norman Rockwell scene on quiet old neighborhood Sycamore street, kids running from door to door lawns with Styrofoam tombstones, all the cheesy motion and air filled contrivances. The Sycamorans really get into Halloween, it being the home of the Pumpkin festival.

I joked with Esther that this town is populated by an evil, Satanic cult, and that she should resist indoctrination, for Jonny’s sake, as long as possible. Esther, going along with the gag, turns to me all serious, and in a monotone says, too late. Did that really happen? No. Probably not in so many words, though I’ve had this running gag going back to 12 years ago when I last lived in Sycamore, that the town has a secret cult that organizes the pumpkin fest and has a secret death cult involving evil rites and human sacrifice. All under the guise of Midwestern wholesomeness.

Sycamore’s a bit of an expensive town. Its downtown and older neighborhoods are well-preserved. It’s new build and chainy blandness is situated well on the outskirts of town. It’s a pleasant place. Strange for me because I was young and married there and now am there older, a parent, and divorced.

Esther and I are seen together often in Sycamore. She and Jonny don’t come to DeKalb that
often. This is usually because during the week I usually go to Sycamore, and on “my” weekend every other weekend, I ride with Esther and Jonny in her car to Loves Park, where Jonny and I spend a day at my parents. But this weekend my retired, but busy as all get out parents are coming down Friday to see Jonny. Mom is very involved with her church and also does a lot of sewing projects for Midway Village and other relatives. Dad volunteers at Swedish American Hospital pushing patients on wheel chairs (as is the required custom with most hospital patients) to a car port. He also volunteers at the ticket booth at Midway Village, it seems, just about every weekend.

I hope to be as active and involved in 35 years. Speaking of… I’m almost officially reaching the mid-30s milestone. Guhhh. I’ve thought about age a bit lately because I’ve suffered a period of fatigue the past couple weeks. I went to bed early many nights in a row and slept at least 8 hours or more. Normally, I don’t knock off until after 11 p.m., and get up at 6:15 a.m. But lately it’s been 9, 9:30. And I’ve been just tired and listless after dinner most nights. Part of it is the mental demands of teaching. But I’m used to that. I think the big reason is the season. November, like February on the flip side of winter, makes me just want to crawl in a hole and hibernate the entire month. I don’t like Novembers. Never have. But I’ve made peace with the month over the years, using the desire to hibernate as an opportunity to enjoy sedentary pursuits such as reading, writing, and watching movies even more.

Whatever. So full of crap. I just deal.

The walk home
Late fall afternoon light
On aluminum siding
The day of the dead
Candy left on the sidewalk

A rare still windless day
Audible nut chomp
Slinky tail hop through leaves
The low rumble of train
A late model sedan hisses
down a brick-paved street

And the light has shifted
Into that other spectrum
Shorter, brittle, golden fast
then gone
***
So, that’s the deal with the 1,000 words a day. Sometimes it’s a 1,000 words a week. Let’s shoot for a November sweep. I started this and aims to continue, even as I continues to produce mostly crap. And by the way, many of my typos are not unintentional, but word/tense/number play. Like “I aims to continue“ and “even as I continues,” inspired by the famous catch line from Popeye, just before he produces the until-now hidden can of spinach: “I‘ve had all I can stands and I can‘t stands no more!” That and many of my typos could be fixed, but for the sake of this forum who cares just leave it like this see no punctuation I don‘t have to follow the rules all the time.
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