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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wanna go camping?

The packs straps were burrowing into our shoulders as if looking for a place to hide, we were lathered like race horses wearing thermies and a parka and Rascal says to me, "I left my trail mix and meatsticks in the car." What i heard was, "Father, despite your very clear and specific instructions to me and despite your putting it in the same bag as the clothes i was to put on just prior to embarking on our three day journey, the very same clothes i am now wearing, i seem to have left a third of my provisions for this journey, by an almost deliberate act of ignorance with my cast-off laundry in the car." This was the first thirty minutes of our latest camping trip.

It was not an auspicious start.

Which made it just like every other camping trip i've ever took. Let's take a quick tour...
  • There was the first trip i took on my own, the Wayward Son and i managed to lock ourselves out of my bronco at a rest area on the turnpike, a subject i've written ad nauseum. When we finally arrived at the State Park there were no campsites available.
  • There was the one and only trip i took that Mynnie came on, the one where it rained the entire weekend.
  • One where i was a chaperone to the church youth, where i led my charges into the waterfalls to do some rock climbing and one fell twenty four feet to break his arm and glasses. And then it rained the rest of the weekend, so hard it flooded all the tents. Fortunately i don't use them.
  • There was the time the Wayward Son and i had all of our gear stolen out of our campsite.
  • There was my brilliant idea for Ballisticat and i to put a canoe into the West Branch Susquehanna and then row UP stream.
  • My other bright idea to take a four year old back packing. Yes, i carried him the last few miles of the last day. i talked Ballisticat into going on that trip too. Funny, he hasn't been able to go camping with me since.
  • My one and only motorcycle trip, again with the Wayward Son, involved finding no campsites at the park (maybe that's his thing) and so we camped in a carwash in the streaming rain. At least we weren't able to lock ourselves out of the bikes though it did take me a while to figure out why mine would inexplicably die while i was riding it. (The rather loose kickstand had a kill switch attached to it. Bungee cords, don't leave home without them.)
  • The Ballyhoo gang and i started our second trip together (Rascal was now eight) with a car accident.
  • On our last trip together and our first trip without Happ the Pretty, Rascal and i chose the wrong side of the gorge to camp on and ended up sleeping in the truck in a tourist trap.
No, nothing goes according to plan when we willfully go homeless. Which is precisely according to plan...

Monday, November 22, 2010

For Kevin



Some idle thoughts while idling on the great Eastern Not-so-free-way of 95....
  • 95 is urban blight made into a road. Too many people on top of each other means, less progress with more violence.
  • Okay, one more time for the cheap seats... MERGING IS MUCH, MUCH EASIER AND SAFER FOR EVERYONE IF YOU ARE TRAVELING THE SAME SPEED AS THE TRAFFIC YOU ARE MERGING WITH!!!!! NOT TEN MILES AN HOUR SLOWER, THE SAAAAAAAAME SPEED!
  • You know that commercial where they ask, "What if cars behaved more like schools of fish or flocks of flying birds?" and it shows all these cars moving in total harmony to merge at high speed into just one or two lanes of traffic? Yeah, they need to perfect that technology and stop worrying about whether or not people can parallel park. (See bullet point two.)
  • Cruise control people! You have a forty thousand dollar Toyota! I know you have it!
  • Sudnah's drive slower as a people than yankees. It's not a criticism, it's just an observation. Up here in the colder climes, if someone is doing less than five miles over the speed limit, we look for the Person with Disability tag, otherwise we assume there's just something wrong with their car.
  • i understand why you would put one rest area in between the north and southbound lanes, i just question the wisdom of having people merge with the fastest traffic. (See bullet point two.)
  • This one's for the Washingmore area. If you are contemplating widening a four lane highway because of your traffic woes... you have a larger infrastructure problem that you are totally ignoring. It's a band-aid for a sucking chest wound, Mr. Cityplanner. That's way too many humans in way too many cars all trying to go to the same place! There has to be a better way!
  • That said, the answer, Tokyo, is not to have guys who's job is to physically stuff more people into the train than it will hold so the doors will shut.
  • The path to bigotry and elitism is a steep hill smothered with lard. We have toll booths. Someone invents EZ pass. Fine. They no longer have to come to a complete stop. Those of us with conspiracy issues can continue paying the toll with paper and chips of metal that no longer represent a bar of gold in some deposit somewhere so the government that's taking our picture anyway can't track us as we drive our families to grandma's. Then they create special lanes for the EZ pass. Fine. Makes sense. Why should Tamika the Tolltaker have to stop painting her nails to watch an EZ passer pass her? Then come the express lanes for EZ pass. "Come to the darkside," they murmur as they rip through the toll booths at highway speeds. "We have cookies." Then someone lets you use their EZ pass on 95 and you spend a half an hour in Maryland traveling four miles in stop and go because they only have two lanes of express EZ pass and four of regular toll booths but fourteen million cars trying to use them and you start thinking, "This is stoopid. All those idiots who don't have EZ pass should get only one lane a mile from here so the rest of us can drive!" Then it hits you, "Eep! i have become one of ....THEM!"
  • When the real #{}<<'n issue is, WE ALREADY PAY TAXES! WHY DO WE HAVE TOLL BOOTHS AT ALL??
  • i've never used the caps lock button this much.
  • i heard of a population study done on rats once where the rats became increasingly violent and manic as the population increased beyond the environment's ability to sustain. i saw this study in action in that traffic jam yesterday. (see bullet point two)
  • This one is not technically a 95 issue except that 95 touches Jersey so maybe that's the transmission point for this stupidity. Traffic circles are not a viable solution to anything. They are the problem. They are a virus that must be stamped out with extreme prejudice.
  • Finally, driving 95 has reinforced my desire to someday retire to a boat. That and the list of cool restaurants that have docks that i'm compiling. i need one somewhere in between the Rideau Chain, Ontario and Annapolis, Maryland though. That's a long way to sail between Guinness and fish.

Monday, November 15, 2010

No one made me do this.

i've gotten lazy...er. And i'm not happy about it. Apparently, without someone, physical or metaphorical, standing behind me with a bullwhip, i don't have a lot of motivation to do much of anything. Strangely, the things i want to do are so self-serving that my conscience kicks in and doesn't allow me to do them either and so i sort of hover, trembling in a dead space between what i ought and what i nought without enough umption to bump me bum either direction. It's why i hate Saturdays. Quite often on a Saturday there is no one telling me clearly what i need to do. There's plenty to do. Too much usually and so an ordering has to take place. A structure of priority has to be assembled. But that is something to do and there's no one making me do it.

Even my writing has suffered. i once wrote a complete book. It wasn't a good book and i'm in the process of rewriting it but i actually got something down from start to finish. You know why. Cuz a couple of little kids started reading it and wanted me to finish. So there's your bullwhip. A gentle hand behind it but a whip just the same. Now? Heck, my last blog post wasn't even up to my standards. Granted, my chief concern was getting it written down before the smoke smell was out of my nostrils but that's barely fit for my notes and now i feel that there is a burnt out hole in the center of my blog as well as the back of the yard. Something published needs to be entertaining for the reader. There's an unspoken contract between me and thee that says, your time here will not be wasted. And i have to apologize. It has been lately. So before i go and waste more of it. Let me end here with the apology and the promise, that hopefully, there will be a return to the days of yore when reading a blog by a scruffy scribe contains a laugh and a truth and well spent minute or two. Or at least a laugh. Possibly just a chuckle. Heck, i'll be happy if you smile.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hello, I'm Johnny Cash

Minutes. Maybe even singular. That’s the timescale we’re talking about here. Possibly no more than sixty seconds from the time my little “controlled” burnpile jumped its ring of rocks and caught the surrounding leaves to the time I walked around the side of the house to get some more tarpaper. In that minute the fire ate itself a six-foot diameter circle. While shocked at the blackened ring of immolation, the fires themselves that formed the ring didn’t look very daunting. So at first I tried to just stomp them out. My feet, disproportionately large for a man only five six and steady fodder for mockery my whole life, only served to spread the impending disaster. The pillowy piles exploded and my podiatric paddles poofed with each panicked punt as if plunged into puffy pyrotechnic poodle pelts. Next I bolted for the rake. My thought was that if I could rake the flaming piles back within General Sherman’s Circle they could finish off the fuel they had and save Savannah. At first it seemed to work. Then to my horror as I was knee deep in a burning pile of brush and leaves that some fool had left at the border of their property, I turned to notice that the line of fire I thought I had defeated had jumped the line and was now windborne from my raking.
“It’s getting away from me, Dad!” I pointed out, most likely, unnecessarily to God. All around me the woods were burning. Small pines were starting to catch. The first neighbor’s house in the path was only twenty feet away from the rapidly growing, rapacious demon I had given birth to. I needed water but the house I was working at hadn’t had water since the pipes froze sometime last winter. I ran for the nearest neighbor that I knew was home, slipping and falling as I went. There were no introductions.
“Do you have a hose I can use?”
“Why sure, lemme…”
“My fire got out of hand!”
“Oh! It’s right around back!”
As it turns out, they had two hoses, already linked. I was hoping it was going to be long enough as i stumbled back to the rising flames, slipped and fell again. “Should I call the fire department?” She called to my running back.
“Probably a good idea.” I answered, not really wanting to need them but knowing the genie was out of the bottle and chaos theory had left Jurassic Park and taken field trip to the Poconos. Now I’ve worked on houses all over, most of them nearing the million-dollar mark. I’ve borrowed lots of hoses. One thing I’ve seen a lot of is poor water pressure. Here, in a little prefab in the hills, which gets its water from a little pumping station down the road, the pressure was phenomenal. Go fig. From then on it was just fire versus water. Time felt very fast but before I had half the circle drowned, a young man appeared with a rake and began pulling back everything the hose wouldn’t reach. I took the moment to grab a hose my house did have and got very wet adding it to the chain with the water going. Another lad with a rake showed up. He raked half-heartedly for a minute as if disappointed that he wouldn’t get to throw on his turnout gear and chop something with an axe and then called off the Dalmatians. Then he was gone too. The first lad borrowed the hose, something he’d probably been wanting to do since he arrived. While he was using his extensive training to carefully aim the garden hose at some remaining hot spots, I surveyed the scene.
From edge to edge the swath of black was now fifty-one feet. That’s no exaggeration, I measured. My throat was acrid and dry and my pants were soaked. My boots were black and my face and hands felt singed. I felt like a fool crossbred with a moron and slathered with some idiot.
I have been using November to remember to be thankful. Each day giving thanks for some blessing of God’s small or big. Tonight, I’m thankful for long hoses, good water pressure, an accurate self image and for mercy on a fool. I think I’ve got a new perspective on the Gospel.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Who indeed?



The frost-tinged wind has blown the treetops bare.
The leafy remnant are more crumbly browns than shades of fire.
Witching goblin, ghostly ghoul retreat to their respective lair.
Cattail valleys echo with the wandering wa-wa choir.

Gunshot signals hunter's boon and hind's resignation
In the evening there is woodsmoke on the crackling, whistling wind.
Cricket and frog relinquish the night to Owl's inquiring conversation
Who, they ask, who, yet believe that Winter is the end?