Monday, August 31, 2015

Mind Thing

Let it go. Almost everything is invention, fiction. There's a guy I know from the bar in the pub, an interesting person, and smart, even, in some ways; in other ways he's a stupid bigot. I don't understand how so many people fall into that category. Maybe it's why so many. I never wanted much, I still don't understand that, caring about the trappings. Though I do, of course; collect objects, do what I want, believe what I want. But I don't care if my silverware matches. For that matter I don't care if my socks match. I was writing a country/blues song about a bird-dog with brown eyes. I made another iteration of corn and oyster stew that was so good I thought I might die of joy. I steamed the oysters open in a cup of white wine, with shallots and some red pepper, caramelized, several twists of fresh black pepper; and the broth, with the sweet corn juice, was an incredible base. I fried the oysters, rolled in masa, very quickly in hot peanut oil. This made a very good chowder, actually better than very good, this made a chowder to stand up and take notice. What does 'good' mean, and 'very'. Corn milk is the next thing, the transition dish is kale cooked with creamed corn. Kale stewed in corn milk, with salt pork, is quite good. Actually so good that I forgot what I was doing, heating water to wash dishes, harvesting rain. You should taste this, the sweetness explodes on your tongue. Paw paws, and persimmons, that have a shelf life of maybe an hour; certain apples that turn brown right away. I can usually find a hold for my hands, then a knob where I can anchor a foot. That jump (climbing, in my case scrambling) occasioned by the book about Pueblos in the southwest, and remembering finding that corn. Cedar Mesa and Comb Ridge. There's a small side-canyon, I'm sure it has a name, with one of the few water sources. You can smell it long before you see it. The green. There's a natural tank between Monticello and Moab, in the badlands to the east, on the north side of a butte, that holds water for most of the summer. It's mostly hanging plants there, but you can still smell it before you see it. One spring in Colorado it rained for a couple of days and the air smelled different, I hiked up the steep mesa behind the house, and on top, usually just rocks and cactus and withered bunch grass, there was a riot of flowers. It happened one time in the ten years I lived there. I couldn't do the drive anymore, but there was a 'road' that went up to Yankee Boy Basin, maybe 11,000 feet, summer lasted 20 or 30 days, and you couldn't move without crushing alpine flowers. A spring started there, a beautiful thing, bubbling out of the earth, melted snow. There was still un-melted snow a thousand feet above. A great place to camp but in the morning you sensed you might be at the perfume counter in Wal-Mart. I couldn't eat anyway, until I got back down to Ouray, the drive down was worse than the drive up, then I'd wash my face and hands, and eat like a lumberjack. It's interesting how memory works. A smell or a sound or a specific green chili sauce. Everything is in play. Michael said he had a Kim Chee starter. Dried powdered shrimp? Something like that black Mexican corn mold? Read more...

Saturday, August 29, 2015


Mid-morning I could hear them coming. A flock of turkeys, when they're feeding and feel safe (and they always keep a couple of lookouts) can be a noisy gang. They can tear up an area. If they stay true to form, they'll work through here at about the same time for two or three days. Cup of coffee and I watch them for half-an-hour. They're very interesting. B called and had some library books for me and I thought about going to town, but didn't need anything, so just drove down there, talked about his brutal new teaching schedule (just for one semester, money to re-roof his house) picked up the books and went home. One of the books was non-fiction, southwest hiking and a decent discussion of the rise and fall of cultures on the Colorado Plateau. One of the places mentioned, Cedar Mesa, outside of Bluff, Utah, is one of my favorite spots in the world, I've hiked and camped there many times. There's a great chert deposit. One of the canyons was fenced off, Ute grazing land on the outside. You had to know it was there, and it was a pretty good hike, but at the head of the canyon, there was a spring, several structures and rock art all over a ledge that was virtually inaccessible and easily defendable with a club. There was a water tank (a stone depression), and a granary, and the access was just foot-holds carved in sandstone. One of the two or three best places I've ever spent the night; camped up the Little Cimarron, catching cut-throat trout for breakfast; the Niobrara; one night on the Bay of Fundy. But to wake under a huge overhanging ledge of sandstone, my panic that the whole damned thing is going to come crashing down. I don't trust sandstone ceilings because they're so fucking heavy. You can live under a rock overhang if you want to, but I'd rather stay out in the open, where I could run in any direction. I have trained goats that would scatter in four directions, if anything happened, and they usually warned me which direction to avoid. Goats can change direction very quickly. A lovely cool night, but I left the windows open and pulled up a flannel sheet. Made a list this morning. Sidetracked by mushrooms and cattails, stopped at the Diary Bar for a footer and onion rings, stopped at the pub for a pint and they had saved a nice three gallon square bucket for me. A great label: Hard Boiled Eggs In Brine. A good label can make my day. I'd stopped at a junk store, on the way into town, looking for the heads of tools that needed re-handling (I want a two-pound hammer, I don't have one), and I found apressure cooker, a large one, with a good gasket, but it was missing its pressure gauge which meant it was useless, so I got it for five dollars. It's the perfect small scale still, you just attach a copper tube to the pressure relief port and you can distill anything. You just need a good thermometer, and the bad shit is fairly easy to detect. Keeping an even heat, in a wood-stove, is difficult, but I've had decades of experience, and I think it's interesting that the only person who knows more about that than me lives just a mile down the road. He called, seems one of the books he'd loaned me was due yesterday. I'd already read the books, and he'll pick them up tomorrow. Absolutely luscious heirloom tomatoes and tofu on toast, with balsamic and a sprinkle of olive oil. I can't even imagine anything better. You have the comparative, then you have the superlative. I like to cube tofu and soak it strong marinades, mustard, red wine, tropical botanicals, then dry it, then reconstitute it in Madeira. A certain grace, of course, in the way I presented this to other people. That world, out there, requires a certain dexterity, and it's not that difficult to master, shouting in an order at Mac Doodles. Listen, I am almost perfectly integrated. I probably overreact. Read more...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Suspicious Activity

Very still morning, so any sound carries. I heard the school bus down on Upper Twin which I only do a couple of times a year, then men's voices. Talking loudly, to make themselves known, walking up the driveway. I wasn't feeling particularly social, first cup of coffee and laboring over a comma, but I couldn't ignore them. They had distant relatives buried up here somewhere and had heard I knew where the graveyard was. What I had taken to be rifles at a distance turned out to be pruning shears. They were polite and seemed to understand my bent for privacy. Pointed them in the right direction, then wondered who the hell they might actually be. No way of knowing. Maybe relatives. Still, there have been more than the normal number of people (which hovers around two per year), strangers to me, on the ridge in the last six months. Power company, phone companies, sheriff's deputies, people paying allegiance to dead bodies buried on my property, two missionaries, and one wacko meth-head running through the woods. I fail to see a pattern, which is not to say that there might be one, or not. It's a mystery to me that we can place one foot in front of another. I suspect I'm suspected of something, but I'm so transparently a dolt, I can't imagine anyone suspecting me of anything. Ten years as a janitor prepares you to seem stupid. And it' so easy to appear stupid, because, a couple of props, a mop, a broom, and you're dumber than a rock, and you can't hear. Deaf and stupid. Tie-dye tee-shirts under Carhartt overalls, and you're just another burned out hippy, happy to be alive. I can't imagine why anyone would consider me of any interest. Suspect T (to give myself a name) is extremely careful not to draw attention to himself, he has no tattoos that can be seen, and only a slight scarification beneath his left eye. He doesn't go to church but he does do that bird-count thing. We have a file of people like this, they want to integrate, as a way of disappearing, but they're actually off-shoots. I'm not getting that correctly. I hate when language fails me. If you don't buy the package, they don't let you on the bus. How much slack are we willing to grant any specific individual? As it turns out, I'm a very good person to interview for this survey, because I know quite a few people who live on what most people would consider 'the edge'. What I consider normal. Shooting a squirrel in the head at 100 feet, guilty as charged. The cousin that taught me could shoot the flame off candles. When we were hunting quail, he would only shoot birds that were 'crossing' so that he could get two with one shot. I never was any good at shooting birds on the wing. I'm barely ok with grouse and young turkey, they move so slowly, but I've never hit a dove except by accident. Other friends who only eat fruits and nuts and sleep on the ground. Two friends who read more than me, which is, technically, almost impossible; two hermits; a village idiot; and one friend that can play all of the cello suites, in the dark, without a score. I suppose it's just a matter of throwing in your lot, whichever direction, enough money and creature comforts, or a simple cabin in the woods with no amenities. You can live very well on cattails and oysters. Shitting in an outhouse isn't that much different from shitting in a toilet, running water is a relative phrase when I pour a gallon of rainwater over my head after a walk down to the mailbox; and the Jeep people want so badly for me to bring in my vehicle, because of some gas-tank issue, that they want to give me a $100 pre-paid card to cover any disruption. Almost exactly enough credit to buy a case of whiskey for my winter reserve. I'll be stuck at the dealership for several hours, while they fuck with the frame and the bolts, but I can just read a library book, at which, not to brag, I am a past master. Read more...

Night Scent

Something on the breeze, honeysuckle maybe. A white note at first, with fruity overtones. It must be honeysuckle, as there isn't much blooming on the ridge. Chicory and ragweed in the bottoms, along the road, and there's a small white flower, like a miniature daisy. While I'm on my knees, scraping away crap with my pocketknife, a Park Ranger stops and wonders what the hell I'm doing, he doesn't know what the flower is either but says it looks like a miniature daisy. I'm sure there's an program that allows you to photograph a flower and run it through a data base, but I don't have a phone and he doesn't have any bars. Michael's son was explaining to me that my entire system was crude, and I don't think he was referring to just electronics, he asked me where to pee and I told him outside, but not in the same place twice. When Kim was here he actually did pee on the same plant several times, killing a poison ivy plant that was threatening my back stoop. Nitrogen narcosis. This is where friends step up to the plate. The background smell is rotted leaves, almost animalistic, a little musky. Traveling with my daughters, a motel in Kansas or Nebraska, they'd take a shower after a swim in the pool, and they'd smell wonderful, peach shampoo and avocado body wash, but underneath was always the scent of young girl. Vetiver and new-mown hay. The staff at the pub were attentive and I realized the owner must be there, she was. I collected my free beer, had a bowl of soup, bought a few things at Kroger. There was an old house site, there's no house anymore, that I wanted to check for mushrooms, even though it meant driving around the back way home. The last seven miles, into the forest, I didn't pass another car. The old house site is defined by a couple of ancient apple trees and the usual expanded bed of daffodils, many mushrooms, and I collect enough to make a stew. I braise the jugged hare in butter and wine, salt and pepper, a goodly splash of gin (the juniper goes well) and make a nice gravy. In the best of all possible worlds, there would be biscuits, but it's too warm to start a fire, I do make a pot of pecan rice that is excellent, then have a glass of port and a piece of very serious chocolate, sitting in the dark. It's not raining but water is dripping off the roof.

Fuel cells and water
are the wave of the future.
Bubba says windmills
kill birds, but I have to point
out that plenty of geese
walk into officer assisted
suicide as a matter of course.

Monday, August 24, 2015

For Pleasure

Naming. Nicknames especially. A referent, sometimes just a way to remember. A small yellow flower I haven't identified. Weeks later, I might ask Jenny or B, both of whom are nominal experts, but sometimes I like my name better, Yellow Splutterweed, Crested Shitbird, Bitter Bush. In my own head I know exactly what I mean, but to talk about micro-environments with Jenny, we have to use the agreed upon name. I read Dorothy Sayers for pleasure, actually probably 50% of my reading is for pleasure, and almost all of it is pleasurable. Few activities stimulate me more than tracking down a fact. Knowing full well that any given fact is suspect. Grave Goods for instance. Flowers and a broken axe. I've read The Nine Tailors, five or six times, The Riddle Of The Sands, and I could read them again tomorrow. I enjoy plinking with my slingshot and not dancing; I enjoy listening to the blues, in the dark and alone; and I really enjoy eating artichokes with aioli. Always makes me want to make paper, because the fiber is so obvious, like Spartina in that regard. Rot off the organic crap in many changes of water, okra works well for this too, and you're left with a very nice fiber. Cotton might be the benchmark, clean and white. Fifty years before printing, pounding fiber into paper finally occurred in the west, maybe 1400. Papermaking made printing possible, vellum was limited to unborn calves, but paper was infinite. In so far as any fiber was available, pine trees for god's sake, suck out the naval stores, and you're left with fiber. That's why so much of the south is planted in fast growing pines, the Loblolly is hardly a tree, more a bush, actually. Harvested young and replanted because it's such a good crop. No upkeep involved, walk through occasionally and knock off the lower branches with a club. Tight knots are a good thing, a knot that can be released under pressure is even better. The simple clove-hitch. A package of chicken gizzards and hearts in the discount bin for $1.88, so I make dirty rice, to stretch the last of the stir-fry. Louisiana risotto. Minced gizzard and heart are so toothsome. The rice coming out of the deep south right now are the best I've ever had. Pecan rice, jasmine rice, black rice; and since the kale revolution all the greens are better. I like to cook two or three varieties together, with onion and salt pork; the extra liquid, if there is any, I just drink with a dash of hot sauce. Pot-liquor, this was always called, served with a splash of juice from the pickled cayenne peppers. Maybe a last corn bread stick drizzled with molasses. Seldom any dessert other than fried dough, dusted with powdered sugar. Fried fruit pies. Bananas, after United Fruit took over central America. Bananas and avocados are perfect fruit because they ripen after picking. The wild southern plum, I have no idea where it came from, makes (to my taste) the best of all jams, sour and sweet at the same time and explosive in flavor. If there's a piece of left-over cornbread, and someone visits, I'll split it open, butter the halves, and when it's toasted, smear on a blob of plum jam. Some of them merely smile, knowing my ways; others go into cardiac arrest. Nothing should taste that good. I do a great dish, with pounded pork tenderloin rounds, a complex recipe that involves dried fruit and nuts, a de-glazed sauce that is probably one of the great wonders of the world. I never actually saw the hanging towers of Babylon, but if the moon is positioned correctly, I can make a sauce that might well make you forget everything you previously thought you knew. Nordic. Dill. The one rotted shark I almost liked was covered in dill. A small amount, on toast, with onion and mustard, didn't quite taste like rotten shark. Sturgeon roe could lead you to trout roe, or salmon eggs, pressed through a sieve with a little salt. I don't want that, I swear, I'm perfectly happy making fake caviar from perch eggs and hiding in the woodwork. Read more...

Old Friends

Jugged Hare. A phone call that there was a rabbit in my mail box. I walked down to get it. I needed the exercise because I'm in terrible shape, physically, from a year of reading and writing, and winter is coming. The rabbit is perfect, skinned and gutted and cleaned. Elected to go with the jugged hare because I didn't know how old it was. With rabbits and squirrels (and chickens and almost anything else) the young are cooked differently from the old. I cut it up and put it in a brine/pickle. 48 or even 72 hours. I made a note to get a bag of apples, because I want to have stewed apples as a side, and maybe turnip slaw. In the meantime I have a wonderful stir-fry I need to eat, and tomatoes running out of my ears. I'm making a kind of pizza, in the toaster oven, roasted tomatoes and onions on store-bought flat bread with stinky cheese. Good stuff. The French certainly do enjoy their cheeses. It's a different mind-set, I like stinky cheese, and I usually try to stay in shape. Several fat people noticed I had lost weight. How dare I do that? I was already skinny. Chuck, at the Ace Hardware, has been spreading the rumor that I have a tapeworm, black ops, Burma. These guys (the hardware crew) are very funny. They have their own ice-cream chest, they buy ice-cream sandwiches by the carton. They've all gained weight. Very heavy people, in bumper cars at Kroger, are becoming a problem. What is with all these fat people? It's appalling. I usually wouldn't say anything, but the last time I went to the store, everyone was obese: mom, pop, daughter, son, an infant that looked like a couple of soccer balls, and I couldn't help but notice, I was waiting behind a lady who couldn't bend over, her stomach got in the way. A new category, 'People Too Fat To Check Out Groceries'. I don't know what set me off. Actually I do, a very fat woman ahead of me in line, she couldn't reach the back things in her shopping cart and I got them out for her, she said that I was a saint. I had to grin at that. Because I can cast into the far reaches. Frozen peas, give me a break. I don't like peas, actually, I'll eat them, and lentils, but I'd rather peel fava beans. Or cook chick-peas with kale and chorizo. A major ruckus wakes me in the wee hours. Feral dogs and a bob-cat by the sound of it. I made a little cradle, two blocks of wood, on the back deck, that holds the four cell flashlight so that the very strong beam hits the compost pile, because it takes two hands to shoot a slingshot. I've been shooting the slingshot a fair amount since I discovered the cheap marbles at Big Lots. They're sold as some sort of decorating item. Marbles in a crystal vase with back light? Whatever their function, they are the cheapest marbles I've ever bought. $2.99 for a gallon plastic bag, which is a great many marbles. I've gotten pretty good; actually I was always pretty good, and I'm somewhat better than that now. Neco Wafers at 25 feet. So it's easy enough to hit a dog in the ass. My legacy is hundreds of marbles spread across a ridge. That dog howls and I have time (I practice this, keeping the second marble under my tongue) before the alert, to hit a second dog, a pit-bull / hell-hound cross, in the shoulder. Everyone scatters; the dogs tear ass down the driveway and the bobcat slips away. I've successfully defended my territory. Completely awake at this point, so I roll a smoke and get a wee dram, it's either five in the morning or nine at night, late August. I don't really care. A wonderful conversation with a woman in India who was trying to sell me life-insurance. It was hot there, and she had five kids. She didn't have running water either. Period, space, it could have been a comma, and I'd run on, goddamn semi-colons, Roy Blount Jr. said something, then ten of twelve seconds of dead air. Silence can be a good thing, often uncomfortable, but nonetheless. Read more...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Night Music

Left the radio on, took a nap, and when I woke up, what woke me, was some great blues. Son House, I guess, get up and turn up the volume. When the set is over I put on a Mississippi John Hurt CD, to contrast that electric Chicago sound. Delta slack guitar. Talking with Dr. John yesterday, we had compared recipes for headcheese, and this book (Cannibalism) that I'm reading now. Jerky, pemmican, really? Those early Catholics, in South America, destroyed almost everything. Aztecs made a kind of headcheese; the hams, you know, went to the clergy. Dried strips from the legs were trail food. Let me say straight out that I would probably never eat another human being, unless the circumstances were extreme. On a lighter note, I noticed the teasel and the chicory, growing in that waste triangle where roads meet, it has a name (of course) but I can't remember it, and I pick a batch of greens. I have one of those orange cones that I set out to look official, and put on my flashers. I look completely natural. It's a talent I've honed. Barn owls being silent? I can do that. Eating my weight in bugs, no problem; it's all in the way you fold the wings. I have to explain again, I don't do any social media, none, I can't open files or photographs. None of it works in the middle of a state forest. I have a bare connection that allows me to send and receive emails. For all I know these are sent in Morse Code. I'm fine with the system, most of my friends are not. They actually don't believe it. But I've had serious IT people out, and they agree there isn't much I could do. Maybe an antenna of some sort, with a booster, and it wouldn't be dependable. Much like the system I have. A beef stew can, wrapped in a coil of wire, sticking up in my yard on a peeled poplar pole, with a wire running to a potato. I have a fair amount of rain water, so I pour a gallon over my head, lather up, and rinse with another gallon, heat another gallon and wash dishes. An enormous spike in my water use, most days I use less than a gallon. Most days I eat for three or four dollars, though I do invest a fair amount of time in eating cheaply. Not that I consider time to be money. I could tell it was Saturday by the NPR programing, a beautiful and cool morning, after the mist burned off it was severe clear, blue and bright. Walking down the logging road I thought about John Cage and what quiet was. I listen to nothing most of the time, but it isn't nothing. In the dark, when I usually write now, the bugs are a cacophony; birds during the day, and the occasional extraneous sound: a logging truck down below, a med-vac air-lift to Cincy. But a Saturday morning, it's very quiet. I have several stumps where I often stop to roll a smoke. It's a ritual, symbolic, probably iconic, especially now that I've stopped shaving (which saves several cups of water a day) and I have this full gray beard. Every once in a while I trim the edges with scissors, powered by my hands, which can't possibly leave a carbon footprint, and I no longer resemble the picture on my driver's license. Two things. One, I would fabricate, if I needed to make something up I would; and Two, no one, even me, would know. Play it close to your chest. It's difficult to disappear. Read more...

Cooloer Nights

Was there a tree house? Did we somehow get beer by the case? I assume I made most of this up. A fiction. I seem to remember running down to the beach in his father's sport's car, the first time I'd gone over a hundred miles an hour. I can't remember his name, he went on to some fame on the small track circuit. Fried mullet and hush-puppies, sweet slaw and garlic bread. Terry? The Elks Club, or The Eagles, someone always had a fish-fry at whatever event. Drag racing and a half-mile oval, or a swap-meet with a Demolition Derby. It was all so loud that by the time I was in college, a year or two into professional theater, I preferred to stay home and read. I still prefer to stay home and read. John Barth was a revelation, then Gaddis and Coover, then I met Glenn, who also read, and we'd talk about things we'd read. I started printing books and met strange poets. The rest, as they say, is mystery. Dawn breaks, fifty years later, you're splitting kindling, kneeling to the east; none of the sundry gods mean a fucking thing, they don't signify. Brown a steamed potato and fry an egg. Beans on toast. Goddamn Whip-O-Wills. Read through the morning, trying to finish a couple of things so I can put some books away. Quick trip to town, to get the makings for a stir-fry to see me through the weekend. Stopped for a bowl of soup and a beer, and Dr. John, former music and education professor, sat next to me. He gave me a quarter, which he always does, then he bought me another beer, and Cory had given me the first- pour glass of stout. John and I talked about sorghum syrup, on which he is expert, killing and curing pork, and the various manifestations of racism. He's almost as liberal as I am. Jesse, at the liquor store in Kroger, said he'd like to come out sometime. He knows about where I live, everyone knows about where I live, but even Google Earth fails, now that the driveway is canopied, and the green metal roof hardly shows at all, unless you know exactly where to look. Hot Italian sausage was on sale, so I got that for the stir-fry; and a large plain yogurt, which I find to be the perfect medium for canned blackberries. Then, on the way home, I saw some nice puff-balls and stopped to ask the land-owner if I could pick them. She was delighted I wanted them, made sweet tea while I pan-fried one for her dinner. Like slabs of tofu, they don't taste like much, but you can add anything to them. They'll be good with the sausage. A change at the library, a perky new person who seems to be running things. Cardigan sweaters, short blond pony-tail, I mean come on, is someone filming this? Read more...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Intimacy Gradient

Dina calls from Chicago, still teaching art at inner-city high schools; then another call from the past, a high school sweetheart who found me online and wondered if I was him. Yes, of course I remember. She had a mole, I told her, off-center between her breasts. She was amazed I was still alive, remembering our senior year. She remembered how I had disappeared, off with the circus (theater, at any rate) and didn't even attend graduation. She mentioned some people, I remembered a few of them. I told her that, yes, she was welcome to visit, but she'd have to get a room in town and bring her own flea powder. How different our lives are, and how events shape them. What we take for granted. Two conversations in one night and I feel shell-shocked, staring off into the middle distance:

Up close, middle ground,
with egrets stabbing minnows.
Watching the sun set.

I remember conversations with Harvey, before he killed himself. We would spend a long evening splitting hairs. He was fundamentally Jewish and I never did understand that, a belief system, after all. Probably bullshit, but I think I remember the last time, other than weddings and funerals, that I attended church. A Congregational thing in Florida, and I had actually passed up a chance to go fishing, so I almost understand. I can't get why wearing a head-scarf or a skull-cap would be any reason for cutting off your head. I can believe in oysters, I can believe in fiddle-head ferns, I have much more difficulty believing in imaginary text. Most of us are really stupid, subscribe to different channels, whatever, I hear the Harry Potter thing is big. I hear a fucking Whip-O-Will. I fully intend to stand my ground. None of this makes any sense. A passing fancy, not quite a frolic, one of those Sunday afternoons with iced tea and fried chicken.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Current Fashion

Our main thief, everyone knew who it was, is on the lam. Good news, but it creates a vacuum, and thievery is rampant out in the country. Everyone's on some drug or another. Heroin is way cheaper than oxy, cheaper than beer if you drink anything other than Pabst. I keep a sawed-off shotgun in my umbrella bin; the perfect and deeply offensive umbrella bin is an elephant foot, but mine is just a poplar round, hollowed out with decay. I've never actually bought an umbrella, but they seem to accumulate. So I have three or four; several walking sticks, including a Black Thorn with a silver handle, a very sharp machete, a hatchet, and a couple of boning knives. Things I might use if I had to defend myself. A rake and a shovel; I keep a small pistol, cut into a book, close at hand, not that I would ever use those things, but that they were available. Quick run to town, drinking water, whiskey, some food, stop at the pub for chicken and dumpling soup and a beer, chat with Devin, get home just before a down-burst. New library books, the week's New Yorker. Sultry hot afternoon, but Black Dell bears it with a bowl of ice and a small fan, and I'm fine, when I strip down to my boxers and sleeveless tee. I wear only cotton in the summer, otherwise I stink; my personal response to synthetic fabrics is an acrid locker-room smell. They don't like me and I don't like them. Rained hard last night, so I got up to close down Black Dell, got a late drink and rolled a smoke. Still reading in the field of island biogeography and there's a great deal published in the last decade or so. The Basin And Range of Nevada, for instance. Also a new book, for me, Cannibalism, Headhunting, And Human Sacrifice In North America that I'm looking forward to. Sent to me by a foodie friend, because, I suppose, there are some recipes. Which gets me hunting the indexes in my fairly complete collection of Claude Levi-Strauss books. The area around my desk has reached a stage of terminal mess, that would appear to be totally chaotic, but I often surprise the (very) occasional guest, and sometimes even myself, by putting a hand right on the publication in question. Sara is sending me a book via the pub, and it'll be interesting to see if I get it. They like me over there, for three different owners; I upholstered the fucking benches, I fetch ice for the bar when they're busy, I've even bused a table of two. I've offered, several times, to wash dishes, which I would actually enjoy doing, but they don't take me seriously. Cory thinks I should be a bartender, because I'm a good listener, but that wouldn't work out, and I couldn't work in the kitchen, because that wouldn't work out, but I could wash dishes, which requires no knowledge aforethought and very little remorse. But I don't need to do it, and I hate driving after dark. Also, I'm working on this new larder list, which posits fewer trips to town, and indicates an alternative reality. Low profile, you have to keep this stuff secret, that the long-heads, actual Phoenicians, died out on Easter Island. Not trying to convince anyone, don't give a shit, I just read along, through the night. One night, this must have been the late 60's, Gerry Mulligan was visiting with Geraldine Page, and he played, after hours. Transcendent. I hadn't understood free jazz until then. What's not said. Miles. Then Cage, leaving everything out. There's a thread here somewhere. Read more...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lost Page

It's been a while since I lost a page. A teeny blip on the grid, a one second outage. Editing arranged by the power company. Went outside to walk it off, saw a very large rattlesnake with a mouse in its mouth. Five feet long, male. Smelled of cucumber. Back home, distracted, made an omelet that I completely covered with a gravy made from browned butter and the common Agaricus fairy-ring mushroom. There's one place, down near the bottom of Upper Twin Creek where I often get two or three pounds. I need to get serious about the coming winter, summer break is about over, so it would be good to cut my reading back to four hours a day for a couple of months, then I can begin my fall and winter term, which, at this point is Survival 401. It was hot yesterday, so I think the power blip was the result of a great many window AC units being switched on at the same time. Home from work, get a beer or a gin and tonic, sit still and try not to sweat. Since I have to provide my own reference library, I have to project ahead in what my interest would be. I'm interested, right now, in sheep, when lamb becomes mutton, and lamb recipes. Lamb in the west, is a sheep less than a year old, free-ranged on mountain grass; lamb, in coastal New England, was a much smaller beast, served whole, at Easter. I'm interested in that whole goat/sheep thing, domestication, then draft animals, how a root became a plow; I order a couple of books to buy, then order a couple of things on inter-library loan. I have to say, springing to my own defense, it's very easy to get information. Iron is strong, no question about it, but four inch thick oak planks, on twelve-inch centers is pretty fucking strong too. I have people I can call, with specific questions, assuming I have a phone, and they can refer me to other people, so I can usually find out what something is, its chemical nature or what it's called. A very excited call from China, this guy I know as White Fang (Chinese students usually assume a western name, unless their name in Min or Yan) and he was calling to tell me that the Chinese language was also completely ideographic. If he said something about a fox in the snow, he was probably referring to his girlfriend. Lord knows, even with a huge collective base, we seldom say what we mean. It would be easier, but that's asking too much. I ran an experiment, a few years ago, where people were asked questions going into and out of a tunnel. Mostly they focused on the light. The end of the tunnel, complete bullshit, but it sounded OK. None of this makes any sense, I can sit back with a drink, roll a smoke, but none of it makes any sense. You're doing what because of what? I'd rather not reply. Read more...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Straight Ahead

Got the new mailbox installed, I'd gotten everything ready at the house and the actual installation took about ten minutes. Went on into town, as I was off the ridge, bought sushi, got a few books, visited with TR at the museum. Stopped at B's on the way home and we talked books for an hour, while I drank one of Ronnie's beers, PBR in a can, and he agreed that if I thought anyone was fucking with my mail, or smashing my mailbox with a baseball bat, that I should just get a PO box in Friendship, which shares a parking lot with the Marina Dairy Bar (which make very good onion rings) and on my route, if I go to town. Mac had already seen this, get a PO box and avoid any escalation. Only get four bills a month, my Visa, my electric bill, and two phone bills, local and long-distance, and no one writes anymore. Made a nice flour out of cattail pollen and ground acorns that I fried into something between a tortilla and Nan, that I rolled around a mushroom filling. So messy I ended up eating them with a fork; very good, though, and quite filling. Remembered a limeade I used to drink at a sandwich shop when I was a college student. Fresh made by the glass. I had picked up a bag of Persian limes and a small bottle of Grenadine. I had watched this being made hundreds of times, because I frequented the place (I wrote term papers for other people, and needed an office) and the waitress was a beautiful Jamaican. She was older than me, and would often stay and lock up if I was finishing a paper, then we'd go drink a bottle of wine. She called me her Boy-Toy, even in front of other people. I was deep into Absurd Theater at the time and it all seemed perfectly normal. Juice from a large lime (I use three Persians) a scant teaspoon of sugar, a shot of Grenadine, water, and a tall glass of shaved ice. A great refreshing drink, add a shot of vodka and you'd get your grandmother drunk. Not that you'd want to. My grandmother (Dad's mom died when he was young) was a Holy Pentecostal and I had never heard people speak in tongues. Language was called into question. I immediately withdrew, shells are a good thing. I read and fished for the four years before High School. Birmingham, then Key West, then Jacksonville, Florida; a good student, but distant. High School, I could talk my way out of anything. Played enough sports to get along. I was a very good second baseman, but I couldn't hit. I just couldn't see the ball. I think I miss the ball quite often, living as I do, but I try to not let it interfere with the day. Several things: watching the teasel grow. I actually pull over, set out plastic cones. Or, later we invent a brand, maybe just a color combination, some yellow and green field. The overriding sense is. I heard Jerry Mulligan play, late one night, Geraldine Page was singing scat, and it was beautiful. A balm for what ails you. Mulligan stopped once in a while to spit, but otherwise, I think we're pretty stupid. Read more...

Friday, August 14, 2015

At Odds

The quality of light is changing. More slant. The tree canopy over Mackletree has almost fully recovered from the huge fire a few years ago and the patterns between pools of brightness and deep shadow are so stark it's like driving through a kaleidoscope, almost blinding at times. I took a nap before last night's writing session and had the most vivid dream in months. There was an argument between two crows, which I understood perfectly, about String Theory and the number of universes; then a beach scene, probably Ireland (she was sturdily built and red-headed) where a woman in white was calmly standing, about a foot off the ground, watching seagulls work the wake of a fishing boat. I could see her clearly, but she couldn't see or hear me; and, finally, a painting, in an art gallery, a still life, some persimmons and a pear, which, I thought, in the dream, was very good. I don't usually remember my dreams, but this summer-altered schedule means Black Dell is on at night, and it was easy to just go over and make some notes as soon as I awoke. I don't even note my dreams or usually even think about them. I'm of that random-neurons-firing school, and don't subscribe to divination. Taken a certain amount of shit for that, over the years, everyone so desperate to believe, but I never felt I could waste Sunday by being religious, or agree that my future might be displayed in chicken guts or a cut of the cards. You can read anything into anything. Saw my first drone, maybe it wasn't a drone, there's a remote flying club, down in the bottom where the Scioto meets the Ohio, the skies are open and they can do their thing. But that would be a drone, right? A remotely controlled aircraft. It seemed to be looking for something. I had a Big Brother moment, then went out to collect some Coprinus mushrooms. These go through their life cycle quickly but are wonderful when gathered at their peak. A nice thick soup that freezes well and makes a wonderful brown-butter gravy. I freeze it an ice-cube tray then bag them; two of which, with a pat of butter, on a fried egg, on toast, is a feast. They know me at the sweet corn stand, and I get six ears for a buck; cut the kernels off, then milk the cob with the back of a table knife. Two servings, one, a chowder with oysters, the other makes four fritters. Deep clover. Of course I'm getting older, and my body is failing, but I can deal with that, I just have to be more careful. Limit the number of times I have to hike in with a full pack. Make sure there's tobacco and whiskey, beans and a hunk of salt-pork. Cornbread, it goes without saying, with or without any additives. On the creek-bank, Mom would make an unleavened corn cake that was, more or less, perfect. If we were at home, soda and baking powder would make a cake; left over cake, with berries and a drizzle of molasses would be the perfect breakfast. Well into my teenage years I carried cornbread and pork rinds as trail food. Dried cranberries came much later. Now, I don't differentiate; nuts and dried fruit, elk fat, a pemmican for the ages. But it seems to me, if you went to that much trouble, you might understand we're tied into a dialog. As a reader, you have a certain responsibility. I don't know what that is. I have a mandate to supply text, 7.5 dollars a bushel. Wheat futures. Read more...

Cruel Moments

Pissant little vandals. Lost my third mailbox to some goddamn redneck with a baseball bat. It offends me that the poor treat the poor this way. I'll have to go into town and get another. Cheap, at Big Lots, and I don't want to spend the money on a seriously indestructible unit that would take the arms off anyone who hit it from a moving truck. I sputter around for a couple of hours, in a seething fit, get a drink and roll a cigaret, then actually start feeling a bit sad. A life in which smashing a mailbox with a bat is the high point. It's difficult for me to imagine the rage and stupidity involved. I've made it known locally that I'm home most of the time and that I answer the door with weapons at hand, mostly gardening tools but who could ever forget Billy Bob and his sling-blade? Frustration, existential angst? Makes me want to camp out under a camo poncho with a shotgun. Blow out their fucking tires. I might have two or three redneck assholes mad at me, but I'd have the shotgun. I don't want this to the escalate, so I just buy cheap mailboxes. It's really a minor expense. What is the motivation of people who just smash things? I don't think I've ever broken anything in anger, though I might have thrown a particularly bad novel across the room. WHY AREN'T THEY FISHING? There are better things to do than smash mailboxes with a baseball bat. You could be catching bats in a butterfly net, banging Mary Sue in the back seat of a '68 Chevy, reading an article in Outdoor Life, but smashing a fucking mailbox? I'm sorry, I can't remember ever feeling the urge to go around and smash things. I did once help wrap a house in toilet paper. I was working the night shift at a bowling alley, we stole a case, 96 rolls, and wrapped a place completely. I spent the night under a dock on the Inter-coastal Waterway, got away in the morning smelling like dead mullet, but they had to cut their way out with machetes. Good fun. Got up well before dawn again and read for a couple of hours, it's such a lovely time of day, quite cool, 55 degrees, and I have to find a light-weight sweatshirt (the sweatshirts from Florida are quite thin) to wear until the sun comes up. Make a list and head to town. A slow leak in one of my tires, so I get that fixed, then the library (Larson's new book on the sinking of the Lusitania) then to the hardware store for a new mailbox and numbers, then the pub for soup and a beer. When I got the mailbox and numbers and went to the counter at ACE Hardware, Chuck was there. Large and extremely knowledgeable in the broad field of hardware, got a shit-eating grin on his face and said that I must live on the west side, because he'd sold at least a dozen mailboxes this week. He warned me not to hide under a camo poncho and shoot them with rock salt. TR, on the other hand, felt that some violence could be excused. But I don't want to start a range war over a mailbox. B and Zoe were at the pub, and Zoe had some good advice, she's a very smart practical person. Also she can eat like a horse and still look fine; she advised I get a safe deposit box, deposit therein whatever might be of value. Give a key to a third party. Read more...