Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Strange Day

The phone is back. A note on the door from the phone guy, when I finally got home. I had to do my laundry, and I seem to have lost an electric bill, so I needed to make a call; got that done and stopped at the pub for a beer and a giant pretzel. Anthony was there, with the other instructor from the ceramic studio. He bought my beer and pretzel, then we were sitting outside so I could smoke, catching up; a friend of mine, Jacob, showed up and he and Anthony bantered like professionals, so we went back inside with him and had another beer. Back outside for another smoke and goodbyes, and Todd walks up with his model from the nude drawing class. Demands to buy us another beer. Another very attractive woman joins us. My favorite waitress, Steph, grins at me and shakes her head. I felt fine to drive, three beers over a four hour period, and I was fine, it was a nice drive, windows down and those parched and dusty smells of fall, whatever those pink fronds are, blackberry canes reaching 12 or 14 feet, curved like scimitars. I know it's not a joke, but I have to laugh. A Rabbi and a Fundamentalist Preacher go into a bar. You've heard this joke before. It's so good, to be back in contact. I had the thought that it might have been a complete construct; you and me and what I might have imagined. Delirium, from the verb delirare 'to swerve from the furrow', a delirus was a person who couldn't plough straight. Now I'm back on track. Into town, again, to have lunch with TR and the resident scholars. They're curious about my winter preparations and I tell them I have a list. Michael understands that it will actually be easier for me to just to stay at home, and I work on the list for the larder with that in mind. While it's on my mind, The Defenestration Of Prague, 1618, Catholic members of the Bohemian National Council were the dudes thrown out, but it was a castle, and there was a moat, they escaped with minor injuries. I always imagined them smashed on the pavement. This is why I read everything I can. There was another defenestration, 1630 or so, and now I have to find out where that one occurred. It was probably a badge of honor to be thrown out a window, as long as you knew you'd end up in a moat. Imagine the publicity. You're the guy they threw through out the window. The leaves are falling, and so are we; crocodiles don't have tongues so they can't actually speak, but they roar their displeasure through the hummocks. Roaring is just expelling some air through your mouth, what it means is subject to questioning. But I'll tell you this, when an alligator breathes his fetid breathe on you, only can't bite off your leg because he has a mouthful of rabbit, then you've come to know the real world. A rattlesnake on the driveway, small change, I stamp my feet and he goes away. Read more...

Tom's Phone Service Has Been Restored

News Flash: Tom is back online. The following eight posts arrived in my inbox today. Enjoy. Tom est en pleine forme, comme ils disent en fran├žais. Read more...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Saving Grace

Stayed home all day, on the off-chance the phone company might send a person out. They didn't. Missed lunch with TR, missed Cory's wedding; went down and chatted with B for an hour, had a beer, took him a couple of books and praised the installation of his stovepipe within the brick chimney. Very nice job. His nephew, Bear, came over and cut the difficult hole into a curved surface where the thimble goes through the wall. Used an air-powered tool with a small diamond blade. Those of us who like to solve problems always admire the work of other problem-solvers. Most of the plants and most of the trees are looking the worse for wear. Even the road-side daisies are yellowing and browning at the tips. I have a list of things I need to do before winter, two dozen or twenty things, most of which will take a day or less, and it's not even officially fall. I can do this. Plenty of time, and it's easier, holing up, than actually dealing with the world. Various saints keep popping up, the far left is littered with the bones of martyrs.

Plenty of time now,
the crows parading vespers,
to question what is.

At the limit of understanding. "Cudgel thy brains no more about it; for your dull ass will not mend his pace with beating." Hamlet. I spent some time trying to track down the origin of 'deadline'. One story is that outside the fence at Andersonville there was a line drawn in the dirt, if you crossed it you got shot. Speaking of dead and dying, it is said that Aeschylus was killed by a tortoise being dropped on his head by an eagle passing over. I saw a seagull drop a snake into a crowd of tourists once. A very funny scene. I made a pot of greens, mustard, kale and collard, with a chunk of salt-pork and onions, I serve this with vinegar and hot sauce. Make a small pone of cornbread in the toaster oven. I might grill a pork-chop, if the spirit moves me. Usually I just sop up the juice with the cornbread, and call it a day.
Read more...

No Show

Of course the phone company doesn't show. At five I went down to tell B. We drank lemon seltzer and talked about books for an hour. He, naturally, knows everything about English history and assumed that I did too. He was actually a little shocked at this hole in my education. I'll read up on it this winter. It's not a subject that ever interested me before this latest Richard III book, now I think I would find it interesting. Also, I want to reread Guy Davenport's fiction. And Basho's winter haiku. Another day, and still no phone; I'll have to go to town again, to call them. I'm getting pissed. 'End Of The Line Blues." I read a book about hunting man-eating tigers in India, 1920's - 30's, and found it quite interesting, some of the named tigers killed hundreds of people. Hundreds of people. We can identify a particular animal by the pug print. The two fictions I got from the library fail to interest me, so I read an old book (1949) on word origins. I'd been studying the word 'gerrymandering' because it's much in the news locally, as I'm sure it is everywhere. Criminal, to put it mildly: the group in power arranges boundaries so that they stay in power. Fuck your republic or whatever democracy, it's where you draw the lines. Elbridge Gerry, when he was governor of Massachusetts, around 1800, created a voting district that looked like a salamander; no, he said a 'Gerrymander'. He was elected vice-president in 1812. Cory, from the pub, is getting married Saturday, and he wants me to be there; the service and the reception are at the lodge, in the State Forest, which is only a few miles, as the crow flies, from my house. A bit more difficult to navigate by road. Looking at the Forest Service map, there are three ways I can get there. Coming home, I decide, I'll come the long way around. The short way, Mackletree, then Route 125, is seven miles; the long way around, out Upper Twin, then back down Route 125, a mile or two longer. Overland, on the newly reopened back road, which is a great drive (though it takes forever, if time is a consideration) switch-backing through the hollows of Sunshine Ridge, you can easily get lost. I think I can attend the wedding, have a free meal, maybe abscond with a meal in my pocket and have a couple of drinks on someone else's tab. I just need to get home safely. You'd think I was a nut, the way I plan my retreat. Lamp Black Road, Jesus, I remember everything now. They opened the road up because some rich people needed to haul some logs out. Making money, paying dues. Still no phone so I go back into town to call the company. I talked to a lady, Becky, in Texas, and she was texting the dispatcher in Ohio and I was on hold for quite a while. She's hesitant to tell me that the repair has been rescheduled for the 13th, which means I will have been without service for 20 days. She has no idea why and is extremely apologetic, promises to get my bill canceled for the month. She also promises to try and get them out here sooner. She advises me to get a satellite dish. Stopped at the pub for a beer and two of my readers were there, they were glad to see I was alive, and recommended that I get a dish. There seems to be a consensus. If I dropped my phone, and dropped my AOL account, it would be a wash, everyone says my service would be better, and that I would avoid these depressions where I have dark thoughts about what I'd like to do to the local Frontier company boss. I'm on the phone for 27 minutes, which is a trial for me. I don't do phones that well, except for a couple of close people, and the filler music was awful. Becky is married, has a couple of teenage kids; her husband is in the oil business, and they like Texas. She was appalled at my phone service, I explained about being at the-end-of-the-line, and how I was used to it. Came back home the long way around, because I'd rather be behind a school bus than meet one coming the other way on winding back roads. It took me just over an hour to take three commas out of that last sentence. When I'm writing, I use commas to mark a phrase, but often the thought goes on and a comma is no longer needed; but I put one there, in the act of thinking, because I don't know where I'm going. I did get behind a school bus, so I pulled into the creek at the first ford to let it get a couple of miles down the road. I was sitting on my hood, rolling a smoke, when a park ranger stopped to see if I was ok. Yes, I told him, just fine. Ginseng season opened September 1st, and we talked about that. There's a buyer that sets up at the west end of town, in the parking lot of the Bridge Street Carry-Out. There's a fair amount of money involved, and it's all cash. Ginseng is the truffle of mid-America. You can still earn a living digging roots around here, if you don't require much of a living. I don't sell ginseng, but I do dig the occasional plant, dry the mandrake-like tuber, and chop it into a pint of whiskey, age that for a couple of years and take a sip as required. I use it as an anodyne against whatever ails me. I need to harvest a couple of roots this year, to put into the rotation, and I know exactly where they are. The bank side of the driveway is terrain I know very well, and ginseng is a lovely little plant, those distinctive red berries, the seeds, that you never noticed before, become neon. Seriously. Read more...

Clearing Brush

Before it got too hot I suited up, jeans, long-sleeve canvas shirt, gloves, work boots, and clipped away at the brush behind the woodshed. I'll work on this, in the cool of the morning, for a week or two, bleeding from a thousand cuts. 50% is blackberry canes, and you can't not be pricked. I wipe off with alcohol, then take a solar shower, sit around in just my socks until I'm dry enough to get dressed; a pair of thread-bare Dockers and a tee-shirt with the sleeves and neck cut out. Not a fashion plate, but I never claimed to be; and I'm clean, and the old clothes are clean, and I smell like laundry detergent with a hint of musk. I have to muck out the out-house, and dump the composting toilet; I have some work to do on the driveway. Lord knows there are things to be done. But I got started, and that was all I intended. I've been reading and writing for months, and I've got to bring my body back up to speed. Thunder and more rain, it washes away the heat haze and the dust of late summer. The colors are vibrant, a few sumac leaves are bright orange, a few sassafras leaves are red, a few poplar leaves are yellow. John Lee Hooker in the background. "This is it, pretty baby...". He has the sexiest male voice in history. When he and Bonnie Raitt sang together, you couldn't cut it with a knife. Ran across an interesting book, Fuck Places, (I wouldn't make this up) which talks about the various spots where people might go for a tryst. It's a very funny book and quite serious at the same time. Where might two gay guys, both married, with a throng of earlets (it's a British book) go for a tumble in the back seat? Sociology looks to me like an interesting area of study. Not that I know that many Earls. It's good to get my lazy ass moving, it's good to be a little sore. A fine dinner, left-over steak and the other half of a baked potato. Whenever I bake a potato (wrapped in foil, right in the coals) I cook the largest one I can find, so I can get two meals, same with the steak; and I hoard left-over gravy like a crazy person. If there's anything left after that it becomes hash. I'm known for my hash. People fly in. Read more...

Nothing Serious

Early morning rain, such a lovely way to come to consciousness. Slightly dark, sunrise still half-an-hour away. No wind as the tops of the trees come into light (the clouds had opened, as they do, right at the horizon). The rain comes in dribbles and drabs. This year's crop of squirrels are being frisky, so I make a double espresso, roll a smoke, and watch them until it's fully light. I made hash from the last of a London Broil, with a perfect egg on top and considered the new pile of reading matter. Sunday is reading day, after all. Actually, now, any day is reading day, but Sunday is specifically dedicated as a reading day, and on a good one, I'll read two books, usually one for pleasure and one for research. One of the books B had passed over to me, Unruly Places, is actually the second book within a week that I had heard a review of, on NPR, and read within days. It's a good book, and I recommend it, not that he's a great writer, Mr. Bonnett, but that the subject is so interesting. Places that aren't on the map. I have my own list of such sites. A friend in the BLM turned me onto a place, deep in the southern end of the San Rafael Swell in Utah, where nothing had been disturbed for a very long time. I was the first ever white man to scale down a cliff face to look closely at an eagle's nest on a particular ledge in western Colorado; I've survived many nights, well blow zero, by collecting all the dry wood within easy gathering and drying my socks over a fire at the mouth of a cave. I know what it takes, but I don't want to expend that much energy anymore. I'd rather sit very still and watch the wildlife. Birds are good, they hop about on two legs and sing. And the fox has a grace that shames most of the people I know. Read a new book on Richard III, and after a long period of saying he wasn't so bad, new material indicates that he was very black indeed. Shakespeare's Richard. Interesting times, the 1480's. Richard's battle-axe was actually a battle-hammer. Because of the armor, you bruised your opponent to death; killed his horse then beat him until he couldn't breathe. A small head was preferable because it smashed the armor in, where a broad blade would just bounce off. What it looks like is a twenty ounce framing hammer at the end of a 30 inch iron handle. I'd never seen this weapon before. If someone is coming at you with a sword you break their wrist. Then you indent the sign of the cross on their chest. We've come a long way. Boys from Iowa, collecting Viet Cong ears. But the whole "process" is remarkably the same: you collect the sap and boil it down, you end up with syrup. We're all trailer trash. Read more...

Farm Fresh

A simple fish stew. In a deep pot brown some onions and garlic, dump in some tomatoes, half a bottle of a nice dry white wine, drink the rest, chunk in some pieces of firm fish and add some cleaned mussels. Everyone gets a loaf of bread. Don't tell anyone you're filming. Over cognac, later, we talked about the way we wanted to be remembered. I remember saying, that I didn't want anyone thinking that I knew anything about anything. It's a fall-back position. They usually let the stupid guy go, because he can't advance the case. Usually I play the part of the stupid guy. It works for me. Standing in the background and sounding simple. It's not that easy. Lunch with TR tomorrow, but maybe not; he's worked so many extra hours he deserves a long week-end, and I don't have a phone, so I can't call, to verify. I'm going to town anyway, to see Ronnie at the Farmer's Market, get a few local tomatoes, I need bread, and whatever else is on the list. I'm making a great open-face sandwich in the toaster oven right now. A piece of pre-toasted bread, topped with a can of sardines, a couple of slices of a very good vine-ripened tomato, some goat cheese, a sprinkling of basil, some kosher salt and a twist of pepper. Your wildest dreams. I make it a habit, to eat this well every day. Almost every day. I made a list. Headed off to the farmer's market, and ran into a street fair. Labor Day parade. Can't tell you how much I hate this shit, but I know all the alleys and I squirrel around, found a parking space, and retreated to the pub where I drank a slow pint and had a large glass of water, then hummus and pita chips. TR was at the museum, he hadn't made lunch because he had to drive twenty minutes around the parade (the parade was almost two hours long) and we talked for a while, sitting at the front desk, until the road was clear and I could make it to the library. I found a couple of things, fiction, to leaven the biography of Faulkner and this continued reading I'm doing on cave art. Got what I needed at Kroger. Stopped at B's place for cold seltzer water and he had three more books for me, I had one for him. His phone was out too and that places the problem somewhere on Mackletree, because the last line forks at the bottom of the hill, over to his place and up to mine. We are the end of the line. I looked closely on the way out and the way back in but there were no dead trees, I could see, that might take out the service. The line has been repaired so many times, 28 junctions in two miles, that it looks like a knotted string. A knotted string can be quite telling, like notches in a stick. That's what I'm saying, meaning accrues. Eventually you have sheep to trade for shells with holes in them. One way or another, you keep track. Survival comes down to bookkeeping. Read more...

Starting Over

This loss of phone service is a pain in the ass because it makes it difficult for me to stop a paragraph. Then they start to get unwieldy and I lose my train of thought. The light today, though, definitely marked a new phase, therefore a new paragraph. I was walking down the logging road thinking about cooking ribs at least one more time during the grilling season (there will be remaindered ribs after Labor Day) and I was enjoying the entire process of imaging who I might have over, what I might cook, and wether or not, between us, we might be able to buy a good bottle of wine, a Ridge Zin, or a Frank Family Farm Cab. Walking along, absorbed in myself, the lambent light (the third definition is "patches of bright light, radiant") and I came head to toe with my timber rattler. Yellow as a young girl's summer dress. I'm pretty sure it's a female, they present a specific body shape. We look at each other, I wish I could do that with my tongue, and she's not coiled so she can't strike. Me and the snake. We consider our various avenues of escape. I just start backing up, glancing behind, and she slithers off in the opposite direction. Most of the Cotton-Mouth water moccasins, the older ones, come at you with vengeance. Rattlesnakes just want to go eat mice. Read more...

Hybrid Forms

Abortive, actually. This time of year, I start noticing them. The failures. Mushrooms especially; they go off genetically, very quickly. I had to run into town for a few things, and ended up having a beer with my fireman friend, Josh. He's interesting to talk with. He listens to books, but doesn't read much. He's listening to Poe right now, and we talked about that. It seemed to me that listening to Poe might be a very good way of reading him. Sidney Lanier. Has anyone ever recorded those? I run my errands, stop at the library; I have cream, and some other things that need to be refrigerated, so I went home, first, and put things away, then headed down to B's place for a beer and conversation. When I got back home it was 83 degrees inside the house, so I turned on the AC and went for a walk. Black Dell balks at anything over 79. It's a riot of color right now, all the weeds and wild daisies. B said he loved preparing for winter, that it tied him to the place where he found himself. I agree with that while I smash an oak pallet into kindling. I have two 35 gallon trash cans, both salvaged, that I can fill with kindling, and on the way home I had stopped at the paper re-cycling station near West High School and taken a tidy bundle of newspaper, tied with jute, for starting fires. I don't read the paper, I'm remarkably uninformed; most of the news I get is at least a year old. I stop, to read an article in a sheet of newsprint that I'm using to start a fire: pain-pill doctors, abuse culminating in murder, what football team might go to the state championship, and I'm at a total loss. It doesn't integrate into my life. I'm trying to figure out where the crows roost at night. What caterpillar becomes a Luna moth. Whether or not I should be worried about not changing my socks every day. The world, off the ridge, is way too busy. Phone was out yesterday when I got home and it's still out today, but I certainly wasn't going to town two days in a row. I'll go in tomorrow, to call the company. I checked my extra phone in their transfer box and it's definitely their problem. I charged the cheap cell phone ($10) but I don't have a signal, not that I expected one. My travel expenses finally came in from Chautuaqua, over $300, so I can afford an extra lunch in town and still put $200 in the bank, which will cover the actual expenses. Lovely. I'm being encouraged to make another country pate, even to the extent of other people offering buy the $20 or so of ingredients that I'll need. B would even come over and wash dishes, which is a large part of it; but I'd rather wait a few weeks, until I can fire the cookstove. I begin to see pieces of the west face of the hollow across the way, through where the leaves are thinning, and the angled light is a beautiful thing. I wanted to call Glenn, before he and Linda retreated to France for the grape harvest, but my phone wasn't working. Live at the extreme edge, 'live' works well in that context. These groups, living on the open plain, in huts of mammoth bone, lived right at the edge of the retreating ice. Oaks had returned (the ultimate survivors) and the critters that ate acorns, and the critters that ate the critters that ate acorns, and the critters that ate both the acorns and the critters that ate the acorns. A killing field. Thousands of skeletons. Tens of thousands. I have to take a break. I was hungry, and the last time I was at Kroger, in the remaindered bin, there were a bunch of cans of Spanish sardines, lightly smoked, in oil. I love sardines. Made a piece of toast and dumped the can of fish on it, topped with chopped onion. This was bar food in the Combat Zone in Boston. The loading doors of our theater opened out into that colorful district, and the stagehands frequented a place just across the alley, "Zekes", often even during a show, between cues. The Stagehand's Special was a small glass of beer, Genny on tap, (25 cents) and a sardine sandwich topped with a slice of hot yellow onion (75 cents), they sold a lot of these. Sardines, in their little flat cans, come in cases of 96 units (24, 48, 96), and they went through five cases a week. My open-face sandwich is a homage to those days, but I use a sweet onion now. It's so good I want to call a revival, a tent service, maybe save a few pagans. When I go to town tomorrow, to call the phone company, I'm going to buy all the rest of the discontinued Spanish sardines, 50 cents a can, as a memory aid. I don't care if I smell like a cannery all winter, there's nobody around to complain. Tom? Sure, I knew him, he smelled like a horse-shoe crab in heat. Pulling teeth to get through to the phone company, then on hold forever, finally the poor guy, Chris, said that, because of the holiday weekend, they couldn't get out here until next Wednesday. A week plus without a phone. My readers will think I'm dead. Oh well. Used TR's phone at the museum, chatted with him for a few minutes, then came right back home. No beer at the pub, no lunch, pissed at the phone company and wouldn't have been good company. Besides, I'd been to the library and had a book I wanted to read, another old Elmore Leonard I'd missed. It's very calming to read a decent book at a single sitting. Left-over steak and baked potato for dinner. There's less chance three points could be in a straight line, much less four. First you'd have to believe your level or transit as being absolutely (and I don't believe in that) accurate; and then the curvature of the earth, and the curvature of space-time. I'm sure there's an algorithm. The Fuck-Up Factor looms large. But I just lean back in my chair, and all I can see is confusion. Read more...

Gavotte

A festive jig. A keg of Christmas ale. Credit where credit is due. One of those early fall days, clear and cooler, a brisk breeze all day, and the leaves are starting to fall. It's a dance: the leaves on the tip, then branches, then whole trees swaying. A small moon, centered above, and there is no sound, other than bugs and frogs. I think I invent my world, but there it is. Again. Listen. Nothing that isn't part of the natural world. Laundry, for instance; I fold my underwear, therefor I exist. Miles leaves out almost everything. The beauty of it. I was reading some recipes from Marjorie Rawlings' Cross Creek Cookbook which led to rereading her Cross Creek, both of which I love. I love her like I love MFK Fisher. Reminded me about a letter Maxwell Perkins had written to her, so I had to reread his letters to find it; and suddenly the day was over. Still no phone, which seems ridiculous even by my standards. Two weeks of nice weather and they can't send someone out? One of my readers, Michael, the Music Guy at the university, ask me what was up with my writing, why there wasn't any. I explained the phone situation. He said he was only asking because he always called his mother and read her the day's post, and she had called him because he hadn't been calling. He recommended that I get a satellite hook-up. Easy for him to say, but I'd need to get new equipment and learn a new system. I can do that, I remind myself, but it's still intimidating. I do have to live in the world. I'm not often horribly inappropriate, but I do have a streak that compels me to say what's on my mind. When it leads to words, I'm at a distinct advantage, just because finding out about words was always so important to me. A military brat, you moved around a lot. I always had a dictionary. And all those Classics Illustrated comics probably had an influence. But I never wanted to wear a cape. I was just trying to follow the plot. Read more...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Linguistic Transmission

Thinking about the phrase 'applying skill' today, I forget the context, building or cooking probably. Reading a book on language that had a very good section on pidgins and creole tongues. One thing led to another and I was soon sitting on the sofa with a dozen reference books at hand. I love these diversions. There are (or were) 400 languages spoken in Nigeria. The Plains Indians had a codified sign language they used to talk with other tribes, because they all spoke a different language and none of them were written. Interesting that the hieroglyphic calendar hides, a record of particular events in a specific year, a sacred item that might record twenty years, could be almost universally understood. "Oh yeah, I remember that year, when the Cottonwood trees exploded." Best guess is that language developed between 200,000 and 50,000 years ago, certainly when you get to the caves, Chauvet, the oldest, there's a vocabulary. The kid's hand print, and the footprints on the floor: "Honey, come and get the children, they're fucking up my work". When I look at this, study linguistic transmission over the last 50,000 years, one thing rises to the top, that we needed to communicate. Real language, not the grunts and gestures that indicated meaning, but actual communication. Based on nouns and verbs. Another interesting dig is an open-air site, at Mezirich, Ukraine, a place that must have been the killing-field of all time. There were five dwellings there, the frames built entirely from the mandibles of mammoth, interlocked, in a herring bone pattern. Covered with several layers of cured hides and heated with animal-fat lamps, this was the mansion of the time. 15,000 kilograms of bone to frame each house. Cool use of materials. Looking at renderings of a reconstruction, I had the thought that I could do that, with the old Cape Playhouse crew. The original yurt, or how to build if there isn't any wood and you haven't discovered rammed-earth or concrete. Imagine the scope of the killing field. The number of dead animals from centuries of hunting. Imagine what the smell must have been like, in those huts. It must have been a rich environment. Another Luna Moth. Maybe it means something but more likely it's a mere coincidence. Some years I don't see a Luna Moth at all, but this year there have been five of them. Five huts at Mezirich. Fifteen thousand years ago. Fairly recent, actually. They lived close to the edge of the retreating ice and there must have been a reason for that. Runoff, plants feeding animals, and these very dumb mammoths? I don't know. I question any reconstruction. I'd rather just muddle along. Read more...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Night Noise

The Saga Of Black Dell. Ran the AC from four yesterday afternoon until midnight. Took a nap in there somewhere, woke up to pee, opened the windows, got a wee dram and rolled a smoke. The usual cacophony. Nighttime in several layers. Quiet, otherwise; still enough that I can hear leaves falling in threes and in twos. No wind. Somewhere in the middle distance, a tree falls, giving up the ghost. It's a slow sound, and unmistakable. Ripping and tearing then a satisfying thump. I might not find the tree until winter, when I'm back in the woods, because I couldn't tell you from which direction the noise assaulted the night. If it's on the driveway, I'll see it and have to deal with clearing the way. Spent the day reading about the cave at Chauvet. Since it wasn't discovered until 1996 they took great care in the excavation. I love this cave, I've looked at hundreds of photographs, studied the maps. There is a child's palm-print deep inside, so someone had to carry the infant, someone else had a torch, someone else had his old kit bag, with pigment and vehicle. This is serious business. And we wanted her hand-print why exactly? Also, deep in the cave, there were footprints AND there was a lot of charcoal from the various lighting devices. As a sidebar I'm doing a study of stone lamps using animal fat with wicks I've twisting from various fibers. There are footprints on the floor, 30,000 years old, and they clearly show a young kid running around. 'You guys just amuse yourself, while I paint a bison on the wall.' Chauvet is so cool because it is the most modern, and it's the oldest, which means that 50,000 years ago there had to be language. Nouns first, then verbs, slowly, as needed; the earliest adjectives related to the state of the carcass, could you eat it or not. 'Over the hill' is a concept known in every language. I wish I had the digestive system of a coyote. It's hard, actually, being human. We have such a narrow band of influence. Read more...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Contracts

Who knows what actually happens? I get up to close some windows, go outside and pee. I wear a headlamp and carry a frog-gig as a walking staff. In boarding school they made fun of me, now I don't care much either way. This time of year you might come upon almost anything. Say you go out to pee, maybe you carry a frog-gig as a walking stick, maybe there's no light, fog, and a sense of change, like ozone in the air. If you ran upon a snake you could stick it with the gig, you could use the handle as a pointer, you could rant about the various inequalities. I'm only kidding. Mostly I sit in the dark and smoke. I can't fault anyone for what they do. Still, I wonder, "My car bomb, and your car bomb might set the world on fire. Hey now." Doctor John. Dodge and parry. I'd stopped down at B's after a run to town, I remembered to get coffee and whiskey, but had forgotten to go to the library, and he had some books for me. We both read so much we shame our leaned friends. He allowed that I made the best pate that had ever passed his lips. I had just been thinking about making another batch, because I had the water to clean up and a package of local calves-liver in the freezer. I like making pate, when the planets are aligned, because I very much enjoy the mouth-feel and the taste, and the good-will it gains me with a couple of friends. I never went to boarding school. That was supposed to be satire. It's difficult to tell fact from fiction. I was reading about the effect of grit on dental enamel when Linda called. Rarely so happy to hear the phone ring on a Sunday. I've been eating a lot more grit. An inescapable aspect of certain life-style choices and not having running water. Linda was great, they're off to France again, for four weeks of harvesting grapes, and a week in Paris. We touched all the bases (I was going to call them tonight, because I knew they were leaving soon) and had a spirited conversation. I love Linda above all my other readers because she understands me so well. She knows that when I go off, I'm just blowing steam, that I was never mad at anyone except myself. I think it's probably just heat lightning, but I'd better go, the radio warned it could be severe. Read more...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Building Staircases

Reading an essay about building a set of stairs, several of them, actually, and they were all quite beautiful and very complicated. I've built a great many myself, so I know the language and understand the math involved. A staircase involves mystifying geometries. Tom H, Dennis, and I installed sixteen sets in two new condos in Telluride, for another contractor whose crew couldn't figure out how to deal with log stringers and half-log treads. I sat in reverie for the better part of an hour remembering houses, visualizing how I had connected the floors. I remember most of them, despite it being a large number. Four or five of them were quite spectacular, thick hardwood treads that cantilevered, and a couple of sets that curved. The usual rule on a jobsite is that you don't mess with, or talk to, the person building the stairs; also, that they control the radio. Radios are ubiquitous on jobsites. You tend to hear a lot of Country Western music. I always liked to think and work the first couple of days on the weekend, when no one else was around, until I got the job settled in my mind. Once I could see them, in my mind's eye, I knew what needed to be done. In my last years of building I was much more aware of what the materials wanted to do. (In his later years he took to hoarding treads.) Railings became an important codicil. Early on, for a couple of cabins, I built what might better be considered tight spiral ladders and the railings were a problem. For the first ones I just went walking in the woods until I found a curved stick, a branch or a young tree, that fit the bill. Then I noticed that lumber yards had a scrap pile of sticks too crooked to be sold. They're free and often quite beautiful. One of my last complete house-building fantasies involved using only crooked sticks. Insulate it on the outside (with spray foam) and plaster it, expose the whole stick jumble on the inside. The floor could be cracked adobe, cured with ox-blood, grouted with a gross mixture of ground goat turds and resin. My policy has always been that if you can't smoke it or drink it, you can always use it to make grout. I hate to go, but yet another line of storms is coming in. Lighting up the sky. Loki, rolling thunder. No I told her, no I had no regrets, yes, of course, I'll call you tomorrow. Serious weather, the house shakes as I close down. What a trip. The base line of that last storm came up through my feet. Maybe it was an earthquake. I retreated to the sofa and rolled into a fetal ball. Sheet lightning you could read by. Then it was over: a quick fuck in the broom closet, you smooth out the wrinkles and act like nothing happened. I get back up, to re-set the clock, and decide it's officially morning. Might as well make a cup of coffee, might as well have an omelet and toast. Read more...