Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Night Fishing

Winslow would call and say that the tide would be right on Thursday night. Preparations, load the cooler, make up some steel leaders with two ounce lead sinkers. The big surf rods were always clean and oiled. 100 lb. test nylon line. We fished the ocean side of the Cape's bended arm. We'd set up camp above high-water: a hurricane lamp, the cooler, a tarp, a couple of light-weight aluminum chairs, drive the pipes we used as rod-holders into the sand at the proper angle. Walk down to the edge of the surf and throw out over the drop off. With a six foot, very stiff surf-rod and two ounces of lead you can make a mighty cast. Walk back up from the edge, letting out line, set the safety, put the butt of the rod into the pipe, get a beer and have a smoke. He was a biology teacher at the high school, a great biology teacher (we dissected a small whale in the school parking lot) with a deep interest in American history. A very bright guy. We'd talk all night, drinking beer and nipping at a flask of whiskey. One of the rangers would usually stop by (this was National Seashore) seeing our lamp, and join in the conversation. If one of the rods dipped, the talk would stop while we watched the tip. Let it go, under light pressure, for fifteen seconds then set the hook. At this point you have two or three hundred feet of line out. It would take a while, to walk down to the edge of the water, reeling in, holding the rod high. Getting a ten pound cod in through the surf is tricky at the end, the backwash is brutal. You want to make the final pull in with the last of a dying wave. Some nights we'd only catch two or three, but sometimes we'd get into them and sell the catch at the fish pier in Rock Harbor. Cod always sold for a good price. The best restaurant on the Cape then was High Brewster, a sort of bed-and-dinner place that fed a few other people. Tables were booked a year in advance, run by two gay guys that were both great cooks and very funny. I knew it through the theater and ate there a few times. In the off-season two cod would buy me dinner, and I learned how good fresh food could be. Codfish cheeks and tongues, wild asparagus, herring roe, my first pate (rabbit and mushrooms), and game birds. I still don't understand how I navigated that world, the actors, the directors, the writers, I was a complete country idiot. But I could listen well, and told a good story. Often, that's enough. Up in Boston, at the end of my run in theater, at The Opera Company, I ate with the bigwigs often, and they ate very well indeed; and among the crew there was such ethnic diversity we tended to eat well. I have ever since. It's difficult, cooking for one, the second person comes in at 50% the cost, but I can eat a meal two or three times over a couple of days, beans and rice, and even buy a small steak, and stay below my target expense. It costs me about $300 a month to eat and drink and drive, I try and save a hundred, for taxes and insurance, another hundred for shit you don't anticipate, and another hundred to sit at the bar and watch ESPN so I can talk about the play-offs. What about them Cubs? Read more...

Monday, May 25, 2015

Shifting Focus

Dappled light through a nearly complete canopy. A slight breeze dances the still-soft leaves. It was so lovely I must have gone into a trance. I sat out there for a couple of hours, then came back inside and finished Skip Fox's Wired To Zone, which is an amazing piece of writing. A wild, raunchy, funny ride, twisting and sliding the language; a wonderful thing. Ticks are going to be bad this summer; they're already bad. For years I've developed nasty ways of killing ticks, but now I just flick them into a small dish and drown them in rubbing alcohol. I might need them later. I'm freezing butter wrappers (I use a lot of butter during the morel season) because butter wrappers are so good for starting a fire. Some Tex-Mex almost instant rice, and I like it, ten for ten dollars, and I get several meals off each one. My new tin, in the pantry, I think held bags of caramel pop-corn. Now I'm stocking it with rice and beans; and instant rice, so I can eat quickly, if I need to. I'm going to buy a very small crock pot, five cups, just for cooking grits. I can live on grits and greens and salt-pork. Rodney came over and wanted to cry in my whiskey, he was already five sheets to the wind, I was writing, and I hated the interruption. Still, we ended up talking for a couple of hours, about how bad his life was, that he couldn't get a handle on it. I couldn't offer any solace. It's ugly out there. He thinks our lives are similar, but they're not. When he leaves I breathe a sigh of relief and go back to what I was reading, an essay about seeing. John Berger. Get a last splash of whiskey, roll a smoke, and sit in the opened back doorway, thinking about just how miserable it's possible to feel. Ackerman notes that predators have vertical eye-slits, goats and sheep have horizontal slits. Depends on what you need to see. Then there's what you want to see. Then there's what is. What Rodney sees in the world, right now, is not the same as what I see. It's spring, it's beautiful outside, I'm getting some things done, I have a few bucks in a coffee can, my vehicle is running fine, my time is my own. I don't look at the clock, unless I have to meet someone, and that's rare. My inclination toward isolation is generally respected, except for the occasional phone call concerning the cruise I'd won. I tell them to give it to someone else, I'm busy. I have to experiment with the new small crock pot, work out firewood options, extend the sauce for summer use. I need to take several loads to Good-Will, and rake the brush I've been clearing away from the house. Outdoor end-of-winter sale at Vandervorts Hardware and I got another set of long-underwear for cheap. At Kroger evaporated milk is on sale and I buy a few cans for the larder. Not exactly half-and-half for your coffee, but better than powdered milk. Marilyn and I canned goat's milk, which became evaporated milk even though no evaporation was involved, a sealed environment under pressure, but the milk caramelized and the moisture absorbed. The great benefit of this is that the sugars are water soluble, and they're retained, add a couple of eggs and it's a pudding. Wild plum sauce is good on this, or red onion jam. Rain wakes me and I have to walk through the house, checking for blowing water. Then sit for a while, listening, enjoying the cool breeze. Stay up to read The Sacred Cow And The Abominable Pig. Which inspires me to cook some bacon, which leads to bacon and an egg on toast. Life is good. Read more...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Confused

There's a style of cultivation that's a sort of perennial garden plot. Common in the New World, North Africa, other places. It's called conuco. Usually stocked by roots and stems. Very efficient, good use of space, in the tropics you could eat out of it constantly. And it already has a name, conuco; I think I leaned the word in the late seventies, when we gardened a greenhouse on Martha's Vineyard. Now, whoever it is that does these things wants to "introduce" the Old Norse word swithe (with the form swidden thrown in) as the word(s) for it. IT ALREADY HAS A NAME. I was reading this in an off-print which I immediately took outside and torched in the BBQ grill. It's bad enough that words change meanings over the years. I've been told many times, as a compliment, that my work was the shit; gay is hardly ever used anymore to denote a frivolous time. It's not that I mind words being added, petrichor, is a nice word, as is derecho. Swithe is fine, and swidden is ok, but there's already a word. I've installed hundreds of windows, and on a lot of them, especially the more expensive (and better) ones there's often a sticker from The American Fenestration Council certifying that the window is, or does, what it claims. I always wanted a job with The American Fenestration Council. Even just as a janitor, though cleaning up after those de-fenestration orgies would probably be a pain. All those bodies, all that blood. Although I think in Prague they were actually thrown into a canal and they opened the windows first. History is difficult because it's so difficult to know what to believe. Edward Gorey said one night, when we'd eaten all of the lamb stew, all of the bread, and consumed two bottles of a very good cab, that everything should be read as fiction. He mostly read crap, Victorian fiction, the third floor of his house was choked with bookshelves overloaded with pre-romance Romance novels. Herbert was a odd reader too, when I think about it, he loved the early novels of Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have A Stop, Crome Yellow, and I admired them too, in the way that they paralleled Proust. Reread Beckett's little book on Proust. I think it's titled Proust. Paula Poundstone does a very funny bit about naming things. The best that Beethoven could come up with was String Quartet # 67. And even that was probably somebody later, trying to keep things in order. He probably thought of it as that tune he'd used to bed the miller's daughter. One needs to study motivation. When I'm alone in the woods, with my John Deere hat and my looking glass, I seldom think about that other world. Kins(e?)y walked over from B's cabin. She had a couple of very cute puppies that somebody had dropped off in the forest, and I explained the phenomena of people dumping unwanted animals. They were cute puppies, but all I could think about were a couple of Chinese recipes for puppy and I felt not an ounce of sentimentality. Hardened-off to the whole idea of keeping an animal of any kind. If you have a dog, it runs off other animals, if you have a cat it eats birds. I can barely keep myself alive, who needs the added burden? On Saturday you pick up hundred pound sacks of sweet feed, and on Sunday you haul a ton of hay. And one of those was your only day off. Back to digging post holes. Spare me the grief. I'd rather spend Sunday afternoon plinking at Neco Wafers, sipping a gin and tonic, considering the placement of a comma. Read more...

Friday, May 22, 2015

Logging Roads

Froggy Taylor is the best I've ever known with a small bulldozer. He understands contour and slope, and how to get his skidders from one place to another. His sawmill and log-yard are a treat of desire paths. I was thinking about seeing, now that I take looking at things so seriously. Froggy came to mind. Talk about visualizing. He can look at a section of timber and imagine exactly what he needs to do to get logs from a hollow out to the road. He uses the lay of the land rather than fighting it. When he cuts around a slope, ten or fifteen years later, it looks like a pre-historic terrace. I was saying to someone recently, Kevin I think, that I greatly admired anyone who do could something well. Kevin, who is a carpenter himself, admired my beam-work and staircase, and I felt a swell of pride. It is good work, be it ever so ephemeral. What amazes me is that most people can't actually visualize what something is going to look like. I had the great good fortune to train with Herbert Senn, who could visualize anything, and draw you a picture. Many of us, who worked with him, learned to solve problems that way, by seeing what the problem was. There's an elegance to doing something well. I've built maybe a dozen very nice staircases, some of them almost bizarre in the way they achieved their function. We need to get from here to there. Get shed of any pretense. All those dead cells that rub off against the world. I'm guilty of chewing off a piece of skin, I always thought of it as a homeopathic cure for surface diseases. I'll tell you though, and this is the truth, when I drank raw goats' milk, and they were eating poison ivy, I was completely immune. I was walking one of Froggy's logging roads, looking for morels, and I found a good patch, mushroom dreams. If you're not a mushroom person, it wouldn't make any sense. Like a bird-dog rolling in road-kill. I'm drying morels, I'm the richest person in the world. Other idiots pretend, but they don't eat as well as I do. Not that the asparagus and bacon dish wasn't a success. I don't set the bar that high, I can roll over a three foot fence. I can hit a pie plate at a hundred yards, in my cups, with iron sights. When I used to hunt squirrel, I only shot them in the head. Rereading Carl O. Sauer essays and they are wonderful. D wanted to meet for lunch at the pub, a beer and conversation, then over to the museum to see the camera show, D being a film camera nut, and chat with TR. Then back to the pub for another beer, then Loren wanted to buy me a beer and talk about him doing a Becket play. A new novel by Skip Fox in the mailbox, sure to jack-up my weekend. He's an incredible writer. Someone in the pub had been at my reading and she thought that my manner and voice were great and she loved (as everyone seems to) the piece where I micro-waved mice for the crows. I might go back to town tomorrow because of the farmer's market. I like sitting there, next to Ronnie (this early he's only selling bread, jams, and eggs), and watching people. He knows everyone, so people stop by, and he is a master of bullshit. No mean degree. Mackletree is canopied, and parts of the driveway are in deep shade. Sometimes I feel like I'm in tune, other times not so much. Read more...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Baked Beans

Beans on toast with sweet onion. Up early because I'd left windows open and I was freezing. 40 degrees outside, the frogs and birds are quiet, hunkered down, no doubt. I shut the windows and pull on a sweatshirt. Just breaking dawn, blue through the green, and when I went out to pee I was amazed by the weight of air and moisture. That fecund smell of spring. It's not oppressive, exactly, but reminds me of a ripe cheese. Roll a smoke and take a mug of coffee out on the back porch. A can of sand I use as an ashtray is damp in the morning dew. Rain hangs ready. The ground evaporates as a kind of fog but the air is already saturated and the vapor recondenses about eight feet off the ground. It wasn't raining, but there was a veil of suspended water. My sweatshirt was limp and heavy and water was beading on my forehead. The green wall of trees, new leaves limp in the moisture, are poised to convert sunlight into energy. There's a lesson in that. When I went back inside, I started a small fire, poplar and maple, just to drive off the humidity, and to cook some bacon and eggs. I love cooking potatoes in bacon fat and I do love a perfect fried egg. It can't kill me early anymore. Then a small sad rain that looks to go on forever. I'm reading a book about dust, titled Dust, when I could be cleaning house, but it's so beautifully quiet I sit and muse and read. An excellent morel and goat cheese omelet, with toast and a very god marmalade that I made from tangerines. I used to occasionally buy frozen tangerine juice, but I can't find it anymore. I poked around the fish counter, the last time I was in town, and found a package of discounted cod, which is fine for fish cakes (poached fillets, left-over mashed potatoes and finely minced shallots) which brings back memories of Cape Cod, night-fishing on the outer beach with Winslow, then making and freezing enough fishcakes to last until the next time. Trying to remember what year, maybe 1969, the first year I stayed on the Cape the year around. Just enough money (I was house sitting) to not work in the winter, if I scrounged most of my food from the littoral, which I did, on my daily walks. For that first winter I didn't have a vehicle, I just walked everywhere I needed to go. I made a few bucks playing poker, hung around the small library, and met a few other eccentrics walking the sand dunes at odd hours. A motley but extremely bright group of people. The Post-Grad group. Edward Gorey showed up at the print shop. I got some grants, I printed some books, I made some paper, at one point I was one of the best printers in these United States. Canadians hate when we say American. I try and not offend anyone, it's rarely my intent. I do occasionally get my dander up, when someone says something stupid, but usually I let it slide, I rarely argue with anyone. Read more...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

No Class

Drooling just a bit, but it doesn't matter, I just roll over or turn the pillow. I can get a drink, fill my pouch with tobacco, or roll a cigaret in the dark. I can usually tell which edge of the paper is gummed. When the power goes out, I reach for my headlamp, but I don't use it for mundane chores that don't involve seeing, that have become matters of feeling. Pouring a drink, I feel the edge of the glass, I can pour a scant ounce as well as anyone. Rolling a cigaret, listen, you roll a few thousand and there isn't much mystery. The gold standard is one-handed, on horseback. McCord swore he'd rolled one during a cyclone, and I have no doubt he did, under caribou hides, in an igloo, and I'm not sure it was tobacco. I was thinking about fishing the edge of the Lilly-pads, where they come out from the shore, bugs and minnows; Jesus, I could catch huge blue-gills, a pound or more, fillets that surprised you. Once, in the Rockies, I was camped above the tree line, maybe 12,000 feet, I'd had a quick hot fire to make tea, and I caught some early small trout. I got to where I could fry one in butter or bacon fat, flip it open, take out the bones, and eat it in just a few bites, swirled in brown butter. The reading went very well. Mary Martha and Bill met me at the pub and bought me dinner. The Nature Club is a fine group, many of whom I knew. Knowledgeable, good listeners. I told a few stories, to explain the circumstance, then read a dozen pages. They actually asked me to read some more, so I gave them one more page (a nice fox tale), then told them I had to go, to get home before dark. I knew the sun would be right in my face, so stopped at the pub for another beer. Drove home in the glooming, feeling good about life in general. Kevin is running the Nature Club this year, and I know him fairly well. A great guitar player, makes music with Ronnie and B, and he expressed some worry about B's health. I'll get down there tomorrow and see if I can get him anything in town. Kevin said he had heard that there were to be no visitors, but I can yell from the driveway. We were both worried about ticks. B is in the woods all the time, and the woods, Kevin said, were now alive with new species of ticks. The White-Spot Tick, the Scarlet Runner. It's all about vectors. Elk reintroduced in West Virginia, wolves everywhere, coyotes going through the garbage in Telluride; very small bugs, embedded in buffalo robes. Kevin and his wife Margaret walked in this morning, to give me a check, and to see where the recluse lives. They greatly admired the stairs. Very smart people, and I enjoyed talking with them. Read a interesting book last night and this morning, The Foul And The Fragrant, about the French sense of smell. It references a book I have somewhere, A Natural History Of The Senses, Diane Ackerman, which I recommend highly. On quite a role with the senses, and in my search for the Ackerman I find not only it, but another Good-Will find, Death, Dissection, And The Destitute. A backlog of non-fiction, all in-house, the library can supply fiction and fill the other gaps. I've collected some interesting books recently, without any intention, just that they were all very cheap, and I enjoy books about specific things or events. An excellent history of the washing machine in France by Quynh Delaunay, La Lavatrice; a history of cosmetics; an entire section of bookcase given over to the history of salt. I called B's land line, we're deep in country here, and he'd just gotten home from the hospital the second time. A nasty virus. He wanted me to call Jana, to tell her he was home, which involved talking with Jana and communicating that he wanted her to call, and getting off the phone totally wasted. I'm am empathetic listener. It's actually apparent in the way I cross my legs that I'm a good therapist. It all started when Glenn and I got a sofa, in the house on the herring run in Brewster, and all of those strange people started showing up, hermits and gymnasts, and they'd flop down, and we'd listen to them. A very strange assortment of human beings, but we didn't know that. Seemed like the normal flow, any given day. A couple of idiots, maybe a young girl singing, slops being thrown out the window. Gardy Loo. Read more...

Monday, May 18, 2015

Lingering Smell

A skunk smell drifts in on the breeze. A serious skunk smell that settles on everything. I don't mind it too much, strong smells, other than rotten potatoes or rotten onions, don't bother me. On the coast, a rotten whale, after a couple of weeks, smells pretty bad. I smear Vicks on my upper lip and go about my business. I've never found a recipe for skunk, but I did find a couple for fox. Both from Switzerland. One sounded good, burying a cast iron kettle in the coals overnight, with turnips and wild greens. One time in Utah, I had canned cougar chunks on rice. If I go out in the morning, and nothing is dead on the road, then when I come back, a few hours later, if something is dead, a squirrel or a rabbit, I stop and examine the carcass. I do a small animal braise, with road kill, that's quite good. And a stir fry with boned, poached squirrel that many people thought may have been the best thing they had ever eaten. Hey, listen, French Fries are important. Later, I thought about gender specific pronouns. Social norms. Spent some time going over some pages, to read tomorrow night. Thought about being out in the evening, which is not sometime I do often. I should get home just after dark, unless I get sidetracked. I can always stay at the Super 8 and take a shower. Beauty has suffered a bloodbath in Portsmouth, so many lovely buildings bull-dozed for a new CVS, a beautiful church razed to expand the Kroger parking lot. I don't even know where I'm reading, but it doesn't matter that much; I'm much better if I can read sitting down and cross my legs. I hold the pages in my left hand, and gesture with my right. It's like a puppet show. With hand gestures I can bring valence into play. This above, this below. Seeing things well right now, taking the time to notice, and not being in a hurry. I'd let the new pile of books, right beside on my left, get a little too tall, so I put a few books away and made a few notes. Which gets me speculating on what the hell I was thinking about when I had made several notes about peeing to the leeward. I think I know what I meant, but it was interesting that I thought of it then, text, sub-text; context is almost everything. It was a windy night, I'd gone out to pee. Doesn't take much of a learning curve. Read more...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Slightly Paranoid

I don't use a real Kroger card at Kroger anymore. I use one in a name I got from the cemetery in town. No one needs to know what groceries I buy. Another rain day, off and on hard. I reread The Nick Adams Stories, had morels on toast, got out for one walk between showers. More rain in the evening, the windows are open on the lee side and it smells wonderful. The trees and shrubs are drinking deeply, the next time the sun comes out I won't be able to see 50 feet. The blackberries are beautiful, and this rain predicts a good harvest. I've never seen so many blossoms. Serious rain sets in and I have to shut down for a while. Curl up on the sofa with a pile of essays and book reviews. My sister calls and we talk about Mom and Dad. She's moved them to a facility out nearer to her, and it all sounds completely dreadful. I couldn't do it, but Brenda can, and I'm filled with admiration. I need to get down there again, and I'd love getting out, once I was on the road. I always hate leaving, but once I'm on the road, I enjoy myself. A bath in Valentine, a shower in Moab, fry-bread in Mexican Hat, firm, cold, cut-throat trout caught above the beaver dams. My CD player has died (I'm having a run of failures) so I was sitting in the driveway listening to Bach in the Jeep. I always turn around, when I get home, and park facing out the driveway, when I saw headlights coming up the hill. It was a deputy sheriff (11 at night) and I felt like I'd been caught, you know, listening to Bach in the dark. He was a bit nervous and I asked him what was happening. It seems the power company had notified the law that my electric consumption had gone up significantly this past winter and that I might be doing something illicit. I invited him into the house, gave him a wee dram of Glendronach, and bade him look around. Then explained that I had used more back-up electric heat the past winter. He looked around, noting that I seemed to have an interesting life, and being completely overwhelmed with the walls of books. I told him to call, before he came up again, to warn me that there would be lights in the night, that I didn't like being surprised. He wants to bring his girlfriend up to meet me, she reads books. The Scioto Sideshow, look what we've got in this county. I tell him to call me ahead of time and I'll fix dinner. Can't hurt to get to know the local guy. I once had a CIA agent in my house, and have been interviewed by the FBI about some people I've known. It doesn't mean I'm not a nice person, but it has made me slightly paranoid. That, and the fact that I know people like Michael, who is a scholar of conspiracies, and propagates a few of his own. We've come a long way: out of the trees and most of us now stop at stop signs. Makes me proud to be a lemur without a tail. Dense clouds moving in, so I fry enough potatoes to make several sandwiches. I just leave them on the stove, in their skillet, and cover it with the spatter-screen, so the mice won't get into it. I set a mouse trap next to it. Corvus do enjoy a fresh mouse. If the bread is soft enough to fold over, it's just mayo and potato and a slice of onion; if it's a country loaf, I build an open-face thing and top it with a sauce or dressing. Maybe it isn't the NSA but Betty Crocker who's trying to get into my head. The foodie terrorist, blew up a tomato aspic, and died in a hail of artichokes. I exaggerate, naturally, because I was born in Tennessee. I have relatives that talk in a patois that no one else can understand. The noun for a tug is the same as the noun for a broken arm at the hands of a cousin. Read more...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Nicely Restated

The never ending problem of translation. Iteration and reiteration. Had everything set and couldn't find B. He called and had been knocked down with an unknown virus and in the hospital; back home now, but weak as a kitten. The man is never sick, so it's hard to imagine how bad it must have been; but he's back home, self-medicating, reading, resting up. He'd finished classes, had his grades in, still, felt awkward that he had been sick. I went to town, to tell the appliance guy I'd be a couple of days, and made my rounds; stopped at the library, soup at the pub, a few things at Kroger. Went below the floodwall, to look across at Kentucky. A string of barges, plowing upstream. The newer generation of tugs are amazing, their push is measured by the 100K horsepower. Kentucky is verdant, so green it shimmers; I can hardly remember ever being cold or wondering if I'd make back it back to the ridge. Now it's a walk in the park. The transition is incredible, and all of those stone rings make such perfect sense when you realize light and heat are in your favor, that the axis has tipped. A natural thing, to mark that point, and to note what might be around: salmon swimming upstream or elk using the ford, bison grazing in the bluestem. It's all about time-factoring. A particular animal and a specific plant together indicates a time of year. Don't get me started on cycles. An innocent walk can propel one almost into the mystic. You look at one thing, then another, the curious patterns that nature evolves. The blackberry are blooming and it's a riot, they roil in the clear-cut. Ever the realist, I hack some paths, I'll collect some berries and make jam. Blackberry juice and local honey is an anodyne against whatever. Listen, there are holes in the system, you either plug them with a bit of crap or you move to high ground. Several of my friends have joined the church, I have no idea what they're thinking. That Jesus is going to save them? That's probably not going to happen. The odds. Read more...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Logistics

The hills and hollows are wrapped in green, a beautiful rolling landscape. I had several things to do in town, and I did some of them. Got to the library, got to the bank for the refrigerator cash, stopped at the pub and had some hummus on pita slices and a pint. Cory had been saving a half shot of single malt for me, the corner of the bottle; TR came in starved, ate a large lunch, and said he was still hungry. I wanted some meat, so when I stopped to get whiskey I bought a small bacon wrapped fillet, discounted, and two pair of frozen frog legs ($2.45), which should get me through for a couple of days. I want to have the frog legs with polenta (hush-puppies in another form), but they're frozen, and I can put them off for a day or two, so I cook the steak and potatoes. I nuke a big russet, 10 minutes, then I can slice off rounds and fry them fairly quickly, with eggs, or meat, it doesn't matter what, and I've always got one in the fridge. I recommend squirreling away pre-cooked russet potatoes. Whatever might provide the most direct route to a plate of home-fries with an egg on top, a piece of toast with a great Blood Orange marmalade. We all have a rating system, it's always in play. I've done a couple of things well, no more than that; I've reinvented the hinge seventeen times, but they don't give an award for that; and still, when I swing myself upright, I feel integrated into a natural world. That sounds cocky but it's true. Recently I've been keeping track of the Whip-O-Wills. Don't get me started. All the running around and planning had gotten me a little anxious, so I took a day off to read. Much cooler, a very pleasant, afternoon, enough morels for dinner, no disturbances. A lovely omelet, morels and goat cheese; some leftover steak and bacon. I had barely cooked the mushrooms in butter, and the goat cheese has a low melting point, so after I carefully flipped and slid it onto my plate, it leaked an excellent liquid. I do love mopping up a meal with a piece of toast, a biscuit, or the last cornbread-stick. It's like a secret handshake, when you see someone deftly mop the last smear from a plate, you know you're in good company. Read more...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Playing Deep

TR came out and we had good conversation, then a decent meal. With a goddamn paper-clip he opened the CD player on my computer, which will allow me to install a new printer. I haven't been able to print hard copy for a year and I have a file of 174 pages that I need to print. It's difficult for me to work without tangible text. It was an interesting few hours because we talked about dozens of things, scenarios, staging, his passion for lamps. He wants text, and I think I finally heard, or understood, what, more or less, he requires. It occurred to me, when he was talking, that we might use a lyric composed in fourteen line stanzas. A song cycle. It would allow us to be quite liberal in terms of subject matter. Snakes and frogs, the fox and drainage, fireflies. We made a foot-hold. I told him to write the overture and I'd try and get him a few pages next week. One thing I realized is that I need to let the line open out, like I did twenty years ago, instead of the density of conditional and specific that has involved me for the last 15 years. I'm reasonably careful, embrace and enjoy trying to nail down a fact. I'd rather spend the afternoon at the library, thank you very much, than doing almost anything else. I just can't buy the package, never did, and TR's right on the edge. Do you go back and get a doctorate, go into serious debt, or do you hole up in the woods and eat road-kill. A more important decision than might have been necessary in any previous generation. Because I'm simple. Someplace between a rock and a flaked point. Playing deep, you cut off the alley. TR brought two gallons of drinking water, I don't think anyone has done that before. Water is a big deal. Two gallons of drinking water is a big deal. Read Edward Abbey. I lived in Moab for a while, and it's incredibly dry. You can't even spit. Here, though, a terrifying thunder storm moves in, actually just missing the ridge, the power goes out and it rains strongly but only for a few minutes. I'm reading recipes in the failing light; thinking about herring roe and wild asparagus. Cape Cod in the spring. I'd bought a package of chicken thighs, the last main meal thing I need to eat before the refrigerator change-over. Three in the package, which I thought was odd. Skin them and fry the skins, marinate the thighs in papaya juice, with lemon, tarragon, and sparkling water, braise them, reduce the cooking liquid, scrape up the font. The skins are great, I swear I almost swoon when I'm eating fried chicken skins with a light sprinkling of salt. In Mississippi Walt McCool would bring over his propane unit and ten gallon iron pot, and after Roy and I had skinned out a 250 pound hog, to make sausage, we'd make cracklings and drink a case of home-brew. Hot pig rinds with a dab of Dijon mustard. Roy always filtered the rendered fat through several layers of cheese-cloth, and sold the lard over in Babylon. He liked my lard, because the pigs free-ranged and ate mostly acorn mast, their fat was firm and set-up well. The fat from a penned pig, fed on corn, is somewhat less discreet. The chicken thighs are wonderful, a small mess of greens I'd cooked with salt-pork, a piece of bread. There aren't any leftovers. Potatoes and eggs for the next few days, with healthy servings of mushrooms. Limping along, and the ridge is almost completely leafed-out. It's beautiful. The blackberries are blooming. Read more...

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Equipment Failure

Refrigerators should last forever. Gas ones do, because they have no moving parts, you just replace the door gasket every ten or fifteen years. I've never bought a new one. I think I've bought five, maybe six, in my life, and all of them were working fine when I left wherever it was. The one here is dying, 15 years old, used, bought for $200. When Glenn and I lived in the church, the fridge was a monitor-top, forty years old and still fine. $13.33 a year is not bad, and I'm not complaining, but I fear I'll be losing condiments, and, of course, there is the mess, and getting rid of accumulated crap and disposing of the carcass. I can save a few things, the sauce, some kimchee, and eat what was in the freezer. But I'll have to enlist B's aid, because he still has a truck and getting a refrigerator through a doorway almost requires two people. This one, the dying Hotpoint, I unloaded by myself, walked it up a ramp and into place, and it took me several days to recover. I get out my largest cooler, and I'll pick up some ice tomorrow, I can save a few things, it might be a week before I can arrange all the logistics. It isn't just a matter of calling someone to take care of a problem, this life, the ridge, is difficult of access, timing is important, I have to prioritize how I spend my time. Today, for instance, when I should have been thinking about what I could be doing, I was reading Anne Dillard. Later I read a great essay by Lopez. The greening is almost complete. When I go outside now, after I've been inside for a couple of hours reading or writing, the wall of green baffles me. Spots in my visual field, Muscae volitantes, those floating shapes. Later, I count my blessings, I learned to cook brisket over very low heat for a very long time. While you're cooking this, you could be doing almost anything else, trimming fruit trees or grape vines, harvesting barnacles for a pasta dish. And when you're done, you felt you had accomplished something. I had to cook the brisket, it was in the freezer. Went to town and Cory wanted me to sample the two new beers on tap, then Tina and Chris bought me a beer at Noggins so that we could sit outside and talk. Bought what I needed to feed TR when he comes over tomorrow, then stopped at the used appliance place on the way home. A cash only business and I needed to stop and see what he had; a great, clean unit that will fit, exactly, the space, $200. I tell him I'll be back as soon as I clean out the old one and arrange transport. He's says he'll take the old carcass. I brought home a bag of ice, so I could save the sauce and a few other things, but I'm using this as a chance to clean. The old fridge had gotten quite funky. B says to just give him a call Monday or Tuesday and we can do the switch. When I get home Rodney is stuck at the top of the hill, his reverse has ceased to function and I have to drag him backward, which takes a couple of attempts. Finally in the house and it's very hot, so I turn on the AC and go look for mushrooms. I'd like to make a mushroom gravy for the tenderloin medallions I'll be cooking tomorrow. Caramelized onions and peppers, saffron rice. We might as well dine in style. I found a nice batch of morels. Made an excellent gravy for the brisket. I'd rubbed the meat with whatever is in my current dry rub, seared it, wrapped it in foil and cooked it for six hours off the heat. When I unwrapped it, saving all the juice, I smoked it for a hour or so, to dry the surface, and give it a little smokey tang. Add the juice to some of the sauce, add that to the mushroom gravy. Slice the meat thin and serve it on smashed potatoes. I nuke large Russet potatoes, now that I don't have a fire, then cut off slices and fry them, or sometimes just smash the potato with butter and black pepper. It's a great vehicle. I told B today that I almost felt guilty, enjoying my mundane life. I'm giving a reading for the Nature Club next week, and they're feeding me dinner, I figure I should be able to get home just at dark. I know a lot of these people and they're very sharp. They know way more than I do about any given thing. The last time I read for them I was corrected several times, correctly, about my identification of specific weeds. I'm pretty good on wild grasses and weeds, but they're better than me. I admit that grudgingly, but I like to be well informed, so I nod my head and defer. Lessons learned. Read more...

Friday, May 8, 2015

Live Bait

Down south, near any body of water there is always a river shack that sells a few things and has a limited menu of local foodstuff. These are almost always very cool places, smoked mullet, fried catfish, turtle fritters, and in the window, always a neon sign, in red and blue, LIVE BAIT. The bait itself varies by location. It might be minnows or crickets, or crabs, or worms, and sometimes even very large shiners; usually a counter, and a couple of tables. Usually another couple of tables outside, bad, shimmed tables, that rocked about. Eating boiled crabs is messy business. My parents took over Clark's Camp on Julington Creek, off the St John's, when the Clarks needed a week in the Keys. Good money but brutal work, before dawn until after dark, but never a dull moment. Cotton-Mouth Moccasins and alligators. Otters and bob-cats and the occasional bear. I never knew such a spread of wildlife. Pelican in a reduced gravy, fresh water mussels, completely purged and steamed in salted water, or a batch of minnows fried crisp in tempura batter. Most minnows are miniature sturgeon. Black Dell is getting finicky. She's running hot and I have to shut down in the middle of the day. 89 degrees tomorrow, and I'll have to turn on the AC for a couple of hours, and it seems too early in the year, I just had a fire a couple of weeks ago. I'll do what I have to, but I do hate being manipulated. So I change my schedule, getting up early in the morning, in the dark, and writing for a few hours in the coolness. I don't turn on the AC until I get back inside after a walk or mushroom hunt. It actually got to 90 degrees today (the sides of my nose and my temples start to sweat at 90) and it was 86 inside. Dell needs to be 79-80 to not complain too loudly, which takes at least an hour. I read, clean up, heat left-overs or start a dinner, eat something, get a drink, roll a smoke. I was thinking about latches and gates, reading an excellent essay by Verlyn Klinkenborg, about making hay in the Big Horn, and how every outbuilding had its own unique set of hinges and a latch fabricated from knotholes and horseshoes. When you're twenty miles from a hardware store and goats are birthing, you get good at jury-rigging. I always loved that aspect of being remote, solving problems without easy access to easy solutions. I've made hay in several different parts of the country, and I actually had watched the method under discussion, many times, at a ranch outside Gunnison, Colorado; local beef, driven into the high country, then down in winter to munch fibrous stalks and the seed-heads of Blue Stem. It's easy to forget that dried shit and sod is so much a part of our heritage. Andrew is like Paula Poundstone, he doesn't believe anything I say, and I respect that, but Linda knows there wasn't that much fiction between what I had projected and what might have happened. It's the reality of nature. Two Goldfinches constitute a universe. Me and it. Read more...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Supply Chain

These were pond-raised frogs from France and the legs were huge. Two pair in a frozen package for less than five bucks. I made red beans and rice, with kimchee as a side. Anthony has promised to throw me a Chinese fermentation pot. TR says he wants to come out Sunday and work on the opera. I just fry the frog-legs in butter, adding some crushed garlic at the end, making a quick pan gravy. Excellent, and enough for another meal tomorrow, so I decide to do some serious cleaning, and I have plenty of water, to clean myself later, topped out: 25 gallons of wash water and five gallons of drinking water, a six week supply for me. I'm sympathetic with the drought out west, but I use less than a gallon of water a day. I wash my hair, I used to shave, I soak my feet. Brush my teeth and make coffee. Goddamn early wasps are a pain in the ass. I hate to kill them, but they're stupid, and stupidity has always bothered me, so I kill them, knocking them out of the air and squashing them underfoot. I hate getting stung, and I'm still quite good with a fly-swatter. It's all in the wrist. I love these back-country wakes, Uncle Morris crushed by a coal-truck, Marvin suffocated under a mound of wheat, and the most common, in timber country, is getting killed by a tree or a log, one way or another. A double funeral, last week, going out of town, and I had to stop at Bolan's to let them pass. The Sheriff had stopped for a Coke, and he said it was two boys killed in a ATV accident. The wake, a BBQ and keg affair, was being held out on Cary's Run. He had arranged designated drivers. The problem, he said, with young drunk drivers, was that were seldom killed, but they killed other people. No traffic, once I was back on the river road, and I was able to drive slowly, pull off often, and look at the flowers. Then the drive in on Upper Twin, which is a lovely, curvy road without much habitation and several abandoned house-sites. Every one of the bottoms sports a few fruit trees and a dense border of daffodils. A couple of places where an extended family has collected several trailers and built a couple of rough-sawn sheds, collected every appliance, vehicle, and tire they could find, and built them into a kind of garrison. It's a shade of the medieval, poking into the modern. I run through the first ford several times, to clean salt off the undercarriage, then stop in the middle, I always do this, to roll a smoke and look around. The creek is six or eight inches deep, rolling over a flat sandstone ledge, maybe thirty feet wide; and it's completely wild on both sides going downstream. The flora is so thick and diverse it's difficult to tell one plant from another. A bone to pick. One of the reasons I had gone to town was that the public library had called and they were holding a book for me. The second volume of a trilogy by Greg Iles. This is a problem because there is no way (though clearly there was) that they could have known I'd read the first volume, since it had been sent to me, media rate, from Utah. The sender and I had exchanged TWO emails about the book. Neither of us thinking much about it. And now the Public Library is holding a copy of the second book for me? Read more...