Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Start

A caterwauling, a scream in the night. Incessant rain, though just before sunset I could almost see shadows, so I thought the clouds were thinning. A wonderful cycle of tree-rain, and I was nodding to the beat, heating the last of the left-overs thinking about how left-overs were probably leftovers now, the way two words become hyphenated, then become one word. A migration of meaning. I'm so hopelessly out of date I still use an abacus to balance my check book. I'd decided to take a nap, then get up later, read and write when it was cooler and Black Dell wouldn't require freezer packs and a personal fan. I'd made an excellent omelet or frittata with the leftovers, rolled a smoke, and was settled back with a wee dram of Irish. Sitting in the dark, as is my want, and I had heard stirrings in the leaves. I'd turned the compost heap, with a great load of produce from the dumpster at Kroger, the last of the stove ashes and gleanings from several cast-iron skillets. Attempting to create order within my limited frame. The clear and present danger was that every animal within a square mile would converge on my compost heap. They do, of course, and I get to hear an incredible chorus of animal sounds. The dogs grumble and the cats whine, the bear seems to be off somewhere, but the rabid coon makes me uncomfortable. I finally go out and decapitate it with a brush hook. Being the Lord High Executioner carries a certain weight, and I don't consider lightly any of the heads I've rolled. Nowhere near the record, Henry the Eight's guy chopped off three hundred in just a couple of years. I started up, when the sound erupted. I knew what the sounds were, and I wasn't threatened, I had my sling-shot, fuck a bunch of meaning. But I started up, jumped, you might say, when the cat sounded. You might reproduce that sound with a cello. TR tends toward lentils on a cymbal, but it woke me from a fine dream where I was walking on some perfectly flat salt plains. Key West, for instance, is a tidal node, measured in inches, the Gulf of Mexico pulling against the Atlantic, as apposed to, say, the Bay of Fundy. Camped somewhere in Nova Scotia, Bear Creek, I think, and I had to retreat to higher ground. This was nothing like that, but it reminded me of the panic, starting from dead sleep. Starting from a deep sleep, bolt upright, Jesus fucking Christ, be still my heart, and it's just a couple of animals fighting over my trash. Knew I wouldn't get back to sleep. I couldn't remember the name for those pieces of real estate, often triangular, trapped between exits, entrances, and highways, so I called up the Highway Patrol and talked with a friendly officer who said that he had been taught (in Highway Patrol school) that they were called gores, which leads me to gusset, which leads to pleat. A gusset requires an extra piece of material, a gore is just a pleat. I remember seeing the word in Barry Lopez's (as editor) Home Ground, and there it is. This is such a grand book it usually takes me an hour to put it down. I resist the temptation to go on with the H's. I meant to go to town today, talk with TR, pick up some some things at Kroger, but I got sidetracked. An interesting radio show about high school and college debating, a field in which, before theater, I was an actual player; and Ralph Stanley died, at 89, sounding better as he got older. I took a little walk, gathered a few chanterelles, made a duxelle, read a piece about casting bells (four parts copper, one part tin) and then a long piece about British change-ringing. Too hot for Black Dell, so I take a nap then get up after midnight to write. I run a little 8 inch fan on Dell's backside and some of the deflected air blows in my direction; the windows are open, but it's a dead still night. A low temperature of above 70 degrees and it's difficult to get rid of the day's heat. First Luna Moth of the season, scares me half to death, banging at my window screen. It's a beautiful thing and I watch it for the best part of an hour. They love Passion Fruit, and Ted and I, in the first print shop, which had a green house, had let the vines take over the place. Open the vents, this time of year, and in they'd come. We had to cover the ink-plate on our press, to protect it from moth shit. When I write at night, I have the light of the screen, and a seven-and-a-half watt compact bulb, lighting the back entry; when I go out to pee it looks warm and lovely. Life in the country, an oil lamp burning in the window. I know it's a false sense of security, but I enjoy the luxury, what I consider the luxury, of just sitting back, having a drink and a smoke. Listening for the wind. More often than not, I'm rewarded for just listening. For just looking too. A Gallery Forest overhangs a creek or a road, the branches might intertwine into a canopy, so Mackletree becomes a tunnel. For a mile, at least, it's completely canopied. The white oaks are all gone, mostly gone, there are some seedlings, several bad years, frost, FROST, fire, and they went off, what did Wayne say, like Roman candles. That dry bark torched the forest; in these hardwood forests, fires are usually on the ground, but this one escaped. They stopped it, finally, right at the bottom of my hill. Cicero was beheaded? I make a note to look into that. Read more...

Friday, June 24, 2016

Frost Hollows

Spilled air, as it loses heat at night, becomes denser and flows off the ridge into hollows. My hollow, Low Gap, gets little sun and has about twenty frosts more per year than the ridge. This is called a katabatic flow. Joel called, as he often does when he's on dialysis, he'd been watching the Weather Channel and saw that I was in for a ride. Power was out when he called, but the phone was still working. I was reading Thoreau by headlamp in the dark afternoon, and it was a fun call. He's quick to poke gentle fun at my curious obsessions. A serious reader, he sends me many books after he's read them. He no longer keeps a library (except for cook books) and most of my Wittgenstein books came from him. We generally talk about food, foremost, and old friends. We had worked together on several building projects with what must have been one of the most comic crews ever assembled, fifty years ago, Cape Cod. All of us (the various subcontractors), usually dubbed "The Whole Sick Crew", would get paid at noon on Friday, cash our checks, have a two martini lunch at the Binnacle, and return to the jobsite to clean up for the following week. A manic and hysterical couple of years, these guys, Les and Ralph especially, were very funny but also extremely fine carpenters. I was working summers, at the Cape Playhouse, with another great crew, and I'd have weeks, between gigs, to wander the beaches around East Dennis. I knew the area from the mouth of Quivet Creek to the breakwater at the harbor like the back of my hand, every plover nest, every clam or oyster bed, and I could collect dinner in a matter of minutes. Started me on the path of collecting wild food, which is now just a matter of course; I always have time to stop and gather food. D called, and we, also, talked about food, because he and Carma raise everything, and it was fun to share recipes. He didn't know about the mock apple pie made with Ritz crackers, he called to see if I knew about salsify, the oyster plant, and I had a couple of recipes off the top of my head, one of which, a cream soup, with a dollop of sour cream, is quite good. I told him to cook it like cattail spears or asparagus, maybe a cream sauce. I like it with browned butter, and lots of black pepper. I like anything with browned butter and black pepper, parrot, monkey, small rodents; I have a recipe for belts, cooked with fat pork for several hours, that sounds pretty good. Shakleton, not a single life lost, 1200 miles in an open boat, then hiking across an island that had never been hiked, getting some whalers to get the rest of his crew and they got back to England, amazing. In my most extreme imagining, I just want to get home, fourteen stations of the cross, the last half-mile over a scree slope that offered no footing. It's exhausting, fighting against the tide. Read more...

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Belief Systems

I don't care, Church Of England, Catholic, a Fundamentalist Baptist thing involving snakes, I generally just retire to high ground. Meaning just the ridge, not any elevated thought. The papal system is an elaborate farce, by far the best service I ever experienced was a Greek Orthodox Easter, pomp and circumstance with a purpose, and the worst was a Holiness Pentecostal service where people rolled in the aisles and foamed at the mouth. All religion is just an excuse for bad behavior. Politics too. I heard today that the winning candidate for president would need to have raised a billion dollars in contributions, to blanket ads in swing states. Elections are, I suppose, good for the economy, white smoke means we've elected a president. On the ridge, I don't pay much attention to the world, this is my cave, I assume you have yours. I've always been suspect of any intervention, any mediation; though I do keep a jar of herbs that will absolutely make you vomit. Sometimes, when you've made a mistake, it's necessary to vomit, mustard pollen is good for this. I've eaten bad mushrooms and bad shell-fish, it comes with the turf (a reference to peat), and it's good to be shed of what your body deems offensive. I read the word 'turving' recently, for cutting peat, and voted it the word of the week. Trapped overnight once, in a canyon off Comb Ridge in Utah, I kept a fire going all night with buffalo chips that must have been hundreds of years old. Their faint odor was actually rather pleasant. I was living, at the time, on a part of the Navaho reservation, not in any attempt to go native, but because a gun-shot trailer was all I could afford, and at the community center, where there was running water, electricity, and a communal washing machine (50 cents per load, into the jug that was labeled "Repair Fund") where I had met an old man who told me about a chert deposit (he called it arrow-head rock) several miles off the beaten track. When I finally found the place it was truly a singular spot. Not a habitation, but an area set aside, by common agreement, for flaking stone. Much like the common hunting grounds in northern Kentucky, an area of salt-licks and abundant game where it was considered inappropriate to fight. An area the size of a football field covered with a thick layer of flakes and thousands of failed arrow-heads. A few alcoves clearly used as camps, a midden, a fire pit, and a stack of buffalo chips. The site is a few miles south of Bluff, Utah, but it might as well be on the other side of the moon. I went there a dozen times, during the year in which I made my living adding roofs onto trailers to provide shade, and I never saw another person. It was a slot canyon that opened into a box canyon with a small seasonal spring; the alcove where I spent the night, was accessed by footholds carved in the rock, you could defend it with a stick. I remember eating a delightful stew of dried vegetables with a small can of tangerine segments for dessert. I dug a collection pool, below the nick-point of the spring, so I could make coffee in the morning. I figured one person could live there, taking a shower the one day a year it rained, otherwise staying quite still during the heat of the day, running his snares and traps at night. The blood of small mammals is certainly liquid, and the sap of plants that collect dew. Consider the desert lizard. I use less water than the average raccoon, and I'm happy with that, I hate waste among all things. My evil double swears I ignore obvious paths, the Appalachian trail in Pennsylvania eats boots; rolling thunder, I'd better go.The power is out for a while and I eat cold rice made into a kind of pudding. I never do get the hail I was promised, golf-ball size they mentioned, but I did get a brief coating of pellets that turned the ground white for about five minutes. I'd moved the Jeep to the mouth of the driveway under a canopied white oak. The sound was wonderful, a staccato drumming; it didn't last long, five minutes maybe, but managed to incorporate every off-beat possible. A cascade of sound. I wrote about this in an unpublished paper, From Beckett to Poe, in which I drew too heavily on purely sonic events. Nothing is ever what it seems. Read more...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Land Forms

Managed to spend most of the day immersed in The Dictionary Of Americanisms. Hammock, hummock, hassock, tussock, knob, knoll. When I looked up, it was already after lunch time. Stopped what I was doing, made some corn cakes and a cheese omelet, read an interesting piece in The London Review by Jenny Diski about living with Doris Lessing. Somehow, along the way, I was reading part of Darwin's book on coral atolls. He'd never seen a coral island, and yet he got it correctly. Pretty amazing, actually. Spent most of the afternoon (too hot, Black Dell was closed down, didn't want to walk then pick off ticks) cooking a dish to last for a couple of days. I make a pot of rice, a pecan flavor from Louisiana, then caramelized a large Spanish onion and a red pepper, then fried sliced chorizo sausage. This is very good, the meat explodes out of its casing, into strange shapes, and the onions and peppers are so sweet they make me want to write a Romance Novel. A cut-off is a channel made where's a big bend in a river, to save the bother and the distance; between Cairo, Illinois and New Orleans, between 1706 and 1882 the distance was cut from 1,215 miles to 973. I've fished some of those great ox-bow lakes, Horseshoe Lake (northwestern Mississippi), and Tunica Cut-Off, and they were great expeditions. We'd rent a cabin, one room, a sink, water at the well, one of those what I think of as Park Service grills, inch thick cast iron and a stout cooking surface, for ten bucks a night. We'd go over of Friday evening, in time to fish for an hour or two. Mom had her kit, for feeding us, some bacon fat, some cornmeal. Saturday we'd fish all morning, then come in for a great fish lunch, take a nap, then go back out and fish through the afternoon. Stay another night, and fish through the following morning before heading home. We'd take home enough fish for a neighborhood fry, baked beans and slaw, hush-puppies, it doesn't get much better than that. With the knife I use for filleting, honed to a razor's edge, I can take a boneless fillet off a flatfish, I can take a boneless fillet off a small perch, I sometimes mince garlic and shallots. But really, hush-puppies, dipped in a dark sesame sauce, anchovies and rotted small fish, is as good as it gets. The radio was calling for serious weather, storms, hail, chance of tornados, a flood alert, so I got to town and back home in record time. Whiskey, cigaret papers, some sweet potatoes and a London Broil, juice. Got home just as the first rain started, felt as if I'd flanked what could have been a rough spot. Skipped going to the library, because I sensed I didn't have time, which I didn't, but I'm mostly researching words right now and I have all the necessary books at hand. Enough of the necessary books, at any rate, to occupy me for an un-specified unit of time. Home, hard rain on the metal roof and I put away supplies, thinking about the various meanings of borrow, barrow, and burrow. Had skipped stopping at the pub too, which is extreme for me, the crew there is my main social contact, but I'd picked up a can of Foster's when I stopped for papers, so I had a beer with a late lunch of sardines, grape tomatoes, cheese (a great Irish cheddar), and saltine crackers. I could sense that the rain was imminent, when I got to town, so I compressed what I needed to accomplish into the fewest possible moves. I didn't need to stop at the ATM because I could charge my whiskey, and I had twenty bucks; breezed through the self check-out line, got gas and a couple of potato logs to eat on the way home (got the potato logs while the gas was pumping, which I thought was a splendid use of time). The folk origin of terms is always interesting, the borrow pit becomes the barrow pit when you haul out the dirt in a wheel-barrow. Hummocks often have trees, hammock is a dry-land feature, but it depends on where you live. I knew a guy who lived in those great salt-marshes between north Florida and south Georgia, and, to him, everything a few feet above the swamp was a tussock. A lovely word. I slept out with him a few times, running baited jugs, which is a kind of fishing where you chase plastic jugs around. Each one has a line attached, baited usually with chicken guts, and you're fishing for anything, actually, but large catfish are the cream of the crop. He and his wife ran a Fish-Hut off Route 17 in south Georgia, a very funky restaurant, bait shop, and boat launch, and they were lovely people. She made a superior turtle stew, used a hatchet like a Zen master. Marie was her name, Louisiana/French, he was nebulous, in terms of heritage, large, and either tanned or brown, I didn't care about that, he knew the waters. Hats off and all respect to anyone who recognizes the thicket in which they're entangled. I'm usually left scratching my head. Read more...

Monday, June 20, 2016

Anger Management

Phone rings. I was just finishing a couple of flattened, rolled and stuffed veal birds, They're actually called birds, I'm not making that up. I'd found the recipe for a dish B's Mom used to make. Reading the recipe started me on a long campaign of flattening, rolling and stuffing. I was never satisfied with using toothpicks as an attachment and finally modified a set of 16 penny finish nails into what I still think of as an elegant solution. Heat is an issue, so when I'm serving this dish I use a small pair of craft pliers to remove the picks. If you have access to a vise these are very easy to make, and they neatly solve that nagging issue of holding things together while you cook them. I'd made a nice stuffing with wild rice and a mushroom duxelle, some minced peppers. I knew it was going to be good, I'd pounded out the veal until it was wonderfully thin and when I sampled the stuffing, before I rolled up the birds, it was, what? toothsome, I don't have a word, it was so good it made me want to roll over onto my back and paw at the world. So the phone rings. It's a call about my electric rate. I unload an invective against his mother and the crazed camel that must have been his father for interrupting me. Hang up. He calls me back, curious about why I should be so upset. I tell him, patiently, that most of Scioto County gets power from AEP (American Electric Power) but that some of us get power from the west, a rural electric cooperative, and that I'm not a part of his data base. The third call, this is unprecedented, he actually apologizes that I'm not actually part of their study. He does tell me that I'm paying way too much for electricity, but that there is no alternative. Good to know. He gets paid extra for working holidays. It's raining in the Philippines, what to wear, I ask him, rubber boots, he says, and an English slicker. He argued that the first amendment allowed him to say whatever he wanted to say. I tell him there is no reason to be calling me at dinnertime on a Sunday that's also a holiday. He didn't know it was a holiday (Father's Day?), he didn't know it was dinnertime, and why did I have a land-line anyway? I don't feel like discussing this with him, however nice he may be, fucking fuck-headed fuckers. Twice in three days they've violated my dinner. Unplug the phone, make a nice milk gravy, reheat the veal birds, but it's not quite the meal it would have been, everything is conditional; but it's very good, the meat is a little resistant and the stuffing is divine. Not a word I'd ordinarily use, but it was heaven sent. Wild rice isn't even rice, just another grass, and I had some dried mushrooms I reconstituted in sherry, some minced black olives, some sharp Spanish onion. My anger was cut short. I strive toward cutting anger short, actually I strive to avoid it all together. When I realized theater was using my temper as a management skill, I left theater, and I never got mad on a job site, building a house, unless someone broke a safety rule. Ten years at the museum and I only lost my temper once. Occasionally, listening to the news on a Sunday morning, I do a little stylized dance, halfway between country and Kabuki. The day-lilies are everywhere and I've eaten day-lily bud tempura for several days, to justify the use of oil. They are quite good, but it occurs to me that anything non-toxic, cooked as tempura, with a decent dipping sauce, was going to be pretty good. I cooked a sliced artichoke heart in the batter, and it reminded me of avocado, which I also cooked in the batter and it was completely cheese-like. I plan these fried food dates, making sure I have interesting things at hand, because I feel guilty about the oil use, so I need to utilize everything completely. I strain the oil a couple of times, add a vitamin E cap, against oxidation, and finish with the usual fish and hush-puppies. I put the depleted oil, with whatever solids, in a stainless steel bowl out at the compost heap, and it is always completely clean the next morning. Every living thing craves fat. That's probably not true, but I like the way it sounds. I hope the fox got her share, she looked like shit, the last time I saw her, recently kidded and losing her winter hair; kitted, I suppose would be a more accurate term. I know I'll see a couple of young foxes soon; in her post-partum depression she wanted an apple. I rolled her one, and all was right with the world. Read more...

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Under Control

On Navaho time, exactly one day late, I got up early and heated water, did some dishes, washed my hair, took a sponge bath. Ready for the day. Glenn called and he's going to visit in July, rent a room at the lodge, so I can take a couple of baths, this is good news because I'm deeply dirty, a soak and a rinse would be a good thing. We can drink some good whiskey, and talk. The lodge is air-conditioned, and they have a mediocre dining room, also I can fix a few things, sliced pork tenderloin with thickened morel gravy, Brussels sprouts with browned butter and peppers, an omelet, caramelized onions and a sweet red pepper, a piece of toast, smeared with butter and a wild plum jam. Glenn's always liked my cooking and TR swears he's coming out from town. I craved fried chicken gizzards so I drove out to "The Briar Patch", the premier fried food counter in the area, picked up a pint and some potato logs. I only do this about once a year unlike the usual clientele which runs to prison guards and their families. It's an odd place, sprawling, with a huge parking lot. Most of the guards from the Lucasville Prison live around there. It's a huge maximum security facility, with the killing floor for the state, and easily the most obese place I've ever seen. The beer aisles are extra wide and the food counter area runs for thirty feet with plenty of room for 300 or 400 pound people. Quite the operation. I take my food (I also got a few fried mushrooms, and some fried cauliflower) down below the flood wall in Portsmouth, and spread it out on the bags at a picnic table under the bridge so I can watch the river traffic; a few runners and dog-walkers and one old guy comes over, looks at my hoard, nods his head, and says "The Briar Patch". He readily accepts a gizzard, dips it in the hot sauce, and tells me that I'm a saint among men. A tug goes by, pushing a string of fifteen barges. Twin jet engines, each pumping out 27,500 horsepower. I can't quite piece it together, but the combination of getting the fried food (the gizzards especially, that texture) and watching the river, put me in a very nice state. I did my business, I needed a couple of light-bulbs, I knew I had left-over food for later. Shopping for light-bulbs was amusing. It seems that they don't make 'regular' bulbs anymore and I spent half an hour reading the packages. I wanted a four-pack of cheap 40 watt bulbs. I use energy efficient units most everywhere, but a couple of lights that I use irregularly needn't be expensive. I've done extensive research into stress failure analysis, lifetime cost analysis, the light-bulb in literature, and ground-breaking work on the removal of broken bulbs (the answer, a potato); all collected in a small unpublished volume Searching For Light, that was uniformly rejected by every publisher on the planet. I was irrationally upset when I awoke this morning, then remembered that it was Sunday and a holiday, every reason (in my mind) for being upset. Realized I'd skipped dinner last night, forgotten to eat would be closer to the truth, so I made a wonderful omelet, grape tomatoes and Irish double cheddar, with toasted cornbread, which, as we say around the lab, turned my head around. Samara called, as I knew she would, she and Scott on the last days of a long road-trip. He proposed and she accepted, I proposed a Justice Of The Peace, and I'd come out and cook ribs for a few friends. Marriage is like a stick on the ground, you jump over it and you're married. You leave it there, so if you want to, later, jump back over, you can. My parents were married for 70 years. Diane, who almost visited last week, has been married to Ralph for 43 years but they're separating, which leaves Glenn and Linda as the longest surviving relationship. I've been watching a wasp build a nest, for the last couple of weeks. It seems to regurgitate new material whenever it comes back to the nest. I assume this is non-digestible fiber, which is more or less the way you make paper. Powers is flickering, I'd better go. Read more...

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Drift

Incessant drip, dew fall. When the breeze picks up there's a shower from the trees. Lovely cool morning and it's very easy to roll over and go back to sleep. Last night's storm forced me to shut down during my writing time. Pissed me off, because I lost the thread of what I was thinking. Nothing for it. Moved over to the sofa and read. Fall back position. Second time I woke up it was dead calm outside, not a leaf stirring and all I can see is a wall of leaves. I'd meant to get right up, heat water, clean dishes, then sponge bath and hair wash, but postpone everything and sit down to write. Even Black Dell is comfortable. Turn off the radio, no music. The last thing I remember thinking, before the power went out, then back on, and I shut down everything, was about a time Dad and I were fishing on Julington Creek, a rented boat with our outboard motor (a 7 horsepower monster from Western Auto). We'd kicked upstream ('kicked' was always the word that was used) to fish a bream bed we knew about, and there was a strange object in the lily pads. Dad thought it was a body, but it turned out to be a dead alligator, belly up. It was the only time B. J., my father's name was Buren Jackson but everyone called him B. J. or Jack, ever talked about recovering bodies. He'd been a medic in WWII, then again in Korea. There were occasional war stories, especially in Key West, where Dad was on sea-duty (officially) but was home most nights. Key West was considered a great tour of duty. It was great. There was an international submarine school, and being chief in any navy being a kind of bond, almost every weekend, there'd be a group of international chiefs at our house, for a cook-out and home brew. War stories were common, but of a humorist or ironic twist. Some of these guys were quite funny, I remember Hans and Fritz from Germany, who were addicted to Mom's Key Lime pie. They'd sing when they got drunk. Dad could fetch a van from the base, with an on-duty driver, to get them back to their barracks safely. There was one black chief I remember especially, Walker, from France, and he would stay over, occasionally, fixing hash for all of us for breakfast. The left-over meat from ribs, potatoes and onions. I still make this, and the Key Lime pie, which is the only dessert I make, other than half an acorn squash stuffed with raspberries. I don't know when that started, living alone I suppose, but I like to roast an acorn squash, one half stuffed with spicy sausage and the other half just cooked with a tablespoon of orange juice. When I take the sausage half out, to eat as the main course, I stuff the other half with raspberries and run it under the toaster oven. Red and black raspberries are the caviar of fruits. In season, I just eat them with cream and sugar, and I buy them frozen, for the acorn squash. Flash freezing has changed the food industry. I can buy sweet corn now, or in February, and it's actually good. And baby limas, I swear, theirs are better than mine. There's a restaurant in Oxford Mississippi that prepares the best vegetables you've ever eaten. The butter beans (baby limas, the words are hopelessly entangled) are one of the best things ever. Period. Soft immature beans simmered with pork fat, corn bread on the side, buttered sticks, and maybe a country fried steak slathered with gravy. Dad's idea of a salad was always a sliced tomato and a raw onion. I still tend in that direction, though I add mozzarella and a good vinegar. I never did find the thread of what I had been thinking, something about my Dad. Even a small interruption is often enough to sever connection. I made a lovely hash (maybe that was the thought) from left over fillet and a piece of baked potato, a perfect egg on top, a very nice meal though it was three in the morning, windows open, a cool breeze, I was dressed, if you could call it that, in boxer briefs and a tee-shirt from which I had cut off the collar and arms. I wasn't actively sweating, comfortable in my skin, reading recipes for hash while I was cooking hash. A slider open on the front and the back door, and there was a nice cross-ventilation thing going on, when a goddamn dog came in the back door. I was shocked, claws chattering on my fucking floor, and closest offensive weapon was a tennis racquet I normally use for bats, and I smacked him up the side of his head. I do not want to kill the animal, it would just be another mess to clean up, so I grab the shovel I keep at the back door, and try to move him toward open spaces. He's not a large dog, 30 or 40 pounds, short hair, black and brown, some bird dog in there somewhere, but he manages to slump into a difficult pile. When I finally get the dog outside, door closed, back to my dinner, everything is cold and I can't remember what book I was reading. Read more...

Friday, June 17, 2016

Closing Time

Smoke gets in your eyes. Or a breeze off the ocean. My tears are salty, but when I touch my eyes, they sting because of salt. Walking in harsh weather mid-winter, I can barely see; when I get home nothing makes sense. I put on my favorite versions of the Cello Suites, a double bass transcription, and sit in the dark. The power went out and the music died. Black Dell had been off, because of the heat, so I put on my headlamp and wrote long-hand for a while, some notes on what I thought I might have written about. My notes take the form of single words followed by a dash, if more than 24 hours goes by, they make no sense to me. When I close down from a writing session I often skip down one line and leave a clue as to where I thought I was going. A couple of hot nights and I have to put a small fan blowing directly on me to get any sleep at all, then get up at my usual three in the morning to write for a few hours. D had called, he had a load of firewood for me and will bring it out soon. The very fact that firewood of this caliber is available so cheap ($20 a pick-up load) is a testament to living in the hardwood capital of the world, ricked and air-dried under a roof. This load is rejected staves from the cooperage, and he's promised me a load of stumps for night-time wood. Answers the first of my winter worries. I'm saving the rest of Thoreau's journals for next winter, and in the fall I'll restock the larder. I'm hoping Big Lots will have socks and underwear at some point between now and November, so that I can avoid a trip to Wal-Mart. My clothing budget for the year will come to about twenty dollars. In late November I'll buy a case of whiskey (10% discount, one single malt, one Irish whiskey, and ten of my Kentucky sour-mash) and I always keep enough tobacco and papers to last for six weeks. I didn't have to call in a single marker, last year, for anyone to bring me anything. I do want a new printer, if it's possible to get one that can connect with Black Dell, because I have two manuscripts that I need to see in hard copy. I'll buy a new system, if necessary, but several people said (and everyone knows more about this than me) that I should just continue using my current archaic system until something better is available. Might be on the horizon, because Kim said he had a bar and could get emails, but couldn't send. Barnhart mentioned 'signal amplifiers' which in my case would be necessary, everyone agrees, because I'm on the very edge of reception. It's not by intent that I've moved to the outer fringes of acceptability, actually I think of myself as hopelessly normal. I eat and sleep and satisfy my addictions. Mid-winter, I track a line of thought, I forget about all creature comforts, forget meals, forge or cast a metal to mean what I say. The Bronze Age was quite short, in the scheme of things, 1340 years before coke and cast iron; skim the dross and pour what you need. The plow, a large part in the scheme of things. The earliest are Hornbeam or Ironwood, crotches shaped to cut the earth, but they suffered from glacial rocks: it was the iron plow that changed history. Large draft animals that could pull stumps and an iron plow that could turn over rocks. Later we developed red cauliflower. It's lovely. A large part of my winter diet depends on the fall displays at various coffee shops. I store acorn squash, butternuts, small pumpkins, in a hole under the house, layers of leaves, and I was just eating a cream soup, from last year's squash, that seemed perfectly fresh. And the last of last year's green beans. Home canned green beans, the simple method: green beans, a tablespoon of salt per quart, processed for thirty minutes, these are the green beans of your dreams. My test cured smoked hog jowl is still in perfect condition after six months, and this is good news as it means I can have cracklings or salt-pork cooked with beans at any time of the year. Speaking of nuts, I found a pound package of walnut halves in the discontinued bin, and I'd read a Chinese recipe for "Honey Nuts", which is a wonderful boiled, then toasted, then coated with a honey glaze, walnut thing that is truly spectacular. I restrain myself from falling into a nut coma. I was almost arrested once, for collecting pecans, across the road from a state pen in Mississippi, eight or ten trees pregnant with nuts and smashed kernels. Read more...

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sidetract Game

If there is a line, a friend told me, I had long since crossed over. From the inside, there doesn't seem to be much difference. I do the things I do, but they're no longer interrupted by stints of building houses or installing shows. This morning, as Greg Brown so eloquently said "dressed in just my socks", I heard a car on the driveway. I'm an old hand at translating sound. I knew it was a powerful front-wheel drive vehicle, and therefore the police, in one form or another. I was making coffee, thinking about 'provisional commas', which is a temporal device I use to keep my place when my thought scatters. I dressed quickly, yesterday's jeans and tee-shirt, went and opened the back door an inch (it sticks) and went back to brewing my espresso. I had not combed my hair. Clearly a mad man. But I asked them in, made them a cup of coffee. They're following up on the tractor and farm-implement theft ring that's operating in this area. They suspect, it seems to me, that I know something, which I don't. I do, I tell them, occasionally hear a truck down-shift, achieving the gap, but in this year of the cicadas, even that is seldom. The younger of the two officers, Alex, can't believe I don't pay more attention to what's going on around me. If you live in the country, people haul equipment around on trailers. I tend to notice brand names and paint jobs, it would never occur to me that it was a stolen John Deere tractor. And I don't spend any time on the roads, especially after dark. The older guy, Bud, walks around, looking at piles of books, looks closely at the wood-stove, admires the stairs, actually apologizes for interrupting whatever it is that I do. They were probably only here for a hour, but it seemed like forever and I knew I'd lost the day, every paranoid thought resurfaced. Finally got in touch with Diane, and she isn't going to visit, which is too bad, because I was looking forward to the food and conversation. I had an acorn squash, stuffed with raspberries, figured as a side dish, pounded pork stuffed with crabmeat. I'll fix them anyway. Reading Don Delillo, considering how a language could be mastered. Read more...

Monday, June 13, 2016

Vesica Piscis

"The measure of the fish", argued to be a yonic symbol, which I don't quite buy, commonly used as a framing device for religious icons. Thinking about this for several years, since D and I did the Wrack Show at the museum. That year we had found a great many pieces of wood weathered to a shape called a Prolate Spheroid, which is more or less the shape of a rugby ball. Not quite a football, which is a rotated vesica piscis. One thing led to another, which is certainly the story of my life, and I spent that entire following winter researching dozens of things I knew nothing about. Shapes, sizes, numerology, icons. Any day I can spend buried in the 11th Britannica is a good day. It's so warm my hands are sweating, which makes rolling a cigaret a messy job. Black Dell is not happy, so I gave her a fan and an ice pack. I'm completely sympathetic with her labor. Spent a good part of the day reading recipes, and came across a Korean noodle, mo mil kook so, that's made from acorn starch. Koreans make more use of acorns than anyone. A kind of tofu, several different noodles, candy. I'd make the cornmeal/acorn cakes more often, but acorns are difficult to harvest. I'm going to get one of those reacher clamps, I'm sure they have a name, where I can pick something up without bending over. If I could collect a gallon a day for thirty days, it would be a year's supply. I should be able to do in an hour a day's worth of nuts. Which reminded me of those trips down to Yazoo City. There was a great hardware store there, and a couple of sawmills, and a couple of barbeque joints; a trip that went right by Parchman, and across the highway there were stately Pecan trees and a few picnic tables. I'd always stop and gather a bushel of pecans. Who can ever not need a bushel of pecans? Read more...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Seeing and Calling

Damned ticks in serious number. Just a small walk, staying on the driveway, which I had to curtail because I felt them crawling on me. Pain in the ass. Come home, strip down, bag the clothes, then pick eight or ten off the easily accessible areas, legs, arms, then using the two-mirror system, get a couple off my back. If one is embedded, I touch it with a match, the rest I put in a small dish of alcohol I keep on my desk. Tick Management Techniques. The trade-off for a mild winter. I might go into town tomorrow, to see the local show, "Cream Of The Crop", at the museum. It's always interesting and hanging it is a nightmare, I hung five of them, so I'm interested in the various problems and solutions. 70 or 80 pieces juried from 300. This show, and the other bi-annual "Ohio Craftsman" are not thematic, which makes them difficult to organize. No time-line or technique that's being displayed, just stuff. I did go into town as it was already hot by noon and I had to shut down Black Dell. The museum is air-conditioned and TR was there, we walked around and looked at the show. Handsome, Charlotte does a nice job laying out exhibits, Emily (my replacement) did a great job of hanging. Opening is tonight and the party will be a bit livelier than the museum usually hosts because there will be a great many younger people. Art people. I won't be there. Stop at Kroger, get an artichoke for dinner, I'll steam it, then let it sit until cool, with a pesto mayo I scored at the pub. The pesto mayo is why I got the artichoke. On a field trip, checking out goat diaries, in Castroville, California, it was artichokes as far as the eye could see, and amazing sight. We bought three dozen to take back to Colorado and ate them for weeks. On the way home I stopped at the Buckeye Diary Barn for a large vanilla shake, I always stop there, trying to regain some weight. Winter weight loss is a problem for me, that I'm sure the rest of the world doesn't want to hear about. I burn so many calories, in winter, I get tired of chewing. I have a pemmican, made from jerky and pig leaf-lard, with an admixture of dried fruits, that would probably take you across the Pacific. Jerky has gotten quite expensive, so when Kroger has a sale on small beef roasts (buy one, get one free) I always get them, and turn them into jerky. Almost freeze the roasts, then slice thinly, soak briefly in a mixture of balsamic and soy sauce, then dehydrate, store in jars. Reconstituted, mid-winter, it makes a great stew. In survival mode, a can of baby potatoes, a can of carrots, and some onions. I thicken it with flour cooked in bacon fat. When it's below zero, you don't need to be sophisticated. I don't even wash my bowl. because the drain is frozen, just wipe it out with bread. A doctor friend recommends I step-up my level of hygiene. I buy a cheap, fairly rough toilet paper from the Dollar Store because it's strong enough to wipe off kitchen utensils, and I've been known to dry it, after use, and reuse it. If I don't use a paper towel two or three times, I feel like I'm slacking. Usually, if you use a paper towel, you only soil one side, so if you refold it, inside out, and let it dry, it's perfectly good to go again. In my essay Against Spills, there's a section where I talk about drying and saving even very soiled paper towels, to use, in emergencies, to sop up some stupid mistake. My last serious mistake involved the blender and it was a fucking mess, thank god I had my reserve of soiled but dried paper towels. I keep a stack of them. I manage to fuck-up fairly often. I suspect we all do. Read more...

Friday, June 10, 2016

Dew Point

Building to code. Thinking about a conversation with Kim about building his 'Carage' and what a chore the inspection process had been. Building codes are a minimum standard and if you exceed them you're suspect. Plywood has gotten very expensive, so they started making OSB, oriented strand board, which is glued wood chips. It's fine, it sheathes a building, provides some racking resistance, I used it on this house. Kim dives the building dumpsters around Tallahassee and salvages thousands of dollars worth of material, tens of thousands of dollars worth. He'd filled an entire room with 2x4's and decided to sheath the Carage, diagonally with them. By a factor of ten this would be stronger than any other product you could use, more than that, it might well be the strongest combination of materials possible. But the Inspector, who must have been very stupid, required that Kim get an Engineer to sign off on the strength of the construction. Which he did, for $300, which allowed him to build the strongest small building in North America. There's a lesson here. My final resting place, the ridge, has no codes, there is no inspector. I'd been awake for a while, needing to get up and pee, but I just lay there, thinking. The dew brought me back into focus, dripping on the roof. Are all water drops the same size? What affects the moment of drip? Not quite enough light to cast a shadow. Almost 100% humidity and the dew is actually falling from about eight feet. Not rain, exactly, but rain-like. It's falling but it doesn't achieve any velocity. Like snowflakes forming around dust motes. Dew-drops. In western Colorado, at 6,000 feet, they often never hit the ground. A delightful day in which I boxed up several hundred pounds of paper, to recycle, and collected together a garbage bag of clothes to go to the Goodwill. I've winnowed my wardrobe down to black jeans, dark tees, and denim shirts. In a social setting, an event I might attend once in a year, I usually wear a sporty jacket, a lovely suede thing someone gave me, with just a tee-shirt. One of the last events where I was pouring wine at the museum, I had rolled up the sleeves of my jacket; one of the gay members of the board said that I looked kind of hot. Mostly, hanging around the house, I look like a homeless person. My clothes, though clean, are stained and perforated, my shoes are glued together, and I never comb my hair unless I'm going to town. It doesn't occur to me that I should alter my appearance. More a character in a Beckett play than an actual human being. People that know me accept that, what you see is what you get. Maybe a Pinter play would be closer. If I put together one last play it would probably be a Pinter. With B and Phillip. Phillip is the best natural actor I've ever known, and B is a student of the word. It would be fun, not to say interesting, to dig deep into the language of a Pinter. I've done this on my own, but hearing other voices speaking the parts would be wonderful. For me a good table-reading of a play is almost as good as any production, and a lot less trouble than actually staging something. Combined arts are difficult, the personalities involved. By nature I'm just a hedgehog. Read more...

Thursday, June 9, 2016

There You Go

I heard Rodney's truck on the driveway. I don't want him to drop by, long periods of time I don't want any interruption, I've based my life on not being interrupted. He doesn't seem to understand that I want to be left alone. He thinks his saga is worth at least a shot of whiskey, then he goes almost out of control. I feel like I'm in a Sean O' Casey play. After some probing, I realize he doesn't have a clue. Kim is worried about two of his brothers that don't have outside interests, and I think that's true about a great many people. It seems that social contact has become a hobby for most. It's difficult for me to grasp. I barely have time to talk to myself. After a walk, before I started writing, I made a nice parsnip dish, bar-boiled, then sliced and fried, served on a bed of leaf-lettuce with balsamic, some goat cheese and pine nuts. Some slices of tart apple would have been good. Later, I went back and swiped the plate clean with a piece of bread. The good stuff. When I was driving over to Iowa frequently, I favored a back road that took me across the Mississippi at Burlington, Iowa. A lovely cabled modern bridge running right into an old river town, no reason to stop but a place that sold Chicago Dogs that were the best I ever had, so I always stopped there. Two picnic tables that looked out on a field of corn, sweet tea, and a dramatically over-stuffed bun. One of those 'borrow ponds', where they'd taken earth to build an overpass, a several acre pond where people caught fish and ate picnic lunches. Hadn't been to town for a week, and hosting a guest, I was low on some supplies. Made a list and headed out. Slow drive, windows down; didn't pass a vehicle on Lower Twin, and I know every turn-out on 125, so I can pull over and let someone pass, and each of the turn-outs is different, a different direction, almost completely different flora, a couple of the them were minor quarries. Peel off the top soil, around here, and you quickly get to sandstone. The stratified deposits are two and three feet thick and are easily worked into foundation stones. A favored size, locally, was about two feet wide, three feet long, two feet high. Twelve cubic feet, would weigh 1688 pounds. I could easily get this done today, Boobie, with a strap on the bucket of his backhoe, but how did they do it in 1900, with a wagon and two horses? I'm thinking about that all the way into town, because there are so many examples of the sandstone being used that way. They had a system. Half of one of the massive burgers at the pub for lunch, the other half brought home for dinner, and I stocked the cub-board, not to be caught off-guard. When I get home, driving the other way around, I feel an enormous sense of relief. Drinking water, juice, fresh fruits and vegetables. Because I do just crawl into a hole: noodles, hot sauce and thou. But I need a supply line, a connection. I did move Wellfleet oysters into East Dennis, they took there. Read more...

Monday, June 6, 2016

Gazette

An abstract of current events, the exact sequence is a bit murky. Kim left this morning early, brushed his teeth and out the door. This is the way I leave places also, grab a coffee and a breakfast burrito on the road; a travel day is a travel day, and that means hitting the road. Great couple of days talking about theater (where we met), building techniques, brickwork, inter-personal dynamics, and F 1 racing. I'd been quite sick last week, something I ate, and was weak, still suffering intestinal havoc, when he got here Friday evening. Rallied, fixed dinner (chorizo, vegetables, saffron rice), he went for on walks Saturday and Sunday, I stayed home and rested so we could talk long into the night. Our history goes way back. Rained both full days he was here, so we just stayed at the house; we spent a fair amount of consideration on trying to establish a time-line. He's better at this than me because he took less LSD. He always brings a bottle or two of good whiskey (he has two drinks a year, both of them at my house) and more than pays his way. We're extremely comfortable with each other's company, which was always the key to success with the crew we assembled to do theater and opera back in the day. They were formative years for both of us. I did get outside today, walked as far as the head of the driveway, weak as a kitten, and it felt good, all sunlight and glistening leaves. Later ate some leftovers, started a list of foodstuffs I needed to replace, read back over a few things I'd been writing about, to try and find the thread. Before Kim got here, I'd marked pages in a couple of books, and set them aside "to be pursued later" and picked up the top book off that pile, which was The Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 11, and the marked article was on Gibraltar. I spend a couple of hours, following tributaries, feeling my working self getting back in gear. I remembered thinking that I knew nothing about Gibraltar, and it had been mentioned a great many times in the Nelson book. Thus the post-it. It is interesting, the location, the fortifications and I make a note to get a book on Gibraltar. I've read, though I'm not to be trusted on this, that it was a natural dam, in the beginning, that made the Mediterranean a fresh water lake, but that the dike broke during one of the warm spells between ice-ages. This event has been described to me as the Mother Of All Waterfalls, and I have an image of that in my mind. The straight was opened, the Med became brackish, land emerged, Crete, Corsica, the Greek islands, they got covered with guano and the first thing you know, civilization. We emerge from the shit of birds, it's like the last of the dinosaurs pass the torch, then we pass the torch, to whatever species can survive our pollution, rats, or ants, or roaches. Read more...