Sunday, June 14, 2015

Solid Particularity

Up at one, writing for four hours, then back to sleep at five and back up at nine. Feeling a little stagnant, I cleaned up and went to town. Lindsey behind the bar and a European Cup match on TV. Portugal and Armenia. Reynaldo (?) scored twice for Portugal, both of them lovely things. Grace is wonderful, wherever it occurs. Stopped at the Marina Dairy Bar and got a footer with onion rings, went down to the parking lot to look at the boats. A footer, with sauce (ground beef and tomato), mustard and cheese is a completely delightful lunch, especially with onion rings, at a picnic table under a shade tree, watching people play putt-putt golf. A Saturday afternoon in America. Bought several books at the perpetual sale in the library and I'm starting a new pile of books to be read next winter. This is low-grade ore, but I need a hundred or so to pass the time, when the snow is deep and I'm trapped. I don't need much: booze, tobacco, food, and books, beyond that, your projection probably misses the point. I'm a Jesuit monk, for god's sake, I only document hybrids. They let me skip that earliest call, usually I'm up anyway, and listen from the back hall. These guys are seriously good. Matins in a stone enclosure. I was listening to Philip Glass and thinking about Bach. Glass studied with Nadia, which means Mahler comes into play. Another brick wall, as my cd player had died, but when I talked to Glenn and Linda they said they had a unit they didn't need anymore and were going to send me. This is in a nick of time, as I wanted to listen to Bach right then, and my player refused. I listened to all of the Mahler symphonies, one day, in Temple, Maine, with Ted Enslin, while he explained cutting winter ice to me. He had an old ice-house and still put up ice for the summer. I'd go up there once a year, I must have published six of his books and we were good friends. I'd take a five gallon bucket of oysters, a couple of pounds of fresh ground coffee, and bourbon; we'd talk into the night. He'd play a piece of music, then expound. They had a freezer full of fiddle-head ferns, and I steamed some, with a cream sauce, and slow cooked a pork shoulder, Ted made a couple of calls, and there was soon a jamboree going on with home-brew and back-door whiskey. None of his neighbors knew him as a writer. He was just another guy, in a hard-scrabble world, barely getting by. Cut ice, cut hay by hand, used an out-house, burned 10 cords of wood in the winter. Killed a hog and a steer in the late fall, made head-cheese and sausage. He moved back to the coast, I think because scrounging life in the littoral is so easy, and we lost touch. Actually, we lose track of almost everyone. I know less about my brother and sister, than I do about the guy that washes dishes at the pub. Go figure. I can stuff it into a couple of lines:

Mountain Laurel shines,
I thought at first it was something
but it really was nothing.
Read more...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Affect

Spent all afternoon making a rice dish, and then a chicken dish; ended up being enough to feed six or eight people. I moved my reading over to the island, so I wouldn't forget what I was doing. I made a pot of Pecan Rice (one of my favorites, from Louisiana) with finely minced shallots and red pepper; then started the chicken dish. I don't eat that much chicken but this was 1.88 lbs of boneless breast for $3. I brined it, dried, then rubbed with a spice/chili mix, seared them, then braised in a bit of orange juice and butter, set aside. Caramelized a very large onion, then a red pepper, cut up the chicken and stirred it all together. Next time I think I'll brine, then partially refreeze, then cube, and fry the chicken in a very hot wok. I'm still trying to get the mouth-feel right, the texture. Since I'm from the south, that would involve a certain crunch. By affect, and in fact, I'm a pretty normal guy. A couple of early encounters with the law: having sex on the golf course, drag racing down Beach Boulevard, juvenile shit. I think for most of the formative years we merely battle. Not what I'm fed, not what history is become, you can't believe anything, but it's instructive. If you don't die at 28 you've got a good shot at 82. Editing today, and I had to get up and go for a walk. Removing articles and changing commas requires full attention, intense even, and I'd cramped-up, mentally. Walked part-way down the driveway, turning over large rocks that had been pushed aside in one grading or another. Looking for salamanders. I just like to see them; I don't do anything with them, collect them, or pickle them or anything, but I find them oddly beautiful. Slick and colorful. Don't get me started on odd and colorful, most of my relationships, nor the barge I barely pushed upstream. Walking home, considering failure and success, I'm mostly contained within myself. Curl up and read a book. Read more...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Aluminum Oxynitride

Chemists are clever bastards. I knew there was a clear version of aluminum but was under the impression that it had to be fired to a very high temperature under a lot of pressure. High tech, clear (no refraction), bullet-proof sheets. Now it's a floor finish, on wood, so they must have found a way to liquefy it. I'm amazed at the new generation of floor finishes. I spent some time at the library (I can't do a search on my land-line) and realized quickly that I wouldn't understand anything that I read, except that, yes, they had learned to liquefy it and bond it with a polymer. A catalytic action for drying. It's a hell of a product. I've talked with guards in several art museums about traffic and maintenance, and they swear that it's truly the cat's ass. I haven't had a chance to look up "cat's ass" but it is the actual phrase one of the guards used, and in a positive sense. Not unlike that use of the word "shit" in a positive sense. Shit must have been one of the first words, Old Norse, Old English, shit was always a fact of life, then, at some point, much later, superior stuff became good shit; then pot, where there is good shit and everything else, then you drop the good and it becomes "That was the shit, man." Did my usual routine in town, library, pub, Kroger, then stopped back by the pub for a beer with Loren. We sat out back and smoked, talked about theater. On the way home I'm thinking about Anglo-Saxon, and Old Norse (about which I know nothing), the word "fuck", and how, right up there with "shit", fuck was important. It provided a time-frame. Gestation, for a sow, is three months, three weeks, and three days. A careful analysis yields almost nothing. I subscribe to several old proverbs, most of which are built on stilts, but I like the way they sound. Cory was at the bar and there was a new waitress, Sandy (I think); Cory introduced me and told her I had free run into the kitchen and behind the bar. The new office for the Ohio FBI is just across the alley from the pub, and there's one guy, gun on his belt, gold badge, who I run into once in a while. It was school break and the place was quiet. I was sitting at the bar, eating clam chowder and watching ESPN, trying to catch up on sports. Everyone, all of the staff, had come over and talked with me, I was clearly a crowd favorite. He'd been sitting at a table, and came up to the bar next to me, to pay his tab. We walked out together and I sat down in one of the three chairs the pub keeps for smokers and instead of walking back to his office, he sat down next to me. He wanted to know how it happened that I was so good with people. I had no answer for that. I told him to lose the gun and badge and undo at least the top button of his shirt. I have a tendency toward losing causes. I worked for years, establishing credibility, leaning on a mop, watching stupid people be stupid. As it happens, I'm not far removed. Just another stupid person. You see the drift here. Read more...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Midnight Scramble

The rain tapers off and the entire soundscape is composed of drips. Over the course of the last few days I'd fried a pound of bacon and the house smelled great. I tend toward reading myself into a coma, and I had taken a nap. When I woke up to pee I decided I was hungry and I knew there was a skillet with bacon fat, so I nuked a potato, a baker, then fried three slices. When they were nearly done, I cut them into cubes, right in the skillet and finished them with a pat of butter and black pepper. Top these with a fried egg, a piece of toast, thick with bitter marmalade. I was thinking about how bitter is an acquired taste, when chaos erupted at the compost heap. I was sure I heard the bobcat, a single dog, a beagle probably, and something else, a raccoon. Turning on a light doesn't interrupt a young war. Red eyes burning in the night. I just want them to go away, so I can go back to sleep, so I throw out a firecracker. Black Cat firecrackers clear the playing field. Of course I can't go back to sleep, so I stayed up most of the rest of the morning reading a guide for Field Amputation (Civil War to WWI), gruesome stuff, but interesting. After Bull Run and Gettysburg the field Docs were doing a hundred amputations a day. A team with a system, seven guys, six holders and a surgeon. The time for a field amputation was measured in seconds. Cauterize the wound with hot tar or an iron plate heated red-hot. At some point I switch over to coffee, fry potato slices in bacon fat, fry a perfect egg, and I see the light gathering in the east. I knew it was supposed to get hot, so I took an early morning walk. The bugs are bad in the hollows, so I walked the ridge tops, west. The rattlesnakes were taking advantage of the heat to move down slope, they seem to migrate about half-a-mile, to the bottoms. There was a female today (thinner and longer) that stretched almost all the way across the driveway. I carry a mop handle to which I've affixed a broken "V" from a dead Chevrolet. It's a very good attachment. I put a saw kerf in the end of the handle, wedged in the V up to the crotch, so that I was able to wrap it tightly around the shaft and through the crotch. Wet rawhide. Nice lashing, though Kim, a lasher of note, would have probably wrapped in a Double Round Overlap or some damned thing. I have a ferrule on the handle end, to use it as a walking stick. Neptune, with a horribly amputated trident. It's the Spreading Decline, I swear. Late spring and then again in the fall it's my walking stick of choice. In winter I use cross-country ski poles. In the early spring I use a mop handle with a narrow paint scraper secured in the end, that I use to flip away shit, to look and see whether or not I want to squat down. I'm more judicious with my squats now but not much has changed.. I love the change in smell, from fecund to seductive, and I love the way everything sounds different, and I love the way I can go to sleep, secure in the knowledge that I'll probably wake up tomorrow. Read more...

Monday, June 8, 2015

Country Forcemeat

A goose had been hit by a car down at the lake and I stopped to drag it off the road, then went back and cut out its liver. A little leftover filet, some reconstituted mushrooms, onion, some apple brandy. There was enough of this for two sandwiches, with sliced red onions. Actually I was surprised to end up with two sandwiches, but a goose liver is rather large. I'd saved the rendered fat from the bacon wrapping the filet right in the skillet (which I store in the oven to thwart the mice) so I cooked everything in that and added half-a-stick of butter. Lots of black pepper. The worst aspect of this is cleaning the blender. But the sandwiches, by all the saints, were incredible. I lightly toast the bread, smear on a coating of pesto mayo, and build what is certainly one of the messiest sandwiches in the history of sandwiches. I eat them hunched over a paper plate so I can field dribs and drabs with a finger. I reread John McPhee all day and he is a delight, holding to the issues at hand. On the Vineyard our place was about fifty feet from the maximum edge of the terminal moraine, the back yard was a tumble of rocks that had been rolled down from Newfoundland. In the out-wash channel and out to the beach, very hard rock had been tumbled round. A lot of the rocks looked like stone heads and I collected them. I suppose I could be arrested for that. Rain all day. My work chair window is usually in the lee, so I can leave that window open, the smells are lovely, and the sound of it is wonderful. The leaves all clean and gleaming. I reread McPhee all day, Oranges, The Crofter And The Laird, The Pine Barrens. He mentions the big freeze of 1962 and we were in Jacksonville at that time. We could get oranges, south of town at Mandarin (Parson Browns) and there were large groves west of St Augustine. They were all completely killed (some rootstock survived further down in the state) and there were never any oranges north of Daytona after that. And I had forgotten the name of the citrus disease "spreading decline". What a great combination of words. So sorry to hear about your spreading decline; Jesus she has one hell of a spreading decline; when you get down to the spreading decline ski over to the tree-line and you should hit virgin snow. B stopped over to ask if I could stop by his place and help him install his island/counter/table which had grown rather large and awkward. Happy to, after the trip to town tomorrow. He'd bought a thousand feet of poplar, for his ceiling and trim, ten feet long, a uniform 4/4, random width. Eight or ten of the boards are 16 inches wide. His island top is two boards, joined; an apron, framing, and it has grown heavy. Cleats, on the posts, where they need to be. Easy job but it actually takes two people for a minute and a half. One person could do it alone, but it would take an hour to rig it; and why not engage a friend in an interesting installation. He knew I wanted to see it installed. Afterwards, we'll probably get high and talk about a dead poet. We do this, time and again. My dead poet and your dead poet going to set the night on fire. I've done this kind of installation many times, and you only hope the width measurement isn't very much smaller anywhere between where you tip the counter into position and, then, down into place. If it is, that you have to take a skosh bit off, then sand it underneath, so be it. We all make adjustments, and I don't mind admitting my own stupidity, that's not the correct word, my own culpability. I don't think I'm eccentric at all. Read more...

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Tickled Pink

I would never skin pig ears. What we have here is a crackling with some body. Clean your ears well. I soak them in salt water for a few hours, then simmer them for a couple of hours, dry them well, cut into thin strips, dip in egg, then fine bread crumbs, then either fry or bake them. If you bake them, cut them into larger strips. They're great with mustard sauce and a cold beer. Or with a pesto mayonnaise. It's overcast all day, and still. I walked down to the mailbox, poking at things with my mop handle, and there's one place where I tried to repair an erosion channel, by filling it in with rocks and covering it with compost and bags of leaves I'd picked up in town (why would someone who lived in the woods haul bags of leaves from town? because they were there.) and there's a nice harvest of Inky Caps. Coprinus Comatus. You have to eat them immediately, because they cycle so quickly to rotten, that I just fry them in butter and eat them on toast. Moving into warmer weather, my diet tends toward Spanish bar food. A bite of this and a bite of that. I had a moment of panic this morning, because I couldn't remember something that had been very important to me, just before I fell asleep last night, then remembered that I was going to take the day off, just read fiction, maybe strike out a few commas, nothing I couldn't handle. I get samples of adhesives, long before they're on the market. There's a sealant/adhesive (this is an interesting field) out there, I think probably to repair sneakers, and it's a very good rubber sealant, it bonds completely. Having a large vocabulary is both a blessing and a curse, and a fake-rubber company wanted me to write text for them. The Handyman's All Purpose Adhesive Sealant. I'd like to, but I can't. A duxelle, a mushroom hash, is much more interesting. I was going to go back to town, for the farmer's market, but I heard on the radio that Philip Glass would be featured on Ira Glass's show later. This American Life. Glad I stayed home to listen. A short, very funny opera about a woman trapped in a closet. The text was mostly the woman singing HELP with rapid repetition (a cello line, a piano line) bridging her despair. It's interesting that a piece of music can make me laugh, that it can engage me that way. I chuckle at some songs, smile when I listen to Zappa, and there's a place in a certain opera where I always laugh, but it has nothing to do with the music. Backstage games. But the fact that music can elicit a particular emotional response. Or that text can. I was rereading some passages from Skip's Wired To Zone and was amazed at how it took me out of myself and into this bizarre set of circumstances. When Dolly dies, at the end, I'm beside myself with grief. If I knew how to cry, I would. Maybe just a keening, but the text is pregnant with feeling, a call for help. Another Luna Moth and I catch her (or 'it' more correctly, but I assume it's a female, because it carries certain characteristics that usually are identified with a particular sex. I'm not a judge, I'm not a lawyer, I only speak a patois that I learned from fishermen. Shit I never ended that: "n't", it takes me a while but I finally see where this/that was headed. I don't have any idea where tomorrow leads. Read more...

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Much Later

I thought my concerns were silly. I'm not even privy to most information, but something struck a wrong note, and I was wondering what that was. If one thing then another. If not one thing. I could never hit a major-league curve ball, I always flinched with a hard ball coming at my head, backed out of the batter's box. But Kim agreed that I was being, what's the correct word, 'studied' by someone. Investigated. Not much to find, truth be told. Marinating animal parts and a rubber suit. I did kill a rattlesnake, about ten years ago, but I think the statute of limitations has run out on that. Fog, running up the hollows, it reaches the ridge then dissipates. Heavy air, the bugs and birds are slow to get started; then a flash of red, then another, as two Pileated Woodpeckers move in to work the trees. It's so green that their crests are like blood-spatter. A cup of coffee and a morning smoke out on the back porch, the noise level rises as the natural world wakes and shakes off the dew. Still Spring, cool, the vaporous mist; Impressionist, with a sound track by Phillip Glass. I must have sat there for a hour, another cup of coffee, another cigaret; absolutely serene space. Varieties of experience. I could hear equipment down on the road early, and the road is closed (they would have let me out, but I didn't want to get tar on the car) so I stayed on the ridge. Supposed to be open again tomorrow. I might go into town, because Scott said he wanted to get some soft-shelled crabs for fried crab sandwiches. I need to go to the library. Puttered a bit outside, then came in and picked off ticks, then did a little cleaning, making piles for Good-Will, and for recycling several hundred pounds of paper. Time is an interesting construct, and something got me side-barred on that today. The Luna Moths are back, maybe that was it. One came when Kim was here, and a huge one tonight, spectacular creatures. They factor time. So do oak trees, the rocks at Arches, and the screen display on everyone's cell phone. It's slippery, that whole continuum, past, present, and future. I wear knee-boots, and step carefully. The world is in a terrible state of chassis. When very bad aid (85% profit for a non-profit) finally reaches the ground, there is nothing left; if I feed you ten million, then you should certainly feed me back a hundred million in return, because everyone would think we're doing something noble and should get a billion from the EU. We're bad, no doubt about it. But I'd never do that. Read more...

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Data Breach

Interesting phone call from someone who wondered if I was the Tom Bridwell that wrote Ridgeposts. I admitted I was, and decided to chat because I wasn't doing much anyway. Overcast and very quiet outside, cool and still. I had an extra cigaret rolled (my phone cig) and had just rolled one, I had a drink. I was reading a book, but I had a bookmark. The guy is Daniel, Portland, Oregon; he'd been reading me for a while and realized I'd be pretty easy to track down. He advised me to lose the land-line, but I explained the situation. He'd run into the GPS anomaly, Kim and I had talked about it, but that it wasn't difficult to figure out, more or less, exactly where I lived. During one of the phone-line sagas I actually gave accurate distances, it's the only driveway within a large target area. More important though, is that I do have a land-line and am in the book. Still, I'm so remote, everyone would advise you announce your presence with a yodel if you didn't want to get shot in the ass with rock salt. Much safer to call from Oregon. It was a fun conversation. I think I may be his thesis. He asked good questions and I answered mostly truthfully. I told him I'd send him some books and that in the future he should call on Sunday mornings, when I'd normally be drinking coffee and listening to NPR. Otherwise, I don't do anything but eat and read. It takes me a day, after a visit from a close friend, to re-assess and consider. Reading calms me. I can't or don't go off on my various fantasies with most people, during mundane exchanges it would only confuse the issue, muddy the waters, and I'd rather explain something to someone who might understand. Or at least appreciate the effort. So expounding my theory of the inter-national tin trade during the bronze age requires a certain amount of effort. Bringing things to bear: information, the physical load, emotional baggage, a shopping list, commas. I need a break, so I read pulp fiction and imagine warm sand between my toes. I could be on a cruise, I could be teaching in Prague, I could be sweeping the floor in Bloomington. The ridge is my current keep, no palisade, no moat, but I do control the high ground with a potato canon, and I could always release my marble collection and make the footing impossible. Mostly, I need a few hours sleep. Read more...

Green Flash

Studs on the wrong side of the line. Kim and I had been telling war stories. Talked and ate all day Sunday. One of those running conversations, bouncing around between shared history and shared interests. My first set at FSU, fucking Aida for god's sake, and he had worked with me on that (a 32 foot turntable) then came to the Cape Playhouse and we worked together there, then the Opera Company of Boston. I used his visit to motivate a rash of spring cleaning, rebuilt the kitchen drain, cleaned out the shop-vac and made a first pass around the house. Just sat and talked. Kim went for a walk while I caught up on mail, then the fillet dinner. He'd brought a couple of maple flavored whiskeys, and we sampled them generously. Memory and reality, parsing the past. Late night and then Kim up and ready to hit the road, which he does before the rain sets in. I went to town quickly, the library had called, stopped for a cup of soup and a draft, bought a few supplies, since I was there; but leftovers to eat, and got back to the ridge before the rain turned serious. The green jungle. It completely canopies the upper driveway, and most of the lower reach. Mackletree is a tunnel of arching oaks. The large bottoms, on the flood plain of the Ohio are being planted and there's already a flush of green. The banks of the Scioto are in full riot. A wet spring, and the green responds with a thousand shades. Another result of the lushness is that the hair-pin turns on all the back roads become truly blind. I'm impressed that the phone line was restored so quickly, which required inter-agency cooperation and boggling logistics, on a weekend. Probably became a field-test for their emergency response team. There were only four phones affected. Four. And they brought out the troops, Friday night and Saturday morning. Couple of new poles, half a mile of new line, cleaned up the mess, and it looks like nothing happened. A repair that must have cost between five and ten thousand dollars, for a couple of old coots at the end of the line. Makes me proud. I expounded my whole "migration of the Phoenicians from the Indus valley to Easter Island" theory to Kim, which took several hours, and then felt a bit foolish; I'm just a magpie (as Enslin said), after all. We talked about brickwork, he's laying a garden wall now, it's beautiful; and we talked about salvaging useful stuff from the trash. A sidebar on hinges, the various clips that held a building together, bolts, and the hardness scale. I'm fortunate to have friends like this, we talked about it, how there is someone to call if you don't understand something. The network includes engineers and physicians, carpenters and masons, a janitor at the Vatican; bottom line: almost everything is bullshit. Read more...

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Close Enough

Up close and personal with butterflies. I'd read that some of them (maybe all, I don't know) taste with their feet, when I went out this morning to sling-blade a better path to the outhouse, I saw a great number fluttering on the blackberry, I stopped to watch them. I sat so still that several of them landed on me, but I wasn't to their taste. They do seem to like my salt, but they're after sugar. I pretty much spent the entire day watching butterflies. I had other things I was supposed to do, Kim is stopping by for a day and two nights, and I wanted to do some cleaning, and I have to go to town tomorrow, to buy food for his visit, so I need a list. I had picked up a four-pack of light bulbs because I'd robbed the one in the guest room, and a can of Wasabi Almonds which I seem to have already eaten. I already got two bacon wrapped filets of beef, because I figure Kim doesn't that very often, with a baked potato and a salad of mozzarella with cherry tomatoes. I'm going to cook the luxurious stir-fried, brined, cubed pork loin, with caramelized peppers and onions; a fairly simple meal that used to take me twenty minutes and now requires over two hours. I really have the mouth-feel thing down now, with this dish; people actually swoon. There's a pecan rice from Louisiana that goes well with this. If there are any leftovers, I mold them, fry, and top with a fried egg. Offers of marriage, but I ignore that shit, no one could possibly live with me. Just because I can cook breakfast? Actually, I have to say, I can almost always, any time of the day or night, cook a great breakfast. It's a gift. And I can see how it could lead to someone thinking I could do something, change the limited order of things. I can't, of course, useless as the teats on a boar hog. Just because you can fix breakfast doesn't mean you can do anything else. Not that fixing breakfast isn't to be caught somewhere in the mix. It's my favorite meal. The phone has been out for a couple of days and I had checked my end, so I knew it was knocked down, probably on Mackletree. Went out to get food for Kim's visit and there were several trucks and a great many people (15) looking at the downed poles and a large tree, and the phone line was hanging everywhere. It'll take them a week to get it fixed. I stopped to survey the damage, and one of the county guys asked me about log trucks, and I told him that they were logging on Lamp Black Road and coming out this way. He said he had thought so, because the tire tracks indicated a logging truck swerving to avoid a collision. Also, some signs on Upper Twin that the road would be closed for a couple of days, probably for this year's resurface of chip-and-seal. They lay out a bed of hat tar, then embed limestone gravel and roll it flat. It's brutal for about a week, bouncing rocks and the smell of tar, then it holds up pretty well for a year. I hope Kim can drive in tomorrow, because I don't feel good about leaving his truck at the bottom of the hill. Saw my old creek-bank mechanic, Dave, at Kroger, and we chatted in the meat section. He's out of work and digging yellow-root for food money. I think it's Cohosh, and he gets a decent price for it. I promise to stop down at his place one afternoon. He watches old western movies and has DVD sets of all of the TV westerns from the 50's and 60's, and it's actually kind of fun the watch an old Gunsmoke, the set is truly horrible, the plots are ridiculous, and the acting is terrible. On my way back in I stopped down at B's. He looks gaunt, but feeling better, and we caught up to speed. A good friend, who had published both of us, had died. Ken Warren, and I hadn't heard; his magazine, House Organ, was important, it kept a lot of writers in touch with each other. And his own writing, about Olson, was so insightful, that it makes you feel you might eventually be able to read. Started raining, and I waited for a lull, then dashed home from B's. Lamb chops and braised Brussels Sprouts. Kim's here. Great conversation (construction stories) and good food. He had his yearly drink. Phone restored. The guys in the field jumped at the weekend overtime. Read more...

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...