Brothers Playing Catch on Christmas Day

Only a little light remains.
The new football feels heavy
and our throws are awkward
like the conversation of brothers
who see each other occasionally.

After a few exchanges,
confidence grows,
the passing and catching
feels natural and good.
Gradually, we move father apart,
out in the field,
the space between us
filling with darkness.

He leads me,
lofting perfect spirals
into the night.  My eyes
find the clean white laces of the ball.
I let fly a deep pass
to his silhouette.
The return throw
cannot be seen,
yet the ball
falls into my hands, as if
we have established a code
that only brothers know.

— Gary Short
from “10 Moons and 13 Horses”  2004

What is Real?

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“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked,”or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why is doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept.

Generally, by the time you are Real all of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

“The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again.”

“It lasts for always.”

— Margery Williams    from “The Velveteen Rabbit”

In the Museum of your Last Day

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There is a coat on a coat hook in a hall.  Work gloves in the pockets, pliers and bent nails.

There is a case of Quaker State for the Ford.  Two cans of spray paint in a crisp brown bag.

A mug on the book by the hifi.  A disk that starts on its own:  Boccherini.

There is a dent in the soap the shape of your thumb.  A swirl in the glass when it fogs.

And a gray hair that twines through the tines of a little black comb.

There is a watch laid smooth on a wallet.  And pairs of your shoes everywhere.

A phone no one answers.  A note that says Friday.  Your voice on the tape talking softly.

— Patrick Phillips  “In the Museum of Your Last Day” 2004

How the Trees on Dark Summer Nights Turn into a Dark River

Summer Triangle Thru Trees

How you can never reach it.  No matter how hard you try.  Walking as fast as you can, but getting nowhere, arms and legs pumping, sweat drizzling in rivulets;

Each year, a little slower.  More creaks and aches, less breath.

Ah, but these soft nights, air like a warm bath, the dusky wings of bats careening crazily overhead, and you’d think the road goes on forever.

Apollinaire wrote, “What isn’t given to love is so much wasted” and I wonder what I haven’t given yet?

A thin comma moon rises orange, a skinny slice of melon, so delicious I could drown in its sweetness.  Or eat the whole thing down to the rind.

Always, this hunger for more.

 

— Barbara Crooker  “More” 2010

(This homage reminds me of the road at Breitenbush Hot Springs, OR several times traveled in the dark of night.)

Judgmental Cities

The new reader-driven Judgmental City maps are interesting — if not for content then creativity — definitely made by people with time on their hands.  Seems it was a toss-up choosing the “most judgmental city” but readers favored Orange County over Los Angeles though the smaller cities are the most specific.  Wonder if there’s a tourist atlas?  Click maps to enlarge.   http://judgmentalmaps.com

Judgemental NYC Map

Judgemental Orange County

Judgemental Los Angeles

Judgemental San Fran

Judgmental Dayton, OH

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Coincidence?

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From “This American Life” April 18, 2014 — a collection of the best of 1,300 submissions of coincidence.  Fascinating, but you be the judge.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/489/no-coincidence-no-story#play

Used with permission

 

Mile 4349

(The end blog of my epic recent drive from Florida to Oregon.)

Driving Interstate 84 westward into Idaho and down into Oregon is a trip.  Just when you think flat ground near comes another twenty-mile death spiral on black ice with more truckers than is humanly possible.

There is absolutely no way I would attempt this again — in either direction — before April 1st due to snow and ice and the probability of chains needed on many sections.  I was lucky this time, in a Florida car, no less, to dodge really heavy weather both in front and behind me.

After an uneventful night in Boise, Idaho, at the most bland Travelodge imaginable, in fact the place looked like a brothel, I got on the road early and rode the roller coaster highway down into historic Baker City and into spectacular mountains covered in white powdered sugar.  Baker City is out in the middle of bloody nowhere but that’s probably is why it’s there in the first place.  Baker City is one of these places that beckons you in due to its historic beauty but the idea is to get this wagon to safety in Portland as soon as possible.  I did go in for a quick little drive around and it was charming.  Another time, Baker City.

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I continued down some of the steepest interstate grade I have ever seen to LaGrande and Pendleton, OR — again, not to be ventured in the winter unless you love taking your life in your hands with a huge number of trucks on icy 6,000 ft downgrades.  This is, how do I say, stressful.

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I finally hit the Columbia River about dusk — could Portland be far away at this point — and then endured miles and miles of charming military waste dumps faintly glowing in hazy skies.  Finally became too dark to drive and I was getting loopy; I wound up at a crazy truck stop called Biggs Junction — it does sound like a candy bar — but I sat in my car for an hour and watched a trucker/hooker/tourist/cowboy show straight out of a John Water’s movie until I made the wise decision to snooze at a convenient motel.

Wish I had a camera handy as a tall macho trucker jumped out of his cab in a long feather-trimmed negligee (I’m serious) and strolled into the bright Subway fast food area at 2am.

When I awoke the motel manager I said “Holy cow that truck stop has some wild late night scenery” and he said “Yep, I hear that several times an evening.”

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The Gorge is completely black at night, curvy, head-on traffic, and not where you want to be when exhausted. Don’t do it.

Next morning, I wanted to see the spot where Louis and Clark passed the Chinook burial island — reportedly where many natives were entombed in canoes  — something like 47 or so — silently perched up on rocks overlooking the river.   It’s called Sepulchar Island visible from Memaloose State Park east of The Dalles.  Some western dude later erected a huge marble obelisk to himself just visible to the right of the tree below; you have to wonder.

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Another few hours and I was entering Portland once again in rush hour traffic but happy to be home after over 4,700 miles, nine states, and twelve days.  Hard to believe I started in tropical Florida and made it to Oregon via the northern route without major surface snow issues involving snow tires or chains.  I was lucky.  My original plan was to drive I-10 Florida to California, then I-5 north, to avoid the possibility of bad weather, but Santa Fe was too nice to miss and it seemed logical — though a crap shoot — to continue north.

I think what I learned on this trip was to not count miles but each day just go as far as possible without losing control.  It’s an odd feeling when you are driving solo how far you can push yourself; there are just certain points where you can’t go any further.

There were a couple of moments I do not want to ever repeat — one being the windshield washer fluid (in a FL car, no less) not being antifreeze and suddenly completely freezing over the entire windshield in high alpine Wyoming truck traffic going 80 mph — truly one of those moments you don’t ever want to repeat — the other entering Denver dead-tired and getting stuck on I-25 downtown in mega traffic totally a shaking mess.

I learned coffee does not wake you up; it magnifies exhaustion.  And those five-hour energy bottles wreck your sleep for the next twenty-four hours.  There comes a point where the human body demands a meltdown and if you’re smart you listen.

Portland OR

So, now Portland is entering Spring and the long winter rains are hopefully soon over. Can’t say I miss four solid months of that. It was an excellent time to get the hell out of Dodge, but time to get back to work albeit with a sun tan.

Thanks much for the great number of friends and family who helped make this journey possible.  There is a certain sense of accomplishment in perseverance.   The best, of course, is remembering it all — one city after the next — and getting ready to go back to my favorite places again.  Perhaps traveling the country solo is better not in a car heavily loaded with furniture without snow tires at the end of winter, but good memories none-the-less.

Namaste Portland.  Safely home in one piece.  I don’t even want to think about the laundry, mail, or the refrigerator, just s-l-e-e-p…

 

 

Mile 3638

This morning started with gratitude for a wonderfully-placed Days Inn that kept me off the roads for a day during the worst of the storm.  I was regretting entering the mountains in Idaho as the rain turned to ice and the traffic and trucks began to back up.  I made one those instant decisions to settle in and it was definitely the thing to do.  The Travel Advisor app really comes in handy when you need it.  This inn is owned by an Indian couple who made me feel welcome.  Talk about shelter from the storm…

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The rest of the day was spent driving west across Idaho on Interstate 84, dodging rain and snow showers, and crossing the Snake River a few times.  Fortunately, the major snow is over and the traffic was lighter than expected though black ice was evident.  The clouds were amazing against the blue sky.

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Finally darkness and exhaustion took over tonight.  I had hoped to make it into Oregon but landed in Boise.  Tomorrow will be the big push following the Columbia River and then into Portland late.

I feel like I have been gone for a year.  So many people and places fresh in mind.  I think I have a radically new perspective of how large this great land mass of ours really is — so many thousands of square miles of empty wilderness.  The vastness.  The trucks.  The exhaustion.  The ferocious will to stay awake.  And good friends all along the way who were the real reason to attempt the voyage.

I am a Sagittarian.  The traveler.  Sleep.

Mile 3353

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Leaving Cheyenne in the heaviest winds yet going due west on I-80 was a challenge.  I used a quarter of a tank of gas to go about 50 miles into direct head winds which threw this heavy SUV all over the place.  Electronic signs say highway now closed to all trailers and light automobiles; now you tell me.  Altitude climbs and climbs but no snow showers yet just monster winds from hell.  Views are stunning across the barrens of western Wyoming.  Cross the Continental Divide twice for some reason.

Weather forecast is for heavy snow on the route later in the day so I dodged truck after truck to make time.  Finally late in the day as it was getting dark I dropped out of the high mountains and into Ogden, UT, where temperature quickly dropped and soon turned to heavy rain and ice.  Exhausted but safe I pried my fingers off the steering wheel and spent the night in a motel to ride out the storm.  Best $50 of my life.

This is Mormon country but I guess the ski/tourist industry in Ogden tempers religious doctrine as I found a mini bar in my room next to the bible.

Six to eight inches of snow predicted tomorrow on I-80 into Idaho with freezing rains.  Not looking forward to it.  One trucker tells me the real challenge is not the weather but the road construction outside of Boise.

Suddenly the concept of 1-10 through Arizona and north through California on I-5 begins to make more sense.  Little I can do about that now.

I am in Mormon country where everything is spic and span.  Hot shower nirvana.  Sleep sleep sleep.

 

 

Mile 2867

A quick overnight with old college friends Nicky and Richard at their vintage home in the heart of downtown Cheyenne.  They rescue greyhounds and are getting ready for an epic voyage to Iceland.  World travel is their passion and I got to hear about an interesting month in New Zealand among other places before I started seeing stars and headed to the bedroom.

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The next morning it has turned cold and the wind is very high.  I am planning driving due west on I-80 though weather seems problematic.  I-80 is one of the highest elevation interstates in the country and is known for heavy truck traffic.  Hopefully I can make it to just north of Salt Lake City if the angels are with me.