29 August 2014

World Blog Tour: Isaac Boone Davis


Isaac Boone Davis (pictured here with what appears to be some species of Elvis) is a damn fine writer who is also blogless. Therefore, I am lending some of my Internet real estate to him so that he can join the World Blog Tour.

And now, Mr. Davis.

What are you working on?

    As much as I'm working on anything (which is to say not much) I'm playing around with a few stories that have some interest in becoming a novel. They are centered around life in eastern Kentucky; life in the coalfields after there are no more coalfields. This is not out of any great passion of mine for the material. It's just that I live there, currently. And I am a ridiculously non-creative person. I've discovered that writing about eastern Kentucky is a little like writing about Vietnam. Everyone is extremely possessive of their own particular experience and whatever your experience was there it better align with the people that matter. Lest you run the risk of being the subject of very angry blog posts where you will be accused of not "understanding the richness of the land, the struggle of the people, or simple dignity of the local cholesterol." My brother Willie has a hilarious phrase about this: Holler than thou. The other thing about the writing life in eastern Kentucky is that everyone here likes getting offended. They do it a lot. They have a great affinity for the word 'stereotype.' You would think it would be a cash crop or something. 

     Boy, that Vietnam metaphor did not hold up. 

    How does your work differ from others of its genre?

    It's worse. 

   I don't exactly know that I have any kind of genre. I've been pitching a collection to a few agencies that revolved around "the darker side of the working class experience." Strangely, that hasn't garnered much interest. Anything I've ever written tends to be ninety five percent autobiographical or biographical. Again, I have remarkably little imagination. I'm a bit of a method actor that way I guess.

     Why do you write what you do?

   When people would ask me this question before, I would say 'because I wanted to give voice to the voiceless.' I was a truly wretched person. I was like Bono if his entire audience consisted of his mom and some dude at The Review Review. I really think some of the instinct to create (whether its through writing, or music or making vintage birdhouses) is hardwired. Eventually,if it's in you, you just simply need to do it. 

 I wanted to record things that I've seen and stories that I've heard about happening to people that otherwise may not get told.Stuff, that maybe didn't happen to people every day or maybe in some ways were completely regular events for people, but not easily relatable. For example I knew this girl who would go down to the Federal prison on 200th Street in Sea-Tac, Washington. And she would dance for her guy who was locked up there. And I knew a guy who was locked up in Monroe who had this insane story about the day he got out of prison. So I sorta rubbed the two of them together and wrote a story about it. I knew this kid who was risking his life after work every day to buy crystal meth for his dying mom. So I wrote a story about it. I knew some girls who were homeless and stealing for a living. So I wrote a story about it. I knew a guy who had been sexually assaulted and when he would drink he wouldn't stop talking about it. And would sometimes get into fist fights with people who didn't want to hear about it anymore. I wrote it down. This stuff just seemed worth recounting even if it was ugly and awkward and painful as shit. I don't play guitar anymore. I can't paint or draw or design antique furniture. My singing voice has caused miscarriages in livestock. If I was going to record any of these things it was going to have to be by writing them down. 

    Explain your writing process

    It ain't much. I work all day and I'm pretty tired when I get home. I try hard to schedule some time for it on my days off and maybe another day or two during the week. I do agree that the best stories are the one's that you have written in your mind before you commit to paper. Going into a story without a roadmap is terrifying to me. There are ocean's smaller than my inner critic. If I don't know what I'm about to write I'll get confused or just ditch it. I have to know what I'm wanting to talk about. 
   There's a funny part of Mark Richard's autobiography House of Prayer Number Two where he is interviewing Tom Waits and he thinks he's going get drunk with Tom and watch him write Cold Water or something. But, it turns out Tom Waits doesn't want to drink (at least not that night.) And when asked about watching him write a song, he says "No. That would be like watching someone bathe." Most stories I write take a while for me to write. I average six pages probably a month. It's a lot of hunt and peck and a ton of re-writing. I read aloud a bunch to catch mistakes. When I think something is close I have a few writer friends who I have learned to trust over the years. I didn't go to college and I've never been to a writing conference in my life, so the internet has been a huge help in finding a writing community. My sole piece of journo-fiction, The Cherry Picker, would never have happened without the careful editing of Chris Miller, who is an enormous talent and exacting editor.He was like a personal trainer. Always ready to pick me up when I didn't want to keep going. Recently, I've learned to show my work to my fellow editors at Smokelong. People like Tara Laskowski and Gay Degnani and Ashley Inguanta. Smokelong does not mess around so I've learned to keep my ego in a box when I show them something. It reminds me of what Stefan Grossman said about taking guitar lessons from Gary Davis: there are no shortcuts. 

   The best story I can think of about writing process is Louise Erdich talking about how she writes when driving through the North Dakota. Literally, when driving. She keeps a journal in the passenger seat. Something about the idea of literature as a possible act of vehicular homicide. I mean why do it at all if it doesn't run the risk of killing somebody?

    So here's the links to a couple of my stories. If you want to check them out. 

  Journalism. Probably the only thing I've done that will ever take that much out of me.

Crappy job story. I'm addicted to reading them because I've had so many. I figured I could write one. Parts of it are sorta funny.   http://www.thebaconreview.com/featureone.php?id=45

 First story I ever finished/published. About a kid in Kentucky in a crappy little town who has tasked himself with killing his dying mom.   http://www.writethis.com/z03.html

  Flash fiction. Girls that live the hard way. Sleeping in abandoned buildings, stealing to eat. Hating themselves.     

23 August 2014

Blog World Tour!


Lauren Westerfield
My pal Lauren Westerfield, newly-minted Assistant Essays editor at The Rumpus, has asked me to join something called the World Blog Tour wherein I describe my writing process in all its recalcitrant and perfunctory glory for the world to deconstruct, criticize, and roundly mock.

I said yes, yes, I will absolutely swing aboard that hobo train.

I met Lauren in 2013 at the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop. She was in Maggie Nelson's workshop at the time. In addition to being a fantastic essayist (please read her essay "Twenty-Seven"; it will put the term "sister burn" permanently in your emotional lexicon), she's a certified Hatha Yoga instructor and Whole Foods Nutrition Counselor. I'm surprised she was able to make her way through the alcoholic force-field (read: margarita breath) that surrounded me for that entire week. But I'm very glad she did.

Here goes:     

What are you working on?
I'm working on a collection of short creative nonfiction. It includes re-tooling some of my short fiction which was just thinly veiled nonfiction anyway. As I'm fond of saying, life writes a hell of a lot better than I do. Who am I to attempt to rewrite God's stand-up routine? Besides, so far my nonfiction is getting accepted and my fiction is (almost) all getting punted. That's a pretty good sign that creative nonfiction is the life for me.  

How does your work differ from others of its genre?
It's all autobiographical. It doesn't differ so much because of that as it does because one can't help using their own voice (as opposed to their writerly voice or character voice) when recalling factual events. That's what makes autobiography so interesting to me: all the distinct voices telling true stories from outside our personal experience that we can somehow still relate to and empathize with.  

Why do you write what you do?
People kept telling me that my stories were fascinating. So I started writing them down. Kind of like how this blog started. I was supposed to be writing a term paper or some such brain-chafing horror during my second tour of college. I thought I'd "organize my thoughts" by writing to my brother Greg. Turns out I wrote a lot more letters to Greg than I did pages of term paper. Benjamin Percy, who was my mentor when I was at Tin House in 2013 and read a number of my stories, very graciously dubbed me "the most interesting man in the world". It seems pretty egotistical of me to print that, but doing so reminds me that others find my stories helpful and engaging, even if I only find them somewhere between embarrassing and mortifying.

That's the other reason that I write these things down: because I feel that I have a duty to write about things like child abuse and mental illness from the first person so that I can give voice to those who do not possess the words themselves. So far, judging from the comments I get on my published stuff, it has worked.   

How does your writing process work?
It doesn't. Whatever I do to conceive and write a story is never the same twice. I suppose I could make a graph or a Venn diagram that exposed certain stresses and values that influenced the work (enter a value of "distraught" for x and a value of "drunk" for y and see what kind of parabola it creates).

The one commonality all pieces have is that they are written mostly in my head before I go to the page. If that means two full weeks of writing in my head and not touching a page once, then that's how it works. I met Micheal Arndt at the Hawaii Writers Conference back in 2009, and he wholly endorsed this sort of process. He wrote most of "Little Miss Sunshine" while lying on the floor in his office with a pillow over his face. As he puts it, characters are much easier to control when they're in your head. Once they get on the page, they can get away. 

I wrote "Slapstick" as part of a writing exercise at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. I was in Dinty W. Moore's workshop on creative nonfiction. It was written and revised there in about two and a half rounds, almost all of it while workshop was in session, so essentially in the company of others. 

"White Guys Are All The Same" was written under completely different circumstances. To wit: I sat at the dining room table with a bottle of Chopin vodka, got drunk, and cried through the whole thing -- first through third drafts. Even though I was fictionalizing real-life events, it was horrible to recall and I felt that I needed general anesthesia to get through it. 

When I wrote "My Life With The Bat Children"  I was doing something menial and repetitive -- vacuuming, I believe -- and trying to sort out and explain and enumerate the reasons and history of everything that caused the events of one very traumatic evening. Come to think of it, I write a lot of stuff when I'm doing something else: I wrote "The Refugees" (forthcoming in the Tin House blog) mostly while I was drying dishes.

More than anything, writing works like a songwriting process for me. I hear a "melody" or "voice" in my head. Then I let it brew for a while, run through some phrases mentally, maybe hum or speak some of the words of it aloud to myself before sitting down at the keyboard. (If any of you have heard me talking to myself in half-sentences, I'm actually writing, not seizing.)

I can't stare at a blank page. It completely kills creativity for me. I can't do the thousand-words-a-day quota thing. I can't do the butt-in-seat every day thing (I've written a lot while hiking). And nothing worth expanding on has ever come from any journaling I've ever done.

I just realized that I could've summed up my whole writing process in this one statement by Bruce Lee about the art of Jeet Kune Do: "No form as form; no way as way." Just by being "undisciplined", I am disciplined as a motherfucker, apparently.   

And now writer pals whose work I admire:

(From his website): Dinty W. Moore is author of numerous books, including The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life, Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction, and the memoir Between Panic & Desire, winner of the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize. 
Having failed as a zookeeper, modern dancer, Greenwich Village waiter, filmmaker, and wire service journalist, he now writes essays and stories.  He has been published in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, Gettysburg Review, Utne Reader, and Crazyhorse, among numerous other venues.
Dinty is also the editor of Brevity, the journal of concise literary nonfiction.

Kenzie Allen
Kenzie Allen is a poet and Zell Fellow at the University of Michigan, as well as the managing editor of Anthropoid. We met at the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop back in 2011, heard her read at the (now legendary) Sullivan Guerrilla Reading, and I've been bananas about her poetry ever since. If you're lucky enough to be her friend on Facebook, you may even get some of it delivered piping hot to your wall.  

Isaac Boone Davis may be a Turing machine for all I know as I have never seen him in real life (although we've chatted quite a bit online and he has been gracious enough to edit some of my stuff). He's a reader for SmokeLong, and doesn't have a blog, but I command you to read his excellent short fiction which can be found at Blackheart Magazine, Ampersand Review, and Hidden City Quarterly.

20 January 2011

So wait, what was I saying again?

I been creepin' all up in this Holy beeyatch.


It's been about two and a half years since I last posted here, but I figure hey, what better time to reinvigorate the long-form blog (a' la 1997) than one year before the Mayan Apocalypse of 2012?

No better time. None. (This post will also be available on clay tablets, so that those survivors of the aforementioned apocalypse who shamble the barren hellscape in search of human flesh will have a little after dinner reading. -Ed.)

So, to make a really awkward segue, I've been going to church. I know that saying that sounds both radical and benign, like saying, "I've been huffing acrylic paint". And you'd think the combined facts that a) you and I are preacher's kids and got churched harder than most minor saints, and b) I'm a non-theist would make the idea of ever entering a church again utterly anathema to me. You'd think so, right?

Well that's before they started combining Jesus H. Christ with beer. (Contrary to what you may have heard, mixing beer with Jesus and lemonade does not make it a "shandy". -Ed.)

Let me back up. Here's how all that came about:

I work all damn day by myself doing my marketing thing talking about marketing stuff writing marketing stuff talking to marketing people about marketing stuff. Do that for six months and see if you don't want to kill yourself in the face about two hundred times.

So I was searching the interwebs for something - ANYTHING - to do socially or otherwise that wasn't related to marketing or advertising, and lo! What should appear in my search results but Theology Pub. Yep, you read that right. Beer + Jesus. So I was thinking to myself that what did I have pounded into my head for years but loads of theology, and how could I possibly not hold my own in both the "beers consumed" and "bullshit spewed" columns at a shindig like this?

There are two that I attend now, one in Capitol Hill and the other in West Seattle. People, a lot of them theology students or certified theologians, actually get together, get a skinful of belabored grain in 'em, and debate theology, Jeebus, Gawd, JHVH and what have you. I tell you, the amount of passion that pours forth in those gatherings is just goddamn scintillating. Where else can you hear somebody scream, "You are literally taking the cock and balls off of God"? (You mean aside from on the bus...every day...directed at no one in particular? -Ed.)

So how I started going to church again was that I got invited to come to hear Matt Lyon, founder of the West Seattle Theology Pub, deliver the homily at St. John the Baptist Episcopal on the First Sunday in Advent. And I was all like, "Hey - I dig the smells and the bells, and know all the hymns and the hand-jive, so why the F not?" The fact that he got up and totally dunked on the reading from Revelations ("Not sure I agree with this..." Yeah, he said that. In the pulpit. And did not spontaneously combust.) was just icing on the communion wafer.

Oh and then - and THEN - I have to tell you all the other ecclesial adventures I've had, like "outing" myself as Buddhist to the minister, knockin' 'em dead at compassionate listening practice groups, and getting told repeatedly by Theology Publicans that I am, in practice, the most Christian person they've ever met.

Yeah, I know. Me, the prong-horned non-theo-Buddho-ag-nostic preacher's kid. Pick yourself up off the floor and stop slapping your knees. I'll give you all the deets later.



25 November 2008

Brains by Jesus. Body by Fisher.

Birthmark borne by every native of Detroit.


I did something in public this morning that left me ashamed, yet elated. (No, not that! Get our mind out of the adult aisle!) I was bewitched by a beautiful black Cadillac Deville and followed it about twenty blocks beyond my place of work. I'm in the office now, under the watchful eye of my boss, and safely away from any windows where someone might identify me from the street. Or where I may, God forbid, see another beautiful automobile and lose control of myself.

Look, this does not make me some kinda weirdo. Or a stalker. (Well, yeah actually by definition it does. -Ed.) I just have to come to grips with the fact that I really love cars and start feeling okay about it.

I also have to pay attention to who I'm following. That Deville could've been driven by a very strong man with a very large gun and a very small sense of humor. If I'd've pissed him off a little too much by following him too far, I could be writing this blog post through a straw right now. (Practice this line in the event that the driver exits the vehicle and approaches you: "That's a sweet ride you got there...sir." -Ed.)

But first, can I take just a moment to address the current issue with The Big Three automakers flying to Washington on their private jets to look for a handout from Congress? For the record: fuck those guys. And furthermore, fuck those guys. They need to give up their fat-ass salaries and spend a week on the swing shift at GM with the shop rats and bloody their knuckles on a goddamn wrench before they'll get my respect or my money. Take their bonuses and distribute them between the good people working the line. As a matter of fact, let one of the folks who work in the plant go to Congress, pick up the check, and make up their minds about what oughtta be done about the situation.

Now, moving on...

At present, I'm conflicted. While I'm not 100% "green", I consider myself at the very least "green curious". On one hand, cars burn gas which creates carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and cigarette fumes, all which lead to a global condition which will eventually parboil us all out of existence. Or so Wikipedia tells me.

On the other hand, cars - the well-designed ones at least - are a moving art form, a perfect marriage of technology and design that makes the ten-year-old in me go vroom vroom vroom! Yay! Vroom! I swear, every once in a while I see something like, say, the brilliantly designed, well-powered, gracefully accelerating - obsidian-black haunches...glistening I tell you! - Deville in question that makes me practically gob on my shirt. Seriously.

Is it because we grew up near the auto center of the world? Or is it because our dad has ethyl for blood? Or is it because it is a universal and unimpeachable truth that CARS ARE OSSUM! VROOM VROOM VROOM! YAY! VROOM! YAY?

I make my case for the assertions above with the examples below:

1969 Pontiac GTO
Remember when we lived on Chippewa Street in Pontiac? (Remember how they name everything in Michigan after Indians? -Ed.) Remember Ruth McLay's mom? They lived on Navajo. (I rest my case. -Ed.) She had one of these. Even though it wasn't tricked out (it was the "mom" edition), you could tell that it was Blood of Champion. That friggin' thing ROARED from the front door to the Kroger and back in no time flat. I always wanted to steal it. I had a slim jim and I was good to go, but I was six and I couldn't reach the pedals. PS: The tach is on the hood! I don't know if that's good, bad, smart, dumb or what - but it's COOL!

1973 BMW 2002
I had one back in the '90s and wept when I let it go. It had all the torque of a wee mountain goat and a full metal dash that would turn your brain to mayonnaise in the event of a low-speed collision. Fun mandatory. Seatbelts optional.

2007 Dodge Charger Super Bee
I can feel you judging me already. "Greaser!" you spit with scorn. "Spawn of hillbillies!
Trash blanc! " But before you cast the first stone - hold, I say unto thee! Who among you gathered here present experienced the monumental, face-bleaching thrust and vertiginous acceleration of the soon-to-be-legendary 368HP Dodge hemi? (Wait - You in the back. You have? And you didn't care for it? Well fuck you, hippie.)

2008 Toyota Tacoma w/Sport Package.

1947 Chrysler Town and Country Woody Four Door Hard Top
Of course I had to mention the family car. From a purely technical standpoint, it was underpowered. But from a design standpoint - shit, it was so curvy it almost had bosoms! Maple beams and mahogany veneer - must've been a Steinway Grand
in a previous life. I remember no greater joy of my childhood than road trips and camping excursions taken in this car.

Shit. Here comes my boss. Gotta mop up some spit.

Cheers, and back on the freeway which is already in progress.


20 October 2008

Bruce Lee's Other Student

My Sensei, Eddie Hart (at far left) back in the 1960s when he was a student of Bruce Lee.
At right is Jesse Glover, Lee's other famous student. Eddie died of emphysema in 2005.

Photo credit: Bruce Lee.


You're probably wondering why I haven't been writing. Well it's because I've been writing. You already know that I write all goddamn day at work. Now I have two other things: one extracurricular project, and one writing class. That means I have to write all the more. Were it not for the fact that I'm about to just cut and paste what I've been working on in my writing class for the past couple of weeks, I probably wouldn't be making this post at all.

I'm taking a class in first person storytelling from David Schmader at Richard Hugo House. It's six weeks long and totally worth $195 and skipping the last two hours of your workday each Wednesday if you can swing it. And like I said, I'd love to chat more right now but instead I'm gonna just let you read this excerpt from the essay I've been working on for class. Why? Because I'm a bitch-ass lazy punk who tries to find the easy way out of everything. That is when he's not writing like some kind of hypergraphia-fueled nutbag. The assignment for the next class was to write a 500-word chunk of the essay from anywhere you feel like starting. Anyway, enjoy. -Thaddeus

PS: There's no title. Suffer. -TRG

My sensei Eddie Hart used to videotape all of his student’s progress. Week 1: there’s Thaddeus, getting his ass kicked. Week 2: there’s Thaddeus, getting his ass kicked, but not quite so bad. Week 3: there’s Thaddeus getting his ass kicked, but at least he’s looking good. His arms are getting definition, his strikes more precise, and his falls are more controlled, even though he’s on the edge of consciousness.

On the other hand, his sparring partner, Ted Hart, Ed's son, looks great – all six feet six inches of him. He works in a vacuum, undistracted, his focus impermeable. It’s because he’s a second dan. And he’s as deaf as granite. Got mumps when he was thirteen. The last music he remembers is Boston. I often wonder if it’s an unimaginable torture to get “More Than A Feeling” stuck in your head if there’s no competing sound to offset it. Oddly enough, I wonder this while Ted’s fists are crashing down on my head. It distracts me from the pain.

Three punch combinations land in rhythm – boom boom clap, boom boom clap, boom boom clap. I throw my hand up in front of my face to make the sign for “stop”. Ted’s fist connects with the back of my hand and I punch myself in the face. Eddie calls a stop. I’m beat, but I’m not angry or ashamed. I’m just beat.

Eddie takes me aside to work with me on three punch combinations. He’s supposed to block my first two, and I’m supposed to let the third fly harmlessly past his left ear. We do this for fifteen minutes straight. I get tired. I start thinking about how the boom boom clap sounds like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing if I got punched in the ears and went deaf and got that song jammed in my head for all eternity. I get sloppy, and put a stiff right square on the center of Eddie’s upper lip. His head snaps back and he looks at me in amazement.

“No one has ever hit me that hard in anger,” he says. I wait for a reciprocal right cross from the guy who used to spar with Bruce Lee. Instead he turns and addresses the rest of the dojo.

“Anyone wanna to spar with an amateur?” he asks. The rest of the fighters bawl dissent. He turns back to me. “Go home and don’t come back until I tell you that you can come back.”

When I first interviewed at the dojo and Eddie went on a tear about how he knew Bruce Lee, I thought he was just stacking bullshit to impress me before he named some exorbitant price for his own exclusive method of instruction. It seems that everybody in Seattle who was anywhere near martial arts in 1964 claims to have known Bruce Lee. Turns out there are only two people in Seattle who were in Bruce Lee’s dojo back then. One of them is Jessie Glover, the first martial arts instructor ever certified by Bruce Lee. The other one broke out his old snapshots so he could show me him and Bruce out at dinner, him and Bruce at his wedding, him and Bruce slapping the holy hell out of each other, all of this while chattering excitedly and smoking hand-rolled shag while wearing street shoes in the dojo. Then he got out all his clippings from Black Belt magazine, articles he had written about The Little Dragon back in the day.

Somewhere along the line we finally got to talking about kickboxing, more specifically jeet kune do, and even more specifically chi sao, the “sticking hands” technique, and pretty soon Eddie’s asking me to take a shot at him. I mean here’s this guy, a chain smoker, who is about as big around as a butt thermometer, who looks like he’s gonna cack if so much as a cat fart even glances him, and he’s asking the 27-year-old, very-much-in-shape me to take a swing. Happy to oblige, I put up my dukes and fire away.

My hand never makes it anywhere near him. It gets blocked so far away so fast that my shoulder gets torqued all bass-ackwards. I am now convinced that this man can show me at least one thing about martial arts.

09 September 2008

The Deepest Secrets Of The Greg Revealed!

A Gargling(tm) of the term "deepest secrets" produces this trippy-ass image as a result.
It is rumored that The Greg lives in the basement of such a pyramid.


Greg - as in
the Greg, the one these letters are written to, not the noun Greg nor the verb, nor the infinitive "to Greg" - yeah, him. Well -

I have a hard time starting some mornings. Bear with.

Those stupid little questions that they ask you when you build your profile on a social networking site? The ones the writers (or Tom) work so hard to make clever, entertaining, provocative and revealing, yet fail so miserably? Greg tackled the tough ones and came out with - I think - flying colors.

And strangely enough, though his answers were so flip that standing near them would get you bitch-slapped, they are at the same time strangely revealing. After reading his responses, you may actually become possessed of the notion that you
know The Greg. In his words:

"Here's my answers to one of those stupid profile question things found on some new social site - I think it was called like "FaceBlast" or "ClusterFuck" or "da.clitter.us" or some shit like that. I don't remember. Anyway, I'm pretty sure my answers will get thousands of friend requests instantly, especially from hot babes. (If by "hot babe" you mean feverish with infection. -
Ed.) Check it out."

While less lengthy than the MMPI, the fusillade of questions below is no less probing, and has revealed things about The Greg that few have known, including me. And that's saying a lot, because The Greg lives in my basement. Least he did last time I looked.

Without further ado -

Q. What would you do if no one were looking?
A. Create a social networking group for people who aren't looking.

Q. Who would you like to see on a new banknote?
A. Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Gummo and Karl Marx.

Q. What should you be doing?
A. Creating a social networking group for people who aren't looking.

Q. Favorite place to be barefoot?
A. A wading pool filled with those little sausages.

Q. Time flies when you're _________________
A. traveling backwards through a space/time wormhole. I'm pretty sure.

Q. When you go to a party and someone says, "What do you do?", what do you say?
A. "I go to parties so people can ask me what I do."


Q. What's the greenest thing you do?
A. Allow moss to grow in my underwear.

K. So. Here's your turn - and trust me, you don't get one very frequently as Greg and I are seldom wont to let a word creep in edgewise - gimme your best profile Q&A if you dare.



06 September 2008

Next Time, I Swear I'm Not Coming Back

Click on the little word balloon thingy in the lower left corner to read the captions.


The leaves turning on the maple tree across the street is making me pine for summer. I hardly got in any hiking this year. One of these days, when my dowsing stick finally hits the underground money stream, I'm going to hike my ass out of here and never come back.

When we went up to Deer Park in Olympic National Park this last time, I almost didn't come back. At one point John and I were sitting on top of Blue Mountain sharing the same fantasy. (You were somewhere downhill, avoiding the altitude.) In this fantasy, we call our wives, tell them to sell all our stuff, and to come meet us up there in the mountains where we belong. We live happily ever after. Cue sunset. Roll credits. (But who delivers the Indian food? You won't survive without Indian food. Or cable. Just sayin'. -Ed.)

That same mad, lycanthropic euphoria bubbles up every time I go into the mountains, the mania that wants me chuck it all and not come back. You know, like Col. Kurtz, but not quite so batshit homicidal crazy and stuff.

When I hiked out to Skoki Lodge in the Banff NP backcountry last year, my inner Amish almost got the upper hand and kept me there for good, too. If it were not for my very sane, very-disinclined-to-bathe-in-ass-freezing-mountain-streams wife, I’d prolly still be there, picking my teeth with a marmot or warming my hands over a blazing hiker.

Speaking of being on top of a mountain, I understand your concern about how I like to hang near the edge of the biggest drop-off I can find. I’m only doing it for therapeutic value. Honestly. I started going up into the mountains to help overcome anxiety. As folks like myself who have an anxiety disorder often do, I was becoming afraid of heights. Anxiety disorders often "morph" to include basic phobias. (The five basic phobias are water, spiders, snakes, heights and small spaces. And, if you're male, that list may include commitment. -
Ed.) While I was educating myself on how to get over anxiety, I found out that the best way to deal with a phobia is through exposure. (Not of one's loins and whatnot, but exposure to the phobia-inducing stimulus.) So I started getting myself up as high as I could reasonably get without standing on the ledge of a building or filling a recliner with helium.

I’m not afraid of heights anymore, that’s for sure. But now it’s kinda like I have to get a little dose of the medicine that cured me every once in a while, lest it wear off. Call it a “booster shot”. At least I’m not doing anything truly goddamn crazy, like mountaineering. Mountaineering is not my bag, and and I’ll tell ya why. There are certain activities I abjure, chief among them:

  • Falling into giant icy crevasses.
  • Eating the dead.
  • Sustaining frostbite injuries. (I've actually done this one before. I frostbit my face in 1984. Parts of it turned all black and fell off. And it fuckin' hurts like you would not believe.)
  • Having a pulmonary embolism for dinner.
  • Wigging out on hypoxia.
  • Pooping in a bag.
  • Starring in a book by Jon Krakauer.

These are all things that you either must do or may wind up doing if mountaineering is your cup of freeze-dried tea. But please don’t confuse me those peak-hopping, ice-axe-wielding bag-shitters. The things that I like aren't usually found where you find alpinists, f'rinstance:

  • Fragrant alpine meadows.
  • Piney pine trees.
  • Surly marmots.
  • Tranquil mountain lakes.
  • Lunch.

In other words, if it's below the tree line, count me in. Likewise, if trees won't live there, why should I go?

The other reason I'm belaboring the distinction is because some hiker recently took a couple-hundred-foot drop and creamed himself into human chip dip on a pile of granite. This was of course covered in the paper which of course means Dad read it which of course means he gave me several stern warnings and admonitions (replete with the appropriate finger-stabbing of the appropriate story column in the local paper) about doing the same to myself. So I had to give him the requisite assurances that Mister Salad Bar Item was (or at least fancied himself to be) mountaineering whereas all I do is hike. I don't even use ropes. Hell, I wouldn't tie myself to something I
liked, let alone some mountain.

Okay, so if I've done nothing more than set the record straight (assuming it needed to be set straight), me = hiker, not mountain climber. Hope that puts you at ease.

Picking up dog turds not as fun as it sounds

Before the monsoon season strikes (I mean strikes and any harder than is has already struck for the past few months of our goddamn soaking wet 58-degree "summer"), I'm trying to get things in and about the yard put away. This includes dog turds which - come to find out - are not as water soluble as you would think. I've been finding chalk-white turd carcasses all over the yard, or "turd bones", if you will. And come to think of it, there's no way our wee little Corgy can produce that many boluses. She must be recruiting help. She's not asking you to chip in, is she? If so, help me out and use a trowel. Or just scratch like a cat.

Hauling rat-pee-covered insulation to the dump not as fun as it sounds

Since I was over at E's house dropping off some stuff that she so graciously offered to store for me, I counter-offered to help haul another load of that rat pee covered insulation and wallboard that you tore out of her basement. I only mention this because I made an interesting discovery while at the transfer station. You know how I keep all those fancy essential oils in my truck so I can mix my own air fresheners? (Yeah, I do, so what? Shut up!) Well bitter almond oil effectively cancels the crushing, mephitic redolence that only a steaming hot garbage dump can produce. Might be a good thing to keep in your lunchbox next time you want to carry along another ptomaine-laced hot dog. Might make it easier to choke down.