"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

12 November 2013

Native Moments

Looking down at Naylor Lake. Squaretop Mountain stands in the distance...

I've been working on rocking the winter beard; thicker, and letting the scruff to vine its way further up my cheeks. There are a few more flecks of gray. So it goes and what are you going to do about it anyway? Gray hair doesn't terrify me as it once did.

There has been the joke that come late, late April or early May, I'll shave it all off and be baby-faced for a week, thus giving me a reminder of what my chin looks like. See, with the exception of a few periods, I've worn a beard since I was twenty-seven. The last time I completely shaved it off, the bruja said I looked like I was twelve, but taller.


The other night, after dinner, sitting back with a relaxing glass of red, we were listening to the Grateful Dead. It wasn't until recent years that I could tolerate the Dead enough to own an album from them, and, nowadays, we have a few, and yet we don't smoke weed-it interferes with the drinking, you know. The Dead, along with folk/Americana/bluegrass, and reggae are the soundtrack of these mountains. Perhaps we have truly gone native.

"Imagine if someone would have told you ten years ago that you'd be staying in, reading a book, and listening to the Grateful Dead," Sabina mused. A long-running game between us.

Early November, ten years back, I just found out my grandmother had an aneurysm in her chest the size of a softball, and might live six months, if she didn't get surgery and just die on the table. She did opt for surgery, because she was my grandmother; a tough old broad who was going to be in charge of her own fate, and not the other way around. She died three months later. I got a tattoo in memorandum.

Early November, ten years back, I was trying to understand how a bright-burning relationship had suddenly drifted into a cold void that made interstellar space seem tropical. Like Joe Strummer, I wondered if I should stay or should I go. Perhaps I was just overreacting, and she'd come back, as it were. Maybe I knew better, but wanted to be wrong.

Perhaps me ten years back, depressed and confused, would have heard of sitting in a one-hundred thirty-three year old house high in the mountains, sipping after dinner wine and grooving to the Grateful Dead and figured fuck it, why not?, after all, it wasn't like there was a lot to lose. Maybe he would've scoffed, thinking such a state unlikely. It could be he would've said not yet, because whatever intangible he was looking for, that, which had drawn him into the greater metroplex in the first place, had yet to be found. But once it was found, he'd be gone so fast his pants would have to catch the next bus out.

When it comes down to brass tacks and bedposts, it's kind of irrelevant. The me of ten years back is alien and distant. The mental exercise, whilst amusing, is akin to trying to imagine what the me at twenty-one, or even eleven, would think of me at forty-one. Those after-images may be aliens, but we share similar features and a string of memories and experiences which would shape that monster that stares back at me in the mirror. The aberration that spits these words out into ether, either, and or.


My neighbors got to see me in the closest thing I have to a suit the other day. See, we were burying one of our own. The only time one should wear a suit is when seeing someone go to the altar, into the ground, or, perhaps, some unfortunate moment in front of a magistrate, like a murder trial-or so I've heard. Anything else is the pompous try-too-hard that inspires murder thoughts or drug addiction, if not both in the same instance.

Two of my neighbors noticed the anarchy pin I wear on the left lapel of my fine pinstripe jacket. One commented I wear anarchy well-I'm pretty sure that was a compliment-and the other told me of all the old political buttons she had from the sixties and seventies. I mentioned that my anarchy pin, like the Free Tibet sticker I have on Old Scratch, is the closest I come to advertising my politics.

"Once a punk, always a punk," Sabina said with a sly wink. I cocked an eyebrow in her direction, but said nothing.

After all, what's more punk-rock than the mountains? Living where I want to, how I want to, with the person I want to is its own bold statement. High-powered corporate executives jerk-off like ugly apes in humping season to this kind of success. You can see it in their eyes when they come up for vacation.

We knew the deceased peripherally, but we are better acquainted with her mother, and that's why we went. Still, we were subjected to empathic overload, as there was not a dry eye in the place. Even the neighbor giving the requiem's voice crackled with emotion, and when the preacher-man's voice breaks, the shit gets real.

The wake was at the rathskeller of a restaurant down-valley. Because of our peripheral acquaintance with the deceased, we bowed out. There were some ruins we wanted to explore and my daughter was up. This was the closest we were to get to hanging out for her birthday.

After a hard-scrabble and hard-won discovery, we had cha'i at Miguel Loco's shoppe. Stories and the marvels of how quick the kids grow were exchanged. My daughter left after a dinner of wild rice, roasted potatoes, and buffalo chicken legs. I sometimes felt like I was being a little clingy with her, but I just saw a neighbor bury one of their babies. Perhaps I was justified. Maybe I was being simpy. It could be that, however unlikely, I might be a little more sentimental than I let on.


I reacquaint myself with the concept of upper and lower lots. Summer and winter. Snow has come to our Sahel. This early in the season, cramp-ons and gaiters are advisable. In perhaps another month, snow pants and either skis or snowshoes, depending upon one's preference.

It's possible I could've driven to the upper lot, but I do not regret playing it safe and parking lower. After all, I go solo trekking a fair amount, thus taking a risk when I go on walkabout in one aspect. I saw snowshoe tracks, which I found absurd; the snow was too hard-packed and not deep enough. There were bare muddy patches where the sun shone through the trees. As much as I want to go snowshoeing, I know I must be patient, and my patients is formidable.

I found a rock outcropping overlooking a mountain lake to stop and relax. The alpine sun was warm upon my shoulders. It was profoundly quite. As I walked, the only sounds were that of my breathing and my boots and poles crunching against the snow. There was not even the song of wind. It was as if the universe itself was holding its breath.

Looking out, I meditated upon perceptions of success and how successful I perceive myself. I thought back to that memorial and the thing, which is said any time someone walks on; enjoy the moment, because when the number's up, it's up. Trite, but so very true.

I could go on one of my solo treks and never be heard from again. We could all get hit by an asteroid the size of Pavarotti's ass tomorrow and it'd be lights out. Even the wise cannot foresee all ends, but that's because there is no future, just as there is no past. There's just this, the moment. Everything else is memory and jack-off fantasy.

This song makes me think of living in the mountains, though, I'm not sure if it's because of the title or the instrumentation...


  1. I envy that you're able to walk in snow. I really hope we get a lot here this winter! And I've had a beard since 2008 (very small one, I keep it shaved really close) and I don't think I'll ever go back to bare-faced.

    1. Is there even snow in Kentucky? ;p I just want enough snow to fill the reservoirs come spring and provide decent 'shoeing powder.

      Generally, I keep my beard pretty close cut, but I decided this year to let it thicken for winter. Whether I trim it back come spring or shave it off to grow back is something I'll decide in another couple months.

  2. This was a good Tuesday ramble, Robbie...from the past to the present, children to mountain lakes, love and meandering...

    1. Thank you. I think the technical term is stream of consciousness...either that of I was just ranting/babbling ;p.

  3. I shave my beard everyday. The guys at work like that shit. (haha, just joking.) As for The Grateful Dead situation, I've found myself listening to many things I cringed away from before. There's a Cyndi Lauper song I never liked that speaks to me now. Whoodathunkit?

    1. I catch myself thinking of the character Delia from Carnival what for chicks with beards and the song Shee-bop is in my skull now...I feel kind of dirty, actually...

  4. She-bop? nooooo...that's not the one. sorry for that.