"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

29 April 2014

A Murky Spring Day Beyond the End of the World

The last few days have been indicative of springtime murk; Tibetan winds lashing the landscape from the Roof of the World, intervals of gentle, but phantasmal, sunlight, and snow squalls-but, in springtime context, only blowing slightly to the side. The infusions I have had of lapsang souching I secretly hope are my last for a bit. See, the other day, just before the weather turned, I saw the first hummingbird of the season. An omen of shorts and breaking in that new pair of sandals I just got. The ticks are out and the seeps sing the invocational hymnals of runoff. Greening buds hold their breath before sprouting their leaves. Portends of the cyclic sloughing of seasonal skins. Sabina mentions mixing rum into boat drinks.

Someone attending the community melodrama during the opening weekend claimed to have seen a mountain lion. Big doings in a small town, but, given our location, such creatures are about. Sabina offered for me to borrow her pistol to run the Bull's Head. My solitary walkabouts suddenly becoming a matter of grave concern. Some would call this a sweet gesture, but, without me, she'd have to find some other sucker to pay my half of the mortgage. I mentioned to her it's hardly unusual for me to see a cougar around the house.

Would you be shocked if I told you that Sabina, nine years my senior, flipped me off for that remark? I know I was.

In the old snow behind the rock formation from which the trail takes its name the only tracks were mine from the last time I was that way and the fresh ones of a chickaree that bitched me out when I unintentionally wandered too close to its midden. Parts of the ruins of the Diamond Mine were partially submerged and the runoff had carved fresh channels through the tailings.

Interesting is a conservative term of what it may be like when the water really gets flowing this go around...

Sometimes, if I can swing it, after a walkabout, I take myself for out for lunch. Research for travelers, I justify it. We don't go out to eat together much. Sabina has remarked in the past she lives with a wonderful chef-such a polite way of mentioning I dabble about in the kitchen-and it's silly to pay someone else to do the dishes. During the summer, many of my lunch excursions are Tibetan buffets with her when we go to do laundry. I catch myself looking forward to curries, saag, and tandoori chicken on that veranda under the big mountain sky.

I had a salmon burger with swiss cheese and bacon along with some home fries at an establishment that's been around since the Dead Sea had a head cold. I was taught you do not even so much as put salt on what you're eating before the first bite, and the mark of a good cook is when you don't need condiments. The small dab of ketchup on my home fries was more out of tradition than anything else.

Peter Gabriel was playing as I finished up. From the library I'd picked up a David Attenborough narrated documentary about Madagascar. I was going to be making Moroccan herbed chicken for supper. The snow blowing through was not sticking and meteorological prophecy foretells of mild days ahead. Be that as it may, the day I've caught myself in has been shaping up to bordering on perfect. Well, as perfect as it can get without being boring.  

25 April 2014

Mixed Blessings, or, Getting Up?

You have fallen. Ever since she took you to the metaphoric cleaners you have tumbled oh so very far from Grace. Every day, every conversation, just a little further down the spiral, for, I have heard it said, there is no ground floor in Hell.

And that anthropomorphic sky-father deity you place so much faith in? I've wanted to track that one down, slit him neck to nuts, fill the hole with wasps, sew it shut, and leave him with a good hard kick to the ribs in retribution for fucking with you so. That's the kind of friend I am.

You tell me you're leaving. There's an eye for the main chance in Arizona. I've been there; deserts are the other landscape, aside from mountains, that fascinate me. I tell you it's a mixed blessing; the warmer and drier climate may be kinder to your condition than that of Colorado. It's a chance to start afresh without the emotional shrapnel you leave here.

Bury the bodies, turn the page, and press on...

Mon ami, I know better than to lie and say it'll be okay. It's just going to be. It will be an adventure. A chance to turn it all around. It's that chance you and I have both been hoping for in differing degrees; the chance for you to get up.

Use this opportunity, or it won't be your deity whose belly gets stuffed with wasps, because that's just the kind of friend I am...

22 April 2014

Here to Go

From back before they became a sellout band, and hearkening back to those badlands nights when we would burn fuel for want of anything better to do. Contextually, given the divergent paths our lives have all taken, it fits...

There is green amongst the grass and the tulip bulbs are popping up along the east side of the house. We were finally able to get into the back folly and reacquired my bicycle from its long winter's nap. I rode a few laps around town before going on walkabout. Muscles I'd not used since autumn for riding made themselves known. So it goes.

It is a given there's still snow. Mountains. Meteorological prophecy foretells of upcoming dustings, and perhaps one last major storm before it's all said and done. Mei fei tsu. The weather's the weather, and it's here until it goes. I sometimes apply that mantra to myself, and you'd be amazed how much brain damage it's saved me.

Out on the trail, I encountered a young lady who said it felt so wonderful to be outside. I accepted this salutation with a smirk and inclination of my head. Flippantly, I could've asked when isn't a good time to be outside-no bad weather, just the wrong clothes-but I thought better of it. I slogged through some knee-deep drifts and followed running water upstream. There was a ruin at the end of my rainbow, one I'd not seen before. A good way to spend a late morning and early afternoon.


I have burned bridges. Sometimes, it's quite accidental; life happens, orbits and taos drift apart, I'm sorry and I hope you are too. There have been others, in which I have been vicious about it. To the point of napalm-why fuck about? The auspice of going in the general direction of away. Here until I go. High school, and some of the years shortly thereafter being grand examples of said viciousness.

You can imagine my surprise when my phone rang from my daughter. Between her schooling and our respective lives, we don't talk nearly as much as we'd like. She sends me a text if she's coming up the hill. With a hearty swig of afternoon tea I picked up, anticipating the worst.

A friend from high school, one whom had tried to get my x-wife in bed before she decided the lithe-as in emaciated-guy with long hair was a much better way to piss off her suburban Catholic parents, was trying to find me. It was important, not nostalgic shit people use social media for. This involved another friend of ours. The same one who, a week before our ten year reunion, I told I graduated high school so I'd never have to go fucking back there again.

Have I ever mentioned the look someone gets in their eyes when they've been broken? It is another story.

Madness, or that sense of savage curiosity, which has gotten me into all kinds of trouble or been the stuff of grand adventures in the past, seized me and I dialed the alien number my daughter gave. Seeing as I was speaking to a ghost from my past, perhaps an ojai board would've been more appropriate.

I got this long gone friend straight away. We played a slight amount of ketchup, but neither of us were there for foreplay. The other friend, the youngest of the three of us, has been sentenced to cancer. The primary site is the esophagus, but it has metastasized to his liver and lungs.

Fucking perfect...

I have played these games before. Both professionally and personally. He is going to die. It is not going to be pleasant. There might be grand efforts made and glimmers of a fool's hope, but, when it comes down to brass tacks and bedposts, it's not if, it's when. He's only here until he goes.

And so it goes...

The friend and I chatted a bit more. Names were mentioned and a few memories ruminated. We said our farewells with that hollow promise of keeping in touch. Whether a lie or truth is a roll of the bones. Here and now, I question whether or not I'll ever learn how it all goes down. I question whether my curiosity will seize me, and, with a metaphoric ojai board, I will make an effort to speak to this other ghost of my past before he is swallowed by oblivion.

18 April 2014

It's Just Another Day

When it occurred to me that this was to be the first Friday nothing was going on in four weeks, I have to admit I was a bit shocked. No historical presentations, birthdays, free film showings with receptions, or concerts. To have such a day free, which really equates to something of a socially constructed Tuesday in my personal construct seemed a little queer. It didn't last long; Fridays are Fridays, just another day. I have come to appreciate having my free days in the middle of the week.

Weekends, like straw cowboy hats, are for tourists...

It was a lovely spring afternoon. Early sixties; y'know, the Beatles, JFK, and the beginnings of the space race. Well, maybe not so much, but that's what the mercury read in quaint 'Merican degrees on the fahrenheit scale. Outside of professional obligations, nothing was going on and nowhere to be.

I have a friend who once thought that would be a great way to set up some dysfunctional dramatic macabre; nothing going on. No damage control, no comedy, drama, tragedy, irony, agony, ecstasy, or other form of complication. This is the same cat who nightmares about mundanities and rings me up for what he perceives and so names passionate conversation.

One of the grand hypocrisies of my existence is, despite my refusing to allow myself to fall into bordom and endeavoring to live life as a series of grand adventures, I do not do drama or complication. Fuck that noise. If I want drama, I read Shakespeare, and watch French films if I want complication. When such occasions arise, even and especially if someone tries to drag me into it, I go in the general direction of away. Quickly. It is a sad testimony the amount of former friends and lovers I have because of that, but I suppose it's not my fault; I did warn them, and I do not say such things to hear my head rattle.

I came home and put my whore red kettle on the burner. A phone call to my father confirmed my family's not getting together for Easter, which is not overly heartbreaking, if, for no other reason, my heart has no bones. I invited my daughter up for a Sunday dinner of Greek-herbed lamb and potatoes. Maybe one of my bottles of tempranillo I've had squirreled away for a bit. Nothing special, but I'll get to see my girl for the first time in a month.

The brazen hussy of the stovetop began her siren's song and I set my tea to steeping. Out on the porch, I sat down with one of the three books I'm reading presently; the one with a Buddhist monk and an astrophysicist discussing quantum mechanics and impermanence. A little light reading on a warm spring day with a cup of young green hyson tea.

Clouds started to roll in and the breeze kicked up. Omens of a minor disturbance, which may bring rain to our Sahel below ten-thousand feet for the first time this year. Reaching a stopping point, I headed indoors. Jazz was on the radio. My daughter set us up a Netflix profile and I've been slowly reacquainting myself with the rollicking adventures of Farscape.

A little later, I'll start up pizza crust. See, Friday night is pizza night at the House of Owls and Bats. That factor makes the day remarkable, I suppose. Otherwise, it'd be just another day.    

15 April 2014

Runoff Omens Under a Bleeding Moon

I have mentioned I am not as nocturnal as I once was. Sometimes, I think this is one of the more major paradigm shifts since coming to the mountains. Our Sahel is not know for its thriving nightlife, which is fine. I lived somewhere that did, and I didn't leave anything back there of which I'd want to retrieve. It was another time, another world, another life.

Once I stopped dancing with dead for money and commuting down below on what was second shift, my idea of staying up late changed radically. Here, there's far more to do when the sun's out than not. Sleeping all day would denote illness.

But there was the matter of the eclipse. The first of four in the span of a year. I'm enough of geek that I wasn't going to miss it. The sky was clear and there was little wind. Initially, we were going to drive up to the top of Loveland and take in the event from the Roof of the World. I decided I wanted to catnap and there's not much light pollution around the house, being closer to the edge of town.

We had blood orange sorbet with chocolate-a mere trifle-and glasses of red wine. Listened to music and read. I'd shut my eyes for a bit and then rouse to peep outside, watching the moon slowly be devoured by the world's shadow. The last time, I remember catching a nostalgic tune from the band Junkyard on the radio before heading out-I was sixteen again for a few minutes, so it goes. It was the apogee, and the moon shown the countenance of dried blood. This was fantastic.


Letting the hounds out in the morning was done on autopilot. No shock there, given when I stumbled to bed. It was after ten when I finally got up, got up. I brewed Japanese tea to start my day. Whilst my abstracted sense of time felt slightly off, I was well-rested.

Running the Bull's Head was the wander of the day. Something to keep my hiking legs about me. At the ruins of the Diamond Mine, I noted how much snow was gone, how vigorous the runoff from seeps and streams. An omen of things to come. The sound of rushing water becoming much more of backbeat to the mountain symphony as the spring continues to unfold.

This is the time of year when those outback places I like to go are a little more difficult to reach with the freeze and thaw and undercurrent of early runoff. It can be done, but I tend to give those locals their peace and reacquaint myself with the trails near home, seeing how winter snow and spring melt has shaped things and sing this erosion to me. I itch to wander to tundra where there's no phone signal and even less people and the see wild flowers and feel the alpine sun on my face, but know it's just a little bit longer.

It's a mild day, and perhaps it'll be a mild night. There's the historical society meeting and I'm making Cuban for supper. The moon will have cauterized its umbral wounds and will be looking down as a silvery eye, warmer than it was even a month ago. Maybe after dinner we'll go for a walk, just around town or to the abandoned quarry just beyond the western end. It could be in that ebony and silver silence we'll hear the soft discordant humming of running water. The prelude song of runoff.        

08 April 2014

Cement Snow

A few days back, one of my neighbors was going on about how sick he was of snow. Sure, it's gay and fine in December, January, and February, but he was ready for hummingbirds and fishing. Soft heavy flakes were wafting down upon the mountain winds at the time.

Shortly after that, another neighbor mentioned how he didn't mind the snow this time of year. It was warm and didn't hang around all that long. The sloppiness of mud as a backlash was just what you deal with up here this time of year.

Unless it snows a foot the night before and is relatively cool the day after, the snow is not so good for snowshoeing. Even up high. It's a matter of ambient air temperature and solar radiation. The snow is soft in the morning on and crust by afternoon. Cement snow, as a buddy of mine calls it, and, love him as I do, I think that's being diplomatic.

Part of the magic and mystery and coo-coo-ka-chu of where I live is the amount of trails just within walking distance of home. The county's bastions of civilization-and that's taking a whole lot for granted-are surrounded by either national forest or wilderness area. My Kashmir is nicknamed Sahel within the walls of my skull because of its borderland aspect; front range and High Country, past and present, settled and wild. Walking a couple miles from my door, and, boom!, Backcountry. No phone signal and a way to disappear into the ether, either, and or if I so wanted. A man could lose himself in place like this. A man could find himself. Local apocrypha speaks to both happening.

Ain't that the way?

It was that deep cement snow to reach the ruins. Another bit, more snow, and vertiginous narrows, and I'd have crossed that Backcountry border, wandering into our outback. I sometimes parallel our mining ruins as the closest we get to the antiquities of Egypt, Greece, or Cambodia. Accepting the ancient cliff-dwellings, of course. As a documentary film maker I met the other night expressed, out east, nothing is completely abandoned. Here, in the American Maghreb there lie the bones of whole towns and civilizations. Stories kept silent unless you know how to listen.

I took in the view; grand peaks and town just below. A and I fucking live here! moment. I was only going as far as I could in soaked and mud-encrusted boots and gaiters. That's only as far as I wanted to go. Some of my most profound walkabouts are the ones with no set destination or even mileage. The other secrets and mysteries further out will still be waiting for me. Their phantasmal whispers tease my ears and ruffle my hair in the mountain breezes. Sooner or later. I have time and relentless curiosity.       

02 April 2014

Sitting in Judgment

I have often said the anarchy pin on my fine pinstripe jacket and the Free Tibet sticker on Old Scratch is the closest to I come to advertising my politics. Sometimes, I say my feelings on the subject can be summed up in the lyrics of a Queensryche song;

"Got no love for politicians
or that crazy scene in D.C.,
It's just a power mad town...
Who do you trust
When everyone's a crook?"

I've yet to decide if it's funny, cool, tragic, or outright horrifying that the song, twenty-five years after its release, is still relevant...

In town, it is joked that the government, even especially being mayor, is under the auspice of it's your turn-a fine and ideal form of democracy. Sabina will try to enrage me by saying saying I'll be mayor in a few years, and my reaction is generally sponsored by the letter fuck. Other times-when in the company of a lady and sometimes children-I am slightly more civil.

"My grandparents were the politicians."

One of my neighbors once took umbrage to my remark about politicians, but he was also running for town board. He said it was a matter of community. I bought him a drink and broke it down so we were friends again.

"I'm on the historical board, the museum committee, with your wife, and I'll be sitting in judgment at the election. I'm plenty involved in the community."

This coming from someone who does not consider themselves a joiner...

I was going to be all Northern Exposure-like for the gig, wearing my marrying, burying, and melodrama outfit, Just in case the shock and awe of my slumming the Hamill House had worn off. There were two problems with this, the first of which being I can only play dress-up for so long before I am wanting to flay my own skin off. Then there's matter of that anarchy pin, and one cannot be politicking at the polling place.

So I wore a Thai-print t-shirt with an effigy of Kuan Yin and a flannel. The bandanna I had on my head complemented the outfit nicely. I almost wore my Bad Brains t-shirt instead-the previous election it had been the Beatles-but given it was an image of their debut album cover, it could be taken as political.

Again, that whole politicking thing...

I do not consider myself judgmental in the slightest. Yet, every couple of years I catch myself sitting in judgment. Over politics, no less. Perhaps my hypocrisy knows no bounds. Then again, I've heard it said hypocrisy is the lubricant of political intercourse. The same could be said of institutionalized religion and corporations.

We were fed and played rummy in between voters. By default and the same maniacal cosmic humor which allowed for the giraffe and platypus, I was the head judge. It was a decent turn out for a town of roughly two-hundred, excluding squatters, dogs, and the ravens. My neighbor held an election party afterward, and, in a different show of civic duty, we rescued wine trapped in several bottles.

Hey, we saved the day...

Board members and the new mayor were congratulated and given condolences. The three of us who served as election judges were also thanked for our day-long penance. Another my neighbors told me she thought I did a lot around town and that made her happy. It made me feel kind of cool, given how misanthropic I can be. I made it home to sleep the sleep of the just, or the dead-one and the same. After all, sitting in judgment, even if it's only every two years, is rather exhausting.