Friday, October 30, 2009

Walk #303: On Call Walking....

Down to the Napa Valley for work. After completing my shift, I took a lovely Fall walk on Bale Lane. One of my favorite short walks. The Napa Valley is stunningly beautiful this time of the year. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera. No photos this work cycle.

I'm one of the last people in the United States who doesn't have a cell phone. I used to have one, but Joni and I got rid of them: They didn't work up at our cabin.

I'm also pretty resistant to technological change. I was a late convert to the personal computer. A late convert to the Internet and also to "high speed" Internet. I still don't own a lap top.

Not owning a cell phone complicates things because I was "on call" while walking today. I had to make sure I got to a phone within one hour to call in to work to see if they had called me back to work. They hadn't.

Being "on call" is a gruesome thing. It reminds me of watching a cooking show on TV, without being able to smell or taste the food. Being "on call" means you really aren't working but your head isn't in your own recreation time either. At least my mind doesn't ever get there. I worry about missing a phone call. Or a beep on a pager (which I had to carry when I worked for the State of Nevada). Being on call is purgatory. It is like sitting in a room waiting to disappear as in Sartre's "No Exit".

One reason to not own a cell phone is a crackpot theory that the "honey bee collapse" is caused by cell phones. Some studies came out a couple years ago showing some evidence of this. Since then, that research line has been abandoned. I find it interesting that the honey bee collapse does coincide-- time line wise--with the wide spread use of cell phones.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Walk # 302: Score One For The Deer!!--the Butte County 2030 Plan

Took my walk earlier this morning, reflecting on a Butte County General Plan 2030 meeting that I attended last night. Seems that Concow/Yankee Hill residents are in an uproar over the County General Plan--which changes most of this wilderness area from "Foothills Recreation" status to "Foothills Conservation" status.

Essentially, the County plan is for "no growth" for the Foothills. Hooray!

Others don't see it that way. Changing to a "conservation status" means that new lot sizes need to be at least 20 acres. If not 40. Much of the higher elevations got "timberland conservation" status, which means parcels need to be sold in 120 acre bits.

On top of this, there is a "deer migratory overlay" which affects lot status. The deer migrate from the higher elevations to the Foothills in the winter. In fact, my 3 acres is in "critical winter migratory habitat"--which means that no more lots will be sold less than 20 to 40 acres. That prices most folks out of the Foothills market. Existing lots are exempt.

Given that we are in critical deer migratory habitat, my neighbors who have surrounded their 3-5 acres with Dachau type fences (like the photo above), are building against the spirit of the region. They restrict movement and browsing of the deer.

Back to the meeting. Seventy Five pissed off people. Not the grungy rednecks I expected, but the pot-bellied landowner class showed up. They are against the provisions of subdividing their property. One Rancher got up to talk about how his family has owned his property since 1900. He read a statement against the "Migratory Deer Overlay" stating that the deer population are dwindling because of the Endangered Species Act...and that we have too many bear and mountain lion in this area.

The Auditorium erupted in applause. Except me. I hollered out "How many parcels are you planning on selling from your property?". Silence.

I'm not amongst friendlies....better keep my mouth shut.

Another elderly lady asked: "Why do we need the deer?".

I didn't keep my mouth shut--and hollered out: "The deer were here first". I am quickly becoming persona-non-grata in this auditorium. The people sitting next to me move a couple of seats away. A landowner in a baseball cap stares at me with menace in his eyes.

After the meeting I talked with a couple of folks who like the deer overlay, and saw the whole thing as a paranoid reactionary uprising by disgruntled landowners. "That is why I moved here--to have my 20 acres of deer habitat", one thirty something female told me.

In this case, the deer are winning over property rights. Hooray for Butte County!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Walk #301: School Buses and Afghanistan

42 degrees Fahrenheit in my bedroom when I woke up this morning. Someday I'm gonna have all the walls up and a wood stove to warm me. Hopefully, within a few weeks (the wood stove is on order and will be installed next week--I hope!). Cold here today.

So I walked the other direction. Past the neighbor's turkeys. Down the hill to where the bus stop used to be for the girls'. I say "used to be" because the school district cut our bus service this year. They also cut the after school program.

The cardinal rule with school budget cuts is to affect the fewest kids possible. So the eight or nine kids who live on our Ridge, and further up the mountain where the Rastafarian Commune is, have their bus service stopped.

And the after school program? Since we have the smallest elementary school, ours got cut. Never mind that the Concow school district has the poorest kids, the most "at risk" kids and with parents that (if they are lucky enough to have a job) travel the furthest to get a greenback or two.

Meanwhile, it costs $800,000 to send one soldier to Afghanistan. Bring one soldier home and we could fund the school bus service, fund the after school program and create bus service to Paradise, Chico and Oroville. With much money left over for funding other Concows through out this land.

Empires collapse from within. The poor and the vulnerable are the first casualties.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Walk #300: Wow...

Walk Number Three Hundred! Wow...

Ran into a neighbor on my walk who invited me to a meeting tomorrow night. Seems that the County is getting all the Concowians stirred up by enforcing zoning laws. People who live out here want to have the freedom to do what they want with their property. They certainly don't want any County person to come in and tell them otherwise.

Democracy in action! At issue is the size of lots sold. The County wants them to be 40 acres or greater. Also at issue is a ban on agricultural production. Of course, this is targeted at all the pot growers which comprises the major revenue stream for this area. They also are considering a ban on wood burning stoves.

On the lot size, I'm all for the forty acre ban. Frankly, I think we need a moratorium on land purchases out here (now that I have my three acres).

The meeting with the County Supervisors should be quite interesting, if only to people watch. See what crawls out of the woods...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Walk #299: Bees, Ghouls, Corpses and Foreign Policy

Home to Concow. Picked up the girls at school. They were quite proud to show me a macarbe scene for Halloween. A pumpkin head will finish the corpse.

And a walk, cut short by a swarm of bees. Aggressive little fellers. I don't know if we have killer bees yet here in Concow, but these bees were quite aggressive. Even Angel wouldn't go too close to the oak tree that holds the hive (which you can see if you look at the photo closely).

So Angel and I turned around and went back to the Homestead, where a string of Ghouls enchants the entrance to our house.

Pushed the wrong button and ended up loading another photo of the bees. Danger.

I got hit by a large male client yesterday. He hit me with a closed fist on the side of the head. Hard. Rang my bell for a few minutes.

I liked my reaction though: I just told him "No" and didn't reflexively strike back. I got out of the way.

On a larger scale, I wonder if such reactions to violence aren't more successful? Just say No! Get out of the way. Be safe. Spending trillions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan out of revenge for a horrible act on 9/11, ultimately, is as counter productive as striking a Client who struck me.

Danger. These bees are dangerous. I shall give them a wide berth. Perhaps our foreign policy should do the same?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Walks #296 and #297: Every EcoSocialist Has His Price

Joni and I were talking this afternoon, trying to figure out how to buy some supplies and how to pay a Handyman we hired. I ended up telling her: "If we build it, the money will come".

I walked inside the cabin to call the Handyman to arrange a meeting. A message bleeped in my ear, so I checked it.

Call work. I did.

"Hi Allan, we are uncomfortable with the inexperienced staff we have working this weekend, so we would like to offer you a bonus if you would work a double on Saturday and Sunday", the Hospital Staffer said. "You will get the normal time and a half and double time--plus an extra bonus".

"How much of a bonus?", I said.

The bonus was enough to force me to drive the three and a half hours to the Napa Valley. My walks tomorrow and Sunday will be on the Unit (given my rules). Work a double shift--no walk.

Assuming I survive the next couple of days, the money has come to get the Handyman to complete what I am too darned inept to do.

"If you build it, the money will come". Every EcoSocialist has his price.

Walk #295: Fall is the New Spring...

Back at my Foothills home, new life emerges. Angel the dog, and my achy legs head out for a short walk. I've been away for one week, and it is like returning to a new home.

Green emerging everywhere!

This confounds my Minnesota sensibilities. Fall should mean leaves turning brilliant colors and dropping to the ground. Death. Not here. The only thing that falls are acorns (which are dropping quite frequently).

No. Fall in the Foothills means a new color. The browns and reds and tans give way to green. Tiny green shoots. Green grass. The hills start looking lush. More like Spring than Fall.

I've been walking this road through the four seasons: Winter (endless rain); Spring (flowers!); Summer (intense heat and brown dryness); And now Fall (new life and shimmering green).

Pick a favorite, Allan? Winter sucks (the only good thing about it is that you can have an occasional campfire without worrying about burning up the entire State of California). Spring is wonderful. Summer has it's own charms with the evening breeze that blows down from the Sierra.

But I'd have to say Fall is my favorite. It is still warm. There is moisture in the air. The return of the color green gives your eyes a break from surveying tan and brown. Perfect hiking weather. We should have a few more weeks of joy until the winter rains begin.

Walk #294: Return to the Homestead...

Drove back across California last night to my home. My legs haven't really recovered from that long stretch of double shifts I worked. They ache. That was just too much time on my feet, in crappy shoes, on a hard floor.

So I took the day off. Hated to do it, but wisdom dictates rest now and then. Not that walking is anything quite so strenuous--but being on your feet for four days in a row is. Gotta rest...

California is turning green. The photo above shows green grass coming to life. On my drive yesterday, it was exciting to see the green emerge. I also came across a herd of tule elk where I have never seen elk before. Magnificent beasts...

I have a week off now. On my list of things to do is to (finally) buy some supportive work shoes. We have also hired a carpenter to help me finish off the last wall that needs to be built, add two exterior doors (and put in a wood stove). I'm just not smart enough to figure out how to do this (and winter is fast approaching). At long last, this Addition we are building just might be usable this winter.

This should be a fun week!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Walk #293: Walking as Therapy

I'm still in the Napa Valley. I was asked to do a couple extra days, putting on my Utilization Review Hat. Today's walk was a bit different.

I snuck out of the office and did something which has become rarer and rarer on our Mental Health Unit: I took a walk with a few Clients.

Cutbacks have led to the near elimination of our "Creative Therapy" department. One of the things we do on our Unit, that almost no one else does in the United States, is that we take walks--in nature--with our clients.

I am often told that "the walks" are the most enjoyable and beneficial part of a Client's stay. They love it!

Most therapy is done sitting down. In a comfy chair--while some over educated, under experienced, bookish believer in some therapy model (Jungian, Freudian, Cognitive, Transactional, Transpersonal, Transcendental, etc. etc.) listens.

Better to take a walk. Watch a Stellar Jay fly by. Talk about the Century Plant that bloomed last year and died (which they do after years of growing, once they bloom only once). Take a walk with a wise person and lives are changed.

Have a problem? Take a walk with someone. That, I believe, is the best therapy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Walk #292: A Scab Visit to Charles Krug...

Aching from four days of hard work, I walked to Charles Krug Winery.

This Winery was the first one in California. Started in 1861, it became quite famous when the Mondavi Family took over in the 1890's. The eldest Mondavi bought the place after moving from Minnesota. Family feuds and intrigue plague this family enterprise. It became a battle of two sons: Peter, who retained the Charles Krug Winery (and at 95 years of age still lives on the property); and Robert, who split with his brother and founded the billion dollar enterprise of Charles Mondavi Wineries. Word has it they didn't talk to each other very much.

Blood is thinner than Wine.

I hesitated to visit Charles Krug due to its shameful breaking of a contract with the United Farm Workers a few years ago. Still, I wanted to see some history and the historic buildings.

I flash my hospital badge and get a free tasting. A couple from Minnesota share the tasting bar with me. They are from Duluth (a city that I lived in for a couple of tortured years). We talk about Duluth. They get the premium tasting; I get the non-premium (albeit free) tasting.

The wine is good. The person pouring the wine is knowledgeable and friendly. As is my custom, I buy a bottle in exchange for the free tasting. Then, I ask THE QUESTION:

"How are your labor problems?"

The Server mumbles: "Oh they were done eight or nine years ago; things are good now". (Actually, it was in 2006 that the Union was fired from the grounds, and36 loyal employees--some with thirty years of experience--were put out to pasture. )

The Server walks away quickly. This is not question that is welcome at this Winery. The Minnesota couple had not heard of the firing of the UFW. Nor did they care.

Back in my room, the Zinfandel didn't taste as good as it did in the winery. I wish I hadn't purchased it. It tasted like shameful greed in a bottle.

Walks #288-291: Four Doubles...

Sorry about that.

When opportunity knocks, one should capitalize. So when given the opportunity to make an obscene amount of money by working my fanny off, well, count me in.

Four doubles. Four days. Given my rules (no walks on 16 1/2 hour shift days), there is nothing to report.

Thoughts. How to survive a double as a nurse?

First off, consider the time spent as time amongst friends.

Secondly, pace yourself. You have all day to get that charting done.

Thirdly, get most of the "busy" work done early (which goes against the second rule).

Fourthly, remember rule number one.

Fifthly, when the day is done, don't fret about getting to sleep right away. Unwind. Yes, I know it is only a few hours before the next shift, but time to relax is needed. I stayed up until one am watching a JFK special. Another night I staye up reading John Muir. I needed to do that, despite the four hours of sleep it led to. You can sleep when the stint is done. Which is what I will do now...



Thursday, October 15, 2009

Walk #287: In Defense of Green Piety and Blog Action Day

Explosions on the Ridge this morning. I get out my walking stick and venture out to seek that which has blown up. I walk. Three neighbors, in their jeeps and pick up trucks, are also on patrol for the offending boom.

Explosions like this have a history on the Ridge. And mortality. They tend to be propane tanks exploding due to faulty "do it yourselfism". I had a plumber set up our propane tank, knowing the history of death on the Ridge (yes, one poor Soul got killed when his tank blew up).

It isn't what you know that will kill you; it is what you don't know.

We never found what was exploding. Our suspicion is that they are blowing up trees that are plugging the Feather River in the canyon. Four explosions thus far.

9,000 bloggers are writing about "Climate Change" today. You can follow some of the posts here.
I have nothing really new to write about this. But what does interest me is popular culture and Green Piety.

I come from good ole Norwegian, Haugian, Pious stock. Most of the piety revolves around a few no no's. Don't drink. Don't gamble. Don't swear. I remember going to see a movie with my Lutheran Pastor brother, and while I enjoyed the flick, he was upset about the nudity. He felt it sent the wrong message to teenagers. Since I was much closer to being a teenager at the time, I enjoyed the skin! A pox on my brother's piety!

But what about the new Green Piety? Those who religiously recycle, don't buy plastic, drink local beer, take the bus to work, eat organic, buy local products, attend Farmer's Markets, ride their bicycles for errands (Yeah Ian!), drive a Prius, take a walk everyday, have a Luddian world view, put solar panels on their roofs, go to the library, join the Sierra Club, buy books from New Society Press, live "off the grid", build natural houses, subscribe to Yes! Magazine, get degrees in Environmental Studies, buy 7th Generation detergents, read Ed Abbey and H.D. Thoreau, write an environmental blog and are nearly Pharisaic in their approach to the new Green Commandments.

We all know a few of these folks. Are they crazy? Is this Piety healthy?

My argument would be a resounding "YES!" (to both the crazy and healthy part). Despite our hypocrisies (after I finish writing this, I will be heading out in my car to drive the twice monthly 165 miles to work).

All new religions start with Piety. This Green Movement, no matter how corrupted by Corporations that seek to appeal to our inner do-gooder, needs to grow. It needs to become our New Religion. Enough of the "treasure in heaven"; we need to see the "treasure" that is the Earth. Blog Action Days help the matter by getting us all to think about the same thing: In this case, "Climate Change".

Piety is the precursor of Cultural Change. Cultural Change is the precursor to all the good things which might interrupt Climate Change. When a few people lead, the rest just might follow...may this Blog Action Day help pave the way.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Walk #286: Bulldozers...

A reader of this blog wrote me a few months ago about the proper way to disable a bulldozer. He found that aquarium sand, in the crank case, works the best. This fellah lives in a beautiful area that is being developed. He considered such actions a moral imperative.

I didn't disable this bulldozer on my walk. I don't know what the owner's intentions are--other than to clear off some manzanita. Seems to me the proper way to clear brush is with a saw.

The storm is passed. We survived. The mud on the house didn't melt away.

Tomorrow is a blogger event (see the little bug to the right that leads to a link). Some 7,000 plus bloggers are going to write about climate change. I got invited by an organisation to write an entry for them on the impact of climate change on "humans". I respectfully declined.

In the United States, the human impact thus far has been negligible. However, the Grizzly in Montana are in danger of going extinct because of climate change. Also, Moose in northern Minnesota have suffered huge reductions in their numbers due to climate change. The impact, thus far, has been on our non-human cousins.

But tomorrow, I will write about climate change (as will thousands of others). I'm no expert. I've read McKibben; saw Gore's movie; read Lovelock. I accept climate change is real. And dangerous. And caused by human activity.

Which leads me back to the bulldozer...and my entry for tomorrow. First, I have to take that walk...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Walk #285: Swaying Like John Muir

A Ponderosa pine swaying in the wind....

I once read a passage by the ecstatic, skinny John Muir, where he rides out a storm in the top of a Ponderosa Pine. Swaying in the rain. John Muir was probably safer in his tree than I was walking the ridge today.

We are in the midst of a two day storm. Winds, I'm told, have been gusting to 55 mph. Drenching rain. I had a hard time coaxing Angel (my dog) to accompany me. She looked at me as if to say: "You have absolutely no common sense, oh master of mine". I grabbed a bit of Jim Beam to take along with me. Warmth.

I couldn't find my rain coat either. So it is hypothermic cotton to wrap my body with. And a stocking cap.

The winds howled. I kept close watch on the trees around me. It isn't the Ponderosa pines I'm worried about; they seem to do fine in the wind. It is those silly Oaks. They don't have the sense to grow straight. Miserable widow makers.

I think to myself, "I wonder how much time it takes from when you hear the crack of the bark until the trunk of the tree ends your life"? I decide that it would be just enough time to startle you before you start your trip to the other side.

I only take one photo. It is too wet to take photos.

When I return to the Cabin, my dog runs in circles. Joyful, she is, to be home. I don't know if she should feel such joy. After all, I built this Cabin. And it is being banged about by 55 mph winds.

John Muir rode his tree through the storm; I ride my Cabin. And so it blows....

Monday, October 12, 2009

Walks #283 and #284: Do Something Stupid...

Time for just a few short "Lollipop" walks over the last couple of days. With the dog. The major push has been on the house--dreaming that someday we will have all walls enclosed.

For motivation to walk, I reread Ed Abbey's "A Walk in the Desert Hills" last night. This can be found in his collection of essays: Beyond The Wall. Essentially, Ed decides to take a walk across 120 miles of desert, not knowing if there would be water in the tinajas (natural basins that capture rain water) and wells, out of shape, musing about grandiose thoughts while dealing with blisters. An impulsive and stupid thing to do. And in an age before cell phones, potentially fatal. Which is why I like it.

Sort of like trying to build a house out of natural materials. Without know how. Without enough money. Without proper tools. Without common sense.

It is the impulsive and stupid things we do, I think, that often brings us our most joy and sense of mastery. Go out and do something stupid today, I say... (just don't get yourself killed while doing it).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Walks #281 and #282: Mud

Mostly multiple short walks with the dog while taking a break from making mud. The mud is used as plaster and goes on to this house I'm trying to build.

Thoughts while building this thing? Why do we consider Afghanistan to be a uncivilised nation-- when I see photos of the place, all the buildings are sustainably built and look like what I am trying to build? Does this mean I am uncivilised? Or must every thing come from Home Depot in order for it to be acceptable and modern?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Walk #280: The Concow Fire...

Yesterday, I took a walk down to the bowl that holds the rural area of Concow. The first night Joni and I moved in to our Solar Homestead (the summer of 2008), we were awakened at 6 am by the ever helpful police, and told to evacuate.

A firestorm was on its way...and from the Red Cross shelter, Joni and I could follow the fire on CNN and various other news outlets. We spent a few days in the shelter. Joni was interviewed for the local TV station, with a dramatic story of a Family That Spends One Night In Their New Home And Then Watches Anxiously As Their New Life Goes Up In Flames.

I was interviwed by National Fox Radio, and told the Reporter that if the fire takes our home, so be it. It is normal and natural for the environment.

I haven't been down to this part of Concow since the fire. I didn't feel right taking pictures of the devastation. The photo above shows a logged portion; I didn't feel right taking photos of houses that had been burned. Nor did I feel right about taking pictures of people living in travel trailers where their houses had once been. Survivor guilt?

Joni and I survived the fire. 205 houses burned; 4 0f 10 houses on our ridge burned.

This is a poor, rural area and most of those who had homes here didn't have homeowners insurance. Most of the homes are owner built. I have been told that only one house has been rebuilt thus far...but that didn't match what I observed.

What I did see was a number of modular homes going in. Plus lots of trailers. Ugly metal coffin-like homes, that stand out all the more within the logged, cleared areas.

There has been a push to allow homeowners to use their own trees and natural construction to build homes. However, I haven't seen anybody attempting to do this due to the complications of permits and lack of know how.

It takes money to build a home the way a county wants you to build one. You have to consult with architects, get loans and permits and do every thing on the up and up. The last thing a Concowian wants is to draw attention to themselves; most are highly suspicious of any sort of Government official

So instead, ugly metal trailers are brought in. Modular units are quickly put up. And life goes on.

The Concow Fire was a stand replacing fire. A dreaded Crown Fire that jumps from the tops of trees. 35,000 acres burned. It is a cash cow for the local lumber companies that have been mining the trees. Salvage Logging.

Of course, this is a natural occurrence. California needs to burn. It is right and natural: a risk you take when you choose to live in such an area. My argument would be, that if you choose to live here, do so by using local materials that are fire resistant and easily, and cheaply, replaced. Use Cob, Strawbales and local timbers. Create defensive space. Then sit back and let the fires go...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Walk #279: On Being a Sloth

The first day back from a long run at work, I usually do what I really was meant to do in life: nothing. I'm good at it.

I took a couple of short walks with my dog (who begged to go much farther). We didn't.

Instead I caught up on the news. Watched the Twins lose. And rested...probably be reincarnated next time around as a Sloth.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Walks #277 and #278: Those Old Work Shoes...

Sometimes the Universe conspires for you; sometimes things go the other way. Both are good.

I'd spent most of the last week working shifts my body wasn't used to. I also worked some extra shifts. Then I stayed out much too late and ended up behaving like a self-righteous ass.

Then a double. And the awful double back on not enough sleep. Sleep deprivation. Then the clientele shifted to be the sort that keeps you on your feet for an entire shift.

Time to rally. I did, but it took its toll. My work shoes (which I have been wearing for years) were inadequate to keep my feet and legs from being beat up by the hard floors of the hospital. My legs ached after this run.

Time for new work shoes.

I took one short walk behind the library in St. Helena on Monday night. Then back to the Monastic Dorm to watch Bret Favre work his magic against his former team.

Being in the upper stratosphere of my 40's, I have come to enjoy those who are considered too old to work their profession. Watching Favre was every middle aged man's dream.

On Tuesday I took a short walk in a park on my way back to the Solar Homestead. Legs and feet aching from the pounding they had experienced during this marathon work session. Enough.

Time for a nine day break from the Psych Mills. No extra shifts for me.

I was greeted happily last night by the Girls: Jazzy, Kylie, Joni and Angel the dog. Four good reasons to get your feet and legs beat up...

And in addition: The Minnesota Twins won the Division!! This felt like redemption for me. The Universe takes yet another turn...

By the way, some photos have been added to previous posts. I am caught up!

Walk #276: The Double...

After an evening of revelry and a bit too much of family confrontation on my part, I toiled through a double shift. Sixteen hours of work after being out a bit too late the night before.

I considered it penance. Mea Culpa. Mea Culpa.

Walk #275: Looking For Redford...

Saturday. Joni drove down to Napa, joined her brother (visiting from the East Coast) and picked me up after work. We all took a walk on Bennett Lane. Looking for Redford.

To no avail. We did manage to pick up a couple bottles of wine, some stinky cheese and olives and had a pre-meal picnic.

Joni and I don't get out much. Sequestered mostly in our mountain hideaway, we took advantage of a semi-child free evening. I ended up having much too big of a mouth--and turned into the brother-in-law from hell.

Apologies to be offered...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Will Catch Up...

Been working and getting into various forms of trouble. I shall catch up on the lurid and seedy details of walks and adventures when I have finished this long stretch of workaholism (and my penance). Cheers!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Walk #274: Lodi Lane, Markham Vineyards and Ken Burns

Due to a drop in the unit census (Hooray !), I didn't work a double. I took the time in the afternoon to walk Lodi Lane.

Lodi Lane is yet another inter sector of the Napa Valley. It starts on one side with Duckhorn Winery. I've been there before so I didn't stop in.

Instead I walked the road, admiring the trash along the way; Garbage bags filled with kids stuff. Someone had literally thrown out their television. This is an argument for socialised garbage service. If people have to pay to dispose of their stuff, they will deposit it any place they can. Usually along a road (being stupid, lazy and cheap). Arlo Guthrie admitted as much in his Alice's Restaurant. At least he was made to pick up the garbage.

At the end of Lodi Lane lies Markham Vineyards. One of the older wineries in the Napa Valley, I duck in to admire their photo collection of 60's Rockers. There they are: Jerry Garcia, Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan amongst others.

The wine (and I am a winery critic now) is decent. I pull out my hospital badge and they give me the bare minimum tasting (for free!). The Wine Pourer had to go to the back, off limits area, to see if she could give me the tasting for free. She returns. I share the tasting area with women dressed up in dresses.

Women must enjoy wine more than men, because every winery I drop in on has scads of women dressed to the hilt--out wine tasting. Women out number men 8 to 1. If there are men there, they are the normal nerdish, wimpy herd with Ralph Lauren shirts on and testosterone deficiencies. Real men like beer.

Except me (I am a nerd, but usually don't wear the attire of one). I like this wine. The Sauvignon Blanc was tasty. They hold their whites off the market longer than most (the newest being a 2007). They believe in letting the wine age in the bottle. Good choice.

Their Merlot was quite good too. "We are known for our Merlots" the host tells me. Her service could have been better...but why waste time on a free tasting? On a patron who is sweaty and looks like Micheal Moore? I can't blame her for keeping her distance.

Their Cab was watery and bland. Nothing special.

I buy a reasonably priced Sauvignon Blanc and head on my way. Markham wine is worth checking out. And the winery is beautiful...housed in a building built in 1879. Two thumbs up.


I've watched most of Ken Burns' documentary on the National Parks. Impressions? Burns thinks Wallace Stegner and Terry Tempest Williams are cool. He ignores Ed Abbey. He loves nepotism. David Brower gets a slight nod of approval.

My impression? Mixed. Wallace Stegner is, and always will be, cool. Terry Tempest Williams is a sell out. In danger of becoming a New Age Flake and a money grubber (I refused to pay twenty buck earlier this spring to hear her talk). Nepotism mostly sucks.

Ken Burns is better at the history of dead people. When it comes to current movements and issues, he becomes a bland eunuch to mealy mouthiness. A dweeb.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Walk #273: Morning in the Napa Valley

Worked a "swing" shift last night. I've been trying to watch the National Park Series on PBS every evening. Last night I had the unenviable job of attempting to get 18 Schizophrenics and Manics to watch the show. Didn't work.

At midnight, in my room in the Monastic Dorm, they replayed it--and I was able to catch part four.

I'm working another Swing shift today (the 3 to 11pm shift) so I took my walk this morning. Bale Lane again. While walking, I thought about the PBS special.

This National Park Series just might bring about a re-awakening of the American Consciousness. Combine that with Michael Moore's new movie on Capitalism--and we just might have a one-two punch of reevaluating our economic and environmental lives. I haven't seen Michael Moore's film yet. But from Ken Burns' National Parks the theme I take away from it is one of : RESPECT.

We all live in a Park. The whole Earth is a Park. We never left the Garden (Park?) of Eden. Where ever we are, that is our Park. Respect it.

The National Park Series motivates me to see my surroundings as a Park. As such, I have decided to add "tidying up a bit" to my walks. So I pick up a piece of trash or two while walking. Not a big thing; but it shows some respect for the Earth.

p.s. As always when in the Napa Valley--photos will be added when I return to the Solar Compound.