Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Days 241-242: Mornings Free...

Well, I'm in the Napa Valley--trying to get used to a new job and new hours. My mornings are free now. I keep thinking to myself: "Allan, it'd be good for you to start running". Inertia takes over. I go for a walk instead.

Mostly I go down to a vineyard that I like to walk through. I spent time watching a jackrabbit today; didn't bring the camera. The grapes on the vines are struggling. While the rest of the nation swelters in heat, the Napa Valley has experienced an unusually cold and foggy summer. The grapes are late in developing--and there's much angst amongst the people who grow grapes. This might be a bad year for wine. Or the weirdness of it might make some unusual wines. We won't know for another year for the whites; two to three years for the reds.

New job; new hours: a stress to the body. Stressful for the psyche'. Walks are good. Running might just be better to work out some of this stress.

And the feature, you might ask? I got exactly one e-mail regarding it (so far); a not too friendly one too. A reader took me to task saying that he was local, and he certainly didn't remember any section that one could "fall to their death". He also reminded me that there is water half ways through the 24 mile waterless part (If you leave the trail for a mile or so).

Floods in Pakistan. A hurricane off the East Coast is not behaving properly and might take a tour of the East Coast just in time for Labor Day--ruining many a picnic. Another temperamental Tropical Storm behind the first might add a little insult to the injury. Eaarth, Bill McKibben calls this new planet where unusual weather wreaks havoc with (what used to be) a predictable planet.

With my Appalachian Trail hike at stake: Will we be soggy on that hike if these hurricanes decide to make a visit?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Day 236-240: Changes...

Missed some days there.

The weather turned cold today. The thermometer hasn't even made it up to 68 degrees. Feels like minus 30. We worked on the house a bit yesterday, but mostly, we've been lounging around.

And that piece is in all the news racks in Butte County. Haven't heard much reaction. Old Ed would probably call it a "sitting ovation". I did manage to overhear one person talking about it: They liked it.

And tomorrow I venture forth to the Valley of Napa to start my new job. A new shift. No more getting up early in the morning! Now I shall flitter about the hospital, doing consults and leading a group or two.

So there are changes on the way. I will be away from home a little less, but driving a bit more. And the Appalachian Trail looms in the distance---with perhaps a visit to Barbara Kingsolver's restaurant.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Feature and Cover

"So here’s an exhortation: Dust off that old backpack and go see it! Have an adventure. Use those legs (they’ll remember what to do once you get that pack on your back). Climb down a rung on the food chain. Sleep with a bat! Get the bejeezus scared out of you by a rattler! Traverse some heights. Slip. Slide. Nearly fall. Become a creature again and not just a nurse, office nerd, professor or cog. Go enjoy, on foot, the way we were meant to travel, the wonders of what we call our home."

From my piece in the Chico News Review.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 235: John Denver's Glasses...

Hot today in the Napa Valley. A walk in downtown St. Helena to do some errands.

I've been thinking about John Denver lately. Mainly because I've been listening to too much pop music. Kylie has reached the age where listening to my old John Denver CD's is no longer cool. So now we listen to the pop music radio stations...much of it techno/rapp Crap. The same six or seven songs played ad nauseum, with lyrics like: "I want to be a billionaire, so frickin' bad."

What strikes me about pop music nowadays is just how urban and materialistic it has become. I grew up in the happy 70's when songs about wilderness and campfires dominated the airwaves. We all had those hiking boots and those John Denver vests. And those double John granny glasses: John Denver and John Lennon. Wilderness was a theme. John Denver sang about it; James Taylor; Seals and Crofts sung about hummingbirds. Those of us at the half century mark in age can remember more.

And the 70's were a great time for environmentalism. Alaska became mostly wilderness then. National Parks expanded. People were camping. Hiking. Getting outside. Walking across America. Earth Day was invented! The Endangered Species Act! Clean water! Clean air! Where did it go wrong?

Wilderness is no longer a theme in pop music. Now its mostly about sex (that never dies) and materialism: but there isn't any outdoor sex. It's mostly done inside. On the dance floor. The only thing tribal left in music is the beat. It has become an urban, materialistic puke fest.

I think it all went wrong when John Denver gave up his granny glasses. That was the moment when the Baby Boomers gave up the wilderness commune and moved to the Burbs and the Board Room. JD led us again; led us into vanity. The Baby Boomers launched into a materialism way beyond what they were rebelling against. They became their parents squared. Closets became rooms. SUV's in every driveway. Alternative energy was given up. Houses became monstrous McMansions with itsy, bitsy yards. AC went from being a curiosity to being mandatory. Egalitarianism died. We all wanted our children to be superior. And we talked about having reincarnated "indigo" children with special powers.

We should have seen the dark ages ahead. When John Denver gave up those glasses, he led the way to a vain materialism the world has never known.

What would have happened had he kept those granny glasses? I think he would have started hanging out with Ed Abbey and the Earth Firsters! and would have become much more dangerous. Robert Redford would have become his buddy. Maybe he would have pushed back against the obnoxious materialism of the day. He certainly wouldn't have purchased a really weird plane and plunged to his death in Monterey Bay. He wouldn't have wrecked his Porche (getting his second DUI).

An opportunity lost. And it has a date: November 15, 1983. John Denver's first album cover without glasses. That's the day the Baby Boomers sold out.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Days 233 and 234: Fatigue...

As mentioned, I've been taking it easy. Mostly I work and then find a pretty place to walk a little, but mostly sit and watch a vineyard. Or watch the sunset from the hospital with Stellar jays roaming about.

Been wearing a pedometer at work. Usually I get between 9,000 to 12,000 steps in (one day it was 14,000 steps). That's a lot for an eight hour shift. Working extra, traveling more, having visitors, taking long hikes, the chaos of summer with a nine and ten year old with too much unstructured time, constructing my home: all have left me feeling rather tired. Run down.

So pardon me if I'm a bit lazier for awhile. I need the rest; I still get outside everyday.

I leave for Virginia and the Appalachian Trail on September 8...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Days 231 and 232: Larouchies and Barbies

Off to Napa, yet again. Thursday I drove down and stopped in the small, farming town of Williams. What piqued my curiosity was a petition drive to Impeach Obama. Several large photos of Obama with a Hitler mustache waved in the wind. Quite the curiosity, as several people had stopped. The booth was staffed by Lyndon Larouchites...with several books by their mentor available for sale. When I got there the staffers were whining about hyper-inflation which is just around the corner in their minds.

"Isn't the real danger deflation?" I asked. They looked at me like I was from the moon. A white man in cowboy boots tried to shake my hand for stopping, saying how much he hated Obama. "He's a real socialist!". I grabbed his hand and told him that Obama is no socialist. And by the way, you are shaking somebodies' hand with real socialist tendencies.

Worked Friday. Afterwards Springer had one of his famous barbecues. I showed up with a bottle of the best $4.99 cabernet sauvignon I've ever tasted: Trellis, 2007 Sonoma Valley. If you live close to a Trader Joes, I'd drop in and try a bottle of this stuff. It's as good as a $40 bottle of Cab. It's big. Velvety. Smooth. It has a wonderful nose and is very nuanced. Get a bottle! Get 100 bottles! It's that good.

More on the Trellis. With the bottom falling out of the wine market (and almost every other market), many decent wines are being sold as "second brands". The expensive bottles aren't moving--and rather than drop the price on their elite names, and thereby devaluing their wine, many decent wineries are selling their wine stock to second label companies. If you see a "vinted and bottled by" on the label, it means somebody else made the wine. If the wine says "produced and bottled by", that means the winery on the label actually made that wine. I suspect that Trellis is actually some premium wineries' wine that they just had to get rid of for a very inexpensive price. I'm gonna buy a couple cases of this stuff.

Hunter showed up with three bottles of wine. His goal was to drink the bottles; man-sized flight style. First, the expensive French wine (a chardonnay); then two cheap Chilean bottles (pinot grigio and a sauvignon blanc). We barbecued about two pounds of organic beef with mushrooms, onions and peppers. Warmed up with fresh bread and triple cream brie (from Seattle). I just had a couple glasses of wine and enjoyed the conversation with my buddies. Left after Hunter opened his third bottle.

So I've been taking it easy. Resting a bit. Conserving energy as the Appalachian Trail is just a couple of weeks away.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Days 227 to 230: The Unexpected...

The past few days are a blur. Financial Wolves howling at the door, I picked up some extra shifts.

Just when you think you are getting your head above water, along comes a flood of some kind or another. A flat tire. And other unexpected expenses. It is much easier to spend money than to make money.

So I worked overtime the past few days. Hardly time to spit.

But I must get outside. This blog reminds me of that. If only to take a short walk and watch a sunset. Or admire the grapes in the Napa Valley.

Down to Napa and back. A short walk with the new pup (Abbey) this morning. Then back for another week long stint tomorrow. Too much time away. I'm already homesick.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Days 225 and 226: Clay, Death and Sales

More clay slip work. And we lost one more chicken this morning: down to four now.

I sold a feature to the regional alternative weekly yesterday. With photos. This 3,000 word backpacking piece will be inflicted upon a couple hundred thousand good people of northern California by the end of August. I had a good day yesterday.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 224: One Less Chicken...

After seven straight days of work, back to the Homestead. Angel and I (we left the new pup at home) headed out for a walk to get reacquainted. We discovered a dead mole. Found some bear scat. Nice to be back on this wild Ridge.

And when we got home, Joni told me that one of our six free ranging chickens is gone. Sad news.

These chickens must be getting to be about the right size for whatever critter has decided to eat them. We do know that earlier this afternoon, all six were present and accounted for. Only five returned to their coop. If only I knew Chicken language so that they could tell me what happened.

Dark now. Tomorrow we shall look for forensic evidence. NCIS Concow style.

Day 223: Just Sittin' There...

Went down to my favorite contemplation spot after work to admire a vineyard. Turns out they tore the thing out since the last time I'd been there. Why? Sometimes a mold gets into the vine's roots. Sometimes they just want to change the varietal that is planted in that spot. Either way, it is an expensive proposition because it takes a number of years before the vineyard produces grapes in the quantities needed to make wine.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Day 222: Tomatoes and Revolution

Took my friend on a tour of the Napa Valley. By car. After a fine dinner, I showed her the road that Robert Redford has been seen jogging; then showed her the sunset view from the hospital; followed by a visit to the old Christian Brothers Monastery (which now is a cooking school with the Ace of Cakes guy as a graduate). We then traipsed down to Yountville to show her where The French Laundry is. We admired the glitzy cars parked in their exclusive parking lot.

Rubber necking the haunts of the Rich and Famous. An exercise in triteness.

Of course, all of this is possible because the good people of the Napa Valley decided back in the 1960's to create an "agricultural preserve". They chose to limit their growth. Up valley they had the foresight to have a "no chains" clause---so you won't see a fast food restaurant. Along comes 1976 and the great Paris Tasting, when American wines beat the French, and a new tourist destination was born.

Talk of revolution. Where will it come from? Our stomachs, of course! (The way to most everyone's heart). Good, local food. Organic. Fresh. Tasty. Humane.

Remember Christianity was founded on the principle of a common meal. The Farmers' Market is the new union hall. And heirloom tomatoes are the new Communist Manifesto.

Be a Revolutionary...eat some local goat cheese!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day 221: An Old Friend...

Met my old friend at the Calistoga Inn after work yesterday. We had beers, consumed a duck and took a long, long walk. I showed my friend where we lived in Calistoga. I showed her the new fancy resort, complete with six Lamborghini's parked out front. We caught up on the 21 years since we last saw each other.

I've traveled to Mexico with this friend. Protested in front of the U.S. embassy in Managua, Nicaragua in 1983 with this friend (Vive Sandino!). Graduated from college with this friend. This friend let me sleep on her couch when I was mending a broken heart. She remains a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. Much more tolerant of Obama than I am. "Give him a chance, things happen slowly, Allan".

There is a freedom and an ease in talking with someone who knew you when you were even stupider than you are now. If they tolerated you when you were twenty years of age, they more than likely will tolerate your more recent excesses!

Nice to spend time with another aging (but practical) Radical. We shall take a walk again tonight, and plan out how to make Revolution within the next twenty years of our lives. Or maybe we'll just turn to gossip.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Days 217 to 220: Napa

Dropped off my daughter at the airport on Thursday. She was all too happy to be leaving the "off grid" lifestyle. Can't blame her: we live rustically.

Just a few walks after work lately. Nothing fancy. Or special.

Tomorrow I hope to take a walk with a college friend I haven't seen in 25 years. Living in a tourist prone area has benefits; sooner or later, most friends will make a visit.

And I've trimmed a 4,000 word piece down to 3,000 words for an interested editor. Reading my stuff over and over again is horrible. It is like sitting down and having the same meal, day after day, year after year until you just can't take it anymore. Rewriting is not my forte'. I prefer the magic of the first draft.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 216: An Adobe House Field Trip

A field trip with my daughter. We drove down to Red Bluff to investigate the last Adobe structure remaining in northern California. This house is made of mud bricks (mud and straw); has been standing since 1852. My camera's battery died while looking at the inside of the house (which was simple but beautiful). The temperature outside was in the high 90's; inside the house, it was lots cooler. Bearable even.

The plaster on the house is of lime from a local quarry. Lime plasters aren't mandatory; they do help the house last longer. The other alternative is just to apply more mud plaster every couple of years.

Too bad this sort of simple eco-friendly housing has been abandoned. It is cool in the summer. Warm in the winter. It has an earthen beauty and simplicity to it. The house exudes a sense of place (local dirt, local straw). Someday, when we finally bulldoze all that crap housing that we've built over the last seventy years, perhaps houses like this will become the norm.

The oak tree outside the house is 350 years old (according to the State Park Ranger who showed us around). I've never seen a bigger oak tree in California.

I leave this State Park depressed. Depressed that such beautiful, practical housing has been swept aside by the likes of the Home Depot Industrial Complex. I long for simpler times. Will I live long enough to see it happen?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 215: End of Sloth...

Back to work. Outside. A day filled with Wendell Berryesque grunting, groaning, digging, heaving, hauling hand work. Menial under-rated work. But productive...

Days 209 to 214: Loafer...

"If a man walk in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and entertaining citizen." H. D. Thoreau

I took a break from this blog. In fact, I took a break from most of my activities (home building, general responsibilities other than a couple days of work). I had to let a couple blisters heal. I had to let my body rest a bit. I've had so much rushing about, building, working some extra shifts, hiking long distances and other stressors that I just needed a good long rest.

Not that I wasn't outside doing things: I did. I pretty much live outside. And I read plenty. But now it is time to start getting ready for the Appalachian Trail experience; the next adventure.

So it is time for all Loafers to head back onto the trail.

Here's a link to my hiking companion for the next go around.