21 January 2012

"I am losing the precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men." John Muir

Sometimes you really have to get out

I was watching the documentary on the National Parks which I highly recommend - primarily the first one. It really made a national hero of John Muir, in the way Whitman and Melville might be. It also made me tear up a whole unmentionable bunch. These are sensitive times.

It fed as a tributary into my larger flow of thought - examining my history in a random schema - collective the higher moments of my life, the moments laced with the sublime and fissured with the dazzling paralysis of the immediate.
Nature a recurrent theme in these times of me. I thought I might put a few of these places together and hopefully soon, the other moments - less about place perhaps and then more evanescent.
For now these:

Bahia de Conception, Baja de Sur, Mexico

When I was younger and May parents still together, we spent a few summers roadtripping down the Baja peninsula. There was no black ribbon of a highway then, and no spring break. Cabo San Lucas was a fishing town that drew only sports-fisherman and my uncle, who expatriated after the death of my Aunt and Cousin in a boating accident. My family, five of us at that time, would drive down in the VW camper and leisurely drive and camp down through the campesinos, deserts, checkpoints and oasis, spend some time at Land's End and speed back up in a straight twenty hours in time for some urgency of life. I could include any of countless places, but this was always a special place for my dad - and a bit of a secret for a while. The island would become an isthmus at low tide. The bay was warm and walkable for half a mile and filled with crabs and stingray and evening luminescence. Around the island was on a small reef where we snorkeled with sharks, angelfish and manta-rays.

Joshua Tree National Park, CA
I grew up in deserts and vacationed in deserts. I lived in the Sonora in my very youth (know for the Saguaro cactus)and then the Mojave (known for the Joshua Tree). We spent a lot of time at Joshua Tree National Park doing inexplicably dangerous things on the rocks out there. I was never a climber as such but we did pursue what we called boldering. It had two incarnations. The first is the traditional understanding of the term: making short technical ascents on the small faces of boulders - climbing where a fall doesn't kill you. The second was our own term for running at reckless speeds across the tops of boulder fields sightlessly finding the next step like hopped up mountain goats. I don't know how may parents allowed this. Nothing compares to a sunrise at Joshua Tree.

Havasupai Falls Indian Reservation, AZ
This is a trip I did with my Church Group that I think was ostensibly a father-son event, though not strictly. My father was not present at the time so my mom came on my first backpacking trip. We had an amazing time of it. Down into the red stoned ravine, a close relative of the Grand Canyon then a forced march to base camp along the gathering streams and pass the Indian Reservation Center. Following day a hike to the falls. There is, under the falls an underwater cavern that holds air called the Blue Room. It is not, however, under the falls pictured, but under some smaller ones further downriver. We made the same mistake and spent an hour trying to spelunk under that water in a human chain. The march out was a challenge and some of us went back and assisted the slower and older with their packs like hopped up mountain goats. It was a small coming of age for me.

Mendocino Woodlands State Park, CA
Family Camp! My wife took me here when we started dating and we have not stopped going each year and now My boys have grown up here and the joy of joys is how they just vanish in the woodline as kids are intended, emerging grubby and hungry and maybe see them, but probably not. Fierce in their independence.
Redwoods, creek swims, dorky songs, cold nights. warm days.
Most people who go are like a second extended family and I wish the people I love who have not gone would come.

Big Sur, CA
I convinced my wife to get married here, at the Henry Miller library. Our wedding was actually enjoyable and filled with meanings of our choosing. The after-party was legendary. This has that memory and an earlier one. Some rare unburdened time in my life as I road tripped as I moved to the Bay from the desert without constraint of time or other. I took my VW bug all highways and turned the drive from seven hours to fourteen. It was as a drive that spanned time and gave me California through a chalice of memories - Bakersfield oil derricks, abandoned PCH mansions, and my then literary hero's final abode.
Listen To Beach Boys' Holland.

National Elk Refuge & the Grand Tetons
This photo is pretty much (but not as nice as) the view from out campsite. On our honeymoon we drove through Jackson during the annual chili cook-off and the antler festival. We went through the elk-refuse and camped out on a bluff in National Forest land. There was still snow on the ground. The view is it.

Yellowstone National Park, WY
Can you believe this is the picture I used? Go find your own awesome picture of Yellowstone. There are too many to choose. This is Gardener River Bridge. Under this side of the bridge on the far side of the river are two locks locked together and to the bridge. I put them there and if you see them you might recognize the initials.
Yellowstone was mind-altering. No photo does it justice. The colors are just more intense. The greens are different than greens should be. The animals have a contentment of living in a geothermal basin. We went hunting for wolves before dawn. We grew bored with bison and elk and then amazed and fascinated again. I am aquiver in reminiscence.

Tressel Bridge, Henry Cowell State Park, CA
This coming weekend, My eldest son an I are going on his first backpacking trip. Looking for good photos, I found this one and realized I had been there before on a Church trip that included SF and Alcatraz, Hearst Castle and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk!
The train was not running but we climbed this bridge. I am sure I will be able to include our coming trip to this list

It is also worth noting that military bases act as kinds of reserves. They are generally far flung and the regulations regarding their treatment are pretty severe. The following are places my enlistment has had me see:

Fort Jackson, South Carolina
Basic Training in a Southern August. At least I've seen a carolina Pine forest!+

Mubarak Military City, Egypt
Operation Brightstar 2008 held literally in BFE. See the pyramids. I did, in Cairo - a cosmopolitan city for four thousand years.

Puget Sound as seen from Fort Lewis WA
At NCO school this was the sight I got to see during my Land Navigation test. It actually surprised me to almost fall in it through some brush. I passed the test.

Fort Bliss TX (at New Mexico and Mexico Border), Near Franklin Mountain State Park
Sky for miles, blue on red. And thunderstorms like they should be. We were conducting pipeline training with Jet Fuel so the storm put the kibosh on that.

Spangdahlem Air Base Germany - Black forest
Brief layover returning from Egypt. Got some chance to wander about like a fairy tale creature. Do you know the route from Europe to the US goes over Greenland? We did it in the unpressurized cargo section of a C130. cold man.

10 January 2012

Zeno's second paradox or my $60 cup of coffee

"anything but the bottom step of the ladder, it keeps getting higher and higher. Dawn comes soon enough for the working class, it keeps getting sooner or later. This is the game that moves as you play. How does it feel, how does it feel?" - X

I got a traffic ticket a while back. Nothing important, failure to yield and registration. Scheduled a date to appear - show proof. Correction cuts the fine in half. Well that appointment got lost in the shuffle, which apparently upsets the court to the tune of three hundred. I thought I might go on down and plea for lenience since no one was interested in hearing me through the phone. Of course they are only available through business hours, but I am fortunate to have a malleable schedule. The fellow in front of me has a similar problem, yet more exaggerated - a $25 dollar ticket has somehow managed to inflate to $1200. We both figure we can make an honest presentation to the court and pay more reasonable fees. Turns out, the court will not see you until you pay the fee in its entirety...got that. Then what are they going to do? Give it back?
I'm making installments.

Previous to this bucolic bureaucratic experience, I had though to splurge on a cup of coffee (get that - splurge). So I get through my first cup and figure its about time to feed the meter, but first the bathroom and when I return, lo and amazement - a parking ticket. 58 dollars.

Thats all prologue, because as much as all this inconveniences me and my family in our effort to climb out of our socioeconomic status, to surmount that lip of stability that comes from our particular circumstance, ability and life-choices - as much as it helps us maintain the current uncomfortable state of our finances - how is this system engaging those less fortunate. Or even those less able to make the wise life choices which I am so capable?
Consider someone making minimum wage, not to mention those making a more reasonable wage (say $15 an hour, working regular business hours full time as some of my former college educated coworkers did) What can this type of situation do to them?
What if you cannot get off work. What if you can and you lose that pay? What if you cant afford to pay and lose your privilege to drive? What if that's how you earn your income, or now you have to take public transit which adds an hour to your commute both ways? What if you have children in childcare and now have no practical way to pick them up and what does it matter because those extra two hours a day just pushed the cost benefit of childcare/work below water? et.al.

Zeno's second paradox is a situation where Hercules, starting after the tortoise, will never be able to catch it, as he must always travel 1/2 the distance before he can travel the whole, and each half will have its own half unto infinity.
The working person at the bottom, looking up, will find the incline forever and increasingly precipitous as they approach that point of stabilty.

08 January 2012

Bible - the return

About two thirds of the way through the old testament, which could use some judicious editing, for content and redundancy.
According to my New American Bible: Catholic Mission Edition, Job is the first of the "wisdom books: which will also include Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Wisdom and Sirach. (the last two are excluded in protestant bibles so I have not read them, same as the two Maccabees)

It is interesting that I randomly pick it up again after a bit of a hiatus - the Maccabees were like an overly violent film with unlikeable protagonists. I had to take a break.

Interesting because of the following day's Melvillian tone. Moby Dick concludes with Ishmael quoting of the book of Job to describe himself.


Sunday with Melville

My wife left this morning. The baby and I roused ourselves early and went to get the children from my ex. Her partner was outside loading their car. He is a big guy. He knows this and uses it. I am directed inside. Its not my weekend. It’s the wrong day. I am not supposed to be there - a healthy interaction. I drove away directionless. Empty plan-less home. I drive us to church.
She left on a retreat, nothing official, just her and a friend. She planned this trip and then I was informed. Of course I don’t have a problem with it. It is a healthy idea. We have been having our problems. That happens, right? Normal. I didn’t think having a partner would be this difficult. Maybe partner is the wrong word. I should think of a different word, one that works.
My ex has been friendlier than I am accustomed. I get two days a week with the boys. Or they get two days a week with me. It is about their experience rather than mine. Except, they do not spend the first weekend of the month with me. It was decided they required a full weekend with their mom. I would rather they spend more time with us. I have to pay her support for the discrepancy.
We get to church and I take the baby to Sunday school. I walk into a lecture underway on Moby Dick. Captain Ahab represents totalitarianism. Is totalitarianism immortal or not? The preacher in the book sermonizes on spiritual subjectivism. He is played by Orson Wells in the film. He takes questions. Is subjectivism of myth antagonistic to the objectivism of subjective history as agreed upon? Is Melville a Jungian profit of modern geopolitical upheaval? I am disoriented and cannot find the thread of the conversation. I read Moby Dick last year. We leave quickly.

We went on a bike ride with the baby in the trailer. Bring the dog. Pick up some groceries and beer. The full moon rises over the peak. The sun sets over the bridge. We are going to dinner tonight. We are representing our family.