Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I read the Nation, the liberal weekly.

I read the Nation, the liberal weekly. It’s so tiresome and predictable. They don’t like George Bush – big surprise. Yes, Bush is fairly easy to criticize, but the Nation crew has no alternative to offer. They support “diversity.” If they supported “unity” then they might bring people together and gain in power.

(Unity is good. It’s uniformity which is bad.) And the Nation support minorities, which is why they can never achieve a Majority.

Then I read Newsweek, but they didn’t have George Will, so I was disappointed. They had Anna Quindlen – why this woman became a successful national columnist I will never know. She writes about “how we all feel.” It is so common and treacly. Of course George Will is pomposity itself, but he can be quite good despite that.

The Infinite Choice of Isabel Allende, this is her novel, only it’s called The Infinite Plan, whatever – I like it. I’m off of non-fiction, all those political and historic books that I usually read. Stuff that gets you trying to figure things out. It’s too much work. I just want a good story.

Eva and Carolyn are in the Living Room. Eva is my daughter. Carolyn is my older sister by two years. They have been reading quietly, but it’s 9 pm, time for an hour of TV and then to bed. Tom, my older brother by four years, is in his bedroom with the lights on and the door closed, listening to the radio. I’m back here in the Crafts Room, sitting at the old dining room table. Our Mom and Dad bought this dining room table in 1946, the year they bought the house. The table sat in the dining room for fifty years, until Mom died, in 1996. Carolyn brought it out to California and kept it. I’m glad she did.

Geena Davis is the President. On her new show, “Commander in Chief.” But she’s got nothing on Martin Sheen in West Wing. Women are over-rated.

The car radio was broken. I found this out last night and I was really bummed. I just sat there in the car punching the buttons over and over again. Then I came in the house and Carolyn could see I was down. She said, “Forget about it. Take another look in the morning.” But I had to go through hours of process, to reach the point of accepting a car with no radio. Finally I got to sleep.

In the morning I went out and tried again – no radio. Okay, that’s life. But then I noticed – no clock either, and then no cigarette lighter either (I use the lighter to charge my cell phone) – so it must be a fuse. Easily fixed. I’m the Macho Man. I can do things. I can take care of business.

But then – stupid – I forgot and I left my car parked in front of Carolyn’s house, which on Wednesday between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. – is a big No-No. Clearly stated on the parking signs, if you bother to read them – because that’s when the street sweeper comes by, and the Meter Maid comes right behind the big machine. And me, hick from the sticks, I didn’t notice. I got a $45 parking ticket. Welcome to Los Angeles.

But then Eva and I went to beach at 10:30 – me happy about fixing the radio and bummed because of the $45 parking ticket. My wise daughter said, “Detachment, Dad. Let it all go.”

The sand was hot. The sun was toasty. The water sparkled. The pelicans were cruising like Cadillacs going for burgers. It doesn’t get any better. I danced in the foaming waves. I rolled and tumbled and jumped for joy.

Looking for a Date. I listed myself on on the section “Men Seeking Women.” I wrote a come on. I got three responses. The best one was a woman named Eileen who said she was artsy and “subtly sexy.” She also lives a 15-minute walk from here. It’s so easy to meet comely women in Los Angeles. No wonder I want to stay.

However Texas beckons. That’s where the work is. It’s my destiny. I write these columns for the Wilson County News which are pure Texas Logic – something about this, but it is easy for me to channel and transmit the spirit of the Lone Star State – and me writing from California at that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I didn't hear my brother wake up

“I didn’t hear my brother wake up.” This story is long for a blog post – 3,000 words. It is modeled after the style of Joan Didion, who lives and writes in Los Angeles. Didion has a long article in the NY Times Magazine this week, bout the death of her husband. I read that article and picked up on her rhythm.

The story describe our day’s journey to Malibu, to see two things – the M.A.S.H. site up in the foothills, where they filmed the opening sequence of that television series, and Malibu Point, a famous surfing spot. Here it goes:

I didn’t hear my brother wake up. My brother Tom has the bedroom – because he’s older and because he got here first. He moved into Carolyn’s house last January, separating from his wife Cheri who remains with their daughter in Altadena. Tom teaches school somewhere around here – a 45-minute drive. He gets up at 6:30 am. I must have slept soundly because I usually hear him wake up and that gets me started.

I hear him get up because I sleep right outside his bedroom in the Crafts Room, which is not private. I have a pad and a sleeping bag on the floor – very comfortable, also the only space left, unless I want to sleep on the couch in the living room, but my daughter is sleeping there, at least until next week, when she returns to Austin, Texas. Carolyn’s house is not very big, but she has a warm, inviting attitude, so the house is rarely empty. Also, when you live a ten-minute walk from Venice Beach, you’re going to get lots of company.

I got up at 7 a.m. Tom had already left. Carolyn had the coffee made. I went outside and brought in the Los Angeles Times, tearing away the plastic cover. I started on the front page, but the Hurricane news didn’t interest me. I checked the editorial page and the columnists – The LA Times is kind of stuffy, nothing going here. What I wanted to read was the local stuff, in the section called “California,” especially the Entertainment News – this is the heart of it, the leading business in Los Angeles. It really matters. The big story was the first episode of ”Commander in Chief” starring Geena Davis as the first female President of the United States. I said to Carolyn, “I liked Geena Davis in the Accidental Tourist with William Hurt, but I don’t care for anything she’s done lately. She won’t make a good President. I’m going to vote for Oprah.”

Carolyn agreed. But the thought of politics gave me a headache – I didn’t care who the President is now or who will be President in the future. I took a quicker look – this was safer and easier – at one of Arnold Schwarzenegger propositions for the November ballot, the one I clearly support, which will take redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature and into the hands of a panel of retired judges – an obvious reform. The rest of Schwarzenegger’s agenda is problematic.

I ate cold cereal and milk. Carolyn said to be sure to leave by 8:30 am because Maria was coming to clean the house. We were also to put our things away to make less work for Maria. She’s been working for Carolyn for a number of years. I met her once a few years ago. She’s very nice.

Eva got up. We started making a plan for the day’s outing. She said she wanted to go to a famous surfing spot – to see and be seen by surfer dudes, I suppose. I said we can go to Malibu Point, that’s a classic spot. The point break is much sought after by surfers, because the wave makes a long, slow curl coming in, and you get a longer ride. Surfing underpins the spiritual life of Los Angeles. To sit on the beach and watch the waves. To admire the surfers as young gods. This was an excellent choice – my daughter has good sense, although she is not inclined to make this a metaphysical exercise the way I do.

It’s hard to describe – even though I don’t live here, a very important part of my dream life is the surf and the waves. I really have to know it’s here, on the beach in southern California, and someday I will come back here and just never leave, but for now it’s enough to see the waves and re-new my life.

We were getting ready for the day, bringing a day pack with beach towels and sun block, paperbacks, sunglasses and a snack box. Eva made perfect avocado-turkey sandwiches on whole-wheat bread, putting each half-sandwich in a ziplock bag, and securing the integrity of each half-sandwich be spearing it with a tooth pick. She added peanuts and carrots, each in their own ziplock bag.

We left the house by 8:30 am, as we were told to do, and it was good to get away so early. The car windows were fogged up and wet. Being so close to the ocean, Carolyn’s house always gets the morning fog. I turned on the windshield wipers and we headed east on California Avenue, where Carolyn lives. We turned left on Lincoln Boulevard, a main thoroughfare, unglamorous and utilitarian, lined with car washes, gas stations, taco stands, supermarkets, dry cleaners, laundromats, etc. – things you need to do.

We stopped for gas at the “76.” Not quite ten gallons for $28. I made a note of that on the slip in my wallet. I have to watch my money very carefully right now. And I checked the oil – that was important too. Before I left the Skagit Valley, up north of Seattle, I had discovered a small oil leak. I drove the 1,300 miles to Los Angeles and lost about one half a quart – something I could live with until I can get the leak fixed – but I must watch it in the meantime.

We continued north on Lincoln Boulevard. The morning traffic wasn’t too bad, although Lincoln – in fact almost any major thoroughfare in Los Angeles – might be blocked up and jammed at any time during the day. You just know that. If you want to be in LA, and I very much do, you just ignore the traffic.

We got on Interstate Ten, the one that starts in Jacksonville, Florida, goes west to New Orleans, San Antonia, El Paso, Tucson, Phoenix, and across the Mojave Desert into Los Angeles. Los Angeles is so big that it’s a good two hour drive from the eastern fringes out by San Bernardino, all the way across town, finally going west into the sunset at Santa Monica, where I-10 ends – at the Pacific Ocean.

I-10 is called the Santa Monica Freeway by the locals. We only used the last mile of it, to where it ends and we swung to the north up the Pacific Coast Highway, also known as California State Highway 1.

We drove north underneath the Palisades, looking at the light brown exposed cliffs, that look like they will crumble anytime and slump onto the beach. In fact they do have frequent mudslides here, as everybody knows.

Eva was quiet. She is often animated, but the Pacific Ocean is soothing and we were headed for Malibu, a place of dreams if there ever was one, rich dreams, Mercedes Benz dreams and women of cinematic beauty.

It was too early for the beach and we wanted to be walking anyway. It’s 13 miles to the middle of Malibu, going past rows of the most expensive beach-front property, but you can only see the backsides of the stacked houses, where the owners park their cars, and all you can see is the garage door and a façade with only the smallest windows – the ocean view is on the other side.

In the middle of Malibu, is the town, if you can call it that, a shopping center with a Ralph’s Supermarket and a tiled courtyard with a pleasant fountain and more beautiful cars. We turned right and headed up Malibu Canyon Road. It’s six miles to the state park and the road twists through the rising foothill, tree-less, but the brush was still quite green, and I expected that was because the summer weather had not been too hot and dry.

In fact September had been cooler than usual, my sister said. September is often the hottest time of the year around here, but we had a really nice eighty degrees.

I was wearing short and sandals, a baseball cap and clip-on sunglasses. I brought shoes and socks for the walking part. We came to the state park and put the $8 fee into an envelope and kept the tag for our windshield. Eva was bummed out that we had to pay just for day use, but she said, “I suppose we shouldn’t cheat the state parks.”

We put two bottles of water into the day back and took everything else out. Eva walked over to two older park rangers. Oh, they were a picture to me – two gentlemen in their early 60’s moving slowly around the restroom, checking the trash bins and such, clearly veterans of many years service. I envied their leisurely pace – they were getting paid to be in this lovely spot.

It’s wonderfully quiet in the foothills, only 20 miles from Carolyn’s house. This is one of her favorite places. She knows all the trails. That’s why it’s so wonderful living here, she said. You can get away from the traffic and noise and really be in nature.

We took off for the trail. My left leg had been feeling wobbly, a weakness that comes now and then, a result of my hamstring injury two years ago, but I figured the walk would do it good, and it was special for me to having an outing with my full-grown 26-year-old daughter – to be selected as her companion.

Our destination, 2.3 miles down the trail, was the M.A.S.H. site. The opening sequence of M.A.S.H. shows a helicopter flying into a landing in the mountains. You see the tents and jeeps with bright red crosses, and then Alan Alda and Hawkeye rush out and under the loud, whirling helicopter blades to unload the wounded soldiers.

They didn’t film that sequence in Korea, where the series takes place. They filmed it in a valley in the foothills of Malibu Canyon. So if you love television, if television is important to you – you can say you hate TV and never watch it, if you want to say that, but you can’t say it doesn’t matter – then visiting the M.A.S.H. is fine souvenir for your memories. It goes behind the illusion of film and television. It shows you how it is made, and that people do this for a living. And if you can take any pride in Los Angeles and its chief industry, then this is a good way to show some respect.

Besides that you get a fine walk in the morning air, looking at birds and dried desert shrubbery, spotting a lizard, enjoying the cool shade of the coastal oaks, which grow big by the stream. The stream is Malibu Creek – it was full and clear and clean and sparkling. Again I was surprised to see so much water in it.

But the trail also gains several hundred feet in elevation, and I began to feel the difficulty of two much smoking. I watched my breathing, which was not labored, but I wasn’t having fun either. I listened to hear if Eva’s breathing became louder, to make a comparison. As it was, we made it up the grade without sweating or panting, and the workout made my legs feel stronger. After that the trail ambled another mile and a half to the M.A.S.H. site. The TV set was torn down years ago, but they left the rusted hulk of an old jeep as a marker, and when you walk into this pocket valley you see – yes, clearly, this is where they filmed it, because the mountains look just like what you see on the TV, and that’s re-assuring. M.A.S.H. was a very good show and my mother always like it. The illusion – that it took place in Korea – of course that was fake, but saying it was fake is too harsh and saying it isn’t real is too unkind. Our illusions are important and necessary. Los Angeles nurtures and builds these illusions and this is a good thing – to put it simply. A TV set in Los Angeles is just as real as a field of corn in Nebraska.

Having gained the summit, so to speak, we paused and took a long drink of water. I intended to walk back more slowly, to stop and observe whatever caught my attention, but I said nothing to Eva. I had been enjoying very much her silent company. Too often she and I chatter and banter and jibe and debate – a very stimulating thing it is too – she is one of the most interesting people I know – but not this time.

Walking back the 2.3 miles I noticed things, living things – clouds, the slight breeze, some wild fennel growing by the trail side. I broke off a small piece and chewed it in order to freshen my mouth, in order to accept a loving gift from the spirit of this place. I wondered if the fennel was native to the place, but I doubted that – it was more likely a volunteer, and the seeds wandered in from cultivated gardens elsewhere, seeds blown on the wind, or shat from small birds.

Nearing the parking lot, towards the end of the hike, we came upon six young men wearing only shorts and running shoes, doing warm-up stretches, just about to begin a trail run. I had a small twinge for my lost youth, but it was too good a picture, and I shrugged off the envy. The nobility of manly youth! Their strength and beauty! I didn’t say anything to my daughter, but clearly the young men saw her and she saw them, and I thought, yes, life can be wonderful, and this is a very good day to be walking in Malibu Canyon.

By now I was famished and kept thinking about the snack pack. We got back to the parking lot. I quickly removed my dust-covered shoes and sticky socks. I unlocked the car, climbed into the seat, and started the engine, so I could get the air-conditioning on. Eva was in the restroom, but I knew how she felt about air-conditioning. She lives in Texas. She’s been there for four years. She understands and believes in air-conditioning. It’s just what you do and you don’t qualms about it. You don’t wait until you get too hot, you just turn it on whenever, as casually as tying your shoes or scratching your nose.

We ate the sandwiches in the parking lot with the motor running, and then drove back the six miles down the canyon to Malibu.

I felt exhilarated. Towards the end of the hike I had a stronger stride – I was ready to go right up the mountain. We stopped for coffee, and then drove two miles south down the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu Point. It was a Monday morning in September so parking was easy, by the side of the road and the traffic rushed by going very fast underneath the cliffs. We walked down the stairs to the beach which curved out to the right – out to the point. Some two dozen surfers sat on their boards in the easy surf, all clad in wet suits.

Now I began talking, expounding and justifying my life – as fathers do – to impress their daughters, to maintain control, to steer them in a good way. It seemed like the right thing to do, after the silent hike, after avoiding the usual mockery of our conversation – that I could get Eva to take me seriously just this once – except she has heard far too much, over her lifetime, of my mystical hippie twaddle. But I had reserved my time and I had her attention while I began to explain the importance of surfing and how this place, Malibu Point, was particularly hallowed, how it all began here in the 1950’s and 1960s.

I suggested that one of us might strike up a conversation on the beach – ask some questions and perhaps hear a bit of Surfer Truth. “Eva, you could be a dumb blonde from Texas and ask them anything,” I said, but she didn’t reply.

The lifeguard was a cheerful, older man, at least my age, not muscular or buff, but very fit, wearing sunglasses, of course, standing at the water’s edge greeting people. This was unusual, I noticed. Normally the lifeguards welcome your approach, but it is always you who do the approaching.

I had read about the Los Angeles County lifeguards – 150 full-time guards and over 600 part-time guards, guys with other jobs who love the beach life and work the summer weekends. I didn’t even feel bad that it wasn’t me – their job is to watch the waves! For me, just being there was enough, relaxing behind the fantasy – maybe I am getting closer to this wave. But I had too many thoughts.

The wind picked up. It wasn’t warm. Eva sprawled on her towel and read her paperback. I walked over to the small lagoon. Malibu Creek, which we walked along up the canyon, comes down to the ocean at Malibu Point, making a tiny delta, surrounded by the Malibu lush life of expensive real estate, but protected, and the birds sheltered there – grey sea gulls in the hundreds and many pelicans.

I watched the birds – this is my new habit – even to catch some meaning from them. They were neither still nor excited – kind of a weekday, ordinary kind of hub-bub, gulls landing and taking off, pelicans standing not stock-still, but adjusting their feathers and stance.

I walked past the lagoon to the next lifeguard station. Another older lifeguard was walking along the beach. He said there had been a rain squall and even some lightning up in Ventura. Lightning was very unusual around here, he added.

Eva noticed this first – many of the surfers in their forties, old men to her. I agreed and I was glad to see that. I told her about surfers and their territory, that technically the waves belonged to everybody, but in fact every established surfing spot has a fixed hierarchy. You can’t just show up and get in, you have to earn respect, and this most hallowed surfing spot was reserved for the guys who had been coming there since the days of Jan and Dean. The kids could go fuck themselves.

Respect. I liked that. I didn’t need to sermonize at my daughter – a bad habit anyway.

The wind picked up even stronger. A chop appeared on the ocean face. We got cold and decided to leave. It was only just past noon. It seemed like we had already lived a whole day what with the early start and the stimulating hike.

I drove south down the Pacific Coast Highway, in tune with the traffic, enjoying the sweeping curves, feeling the Toyota move nicely. When we got home and I took a shower to wash off the sun block. Then I laid down on my pad in the Crafts Room and took a siesta.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

It could have been worse

It could have been worse. Hurricane Rita could have been worse. I called Nick West, the editor of the Palacios Beacon, a weekly newspaper in Palacios, a little shrimping town to the south of Houston. This was Friday, before the storm hit. Palacios was evacuated and the shrimp fleet had left the harbor and gone up the Colorado River for safety. Nick was holding down the fort at his newspaper office. He trucked out all his computers and printers, but was staying put with his laptop.

Palacios was spared. Hurricane Rita veered to the north. If you go to Google and type in “Palacios Beacon,” you will find a lovely set of photos of that town. Palacios is an “undiscovered” harbor and beach town, a gentle place with nice old brick buildings – poor people, but they’re getting by.

My Rehabilitation. I have come to my sister’s house near the beach in Venice for rehabilitation – two weeks of cozy family time, bike riding, and laying on the sand will do me a world of good. I will read a novel by Isabel Allende. I will plan my future and eat lots of vegetables. I wish I could live in Los Angeles. I wish I knew how.

The house across the alley from my sister’s house was sold for $1.2 million – just a bungalow. An old Mexican family had lived there for more than a generation. Carolyn, my sister, said the old black and Mexican families were leaving, selling out. For $1.2 million they can move inland and buy a less expensive home and keep the change. But Carolyn laments the changing character of the neighborhood. The new money people coming into Venice build high fences around their property and you can’t know them.

All the children. But what is surprising about Venice, which has gotten so expensive, is the large number of small children you see coming down the street in baby carriages. How can these young people afford to live here and have babies too? Beats me.

Huntington Gardens is in Pasadena. We had a family outing on Saturday afternoon. Carolyn drove us in her Subaru Forester. She is two years older than me. Tom, my brother, is four years older than me. Joining us was my daughter, Eva, who flew in from Austin for a week’s vacation. We drove to the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena.

We had arranged to meet Jordana and Cheri at the garden entrance. Jordana is Tom’s seven-year-old daughter. Cheri is Tom’s wife, but they are separated now.

This made a family party of six. The Huntington Gardens are fabulous and world-class. I wish we had more time to wander and see the plants. I would definitely go back again – especially to the desert collection. Such succulents! Plants you only dream about, and so beautifully maintained! Being a landscaper myself, the thing I appreciated the most was the fact that I didn’t have to do any of the work – just stroll around and look at the flowers. It was so pleasant.

Bonsai. I also spent a lot of time at the bonsai collection. Many specimens are more than 100 years old, rooted in shallow pots in a bed of velvet moss, so delicate, yet so strong. But it was 4:30 by this time and the security guards began their friendly sweep, herding us, like we were cows, with gentle hand movements, towards the gate and the parking lot.

California Pizza Kitchen. Afterwards the six of us had dinner at the California Pizza Kitchen. I was so contented by the garden stroll, and Cheri – the wife separated for very good reasons that I won’t go into here – was on her best behavior. I didn’t baulk at the strange notion of “California pizza.” I just enjoyed it.

Don Whisenhunt in Kentucky. I got an email from Don Whisenhunt. Like many other Frog Hospital readers, he misses the old newsletter format. He is not used to a blog and doesn’t read them. Well, I agree. I don’t read any blogs myself. I read newspapers online. Plus my silly time that I spend chatting at the Aeclectic Tarot Forum [My daughter abuses me about this. She says, “Tell me you’re not learning Tarot.”]

But life brings changes – I hate when people tell me that. The old newsletter split in two. The more serious political commentary has gone over to my weekly column in the Wilson County News and the personal stories go into the blog.

The old newsletter was a unique combination of personal and political, and I wanted to keep it for that reason. But there is a such a serious penalty for being different -- I had to give it up and join the conventional world.

Another thing about doing something unique is the comfort of it – you don’t have to compete with anybody. But I am ready for competition. This blog competes with a million others just like it – at least in format. My weekly column competes with a thousand others. So let us see if I rise to the top.

Don Whisenhunt is a retired professor of history. He has studied and written about the life and times of FDR. Don is a native Texan. He was my professor at Western Washington University when I studied history there in graduate school. Don was the only teacher who made any sense to me at all – Don being an old-fashioned progressive, untainted by the evil of deconstructionism. Don spoke English just like a human being. The rest of the faculty spoke an extremely devious code language which I could never understand.

Don has retired with his wife to Kentucky – his grandchildren live there.

Friday, September 23, 2005

To Live in LA

To live in LA. I left LaConner on Tuesday night at 8 pm. I had Chris, the Toyota mechanic, check out my oil leak. He said it didn’t look too bad, so I decided not to go back to Jim Smith’s house in LaConner, but just to head out on the highway and do some night driving.

I drove until 2 am, getting well past Portland. I pulled over to the rest area and slept for 90 minutes. I kept going. By sunrise I was nearing the California border. I made another rest stop. I pulled into the town of Mount Shasta by 10 am and visited the Metaphysical Bookstore because Stuart Welch at Rexville asked me to stop there. He knew the owner, a woman named Missy.

But Missy wasn’t there anymore. She left eight years ago. She sold the business to Otto, a nice man. We talked. I read a book about crop circles and I left. I didn’t like Mount Shasta.

I drove south another 150 miles to Corning, in the center of the olive orchards. I found a wonderful campsite by the Sacramento River in a grove of oak trees. I slept all afternoon in the shade. I woke up at 5 pm, made coffee, took a walk, listened to reggae music on the portable radio and went back to sleep at 8 pm, hearing the wonderful music of crickets under a bright moon. The air was balmy. I barely needed the sleeping bag.

I woke up at 5 am and kept going. I had bad luck near Gilroy later that morning. A beautiful white dog darted into the road. He stopped right in front of me. I was going 65 mph. Such a beautiful animal. For a split second it looked me in the eyes and it was terrified. There was nothing I could do. It happened in a second. I hit the dog. It must have died instantly. The traffic was heavy right there. It took me a half mile to pull over and stop. I was shaken. Terrible.

I got the Los Angeles that evening. Now I’m at the coffee shop near the beach in Venice. I just talked with Eric Liner – a man unassuming in appearance, but an important real estate investor in Venice. “When is the bubble going to burst, Eric?” I asked. Eric is not very forthcoming about his own investments. He said, “I’m not sure. It might be slowing a bit.”

Who can talk about real estate anyways? Everybody’s mind is on the Texas Coast.

I called Nick West, the editor of the Palacios Beacon. Palacios is a small town in Matagorda County to the south of Houston, with a large fleet of shrimp boats.

The prediction now is that Hurricane Rita will hit the coast further to the north and that Palacios will only get a sideswipe. Nick was relieved, although he said the town was completely empty and that he has trucked out all the newspaper’s computer’s to higher ground. He remained alone in his office with his laptop.

Nobody ever goes to Palacios, but it’s real pretty. If you ever get to the Gulf Coast and if you’re looking for a place away from the tourist hustle – check out Palacios – pronounced in Tex-Mex style as “pallashus.”

Here’s what I wrote in this week’s column for the Wilson County News:

Prose and Cons, September 28, 2005, No. 11

Worrying about the Future

By Fred Owens

There are three things that you can do about the future – pray, worry, and buy insurance. Praying comes first. I’ll let you listen in on my prayer:

I said, “Lord, I don’t know what’s going to happen next, and I’m getting worried. Why are we having all these terrible storms?”

God replied, “Oh, there was wickedness, sloth and corruption in that city and the people did not hear My words, so I smote it with fury.”

I said, “You smote it? But why? Sure there were bad people there, but so many others were innocent. What about the children and the old people? What about all this pain and suffering?”

God answered, “Did you say your name was Job by any chance? Job wrote a book about Me in the Old Testament. Maybe you should read that.”

I said, “All right, so You had Your reasons, but what about the future? I know You have a plan for me, and I’m sure it’s for the best, but I just wish I had some clue about what’s coming next.


I tried again, “Lord, can You at least give me a general direction? Are you planning more terrible storms?”

More silence.

“Okay, well, thank you, Lord. I’ll stay in touch.”

Boy, what good did that do? The skeptics say that praying is a waste of time, but maybe I did get an answer. The answer is that I should leave the big picture to God, and take care of what’s right in front of me.

This is where worrying comes in – reviewing contingency plans and keeping the essentials on hand. Start with bottled water, canned food, flashlights, batteries and a portable radio. Don’t forget duct tape. Duct tape is the greatest invention since barbed wire. You could build a guided missile out of scrap materials if you have plenty of duct tape. How about a gun and ammunition? Yes, but I only advise this for people who have a calm disposition and a sturdy character.

Then make two plans. The first plan is to stay in your home and defend it with your life. The second plan is to flee on a moment’s notice. But you can’t choose ahead of time which plan to follow.

Camping is fun, isn’t it? Making do, using what’s at hand, practicing what you learned in the Boy Scouts, remembering those skills from the old timers. And how about dropping in on those cousins of yours in Wichita, Kansas – the ones you haven’t seen in ten years. No need to phone ahead – after all, they’re family.

Or you might have unexpected company yourself. These days you never know who’s going to come knocking on your door. Life can be so surprising. So much for worrying – a little bit goes a long ways.

The third thing you can do about the future is buy insurance. People insure theirs lives, their health, their house, their property and their businesses. If you think about it, the insurance industry is involved with predicting the future, calculating the risks, and spreading the cost across thousands of policy holders.

So the question – are we going to have more terrible storms? – is a central concern for insurance companies. The government will subsidize reconstruction on the Gulf Coast, but housing and businesses won’t be rebuilt if they can’t be insured. You can be sure that insurance people are in deep conversation right now with climate scientists who predict global warming. Insurance companies are about to pay out billions in hurricane damages. They are powerfully motivated to investigate future risks if ocean temperatures continue to rise. And they will make decisions that affect each and every one of us.

They are not lovable people. We resent the necessity of insurance. Those building codes that determine how you build your house – you can blame the government for these sometimes difficult regulations, but it’s the insurance industry that calls the tune and lobbies the legislature. The future is uncertain except for one thing – the cost of your insurance is going to rise.

Then I heard His Voice again, saying, “You worry too much. You must be getting old.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bad Beer at the LaConner Brewery

Bad Beer at the LaConner Brewery. I wasn’t just imagining when I tasted the IPA at the LaConner Brewery. It tasted flat, like dishwater. But I have it on authority from a well-known beer taster in these parts. LaConner Brewery is servicing too many outside accounts. They have cranked up the volume and lowered the quality. “They’re selling it green – before it’s ready,” said the local lady, sometimes known as the Dutch Bomber.

It’s worse in Zimbabwe. The news about Hurricane Katrina has distracted me from daily monitoring of the Zimbabwe news. But one thing is certain. I would easily choose spending five days in the Superdome in New Orleans over any length of time in Zimbabwe. In New Orleans they said it was like the Third World -- it was like the Third World, but only for five days. Life in Zimbabwe has been hell every day for several years. The gov't., not nature, destroyed the homes of 750,000 people -- knocked them down with bulldozers and left the people to sit in the rubble -- only because certain neighborhoods had voted the wrong way in the last election….. I’d rather be in New Orleans than in Zimbabwe.

Who Cooks for You? Life with Precious. When I met her in Zimbabwe at the Palace Hotel in Bulawayo. That first week together at Nellie’s house out by the Airport Road. She did my laundry and hung it to dry on the barbed wire fence. She brought her two aunties to meet me. Aunt Winnie and Aunt Janet. I bought lots of beer and chickens for the aunties. I rented a car and drove them around town – more beer and more chicken. The aunties decided I was a pretty good fellow.

Precious asked me where I lived and how I lived. I said that I lived by myself. Then she asked, “Who cooks for you?”

Stupid Shoes

Stupid Shoes. My troubles began four months ago when I bought those stupid shoes. I paid $40 for them at the Outlet Mall. They didn’t fit right. I felt like my feet were trying to walk around in small boats. And they were funny looking to boot. Why did I ever buy such stupid shoes? The experience shattered my confidence. Work began dwindling. Women no longer smiled at me. I ate more donuts.

A New Season. I was going to leave for Los Angeles today, but I discovered an oil leak in my beloved 1993 Toyota Corolla. Stuart, at the Rexville Store, hooked me up with a Toyota mechanic who works at the dealer. The mechanic will look over my car this evening when he’s at home and he only lives a few miles from here. The oil leak is probably a small problem, but I could use the re-assurance. So I decided to postpone my departure for one day. That will give me time to vacuum out my car and do a better job of packing for the trip.

Connie Funk gave me a bouquet of her prized hydrangeas as a going away present. I finished her garden yesterday. I will bring the bouquet to Los Angeles as a gift for my sister. Hydrangeas dry naturally, so they will keep in the back of the car.

I watched White Men Can’t Jump on the TV last night. It was filmed on the famed Venice Boardwalk in 1992, so that set me up for the journey [my sister has lived in Venice since 1977]. It is also a great movie for learning about race relations. The story is about a team of playground basketball hustlers. Woody Harrelson plays the white guy. Wesley Snipes plays the black guy. Their frank dialogue is illuminating. Rosie Perez plays Woody Harrelson’s girl friend. She is awesome.

The weather is perfect. The air is remarkably still and lightly cool under a blue sky. It couldn’t be a better day in the Skagit Valley, and it is so right to leave on a high note. One is not fleeing.

I still have the stupid shoes in the back seat of the car. The decision I face later day when I pack, is whether to throw them away or bring them with me.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Bellowing Buddhist

The Bellowing Buddhist. Paul Hansen, the bellowing Buddhist back from China, was holding forth at Café Culture last night. He looks well fed and his shoes were shined. Hansen had the chair by the door, the one the regulars always avoid.

Janet Laurel is making noise. That’s all she does -- make noise. I do like her paintings, but it takes a pretty loud mouth to get Randy and Dave Smailes to be quiet. I wish she would leave.

Kelly walks in. She used to own Chez La Zoom, the famous clothing store. Then she married Martin Hahn, the famous chef. Now what does she do?

Old Fred. I’m Young Fred. Old Fred is Fred Martin who has been running the LaConner Drugstore since the mid-fifties. He buys lattes for his drugstore staff on Saturday mornings.

I’m leaving in three days. I’m driving to California on Tuesday. Everybody will be glad when I’m gone because I have been such a bitch. I figure to start feeling better by the time I reach Mount Shasta – after that it gets warm. I get to Los Angeles sometime on Thursday. By Friday I’m on the beach and the sound of the waves. What’s the word to describe the sound of the waves washing up on the sand?

Things didn’t work out. They never do. Oh, that sounds pretty bleak, but when I write something like that it’s meant to be uplifting. Like – things never work out, so?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Too Many Dogs at Café Culture

Too Many Dogs at Café Culture. How many dogs is too many dogs at Café Culture? It all depends on how they are behaving. Everybody loves Buddy and Lucy. Luke has been a frequent visitor lately – he ‘s the stocky black dog belonging to Vaughan Jolley. Roosevelt is a good little dog – he comes in with Betsy from Shelter Bay. Some people wish there weren’t so many dogs hairs on the floor – not me.

Horrible Traffic in Mount Vernon. It was Friday afternoon hell – stop and go, no place to park. Mount Vernon is slipping badly in the culture-to-traffic ratio, which is an index devised by Frog Hospital to measure the quality of life. Here’s how it works – a city can have terrible traffic, but if it has great culture, then it’s worth fighting the traffic to get to all those interesting places. Or a country place can have no traffic and no place to go to anyways….. But for Mount Vernon, the traffic is growing a lot faster than there are places worth going to.

Todd Wood, Co-op Manager-for-Life. Frog Hospital, perpetually at odds with the corrupt management of the Food Co-op, spied Co-op Manager-for-Life Todd Wood over by the Deli and whispered in his ears, “I can’t wait until we get a Whole Foods store in Anacortes.” These words struck terror in his heart. Whole Foods, if you don’t know, is national chain of organic food supermarkets. They have one store in Seattle in Ravenswood. They have very high quality food. The Skagit Valley Food Co-op management has been worried for several years that Whole Foods might branch out up here. I certainly hope so – the Co-op has no competition at this point.

The Looming Weekend. It does arrive eventually. But for me, being on a landscaper’s schedule, weekends don’t mean squat. I work on a rain schedule. Like I didn’t work today, Friday, because it was wet. Well, it dried up in the afternoon and, strictly speaking, I could have worked today, but instead I got a hair cut and went to Mount Vernon for errands. This Saturday and Sunday I’ll be working at Connie Funk’s where I am almost finished with the restoration of her once-and-future wonderful garden. Work on Monday too. On Tuesday I leave for California.

Wayne Everton at the Barber Shop. “So you’re a dickhead,” Gretchen said with a laugh, meaning I had been to the barber shop and Dick Holt cut my hair. “Not so,” I replied, “Tony cut my hair, that way you don’t get so much of a Rotary Club look.” Tony Holt is Dick Holt’s son. They work together. I am really particular about who cuts my hair. I often have Marianne cut my hair at her Mane Event hair salon, but for two problems – one is that she just retired and the other problem is that it’s not good for a woman to cut your hair – not at all the time – it can become emasculating. You remember what Delilah did to Samson? And then he lost all his strength. Women, love’em, but total trust is not advised.

I was forgetting the Waynemaster, himself, hizzoner, in the flesh, in the chair at the barbershop giving his candid views. I monitor the Waynester’s psychic aura, rather than engage in a conversation with any content. I figure if he’s not acting nervous, or depressed, or pissed off or anything like that – if he’s just relaxed and laughing easily, then our municipal government is in good hands. Reviewing his aura while Tony cut my hair, I gave him a big thumb’s up.

The Girl Friend

The Girl Friend. I had a girl friend this summer. She might even read this. The time we spent together on the beach and hanging her in garden was the best part of my summer. I had such a rotten summer, except for her. Three days. The first day we met at the Kingston ferry and walked out to the pier and talked to the fishermen. The second day I came to her place in Kitsap and she made a picnic lunch. We went to the beach at Point No Point. Another weekend we spent the whole day in her garden, and the evening watching a dumb video, all kissing and we were on the couch, wrapping arms.

That was all. It was so good. I forgot how good it could be, but now I know.

Drinking Wine, Eating Chili, Listening to Laura Ingram. The best place to buy wine in the Skagit Valley is the Rexville Store. Stuart, the owner, is a big pain in the neck, but he only sells good wine, and his bargain bin is always good – like wine for $4.49 a bottle, but it goes down well.

Stuart is always right. This is why he is such a pain. You cannot tell him anything, but he already knows it. I like to go there for coffee in the morning, but I might as well wear a button on my shirt that says, “Well, of course, Stuart. You’re right and I’m wrong. What was I thinking?”

Laura Ingram is on the talk radio. I’m listening while I sit in this horrible boat which I told you about last night. She’s conservative, but I am a non-partisan listener. I judge by the sound of their voices. For instance, Al Franken and his smooth, soothing baritone. He’s a liberal. He has a sense of humor – although sometime his show gets a little slow, especially when he has long, insider conversations with Tom Oliphant, the Boston Globe columnist. But I like him.

I can’t stand Rush Limbaugh anymore. It’s the voice, not the content. He’s too loud and my ears hurt. But Michael Savage is good with his raspy New York accent. I love him when he talks about his sainted mother. I don’t think he actually likes anybody else. He is a cultural conservative.

Finally, Laura Ingram has a warm, brassy voice. It’s really unusual. I love the sound. Content? I hardly notice.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Kevin says hello

Kevin says hello. He's my friend. He carves totem poles and masks from cedar trees. Everybody around here wants to buy one of his carvings. He is also a singer and uses the drum, so if we have an event or party or anything, then Kevin might come and begin with an invocation. I go over to his house sometime to eat. His wife Pat -- also very nice. Then I play the piano. They have a good old upright. Any way, he says hello.

Neil is here. He said I could leave a box for storage in his garage. Last year I left ten boxes, but since then I have accumulated more stuff. I don't like living in my car, but at least I have a good place to keep my stuff -- I call it attic stuff, stuff you put away and never look at -- you just keep it -- ten boxes, but now it's eleven.

Connie Funk grows the best hydrangeas in the Skagit Valley. She has her place out on Dodge Valley Road -- not to confuse anybody but Dodge Valley is a little place in the Skagit Valley -- but, back to the hydrangeas -- Connie has the very best, luscious, green, thick, abundant plants, with huge blooms from pink to blue in a 50-foot hedge, right next to the house, on the north side, not too much sun.

Funny about plants. I didn't use to like hydrangeas, but now I do.

“Every single day,” said the man on the radio

“Every single day,” said the man on the radio. He was talking about the wetlands of Louisiana. “Every single day more and more….” They are disappearing. We are warned. We are given notice. “One day, you’ve waited too long…” Dire consequences. We have tampered with nature. Tampered hardly describes it.

We are not aborigines – those far-ranging black people of Australia. “Aboriginal” is from the Latin. “Ab” means from and “origine” means beginning, like the English word “orginate.”
But we are not from the beginning – not that beginning. Our beginning is the Bible which begins, “In the beginning,” but it might just as well be “from the beginning.” It’s a matter of belief.

Aeclectic Tarot Forum. The Aeclectic Tarot Forum is an Internet study and chat room for devotees of the Tarot. The cards describe the archetypes of our culture. I own the Rider-Waite deck, the most common one. There are, you will find out, hundred of Tarot decks. The address of the Aeclectic Tarot Forum is . Most of the Tarot people are women, it is an international crowd. I chat with folks from the Netherlands, England, Chile, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia and Canada – mainly English speakers.

Oops – now I’m hearing about global warming on the radio. We’re all going to die. “The conditions were ripe for more intense hurricanes,” said the scientist describing the apocalypse. The radio keeps interrupting – sorry.

Back to the Tarot. Why do I spend so much time hanging out with women on the Tarot chat room? Probably because I’m single – no wife, no girl friend, almost had a girl friend, but not quite. Lonely.

Nevermind. I would like to be influenced by the style of Herb Caen. He was a nice man. He reminds me of my father. I am not a nice man – I have too much anger, resentment, bitterness, spite, contempt and what else? I am just not that nice.

Now, the average journalist is far more of an asshole than I will ever be. They are completely aggressive and intrusive. I’m not mean enough to be a good journalist, and I’m not nice enough to be a warm-hearted journalist like Herb Caen. Even worse, I’m sentimental. I cannot erase this quality. Herb Caen is sentimental, when he writes his love for San Francisco, but in a measured way – you never feel like you just ate too much whipped cream and chocolate fudge.

But I am hopeless. I wrote a column for the Wilson County News which was titled “America is My Home.” That kind of thing just won’t fly out here on the West Coast, but it’s my nature and that means it’s the TRUTH. I don’t use that word, but now I want to use it. TRUTH. TRUTH. TRUTH. I want the Truth. I serve the Truth. I love the Truth.

Maybe the Australian Aborigines have the Truth. Here’s the details on the book, which is good, especially the photos, taken around one hundreds years ago in black and white when they -- the aborigines, the natives, the savages -- were still in the wild. The book is called Voices of the First Day, by Robert Lawlor.

I am not a native. I am not a local, except it be America, the entire country.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A Four Post Day

A Four Post Day. A few people are reading this – I hope. Please email or send me a comment. Overwhelmed with emotion – that I was, the last few days, although the storm has passed. I guess I have given up on the girl-friend. She was very fine, but I’m leaving town, so I don’t expect to see her. Friday I had an incredible outburst of self-pity – about me living in my car for six months. I felt it was appropriate.

But the spirit has changed. Everything looks good. So read on – the next three posts, about my future – going to California. The Herb Caen column is repeated verbatim. He was a wonderful man.

Santa Monica Farmers Market.

Santa Monica Farmers Market. You can find it every Wednesday at the intersection of Third and Arizona, right near the Promenade and the bluff overlooking the wide Pacific Ocean. This market has over 90 farmers selling fruits, vegetables, cheeses, etc., from bountiful pocket farms surrounding the great Los Angeles metropolis. It is, far and wide, the biggest and best display of vegetables I have ever seen in America.

I used to work for Glenn and Charlotte Johnson, who have an organic farm on Fir Island, here in the Skagit. I was getting too old for the backbreaking farm work, but just perfect for selling vegetables. So I managed one of their market days, arriving at early dawn to load up my truck with boxes of just-picked cauliflowers and kohlrabis and everything else, then driving to the market, setting up the tables and displaying the food just so – always under the shade, to keep it fresh, and giving it a spritz of cooling water throughout the day. The people came by and bought everything. It was a lot of fun.

Maybe, when I get to California – I’ll be staying at my sister’s house in Venice, which is right next to Santa Monica – maybe I can get a one day a week job selling veggies. This is a great idea. And what else could I do?

Herb Caen’s column from Monday, May 8, 1995, titled “Man Playing Typewriter.”

Herb Caen’s column from Monday, May 8, 1995, titled “Man Playing Typewriter.” THANK YOU for asking. Yes, the 40-yr-old Loyal Royal is still marching well, as the French would say. However, the nut whose hands wander idly o'er the keys, occasionally striking a wrong note, could use a tuneup, especially after drinking pepper vodka by mistake. This is another growing menace that strikes at the very roots of our fading civilization: flavored, scented and colored vodka. Why fuss around with perfection? Scented vodka, frevvensakes, negates the reason for its very existence. The blessed elixir was getting nowhere until Smirnoff (I think) came up with the great slogan: ``It Leaves You Breathless!'' Right. Unlike whiskies and gins, bossy couldn't smell vod on your exhalations. He just wondered why you kept bumping into things . . . Thursday night, in my endless quest to stay abreast of women's fashions, I went to a salute to local designers sponsored by Absolut vodka and a guy handed me what appeared to be a gentleman's drink. As I found out too late, it was full of pepper. That ended the evening for me, absolutely. May I say, between fits of hacking, that the only foreign objects that should be introduced into the clear, cool liquid are a lemon twist or an orange slice, period. Peppered vodka is an abomination or my name isn't Herbert Cayenne.

WELL, there are a lot of subjects columnists should no longer write about, and drinking is one of them. In truth, I'm like Dean Martin, who only pretended to drink a lot. Besides, it's a boring subject. Another b.s.: traffic. Running red lights is no longer news. It is now taken for granted. I've seen jerks run the light right in front of police cars and get away with it. Maybe somewhere in this great city of ours, a cop is sirening down a red-light runner at this very moment but I sort of doubt it . . . After many searching conversations with cabbies and bus drivers, I find that what bugs them most is the same thing that gives me caenniption fits: pedestrians walking against the ``Don't Walk'' or flashing red hand. Traffic backs up for half a block while some idiot saunters across a downtown intersection -- illegally. Walking against the light is a $55 infraction and with thousands doing it daily at every downtown intersection, the city could collect enough in a week to balance the budget. However, the police are too busy doing whatever it is they do, and there aren't enough of them. Police departments are always broke and undermanned, or so they say.

NATTERING ON: While Mayor Jordan Was happily biking around town Thurs., the PG&E was slapping a public notice on the front door of his Pac. Heights residence for nonpayment of a ``several hundred dollar'' gas bill. Wendy, who wears the pants in the family, also pays the checks so we know who's to blame. I'd say the PG&E . . . Here's a sticker looking for a bumper: ``The PG&E Is a Turnoff'' . . . Oh, by the way, Happy Tax Freedom Day! Up until today, every cent you earned in 1995 went to Uncle Sam but for the rest of the year, you're working for yourself, and do you know anybody nicer to work for? Still, we are losing ground. Last year, points out Jack Early Bird, the cutoff date was May 5 . . . Getting back to the mayor, didja see those newsphotos of Jordan riding a bike while wearing a tiny helmet? Reminded a lot of people of the photo that swung an election: George Dukakis in a tank.

MEANWHILE: Abiquiu, the Southwestern- style restaurant in Kimpton's Monticello Inn Hotel on Ellis, folds May 15. Moral: a name nobody can spell or pronounce is generally a bad idea . . . Free freebie! The cast and 10-piece swing band of ``The Big Broadcast'' show, now killing 'em at the theater in the Presidio, will do a noon-1 p.m. show at Justin Herman Plaza on Wednesday . . . If you've been holding your breath till Gail De Martini marries Melvin Belli, I think you can exhale now . . . Good ol' Mel, by the way, forgot to pay receptionist Grace Delgado so she clobbered him in small claims court for $3,700 and danged if he hasn't forgotten to pay that, too . . . Over the sand dabs at Jack's, Big Joe Alioto disclosed that he and his sometimes-feuding sons will close ranks to be Angela's finance chairmen in her run for mayor. When one of these chaps drops around and says ``Hey, haven't you forgotten something, friend?'', don't even think twice. Small bills, please.

FUN ON the infobahn (from the Sheriff's Log in the San Luis Obispo Telegram): ``A man in the 3200 block of Johnson Ave. reported that his life was threatened by another man via modem. The man was advised not to re-boot'' . . . Peter James Brooks, longtime San Franciscan, just got transferred to Dallas, and when the local movers discovered his destination, one of 'em asked, ``Hey, who'dja piss off?'' I consider that a Very San Francisco question. Peter is surviving down there, he tells me, by dreaming about Bay-to- Breakers, which he'll be in, as usual. This time he and his friends plan to dress like salmon, start at Ocean Beach and run against the current . . . Add vanishing landmarks: the built-in-1914 Iroquois Hotel in the 800 block of O'Farrell, often a home for merchant seamen, cabbies, gamblers and other city drifters. Albert Artoux, the departing owner, calls it ``an island of tranquility in a sea of despair,'' but its 87 rooms are being converted to low-cost housing. ``No more daily lunches at Swan Oyster Depot,'' laments Albert.

BOTTOM LINES: Tony Lima of the 'postrophe posse nailed Nat'l League umpire Ed Montague. First day back on the job after the strike, Ed walked into Candlestick carrying a big sign reading ``Thanks Fan's For Your Support.'' Yerrrrrout!

California Here I Come

California, here I come. I guess I can stay here another week, but I’m just dying to hit the road. Seven days. I have to finish the job I’m doing at Connie Funk’s garden, because I promised her, and because that will give me the money I need to get out of town. But I am champing at the bit – making mental lists, like changing the oil on the car. I’m going to have Jimmy Schermerhorn give it a good going over – the car, I mean. It’s in very good shape, but you feel better after it’s been checked out.

Herb Caen, Columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Born 1916, began writing his column in 1938, when he was 22, kept it up almost daily, until his death in 1997. Had a way of making up his own words. Couldn’t write like him.

You can find anything on Google – which is scary. I mean it’s good you can find anything, like the Herb Caen columns. I just typed “herb caen” into Google, and there they were – a selection of Caen’s best columns over his 60-year career. But that’s scary too.

Jennifer Clarke is selling Chinese flotsam at her card table in front of the Café Culture. Janet Laurel, a new artist in town, came in for her afternoon cookie and coffee. Suzi Thompson, manager of the Bowman Gallery in Anacortes, walked in smiling. She is great pal with Gretchen Dykers, owner of Café Culture – the real window on LaConner.

But, God, I am sick of small towns. ….. Janet Laurel sitting in the old velvet chair by the door,
smoking a cigarette, which is not allowed, legs crossed, colorful socks and tennis shoes. She keeps talking loudly and Gretchen gets annoyed at her constant discussion.

Barking Dogs. Two brown dogs. One named Buddy, the other named Lucy. Out in front of the Café, tied up on leashes, mostly lazing all day on the sidewalk – but it was that other dog that got them barking – Jennifer’s black Newfoundland.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Spirit of the Place

The Spirit of the Place. When my daughter graduated from college she said, “I don’t know where to live. Where should I go to live?” I answered her that the place chooses you, but you don’t pick the place. If the place doesn’t love you, then it doesn’t matter how much you want to live there. This was Boston for me – lived there for six years and loved it, loved it, but Boston never loved me back. Same thing happened to my son when he moved to San Francisco several years ago – wanted to live there, but San Francisco spurned his affection.

Myself, I look at the great Skagit Valley and realize this is so – the spirit of the place, not any particular people, but the place itself says – this ain’t your home. The mistake I make is judging a place by its scenery. The Skagit Valley just looks so pretty. But if I was interested in a woman, should I choose the prettiest one?

Not a good idea. It’s nice to be good-looking, whether it’s your partner or the place that you live, but it can’t be one of the important qualities. It’s the soul of the place that matters. A landscape has character just like a human being, and what you see with your eyes is not important. It’s what you see when your eyes are closed that tells the real story.

Scenery is what you do on vacation, but it isn’t home.

Friday, September 09, 2005

This Valley Stinks

This Valley Stinks. The previous post was my weekly column for the Wilson County News, which is the best weekly newspaper in Texas. The column was about the college kids who are taking the semester off to come down and help re-build Louisiana – such a good idea….. I don’t know that any students are actually doing this, but they should.

Now I am writing this at Althea’s in Mount Vernon, which has some of everything – like green tea, or beer or wine if you want it. This is Casey’s place. There is no Althea, but it was a song named by the Grateful Dead. Casey is a very nice woman – she brought me an extra cup of green tea and made me feel at home.

Landscaping work was all right today, although I don’t give a shit one way or another about the beauty of the Skagit Valley. I have been living in my car and couch surfing for the past six months, and I think this Valley stinks. Been here since 1970, on and off, but it’s not my home anymore and that hurts my feelings and makes me feel pretty sad. All I want to do now is leave this place and go somewhere where nobody knows me, so I can restore my spirit.