Friday, November 06, 2009

Easy Street

Hot cocoa and a warm fire. Good friends and lively music. A lake of stew and candy for the children. Robust health and money in the bank.

Man, that sounds like easy street. Just thinking about it makes me feel better -- my destination, my goal, my well-deserved reward. And I know I’ll get there someday, but first I need to shake off this gloom.

I feel the gloom when November comes, and the fear of winter creeps over the land.
November brings the Day of the Dead. And if you’re in rightness, you will feel no dread, and laugh at the skeletons and bones.

But if you’re not in rightness, you will tremble and your dreams will be disturbed by dark visions of winter -- because the landlord is cruel, he wants his coin. Heat isn’t free but hoarded and sold.

Now, gather in closer and hear my words. You can’t act on the fear, if it’s the fear of winter or any other demon. When you act on the fear, the winter-bully keeps coming back. You pay him off today, and he comes back tomorrow and wants more. He will never go away and you will always be afraid.

But we have learned to prepare for the winter months. This is not acting on fear, but simply being prudent. We learned that in the old hippie days Up River, when we lived in camps and learned how to cook over a fire and grow a garden.

In November of 1970, this conversation between Honcho and Rico may have taken place:

“Well, dude, it sure has been raining a lot. It’s cold all the time now. Man, it’s not that much fun. I was thinking we could, like, get some firewood or something, get a big a pile, you know, stay warm. We were working on that forest fire this summer -- I saw this big slash pile up by Kindy Creek.”

Okay, Honcho, you’re talking a major effort, like you have a plan. Far out, we don’t just go out and find some sticks, but like serious stuff -- a big pile of wood.

“Yeah, Rico, dig it, we stay warm all winter. We could use your truck and go to tomorrow. I’ll come by in the morning. You roust up Toothless Tom and Bobby and we’ll make it a gang. I’ll come by about nine o’clock.”

Uh, nine? Like on the clock nine? Dude, we threw the clock away. We’re just not into that time thing. You know, the rat race, the pressure, buy a new car….

“Okay, forget nine o’clock. I’ll just come by in the morning and we’ll get going.”

But the truck don’t work. The battery’s no good. I mean, we could jump start it, but then it will just die again.

“All right. I got a plan. I come by in the morning. We take the battery out of my car, put it in your truck, and we’re good to go.”

Yeah, that’ll work, but we gotta get the chainsaw from Glenn, swing by his place.

“That’s a problem, you know. It’s not like it’s his chainsaw, like he owns it. I mean, it’s our chain saw. I mean, we’re all in this together, right?”

Yeah, but Glenn kind of figures he’s in charge of the chainsaw. He’s on this like power trip.

“All right, I need to tell him the truth.”

That was the conversation between Honcho and Rico, huddled by a smoky November fire in a tepee up by Marblemount in 1970.

The chain saw in question had been liberated from the Forest Service that summer. It was Glenn and his sidekick Andy who stuck it in their duffel bag and brought it back from the fire.

The August forest fire over on the Eastside was a big burn, thousands of acres in flame, hundreds of fire fighters -- loggers, winos, Mexicans, hippies. We lived in a big fire camp with hot showers and free food, all the steak and mashed potatoes you could eat, and getting paid to work 16 hours a day.

And all that government equipment just laying around like it didn’t belong to anybody -- which is why Glenn and Andy liberated the chainsaw.

This was discussed in council while passing the pipe. “Like it’s ours now. I mean, this is America, and we’re Americans, so this is like our chain saw.”

Everybody saw that was righteous. It was ours, but it always seemed to be sort of more Glenn’s chainsaw than just anybody’s.

Anyway, he cut loose of it when Honcho and Rico and came by the next morning. They had swapped the batteries and brought some food, and picked up Toothless Tom and Bobby.

They found the slash pile on Kindy Creek, cut wood for a few hours, and drove back to camp.

Sure, they had a big pile now, but the wood was green and wet. You spent half the morning on your knees blowing into a smoking fire, you could hear the water sizzle in the wood. Yeah, it burned, if you kept puffing on it, but it didn’t keep you warm at all.
All winter it was cold and wet. No easy street. No lakes of stew. Half the hippies bailed and went back to California, or drifted down to Seattle or got food stamps, or borrowed money from their parents.

It took the hippies two or three years to learn what was easy to see and plain as day. You only had to look at the long, dry, nicely stacked woodpiles alongside the old timer’s place.

Like at Old Jim Clark’s cabin. Old Jim was on easy street. He lived in a small cabin with a wood cook stove, and it was almost hot in there -- so much wood -- but dry wood, and he was cooking beans on the stove all winter, laughing and telling lies.
“You damn fools, I cut this wood in the summer when you were all skinny dipping at the pond. Now you’re freezing your ass off and coming by my place to get warm. That’ll learn you.”

Some of the hippies did learn and they stuck it out and they still live Up River with lots of dry wood stacked outside the door, wood they cut in the early summer, and laid by.

Now, that’s easy street. And the fear of winter -- be gone!

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