Listening to: “One April Day” – Stephin Merritt

Dude, can you believe this Western United States? It’s fucking crazy, man. Apparently there are snow storms back East or something. Ha. Ha ha.

canyonlake

It’s been sunny and dry and infinite ever since I landed in Phoenix last Tuesday. I’m staying out here with some good old friends, and I’ve been doing lots of climbing and riding in cars and making primitive-sounding exclamations at all the prettiness everywhere. Prettiness in the great outdoors that is. Nature = beautiful, but the cities here? Not so much. Because they can, the cities here stretch squat and wide. Phoenix isn’t so much urban as one endless suburb, halted from further stretching its tentacles only by the mountains.

We drove to Vegas, too. Saw the Hoover Dam, which looked like something out of Lord of the Rings. There was snow in Flagstaff, AZ, and dust in Boulder City, NV and wind in Needles, CA, and sun everywhere. We spotted the honest-to-god Oscar Mayer Wienermobile (!) in a bitty outpost along the old Route 66.

fishpools

We stayed at the Rio near the strip, I gambled a minute amount at one of the low limit casinos in Old Vegas (“old” being about 50 years), had a cigar at the Venetian and a dirty martini at Wynn. We recharged from the madness that is the Strip by climbing in Red Rock outside the city, eating at In-N-Out Burger, and holing up at a genuine hipster bar along Fremont.

Today I went hiking in South Mountain Park south of Phoenix, ambled along the ridgeline, snuck out of the park through a horse ranch, and walked about 2 miles along a rural highway with the mountains all looming and purple behind me. Got about 6 honks, pet some nice dogs. My friend picked me up a mile short of civilization.

altatrail

And now, I am very tired. Three days till I head back eastward and trade my cheap bomber jacket and Chucks for my cheap down coat and snow boots. Freeeeaking New England.

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Listening to: “North Adams” – Gabriel Kahane

In another bid to crystallize my utter gastric disgust with her, Sarah Palin demonizes international travel. When asked why she didn’t have a passport until last year:

I’m not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and say go off and travel the world. No, I’ve worked all my life. In fact, I usually had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I was not a part of, I guess, that culture.

‘Cause you know, only lazy entitled people travel. Good Americans who work for a living wouldn’t dream of leaving U.S. soil unless coerced.

Gross gross gross. Anyway, I try not to let my horror at the tubes America is going down ruin my already foul disposition. Funny thing — a downward-spiraling economy isn’t so awesome for helping to find employment. I’m thinking now’s a better time than ever to quit this country for a bit, provided I can find something quasi-lucrative overseas.

If only I could focus my attention, lazer-like, on what I want. It’s just that I want about a hundred things — and most of them don’t work with each other. It doesn’t really gel with the way society works right now. So it’s hard. I just like to move — I don’t really care about the destination. But that’s not the way to be “successful” in this world. Maybe I need to find a different world.

—-

I’ve been reading West With the Night, Beryl Markham‘s memoirs about her years as a aviatrix/horse trainer/huntress/all-around badass in pre-World War II Kenya and England. She’s pretty much the awesomest person who ever was — a totally independent woman in an era and a place where that was really difficult, an adventurer, a free thinker, a total babe, and a really good writer. (There’s a theory that her then-husband, who was a journalist, was the real author of West With the Night; but I like to think it was Beryl who wrote it.)

Anyway, I’m at a part in the book where she’s on a safari with some white hunters on the Yatta Plateau, having an introspective moment while sitting around a campfire. Though she was born in England, she’s been in East Africa since the age of 3:

You were alone when you sat and talked with the others — and they were alone. This is so wherever you are if it is night and a fire burns in free flames rising to a free wind. What you say has no ready ear but your own, and what you think is nothing except to yourself. The world is there, and you are here — and these are the only poles, the only realities …

I return to my list of things needed, but not for long. I wonder if I should have a change — a year in Europe this time — something new, something better, perhaps. A life has to move or it stagnates. Even this life, I think.

It is no good telling yourself that one day you will wish you had never made that change; it is no good anticipating regrets. Every tomorrow ought not to resemble every yesterday.

Still, I look at my yesterdays for months past, and find them as good a lot of yesterdays as anybody might want. I sit there in the firelight and see them all.

The hours that made them were good, and so were the moments that made the hours. I have had responsibilities and work, dangers and pleasure, good friends, and a world without walls to live in. These things I still have, I remind myself — and shall have until I leave them …

Meanwhile, haven’t I got two quarts of water, a pound of biltong — and the doctor’s bottled sleep (should I be hors de combat and the Siafu hungry that night)? I certainly have, and, moreover, I am not defenceless. I have a Luger in my locker — a gun that Tom has insisted on my carrying, and which can be used as a short rifle simply by adjusting its emergency stock. What could be better? I am an expedition by myself, complete with rations, a weapon, and a book to read — Air Navigation, by Weems.

All this, and discontent too! Otherwise, why am I sitting here dreaming of England? Why am I gazing at this campfire like a lost soul seeking a hope when all that I love is at my wingtips? Because I am curious. Because I am incorrigibly now, a wanderer.

Ugh, Beryl man, I feel ya. Here’s an example of someone who’s driven, but in more than one direction. And she manages. She more than manages — she’s a fucking hero. It was a different time though, when there were more frontiers, more things to do that hadn’t yet been done.

—-

I went on another hike in New Hampshire last weekend with J, Tuck and some more peeps. It was perfect clear early fall weather. We hiked 15 miles, hitting two summits in the Upper Valley — Mt. Smarts and Mt. Cube. Ridiculous names, no?

A little over halfway, we camped overnight and finally got to build a fire! Here’s the view west toward Vermont from the abandoned firetower on the top of Mt. Smarts:

Ah, mountain climbing. So much more clear-cut than anything else in life.

*Takes thoughtful drag from universal pretentious cigarette*

Listening to: “Cliquot” – Beirut

Hello, ol’ bloggy ol’ blog ol’ bloggy. Noogies! Flecasfksf;lh. I’m tired and hungover–too tired to sleep, and should not be trusted with a keyboard in such a state. But yar, maties, what be this thing on which I’m typing?

Lessee. it’s been awhile, I suppose, partly because the last few weeks I’ve been trying to do some actual writing. Working on a new story, the direction of which changes with the wind. Maybe it’d help if I gave the characters names. I’ve got a title though–“The Price of Rootlessness.” (from a line in Angels in America: “The price of rootlessness, motion sickness. Only cure: Keep moving.“) It started in one of those sudden, feverish, questionable flurries of writing. This one came upon me riding the T back home from a particularly bland thingee thing I had to see for work.

That churned out two pages-ish, and I’ve been taking notes on it since. I tried to write another scene and, rereading it all, I began to worry that I had fallen prey to what Flaubert called in one of his letters, “these masked balls of the imagination, from which one returns with death in the heart, exhausted, having seen nothing but falsity and uttered nothing but nonsense.

Anyway, we’ll see how it turns out. I’m tempted to yet again strike off in the magical realist direction that I love so well, but that is probably best left in the hands of the masters.

But like my ol’ editor told me today at a barbeque, if you’re too hard on yourself, you’ll cancel it out before it starts. And anyway, Flaubert spent his whole life beating the shit out of himself over his writing, seeking detachment and perfection. Maybe not the best role model for me.

Between reading Persepolis and Watchmen recently, I’m really starting to think about writing something in graphic novel form. Such a cool medium. If only my drawing muscles weren’t all outta practice. Must stretch. Also, reading a book about the myths of the world I got off the dollar rack at the Brookline Booksmith. The Icelandic myths are the tits. A one-eyed king of the gods? A queen of the underworld who’s half-woman, half-corpse? And best of all, Ragnarok, a swords-n-blood apocalypse that makes every other apocalypse look totally lame? Tits.

What else, what else… went camping two weekends ago in the Mahoosucs with a friend and the dog. Disaster ensued when we followed what we thought was a path, but turned out to be a boundary line that led us through dense underbrush up a mountainside in the dark. Had to set up camp where we could, the wind howling off the fucking summit all night. We made it out alive, though, albeit coated in scrapes and mosquito bites, and even a tick or three. Tucker took it like a trooper. It was an adventure, I’ll give it that. And it was beautiful out there. Here’s Tuck at Dryad Falls, contemplating the view of the Whites to the south:

But get this, get this: the mountain was called… Mount Success! Oh, thou soul-crushing irony, take my soul for the crushing!

It’s funny how you can crave wilderness, but the second you’re up on a mountain in the dark with no place to make a fire, all you want is to land smack-dab in the middle of Times Square. Deep in our primordial scared-ass caveman guts, we just want light and warmth, I suppose. And maybe a mammoth-beatin’ stick. Take that, mammoth!