Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Repent Thyself, Repent America

I haven't spent much -- any, really -- time blogging about things with a political bent. But I can't keep quiet on this one. A group called "Repent America" (yeah, I'll get right on that) has made an astonishing discovery: gays and boobies are to blame for Hurricane Katrina.

I simply refuse to give these insects a link, so I will point you instead to the post at Shakespeare's Sister where I learned of the matter.

Apparently Michael Marcavage, the leader of this vile little band of thugs, has a problem with New Orleans, a city that formerly harbored "drunken homosexuals," and "drunken women exposing their breasts."

I don't get it. He says that like it's a bad thing.

He states:

“Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city. From ‘Girls Gone Wild’ to ‘Southern Decadence’, New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same.”
Of course, this thesis does not explain the continued survival of Key West. But apparently Mr. Marcavage will take what he can get. His press release continues:

“Let us pray for those ravaged by this disaster. However, we must not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long.”
So, what? We don't pray quite as hard?

These people should fuck right off, and the sooner, the better.

Big Easy, Big Memories

I met you when I was 16 years old.

I had barely been out of the Midwest at that time, a few times to my grandparents' house in South Florida, twice to camp in the Colorado Rockies, and to a few other miscellaneous places.

So of course you captured my senses. The black wrought iron of the French Quarter, the Natchez riverboat, and the crayfish I ate all burned themselves indelibly on my young mind. I loved the nooks and crannies in the Quarter, from the touristy gift shops where I bought the fake "Rue de Bourbon" street sign to the equally phony little voodoo shops.

But I was most enthralled by the man playing his saxophone on Jackson Square, just by the St. Louis Cathedral. You see, I was only sixteen, and had just discovered jazz. His eyes were smiling as I dropped money in his jar.

I wonder where he is today.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Tuesday Evening Bed Blogging


I think I'm getting sick. Every muscle aches and my stomach hurts and my head is pounding.

So I'm taking advantage of TS's laptop and wireless internet to do some horizontal blogging.

This is a grim state of affairs. TK's preschool is closed tomorrow. If I feel this wretched tomorrow, there may be a toddler coup. TS will come home, I will be bound and gagged in the corner, and TK will be perched atop the kitchen table, stuffing fistfuls of candy into his mouth and swilling Sprite out of his dinosaur mug.

I Got Nuthin' Today, Folks

Really.  It’s difficult to find something I care to write about when there are bodies floating through the floodwaters in New Orleans.

Awful stuff.  Go here for the latest local news and photographs.

Improve your Karma, Make a Katrina Donation

Because someday it might be you standing on your roof waiting to be rescued.

Hey, I made one this morning. Did you?

Here are two organizations assisting those affected by Hurricane Katrina:

The American Red Cross (of course)

Noah’s Wish (assisting animals in the wake of disaster)

See also this article on MSNBC for additional organizations.

(Via After School Snack.)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Time-Waster(s) of the Day: Fun with Google

Mondays and Fridays require a little more in the way of loafing than the middle days, and so I’m posting two time-wasters today.  Actually, Wasteland Fan sent me two possibilities today, so even if it were Tuesday I would post them, and then make something up about how Tuesday requires more time-wasting than any other day.

Our first time-waster is something called Googlewhack.  In a nutshell, a googlewhack is a google search that returns only one result.  

How about “Trailheadcase”?  

But no, you say, a proper googlewhack requires two words.  Okay.  How about “Trailheadcase readership?”  Well, no, because that search would return nothing at all.

Fine.  I suck at googlewhacking.  But head on over there anyway, because there are some hilarious examples.

Our other time-waster is Guess-the-Google, where you are shown a collage of images and you have a short amount of time to guess the search that would have produced the images.  I had fun with this, but didn’t exactly place in the top scores.

But as a very wise woman once said to me, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”    

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Category 5 Idiots

Of all the reasons to disobey an order to evacuate a low-lying city directly in the path of a murderous hurricane, “I don’t like being told what to do” qualifies as my absolute favorite.  I heard this “rationale” offered over and over to dumbfounded news anchors tonight, as I sat riveted by the Hurricane Katrina coverage.

No one deserves death, but some people really ask for it.

Called for Weather

So I hear from the natives that it never rains here in July or August.

Except, apparently, when I want to take my kid on his first overnight trip. The Weather Channel tells me there is a 60% chance of thunderstorms tonight.

Considering I’m trying to teach him to enjoy backpacking, I think this trip needs to be postponed. (If this venture did not involve Trailhead Kid, I’d say to hell with it and go anyway.)

Jeez, who do I have to kill to get a night in the backcountry? It hasn’t exactly worked out this summer.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Single Interesting Issue Seeks Thoughtful Comments for May-December Romance

I realize this post strays from the generally prevailing themes here at Trailheadcase (the outdoors, toilet humor, and slugs), but the discussion that developed in the comments to Bob and Paul’s Excellent Adventure is worthy of front-page treatment. Wasteland Fan observed, with respect to the “vanity projects” of older male actors/directors, their tendency to pair themselves with outrageously younger actresses, perhaps even to the point of laughability. When pressed for examples, Wasteland wrote:

A short (too short) response to Trailhead's query: See any movie starring and directed by Woody Allen and/or Clint Eastwood (and, to a lesser extent, Bob [Redford] himself) in the past 15 or so years. Perhaps the most illustrative: Allen's Everyone Says I Love You, in which Julia Roberts can't
help but fall head over heels for Woody.
It seems to me that Woody “Can-you-say-Soon-Yi” Allen is in a category all his own, so let’s set him aside for a moment. Even once Woody is out of the picture, I wonder if Wasteland is onto something here. Ponder this for awhile, and post your own examples in the comments. As you do so, consider also whether there have been films in which older, male actors/directors have paired themselves with actresses closer to their own age, and post those as well.

My example of the latter situation: Clint Eastwood directed and starred in The Bridges of Madison County with the incomparably beautiful, and (then) forty-six-year-old Meryl Streep.

(Postscript: Bloggerdad, avoid projection. We are not insulting your virility.)

Friday, August 26, 2005

Bob and Paul's Excellent Adventure?

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The Sting.

And now the Appalachian Trail?

I've read in a number of places that Robert Redford and Paul Newman are talking about doing an adaption of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods.

It pains me to say it, but I'm not persuaded. I have less of a quarrel with Redford playing Bryson than I do with Newman playing Katz, though I don't think Redford would be the best choice for Bryson, either.

Bryson and his old friend Stephen Katz (not his real name) were in their mid-40s when they commenced their attempt to thru-hike the AT in 1996. Newman and Redford are 80 and 68, respectively. I understand that they are not exactly normal human specimens when it comes to aging, but I still think it might be a stretch.

Moreover, Katz was portrayed in the book as a hilarious, sloppy fat ex-drunk for whom an AT thru-hike was remarkably out of character. I just don't see Newman in that role, and I'm not sure they do, either. The Guardian article quotes a "source close to Redford" (yes, I know that could be his plumber, for all we know) as saying that the story might have to be "rethought a little."

Pardon me for a moment, I need to fetch my smelling salts. Rethought a little? Heaven forbid.

But on the other hand, it's hard not to trust Redford and Newman, even with such precious material as A Walk in the Woods. So we'll see. I stand willing to be convinced. I'm sure Bob and Paul will be relieved to hear it.

Coming Soon: What Happens When you Backpack with a Three-Year-Old

It's time for Trailhead Kid to be endowed with his birthright.

So on Sunday, we will be taking our (almost) three-year-old on his first overnight backpacking trip. I have pored over the books and selected a very short, but scenic hike. We will be going to Thomas Lake in the Indian Heaven Wilderness.

Two adults in their 30s, one (almost) three-year-old, two dogs and a tent.

What could go wrong?

Time-Waster of the Day

Another Mark Fiore, this time on the energy bill.

My favorite line: "Conservation? Whatever, Mr. Hippie-Dippy."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Word Verification Can be Fun

I loathe word verification.

You know, those anti-spam devices where you are forced to type in the twisted, distorted characters shown on your screen? Yes, those -- the ones where I sit hunched over, squinting at my screen for ten minutes trying to figure out whether that stupid curved line is a "1", an "l" or a mutated "7", and never make the correct guess. I always get it wrong on my first two tries, and it takes me forever to convince the computer that I am a person, and not a machine cropdusting cyberspace with pitches for herbal viagra or idiotic websites.

Yes, word verification makes me insane.

But I'm going to inflict it upon you. Because as annoying as word verification is, spam-ments are worse. I know you all have noticed the proliferation of spam comments here at Trailheadcase. They go a little something like this:

"This is the greatest blog I've ever seen! You must be the most brilliant writer ever! I am so totally going to bookmark this site and visit every ten seconds! By the way, I have a really cool site too. It's about cockrings!" [Don't bother clicking.]

Gah! It makes me want to drive a stick into my own ear.

But really, there is no way I would have succumbed to word verification if I had not discovered that it could be funny.

This gave me more than one hearty guffaw, and a reason to look forward to those godawful characters that make me wonder if someone slipped acid into my Diet Coke. (Spend some time perusing the rest of the site. This guy's funny.)

And when in doubt, guess "7."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Everybody Gets Their Eight Centimeters of Fame

I suppose it's part of the cosmic bullshit swirling around the universe that this person is in the prime of his fifteen minutes of fame, and I am still toiling away in an upstairs office.

Frank Ames not only has the good fortune to live in Saranac, New York -- a lovely part of the Adirondack area -- but he has also been blessed with an abnormally long eyebrow hair.

It's 3.78 inches -- or eight centimeters -- long.

Wouldn't that get in your eye and be annoying? I suppose you could get a scrunchie for it, but that might be a bit heavy.

"I don't know why it grows like that; it just always has," confided Ames to the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh, New York. One of Ames' co-workers noticed the hair and suggested he try for the Guinness Book of World Records.

Am I the only one who suspects that suggestion was not kindly meant?

In any event, Ames thought it was a good idea and contacted Guinness. The Guinness people looked around, shuffled through some papers and said, "Um, yeah. Turns out there's no category for eyebrow hairs. Fill out these forms and maybe we'll institute a new category for you."

At the end of the day, the Guinness people were impressed enough by Ames' eight-centimeter long eyebrow hair to do just that, and name him the record-holder.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

No. 9: I've Never Been Robbed by Two Italian Teenagers on the Gran Via

But I stood there while my brother was.

No, it's not that bad, really. This was not a robbery, per se, in the sense that weapons were used. The only assault that took place was the furtive slipping of hands into the pants pocket of a man who, ordinarily, would have little trouble detecting even the slightest touch of female fingers near his nether regions. Except, ahem, this time.

I'm somewhat embarassed to relate this story, as it reveals us as rubes of such arresting stupidity that we probably should have been immediately expelled from the country. But I'm in for a dime, in for a dollar, thanks to Wasteland Fan and this meme.

Those of you who have traveled overseas are no doubt familiar with jet lag. Jet lag is not merely benign exhaustion. It hurts. I hate jet lag. When I have it, my skull is a hotel room being trashed by a rock band and my brain is the guitar they are bashing against the wall.

That afternoon, it was a dreadful combination of stark interference with circadian rhythms, caffeine withdrawal, dehydration from the arid airline environment, and the surreality of being in a new country, which was only magnified by the other issues.

Oh, my. I apologize, but the mere recollection of all this is cause for a nap. Excuse me for a moment or two.

That lasted a good bit longer than I anticipated. Here it is, seven hours later. Incidentally, that is approximately the amount of time I should have spent sleeping after I checked into my hotel, but I was with my brother, and my brother believes that life is short, and by God you can sleep when you're dead. He had also availed himself of the first opportunity to sample Spanish espresso only a short distance from passport control, and so was hopping impatiently from one foot to another like a three year-old who has to hold a bladder full of pee. But I am not unsympathetic to my brother's joie de vivre, and so I allowed myself to be dragged out of my bed and onto the Gran Via after a scant two hour nap.

We walked for awhile, and were abruptly accosted by two young women waving a map in our faces and speaking very quickly in a language we did not understand.

"No hablo --" started TH Brother.

"Somos Italianos," said Map-Waving Teen #1 with an understanding grin.

She then held forth for several seconds in what sounded like Italian, and probably translated as, "You stupid fuckers. Right now I have my hand in your pocket and I'm relieving you of several hundred euros and your Visa card. I'm going to spend it all on manchego cheese and serrano ham, because after all, we are in Spain and I have this feeling that you are too big of an idiot to figure out how to cancel your American credit card from a foreign country," all the while insistently waving her map in our faces and begging for direction. My brother, being above all else a nice damn guy, kept trying to look at their map and help them.

Meanwhile, consistent with my generally dark outlook on life, I was clutching my bag to my side with a death grip, smiling and nodding. Then, like farts in the wind, they were gone. As quickly as they had found us, they left, proceeding down the Gran Via and pretending to point out landmarks to each other.

Approximately three seconds after they had left, TH Brother reached into his pocket and noticed that the contents of it were gone. I erupted. "Those little shits! They pickpocketed you!" I looked down and noticed that the outer zipper of my bag was open. Fortunately, I had put nothing in there.

"Go after them!" I hissed at TH Brother. He looked at me as though I had suggested that he open his fly and take a whiz on the Gran Via. But we went. And we caught them. And we...

Asked them if they had taken his wallet.

Yes, we asked them. The fog of exhaustion and fish-out-of-water surreality had closed in on both of us, and apparently we expected them to say, "Oh yes, as a matter of fact I do have your wallet! Now how did I end up with that?" and hand it right on over.

Instead, as any remotely intelligent thieves would do, they gave him an offended look that clearly suggested they found him unbalanced and would be forced to scream if he did not leave them alone. They accompanied this look with a flood of Italian that must have translated to, "Why yes I did take your wallet. You are probably the stupidest people I've ever robbed. No one has ever actually caught up with me before and asked me if I took their wallet! But I really must go now, because I have a great deal of shopping to do with your Visa card. Bye now."

Still confused, we just kind of stood there. Then we trudged back to the hotel, where the desk staff, clearly annoyed at our idiocy, put us in touch with the police. The police put their English-speaking officer on the phone who, bored, took town TH Brother's account of the incident. We were informed that he was required to go to the police station on the Puerta del Sol to sign the police report.

We found the station. Behind the desk was an overstuffed police veteran -- apparently a universal fixture in police stations worldwide -- and we addressed him. In his best college Spanish, TH Brother said, "If you please, I am here for to sign..." and thrust the paper bearing the report number over the counter.

The beefy cop actually rolled his eyes at us. Fat prick, I thought. I smiled at him.

He grabbed the paper from TH Brother and began typing the number into his computer. After a few seconds, he started peering at the computer. He was reading, and as he did so, a smirk began to spread over his face. This was almost too much to be borne.

He dragged the process out, clearly enjoying our discomfort. He no doubt expected we would be back before long. After all, we had managed to get ourselves robbed in the first hour of our vacation -- all things considered, a display of almost breathtaking incompetence. Given that, I suppose it was not unreasonable to conclude that we might be spending more of our trip at the Puerta del Sol police station.

Sam, the Ugliest Dog in the World

I suppose I'm coming a little late to this discussion (that happens a lot), but this is really quite something. This dog is not merely ugly. This dog scared me. But once I got over the fact that this dog looks like something out of a Wes Craven film, I could definitely see a spark of panache.

Sam also has a blog.

Here is another picture of Sam.

Sam's human, Susie Lockheed, met her fiance after he saw Sam's photograph on her profile and e-mailed her to ask "What is that?"

Monday, August 22, 2005

Congratulations, You Can Filet a Salmon

But does this mean you should be performing neurosurgery?

Probably not. Then why did I think, just because I know how to get on the internet and open a blogger account, that I can figure out all the other happy horseshit that goes along with this?

Here is the extent of my ignorance. Before I started blogging, I was discussing the issue with a friend who was thinking of doing the same thing, and he said "Only thing is, I'm not very proficient with HTML."

And I thought to myself, "Great. What is HTML?"

You should have seen the drama involved last night in getting The Animal of the Day where I wanted it. Today I am trying to figure out how to add a blogroll, instead of just the links you add on this template. Fortunately, I was able to click on a link over at Athena's place that will help me to figure this out. Whew. I suppose now it'll only take another day or two to get this in place.

Don't Mind the Lion on Your Screen -- He's Friendly

Please note the addition of the Animal of the Day. If you have a moment, you should head on over there, because they have all sorts of interesting and wacky animals. My favorite is August 19th's animal, the Shoebill. I mean, that is one fugly thing. But very cool.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

No-Vacation Nation

I'm all rhyme-y tonight, I know. And now for a question:

"Can you imagine your reaction if you were told in a job interview that you were expected to work eight days each year for free?"

So asks Tom Williams, chairman and CEO of Universal Parks and Resorts in a press release announcing results of a survey they conducted on vacation habits. This article reports that, according to Universal's survey, half of Americans forfeit an average of eight vacation days per year.

Tom Williams continues: "Ultimately, though, it's not just about whether you're taking full advantage of your compensation and benefits. It's about whether you're taking full advantage of life."

Well, that's true enough. (Because I take these things where I can get them, I'm not going to question Mr. Williams' motives too closely. But let me just say I have a feeling that Mr. Williams is less interested in the good of society as a whole than the fact that half of all Americans are not taking advantage of the opportunity to come on down to Orlando for eight days and spend a wad o' cash.)

But, really. We are turning into a bunch of pathetic zombies in this country. The Europeans have a much firmer grip on this issue. When I visited Spain last year, the most common notation in my restaurant guidebook was "Closed Wednesday and August."

In case you didn't get that, I'll repeat it: "Closed Wednesday and August."

Being the good American I am, I read that for the first time and assumed it really meant "Closed on a Wednesday in August." And then I read a few more guidebooks and discovered that everyone in Madrid gets disgusted with the heat in August, so they close up shop and head for the mountains. For the entire month.

The article further speculates that the reason people don't take their vacations is their employers overtly pressure them not to. Here is where I might shock you.

I don't believe this is true. For the most part. I think it's a slight variation of this scenario, though no less sinister. Here is what I think happens most often: Modern employees are so overworked that if they take those eight days, they will find themselves so far behind that they then have to kill themselves to catch back up again.

This is a timely discussion for me. As much as TH Spouse loves spending time in Montana, extracting THS from the office is only a little less difficult than pulling an alligator's back molar. This is not attributable to any fear inflicted by THS's company, but the fact that THS has so much to do that any time away from doing it creates a real danger that critically important deadlines will go unmet, and fundamental job functions will go unperformed. If THS wasn't doing the equivalent of two jobs, we could have disappeared for a week without nearly daily resort to e-mail and telephone calls.

I don't think it's too much to ask.

In the case of THS's company, we are fortunate. The situation is not universal, and the company is ordinarily flexible about time away from work. But many employers are not, and this sort of thing is par for the course.

Companies that are not good stewards of their employees' vacation and "off" times pay a real price, I think, in things like increased use of Employee Assistance Programs, burnout and turnover. But in any event, it's disheartening to have to point to the financial impact, instead of just expecting employers to treat their people like human beings, and not disposable objects.

(Wasteland Fan, as sure as I know my own name, I know what you are thinking: "Associates are expected to take at least three weeks of vacation per year..." I'll let you run with that one.)

Whatever Floats Your Goat

I love this.

Carol Probst from Midway, Utah found a mountain goat in her garage. When she opened the other garage door to encourage it to leave, it climbed onto the hood of her truck, walked around in circles and stomped its hoof.

And in what may be my favorite news-related sentence of the entire year, the article informs us that Ms. Probst, after securing her golden retriever, photographed the goat on her truck "in case her insurance company doubted a goat-related insurance claim."

Friday, August 19, 2005

No. 3: I've Never Eaten a Grape Dropped by a Dayhiker on a Trail in Adirondack Park

But I wanted to. God, I wanted to. And I almost did.

As the name of the activity suggests, when one is backpacking, one carries the essentials of life on one's back. In a backpack. As this is the case, an overriding goal is to minimize the weight that must be lugged, mile after mile, on a weary back.

So food is principally a dried affair, mostly carbohydrate with whatever protein can be worked in. Noodles, dried fruits, nuts, granola bars and crackers always find their way into my food bag. And for the most part, this is okay. After a day of climbing, descending, and generally just putting one foot in front of another over and over again, feeding your face with starchy, cheesy noodles is the height of decadence.

Then on the first night, as you're sitting in front of the tent after dinner, the fantasies crowd in, and they always revolve around fresh, cool, fully hydrated food. Crisp green lettuce. A juicy peach. A fizzy soda.

Everyone who has completed even a single overnight backpacking trip is acquainted with the hunger that accompanies every single step. TH brother-in-law described his thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail in terms of his hunger: "Really," he said blithely, "you have to get used to a constant state of malnourishment. It's just always there."

And so it is on even the shortest trip. The last mile is the worst, because the goodies are, painfully, almost in your grasp. Pungently sweet-smelling dayhikers start to file past, politely ignoring your stink until they think you are far enough past them that you cannot hear them gagging. The din of voices starts to pick up as you trudge along, and the gentle quiet of the wilderness starts to fade away.

And then you see it in the middle of the trail -- purple, plump and perfectly formed. One fresh, lovely grape with only the smallest bit of trail dirt on it, no doubt dropped by a careless dayhiker with no reason to treasure a single, tiny piece of fruit. And you scream to a stop in front of it and you have almost completed the motion of grabbing it to stuff it in your mouth and feel the juices explode on your tongue when you think to yourself, "you're about to eat a grape that has been on this trail for God-knows-how-long and was dropped by God-knows-who's grimy hand."

And you stare at it for a few more seconds, trying to decide whether you care. And you realize that three days is not a long enough trip to make it worth it, but if you had been out just one more day you would have eaten that grape and not looked back.

But for ever after, when you're on a trail and thinking about succulent, fresh produce, you always regret the loss of that tiny, sweet ball of fruit. And you know that if you are ever again blessed with such an opportunity, no mere social convention will come between you and that grape.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Minding the Crap

This morning at Trailhead Household:

Trailhead Kid: I need to crap later.

Trailhead to Trailhead Spouse, whispering: Did he say what I think he said?

Trailhead Spouse, nodding: I think so. I'm pretty sure it's my dad's fault.

Trailhead Kid: I need to crap later.

Trailhead, studiously ignoring the crap issue: Let's go get some breakfast, TK.

Trailhead Kid: Okay.

And here I thought it would be Bloggerdad, the prime offender when my nephews were small, who taught TK his first socially unacceptable word. TH's eldest sister called Bloggerdad one day and informed him that TH Nephew's kindergarten teacher would like to speak with him.

"Why?" asked Bloggerdad.

"She wants to know why he keeps calling the other children shitbirds," replied TH Sister calmly but pointedly, as she referenced Bloggerdad's swear word of choice.

But in this case it was not Bloggerdad at all, but rather The Exterminator, who is the guilty party here.

I suppose it's an ancient tradition of grandfathers everywhere. I'm so proud.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Ten Things I Haven't Done While Wandering (But In Some Cases, Probably Should Have)

I have been tagged by Wasteland Fan, who took up this meme and rather cleverly modified it for his blog. The delightful thing about this is how many interesting memories it's brought, kicking and screaming, to the surface of my consciousness.

And what wonderful blogfodder! I fear, six dear readers, that I may bore you into an early grave with the stories behind these ten items. But it must be done. I simply cannot help myself. If you have a problem, take it up with Wasteland Fan, whose fault this is to begin with.

So, Coming Soon: Why it sometimes pays to smell very, very bad. Putative kidnappers can't stand the stench any more than normal people, and will often abandon their nefarious plans and let you out of the car.

Incidentally, I have only the sketchiest understanding of this whole meme thing. I have modified it to suit myself as well. So here goes. Ten things I have not done while traveling, but probably should have. Or should be thankful that I did not:

1. Told a homeless guy who approached me at a sidewalk cafe in Madrid that, no, he may not eat my leftover paella.

2. Gotten kidnapped and murdered by a creepy taxi driver in Smalltown, Vermont.

3. Eaten a grape dropped by a dayhiker onto a trail in Adirondack Park.

4. Had a bad bowl of conch chowder in the Florida Keys.

5. Encountered a rude New Yorker. (Except lawyers.)

6. Encountered a Bahamian who wasn't rude. (In the restaurant industry, at least.)

7. Gotten my rented Daewoo so badly stuck on a beach that the incoming tide washed it away.

8. Not been horrified by Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

9. Been robbed by two Italian teenagers on the Gran Via.

10. Thrown up into my regulator while scuba diving.

When Good Lakes Go Bad

Here are a couple of digital snaps I took at Lake McDonald after the Great Canoe Clusterfuck. (I'm only just now posting these because I left the download cable thingie at home. The other images were from TH Spouse's camera, whose cable made it into the truck.) After I took these I dragged out the pro gear and shot half a roll of Velvia 100 from various points of view.

Monday, August 15, 2005

'Scuse Me, While I Kiss This Guy

So the misunderstood lyric takes on a whole new dimension, if a revelation in the new Jimi Hendrix biography, "Room Full of Mirrors" is to be believed. CNN reports that according to biographer Charles R. Cross, Hendrix got out of Vietnam by claiming he was gay. Specifically, Hendrix told the base psychiatrist that he was in love with one of his squad mates, and -- I'm giggling over this because I have a tenth-grade sense of humor -- he was addicted to masturbating.

Well that makes all the difference, doesn't it? It's hard to draw a bead on the enemy when you're busy spanking the monkey.

The article notes, "Hendrix's legendary appetite for women negates the notion that he might have been gay, Cross writes." But maybe the masturbation thing had a little more, uh, traction to it.

These days, though, loudly proclaiming your gayness doesn't have the same effect that it did in the 60s. I'm not even sure they'd let you out for obsessively peeling your banana. Who knows?

Oh, Hell

I am at home again, and there is an awful lot of crap lying around. I know we have to do something about it, so we don't have to look at it anymore.

I know! We'll go to Mt. Rainier this weekend. That should be far enough.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Home, Says the Moon

When I arrived, only the thinnest sliver of moon hung in the sky. Now a perfect half moon lies suspended over the mountains. It’s time to go home again, for now.

A View With A Room

This is the view from my favorite room in the house, the crow's nest. The crow's nest is a room that was tacked onto the top of the house after the fact, because someone thought it would be neat to be able to see into the valley. Good for them.

As an interesting aside, Holly Hunter rented this house in the late 1980s when she was filming Always. This was many years before TH in-laws owned the place. But I still think it's cool that I've been in the same hot tub as Holly Hunter, though admittedly not at the same time.

Later Update: Several hours after I wrote this post, I found a book in the store about Montana entitled "A View With a Room." Jeez, can I have an original thought this week, please?

Ode to Polebridge

There are two things you notice on arriving in Polebridge, Montana via the dusty, gravel Outer North Fork Road. The first is a handwritten sign nailed to a tree that says “Slow Down! People Breathing.” The second is the Polebridge Mercantile, a building constructed in 1914 and operated continuously as a general store ever since.

Polebridge cannot accurately be called a town, a village, or even a sleepy hamlet. Really, Polebridge is a collection, scattered in a huge, grassy meadow, of fewer buildings than can be counted on two hands. Most of them belong to the “Merc,” which was being advertised for sale at $950,000. The poster on the door advised that purchase of the Merc includes twenty-two acres, several rental cabins, and a bunkhouse.

The Merc seems always to be pulsing with activity. Even at 6:00 on a Wednesday evening, a small crowd was gathered on the porch stuffing themselves full of the baked goods produced and sold in abundance at the Merc. Several children had seated themselves under a sign announcing “No Non-Local Dogs Allowed on the Porch,” and were enjoying enormous chocolate chip cookies.

The other permanent resident of Polebridge is the North Fork Hostel, an establishment which observes on its website that the only local animal not yet seen through its windows is the elusive wolf. That is not unimpressive, considering the area is home to grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, eagles, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk, deer, coyote and foxes.

Once you enter the park and get on the Inside North Fork Road, several large log homes are visible on a bluff at the western edge of the meadow overlooking the Flathead River. Though the area is uncompromisingly remote, the Merc no doubt does a good business, at least in the summertime. There are campgrounds at Kintla and Bowman Lakes that are full every night in summer, and still more people who are happy to pitch their tents at Polebridge proper.

And there are always at least two losers who haul their canoe up to Kintla Lake only to turn back around and come down again.

Friday, August 12, 2005

On the Danny On

As some of you know, our base camp near Glacier is TH brother-in-law's ski condo on Big Mountain in Whitefish. (This is funny. Right after I wrote that, I went to the site to get the link and it said "Make Big Mountain your base camp for fun in the Glacier Park area this summer." Okay, if you insist.)

We've done this for several years, but have always bypassed the attractions of Big Mountain for the lure of Glacier. After Wednesday's clusterfuck, we decided to stick around on Thursday. I'm glad we did. We took the gondola to the summit (very chilly up there) and hiked the 3.8 miles back to the village via the Danny On Memorial Trail (we did not have time to hike up, unfortunately).

I like this trail immensely, and will do it again next time. Bears frequent it, and juniper and huckleberries grow along the path. Vibrant fuschia fireweed, goldenrod and indian paintbrush grow lavishly in the meadows. There are log benches placed at every scenic point.

We stopped briefly to sit on one of these and gaze out over the drop. My feet hurt a bit, because I'm more used to going uphill than downhill. As we were chatting, we noticed someone moving up the trail. Two someones.

And they were running. Up the mountain. As they passed us they offered us a cheery, and decidedly not short of breath "hello!" They appeared to be members of the local high school's cross country team. TH Spouse and I looked at each other for a few moments afterward with raised eyebrows.

"They're only about seventeen years old," scoffed THS. "Of course they can do that."

Then came the coach. And the assistant coach. They were not seventeen.

THS and I turned to one another again, mouths agape, and no excuse to make this time. A few more teenagers sprinted by as we stared helplessly at each other.

"I think we'd better get up," I said. We rose reluctantly.

"I'm going to get in shape again," announced THS. "As soon as we get home."

Yes. As soon as we get home.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


We've had our share of travel-related catastrophes.

There was the time we got on the trail in the Adirondack Mountains in New York, and got about 25 yards before we were nearly consumed alive by blackflies. Then there was the time in Munising, Michigan that we took the last "ferry" of the day (a bass boat piloted by a guy in his 80s) to Grand Island in Lake Superior. We were there about 15 minutes before we were swarmed by gumball-sized, biting stable flies. And there was the trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico when we got to our budget hotel and the clerk cheerily informed us that, by the way, the water's only on every other day from 8 a.m. to noon.

But for some reason, travel-related disappointments didn't hurt as much then as they do now. Perhaps it was because it was easier to be flexible then. When we were stymied by the blackflies in New York, we just turned around and drove to Virginia, picked up a book on hikes in the Blue Ridge and were on our way. In Puerto Rico, we just shrugged and spent lots of time in the pool.

But there is no help for yesterday's disaster. There just isn't enough time. The grandparents will be here with TK this evening. Here's how it happened.

Trailhead Spouse's ankle has been hurting lately. Now you must understand, TS is never incapacitated. Never sick, never injured, never really in enough pain to mention. As is typical, after confessing the ankle problem the other day, I asked when it had started to hurt -- I assumed it had been the last couple of days -- and TS said casually, "Oh, the last few weeks."

The last few weeks.

Knowing how unusual it is for TS to complain about anything physical, I began to worry about hiking 13 miles in 2 days with full packs. Plus, we had begun to salivate about the possibility of canoeing Kintla Lake to reach the backcountry site, instead of hiking along it. So yesterday morning, we set about finding a canoe to rent. We'd left ours at home, intending to hike and not paddle. By the time we got a canoe strapped to the top of the truck and made it to the southwestern edge of Glacier, it afternoon. Because daylight lasts so long here, we knew we had until about 4 p.m. to put in and still make it to our site by dark.

Then we hit the gravel portion of the North Fork Road. Kintla Lake lies on the very northwestern edge of the park, about as close to the Canadian border as you can get. To get there, you take the Outer North Fork Road through the Flathead National Forest to Polebridge, then turn east to enter the park and continue to the head of Kintla Lake via the Inner North Fork Road.

When the outfitter told us it was a "rough road" we nodded and said we understood. We had traveled 20 miles on the lower portion of the Inside North Fork Road last year and it wasn't horrible. So when someone says the road is rough, you expect that it's bumpy and slow going. What you don't anticipate is a road that appears to have been bombarded by a lengthy shower of television-sized meteors. We continued along this lunar surface for 30 miles, stopping to reattach the canoe every few miles or so. For two hours we bounced and jangled along this way, our brains banging relentlessly against our skulls.

At length, we saw the sign for Kintla Lake. The wind had picked up as soon as we got on the North Fork Road, and continued unabated. But we were so absorbed with making it along the crater-strewn road that we did not perceive a problem until we stepped out of the truck at the shore of the lake.

There were white caps. White caps. Two foot waves were crashing against the edge of the lake. I swear -- and for once, I am not exaggerating -- I have seen oceans calmer than this.

There was no possible way we could have made it. If you have to, you can paddle something like this for a short time. But it was 4:15. It was, by then, too late to try to make it on foot as well. In any event, it would not have been wise to leave the rental canoe strapped to the top of the truck. We had a choice: try to canoe six miles along a lake that looked something like the sea in The Perfect Storm, or face yet more brain damage on the Road of the Damned.

We chose more brain damage. And relinquished a rare and precious night alone in the wild. A storm rolled in, and no doubt we would have been sleeping in the rain. But who cares? We've done it many times before.

Later, we went to Lake McDonald and saw that in comparison, Kintla seemed tranquil. I did get some outstanding photographs of the huge waves rolling onto the southern shore. The wind was incredible, and could rightly be called a gale. I had to push hard just to get the truck door open.

But on the way out from Kintla, I said to TS, "its going to be a long time before this seems funny enough for me to write about."

Yes, I've written about it now. But it still doesn't seem funny. Damn it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Sleep, Coffee and Hiking: I Don't Ask Much

We were very lazy today. We did not go into the backcountry. Instead, after missing TK for several hours, we decided to relish the silence. We slept in and drank many cups of coffee after we woke up.

Then there was a hike on the Highline Trail. Fog rolled in pretty quickly and it became chilly.

Tomorrow we hike into Kintla Lake. It's a quick 6.5 miles in, a night in the backcountry, then another 6.5 miles out. All in all, embarrassingly easy hiking.

Aperitifs in the Logan Pass Parking Lot

We could not figure out what these mountain goats were licking up, but they were going to town. We hope it's not antifreeze. But goats have been around Logan Pass for so long, it seems unlikely that anything there is very harmful to them. A few years ago Trailhead's brother-in-law got too close and almost got a sharp horn in the butt.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Exterminator

For my father-in-law, there is no household pest problem that cannot be solved by the use of some sort of firearm. There is really no way to overstate this man’s skill with a gun; he has been shooting so well for so long that he could take out a housefly at 50 yards. And during the hot Montana summer, no pest is safe from his sidearm. Bats, rats, skunks, woodpeckers and gophers have all found their way into his crosshairs and met their end. This is why I did not blink an eye last night when he blew away a pack rat that had skittered across the back deck.

At first blush, one might think our markedly different life philosophies would lead to tension between the two of us. But after eleven years, we have mostly learned to accept each other as we are, and neither of us applies to the other any judgment harsher than benign bewilderment. He has learned to accept with good humor the Hillary Clinton birthday cards I send him. I have learned to dismiss him with a grin when he quotes Rush Limbaugh.

After all, we have plenty of common ground. Last night, as he was sitting on the doorstep watching the sun set over the Cabinet Mountains, I walked outside and paused next to him. I hadn’t been standing there three seconds when he proclaimed, “Montana is the last best place, you know.”

Yeah, I know.

Boston Lettuce and Flying Birds

I believe there is no more banal a place than the modern grocery store. Nowhere is this more true than the checkout line, where you can look around and see that Carol on the cover of Woman's World lost 11 pounds fast and you can too, or take note of Dr. Phil's nine ways to increase your child's brainpower or that Jessica really is about to divorce Nick (we mean it this time!).

Tonight we stopped at a store in Whitefish to get dinner supplies and some backpacking grub. Trailhead Spouse picked up a tiny head of Boston lettuce. This apparently flummoxed our cashier, a badly bleached blonde named Juanita, who examined it as though it were a Martian rock. "Tim!" she yelled at the gentleman operating the cash register next to her. "What's this?" she demanded, waving our lettuce at him.

Tim, a fastidious looking man with a slight lisp, looked at our lettuce for approximately a tenth of a second, and said with a heavy and put-upon sigh, "it's Boston lettuce, Juanita." He rolled his eyes as he turned away.

Juanita pinched up her face in disgust before elevating her middle finger for several long seconds at Tim's back. "That wasn't meant for you honey," she offered helpfully to Trailhead Spouse.

Okay, it's not high drama. But when it comes to late night at the supermarket, I'll take what I can get.

Afternoon Bear Fare

Yesterday, as we were driving the truck back up the mountain from town, my mother-in-law grabbed my hand and motioned wildly out the window with a gasp. There he was, the renegade driveway-pooper -- an enormous black bear. For all his fatness, he turned tail and sprinted downhill away from us at an impressive speed. He could have been a golden retriever for as fast as he got down that switchback. We were about a tenth of a mile from the house.

I knew before that a person can't outrun a bear. Now I know firsthand.

Postscript to the other grandparents: Stop worrying already. He's well supervised.

Friday, August 05, 2005

One More Tribute to California Before We Head Inland

Three hundred and eleven people live in Trinidad, California, or so says the sign on Highway 101 just outside of town. But it's clear that many more people spend time there. Trinidad is home to a number of good restaurants, an idyllic harbor containing many mischievous seals and seagulls, an outstanding nature photographer and a great lot of boats, most of which are moored in the protected bay. There are also excellent beaches near Trinidad, including Agate Beach, pictured above. Apparently Agate Beach is a great place to find, well, agates – a semi-precious stone. When we arrived at the beach there were several people collecting them. We left with a few ourselves.

Most of the locals in Trinidad are friendly and engaging – and not just in the manner of people who live in a tourist town and feel they must be nice in order to relieve you of your money. Trinidaders seem genuinely content, and really, who wouldn’t be? They live in a charming town with an abundance of fresh seafood and staggeringly beautiful scenery. They are, however, obliged to cope with some oddly schizophrenic weather patterns.

It's a Midwestern cliche that "if you don't like the weather here, just wait five minutes." (Oh hell, for all I know they say it everywhere, and not just in the Midwest. But that's where I come from and that's where I heard it, so I'll attribute it accordingly.) The import of this saying is obvious: the weather is so changeable and unpredictable that, as awful as it might be at the time, it won't last very long. (And believe me, it can be awful.)

On the other hand, if you don't like the weather in the Northwest, you should just move five feet. If there is one constant theme in the weather here, it's that there is no constant theme, within surprisingly small geographic areas. Even in the valley, the 20-minute drive to Trailhead Kid's preschool seems to encompass three or four different climatic zones. Sunny over here, but rainy a mile down the road. A mile later, no more sun, but also no more rain. When we arrive at preschool, its sunny and raining and there's a rainbow. It's positively dizzying.

Northern California appears to be no different. From the redwood groves to the coast to the elk meadows -- all within about a four-mile radius -- the temperature went from 70 to 55 to 85, respectively. Layers were important.

What a magnificent place. I'm sorry to have gotten only a short taste of it, but I am eager to return. But for now, it's time to load up the truck with the backpacking gear and my trekking poles, and haul the Heavy Photography Pack and tripod to their place behind the driver's seat. We will stop in Coeur d'Alene at our favorite noodle place, and if we arrive before closing time, there will be pie at Panhandler Pies in Sand Point.

Posting may be oddly timed for the next few days. So please do my work for me and post hordes and hordes of comments. Flies with Moose, take it away.

An Agoraphobic goes to Africa

Whatever you people do while I'm holed up in Northwest Montana without a cell phone signal, don't miss this piece on And read each day's entry. It gets better and better as it progresses. The tagline "Confessions of an Agoraphobic Adventuress" has left me slack-jawed with envy and admiration. My left leg is black and blue where I've been kicking myself for not thinking of it first.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Coming Soon: 100% Slug-Free Big Sky Blogging

It’s almost time to go to Montana.

I simply cannot be persuaded that there is any better place in the world than the far northwest corner of that state. Even from far away, I can feel the arid afternoon heat and the chill of morning, smell the redolence of pine and taste the sweet tang of wild huckleberries. I can hear the lonely song of the loons as night falls and another day dies. And even after two years, I can vividly recall the acrid smoke from the Glacier wildfires stinging my nose and eyes. Pardon my mawkishness, but this place hijacks your senses and drives them screaming down the road.

It’s the rawness of it that I love; the bear poop we find deposited brazenly in front of the house, the wolf pack that moved in and took down an elk on the mountain just behind ours. When I arrive, I always ask our neighbors down the mountain, “What stories do you have for me?” And they tell me tales of eating breakfast one Sunday morning and looking out the window to see a coyote standing on the deck, gazing longingly at their meal. Or they tell me how their Newfoundland pup treed a bear last week, or how they were driving down 5th Street and had to stop because a moose decided that the middle of the road was an excellent place to spend the morning.

The people in Montana are equally interesting. Most of the people fortunate enough to live there seem unapologetically quirky. The house is in a small town containing almost nothing but a very nice grocery store, and the store’s parking lot is where most of the action seems to take place. On my first visit there, I watched as a man came out of the store and loaded his groceries into a VW Bus containing five kids and a goat. Ponder that for a moment, will you? It’s one thing to own a goat. It’s quite another to allow it to tag along on errands.

Another time when I was shopping there, an ancient woman with a cane shuffled about the store in positively arthritic fashion, gathering her items at a seemingly imperceptible pace. Hauling my own bags to the car later, I noticed her sauntering out to the parking lot with her purchases, and watched as she climbed jauntily into the cab of an enormous, jacked-up pickup truck. I suppose there’s nothing quite like a monster truck to make an old lady forget her aches and pains.

I suppose I find Montana irresistible because very little there is contrived or superficial. Things are as they are, and mostly, the people who live there adapt to it instead of ruthlessly subjugating the place into their own image. It’s a place that is allowed to be as it wants to be, a place that does not ask permission before it slams you up against your most primitive feelings and holds you there awhile. I find it alive in a way that nowhere else is.

But alas, there are no slugs. At least, I never see any. I shall have to content myself with mountain goats and bighorn sheep, I suppose.

Sick, but not of Blogging

I am unwell today. This is somewhat inconvenient, considering we're on our last day of the Beverly Hillbillies Move from the mole hole to the house. This means that Trailhead Spouse will be riding solo in the heavily laden pickup truck. And I will be here, sick and at the mercy of Trailhead Kid, who's newest pasttime is urinating in unacceptable places in order to produce shock, disbelief, and statements like "We don't ever pee on the dog!"

Wish me well.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Slug Porn Caption Contest

To mark what will be the last slug-related post for a long time, I had to select an image so sordid, so vile as this, in order to match the magnitude of the occasion.

What's that I hear? Could it be the collective "ewwwww!" from all six of my readers? (Except for Wasteland, of course, who requested this post to begin with, and A, who only compounded the madness by requesting it again in the comments this morning.)

So, I say to you -- wallow in the grossness! Embrace the yuck! Give me a caption!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

All Slugs, All the Time

I was delighted to find a thriving population of banana slugs in Redwood National Park and the surrounding area. I was unable to persuade my companions of their inherent likeability, but I think they would all admit to at least a bit of revolted fascination. One of the children along on the trip, a lovable, strapping four-year old I'll call Big C, began to notify me every time he found a slug. Given their abundance, this meant that Big C would stop approximately every five feet to alert me to the presence of yet another slug. This accounts for the enormous quantity of slug snapshots I accrued on this trip, all of which I will be happy to share with you.

So there, Blogger Poltergeists

I re-created my Redwood post, as you can see. Let's see if it gets eaten again.

What's in a Name?

There is something profoundly discordant about naming a stand of thousand year old trees after a human not even one-tenth as old. The Lady Bird Johnson Grove near Orick, California, is home to trees so ancient and so massive that if hollowed out, I have little doubt that a West Coast realty agent could successfully market them to a family of four at a price in the high six figures. Perhaps that is why it seems the height of hubris to name them after people. After all, most of us can only manage to stay on the planet for a scant eighty or so years. (Though Lady Bird, at 92, is doing her best to measure up to her namesakes.)

I expressed this sentiment to two of my friends while in the parking lot. “A” and “M” are one of those married couples with personalities that seem to diverge in almost every significant way, yet they fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. A is a sensitive, kind figure who makes her living in a creative field, and M is a relentlessly analytical type with little tolerance for the overly sentimental. But they possess pieces of each other – A’s creative abilities are coupled with a sharp left-brained intellect and an enviable sense of purpose and determination. M, on the other hand, has a warm heart he pretends to conceal behind statements of outrageous insensitivity. Most of these are merely devices to goad me into fits of spluttering indignation, which he finds endlessly amusing.

So predictably, when I explained my opinions on the name of the grove, A nodded sympathetically and vigorously. But M, in a bald attempt at inflaming my and his wife’s disgust, replied, “I think they should sell off the naming rights to the grove, and make a little extra money for the park. Maybe it could be the International Paper Grove.” After A snorted her contempt for such a notion, he said “Well, Trailhead, Lady Bird was instrumental in the founding of the grove.”

It appears that M and I have different interpretations of what it means to “found” a stand of ancient trees. I have no objection to Lady Bird herself – by all accounts, she is a lovely woman, and a true champion of conservation. I just can’t help but chuckle at the notion that one can found a grove of redwood trees by blocking others from chopping them down. But considering the breathtaking zeal with which timber companies have consumed California’s redwoods, I suppose I can look the other way if the powers-that-be want to name a few survivors after Lady Bird Johnson. Given the Orwellian times in which we live, things could be infinitely worse.

After all, there could be a Karl Rove Grove.

Blogger Ate My Redwood Post

Yesterday I posted about the Redwoods.

Yesterday afternoon I went into the post editor to fiddle around with the post -- you know, change a word here, take out a comma there. (I do that. It's neurotic, I know.) The post was gone, but it was still appearing on the blog. I was confused, but had to to leave and couldn't spend any time figuring it out.

This morning the redwood post is gone from the blog as well.

There are poltergeists in my blog.