Tuesday, November 1, 2011

This is a test

In my last month or two at Yellowstone, I was starting to investigate getting a new camera and had narrowed it down to a Canon and a Nikon, each with almost double the zoom on the Fuji camera I have. Haven't gotten one of those yet, but when I decided to go to New Orleans, I wanted to get one of the flat fit-in-your-pocket cameras to take with me, knowing that I'd also carry it around with me all the time when I get back to the park.

I got one of those last week and finally got around to taking a few pictures with it today. My first thoughts are that the process is infinitely more complicated and results in inferior photos but I suppose the second part is to be expected.

I got some great news at a doctor's appointment yesterday--that a diagnosis I got ten years ago was wrong. Since I had a much more thorough exam and tests yesterday than I had then, I'm happy to believe the good news. It probably would have made some things turn out very differently last year had I known then, but this is very good timing as well.

Let's curl.

This has been a test. Had this been an actual post with something worth seeing, it would have appeared on someone else's blog.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Love and Other Songs

Hello from Duluth. When we left Yellowstone, the fall foliage was still lovely but in Minnesota it's well past peak. On the road, my former suitemate and I agreed to be roommates next summer which should work out despite having the same work schedule. We get along well and hike together sometimes, but mostly he's gone fishing whenever he's not working, so I'll have the room to myself a lot. Now I'll just have to get through the winter with a stranger.

After seven months in the mountains, things look odd in the midwest so far. I did get a peek at the Lake on the way into town and it looked lovely. I look forward to getting to know the waters again. I have a series of chores lined up for next few days--haircut, storage, appointments, new pants and belt to buy for the somewhat improved waist, and cdrs to make some discs for the woman who introduced me to some great New Orleans music in the past few weeks. After getting most of that done, I was looking forward to rewalking some old hikes but forgot it's bowhunting season in the city, so I'll probably just stick to the shore. I'd rather take my chances with Yellowstone's grizzlies than Duluth's hunters. I know bear spray doesn't work on an arrow.

After another great evening of conversation and laughter before leaving the park, it's possible that my old antlers which I mentioned last time may not be completely useless after all. I wouldn't be at all surprised if I'm heading for a quick broken heart this time around because of different goals, but good Christ, even listening to her describe her home makes me fall for her more. What's an old romantic to do but try to find a more casual middle path which works for both of us?

As for the similar musical taste which started creating the bond, the closest connection has formed over Anders Osborne’s American Patchwork, a cd I couldn’t even listen to the first night she loaned it to me because I had a touch of the blues and some of the powerful songs were hitting me too hard. The song Acapulco is one we each like—apparently it’s never too late to fantasize about starting over. She’ll be seeing him play in Bozeman in a couple weeks, and was a bit stunned when I didn’t seem interested in going until she realized I’d be 1000 miles away at the time. If I were going to spend that money and make the trip a couple more times, my main motivation would be seeing her, not him, and although I didn't tell her, I actually considered it. There's an invitation for her to show up in New Orleans as well.

And there’s Ingrid Lucia. I checked out some samples when my coworker first mentioned the name and wasn’t impressed with the fake retro Billie Holiday sound, but the cd Midnight Rendezvous she gave me has some incredibly sexy songs on it—the title track, The Kiss, and Help Yourself being the best of them.

The last of my three new favorites is Jon Cleary whose piano playing I’ll be able to see at a club a couple blocks from my hotel on one of my nights in New Orleans. He'll be playing solo instead of with the funky band I love on the live Mo Hippa. Along with the title track, Help Me Somebody and When U Get Back are my favorites there.

I'll also have two chances to see an old favorite, Walter Wolfman Washington, once with his own band at that same club, and once with different musicians at a legendary club on the other side of the city. I'm still waiting for the complete Po-Boy Festival music lineup to be announced, but there's already one band I'm looking forward to seeing there, and I'll also be spending an evening at Preservation Hall. It's already a full schedule, but always with time for improvisation.

And from one of those if you like, you might like websites, plugging in Anders' name led me to JJ Grey. I love most of his album Georgia Warhorse which you can listen to in its entirety here. It includes King Hummingbird which is seven minutes of pain about a bird he killed long ago, great love songs The Sweetest Thing and Beautiful World, sex song Slow Hot & Sweaty, and the most powerful Lullaby you'll ever hear.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Beautiful Morning

It's a beautiful mornin', ahhhh
I think I'll go outside for awhile
And just smile
Just take in some clean fresh air
Ain't no sense in stayin' inside
If the weather's fine and you've got the time

That song by the Rascals is from one of several greatest hits collections I bought recently to relive some of the glory days of music and my life. But these days are pretty glorious too. I did wait until the afternoon to go outside for awhile to find a quiet rock to sit on and watch bluebirds against a Yellowstone backdrop.

I'd spent part of the morning in the gym pumping dumbbells, gliding, and working on regaining my outside shooting touch from 40 years ago. A month ago, I saw a photo of myself from a work trip and thought I was too close to the size of the van that was also in the photo and decided it was time for a change. The first step was eliminating the junk food that had a regular place on my shelf, followed by spending my work breaks going up and down the hills which surround the office. A couple weeks ago I started exploring the gym equipment, and although I still feel like a stranger in a strange land there, I've managed to lose about ten pounds since starting all this. I'm aiming at losing about 25 more pounds and gaining a whole new pants collection. I wish I were still able to run as I did during my Boston years, but even what I'm doing gets my foot aching--I'm icing it as I write.

Losing weight won't be helped by my trip to New Orleans. This morning I changed my hotel and train reservations to add another night to my stay so I can attend the Sunday show at Maple Leaf Bar. I've been bookmarking lots of restaurants and clubs, and staying an extra day perhaps means that I'll only have to eat five meals a day rather than six to make it to all the restaurants on my list.

Summer is over, the first frost covered the ground a couple days ago, and it's elk rut season here in Mammoth. There's a bull herding his harem around outside my window while the tourists herd up themselves. In related news (I'm so bad), there is a sensational woman I was hoping might become a big part of my life here but that apparently won't be happening. A disappointment but no surprise given the distances in years, pounds, and miles. I'm just an old bull waiting for these useless heavy antlers to fall off.

I got my t-shirt and pin for passing 100 miles hiked this season (133 at the time I filled the sheet and turned it in). Next up, 500--I figure that will take me at least two more years since I got here late last year and didn't keep track of my miles. I'll need to find out if snowshoe miles count.

Five weeks from today, I'll be back in Duluth looking at the Lake. Still don't know if my old landlord will have a place for me to stay so I'm going to start investigating motel weekly rates--at least it's off-season. It will be nice to be "home". Six weeks later, I'll be back to this weird but wonderful life I've fallen into.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Riding to New Orleans?

A coworker is there right now because an apparently insane friend of hers decided to get married in the steam of August in the Big Easy. Listening to her talking excitedly last week about the restaurants, the jazz, and the blues has gotten me excited too.

I spent a week in New Orleans in 1989 and loved it. I expected to return often and even fantasized about moving there (which undoubtedly would have destroyed the fantasy).

Maybe 22 years is long enough between visits. I'm considering a trip there in November and have learned my old hotel is still there in the Quarter and just a few blocks from a nearby neighborhood now very popular for music clubs. Simply reading the names of clubs where I hung out sent a thrill through me as I listened to Fats sing Blueberry Hill.

The Duluth to New Orleans to Bozeman buses would take me through a few states I've never seen before. And in late November, through a few climate changes as well.

I'm looking forward to hearing details next week when she returns.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

These Cold Fingers

The dog can’t move no more, surprised he made it till the spring
His pain won’t go away and the pills don’t do a thing
You’ve known that old hound longer than you’ve known any of your friends
And no matter how you let him down he’d always take you back again

So it’s one tall glass of whiskey, one last drink for old times sake
The dog just lays in bed and watches every move you make
Wrap him up in his blanket, hold him once more close to you
Lead him out behind the barn with a borrowed .22

Everything slips through these cold fingers
Like trying to hold water, trying to hold sand
Close your eyes and make a wish and listen to the singer
One more round, bartender, pour a double if you can

--These Cold Fingers, Bill Morrissey

Those are some of the lyrics of a song I requested at a concert some 20-25 years ago, one of the saddest songs I've ever loved. The song wound up on my favorite album of his, Standing Eight. I've owned several of his albums over the years, but all I have left now in a box in Duluth are a couple cassettes. All I have of him on my computer is a concert with Greg Brown from 1993 in Whitefish, Montana--I'm listening to it now.

Bill Morrissey, age 59, died in his hotel room a few days ago while on tour.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Idiots are Blowin' in the Wind

Observations from this morning's walk:

The park service was watering the hotel lawn in the rain.

A woman was standing on someone's front lawn surrounded by elk.

A man and his family ignored a barricade and were walking on a hot spring terrace. He then stuck his hand in the water.

The replacement windows being put on our dorm have those annoying fake panes. We live in a national park--why would we want an unobstructed view?

Actually I suspect that our dorm is being turned into an annex for the hotel. It was somewhat designed for that from the beginning--our room numbers are in the 500s and 600s because the first 400s are in the hotel and our room doors have the slots for checkout time notices. And I can't believe this much effort would go into prettifying an employee dorm. New siding, roof, windows, and interior painting? By the end of last year, they were cutting back on our food.

And we already have our first bear fatality of the season.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Settling into Spring

Over two months into my seven month stay, I'm finally starting to get into a Yellowstone frame of mind. The annoyances have been settled as well as they can be, the strange recurrent feeling on the right side of my head which seemed to presage a stroke has subsided, my new roommate and I can tolerate living together, recreation programming has begun with hikes and other events, and in 3 1/2 weeks I'll be switching to my new old job.

This morning I hiked the Beaver Ponds Trail for the second weekend in a row, a 5 or 5 1/2 mile hike (depending which source you believe) which I've decided to do every weekend I have a free day, alternating direction for variety. What a difference a week makes--almost all the snow from last week is gone, replaced by mud and water, and in places the plants are already encroaching on the trail. I also did it earlier in the day and encountered many fewer people. Bear spray was strapped to my hip and I was extra vigilant in the area where mom and cub had been eating the other cub.

In the room, I'm nearing the end of a Bob Dylan biography and I've typed 80 pages from my journals. It's interesting times as I simultaneously live in the present Yellowstone and relive events from a cracking open time more than twenty years ago when I began devoting time to writing again, discovered paganism, Joseph Campbell, and DH Lawrence, began therapy, quit the corporate world, came to terms with a relationship which had been spinning me in circles for six years and which would linger in various less destructive forms for almost twenty more years, relived fantasies of moving to New Orleans and neared my actual move to Boston and a much healthier life.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cats and Dogs

There is a local weekly newsletter which always includes an ad for an animal shelter up in Livingston. Each week there's a photo of a new animal and a couple paragraphs telling how the animal came to be in the shelter and how sad the animal is, wanting a new home. And it breaks my friggin' heart every week.

Out for a morning walk today, I ran into a man walking his golden retriever who eagerly came over to me for some head scratches and "good dog"s. I said, and I think I stole this from the blog of someone else here, how good it feels to be able to touch an animal when we spend all our time surrounded by wildlife we can't touch. It's a great blessing to be able to see all these elk and bison and ground squirrels and ravens and magpies and bluebirds every day, and the ones who appear on the rarer days as well, but somehow it's also a constant reminder of loss and absence. Even here, we live our lives so removed from the natural world, surrounded but not a member.

When the mood strikes, I've been typing my journal from 1989 into this computer. Yesterday's work included a weekend train trip I made down to DC to visit my former college roommate after he called and told me his wife (I'd been best man at the wedding) had left him. In the midst of all my other words were remarks about four days away from Hijack, my cat of the time, and on the return train, "Hang on, Jack, I'm on my way." I miss cats, not only Hijack, who lived to be an old teenager with me through numerous moves, and Walden, taken from us much too soon, but all the cats I've seen on streets, in shelters, other people's cats, no one's cats, the fur, the purr, the comfort of touch I may never know again.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

He Said What?

From my copied pages of Thoreau quotes from Walden and A Week, here are a few favorites, omitting the most famous:

The luxury of one class is counterbalanced by the indigence of another.

Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes to be content with less?

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating.

We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. . . . We live thick and are in each other's way, and stumble over one another, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another.

Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.

Nor need we trouble ourselves to speculate how the human race may be at last destroyed. It would be easy to cut their threads any time with a little sharper blast from the north.

Poor shad! Where is thy redress? . . . I for one am with thee, and who knows what avail a crowbar against that Billerica dam?

The shallowest still water is unfathomable.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Goodbye, Cruel World

Keep your primate problems, I'm going back to Wonderland tomorrow. One of last year's coworkers wrote me that he's jealous because he's not going back until five weeks from now. But he was there long before me last year, so it's only fair.

Yesterday I visited Museum of the Rockies, which is a must-see if you're interested in dinosaur fossils. I'm not especially; I went to see the brightly colored frogs and took some cool photos which I'm not allowed to post.

This morning I used the Bozeman bus system for the first time so I could go to a big box and buy seven months of supplies. The buses here are free, but take some figuring out--each route only runs once an hour and instead of the usual back and forth routes, they're more like following loop trails. Some of them meet downtown, some at the university, and some don't meet at all. Often you have to start out in the opposite direction to get where you're going.

So I saw parts of Bozeman I'd never seen before including the Chickpea Cafe which just opened last month and where I returned for lunch after getting my supplies back to the hotel. Another restaurant I tried for the first time on this trip was Soby's where they have breakfast burritos you eat with a fork, not a fist. It's a spicy way to start the day but fortunately they bring a carafe of water to the table. I was disappointed to learn they were closed Mondays--I was going to return today. I'll miss restaurants--I'm not sure what seven months of EDR food is going to do to me considering 4 1/2 months were driving me crazy last year, but I guess I'll find out.

Now to start repacking and then have a relaxing day and evening here at the hotel. Tomorrow morning they come to take us away around 7:30, with park ETA around 9:00 for paperwork and a new ID, and a new room to call home, mailbox keys and mail, old and new faces, a little work intro, unpacking, settling in, and deep breaths in a park about as empty of humans as it ever gets.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Computer Hours

I got the good news Saturday that we'll be getting picked up in Bozeman next Tuesday. I'd thought I was going to have to spend Monday taking a bus back to Livingston to be picked up there. Of course, if I'd known sooner I would have stayed in Duluth for another day, but I am grateful that I won't have to bother with the extra bus and cabs. Now to start checking to see if there's anything going on in Bozeman this weekend. If not, a king size bed, tv, refrigerator, and microwave will get me through a few days of altitude adjustment and toiletries shopping just fine. I expect you'll hear from me next on mountain time.

Brown 39.4
Garcia/Garcia & Grisman/Grateful Dead 27.4
Dylan 24.4
Eaglesmith 20.9
Bach 18.8
Brahms 16.9
Holiday 15.7
Waterboys 15.6
Beatles/Harrison/Lennon 14.7
Mahler 14.2
Sibelius 9.0
Cockburn 7.4
Scaggs 7.3
Bromberg 7.0
Waits 5.9
Griffin 5.8
Morrison 5.6
CCR/Fogerty 5.2
Thompson 4.6
Young 4.3

Thursday, March 3, 2011

One Week's Worth of Storage and Stories

With one week left before heading to Bozeman where I’ll spend a few days before going on to Yellowstone, I sealed four ready-to-ship boxes last night and will take them to storage tomorrow. They’re mostly filled with books and my journals, along with a mix of photos, letters, cds, and dvds. I’ll be storing boxes of more necessary day to day stuff next week, but it’s those four boxes which are the reason I’m renting a storage space at all.

I considered taking along a few books this time since it will be so quiet the first couple months I’ll be there—I had picked out Desert Solitaire, The Abstract Wild, Thoreau’s The Natural History Essays, and Swampwalker’s Journal. They all wound up in boxes except Turner’s slim but weighty volume. And I ordered a new copy of the cheap paperback of Walden/Civil Disobedience I sold a couple weeks ago. Along with them I’ll have three advance copies to take with me for review, the most interesting to you probably being Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout.

With the outward oriented projects I’d been working on for months finished, I finally started on the major task of moving my own words from paper to computer. Beginning with the stack of loose pages, I’ve entered all the old poetry (from my teens and twenties) but the fiction and miscellanea are going into storage for now. I also found eight pages of favorite Walden quotes which I’m in the process of entering—I might post some of those when I have the chance.

At some time in the past, I reread hundreds of poems I hadn’t published in my college annual magazine and threw out all but about forty which I recopied. Reading them again now, my major reaction is that I should have thrown out a lot more. But some of them do bring back specific memories, and I was happy to see quite a bit of nature imagery even way back then. I do think I did a pretty good job long ago of predicting what my life would be like—I guess you could toss a coin to determine if that was self-fulfilling prophecy or keen self-awareness, then flip it again to see if it matters either way.

Here’s a little assignment which was written at a group meeting at my English teacher’s home after we passed around an object with eyes closed. A piece of driftwood, obviously.

Time, like the ocean

Laps gently at my feet,

Crashes harshly across my brow.

It shapes me from lifelessness,

Tossing and turning me,

Smoothing out my roughest edges

Yet leaving occasional flaws,

Which snag and catch at people's anger.

Hey, I was eighteen and pretentious—give me a break, I’d get older. I include it primarily to introduce you to the teacher, Allan Metcalf, who’s gone on to write several books about language, the most recent published by Oxford University Press.

Although I’m leaving a lot of earlier writing here in boxes, I’m taking the first couple volumes of my actual journal (August 1989-January 1991, when I was in my early thirties) to Yellowstone to transcribe. This covers the time period when I quit my corporate job and started writing a lot more pages daily so I think it should make for fun reading. I actually indexed these, a practice which soon fell by the margin. So though I have no idea specifically what I’ll find, I know there will be a lot about women, sex, dreams, therapy, insights, and writing—sounds like a bestseller.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Two Weeks, Two Domes

Made it down for a good day in St. Paul yesterday, and sold another bunch of books and cds. In the course of my last book trip or maybe just hauling juice from the market, a rip had started in my old gym bag so I went to REI yesterday and got a new one along with a second duffel bag for the trip. Mallard was a tempting color choice, but all things considered I thought Sagebrush was more appropriate.

I got my last dozen Bruegger's Everything bagels for quite a while and had a great green curry with seitan, broccoli, pea pods, and basil at a Thai place.

The day took me through a couple areas I considered moving to about five years ago though it seems much longer ago. It was fun to think back on my visits to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and the Raptor Center as I passed near them. There are a lot of roads not taken for me there. As for the roads the buses took, well, there's a lot more snow there than here--they had another foot last Sunday while we were just getting blown away by wind. I saw many mailboxes barely peeking out of snowbanks by the sides of the road.

While in the city, I took quick photos of St. Paul's domes.

I think Church easily beats State for the right to face Nature for the championship, but we all know that one's going to be a landslide.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Three Weeks to a Bed

My air mattress apparently sprung a slow leak a few days ago. Now I refill it each night, lie down, and slowly sink all night long until I wake in the morning in the pocket of my air mattress coffin.

This week’s been a heat wave in the 40s and a record 52 yesterday, leading to lots of melting followed by refreezing overnight. I headed out to take some photos yesterday morning but gave up on the idea immediately because it was like trying to walk on slippery glaciers. Last night it stayed warm enough to not refreeze but that led to being fogged in from the evaporating snow. Winter's due back tonight.

Along with moving preparations, I’ve been keeping very busy with a couple projects (film noir and classical music) while I still have a library to use. There are a couple novels (The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore and When the Killing's Done) published this month I want to read and am first in line for at the library but they haven’t processed them yet—I’ll be reading down to the wire, and still have a couple Vine books I need to read and review at some point.

I am reading a good book by Carl Safina, The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World. Lazy Point is at the end of New York’s Long Island, and the book alternates nature writing based there and from other locations such as coral reefs and Alaska with reflections on how our economy, philosophy, and way of life are all completely removed from ecological reality and the changes which are happening because of the changing climate.

Of Alaskans who complain about federal land there while receiving on average 25 times the national average of per capita federal funds, he writes, “Like anti-‘big government’ folk in many places, such people are whining, selfish hypocrites.” Yep, there are a lot of them in the states surrounding Yellowstone as well--hunters complaining about wolves killing elk, subsidized ranchers complaining about bison. Always have been, and despite the oft-heard claim that local people know best how to "manage" local land, there would have been no national parks preserved had it been left up to the locals who wanted to exploit the land.

I’ve decided to leave a few boxes in storage here. No doubt it will cost me more than the dollar value of the contents, but some of it is irreplaceable. After this season at Yellowstone, my future there could be anywhere from ten months a year to never going back, and until I determine that, I’ll skip the hassle of shipping to and from there. There are no convenient storage places in Duluth but I’ve found the best of a bad lot and will make a couple cab trips in March to get my stuff there.

Although I’m storing boxes and will have a lot more space than I need, I’m still selling the books and cds I’d picked out. I made one trip to St. Paul and will go again next week. I could have carried everything at once, but thought I’d go easy on my foot. Even with the weight cut in half, my foot was so sore by the end of the day that I spent the last two hours of my first trip sitting in the bus station waiting for the return bus to Duluth because I couldn’t walk anymore.

I’ve got the bus ticket, settled another of my old debts, have given the disconnection date to the phone and electric companies, and gotten myself a Post Office Box in Yellowstone (what a cool address!) Moving seems overwhelming as all major change usually does to me, but when I get there, I’ll be in one place for 7 months, the longest in one spot since I left Duluth in 2009. Many of my favorite people from last year won’t be back, but it will be fun to reconnect with those who are, and meet some new people now that I’m more comfortable with the place. As homeless shelters go, Yellowstone’s pretty damn good.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Five Weeks, Six Links

And I still haven't decided what I'm doing. Oh, I've bought the bus ticket and made a hotel reservation in Bozeman (although I may have to cancel the last night and take a bus to find a hotel in a different town because at this point I don't know where I'm getting picked up--annoying).

But what I haven't decided is whether I'm shipping, storing, or tossing. Until a week ago, my plan had been to ship everything out to YNP but now I'm leaning to storing here in Duluth because I don't know if I'm going to like the new job or if I'm going to want to work there beyond this year. Either way, it's a pain to deal with without driving.

The main sticking point is the box of journals which I don't want to toss yet. Otherwise I could probably reduce my books to a bare minimum, load up the backpack, and pay Greyhound for an extra bag and carry everything out there (though the weight isn't good for the foot). I suppose I should have been busily typing the best of the journals into the computer for the past few months, but after so many months away from books and films, it was hard to resist them.

For a lot of people the grass is always greener somewhere else. I guess for me the snow is always whiter wherever I am. Right now I don't really want to leave Duluth. Of course, I didn't want to leave Yellowstone a few months ago either, and probably won't want to again a few months from now.

It's nice having an apartment of my own and a library to use and a Lake to look at even if I haven't been able to walk by it much these past months. On the other hand, I don't want to mess with Duluth's job market again, and there's certainly worse things than having to work in a national park. And because of the large number of apartments my landlord has here, it may not be too difficult to find a place to live in the breaks between work seasons. A Duluth/Yellowstone combo might be my perfect world, once I get rid of the stuff. Though I guess I'll have to stock a new kitchen every year.

I finished watching Ken Burns' PBS series on the parks a couple days ago--I'd only seen bits and pieces previously. I took lots of notes on subjects to learn more about. Tried to read a book about Theodore Roosevelt and his role but the author lost me in the first pages with a poor high schooler's description of Thoreau as a hermit making "sulking sojourns at Walden Pond". So I just checked the Yellowstone sections and returned that book and got one about national park history by one of the guys featured in the tv series.

Park history was really my main interest but I had been curious to see if I could figure out Roosevelt, the great conservationist who was eager to kill a bison before someone else killed the last one. I loved hearing in the series that John Muir asked Roosevelt, "When are you going to get over this infantile need you have to kill animals?" Of course, that might have doomed Hetch Hetchy right then.

Another annoying thing in the book was that when I looked up bison in the index, I was referred to check buffalo. Under buffalo, one of the entries was for a note "bison vs"--when I looked that up, it explained that although the words were often used interchangeably, bison and buffalo are actually different animals, one here and one in Asia. So why the hell did he proceed to list everything about bison listed under buffalo in the index?

Lots of bison probably being killed at Yellowstone right now. Between that, and morons like Orrin Hatch and the many westerners who agree with him about the "War on the West", I'm feeling particularly disgusted by humans these days.

Picked up a couple potentially interesting free books last week which will be coming out in March: Once and Future Giants: What Ice Age Extinctions Tell Us About the Fate of Earth's Largest Animals and Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth.

I doubt either of them are going to make me like people any more though. For that I'll have to keep watching the dvd I finally got featuring the local peregrine falcon banding I wrote about here. Yeah, I know that's not all sweetness and light either, but I get a kick out of seeing myself with a falcon nestling.

Yesterday, a teenage girl told me she liked my beard. I couldn't tell if I was being mocked, flattered, or entrapped. What makes it even stranger is that she's the second teenage girl to tell me she liked my beard in the past six months. Maybe this is how Ed Abbey got all that action.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Yellowstone 2011 Preview

I've known the dates for a week or two but finally got them in print yesterday. I'll be back in the park in mid-March, work three months at a new job (also in Mammoth Hot Springs), then switch back to the job I had last year for four months until mid-October. How the new job works out will probably determine if I'll be working more at the end of 2011 or if there will be a Yellowstone 2012. The first couple months should be pleasantly quiet because the hotel will be closed until mid-May. The NPS and private full timers will be around but the only temp employees working will be the group I'll be in (Reservations) and the folks running the cafeteria for us. It will be fun to watch the place wake up, and then have a summer where I know what to expect as far as the job and life in the park.

Considered traveling for the first couple weeks of March since my current lease runs through the end of February, and also checked to see if there were any interesting Yellowstone Institute classes in early March, but I think I'll wind up just paying another month's rent here since I'll probably be on the road in October and a month's rent here will be cheaper than a couple weeks of hotel rooms. I expect that I'll head out March 10th or 11th and spend a few days in Bozeman before going to the park, but haven't made definite plans yet.

See ya in the mountains.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Be a Jerkwad! Save Civilization!

Earlier, I walked over to a table in the library where a teenage girl was sitting having a conversation, pointed to the sign on the wall next to the table (QUIET STUDY AREA), and told her that if they wanted to talk, they were in the wrong part of the library. Which was remarkably polite because what I really want to do in cases like these is to grab one head firmly in each hand and ram them into each other.

She said they'd move and thanked me for being a jerkwad. This kind of self-absorption pretty much defines public life nowadays. From talking in a library or at a movie or concert to strolling across a street in the middle of a block in front of cars to blocking sidewalks to blasting earphones to SUVs and snowmobiles, the dominant zeitgeist is a celebration of irresponsible arrogant ignorance. There, I'm a cranky old jerkwad.

And of course, I've left out the ubiquitous prime offender, the cell phone. And there's a reason I saved the best for last. After I'd heard the same cell phone ring and ensuing voice for the third time since I've been sitting here, another cranky old jerkwad came over and asked me to turn it off because it was supposed to be a quiet area. ;-) Naturally, after I figured out what he was talking about I proudly told him it wasn't mine and that I didn't own one. He snarled, "Well, whose is it then?" and we walked off together to find heads to ram together.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Life in Black and White

I was listening to Nina Simone a few days ago, including some songs which were recorded in concert shortly after Martin Luther King was killed: Sunday in Savannah, Why (The King of Love is Dead), and Mississippi Goddamn. Her comments ran from a gentle introduction about how she’d like to change Savannah to Atlanta but didn’t think he’d mind, to listing those who’d died recently, to “I ain’t about to be nonviolent, honey.”

Tears came to my eyes as she brought back that time. I can’t honestly say exactly what I remember and what I’ve filled in over the years, but I know I was a precocious and passionate kid. Later in that horrible year of Kennedy (again) and My Lai and Nixon and Wallace and Chicago, I had a letter published in Newsweek supporting the two athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised their fists in a Black Power salute at the Olympics during the playing of the U.S. national anthem. As Nina sang, we were close to the brink, and whatever childhood I had ended long before I became a teenager along with any illusions about the future of the human race. Had I been older, I would have told you which way the wind blew whether you needed me or not.

During my freshman year at college, I attended a play with a black woman. It wasn’t actually a date; she was just a last minute replacement for my girlfriend who was too wasted to go with me. Onstage, in colorblind roles, a black female student was about to kiss a white male student when from a black female student in the audience came the cry, “Don’t do it, Joni, don’t kiss him!” I wished I really was on a date because I wanted to stand up and kiss the woman I was with just then.

A year or two later, the college’s Black Student Union held some cultural/historical event which had low attendance, and a letter to the college paper accused people of being racists for not showing up. I replied that most cultural events on campus had low attendance which had nothing to do with racism. Whites thanked me for writing it, and blacks called me, yes, you guessed it, a racist.

Now a silly professor, who looks a bit like a too neat Mark Twain, wants to turn Nigger Jim into Slave Jim—I think a writer’s words should never be changed, whether from a great American novel or a trivial blog. But if we’re going to change the meaning of the book, let’s not just whitewash it, let’s at least make it lively. Slave Jim! How dull! I say we make him Black Panther Jim with a cache of weapons in the tent, or Rastafari Jim smoking ganja, slowly floating away from Babylon.