Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Top Ten List

It's that time of year, right? I'm too lazy, so here's someone else's list.

Top 10 Reasons not to move to Bozeman.

Those are essentially all legitimate complaints about Bozeman, although living in Duluth I laugh at the notion that it's too cold in Bozeman in the winter. Bozeman's real weather problem is that it's way too damn hot in the summer.

But you don't really care about that list. Here's the fun link from the article--for some simple, not remotely safe for work laughs, I highly recommend watching some videos at Katie Goodman's website.  Sing along to I Didn't F*ck It Up.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Good Riddance, 2013

This was the 3rd snowiest and 7th coldest December in Duluth's records. We just finished a two day heat wave (above freezing yesterday) so I made it over to Superior to check out the pizza and the previously pictured t-shirt at Thirsty Pagan. The Mediterranean pizza was great, the shirt sold out, but they're supposedly getting more in the next month or two and I have my request in. Tonight we drop below zero and it's predicted that we won't get back above it until next year.

I spend some time each day working on a project of getting the highlights of almost twenty five years of my journals onto my computer. Realistically, there's a good chance I'll die before I actually finish this project, but if not it will be great to be able to do a search for any topic and find everything I've had to say about it. 

Since I got here, I've been working on the Yellowstone journals, thinking it might help me decide whether to return. I keep two journals, one for the human world, and one about nature. I only have about six months left to do of the human journals for the Yellowstone years, and today I started on the nature journal, which is generally a hell of a lot more fun to read. From my very first day in the park:

5/29/10 It was snowing, 30s when I left Bozeman, snowing now in Canyon twelve hours later. Saw elk lounging on the grass at Mammoth, a couple small groups of bison along the way, and a mama grizzly with four cubs in meadow just after Bunsen Peak. Went through lots of burned areas—the big old one and a more recent smaller one. Creeks and pools were steaming. Walked in a big snow.

Not a bad first day, especially seeing the Quad Mom. 

I'm also doing lots of reading, and one book I'm reading right now is Shadow Mountain: A Memoir of Wolves, a Woman, and the Wild. I expect to write a lot more about this book, but it may not be until I get a copy of my own to make notes in. This book is really getting to me, as many things are these days since I don't need to keep my defenses up constantly to cope with being around people all day. I feel like I'm on a much needed sabbatical.

I raise my Black Butte Porter to 2014.

Friday, December 13, 2013

All the News That's Fit to Bore

My sight unseen apartment was a dump when I got here but after some cleaning by me, repairs, a new stove, and new windows coming, I’m pretty happy with the place now.

Those windows will come in handy because the ones here now have ice coatings on the inside due to the weather we’ve had. After a couple feet of snow which earned the #6 spot on all-time Duluth storms, we’ve had a looonnnng cold spell, supposedly the 8th coldest early winter in local history. The lowest numbers I’ve noticed have been -17 air temperature and a wind chill of -39. At times the Lake has been hidden under its own cloud of steam, hundreds of feet high.

I had been working on emptying out my storage unit and expected to finish that last week until the weather changed my plans. We’re supposed to soar up to a normal 20 for a couple days next week and I’ll finish it up one of those days.

I never tried the federal health insurance site but using the Minnesota one, I got to a bug that it wouldn’t let me past so I sent them an email. They never replied but when I tried it a couple weeks later, it had been fixed and after finishing the online application, I’m now waiting for something in the mail.

Before I left Yellowstone, some people were asking me if I’d be back. Depending on the person and my mood, I’d say that I doubted it, didn’t know if I’d ever be back, would need a couple months away before I’d be able to make a decision, but it always felt like I was leaving for the last time. I feel like I’m pretty much on that couple months schedule because I do now have an idea, a hope (not a plan yet) of how I’d like all this to turn out. Is it possible to have both a home and more freedom at the same time?

When I got back here, I was thinking of joining the Y for the winter. I found out that was a lot more expensive than I expected and, considering that I had used the free gym in Mammoth very rarely in the past two years because my knees can’t handle most of the equipment, I didn’t sign up. I was doing quite a bit of walking before the weather turned the world icy and I started spending all my time reading, watching Netflix, and working on getting the highlights of twenty years of journals on the computer so I can dump one more box of stuff. I’m never going to be the runner I was in Boston, but I’ve started thinking about diet and tai chi and whatever exercise I can still do again. I’m way too old to be eating like a teenager. We’ll see how long this positive stuff lasts this time. ;-)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Locally Laid and Burnt Out

A couple local t-shirts I'm considering buying. Locally Laid is one of four finalists to have a Super Bowl ad. Vote for them at this site

And from the Thirsty Pagan.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Tale of Three Cities

It is always the best of times and the worst of times, but maybe a little more so just now.

I’ve been in my new apartment for almost a month and have gotten used to it as my new home. It’s enough for me, and most of all it feels great to have a little place of my own. I’m not someone who likes change which will incline me to just stay here if I find a tolerable job, but even if I stay in Duluth, I’d likely want to move to a place that has a better kitchen.

As well as having a place for privacy and solitude, the big advantages for me living here are having a library, public transportation, and occasional arts such as dance performances--an enthusiasm lingering from my Boston years. Minnesota is also by far the most enlightened state of the options. 

I can’t actually see much of the Lake from my window but I can see the sunrise sky of pink and red over the Lake, and the evening full moon.

After a month of unwinding, I’m ready to start looking for work but not sure if I’m ready to actually work. I read the description for a part time job at one of the better places in town and cringed at the thought of actually doing the job. Oddly, I never thought of what I was doing at Yellowstone as work—I didn’t get much money and in my mind it was more of a barter deal where I got food and a place to sleep in exchange for my time. Somehow I felt a lot freer (even though I also at times thought of Mammoth as my pretty prison since I was unable to leave it) with that arrangement, and I sure as hell don’t want to go back to full time employment with only a couple weeks off a year. But I’m not rich enough to never work again which would be my first choice if possible.

I definitely miss the natural world and wildlife of Yellowstone, the fact that there were few (permanent) people and the resulting village atmosphere though I never felt as much a part of it as I would have liked. I would have fit much better working for Yellowstone Association (except that all their jobs require a driver’s license) or NPS. I’m also left with the feeling that my life there isn’t finished. I’ve filled out the applications for Yellowstone and Glacier.

The west feels like the part of the country where I belong now, based on the open landscape and wildlife (and the weather—I’ve never been bothered by Duluth’s constant gloom before but this month has had me longing for the Rockies), not the right wing politics and violence of the region. I still check Yellowstone webcams just as I always checked Duluth’s when not here, and I look at several Montana newspaper websites and am happy when High Country News arrives in my mailbox.

7 Minutes in Yellowstone
(a video)

Before I left Yellowstone, it crossed my mind to visit New Orleans for a festival in early November, but I wasn’t at all settled here yet. I see now that Anders Osborne is playing there on my birthday in a few weeks. Checking schedules, I’d also be able to see three of my other favorites on that visit (but not my latest discovery The Revivalists, swirling saxophone and pedal steel in my head as I write this). I won’t be going to New Orleans in December either though—money is an issue while I’m unemployed and uninsured, and I’ve realized that planning these possible vacations gives me as much pleasure as I have when I actually do them solo. If I should go back to work in a park in the spring, I might make a visit to New Orleans for an April festival though.

At this point, I don’t think I’d ever actually live in New Orleans unless it was short term or as a final stopping place. Maybe I should have moved there 25 or so years ago when the idea first crossed my mind, but life (like this post) is full of these maybes. When I was there last, I got along well with the folks sitting on the sidewalks just as I always did in Boston (I liked them a lot more than the folks in the suits). Hey, it’s Yellowstone, said a couple women the second day they saw me, and one guy asked if I’d been told I looked like Jerry as I stepped over him. I don’t feel the courage or strength needed for that life, but I’ve always expected that’s how I’ll wind up, and when forced, we adjust and adapt. 

In the past few months since I knew I was coming back to Duluth, it always felt more like going home to die than like going back for a new start. This is where I lost everything that mattered to me four years ago and then I returned east for a few months and lost the rest. The promise of Yellowstone kept me from walking off into the New England woods four years ago; maybe one of the parks will extend things again. Maybe a pretty prison is the best that’s left. Maybe there’s a far, far better thing for me to do.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

First Thoughts on the Change

I made a few notes about the Yellowstone years but haven't really written much yet. I got internet set up in my apartment this morning and thought I'd share a few things I've noticed over the past week. The nonstop busy days have ended and when I get over the cold I have at the moment I hope to do a couple hikes before the trails are buried in snow.

Some things I've liked

Leaves of various colors
Lake Superior waves
Dangling bunches of bright red mountain ash berries
Grey squirrels
Reconnecting with old friends
As expected, the library, restaurants, and buses

Some things I've disliked

My apartment is a dump (176 days left on my lease but if I decide I want to stay in Duluth, I can move back to the much better building where I used to live whenever there's an open apartment--next one is January), as I should have expected from the price. There are electrical and plumbing issues which will be worked on, but the unsolvable problem is that the kitchen area has no room for actually cooking which was one of the things I was most looking forward to about getting out of the park. On the other hand, I did a pricing run at a supermarket and cooking may be too expensive anyway. $4 for a bunch of broccoli (a major ingredient in my cooking) and it wasn't even good looking broccoli.

White trash, black trash, incense and heavy tobacco smokers--there are a lot of problem people in Duluth of types not usually run into in Yellowstone.

The mid 30s feels a lot colder here now than it does in YNP--could be a tough winter.

Businesses apparently think they deserve personal information about people now. I bought a pair of jeans and was asked for my phone number. I said I didn't have one and got asked for my email. All you get is my money. I cashed a work check from YNP at a bank and the teller actually asked me what I was going to do with the cash. You don't get my money.

Some things I've missed

Wildlife, even the annoying omnipresent elk
Smell of sage
Some people
Snow-capped mountains

Something I haven't decided about yet

I own my first cell phone

Saturday, October 5, 2013


This won’t be a pretty picture, but writing it has made me feel better.  This has been a very bad year. I hope the change of location will help change my mindset but before that can happen I need to spew about all that has happened, boring and whiny and depressing and long as it may be to anyone else. You’ve been warned. I’ll mention an occasional good time but there weren’t many.

It actually all began in November. Remember reading about me and Lola? It turned out that she didn’t leave and she wasn’t dying. That made me happy but it also turned out that the talk of being friends if we were both here wasn’t true. I wrote that earlier post as a goodbye in my mind when I saw how she was acting when I got back. 

I enjoyed staying in town for a week before returning to work, eating at local restaurants and walking with a friend. One night I saw Lola’s car when I came out of the grocery store. I later mentioned that I had just missed her there and it led to her telling people I was stalking her, even though I hadn’t waited for her to come out of the store or gone back in looking for her—I just noticed her car and took my groceries back to my room across the street. What made it even more ridiculous was that I’d actually been in the market talking to a woman who had stunned me by looking a great deal like a woman I’d almost married long ago.

In December I stopped to see Lola on my way to dinner and she ducked into a room to avoid me. I’d been unsure of my job future all along, but that was the moment I made my decision that I couldn’t return to work in the same office with her.

With that settled, the winter improved. I enjoyed the people I was working with, made a trip down to Norris Geyser Basin, and went to an excellent special brewmaster’s dinner at the hotel with my dinner/hiking partner of the past couple years.

I hadn’t stopped thinking of that lookalike in town, and in February decided I had to spend a few days in town so I could ask her out even though circumstances made it unlikely she’d be interested. That decision led to good hikes and meals, and a trip to Livingston which felt like one of the best days I’d had in years. None of that with the woman who’d caused me to stay in town. I wrote about those days in this post

What I didn’t include there was that after the hike on the third morning, I had lunch with the woman I’d gone to Livingston with on the previous day and she seemed jealous about the hike, saying in an odd tone that it must have been nice for me. I replied that I’d had several very nice days in a row, and she laughingly ooohed at my compliment. The apparent jealousy was strange considering that we’d talked the previous day about the fact that she was involved with someone and how things might possibly have been different otherwise, and that being a non-driver in this part of the country made all my romantic possibilities impossible. I was very disappointed and sad that we never spent another day or evening together.

In March, things went downhill fast. The government shut down the bus company which would have provided my ride to and from the Amtrak station eight hours away, and the New Orleans trip I’d planned since the previous summer with the attitude that it would likely be my last big vacation went down the drain. A couple friends offered to take me to where I’d catch the train, but I wouldn’t have had a way back after the trip since both of them would be deeper in the park by then. 

Meanwhile, although I didn’t learn about it until a few months later, someone had held captive and tried to murder a dear old friend, the woman who the woman in the market reminded me of. Knowing her home so well, after reading newspaper accounts I couldn’t help visualizing it all, even while at work. The worst of it passed for me after a few days; she’ll have to live with the physical and emotional scars for the rest of her life.

At the beginning of May, I made a big mistake. I learned that Duluth was going to hire a couple people for library jobs through a drawn out process. I’d done well on the process when I’d lived there but they didn’t hire then because of budget issues. Instead of moving back immediately, I applied and waited to hear about the first test date thinking there would be plenty of advance notice for me to move back. I did some hiking, saying goodbye to places I thought I’d soon be leaving. Unfortunately, when the email came announcing the test date I didn’t have time to do the things I needed to do and get back.

In early June, the sound of a helicopter announced the arrival of norovirus which came to the park for a month and made the employee cafeteria even worse. Surviving on bad food led to a summer of dizziness and inner ear problems which kept me from hiking (no 1000 mile t-shirt for me), aggravated by a fall which tore quite a few layers of skin off a leg and hand. Office issues kept me irritated for weeks, and started me packing twice. Childhood chickenpox paid a return visit with a case of shingles. The summer’s only bright spot was a dinner invitation and tour from my friend who was caretaking at the YA cabins for a month.

Fall brought improved health and some more hiking, but my hope to spend a few days in town for a change of pace, some different meals, and a chance to get together with a couple people fell through with completely booked rooms. The government shutdown and park and trail closure was a fitting end to my worst year here. At least we got a good snow, in case I’m never here again in winter, and I enjoyed walking the roads for a few hours during the snow with bear spray and on alert because of a grizzly in the area.

I gave Lola a last opportunity to apologize for her actions and the lies she’d told about me but I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t take it. Although her behavior caused me to switch to a job where I knew I’d get less freedom, less respect, and less money (in order of importance), where work issues in turn led to me not returning this winter, rather than anger when I look back, I feel more regret at the feelings we wasted, like all our choices were the result of a long series of misunderstandings, rather than malice. Though you’d never know it from my misanthropy, I’m always trying to believe the best about people. That’s why I’m always disappointed.

Now I’m just waiting out the final days, looking forward to having my own apartment and kitchen (and buses! and a library! and restaurants!) for the first time in three years. I’ve kept my options open by only signing a lease through April. Yellowstone doesn’t really have much new to offer me, but I’ll miss some people and this year hasn’t been a good way to end it so I may consider one more year for better memories. I’m likely to apply for a job in Glacier for next summer as well, but I suspect I’ll wind up staying in Duluth since right now I just feel like going home to stay and being done with this lifestyle. My apartment is so cheap that it would be the perfect place for my final years so I may find it hard to give up once I get there. It will probably be a couple months before I feel able to make a decision. 

I’ll probably write a general summary of the pluses and minuses of the Yellowstone years while I’m in Bozeman unless I get too caught up in having television for a few days.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What I've been thinking about lately

I found out recently that someone had tried to kill the love of my life.

We hadn't been in touch for almost five years following an extremely ugly argument shortly before I moved to Yellowstone, but before that we had known each other for twenty five years, longer than I'll know anyone else in my life. What could have been a one night stand turned into an engagement which turned into an on and off relationship which turned into deep friendship which turned into repeated reunions as we lived our lives. We had our differences but there was a bond I thought would last forever.

A few months ago, a teenager broke into her house at night, bound her and stabbed her repeatedly. After passing out, she came to in her car being driven to a pond where he tried to drown her. After that failed, he planned to asphyxiate her by stuffing his shirt in the tailpipe of the car. While he was doing that, she managed to drive away and get herself to a hospital where she arrived more than four hours after he appeared in her home. It took a strong and smart woman to survive that night.

In news reports, I saw photos of the house she no longer lives in after over thirty five years there, a house that was the closest thing to a home I ever found. Her daughter, who at age eight had asked if she could call me dad, appeared beautiful and intelligent when brushing off television reporters.

Considering that I'm getting near the end of my life anyway, it has crossed my mind to go there and kill the son of a bitch who did this to her. But he's being tried as an adult on numerous charges and I think he'll suffer more by being alive. That's what I want.