Thursday, December 7, 2017


An interesting quote from our mayor on the newspaper's website tonight:

"Really, I do believe that he made the right decision for Minnesota, because it's clear that regardless of whether Sen. Franken wants to own those allegations or deny them, they are there. And when they are there, we must believe until there is reason to not believe. That is how our system should work," Larson said.
That's a strange take on the whole innocent til proven guilty theory, but right in line with one of the manias sweeping the country lately. Certainly there are men who are scum who deserve the worst, but anyone who doesn't also acknowledge that some women, like some men, also lie, and that every human interaction has at least two different interpretations, is willfully foolish and or politically correct. Is that redundant? Perhaps they've never quit a job because of the behavior of a woman who told lies.

I don't really care about Franken, but it's simultaneously amusing and pathetic to see the Democrats expressing the need to be moral and righteous, thus proving that they learned absolutely nothing from the last presidential election. Republicans are laughing, not resigning.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Nostalgia and Connections

Post-clots, admitting mortality, not expecting to do any more cross-country trips, I’ve been feeling nostalgic for New England lately. 

It started with creating a folder of New England nature websites of the many places and events which had been important to me: Walden Pond and the trails of Concord and Lincoln, Arnold Arboretum, Mass Audubon’s Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, New England Aquarium’s whale watches and the Boston Harbor Islands, Halibut Point State Park and Dogtown, Cape Cod and Woods Hole where I once imagined becoming an oceanographer.

I also looked at the websites of clubs and theaters I frequented, and all the adult education centers (Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Harvard Extension) where I took classes. There is a good education program here for seniors where I hope to spend a lot of time after I start collecting Social Security in a year or so and can work less.

I got excited recently about the chance to relive some aspects of a whale watch when there was a plan to stream one live but it was canceled due to ocean conditions. A recent snowy owl sighting here reminded me of the one I photographed while I was taking a pre-terrorism tour of the Boston airport grounds. 

The library here gets Yankee magazine which I grew up reading, and I’ve been looking through past issues and found articles about Christmas in Boston, oceanside walks (and the Atlantic sinking of El Faro which for me made a connection with shipping here and the recent anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald sinking on Superior), and Brattleboro and Portland which I visited often. Long ago, I submitted a story to Yankee—it was about a hitchhiker and lost love and Kent State, and I have no idea why I thought they’d be interested in it.

I’ve looked up a few people I knew in Massachusetts, trading emails or finding Facebook pages. Between library books, I’m rereading Sierra Club Naturalist’s Guide to Southern New England, and remembering the Boston bookstore where I bought that entire series. A recent episode of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast included stories of Boston neighborhoods told with a Boston accent. And I still follow a couple Boston sports teams as the Red Sox try to find a big bat for next year and the Celtics get off to a great start despite one of their stars breaking his leg in the first game. Spare me news of the pro-Trump Patriots though. I’m even considering subscribing to the online Boston Globe (well, for the $4 first month only).

All my nostalgia and memories aren’t a thousand miles away though. It was pleasant in the mid-40s this afternoon with no ice on the sidewalks yet, so I strolled around the neighborhood and enjoyed the views of the Lake and thought of all the walking I’ve done in this town since first moving here in 2001. And in a couple weeks I’ll be making a trip over to Marquette where memories go back even further.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Voting is a Fraud and the Country is a Failure

Going to vote in yesterday’s city elections, I had low expectations and thought my votes would go to two winners and four losers. I discovered that moving five blocks had changed my district so I didn’t get to vote for what would have been my only winner and wound up with no wins and five losses. The city’s highest winning percentage went to increasing the sales tax to improve roads and the lowest percentage went to a candidate who pledged to protect Lake Superior—so there are the community’s values, which are certainly not mine. 

In the most recent presidential election, even voting for the candidate who received the highest percentage of votes didn’t get your values any representation. The two party system needs to be replaced by the system common in Europe where multiple parties and their voters are represented, which gives the voters a higher sense of involvement (the Scandinavian countries, which I’ve always felt was where I belonged socially, are near the top in population percentage who vote) and forces coalitions and compromises to govern. In the US, those elected force through their own agendas and the disaffected citizens simply become more ignored. But at least they have easy access to guns.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

If a Clot Forms in the Forest

Friday was my last day on the blood thinner I've been taking since I developed a large superficial blood clot in my leg at the end of August. It got close to the point where it could have entered the deeper vein system. 

A couple weeks ago while I was on the drug, I started having pains in my other leg similar to those I'd had in the leg with the clot. But leg pains can be one of the many side effects (I had several) of the drug so it's a mystery whether the pains were signs of a problem or a cure, and getting off the drug was both a relief and scary. After two days off the drug, I haven't noticed any significant change, so it remains a wait and see game hoping to avoid a more serious complication. It's possible I'll always have some pain in the leg which had the clot, but if nothing's wrong with the other leg, those pains should disappear.

The pains are insignificant compared to pain I've endured from kidney stones and stent, but those had a definite end in sight--this has been an open-ended, higher anxiety situation for the past six weeks. The drug caused some minor bleeding in my mouth and given that people have bled to death from the drug, I took to leaving the light on while I fell asleep reading so I'd know right away if I woke up in a pool of blood. 

Ever the good tenant, I also stopped putting the chain on the door so it would be easier to retrieve my corpse. But in a burst of optimism today, I ordered a 2018 planner, and hope to make this month's postponed trip to the UP in December. On the other hand, if I never post again, I guess you can assume the worst.  

Alcohol could have caused complications while on the drug so I gave away the beer I had and haven't had any since. I used to spend a fair amount of time keeping up on news of new beers and kept records of beers I tried. I gave all that up also and find that I miss that more than the actual drinking. To help lose weight and take pressure off my leg veins, I also improved my diet and have lost almost twenty pounds so far. I'd gladly lose another thirty and hope I'll have the chance to do so. Though it's been a long time since I really loved life, I'd just as soon not leave it quite yet either.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Welcome to the 'bers

The four month stretch starting with September is probably my favorite time of year. The end of summer heat, the refreshing chill in the air, in the past often a relocation to college or a job change, the changing colors, the gales of November, the first snow.  For most people it would also be a time for important family holidays but that was never my lot.

This year I started the ‘bers in the emergency room for the second time in less than year. This time it was a blood clot in my leg, superficial but large, so I’m on a blood thinner.  My doctor doubled the dosage the emergency doctor had put me on and I’m scheduled to see him again in three weeks. The leg has improved as far as the most obvious symptoms, but I’m still nervous about some other achiness and what might be going on inside.  I’ve always known getting old was not going to be easy for me and this is certainly proving it.  Most nights I leave the light on until I finally fall asleep reading.  Just before the clot happened, I had started making plans for and looking forward to a mid-October trip which is now up in the air because of the eight hour bus trip.

I’ve given away the beer I had in the refrigerator due to alcohol increasing the risk of bleeding while on the drug, and am looking at this as a good time to improve my diet and lose some weight—five pounds so far.  I don’t have much appetite and would probably be eating even less if I didn’t need to take the drug with food.

A couple months ago I rebought some favorite songs from long ago in my life and was struck by a theme in the lyrics.  I made a few notes then for a post I was going to call The Sounds of Solitude which I’ll include here.

Most of the songs predated my college time by a few years, but the memories I associate most strongly with them occurred while I was at college.  I think my first exploration into soul, jazz, funk, came with the music of War, and one of my favorite songs of theirs was Gypsy Man.  A couple bits of lyrics:

They call me a gypsy man
'Cause I don't stay in one place too long
I'm searchin' for a brand new world
To make and call my home

A gypsy man ain't got no home
But sometimes I wonder is it best that way

During my freshman year in college, our dorm or floor ordered t-shirts with individually chosen names on the back.  My Virginian roommate wore Southern Man, and I was Gypsy Man.  I later lost that shirt in a canoeing spill.

By my junior year, the music of the Marshall Tucker Band was blasting as people skateboarded down the hallway.  A prominent flute and some jazz-like creativity raised them above the average southern rock band.  I bought half a dozen songs by them; some lyric samples from several songs:

And the time has finally come
For me to pack my bags and walk away

Gonna take a freight train
Down at the station, Lord
I don't care where it goes

Can't you see, can't you see
What that woman, she been doin' to me

So I don't want you to think
That you're the first one
To leave me out here on my own
Cause this ain't gonna be the first time
This ol' cowboy spent the night alone

And from their biggest hit:

If I ever settled down
You'd be my kind
And that's a good time for me
To head on down the line

I'm the kinda man likes to get away
Likes to start dreaming about
Tomorrow, today
Never said that I loved you
even though it's so
Pack that duffle bag of mine
It's time to go

I'm gonna be leaving
At the break of dawn
Wish you could come
But I don't need no woman tagging along
Gonna sneak out that door
Couldn't stand to see you cry
I'd stay another year if I saw teardrops in your eyes

I guess the recurring themes there are pretty obvious.  I’ve never thought of myself as a big traveler and don’t really like it, but a couple years ago I learned of a grade school classmate who still lived in the small town we’d grown up in, and thought of the many people here who’ve never lived anywhere else. But rather than physically, my wanderlust has always been a more emotional and intellectual restlessness.  And though I’ve longed for love and on the rare occasions I let it happen, often tried to hold onto it too hard (while pushing it away at the same time), deep down I’ve never really believed in it as a long lasting thing.

Listening to all these songs again, and thinking of many other favorites from that period which showed the same longing, I wondered about my own version of the chicken and egg question.  Was I already naturally a romanticized loner in my teens drawn to music which reinforced that attitude, or did the music I listened to help to create that persona?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Sad Day (Tongue In and Out of Cheek)

It was time to buy postage stamps again even though I usually use only two a month. Last night I checked the USPS website to see if they had any I didn't already know were available. Nope--so it was either Henry Thoreau even though he looks like he's been airbrushed, or more Janis Joplin, or more National Parks. 

At the post office today, where available stamps are on display at the counter, I said I'd take the Thoreau. The young guy seemed to say, "People keep asking me what he's famous for and I don't know." Since my hearing is starting to go, I assumed I misunderstood and asked,"No one knows who he is?" He said, "I don't." Where to begin? I kept it simple and told him Thoreau wrote Walden, a classic book. No reaction.

At the library today, I picked up a copy of Social Security for Dummies. Can Medicare for Dummies be far behind? On the bright side, I also picked up Duluth's Historic Parks. That link has some sample pages to look over. I met one of the coauthors soon after I first moved to Duluth as part of a group which hiked all of the city parks, so I know she knows her subject.

And at the university today, it's housing check-in day and the neighborhood is overflowing with cute young women in cutoffs.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Don't Go Green!

Usually I'd be fine with the Go Green slogan, but on this map the 17 states in the darkest shades of green are more like gangrene, with the exceptions of a few islands of national parks and New Orleans. Even Texas shows more intelligence!

With the exception of my years on the Yellowstone island and one year in Ohio, I'm happy to have lived all my life in the palest states on the map. As the old saying went, "Don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts". But it's a few of the states in the middle group which will be the most important when it comes to 2020 vision. Here's looking at you, MI, PA, WI. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Accepting Tender Resignation

I started greentangle ten years ago today and added Hard Wood to Whittle almost seven years ago. There have been many changes since in my life and the blogs, and there are now a lot fewer posts, readers, and comments, and I expect that to continue as I lead a more inward life and write with less frequency and less ability. Emotionally, my favorite period remains the early years’ frequent focus on animal rights issues with a couple regular commenters with whom I felt a strong connection. The creative quality of my blog writing probably peaked a couple years later, and certainly the opportunity to include four years of photos from Yellowstone made for an interesting period.

I used to do an annual post listing my favorite posts of the year, and back in 2014, after I had finished my Yellowstone period, I created a document on my computer of all my favorite posts from both blogs, perhaps wondering if some sort of book could come from it all. When I saw today how long ago that was compiled, I decided that I will go through the past few years’ posts and update the document. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of anything I’ve written since which would be included except possibly some of the Autobobography series, and then I read the last paragraph of the last post already in the document, which mentioned that I’d made a rough outline for that very series. So that will be a short new project for me.

I don’t feel that any drastic change has led me to spend less time adventuring or writing, just age and a continuation of the path I’ve been on all along. I am in the early stage of a possible new round of plantar fasciitis and since I can’t avoid being on my feet about five hours a day for my two part time jobs, I’m certainly avoiding any extra walking, but I’d already mostly stopped hiking before this foot flare-up.

I’m sixty years old and have never owned a car; I’ve already done a lot more walking than most modern people will do in their lifetimes, including over 700 miles in Yellowstone alone. The pleasure I got from hiking came from two main sources—first, the combination of getting away from the hectic human world and slowing into the rhythms of the natural world, and second, seeing wildlife. Here in Duluth, the wildlife which provided the strongest encounters for me were deer and bald eagles, but they were rare sightings, not like the everyday elk and bison and much more of Yellowstone. I’m certainly less connected to the natural world than I used to be, but I don’t feel any regret that I’m no longer capable of doing everything I once did. 

These days I mostly get away from the human world by staying in my apartment, which has always been a needed strategy for me at times. Although I’ve seldom disliked anyone as an individual and even enjoyed the company of many people in small doses, being around people has generally been an experience I felt I needed to recover from via solitude. No doubt there are many factors contributing to that, including being an only child and the type of childhood I had, but I also think the major factor is simply that I chose to live differently from most people and felt I had very little in common with them. The company of nonhumans always gave me more satisfaction and pleasure than that of humans.

I still appreciate the creative output of humans and I probably should have developed my own artistic side more deeply in my life. I feel content these days to stay home and listen to music, watch films and television programs (though I haven’t owned a tv since it went digital), and read books. At times, I also read my old journals; I’m currently on 1990, almost half my lifetime ago, and honestly enjoy reading my words more than most books, though I don’t think that would be a widely shared experience.

At that time, I had started working for the college in Boston which would become the longest employer of my life (ten years) but still hadn’t moved to the immediate Boston area. I was taking the commuter train but had already become actively involved in city life, seeing a Boston counselor, taking writing and other classes at adult education centers in Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge, as well as at Harvard Extension. I was talking with the manager of my favorite Harvard Square bookstore about a job there and to city residents looking for a roommate. It was the time of the Robert Bly version of the men’s movement and I went to some of those classes as well. I had just discovered a new New Orleans restaurant in Boston--Dixie Kitchen, run by future great singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier.  I’d often take a midnight train home from the city. That sort of questing is still part of who I am even in my physical inactivity—I bought a couple translations of the Tao Te Ching, important to me long ago, a few months ago.

Reading my own long ago words today provides a warm mix of memory and anticipation, knowing what was still to come during that fertile Boston decade of my life—moves and relationships, exploring more natural areas around the city, a new period of running, time spent with a group which got disabled people out for experiences in the natural world. I’m very glad I lived that life, and glad that I wrote about it so I can recall it more clearly, but I have no desire to be living it now. I’ve reached that point with my Yellowstone memories as well. I think it would take a lottery win for me to ever take a distant vacation again, but if that happens, I’d much rather see Boston or New Orleans again than Yellowstone.

Regardless of where I spend my time, I still care more about the natural world than the manmade one, and of course am disgusted by the current government’s contemptuous attitude toward nature and other species. But the only thing that surprises me is that it’s happening already. I’ve never had any doubt that this civilization would destroy everything else to continue, but it doesn’t even need to be happening yet--this is just evil and childish greed. Wildlife’s salvation still lies not in an election but in collapse.

I recently had a physical with no major problems. One test result estimated that I have a 13.5% chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years, which frankly seemed low to me—I would have guessed at a higher risk. So we’ll wait and see if any of this is still around for the 20th anniversary.