While I was in Phoenix, we decided to grab lunch ay the west coast institution, In-N-Out Burger. Last time I went, I was disappointed with their tiny menu. But then I did the research, and apparently, the definition of In-N-Out is a secret menu. I found I could get a three meat, three cheese burger (3x3p and get my fries smothered in a thousand island-style "spread" with relish, carmelized onions, and cheese (Animal Style). I rounded it out with a large Coke. Life was good. DO THE RESEARCH, KIDS!
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
It's weird that no matter how much a place has changed since childhood, you're still able to identify the familiar and find the comfort in that. It's always a trip for me to visit my parents in Salida and see the house I grew up in, the town that's changing so quickly yet staying do much like it was 10 or 20 years ago.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
I stand outside on a cool and bright morning, a morning which should have given us snow and didn't, but that's the way of things these days. I use the brightness to take pictures of the city I will miss when I find myself in Alaska in a month's time. I won't miss the traffic or the politics or the poor social systems a city "provides", but I will miss the food, the lights, the pomp and circumstance that makes a city such as Denver so great.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I'm awake early again this morning. My son, Malcolm is a morning person, apparently. I do enjoy this time, though, as it allows me to collect my thoughts.
Yesterday, my brother visited me and got a tattoo commemorating the loss of my older son, Tiberius James. I didn't really process it at the time, but later it really struck me as something meaningful. I spent my morning pondering life, what we lose and what we gain.
I feel it's important to remember those things we have lost and honor those memories by appreciating what we still have and what will have in the future. I know it's cliche, but life is too short to spend what we have dwelling on what we no longer enjoy.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Back in the groove of things with my new mobile smart phone, I'm excited to get back into blogging more regularly. This morning, it's 19° here in the capitol city. Malcolm is enjoying the morning as usual, and his uncle Bart is sleeping on the couch. So far, the day's got potential.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Lyss and Malcolm and I went to a friends house for dinner tonight. We had a good, hearty meal of meatloaf, mashed taters, and a salad. After dinner, I stepped outside into the dark, warm, evening air and found my head swimming in a nice melody of the cricket symphony. I forgot how much I loved being outside in the summer evenings.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Looking south on Lincoln Street with a girl and a very little baby sleeping in the apartment upstairs, I do as I rarely do and bask in the warm weather. Normally, I loathe the heat. However, there is a nice calmness in the afternoon sunlight. The clouds south of Denver look spectacular.
The morning sun reflects off the shoddy picnic table where many a peon has gathered for breaks from their less-than-comfortable work days. As I stand here, I see it as a symbol of better things to come, better days ahead. I see it as a stepping stone for future good deeds, and I adjust my mindset accordingly.
I figured this morning, as I sit outside in the cool air for a few minutes before work, that I'd replace the time I spend playing Solitaire with blogging and taking pictures of where I am, what I'm doing. So here's the sidewalk in front of the HomeBase in Denver. I thought it was a neat picture in its simplicity.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Friday, July 2, 2010
Thursday, July 1, 2010
I thought I was tired enough to fall asleep earlier, but then, like an idiot, I thought I'd check my facebook one last time before I went to sleep and happened across a Buddhist monk's lecture on depression. It was an hour and a twelve minutes long. I only listened to twenty-six minutes of it it before I felt compelled to turn my music on and start thinking to myself about the things in life I appreciated, the positives, the accomplishments, the good things in life.
What spawned all of this was a story the monk told. He's based in Perth, Australia. When he first got there, the group he was in had no money. They owed money for the land they had purchased, and had no buildings for their monastery. This meant that he, an ex physicist of some sort, had to build things himself, get his hands dirty and do the work. He was a perfectionist, the type of guy that was tormented if he didn't get things exactly correct at the end of a project.
His first task was to build a brick wall. He would lay it, brick by brick. If the corner of a brick was sticking up, he'd gently tap it down. If that knocked the opposite corner up, he'd tap that one down. If that knocked the brick out of line, he'd straighten it. If that knocked a corner up... the process would continue. At any rate, he built this entire wall, and at the end, he stepped back, looking upon this brick wall with pride when he noticed that two bricks, -two- bricks, were crooked. As you could imagine, this destroyed him.
For three months, he had nightmares about the failure of the wall. He would volunteer to show people around the grounds so he could save them from seeing his mistake. He would walk by it in the middle of other jobs and audibly sigh, stuff up, and once almost cried.
Then a visitor came and asked to be shown around. He looked at this wall, and he told the monk it was a damn fine wall. The monk asked the visitor if he was visually impaired. Of course, he wasn't. The monk was beside himself. "Don't you see the two crooked bricks?" The visitor replied, "Yes, I do. But I also see nine hundred and ninety-eight perfectly straight bricks all around them."
The difficulties and negatives we face seem to be only a small portion of the lives we live, and yet, we seem to focus on those imperfections, not appreciating the good things we've done or seen or experienced to some degree.
Another story he told was a lady who caught her husband lying once and was asking him if they should be divorced. She said she couldn't trust him anymore. He asked them how long they had been married. Three years. Then, being good at math (a former physicist, remember?), he said, three years is roughly one thousand days. He said that if, on average, he made twenty statements to her every day. That turns out being twenty thousand statements. He lied once. That means there's twenty thousand to one odds that he wouldn't lie to her again. I guess this happened a number of years ago. They're still married.
Perspective. Generally, we lack it. We don't see the big picture. We only see the glaring flaws. We see an old man flipping burgers, and he's a loser. We don't know that he's the best burger chef in the country. We see a young woman with two kids and no husband. We don't know that she has been abused or raped or a widow of a soldier or a cop, and that those two kids were still spelling PALEONTOLOGIST by the time they were three despite that.
In my life, I have faced difficult times, yes, but who hasn't? Who hasn't lost someone that meant the world to them? Who hasn't been broke or couch surfed or lived in a trailer or an old apartment? Who hasn't been fired or laid off or rejected or dumped or even just plain let down?
What is harder for me to see is what I've seen and done that is enough for me to die a happy and successful man. It's harder for me to see that I have somehow wound up with people in my life who are or have gone on to be actresses, pilots, fathers, mothers, own two Corvettes, built their own cabins, started their own businesses, fallen so completely in love with the sweetest and kindest people, taught children morals, math, and reading... the list goes on. I can name names, but you know who you are. You're in my life. And whether you've been in my life since I was born or you're the person who sat next to me on an airplane ten years ago, you should consider yourself to be a part of this amazing spread of incredible people.
Now is not the time to think about how difficult life is or is bound to get. It's the time to start thinking about what is good, what we have, what we are capable of. There is so much awesome stuff, and I mean awesome in the full-of-awe sense that the word is intended for, so much good about this place we're fortunate enough to reside on.
That's my two cents for the evening. I think, now that it's off my chest, I'll try to get some sleep now. I appreciate you reading this, too. ;-)
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
...if you say that instead of Alabama, you're good to go. I'm thinking of parting ways with the beloved BattleWagon in favor of some tent-living/money-saving while the summer is still somewhat decent. In the past 48 hours, we've had 43 raning, and after the past few weeks of decent sunshine, I figure I better do this before Alaska gets the best of me.
I heard a song by Radiohead tonight called "Gagging Order". I don't know if it's the 26 hours of rain we've had here, or a combination of other factors, but it just struck me as very deep, very sad, very melancholy, but at the same time, very beautiful, simple, and eloquent. I hope you can pull it up on YouTube or last.fm and give it a listen.
As I said, 26 hours of rain, and the forecast doesn't give any signs of sunlight for a while. These are the times when I miss Colorado the most, the times when it was amazing to walk outside and just let the warmth wash over you, as if the sun were taking you into its arms and holding you, protecting you, letting you know that you're loved. The rain, while a beautiful antithesis to that, is not as calming in the same way.
Maybe it should be this way: the sun is the mother of nature and the rain is the father. The sun loves you, keeps you warm, makes you feel happy, encourages you to go out and play, always makes you feel like a kid at heart. The rain guards you, protects you, helps you to be stronger on your own, encourages you to grow in mind and spirit, and washes away your sins, forgiving them with each drop.
It's funny to me that an entry about a Radiohead song sparked all of this, but if you've ever listened to Radiohead, I think you'll get it.
Monday, June 21, 2010
I found a new place to camp in town. Well, I didn't find it. I was told by the fellow vagabonders I met a few days ago. At any rate, it overlooks "New Town" Ketchikan, called as such because it's built on the north side of this really steep ridge that used to make travelling from north to south very difficult. Now there's a tunnel and a road built on pilings around the side of it.
The view was grand. Enjoy this solstice.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
This morning, I was going through some pictures and listening to some tunes on the party shuffle. A song by Saxon Shore came on called "Silence Lends A Face To The Soul". I turned it up real loud and just let the melody just drown me in all of the emotions that I feel annually on certain days, such as Fathers Day. I wish all fathers out there to have a day that reminds them of how lucky they are, how noble they must be, how generous, kind, yet stern and smart they learn through necessity.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Tonight I was approached by a couple, Gary and Debbie, who are vagabonding or boondocking like myself. They're friends of Earl, who, with his big dog "Hunter", lives in his camper here and over on Prince of Wales Island. I met him a few days ago. All were very kind. Gary said he and Debbie were harassed by someone at a public lot down by the laundromat here in town. It appears that I've been drafted as a part of a community watch, sharing stories and tips with fellow vagabonders. It's exciting! I wish I had a community like this when I was in Denver. What a great time, nonetheless. It's wonderful to feel free.
Monday, June 14, 2010
As the light shines through the blurry windshield of my parked van, I look down and notice that my shirt seems to be melting away. While coincidentally complimentary to my contemplation, it stands as independently fascinating. The light from the nearby tower gently glows, and the steady, unhindered rain falls with a certain care that seems to nudge everyone into their cozy homes or homes away from home. I look up at the light and then out toward the trees, whose branches are still, heavier with the weight of the water that has fallen. At this late hour of ten o'clock, the darkness has yet to completely hide the clouds lingering over the all but distant mountains.
For now, I am in Ketchikan, Alaska, just outside the largest National Forest in the United States, the Tongass, where people have resided or passed through for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. A team discovered remains on nearby Prince of Wales island that shared DNA markers with people of Chilean, Argentenian, and Peruvian descent, as well as one individual from mainland China. What a sight this area must have been when the waters were lower and the Bering Strait was a land bridge, when people migrated, walking miles and miles looking for a new home.
I hope that whatever I am doing in this BattleWagon, with these Chronicles, I am respecting and sharing in that same spirit, that I am looking for... something. The difference for me is that I will always have a home in a beautiful mountain valley with an angel looking over all of it's residents. I am not looking for that place. I am looking for stories to bring back with me. I am looking for adventure. I am looking for answers of a divine nature. I hope and also fear that this search will never end.
For now, however, I am content.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Here we have the Zaandam, a ship of the Holland America Line. It looks to be the first ship here this morning. It's huge, but not the finest ship that's been here. Still, when a huge ship comes in, it is always something of awe to me, the guy who's grew up land-locked and never seen anything that big that moves.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
In Ketchikan, a raven's feather is as important as an eagles. I'd imagine it's like this in other parts of the world, too. Here I learned of the significance. Apparently, ravens are lost souls. They are people who have died and not been able to find their way to the afterlife. To mess with a raven is to inherit some of the sorrow the raven is facing in their attempt to break free. The details are absent from me right now, but the story is nice. The ravens here are almost as big as the bald eagles, and only slightly more numerous. What an amazing place to be.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
I sit here today, not knowing what to do with my time. I have relegated myself to a self-imposed solitude of reading and watching my surroundings. The rain has been coming in waves, not in coordination with the sun, who seems to be shining while the rain falls now. It's fifty-five degrees here, and I let the rain touch me, feeling as though I am subject to it's all-consuming reach.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
It's not pouring rain, and I wouldn't even call it a drizzle. At this point, it's maybe spitting? It's trying? Whatever you call it, this is more the norm that all of the sunshine here in Ketchikan, a place that averages between 152 and 180 inches of precipitation a year. It's so much easier to sleep with the rain gently tapping on the roof of the BattleWagon. It drowns out all of the potentially corrupiting noises of the outside world. I would guess it's like being in the womb.
Monday, May 31, 2010
I sent this picture to a friend back home, and I figured I'd share it with everyone. This is a local beach near town. The beaches here aren't sandy like they are down south. They're gravelly and rocky. It's cool all the same, a good feeling of isolation and resignation to the higher powers in place. Just you, the ocean, some trees, distant boats and planes... pretty nice.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
This is a shot of Carlanna Lake, a quick, five-minute hike from Ketchikan. A popular fishing spot, it has a very well-built trail around the entire south side of it. It's an old reservoir, and the trail starts at the dam and ends at the inlet creek. This quick walk takes you through a thick, old-growth forest and has very nice bridges and edging throughout, including three docks out on the lake itself for fishing. Next to the trail, there's a few of these big, fallen trees, the bottoms of which are 10-15 feet all and covered in moss. This is a rainforest, and it doesn't take nature long to virtually swallow everything that's out of place.
I figured this would be a good time to catch you all up on what life looks like without a consistent place to shave. I'm even letting the mustache go this time around. I've met several people with a full face of hair, and it looks like I'll be in good company. Oh, how I wish I had a new Sportsmobile...
Anyway, the weather here is fine this morning. It's 52 degrees and cool. There are four ships docked here today, including two Mercury-class ships operated by the Celebrity X cruise lines. They're big ships. One can only imagine how big the Nimitz or the Enterprise is after one of these ships. Considering the crew and guest compliment, it's almost as big as my home town, good old Salida.
Friday night was a camping-lite trip to the secret cabin. Yesterday, for breakfast, we made scrambled eggs in bacon grease. It's one of those things that hurts so good.
The local Ketchikan King Salmon Derby started yesterday, and I've noticed the town get a little quieter as the fisherman, both amateur and pro, have gone out full force to win the trophy this year. I took the opportunity to walk around town, including a stint on Water Street, an elevated concourse with houses built into the hillside. The street itself is built on scaffolding and pilings. It's a pretty spectacular view from up there, although I imagine the real estate prices reflect that.
Meanwhile, from my perch here and now, I'm watching float-planes come and go, a big ferry depart for the south, bald eagles and ravens flying around, and a seal poke its head above the surface occasionally. It's not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning, all in all.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Since I have come to Alaska, I've seen lots of new and exciting new things. I've experienced things that I never imagined i'd have the opportunity to be a part of. I've also learned things about myself that either i'd never realized before or simply had been denying.
It took a huge leap of faith for me to come to Ketchikan. It wasn't a big risk for me to live in a van in Colorado. I had friends and family and got to travel a little bit more than I would have otherwise. This, however, offered me no safeguards, no fallback. I stepped out of the airport with two backpacks and a sachel (Indiana Jones had one). I really wanted to push myself into facing some things I hadn't before.
I've learned, as a result, that there is a part of me that is, well, me, my own. There are aspects of my thoughts that can travel thousands of miles and not change. I'm figuring out that memories aren't things you take with you. Memories are things you create every day, things you collect and dust off when you want to share them with someone. When all you do is drag them around with you, you're denying yourself the opportunity to create more.
I've also learned that I'm capable of more than I thought possible. In the span of a month, starting out with next to no money, I've made friends, bought a van, been invited on adventures that I will be able to tell the next generation.
I'm thankful for this new place, for dusting off the old thoughts and helping me to remember the good excitement of youth and innocense.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Today, I snagged a picture of a sailboat, one on dozens in the Narrows today. It is a beautiful day here on Revilla Island (Revilla is short for Revillagigedo, but the locals don't mention gigedo (pr: gi-GAY-doh)). The sun is out. It's almost 60. A slight breeze. It's pretty spectacular.
Last night, a friend from work invited me to camp out. I grabbed my bag, and we hiked about a half mile to this beach, just farther up than where we'd gone last weekend. We brought tents, but didn't use them. We just slept out under the trees and the clouds. I woke up and took in a deep breath. It seems to be a reminder as to while I'm here.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I found a dog on Sunday, and I need to dedicate a whole blog to her, because she's an amazing dog. Today, I called the animal control officers and officially reported her, which means her real family could claim her any time. While this would be great for her, I'd be sad, and I'd miss her. She's loyal, smart, sweet, and chill. The only issue that I've had so far is that she doesn't get along with my boss's dog.
Now that I've reported her, I'm obligated to take her in to the authorities if nobody claims her. After 72 hours, I can offically adopt her, and then the courts are on my side. However, they need to check with my landlord or inspect my residence to make sure it's suitable for a dog. I live in a van. I don't think they'll see that as suitable. The officer sounded like it would be cool to keep things on the sly if I don't hear anything from her owners, and that would be great. But, just in case, I am writing this tribute to the dog I've had for four days and three nights, the dog that gets excited to see me, the dog that buries her muzzle under my neck while I sleep, the dog that likes hiking and plays fetch and comes when I call her.
She's named after Mount Shavano in Chaffee County, Colorado. The mountain has a prominent "angel" that forms from snow every winter. The legend goes something like how the angel looks over the valley, and every spring, as she melts, she "sheds her tears", fertilizing the valley below for the people to grow food and be healthy.
I always thought Shavano would be a great name for a dog. I just never thought I'd own a Heeler mix. I wanted to, eventually, get a Saint Bernard. Then again, a month and a half ago, I didn't even see myself living in Alaska.
So anyway, Shavano, this blog's for you. Whatever's in your future, I wish you the best. You are proof that not only do all dogs GO to heaven, they come from some place similar, too.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Warning, what follows could be construed as a shameless advertisement for me and a good friend of mine:
I had packed up some essentials, two backpacks worth, destined for a new frontier. I'd be leaving behind my life, my friends and family, my job, and my cozy apartment, trading it all for a new life and a new way of living it. My only code was to continue my BattleWagon Chronicles, to explore the human and the natural realms, to see new places, and to push myself beyond my small and limited box of existence. The things I carried for luck included my watch and my pocketknife, both of which my dad gave me... and my Trunk33 charm, hand crafted and personalized for me in honor of another epic adventure I shared with a good friend.
As I explored, I made new friends, in spite of the homesickness I felt. I saw sights that I couldn't even conjure up in my vivid imagination. I felt the spiritual world of nature work its way into my soul, and into the soul of those who had helped me get where I am. My new BattleWagon is a beast, a behemoth with ample space and a cozy, if not the most attractive place for me to contemplate these thoughts, and hanging from the rear-view, to protect me from the bad and to guide me towards a bright future, is my Trunk33 charm.
This evening, it's 52 degrees. The clouds are gently covering the mountaintops like a blanket. The mist has a serene and insulating feel. The rain taps gently on the roof, as if mother nature is telling me it's okay to sleep. I look forward from my roost, and I see these things. I see friends, family, love, home, and an amazing place that so few people are lucky enough to see. I focus on the foreground, and I see my Trunk33 on the Misty Panhandle.
Monday, May 17, 2010
This is one of the most spectacular "behind Walmarts" I've ever seen. When I was a kid, we loved going behind Walmart. That's where the big dirt half-pipe was, where all those tall cottonwoods grew, where the Little Arkansas ran by. It was an adventure. That was pretty, and this is, too. They carved out a nice cliff, and made a waterfall to boot! Yes, it's artificial, and yes, it probably could have been left alone, but still, it was neat to see! The kicker: before I left, I saw a three-inch long slug! I've never seen that before. Throw in the whales I saw yesterday... this place is so cool.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Today, I took Shavano (the name of the dog I found) and walked out of Ketchikan to Carlanna Lake. I took the trail around the lake as far as it would go, taking in the scenery as I went. Shavano is very smart, and was excellent around the other dogs we met. It was a prett good day.
After that, my boss and I stuffed our faces with some BBQ, and I went to bed, stuffed from food.
This morning, I got up, went for a short drive, and found a potential new best friend. He hopped right in the van, and unless I find out who lost him, I'll keep him around. I don't know his name yet. I'm open to suggestions.