Minting Ghost Towns

Dirt Track up to Ridge for View of Sunset

You can call me at home. I’m home. Home is where I’ve been spending my time.

For example sleeping in the same bed. I haven’t slept in the same bed for months on end since like ever. OK, maybe in some distant past but not like this.

It’s all food preparation all the time now. I miss a good restaurant, but under the circumstances I don’t miss dining out nearly as much as I covet my current health status.

With Some Spare Time You Can Make a Hinge

I rate my favorite walks on the basis of head count now. A good walk in my book is a desolate stretch of trail with nobody else anywhere. Sorry to zero you out, but these are the times we live in.

My wardrobe counts for nothing. I change it up for my wife, but she doesn’t see my clothes, she just sees me.

That gal of mine and I have no more than a few after supper hours to debrief on the busy days we each have concocted in support of our egos desperate attempt to hide from this horror show we find ourselves surrounded by. I’m making the movie, The Fall of the American Empire. It’ll be out soon.

We have just completed our first jump from California to Colorado. We are totally self-contained risking nothing and encountering next to nobody. We can jump twelve hundred miles in two days time. This is in support of my wife’s work. I’m the professional road dog in the family and with show business shut down I’m playing the role of long haul driver.

Lunch beneath cottonwood in a patch of shade

I miss seeing friends. Miss petting strange dogs.

We’re doing as best as can be expected. I spoke at a safe distance with a proprietor in Cold Springs, Nevada. Cold Springs lies two hundred miles east of Reno, one hundred miles north to Elko, three hundred miles south to Las Vegas, this nowhere spot in the Great Basin is plodding along taking life as it is, was, and always will be.

Proprietor was sunny in disposition and because of the remote location skeptical of anything having to do with the price of tea in China. Warned me to stay away from the goat head thorns, watch for rattlesnakes while walking up the ridge to taking in the sunset, and settle in for the night and take noise from the highway and what sleep I might get as it comes.

Something about a good end of day

This proprietor is hopeful they won’t dry up and blow away. His plan is to bide time and wait the stinking hard times out, no hurry, nothing to hurry about out in Cold Springs, Nevada.

In a general sense Cold Springs because of there being so damn few people living there (a handful of hard scrabble souls at most) that the travelers stopping to slake their thirst or rest their weary behinds will right quick learn they have come to a place that time has asked to stand still.

Most of all you should know that chores and living in Nevada are just two sides of the same coin. Fancy britches and pearl snap button western shirts are of no use. A good herd dog, now there is a useful critter to partner up with. Nevadans come in all shapes and colors, some from the casino populated cities and the rest scattered far and wide over an immense confounding landscape.

The next wave of Great Basin ghost towns are being minted as we speak. Still we figure that our fellow citizens will dig out of the corner they are hunkered down in and will be out there on the high desert soon enough. Come see what is likely to never change. Collard lizard, sagebrush and a posse of turquoise miners will be holed up in a boxed canyon waiting for the privilege of your company. Nothing but cat houses, mustang and hard times for as far as an eye can see. Rural Nevada puts nothing and nowhere at the top of the list somewhere lost on a map. And it is this spot if you set boot to dirt, sweat to brow, hike to the top of that ridge where fellow citizen what you’ll find waiting is what is most worth preserving. This is our America out here.

Chicken on the head

Lacey leaping through her hoop for a doggie biscuit

The Godzilla of guffaws, the legendary Carl Reiner passes over to the other side where he’ll be opening for George Burns and Gracie Allen playing to the better angels in the longest running show … eternity.

I’ve had a good 46-year run. Remaining in show business is a basic genetic drive. Doing whatever it takes is in the tissue. You will gladly live out of a suitcase, sleep on a park bench, and travel constantly forsaking family and friends for one more crack at that audience waiting to see the act.

Sabbaticals are custom made for pandemics. Now is an especially good moment to put the act down.

Writing a new bit, rehearsals, practicing your moves, perfecting a new stunt is all well and good but show people count on the juice an audience gives them. We are adrenaline junkies. We live for the buzz. If you can tolerate deprivation you too can hitch your wagon to the dream.

Here on the wayback machine in the video below are several routines. my idea of comedy is well, more or less just my idea and to some hardly the stuff of paying the bills even if as it happens it did.

I know your time is valuable, skip ahead if you must, but do yourself a favor and enjoy my work with a live chicken. You’ll enjoy. As I said so many times, “we’re just a couple of old clucks looking for a couple of young chics…”

solo in time of the virus

Berkeley Pier on Autopilot

Weekend walk was solitary. That in the age of the virus is a good thing. Work on the front courtyard continues. We’ll have guests over sometime at the end of next year. Herd immunity it turns out with a vaccine that is only 70% effective might mean the end of this long period of social isolation may continue for the conceivable and inconceivable future.

Courtyard one board at a time

I’ve two or three actionable items on my agenda. Submitting my current novel for consideration to be published, plotting and planning a romantic comedy, and penning a few more good climate emergency jokes. Of course our climate emergency is serious business but so that we can think our way through to solving this crisis it is wise to help the climate scientists find ways to help the public understand not just the scientific peril we face but to help lift our sagging spirits as we all pitch in and try and save ourselves from ourselves. Just explaining that much turns into an intractable and unbearably long sentence. More work to do, but as we are all finding out we’ve got nothing but time for as far as an eye can see.

Imagining Napa County

Mason is a firefighter. Ruth is an old girlfriend. This is just one of several pairs of relationships locked together in a fight to save what remains of an overrun Napa County…

Mason’s mind was too full.

Ruth was infuriated or not, the irrationality of her anger was hard on the lieutenant’s civic sensibilities. The resolute Canadian surveyed the eyes in the crowd, judgement didn’t matter, Claudia’s contemptible expression on her face was dismissed and irrelevant. The insubordinate woman grabbed Mason, clinched him in her arms and disobeyed department rules and regulations and kissed the man she shared her bed with. After having her way, Ruth leaned back glaring eye to eye until certain Mason fully appreciated the status of her womanhood. Mason stood stunned and that stunning was enough. Ruth hustled off with her flock of mutineers.

Mason dead reckoning with Sheriff Sullivan addressed his superior as an equal. “Anyone hurts her, anyone, I don’t care who they are, they’ll have to answer to me, the father.”

cosmological code

Events of the last week have overtaken not just America but much of the content of my current novel, The Women of the Oak Savannahs. In this book I tell the story of a community of pregnant women that rise up and in act of civil disobedience blockade and attempt to protect and preserve a precious wooded hillside in Napa County.

Five years of work has gone into this manuscript. There are many characters. One of the villains is a dangerous deputy sheriff. His actions taken as part of a tactical squad during a mass arrest of the pregnant women stands out as haunting to my eye. He puts one citizen in the hospital from a beating, falsely imprisons another, forces sex upon a woman in another. 

Many days over many months while dealing with these scenes I was often filled with doubt and a sense of being too contrived, being too dramatic, that there was insufficient reason to place a broken deputy into this manuscript. But, I also have a community of pregnant women committing an act of nonviolent civil disobedience and for the first time in their lives facing arrest and imprisonment.

We live in a precious fragile world. Destroying trees to make room for more vines, more wine, more tasting rooms may nor may not be the right thing. As in George Floyd’s being murdered by four Minneapolis Police, thinking they would get away with whatever they want to do, that is true until it is not true. We don’t know for certain why Mr. Floyd’s murder has triggered such a huge reaction but it is in fact put our democracy on the brink, not since the Civil War has there been such strife.

I was considerably less ambitious and my choice of finding a community of pregnant women to form the blockade was in part my effort to embody the metaphysics of another desecration on the hillsides, the cutting down of thirty-thousand trees, the contamination to the drinking water, the extinction of the salmon, the increased rate of cancers, and my effort to get my readers to care about the people fighting to for a better world. That fight has leaped off the page and out onto the streets of America. Here is a small fragment from the end of the novel, where the midwife speaking to one of the pregnant women gives voice and words to the meaning of bringing a precious new life into the world

“Never give up on the majesty of who you truly are. A woman is the gateway, a mother manifests flesh for the spirit’s vision. That force in your womb is a soul with a birth certificate, named and dated, place and time of first breath, father and mother. Soul… I testify to you, under penalty of punishment for surrendering false word, girl know this, a woman’s heart is not unlocked by merely touching the surface of her skin. Not your white skin, not my black skin. Our power, the heart song that resides within extends like a wave all the way back to that first flash of primordial light, we are the sousaphone player’s belly busting pitch perfect bass note Big Bang. Womankind is light’s most lickerish fusion of mind and body. We are the soul-makers. I can feel our spirits twine-bound, matriarch to matriarch to all these she-trees. You, wounded, pregnant, riven with doubt, up to your chi-chis in doll face despair, the twisted double helix pairings, the genetic plotting points, life’s instruction manual passed down by our ancestors, we are what remains of the best who were here before us, you seize hold of starter batter from your mother, hold this cosmological code in the furnace of your womb sending evolutionary wisdom into the oncoming climate crisis infused onrushing century ahead. Your body’s wonder-working is far more indomitable than you allow your worried mind to know.”

UFO’s & The two dakotas

Let’s Take a Ride

We ask questions in this family. Especially now that the two of us are in lockdown. We don’t ask hard questions, we prefer timeless conundrums, tantalizing brain teasers. Our concerns are all Main Street. Wall Street is of little value to us. For example: what makes the stock market go up or the price of oil go down? The noxious weed problem in the backyard is a bigger concern.

Here in my personal kingdom we are consumed with what to wear, when will I ever get another haircut or where to take my walk today. Under the current circumstances what seems to matter most has little to do with markets going up or down.

Alternate Realities

We do have a glee club. We are giddy of private equity’s sorry state of affairs. Whatever the hell private equity has to do with business remains a mystery. Work in the oil patch will always be a story of boom and bust, a rag to riches and back to rags again story. Credit default swaps and leveraged buyouts are both the frothy concoctions of conniving hucksters. Sympathies under this roof are reserved for the development of more efficient solar panels, wind turbines and desalination water systems.

Of the big questions asked I have much to say even if my outsized opinions are not even a beauty mark on a gnat’s ass. For one thing I thought voters standing in line in Wisconsin during a pandemic was a crap idea. I got a few takers for this Jim Dandy. I don’t feel so alone.

I know I am important because of the great number of mirrors installed in my home and the familiar looking man gazing back agreeing with everything I have to say.

Complexity isn’t just for Marriage

One of our big problems the world faces is to do with knowing when we will be able to restart the economy. There is no one answer to this question. Best I can tell we’ll open sooner or later. Sooner is what most would hope for. Later consists of a percentage of sentient beings (slightly larger than gnats) that have bothered to consider the facts and circumstances humanity has found itself cornered by. Then, you have the odds, are you willing to bet your life? How long we can hold out?

We are between a rock and a hard place. Doesn’t help the situation one bit that the scalding verities confronted are located somewhere in the midst of Russian roulette, Saudi Arabia bone-saw justice, and a mobbed-up money laundering traitor working for a former KGB agent.

That corner we are all in has made viewing just released UFO footage a form of comfort video viewing. I like knowing things are out there that have no explanation. I do not understand why we have an electoral college, why there are two Dakotas when one is more than plenty, or if Liz Cheney has enjoyed sex with a coal miner in a Motel 6 just outside of Casper, Wyoming?

This is how the theory of everything is all puzzled out while on this unscheduled global extended holiday. Making popcorn now.

minding your own business

Man and Mind

I tend to listen to my inner voice and believe every single word. I trust that voice. It’s my voice.

I know that it is just a shameless mind speaking to me. Minds have no pride, they’ll say anything, and never stop talking to you even when they have nothing new to tell you, then they’ll worry, or repeat the same worn out gossip they’ve told you a thousand times before.

I think vacations are more about getting our mind out and about in the world. Keeping a mind confined to one place tends to trigger the onset of idle chatter and then the mind will start yammering on and on about the usual matters often described as having to do with our insecurities.

My mind has enjoyed sleep. We go early so we can get up early. My mind has decided with so much less socializing there really is no reason to remain up until all hours of the night. My mind has been treating me to performing dreams. We suffer engine failures, windstorms, no audiences, funny stuff that is so funny that it has to be a dream because the funny stuff can’t be that funny. Maybe, dreams are funny even without a joke.

Certified Head to Toe

There have been mental apparitions. I’ve been seeing things. It’s all about having the right mentality when you begin hallucinating. I think my mind is concerned about how long this new simple life is going to last and if I did have some sort of mental breakdown it might get us out of the house for an adventure. The lengthy isolation is beginning to take a mental toll.

I’m luckier than most. I have a spouse. I have a spouse I like to talk with. My mind I’ve noticed thinks variety is missing. Every now and again things happen, complaining starts in, there’s this grumbling about not getting out enough, that they’d like to go somewhere and do something. I take my wife along and my mind finds being out and about more soothing to have her company.

On television there is this funny show with this odd man, and he’s got a mind too. You can tell. When he talks, he can’t help giving his audience a piece of his mind. It is funny because when his mind is on display you can tell his mind is kind of different than most minds.

More important to me than demanding optimism from my mind is getting my mind ready, ready mind means I am prepared to pounce upon the next moment and willing to go wherever that next moment may take me. Being in self isolation mode makes this a pretty nifty free ride to the nearest new shiny object my mind might wish to dance with.

My mind reminds me of a yappy chihuahua. Small, noisy and ready to bite your hand. This is what has come of my mind.  

prepare for Landing

Women of the Oak Savannah’s

November 2015 First Draft

The drumming wafted about baiting the ears of the raccoons looking down from the shroud and canopy. At first it was one, then two, then twenty, the pregnant protectors stood swinging their hips and raising their arms and teasing the flitting moths and nightjars with their fingertips. The spherical silhouettes of swollen bellies and swelling breasts were to glimpse a fleeting gestating succulence, humanities ripest state of being. On and on, eye to eye, one almost ready to burst belly after the other. The women of the oak savannah’s prancing before the ocher flames dancing away the doubts, bonding to the womb and wonder, nature’s anointed soul maker’s kneeling for prayers at the foot of the wooded altar.

Work progresses on my fourth novel. I had to rebuild the end of the novel, I am still filling in final touches, but most is done.

I had put the novel away two years ago. I had nothing to contribute to the work I had done. I hadn’t felt satisfied with the manuscript.

Much of the dialogue required very critical combing through. Lots of shit that doesn’t ring true had to be tossed. Other tossed material more to do with overwriting that needed pulling back.

If you look at the teaser at the top, that is the intensity of prose I have been looking to put into the story. This is at its core a story of the destruction of Napa County by developers and their billionaire clients and the environmental activists opposing them.

Waltham Wristwatch 1958

Fourth novel’s have an even higher hill to climb. I think my third novel is a successful sexual farce. In writing beyond that third novel, writing a fourth dramatic metaphysical soul struggle to preserve and protect the wild hillsides of Napa County requires entire different set of emotional muscles. I have had many failed drafts of chapters that didn’t work. I had to write them over, change them, try something else.

There are a number of outlandish elements in this novel. Some, many or all my readers may find some scenes implausible to simply unbelievable. I’ll give any reader space to make up their own mind. But, the words have been carefully constructed, the quality and effort of every sentence has been examined, revised, changed, studied for continuity, if necessary abandoned altogether.

I’m sending this out to a new reader with a iPad as a PDF file, all of this is copyrighted material. I could use a few more readers if any have the time and energy. After a few scrubbing’s I’ll prep for submission to contests and literary agents. This will not go to Amazon for self publication.

“Talk to me,” her doula urged. “The muse of sperm and egg are here with us. Tell your goddess angel what you want…Let your body speak. Listen to her roar, mother nature’s prying opening the soul-maker’s passageway.”

soothing eternity

Turkey Visits

Going has been replaced with staying. Every task assigned in this time of staying is given bare boned attention, as a monk might say when you brush your teeth brush your teeth. The instructions hold up for folding pillowcases, transplanting sentry plants or washing cars. Much of what I knew as true about living in this world is from the now ended “before times,”

I didn’t characterize my previous life as being distracted. I left room in the schedule to do chores. There were routines. The dog ate each day at the same time and from the same bowl.  Dogs can be such sticklers.

Potted Sentry Plant

I always thought when told to, “work hard so you can play hard,” as an excellent homily. Until my first lost summer in France I had no inkling what suckers’ American workers had been. Knowing there is a nation where its people stop everything and spend August on holiday sunbathing in the Riviera forced me to reconsider the merit of having a work ethic.

Roses need pruning, mail needs to be trekked in from the curb and a squeak in a door hinge out in the workshop is in desperate need of oiling.

Friends, family and colleagues do call. There is little time for this conviviality. Until the gutters are clean, the windows spotless and crumbs beneath the kitchen table are dispatched there is not a second to waste.

Quercus suber or Cork Oak Tree

Since receiving orders to remain in place the first error made was allowing the mind time to imagine leaving. Replaying the scene time and again the result was the same. The initial days here in the after times have been part of the “all dressed up with no place to go,” epoch.  

Settling in for the long haul is rife with inaccuracies. In addition to the domestic chores there is the matter of work. Ambition, enterprise and success vary much as the weather.

Before Times with Dog

A neighborhood crow finds my juggling eye-catching. My fan lingers to watch. I enjoy speaking to birds. Results of these conversations are meager. Crows have difficulty with trust. Sweet talk is for parakeets.  

Hummingbirds are free riders. Crows, jays, finches and common house sparrows have to fend for themselves. Fanciful hummingbird flight style is popular. Crows, pigeons and gulls can wear out their welcome.

Stove and Pots

Fairness is in short supply. With nowhere to go while in lockdown any bird is welcome to stop by. I find time spent admiring the less appreciated birds a worthy pastime. Putting the garbage cans out on the curb, spotting a new nest in the eaves is a major event. Whittling away time on the stoop with a pot of my grandfather’s pinto beans slow cooking on the stove soothes.     

all about the Inner tube

Weekend Brunch

Wait a minute what do you mean? You’re saying I can’t eat avocados, no more cashews, sautéing vegetables in olive oil is out?

I’d run into some trouble with my numbers. You wouldn’t know by looking, but under the hood, the engine had issues. The warranty on my chassis had started showing its miles and after a look my mechanic hit me with the news, I was going to have to start doing some preventative maintenance.

Sacred Recipes and Olney Tips

From here on out it would be lettuce and lemon juice for as far as the eye could see. No more cooking Richard Olney’s Veal Sweetbreads and Macaroni Timbale. No more making a gelatinous veal stock with blanched calf’s foot, no more 3 tablespoons of butter in the macaroni, no more egg whites and immeasurable vats of heavy cream.

I am a besotted California cuisine dining French envying cheap red any vintage non-Grand Crus Bordeaux wine drinker. Berkeley is rife with my kind. Turns out the Left Coast liberals get Château induced sticker shock bellying up in the Left Bank for a glass of Margaux and a succulent morsel of Cistercian monk inspired Epoisses.

Breaking up is hard to do

“Excess in everything,” was Ernie Kovacs motto. Not bad, but good to understand the brilliant comedian was dealt a one-way ticket out of here at 45. Voraciousness and longevity are incompatible bedfellows.

Palate shifting takes time. You are not just moving minds you are training stomachs too. Imagine you are one whole integrated tube with a hole at one end and another hole at the other where what goes in one hole comes out the other. In the middle of the tube is a broadcasting company sending information to the most prejudiced bought and paid for criminally negligent judge and jury the human condition can buy. We want what we want when we want it.

Corkage, as in put a cork in it…

That may not be who you truly are, but it comes damn close to describing what I’ve found lurking just beneath the impulse control deficient less preferred parts of this closeted Château Margaux craver.

Because of my biased jury and out of control inner Ernie Kovacs the Executive Producers of my dinner theater demanded the director try editing the big show before it turned into a Mayo Clinic flop.

I rounded up the usual suspects. Dairy, eggs, red meat, chicken and fish were arrested and tossed into the culinary hoosegow. Denial fueled the Mediterranean diets unsubstantiated claims that olive oil was good and more olive oil was even better. As these things went the use of olive oil had to go. I had to get rid of the oil burner under the hood go all renewable or run the real risk of having my very own existential Kodak moment and climate change emergency.

Tools of the Oil Free Trade

Scanpans are a Scandinavian cookware creation. Coddled socialists that our Northern Europeans are during their eternal winter while soaking in saunas the dashing blonde and blue-eyed wonders spent the other part of their day and invented safer nonstick cookware. A ceramic titanium coating over stainless and aluminum creates an oil free cooking tool that unlike Teflon will not harm the homebound chefs. Think Volvo of cookware.

Secret Sauce

Add to your arsenal a scanpan and vegetable broth, low sodium of course, and you are now set to go all oil free all the time. The tyranny of craving will drive behavior at the outset, but with practice the lust for oil cools to a simmering whimpering muffled then muted tummy tickling grumble.

In the sport of survival your referee will be left flummoxed. Instead of putting up the big numbers you’ll be playing in endothelial hardball league. Stints, pig valves and triple bypass will be relegated to the dustbins of John Hopkins Research archives.

Sicilian wine is an affordable must have

That’s it. There you go. Easier said than done. As to be expected my beloved inner Ernie Kovacs is still there, and that’s a beautiful thing. We wrestle with each other, and it’s a fair match, immortal comic versus fragile wise guy. The thing to know is an oil free Kovacs works and I’m doing pretty good too.

Kicked up quite the ruckus when I dove into this dietary quagmire, but now it’s just what we do. As Tony Bennett sings, “I want to be around to pick up the pieces when somebody fixes your heart. Some somebody twice as smart, as I….”

cairnal knawledge

Rock Arrangments

Stacking rock is the latest here at Self-Isolation Central. Building a rock wall is an open-ended three-dimensional chess match. Out in the arena, also known as the front yard, there in the field of dreams the player towers like the Grand Canyon over the rocks.

Procrastination might not even be a word if we were not suddenly having self-isolation thrust into our lives. Still with a snazzy past life now at full stop, and having all the time in the world to idle away arranging and rearranging rocks the reverse of whatever a blessing might be gets to the essence of what the rock stacking sport is all about.

Baby Rocks

Having admired more than a few gifted, more patient rock stackers I approached the challenge with humility. A rookie rock stacker has to earn their stripes.

Here’s the first thing to know. A good course of stacked rocks starts at rock bottom. Got that? You want a foundation that the higher rocks can count on. After a few stacking sessions you knew the moment would hit you like a ton of bricks. Once all those ideal rocks, all those born to be stackable rocks have been used up what a rock stacker is left with is all those other rocks, the unpopular rocks, the rocks nobody wants, you’ve seen those rocks before, they’re all scattered across the rocky road of life.

In the Sierra foothills as you approach the gold country’s Sutter Creek from the west Chinese immigrants worked stacking rocks. To appreciate the enormity of the Chinese wall stackers talent all you need do is pick up and carry one fair sized rock from one side of your yard to the other side of your yard and set the rock down. To appreciate Chinese rock stackers continue this rock moving exercise sunrise to sunset, day in and day out, for a decade.

Amateur Rock Stacker’s Lament

Meditation may not induce the level of serenity a rock stacking consciousness requires. You’ll need to self- appoint yourself your own chain gang guard. Eat boiled eggs, smirk, and recite this line over and over, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” A stacking mood is rare.

The contemplative life I have come to learn consists of both concepts in the abstract and objects in the concrete. In both the abstract and the concrete things get heavy quick. Toss a potent mushroom into the mix and you’ll regret having ever thought what you wanted to do was stack a wall of rocks straight and plumb. A straight line as all of you know was discovered by the earliest rock lovers, the Sumerians.  

Tribal Rock Indentation Discovery

Still with the vaccine so far off in the future and rocks and time being what they are I’ll probably not only stack the remaining rocks into a wall but I can see that I’ll also be getting involved in deconstructing rock walls and launch my career as a rock wall rearranger.

Think of rock stacking as a leisure activity, the ultimate stealth thinking man’s game. Since this pandemic has hit so too has arrived at our location the penetrating inviolable truth. Take each day one rock at a time.