crusty INSOLUBLE nevada

Tuesday I am driving from San Francisco to Denver. First stop is Silver City, Nevada. Wednesday will shape more east on Highway 50 for Baker right on the Utah border. Will see how much stomach I’ve got for road Thursday. If I make it to Glenwood Springs, Colorado that would setup striking distance to arrive in Littleton on Friday.

I’ve been worried for four years about the sanity of our Executive in the White House. I have been looking at the problem of climate emergency we’re trying to come to grips with for a good many years more. Add the emerging pandemic from the Coronavirus to the existential threats and you’ve got yourself a red-hot short list to what is keeping responsible military officials at the Pentagon awake night and day.

Now an unwanted bug is going viral. In honor of this threat and in consideration of the hazard it represents, my wife and I are battening down the hatches here at the one-man and one-woman amusement park. We are provisioning our apartment in Colorado this weekend. Being sailors we’re expert on stocking a pantry with dry goods. That bit of nuttery has caused us both much Mormon like sorrows.

Cruise ships are departing harbors across the globe as I write this tomb of viral doom, but among my vast readership, (vanity project) are there any anti-vaxxers ready to learn they are confined offshore on an infected ship? Didn’t think so.

Hunkering in an apartment isn’t so bad when considering the alternatives. The writer and his best half are both quirky vegans. You’d think Darwin would smile down upon such vaunted immune systems and I’m sure Charles is doing exactly that from high on but how much faith would you put in a grinning angel short of seeing one at closing time in the prime of your lost post adolescent youth?

I place my marker, and I am not a betting man, this is not a wager, this is a concern, and what has my attention isn’t today but where the numbers might suggest we are headed two weeks from now.

?

Running across Nevada dawn to dusk Wednesday. The Silver State delivers a respite from the crush of humanity. Nevadan’s possess a warmhearted insular misanthropic neighborliness. Crusty rural types are as likely to give you the shirt off their back as to toss a baby rattlesnake at your feet so they might get to laugh as you try dancing for your life.

The rows of mountain ranges oriented north to south come upon a traveler like waves. Dunes, snow capped peaks, pinion and juniper groves, everywhere sagebrush. High desert is stark, cold, seductive.

A desolate Great Basin landscape feels prescriptive. Putting all the troubles in the world in the rearview mirror, striking out on Highway 50, piling up one-hundred miles of nowhere and nothing is a soothing means of catching up on all those insoluble puzzles I’ve been intending to finish.

My wish list is short for things I’d like to see fixed. End fossil fuel subsidies and transfer that assistance to the renewable energy sector. That would be one thing. Next, remove the current autocrat running amok from the Oval Office. And last, wish you all a safe journey and good health through this rough patch that is barreling at light speed toward our precious Mother Earth.


 [DS1]

The Bugs of the Sea of Cortez

Another Perfect Day

Anchor holding in San Francisco off Bay View Boat Club. I spent the night on the hook. Here in 1980 I visited the club to attend a meeting of the Dinghy Cruising Association. The DCA trains sailors to cruise by dinghy. Sailing long distances, sleeping and eating aboard a 14’ sailboat requires considerable planning and skill.

Because of the DCA I took my sailboat by trailer to the Sea of Cortez in 1985. There my girlfriend and I sailed off to the islands near Bahia de Los Angeles. Aside from having every kind of bee, wasp, hornet, fly, mosquito, and noseeums feasting upon our flesh it was an altogether unremarkable sailing experience.

Bay View Boat Club circa March 2020

Then while digging out a site for our tent we encountered an unusually significant number of small scorpions living in the soil. Then, there was the matter of the enormous iguana population. Like everywhere we went the iguanas were perched on rock and rim top of every hill and canyon we explored.

Fortunately because of very high winds for 48 hours we were allowed the pleasure of exploring without the insects as they were grounded by the weather. Not so much the iguanas or the scorpions. We had thought it might be prudent to retreat back to the village from where we started but that would need to wait for winds to recede. 

With such violent winds blowing we dragged the sailboat up onto the beach. To secure the boat we collected large volcanic rocks and filled the hull half full to keep the boat from blowing away. Our tent the only safe bug free location on the island failed the first night and we slept with makeshift poles we fashioned from remenants of trees that had been washed up in our lagoon.

An adorable field mouse with a rather unique kangaroo styled set of rear legs spent evenings jumping up and peeking at us inside our tent. It was almost cute, A flashlight was used to dash down to the sandy shoreline at night where the worlds largest outhouse without the house and with the out was located.

Island Magic

Bring lots of bug repellent if you intend to go Sea of Cortez island hopping. Depending upon the time of year there are less or more insects. I’m telling you so you know. As best I can tell this travel tip is rarely mentioned. I don’t know what islands the other writers have been visiting but the islands I visited were the buggiest places I have ever visited until a few years back trying to make my way to shore through a mangrove forest twenty miles out of Key West on another uninhabited island or key as Florida describes them.

I prefer my adventures to be not too hot and not too cold. Not too dry and not too wet. Not too dull and not too exciting. I think adventure by sailboat is most often in the range of what we might all consider reasonable. But, you know like all those workshops you attend, all the bolt cutting, emergency transponders, life rafts and flare guns you stow aboard but seem to never use? Maybe you just might want to reconsider why a previous adventurer is suggesting you be prepared.

About two miles up the bay there is a cruise ship terminal. Offshore there is a ship that has been ordered to standoff the coast. Aboard a passenger has died as the result of contracting the coronavirus. Death is no laughing matter. Heartbroken survivors of the deceased will forever be changed by this event. Still we are going to need to to buck ourselves up and get up and get on with our lives. I’d imagined sailing alone on the bay for a few days would provide a respite.

Downtown San Francisco

I’m seeing a weekend of weeding in the garden, a walk with my wife on a trail, and lots of popcorn and binge watching some as yet unseen Netflix series. This might be a good time to remain in place, at least here in Northern California. I think we all know people who haven’t changed one thing yet. That won’t be true much longer. Take care of yourselves out there.

Patagonia Whisperer

I traveled down to Tucson. Stopped in Quartzite slept in the back of the Volvo. Renting a room from midnight to early morning isn’t any fun. Sleeping in the back of a station wagon suits me fine.

As success and money have found their way into my life so has travel by air, hotels and rental cars. Air travel passes over the ordinary people and places I find matter. I don’t want to just come and go on a trip. I want to be with what I find in between.

An isolated high desert town with fifty miles of uninhabited highway between what comes next riles up the pangs unavailable to a citizen living in a megalopolis.

Driving down a main street with every parking place empty is an opportunity. Crawling along heading the other way on this street is an old man and a big dog in a pickup truck.

I get out and walk a few blocks. The pace of life is apparent. Living within a mile of a twelve lane freeway choked all day with traffic wears a nervous system thin.

Setting aside time to feel lonesome will revive the sagging spirits. There is a medicinal quality to an aimless walkabout in the middle of a town that’s been grinding along at a slow crawl. You can hear your own footsteps. A thought in your mind gets the attention it deserves.

By the time you have circled back to where you started you’ve got a fresh list of changes you want to make. There are recipes you’ll want to try, friends you put on your list to call and a promise to take better care of your spouse.

Keeping a ready mind open for an ordinary day is no mean feat. If you can hear the chirp of a sparrow clear as a bell you’re on the path. You might use the position of the sun to locate your own sense of place. Clouds sweeping past above will be noticeable in such circumstances.

A walk through Patagonia won’t be anything fancy. Won’t be any high priced homes, won’t see any new cars, but there will be a chance to hear from a crowded out piece of who you are.

world savings account

What is not visible to the readers who drift by is that behind the scenes I am wrangling my fourth novel to the finish. I completed the manuscript a few years back and had to set it aside knowing it needed reworking. I didn’t have the stomach for the challenge. There’s a good final draft somewhere to be found in this body of prose and I am doing what I can to complete a splendid fourth novel. Don’t count me out just yet.

My newest work begins in Napa County at the Calistoga Fairgrounds. The fairground was temporarily turned into an evacuation center for the victims of the Lake County Fire. The September 2015 fire was a real event that was folded into a fiction.

Since I began work on this fourth novel there have been a score of monumental fires here and most recent of all in Australia. Here the Lake County Fire burned about 100,000 acres, destroyed about 1800 buildings and killed 4. I have written with all the heart and passion I could muster about this tragedy. Since, another fire and then another fire in the wine country has devastated this part of California.

Fire in this great state is a symptom of an increasingly climate change damaged environment. There are more fires, they are bigger, hotter and more frequent. In some sense they begin to dwarf the plot I had pieced together in 2015 when I had initially set out to do this work.

In Australia the world has witnessed fires that have consumed 15 million acres. You may google the tally if you want more numbers, but they are just numbers and caring survivors attempts to visualize and scale up their imaginations to such monumental size is a difficult task.

I had wanted to write a pleasant pastoral wine country story when I first started plotting my fourth novel. But the climate emergency took over. The urban-wildfire interface was once a rather obscure and irrelevant topic. That was a threat for residents living outside Missoula, Montana.

For years I reserved my environmental concerns to such faraway places as The Great Barrier Reef, Amazon Jungle or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As the size of our problems increased I failed to keep up, to scale my imagination and to reconfigure the plots and purposes of my fiction more work was demanded.

Whole revising my fourth novel one takeaway is that I went far too easy on the events that helped shape this story. Planning commissioners, Board of Supervisors, agricultural special interests and the ordinary citizens caught in the midst of all these forces battling for supremacy have behaved ever more horribly than I had fictionally foretold.

Since the story recounts the fight to save a few thousand acres along the eastern ridge of what forms the Napa Valley a wildfire has since done great damage to this land. If developed the new homeowners will undoubtedly insist firemen come risk their lives not if but when the next big wildfire sweeps through. Further development in the surrounding hillsides of Napa County is untenable and should not be permitted.

In Sacramento the insurer’s that sell coverage for homes in California are contemplating a ten-fold increase in the price of a policy for homes situated near an urban-wildfire interface zone. Homes in such diverse locations as Mill Valley, Lake Arrowhead or perhaps even Palo Alto are looking at having to pay $10,000 per year for fire protection.

None of this makes a novel. I mean what does the price of tea in China have to do with the human condition. Perhaps the difference now is that the problems we are facing are of such scale, contain the seeds of existential catastrophe, threatening virtually all life, a growing menace of such magnitude that small bore stories become irrelevant.

I wish my manuscript was in better shape and I could move on with my next. I’m researching a groundwater water grab attempt up in Northern Nevada by the Las Vegas Water District located way to the south. Nevada’s Las Vegas Goliath is roaming the American West in an attempt to quench the desire to sustain the construction boom.

We’ll see where this takes my writing. I think it needs to be funny no matter what else. We’re going to need to laugh while we try to save the world. I know that to be fundamental fact.

Now I prepare to ride by train from San Francisco Bay to Reno, Nevada where I will encamp with busking friend in Silver City to enjoy a view out his window of nearby Mustang and on Sunday momentary diversion of a good playoff game.

Writing can be quite something, beautiful and moving. When writing is redemptive, inspires, calls a soul to take action, and looks without flinching at our circumstances, it is in this direction our hard work is best aimed.

Bacon Wrapping

Back to the Basics

Facts like cholesterol are stubborn things.  Eating meals described as whole food plant based at first blush seems simple enough. Try eating oats not oat flour, eat oranges not orange juice, eat dates not sugar processed from sugar beets.

The civilized world doesn’t seem to be able to do anything with Brussels sprouts. Cafés tend to prepare Brussels sprouts by first boiling, then slathering in various oily glazes, smothering in onions, frying and spicing until the little devils submit and surrender.

Snobbery is a fantastic thing and has spread to every corner. Condo owners in downtown San Diego are intolerable and for good reason. Portlanders are unbearably smug and superior coffee drinking people. By the time you whittle the list down to Buddhists and Vegans, well there is no higher ground.

Compared to describing what you eat as “whole food plant-based” and instead using the term “vegan” to explain your dietary lifestyle possesses so much more concision. Describing yourself to being a vegan means you can be superior without being long-winded. With one word you have identified yourself with the non-keto types. You are part of a movement sweeping the globe. Just like that you have set yourself apart. You are a plague upon every happy hour within driving distance of a tennis court.

Pasta as Canine

Wherever you might end up on this crazy ride called life it is reassuring to know that the universal truth that everything tastes better wrapped in bacon transcends gimmicks, fads and hysteria. From the most splendid penthouse in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights to the smallest casitas sited on the lowest point in Death Valley all of minor god’s hungry creatures rejoice in the glory of wrapping this that or another thing in bacon.

Disinvitation like a spike pounded into a naughty vampire’s heart is how to cope with veganism. Give vegans free range. Let these quirks of human evolution go ahead and believe they will live longer even if all the bacon wrapped in everything believers know they will live a far shorter but far happier satiated life.

This is how omnivores will contain this rising dietary superiority craze. Lower blood pressure, declining cholesterol levels and being in the possession of measurably improved triglycerides cannot possibly be the path to the cessation of suffering. In fact, this trifecta of vegan tyranny must only make matters worse.

Barcelona for Calcots con salsa Romesco…

How many well meaning otherwise normal, wrap bacon in everything hosts, have been stricken with excessive stress while trying to prepare a vegan acceptable deli tray? That their surprise parties have collapsed in upon themselves does no measurable good. Helping vegans is not just a thankless task, it is a bacon wrapped in everything guilt ridden task.

An acquaintance suggests that “we can ill afford to let vegans gain further traction, distracting us as they will provoking us to have even one second thought about how we use or do not use bacon.” Bacon shaming cannot be allowed to become a thing. A bacon-less world is not a world most of us can imagine. Living pig free is an alternate universe. The world famous BLT is the Holy Trinity and Miracle Whip of high sandwich arts.

It is unlikely the people against wrapping things in bacon will ever outnumber people advocating for bacon wrapping.

Bacon wrapping, television and Facebook are those rare but necessary inventions. No matter how much weight we gain, how annoying the commercials or how awkward and antisocial Mark Zuckerberg is there are things we will just have to put up with for the greater  bacon wrapped in everything good.

Dividing our world in two, one group wrapping everything in bacon and the other merely existing in some sort of hellish bacon free reality is almost impossible to imagine. As bacon eating collapsed and the ensuing swine extinction event threatening the pig’s barnyard existence how would our world cleave itself into two more easy to understand shame based factions?

Slaughterhouses would become a thing of the past. A sow’s ear would cease to exist? Pork belly futures would be delisted from the Commodity Futures Trading Association. Even the great billionaire Sheldon Adelson understands the basics of successful enterprise. There is no such thing as a bacon free casino. Bacon free and gambling is joined at the hip with whiskey, tobacco and access to reasonably priced hookers.

As all of you know bacon wrapping will end on the same day as the pigs learn to fly. An International Vegan Wing Building Convention is on the schedule for the Sands in Vegas. Toothpick futures are down and the best thing ever to happen to cantaloupe has now been thrown into doubt.

plant-based bullionaire

Fake Fish Swimming with Invisible Pink Elephants

Grizzled whiskey drinking desperados that run their high horse my way can find themselves ambushed when what I carry in my saddlebags comes to light. After a good long run of roast beef, mash potatoes and berry pie alamode change has come to this slicker’s campfire.

You might be a living breathing voting Democrat, or you could be a lowdown useless card-carrying member of the Communist Party but that is of little concern here in the partisan highlands of this blog. If by some odd chance you find yourself an under assault omnivore, perhaps some sort of wishy-washy pescatarian, maybe you are one of those mostly vegetarian types, heaven help you if you are, then I’ve a few choice words to roil the waters at the start of this new decade.  

The Heat is On

I had a rendezvous with my cholesterol destiny three years back. The expiration date on eating whatever the hell I damn well pleased had been term limited out. Took some digging to separate the dietary facts from the do your thing fiction. Basically, I had a statin prescribed future dead ahead unless I changed what I had been putting on my table.

Behavior is a driver. Job one was getting my head out of the way, so my stomach had a shot at getting in touch with its better digestive juices. You have to take a fearless look around inside the inner cookie jar, see the messy rising sea of desire for what it is then you are able to set off on a journey to a lifetime of whole food plant-based deliciousness. I know that last sentence sounds like an impossibility wrapped in an atheist pretending to be a Catholic but come let’s think together beyond the boundaries of mule-headedness and non-Viagra induced rigidity.

Rare Incident, Group Whole Food Plant Based Meal

Started out on my journey first thing I went on the wagon. No booze. Clear the sky, see the sober truth, get comfortable in your own bones. The alcohol reset button helped. We’ve since switched this button back to on, but to show mercy to my liver this switch is not been swung wide open. Think of this tactic as involuntary moderation.

Pétillant Naturel, or Pét-Nat, for short… The méthode ancestrale was originally used in Limoux in the south of France in the early 16th century

Next, kick the meat, fish and poultry out. Three months later dairy is banished.  If you do all of this, you have now landed your spaced-ship on the world of whole food plant based egg free eats. But, wait their buckaroo there’s more misery than a rattlesnake bite dead ahead. You dial back the salt and sugar. Cocky about all these fetes of discipline, deluded as ever, thinking you are done, but no, there’s a horse to break and cow to punch. That mirage shatters with a glimpse of your profile in a full-length mirror. That oil free cooking pan, a scan pan, you go out and get one of those pieces of metropolitan high dollar cookware. Nobody said it would be easy or cheap. Getting your weight down is in part a devious means of lightening that load in your wallet.

Sophisticated Potatoes

The good news is that with a little effort, patience and sticking to it you’ll get satiated when eating whole food plant-based grub. After some considerable practice when a meal lands in my stomach I can hear that caloric signal in my head loud and clear. Takes about two months in solitary whole food plant-based confinement to get there. The only other hell on earth near as awful to a man might be his banishment to a sofa in the living room on account of his being insensitive when not listening to every word of guidance coming from his agitated mirror to his soul.

Back to behavioral challenges (this is where the rubber meets the road.) Around other delicate appetite out of control souls I have found a profound sea of gustatory tumult. No Darwinian survival of the fittest creature eats food based upon the science. People eat by stomach driven passions. You get in the way of another man’s inner pork chop and you may find yourself bacon wrapped, deep fried and relegated to the garbage disposal of relationships.

Scratch Made Ramen

Whole food plant-based eating can be tasty, fun and healthy for you. First things first you will want to know is that there is considerably more chopping and chewing involved. Takes some practice to prepare enough variety of recipes to achieve escape velocity, to travel to the world of variety versus being stuck in the rut of dietary sameness.

Once word spreads you are a whole food plant-based eating broccoli lobbing extremist you’ll have to put knee pads on and beg your way into your friends’ social calendar and all those exclusive dinner parties you once enjoyed. You’ll wake up and come to the heartbreaking realization you are no longer invited on over for weekend barbecues. Waitresses will do what they can, but you would be surprised to learn how few people know in the strictest sense what whole food plant-based eating entails. The cheese and bacon on everything crowd learns real’ quick that preparing meals without these animal-based food groups renders their talent for cooking to the rear of the chow wagon and their hash slinging is essentially unpalatably uninhabitable.

Whole Food Plant Based People

Those old duds in the closet you couldn’t throw away all of sudden fit you again. Life is pretty good even if you are lonely now on account of your no longer believing you have any right to eating all that honey those bees worked so hard to store in their hive. Being kind doesn’t have to be limited to your dog, cat or parakeet. Doesn’t advice like that just get right under your skin? I’m still working up having strong feelings for silkworms. Spiders in my neighborhood I’ll tell you they do breathe easier these days. Mosquitoes still got it pretty tough in these parts, but then I just can’t see my way to giving termites a pass either. Did I tell you about my earthworms and ladybugs? I even like malignant narcissists but the truth is I’ve never been able to finish a whole one.

Apache Junction Life

Fixer upper adobe

I get jumpy around tourist traps, get bent out of shape around strip malls, cookie-cutter style homes, or walking through the front gate at Disneyland. An awful gutting cuts right to bone of my inner resources. If one man wants something all shiny and slick, packed to gills with half of Toledo well that’s fine for that kind of person. I prefer my physical surroundings to be a bit more offbeat, I crave variety, want styles mashed together, that’s the proper way of arranging a place, a general sense of unruliness.  Berkeley comes to mind, Bisbee or Baker, Nevada.

The fidgetiness all starts out as a dull ache in my head, not enough pain to want to take aspirin but something is not right. In Arizona out near Apache Junction, AJ to those of us who love this last forlorn outpost for desert ratting, first thing to notice is that vehicles are mostly used up, paint is sun faded, tires are larger and rigs are parked off pavement in the dirt. Apache Junction isn’t against asphalt and concrete just hasn’t been able to afford as much as some of their so called competition.

Got Plenty of Yucca in place like AJ

Being averse to a tidy little town sometimes not only causes liquor drinking but even after a good happy hour at the nearest saloon I can still be thrown into a downward spiral. Don’t even ask me what miserable weather can do to the spirits.

There is an awful lot of junk advice offered to otherwise normal contrary type. Have a big family, shop at Costco, take vacations, get your meals at all you can eat buffets. There is no end to the guidance to be received whether you want any or don’t want any. None is useful, less than zero is ever acted on. If you know what you like and what you don’t like I’d say you’re ahead of the pack.

Finding yourself thriving in Apache Junction happens because the rotten no good dusty wayside out on the easternmost frontier in the Valley of the Sun is a place dedicated to being contrary to most all things that might be recognized as generally popular. If all of the known metropolitan population of a place is going one way the citizens of Apache Junction are inclined to want to go ahead and takeoff in the other direction.

Take for example my skipper friend Tom Varley. He has come down with the same perplexing revulsion for those same slick look alike places. Tom prefers  the backside of Santa Rosa Island. Being all alone is high on his list of a near ideal way to spend a few days. Squeezed onto a mooring ball in Avalon with a throng would cause him to grind his teeth. My skipper friend is partial to Charleston, Oregon. Located at the entrance to Coos Bay. This coastal hamlet is hard to find on account of the the simple fact it does not occur to a person to go hunting for this fog shrouded damp and dank coastal village. If a soul is stuck on the coast and can’t make it to Apache Junction, Arizona why that loner would do well to breakdown in Charleston, Oregon.

Once you find a spot set out to do most anything to make ends meet, sell groceries, pour coffee, do engine repair, fix flat tires, or sew a button on a shirt. You’ll know you belong because you fight twice as hard to make a life for yourself in these odd places because almost any other conforming type place eats at your guts. People who may not know what it is that is causing so much consternation in their lives end up seeking counseling where it is near impossible to determine what it is that is causing so much personal grief.

Making a life we want, where we want, doing what we can so that we may remain where it is that seems to suit us most can save a soul’s life from wholesome sobriety. There is every probability that by the time the shows just about over you just might have dodged half as many traffic jams as some of those so called get up and get with-it types. Making your life in a town full of likeminded eccentrics can near save a soul from being stuck in a desperate seemingly otherwise successful situation.Where I come from a gated community is just a hoity toity name for one of those fancy places they put folk who might not always conform to social convention enough to cut it out on that other side. If you have already purchased tickets for your vacation I’d urge you to reconsider. Another fancy slick upscale two weeks in some forlorn destination with a tanning salon could pretty much finish you off. Be careful.

Author-Entertainer