Tag Archives: Wanderlust

Silver City Shuffle

Silver City, Nevada is home to 200 citizens maybe a few more, depends on the day. You’ll find her about four miles off Highway 50 while you’re heading east out of Carson City. A friend hangs his hat here, calls it home, for the moment, for the last two decades. Whether he stays or not depends on what America chooses to do, he’s not the time or temperament to suffer through a takeover by enemies of democracy.

Good Dog Pino

His has been a privileged life. Street performer, renaissance fair entertainer, standup comedy showman, cruise ship juggling act and even contract work as a bit part actor in Hollywood. Having seen so much of the world the implications of leaving for some more peaceful corner of creation does not stir up fear.

If you like dogs you’ll love Pino. Rescue dogs usually come from the pound with something wrong, some bad habit nobody can break. Pino might too, but Silver City is so agreeable to this dog’s disposition it is hard to know what quirk lurks beneath his fur. Might be a miracle canine healing power of the place has occurred.

See if you can spot the Snowmobile

Water for Silver City comes off an alpine lake west in the Sierra Nevada. Kind of hard to explain the intricacies of all of this Silver City water. Long gone mine owner secured the rights by putting down a pile of silver and the rights to this water are ironclad, they’ve the best high mountain fresh water of any community near or far. Tourist trap Virginia City should be so lucky to have such fine water.

Mustang range through town. Up by the community hall the park grass is fenced off to discourage equine grazers. Homes are painted, doors and windows work as they should, a proper roof is always a must. Once you adjust your eyesight to small town Nevada everything comes into focus, the good citizens here are taking care of their property. By my eye many look fully improved turn key operations.

Yes, you can find a snowmobile that has been dissolving into a rusting heap alongside the salvaged metal remains of most of one century then all another hundred years and toss these last two can we have a do-over decades plus in for good measure. There is some pavement. The one highway through town is paved. There are no traffic signals.

Looking south you’ll see sky, clouds kick up, hell of a place for happy hour. Every kind of enterprise, industry and labor is performed in Silver City. Nevada’s state capitol Carson City is not far, Tesla’s Gigafactory is not close but if that’s where you find a a job and a living wage— it can be one of life’s cruel possibility’s. The best life is reserved for repairmen, that’s the ticket here. Fix an RV toilet, install a water heater, bannister refurbishing is popular and needed.

Baker’s Whispering Elms

Baker, Nevada is 8 hours and 370 miles east of Silver City. Baker is also a town of near 200 Great Basin souls. Silver City is the minor league’s when you think about emptiness and isolation, Baker plays in the to hell and gone league. You got so much nowhere out here that by the time you drive to somewhere you end up barely having gotten anywhere. Ely’s the next nearest somewhere— she too is a fine place and there’s plenty of it, they’ve got grocery stores, gas stations and saloons.

Whispering Elm’s Campground is where I stopped in Baker. A no-nonsense hard boiled egg of a woman checked me in. Took my money, smoked her cigarette, answered the phone and grouched back at whoever and whatever was on the other line. Her ride was an overridden Ford Explorer. No dents, started when you turned the key and the original paint was protected by a thick coat of Great Basin dust. I made small annoying chit-chat. I was here in March 2020 when the pandemic was breaking out— She had nothing to say— I carried on— he persists— pretty much talking to myself, she’d of preferred to hear from anything other than a two-bit likely two-timing no good for nothing nature loving Californian.

This is what passes for true affection in the remote eastern outpost of Baker, Nevada. I needed more seasoning is what a local likely thinks— a few weeks of wearing down would help before conversation with this invasive species would offer any potential benefit. You want to talk to someone that might listen you head right over across the street to the national park headquarters where they’ve got people that are paid to put up with a just arriving Great Basin hack explorer.

I’ve cracked more than a few hard nuts out here in Baker. They’ll come around eventually or by happy hour. There are hard lessons out here to learn. First is how to put two coins together. Younger more ambitious types with some spunk left get on at one of the ranches, work on road repair crews, maybe you’re cooking for a restaurant before it goes belly up then get hired on to cook for the next proprietor that gives hospitality services a try prior to the next collapse. Ghost town status is preternatural.

I’ve met a few lifer’s along the way, but most are here because they can’t take anywhere out there anymore. Rush hour, gridlock and stinking air pollution has converted more than a few to the virtues of a place like Baker. Most of these kindred spirits have a deep detestation for civilization, all of it, the whole kit and bumper to bumper caboodle. Only exception they are willing to make is for the ornery son of a bitches that they share this corner of the world with. Fair enough, everything has its price, I’m good with Baker folk sticking together and leaving me out.

If you were blindfolded and set down in Baker or Silver City and asked to identify where you are the tone of voice and the quality of joy in the voice of the citizen would give the whole guessing game away. Baker occupies a wee little corner of the Snake Valley. If you go half cocked off in any direction you will find yourself in a place that can kill, maim or make misery on your foolishness in a heartbeat. A breakdown out a dirt road could be your last lousy mistake. The paved roads are safest. Some graded dirt roads aren’t too risky, but then there are these other less seldom used two track trails to nowhere you’ve got to think twice about.

Baker now has a reliable cellphone signal. A few years back all you could do is dial to a number and use your voice to talk to someone, since those days they’ve added data so now you can look at your mail or if you’ve got the stomach for it read the news. This may or may not be progress, jury is out on whether the Pony Express might have been a more reliable service. If you do or don’t come here that’s your choice, you are only missing Great Basin beauty and the ugly truth.

A Nevada art’s organization offers a winter long residency here. If you are a writer they’ll set you up in a shack give you enough money for food and let your stew on whatever it is you have swelling up inside that needs expression. Once full-on winter sets in things go from soft core to hardcore. Instead of maybe a dozen or two dozen vehicles arriving by the day you can expect maybe one or two every couple of days. You build fires in the wood stove, watch the weather reports for snow and ice, and hitch a ride to Ely to resupply when its safe to go.

Last few miles before making it to Baker I surprised a coyote crossing the highway. This animal scattered like buckshot into the sagebrush glancing back once just in case I was going to give chase then the critter kept running for its life trying to reclaim its stealth like presence. I slowed then stopped and studied the animals efforts to get away, there was an economy of effort, fast enough to do the work of fleeing but not so much as to risk running the tank of coyote gas empty before the job was done. Since I’m not often running for my life I mean who am I to judge one coyote or another— fast or slow running for your life is running for your life. Hell we’re all running, out here in the high desert that running is just less complicated or disguised. You either make it or you don’t, no hurry, take your time, once you’ve found cover, taken a sip at the watering hole, had a chance to catch your breath, it’s all good, you’ve made it, you are safe, for the moment, eternity can wait—

God’s Deli Tray of Delights

Some things never change─ whole swaths of our life are on a fated trajectory, there is an inevitability to our story, like juvenile delinquency, or what I refer to as the undiagnosed artist portion of this kids adolescence.

Happy aboard Spirit

I’d become accustomed to favorite freeway onramps being there for me just like they’ve always been. You know the drill, hit the peddle swoop into the righthander and straighten out and shazam, you’re up and running with the big dogs just like that.

The Tesla Model 3 comes with the least sized battery pack, good enough for trips here in the Bay Area. I’ve finally engaged the autopilot; it works as advertised─ think of it as the tempting fate accessory. We use the electric car for short trips and the internal combustion engine powered Volvo─ Sweden’s gift to safety and society─ for longer jaunts up and down the coast─ this is what the modern nomadic life is all about─ being safe and warm is overrated where wet and miserable allows for self-admonishment─ what were you thinking!  

Soho with my Jack Lacey

There are people that have a talent for remaining where they are trapped, I’ve got a serious wandering muscle, I’m incurable─ what’s called a case of being hardheaded, there are some afflictions you really don’t want cured, this particular disease is not fatal, the aches and pains of a knockabout make the heart pump with more zeal, curiosities are quenched, and there are worst things than getting a speeding ticket.

Lot of my kind, show people─ you know who you are─ prefer an itinerate life, it feels like we are making progress, not missing out on the big show, probably a fool’s errand but that’s fine, better to dance with the devil you are than the angel you’ll never be.

An irrigation timer I find calms my landlocked jitters. Being stuck with chores, having to remain behind to take care of the plants, to feed the goldfish─ automatic feeders, when all you have to do is flip a switch, and everything is taken care of─ see you when we get back─ for this jackal there is a perfect sense of prey and predator, stalking want is seed, spore, and royal sport─ long live the long drives to places you’ve never been.  

Going somewhere isn’t the same as it once was, folk are worried whatever normal life was might well never be what life in the future is going to be. I don’t spend a lot of my time thinking about communicable diseases, but there was a time not too long ago when there was no such thing as birth control. It’s not quite the same as a pandemic, but prevention is similar, you can wear a mask or put on a condom, this is all part of some odd grand prophylactic design.

Wanderlust Wisdom

Like for example using marijuana, taking mushrooms, having a martini─ these are common sacraments─ each blesses or curses the user as the gods, fates and winds may choose to blow. Mushrooms you may giggle, really, eating magic mushrooms─ but for many the psychoactive ingredient psilocybin can open a depressed mind and cure a soul from many common ethereal tormentations.  

What else is there to do─ where else is there to go─ these are the imponderables, here is where the rubber meets the one-way highway, the road with no way back. The irreversible mistakes have left their scars. Life in this moment is filled to the brim with contradiction, but it is more of a weak-willed form, where once great quarterbacks admit to having become taken in by snake oil and quackery. If ever there was a moment in history when those advocating for the wrong industry, the worst products, the most misguided policies would just let it go, set it down, walk off the playing field, let human ingenuity and progress take center stage.

The best mousetraps I have found come baited with the best cheese. Kissing strange girls, drinking too much whiskey, or breaking your vow never to climb on the back of that affectionate Arabian in the pasture, these temptations will put you in a corner of your own weak will.

Tom Varley Morro Bay

I’m due to travel to Ventura. Singer and songwriter Tom Varley and his Jack Russell terrier Happy are at the end of that ride. Tom and his backup band the Sundogs have hung up the spurs and put away touring. Tom had written about living free and doing nothing. The act itself was an accident he never planned to have a band and fame seemed useless. I sailed to Mexico with Tom. A sailboat has been a part of his life for near half his life. Now he’s got too much boat. Taking care of an 18 ton sailboat or a Jack Russell terrier isn’t for the weak of will.

Tom is some alternate version of who I am. It’s not like we are a spitting imagine of one another, but there are odd synchronous commonalities. If you have ever heard cosmologists discuss multiverses, and that if there were an infinite number of other universes, that mathematically the odds are good that somewhere out there is another planet with someone that looks exactly like me doing the same exact thing with the same kind of dog, the odds-theory tells us are better than good that the same thing is happening there as is happening here.

My Mom liked My Face

Maintaining your sense of humor is going to come in handy. You’ll want to laugh as often as you can. Take everything with a grain of salt, don’t forget the lemons, and be good to the beneficial insects and give the mosquitos a little more hell. Spring is just around the corner in this pickle of a fix we are living through here in drought plagued California. I’ve got some wood cutting chores out in the backyard. I’ll wear my hat as I always do, all those bright sunshiny days have added up and taken a toll. Don’t worry too much, finish your vegetables, and get out and take a good long walk.

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.

Character

Sweet Seas Avalon

Jeanneau Sloop’s Southernmost Mooring…

Avalon, Santa Catalina Island

Moitessier 1958, Sailing to the Reefs, “The deterioration in the weather was sudden and without warning— it was just a simple call to order to remind me that winds are not always favourable and that fine weather never lasts for ever. As always when I am obliged to move about on Deck at night in a squall of rain, I came out of the cabin swearing that God’s providence is a myth.”

To one degree or another admitting where our talents lend our sailing advantage is a must. Knowing what we are best and worst at is to keep our wits about us.

I am quick to change sails as the wind builds. Although I’ve suffered from sloth and torpor and been meted out punishment for the inaction.

Point near Avalon

Long Point, Catalina Island

The Length of the Trial

In preparation for the passage north from Los Angeles to San Francisco I’ve noticed a particular form of grit seeming to have been found inside. I’m determined that I will return my sailboat to her home port. I have suffered bouts of grave doubt but have fended off the demons for the moment.

Characters

Character Enhancer Seated to Left

An old now deceased sailing companion had brought his Tahiti ketch from Baja back to San Francisco’s Bay View Boat Club many times. Carl’s strategy was simplicity itself… patience.

Rather than have his will broken, rather than attempt to advance to his destination he opted to rest, wait, and pick his spots rather than have Mother Nature punish his boat or his backbone.

Carl exercised patience and judgement. His sailing skills were sufficient to the task. Pragmatism and common sense was perhaps his greatest talent—-but hardly his only. Of course he had made careful study of the weather patterns along the West coast. He knew as much as his mind could hold. Tides, currents and where the next place to anchor north of his present position was built into his plan.

dolphins on bow

Escort Services

I had once ignored Carl’s advice and in my haste wasted hours beating against a current. As the current slackened a fresh and rested Carl joined me in San Pablo Bay for a sail back to San Francisco. I arrived exhausted. Carl returned unruffled and rested.

We will see what we see in the next few weeks. I’ll pick my way north with my sage sailing friend in mind. I’ve a good twenty days to make a trip that ought not take more than three under the better circumstances. Toss away two rough days waiting at anchor to advance one good day seems sensible.

In that light provisioning and a second hand that can abide the captain’s strategy will bring the capable sailboat safely home.

Edited Red Star

 

March 27th Cultures Cauldron of Creativity

2009SPF00415.jpg
Feast of Fools at the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival. Photography by EPIC PHotography Inc…

I signed a multi-year deal to emcee at the Oregon State Fair. Small potatoes by show business standards but for a roustabout and lunch bucket card carrying member of the small time entertainment racket my hosting the stage was fat city after a steady diet gigs in places you can’t even find on a map.

Another agent that liked my style booked me to emcee at the Ohio State Fair. My duties included stage management as well as emceeing. I was a man of many hats. Simple enough. Set lights, sound check, here’s where you come on and how you walk off. Any entertainer worth his salt realizes they’ve got a sweet gig when they find an experienced hand taking the lead on a stage they’re going to throw it down on.

Orange Toss

Spearing a tossed orange with a barbecue fork clinched in my teeth

…arriving, loading in, setting up, killing time backstage, holed up in the green room, eating with your fingers from the deli tray, special ordered, all Italian sliced salami and sausages, peppers, succulent morsels, olives and onions, crackers and cheeses, a white tablecloth spread not necessarily enabling a long life- but while you were here it was at least a good short life, squeezing in and peeling out of costume, getting on stage, under the hot lights, taking your best shot, holding your own, sticking to the schedule, the final burst of applause, taking a bow, maybe help keeping the stage manager sane, then after going back to the hotel to hanging with the lineup of showmen and showgirls. Drinking whiskey, spinning tales of woe about long hops, pulling up to some  hole in the brick wall, hard to find barely advertised one night stand— long lost nights both on and offstage— and long after the last calls been called out by a weary ready for bed host, cashing a thousand hopes and dreams in, waving the white toweled bravado to the last breath, collapsing on your hotel room bed, so near to the crack of dawn you could touch it… Heavy eyed party-monger, falls off to sleep, waking too soon, scaring yourself in the bathroom mirror, using a cool rag to soak your puffy eyes— will the swelling ever go down?  Putting on your sunglasses, grabbing your suitcase, closing the door, heading back to the venue, sleep deprived but game faced, ready to play your hand all over again, for one more night, out on the circuit— custom built-perfection sized for the small-time up and comer’s, and then at long last after a too hot weekend of show after show after show, you load out, close the backstage doors and as this one comes to the bittersweet end instead of hanging with your own show biz kind, instead of gathering with your tribe, you’re rolling out all alone on that long white striped highway pointing you to the next destination, the gig slated for tomorrow and your fateful rendezvous with that big fat delicious break— that your fool mind keeps taunting you with— that lucky pot of belly laughs and applause— that your addled dream machine mind keeps teasing you with— that all you ever really wanted out of this show biz thing— was to earn a laugh and be given an honest shot at riding without so much as a care in this roller coaster ride of a world— and there you find yourself listening to to the whispering wind born love song singing in your hair…

Koots

Wanderlust Peeking Back from My Lucky Stars

Edited Red Star