OH Wine Country

I live with a strange sort of disability. It’s embarrassing in a way.

If I am watching a movie, or listening to music, or having a conversation that turns a certain way, or sometimes a smell or even just when I am deep in some sort of reflection, I sometimes I get this wave of emotion that overwhelms me. And, well, it rains. I don’t understand it, but I’ve learned to live with it. To mask it or hide it for the most part. But sometimes, it’s on me and happening before I know it. Like an unexpected nose bleed; only this is tears—brought up by some injustice or another and spontaneously aroused by a smell, or a song, or dialogue or a photo or movie scene. As a child I was way too sensitive and I’ve only learned to manage it, not eliminate it. It’s not a problem. Just a weird quirky trait.

There’s a guy I see almost every morning on my early walk, while he is taking his run. The first time I saw him, 4 or 5 months ago, he ran with a dog. A black lab. Then, about a month ago, he had a second dog with him. Another black lab. Running with one dog is not easy and two dogs even harder. Today he had the two dogs and two small kids on bicycles. The kids were both around 4-6 or so I would say. At a small grade, the guy had to push the littlest one so he could get his bike up the little hill. Fucking dad of the year; running with two dogs and two kids. Hopefully mom was home enjoying a rare moment of peace.

Work is crazy busy all of a sudden. People are nice though and I will push through. Just all the normal work that comes at the beginning of the program. Building resource demand worksheets, schedules, org. Charts, writing RFP for lead SI, doing reference checks on bidders, setting out governance protocols. It’s a lot, but manageable. Once the lead SI is on and PM’s hired, my work will turn more towards managing and less hands-on doing. I’m okay either way. Both have value and their rewards.

But for now I am exhausted every day after work. Not getting much done on the canoe or otherwise after 5:30 during the week. Just need to accept it I guess.

Never get on a motorcycle in a sarong. That’s the message. Tonight, after dinner, as I was closing up the house, I noticed I had not put the bike back in the garage. I was tired and headed for bed, and, I’m not gonna lie, a little bit drunk. So off I go in just my sarong. Given the physics of the situation, there’s no way to get onboard without hiking that damn sarong all the way up. And so I did. And as I threw my leg over, I glanced up and see the neighbor lady next door, and her cat, starting out the window at me. They were on the money side. So it goes. I fired up, eased inside, closed the garage door and went on up to bed. I’ll either get an angry call from the HOA or a secret note slipped under my door.

I dreamed about rugby again last night. My two most common recurring dream themes are rugby and Mandela (the dog). I lay in bed this morning and thought about Lowell and my tribute to him–which I re-posted on Medium and Facebook again. I re-read it. It was not perfect, but it’s solid.

Lowell was just one of those people that I suppose I always thought would be there. And then he wasn’t. He was one of those really deep friendships that feel like a connection to the earth itself. And when that connection is severed, we feel a jerk on the line of gravity keeping us here. Lowell always remembered me as a better player than I was. And he thought I was smarter than I am. But he was far too smart to not be weighing the positives against the negatives and knowing the balance. He was among the most complicated people I’ve ever known–and definitely the toughest physically. Except for maybe Randy Maugh. Both a couple of real water buffaloes.

But we are all transient. Just passing through. For me, at 57, the heavy losses lie head of me still. I’ve lost Uncle Bobby and Grandma, and Lowell and Greg and Abel and beloved Mandela. But mom and dad and all my siblings and my closest friends remain. Tethers to the surface. When they are all clipped, then I think it’s a sign we are free to move on if we choose. To see what’s next. Surely that’s intriguing. Maybe it’s something and maybe it’s nothing. Probably nothing is the best bet, but who knows.

I tend to prefer solitude over too much exposure—these past months have not been as disruptive for me as they were for some. Of course it’s the contrast of extremes that tend to make us go back and forth. Too much socializing and we feel a need to be alone. Too much alone time, and, well, we might find it can to pretty damn comfortable. And that brings its own problems.

Several times in my life I have had long bouts of solitude. When I first moved to Namibia, I lived in a small village. I was the only white person there. Anyone who has not lived completely disconnected from the larger world, and in a society that is as foreign to them as Mars, simply doesn’t understand how much time there is in a day. My first weeks there, I would wake up early and go for a run. After a shower and a little coffee and breakfast and reading the national paper, it was around 9:00. So I would read a little, write a little, take a nap, maybe chat with the neighborhood boys for a bit. Now it’s 11:30 and time for a light lunch. Read a bit more, nap a bit, write, read some more. Now it’s 1:30. Step outside and it’s 110 degrees and it’s like a ghost-town. Nap a little more. Read. Think about this and that. Write a little. Finally, legitimately, it’s okay to have a beer or a drink and start dinner. By 6:30, the sun is behind the shed and it’s cool enough to sit outside and read a bit. And write a bit. And then sleep. Day-after-day.

Later I bought a baaki and became mobile and that gave me many more options. I started spending more time in Swakopmund and going camping on the weekends.

The other time I spent a lot of time in complete solitude was in the cabin at the top of the mountain in Lava Hot Springs. I would snowshoe in and be there for 4 or 5 days in the dead of winter. The snow would be up to the eave of the roof. I would leave a shovel on the roof above the front door so I could dig down to get in. By the time I got inside, and after the hard trek uphill for 4 miles or so, I was covered in sweat even thought it might only be 10 degrees outside. I would go to the back deck and clear that off and bring in some wood and start a fire. By the time the stove started to heat the cabin, I was cooled off and ready for some heat.

Same basic experience in this situation—-when there’s 6 feet or more of snow outside, there just isn’t that much to do. So it’s coffee and breakfast, maybe clean the cabin a bit, throw darts, read, write, nap, eat and start drinking by around 4:30 and then another mountain-top cabin dinner. Maybe a short snow shoe up the hill or down the valley for an hour. Repeat for 3 or 4 days and hike down the trail to the car and go home. Lots of thinking time. Reading time. Writing time. Reflection.

I read a funny story about Jim Bridger, the mountain man. Speaking of the mind-numbing cold in the western mountains in winter. He joked, when back in Indiana, that it was so cold, that words froze in the air as soon as they left your mouth, and no one could hear them. So then you’d have to gather up your frozen words and later, back in camp, everyone would thaw them out again and then you could all understand the conversation from hours before. He also told the good people of Indiana about the gates of hell, where steam burst from the ground and shot hundreds of feet into the air every few minutes and where he could literally take a hot bath sitting outside. They didn’t believe that either.

It’s that time of solitude, those long hours of thinking and reflecting, that bring the peace. It’s so foreign to most because we live our lives in a full-on hectic manner with an onslaught of information coming at us all the time from email, phones, social media, work and personal conversations, tv, radio et al. So if you take away all those distractions, at first, if you are not used to it, it can be intimidating. But once you settle in to that kind of melancholic pace, it can be very therapeutic.

Friday night was at home. On the patio with a Bombay Sapphire rocks. Friday night after all. Pizza, music, martini, wine, whiskey and a cigar. Once in a while I just fucking nail the pizza and that was this time. This was not quite Naples worthy, but definitely as good as most US craft pizza places.

I got passed on the 7.5 mile loop I was doing on the mountain bike on Friday. Some guy came up behind me and startled me. My first thought was ‘dude, I’m from fucking Idaho–you don’t come up on me. If there’s passing to be done out here I’ll be doing it’. But then I moved aside and he blew right by. Like he was young and strong and I’m not. But I remember a day when that would not have happened. At least not often.

Later, I caught a glimpse of another dude, also young, with really long hair, closing on me. He was around 100 yards back and I caught sight of him on a short climb with some switchbacks. I put the fucking hammer down and never saw him again. But I paid for it. My lungs were burning by the time I got to the trailhead. But shut that shit down. At least for that moment.

I got passed on the road bike the other day too, by a woman who was probably around 35 or so. She was strong and I was just fine with it. I know my fitness level. She had a smooth and powerful and rhythmic cadence—she knew what she was doing on a bike.

I was at my peak form in late 20’s and early 30’s. I was playing a lot of rugby then, and mountain biking like crazy when not playing rugby. I was so fit then, that I would ride up to the top of Kinport, which is no small thing, then drop off the back with no real idea of where the trails went or where I would come out. No map and no food and just a water bottle. This is pretty rugged country but I always found my way home–sometimes after 5 or 6 hours in the saddle.

I used to ride with a very small group and our lead was a guy named Jerry. None of us could ever hang with him on our training rides. And we rode all the hell over southeast Idaho. But in my first mountain bike race, a strange thing happened. We came off the line and I rode hard to stay near the front for the first 2 or 3 miles it took to get out of Mackey and to the first climbs on Baldy Mountain. I was a good climber–not so good on the downhills. Anyway, I smoked Jerry that day. Beat him by like 20 minutes or something. He was so laid back that when racing, he just doesn’t get that adrenaline rush and extra gear. But it also taught me I was a lot stronger than I thought–I was just lazy on training rides and didn’t push myself.

Another guy that I used to bartend and ride with was Spunky. I passed Spunky on the climb that day, but on the long, treacherous downhill, he passed me back. He was balls out, flying all over the damn place, barely hanging on to his bike. I passed him again once we got back to racing, but he was a fearless downhiller. He’s dead now. Not from a mountain bike crash, surprisingly, but from liver disease. Spunky drank like he rode downhill. Just pull up anchor, point the front wheel downhill, and hang on. We called our little mountain biking pack ‘Team Jager’, as Spunky had a taste for Jagermeister.

Back then, working at First National Bar, our basic approach was one for the customers and one for us. We would drink 20 shots a night and another 10 or so beers on weekend nights–people lined up at the bar 3 and 4 deep. I eventually sort of got a handle on that shit but Spunky never did. He was a strange cat. We had us some times though.

I took a long road bike ride on Saturday through wine country to the east of here. I drove my car and parked at a golf course and then rode 35 miles on the roads around wine country. It was beautiful. After the ride, I hit a few wineries for a beer and wine and snacks. There are some surprisingly nice vineyards and experiences to be had here. The scenery is iconic midwest. Beautiful farms, vineyards, & hardwood forests, among the rolling hills. The smell of freshly mown hay always reminds of my childhood.

Years ago, a friend taught me a good trick and it came in handy. I was riding by a house and a big brown lab came streaking down the driveway just carrying the mail and barking and foaming at the mouth like he was ordained by god to devour me. When the dog was about 10 yards away, I pointed at him and hollered ‘Stop! Go home!’ The big lab put the brakes on and turned around and tucked his legs between his legs and walked off. Giving me one last look over his shoulder as he sulked back to the house. It works a surprising amount of the time.

Saturday night I wandered down to the Standard. It was just such a lovely night and I was tired from the time on the bike and day-drinking. I rode the motorcycle. Of course.

Funny, you just can’t keep the Africans from hugging. It’s fucking impossible. So Said and his brother had to both give me a hug as well as Dani. Pandemic what?

I had a nice quiet dinner on the patio. Later, I moved to the front patio where there were no people so I could have a cigar without disturbing anyone. Two old black men, both bald with glasses, were sitting and drinking Belgian beer at a table close by. They were drinking from small little 8 oz traditional Belgian glasses. Their beer evaporated more than it was drank. But they were deep in animated conversation. When they left, after around an hour, their glasses were still were 20% full. They were there for the camaraderie and conversation. I thought it was pretty cute.

Said bought me a glass of wine, then his brother brought me a glass of whiskey, and then Dani another. And Mike, the partner, gave me a cigar to try out.

In the news headlines, one of the lead articles was ‘Will a pitcher ever hit for themselves again in the major leagues’? I don’t usually bash the media. But seriously. Who gives a fuck? That the best you can come up with for interesting stories?

On Earth Explore front. Sketching out the website. Getting licensed to sell in OH and IL. Working with a designer on a logo. Brian is continuing to build templates and work on manufacturing process and the prototype.

Not sure why I decided to build such a monster canoe. It is off the strongback now and I am building the cradle to set it in so I can start working on the inside. The boat is delicate and rough, but I can see it will be a handsome canoe when it’s finished. I still need to shape the bow and stern a bit and put on the gunwales and seats. Only about 50% done really, but progress. I am not putting too much focus on the canoe because work is crazy and the camp trailer is top priority and I also am trying to keep the exercise up.

No other news of note

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