Fierce Invalids

If I see a teenager at a Bruce Springsteen concert, I assume they are being guided by their parent’s or grandparent’s. Probably through a gradual indoctrination of years of The Boss being played and hundred of times saying ‘Now, really listen to the lyrics here‘ while grandpa sings along and dreams of the open road or being a poet himself.

The same I think must be true for books. At the airport this morning I saw a young girl, perhaps 15 or 16, reading ‘Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates’. Probably my favorite from quirky ole Tom Robbins. So that made me smile—knowing a good writer with a devoted following is being passed on to generations behind us. I occasionally see youngsters reading Vonnegut and  more rarely, Noam Chomsky. Certainly not enough to inspire confidence that the world will be saved by these youth, but still good to see. Mostly they are buried in Phones—presumably on IG or TikTok or some game or another. But who am I say that my heroes should be theirs. Perhaps they will learn more from those games than what I learned from my readings and wanderings.

I mostly like Tom Robbins, but like Quentin Tarantino, he sometimes tries too hard. Goes overboard on weirdness–or in Tarantino’s case, violence for the sake of violence.

One of my current reads is ‘Winter Brothers‘ by Ivan Doig. Try as I might, and I have tried, I have never embraced Doig the way I have his colleagues of western literature; Stegner, Bass, Abbey, McMurtry, Harrison. Doig is in there as well, but to my eye, not as polished or as interesting. His writing seems forced at times. He’s not able to bring life to everyday things as the others do. Sorta like reading John Wesley Powell–great information and education, but you gotta work for it.

But I will finish this book as the story is an interesting historical narrative of a little known early settler of Port Townsend, WA area in 1850’s. A man who kept an extensive personal diary for decades and thus provides keen insight into the rough and tumble days of early western settlement.

It reminds me of the unpublished manuscript Geoff Hogander loaned me once called ‘Forest Ranger on Horseback‘. I’ve been thinking of trying to get my hands on that again to see if I can convert it to something more accessible. It’s a hell of a story that should be told to a broader audience.

I’m also reading ‘Notes on an Execution‘ by Danya Kukafka.  What is interesting is that there a lot of similarities between this book and one I finished recently called ‘Once There Were Wolves‘. Both books have twin sisters as main characters, one of which is in an abusive relationship. Both books underscore the quiet parallel world women must navigate to protect one another from the violence of men. Both books highlight strong female characters who are police detectives–often chasing down those men of violence. 

Anyway, So far ‘Execution‘ is good. Better than Doig, but I will not abandon him.

Marti has Blood on her paws. The Jungle Fox went after a chicken today like it had tortured and killed her family. She was like a wild animal in a killing frenzy. She definitely would have committed multiple chicken homicides if I hadn’t been there to put a stop to the violence.

We were visiting Rich’s farm and Marti was fine around the horses, cows, and Rich’s big dogs. But she managed to wriggle under the fence to the chicken coop before we noticed and it was all feathers and barking and little chicken screams. I dropped my backpack and ran in there and dove for Marti but she was too quick. I got up, dove again and missed again. Then, she had a chicken by the neck and was starting to maul–I dove and she let the chicken go, but also evaded me again. Then I got her cornered against the coop fence; I faked left, she bought it and I dove right and took her down. I hauled myself and the dog upright, scraped knees and grass stains for my effort, and put her in the car.

The chickens survived–just a few lost feathers and perhaps some emotional trauma.

Pretty much every animal in the world is out to eat chickens. They have a tough life. What a cruel joke to make such a tasty bird but then make it unable to fly. 

Rich’s wife, Arabella is from England and so maintaining a lovely English style garden is compulsory. Hers is very beautiful and can be seen on the cover photos for this post.

Marti’s sleeping peacefully beside me on the couch now. Probably dreaming about succulent chicken breasts. She’s shown no remorse for her crimes.

I have two redeeming traits. A deep love of reading and a serious bout of intellectual curiosity. They are related. I want to learn about things–have to be learning or I get twitchy and boredom is not my friend. Always. And reading traditionally was the delivery mechanism to satiate this urge. Of course now we have many more distractions but my reading game has remained strong and is in fact accelerating a bit—in spite of my hectic schedule. 

Without these traits I’d be nothing. Would have little to show for my time here. Not that the world will mourn my passing in any case. But why do I care. I don’t really understand why some people yearn for dynasty. Who gives a fuck man. When we’re gone we’re gone.  

The mountains are calling. And I must go.

John Muir

The problem with a blog, or at least my blog, is that the topics are random. Whimsical. A little of this — a little of that. Whatever seems interesting that day and might be spun into a story or seems worth noting.

But I am a little anxious now, as Black Dog nears completion, to return to the more focused writing of a book. I feel ready to re-visit Webb and Billy. Dust them off. See where I left them and more importantly, figure out where they are headed. I know them well. I’ve carried this story inside for years. But getting it transposed from imagination to written word is a chore. Doing it well—is daunting as hell. But I’m committed to it. 

I also want to write a history of MYO. It will be incomplete as I have not kept good records. But it will be something. And I would like to finish that before our 20-year anniversary next year. Two other writing projects have been in my imagination–Forest Ranger on Horseback, as I mentioned. But also a re-tracing and modern take on Steinbeck’s ‘Travels with Charley’.

A year ago, Black Dog Ridge was just 19 acres on top of a mountain with a tiny little cabin and no services or amenities. My decision to make it a home has extracted a heavy toll on time and money. Then, the somewhat rash and perhaps irresponsible decision to become an equity investor and semi-active partner in a coffee & gelato shop further distanced me from the ability to focus on writing with any sort of concentrated effort. But now those impediments are slimming down and will soon become manageable. 

So I need to start familiarizing myself again. Both to the content and the discipline of daily writing. The story, and the ability to tell it well. 

On the 6:00am flight to Boston, I napped a bit while listening to Mark Knopfler. When I woke, I suddenly realized that I was missing a meeting I should have made accommodations to have someone else cover. This is annoying. I hate lapses in attention to detail. This week was completely de-railed by several big issues which took my time and attention and in the rush to get to the airport I forgot to scan the calendar to make sure I was covering my bases. 

This happens sometimes. Usually a sign that I am bumping up against my intellectual capacity to keep processing information at a fast pace for so many days in a row. But still. I know better and don’t like to make mistakes. Even small ones. This one will be inconsequential. There were plenty of smart people on the call who knew I was on a plane and they could achieve the objective without me. 

On today’s flight, I was in Crown Room early morning and wrote a very detailed email to several colleagues to provide content and expected outcomes on the meeting they were covering for me. I can still learn from my mistakes it seems. Sometimes.

For the first time in 19 years I find myself having symptoms of systemic anxiety. The breathing issues I lived with for most of my life, until 2004, when I was treated well by a spiritual healer. Prachi thinks it’s chronic stress and I need to slow down. That seems possible.

A pleasant but unexpected surprise. Wednesday morning I very casually re-posted a short post I had made on Facebook 8 years ago. It popped up in my little timeline reminder and I simply hit re-post. 5 minutes later I received an email notification that MYO had received a $2,500 donation from a high school friend I had not seen or talked to in over 40 years. I sent him a thank you note–told him a bit more about MYO and asked about his family. He responded in kind and then immediately donated another $2,500. Very kind gesture and much appreciated. And, as I said, much unexpected. 

Work is now at peak activity and will remain that way until we finish in March 2024. Each day my calendar is double or triple-booked with meetings from 8 – 5. I am tentative on many—invited for awareness. These I dial in to randomly and occasionally and rarely participate. But there are so many workstreams and sub-projects in flight, and so much parallel activity, that this allows me to remain reasonably aware of developments in those areas and also to listen for signs of team dynamics that might be unproductive. Sometimes I have to lean in a bit to help. Or maybe I just think I’m helping. 

Other meetings I need to be on-point and leading the call or actively supporting the conversations. Usually a lot of prep for these calls and then also some follow-ups. Robin often calls me at 6:30 or so when she leaves home for the office and we chat while she drives. I don’t mind these calls because I am up and we are normally thinking about the same things. 

For the most part, work is not too burdensome for me–accepting the fact that I need income. But I definitely am the type that does not easily separate myself from my work outcomes. I am fanatically paranoid about pleasing my employer and doing my job with excellence. Time has not provided perspective here as it does for some. So I am pretty sure Prachi is right. The stress of building BDR and getting the shop open, combined with the work load—is almost certainly doing me a bit of harm at the moment. Add in unhealthy sleep patterns, a new puppy, frequent business travel, a deteriorating father and shit seems to be pretty real.

But strangely, I still feel mostly at peace.  At least outwardly. I know BDR will get done soon. And the shop open. The puppy will mature and settle. Paren’t get old and eventually die and we will deal with it when the time comes. Work pays for all my fun. If I were willing to compromise my lifestyle I could easily find work that was less time-consuming and stressful. But so far I have not been willing to make that trade. So on we go. 

Standing in line to board at the airport in Boston, I was casually eavesdropping on a conversation behind me when I heard “So I said, I’ll tell you my pronouns. FUCK YOU. Those are my prounouns!” I didn’t immediately turn around, but when I did get a glance at the person that said it I thought to myself — ‘well the question does seem appropriate.’ But I didn’t follow up for obvious reasons.

I’ve developed a habit in Lewisburg of sitting outside Hill and Holler at night and having a scotch and cigar. No one else is ever out there—just me and Marti. It’s a nice spot to relax. I usually read and scratch the dogs ears–or maybe write a little on this medium. We like to stroll around this super cute little town–pictures below give a glimpse.

The house is more complete than the pictures suggest. But all plumbing is done–just waiting to be hooked up to water supply. Wires are all pulled. The old interior walls are down so the spaces are contiguous with the old. Soon now.

This week in politics, the hapless democrats seem on the verge of a step forward. As these things go, it is far too little help in the areas of need and coming too late. And there are many negative trade offs to buy Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema’s votes. But at least it’s something.

In Namibia, little Aneeka is 10 years old this week. She is going well in school and we hope that continues. Naaz is a good mother and out of the chaotic early days of Aneeka’s life, it seems there is a good chance this young girl will have some opportunities.

Marti, would be chicken killer that she is, is a joy and a welcome addition to my life. So that’s a good final point I would say.

Humbly submitted.

1 thought on “Fierce Invalids

  1. Keep them coming, like to know how you’re doing


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