November 23, 2005


Home for the Holidays

I've got to find a way to get up to Chicago for Christmas. December 20 is also my dad's 80th birthday, and my mom is in the early stages of Alzheimer's, so this will be the last Christmas to spend "with" her. The problem is money for the trip. Flying is out not only because of the expense but also because I haven't yet bought tickets (there's a vicious cycle for the perpetually broke procrastinators of the world). Driving, while a pain in the ass and not much less costly than airfare, is the only option. Adding to the weight is the fact that any time off from my job would be unpaid since I'm not eligible for vacation until mid-January. I might have one sick day accumulated. I always laugh at the phrase "extra money" because it's such a fallacy for the lower middle class. But I've got a couple of options to raise some extra cash, and I better get on it quick. I'll also have to get on taking care of some stuff on my truck before the trip (more money). Next on the list is gifts (pardon my Scrooginess, but $ka-ching$!). My family up north just does a grab bag list since we have such a large brood. I think we are considering that here now this year because our family is growing. And last but not least is how this trip would be the second Christmas in a row going to Chicago without Jennifer. I flew up last year to spend Christmas with my folks in the house where I grew up. There were no job "worries" as I was unemployed at the time ("no job" worries would be more accurate).

It will be a no-frills trip for sure, and that's tough to deal with for celebrating Christmas. But what really is possible (if I let it) for overshining all of these minor bummers (except the major "no Bunches" part) is to be with my family for Christmas. Most of the California folks will be coming, and I'll also get to play guitar for the first time with my friend Scott, who's been playing for like 25 years. Man, time flies...

November 17, 2005


One man's junk

I was heading north on U.S. 27 this morning on my way to Chickamauga, and as I was coming out of the 45 m.p.h. zone on the hill in Rock Spring I was in the left lane behind two other cars. They had, like myself, begun to speed up and then suddenly slowed and drifted to the left. I couldn't see what was going on, and the impatient driver in me reacted by veering right to pass them, only to be greeted by a decrepid push mower at 12 o'clock. I ran straight over the thing going about fifty, and man did it make a clunk! I looked to my mirror and saw it spinning and tumbling with bits flying off of it. Fortunately no other vehicle was immediately approaching it, but it came to rest still in the middle of the road.

My first concern after the initial shock wore off was the condition my truck might be in after having mowed down haha a 50 lb. solid steel block on a metal saucer with a huge handle. I didn't look to see if any one was stopped and trying to recover the now-even-more-of-a piece of shit, but what kind of dumbass doesn't see losing that off the back of his Pinto?

I rolled on because I had an appointment but was looking in the mirror for a fluid trail and checking my gauges for abnormalities that might be caused by any number of things that could have been severed by that thing. Brakes OK, accelerates fine, so there. I dialed up the GSP to tell them about the hazard and when I got to hte part about running over it the guy on the line goes, "Oh man, you HIT it?" I explained I was in a 4WD truck with skid plates on the undercarriage, and that there didn't seem to be any initial damage. He said he would have a patrol car and the GDOT come and get rid of it. More to be folksy than from any anticipation of recompense I said, "If you happen to find out who the owner is I might have a repair bill to send him."

Later I was able to check under the truck. In the back there was some dirty oil that was (I hope) from the mower and in the front a couple of substantial dings in the front skid plate. If it had been any other kind of passenger vehicle that had hit that thing it would not have been pretty.

On a more uplifting note, congratulations to Beelers on his brush with coolness. Hunter Thompson fans check out his blog for Tuesday, November 15:

November 16, 2005


What I'd do if I won a mega-jackpot lottery, vol. 43

1. I would start thinking of ways to give a lot of it away (I have promised the Grandfathers this will always be No. 1)

2. I would invest about 80% of the rest in rock-solid stuff like precious metals and low-yield savings.

3. I would invest 10% in higher risk stuff like money markets, venture capital, black jack and sports betting.

4. I would utilize the last 10% in my eleven month Bacchanalian descent into complete debauchery so as to get it out of my system. Hopefully Jennifer wouldn’t divorce me but if so there’s plenty of mail-order brides in the sea. (KIDDING HONEY)

5. If there’s anything left over after hitting the Cal-Neva on my third trip around the globe, I’d buy about 4000 acres in the Sandias of New Mexico and start developing the first mountain bike/Nordic ski living community (Proud Merry Farm). It would be like the golf ones except with 97% fewer trees removed, and you would have to have read “Black Elk Speaks” and cried before you could buy a house there. Each lot could be no more than half an acre and each house could be no more than 2600 square feet. It would be limited to 20 homes per 100 acres and the rest would be community property - mostly for trails but also some park space. There would be all kinds of other covenants to ensure that only the hippest and mellowest of humans lived there.

6. I would spend the rest of my days enjoying my money by sharing generously (but not ostentatiously) with my friends and family. I would occupy myself with many hours of writing and photographing, perhaps documenting and taking action on injustices that I see. I would probably sit on the boards of a few hip charitable organizations to further edify my civic spirit.

7. I would brew lots of incredibly tasty beer, and do a bit of gardening on the sunny hillsides surrounding Proud Merry. Perhaps tulips or some other flora from the Netherlands, no?

8. I would ride my bicycles a whole bunch, play guitar and play with my dogs (all 8 of them) and take long hikes with them and my Bunches true.

Things I would NOT do:

1. I would NOT buy jewelry, a jet ski, a Hummer (or any other huge-honkin’ SUV), artwork exceeding $5,000, any politicians, or CDs from the Sony label.

2. I would NOT run for public office unless it was clear that I could make a difference without playing the game, which is to say I would NOT run for public office.

3. I would NOT become more of a pretentious asshole than I am already (see #2 above).

November 03, 2005



I have been shamed by my blogging slack, but now I'm back and intact. Realizing it's been exactly one month since my last post I was like, "ugh," which represents my feelings both toward not having posted and having to post. C'est la vie.

So what have I been doing? Working for pay (writing) and working for free (trails). I couldn't tell you which one is the better payoff, but at least I enjoy doing both. I'm reading a book called The Good Times by Russell Baker; it's about his time as a reporter in the 1950s and 60s, when he worked his way up at The Baltimore Sun and eventually jumped to the The New York Times. It's a great read, with anecdotes about his tenure as a White House correspondent and astounding assessments of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Jen's aunt Patsy sent it to me after I got my job at the paper. If I somehow arrive at the level that Baker did in the journalism world, his wisdom will be indispensible. Thanks Patsy!

OK, my slow-ass work computer is making typing this post unbearable. I'll continue at home.

Of course that begs the question, "why are you blogging at work?"

To which I answer to a big portion of co-workers people who might read this, "Phfffffftttthhhh! ! !"

Anyway, now I am comfortably ensconced at my horrible mess of a desk at home instead of my horrible mess of a desk at work - you know, where I blog all the time? This is much nicer. Where was I?

Other stuff I've been doing. Jen got me a guitar for my birthday (Sept. 20) so I've been fairly diligent in practice with it. She got one too, which at first was admittedly a blow to all my fantasies of a solo career, but I soon realized that it was indeed a fantasy and how nice it is that she wants to share it with me. We'll have to come up with a cool duo name for our performance alter egos - I've always liked The Parabolics but I think that would require a male pair (oh, thtop!). Then there's The Oh So Virtuous Virtuosos, but that would require us to actually be virtuosos, so we make little progress away from the whole fantasy situation. Anyway, it's fun. I actually look forward to practice time, and skills are improving slowly. I went for a lesson that was free with the book that Jen's brother Dan bought for me. It was with some old rocker dude that used to be with Humble Pie or something. He breezed through a bunch of stuff of which I caught some; he did most of the playing and gave me a worksheet with some scale practice. I'm not sure that I'll go back to him - nice guy, but if he couldn't keep from trying to jam too much into a 30-minute session I don't think I'd get my money's worth.

What else? Well things that I haven't been doing are extracurricular writing (this blog a case in point) and cycling. I did not attend one single weeknight ride with Chattanooga Bike Club this season, and I am at least 30 lbs. heavier than I was this time last year. I am my heaviest ever in life and have crossed over into the XXL realm, and its depressing. Rick and I were supposed to go backpacking, but opted for just camping because I knew it was unrealistic to think I could enjoy hauling 25-30 lbs. through the steep-sloped woods.

It was a good trip though. We met near Asheville on a Thursday night and headed up to Mt. Mitchell, where neither of us had been before. It dawned on me how strange it is that Mt. Mitchell is always designated as "the highest peak east of the Mississippi River," when truly it is the highest peak east of the Rockies. I don' t think any peaks above 6,684 feet have popped up recently between Arkansas and Colorado (ah, the inane little musings of the blog are returning - good to get the juices flowing again). Anyway, Rick and I drive up through the evening fog on the Blue Ridge Parkway (an absolutely divine road upon which to drive, motorcycle, bicycle or ski) to the two-mile access road of Mt. Mitchell State Park only to be denied access at the closed gate, which "Closes at 7 p.m." Swell. Why couldn't Rick's supposedly useful NC camping guide have mentioned that little detail? There was an open gate back at the Parkway! So after some icredulity and griping, which included what I consider a legitimate pondering of what campers in the park do if an emergency arises in the night, we headed back down to the BRP. We pulled over at a nearby overlook to consult the map and plan our search for an alternative. It was at this overlook that I believe I lost my cell phone, but I couldn't find it when I returned to look the next day. We ended up at the USFS Black Mountain camping area way down in the valley below Mt. Mitchell. We found a nice site among several nice sites and stayed there two nights, drinking good beer and Maker's Mark, listening to tunes, playing backgammon, reading, and just generally unwinding. It was good.

After driving the BRP north to the Linville Gorge area on Friday and doing a short day hike to the magnificent overlook there, we parted company on Saturday. I sweated out the drive back to Asheville because I hadn't filled my tank before coming up to Mt. Mitchell, but I made it. Rick was supposed to call Jennifer for me to let her know about my cell phone, but forgot. After I got home, the next day I made Jen aid me in playing a cruel gag on Rick, calling to ask if he knew my whereabouts. He was pissed when the jig was finally up, but oh well, Rick and I are very accustomed to busting each other's chops.

Anyway, we had brought our mountain bikes, but didn't end up riding together. Before heading home I stopped to ride at Bent Creek Experimental Forest near Lake Powhatan just outside of Asheville where there are some nice trails. It was a beautiful day, and I spent about two hours exploring and huffing and puffing around. I had a couple of brews left, one which I drank right after my ride (the ultimate post-ride carb replenishment/pain killer) and the other which I popped open later on I-40, partaking of loving sips as the miles rolled by and the sun went down in front of me. It was a good trip.

Oh, the title of today's post is my vote for a daughter's name should Jen and I choose to start a family, which is becoming more of a possibility after just 12 years of marriage. Middle name? Dido, of course, or maybe Bjork.

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