Friday, July 27, 2007

A Few Words Before the Ascent

This kid can climb like a goat, and descend even faster, as fast as I would normally walk down. She just lays on her belly and make her body straight to slide down feet first. She's a regular powerhouse of locomotion, and there will we be, like a mythical family of dolphins spinning in the sun, wholesome grins showing gleaming teeth.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Oakland Summer

Morning Clouds, Afternoon Sun, that's our standard Summer weather pattern here in great old Oakland. Perfect for night owls that like to sleep in, and the transitions bloom dramatic. "Here comes the sun Little Darling." Love working in Oakland, near the bay, in a "bad neighborhood". The food, the people, the houses, the plants, the animals live within and without me, flirting with cross-dimensional perfection. Rode my bike to work today for the first time, over the Berkeley Hills, 21-miles, streets ankle-deep in the blood of the oppressor fun. Came across the youngest deer I've ever seen while climbing Wildcat Canyon Road out of Orinda. It could barely walk, and gave me look as if to say "Are you my mother?", before stumbling off into the oaks with a distintive irregular leaf-crunching sound. Loved it.

Counted the steps from the 1st Floor to the 3rd Floor, where I press myself into a cubicle the majority of my weekdays. Eighty steps in all. Made me think of that Pink Floyd song - "Life is a short warm moment. Death is a long cold rest. You get your chance to try in the twinkling of an eye, eighty years with luck or even less." The steps became the years of my life. The exercise consisted of walking up the stairs at my normal pace, but going through the highlights of each year during steps 0-37, and then imagining future highlights for steps/years 38-80. Very mind-taxing. The early years fill in with no problem, providing a plethora of easily accessible highlights. A lot of blank years over the last 15 or so, or so it seemed. The future difficult too, kind of painful even, and those stairs wind me pretty bad by the time I'm 80.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Kids Grow

As a child I, on several occasions, wondered what it would be like to start over in kindergarten, do it all better. I now realize that in many ways I am doing just that, only starting in even earlier, if I pay proper attention to the education of my children. Amazing that, after graduate school and all, there could be so much information at the pre-school level that somehow got missed the first time around.

Gumbo and I show an interest in Spanish, so we try to encourage it in each other. He brings me books written in Spanish. I translate the books written in English when he brings those, if the words are simple enough. Good times.

Gumba has no patience for sitting in my lap when I read to the boy anymore, but she hangs nearby. Last night I noticed that she perused each page of two books once and one book twice, upside-down, during the time it took me to read Gumbo Timmy Tiptoes. Her mind moves along at a tremendous pace, so much to teach.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Unrelenting Reminder Demons

Feeling the pressure. Details taunt me, unrelenting reminder demons screaming unfinished tasks. Wait, that's just my PDA, or is it? No rest for the wicked, the good die young, cowboy up. Cliches and memories of immersion in water - all I have left.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Gumba Walks!

She started out slow, but then one recent evening, right about the 14-month mark, she steady walked around that turning point that separates the walkers from the crawlers. Gumbo took another six months to walk like this. The darling girl exudes gurgling joy regarding her achievement, happy to walk with me hand in hand, or leg hair in hand, as the case may be. Crawling remains the fallback mode of locomotion, temporarily retaining the edge with regards to speed and stability. I moved my exercise mat outside yesterday afternoon to get away from her interference for a moment, but did not close the screen door well enough, so as a lay down on it she rushed (race-crawled) toward me with all the excitement, velocity, and momentum of a small pit bull. I literally braced for the hit, but in keeping with her style, she stopped about a centimeter from my face, to stare, to loom, and to grin with overwhelming intensity, searching for her father's acknowledgement and response. Her strong personality and drive to communicate keep me amazed much of the time.

She loves the table that the boy eats at, and climbs into one of the little wooden chairs that are too big for her whenever she can. I sat with her at it for a time the other day while she enjoyed a piece of toast. She spontaneously broke the toast and hand me a piece, evoking the deja vu that lonesome altruistic travelers feel as they trek across time immemorial. That girl is good people.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Downieville Deathtile Loves Me

Let me start by saying "It was a different time, it was the sixties." But, um, really it was the last few weeks. The infinite and limitless true nature of the universe has once again been presenting itself to me, in a very becoming way. One might even call it fecund. If you can imagine it, it exists, and my imagination runneth wild through the densest of thickets, just, whatever you do, oh please don't throw me in that old briar patch.

Some vacations rule my memories with exceptional vigor, like lighthouses along an dark and moonless coast. Those excursions include my first time to Yosemite when I was five, a trip to Mendocino with friends when I was a teenager, my honeymoon in French Polynesia at age 27, my first trip to Burning Man at 31, and...... Downieville, Downieville, Downieville. I could just sit here repeating "Downieville" in a thousand different voices, all night, and every day. Arrived home late last night after spending an amazing 48 hours in the loving vibrations people call the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Historically a mining town, Downieville once had a population of 20,000 and was briefly the capitol of California. It now gets 80% of its annual revenue from mountain biking. The legendary trails called me for years, in the form of tales of fun and serious injuries from a group I ride with mid-week. Of course, now that I've gone, I can't believe I didn't join them every trip since before I was born, stupid parents I guess. Don't worry, they never read this nonsense. The town sits at the confluence of the Yuba and Downie rivers, at 2,835' (930m), a great place to swim after a ride, right there by the old gallows. A shuttle leaves every hour on the hour, and for the paltry sum of $20, takes bikes and riders to Packer Saddle, which floats at 7,100' (2,336m). Magnaminous genii, or perhaps genies, have spent many an hour constructing and maintaining some of the finest (and I do mean sexy) single-track trails the world has ever seen, which connect Packer Saddle to Downieville, with many routes to choose from. Disneyland eat your heart out. Skydiving is weak. Burning Man is OK, but my every third wish is for another run through the alpine gauntlet of perilous angles, with a snowmelt stream skinny dip thrown in somewhere along the way. Aches and cramps wrack my body to point that I could barely operate a car last night, and I'm not good for a whole lot of anything, but nevertheless doubt I'd be able to refuse a shuttle leaving for Packer Saddle in 30 minutes, if I were still in Downieville. 

Part of it is the mountains. I love that color of sky, thin dusty pine air, endless varieties of flowers, alpine meadows green beyond belief, element ravaged trees, roaring emerald pools cascading into louder roaring emerald pools, pouring around islands full of yellow flowers, drunk with mountain love, talking loud, saying sweet nothing. The mountains rock, regardless of your mode of transportation, but try it on a full-suspension mountain bike and the rocks and trees want to eat you alive while feeding you bliss. There's a section called Baby Heads, where all the rocks approximate baby heads. They stare pitilessly at you when you eat shit. Plenty of narrow off-camber sections with drop-offs to certain manglement, where occasionally one's rear tire will spit out a rock to the chasm side, which one can hear chatter down the rocks in the distance behind, tink, tink, tinnnnnk, which gives me what I imagine would be the same effect as shoving a spike full of andrenachrome directly into my already racing heart. To prevent excessive erosion, and perhaps dangerous riding conditions, the trailbuilders have placed weird looking concrete tiles all along the path in certain very steep sections, commonly known as Downieville Deathtiles (they can be a little slippery, although they never sent me down, but would be hell icy). And get this, you share the trail with motorcycles! That's right, roaring, heavy, dusty, momentum machines blasting up what you're riding down, a complete eye-opener. Don't think it's all downhill. Many a brutal climb went on, and on, especially on the Big Boulder trail, many parts of which I had to hike the bike up. Like Greg the bike mechanic's shirt read - "Another Shitty Day in Downieville". By the way, the mountain eats bicycles for lunch, so everyone gets to know the wealthy bike mechanics well.

I stuck my head under a waterfall, sat on one of those islands in the middle of the rapids to get that mega-stereo effect, raced at breakneck speed along the trees, pushed my luck, used my helmet, used my pads, had some visions. Some part of me will live there always now, and it here with me. After jiving with a place that well, every time I go back I will be coming home, tears in my eyes serious, I nub it, til death do us part, om, peace, amen, allah-o-akbar, happy Indepenence Day, anarchy forever, spiritual revolution in my glassy eyes, lightning bolt beer bottle Johnny Cash jukebox Ghostriders in the Sky, yippy yi yay, yippy yi yo.