Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Not To Be Confused With Heartburn

Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man by Sam Keen

My review

rating: 1 of 5 stars
Keen writes way too preachy, and although he dug up a few clever quotes, the book disappointed me to the point that I could not finish it. That surprised me because it came highly recommended and the title sounded quite promising. The title thing was big for me due to my extended romance with the concept of having a fire in one's belly. One bright San Francisco morning warped by a twenty-something hangover my friends & I came across a raspy wino sitting on a steep street outside a liquor store that happened to be in a fair to middling mood. We gave him some dough for booze and he explained to us about the fire in the belly. The grizzled little man had a way of yelling "fire, fire in your belly", with a very strong accent on the fire part, that my friends & I would take turns bellowing to each other when we were drunk for the next ten years. You see, said the wizened wino, "a 40-oz malt liquor in the morning won't give you that fire, you need wine, or perhaps whiskey, to give that wondrous burn we call the fire in the belly." We roared with laughter, overstanding, and devil-may-care alcoholic bonding before setting off to chase that flickering flame across ten-thousand twilights, and again tomorrow. Cannot count the times I have cried for that fire, done violence for it, gone hungry, pushed my body to collapse, and still I would swear by it's unassailable greatness without hesitation. Keen does not this concept justice, in my admittedly arrogant & condescending opinion.

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Launch To Crater

We missed the fun in the desert with rockets this year, but Seth turned me on to this wonderful series of the Maveriks 2 rocket that he worked on. The parachute plan did not work out. Recovered the electronics about a mile away.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Death By Work

John Henry, the Steel-Driving Man John Henry, the Steel-Driving Man by Corinne J. Naden

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Not many children's stories tell about a guy that works himself to death, but this one is different. There is, of course, more to it than that, but sure enough, at the end the big loot dies with with a hammer in his hand, and his baby in the other. I remember reading a different version of the story as a child, which I recall as having had better art than this version. Loved how John Henry kicked that steam engine's sorry ass, but then somewhat dreaded the pain & mystery of his death that I always knew was coming (after the first shocking time reading it, that is). Our cat Henry is named after him. John Henry was bad ass, and I still race cars, scooters, and motorcycles on my bicycle in the spirit of such. I totally kick their ass off the line, even the muscle car guys sweating the light turning green, and it hasn't killed me yet.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Flirting With The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
"Old memories mean nothing to me" --Hazel Dickens

This book stimulated shadowy memories of a teacher reading all or part of this book during classroom storytime, or maybe it was just a similar story. Whatever the case, at various points I sensed myself sitting on the floor of my pale yellow 1st grade classroom in the Petaluma hills, the blinds drawn to dim the room, feeling the resonance of the woman's enthusiastic voice, think it my have been Mrs. Geotzinger with her dark hair, during a string of cloudy & rainy days in 1976.

It took a number of tries to get my son & daughter interested, but once we got going with a real book mark & all it was on. I enjoyed it quite, as did the wee ones. The thing that got me the best turned out to be the cold, illustrated with snow & ice & wind & bare feet with forgotten jackets. Hans wrote a cut above for this one, in my opinion, seemed to take more than his typical degree of care with the sentence composition, with very balanced and complementary themes - men & women, heat & cold, animals & humans, kindness & cruelty, heaven & hell, reality & illusion, old age & youth, all the deep topics to which humans perpetually return. A part of my soul dwells in the Snow Queen's palace evermore, in a vast hall of ice & pain, layered illusions entwined intimately with razor shard frosted edges of eternal death. One could think of it as how I might remodel A Clean Well Lighted Place For Books.

At the end Hans goes uberChristian on us, but I forgive him this, chalking it up to the time & place in which the dear boy dreamed up his darling little masterpiece.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nobody Knows

"I was not capable of discussing this with anyone because I felt, though I could not explain why, that my reasons might be valid only to me" -- excerpt from Living to Tell the Tale, written by my flirtatious Columbian gold, my oh-so dear, getting-on-in-his-years Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Master of Macondo

The world's been getting bold, messing with me, taunting me, warning me sharp. Love this dangerous Autumn, gently blind warmth breezes invoking romantic embraces of perilous cliffs I've barely met. Tea will be my last companion, so I pay attention to her, tend the moods of her spirits, inhale as deep as can be that timeless love.

Three Stigmata meet Fourth Musketeer

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
ha ha ha ha ha, this crap runs deep, but it's fabulous. Perhaps because I read forearmed with the insights found in Carrère's biography of Mr. Dick, perhaps because I taste the undeniable truth in my sharpened steel teeth, regardless of how or why, this book spoke bleeding volumes to me. I know what you're thinking - always comes back to the drugs. At least I'm consistent. You see, there are some that believe that Jesus was part of a sect that grew psychedelic mushrooms in caves near the Dead Sea, and that the whole holy sacrament thing is about chowing down on some serious boomers, opening z-mind, getting in touch with the real deal Holyfield reality the human consciousness typically avoids so as to keep things complicated for fledgling beings, so they don't all flip out and stop going to work. Chew a little Can-D and melt that ego, to love humanity, like everybody coming at once, or dying at once, tempered by agape, not for the weak, but it'll open your luxury robotic video eye-slits right on up, plus it feels terrific.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Feels Like Autumn 2008

I stepped out onto our rear deck late yesterday afternoon, just in time to watch our table with the umbrella blow slow across the lawn. The brisk air had a particular vigorous energy to it that really could wake a fellow up. I turned my face into it, sniffed & smiled, felt the October Country calling early, time for walks in graveyards, those last cheap nectarines. Cold but not too cold, the kids shrieked with glee as they ran around with the wind in the fog.

The boy started kindergarten. He loves it. Feels like a sure enough new era.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Downieville 2008, Brakes-Free

Downieville, and all the trails that lead to it, exert a force on me and all that know about the magic in the rocks & roots. So tall you can't ride over it, so wide you can't ride around it, it will eat your bicycle along with your body & soul; it ate mine. I write now as a shell of a human, the real me endlessly looping those trails, swimming those lakes & creeks, falling rain on mossy rocks, that's me, sunshine leaping across distant peaks.

I arrived in town late last Saturday, after the last shuttle for the day had left, so against the setting sun I raced for Packer Saddle along Fire Road 93 up from Union Flat campground on Highway 49. No matter how hard I raced though, the sun set too fast and I could not lose an ever-growing highly infuriating cloud of gnats. The daylight factor meant that, after climbing from 2,835' to 6,719' I had to ride down the dark fire road instead of bombing the blessed single-tracks. That route presented itself as the only non-suicidal option available given the lights I had with me. It was a long, cold, stressful descent marked by one true fall and one quick unintentional dismount. You see, I could only see the drop-off edge of the trail with my teeny-tiny light, and that only intermittently. The miles past slowly, and I cursed my over-eagerness to just ride rather than pay attention to small details like night and day, warm and cold. I wore only a short-sleeved jersey with no under-shirt, brought no jacket with me, and ran out of food. The running out of food part was particularly smart, since that left me to dine on a tin of mango-flavored Altoid sours and a sack of low-sodium sunflower seeds, in the shell after I rolled into town at 9:45PM, drove 5-miles to my campground, and set up my tent. I awoke to a sore stomach, but happy to know that I had a reservation on the 10:30 AM shuttle to Packer Saddle (7,200'). The thought that I should have my brakes checked/adjusted crossed my mind a couple of times, but 10:30 arrived in no time, so up I went. My rear brakes went out on Sunrise Trail, the first 1/2-mile stretch of single track. I spent awhile trying to fix them, but ended up stripping the little bolt/nut that holds the cable in place, so that was done. Did not take long to decide to limp down with only my lovely 8" front rotor helping me control my velocity on these near-vertical piles of loose baby-head sized cobbles that pass for trails here. The front brake did wonderfully for a few miles, and then I had wee crash that ended up hosing my front brakes completely. I worked on them for some time before sitting down to whimper and snivel, realizing that, with more than 3,000' of wickedly technical trail left to descend, my vehicle could only be ridden by a madman, so I laughed at the water in the corners of my eyes, said hello to the tree friends gathered all around, told my racing heart to calm down, and hopped on my fast fast bicycle. I had already navigated all of Big Boulder Trail at that point, which is the longest way down the mountain from Packer Saddle, and so was near the top of Third Divide. I had to call on my ancient experience as a pre-teen, riding BMX bikes with no brakes - you just stand on the rear wheel with your right foot. Three problems with that: 1) the rear suspension allowed my extremely sharp seat post to gouge my ankle if I bounced my ass on the seat at all, which happened a lot, 2) if you don't pay attention to your left foot, and just let it rest at the bottom of it's range it hits rocks & roots that cause your left ankle to bang your frame (ouch), so you must ride with your foot & pedal half-way up a good part of the time, 3) a rear brake alone is not sufficient to control your speed on the steep parts, so you must be ready to bail off at any time. The ride harrowed me, hurt me, taught me lessons about many things far beyond bicycle mechanics and innovative trail riding methods. It convinced me that these brakes are history; time to move on to hydraulic disc brakes from mechanical disc brakes, seriously. They're Laurent's anyway, long-term loaned to me when he & Quintan built this bike up for me a few year ago.

Pain and cold and hassles aside, Downieville still loves me. When I fall and those big fir roots and stout granite rocks reach up and pound the blood out me, it's with such deep love that I don't even mind it a bit. It's like the mountain she's massaging me, in a very rough way. I could be happy forever with her. The trails demand such utter and devoted attention to avoid death or dismemberment that riding them becomes a meditation, an inevitable concentration spurning speech without action in rocky red dust. Age, gender, & race lose meaning rapidly, along with all those other labels that once defined me, confining boxes that never met Saddleback Mountain, or felt the Milky Way grind their bones to gleaming white, the better to dance you with.