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Did You Miss This? Through the Fog (Chapter 33)


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52 hours ago we were in Wisconsin.

Day 1 took us from northern Wisconsin to Liberal, Kansas, in 18 hours. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas.

Day 2 took us the rest of the way home. Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona.

Do not do this.

If it weren’t for the fact that our planned 10 days in Wisconsin turned into 5 weeks, we’d have taken 4 days driving home, with an extended stop with friends in Kansas City.

Nope. After 5 weeks of the physical and emotional exhaustion of moving my mom into assisted living, we agreed to the insanity of 1,740 miles in 2 days.

Last night, after arriving at 10:10pm, we slept 9 hours. With, on my part, frequent trips to the bathroom, during which I lost, I kid you not, 9 pounds of water. Overnight.

And all those numbers mean I’m about 66% today, shooting for 100% later in the week.


Too Old to Travel But Jake is Jake

I begged Best Beloved to add an extra week to this trip north.

If I hadn’t done that, we’d have left for home this morning.

I’m having a hard time finding the joy. I made a bunch of changes to my online life the weeks before we left home and I’ve found myself more than bored.

I haven’t been bored in 15 years.

Things are complicated by an injury to my right foot that makes walking excruciating. Otherwise I’d take long walks every day, enjoying the beauty.

There’s always going for a drive. In my socks.


Jake Calcutta’s first story is going well. Fully outlined. I’ve written 1,500 words so far, and that’s just quickdraft. I’m pleased with how it’s coming out, though it’s not the Edgar Rice Burroughs clone I was hoping for. Maybe I’m not Edgar Rice Burroughs. Maybe I’m me.


Fortnight

  • 3-day convention in Tucson
  • 3-day drive
    1. Tucson AZ -> Tucumcari NM
    2. Tucumcari NM -> Kearny MO
    3. Kearny MO -> Cameron WI
  • 3 days with friends in Cameron, in a big old rambling farm house and a nameless puppy waiting to be given to our host’s granddaughter as a graduation gift (she named him Winston.)
  • 4 days house-sitting at a gorgeous home buried deep in the woods with 2 friendly cats and 1 that’s a bit cranky
  • 1 of those evenings out on the lake, seeing osprey, kingfishers, great blue herons, turtles, and a muskrat

Today:

Continue reading “Fortnight”


Lemon Grove Killer Van

We worked in the back of a great big van, more like a delivery truck. Not as big as a moving van, but far bigger than a passenger vehicle. Workbenches, grinders, air and power tools of all kinds, bins of parts and whatnot. It was convenient for work, being totally mobile. For driving, not so much. The van was awkward, felt top-heavy, and it as a nightmare to back up. I could always hear stuff shifting, rattling, pinging as we hit bumps or turned corners.

After lunch at a new place one day I headed out the back exit of the parking lot.

There was no back exit.

Continue reading “Lemon Grove Killer Van”


How to Make Your Father Run a Red Light

We sat in the dark back seat, watching the digital clock (made of actual light bulbs) atop the bank in Chula Vista. It was a long red light. We’d seen the time change from 7:03 to 7:04 and all four of us started counting the seconds until it changed again.

Quietly, in the back seat: “57, 58, 59” and then, not quietly at all, the four of us shouting “Now!”

At that moment, the left turn light changed to green.

Dad stomped on the gas.

We weren’t in the left turn lane.

Continue reading “How to Make Your Father Run a Red Light”



Marmalade Coast

Noodling with chords I found myself playing a strange jazz progression. I spent some time noodling with a melody, da da da-ing it. Listened to it on repeat for a few hours one day while I read.

The next night doing the dishes, I opened the tea cabinet and smelled the Earl Grey, which in our house means you’re having marmalade whether you want it or not. Flashes of a night drive from Sacramento to Mendocino with my wife sparked more words and out it came.

Continue reading “Marmalade Coast”


Strikes

Great big storm behind the mountain
See a flash, start counting
Feel the fire, crackling breeze
Thunder rumbles right up to your knees
Lightning

Flash so bright you lose the sky
Feels like Armageddon’s nigh
Push down, move faster
Driving down the throat of disaster
Lightning

High voltage electrical whine
Into my ears through the telephone line
I hear the words, feel the frisson
You talked, I didn’t listen
Lightning

Tires rip the dark wet road
Under-thinking overload
A hundred miles in nothing flat
Never let you go like that
Lightning

Great big storm behind the mountain
Thunder rumbles right to your knees
Great big storm behind the mountain
Thunder rumbles right to your knees
Great big storm behind the mountain
Thunder rumbles right to your knees
Great big storm behind the mountain
Thunder rumbles right to your knees
Lightning


Tragedy, or Comedy? Knowing the Ending Makes All the Difference

Happy endings ahead on all fronts. This could have all become tragedy on various levels. You may know that comedy = tragedy + time. This means that the time you backed into the 100,000-gallon aquarium and flooded your new Cadillac can become a great story you tell over and over rather than something you never speak of again. In this case, all ended well, so feel free to laugh at my antics. Someone should.

pocket-change

6:55am

Awoke to my phone ringing. I charge it in the living room, so there’s no way I was going to get the call. Sue tried to catch it but it stopped ringing.

Her phone rang seconds later. It was my mom, sounding pretty sick. She’d tried to get a doctor’s appointment the day before because she could barely breathe, but they didn’t have anything until today.

She said “I’ll try again tomorrow, if I live through the night.” My mother is famous for her positive perspective.

This morning she couldn’t breathe so she called to see if someone could take her to the emergency room.

Continue reading “Tragedy, or Comedy? Knowing the Ending Makes All the Difference”


To Us All in the End — But, Perhaps, Not Today

The wind howled so loud he could just make out his cell phone, ringing his mother’s home phone. Maybe it wasn’t turned up all the way. Didn’t matter; he daren’t give up one hand in the fight against the steering wheel.

It was why he’d moved here, to watch over his aging mother. He didn’t begrudge his brother and sister their lives; he’d have moved here for the beauty of the place, not to mention the economical lifestyle it allowed.

He didn’t begrudge his mother the gentle neediness of a twice-widowed elderly woman. She’d mellowed in her age. Less mourning, more reminiscing.

lonely house

He’d begrudge the final call, though, when it came. Her apartment door would be unlocked, as it always was. He’d step in, calling her, but she’d not answer. She never did, whether she couldn’t hear him or just wasn’t answering.

That’s what he’d begrudge: the finding, then the calling, the endless mourning of others on his behalf.

It started to snow as he slowed for the series of camera-topped speed-limit signs at the edge of town.

Turning onto Main Street, he heard his phone ring through to her voice mail, finally. The wind blew less fiercely between the buildings so he pulled his left glove off in his right armpit and pressed the hang-up button on his phone, dropping it clunk rattle back into the door handle of the van.


William Least Heat-Moon: My Own Kerouac

With all respect to those who loved him, I couldn’t find anything to hold onto in the works of Jack Kerouac. Perhaps it was because I dipped into On the Road after I’d read Blue Highways and expected Kerouac to write like William Least Heat-Moon.

I realized that I just wanted to read more Blue Highways.

Over the decades, as people seem to be reading less and less, Heat-Moon’s books have become longer and longer. He spends over six hundred packed pages discussing the land of Chase County, Kansas. Five hundred recounting crossing the United States by boat. Yes, it can be done. Over four thousand miles by water and less than one hundred by land.

His books seem to be written from the voice of his own needs. Continue reading “William Least Heat-Moon: My Own Kerouac”


The Packard Door That Wouldn’t Close (or, The Al-Can Highway is No Place for a Nap)

Before my parents married my father was in the Air Force, stationed for most of the duration in Alaska. He spent his time as a radio operator on a Tin Goose, the historic Ford Trimotor. When he left the Air Force he was given a plane ticket home to Wisconsin.

Another chap who got out at the same time sold his plane ticket and bought an old Packard, declaring it was cheaper to drive home to the mid-west, and then he could sell the car.

I’m not sure if it was my father’s love of adventure or his notoriously thrifty spirit, but he sold his plane ticket and rode along.

He regretted it.
Continue reading “The Packard Door That Wouldn’t Close (or, The Al-Can Highway is No Place for a Nap)”


With the Radio On (the original)

From 2006, one of the first songs I ever wrote. I still perform it, though quite differently from this version. Like, I change chords and stuff.

Back in 2003, Best Beloved and I left Phoenix at 4 in the morning after being awake since 6 the previous day. We drove to San Francisco. By the time we got there we’d been awake 44 hours.

Parts of the trip were fantastic. Though I’d owned Michael Nesmith’s Tropical Campfires for a few years, this was the first time I ever paid attention to it.

Three years later a single moment of joy on that road trip turned into this song.

Lyrics

Flyin’ down the highway with the radio on
Singin’ just as loud as I can to my favorite song
Well it might be Nez or Bob or Van
But I always try to sing it just as loud as I can
Flyin’ down the highway with the radio on

You pull out the map every once in a while
And I glance at you and you glance and we share a smile
And the sun glints through your golden hair
And I can’t believe my luck that we’re there
Flyin’ down the highway with the radio on

You feed me a fast food fish sandwich, it drips on my shirt
I slurp green circle logo iced mocha, try to stay alert
Like Newtonian bodies in motion we stay
Cause we hate to slow down ‘less there’s no other way
Flyin’ down the highway with the radio oh

Big fast car and a snappy tune And you right by my side
Cup o’ joe and a bite to eat Man, what a ride!

Finally stop for some greasy home cookin’ in a roadside cafe
Settle up and head for the door glad to be on our way
Drive into a sunset we wish we could frame
Settle in for a night that’s just more of the same
Flyin’ down the highway with the radio on
Flyin’ down the highway with the radio on
Flyin’ down the highway with the radio on