Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Long Night

Ripken was pretty sore yesterday after returning from the vet. His surgery consisted of the removal of six tumors (all of the fatty, benign variety). Some were located in such a position that he could not lie down with any comfort for most of the night. He was given the recommended dosage of baby aspirin, and he did lie down for an hour from 8 to 9 and from 11 to 12, but for the rest of the night, he stood. He was clearly tired, and he would apparently nod off, only to wake when he started to lose his balance. He leaned on me for a while, but that was uncomfortable and unproductive, since I couldn't keep his back legs from buckling, no matter what I did. Monkey was up most of the night, trying to comfort the dog and cajole him into a prostrate position, but, it was not effective. He was just in too much pain.

Finally, at about 4:30 am, he was probably so tired that he dealt with the hurt. Down he went, and he stayed asleep until about 8 this morning. He's been down for most of the day, except for an hour or two just after lunch. He's had his dose of aspirin for the day, and he doesn't get another until 8 tonight. I hope he makes it until then.

It has only been a little over twenty-four hours since his surgery, so his discomfort is to be expected. He is clearly better today than he was yesterday, and I expect he will be better still tomorrow.

I just hope we can all get some sleep tonight.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Snowshine Sun, Dog Soreness, and Raven Disgust

The last Monday of the old year has been a memorable one, for sure. First, it has finally stopped snowing here, and we are almost finished digging out (as a municipality). One side of our street has been plowed, and we expect the other side to be done sometime before spring. Our own walkways and driveways have been cleared and re-cleared over the course of the last four days or so. I am pretty sure the entire neighborhood is about tired of shoveling, snow blowing, vehicle pushing, etc. As a bonus, today, the sun came out for the first time in about forever.

Secondly, Ripken had another operation to remove some tumors from his torso. He had a similar operation last year at this time. None of the tumors were on his head, but he had one right on his sternum, so he is having a hard time finding a comfortable position to lay in. He is looking pretty miserable, six hours after his operation, but, after he keeps some food down and has a baby aspirin, he should be feeling better.

In an irrelevant vein, compared to the dog's recovery, I suffered the frustration and helpless disgust that is watching your NFL team basically outplay their rivals AGAIN, yet still lose due to boneheaded penalties and a lack of execution. Most likely, the Ravens will beat the Raiders on Sunday and make the playoffs, but, if they keep playing like they have (and nothing indicates that they won't), a loss wouldn't surprise me, but a deep run in the playoffs would.

Finally, we made a pretty tasty potato soup for lunch today, and we still have about ten pounds of gifted potatoes to get through!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The White Christmas and All That

So, yesterday we got the ice. The streets were passable, but the trees and shrubs and other such vertical and semi-vertical stuff all got a nice sheen of frozen beauty to click clack in the wind with. Today comes the snow, which some reports say we should get 10 inches of by Friday night. I hope all the Kris Kringle's and Jessica Kringle's, all the reindeer, and all the elves take special care when making their way through the winter wonderland of the Midwest this evening.

I know that back in the east, the left overs from the past weekend are enough to guarantee a white Yuletide, as well. Why it matters, I am not sure. I think it's Charles Dickens's fault.

Or maybe Charles Schultz's.

Regardless of who might be responsible, I hope your holiday is whatever you want it to be!

Monday, December 21, 2009


Out on the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac
--Don Henley, "The Boys of Summer"

(I apologize if my opening lyric today causes anyone shock or illness.)

I know I JUST said, "Don't look back," but, upon a request from a fellow Blogoshpherian, I compiled a short list of the top ten albums of the year. If you are at all interested, you may access it here.

Plans for today include a short visit to Wilber, the Czech capital of Nebraska, to see if they have any kielbasa. Which reminds me that Chicago State actually has a dude on their team named Joseph Kielbasa. Monkey and I figured that if Chicago State had been playing Mizzou, the Antlers would have had an inappropriate field day with that one.

Also on the docket: possible visit to used book store, work party, watching the weather (a potential storm may scrub Tuesday's KC trip). Ah, the holiday season.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Resisting The Urge

All we have is now.
The Flaming Lips, "All We Have Is Now"

As the year draws to a close, it is natural that we wish to look back, to gauge the year just past to see what was good and what was not, to see how we progressed as we made our way down the road of life. This year, we might feel even more tempted to look back and measure the decade that is drawing to a close (depending on whom you talk to). Honestly, I am pretty blown away by the fact that it was a decade ago that Monkey and I spent our first New Year's Eve in Missouri, wondering if the world would end at the stroke of midnight and prove us wrong for not building a survival shelter, taking our meager savings out of the bank, buying a generator, and stocking up on canned goods, bottled water, and kerosene. I hadn't even thought about it, really, until comoprozac started running his list of the best albums of the Aughts. A lot has changed in ten years, most of which, I don't really need to get into.

As a matter of fact, I am not going to get into any of it. I am going to try to resist the urge to look back. I am going to try to resist the desire to measure my progress. Instead, I am just going to be happy to be where I am, and try to keep my focus on the road ahead...or maybe just the road under my feet. After all, the future is impossible to see.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ahhhh, Freedom (Albeit Temporarily)

Technically, I am on break. Actually, I am sitting in my classroom waiting for a student to finish a make up quiz. But, in the next ten minutes or so, I am tearing out of here!

Just thought you'd want to know that I had survived in one relatively healthy and sane piece.

I'll be shouting at you again soon.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Looking Forward

There are a few things we have to look forward to this holiday season.

First, Monkey has been on her special (and very annoying) no iodide diet to prepare for her latest scan to check her thyroid. She has been eating roasted vegetables and oatmeal since the day after Thanksgiving. She is very excited to be able to eat whatever she wants. That begins tomorrow afternoon.

Also on tomorrow afternoon, winter break starts. I look forward to two weeks off, and having only a few things to grade during the break. It will be good not having a lot over my head while I enjoy the festivities.

A third big event planned for Friday is the earlier than usual removal of the beard. I started it early this year, and it is clear that Monkey is quite tired of it. I, as usual, am growing ambivalent about it. I enjoy it sometimes, I am bored with it at others. The beauty of it is, if I want to grow it back, I don't have to do anything. Literally.

This weekend, the Ambassadors are heading into town for the holiday. They will be staying at the Monkey House. We all get along really well, so Monkey and I are really looking forward to their arrival. It will be fun, for sure.

Monkey and I are also looking forward to heading down to KC next week to enjoy the decorations and eat at Lydia's again. We tried to go to KC two years ago for the same reason, but the weather and the roads were so bad, we turned around about halfway there and scurried on home. This year, we hope for better weather.

New Year's Eve will most likely maintain its low key traditional tone. We have no plans, and we are not searching for any, really. An old boss used to call New Year's Eve "Amateur Night," referring to the increased number of intoxicated driver's. He was only half joking. I try to stay off the roads on December 31/January 1.

So, one more day of work, and all this will begin. Kicked off with one last 2009 Happy Hour. Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

That Most Pivotal Day

Ye Ole Hump Day hath arrived. Plans are looking pretty solid and feeling pretty realistically survivable. When you get into this particular week of the school year, you have to ask yourself, "What can we seriously expect to accomplish today?" The trick is not to scrap everything that is worthwhile, but to maintain expectations that are achievable. But then, isn't that always the case? I never understand why a teacher would resort to cutting snowflakes or making hand turkeys or showing a movie (unless any of those were actually tied to some sort of academically sound standard) during pre-break weeks, or short days, especially since these days when I temper my expectations makes me feel so much like a poor educator. But then, isn't that always the case? It's enough to be hyper-critical of myself, who am I to criticize others?

The point of this short, just before I rush out of the house post is to send out a warning before I latch the door and journey across the dangerous terrain of the day: should I not return by sundown, assume the worst and DO NOT send out a search party. That said, according to all of the portents, today will be a good one. I shall return, my friends; I shall return.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Countdown Begins

This Monday marks Day One of the Five Days To Winter Break Countdown. In reality, this countdown is part of a larger December Countdown to Winter Break, which, in turn is part of the Post-Thanksgiving Countdown to Winter Break, which, again, in turn, is part of the Post-Fall Break Countdown to Winter Break. You may notice that we do a lot of counting down around here.

It was a pretty manageable day, aside from the freezing drizzle and blinding snow that greeted us as we left the house. A scheduled 6:50 arrival turned into a 7:20 slide into the parking lot. No worries, however. By second block, we were back in the swing of things.

Our tree, which we picked up on Saturday, is currently bedecked only with strings of multi-colored lights. We have yet to put an ornament on it. That is probably scheduled for this evening. Holiday festivities are in full swing, ladies and gentlemen.

We'll try to keep you posted on the rest of the week. And by the way, in a completely unrelated vein, even after three years in a new school, I still miss Chicken Nugget Day!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thoughts on a Two Day Work Week

It's been a while since I have done a top ten list, so.....

Top Ten Reasons There Should Be a Mammoth Snow Storm Every Monday Night (from the home office in Savage, MD)

10. I've got all this firewood. I need time to use it.

9. My shoveling skills get out of practice.

8. People don't wear (or say) things like "long johns" enough.

7. I love the smell of snow blower exhaust in the morning. It smells like victory!

6. It's a challenge on the third off day to make something that is less like "bad snack" and more like "actual lunch."

5. When else can I take the dog to the vet? (He's fine, by the way.)

4. How do you manage rambunctious fourth block sophomores? Two days off, one day on, three days off, one day on, two days off....

3. I get to push and dig out the snowbound cars of people who live down the street whom I haven't yet met, and I don't even ask them for money when they are freed.

2. Neighbors talk to each other when there is snow on the ground. What is that all about?

1. Happy hour is a lot more fun on Friday when your exhausted head isn't doing a drinking bird impression into your beer.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Puppy Concerns

I really can't explain it, but, just as Monkey and I headed to bed for a long winter's nap, we got the news that school was canceled again, today. I know that three days off is going to play heck with the end of the term (especially since this is an already too-short eight week term), but, like I have said before, we'll just have to deal with that. The residential streets are still pretty hard to navigate, and the temperature at 9AM was still only two above zero, so I can see why they might have erred on the side of caution. I am still surprised.

Today, I am taking the opportunity to get the puppy dog a vet appointment. He seems generally okay, but he has lately been hacking a lot, like he has some bad chest congestion. Monkey, a concerned parent, as always, is worried, so, I am taking him to see his doctor this afternoon. Maybe she'll tell us to "put some 'Tussin on it," in the immortal medical advice of Chris Rock.

Other than that, since I have already had two days to catch up, I have little to do, really. I suppose I'll do some reading. Boy, it's been tough to be me this week.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

It's Wednesday. It's Not Dark. It's Not Snowing.

The blizzard has passed. The driveway is cleared. The walks are cleared. The cars are dug out. The sun is shining, making it abundantly bright and clear what makes us love snow, even when we are humping our three thousandth shovelful onto a pile as tall as our head.

The dog has carved out a thin path from the backdoor to an acceptable post, but the depth of the snow has made him reticent to explore more. Monkey and I have taken this extra time off to get some holiday-type chores accomplished. We hope to venture out later today to pick up the TV we paid for on Saturday.

We will most likely be back to normal tomorrow, but, with winter break coming at the end of next week, I must selfishly say that I have truly loved having these two days to get my head right. I hope that we can finish the next ten days stronger, more focused, and more pleasantly than things were shaping up after the Thanksgiving weekend.

Bring it on!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

It's Tuesday. It's Dark. It's Snowing.

Snow day is drawing to a close. Spent the day reading, sitting by the fire, shoveling the drive way--you know, those sorts of snow day things. Monkey and I are currently watching AWAY WE GO (Monkey has taken a snack break). No word on tomorrow, but I expect we'll be back to school tomorrow.

*****NEWS FLASH*****

Monkey just checked the LPS website, and they just posted that we have NO SCHOOL tomorrow! This is unbelievable. Awesome. Troublesome when we finally do get back to school, but we shall let that simmer until Thursday.

And now, back to the video.

Monday, December 07, 2009

It's Monday. It's Dark. It's Snowing.

It has been snowing for only a few hours, but LPS has called school for tomorrow. That is a nice treat, knowing about a snow day ahead of time. It's also nice to have a snow day on the day after PT conferences. It's a long day, and I appreciate not having to scurry around to get things ready in the morning after having left the building less than 12 hours before.

Monkey made a scrumptious butternut squash and peanut butter soup. It is a great recipe, especially since it has no iodide in it, making it ideal for Monkey while she is on her diet. But, it is so good, it is a good recipe for anytime.

Beside those two wonderful things, I am making myself crazy watching the Ravens-Packers game. I think if I never see another yellow penalty flag in my life, I will have seen enough in this game to last me.

Anyway, I'll be sleeping in tomorrow.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

It' s Sunday. It's Dark. It's Snowing.

December arrived determined to wipe away any memories of a balmy November. Global warming is not on any one's mind today, here in Cornopolis. It's pretty chilly out there, and the snow has been falling slowly since about ten this morning. The next couple days could bring us six inches or so, all told. It probably won't close schools tomorrow or Tuesday, but it might be enough to make Parent Teacher conferences pretty poorly attended tomorrow night. You know how much I love PT conferences, eh?

It has been a pretty good weekend. The Florida-Alabama game was enjoyable. It wasn't a great game, but I was pulling for the Crimson Tide. I don't know why, but I have always liked Alabama, even as a tyke. And, equally inexplicably, I have never been a fan of the Gators. But, now that I think about it, that's probably Steve Spurrier's fault. Anyway, the Big 12 Championship game WAS exciting (unless you like offense), and unexpectedly competitive. Monkey asked me before the game if I thought it was going to be ugly. I told her I thought it would be, but I didn't mean ugly in the way it turned out.

In addition, the Steelers lost to the Raiders today. I feel a twinge of guilt, getting joy from others misery (see Florida, as well), but, when it comes to the Steelers, I know that their fans get as much satisfaction out of watching the Ravens flounder as we get out of their losses. But, in a less spiteful vein, Pittsburgh's loss (which is kind of inconceivable...as well as their loss two weeks ago to KC) opens up one more door, ever so slightly, for Baltimore to make it into the playoffs. Of course, the Ravens need to win on Monday night, and they need to keep winning, and they need Jacksonville to slip up at some point, but, with Pittsburgh's loss, they have an opportunity to move closer to the wild card.

Okay, no more sports talk.

Except to say that I jammed my finger playing b-ball this afternoon (not in the snow, in the church gym), and now I can't get my wedding ring on. Monkey is distraught, but I am wearing it on my right hand, and hoping the swelling subsides sooner, rather than later.

Okay, no more sports talk.

Except to say that the local ESPN radio station pulled my favorite talk show off the air this week. It was a show called THE SPREAD, and it featured former Husker All American Jason Peter. I liked the show for several reasons. One, it was on during my drive home (when I drove), so it became part of my routine. Two, Peter, a former defensive tackle who played a few seasons with the Carolina Panthers, was an unpolished, but thoroughly entertaining radio personality. And, three, Peter, a New Jersey native, had one of those East Coast accents (and attitudes) that used to make me a little homesick. Why the show was canceled, no one knows, but one day they were on the air, and the next day, they were gone. That happens in radio a lot.

Okay, no more sports talk.

Saturday, Monkey and I bought a new TV. But, they didn't have it in stock, so we have to pick it up Tuesday. I was thoroughly bummed, since we were going slightly larger, slightly more 16:9 aspect ratio, slightly more 1080p, and slightly more 120Hz. In sum, we were moving into the 21st century of TV receivers. I was thinking we would bring our shiny new LCD TV home on Saturday, hook it up, watch the Big 12 Championship, and then, on Monday, we could dig on the Ravens' Monday night appearance in all of their bright and shining (in black and purple) glory. Unfortunately, that ain't gonna happen. I got over it, but Monkey will tell you, I was one grumpy dude at the grocery store. At least I can watch the Army-Navy game (Go Navy!) on Saturday on the new tube.

I know, that non-sports item was awfully sporty. And, I haven't said a word about NCAA basketball.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

We Have a Winner!

Well, I don't know what I will do with myself for the rest of the month, but I am finished with this year's awful first draft! Just made it to the end, and, if my last novel-in-a-month is any indication, this one needs about five more years of work before it even makes sense.

So, maybe I will be blogging a bit more frequently. Take that as a promise or a threat, but for today, I am tired of writing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Hair of November

As I furiously try to catch up from my unproductive (writing-wise) weekend, a fortnight ago (I hope to sail past 40,000 words tonight and continue until I am at least on schedule, or ahead--time is getting short), I thought I would take a short break to update you on the one thing that I am able to do simultaneously with writing--growing facial hair.

This picture was taken yesterday. I decided to go with the smiling picture. The other one makes me look too much like John Bell Hood.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dead or Canadian?

The fatal injustice of it all. The true end of an era. The cosmic angle CA to Michael Jackson's AB and John Hughes' BC. The rule of three (sorry, Farrah, but you were of a different time). I refer to the startling news this morning that Ken Ober is dead.
Yet, Colin Quinn lives...go figure.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Significance That Signifies Nothing But More Work Ahead

Hey! As I said earlier, I have been dedicating my writer muscles to NaNoWriMo, but I thought I would send out an update to those who might wander by here while I am occupied. This evening, only two days behind schedule, I reached the mid-point of this year's writing marathon. At 25,000 words, I don't know if I am at the midpoint of the novel itself, but I am at the midpoint of the prescribed monthly word count quota of 50,000. And, since I must say, it feels good!

Also, a shout out to Boring Election, who is also endeavoring to complete a 50,000 word marathon this month. Wish us luck, folks (and think about giving it a try yourself, next year)!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

November, The Bastard

November is a month without a rep. The Great Pumpkin has forsaken us again, and left us drunk, wet, and cold, shivering in the pumpkin patch to welcome All Saints' Day alone. Kris Kringle is still many weeks away, with his thin reeded pipe, his coal-black boots, his snowy evenings, and his merry freaking self.

What does November have? The broad-breasted white turkey? Perhaps one of the stupidest birds around, bred only for the bodaciousness of its white meat? The hand? That which we all, as children, transmogrified into a rainbow colored version of the aforementioned whitey?

Really, it's not much.

So, as I spend most of this month making up sentences to turn into a novel that many people don't believe is possible, I won't be posting much. After all, what is there to say in November?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's The Time Of The Season

Our recent trip to visit the Ambassadors took us to several rural-type spots, as well as the more metropolitan haunts of the Twin Cities. One particular spot, Aamodt's Apple Farm, in Stillwater, was a festival of apples of many kinds. We couldn't help but bring back sacks full of Honeycrisp and (Monkey's new favorite) Keepsake apples, and we also loaded up with new candidates for pie-making, the Haralson.

This evening, Monkey and I sampled a fresh Haralson pie. It was awesome. I usually mix two apples together in my pies, one sweet and one tart. Haralson's are mostly tart, but this single apple pie is a winner.

We have enough apples for at least one more pie, which I may make next week. I might try a sweeter crust recipe. You know me...always experimenting.

Stay tuned for the results.
(Apple photo courtesy of Ms. Huntington's Webpage.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tires, Fowl, and Taxidermy

As I am on Fall break, it was a better idea for me to take the Civic in for new tires than for Monkey to do it. After all, when I checked my calendar, today yawned with a galactic emptiness. When Monkey checked her calendar, she had an eye doctor's appointment (and some other stuff). Of course, that all changed when a co-worker invited me out to lunch with a crew. Mind you, this was no ordinary lunch, either, we were all bound for Unadilla (home of Unadilla Bill), for a chicken dinner at The Bar. I would meet my lunch mates at a local restaurant parking lot, from which we would make the not-too-long drive out to the east.

So, I drove up to the tire place to have four new tires (that Monkey had already ordered and paid for) put on the car. Lo and behold (I am still not completely clear on directions and locations around here) the tire place is right next to the restaurant where I was to meet up with everybody. I figured I could just roll the car from one little parking lot to the restaurant's big parking lot with little fanfare and be off when the time came. I dropped off the car and walked over to a coffee shop/bakery for a croissant, some coffee, and an hour of reading.

Two pages into my reading material, Monkey called me. The tire place had ordered the wrong tires. I'd have to come back some other time. I finished my coffee, marked my page, and picked up the car.

In hindsight, I could have stayed in the coffee shop for a half hour and then went to get the car. Then, I could have simply rolled over to the restaurant. But I didn't do that. I drove home, sat around for twenty minutes, and then drove back out to the restaurant. Stupid and wasteful, I know.

At the parking lot, I piled in with five other teachers and we rolled over to Unadilla (pop. 350ish). The Bar (the actual name of the bar where we had the chicken) was hopping for lunch. And we were by far the youngest patrons on this bright and breezy Tuesday. And the food was good and cheap. Where else are you going to get three pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, lemonade, lemon meringue pie (not awesome) and a cup of coffee for $8.50? That's right, some other small town in Nebraska. But, today, we got it in Unadilla.

And, in a touching (for me) extra to the day's journey, as I paid my tab at the cash register, I saw, above me on a shelf of honor, the preserved carcass of Unadilla Bill, the most famous groundhog in all of Nebraska. It was a beautiful moment, I must say.

Photo from The Omaha World Herald, accessed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/25702639@N02/2417277608

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Time Flies Like an Arrow (Fruit Flies Like a Banana)

The title of today's post is attributed to a master of linguistic humor, Groucho Marx. Another favorite of mine from him: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." Funny, huh?

This is the last week of term one. Finals begin on Thursday. It has been a whirlwind start to the school year, some of which has been documented here. I will be glad to have a full quarter of the school year behind me, and I look forward to a week-long break (which includes a short trip to Minneapolis this weekend!).

As well, Sunday next brings us All Hallows Eve, the night before, yes, that's right, my friends, the beginning of National Novel Writing Month. I will be playing along, again this year. I invite all three of you to join me. It really is a wonderful thing to just zone out and write...try it!

That's all I got for now. Dinner time is upon us, and I am in need of some grub.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

O Captain, My Captain!

This is not the kind of news to start a day with, but I must make note of the passing of 80s wrestling icon (and video actor) "Captain" Lou Albano. Growing up, I don't think I ever saw Albano actually wrestle, he just barked into the mike and made wierd faces at the camera, but he was a huge personality in that world. In addition, he forever linked himself with 80s pop icon Cyndi Lauper, appearing in her video for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."

Just add Lou to the list of pop culture icons heading to the big mansion in the sky, lately.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Grover Day

I can't help but feel like this some days.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Psychedelic Presence Shining in the Park

In the chill of an early October morning, dark except for the glow of streetlights and their reflections on the low-hanging clouds spitting rain above, a vehicle navigates its way through the desolate streets. Its headlights peel back the night before it, as it passes a hedgerow on one side and a burnt out lamp on the other. Suddenly (as is always the case) a small brown rabbit leaps from the hedge, looking to make it safely to the other side of the street. It swiftly penetrates the cone of light before the vehicle, and, in that moment, frightened and naturally skittish, it realizes that the large black tires of the vehicle are about to crush it. In a split second, it redirects its course just enough to avoid being pancaked, but its back leg has been caught. The momentum of the wheel spins the rabbit up and over, around at a blink-of-an-eye speed. It lands flat on its chest and rolls away from the car. It hops, at first, back toward the hedge, then, realizing that is not its intended destination, it again turns abruptly and zigzags across the street. Safely in the grass, it surveys the damage: a broken leg, broken ribs, probably some internal damage. The prognosis is not good.

Is the moral of this story that we should stay committed to our intentions, even if it means getting crushed under the balding treads of fate? After all, the rabbit’s end is the same—perhaps quicker under the tire than panting in the grass. Or is the moral that we should look both ways before we cross? Is it that speed kills, or that a five pound rabbit has little chance to survive an encounter with a 1000 pound vehicle?

Whatever the metaphor, Matt Bauer might not only see it for what it is, but he’d most likely turn it into an atmospheric song for voice and free time banjo.

Opening for Jolie Holland last night at the Waiting room, Bauer and banjo (or guitar) lulled the audience into attentiveness with an achingly earnest voice and minimalist fingering that sketched metaphor after metaphor involving buffalo, horse, fox, and mouse, alike. Joined for three numbers by Holland and her musical partner Grey Gerston, Bauer’s fleshed out compositions were no less starkly beautiful. And Holland got into the animal act by regaling the small crowd with an amusing joke about two whales sitting in a bar.

Bauer finished his set solo, then thanked the crowd for listening. Unlike many openers, he’d captured the attention of the crowd for his entire set (except for the sloppily drunk quartet in the corner who had lost the ability to modulate their voices at all); this may have been a function of his imposingly shaved head or his fiercely long beard, but, most likely, it was his heartfelt songs, his dancing cascades (or soporific drones) of notes , and his Bonnie Prince Billy-like ability to tell a story of rending from which we can not turn our ears.

After a brief pause for Gerston to tune a few instruments and stock the stage with water and wine, the headliner took the stage—just she and her musical mate—to play a languid and low-key set. The musicians had driven themselves from Denver, where they played the night before, and they looked a bit road weary, but the endearingly partisan crowd was full of encouragement. The set list, about an hour-long, included “Littlest Birds,” “Goodbye California,” “Old-fashioned Morphine,” “Alley Flowers,” and a few others, old and new. In addition, Holland played a cover of David Dondero’s “Real Tina Turner,” and a pair from Michael Hurley (one of which Gerston took the vocal lead on).

While Grey Gerston moved easily from solid-body to hollow-body to bass guitars, Holland was doing the same, as she occasionally laid her beautiful flat black Epiphone down to scratch beautifully on a uniquely-shaped fiddle. The instrumental variation aside, the key instrument to the evening was Holland’s voice, a slurry, sultry, trembling trademark that sounds less like it comes from her lungs than directly from her heart. And last night, despite the bone- and road-weariness, Holland’s voice sounded flawless. She has a sweet gift.

As well, she seems a sweet human being. In between songs, as she tuned her guitar, Holland mentioned that last time she was through town someone had given her a bracelet. “Kim?” she asked to the crowd. There, two rows back, Kim raised her hand. Holland was still wearing the bracelet. And, as can happen at some shows, this sweet exchange stayed a constant.

As Holland stumbled twice through the beginning bars of “The Future,” a song she clearly doesn’t play often live (and is played originally on piano—not guitar), but was, she said, “A request,” the crowd was at its most snuggly sweet. Holland apologized, only to be greeted from a shout from the crowd.

“That’s okay—just more show for us!”

Holland finished up her set and thanked the crowd for being “so freaking sweet.” After whale jokes, smoked-honey-dripping melodies, and earnest musical gaffes, the crowd had the same to say about her.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Free Breakfast!

Monkey and I are off to local restaurant, Venue, to sample their new breakfast menu...for free. Our reservations are for 10:30, so I gotta go. I'll give you a review later, perhaps.

Hooray for free breakfast!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Are You Kidding Me?

This was the view from our back porch this morning (notice the white stuff covering the grass).

Friday, October 09, 2009

Bad Sports

A rough day for Missouri sports fans yesterday, as Matt Holiday booted the game-ending out, giving the Trolley Dodgers a chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Being down 0-2 with your best pitchers waiting their next turn is not a good position for the Redbirds to find themselves in. Let's hope they can mine Busch Stadium for some comeback magic of their own.

As that game was coming to a drastic close, the Tigers were taking on the Huskers in a deluge of biblical proportions. The conditions, perhaps, led to one of the worst three quarters of football I have ever seen, albeit three quarters at the end of which the Tigers held a seemingly solid 12 point lead.

Then, the game took a turn the likes of which I may have only witnessed one other time in my life (2000 NFL season--Jets comeback from 30-7 4th quarter deficit to win in OT over Dolphins), as the Huskers scored three times in three and a half minutes to take the game from a Mizzou team that played really good defense for 45 minutes. Unfortunately, they were playing a team that played really good defense for 60 minutes.

The baseball result is hurtful, but, I must say that the football result really made my life easier. There was a moment, during the 3rd quarter, with Nebraska playing terribly on offense and trailing 12-0, when I thought about calling in sick today, since I didn't want to be around a bunch of miserable people. A Nebraska victory, even one preceded by 45 minutes of ineptitude, really put a spring in my co-workers' steps. So, I hope that my friends in CoMO can be magnanimous enough to see the positives in last night's stunning loss.

And, as I have said before, Sunday, I am going to see Jolie Holland!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Arts and Humanities and Man's Inhumanity to Man (In the Form of a Sporting Event)

A big weekend is brewing here at Central Standard. After navigating another week of shepherding the churlen through the world of critical thinking, close reading, and developed writing, Monkey and I will be heading to a local book store to hear former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser read from his latest. Monkey is especially excited about this, since she has been desultorily stalking the diminutive Mr. Kooser since we landed in this burgh. Since it is Friday, this reading will most likely be followed by an 8pm "lights out" call and some fitful sleep. Aging...it's so tragic (for us, not Kooser...although it might be tragic for him, I don't know).

Sunday will take us to Omaha, where we will see the unique-voiced Jolie Holland at the always intimate Waiting Room. It will be our first opportunity to see Ms. Holland live. She came through last year at about this time, but previous travel plans made it near to impossible to see her. I anticipate this show with the same eagerness that I might await Okkervil River...yes, I like her that much.

Of course before all of this, there is the big showdown tomorrow night, as the Huskers travel to CoMO to take on the alma mater in a little American football contest. I am sort of torn about this game. Obviously, for reasons of personal pride, I'd like to see the Tigers continue their winning ways against the scarlet and cream of Nebraska. However, the devastation that such a loss might cause among the Husker faithful in these parts makes me kind of hope that Nebraska prevails. It will make dealing with my co-workers a much less maudlin experience.

But, either way, I am seeing Jolie Holland on Sunday, so it's all good!

Jolie Holland photo from: One Way Magazine
Ted Kooser photo from: Writing Time

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Most Brilliant Plan!

Another long week (and it's only Tuesday) got me to thinking about alternate plans...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Things...Old Things

Tonight, I am picking up a new bike I just bought! Okay, it's not new, but the guy I am buying it from bought it in April, so it's practically new. It's a Giant FCR1, a flat bar road bike. I think I am going to love it! The guy I am buying it from is a friend whom I play basketball with. He is moving back to Philly (shout out!), and he is only taking what he can carry in his Jeep. So, I offered to lighten his load by one bike. I got a hell of a price on it.

And so, my bike history comes full circle, as I bought my current Giant Iguana from a friend (whom I never played basketball with) who was moving from Baltimore to Mechanicsburg, PA. I just love to buy bikes from guys who are moving to Pennsylvania.

Another thing: tomorrow is this blog's four year anniversary. That is cause for celebration, I guess. However, lately, I've been thinking about bringing it to a close. Honestly, any opinions? Suggestions? Donations? Coupons? Whatever.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Three Fridays and Retro Frankfurters

On Wednesday, as you recall, I woke up thinking it was Friday.

This afternoon, as I left my classroom, I had a "V8" moment, realizing I forgot to hand out something to my students that they were going to need to do their reading OVER THE WEEKEND. Yup, I thought it was Friday, again.

Finally, tomorrow will be Friday, and this interminable week will be over. I'll probably spend all day thinking it's Monday.

On Saturday, Monkey and I are attending the Husker game against LA-Lafayette. We haven't been to a game since the first year we were here. That was a bad season to attend games--unless you enjoy watching Nebraska get embarrassed. But, Saturday should be kind of cool, since it is the 300th consecutive sell out at Memorial Stadium. That is a streak unmatched (as far as I can find) in current pro or college sports. I am certain that there will be a lot of fan fare, commemorating players and fans since 1962 (the season of the first of the 300 sold out games). The game shouldn't be too exciting (in the competitive sense). Too bad hot dogs won't be specially priced to reflect 1960s prices...that would be AWESOME!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Babies Are Not Trains

A good number of rail road tracks run through Cornopolis. Many of them are still in frequent use. A corridor through the north of town is a high frequency rail stretch, and residents have been complaining about train whistles for some time.

See, these trains, they cross a number of roads in the area, and, each time they approach an intersection, the trains sound their whistles to warn approaching drivers to stop. But, last week, after a year plus of reconfiguring several crossings, the area became a horn-free zone at certain hours. Residents now don't mind as much when a train comes rumbling through their neighborhood, because now, it's doing it as quietly as possible.

That's good, when residents concerns are responded to by the city and the companies of the area. I have a noise issue I wonder if the city elders might address. There's this baby outside, and it's been crying and whining and whatnot for like an hour already....

(Angry baby head photo from Evil Beet Gossip)

September Meetings

Parent-teacher meetings were on Monday of this week. Ugh. A long Monday makes for a long week. Probably another reason why no posting.

I was busy with meeting for three solid hours after school, but that helped the time to pass quickly. Unfortunately, I think it also had something to do with me thinking that today was Friday when I woke up, this morning.

That's a nasty trick to play on oneself.

September Blah

I really like Fall. I mean, I like all of the season's, but I probably like Fall the best. Cool days, crisp nights, rustling leaves, football, World Series, the preparations for the winter ahead. It puts me in mind of school (which I am obviously kind of fond of) and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (which I am also kind of fond of) and a million other things (like "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown").

That said, this month has been tough. I refer to the blahs in this post's title, but it isn't blah, at all, really. It has just seemed like a lot of work. Mostly at work, it has seemed that way. I guess that's why they call it work.

So it goes....

September Bug

I have been incommunicado for many days, yes, but with good reason. The first reason was that some time last week, my computer contracted an evil little trojan. I spent three days trying to figure out where it was hiding and what I needed to get rid of it. After many hours, I finally wiped it out.

Coincidentally, it tried to come back a couple of days later, but I caught it before it could entrench itself and killed it quick. Hooray!

Thanks to Stubware for their product and their help.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Blues

Today sucked! I don't know why. It started out just fine. But, fifteen year-olds sometimes just have a way of being total dicks, even when they are not trying to be total dicks. But, they do sometimes try to be total dicks, and they usually succeed. However, let me be clear, today, no one was TRYING to be a total dick. But, well, they just were.

Fiddle-dee-dee. Tomorrow is another day.

Thanks for listening.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This One Goes Up To Eleven

The Monkey and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary on Saturday night. Being rebellious, we jumped the gift list. Traditionally, eleven is the steel anniversary, but last year, Monkey got me tickets to see the NCAA basketball tournament opening rounds (the rim is the steel). The modern list says this year should have been fashion jewelry, but that's what I got her last year. As a result, this year, we got each other a card. Honestly, every year except last year, all we got each other was a card. It's just the way we roll.

Anyway, dinner at Wilderness Ridge was good, and we enjoyed our cards. Monkey's was way better than mine. It had a pirate Monkey on it! How perfect is that? We're thinking, after that card, maybe next year, we won't get each other anything....

Monday, September 07, 2009

Laboring on Labor Day

I have been so fired up about the stupid controversy over the president's speech tomorrow that I have not known what to say. I still don't. So, I am not saying anything, except %^$#@*&^!

I spent about four hours at school today, getting ready for the week ahead. A short week that starts with a short day should be easy enough, but, believe it or not, mid-term grades are due next week, so, no rest for the weary.

Otherwise, allow me to wish you a safe and relaxing (and labor-free) Labor Day.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Last Call in Lincoln

The end of an era drove Monkey and I to the state fair today. After Labor Day, the Nebraska State Fair is packing up and leaving its once "permanent" home in Lincoln and is travelling west a piece to Grand Island. So, we figured we'd best discover the glory of fried food on a stick Cornhusker style this year, since the odds of us making the multi-hour trip to GI next year is slim.

I spent many days as a youngster at the Maryland State Fair. Mostly working, but, sometimes, we got out to enjoy the sights and sounds. I particularly enjoyed the horse racing in Maryland.

During my years in Missouri, I only got over to Sedalia twice. I enjoyed Missouri's State Fair quite a bit. I especially enjoyed the dairy barn. Don't know why, I just did.

This year, Nebraska's fair was a real treat. Monkey and I treated ourselves to corndogs AND burgers, with Methodist pie for dessert (very good). We wandered into just about every building on the fairgrounds. I really had a great time checking out the award-winning vegetables, and I really liked the 4H building. Boy, those 4H kids must have a lot of fun, building rockets and doing applied science. It made me miss being a kid.

Monkey and I truly enjoyed the quilt display, also. The entire basketball arena was filled with quilts, award-winners and not. The diversity of them was amazing, and the craftsmanship was unbelievable.

I am glad we made the opportunity to head out to the fair. We probably won't see another state fair until we move...if we move.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Am I Buggin' Ya? I Didn't Mean To Bug Ya.

Seventy years ago, today, the German army invaded Poland.

As a result, World War II erupted.

And so it goes.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Rough Beginning

As my posting frequency of the past two weeks may indicate, it's back to school time here at Central Standard. Our first day of classes was Thursday a week ago, after the freshmen had been given a day without the bother of other classes muscling them around in the hallways. Our first two days were problem-free. My classes seemed populated with good kiddos; your expected diversity of personalities and skill levels, but no glaringly tough nuts who might make life difficult for ten weeks. I left school on Friday thinking I might have a good term.

Sadly, a tragedy struck our community a week ago, as a junior at our school died in a Saturday morning traffic accident. Many emails were sent over the weekend, and all staff was called into a meeting on Monday morning to discuss our role in dealing with the needs of our students.

It was a difficult week, to say the least. However, as upset as all of us may have been about losing a child from our community (even those of us who never knew the student), most of us personally contemplated how terrible it is for a family to lose someone so unexpectedly.

Overall, I think we, as a school community, did a tremendous job in response to this awful situation. The school really legitimized the student's reactions, offered ample opportunities for students and staff to deal with their emotions, and made the transition back toward "normal" as smoothly as a community can. However, this is something that will color our entire school year, as it most likely should be. And that will make this year difficult, at times, no doubt.

Meanwhile, Back At The Bourbon

Thursday, Monkey and I headed down to the Bourbon Theater to see one of our old favorites, Split Lip Rayfield, a former quartet (now a trio since the death of guitarist Kurt Rundstrom from esophageal cancer in 2007) of speed-picking Kansans. Opening for them was the more traditional local bluegrass quintet, triggertown.

After our first week of back to work, it was good to get out and see a show. And this was a good show to see. The openers are a good band. They harmonize beautifully, and they sound great. They personably entertained a crowd that took the dance floor at the foot of the stage in larger numbers as the set wore on. The crowd clearly knew and enjoyed the undercard.

SLR took the stage near eleven pm, which didn't bode well for Monkey and I on a school night, but, I honestly didn't mind. I had indulged in a nap after work, so, I felt pretty energized.

This was Monkey's and my first time seeing SLR since they had become a trio. For us, Kurt's absence was clear from the start. Not in the sound, so much, but in the energetic spirit of Kurt's performance. Which is not to say that the rest of the guys are lethargic, by any means, but Kurt just had a way of playing that was mesmerizing. His flaring eyes, his flailing arm, his occasional screams, his throw-himself-into-it-100%-all-the-time spirit added a certain extra joy to a Split Lip show. That wasn't there.

That said, the guys still kicked ass. They sounded great, they played tight, they worked the crowd. And, as I had heard they do, they dedicated the show (and every show they play) to Kurt.

They came back for two encore songs, finishing up with Monkey's favorite "Kiss of Death." This song always reminds me of myself in my earlier years: "I am the kiss of death / To cars / The kiss of death." Returning home safely in the early hours of Friday, I felt that warm hum in my head that only loud live music can provide. And those musical bees, dancing in the jar of my head, lulled me into sleep.

The Growing Season

It's time, ladies and gentlemen. The Great Beard Experiment of 2009-2010 has begun. The question is, what is this experiment setting out to prove?

Is it a test of my endurance? How long can I go without shaving? How much self-doubt can I consume as I stare into my furry face each day, asking if I am simply making a spectacular mockery of myself? How much time can I contemplate exactly what haircut should be matched with my ferocious facial attachment?

Or is it a test of Monkey's endurance? How many prickly kisses can she take? How many times can I press my damp chin whiskers to her cheek before she screams, "Enough!"?

Or is it less of an experiment, and more of an exhibition?

These, and countless other questions, can only be answered through more investigation, contemplation, and hirsute existentialism. Let the growing begin!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are, Part Six: The Scene of a Great Disaster

Our final hike of the Rocky Mountain National Park phase of summer vacation, was a seven mile round trip to Lawn Lake and back, mostly along the Roaring River. There was a good deal of elevation on this trip, and I recall feeling pretty beat after this last trip. I don't know if I was just having a bad day, or if this was some cumulative effect of daily hiking, but this trail kicked my butt!

The hike was worth it, however; as the scenery at Lawn Lake was awesome. It was a bit blustery up there, among the several surrounding peaks, but it was lovely sitting by a rock and munching a PB and J as the chilly winds whipped the lake. There were several fly fishermen around the shore, and one even caught a trout while we watched him in the distance.

At one time, Lawn Lake was once much larger than the lake by which we ate, since, at one time, it was dammed at filled the valley where we sat. About thirty years ago, the dam broke after some heavy weather, flooding the valley below, and covering downtown Estes Park in three feet of water. Tragically, several people lost their lives in this flood.

It is a reminder to all that, no matter how much we think we can harness nature, it will always have its way. We may want to dam rivers, but, without constant inspection, those dams will fail. We may want to create pristine wild areas, but truly pristine wild areas will contain predators that can harm us. We may wish to dwell among nature, but, along with the beauty, we have to accept the risks. Otherwise, we are simply riding a monorail through an amusement park.

Which is exactly how I prefer to see my bears.

I apologize for the dearth of pictures, but feel free to click back on Part One and follow the photo link from there (if you haven't already). I am tired, and I still have some work to do.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are, Part Five: The Bear Trap

The start of contract time has curtailed my blogging the past few days, but it is my intention to offer finish this multi part story as soon as possible, beginning today with the story of our hike to Lulu City, a former mining town that thrived for only four years in the mountains of Colorado before succumbing to the economics of the times and becoming a ghost town known mostly for its still-visible bear trap (of which, I neglected to take a photo--I didn't realize it was such a famous bear trap until afterward...hell, I didn't even know it was a bear trap, at the time, but, I digress).

The morning of this hike, we intended to mosey into Allenspark and eat at the wonderful Meadow Mountain Cafe. When we arrived, at exactly the time that they opened, we found the small parking lot full, and the small dining area fuller. Not wanting to wait too long for a table, some coffee, and some food, we decided to head into Estes Park for an alternate breakfast experience.

After a not-so-good-as-Meadow-Mountain-would-have-been breakfast, we drove over Rocky Mountain National Park's Trail Ridge Road, to find the Colorado River trail head, on the other side of the Continental Divide. This trail is relatively level, until the descent into/ascent out of the Lulu City site, and follows the Colorado River for a distance, revealing along the way several mine shaft sites, and the ruined cabins of the man who once owned the mines (I believe his name was Shipler). It was a nice trail through riparian wetlands and wild flowers. Earlier, one of the Ambassadors had purchased a book on RMNP wild flowers, so we had a fine time trying to identify some of the more common flora along the trail. Unfortunately, the wetlands also breeds some local mosquitoes, so we didn't stand still over the flowers for too long.

Once we arrived in the vicinity of Lulu City, we discovered that the only living inhabitants of the site are golden-mantled ground squirrels. We debated whether it was a good idea to feed the squirrels pumpkin seeds (we decided not to), and whether a golden-mantled ground squirrel was any match for a chainsaw beaver (of course, not). Most importantly, we found a beautiful river bank of stones in a river, upon which to have a mid-day snack. It truly was one of the more beautiful places we spent time (of course, there were many of those).

Of course, on our way back to the trail head, it rained. The only difference was that, today, everyone had adequate rain gear. Hooray! The backs of my pant legs did get awfully drenched, however. I think next time, I am toting my rain pants, as well. We stopped by the Ranger's Station after the hike, to get a last check on the weather, but it was not good news. The weather we had been having, we would continue to have, and that, we all decided, was not conducive to scaling any 14000 foot mountains. So, with disappointment, we scrubbed our Longs Peak hike for that trip.

That left us with a decision to make about our last hiking day in the area. Where would we hike? How far? How high? How early? We spent the evening, over dishes of not-very-good Tuscan bean soup (my fault), discussing our options.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are, Part Four: Oh, Hail, It's Hopelessly Raining!

Our next adventure took us into the town of Allenspark, where we would depart from the aptly named Allens Park trail head on an eight mile out and back hike to Finch Lake. Again, this morning, a mostly sunny sky turned mostly cloudy as we drove to the trail head, but all of our past hikes had been pretty decent (except that one), so we were not too worried.

We hiked a few hundred yards up into the park before noticing that a hummingbird was stalking one of our party. Red circles on her pack attracted the bird, and, despite the fact that it must have quickly discovered that there was no nectar in the pack, it made persistent strafing runs at her back and hovered for long seconds in her vicinity. The hummer also noticed a similar color on my pack, as it buzzed and hovered around me, as well. After a few minutes it realized the futility of its actions, and whizzed off to find some real sustenance.

We climbed on, through some lovely pines and aspens, eventually coming to an intersection known as "Confusion Crossing," where two trails meet in an X, with a wide central space. I am not sure what is so confusing about this crossing, since a) all four of the arms of the X are distinct, and b) there are clear signs delineating where each destination one might wish to wind up might be reached. At any rate, we had no problem finding our way beyond this ominously named nav point.

At the crossing, we ran into a troop of campers coming down from Finch Lake, our destination. We passed the time of day with them, particularly discussing the weather, since they were on a multi-day outing and had been dealing with the downpours directly and constantly. At least we had the comfort of our periodically powerless cabin to keep us dry. Leaving our trail brethren and sisteren behind, we proceeded farther along the trail, hoping that our discussion of rainy weather wouldn't jinx our hike.

Unfortunately, our hopes were not realized, as, withing minutes of our passing the trail junction, the skies began to drip. We put on our rain gear, but one of us was still unprepared. In a moment of selflessness and shared misery, one of our party gave his rain gear to the unprepared one, hoping that the rain would be light and short-lived. But, it didn't work out that way.

It rained, and then it rained hard. And then it hailed, and then it hailed hard. We took cover under a stand of trees, waiting out the storm. The hail subsided, we trekked on. The hail resumed. The hail intensified. We took cover again. The temperature dropped into the low fifties (I would guess). The wettest member of our party was feeling pretty cold. We waited for the storm to subside. It didn't.

This was a tough moment, since we estimated that we were only about a half mile from our destination, but the temperature and the hail and the driving rain prompted us to decide to scrap the hike for the day. We waited for an opportune moment to take a break for it.

Our wettest member lit out for the trail head. He plodded on, not waiting for the rest of the party, and waited in the car for everyone else's return. That evening, we were mostly bummed by the weather, our low internal temperatures, and the growing realization that Longs Peak would probably have to wait until next year.

However, as hopeful as ever, we discussed possible hikes for the next day: would we go for a challenge, a long, climbing hike? Or, would we take a warning from the recent weather and choose something more docile? We saved that decision for a brighter day ahead.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are, Part Three: Lost Mines

Our next two hikes were adventures of the highest order, in which the groups survival skills, organizational skills, and ability to sacrifice for the good of others were tested intensely.

A short hike to Lost Lake was our Tuesday hike of choice. We headed through the towns of Nederland and Eldora to the Hessie trail head. In reality, we didn't drive to the Hessie trail head. Instead, we parked along an unimproved road (precariously close to a significant drop off), and walked to the trail head, due to the destructive capabilities of those most industrious of rodents, the beaver (I will spare you the plot of our group's extemporaneously devised feature-length animated "film": Chainsaw Beavers).

Beaver dams had caused extensive flooding in the valley below, submerging the road for a length, and making the auto route impassable to all but those with the highest clearance and/or the most fool hardy. So, our two-mile trek was actually more like two-and-a-half, when all was said and done. And, to tell you the truth, the first quarter mile of the hike was made all the more beautiful by the flood waters of the beaver dams.

On the other side of the flooded road lay a wide open space, the ruins of what was once the town of Hessie. Apparently, the town was the headquarters of those who serviced the mines in the area. One of those mines was at the top of the trail we were about to travel. In the clearing, besides some lovely mariposa lilies, we found an abandoned well, and some foundations, but not much else.

We hiked in a generally upward direction (we gained about 800 feet on this hike), circling around a waterfall, and through some lovely wooded areas. As the trail finally crossed the falls, after a split in the trail, the walk got even more interesting, as the trail followed what seemed to be an old corduroy road, with old logs still lined across it. It is possible that this "artifact" of history has a more contemporary origin, but the idea that mule teams from the vanished town of Hessie below may have trod these same roads added a mythical quality to this part of our hike. Not to mention some more beautiful cascade views.

At about 9800 feet, we came upon Lost Lake. I stopped to take some pictures at the shore. When I was finished, the rest of my party was nowhere to be seen. I proceeded up the trail, expecting to find them around the next bend, enjoying some trail mix and taking a break, but that didn't happen. I walked completely along the shore trail, and didn't see anyone. I walked back, thinking maybe I missed them somewhere along the shore, but where? Finally, I walked back up the trail, stopping to walk down to the shore to several hidden spots. At one, I finally came across two-thirds of my mates, sitting on a rock and shooting the breeze, but where was our final member?

I'll admit, I was a little angry at this point, I maybe was a bit short with my compatriots, especially when they said they didn't know where our fourth was either. The three of us walked up the trail, to no avail. I sent them back to the end of the lake and told them I would be back with or without our fourth member, in twenty minutes.

I double timed it up the trail, arriving at an area we had spied from below earlier in the day. At the top of this portion of the trail, a gigantic field of mine debris was spread along the ridge. Visible from miles away, I was sure that our missing companion had come up here for a little exploration. Which he had. We stayed up top for a few minutes, taking pictures and poking around, before heading back down to reunite the party.

I was still not happy that we had gotten separated, but I was glad that we were all together again. The weather was again building as we crossed the beaver flood and climbed the road back to the car, so, we called it a day, went back to the cabin, showered up and headed down to Boulder for dinner. A nice visit to a hip town, but the most remarkable thing was the snow we drove through on the way home. It was a wacky weather trip.

I'll tell you all about our second "intense" hike, tomorrow.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are, Part Two: Marmots and Downpours and Bears, Oh My!

After some cereal at HQ, we headed for our first foray into Rocky Mountain National Park itself. We planned on hiking farther along the Glacier Gorge trail, where we had taken a short hike on our last day in Colorado, last year. Instead of Mills Lake, a two-plus-mile hike, where we ended in 2008, we planned to push on to Black Lake (and possibly beyond).

Like last year, this was one of the more beautiful hikes we took. It is hard to really assert that one hike is head and shoulders better than another, although last year's hike to Chasm Lake was a particularly magnificent experience, in many ways, the lakes, falls, and views of surrounding peaks in this area of the park are excessively breath-taking at times.

The beauty of Mills Lake was no surprise, having been there before, but the trail beyond was less crowded and equally magically. I fell behind the group on several occasions, taking pictures, or just marvelling at the sights. In addition, we had a close encounter, at one point, with one of the park's ubiquitous, and clearly unafraid (and misnamed) yellow-bellied marmots. We would encounter multiple marmots on this trip, as well as sightings of larger mammals that would trump this eight-pound rock chuck, but, at the time, we all enjoyed our brush with this distant relative of Mr. Chubbs.

At one point on our hike, we came to an open area, a rushing mountain stream beside it, where I had one of those often sensed moments of awe. My first thought, voiced to Monkey, was, this is where I want to live. It is a silly, impractical, and impossible thought, but, in those places of exquisite natural beauty, I sometimes wish to just lie down and stay forever. Instead, we all gathered for a timer-aided group photo.

On we climbed, pausing for a snack at the slightly mosquito-y Black Lake. Another fabulous alpine lake. Miles beyond, we might find Frozen Lake, and Italy Lake, but it was clear that the time of day and gathering weather would probably not allow for that. Instead, a detachment of our party climbed a steep trail alongside Black Lake's feeder stream, which fell some distance from the ridge above. At the top of the ridge, a bit of exploration revealed the impracticality of carrying on, but also introduced us to the not-too-distant beginnings of the rocky slopes leading up to Longs Peak.

At this point, some of us decided that we would try to attempt to scale Longs Peak at some point during the week, weather permitted. This sent waves of excitement (and not a little trepidation) through the group, considering that Longs is a challenging, but commonly attempted and scaled, climb to the top of Rocky Mountain National Park's highest peak (14259 feet).

So, with a forward-looking jaunt in our step, we proceeded back down the trail, toward our original departure point. As we approached Mills Lake, the skies opened up, and we trudged most of the remaining 2 and a half miles in a steady, and sometimes heavy, cold rain. One of our party's members was inadequately outfitted for such weather, and, while she remained stoic, was clearly not enjoying our final hour or so of descent. But, returning to the Penguin, we tried to make each other as comfortable as possible for the remainder of our trip back to HQ (which included a supply excursion into Estes Park).

As we four-wheeled our way up the unimproved road back to our powerless cabin, one of the most magical moments of our trip occurred. Mrs. Ambassador shouted "Stop!" I stopped the vehicle. "Back up," she said. Okay. We had just seen a beautiful orchard oriole at the base of the ridge, so I thought she might have spotted some other interesting bird. I backed up, looking into the yard of a cabin along the road. I didn't see anything. "More," she said. I rolled back a few more feet. There, standing on all fours beneath an array of bird feeders in the front yard of this cabin, was a medium-sized black bear! He stared at us. We stared at him. No one had a camera. Mrs. Ambassador scurried into the way back of the Penguin to get her camera. Just then, the bear turned and casually loped off over the hill. It was amazing, and I am glad we were in the car.

That evening, I kept one eye peeled as I grilled some burgers on the patio of the cabin. We were pretty far from where we sited the bear, and on the other side of a ridge, but I still felt just a little wary about any black bears smelling a juicy burger cooking. I mean, if you spend most of your time eating berries and bird seed, wouldn't a nice burger, followed by the chef, be a fulfilling diversion? I thought so. Lucky for me, Mr. Bear did not come calling.

Unfortunately, we never saw it again, the rest of the week. For those keeping track, that means that last year, Monkey got to see her moose on the Front Range, and this year, she got to see a bear. There is no conceivable way (currently) for her to see a whale there, so she will have to look elsewhere to fill her "Trinity of Wildlife Sightings," but two out of three ain't bad.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are, Part One: Biscuits, Gravy, and Wet Wilderness

It's finally update time! Been working on getting ready for school (teachers report on the 12th), including a meeting with a fellow teacher on American Lit curriculum, setting up my room--yeah, I am finally getting my own room--and attending a workshop today. Really, it feels like I have already reported for duty, it's just a lot quieter in the hallways. But, let's talk about happier times, like last week, when Monkey and I were spending the week in Colorado with the Ambassadors.

Our drive from Oregon to Colorado was relatively uneventful, save for a nice view of Snake River Canyon near our overnight Motel 6 in Twin Falls, Idaho. Monkey and I stopped for a quick visit with friends in Fort Collins (a very cool town, it seems), before proceeding through falling temperatures and down-pouring skies to Estes Park, where we rendezvoused with the Ambassadors in the parking lot of the local Safeway. Apparently, our cabin was far off the beaten path, and it was easier for them to lead us to it than give us directions.

And, it was. After an additional 25 minutes of driving, through Estes, past Allenspark, and nearly halfway to Boulder, we hung a left past the yellow intersection sign (either an upside down Y or a K with its arm cut off...never did settle that one), and proceeded carefully up a packed (but wet) dirt road, a mile and a half up one ridge and down another, before reaching the secluded cabin that we would spend a week in.

Before we got out of the car, our companions told us to wait until the generator was turned on. Generator? Yup. Our cabin, while not rustic by any means, was powered by a generator that could only be run for three hours at a clip (with a two hour pause in between). While this did not interfere with the operation of the propane gas stove or the propane powered refrigerator, it did leave us without power for all but the darkest hours, and precluded us from showering and flushing toilets during non-generator hours. Minor hardships, of course, most obvious at bed time, when, after the nightly ceremony of shutting down the power, Monkey and I read by the light of our electric halogen headlamps, before turning in. Monkey especially found this humorous.

After a good night's sleep, we rose early to head in to Allenspark for a Meadow Mountain Cafe breakfast. A quaint spot, with good food, the Meadow Mountain has become a favorite of ours (and has been a favorite of some for many years). I enjoyed my biscuits and gravy.

Breakfast consumed, we headed into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, rather than Rocky Mountain National Park, itself, to enjoy a hike along Lake Isabella and up to Isabella Glacier. The skies were gray as we arrived at the parking lot, but we were up and off in good spirits. At a trail junction, where we crossed a small stream, I was pleased to get a close-up look at some ruby-crowned kinglets bathing in a small rivulet.

Unfortunately, along the trail, I became dizzily aware that I was still acclimating to the altitude. We started the hike at about 10000 feet and climbed to over 12, and I was pretty woozy for much of it, but, I was digging the trail so much, I simply walked on. After this first hike, I was good for the remainder of the trip.

Also unfortunately, we didn't quite make it to the glacier. As we climbed to the vicinity of our hike's terminus, scrambling over rocks and gingerly sloshing (can one gingerly slosh?) through snow melt streams, a bank of clouds came menacingly over the ridge before us. We were in pretty open territory, so we decided to call it a hike. On our return, the rain followed us down, falling on us intermittently, but never dampening our spirits.

For more photos (including adventures not yet revealed), click here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Pictures of the Past

Since I had no way to upload pictures this past fortnight, I thought I would make my first post since my return to Cornopolis a retrospective of photos from previously mentioned excursions. After this, stay tuned for fresh entries, updating you on all of the goings on in Rocky Mountain National Park and beyond.

First photo: The Goorjian-Duh-Dillon Chicken Coop. Word on the street is that the four chickens who now call this home are pleasantly adapting. No word on egg production.

Second photo: The beach north of Heceta Head, where Monkey and I started our first Coastal hike. The fog was a constant companion on this day.

Third photo: Monkey and I in a self-portrait taken on the roots of a massive tree on Nelson's Ridge, where our hike was again accompanied by fog.

Fourth photo: The excellent view of the Three Sisters from the fire lookout on Ollalie Mountain. Definitely the best hike of the week for us.

Stay tuned for more adventures from Summer Vacation, Final Stage.

And, for more photos of our Oregon trip, click here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer Vacation Stage 3: The Final Hours Elapse (Part Three)

So, now we are up to yesterday. We woke up early, had a bagel and a cup of coffee in hand by 6:30, and were east-bound on Highway 126. Our destination was just east of Blue River, Oregon: Ollalie Mountain Trail.

We arrived by 8:30, after 14 miles on a gravel road that mostly went up. It was a much wider gravel road than the one we drove Tuesday, but it seemed just as infrequently used. At the trail head, one guy in an ancient Land Rover was cooking breakfast. He seemed not to want to be disturbed, which was great, because I didn't want to disturb him. Monkey and I got our shoes on, swung our pack up, and hit the trail.

The first mile and a half of hiking was nice. Some good elevation gains, some picturesque bear grass. The only drawback was the ubiquitous Cascades mosquitoes. They are heinous in the summertime, but, as long as we kept a good pace and frequently re-dosed with OFF!, we were okay. The problems began after the two-mile mark, where we expected to find a trail marker and a right-bearing trail. After three miles, we realized we had made an error. We came to a downed tree (one of many) and beyond that, we saw the trail, flat and running through a meadow, seem to peter out. We decided to turn around, since we were supposed to be climbing a mountain, and we hadn't gained more than ten feet in the past mile and a half.

A mile back up the trail, we found our mistake, as the trail did jog off to the right, but was poorly marked by a tiny sign about ten feet off the trail that had weathered to the same gray color as the dead, bark-less tree it was nailed to. So, with little comment but a shrug, we headed up the way we should have in the first place. A friend of mine always says, "Sometimes, you have to get off the trail to get on the trail." I think that is terrible advice, but, in this case, that seems to be exactly what we had done.

We knew we were on the right trail, now, since we immediately began to gain elevation. Before long, we were switching back through a meadow, huffing, puffing, sweating, and loving it. As we reached the summit, the trail swung halfway around the mountain, providing us with great views of the western valley and magnificent views of the summits to the east and north, the Sisters and Mount Jefferson. However, the view from the summit was worth every errant step we had taken: a nearly panoramic view from nearly 6000 feet of the surrounding Willamette National Forest.

A weathered lookout shack still stands at this summit, along with the remnants of a concrete helipad. This used to be a fire lookout, and a spectacular lookout it was. the shack is cinched closed with a wire and tension strap that keeps the shutters over the still-intact glass windows and the door, but campers sometimes unleash the strap and spend an evening on the mountain top. It must be a wonderful place to wake in the morning, and, save for the normal wear of time gone by with no maintenance, the shack is in pretty decent shape. Maybe some other time, we might choose to wake up on this gorgeous summit.

Summer Vacation Stage 3: The Final Hours Elapse (Part Two)

Tuesday, banking on a sweet weather forecast, Monkey and I headed back to the coast. Unfortunately, the weather was just about the same as the day before, with the coastal range socked in by a heavy fog bank. No matter, however; while this might preclude any spectacular vistas, we still had cool and pleasant weather for hiking.

This day, we had chosen the Cape Mountain area for an eight-mile loop. We were challenged right away on this trail (before we even got to the trail head), as the drive up was on a treacherously narrow gravel road. Lucky for us, it appears that not many folks frequent this trail, so we saw no one on our drive up.

The trail is meant for man and beast, and the first leg of our hike, on the Princess Tasha Trail, is named after a particular perished rider's favorite horse. We didn't see man or beast on this entire trail, however--unless you count the several garter snakes and lizards we encountered. Overall, this trail had a lot of elevation gain (and loss and re-gain), which is something Monkey and I both look for in a hike (which is HARD to find in Nebraska), but it was not very spectacular. Honestly, for me, the coolest part of the trail (besides the always lovely stream crossing) was the snakes and lizards (and some odd white plant that seemed to be unfolding itself from the soil before my very eyes, but Monkey thinks I was hallucinating--a flashback?).

At the end of the day, ruminating over our PB and J, we decided that tomorrow's hike, in the Cascades, would be the best of our week.

Summer Vacation Stage 3: The Final Hours Elapse (Part One)

Let's call our trip east Stage One, our foray to CoMO (as short as it was), Stage Two, and this, our current experience in the Beaver State, Stage Three. I sit here, a Rogue Brutal Bitter at my elbow, as the hours in Eugene tick down. Early tomorrow, we will be heading back east, stopping overnight in Twin Falls, Idaho, before continuing on to a short visit with friends (Suh-weet and Queen of Spades, if you recall) in Fort Collins, and then a week's stay with the Ambassadors in Allenspark. I don't know what kind of connectivity we may have once we leave the relative civilization of Eugene, so these my be my last posts this month. We shall see.

Needless to say, this has been a wonderful visit, between seeing old and dear friends, attending a great concert, quaffing some tasty adult beverages (two favorites: Widmer's Belgian Style Ale and Bridgeport's Black Strap Stout), and hitting some longed-for mountain trails, my stay in Oregon will only be topped by the time soon spent in Colorado, I bet. Let me catch you up.

Monday, Monkey and I drove to the coast for a hike around Heceta Head. Monkey and I had been there before, back in 2005, but we hadn't hiked this particular trail. We started in the fog-bound morning, hiking from a day use area, along the beach for a mile or so. It was magical, walking on the beach, which is so different from the East Coast beaches I am used to. The beaches here are much longer from dune to surf, the dunes are much bigger, the flotsam and jetsam at the water's edge is different, and, well, it is almost always (in my short experience) foggy as hell. We could barely see to the breakers from the water's edge, really. It was so foggy that we almost missed the turn off from the beach, up the brush-covered fore dune, to the Hobbit Trail.

We scampered up the trail, and ascended about five hundred feet (maybe more) through foggy, cool, mossy rain forest. At the lighthouse, we paused for a snack, and to look at the Brandt's cormorants and gulls on Parrot Rock. I've seen guillemots and muirs here, too, but, with no binoculars and low visibility, it was hard to make out much. From the lighthouse (the last built on the Oregon coast, by the way), we doubled back on the trail, and then crossed Highway 101, over to the Valley Trail, which was made more daunting than its name implies by the "Cougar Sighting" sign at the trail head.

But, the sign didn't have a date on it, so we didn't know if a cougar was sighted any time recently, or if they just put these signs up because cougars might be in the area. At any rate, I did spend some time on the trail trying to devise a suitable escape plan, should a cougar attack, but the only plan I could devise involved self-sacrifice, and me yelling "Run!" at Monkey. Not much of a survivable scenario there.

The cougar preoccupation notwithstanding, the east side of the highway was beautiful. Lush, green, dotted with foxglove and other flowers. The short loop around the creek was particularly pleasant. Having traversed back to the north, we crossed the highway again, and headed back to our vehicle. The last hundred yards of the trail, a dense canopy of moss-covered pines, twisted and bent into surreal positions, prompted Monkey to wax fittingly poetic, as she said, "It looks like Dr. Seuss in here." And at that moment, I could just imagine the Lorax hopping out from behind a tree.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fanning the Embers of Love

I will apologize for the lack of photos. We've taken a few, but I left the USB connector at home, so they'll just have to wait.

Portland this past weekend was much fun. A great lunch at Ping on Friday (followed by a better dinner at Toro Bravo) was made even better by the company. The concert on Saturday was pretty good. I am not a huge Andrew Bird fan, and, after Saturday night, I am still not, but, well, the man can whistle and loop multiple tracks like nobody's business. The Decemberists, on the other hand, well...!

This was my third opportunity to see Portland's favorite lit-rock collective. My first chance was a dynamite Blue Note show with Okkervil River opening. I fell in love with both of those bands that night. My second visit with Colin Melloy and his cronies was, again, at the Blue Note, during the Picaresque tour, and, honestly, I was a little disappointed. Unfortunately, I can not put my finger on exactly why, but no matter. The outdoor venue in Troutdale, OR, where we saw the band this time was easily bigger than the Blue Note. Hell, it was as big as all outdoors! And we were not close. I really thought that, by night's end, I would have thrown over my years-long love affair with a band with the best vocabulary since REM (my bias might be showing on this one). Boy was I wrong. Joined by Becky Starr of Lavender Diamond and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond (two diamonds--go figure), the band came out and played their new recording, the song cycle (I don't know what to call it) The Hazards of Love in its entirety. That alone is impressive--an hour plus of rocking and cooing, of belting and crooning, with nary a break.

They left the stage afterward and soon returned to play another forty five minutes of older tunes, from "July! July!" and "Billy Liar" to "O Valencia!" The additional female vocalists returned for a spot-on cover of Heart's "Coming Straight On For You," before the band called it a set. Of course, they had an encore in them, The Crane Wife's "Sons and Daughters," through which the audience was challenged to keep a message in its heart: the song's ending refrain: "Hear all the bombs fade away...."

As Monkey and I navigated our way back to our friends' house in Portland, I was filled with the satisfaction of knowing my love for Colin and company was safe, and that I had found a new fascination in the powerful vocal work of Shara Worden. This women can belt out a tune. My Brightest Diamond is going to get a long hard look from me.

As if that weren't enough, I got to spend some of Sunday helping in the construction of a chicken coop. How's that for living vicariously?

Stay tuned for news of today's hike along the fog-bound coast around Heceta Head.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Coming at you From the Left Side

Greetings from Eugene, OR!

Arrived yesterday afternoon after a relatively uneventful flight (except for the part where that four year old spilled water all over me, but it was only water--no big deal). After a short tour of our digs, Monkey and I met a couple of acquaintances for dinner at Bepe and Gianni's, a pretty nice Italian restaurant here in town. By 9 pm, I was feeling pretty sleepy, after an early wake up, a long day travelling, the two hour time difference, a handful of dramamine, a plate of ravioli in a bechamel, and one (yes, only one) glass of wine. By 9:30, I was sawing logs.

Today, an early run (so much cooler and less humid than NE) and then we're off for more visiting of old friends in Corvallis, just north of here. Tomorrow, we're off to Portland for more visiting, and Saturday, Andrew Bird and the Decemberists on their home turf. Should be spectacular. I will keep you posted!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Slow Roll at the Top of the Backside

Does this sound simple?
--Sonic Youth, "The Sprawl"

A short breather at Monkey House Nebraska before heading to the Pacific Northwest and then the Rocky Mountains. I am psyched to get out of the flatland and into the mountains, and, of course, I really can't wait to see Monkey again (she's been away since the second (it seems so much longer)), but I am also starting to feel that "the end is near" feeling, and I am getting a bit melancholy about that. So far, this has been a good summer, relaxing, adventurous, and I expect it to get even better tomorrow, when I touch down in Portland. However, it seems that we've reached that point that we reach every year, and, each time I look at the calendar, I think, "Wow, I need to get ready for school." Is it a guilt factor, growing from having too much time without a work schedule? Is it a natural function of comparing the list of "planned to do" and the list of "actually done" and discovering that one list far outpaces the other? Or, is it a more deep-seated, Freudian fear, one in which, when I see the calendar move to mid-July, I think, "Ugh, only a few more weeks, and my mom's gonna make my brother and me wear matching denim pant suits to school on the first day...again!"

These are, of course, rhetorical questions. Just the pondering of an (occasionally) over-reflective neurotic. Feel free to discuss them amongst your friends, if you have little else to do. Otherwise, take them for what they are: further evidence of the complicated psychological cartwheeling that this boy imposes upon himself (subconsciously), on a semi-regular basis.