Monthly Archives: July 2014

Detour: Preparation for an Adventure

When preparing for an adventure in a dry, hot climate you need plenty of water and everything else is secondary.

I take a five minute shower. Actually first I turn on the record of Mozart that’s just under fifteen minutes on one side and enough time to prepare for my adventure.

I grab everything there is to take in my little black beetle I christened Selina Kyle. The camelback first. Fill it with water. Fill the Nalgene with water and ice cubes. Grab the purse with the money and cards.

Socks, shoes, shorts, one layer for cold that is absolutely unnecessary but good preparation.

Rinse out the morning cup of coffee and plates from last night. NO more mice need any incentive to stick around but too much time cleaning in the kitchen and it will be noon and sticky hot and hard to get in the sauna that is Selina Kyle so just rinse and pack and get out of there.

Don’t forget sunglasses, binoculars, compass, all the water, extra kick around shoes great for dust, the mango flavored kombucha for energy, a vitamin B12, extra socks because of all the stickers in the hills, camera if you are into that, sunhat (a necessity really), glasses because you stare at a cell phone too much, sunscreen, lotion, one of your blades just because, dog food (if you have a dog), a cell phone, and a book (because one should always have a book).

These are the important things. Everything else is optional, like pants. The record is over. Get out and explore.

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Murphys Pt 6

There are levels of problems. I think I worry a lot but only to a limit for primarily no more than 2-3 things at a time. When I was in the bay area it was sometimes more than this because you think you have all you want to worry about and then something unexpected happens. I hate surprises and there were always surprises there that in time led to my decision to come out here to the middle of nowhere.

Some of these things were little things, like not being able to find parking at Trader Joes or taking up smoking again and all of the consequences involved in that and the look my dad gave me when he found out and reminded me that my grandpa’s last words were asking for a cigarette.

Some of these things were bigger, like the DUI, and the near fatal accident that caused it, and the crazy lady craigslist move into the city, and the mugger in Berkeley and alcoholic neighbors in Oakland.

Some things were continuous. The traffic. The Alpha type A personality people and the lack of sincere friendships. Maybe it was me. Maybe I couldn’t hold down to a friendships because I was too wrapped up in my own problems. And the effort involved in seeking and holding onto a friendship wasn’t ever inspired there. The first month in the bay area and I had run from the farm and used the money mom wired me to find that little basement apartment with the manic depressive girl. The first month I was unstoppable and exhilarated to be free, so I got a job and befriended the creative artsy girl and soon after walked around Halloween night with a cute coworker who was also a Triathlete at Cal and had pretty eyes. I became close to both of them and just as soon as it started it was over. She was jealous and flighty, as I learned most of my artist friends were, and he had a girlfriend abroad who would be back in December. So it was over by the end of autumn and I never carved out any potential long-term friendships after that. Just acquaintances and small gestures of affiliation like a concert here or a one night stand there. It wasn’t always by choice and I’ll probably talk about that more later.

But back to these problems and how I tried to leave them behind and remain in the bay area. The last year of grad school I moved to the north bay, at the foot of Mount Tam and only a 40 minutee drive from the ocean and the redwoods. I could hike and explore. I could park without too many problems. It seemed like the perfect solution and the weather, though one of the driest years recorded in California, seemed closer to how I remembered it in Oregon with mist and fog. The only snag was the price of everything, from rent to food to gas. I couldn’t afford it and so I graduated and I came here for $1 a month. The parking is even more incredible here. I can park anywhere I want, within reason, and only once have I seen a sign for $3 parking and that was for the Fourth of July when the town park played free music and had a fireworks show I could see and hear from my hilltop on Saturday night, the day after the 4th.

The land here isn’t covered in mist and fog. It’s dry dry dry. They said a dry year, watch your water usage, and I see signs of this everywhere. Yesterday the soil around my camping chairs in front of the house started smoking. It was literally turning black and smoking. I couldn’t figure out what it was from or the accompanying smell that reminded me of toxins we’d studied in safety class at the beginning of entering my fine arts school. Here was a little black spot next to another little black spot mysteriously starting to catch fire and I grabbed the hose behind the house and soaked the whole front lawn down. And by lawn I mean patches of gold grass I’ve been watering morning and night since no one is here to scold my water usage and I want a garden. The black spots blended in to the rest of the soil, and everything turned a dark brown but I couldn’t figure out what the smell and smoking was caused from, and now I have a little problem with only a couple of hypotheticals. Is it from the two stumps I brought from my MFA exhibit? The dark spots were near enough one of the stumps and so maybe it has chemicals on it. I found them in a junk yard after all. The other idea was that it might be something already buried in the ground, but if that is the case, and this is the second time the soil has smoked, then I am in trouble. I’ll have to be near most of the time just in case it happens again and I need to hose it down. I’m not sure if this is a big problem or a little one. It seems like a big one but that’s only in relation to the lack of problems I have here, which are this, a problem receiving my mail, and the problem of knowing no one and doing nothing social, which are both problems I can fix if I just go out and do something about them. The latter, regarding mail, I’m working on. The former, regarding people, I will get to when I’m sufficiently tired of being alone, but with a dog and cat seeking other accompany and the problems they could initiate seems unnecessary.

It’s early and the sun isn’t out with full form yet, so this could be a good day to drive to Yosemite. The drive would be about the distance it used to take me from Eugene to Portland, and with less traffic and more winding roads. I fill up my camelback and nalgene, and a ziploc bag of dog food. I’m still debating between that and watching the tour de france in England online. Each morning is a decision like this- remain on the hilltop and do little rings, or go out and explore new unknown things. I think today I will explore. Every other day seems to be good for an exploration. The sky is still calm and the rooster down the hill is still sleeping (I think it doesn’t come out until the heat is unbearable) and a humming bird is occasionally dropping by my cup of coffee as if asking for a taste. My dog is grumbling at every little noise and the mouse is still hiding in a corner of the house ignoring my death bucket of water and peanut butter held by chopsticks

If you are quiet and sitting right at the edge of the hilltop looking over Murphys, you can hear the clouds moving. I’m not sure if it’s the clouds or if it’s traffic or a plane in the distance near Columbia, but I always assume naturally that it’s clouds, and they’re rumbling in the distance, and that maybe it will rain and it will be the greatest welcome surprise of all.

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Detour: Gold.

Here I am in Calaveras County. Mark Twain talked about frogs but he really spent his time here to dig for gold. Here I am, in old Gold Country and I’m broke. Now that’s not fair. I bought a pan and I only used it once in Columbia. So it’s my laziness and ignorance.

Gold fever! That’s why anyone moved out here in the first place. Not me but the people before me, and many people still who buy expensive equipment and set out on logging roads and into the creeks and sides of private property. I’m afraid I’ll run into a meth trailer, get shot by a farmer. The precious metal. The commodity. The mineral. I’m afraid I’ll be bitten by a rattle snake, or fall over front he heat and dehydration. A symbol of power, wealth and success. The initiator of expeditions and wars. The provoker of lust and greed. Gold. Do you know how you pan for gold? The simplest method is to scoop up the minerals and soil on the river bed, and swish water around in such a matter as to even out the minerals inside so that the heaviest fall to the bottom of the pan, the heaviest being gold. Then when you slowly dip water and dirt and minerals out of the pan you won’t lose the important ones, being garnets and peridot, and then the heaviest of all, the gold and potentially even silver. This land is still seeping with gold and other minerals, but less people care about them, or talk about it. Most of the mines have closed except for a hand full. The leftovers are people working in forestry and service industry and tourism, and heading out with a few supplies on the weekends and early mornings before the sun and druggies arise. I bought a lottery ticket. Maybe I should spend less time writing bullshit online and buying lottery tickets and more time digging for gold.

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Murphys Pt 5

I have been here a couple of weeks now. Yesterday I hiked the Arnold Rim Trail. Beforehand I went to the logging museum at the foot of the trail and two older women, probably in their eighties, insisted I volunteer as a docent. I apologized, said I’d love to do something like that, but I had to find a job first. They weren’t hiring. Of course, they insisted I volunteer so I could forge connections but it just sounded like time I should be spending doing something else.

There’s a mouse in my house. There’s a lazy cat at my feet. My skin is dry and sunburnt. I almost went to Twelfth Night at a local vineyard but I didn’t want to go alone. I asked the lady in the trailer but she didn’t have any money, and she just returned from Fourth of July at the farm where she also went to a horse race and saw John’s horse come in second. I love horse racing. They didn’t invite me because I’m “not wanted on the farm”. I asked my mom why and she said she just knew that and nothing else but I don’t need anyone to tell me it’s because John thinks I’m negative and lost. To him only marketable trades are anything more than hobbies and wastes of time. Photography and writing from me are to him as pointless as an online degree or a trip to Florida. I think he considers everything I’m passionate about as a pure of waste of time, and honestly I don’t know what he thinks. Maybe he is bitter I ever fought against his direction four years ago when I was turned from Portland to empty promises on the east coast. Either way, we will never see eye to eye and he doesn’t want me there because of this misunderstanding. I hate being dependent on ignorant people. I hate being in a culture that prizes business over art, and where art often is only a business. And by art I mean art, and literature, and science, and anything that is rarely considered worthy of someone’s time if it is not first and foremost marketable.

There is this little town fifteen miles from Murphys called Copperopolis. It had a new town square built a mile from the old town square about a decade ago, and then no one could afford to continue funding it so half of the buildings are deserted. It still looks like a scene out of Pleasantville, with Mariash Carey playing out of the loudspeakers in the little dog park in the middle, a lively BBQ grill, and coffee shop where couples watch soccer and drink Coronas to get away front he ninety degree heat. The old town square is a shabby saloon with a brick arch across the street, a cubicle size post office and a small garden and flower shop. I marked it off my list of towns to visit. This time I had tacos on special at the coffee shop, ate them as fast as I could in the scorching patio with my dog, and then left. That’s when I first went over to Arnold and the logging museum, an extravagant log cabin of small dioramas of logging equipment and old photographs and life-size models. I read beside Arnold Lake and tried to relax but honestly the heat continually turns me catatonic and I just want to sit inside under the fan and scratch my dry skin and drink ice water. Someone on Instagram says “yes, but it is dry heat”. Oh shut up. I grew up in moist eastern Texas, and I know the difference, it doesn’t make this dry, waterless 90-100 degree weather any less unbearable. I keep a close eye on my dog to keep her hydrated but also to gauge the heat. She insists on being carried through parts of the Arnold Rim Trail, the pebbles to hot on her paws. Her tongue flashing in and out of her mouth and eyes staring up at me like she’s stoned. So there it is, my proof that this catatonic feeling is vindicated.

I love the night though. It’s still warm but relaxing. The sky fades from peach to mango to light graying blue and the moon shines bright, followed by Mars and a few stars and then the sky is one giant IMAX movie, shifting slowly to my right as the earth spins left and I stare up at it connecting stars from my space app, and listening to the owls and coyotes. This is the best part of the day. The night. I don’t know if anyone is ever going to respond to my job applications, or if I’ll ever have a real job. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just not suited for anything serious. Maybe no one can take me seriously enough for a career, and it’s apparent even over a resume. However, these things matter less when it is late and everyone is asleep and the temperature is perfect and space is almost within reach.

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