Crap, Diapers Are EXPENSIVE!

Okay, so I’ve started to slack on the posts a bit (again).

*Sigh*

I do have a good excuse this time, however.  I’ve been spending as much of my time as I can planning and preparing for a new venture that I’ve hinted at in previous posts.  Now, before I describe that venture, let me offer a bit background info…

Those of you who have read this blog for a bit now are aware that I simply cannot write at home.  For those who are new(ish) here, let me say this by way of explanation: When I put myself in a quiet, solo environment, I can do a lot of things.  Some of those things are even mentionable in polite company.    They do not, however, include fiction writing.  Whenever I try to write at home, that quiet, private space is very much reflected in the mood and tone of what I produce.  When I write at home, I end up with material that is introspective, reflective, and generally far more influenced by my personal black dog than is good for me (or anyone else).

I know, I know…a lot of folks find it surprising that a writer can’t write when it is quiet and private.  I mean, just how counter-intuitive can you get?  Okay, so maybe that environment is conducive to writing, but that would be for a completely different person, and different kind of writer, than me.  For me…

For me, I need life and activity.  When you get right down to it, I need people around me — I need to feel in contact with the real world — if I want my characters and scenes to be anything close to what I originally envisioned when I planned them.

Now, like most writers, I do a fair bit of work in coffee shops.  That work, however, is usually the planning and editing of my pieces; the actual writing part of writing, I do in taprooms.  That’s it, that’s my personal rule.  Put me in the corner, surrounded by my fellow drinkers, with a beer at my elbow and my earbuds blaring directly into my skull, and I’m the happiest writer in the world*.  I am also, more importantly, at my most creative and productive.

*Err…even if I have tears in my eyes from what I’m writing, I’m happy…I’m just happy on the inside!

Err…writing, in a taproom?  Isn’t that loud and obnoxious?  Isn’t that kinda, well, distracting?

Yes.  Yes it is.  And that’s the point.

Hey, remember that dissonance thing I’ve talked a couple of times?  The heart of my stories — just like the heart of who I am as a person and a writer — lies completely inside that dissonance.  Intellectual dissonance; emotional dissonance; cognitive dissonance, it’s all there, and it’s all important.  Hell, there’s even quite a bit of social freaking dissonance; I mean, c’mon, how else do you find a semi-recluse misanthrope who has to be around people to be creative and productive?!

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that a good taproom — like a good pub — is one of my absolute favorite places in the entire world.

Well, that love of taprooms went and got drunk.  It got drunk, then it got all funky and passionate with my compulsion to do the most random and unexpected things.  A few months later, the inevitable happened…

It wasn’t the easiest birth in the world, but that baby is finally in my arms, shitting and puking all over the place.  I am, in other words, the proud proprietor of an infant taproom of my very own.

Oh, it ain’t ready for the world, not yet, so don’t get yourself all geeked up.  In a year or so, however, when it is solidly into toddlerdom — and has been toilet-trained — then I’ll officially introduce it to y’all.  Just watch out for your shoes; those baby taprooms can be pretty messy, you know!

For now, if you’re anywhere near Michigan’s thumb coast, maybe I’ll let you play with the little tyke a bit…

Forgive the crappy picture — its my cellphone, and I was in a hurry!

{Musical Note — I just like the song…and it kinda fits the mood}

Random Thoughts: Us Versus Them

I was listening to a program this morning as I drove around on some errands.  It was a program about whales in general, and specifically about an upcoming film “featuring” one whale in particular: the 52-hertz whale (also called “the loneliest whale”).

Now, I’m not going to get into the story of that particular whale, no matter how fascinating the diversion between the actual science/research, and the emotive storytelling that has sprung up around him.*

*Yes, it is in fact a him — apparently, it is the male whales who sing, not all whales.  I did not really know that until the marine biologist on the program brought it up.

No, what I keyed in on as I listened — and what spurred me to ignore the business & planning stuff I should be doing in favor of typing away at this while I sip a beer in the sun — was a couple of specific observations.  Those observations I found, as both a writer and someone who has been fully immersed in the wilds, to be thought-provoking and well worth a bit of stream-of-consciousness exploration.

**Pointless Irony Alert!!**  There’s something, erm, kinda wrong about eating a bowl of poke while writing about the most impressive and amazing of sea-critters…

First off was a one-liner that I love: we humans are self-obsessed, we can’t help but anthropomorphism everything else.  The anthropomorphizing thing I’ve talked about on this blog before, but I absolutely love tying it back to our self-absorption as a species.  We are, to ourselves, quite literally the only things that matter in the universe.  Now, before you start yelling at me, please understand that I do realize just how overly broad and simplistic is that statement.  I realize all of that, and I still wrote it, so stop yelling!

Believe me, the intellectual dissonance in that line, and my own outlook on the universe, is a thought I could explore for…oh…at least a few thousand words.  The key thing to remember is that we humans, when you press us back to our most basic instincts and drives, cannot stop ourselves from resorting to, well, let’s call it tribalism for the moment.  By tribalism, I mean that instinct and drive of ours to divide the universe into us and them.  That instinct, by the way, is always there, no matter how we try to suppress it.  As soon as any group of ours grows to three or more, you can count on the fact that there is at least some element of us-versus-them.

That us and them leads directly to the second observation that I liked: we cannot — and do not — even begin to appreciate the wonders of the world, and animals in particular, until we have at least some form of personal experience with them.

Let me put some perspective around that thought.  You all know how I have spent the last several years.  I have been inside grizzly and wolf dens.  I have been eye-to-eye with a bear just feet away.  I have watched a wolf pack take down prey just yards away.  I have smelled the breath of a curious bison.  Nature and I, to put it mildly, have developed something of a romance, and that romance has given me opportunities and experiences that only a few (modern day) humans have shared.  On the other hand, I have had, in my own sense of pride and accomplishment — in my own sense of us versus them — a certain amount of contempt for those whose only experience of the same animals is through a spotting scope deployed on the side on the side of the road.

It is fair to say, however, that 90% or more of those who visit Yellowstone, and use binoculars or scopes or cameras to view the wildlife, have never before scene those animals anywhere but on a TV screen.  And very, very few can leave that park without a certain sense of attachment to — and fondness for — the animals they finally got to see in person.

In my YNP days, I led groups of visitors out into the night to listen to the howling of the wolf packs.  There is nothing more powerful, by the way, than to sit under the light of just the stars and listen to those powerful, primal calls.  To listen to that music.  It gives me — still! — the chills to think about it.  I can close my eyes and see the stars, hear the cries…

So what if none of those who sit on the side of the road and watch a mother grizzly teach her cubs to forage and hunt can describe just what a mother smells like?  Does that make their experience any less powerful?  Or any less important?  No, it does not.  Those folks have had their own magical experience.  They have watched a massive apex predator treat her young with all the motherly care, and all the urge to teach them to grow up “right”, that we would expect from a young human woman.  If they are lucky, they have seen, even, those “kids” play and horse around just as would any pair of young humans.

I can tell you, from thousands of conversations over the years, that those experiences change folks.  It is very hard to advocate for the uncontrolled hunting and slaughter of animals that you have stared at in real-world awe and admiration.*  And that is a good thing.  That is, in fact, the very heart of the reason for America’s national parks: To give folks that exposure to nature — to the wild and beautiful places, and to the wildlife — that they would never otherwise have.

*I’ll skip over the exceptions here…and they (sadly) do exist.  There are those few who live and work on the borders of Yellowstone, and even within the park itself, who still would eagerly hunt and kill every single wolf in North America.  Since they all were/are hardcore Q-Anon/Trumpistas, I get to write them off as the nutjobs they truly are.

If you truly want, you can find backcountry guides who will take you to places you should not go.  Just are there are guides on the water, and in the mountains, and on the tundra, who will work only for their own benefit, without care for the animals they exploit.  Those who will use chase-boats to herd whales or dolphins into tight areas, and trap them there, so high-paying tourists can “switch with them”.  Just are there are those who will take you to wolf den while the pups are still unable to leave.  And those who will leave out drugged bait so you can “just happen across” a somnolent polar bear.

That is, unfortunately, one of the dark-side effects of us-versus-them: Our penchant to abuse and exploit them because only us truly matter.  You see it in our society and culture; you see it in our politics; you see it in every single thing we do.  And that is the bitter part of bittersweet, the inevitable cost.  The experience of nature and wildlife can be — and very often is — life-changing to many folks, but we have to always be mindful of the cost.

When the wolves are gone, we change the world.  We not only change the ecosystem, we lose something unique and beautiful from the world.

When the whales are gone, we will lose a piece of our souls.  Listen to their songs, watch their stately movements, and remember this final thought:

For all the power and majesty of nature’s wonders; for all the size and intelligence of the whale; for all the soul-touching sounds of the wolf; for all the wily creativity of the bear; they live on our sufferance.  A whale — or a bear, or a wolf — can kill a single human with no trouble.  Just trust me on that one, I know very well and very personally.  But we humans, in our numbers, and with our technology, can wipe out their entire species without even intending to.

{Musical Note — is this song the best fit?  Probably not, but I’ve been looking for an excuse to use something from these guys for a long time now…}

The Feds Are Limboing

I’ve been pretty hard on Trump, and his Trumpista enablers, on this blog.  Anyone who has read more than a handful of posts is pretty aware of where I stand on that particular issue: no party or movement that pins the love, protection and future of the United States on one very flawed man — a man who views that darned democracy-thing as a bug rather than a feature — should ever again be taken seriously.

That, however, does not let the other side off the hook.

Hooboy, does it not let them off the hook.

“Knocking on the door has never been against the law. You don’t have to answer, but we hope you do so we can help dispel some of those rumors that you’ve heard and hopefully get you vaccinated.”

Uhh…

What the ever-living fuck?!

That is one of the most chilling statements to come out of the mouth of a high-ranking US government official (Xavier Bacerra) in our nation’s history.

You don’t have to answer the door…to the federal goddamned government?  Yeah, right.  Just try not answering the door, and let’s see how that goes for you.  The no-knock warrant and avalanche of black-clad pseudo-commandos will be about five minutes behind your “voluntary refusal” to open the door to the Feds.*

*Hi, Libertarian Party!  Can you stop being a joke and start actually accomplishing…well…anything?  That’d be great right about now.  Thanks.

Look, there is no doubt that I took/take this pandemic seriously.  I have spent too much time and effort studying the Black Death, and its impact on medieval Europe, to do otherwise.  And I’m not talking so much about the death toll as about the massive social, cultural and economic upheaval that came as a result.  Pandemics — whether we’re talking about the bubonic plague, or Spanish Flu, or the insidious rise of PBR and other shit beers — always, always, always re-make the societies in which they occur.  The crises that come as a result of the disease have more power, and cause more change, than at any other possible time.  And, yes, it is a case of fate and the universe kicking a society when it is down…

While it is still too early to really define the impacts COVID will have on our own society, some shapes are starting to emerge from the shadows.  The worst of those shapes, so far, is the massive invasion of the government into any and all spheres of our lives.  In just 18 months or so, no area — not a single one! — has been left untouched by government control and dictate.

It is easy to ignore or overlook, by the way.  It is easy to think and say, “They had to do X to fight the spread.”  There is always good reason for the changes that come.  There is always a way to argue that the good of the nation “requires” it.  Sulla had very good reason to march his legions into the Forum, but that march still led directly and inevitably to Caesar’s Dictatorship, and thence to Augustus and the Empire…*

*Egads, do not get me started on the late Roman Republic.  No period in human history has had on stage at one time so many extraordinary individuals: Marius, Sulla, Caesar, Pompey, Cicero, Cato, Servilia, Augustus, Livia — and lesser known players like Livius Drusus, Aemilius Scaurus, the Sempronius Gracchus brothers, Pliny the Elder, Catullus, Sallust…  Good Lord, I said don’t get me started!  I could go on and on (and on and on and on…).

If the Federal knock on the door is acceptable and necessary now, will the same adjective’s apply when that all-encompassing knock is used again in five years, amidst totally different circumstances?

Yeah, the “slippery slope” argument is an inherently weak, arbitrary counter to new(ish) policies and practices, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

Trump was a buffoon and a fool before November, 2020.  He became a danger and a villain after the election purely because of his own choices and actions.

Becerra — and the Biden Administration in general — were a bit of welcome, bland, not-Trump after the insanity of January 6th.  Their own words and actions since, however…

I have frequently joked that I’m a cynic so that I can never be disappointed, but sometimes…sometimes those we choose to put in charge manage to limbo under even my incredibly low bar.

*sigh*

Maybe I’ll end up living back in the wilds of the Rockies after all…

{Musical Note — I love this song, but I have held back from using it on the blog. Until now. It just plain fits both sides.}

Scenes From A Bad Morning

It’s eight o’clock and already 75 degrees with 100% humidity.  I am just one big ball of sweat before I even start in on my coffee…

How the hell are man-buns still a thing?  Does the dude at the coffee house really have to wear one?  I mean, look…I know I’m going all Grandpa Simpson here, but get a new hairstyle.  Oh yeah, that and “Get the fuck off my lawn!”  Ahem.

Every town has a dividing line in its hotels and AirBnBs.  That line is that point in the price curve where “nice” and “basic” devolve into “dingy” and “uncomfortable”.  Dive too far down the wrong side of that curve, by the way, and you get the fun of exploring all the way down to “scary” and “crack house”.

My apartment isn’t ready yet — and my “quaint” and “nice” hotel was starting to feel pretty pricy — so I decided to explore that price curve.

I explored too far.

Remember that scene in The Terminator where Arnold is sitting in a nasty, run-down hotel room cutting out his damaged eye?  Yeah, last night was a lot like that.  I didn’t drink the scotch so much as use it to sterilize the bed…

Wait a second…  What has happened to me?  What happened to the idiot vagabond who once stayed — accidentally! — in a cheap Spanish brothel in Cadiz?  What happened to the guy who got lost (in an admittedly alcohol-induced haze) and spent the night in a Budapest subway station?  The guy who once slept amongst the syringes and empty forties littering Venice Beach?

When the hell did comfort and a certain bit of, well, niceness come to mean so much to me?

When the hell did my standards change?

When the hell did I start to get so fucking old?

Just the other morning, it feels, I was moaning, “I don’t wanna go to school today, Mom!” and now all of a sudden I’m worried about shit like hotels and communicable diseases?

It’s still pouring rain — and will be all week, most likely — but I have my entire day free to try and get over this bout of cloud-yelling grumpiness.  Someone really needs to open a brewery around here…

{Musical Note — this song seemed a good fit for a blog post talking about my morning…}