Maybe Next Year

Last Wednesday’s IWSG post got me to thinking.  Which, I suppose, is what those topics are intended to do…

I wrote in that post about 2017 in a pretty general way. Looking back, of course, tends to do that: other than the truly exceptional — good or bad — things tend to blur together.  As the distance from them grows, the individual points lose their granularity and blend into a broader picture.

And, yeah, I’m using Pointillist painting for that analogy…because who doesn’t like a cool painting?

Anyway, the thinking…

We tend to forget the details, tend to forget the honesty and the emotion — the raw urgency — when we look back.  We tend to remember the past, and to come across when we write about it, very differently than we lived it at the time. Sometimes that distance is good, but often it is bad…occasionally very bad.

When I reread my IWSG post, I found a hint of phlegmatic acceptance that is most decidedly NOT who I am.  I wanted to drill a bit into that, wanted to make a point that I did not in that post: life is a fight, and you better damned well fight to win.

Three of the worst words in my little corner of the universe: maybe next year.

Maybe next year will be better.

Maybe next year I’ll get it together.

Maybe next year the words will come easier.

Maybe next year…

Not to sound like a heartless asshole, but maybe next year you, or I, will be dead.

I lost one sister when she was far too young…I’m worried about losing another…I lost one of my best friends when I was seventeen…I’ve lost too many more in the years since…

It’s a trite and overused old thought that I have to add (overused precisely because it’s true): you are not promised tomorrow.

Now, I’m gonna leave aside the more irresponsible parts of my life in this post: shit like the (arguably) crazy hiking I do, or the (arguably) reckless personal risks I am willing to take.

Nope, I want to focus on who I am, not on what I do.

And, as I’ve said before, who I am is a writer.

Yes, the money sucks for a freelancer.  Yes, the money sucks even worse for a writer new to the fiction industry.  Yes, there is far more frustration and challenge than celebration sometimes…err, often times.

“Go back to marketing and sales.  Be responsible.  Maybe next year you’ll be in a better place.”

“Maybe next year the money will be better.”

“Maybe next year you’ll have more time.”

I hear this from others — from friends and family — fairly often.  I hear this from the little demon on my shoulder all the time.  Hell, I hear this from myself.

Maybe next year…

No.

The words are who I am.  If I give in, if I say “Maybe next year I can be who I really am…” all I’m doing is surrendering.  All I’m doing is denying who I am by pretending to be who others want me to be.

Remember what I said above: life is a fight, and you have to fight to win.  At least I do.

I might very well die tomorrow…or next week…or next summer…or in thirty years.  But, no matter what, I refuse to have my last thought be that stupidest of regrets: if only I had one more year

No.

I’d much rather die reaching for a pen.  I’d much rather have my last thought be one of hope: shit, this would make a great scene…

Maybe next year isn’t an option. It isn’t encouragement, isn’t acceptance. It isn’t even regret.  No, maybe next year is a curse and a trap.

For me, at least, there is no alternative — I have to live, and write, like this is it…like there is no next year.

What is your next year?  What are you putting off?

What value, what meaning, are you deferring because, well, maybe next year...?

Off-Topic Ramblings … Way, Way, Waaaay Off-Topic

I’ve spent some time thinking about whether or not I wanted to throw myself into one particular briar patch, but in the end that long bit of thinking that did convince me.  The briar patch in question?  The “Masterpiece Cake Shop” case before the Supreme Court.

This post is, by the way, going to be a long one…and far drier, not to mention less snarky, than I usually shoot for.

Now, first off, a few pieces of backstory and exposition:

A) I live in Colorado, and have for fifteen years.  This case received a great deal of local coverage here, so it is not something new to me.  Hell, there are details and specifics to it that seldom, if ever, get mentioned by the national media.   Most of that coverage, in fact, is pretty damned shallow and simplistic…not to mention designed to reinforce whatever preconceived conclusions a particular reporter/outfit is carrying into the fray.

B) I’m a straight, white guy, with all of the life experience that entails.  It also means I don’t really have a personal dog in the fight…just a socio-cultural one.

C) I am also, as I’ve mentioned before, pretty damned libertarian.  Now, part of that is my own Golden Rule of “leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone”, but another part is a belief — within limits — in the philosophy of “that government is best which governs least”.

I am not, but the way, going to list here the specifics here of the case itself.  Anyone interested already knows, and anyone not interested has probably stopped reading by now…

No, what I want to get to is my take on the whole thing…and that take is: it’s complicated.

Really, the whole thing is fucking complicated…far more so than the “easy answers” on both sides like to pretend.  There is right and wrong aplenty in this case, and in the situation that gave rise to it. And the outcomes?  Yeah, that gets even more complicated…and even more “right and wrong”.

My thinking on this whole thing has also evolved over time. Several years ago, when it first arose as a simple story in the Denver Post, I was one of those “easy answer” folks.  I thought I knew the whole story, so I made my “decision” and ignored everything else about the issue.

But the case got bigger, and I learned more facts.

And I thought more.

You know what?  That changed things for me…and changed my opinion.

This case really is bigger than a simple dispute between a baker and his (potential) customers.  There is more than enough legitimate fear — and threat — on both sides to warrant a case before the Supreme Court.

By the way, it is NOT a case about the legality of the baker’s refusal: his actions were in clear violation of state law.  What it IS a case about is whether or not that particular law is constitutional.

In one sense, it is also a case about compelled speech: the plaintiffs argue that the baker has a legal duty to fulfill their order, regardless of his personal beliefs and convictions.  The defense, on the other hand, contends that such compulsion uses the power of the State to force a man to violate his conscience, and his deeply held beliefs.

From that particular (limited) perspective, it is pretty easy to pick a winner…and this is where my initial opinion on the whole thing started years ago.

But it ain’t that easy.

When I write freelance, I get to pick and choose my clients as well as the work I create.  I don’t write for Penthouse Forum, nor for the Aryan Nation, nor the Socialist Worker…not, in fact, for anything or anyone that I find repugnant and antithetical to my own beliefs and views.*

*So says the guy whose current protagonist is an alcoholic thief…and whose other main character is a teen-aged, gay prostitute.  I think we can safely say that puritanical morality ain’t exactly my thing…

What about my photography? Should I have to accept a client that wants me to shoot porn?  Or BDSM?  Or cats?  Shouldn’t someone else, I’ve asked myself, have the same freedom as I do?  Especially another artist?

Again, that was where my thinking started…and where my opinion stood for a long time.

But it still ain’t that easy.

First of all, I don’t have a store.  I don’t operate any form of public, physical location where I am open and available for folks to simply walk in and hire me. Not even a link on the web.  I initiate any and all work I perform, either by working purely on spec, or by prior personal agreement with a client to whom I have been referred (or has been referred to me).

Having a store changes things.  It’s called “public accommodation”, and it does in fact come with obligations and requirements.  One of those is that you have to accept your customers as they are…you cannot pick and choose based on who you want them to be.

Let me use a case from a few years ago to illustrate: a group of friends went out drinking, then stopped at a liquor store so they could continue the party at home.  No problem, so far — they were all of legal age, and were well within their rights.  The cab driver they hailed, however, did not approve of alcohol.  More than that, he was devout in his religion and was opposed to alcohol in all forms.  He refused to allow the group into the cab that he owned…and was fined heavily by the regulatory agency because of the incident.

Was he within his rights to refuse service? Again, the customers broke no law…they were simply “immoral” according to the driver’s beliefs.

Although he did appeal, there was no outcry, and certainly no Supreme Court case…

The two cases are not so far apart. There are differences, yes: the driver was neither “speaking”, nor artistically creating…but he was offering a service to the public.  In the case of the cake maker, he also was offering a service to the public: his talents as a baker and designer.

Could he — can he — selectively withhold his publicly available services simply because he finds a potential client to be immoral?  Not illegal, mind you, just immoral according to his religion.

If he can withhold his services, why could not the cab driver?  Does it change things if you learn the cabbie was a devout Muslim, rather than a fundamentalist Christian (as was the baker)?  Can one’s beliefs and views on morality be held more, or less, acceptable simply because of the religion one chooses to follow?

Again, remember the concept of “public accommodation”: when you offer your services openly to the public, you do surrender some freedom.  But does that apply to your freedom of conscience?  What if matters of conscience differ, as they often do? Whose is of more value?

Is your right to avoid alcohol more important than my right to stumble drunkenly into your cab?

Is one man’s right to reject homosexuality more important than another man’s right (in this case, a couple’s right) to avail himself of a public service?

The simple fact of the matter is, as I’ve said before, your morality is none of my business…and mine is none of yours.  When the question is one simply of morality, you have no right to decide for someone else.  In our private lives that is easy an thing to decide: I can’t tell you to go get drunk, and you can’t tell me to stop with the one-night stands.  Live and let live.

Even in business, that “easiness” can apply: if you are a private entity who offers services solely on a private basis — a consultant, say, or a writer — you can pick and choose your clients and partners based on whatever criteria floats your boat.  Even on the basis of morality…or beer preference…or hair style…

But…but…BUT….

But, if you choose to publicly offer your skills and services as a business, it is no longer a question of private, personal choice.  Yes, that means you do surrender some of your freedom.  You made the choice to do so when you decided to open a public business — that partial-surrender of freedom came in exchange for the privilege of operating an open, established business.

That does not mean you surrender your private, personal freedom of conscience.  That personal freedom is pretty damned simple: if you don’t approve of homosexuals, don’t befriend or become one.  If you don’t approve of alcohol, don’t drink or allow others to drink in your home. If you don’t like (evil, evil) cats, don’t get one.  You can, quite simply, be just as committed and devout in your personal life as you ever were.

But your private morality has no place in your public business.  You cannot pick and choose your public clients based on private beliefs and morality.

And now even I can come up with all the questions and unintended consequences and what about-isms…

But what about a graphic artist asked to make a flyer for a neo-nazi rally?

But what about a liberal architect asked to design the Trump Presidential Library?

But what about a conservative sculptor asked to make a bust of Hillary Clinton?

But what about…

Like I said, it’s complicated.

I’m really really glad I’m not a Supreme Court justice.

Dammit, Jim, I’m A Writer, Not A Thinker!

When did we forget how to think?

No, seriously — I just read a story about Google. The CEO was lamenting the fact that it was very, very difficult (read: impossible) to “teach” an algorithm to recognize “fake news” when both sides vehemently believed what they were saying.

No shit.

That’s what human brains are for, goddammit!

Why on Earth would you ever expect — why on Earth would you ever want — a computer program to determine “truth” for you?! That is utterly and completely asinine.

One of the hallmarks of being ostensibly intelligent, self-aware beings (besides opposable thumbs, and shit like the Kardashians) is the ability to…you know…judge for yourself.

That ability, that judgment, is both privilege and burden…which is as it should be. Anyone who expects someone else to lay it all out for them, to tell them what and who to believe, deserves the empty shell that their life has become.

Now, look: I know I’m an old, cranky bastard — shit, the fact that I actually remember the Ewok Christmas special is enough to tell you that! — but I simply can’t be alone in this. Do people no longer learn to assimilate information, weigh the evidence, and make their own judgment? C’mon, it ain’t that hard, folks!

The real problem, unfortunately, seems to be the same for people as it is for Google: when people disagree, it is hard to decide. Unfortunately, far too often “we” (as a people, not us in specific) tend to shortcut the judgment-thing and just go with what our “team” says.

“A conservative Republican/liberal Democrat said it, so it must be true.”

And of course, the converse: “those (other) evil bastards believe it, so it must be a nefarious plot…”

It goes back to something I harped on over the summer (while avoiding most of this crap by living in the wilderness): we, as a country and a society, are so polarized, so split and torn-apart, that we can’t agree even on a common set of facts. Black and white no longer have the same meanings to people on different “teams”, and 1+1 only equals 2 when it benefits one side over the other.

*sigh*

This is, by the way, how societies die: not in great, thunderous wars but in the pathetic whimpers of blind, narcissistic parochialism.

Those voices howling alone in the wilderness? Those voices trying to stand against the tide and scream “No More”?

Yeah, those are the voices of those trying to hold it all together. The voices of common sense and the good of all above the good of self.

The voices of those losing the fight.

Now a philosopher, or a profound thinker, would have a list of prescriptions and advice to try and address this problem. Me? I just want to slap the shit out of most of these folks.

“Wake up!” I want to scream. “Wake up and use your fucking brain!”

Hrm, didn’t seem to work…

Back to the wilderness, and to my solitary howling, I guess.

A Hint Of Food Porn

You don’t really realize just how satisfying it is to cook for yourself until you have to eat someone else’s cooking — every single damned day — for better than five months.

*sigh*

I love to cook. I love to cook…and I’m pretty damned good at it.

By now, I’ve made decent progress through the list I had in my head of the stuff I wanted to make when I got back. From basic steaks, to Thai green curry, to jambalaya (simmering away as I type this), the list goes on and on.  Now, it turns out, I’ve been sucked into a food & beer cooking/pairing contest.

Oh, not a real contest — just a group of friends, doing a beer-themed dinner. Except, like everything else we do, there has to be an element of competition to it. Of course it has to be a freakin’ contest — we’re the jackasses that would make a game of goddamned hopscotch competitive!

Okay, so the set-up: everyone drew randomly out of three hats for their course, for the protein they have to use and for the beer they have to pair and cook with.

Please, please, please…just not dessert, beef and IPA. Please, God, anything but THAT!

Nope, the universe (for once) smiled on me. I drew the third course (out of seven). Now, keep in mind: in a full, formal multi-course meal, that should really be a fish course…but not this time. Nope, this time I got pretty much everything I wanted from the universe. So, the dish:

Hand-made ravioli, stuffed with venison and mushrooms in a cherry lambic sauce.

Oh, shit, did I win the damned prize with those draws! I can feel my friends’ hate right now — it’s keeping me nice and warm…

And to the poor bastard who got the salad course and stouts? HAHAHAHAHA!!!

Err…sorry about that, got carried away for a moment.

Now, why do I like cooking so much? Well, aside from the fact that I absolutely love food (and, yes, beer), there is a bit more to it.

Cooking, you see, is in some ways a lot like music…and like writing. The common thread to those pastimes is simple: in almost no other profession/calling do you take a bunch of unrelated bits and pieces and create from them a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Now, I’m not much of a musician.  In spite of my love of listening, I pretty much top out at playing chopsticks on the piano*. But I am a cook…and a writer. There is, when you get right down to it, very little in this world more satisfying than sitting down and making that all, well, just work.

*And, yes, Mom…you were right way back when: I really do regret giving up the piano when I was 11!

To take “Characters A & B”, mix them with “Plot Points X, Y & Z”, bake them in “Setting N”, then come out the other side with a good story? That’s freaking magic. As a reader it’s magic, but as a writer it’s even more so.

Just like taking the worst cuts of meats you can find, and coming out with a charcuterie dish that makes everyone fall all over themselves for more…

Wait…Who Said You Can’t Go Home Again?

I’m not sure if being away felt immensely long, or passed in the blink of an eye, but if ‘my’ brewery is anything to go by, it was more blink-y than immense.

A couple of times I’ve been in since I returned. How much writing have I done?

Err…

Well…

I know all the regulars, you see…

Okay, okay: none. Not a bit.

I’ll tell you what, however: the week-long welcome home has been fantastic. It is easy to get so focused on what I gained up in Yellowstone that I forget what I left behind. The camaraderie and brotherhood is different, but no less strong.

As much as I loved the Taiwanese kids up there, as hopeful and happy as they were, do I love the Wal-Mart contingent down here…as bitter and cynical as they are.

Add in John and his dogs the size of horses…and Rob and his inability to admit just how big a nerd he is…Aaron’s vampire-like inability to tolerate sunlight…Don’s constant shit-eating grin now that he’s found real love…Travis’ beer-centric nerdism that still makes me jealous…

It was like I’d never left. Surely, it couldn’t have been almost six months since I’d been here..could it?

Yes, it was…and don’t call me Shirley.

Couldn’t stop myself – sorry about that.

Bad jokes in reference to old(ish) movies? Yep, I’ve come home alright.

I love everything I lived up in Yellowstone, from the park to the people to the insanity of the whole thing. I loved it, in fact, enough to commit to returning next year…but there is a very good reason why this place is still home.

The traffic sucks…the prices suck…the mobs of people suck…but it’s home nonetheless.

By the way, you’ll never really know you’re home until you have a 135-pound Great Dane get so excited to see you, she turns again into a tiny puppy. And, yes, I do indeed have the bruises to prove it…

What Could Be

I had this great plan to put up some details about various hikes I like, to keep going with the “Yellowstone Practical” idea. I even started a post on that for today…

As you can tell from the lack of a morning post, I didn’t really follow through. Not because I couldn’t have, but because something else rose in my mind last night. Now, I’ve mentioned before one of writing’s primary rules: when an idea comes to you, YOU WRITE IT!

Last night I, err, did not write it. I didn’t quite forget the thought, but I did have to spend the better part of today reconstructing it while I worked in the store.

At any rate, here goes:

I spent some time reading the news on my day off. I know, I know…that is always a mistake. You’d think I would know better by now, but nope.

Most of the crap I was able to ignore, but something stuck with me: the whole damned NFL-anthem-flag controversy. How the hell is this still a thing?

Look, I realize I am not the most grown-up person in any room (including a room full of kindergarteners), but even I can see how stupid is this whole thing. And by stupid, I mean everyone involved. I know we’re talking about the confluence of politics, culture and sports here, but isn’t there someone who can be the adult in the room?

Apparently not.

So, what the hell, I’ll throw in my two cents. Actually, I’ve got two opinions/thoughts here, so I’ll round it all up to a nickel.

First of all: I am a sports guy. All of my life I have been a sports guy. More than that, I have been a team sports guy. Team sports are the everyday embodiment of self-sacrifice. Well…at least…they should be. In all of the bullshit, dating back to last year, I saw very little conception of team-first. I saw an awful lot of “me-first”, but not much else.

I will, however, call out for credit those that did put team first, that acted like the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. I think the Seahawks nailed it last year when they linked arms as a team. Much as I detest Jerry Jones, the Cowboys this year got it right, as well.

Those teams that had no unity? Truly sad.

And the cowardice of those that simply hid away in the locker room and hoped to bury their heads? Beyond sad, beyond weak, and well into the territory of truly pathetic.

Right or wrong, at least the other guys picked a side. I’ll always take someone who picks a side, whether I agree or not, over someone who tries to ride the fence and please everyone.

Okay, so that’s the first bit. The less important bit. Now comes the second part…

By definition, no society, no country, no people is perfect. To dredge up an old quote, “All are judged and found wanting.” The United States is anything but perfect. The flaws in our society today are manifold…and, in many cases, obvious.

Hell, I write about many of those flaws: about the exploitation of the weak, about the vast, indefensible chasm between rich and poor, about the evil one human can do to another for the smallest of reasons, about the suffering and despair that suffocate so many lives…

But that doesn’t mean I don’t think and dream of better. That doesn’t mean I think we as a species, as a society, as a country are irredeemable. If I thought that – if I bought that deeply into cynical nihilism – it would be time to just plain give up, and that I refuse to do.

To redeem ourselves, however, we need aspirations. More importantly, we need aspirations that can pull us together. We need symbols, and dreams, that we can all share.

I cannot comment on other countries, nor other peoples, but to me the dream of what the US could be is one of those aspirations. But to get there we have to value in common the effort and work it will take to get there.

The American flag is just a bunch of fabric stitched together, in one sense. It is nothing more than a glorified bed-sheet tied to a stick. In another sense, however, it is something very different: it is a symbol of what could be. It could/should be, when you get down to it, something to unify, something to symbolize all of our aspirations.

See the problems…speak out on the problems…give your time and your money and your life to fixing those problems…but dream and aspire together. Value what could be together.

You and I don’t have to agree. We can argue and debate and oppose each other all we want, IF we both believe in and value where we’re going…value what could be.

If, however, we hold nothing in common – if we share no aspirations or dreams – then we are doomed to strife and discord. And, eventually, to the disintegration of the little that still holds the many, many different strands of the US – as a nation and as a people – together.  In the end, all we will have left is the regret of what could have been.

The Social Event Of The Season

It’s the end of the season up here. We’ve lost half the staff already. Over the next week or so, we’ll lose just over half of those who remain.

We’re pretty much gonna be down to…well…not enough people after that. I think I’m gonna have to start cooking for everyone…

We opened the season with some, umm, interesting evenings, so it’s only fair that we close it with one. With the best party of the year.

Now, keep in mind, in the dorms alcohol is technically allowed only inside the individual rooms themselves. Not in the halls, not in the lobby, not even on the pseudo-patio outside. And, no, please don’t get me started on the futile insanity of that particular regulation. Suffice it to say, that little rule is not the most well-obeyed one in the universe.

But, for our party, we decided to obey it. Hell, we decided to build the evening around it!

Six rooms, each featuring two or three different cocktails…and a whole lot of people who have lived and worked in close proximity for five months now.  And, no, I didn’t serve beer…well, not just beer.  Nope, I channeled my old bartending days and made limoncello bellinis.  It was a good decision.

Now, as to the party – there are pictures. Worryingly, there are pictures. There might even have been a “dick-wand”.

Ahem.

It’s back to work today, with a surprisingly mild hangover. Worse, it’s back to the real world in less than three weeks.

I’m not sure I’m ready for it.

I’ve written less than half what I wanted (let alone needed) to write up here…I’m just plain freakin’ done with tourists…I want real, honest-to-God internet in the worst way…I miss my friends and family…and…and…and I don’t really want to leave.

Hey, I’ve told you before, consistency is not one of my (many) failings!

Real life? Real cities? People? Traffic? Bills and the stress of everyday living?

Gah…I need to go on another hike.

The Silence Of Snow

There’s something about the forest – the deep, untrod forest – in a snowstorm. It is one of the quietest, most still places you will ever experience. The feeling isn’t one of death, or even of the wildlife seeking shelter. No, rather it is one of anticipation.

It’s almost like everything, like nature itself, is holding their collective breath.

I went hiking through the forest today…hiking in a snowstorm. A place that, just yesterday, was alive with elk, and with the predators stalking that herd. A place of noise and life and a certain amount of chaos.

Today it had that profound magic, that still silence…that anticipation. I loved it.

That hike got me to thinking. Thinking about the metaphors I am using in the current story, and about the messages I am trying to send. The Silence That Never Comes, to give the story its full title.

What would that wood feel like to someone who had never heard silence?  Who had no conception of peace, of quiet and still anticipation?

That is getting to the heart of the story…and to the scene that is building in the back of my mind. The scene of my protagonist – that kid who has known nothing but violence and cynicism and despair – in the middle of just such a storm, in just such a wood.

The vision is there…the knowledge of what I want – what I need – to include is there…now it just has to be executed.

That, by the way, is one of the reasons why I write: the challenge. The challenge of putting into effective words a feeling, and an imagination, so initially vague and formless.

And, more importantly, the feeling that comes when you get it right.

I’ve said before, but it bears repeating: to get it right, to nail a scene, is a feeling that has few peers. The closest I can come, at this moment, is that feeling when I summit one of the more challenging mountains here in Yellowstone.

Is it the view? Is it the effort? No, it is the elation that comes when you do something you know so many people have either failed at, or have refused to even try.

There is a drive to that, and a certain joy…and, to put this in terms of the underlying theme to all of Silence, a certain meaning.

Connor still has yet to really discover, let alone understand, that theme, that understanding…but there really is more to life.

Note – just to put everything in context, I figured I would offer some proof…would show just what Yellowstone looks like in late summer:

I Say “Potato”, You Say “Idiot”

Apparently the Emmys are on tonight. My apologies if you are one of those who find the autoerotic narcissism of Hollywood awards shows interesting, but I personally would rather remove my own spleen with a sharp rock than watch…

Not that I don’t do self-indulgence or narcissism, I just try to make it make it less…pathetic.

So I’m gonna sit here, instead, and plan my final hike of the year. The hike that caused the backcountry rangers to tell me, very emphatically, “Don’t be an idiot.” The hike that caused my friend to preemptively put up “Missing” posters with my picture. “Just getting a head start,” he explained.

*sigh*

But it’s such a cool hike! So what if 15 of the 20 miles are through the most dangerous “Bear Management” region in Yellowstone? So what if there is no longer a trail of any sort? So what if it really only exists on old maps from the early 90s?

Yeah, yeah, I know…the rather large odds of a disastrous ending are not a good idea, but…well…c’mon…no one has done it in almost twenty years!

Wait, what was that I was saying about self-indulgence?

Ahem.

Now, if I was the protagonist of a story, this hike would kick off all kinds of danger and adventure. Kind of a “Into Thin Air”…although preferably with a happier outcome.

But, no, I’m not a protagonist. I’m not the lens through which adventures and lessons come. I’m just a guy who looks remarkably like a Happy Meal to a pre-hibernation grizzly.

Our characters make bad choices so we can advance the plot, so we can have conflict and tension, and so we can – frankly – experience a bit of repeated schadenfreude at their expense.

And, even when they die, they live on…

That won’t work so well for me. There’s a popular book up here called “Death in Yellowstone”. One of my cashiers took great delight in explaining to me, in great detail, just how many of the screw ups in that book I am repeating every time I take off on my solo, off-trail hikes.

I’ll still plan the damned hike – oh, will I plan it! – but instead of doing it before I leave here in a few weeks, I am going to return this winter and do it when everything is sleepin’ the winter away.

How’s that for a compromise?

Hey, I said I wasn’t a protagonist, I didn’t say I was smart!

Pop-Tarts & Beer

I had an eye infection today: I just couldn’t see doing anything.

Now, keep in mind, my normal “I Hate Humans” Monday involves a hike of somewhere around 16 or 20 miles. Occasionally, more.

Today?

Today, I went four miles and stalled out for a picnic lunch. Sat in the shade and stared at a meadow.

I even pretended to write for a while.

Then pretending to write began to feel too much like work, so I decided some napping was in order. Remember that backpack hammock I mentioned a couple of posts ago? Yep, in that. Hey, if I can’t see the bears, they can’t see me…right?

Now, I’m sitting in front of the store to do some actual — err, well, semi-actual — writing. And, yes, I did extend the hike a bit…but ten total miles is still more of a stroll than it is a real hike.

But, and this is important bit, I have to call it a hike…if ain’t a hike, I don’t get my favorite post-hike snack.

And, if you’re wondering, today’s snack is strawberry-flavored, washed down with a nice pale ale. The people behind me are having granola bars and water…I feel so much better about myself as a human being!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some pretending to do…