PBR’s Revenge

I drink good beer. I don’t think that fact will surprise anyone: I spend a great deal of time in microbreweries, and I’ve developed a pretty good appreciation for real beers. My brewer friends may mock my palate, but…well…they taste shit in beers that no sane person would ever find without hints from the “experts”.

There are, thank heavens, good breweries up this way. Actually, there are numerous good breweries: Bozeman alone has 8 craft breweries, of which 4-5 are well worth a visit. But…and, yes, here’s the inevitable but…

…but: we run out of the good beer pretty damn fast around here. Remember, there are 800 trillion people in the park at any given moment, and they drink through anything and everything we have in stock.

You know what that leaves?

Yep: PBR…or Miller High Life.

*shudder**

No, really: I shudder just to think of that shit!

But I’ve been drinking it.

I hate myself for it…I know my “sin account” is growing exponentially, and I’ll pay for my foolishness in the afterlife…I know I’m not even drinking actual beer…but, shit, I can only afford so much scotch and a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do!

When I get back home, my “home” brewery isn’t even gonna let me in the door without some serious level of atonement.

The worst part is that I’ve been teaching the kids up here about good beer. Preaching about it, actually. Hell, I’ve even run a couple of beer tours to Bozeman for the staff! With that in mind, what nickname have they given me? High Life.

I feel so dirty. I hate myself right now.

Oh, and the title of this post is a…well…it’s a clue to something in Silence.

What, did you really think I wouldn’t write about my personal shame?!

 

Bears Are Nicer At Night, Right?

Dr. Doolittle ain’t got nothin’ on me.

I walk with the animals…I talk with the animals…

Err, well…I’ve sorta convinced them to not eat me, anyway.

You remember that bison that turned me back the other day? He and I made friends this morning, and I finally completed that hike. Well, completed it and then some.

The bears were all sleeping-in, and Billy (the Bison) had better things to do than contemplate what meat tastes like (thanks, Mrs. Bison!!), so it was a nice, peaceful walk.

I needed it.

I’m pretty much a complete introvert. All of the time I spend with others…all of the time surrounded by people…all of the time schmoozing and chatting….yep, I’m pretty much faking it. I hate crowds.

No, really: tie me up and leave me to the damned mosquitoes instead, because people suck. After four days of dealing with staff who are even needier than the tourists, I was ready to strangle someone. But, still, I plastered on the fake smile and mustered the ersatz-enthusiasm needed for one more day on the job (Sunday nights are always the hardest). I needed the scotch I drank last night in celebration of the end of my week.

I do, however, fake it very well….hence my former career in sales & marketing.

At any rate, Mondays are my “special time”. It’s the first day of my weekend, and – no matter how bad the hangover – the first thing I do is get up early and grab my pack. Screw the trails and the various sights around the park, I don’t want to see another soul.

I was off the trail and cruising by 7:30 this morning. I didn’t get back to “civilization” until 1:30, and even that was too damned soon. In between I saw nothing but streams and trees and landscapes to make your jaw drop.

In spite of the crap that goes with it, I love this job.

The only reason I came back from my hike this early is because, well…it’s writing time. I’m supposed to go out for a moonlight hike tonight (“Hi there, Mr. Hungry Bear!”), so if I don’t write now, it just ain’t gonna happen.

Oh, and if the bear does happen to get me: no, you can’t have my stuff…

 

Okay, Okay…I Can Take A Hint

Edit Note: I couldn’t get the photos loaded until this morning – as you might expect, cell & wi-fi can, umm, challenging up here.

I think Mother Nature wants me to spend more time writing. She sure as hell didn’t want me hiking today.

I took off for some back-country hiking in the few hours of nice weather we’ve got before the thunder storms roll in this afternoon. No problem, so far…I’m not going anywhere dangerous. Hell, I’m not going even going all that far from the little “village” in which I live & work.

One quick, background note: I do a lot of solo, off-trail hiking and camping back home in the Rockies…but there I carry a gun with me. The folks I work for up here – who also happen to be my “landlord” – have policies that make it impractical to have one, so I have nothing but a can of bear spray and common sense for protection. I’m not particularly excited to test either of those.

I’m not a half-mile from “home”, and just stepping into a thicket of young pines, when Ma Nature dropped her first hint. I don’t know who jumped higher, me or the elk. All I know is the damned thing was all of six feet away when we spotted each other…and I’m pretty sure we both pissed ourselves. I’ve heard elk described as “burly deer” a few times, but you don’t think about just how big they really are until you are – literally – nose to nose with one.

Never mind, I’m a big boy. I can handle myself. I continue walking the hills and meadows, spending more time just wandering and taking pictures than doing serious hiking. I find a small trail, old and no longer really used, so I decide to follow it. I’m pretty sure it goes to Cascade Creek, then curves south to Crystal Falls, so what the hell…that sounds good to me.

Another quarter-mile or so and I turn a blind corner to find…bison. Frickin’ bison. Big frickin’ bison. Two are eating breakfast right next to the trail while the third is staring at me like he’s reconsidering the whole herbivore-thing.

IMG_0294

Okay, okay…I did back up about twenty yards and snap some pictures first. Then I fled.

Screw the trail, I’ll just head uphill and go deeper into the woods.

I had to take training on bear biology and safety for a certification I’m working on. Rule #2 is: a big, steaming pile of morning fresh bear shit is a good time to turn around.

Of course, Rule #1 is: a dead elk is a good time to well-and-truly get the fuck out.

I saw both.

A wave to the invisible-yet-nearby bear, then, and I put the better part of valor on full display.

Please keep in mind that I’m still less than two miles from where I live and work.

Maybe I’ll try the trail again, that sounds good…going the other way this time. Ooh, the trail is curving back towards the little bear camp-out I just ran away from fifteen minutes ago. IMG_0334Better yet, there’s a tree with claw marks on it. Oh, how cute: the bear was sharpening its claws just for little ol’ me! How special!

Maybe it’s time to go home and write instead…

Arrgghh!! I’m Taking Up Cigars Again!

Screw mosquitos.

No, really: screw the whole species, and every branch of the evolutionary tree that gave birth to them.

I lived in New England, for the love all that’s holy: I know mosquitos!

The ones here in Yellowstone are the sneakiest little bastards I’ve ever encountered.

They fly under the radar and just sorta hover harmlessly, blending into the background…and then the next morning you wake up with roughly 4,350,756 mosquito bites covering your skin.

GODDAMMIT!

In my younger days – in the days when I gave even less of a damn about the consequences than I do now – I started smoking cigars simply because the smoke helped to keep the mosquitos at bay.

I gave up the stogies when I left for Europe.

You know what?

I screwed up.

Give me a damned cigar…..no, really, give me one RIGHT NOW!

The stupid mosquitos have decided the “writer-diet” is the new “in thing” and I’m item #1 on the menu. Apparently booze-and-junk-food-laden blood is the way to go for these little bastards.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been writing out in front of the store. That is not working well at this point. Not well at all. Type a word or two…scratch…type a word or two…scratch…type a word…start to scratch, then scream some curse words and storm off.

Nope, not well at all.

Yellowstone is apparently Shoshone for “Mosquito Breeding Ground”.

I’m starting to think my next story is going to be about genocide against these evil little monsters….

 

When Laundry Is The High Point Of Your Morning…

It’s laundry day today. Really, is there any better way to start your weekend than laundry day? I mean, c’mon, all those weekends I spent going to Vegas or Mexico when I was young can’t hold a candle to the spin cycle…

I had an hour to kill while the washing machine ran, so I decided to (finally) read the news. I have, by the way, been pretty completely ignoring the news, the web – other than for this blog – and the rest of the world in general for the last several weeks.

It’s been glorious.

But today I spent forty-five minutes reading the news.

What the hell was I thinking?

I sat outside last night, drinking beer and watching a rare appearance of the aurora borealis (not as colorful up here as it is farther north, but still awesome). Less than half a day later I’m reading about the insanity that is the current state of our world. All I can say is: we’re fuckin’ nuts.

People screaming at each other because of the letter(s) after their name…fat nutjobs threatening nukes all over the planet…nail bombs at concerts…racism and segregation as a response to racism and segregation…

I once thought the last election was as low as we could sink. I should’ve known better. You never bet against humanity’s ability to look at all the options and choose the stupidest one.

Shit.

One day of news was more than enough for me. Unless fatboy really does nuke Hawaii, I think I’ll just stay off-the-grid for a while. Maybe I’ll check again in another month.

And people wonder why my sci-fi is dark, bitter and cynical as hell…

Get Off My Lawn! Pt II

Ok, look…I know the hair may be going a bit grey, and my knees make more noise than a popcorn machine, but that does not mean I’m old!

If you’re only as old as you feel, I’m pretty much stuck in my early twenties.

So, the other day I had to get three new kids checked out with their banks so they can start working as cashiers. Yes, I said “kids”…deal with it. All three spent the entire 20 minutes saying “yes, sir” and “no, sir”. I felt like goddamned Methuselah.

IMG_0174But – and this is the important bit, kids – we cagey old bastards always get our revenge. There ain’t a 22 year old in the world who can keep up with me when it comes to whiskey.

Take that, youth and energy! Age and cynicism win again!!

Now where the hell is my walker? I feel like shit this morning…

The biggest problem up here isn’t finding good beer, it’s finding people who appreciate good beer. There is far too much PBR and Bud Light flying around for any self-respecting beer-snob to keep his or her sanity. Crap, I have to spend more time educating these folks on decent beers than I do actually drinking.

On the other hand, with this many folks from backgrounds so different and varied, I am getting a ton of new music to listen to. That is a very good, and very welcome, thing: my writing needed an infusion of fresh music. The old soundtrack was getting a bit stale, and it was starting to come out in the words themselves. New music means new thoughts and new outlooks…that can be almost as valuable to me as the change of scene has been.

By the way: if the last couple of posts seem a bit choppy it’s because, well, they are. I’m currently sitting outside trying to catch the last of the sun while I write this pout – two hours ago it was 65, now it’s 40…and In two more hours it will be in the high 20’s.

Not even a decent beer can keep my fingers warm at this point…

It’s Closed? Did I Hear You Right?

One of the things I’ve accused myself of in the past is taking these posts too seriously. Oh, I don’t mean to imply that I shouldn’t give them thought, and try to say something important and meaningful. But I have been known to flex my “introspection muscles” and write posts that can skirt desperately close to the line of  self-indulgence.

Nope, don’t want to do that…not now, not today.

I had another post worked up, one about the assumptions we make about the strangers we meet, and how that can (and often does) tie to the assumptions we writers make about our characters. I just reread that post to do the one real editing pass I give these posts…

Egads. Crikey. Insert your own mild exclamation here.

Took myself waaay too seriously on that one. I also had…err…well…nothing to really say in it, so it was a lot of words accomplishing very little.

Shit, I did enough of that in college. That is not a (bad) habit to which I really need to return.

So, to get to something equally pointless…but far less serious: the pub. Specifically, the employee pub.IMG_0175

It’s not open yet.

There are, in fact, claw marks on the door from my first encounter with that locked entrance.

Then someone told me it won’t open for another couple of weeks.

Wait…what?!

Are you kidding me? Even prisoners can get booze*, for fuck’s sake!

*Yay for prison hooch!

Now, I’ve talked to some of the folks who have done this summer work thing up here for a few seasons, and I know the pub can be…well…questionable (a bit like the donkey-bar in Tijuana can be questionable). But, crap…no one is here yet! There’s only a relative handful of staff around right now (within the next month another 500ish will arrive in my little “village”), so shouldn’t it be a nice place to have a drink or two after work?

But the universe hates me and it’s closed.

So just what do I have to do? I have to pretend like I’m nineteen again and visit other folks’ RVs or dorm rooms to have a few drinks with ’em. Shit. If someone mentions homework to me, I’m gonna feed ’em to a damn bear.

Yes, I’m a manager…yes, I’m supposed to be a good example…but, goddamit, I don’t want to drink scotch alone! It’s a crime to drink single malt alone!

So…now…it’s off I go to gather a six pack of a local craft brew and a flask of scotch, then to a gathering of like-minded degenerates…err, co-workers. If I get raped by a bison on the way home, I’m gonna be pissed.

Peeing On Trees

I can feel, already, the pressure falling off my brain (and off my soul).

Now, I normally don’t remind folks of this, but I write these blog entries ahead of time. Seldom do I need to sit there on the morning of a post and bang one out on the keyboard.

Err, if I do, I screwed up. I screwed up bad.

Since I am heading into Yellowstone for days/weeks/months – with all the spotty internet and change-of-scene and dislocation that that entails! – I am trying to get a decent backlog of posts queued up.

Building that queue means I have to think and write through some things that I might normally push aside, or…well…massage a bit before I put them down for others to read.

But you know what?  I’m not gonna do that right now.

I NEEDED this change of scene. I needed the fresh air…I needed a new dynamic…I needed, honestly, to do something random and short-sighted and stupid.

I am, by the way, very good at those particular aspects of life: random and short-sighted and stupid. I have a PhD in random and short-sighted and stupid. I’ve also had a lot – A LOT – of fun in my life! I am, of course, also completely broke most of the time…

Like most people, I didn’t realize just how uptight and stressed I’d become. I definitely didn’t realize just how much I needed to change my surroundings…even if only for a few weeks.

I am not, I long ago realized, a domesticated animal. I need to roam. I need to try new things. I need to pee on trees. Err…never mind that last bit.

Of course, taking a fairly large weight off my soul raises one interesting question: do I lose the bitter, angry edge that has defined Connor’s stories so far?

Wait…

A more relaxed, optimistic story for Connor?

Umm…

Err…

Excuse me, but I have to go find a tree to pee on…

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

IMG_0060Some of those close to me understand why I have such a reluctance to put down roots. As soon as I start to become a “permanent” part of the scenery, whether by career or possessions or relationships, I start to get itchy. Okay, so I’m not Neil McCauley from Heat, ready to walk out on everything in 30 seconds (and, yes, DeNiro makes that sound cooler than I ever could), but I am someone who thrives on…well, freedom.

The freedom to do what I want, when I want.

That is, by the way, reason # 345,675 why I’m no longer a “career guy”.

Writing – both novels and prostitution…err, freelance work – helps to feed that urge in me. I can, honestly, work from anywhere. In fact, it is better for me to work somewhere lively and interesting rather than a place quiet, calm and private.

I also love to see what’s around the next corner, and to do my own thing on my own timeline. And, yes, I fully realize just how terrible a potential husband that makes me, thank you very much. I came to that realization a long time ago, and just stopped worrying about that part of life. Shit, I’m not even a good candidate for a damned goldfish…

At any rate, the point is this: I tend to wander. I tend to confuse the hell out of people to whom that kind of life is nothing more than fiction. I tend to be that guy who always has “Whatever happened to … ?” placed in front of his name.

I mentioned above that some close to me actually understand my thinking and impulses, but reality itself says most of my family and friends think I’m more than a bit nuts.  Oh, they try to understand.  And, for the most part, they do a good job of rolling with the way I live, but they still think I’m a total loon.

And you know what? They may be right.

It takes a certain craziness to give up a successful career and become someone who immerses himself in all the varied experiences of life. It takes a certain craziness to be the guy who is always wanting to test the greenery on the other side of the fence. And it takes a real, full-bore craziness to just up-and-go with no real warning or planning.

Yep, I’m fuckin’ crazy.

On a whim* I accepted a temp position for the summer in a far-off national park. I won’t make shit for money…I won’t secure or advance my “life” a single bit…I won’t be any father down the “road to success” than I was when I woke up this morning…

*Okay, I will admit to having done a decent amount of research on the companies involved, and the experiences of those who’ve already done it…

BUT…

But, I will spend a summer doing something, well, different. But, I will have stories to tell…and stories to write. But I will continue to live a life that I really don’t care to ever have described as “ordinary”. And, in all honest (and false-practical) bluntness, I will reiterate that I can write from anywhere…

I’ve seen and done things most people can only ever imagine. I’ve been places I could barely dream of as a kid. I’ve been trapped in place for a long time now, and it’s time check out the horizon again.IMG_0172

I am not, to return to the title, one of the lost.  I just haven’t yet given up that need to wander…

Being A Kid Again

I was not happy with The Force Awakens.  You have no idea how hard it is to write that…let alone how hard to think it.  Star Wars is my childhood.  My current fascination with photography was born from that movie, the first film I really remember in detail.  And don’t even get me started on my love of sci-fi and fantasy…

As bad as were the three prequels, the three “originals” are the apex for me in oh so many ways.

That is why, honestly, it was so hard to be disappointed with The Force Awakens.  I wanted very much to fall in love with that movie, but it failed on just way too many levels.

But Star Wars is Star Wars, and I could only hold out for so long: I finally sat down to watch Rogue One.

I was, sadly, prepared to be disappointed.

Oh boy, was I not.

This is the Star Wars movie we’ve been waiting for since Return of the Jedithis is what Force Awakens should have been.  I rediscovered the magic of being that young kid sitting again in the theater and losing myself in a movie.

It sounds inadequate, but I can think of no higher praise to offer the writers and director and cast than to say, “You gave me back the magic.”

Well done, folks.  Well done.