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…

 

Give The Governor A Harrumph!

I’m a slacker…let’s just get that out of the way early, shall we?

No one who knows me would argue that point. Give me a job – any job – and I will find the easiest and least strenuous way to get it done. Okay, so that also makes me efficient, but the efficiency comes from sheer bone-idleness, not from any drive to actually, you know, work.

Work less is my motto, not harder or smarter.

But mother of God, some of the young kids that are up here working for me…

Even I have to admit that, at some point, slacking can be taken too far. You have no idea just how much that hurts to say, but I’ve learned I have my limits.

You spent how much money to get up here to Yellowstone to live in the park and work? Is it too much to ask that you show up and actually do your job from time to time? The last thing I wanted to do when I took this job was fire people.

Crap, I’m the guy who used every single second of vacation and sick time I got when I worked for other people. Some of these “kids” have already managed to put that record to shame. Hell, the worst of them isn’t even a kid: I get more work out of an 18-year-old college freshman than I do this ostensibly 29-year-old “man”.

*sigh*

And, yes, I will admit to a fairly high level of grumpiness at this particular moment. Sue me…it’s been a long week.

Thank heaven I’m finally sitting in the sun and enjoying a nice Moose Drool brown ale while I write. Oh, by the way, it may help to know that this is a brief couple of hours of sun, and that it has snowed for the last two days. In the middle of fucking June.

And it’s supposed to snow again for the next two days. On my weekend.

Harrumph.

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.

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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…

Why I’m Here

I need life around me to write, even up here in a place to which I came to escape the crowds that were growing in my hometown by the day.

When I have the time – and when I’m not out hiking, camping or drinking – I sit at the tables in front of the store, put in my earbuds and start writing. The hardest part about doing that, however, is not the flood of tourists that come in every day….no, the hardest part is the parking lot.

Oh lord, have mercy! The parking lot here is the funniest shit-show I’ve seen in years. I know they’re all on vacation, but Christ-on-a-stick, does that mean the tourists absolutely have to forget how to drive?

Forget the bears, it’s the damned drivers that are the true danger in Yellowstone. I just watched some asshole park a full-size SUV in a space that was not only too small to begin with, but was already half-filled by a five foot pile of snow. You do the math on the results.

It was like watching John Candy try to put on a wetsuit – I couldn’t stop laughing.

What keeps it all in perspective, of course, is that hiking and camping I mentioned (and, yes, the drinking, too). I was out for four or five hours yesterday on a trail that is not…err…well, technically open. What can I say, the ‘closed’ sign was just gibberish: no hablo ingles.

About two miles in the trail started to skirt this killer alpine meadow (pictures to follow in a post or two). Of course I had to stop and spend some time just drinking in the view. As I was sitting there a herd of 10-12 elk came wandering by about a hundred yards away…

THAT is why I put up with 200-pound women from New York insisting they’ve always worn a small, so our sweatshirts must have the wrong sizes on them…why I put up with 8,000 Chinese tourists fighting to heat noodles in two microwaves, all at the same time…why I put up with Belgian tourists asking me if the bison get cold at night…

THAT is why I came up here.

Now, there is, of course, a caveat to that – as I’ve said before, there’s always a but.

But…it can be pretty challenging to write bitter, cynical sci-fi when you’re laughing at tourists, let alone when you’re exhausted from a hike with nothing but trees, sun and wildlife (and, well, snow and muck and overflowing streams…).

All those ghosts I once mentioned, the ideas fluttering around the back of my mind? Yeah, there’re a handful of those getting louder and louder, demanding to be written.

But, believe it or not, it does get worse. That snippet I posted a few days ago? The end of the whole dang series? I have this growing urge to go back to one of my old stories and re-write it with that kid as my protagonist. Maybe I’ll call it Connor: The Next Generation.

For characters who were only supposed to inhabit ONE book, Connor and Oz show a remarkable ability to keep going…in spite of my every inclination and effort to the contrary.

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…

It’s A Parking Lot, Wang*

*I do hope everyone out there is a Caddyshack fan and will get the reference…

Err…a bit late today. Never got a chance to write a post over the weekend, and since yesterday was my Friday I was feeling a bit, umm, delicate this morning. Damn whiskey.  Anyway, here’s a post I had fermenting for later this week.

I just came back from another hike.  This time, instead of going off-trail I decided to follow the beaten path.  That is actually kinda sad for me: if you stay on the trail, you can only ever walk in someone else’s footsteps.

Stay on the trail I did, however…so instead of a normal post, I decided I would post a handful of pictures from that hike.  Now, please keep one thing in mind: my old (favorite) camera is long gone, and I am still saving for a new – and far better – one.  That means I was using my cellphone for pictures…and I am not comfortable taking pictures through a screen.  I need an eyepiece and lenses, not a screen and “pinch to zoom”.

Bah, humbug!

Ahem.  So, some pictures (the last one is mainly to illustrate just how much snow is still on the ground in some places):

My Spidey-Sense Is A-Tinglin’!

I’ve been all over the world. Err, well, at least over a good chunk of it (36 countries and counting). And just how many places have I been where there isn’t a freaking Starbucks every 100 feet?

Yep, you guessed it…just one: Bozeman, Montana.

The hotel I’m in has no breakfast (really, who the hell doesn’t serve breakfast?!), and I need coffee in the worst damned way, so it’s out the door I go to start scouting*.

*Thanks, Apple Maps, for being singularly unhelpful!

It’s either find a place, or eat in the hotel restaurant. And I hate hotel restaurants.

I hate Starbucks almost as much, by the way. Shit, Starbucks is America’s STD: once one appears, it’s there forever and it’s gonna get nothin’ but worse.

Coffee and a muffin, however, wait for no man.

Thank God for my magic spidey-sense about these things. Less than a mile from the hotel I found a pretty good craft brewery (406 Brewing, if you’re keeping score). But wait…it’s 8:00 on a Sunday morning. I’m bad, but even I haven’t gone THAT far down the rabbit hole.

Okay, so take note of the location and return to scouting…

A hundred yards more. Oh, thank every single thing in the universe: A COFFEE PLACE!!

Not just a coffee place, but a small local place with unconventional, creative individuals running it…and…andAND…freaking good coffee! I promise you, there is a chorus of angels singing around me as I walk through that door.

The morning started so poorly – “what do you mean, you don’t serve breakfast?” – but shit-howdy, the day has been shaping up so nicely since!

Even as I type this, I’ve had my coffee and muffin, and now I’m sitting in the brewery I found earlier and working my way through a taster tray of a few of their beers. I am, by the way, going to have some new ammunition for the Drink of the Month section…

And you wonder why I randomly decided to run off and spend a summer doing this?

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…

The Middle Way

The first bit of advice anyone gives when you start writing is “don’t quit your day job.” That’s not because they want to keep out any new competition, as some people like to charge, but rather it is hard-won common sense.

Writing is a hard way to make a living. Very hard. Even if you bust out short stories and freelance projects every week (along with whatever novels you’re writing, or are intending to write), the money is…well, terrible. And freelance writing is a whole lot like prostitution: you have to get out there and hustle yourself constantly, then be whatever your john…err, client wants you to be.

It’s also a lot of work just to drum up business. I know, I’ve done it…to an extent. It is exhausting, time consuming, and frustrating in the extreme. But writing novels is worse. Those people you see on TV? The writers with the huge advance for a first book, a massive apartment in downtown Manhattan, and hot chicks hanging on their every word? Yeah, they’re about as real, and as watchable, as a Jar-Jar Binks rendition of MacBeth

But how do you write, I hear you ask, when you have to work full-time as well?

It sucks, but there are folks who pull it off. The hard part, unfortunately, comes when your job takes so much time and energy that you don’t have anything left for the writing. There is also, in all honesty, that feeling that you’re not a “writer” at that point. And that is frustrating on an inner level and can (and often will) affect your ability to, well, write.

But there is another concept, one that tries to walk a fine line down the middle of those two options (suffering as a freelancer or suffering as an office monkey). You have to decide what is more important to you: the writing, or the security of steady work. For me, it is – and was – the writing. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I had left a perfectly good career to start my own business anyway…when that business failed, turning to writing just made sense.

Writing had also become more important to me, by that point, than a traditional career.

So I currently try to walk that middle line. That means the writing is first priority for me: everything I do is there to support the words. But, to help with the writing (and the reality of life), I take other work…more than I’d like, actually. Quite intentionally, I do not pursue or get into high-level work. I can’t (well, won’t) commit to a serious, non-writing career-path again, so I focus instead on work that offers the flexibility to live my life the way I want, but also isn’t completely pointless and soul-destroying*.

*By the way, if anyone out there is looking for an ex-sales&marketing-monkey with an overactive imagination and expertise in beer, history and pop-culture trivia, drop me a line…!

When I wrote the post a few days ago about self-confidence – about “the clothes that don’t fit anymore” – this is part of what was on my mind. I gave my youth to work and career (sorta). I don’t regret it, aside from some missed opportunities, but I can’t see going back to that life. How the hell could I ever get the same satisfaction from a sales report, or a marketing plan (or a fucking TPS report, for that matter) that I get from seeing my thoughts and words come to life on the page?

By the way, if you’re wondering, living as a full-time novelist does begin to open up as a possibility (barring amazing luck, perfect timing or pure genius) by the time you publish your fifth or sixth book. Yay, something to look forward to!

Self-publishing, on the other hand, is a different beast entirely. It is also, most assuredly, no faster to reach that point of self-sufficiency than is traditional publishing. Self-pubbing also has its own unique challenges and problems, and is not the “fast cash” many people seem to think (and want).