Tag Archives: 2008

Salina, Kansas: This is a flat town.

7:24 Central Daylight time, SALINA, KANSAS — Well, here we are, halfway across Kansas. It looks like we’ve still got 10 hours and 630 miles to go, according to the MapQuest M pulled up inside the 24/7 station next door when we stopped to pee at 7:45 last night. So we drove from 1 CDT (noon MDT) ’til 7:45, took maybe half-hour for lunch at Subway in Burlington, Colorado, a quiet — eerily quiet? — town near Kansas border and then stopped for gas at WaKeeney, KS. Gas has been cheaper here in KS than elsewhere, $3.60 something at WaKeeney, where M bought her Kansas magnet for Nina, something about Dorothy and Toto, as most of the souvenirs here seem to be about — also there’s’ the Kansas weather T-shirt: changing every hour, with tornadoes twice later in day. And also the gas here is $3.59 or so — maybe that’s because of the oil produced here? We saw oil pumps somewhere near Hays. When M started driving, I was more able to look. I drove 1 til 6. M took over at WaKeeney. She found a pamphlet for some Smoky Hills Scenic drive, which might be neat. It crosses some old Butterfield Trail. But, then, we were in a goal-mode, but beyond that, how much history does a dude need, you know? F*ck, Kansas is desperate: there’s a “deepest hand-dug well” attraction marked in our Rand McNally map.

Posture — letting the head and shoulders be where it takes the least energy to maintain them. Usually it’s straight up, not my normal hunched-over post. That’s what [chiropractor] V. said, too — good posture is when your head feels balanced. What’s odd is how quick it is, how easy to forget where it feels natural and start hunching over without even noticing the extra energy it takes, in the form of tense muscles, until later, when muscles start aching, I get headache, etc.

I’m sitting here in a conference room, the Cottonwood Room, capacity 49, near the breakfast area in this Holiday Inn Express. It’s not as nice inside as outside, but this was the nicest-looking hotel I saw [while] driving around Salina (pronounced “sa-LINE-ah,” according to weather guy on KAKE, “cake” they called it, TV out of, I believe, Wichita). We actually went 9th Street through town — this is a flat town — lots of flat around here. Clerk at 24/7 advised we go south for food, so we did, ate apathetic food served apathetically at Fazoli’s, and then we went back to Candlewood (Suites?) Inn and checked out of the room we had just checked into. It was an odd sort of room, the last one she had, with double queen beds, handicap accessible bathroom (no shower tub, just floor), and a kitchenette — but it had a slightly odd smell and M was bothered by it. She was already a bit anxious, and she made a face at the room smell before recognizing, wow, that’s what my mom does — and so while we ate, M got online with her phone and got the number for Holiday Inn and called — talked to India, she said, made reservation, and we checked in here at about 9:30. So we have a ways to go yet today — to Kansas City, up to Des Moines, and home — but we couldn’t have gone much more last night, anyway.

[From journal of Mon., 11 August 2008, Journal 103, pages 385-7]

M said, why don’t you admit it hurts?

7:56 A.M., Mountain Daylight Time — Well, here I am. Walked around the ring road through this corporate office park. I say “corporate” because these aren’t factories, but mostly these are small buildings. Only DirecTV is really big. And I had to pee really bad the whole time, well, almost the whole time. But I held it in. Walking downhill was worse than flat or uphill. And anyway here I am.

I’ve read the papers this week, but very little TV or NPR and no online news. It’s been pleasant that way. At least newspaper isn’t screaming at me. But these papers are better than the [Chicago Tribune] — the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post are both better papers than the Trib, more news, but also just more character, more personality in the features. And we went to Boulder yesterday and I bought a NYTimes on the Pearl Street Mall just because I could — because here it was, and I can’t normally buy it. So yeah, after MPs [morning page journals] yesterday, we picked up M’s dad at Marnie’s. M had cereal for breakfast; I had TicTacs [10/23/08: didn’t I also have an energy bar from Shell station?] and then got her mom at the nail store — her mom had swollen gum troubles. And M drove up to Boulder (by the way, I’m here at my table on the ground floor, looking out at the wedding tent and the concrete walk and the pond and golf course — and a staffer was outside a few minutes ago wearing a plastic glove on his left hand, taking cigarette butts out of the black sandy tray at top of garbage cannister and throwing the butts into the garbage can beneath. I didn’t know that was a job to be done, but I guess it does make it look nicer.).

So, yeah, I’ve been saying how Denver has an outdoor culture while Midwest doesn’t as much — also Chicago isn’t really as tourist-friendly. The IPass [“eye-pass”]: Having to stop to pay cash tolls is so tedious, it’s as though the state hates outsiders, or there are simply so few it doesn’t matter, but either way, it’s not a welcoming system for tourists. While out here in Denver, we drive all around the city and pay no tolls. We saw signs about the HOV lanes — high occupancy vehicle? — and how you could pay a toll there, but it was free if you had two or more people in car. Chicago doesn’t reward carpooling at all.

Anyway, M drove to Boulder. We went downtown. [Her dad] shouted to a biker, how do we get downtown? Take a left on Arapahoe (was it?), then 9th Street to downtown. M said if I gave directions, it’d be too much information (T.M.I., the saying goes). And I found my Clairefontaines — my only real quest of the trip — at Boulder Books, a neat store I didn’t have much time to explore because I was looking at various notebooks, but that’s OK. We were on Pearl Street, where [my friend D.] said he had been, but hadn’t had a good feeling at, a few weeks ago. To think that my friend lived there — anyway, lunch at Walnut Brewery, tasted their beer sampler while [M’s mom] started to cry while maintaining her tooth didn’t hurt. M said, why don’t you admit it hurts?

[From journal of Fri., 8 August 2008, Journal 103, page 353-5]

I mentioned ego

I mentioned ego — oh, in “Breakfast at Victory” essay. Mike said we need the ego or we’d get pushed around in life. But what did he say — did he add a caveat on to that? I said it sounds like my daily-life ego versus creative freewriting nonego, the value of letting go of ego at times, too.

A conversation like that — only 10 minutes or so, he sat in chair opposite me. I could’ve asked several things — how do you compare Chicago to here [Denver]? Or I could’ve given my opinion of a certain philosophy — but those, while OK, would’ve been kinda silly, too. We go to an interesting point in that conversation, and we each recommended a book to each other. He said he teaches that Huxley book [Perennial Philosophy, maybe]. I think he said he uses that text in class.

[From journal of Sat., 9 August 2008, Journal 103, page 374]

It’s juvenile to have the attitude that you have to overturn everything, push everything to see if it tips over.

It’s juvenile to have the attitude that you have to overturn everything, push everything to see if it tips over. Maybe that’s a necessary developmental step for teens and young adults, that “change the world” stage of life. One wants to know what are the reasons for the way things in the world are, and, yes, some of the reasons are arbitrary, not rational or purposeful, but traditional and/or arbitrary (say, school structure). But that’s how the world is, that’s how we find it, and frankly, why rail against these small things — say, silly laws, teacher licensing, etc.? Just go along with little stuff so you can pursue the bigger, higher-priority, stuff: being happy, raising kids, having good relationships, etc. I guess those are bigger things , although, I guess, I mean — when you have a good marriage, that seems so much more real, more important, than school regulations.

The world pales in comparison to those intimate moments with your spouse (or child, or friends, etc.). The simple pleasures, as they say. The lullaby “Baby of Mine” (from Dumbo movie?) comes to my mind, its image of mother-baby bonding. These little pleasures of being human, of being alive. These things that we don’t talk about much — it’s hard to talk about them, because they aren’t words. The joy of cuddling with M — it’s not an ecstatic joy. It’s just, well, nice. It’s something that has to be experienced. There are organizations promoting all manner of changing the world, but there are no groups promoting cuddling one’s spouse, frequent hugs, loving your kids, playing with your dog. These common pleasures — for me, writing in my journal — this, too, is not radically new to the world. All these things I’m describing — there’s no game so no winner, there’s no fame or money involved. It’s simply the pleasure of being alive, of not being alone. Why don’t we talk more about these things? Why is so much of our media talk about policies and issues and material wealth and so forth, all these abstractions, all these externals. We tend to downplay these joys that everyone (well, almost everyone — not those in comas, say) can experience, the things we’re already capable of. We don’t need to lose weight or make money or work hard to hug our spouses or play with the dogs.

And, look at you here, wanting to change the world to be more this way — let that go, too! I’m mature enough to recognize when I’m going down that “change the world” mindset — hey, there’s no reason to change the world! I mean, why resort to abstractions? You don’t need to prove the value or joys of cuddling — that’s the point of cuddling! These things you haven’t experienced as a 20-year-old, and as a 20-year-old, you believe those abstractions are important somehow.

(I looked up Lara Logan on Google yesterday, the CBS Iraq correspondent. Howard Kurtz, Washington Post media guy, said she had plenty of ambition. But she’s been living in and reporting from war zones for more than 5 years now — she’s 37 or so, I read — so much ambition. At times that seems exciting, to have this career path, be nationally known. But at other times, her life seems terrible to me — how can she live in a war zone and not have that affect her — stress levels, nightmares? Perhaps she’s one of those who burn bright and burn out, Roman candles, as the comparison goes. As Kelly ___ from Daily Illini, who reports from Middle East and Chechnya — a true believer, of sorts — a committed person).

See, it’s funny that I would say I want to change the world. The whole point is that these joys are, well, they don’t need promotion. They’re self-explanatory (sex is nice, even when our media takes it and perverts it, turns it into a game of f*cki*g attractive people, of “scoring” — not just the media, some people [do this too]).

The whole point is, I had to mature to the point where I could realize that I’m — that I’m alive, in this body. And all kinds of people have all kinds of ideas and goals and needs and views and — f*c*, this is more awkward than it needs to be.

When I was younger, in my early 20s, I thought that what reality was, was abstractions: living a unique life, being creative, changing the economic or cultural shape of the world. And as I get more mature, I can see those things don’t matter so much as I said they did, as I used to think they did. At age 20, I wanted to be Unique, Important, etc. At age 30, 34, I want cuddling. Well, see, it seems silly to even write it. Cuddling just is. It doesn’t need promotion. So many of the joys of life are so common as to be nearly universal. And yet we don’t talk about them. (I guess I’m saying these things should be talked about because then, as a 20-year old, I wouldn’t have been deceived — and yet, maybe this is something I had to learn on my own).

I can’t even write about this. It seems dumb and words are blocking the simple point — my life is basically unremarkable to others, but it’s pretty wonderful to me. In a sense, it’s a selfish thing, but in another sense, these things are wrapped up in consciousness, which is essentially private. It’s nice to experience cuddling, to experience conversation, to experience the “miracle of childbirth” — it’s a pretty common miracle, has happened billions of times, but it’s still miraculous to you. As a parent, you have created life, you’re witnessing a new life, the beginning of life (as it was also miraculous to witness Gracie’s death). These so-very-common experiences continue to be the most significant, the most profound, the most wonderful, sublime experiences. And they’re basically impossible to share, to tell others about. Even when people have both (each?) experienced these things, there’s just not much to say.

[From journal of Sun., 6 July 2008, Journal 103, page 20-3]

New dog ‘Sam’: ‘He’s cute and oddly tiny’

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Puppy Sam, eyeing a gray cat, partially visible at lower right corner of photo. Both animals are near the door to my grandma’s goat-milking house. Late summer, 2008.

Some facts from trip [from here to Denver and back] — gas receipts: …

Totals: 83.52 gallons, $316.07, avg. price/gal = $316.07/83.52 = $3.78/gal avg.

Total miles: 2389.5 miles/83.52 gals = 28.61 mpg at avg. speed of 70-75 mph in 2008 Scion XB, with now just over 20,000 miles

Well, clearly, I’m burying the lede here — [We] got our new dog yesterday. We brought him home and sat under safety tree and [grandma] P. and [uncle] L. and [cousin] E. came and P. just says, “Sam.” So after we said the name the other day, and P. said it, unprompted, uninformed by our earlier discussion, we decided on “Sam.” He’s cute and oddly tiny — a runt, perhaps, or a little malnourished, what with the worms and all …

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Puppy Sam, with his frequently used expression of concern.

And we had the puppy home in early afternoon and we walked him to quarry. Most of the way he walked himself. We joked that maybe he’s already 3 years old. He seems very smart and oddly proportionate. Most puppies are disproportionate. But his paws aren’t even very big, as [my grandpa] and M pointed out. “The World’s Smallest Lab,” I called him this morning.

He’s a biter. We had — I had, anyway — forgotten how bitey little dogs — puppies — are. And this morning I introduced him to [uncle] L’s dogs, who were barking at him as he was near [grandpa’s] pond as if he were a cat. I took him down there to L’s and he shivered a bit, and the other dogs were reluctant to meet him. Chester [a bloodhound] not too reluctant, but Sis [a hound] came within 10 feet and started to leave. I had to call her near, and Spuddy [hound-mix] was very leery, too, almost leaning sideways. … L came to his front door and said big dogs think little dogs are too needy. He said [his old dog] Rufus wouldn’t get near his own litter he fathered with Annie.

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Neighboring bloodhound Chester meets Sammy dog as pup. Late summer, 2008.

I went to Byron and got film and stuff. M said while I was gone, Sammy was carrying around a piece of newspaper folded only once — and there was an ad for “Sam’s” something on it. He met Kiki and Beezus [my grandparents’ Lhasa Apsos], who had been going nuts inside the house but weren’t really all that interested once they met him — later, inside P’s house, he chewed on one of those other dogs’ beef bones, and neither dog scolded him. He stayed in P’s deck pen while we went to Rockford — Beef-A-Roo, Petco …, Farm & Fleet for pen and crate. We won’t force him into the crate as we did Gracie on her first night. And there was very little separation anxiety last night. We set up pen and crate and, pen around the crate, with crate door open and a blanket inside and a towel over … for dark. When he picked out his own spots to lie down, he was going behind the front door or under chairs — smaller, darker spots. But then [his seller] said she had him in a pen by himself at nights and let him out into the hallway (or something like) near the miniature horse during the daytime. She said he was smart, but she didn’t say, and we didn’t ask, what she meant by smart, how she could tell that.

He — he’s just so small. And it’s — suddenly there’s a dog’s presence in the apartment again. Really pretty easy, that was. We cried about Gracie last night after looking at dog foods at Petco. And how hard it seems to pick a good food, how we used to do that for Gracie, pick a food that was healthy and wouldn’t give her allergies. And how that was stressful and it felt a little stressful last night and then I thought, eh, it doesn’t need to be stressful. Don’t approach dog ownership like that, thinking it has to be stressful.

How small he is — his ears not much bigger than the width of my thumb, and he’s got that puppy swell — a touch acrid, a slight bit like a skunk, but not offensive. And so cute now — I took nearly 3 rolls [of film pictures] yesterday alone. I want to document the early cute stuff — he’ll soon not be that. Yet he doesn’t really have a personality yet as older (adult) dogs do.

Ah, well. We’re going to Sycamore, to court.

We handle dog rearing better now than we did with Gracie.

OK, I checked: his ears are more like both my thumbs together.

Swimming in quarry: he followed me in. He got feet wet, hesitated just a bit, then walked in, then swam. I didn’t even have to introduce him to it.

He just plows through things, going forward and over, not around, legs and things in his way.

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Small Sammy!

[From journal of Weds., 13 Aug. 2008, Journal 103, pages 401-404. Pics of more-mature Sam here, here, and here]

How I am conscious: My experiences seem to require processing thru writing

I tried to answer D’s question about metaphysics — what’s beyond our particular lives and consciousnesses — and I don’t often think in that way. My experience interests me too much, I guess. “Experience” is too vague a word. What is it I’m getting at when I write my journals, especially when I get engaged in a specific idea or today? These are ideas that came to me last night, at the party or after, and I guess I like that about myself. It’s how I am, you know? I didn’t try to get drunk or try to force it. How I am conscious involves observing, thinking — maybe others just party and let it go, maybe others tell stories — I draw conclusions, note spontaneous thoughts.


♦ Girl in orange top and jeans doing her wiggle dance as we four sat in chairs in front of the back door to Leombruni’s. …

♦ Seeing — avoiding — [former] students

♦ Some older rough biker types — not real rough, but authentic, not suburban doctors on a weekend bike ride

♦ All these people who work just to put on a party (well, and make money, and promote the city)

Apparently these thoughts just come to me. I have this experience of looking at people …, and I at some point abstract this — these — moments of experiences (these momentary experiences) into larger abstractions. But I have this drive to understand, too — my experiences seem to require processing thru writing. Well, maybe I’d do less of this if I wasn’t in the practice of getting up and writing — and yet, I had plenty to write about today, ideas from last night, and some new ideas that came as I wrote.

[From journal of Saturday, 12 July 2008, Journal 104, page 93]

You don’t have to see your life so simplistically

You don’t have to see your life so simplistically as: “I like my life” or “I don’t.” First, it doesn’t matter whether you like it or not — it just is — and when you define your life narrowly, then N’s rhetorical attack can get a foothold (and when I don’t define it, N would say I’m prevaricating, I’m afraid to, etc. N’s viewpoint allows, brooks, little opposition.

But life goes on and changes. Maybe you are doing the best you can with your life now.

10:28 — back from potty break and CNBC. Ok, where was I? Something about letting go of this thought that my life is bad and letting go, being present, not attached to that abstract comment, that mere idea. Right, let go, let go that idea. It’s sorta interesting but not permanent by any means. You don’t’ need to argue stuff with N, with your mental image of N.

[From journal of Friday, 11 July 2008, Journal 103, pages 72-3]

There’s no need to fear, well, anything!

Maybe the wise answer, the Answer of Wisdom, or Answer of the Voice of Wisdom, is to not seek purpose so hard — to just appreciate the present moment and to not be obsessed with these abstractions of Purpose, all that — and yet, I wonder why this felt-need for Purpose comes to me now and then. Why do I keep returning to it? Perhaps that’s just an obsessive habit, perhaps I’ve been writing too much today and so I return to the Existential Void, yet again. And it is pretty pleasant just to sit here and write, you know? I could go read some old journals but that seems like a shift into work, a bit.

(Something that I’ve noticed lately: I’ve noticed a couple people say in the media, Carlin was one, or maybe it was him twice, who said he’s not into dirty words just to throw them out there unintentionally — he called that ignorant, I think — that he used dirty words to make a point, or in service of the rhythm, the auditory punch of a swear.)

Maybe what I’m talking about, with this lack-of-purpose talk, is just that if I did have a task before me, I’d be doing that, my attention would be on that — and that without a task, this is how you think. I mean, you could be meditating, in which case all thoughts could be abandoned, let go, and you really could be part of this moment, absorbed in it — though you haven’t done a lot of meditating since last summer, with your anxiety. You have found it easy, preferable, to stay occupied — and maybe you need to face that void of meditation more often? Maybe not facing it, not meditating, is making you feel more of a lack of purpose — or a lack of comfort and calm that you feel as a lack of purpose. Maybe this comes back to just that: being more accepting of life itself — doing more meditating, having less fear of my thoughts, any thoughts (and so many fearful thoughts come from the media, anyway — if I lived without media, I’d have fewer thoughts to fear?). And since last summer, I haven’t been as interested in trying to control my thoughts. I think I tried to do that last summer, to frustrating result (especially when trying to sleep).

But there’s no need to fear, well, anything! Accept, let it all go. Whatever it feels to be alive. Maybe (sh!t — I thought I may have had some brilliant way to end that sentence by the time I’d get halfway through it — some way to relate my ennui this morning to … relating my sense of, relating my feelings today and my attempt from a few days ago to describe what it’s like to be alive.

[From journal of Fri. 27 June 2008, Journal 102, page 122-4]

Our second dog—will we be quite as attached to him as we were to Gracie?

Our second dog—will we be quite as attached to him as we were to Gracie? I’m not sure. We now know dogs can die—duh—but we feared death, we feared Gracie’s death. I remember thinking repeatedly that I never wanted to bury Gracie. But we did. It was hard—it’s hard to think of such a vital dog, gone.

And yet, OK, I’ll say it—life is loss, in a way, but I don’t want to privilege loss. It’s not more important than presence. Gracie was our dog, our healthy dog, for most of 7 years. We worried more than we needed to—both of us, I’m sure, but me, specifically.

The little girl just hung back yesterday—she would lick my hand, but she didn’t seek us out like Tippy [renamed “Sammy,” seen here and here and here and here, once he was ours] did. And I don’t know why we weren’t as interested in the bigger male. Tippy got a bit startled, he’d shrink back when I moved too quickly, but he also just seemed the friendliest. He’s very sweet, T__ said. He’d come up and lick us very quickly. It was funny how quickly all three dogs would start whining once one would start. They whined when they were getting hot in the sun? She moved the whole cage wall by dragging it.

Puppies—their hair seems a little wiry—not as healthy as Gracie’s was? Well, it’s not as slick as Gracie’s was, but then maybe this will be a finer type of hair, anyway, more like Frodo’s or a German Shepard’s than a lab’s. But Lab hair by itself is a little coarse—J__’s dogs at Mom’s place on Memorial Day.

Ah, well. We so didn’t want Gracie to die, and then she did. Perhaps we were overly quick to get surgery. She might have died anyway without that last surgery. I’m sure the last one in March was completely superfluous. But now we know, like a parent with a second child (maybe?) takes the little stuff in stride.

You know, there’s just no good way to communicate my sense of loss, how harsh it seemed that Gracie had to die. Still makes me sad—how hard it was to lose her. It’s making me tear up now, as I did yesterday. M said it makes her feel bad to see me cry.

[From journal of Mon., 4 Aug. 2008, Journal 103, page 320-1]

I check windows in summer at bedtime and the stove before I leave

I said how I check windows in summer at bedtime and the stove before I leave and heaters in the winter. I recall Uncle A__ warning me against putting papers against the electric baseboard, back when I was 5 or 6 or something and we stayed overnight there. Mom said she doesn’t remember staying overnight, and now, it does seem odd that we’d stay over only an hour from home. Oh, well.

I check before I leave but I almost never go back into the house once we’re on the road. … Mom said, what would happen if you didn’t check these things? The house would burn down, I said, and we laughed.

[From journal of Sat., 26 July 2008, Journal 103, page 235-6]