Tag Archives: J103

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]

I have long struggled to figure out where my writing could fit

I have long struggled to figure out where my writing could fit among the acceptable — published — writings, and only recently have I been willing to be unique and say, f**k it, I write what I write, I’ll make my own niche. That takes some gusts, even in the arts — how I wondered why [a local artist] was willing to do her cartoony style when she could have chosen more typical representations. But she choose, at some point, at some level, to be unique, to keep her own style. … and so, yeah, here we are. And the other part of my acceptance was to say, you know, I’m just not gonna worry about comparing myself to others. I’m not gonna worry that my peers are more accomplished or make more money. I’m gonna be happy with the money I make now! As M said, we aren’t in desperate need of money, so we’re fine! What more would more money do for us, you know?

[From journal of Mon., 14 July 2008, Journal 103, page 111]

Making ink squiggles on paper

Anyway, yes, what else? So, yes, it was nice to snuggle, and it was cool enough, low-humidity enough, to do so (unlike today). That’s what I was saying yesterday — how wonderful it is to be alive, … how wonderful it is just to do those universal things — snuggle, as one of several things — kissing, etc.

It’s raining again, a bit, not a lot. Anyway, yes, and a bit of distant thunder just now (8:19 on clock that’s 5 minutes [fast?] — not quite as good as the clock-lightning strike in Back to the Future, but there ya go. Anyway, (hey, they couldn’t have known the exact second of the lightning strike, either. Anyway, don’t start picking apart the logic of a time-travel movie. But that’s a pretty obvious one — and yet, how else would he ever get home? The movie would become more of a tragedy than comedy — stuck in 1955! Anyway, so what else? The rules on these pages are keeping my handwriting size and spacing (leading) in check. What else is there to say?

Not much. Not much. Not much. Not much — the visual regularity of repeated words. You start to see patterns, the “rivers” (I think that’s the term, from graphic design) of the white space between the words in a block of text. I unfocus my eyes at times and notice that rivering. But I hadn’t done that with the “not much” line. I was just noticing the regularity of the word shape and size, how it stood out from other text because it was so regular.

Anyway, after 4 repeated words, I did find something else to say. It seems such a waste of opportunity, not to mention how tedious it seems, when my students in their Morning Pages [journals] repeat a line or a word for a whole page. No thinking is involved/required, but it’s only the thinking, the inner voice, listening to it, that makes writing interesting — else all you’re doing anytime you write is just making ink squiggles on paper.

[From journal of Mon., 7 July 2008, Journal 103, pages 30-1]

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’

sam 2008 (3)

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.

sam 2008 (1)

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]

‘Do you think there’s anything, you know, cosmically, that amounts from all this?’

Though I like the routine school (work) gives my life, I am liking the summer, too. I’m finally relaxed enough to take on new projects, like cleaning, and even if we barely have the energy to keep clean while I’m in school, at least if we do the big organizing projects during the summer, when I do have energy, that’s a good thing to do. …

Birds: I remember last summer thinking that it was fairly quiet in the morning long before the end of summer. And last Thursday, I saw a baby robin at Mom’s house and a baby oriole, both could fly, and [my grandma] last week shut the gray cat into the milk room to protect a baby robin somewhere in the yard. So the baby birds are about to leave the next, and then they’ll fly away — so maybe early-mid July is normally when birds start departing? You always notice the return of the birds in spring — their noises after the winter’s quiet. But you don’t notice their absence. It’s not as striking. Some birds hang on, etc.

D.M. and email — he asks, “Do you think there’s anything, you know, cosmically, that amounts from all this? Like energy we’re generating with emotions or anything? … It looks to me logically like we’re animals … is there anything behind any of this, in your opinion? Anything more? Or is it this, and then we die, and the billions grow and roll on.” Also … “Obviously, you don’t know — I mean, no one does, but I know you like to think about ideas and I’m curious about your idea on this — I don’t think I’ve heard your take on this for a long time. It’s true to pattern as we get older. I think we’re supposed to believe more and more there’s got to be something, right?”

A more in-depth reaction later, but first thoughts: I’m still figuring out how to get along in this life, let alone trying to figure out afterlife. … Where meaning?

8:20 AM, at Tranquility Cafe at Swedes [hospital]: M’s getting X-ray, then CT scan. I’m not waiting in the waiting room where she left me, but … does she … well, maybe I should be there to support her … but somehow I don’t feel I need to — it’s just X-ray and CT scan. I can’t even be in the room with her. Still …

[From journal of Wed., 9 July 2008, Journal 103, page 47-8]