February 29, 2012 § Leave a comment
And I will never do it again.
I have been through many scary things; I have been lost on foot in the middle of the night in a remote national park, I have been arrested at gun point, I lost my virginity while watching the movie You’ve Got Mail. But perhaps the scariest thing I have done is drive through North Dakota in the middle of February.
I am an Eagle Scout. I keep a hatchet, three flashlights, a headlamp, a tarp, a hammer, a compass, maps, bungee cords, blankets, a first aid kit, protein bars, a hunting knife, fire starters and at least a gallon of drinking water in my Subaru Outback. Still, nothing could have prepared me for driving West of Bismarck through the snow and the ice. I have never been so glad to be done with a road trip in my life – and I love road trips. Barreling through the Northern prairie on an ice-covered interstate as the wind whips snow all around you in a two-ton death machine is not the ideal way to see the countryside.
That said, there is nothing so great as the occasional brush with death to keep things in perspective. It helps me to love better, to be more patient, to remember kindness always, and reminds me of just how small and insignificant my life is. Nothing in this world is so comforting as the feeling of insignificance. It is the warm blanket during the cold existential distress of life’s night.
When I got to Portland I went out for a Burnside IPA. I shed a tear when I took that first sip, a tear because it wasn’t Miller Lite and a tear because I was alive to taste it.
February 13, 2012 § Leave a comment
I am moving back to Portland. My cabin time is over. I feel it. I gotta get outta here. I had no exit plan when I decided it was time to pull a Thoreau. I just figured I would do it until I didn’t want to anymore. And I don’t want to do it anymore. Honestly, I thought I’d last longer. But I cannot. And so in a little over a week, I’ll hit I-94 and back to beautiful, wonderful Portland, land of beer and music and mountains and good people, I will go.
I have learned many things in the four months I’ve lived along in the woods. Here are some:
People and their presence are very important. Any people, not just people you care about – because when there are no people, you care about everyone you meet. I have learned that there is a degree of recognition of the despair that is human life that we all face, and indeed a little relief from it, even in the must mundane and superficial of human interactions. Telling the cashier I have found everything okay today now feels as though we are saying to each other, “Yes, we are here. Yes, we understand. I found this okay, but the rest ain’t so easy, huh?”
Balance is critical in all things. When you have all day to write, you will not write. When you have only two hours to write, you will cherish those hours and use them wisely.
Even with the best of intentions, left to your own devices you will wither. You are not a good enough reason onto yourself to accomplish many things, such as waking at reasonable hours, showering regularly, shaving, not finishing off the bottle of scotch, at least after a certain number of months.
The leisure of time and mental freedom to think endlessly and without purpose is a form of paralysis and is a curse.
To go days and days without laughing out loud is not just sad, it is dangerous.
February 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
I’ve been yelling at the radio too much and seeing other people too little, and so yesterday afternoon I decided to walk down the road to this little country bar, which is quite literally in the middle of a cornfield, to watch the Superbowl. I have not watched a football game since the late 90s.
When I got there I took a seat at the bar and ordered a Miller Lite. As many microbrews on tap at my favorite bars back in Portland this pub had in bottled lite American lagers in a large fridge behind the bar. Everyone at the bar – about twenty or so people – was drinking the lite American lager of their choice, save one couple drinking Irish Mist up. The only thing more American I think than lite American lager is having to – nay, having the opportunity to – choose something from among a bunch of basically the same exact thing. We build our identities with these choices, by making the same almost arbitrary choice time and again. We become “Miller Lite, Colgate, Old Spice Denali” or “Bud Light, Crest, Old Spice Game Day,” or “Coors Lite, Aquafresh, Old Spice Classic,” and when we go to the store on Christmas Eve we say “Well Dad is Coors Lite and Bubba is Michelob Light so get this and that.”
The bartender asked me what team I was rooting for. I had no idea. She said that if I picked one then every time my team scored I got a free drink. So I said Giants because I used to live in New York and she drew a (really good) “G” on my left hand. The G had that serif thing that crosses the G and then goes down, like a corner in front of it. That is a very classy way to write a G and something you don’t see much of in the Midwest.
A napkin dispenser on the bar was advertising the meat raffle that happened every Monday at 6:30 which would explain why when I drove past the place on a Monday evening a while back the parking lot was so full. A sign above the bar had information about an upcoming ice golf tournament, though the bartender told me it may not happen since the ice has been so thin. “Yep, I went through last week,” a guy a few stools down from me said. Behind the bar was a heated red and yellow box that said “Hot Nuts” and below it there was a cubby stocked with many of two things: Snickers bars and Tums. In the back of the bar, the regulars – which was basically everyone except me – were having a potluck because no one thought the bar’s food was very good, except for the taco bar, which was okay. The potluck had meatballs and hot dogs and pulled pork and cheese.
And there I was, wearing flannel and drinking quite a lot of Miller Lite and watching football, and having actually a really great time. I even found myself caring about the game. I think I even shouted “yes!” when they scored that game-winning touchdown. I did on-the-house shots with everyone at the bar after the game and when I left I said goodbye to the whole bar and the bar said “see you later,” which no doubt they will. And so it seems that I still have some prairie in me. Enough, at least.