30 May 2012

All-American Atlanta

Yesterday I had the most quintessentially American vacation day.

It started at the MLKJ Historical Site. As usual, I got a little choked up listening to the good Reverend: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Up next was lunch at the Varsity, the world's largest drive-in, complete with their "orange drink" (still not sure if was named for the color or the flavor) and fried peach pie.

Then I went to the World of Coca-Cola, an excellent (and effective) piece of commercial propaganda/amusement park after which I am ready to enshrine Mr. Pemberton up there with Franklin, Washington, and Jefferson and add Coke to the pantheon of Mom, baseball, and fried peach pie.

Speaking of baseball, I ended the evening by attending a Braves game, where they vanquished the Cardinals.  I was definitely rooting for the home team, but couldn't bring myself to do the tomahawk chop.

Love Language

I read this article about six months ago, and I still think about it fairly often, so I thought I'd share.  Nothing is better than the last line of the article: "You are the hapax legomenon of my life."

29 May 2012

Memorial Day

A while ago I posted about why I hope teachers stop getting applauded for what they do, because it's a sure sign that they aren't remunerated commensurate with what they do.  I think Memorial Day is kind of the same thing, because how do you adequately compensate someone for being willing to make "the last full measure of devotion?"

Recently, I read a book about called The Price of Everything, in which the author discussed the myriad ways that we are forced to place a monetary value on life itself (probably more on this in a later post).  But for a life voluntarily offered?  Priceless. 

21 May 2012

Swamp Thing

One of the highlights of my trip so far has been taking a swamp tour.  I drove to the picturesque town of Breaux Bridge to meet Butch, an umpteenth-generation Cajun who was to be my guide to all things bayou, backwater, swamp, and slough.  For two hours we cruised around in his flat-bottomed boat, as he drawled away about the flora and fauna of the swamp, about how it was carved out by the snake-tail of the Mississippi whipping back and forth over thousands of years.  It was awesome.




I camped out in a thunderstorm again last night.  For the past several nights I’ve been sleeping without the rainfly so as to watch the twin wonders of fireflies and moonless stars, but just as I was about to nod off I heard the distant sounds of a storm approaching.  Rousing myself, I attached the fly and went back to sleep.
I awoke several hours later to rain pounding on the tent.  And then my world was rent asunder twice.  First by a two-second eternity of lightning, where there’s no point in counting seconds until the thunderclap because the storm’s immediately on top of you so instead you count how long the thunder rolls—one Mississippi, two Mississippi, all the way up to fifteen.  And then by a phone call, letting me know that my friends’ baby’s heart had stopped beating and there would be a funeral later this week.

Like the storm, this news had been expected—the baby had been diagnosed with an extra chromosome and was not expected to survive long, and my friends had decided to enjoy what time they three had together—but the foreknowledge did not make the call any less devastating.  I ache for them.

I can’t pretend to make sense of all this, but I do know where to turn for peace.  Long ago, others facing a storm of their own cried out, “Carest thou not that we perish?”  The Master, speaking sometimes to the tempest outside and sometimes to the one inside, beckons “Peace, be still.”

Years ago, I wrote a poem based off another scriptural storm.  It’s been running through my head, so I guess I’ll put it here:

Although waves of despair,
Like mountains break,
And nearly drown my faith;
To His tender care,
My fears I take,
And trust He'll keep me safe.

And while the great deep
Holds devils still,
Which seek to sink me in sin;
I know God will keep
Me whole until
I return to the heavens again.

And though through the depths
Of darkness I pass,
Where often I feel all alone;
The Spirit has kept
My heart of glass
Shining like light from a stone.

Let life's fierce winds blow
And trial's tempests din,
As long as this vessel shall stand.
For this do I know,
That these very same winds,
Carry me to the promised land.

-Ether 6:8-10

20 May 2012

Road Trip, Week 2: The Gulf

I wanted to title this week's summary Disneyland, because I went from Frontierland to New Orleans Square to Critter Country.  Next week, Tomorrowland.

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  • Driving Tunes: Greatest hits of CCR and Skynyrd, "Lost and Gone Forever" by Guster, N'Awlins jazz/blues on the radio, and the backwater-est country/zydeco on Bayou 106.7- The Sounds of Arcadiana (featuring tunes such as "I Love the Way She Make Her Booty Shake")
  • Books: The Price of Everything -Eduardo Porter;  The Help -Kathryn Stockett;  Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon -Dhan Gopal Mukerji
  • Wildlife: White-tailed deer, goats, a bunch of gators, swamp otters, a giant raccoon, great and little blue herons, pink spoonbills, French Quarter rats, and fireflies!
  • Food: Oh the food! Hill Country roadside peaches, the wurst meal I've ever had (see what I did there?), Tejano flautas, beignets, blackened chicken stuffed with crab meat, andouille sweet potatos, jambalaya, grilled shrimp and fried green tomatoes with remoulade po'boy, crayfish corn chowder and apricot biscuits.  I can see why southerners are more likely to be obese.   
  • Sights that didn't quite make the blog: Wildflowers in Hill Country, the Alamo, Spurs playoff game, MinuteMaid Park, the surreal Menil collection (or was it the Menil surrealist collection?), the French quarter's excellent music scene (and the obligatory flashing, drunken brawl, and subsequent arrest), Mardi Gras beads still hanging in Garden District trees, and the Swamp Tour (pictures forthcoming). 
  • Friends: Sadly, I missed my friends in both Austin and Houston, who were vacationing elsewhere.  Next time I'm on a cross-country road trip though...  

18 May 2012

From the Radio

There are a few excellent ultra-niche bands that stand out in my memory: Monkey Grinder, a Halloween carnival-themed band I saw on All Hallow’s Eve several years ago; the Conjugal Visitors, a 1910s period-piece bluegrass band from Seattle’s Folklife Festival, and Valparaiso Men’s Chorus, a New Orleans-based group that specializes in sea shanties.  That’s right, sea shanties.  Hits include numbers such as “All For Me Grog” and “Hangin’ Johnny.” (Lyrics: First I hanged me Sally, and then I hanged me family.”)  Apparently 90% of sea shanties have the words “Johnny,” “Whiskey,” or both in the title. 

I came across this latest band by listening to NOLA’s local jazz and blues radio station, where the DJ Black Dog was special guest Cap’n Alex McMurray.  The Cap’n (not “Captain,” he insisted) had devised the idea for a sea shanty band while performing one summer for Tokyo DisneySea as Captain Sandy, “a pea-coated, knee-length booted, 19th-century quasi-military seafarer in the model of Captain Ahab and Cap’n Crunch.”  All the act really needed, McMurray decided, was some famed New Orleans percussion.  And thus the Valparaiso Men’s Chorus was born.  (The name stems from the Chilean port town, a major thoroughfare for ships going round the Horn prior to the trenching of the Panama Canal.)  Pretty much it’s a group of thirty or so rough-and-tumble would-be sailors singing call-back songs accompanied by an accordion, a trombone, a pennywhistle, and a washboard.  According to their Facebook page, they are influenced by “Rum, Booty, High Seas, Glory, Adventure. Rum.” and sound like a “Caterwalling Chorus of Drunken Sailors.”  I’d say that’s about right.

This may be the most random thing I’ve ever posted, but I was fascinated by this story.  No joke.  For anyone in New Orleans tomorrow night, they’re playing at the Saturn Bar “when the moon sinks below the bow.”  Barring that, you can check them out online.  Bon Voyage.       

American Gothic

Late last night I drifted around New Orlean’s French Quarter, the Vieux Carre.  I wandered down to Bourbon Street in all its neon sound and fury, but found myself drawn—compelled almost—to the deserted side alleys.  It was a moonless night, and the dim light of sputtering torch lamps served only to deepen the shadows.  As I walked I gazed through shop windows rippled with age at a cacophony of antiques—tarnished silver platters, ancient hourglasses, cracked porcelain jester masks, filmy brass mirrors.  As I continued on, the streets became darker and more desolate, if that was possible.  A slight breeze picked up and the sickly sweet smell of death and wisteria wafted over me.  It was accompanied by the faint wail of a saxophone from some corner street performer plying his trade.  The sound reminded me of the bluesman who made a pact with the devil in exchange for his talent. The story goes that a down-on-his-luck musician went out walking at about midnight and came to a crossroads, where a stranger was waiting and promised him unending talent in exchange for his soul.  The musician took the deal and sure-enough could play anything he wished, but his songs were all laced with sorrow.  That was the music I heard now on the breeze, a gutterflower telling a story of heartbreak and despair.  I lingered a moment, considering following the haunting notes back to the man to drop a dollar in his hat or saxophone case or whatever.  Instead I kept walking.  I could see now that I was coming to a crossroads of my own, where my street met up with a churchyard square.  A statue of the crucifix stood at its center, lit up by a faint spotlight and casting a giant shadow of the cross on the façade behind it.  I stood staring at the image for quite some time, when suddenly I heard a man’s raspy voice speaking in Latin: “Memento mori.”  I don’t know if the voice belonged to a homeless man or a tarot reader or a priest or what; I had turned and fled without looking back.

17 May 2012


Today I went to the Schlitterbahn, which despite sounding like a Vodka label or a nasty epithet, is actually the world's largest waterpark.  It is also home to the world's longest waterpark ride and the ten-time champion of the world's best uphill watercoaster.  Amazing!  I felt like I should start congratulating everyone there, a la Buddy the Elf reacting to the "World's Best Cup of Coffee" sign: "You did it! Congratulations! World's best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It's great to be here."

Texas may just have the world's most world's best achievements.  In my immediate vicinity there are the World's Largest Fire Hydrant, World's Largest Concrete Tamale Statue, and World's Largest Urban Bat Colony, and of course, World's Largest Longhorn.  And that's just those things which have been recognized.  If you're into up-and-coming sites (Joke:  Why did the hipster burn his mouth? Because he ate his food before it got cool.), I can't recommend Roadside America highly enough.  It informs me that among other sites I will drive past today (and I quote): Bank Robbed by Santa Claus, Dancing Frogs Near Willie Nelson-Branded Biodiesel Truck Stop, 38-foot tall Robot Gumby, Pancho Villa's Trigger Finger, the self-explanatory Big Jackalope on a Roof, and the intriguing Errant Block of Granite.

I love roadtrips.


16 May 2012

King of the Wild Frontier

Just a quick post today, as the San Antonio Spurs game kept me out well past my blogtime.

You know those "Most Interesting Man in the World" commercials?  I think they're based off of Davy Crockett--the frontiersman-turned-fashionisto-turned-soldier-turned-politician-turned-settler-turned-martyr.  I was at the Alamo today, where varying legends have Crockett 1) playing the fiddle for the troops, 2) bravely being executed or 3) his body being found amid the corpses of fifteen enemies.  The best braggart before Ali, Crockett is reported to have said: "I'm that same David Crockett, fresh from the backwoods, half-horse, half-alligator, a little touched with the snapping turtle; can wade the Mississippi, leap the Ohio, ride upon a streak of lightning, and slip without a scratch down a honey locust [tree]."

And C-SPAN would have loved him.  Here's a reported quote from the floor of Congress:
"Mr. Speaker. Who-Who-Whoop — Bow-Wow-Wow-Yough. I say, Mr. Speaker; I ve had a speech in soak this six months, and it has swelled me like a drowned horse; if I don’t deliver it I shall burst and smash the windows. The gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr. Everett] talks of summing up the merits of the question, but I’ll sum up my own. In one word I’m a screamer, and have got the roughest racking horse, the prettiest sister, the surest rifle and the ugliest dog in the district. I’m a leetle the savagest crittur you ever did see. My father can whip any man in Kentucky, and I can lick my father. I can outspeak any man on this floor, and give him two hours start. I can run faster, dive deeper, stay longer under, and come out drier, than any chap this side the big Swamp. I can outlook a panther and outstare a flash of lightning, tote a steamboat on my back and play at rough and tumble with a lion, and an occasional kick from a zebra.

"Congress allows lemonade to the members and has it charged under the head of stationery-I move also that whiskey be allowed under the item of fuel. For bitters I can suck away at a noggin of aquafortis, sweetened with brimstone, stirred with a lightning rod, and skimmed with a hurricane. I’ve soaked my head and shoulders in Salt River, so much that I’m always corned. I can walk like an ox, run like a fox, swim like an eel, yell like an Indian, fight like a devil, spout like an earthquake, make love like a mad bull, and swallow a Mexican whole without choking if you butter his head and pin his ears back."     
Of course, when he lost his next Congressional race, Crockett said: "Ya'll can go to hell...I'm going to Texas." 

And he killed a bar when he was only three.  Stay thirsty, my friends.

14 May 2012

Road Trip Week 0: The Garden Island

I liked how the weekly summary turned out enough that I decided to retroactively create one for my week in Kauai.
  • Driving Tunes: Reggae on the radio, "Nights with Alice Cooper"  
  • Books: Sophie's World -Jostein Gaardner, The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook -Andrew Doughty
  • Wildlife: Sea Turtles, Monk Seal, Tropical Fish, and about a million roosters
  • Food: Kalua Pork, Ahi Poke, Shave Ice, Chicken-in-a-Barrel, Pineapple-Passionfruit Smoothie, and Raw Coconut (it was the Coconut Coast, after all)     
  • Sights that didn't quite make the blog: Kayaking through Kool-Aid blue water, Hiking the powerline trail, picture-perfect Donkey Beach, the hand-cut stone temple of the Hindu monastery, sunset over Hanalei Bay, the Kalaulau Cathedral,    
  • If I'd had unlimited time: Hiking the entire Kalaulau trail (complete with debauchery at the end), 
  • Friends: Manalani and Kim, the Andersons, Christensens, and Wellers

Mother's Day

My momma loves cowboy poetry, and having lived life west of the Pecos for the past week, I thought I’d try my hand at it as a sort of Mothers’ Day gift.  I tried for several hours as I rode through Texas Hill Country, but couldn’t quite conjure the pathos of the lone prairie (or find a good rhyme for cayuse).  I camped the night at a place called Enchanted Rock—Texas’ mini Uluru—hoping the name would hold true and I would find inspiration in its presence, but to no avail.  Desperate, I turned to peyote, and although the hallucinogen-fueled trance carried me beyond time and space and revealed to me my inner shaman, it did not reveal to me a single stanza of “A Cowboy’s Ode to His Mother.”

And so, with a bandito’s apology for plagiarizing, I present this poem, which I heisted from a real cowboy poet:

A Life Well Lived (excerpts)
by Dennis Gaines

It's a blessin' and a curse to always be the restless one
Never knowin' where to bed down with the setting of the sun.
A tumbleweed keeps rollin', and a cowboy does the same,
'Cause a drifter don't take roots just by the changin' of his name.

And the long days stretch to longer nights, with just the lonesome breeze
That stirs the dust in faded tracks and ripples through the trees
Where the line shack stands a beacon and the distant memories roam,
And a cowhand's restless slumber takes him back again to home,

Where his mama waits with patient smile to greet her wayward boy.
And though her heart is aching, still she claims her greatest joy
Is the knowing that her ramblin' son is running strong and free.
And this, my friends, is what my gentle mother gave to me.

A cowhand is a lonesome critter, born and bred to roam,
Though a cowboy with a loving mother always has a home.
But it's a long trail and a hard one; it's a sweet and bitter story,
When a cowboy keeps on ridin' . . . and his mother's gone to glory.
Dedicated with love to the memory of my mother, Betty Lou Caton Gaines, a true daughter of West Texas.

12 May 2012

Road Trip Week 1: The West

Thanks to some sage advice I've decided to recap the week's events each Saturday. You can also check out my daily entries starting here.

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  • Driving Tunes: "Wildflowers" by Tom Petty, Garth Brooks, Mexican Banda on the radio 
  • Books: The Lonesome Gods -Louis L'Amour, Standing for Something -Gordon B. Hinckley, I, Juan de Pareja -Elizabeth Borton de Treviño, The Price of Everything -Eduardo Porter
  • Wildlife: Roadrunners, Red-Eared Sliders, Two-toned Lizards, Big Horn Sheep, Mule Deer, and LOTS of birds, including Mexican Jays, Orioles, Cave-Mouth Swallows, and some amazing Cardinals
  • Food: Cherry Cider, Angus Fajitas, Rudy's BBQ!, Chipotle 
  • Sights that didn't quite make the blog: sunrise on the red rock overhang of Moab, sunset over the Chisos from Rio Grande Village, view from Lost Mine Trail, Seminole Canyon pictographs, excellent and eclectic Anderson Art Museum in Roswell, not-so-excellent International UFO Museum and Research Center, The Space Walk, Albuquerque historic downtown, booming metropolis of Del Rio
  • If I'd had unlimited time: Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque (not until October), Carlsbad bat flight (not there at the right time of day), trip into Mexico (if it's too unsafe for the Air Force, I'm not going)
  • Friends: Ronnie and Stefani (Ward) Steelman

11 May 2012

Rio Grande

This morning I walked down to the Rio Grande, its muddy waters cutting a wide swath through the arid Chihuahuan desert.  Through countless millennia the river had carved a deep canyon dividing the U.S. from Mexico, its sheer cliff walls a testament to the shaping power of water over time.  Pensive and a little heart-sick, I approached the swirling waters and literally and figuratively cast my bread upon the waters.  The current, viscous like rich chocolate milk, swallowed it down.

Across the river on the opposite bank, a man in a wide-brimmed hat sat in the shade of a boulder.  Picturesque (and assuredly aware of it), he saluted me with a song:

Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Canta y no llores

I stepped to the river’s edge and then into the current, waves lapping over the top of my sandaled feet. I recalled the idea that no man can set foot in the same river twice, for one of the two –the river or the man—will have changed.  I believe this to be true.  But it is also true that rivers and men both can shape their surroundings through recurrent action, cutting paths that they will follow barring a supreme change in circumstance.  We people are continuously changing and yet creatures of habit.  It is these truths—those whose antitheses are also true—which are most compelling.

Thunderstorm, Big Bend National Park

The storm approached slowly, distant murmurs and mild patter and haphazard flashes, like a hesitant stranger stammering around the mountains that ringed my campsite.  Upon meeting the looming basalt monolith—Casa Grande, the watchman of the Chisos—the clouds erupted.  The raindrops on the tent beat like applause, accompanied by a thousand flashbulbs and a roar of appreciative thunder.  Pleased with the attention, the storm intensified and the rain popped like bacon frying, and then popcorn, and then firecrackers.  The lightning became a strobe light, and the thunder a jet engine.  The storm grew more insistent, the flashes lighting up mountains like midday and piercing my clenched eyelids.  Artillery shells of thunder pealed across the Chisos, and the sound was more felt than heard, like the dragging of heavy furniture across a rough wooden floor.  Hail fell in the desert, white pebbles of life for the parched sotol, agave, and ocotillo.  And then…silence.

10 May 2012

Allegory of the Cave, Revisited

Written from Carlsbad Caverns, NM.

Imagine you lived in a massively deep, enormously dark cave—a cavern, if you will.  This cavern is your home and it is cool and dark and damp, just the way you like it.  The bats are your friends and you idle away the hours playing with incandescent crickets and centipedes.  When the terrible lightning storms fury above ground you are safely sheltered in your cavern, listening to the music of water droplets falling into the still pools around you.  The water calcifies into beautiful formations—from giant columns and towers down to delicate rock draperies and tiny straws—and it is as if you have an entire underground kingdom of your own.  As you lie gazing up at the forest of stalactites, you imagine that gravity is reversed, and you are instead hovering over an immense hilltop of crystalline trees and mountains, looking down on a world in miniature.  Your cavern has sparkling grottoes and tranquil ponds and everything is…peaceful.

One day you get it into your head to see where it is that the bats go each night.  You stagger towards the surface, bumping your head on the overhanging rocks and slipping in forty foot piles of guano.  You finally reach the mouth of the cave, and the blazing sun blinds and burns you.  There are hordes of swallows flying about you, shrieking as they circle around your head.  As you stoop to investigate a nearby flower, sharp thorns pierce you; all the plants, in fact, have spines or thorns or razors.  From atop a hill, you can see hundreds of miles of Chihuahuan desert, acres upon acres of juniper shrubs and prickly pear and buzzards and rock (but not the lovely weeping rock of the cavern).  Mighty gusts of wind spray sand in your face.  The surface is neither cool nor dark nor damp—precisely the opposite, in fact. 

And so you return to your peaceful cavern home. 

09 May 2012

The Truth is Out Here


At approximately 6:00 pm MST on the evening of Tuesday, May 8th, 2012, I arrived at Brantley Lake State Park, about an hour’s drive south of Roswell, New Mexico, where I had spent the day researching the events surrounding the 1947 crash/encounter.  It is a pretty little lake in the middle of an otherwise sun-blasted, wind-blasted, sand-blasted, and at one time nuclear-blasted desolation, and I intended to camp there before moving on to Carlsbad in the morning.  With it being a Tuesday and school still in session and all, I was the only one at the campground and picked a spot right by the water’s edge.

After setting up camp and fixing myself a quick dinner, I watched the sun set across the lake.  With the dust storms the prior few days, the sunset was vibrant red and orange.  I mention this because just as the colors were fading into the approaching night, I saw two…objects…just above the horizon.  At first I thought they were military aircraft, due to the heavy army presence in the area, which I had learned about while wandering the grounds of the New Mexico Military Institute earlier in the day. 

(One quick anecdote bears repeating: The soldiers I met were polite, but quite reserved.  Upon asking one of the cadets how he liked Roswell, he told me firmly, “We’re instructed not to talk to ‘civs.’”  “‘Civs’? Oh, like ‘civilians’?” I asked.  “No, like ‘sieves’. Because you guys leak everything.  Stories, secrets, everything.”  That was the end of our conversation, and I ventured no more.)    

Anyway, I watched the two distant aircraft for several minutes as they performing maneuvers which led me to believe that they must have been helicopters, moving straight up and down and in intricate patterns with one another.  Soon it grew too dark to see, so I went to my tent to read and promptly fell asleep.

I don’t know how long I slept, but it was pitch black when I awoke.  I stepped outside my tent to look at the stars when suddenly I heard a pulsating.  I say ‘heard,’ but it was really more of a sensation like sitting in an airplane’s pressurized cabin, only it was a rhythmic.  The pulsing became increasingly more intense, certainly uncomfortable and almost to the point of pain, but there seemed to be music in it, or math, if that makes any sense.  Whatever the case, my equilibrium was thrown off and I became dizzy.  The vertigo sent me stumbling to my knees.

That is when the pain started.  It originated in a raised circular scar on my forearm, which I had always assumed was the result of a long-forgotten childhood accident.  It felt as if someone had lit a match inside my arm and the fire was circulating through my veins or nervous system.  The searing intensified, and I blacked out.

The next thing I remember is waking up standing chest-deep in the lake, my hands upraised.  Disoriented, I stumbled back to my tent and stripped off my soaking clothes.  It was surprisingly light outside, and at first I figured it had something to do with the “super” moon.  As my senses returned, however, I heard songbirds and realized that it was nearly dawn.  Not knowing where to go or who I could tell, I drove until I found a wireless signal and wrote this affidavit.  

I have no idea what happened to me last night, or if anything happened at all, but I solemnly affirm that I am in my right mind and under no coercion—physical, financial, or otherwise—to provide this statement.  I just wanted to get it out there before they—the military or…the others—silence me.

Dated 05/09/2012

07 May 2012

Evenin', Ma'am

Today was a very western day.  Louis L'amour regaled me with tales from the Old West (The Lonesome Gods) as I rode through stunning vistas like these:

In New Mexico, I passed through dust storm, thunder storm, hail storm, and wind storm all in the space of about an hour.  There were ancient ruins and ghost towns and abandoned Navajo reservations--a people-less empire.  Supper was chopped brisket and green chile stew on a rough pine table.

In my home growing up, we had paintings from Charles M. Russell, an artist whom I have long admired because of his name and cow skull signature.  I thought a lot about those paintings today, and about Frederic Sackrider (no joke!) Remington's masterful bronzes.

When Shadows Hint Death

Mountain Man

Now I'm no cowboy and the West was won long before I came around.  But there's something about sage brush and dust and wide open spaces and long lonesome rides that brings out the lazy saunter and drawl in us all, I think.  Well, it is the Land of Enchantment, I hear tell. 

Travels with Rusty

One of my all-time favorite books is Travels with Charley, a travelogue written by an aging John Steinbeck as he attempted to reconnect with an America from which he had grown detached.  Steinbeck embarks on a massive roadtrip across the country accompanied by his dog Charley, in search of not only America (as the subtitle states), but also to some degree his masculine vitality and independence—from which he had also grown distant through conventional and comfortable living.  Outfitting a trailer christened Rocinante after Don Quixote’s trusty steed, Steinbeck tilts at giants and windmills from sea to shining sea, and records his exploits and impressions in a brilliant account of one man’s trek across the U.S.

Segue: I’m writing this paragraph from a campsite in Moab on Day 1 of Russ’ Epic Adventure (Bogus Journey?).  Having recently graduated from the BYU MBA program—and with ten solid weeks of unencumbered vacation before starting work—I’ve decided and undecided and redecided to take a roadtrip of my own.  Unlike Steinbeck, I’m not exactly sure of what I’m in search of (other than really good food and really good stories) or if I’m even looking for something or avoiding something or what, but I trust that I’ll know a lot better several thousand miles from now.  

And who knows? I may even come back with a dog.

Coincidentally, like many places in Utah, Moab gets its name from the Old Testament.  The Moabites were like COBRA to the Israelites’ G.I.Joe, always losing battles and swearing revenge.  (I’ll get you, Israel, next time!)  My favorite episode is about a more-than-plump Moabite king who survived an assassination attempt because his assailant’s dagger gut stuck in his layers of fat (a whole cubit!).  Or the story about the angel and the talking donkey.  That’s a good one too.

03 May 2012

Tropical Fruit

So Kauai has lots of strange fruits.  This week I have tried three new ones, all from the same family:




Delicious and strange little popples.

The strangest fruit I have seen, though, is the very rare rudraksha, a vibrant blue fruit whose seed is used as a sort of Hindu rosary bead.  Kauai's Hindu Monastery has America's only rudraksha grove, pictured below.

Smurfberries are real.  Now on to finding Gummiberries. (And yes, for those of you keeping track at home, that is two blog mentions about 80s cartoons this week.  And I haven't even gotten into all the time I've spent Snorking around this week.)

01 May 2012

Deserted Island

Black Sea
by Mark Strand

One clear night while the others slept, I climbed
the stairs to the roof of the house and under a sky
strewn with stars I gazed at the sea, at the spread of it,
the rolling crests of it raked by the wind, becoming
like bits of lace tossed in the air. I stood in the long,
whispering night, waiting for something, a sign, the approach
of a distant light, and I imagined you coming closer,
the dark waves of your hair mingling with the sea,
and the dark became desire, and desire the arriving light.
The nearness, the momentary warmth of you as I stood
on that lonely height watching the slow swells of the sea
break on the shore and turn briefly into glass and disappear . . .
Why did I believe you would come out of nowhere? Why with all
that the world offers would you come only because I was here?