Category Archives: Travel Reports

Happy new year!

I’m in the woods of NH on a sunny hill top amid quiet with my Uncle, Aunt and Grandma. They all are disabled in one way or another and have banded together to take care of each other so they don’t have to be in resting homes for as long as possible. My grandma is 95 and deaf. My aunt is 58 and retarded. My uncle has been in a wheelchair since he was 17 and is now 66. Grandma had the house and some money. Aunt Cathy cleans, bakes, knits with grandma and takes her to the bathroom and bed. Uncle keeps the books, runs the house, meditates and composes music. He cooks three good meals a day, makes the drinks at 5pm, and gets the movies on Netflicks. The moral this new year for me, being around them, is to stick together and support each other. Keep those addresses of good friends as we move about in life. Try and live closeby. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And save some money for retirement.

First Week in NYC

Good. Really very good. NYC to me is like 1000 small town main streets with no trees between them. Friendly, safe in the East Village anyway. Reasonable market economy for food and such. People ask you for directions just like a small town too. School is great, very professional and supportive. I met the original Village People cowboy on a public access game show and he was cool. Eric W. took me to Cirque du Soleil for free since his wife couldn’t make it. Got back stage and met the director and some staff. It’s like a not-so-small army with a school, kitchen, doctors, etc. That basically overwhelmed me on the beautiful people watching front. As a friend told me, you’ve got to literally dodge the beautiful poeple in the streets of NYC.

Pics from trip

I’ve safe and sound in the Bay Area and very happy to be back. The trip across the US was great in part due to having a rideshare with a very solid and healthy kid named Jonathan who had just graduated from Hampshire College. It was his first Burning Man. Burning Man was really amazing and better then 2000 by a long shot. I was part of a very organized camp of 70 folks who put on a well known event. We had showers, fresh healthy meals and lots of work. I also volunteered for the Black Rock Gazette and got two stories printed. I’m in San Francisco now and loving it. The city seems uncrowded and healthier then when I left in 1997. I’m loving the humidity and trees after the desert for a week.

1. Trip Across (21 pics)

2. Burning Man. 3 pages

Monadnock Mountain Climb Report


Grand Monadnock Mountain

The bald rocky top of Monadnock Mountain has been flitting in and out of my field of view since I arrived in Keene, NH. It’s about 3000 ft. and has an unusually bear rocky top which should by all rights be covered in trees. I was curious about that but in the often typical understated manner of New Englanders, I’d only ever heard snipits of info around town such as, “good climb” and that it had “a pretty good view, depending on the weatha.” I didn’t know it was in contention for the most climbed mountain in the world with 125,000 people going up each year. Seems that bare rocky top is very attractive and a perfectly challenging day hike.

So I climbed it last Sunday and took some pictures (it was a harrowing solo assent due to buddies being called into work.) I took the less popular Marlboro Trail which is about 2 miles long and took about two hours up. At times it’s quite steep, but no need for ropes and kids to stout grandparents were on the trail. It was a hot and overcast day with thunder boomers milling about the state watering things.

Arriving at the balded top was like entering a bit of a party. Lots of people milling about, including a ranger who was fielding questions, the most popular being “will it rain?”

“Storms are down south,” was all he said (It started pouring right as I reached my car on the way down and it was then that I realized he hadn’t said it wasn’t going to rain.) Talking to the ranger more revealed that Monadnock is quiet the little mountain!

First of all there’s not trees at the top because it seems that back in the late 1800s the wolves and bears who lived up messed with the wrong local farmers. The farmers got angry lit the entire top of the mountain on fire and just cleared it to the rocks. It’s coming back slowly they say.

It also happens to be generally considered the second most climbed mountain the world after Mt. Fuji. Or the first if you want to debate some folks on technicalities. The ranger said some folks out in “Califonia’ would say Mt. Whitney was, “but they’d be wrong.”

And the name Monadnock, an old Abnacki Indian name has been revitalized by the mountain and kept in the English lexicon (Definition) to mean any lone mountain rising above a plain.

 

4th of July in New Boston, New Hampshire, NH

Happy Fourth

I just came back from my first 4th of July in the small NH town where my Grandmother lives. I was always busy during summers and never visited her in the summer until now. Surreal? Yes. Real? Also yes.

Pictures

Just a gaggle of white families a breedin’ in the country. Horses, working canons, bells by Paul Revere, lawn mower tractor pullin’. The best moment was when we were eating BBQ chicken in a mess hall and started talking to a young couple with a 1 year old. The mother had a “Martha’s Vineyard” shirt on. My grandmother saw it and said,

“I was there as a kid during a flu outbreak for months while it passed here in town. We were neighbors with the Indian tribe out there and our family station wagon was the first real car they had ever scene!” We figured that was about 1918 she was 7 or so.

Is it true? We’ll never know. My uncle Binny (short for Winfield in these here parts) was the keynote speaker at the tiny fairgrounds, as his grandfather was once before. Of course time changes things as my uncle is a composer, Buddhist, and paraplegic and my great grandfather was a gun collecting shoe salesman. Bin did a great re-telling of the constituional convention, focusing on New Hampshire’s role. They were 9 weeks late because the state treasury had no money and nobody wanted to pay for them to go.

Bin’s best line, “nothing’s changed much here, we still don’t like paying anything to the government. Maybe our motto should be “Live free, or die trying.”

It’s changing fast for everyone else too. Houses 200K and up. Locals being priced out. Commuting yuppies coming upstate to spawn. Same in Kennebunkport, ME. Folks I know are moving out of town and renting their 3bd/2ba houses by the week for $1600 and they’re two miles from the beach in rough woods.

Road Report: Driving, Cross Country in the United States.

Road Report. Cross Country

Comfort Inn. Pittsburg, PA.

Sun. Dec. 14th, 2003.

(Rough draft, brushed up draft on blog in a few days)

Just got into the hotel room (the first with Net access) after belting back a few drinks with a fella I met at the bar down the street from my roadside hotel off the 79 in Pittsburg PA. Lets call him Joe. Talking to Joe left me feeling like a career politician might feel if kidnapped from their bubble and placed in a working class bar in some random town. It was a stunningly educational, occasionally frightening, and ultimately hopeful, conversation. Skip to the end of this post if you want to read about that.

It feels strange to type after 5 days away from the computer…very strange, but its coming back quick. It does not feel strange to sit though; I’ve been sitting for 12 hours a day in my little car for the past 5 days. I’ve been on the road now since Wednesday when I left sunny San Diego headed for New Hampshire. I drive during the day, taking lots of short breaks.

A note about truckers before I go any further down this road. What a crazy ass numbing job truckin’ must be! But they keep America humming and they are your best friends on long trips, if you are observant you learn the language of the road, and it’s all trucker-eze. If trucks are going slow, go slow. If they are going fast, go fast, because they know where the cops are and the coming road conditions and weather. Follow tucks around cities, not through them. Be suspicious of highways with few trucks. Stop at rest areas where there are a lot of trucks and take a short nap like they do to keep your eyes sharp. Don’t tailgate them ever, and don’t pass them on curves if you can help it. Never pass slowly, lounging in their blind spot. And always, always, always give them the right of way. If you do this, they will take care of you on desolate desert freeways, dark snowy tree lined highways. If was the president I’d fund trucker yoga classes though, because judging from my back and kidneys, life on the road is brutal to the body, and after 12 hours of driving, the last thing you want to do is work out.

I headed out on the 15 North to the 40 West, passing through the song, “Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino,” except in reverse. I pushed hard to get to my mother’s house in Santa Fe, driving 970 miles in one day. It’s sort of a blur of gas stations since I had to get a roof rack and load it up, thus taking the gas mileage in my ’95 Subaru Impreza 5 door station wagon down to about 20MPG. It’s a very sure footed AWD car though, especially loaded down and with the bigger engine. Highly recommended machine.

Before I left I bought a video and still cameras, justifying it because I’m going to be teaching media literacy at a school. I’ve decided to take a little video every 100 miles and make a 15 minute short – should be interesting.

Thursday I left at 2pm and headed down to the 40. There was a storm coming across the country that I was trying to stay ahead of, but I slept late and had a good breakfast with my mother and visited with my stepfather and then my aunt and uncle came down and they all had to help me unload and repack my car. That was comical, each one making sure I had food, water, maps, etc., as if it was my first drive after getting my license. Driving away I regretted teasing them, especially my mother, for being so caring. One should not scorn love, even if it is totally ridiculous. I called from the road and said as much and felt better.

After a beautiful secondary road to the boring but excellent rt. 40 the storm caught me. A couple of hours outside of Amarillo Texas the bridges started freezing in the rain. I went by 12 accidents, one of which happened in front me. An SUV just started drifting on a bridge, slammed into one guard rail, then all the way over to the other one and stopped. I pulled over and getting out of the car couldn’t even stand on the side of the road ’cause it was solid black ice. He was fine and the cops arrived in minutes, probably called by truckers.

The next morning it was still raining when I work up in the little Travelodge and hit the road by 8:30am, a little late due to the time change escaping my attention. The weather channel and I conferred and I stayed on the 40 to keep it raining instead of snowing. I really, really, wanted to go north because I live the scenery and being raised in Maine I get irrationally nervous in formerly confederate states. It didn’t help that one of my books on tape was Don’t Know Much About

American History. I listened to that in the mornings, and the Iliad in the afternoons when I was spacey. I followed the rain all day.

By Ft. Smith Arkansas I stopped again. The next morning it had snowed a couple of inches, just like Amarillo. After Little Rock I consulted the weather gods, called a friend who got on the weather.com, plotted, planned and strategized. I could go north, letting the storm continue East at about 50mph, then follow it into the North East where it was heading to dump all kinds of snow. This would keep me on the North side of the Appalachians. Or I could continue in the warm south along the 40 to the ocean. But the storm was forecast to ice up the 40 around Appalachian pass, but if I could make it to the 95 and run up the Eastern seaboard behind it. The problem with that was the big city traffic and of course I wanted to go north. I finally decided to make a dash North at Memphis up the 55 to the 57, to the 64 North. It worked and although it rained and snowed lightly most of the way, the roads were mostly good. In Evansville Illinois I stopped for the night after a harrowing last hour driving in snow at night. By this time the truck stops were filling with bad coffee and piles of fried everything as their main fair.

The 64 was a serene country highway that I took to the 71 and up on to Cincinnati. Still snowing lightly, but with good roads, I called another friend for a weather.com consultation. We elected to stay south of the Great lakes, but north of the mountains, which meant the 70 through Columbus to Pittsburg where I am now. I’ll make NH tomorrow, weather willing.

So back to Joe.

Joe is 32, single, with a 14-year-old daughter he loves to death. I’m going to relay his story and thoughts, as they were very illuminating to me. I am not endorsing his opinions mind you.

Joe pays his child support willingly and is devoted to his daughter completely. He thinks he’ll not get married due to his parents’ savage divorce that left them both poor and angry. He’s a carpenter in a big union and is training to build bridge molds in Pittsburg. He’s from a small town in Pennsylvania where he owns 35acres he bought with his own money so he could someday build a house on give to his daughter when he dies, “She could sell it, live in it, I don’t care, just so she’s got somethin'” he told me. She wants to be an Ocean oceanographer and he totally supports her. He has interesting times going to football games where she cheerleads, because sometimes her school plays his old school where he played football. He was in the military for a few years and worked in factories.

Joe’s political thoughts were surprisingly shaded grays.

We established that there is a triad of top priorities for him.

1. Family values.

He’s dismayed at the condition of families and that schools are having to parent, “The world’s changing and we’re not keeping up with how to keep strong family values.” He’s sort of pro life because abortions will happen anyway so they might as well be safe. He worked since he was 12, he was “disciplined” which he was adamant was never “abuse” and he was troubled that we’ve forgotten that there is a difference. He got in fights outside of school, but never one’s that were really really serious and they helped him vent, which is missing now, he said. His high school coach smacked him around when he was out of line. He is pro-Bush due to his family values. We didn’t get into gay parenting, but he said, “Hey, I judge on character. Some gay guy hits on me and I’ll kill him, but otherwise I don’t care. Same with blacks and others. Live and let live, judge on actions.” I told him I lived in a gay area and went to gay bars with girls sometimes to dance and got hit on, “Oh, well that’s different, it’s their turf.” We agreed that their you have to expect to get hit on at a gay bar. He said he had no inherent problems with different folks and we agreed that assholes come in all flavors. He supports women working and would love to stay at home with his daughter if he found a rich one to marry, not that he’s going to get married again. But he’s also confused about how to keep good family values and raise kids well in this new world.

2. Economy. He was anti-Bush due to Bush’s position on union wages and overtime. He was very proud that his union president had refused a meeting at Bush’s ranch on these grounds. Unions may have problems with some dead wood, but they were needed and he was a union man. We talked about how he’s in the middle of family values and unions, democrat and republican. About how we need health care and good jobs. About how he wants a politicians to talk plainly and come from poor backgrounds so they can relate to common folks.

3. Guns

We have to be able to keep our guns so nobody can attack our country. This was not negotiable. Violence in our country was more due to lack of education, money, opportunities, culture, and then guns. We talked about Iraq. He wanted us out, saying the war games he played while in the military were bad enough, the real thing must be horrible. We agreed it was a rats nest, but Joe was mystified why we didn’t bomb the piss out of the busses of terrorists we saw coming into the country from other countries.

We talked about slavery. He had great grandfather, or some such old relative, who told him that when he and his family were hungry in the winter because their farm was not producing enough food or money, the slaves were eating on the plantations because they were kept healthy for work. He said, hushed, that it wasn’t all beatings and abuse. His opinion was that slaves were given freedom to fast to let everybody adjust in a healthy way. We agreed we were left with a terrible legacy of bad social psychology, being a country founded on freedom but having had slaves. We also agreed that the American Indian thing was a big mess and wished some politician would tackle that problem.

And we talked about truckers and the silent rules of the road. On this we were in perfect agreement. We parted and wished each other well crusin’ safely on the coattails of the kings of the road.

Weather Entertainment

“Weather Entertainment”

7th Ave. and Lincoln Place, Brooklyn NYC, Dec. 2nd 2003.

Caleb John Clark.

Foreboding gray clouds rolled over the sun outside the Brooklyn NY cafe I was sitting in. It was too cold to rain, even at 11am. A chill ran through me as I remembered last night’s walks on Manhattan streets, my windbreaker failing to break much wind. These clouds were not to be relished, my San Diego baked mind told me. More of a bracing attitude might be in order, a hunkering down as it were. Then, if snow flurries were to appear, I’d think about shovel and snow tire condition.

Someone behind me in the cafe suddenly screamed, “Snow!” at the next table. I watched as a gaggle of happy college women ran out from the cafe into the street to see fresh flurries coming down. “Lets sing Christmas carols!” one shouted. I was shocked and amazed. Had I forgotten the joy of the changing seasons? Of the first snows? It seems I had.

I thought back to how I felt when I recently prairie dog emerged from a deep train tunnel into Grand Central Station that weekend. Walking into the building my eyes were dragged up to the famous round ceiling where a Christmas laser light show was being projected. Holiday icons and cute ditties sprang around the old star constellations as happy music played. A feeling of sappy holiday joy overcame me. It was really impossible to stop. New York City for the holidays! I thought. Bundled families walking down streets with lit wreaths on old light polls. Hoards of people with shopping bags on the subway. Warm coffee in cops hands as they help tourists find stores with gleaming windows full of the treasures of the entire world. What a gas!

Someone bumped into me and I realized that I was standing still in a seething mass of humanity. I found a wall to lean against to gather my wits and watch the show. Every sort of person one could imagine walked by me all at once. Some with travel bags, begging bags, dark bags under pale eyes, shopping bags from stores with famous names, bags of food, visible personal baggage, bums with layers and layers of baggy clothes, bags of food, kids with happy bags of toys. And people looked differently then in warming weather. Perhaps it’s that here your fashion and grooming has to survive coats, good shoes, and winter hats. This makes it hard to have complex hair things going on, or precise outfits. People tend to have short hair that can fall into place after a wool hat, or long hair pulled back. There are a lot of thick black and gray wool Navy coats, scarves, and thin black leather gloves to help with the 30-50 degree drop in temperature between inside and outside.

Someone walked into the cafe behind me singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” bringing me back to the here and now. Turning, I could see snow melted into water droplets on the shoulders of their wool coat. Looking out the cafe window at the college women reveling in the light snow, I remembered why I have no bad memories of the weather while growing up in Maine. I was young and it was fun. Older now, I still felt their excitement about the little snow flakes wafting down. The flakes were signs that the next act in North East weather variety show was coming. These flurries were a slow transitional dissolve from the cold-frosty-rainy-gray-with-some-really-spectacular-days, changing to all-water-is-frozen-with-some-really-bright-sunny-days. “Oh, it’s snowing a lot!” someone else said. “I feel like taking off my coat and running outside.” Another voice chimed in with a laugh, “I feel like going to Hawaii.” Suddenly the snow picked up, followed by the wind.

Looking outside, the flurries had stopped and sun could be seen cresting over a thick low cloud for a few minutes. Then the flurries returned and the sunlight was blotted out as winter literally bored down on fall. It got darker. The women left for class. A snow squall ripped snowflakes one-way on the street, and the opposite way three stories up. Red brick backgrounds showed off the bigger and bigger snowflakes. Flurries no more, parked cars started developing white roofs and white racing stripes along their door tops. The flakes disappeared slower when they hit the cooling sidewalks. It looked mean now, dangerous to anyone unprepared.

“How are you?” someone said as a person entered the cafe behind me.

“Snowy and you?”

“I’m thrilled that it’s snowing.”

“Really, go outside for minute,” they answered stoically.

Then the wind mellowed and the snow fell in a nicer, calmer manner. It was brighter. A kid ran by smiling in only a long sleeve shirt. Two old people hobbled by in black wool over coats with snow on their shoulders. Snow highlighted the top edge of leafless trees on the street and covered the top of awnings. People sitting at the cafe’s window bar sipped hot drinks and stared at the show. A person next to me made a cell call, “Hi, I just wanted to tell you that it’s snowing,” they said and hung up. Sheets of snow appeared up high and across the street, just like your read about. They look like sheets being shaken out really, because they move like a flock of birds all turning at the same time, sometimes actually going up and sideways. Closer to the cafe window, flakes fall slower for a minute, when whip by. Vines on buildings become white lines. A round window on a van went by with a crescent moon of snow in it.

In sunny San Diego it’s easy to forget that weather can be excellent entertainment and that not all weather besides sunny and 70 is depressing. Frozen water falling through cold gray skies can in fact be uplifting and dramatic. If these fine folks can survive through February I thought, and then navigate the mud and wet of the winter thaw, they’ll live to frolic in the spring and summer sun.

Looking up I saw that they snow storm had let up a little and things had brightened. Then flurries were all that was left, back were we started. Then sunlight started pushing through the thin part of clouds, and pushed all the clouds away. I walked to the subway amid wet sidewalks and snow on piles of leaves thinking that I’d just seen a movie trailer of the coming show.