Tuesday, June 27
If you’re passive in anything, then your passion, your energy, your presence in that thing will fade.
And that space you held for the thing for which you had passion, that space will be filled with something else and because it is filled by something else you won't think about the passionate thing much until you don’t think about it at all. This is how the new thing becomes old and becomes forgotten.
“Rage against the dying of the light.” - Dylan Thomas
So rage, and by rage I mean work, every fucking day, at being present in what’s important to you. Fully fucking present.
Kiss your girlfriend, boyfriend or wife. Kiss them passionately and with presence - even when you don’t feel it.
Write. Sit down with a hot cup of coffee or a cold cocktail and write - even when you can’t think of anything to write. Write when you're tired. Write at 4 AM. Write when your happy. Write when you’re heartbroken. Write when you've got other shit to do.
"Rage against the dying of the light."
Put on your yoga pants and get to the studio. Now. Put them on and grab your mat. I know you don’t feel it but if you fill your practice with gaps every time you don’t feel it, those gaps, that space you hold for yoga, will fill with something else.
We give our presence to the things we want in life. Our destiny is ours to forget, or ours to write.
"Rage against the dying of the light."
Monday, June 26
I wake to the taste of your skin,
coconut oil and sweat.
And in each salty kiss I taste
each candle lit hour
of arching backs
and curling toes.
And now you stretch and sigh,
and gently wake to my tongue.
Good morning Baby,
I say with each soft flick.
Good morning, you say with your hips
as they lift to meet my kiss.
And with this memory
I squeeze my pillow
and ache to fall asleep
and slip into the deep blue of nothing
where I’m not missing you
this summer morning.
Sunday, June 25
We usually judge people who talk about themselves to be narcissistic, selfish, even insecure. Recently I saw a meme that read, “Confidence is silent, insecurities are out loud,” and fuck, I couldn’t agree more - but it stung a little because I see myself "talking" more and more. You have to, "talk," a lot, when you use social media to promote yourself, your talent or your businesss - which is why I’m so conflicted about about Facebook and Instagram.
There are several ways to use Social Media, but so often it seems like we are waving our hands shouting, “Look at me, look how interesting my life is. Notice how creative I am.” And in this way so many of us are constantly marketing our personal brand. We’ve become PR agencies - but only for ourselves. And yes, that is narcissistic.
We go to the concert, the club or the football game and as we pose together or by ourselves with our best canned smile, arm extended, we shoot. We shoot then filter then crop. We post. We tag. We check. We check. We comment. And then we check some more.
Look where I’m at. Look who I’m standing next to, hoping it rubs off on us a little.
We all do it. And please don't get me wrong, there's no shame in it. It is good to celebrate life, to celebrate your friendships, and it's appropriate to do that by posting photos, words and quotes to Facebook and Instagram - but sometimes, when it's me posting, it makes me cringe.
But here's the other side of the coin: We also live in a world in which the success of our endeavors is dependent upon our ability to self-promote - especially if you’re self-employed.
Social media is not going anywhere. In fact, it has become, in my opinion, the most important and the most effective channel for promotion and disseminating information. Ignore it and you will perish - so to speak.
The bottom line is that self-promotion, specifically the mastering of Facebook and Instagram, is now a fundamental skill and one that serves a symbiotic role with your real talent, one that is necessary for success (if aquiring paying customers or readers is how you happen to measure success).
If you're an entrepreneur, then you need to do it.
So here I am, sitting with my dilemma yet studying social media as an apprentice to Elephant Journal. I'm learning how to crop photos, write article titles and subtitles with the objective of optimizing clicks. I'm learning how to lure them in so EJ can add subscribers.
Sex, New Moons and Soulmates. I’ve been watching and I notice which content sells (rather, get’s the most likes clicks), and it’s Sex, New Moons and Soulmates. But let's be honest, it's mainly sex - overt or veiled. And so, sex, even under the umbrella of mindfulness, is what’s published in order to get likes, and clicks, and comments. And I’ve got no problem with that. Discussion about sex is healthy. Silence about sex is not.
I write this, not because using sex as a lure is unethical or immoral, but because it is what works and knowing that is part of mastering Facebook and Instagram promotion.
So at EJ we learn how to practice, "slow journalism," mindful and ethical social media and I will say that this is the responsible way to use this medium - with an ethical compass. But in the end, if you don’t get the clicks you perish and you gotta do what you gotta do to stay alive. I think it's better to a have a voice that may be slightly compromised by the realities of business, than to have no voice at all.
The obvious answer to my dilemma is to use Facebook in a way that promotes values instead of using it for personal aggrandizement, a way that uses it to spread wisdom and love - and I see people doing that. I really admire that (if you’re reading this, you know who you are). And to those people I say that it's possible because there is so much obvious value in what you have to offer.
But as an owner of marketing consulting business, one getting off the ground, and as a writer who needs to build an audience, my success, despite my talent, is dependent upon self-promotion. And so, I've got to be a little narcissistic.
It's easy to look at someone waving their flag, point your finger and say, "that is shallow."
Don't do that. The world is changing and we must embrace that change as a reality as valid as the one that preceeded it.
But I hate it.
I hate it but I must also embrace it - and embrace it without guilt. It's also good, I think, that it bothers me because that makes me more conscious about what I'm writing and posting. It should bother more people.
So there you go. Just a few thoughts about my self-important dilemma with social media self-promotion.
That's all for tonight.
Tuesday, June 20
A true story as authentically percieved through my eyes:
A true story - as perceived through my eyes
Thin and a little taller than most women, she had straight brunette hair, dark, almost black eyes and a small upturned nose with a stud on one side. I only looked at her for a second but long enough to think, there is someone living her dream. She was working that day behind the information counter in her green and gray Park Ranger's uniform and I glanced at her as I walked through the North Cascades National Park Visitors Center.
It was about a minute later, looking at my own brown eyes in the bathroom mirror, when it hit me. It wasn’t new - the thing that made me say, fuck, out loud. It was something I thought about long ago and then set aside because I told myself ten ways how I couldn’t do it and ten ways how I wasn’t ready but glancing a minute ago at this young woman sparked life into an idea set aside long ago when I was setting things aside for later in life.
No, I’m not joining the Park Service. It’s something else. Although, if you had asked twenty-five year old Derek, he would say, that it wasn’t a bad idea.
My plan was to head up Interstate 5 to the San Juan Islands’ exit but instead turn east to drive Highway 20 over the northern part of the Cascade mountains, through the National Park all the way to Winthrop and I was about an hour and a half into that drive when I turned off toward the visitor center. I was hoping that I wouldn't find one of those solar toilets, the kind you feel good about using but also the kind where you dare not look down, but was pleased to find instead a big modern building with clean bathrooms.
There were other Park Rangers on duty there and over the years I must have seen a hundred of them, here and there, but none of them triggered that memory. But you know, she was prettier than most and some people have an energy about them, as if they could do anything in the world, and for a second seeing that young woman out of place in such a remote and rugged part of the country made me think that maybe she was living her dream. And so an hour and a half into my two-day road trip with myself, I was given this gift - something to contemplate, mile after mile.
The truth is, for most of the drive my mind was somewhere else and a quick look to see what was missing from the passenger side dash board was all it took to stir those thoughts, but every once and a while the idea came back to me. The Park Ranger did not cross my mind again, not until I sat down to write this. And so, with my arm out the window, the heat turned up to mix with the cold alpine air swirling through the cab, this is how it went with me as the truck climbed higher and higher until snow lined both sides of the highway.
I was driving fast, as I often do, maybe eighty and passing slower cars with a clenched jaw. But when I pulled off to look out north over Lake Diablo, something in my stomach relaxed. My breathing changed. My jaw unclenched. I realized that I was in no hurry and that I should take time to stop and see everything. This was the deal I made with myself, a mutual agreement to slow the fuck down.
And I stopped, five or six times I think. I stopped to look at lakes, and mountains. I stopped to walk across the highway to watch for a moment the ice-cold river gushing through the snow. I would have stopped for coffee or maybe a Red Bull, but after the resort at Ross Lake, there was nothing civilized. Nothing for hours except that yellow stripe down the middle of that grey two-lane highway, yellow paint that kept the peace between cars or trucks headed in opposite directions - not that I wanted anything civilized, but the stripe did, in a strange way, keep me company.
There was a roadside sign for a scenic lookout, so again I left the highway and found a parking lot. There were a few others there and I asked if that trailhead that I was pointing at would lead to the lookout and they said yes and that it wasn’t far.
It was this moment when I turned around to see the stunning jagged mountain peak hanging thousands of feet over the highway. Holy fuck. How did I miss that? Now, after a Google search, I know that it's called the Early Winters Spire, but in the moment this unknown peak reminded me of the Eiger.
I had seen the Eiger once, from Mürren, a town high up in the Alps of Switzerland. I had sat alone in an outdoor café one morning drinking beer and looking across the valley to the vertical rock face. The view was mostly blocked by clouds but every once and a while they would open for a glimpse and sometimes a glimpse is more powerful than an unobstructed view because it shows, for a moment, the possibilities. In this way, a glimpse can also be cruel, but you never regret the knowing of it.
Since that trip I had travelled alone in Europe, maybe twenty-five times, but that was the first trip when I was truly on my own and also the trip where I realized that you have to learn how to be comfortable spending time with yourself. It’s not that easy if you’re not used to it.
So there I was, travelling again with myself, just the two of us, and by two of us I mean the guy who drives fast, sings along to country music and appreciates the smell of the pine forest, and the other guy - the one deep on the inside who watches the first one. These two have to get along if the day is going to be an adventure.
If you’re wondering what happened on this trip, what made it an adventure, then you may be disappointed with my account of the events. You see, from my perspective, an adventure is not the result of what happens to you along the way. It’s not a product of external events. An adventure is experienced from within. It is about the traveler and his journey. It’s about stepping outside the comfort of familiarity and pushing your edge. That edge is different for everyone. For me, on this trip, it was about learning to explore again, and learning how to do it alone when there’s so much on my mind.
And so I hiked to the lookout to get a clearer view of the Early Winters Spires, then returned to my truck and the highway to make my way down the east side of the mountain pass.
The first town down the east slope is called Mazama and I had heard the name so many times that I had to stop and see what the place was about. Turns out that it's a little vacation community along the river, at the base of the mountains and on the other side of a highway that closes for snow half the year. It sits at the point where the mountains and pine forest start to turn into bare rolling hills covered only with sage - the place where your breath slows.
Mazama has a country store, the kind with everything, and it was there I bought my Red Bull and a veggie sandwich, which I ate it in the courtyard under the shade of a tree. That may have been the best veggie sandwich I’ve ever had.
So, there’s a jet stream that flows east across the Pacific and into Washington. When it hits the Cascade Mountains it rises, turns colder, condenses and turns to rain. By the time those clouds crest the peaks and flow down into the eastern half of the state, most of the rain has been left in the west to feed the thick green forests of Douglas-fir and Western Hemlock, leaving the east to the Ponderosa Pine that thrive in drier soil. Further east, the pine forest gives way to tan grass and milky-green sagebrush, which cover the tall steep mountains. It is here that the trees mainly grow in deep river valleys, where they find water and relief from the relentless sun. It is here along the Methow River, which winds through those rugged and bare mountains, that you will find Winthrop, a town which I saw for the first time as I drove through, slowly, with my country music and all four windows down. I should have brought my boots, I thought.
Winthrop is a place to slow the fuck down, sit in the shade and drink a cold beer. It’s also a place to fish and hike and mountain bike, but that day for me, it was just a place to slow the fuck down.
And so I walked up and down and up again the main street. Asked about a hotel. Found a beer.
I stood outside a tavern and talked with a woman who's face told of a lifetime sitting on torn-vinyl barstools. She was outgoing and kind, with a cigarette voice - good company for a few minutes. But I also imagined that later that evening the drink would dull her self-control and with sloppy eyes she would invite someone new inside her, to scratch that itch - probably one of the many leather-clad bikers that were already filling the Winthrop bars by noon. And as I talked with her I thought that she, in this way, was so ordinary.
I imagined where she would be the next morning - walking out of his smoky hotel room with dirty bare feet and shoes in her hand, texting a lie from her phone. And as I thought about her headache, her tired eyes and the soreness made by a stranger, I was sad to think about the choices we all make in persuit of a little gush of dopamine. I wasn't judging her, what I thought she would do, that's not my business, but it made me sad to think about how much we give up for so little.
So I moved on.
I loved Winthrop, and promised myself to come back. But not alone.
And so I moved on. I followed each curve of Highway 153 that followed nearly every bend of the Methow river. I followed it until the Methow flowed into the Columbia, and then I followed the Columbia River all the way to Chelan.
But Chelan was too big for me that day. Too many stoplights. And Leavenworth was less than an hour away.
On the road, every curve in the highway reveals something new. Around the bend a calm river changes to rapids. An orchard fills the narrow valley with all its pruned trees laid out in neat rows and fills the truck with its sweet fragrance. And as the warm wind blows though the open windows, around the cab and around your body, as a new world is revealed in your windshield before it quickly whirls by and into the past, you are given in that truck the space you need. You are given space for clear reasoning. Space to contemplate choices. Space for heartache. Space for the anticipation of what's around the next curve in the highway. You’re given space to help figure your shit out - and that is the beauty of a road trip with yourself. It's just the two of you.
Remember, it’s not the things that happen TO you along the way - it’s the things that happen IN you along the way.
And that idea, the one at the visitors center… it’s a good one. But I’m keeping it to myself.
And Leavenworth - that's a whole separate story.
Tuesday, June 13
There is something about the cloudy eyes and grey face of an old dog - knowing his hips hurt as he wags his tail back and forth with authentic happiness. Wagging for no other reason than the development that you have arrived in his world - whether he's met you before or not. Yeah, there’s something in that face - Gratitude.
It’s gratitude for life. Not for a life to come, but for a life lived. Gratitude to just have been a dog.
I often walk from my home down to Market Street in Ballard and along the way I often pass people walking their dogs, and as we pass, I tend make eye contact with the dog, as if to say, “Hello.” They seem to say, “Hello,” as well.
I look at the people too, but not if I don’t have to.
I've always said that I prefer dogs to people and that's an honest statement, in general. I definitely prefer one species over the other, but when it comes to individuals, that depends on the person and anyone who knows me well also knows that I mean this.
Not that I don't love people, I do - but a dog has never betrayed another dog or hurled an insult out of jealousy or spite. Dogs don’t abuse their power or influence. They don't coerce or manipulate other dogs in order to have sex. They just f*ck. Dogs don't care if you're white, Asian or black or care if you’re male or female. Dogs don't treat you better if you're famous or leave you behind if you're not. They don't drop smart bombs, dump toxic chemicals, or beat their wives. The worst thing a dog will ever do is to chew up one of your new hiking boots or crap on your expensive carpet - you know, the one that really ties the room together.
Yep, dogs are good, and I've been thinking about them tonight as I walk home from Market Street.
You see, dogs did not evolve naturally into all their various breeds. God did not say, “Let there be Golden Retrievers.” No, dogs were bred from wolves, bred over thousands of years from wild Grey Wolves - the kind who may, under the harshest conditions, kill and eat you. They were bred with intention through time into the fierce little white Maltese named Zack who also thinks he can kill and eat you but is really much more adept at licking your face and just being a good boy.
The theory is that when men and women started to live in small settlements there would exist nearby a garbage dump and that the wolves who scavenged there, in particular the outliers that were less likely to run when a human appeared, became domesticated and were eventually bred into every species of dog that we know today.
In this lonely hard world, it was mankind who sought companionship. And so the Doberman Pinscher was bred in Germany to accompany tax collectors. The Border Collie was bred to herd livestock.
In this way, Man, not God, created the Dog. Man created all dogs, from the German Shepherd to the Chihuahua, and it's probably the best f*cking thing that we've done as a species. And because man created the dog, we also have an obligation to take care of them. An obligation to provide food, water, shelter and companionship.
So as a young healthy and homeless dog lay on the cold steel table, afraid, intravenous needle in his vein as he awaits the infusion of poison that will kill him in order to open up a kennel slot, he looks up with young eyes and says to you and to me:
“You created me. Why are you extinguishing my life?
Why are you taking forever everything I will ever have, every emotion I will ever feel? Taking the warm summer days and the deep winter snow?
I would serve you faithfully.
Why are you doing this? Won’t you give my face the chance to grow old and grey - a chance for my eyes to turn cloudy?
Year after year, I would walk by your side wanting for nothing except food, water, and your companionship.
I want to stink up your truck, get my black hair deep into everything you own, wait for you every day, just inside the front door.
I want to grow old into cloudy eyes.”
And in this way, as we inject the poison, and by, “We,” I mean you and me standing by letting this happen as we fret about our finances or our highest purpose in life, we are committing, as we do in so many other ways with the dog, a mortal sin.
And you know that a mortal sin is unforgivable. For all of us.
Yeah, I'm thinking about dogs tonight.
Friday, June 2
I’ve just bought wine from 7-11.
Yep. That’s me - the guy standing in line next to the case of day-old hot dogs, bottle of wine in hand, waiting for the guy picking out lottery tickets who seems to be in no special hurry. It feels like it might be some sort of milestone for me - good or bad, we’ll see.
It’s actually quite good, the wine, that is. It's a Sauvignon Blanc and it tastes like spring. I’m sitting in the back yard, in the shade of a tree watching the branches and the tall patch of grass I kept sway in the warm breeze as I think about Spring and what it means.
I do know this - Spring is my favorite season. It’s green is the promise of unlimited possibility. Right now the sweet green grass covers everything and if you fly over the continent you see its color everywhere. A couple months from now it will burn brown from lazy hot days of summer.
Some people like summer. I think those are people who like to live in the moment. They prefer the party and the days when everything you’ve waited for is delivered. Summer is the apex of life.
Others prefer the fall. Those people find beauty in cycles of life. To them, old age and death are as beautiful as youth and birth. Those people are the Yin to my Yang.
A lot of people like the winter. They like safety. They are happiest in the comfort of home with family close by the warmth of the fire while outside the cold wind howls.
Me, I prefer the rebirth and the promise of spring.
Who knew, one could find hope in a 7-11? Well.. maybe the guy picking out lottery tickets might know.
Wednesday, May 30
About 10 years ago I returned to mountain biking, only this time the bikes weighed 30 pounds, had front and rear shocks and cost four thousand dollars. The trails had changed as well. Old rocky hiking and horse trails had turned to bike-specific flow trails with banked turns, drops and jumps. But in this transformed sport, I found what I had needed, what I had forgotten after I stopped climbing mountains. I found the peace you feel when everything is focused on the now and you are aware of every aspect of your surroundings, your bike and your body. Total presence.
And now, nearly ten years later, I've gained enough perspective to understand that mountain biking is a useful metaphor for life. So here's mountain bike wisdom that may also be applied to life. If you also ride, feel free to add some more to the post. Enjoy:
- First, you're never too old, unskilled or out of shape to start riding. Believing that you are will only serve to prevent you from experiencing something great.
- Your bike will go wherever you're looking. So if there’s something you want to avoid (like a rock, tree, cliff or bear), don’t look at it. Instead, look at the way around and your bike will follow.
- Don’t navigate the trail directly in front of you. Keep your eyes as far down the trail as you can. The more you focus on what's two turns ahead, the more the trail will flow beneath you. And FLOW is the best kind of riding. It's the difference between making out and great sex.
- When you encounter a difficult section (like a tangle of wet roots, rocks or a drop), attack it with speed. The more momentum you carry into a difficult section, the more your bike will float over it. Go slow and you probably won't make it through. Speed is your friend.
- While your bike follows the ups and downs, the side to side and all the contours of the trail, your body should remain neutral and balanced - that is until you intentionally move your weight around, off balance, to make the bike do something special.
- So much depends on the hips. Master them and your riding will improve dramatically.
- The lighter you are, the faster you will climb. Get rid of unnessary shit.
- Take care of your bike and service it often, then it won’t let you down when you’re deep in the forest and need it the most.
- You will crash. Many times. You will get hurt. A few times.
- You may ride the mountain as a group, but everybody climbs alone.
- If you’re timid when you jump, you will land short. Let go and you will fly and land softly.
- Don't let the weather stop you from riding. Ever.
- Remember to breathe.
- A cold beer is the best way to end a ride.
Thursday May 25
Are we meant to travel through this life only to collect things? Things that provide comfort and convenience? Things that elevate our social status compared to other people travelling through the same world at the same time, also collecting things? Things made in China? Made in China by humans packed into factories and factory housing - equipped with suicide nets? Is that our purpose? Because, fuck, sometimes it seems that way.
Consider all of the things that you own. Try and recall what you felt when you purchased some of them - the big ones. Remember how you knew that the new thing would improve your life. Did it?
Consider how we use these things to construct a veneer to give the impression that we are successful - that everything is ok, we've got all our shit together and we're not secretly screaming on the inside. Consider how we use these things to express ourselves, to attach our personality to someone else's creativity in the same way that standing next to someone famous makes us feel a little more important - like it's gonna rub off on us. This is what we do with things and the more we collect and the more of the better ones we collect, our veneer becomes more attactive - not just to others but also to ourselves. But it's just a veneer - a thin coating disguising the reality beneath. (and by reality I mean our authentic selves - raw & beautiful)
I am not advocating walking through the world naked and I have no intention to spin my own cloth like Ghandi. I love my MacBook and my iPhone. My Arcteryx outdoor jackets and my Hugo Boss suits. I like to use my expensive knives when I cook and to wear my Bose headphones when I fly. I like my guitar, my bikes, my truck and many other things. These things are practical, they empower me and in some cases feed my vanity. But I’ve come to realize that many of the things that I’ve collected over the years are doing nothing except weighing me down.
I must have a thousand pounds of books. Books I’ve read and loved and collected like trophies. And as I’ve moved from a home to a condo, to one house and then another, I’ve hauled these books, a thousand pounds of them, from place to place. Back-breaking labor. Space-sucking brown boxes of books.
Why do I do this? Am I going to read them again? Am I going to go to the basement, wade through the dusty boxes and find an old gem to flip through it's yellowing pages? Am I going to spend hours arranging them on some new bookshelf with the hope of impressing someone someday who may walk by and take notice of what I've read? I may think that I am - but I’m not.
Those books are going to sit there in their dusty brown U-Haul boxes, aging, waiting to be hauled to another basement, never to see the light of a window or be read by curious eyes again.
These books are just one example of the many things that weigh us down. A practical example and a metaphor.
I'm not judging. If things are what you want, then more power to you. Go get 'em. I value your choice and you deserve what you've earned. Me - I'm thinking, more and more everyday, that I want to become light and mobile, keeping only the things that I truly need. Keeping the things that hold real value to me. Keeping the good knives and getting rid of the crap and the clutter (and I'm not just talking about stuff). Able to change my location with ease.
Light and mobile. At least headed in that direction is what I hope to acheive soon.
Monday, May 15
Not much to write tonight. My mind is elsewhere. Except that I’ve noticed that when I find for the first time music that I love, I wade chest deep into it. Once a song or an artist gets its hooks into me, I listen over and over with more attention and presence and with each listening the lyrics and melody imprint on me.
I’ve listened to Jason Isbell, a couple of his songs at least, for about a year now, maybe a little longer - and I liked them enough to add to my go-to country playlist. But recently I listened closely and I’ve again immersed myself into the work of an artist that is new to me. This music, the depths into which I’ve waded are dark and thick.
I can’t say that I identify with his lyrics any more than anyone who appreciates talented song writing - they’re gritty and poetic and capture perfectly the essence of people living a harder life. The music is a mix of hair oil and bourbon playing on a dark smoky Nashville stage - country, bluegrass, rock, all in one, and listening you can feel the wind blowing through the cab of the truck, somewhere in the mountains of Tennesse, or hear the cold rain on the windsheild as old wiperblades smear it back and forth.
Most songs are accompanied by a haunting fiddle. I imagine its a woman playing and it sounds like she's standing about 20 feet away from the rest of the band as she plays.
Here's one of my favorite lyrics, from Travelling Alone
Damn near strangled by my appetite
In Ybor City on a Friday night
Couldn't even stand upright
So high, the street girls wouldn't take my pay
She said come see me on a better day,
she just danced away
I can feel that. Then there’s these lines (the bridge), from the same song.
Pain in the outside lane, I'm tired of answering to myself
Heart like a rebuilt part, I don't know how much it's got left
From Alabama Pines. Genius lyrics.
If we pass through on a Sunday, better make a stop at Wayne's.
It's the only open liquor store north, and I can't stand the pain
of being by myself without a little help
on a Sunday afternoon.
If there's one thing I can't take
It's the sound that a woman makes
About five seconds after her heart begins to break.
That's one thing I can't take.
So... I imagine I'll listen to Jason Isbell for a week or so. The music is speaking to me right now.
Sunday, May 14:
I need a road trip
one with the windows down
and warm wind swirling through the truck.
I need to go inland
away from the ocean
and smell the dry pine forest
or the petrichor after it’s rained.
I need a road trip
on a two-lane highway
that follows the river through the mountains.
I need to stop at a small store
with peeling white paint and a single pump
buy a Red Bull and pistachios
and ask the old man about camping.
I need a road trip
one without a destination
until I find it.
Saturday, May 13:
Nothing is meant to be.
If everything that happened were meant to be
there would be no free will.
We would be nothing but players
with no purpose
other than to act out a story
written for the entertainment of the universe.
If everything that happens
were meant to happen
there would be no accountability
for the choices we make.
There would be no choices
except the constant persuit of personal gratification
because it was meant to be
now that we've done it.
Our consciousness an illusion.
The beauty of free will
is in its infinite possibility.
Anything can happen
if we can let go of fear
- our resistance to change
and open our hearts
to the deep vibration of the universe
that aches to nudge us.
The universe is conscious and active.
It conspires with love
but also the cruel indifference of nature
to place before us
opportunity - to catch or miss.
It gives us choices
as they wait for us to accept that nudge
toward a destiny we write.
So let go of your fear
and swan dive
into the limitless possibility
of your future.
that it has yet to be written
nothing is meant to be.
We are meant to listen
to win or fail.
So let it be written.
that you hold the pen
Friday, May 12:
Leaving the house this morning, I saw that an opossum lay dead in the middle of the street. He had been run over by a car - probably in the middle of the night. He lay on his side like a sleeping dog, his eyes closed and his mouth slightly open. There was nothing grotesque about his body and the crows had yet to start on it.
Everything he ever owned, his body, lay in the middle of the street as morning traffic sped by on either side, and I thought, "What an undignified place to lay your remains." A wild creature should die under a tree or bush, but he lay atop the un-natural asphalt, exposed in the open for eveyone to see - unable to defend himself.
I think I had known him. I think he's the one who would trigger the motion light on the back porch as he scrounged for the remains of the peanuts I fed the squirrels and jays. I had watched him many times, his white face with the long snout sniffing like an anteater through the grass at 3 am. Unlike the birds or the racoons, who keep company with each other, this opposum was always alone.
And so I turned back to the house to get gloves and a garbage bag. I thought I could do him the service of adding some dignity to his death. I would bury him deep under the garden planter.
But before I could walk out into the turn lane, a large pickup truck, with big wheels and an oversized tailpipe, swerved into the center lane just to run over his lifeless body, as if to say, "fuck you," one last time. One last fuck you from man - or maybe from the cruel universe.
So I dug a deep hole in the planter box and laid him on his side. Before I covered him with dirt I stared at his claws and sharp teeth and contemplated his wildness.
There is some satisfaction knowing that his corpse won't become a flat patch of meat and hair to be driven over by the indifferent humans, only to be picked at in the open by the crows. There is satisfaction knowing that his body will feed the garden of the next person who lives in this house.
Having known him at 3 am, I like knowing that he's buried in my backyard.
Scribblings. Things on my mind.
Wednesday, July 26 (7 AM)
It was warm when I crawled into my tent last night. It turned cold and so was I - until early this morning when I remembered that my sleeping bag zips into a mummy bag.
Early shower. Breakfast. Now to pack my tent and head out.
Looking at the map, I think it makes sense to drive to Bozeman and head south from there.
Tuesday, July 25
Day 1: From where it starts near the edge of Puget Sound, I drove east on Interstate 90. I drove east away from Seattle toward the mountains, past where I exit to go mountain biking and past where I exit to ski. I kept driving east over the summit and down the other side to where the long-needled pine trees replace the giant Douglass-fir.
It is here where the mountains and pine forest turn to sparse forest, and then to tan rolling hills and sage brush and it is also here where my breath deepens. After a while, there’s with not a tree in site, nothing tall except the wind turbines, white against the blue eastern Washington sky.
I crossed the Columbia River to the other bank where the wild sage and scrub turn to flat fields of corn and hops and canola - the irrigated farmland of eastern Washington.
I crossed this like one would sail across and endless sea of green, the freeway laying out straight for hours, all the way to the horizon of the next dip. Arm out the window, I let the hot wind blow through the cab except where tractors kicked up dust clouds to blow across the highway like thick smoke from a wildfire.
On the otherside of this vast green sea, I drove through Spokane, which was the only unpleasantness and only becuase the contast of its strip malls and traffic versus the open country. But soon enough I was beyond it and into the mountains of Idaho where the highway curves and climbs amongst river gorges and lakes.
And this is how it was for hours, climbing. Climbing east toward the spine of the Rocky Mountains - the Continental Divide where on the other side the streams and rivers flow only toward the Atlantic ocean.
Once over the pass, wood smoke from forest fires filled the air like fog, turning the Rocky Mountains into ghostly sillhouttes and turning to dark orange the sun behind me. At one point, I watched a fire from the highway, high in the mountains. Helicopters carried water and firefighters toward the flames.
Most of western Montana was thick in this smoke, but I like the smell so I kept the windows down and let it blow through the cab.
415 miles. That’s how far I can drive on a full tank of gas - most of that climbing and drive no slower than 80 mph, and often 90.
And now after 600 miles I find myself in Butte, Montana. This is where I leave I-90 and turn south toward Yellowstone. Still, part of me wants to keep driving east, past South Dakota, the Black Hills and Wall Drug. All the way to the inland sea that felt like another home for so long. But now I am drawn for some reason south towards Yellowstone.
I think that when I see a wild buffalo, I will be able to exhale. Exhale this storm inside me as a sailors exhale when they make the turnto find the safety of a safe harbor and calmer seas.
My grandfather used to live here, in Butte. He worked in the large open pit mine I think. My mother lived here as well, when she was young. I think. Time is funny that way, the circles it makes until we run out of it.
So now, I sit between my tent and my truck’s tailgate, drinking dry wine from a tin cup and looking west toward the yellow sliver of a moon as it drops over the horizon against a red-orange sky.
The air is warm and sweet with the smell of grass.
Life is good.
Sunday, July 16
across time and distance
drip from the paper
and splash your skin
as drops of sweet seduction,
raining like sweat
from my body to yours,
falling to the rhythm
of my hips
and my pen.
Thursday, July 13
(This was an Elephant Journal writing assignment)
October 7, 2016. The, “Breaking News,” graphic flashed across television screens - at least those tuned into CNN and the other cable news channels.
The Washington Post had just published an article and released a video which showed the Republican candidate for US President, Donald Trump, bragging over a hot mic about his technique for sexually assaulting women. The, “Access Hollywood Tape,” as it would become commonly known, was a bombshell story about Mr. Trump’s seemingly indefensible behavior from a candidate already known for his misogynistic attitudes.
A viewer, watching news coverage of the tape on CNN’s Anderson Cooper would hear these words, “I don’t think he was condoning sexual assault. He saidhe starts to kiss a woman and then they let him do x, y or z. That implies consent, first of all. I don’t think he was advocating sexual assault.”
These words were spoken by Kayleigh McEnany, Harvard Law Graduate, former producer for Mike Huckabee and CNN’s paid political surrogate for candidate Trump. Ms. McEnany, that night, was doing her job. She was paid by CNN to say them and she did the same thing, month after month, through the campaign, into and beyond Donald Trump’s election night victory.
She wasn’t alone. There were many other paid political surrogates, both on the political left and right. They were, and remain today, an essential component of CNN’s TV news format. Their job is not just to represent their respective candidate, but also to speak for them and to do it passionately and unapologetically. And as we watched, night after night, their logic and arguments quite often defied reason. Many times we were deeply offended (offense by common standards). But again, this is exactly what they were paid to do.
So the question is, does paying and featuring surrogates to represent a candidate or an ideology constitute ethical TV news journalism? Is CNN ethical in using the surrogate format - featuring Anderson Cooper, like a game show host flanked by the right and the left and playing the often bewildered mediator?
Whether it’s print, online or television journalism, the standard is to report objectively on the events surrounding a story. You could also say thatit’s their job to uncover the truth. At least, that’s the standard.
But we also know that the truth isn’t just about dates, words and actions. We learned this when Edward R. Murrow reported on Senator McCarthy’s unsubstantiated accusations or when Walter Cronkite declared the Vietnam War, “Unwinnable.” We learned then and many other times that the, “truth,” is also about how those facts fit into commonly held beliefs about decency, morality and ethical behavior.
So if uncovering the truth takes more than just reporting facts, why not employ surrogates to round out representation for the full range of opinions? What makes this practice unethical, you might ask?
I argue that there are three reasons that make the use of paid political surrogates an unethical practice in reporting the news on TV.
First, you and I, the network, and the American People (as Bob Dole used to say), know what they’re going to say in advance. We know that it’s opinion and that it’s politically-crafted spin; therefore, we understand that it doesn’t introduce anything to the story that contributes to uncovering the truth (aka the ethical practice of journalism).
Second, there’s a tradecraft to TV News political surrogacy. With skill, they deflect, change the subject and muddy the waters, so to speak. Instead of a clear articulation of the story's events, the viewer will mainly hear arguments that are intended to distract that same viewer. That CNN knows this, yet chooses to allow this tradecraft instead of reporting the news. And this, in my opinion, is unethical given their charter: To report the news to the viewer.
Finally, it’s the choice of ratings over ethical journalism while operating under the veneer of ethical journalism that I find deeply unethical. If you’re objective is only to maximize advertising revenue, then by all means, chase audience size and ratings. But in doing so, be honest and call yourself a, “News Entertainment Show,” or something like that. This format is not the news. It’s basically 20 hours of live coverage of one story presented in the form of an argument between surrogates with known talking points.
Look, I lean far to the left, so when I want to feel good, I’ll lay back with a bowl of cheese popcorn and turn on Anderson Cooper. But at the same time, I know that it’s not real cheese, and I know that it’s not real journalism. Most viewers do not.
Look, as angry as I may get at Kayleigh McEnany when she defends, without sound logic, President Trump’s latest offensive behavior, I put the blame squarely on CNN. And I also thank them, because now I know that when I see that, “Breaking News,” graphic flash across my TV screen, that I’m about to get an hour of right vs. left talking points and I can turn that shit off before I waste another hour of my life.