Sunday, December 12, 2010

FSR Part One

I awoke to cold, wind and dark. Was about six in the morning and the rest of the group was still crashed out in their sleeping bags. I was first to the kitchen consisting of a whisperlite stove, a couple of pots and pans, and the food bags which were kept in the bear fence overnight. I lit the stove to get water boiling for hot drank. Yesterday was a long day. It actually had been a long week, our first in the Wind River Mountains. Most of these people were flatlanders and had not been acclimatized.I was in good shape from the previous summer fighting fire. Everyone seemed to be getting along any how. The masses were up and moving now and cook groups were trying to work on breakfast, still mastering the art of their layering systems and staying warm and comfortable. Some had it down quicker than others. My shit was tight. Eventually we were all ready to hike by the eight thirty deadline. The wind was blowing hard up there on Ross Lake. I was wearing my korkki jacket, and yelling wildly to get everybody stoked for the days hike. I led for most of the day. We had a route around a high mountain lake, getting cliffed out once in a while delaying our progress. We made it in midday, scouted camp, and hung out. I later assembled my fly rod to make a few casts. Tom wanted to go with me. I was hesitant, but had promised him a casting lesson. I was in a tight spot. We head out to a clear river flowing into the lake. I begin to rig up. Tom wasn't wearing any eye protection so he hustles back to camp. By the time he came back I had a nineteen inch cutthoat by the gills. The conversation was quick. "Look at that Tommy" "Holy shit, already?" "We're eating fish tonight!" The next few hours I caught and cleaned fish for the group. It was a blast finally hooking up with some big Cutts and Bows from the high mountain lake. I was in my element. Having fun doing what I know best. It was a Positive Learning Environment.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Comfort Zone

Yesterday I finished the Empire Builder, completing the remaining distance of the trip from Minneapolis to Chicago in the morning and afternoon. Through the Cascades and Glacier National Park, back in late March, it was unconscionable to close my eyes or spend too much time writing and miss the last vestiges of boreal. I awaited new scenery beyond Union Station in Chicago.

Somehow, a different “Midwest” awaited me when we began to clack through Indiana and Ohio. I’m unapologetic that I missed most of this region overnight as filler in-between Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland.

Washington, DC lied ahead of me. After a fairly easy trip from Chicago to Union Station, transfers from the Capitol Limited to the Red Line to the Green line went smoothly and now I’ve arrived to start a political position. A lack of writing and lots of separation between sensibility and ideas made me restless, so I took off for the midterm election season.

Before doing so, I had a lame-duck week to spend in Duluth in transition. It can be an interesting segue in life of counting down to a moment yet retaining much of the daily routine before the time comes to actually move. The pages had been filled, so to speak, with my observations on residential construction and coffee shop work.

I made sure I enjoyed a cask stout at the Brewhouse where I was puzzled at the natural progression of age and status. I purchased the train tickets, figured out some money. Mowed the lawn. Walked in the woods. Ran errands to the mall, and watched the other humans watch me look out of place. Watched some tennis. Enjoyed a meal with the family. Oiled up the boots. Picked vegetables, baked bread.

On the train, though, with fall flying at me and leaves beginning to fall, I accept that being out of a comfort zone is at times comfortable in itself. More to come.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mixed Sweat

I’ve seen, at twenty miles per hour, a seasonal America, present ten years ago and never noticed. It is a landscape I wish to keep, set in a timeless future farm about to rest with chores done. The pole barn clanks as the steel retracts after a day’s worth of expansion. Cool grasses and warm, smooth pavement box in the acreage on a windless evening. Quiet country traffic seldom meddles in the stillness of sunset at our backs. A woman stands in the garden and watches the carbon create itself into greens, reds and leafy foliage. She smells the fresh vegetables developing amongst fertilizer.

Farther down the road we pass smells of decaying animals in the ditch and taste the mixed sweat from cycling caps caked with salt, dripping down onto our faces. Granules of dirt accumulate as a result of drafting the tire of the rider. It is old salt. Old us.

The sweat pours off before the winter solstice passes in a stuffy room. Beads of perspiration form on water bottles and foreheads while watching re-runs of Jeopardy on the trainer. We prepare for springtime and tights and long sleeves.

The light changes with the seasons and direction. Observe the way the light hits the grasses and sunset defines the natural greens and reds in the photo. This light is omnipresent on these evening bike rides, casting tall shadows on all parts of the state. In our faces as we ride briskly West past the beige St. Louis Park water tower. Shadows diminish the intimidating climb up Ramsey Hill. For some reason it doesn’t seem so bad in the setting light on strong lungs.

We callously flaunt our seasoned legs and cadence overtaking other riders, tendons strengthened by miles of America, a case study in self-improvement. Smiling as we ride for the pain, past those struggling on their high-powered, branded lifestyle.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Mind and Memory, Part 1.

I was spurred to pose a question last week to the guests and audience of Minnesota Public Radio’s Midmorning program. Gayatri Devi, a neurologist and clinical associate professor at New York University School of Medicine, took the question. Her byline on states she also is the Director of the New York Memory and Healthy Aging Services.

Fast forward to 22:15 if you are short on time.

I ask (via online comment): “Some people have what I would call a “referee[s]” mind, able to quickly recall what just happened clearly and accurately versus what [we] call a “coaches” mind?” Limited by a text box at the time, I was not able to add: [“who may see the game with a more future-oriented perspective”] -- the host continues, somewhat on my line of thought. “Why do some people have a much better ability to remember accurate details, names, dates, than others?”

My argument, as a former baseball player and fledgling coach, is that my sense of clarity and accuracy may be conflagrated with more of a Romantic understanding of memory. I fashion, from Dr. Devi, and from my own experience as a player, that my tactical thinking usually puts my mind one or two scenarios ahead of the current play, going from feelings, intuition, and past game experience.

That makes sense to me. My deepening of her point about memory is that I may personally struggle with accurate recollection of exactly what DID just happen (imagine video replay for junior league baseball games …) because the game is constantly evolving, yet at the age level I’m operating under moves slow enough where I actually skipping the step of short term memory in the first place. I’m in future-mode, prognosticating on the future and not required to make decisions from ultra-short term memory. “Short term” memory, during a game at this level, includes things like where an opposing player has hit to or how they’ve done with fastballs and change-ups.

My conditioned memory, as a coach has seen so many baseball games, and played in many of them (baseball from age 6 – 20), but not necessarily coached many (two months after being away from the game for over two years) is certainly a variable. But things remain a constant. Situations unfold with some degree of predictability and unpredictability of thirteen-year olds gaining mastery of the full-size field.

For example, I believe the umpire blew a call in a game two weeks ago. The runner was clearly (to me) out of the batter’s box and headed towards his dugout after a dropped third strike. After the vocal insistence of his coaches, the player drops the bat, turns towards first and runs. Our catcher, meanwhile, makes an errant throw to first (or the first baseman misjudges the ball) and it goes beyond him. It was a split either way as to what would happen: a “routine” out results in a second base appearance by the runner on what should normally be an out.

(That play, by the way, won’t be “routine” until the first or second year of Legion Ball).

I call into question the fact that the batter became a runner and ran the wrong way and into his dugout with Nathan Schultz, the umpire. The opposing coaches argue he was still in the batter’s box.

Indistinguishable chalk long since trampled over by this inning.

“What batter’s box?” I mumble under my breath.

The point of this memory issue, and story, is not the call that the umpire decided that the runner was not out of the box. The point is what I saw, and who was “correct,” per se. Imagine a parent was filming the game and happened to catch the call, either way, on tape (or mini HD-DVR, these days), and quickly played it in front of our teams’ fans (all seven of them).

I saw what I saw … did they see it too? Were they watching the play or their player? I watched this scenario (as I have before, blogless,) unfold as the ball left the pitchers hand, the batter swing, the ball being dropped by the catcher… but then looked away towards first base, expecting a play. After their batter became a runner and called time, standing contentedly on second base, I mildly argued the play, but could not delve into it with the umpire nor opposing coach.

I do not seem to burn those questionable calls into a “cache” somewhere in my brain.

I do not know many coaches who were trained as coaches. Most were players who graduated from competition, were injured, or found an in with an organization at a higher level of play. Officials, on the other hand, are required to be trained, even if they are alumni of their respective sport. They usually have more of a technical, and thus classical, version of the game going on in front of them.

Is a successful coach, and a successful official, inherently built with a different caching system? I’ll discuss player memory from an individual basis in an upcoming post.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ominous, ominous.

There are two times of year when rain is unwelcomed: graduation party season, when the moisture huddles everyone inside and creates a humid mass of eighteen-year olds and their parents; and roofing season, when we pull out giant blue tarps and rubber and things get taken out, put away, taken out, in an ebb and flow in a reign of angst. Both are concurrently in progress.

Mothers sob as the weather brings an uncontrolled scenario to an otherwise logistically sound event.

Contractors squint through the drenching rain as tools and electrical cords are woven and unwoven. Others stash the air compressor in dry places. All of this sounds like something Garrison Keillor would write about.

Something, though I make this up, more or less about “old grand graduation parties and people you see, marking the Lutheran time (after church of course) and coffee, of course coffee, a weak coffee, served by the community of parents who still love you, who raised you," and onwards into discussion of the Village People and the tribes of Africa.

Together Garrison and I eat famous pastries and quiche cups prepared days ahead of schedule, admiring their texture under tooth and pontificating of the forthcoming deluge of leftovers, ruling the fridges for weeks. Mold grows on the delicacies and younger sisters cry at their mothers, force feeding them old gyros that their brothers’ acquaintances could not consume in the day’s circuit of keeping up appearances.

The contractor watches the skies and dark clouds approach.

Ominous, ominous.

So today we make no effort to pack and unpack, set-up and take down. A steady rain falls and we clean the garage, tidy up, write, think, stay dry.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Formulaic Creative Process

“Combine everything and you will have your answer. You will have yourself.”

I have begun the down from British Columbia’s mountaintop of graceful living. I just got my last returned mail from Canada, postmarked from Minneapolis on March 18th. The second sign was an empty bilingual Centrum multivitamin canister. One hundred of those and sixty-eight days later and I’m back to working like I was in college. Perhaps a regression, working bit by bit, twelve hours on the weekends, no more than thirty five during the week. The full-time “real” job search goes on concurrently. As I find moments of sanctuary, the muse in the transition from college graduation –> Olympics –> June is constantly being revealed to me.

For instance, midmorning, with the majority of the routing complete, a moment of precipitousness stuck me. A revelation in a window of time that poured into me for maybe five minutes. It was that period of writer’s inspiration. The moment was successful in breaking the internal and external tension of the moment.

Later, talking at lunch, and gazing out over the background of Island Lake with a boat of three young fishermen in the foreground, the focus of the conversation was about the growing discordance as we built. Behind it was reaching the same end with very different means. The same feelings of being out of tune, different harmonics playing without words. All this seems to happen around this time as I get on the familiar track of getting off track from where I had been. It is common to June. I began to feel Angst creep back, anxiety on deck, waiting to strike me in a moment of weakness.

Unbeknownst to me things were working themselves out behind my back, though somehow, I knew it, I could feel it. The ideas I jotted down upon a piece of cedar became clear and present hours later. Intuitively I made a note to send a text. Turns out, hours later, that this person is en route to Duluth. Though we hadn’t spoken in months, something – It (that combination of everything) was driving me to relay that similar moment of connection.

I had been thinking about Canada and Squamish quite a bit, recently. Contained within the letter I was due to receive there is timeless information, even in today’s digital age. Opening it tonight and the words rushed at me. I quickly read it, re-read it, and pored over the pictures inside.

The wave function rebounds, the formulaic creative process holds true.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Don’t wrinkle my blue collar

The classical version of Quality to a Barista:

Working seven days a week now; a day off the jobsite means there is a lot of work to do. This includes drinking two lattes for the greater purpose of creating strict standards of microfoam and milk consistency. So a day off is not really. Ten or fifteen tasks complete that plagued the flow of thoughts.

The Barista's romantic version of Quality in a perfect espresso:

The crema has shades from hazel to reddish hazel, at times with darker stripes and should be about 3-4 mm thick. It should be persistent. Aromatic body, dense, full, sweet and perfumed. Long and persistent. The Barista is consistent in dosing and tamping, waste management of coffee and milk, espresso extraction times, overall consistency and proper workstation management.

Not much of this matters the rest of the week, deerflies buzzing around my head and working in the sun north of Duluth. (The irony of building screen porch to prevent the exact thing from happening for the clients). This job requires patience working with Boomers and they with me. To keep things fresh I capture odd phrases and conversation that only make sense on a jobsite. I carry my notebook and pen as any other tool in my belt, alongside my tape measure, speed square and utility knife.

"Out of plumbness" would be the espresso equivalent of a poorly seeped coffee; evident defects in the extraction caused by negligence or error. A crema not very thick, tending to rapidly shrink to the edge of the cup. Bitter, strong, astringent and woody.

I think being a baristacarpenter might be the most hip supply of income stream I have conjectured of late; writing metaphysical prose and poetry (see above) takes me beyond the standard soffit return.

Scene: Imagine two (antediluvian being too harsh) mature carpenters at the end of a workday.

“I don’t want to sand every one of those 400 square feet,” the first says, weary. “That is a conundrum right there,” the second adds, verifying the situation. More problems exist than solutions in this Game. “Exposed rafters come right to this plane. […] It is its own separate termination.”
“With just the bevel cut, it’s going to be ugly.” More weariness in his tone.
“6x6s at the top structural element. All this metal’s going to have lower on the plane of it … either we [ banging noises heard ] on top of it, fill that spaciousness.” I don’t know if he knows what he says.

“Well yeah, … you did something quite similar at [ one of many Park Point clients ] … more or less die into that part that comes in here … that’s kinda what I’m thinking about over there – at this point we’ll have to cut the tail of these rafters over here.”

“Indeed we do.” Another verification to speed up the process of wrapping up the day. “We’ll know how to proceed tomorrow when we take off that soffit material. You kind of want to have that complete terminus, the front and the back, That’s one way of doing it.”

“I think that’s probably a better way to go.”

Enter a bonobo, via parachute.

“It’s monkey business there.”
“It always is.”

[ Exit stage right; carpenter one locks the shop up, bonobo swims away]