On Someone Else’s Time

Img_0530Each morning I rode the elevator down to the lobby and walked outside to sit on a bench out front waiting for my ride. From where I sat I could see a large Wal Mart-esque shopping center, a Burger King, a Pizza Hut, and an Applebee’s. The view from my hotel room facing the other direction was better. The breeze was warm. The birdsong was foreign and I think it was rendered by grackles.

At 7:30 AM the dirty little pickup would rattle up and skid to a stop under the awning before the double glass doors of the hotel. The driver would climb out, toss a cigarette aside, then nod at me as he disappeared inside. Shortly after he would return with four or five other men. They were all from Texas. Our bags would be tossed in the back of the truck and we would squeeze inside for the ten minutes of death defying transport to the manufacturing facility. The others chattered away in Spanish. I clung to the handle over the door as if my life depended on it. It likely did.

The police vehicles seemed to drive with their lights flashing all the time. One I saw was an armored truck with a big machine gun mounted in the back.

Img_0640I spent my days in a conference room with white boards on two walls. On my first day, a Tuesday, all of the employees, even the Texans, wore navy-colored shirts. The second day they were all in khaki. I asked one of the men who spoke good English how they knew what color shirt to wear. He explained it is a schedule; Monday was white, then blue, then khaki, etc. I nodded. “So you don’t all text each other in the morning and make plans for what to wear then, eh?” I said. He didn’t seem amused, but I was.

Having just read Jim Harrison on the plane trip south, I expected to be troubled by efforts not to look at lovely round Mexican asses all week and I hoped I wouldn’t be too obvious about it. That sounds lewd, I know, but I’m unabashedly an ass man and I’m married to a woman who has been known to point them out to me. Yet I hardly noticed. I was captivated by so much jet black hair and dark, dark eyes. Not just the women, but many of the men too. And the music of being surrounded at all times by the lilt of a tongue I could only understand one word of in about fifty.

The restrooms in this old building were up the stairs and to the left. The men’s room wasn’t filthy, but it wasn’t exactly clean either. Only the cold faucet worked, and the water struggled to flow even from there. I had hoped that in Mexico all the janitorial work would be performed by white dudes with silver hair and cufflinks, but I was disappointed. The short, stern woman who performed the clean-up duties in this place was at work one time in the men’s room when I arrived to put it to use. Rather than interrupt her, I detoured into the women’s room (these were single rooms with locks, so there was no risk of walking in on someone). This cell was even dirtier; the single toilet lacked not only a lid, but a seat, and the rim was grimy. I certainly wouldn’t adhere to a dress code for someone who couldn’t be bothered to put a seat on my shitter.

Day three, Thursday, my last day, was a brighter blue shirt day. I knew that no matter what happened, I was out of there for good at day’s end, and nothing was going to get me down. Then I realized I would never know what color the Friday shirt was. I was disappointed.

I guess we have a kind of “business casual” dress code where I work too, but I’m never there. I’m good for holding up the bargain for at least one day on each of these work trips, but then, depending on the environment I’m in, I let it slide. I am, in many ways, unfit to be employed by anyone.

The usual driver picked me up early Friday morning to deliver me to the airport for the flight home. He was sniffling and sneezing and coughing and I was convinced that, after months of stiff arming the illnesses of people around me, he would be the one to give me a cold. He was wearing a company shirt.

It was black.

I still haven’t gotten sick.


Violent Act

My latest from the Missoula Independent; a review of the new Jim Harrison novel, The Big Seven. Here is a paragraph:

Books_SevenIn an effort to get his post-retirement life together, the impressively alcoholic Sunderson buys a small fishing cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His neighbors, the Ames family—a lawless clan of criminals whose antics are believable only when viewed as the blackest of comedies—soon entangle Sunderson in their web of incest, violence and domestic abuse. He hires the young Lily Ames to continue in the capacity she had for his cabin’s previous owners as something of a caretaker; she is killed shortly thereafter in an AK-47 shoot-out with her cousin, Tom. Her sister Monica takes Lily’s place and immediately becomes Sunderson’s lover. We meet several other members of the Ames family, even as they begin to die one after the other from some kind of mysterious poisoning. Is Monica, the cook for the family, the killer? Could it be Lemuel Ames, the “runt” of the clan whom Sunderson befriends, a thoughtful, bird-loving man who spent most of his youth in prison for bank robbery? Or could it be another member of the psychotic bunch?

Jim Harrison is one of my favorite writers, hands-down. Read the rest of it HERE.


Indy Update

Live update from the Indianapolis airport before I dig into the new Jim Harrison novel. It’s one of my favorite airports. Tons of natural light, people move quickly through check-in and security, and I’ve never been hassled.


I spent my first evening here re-arranging my travel schedule. I was supposed to go to Montgomery, Alabama next week, but instead I’m headed to Mexico. That should be interesting, as I’m headed to Torreon, which is no border town. I’ve never been so deep into that country before, and I look forward to it.

Of course the middle-aged upper middle class white people I work with on these projects are all in a tizzy over going somewhere “so dangerous.” It’s not like I’m negotiating an arms deal with some guy doing business out of the back of a hijacked semi. It’s a legitimate business no different from the place I visited here in Indy. Probably less disfunctional too. My primary work partner from the main office, Jill, said “You planning on coming back?” She knows the deal….

After Mexico it’s a mini vacation to Tucson. Then in subsequent weeks I go to Alabama, then Milwaukee/Chicago, then Baltimore. Trips looming in the Bay Area and Austin; possibly Australia as well. It’s looking like a busy spring…..




Back into the Breach

I didn’t consciously plan to take a break from posting here, but obviously it happened. I think it was a combination of being overwhelmed by all the negative stuff I was reporting on, being a little punch drunk, and, frankly, depressed. I haven’t wanted to do much of anything. Nor have I, with the exception of doing a halfway decent job of keeping my yoga practice (such as it is) going. I’ve managed to keep writing some stuff for the Indy, but that’s about it. I’ve also managed to continue posting on Instagram, the occasional Facebook thing, but those feel somehow different, and even those have teetered on the bring of account deletion many, many times. This space has always felt much more personal to me, and I hate to see it just wallow.

The author Neil Gaiman has spoken in the past about battling depression. Recently on his tumblr page a fan lamented trying to write, wanting to write, but being so depressed as to be unable to even get started. Neil responded as follows:

One word at a time. You can write one word, even when you are at your darkest. Then you can write the one after that. And then another: just one word. You can do it.

And then another word…

One word. One word a time.

Wise words. So consider this post the first word in me trying to overcome my own inertia. More words will follow. There may be some changes around here, but the other night I was looking for something specific and ended up falling down a rabbit hole of reading old posts. I’m proud of some of the things that have stuck to these walls. I hope to find more of that joy moving forward.

I appreciate anyone who has stuck around.


One More to the Gut from 2014

I’ve been quiet around here lately; I’ve mainly just been focusing instead on getting through all the holidays amid all the changes that have occurred the back half of this year. Today 2014 is getting in one last nasty shot at us, as we are saying farewell to our big old loyal dog, Bernard. At 14 or 15, he’s had a hell of a good run, way longer than most big dogs, but it still sucks. Frankly, a couple months ago I would have been surprised to see him even make it to Christmas. But last night, whatever he had in him that was enabling him to move around, albeit shakily, gave out, and his time has come. I’ll miss him.

The Big Dog

The Big Dog

A year-and-a-half ago we were a four-dog house. We are down to one, with the two cats still hanging in there as well. It’s been a bumpy road.

2015 will be better.

One-Sentence Journal, Weeks Forty-Two, Forty-Three, and Forty-Four

I’ve taken the better part of the last couple weeks off from posting at all, just to get my feet under me again. In particular it’s been a few weeks since the last One-Sentence Journal, but here’s to just picking up where I left off with minimal fanfare.

  1. 11/03/2014:  I started sorting through the boxes of old family photos tonight with an ultimate plan to scan and compile them somewhat, and it was a fascinating trip down memory lane.
  2. 11/04/2014:  I know everyone said how life-changing this Bikram yoga thing is, and I was at least quietly skeptical, but I have to say I’m amazed by how helpful it’s been concerning the shitty events of the past week.
  3. 11/05/2014:  Another election and more proof that the fraction of the public who actually vote pretty much go against their best interests in an effort to give everyone else the shitty country they/we deserve.
  4. 11/06/2014:  On a whim, Julia and I looked in on some studio space and it looks like it might even work out for us….
  5. 11/07/2014:  People freaking that Winter is Coming next week, supposedly, and it is hard for me not to irritably point out to everyone that it is November in Montana, a month that every day spent not frigid is a day stolen from true winter.
  6. 11/08/2014:  Took the longest hike of the year so far, seventeen miles in the Rattlesnake, and it was a perfect reminder of how restorative time in the woods can be.
  7. 11/09/2014:  Winter hit hard overnight with snow and cold, and by the time a last minute change in plans to do a yoga class this afternoon came, I couldn’t rally for it.
  8. 11/10/2014:  Dad’s obituary hit the paper today, on the anniversary of what would have been his 74th birthday.
  9. 11/11/2014:  I know I’m a cynical bastard, but it never ceases to amaze me how a holiday like today, Veterans Day, overwhelms social media, and I wonder how many of these folks posting their platitudes to “heroes” even knew it was Veterans Day before their feeds blew up and they jumped on the jingoistic bandwagon.
  10. 11/12/2014:  Ah, the season of vehicles failing to start in the morning is upon us!
  11. 11/13/2014:  Julia and I signed the lease on a studio I previously shared with three other photographers in the same building as the Bikram studio, back when I wasn’t even making an effort really to BE a photographer, to use for her fashion business and my photography, and it is a kind of dream come true for us to have a space right in the heart of downtown Missoula.
  12. 11/14/2014:  Quote of the day heard from across the room, without context: “So, are you swollen right now?”
  13. 11/15/2014:  The instructors say that some days a yoga practice can only be spent flat on one’s back on one’s mat, and that damn near sums up how it went for me today; I’m quickly learning that if there is a weakness in the mind or body, this is a discipline of exercise that will find it, every time.
  14. 11/16/2014:  First American Falcon practice in several weeks and I’m not too modest to admit we played well enough to have destroyed just about anyone if it had been a live show.
  15. 11/17/2014:  Test shooting in the studio tonight in preparation for a photo shoot with Vogue magazine aspirations using hand-stapled zine-quality gear.
  16. 11/18/2014:  Today was our first “official” shoot in the new studio, a collaboration between Julia’s DonkeyGirl fashion designs and some local jewelry makers called Moth+Muse, and while it was long it was a blast to spend an entire day submerged in creativity.
  17. 11/19/2014:  I look forward to having the confidence in my technical prowess for photography as I do other pursuits, because I tend to fret too much over whether shit is going to work out every time I press the shutter.
  18. 11/20/2014:  I was concerned that the images from the shoot on Tuesday wouldn’t be quite what the Moth+Muse women were after, but after going through the shots with one of them in the studio tonight it seems she is as pleased as I am with the results.
  19. 11/21/2014:  Signing off work for the week begins a string of vacation days that won’t end until December, when I board a plane on the 1st bound for Canada.
  20. 11/22/2014:  Heat, humidity, and effort rose up to smack me silly in the Bikram class today, and I’ve spent the rest of the day quietly suffering for it.
  21. 11/23/2014:  Good modern country (Nikki Lane, Whitey Morgan) and an unanticipated afternoon to myself in the new studio made for a solid Sunday on a day when it seems all of my joints are protesting me being anywhere but prone.


Update From the Front Lines

IMG_9583A couple weeks ago I mentioned this big health and fitness program I was poised to undertake, and I’m here to report I’m still going strong. I haven’t stuck to the food plan as well as I would have liked, but have done okay considering the circumstances of everything else that has gone on. I’ve been good at getting my walking and hiking miles in, at least until this week when the freezing cold wave set in, but I’ll be braving that yet this week regardless. I did get out on one final epic hike on Saturday before winter arrived: 17 miles up into the Rattlesnake and back, the last few of which I did by headlamp. That was great, and the only thing it cost me was one Bikram Yoga class. With the rough emotional trip hopefully behind me, or at least manageable, renewed focus on my training table between now and the holiday should get me where I was hoping to be when this first phase is complete.

That Bikram stuff is the revelation here, though. I’d heard from so many people how life changing it is, and there really is something to that. I’ve gone 12 times in the last 14 days, with 13 more planned over the next 16. Then I think we (Julia and I) are going to take Thanksgiving off and start another 30 day challenge right after that, making it 60 days in all. It might be the hardest day in, day out physical thing I’ve ever done. I’ve done a lot of weight training and things like that before, but just the environment in that room (it’s 103° and humid), and how every posture is working so many parts of the body at once (if you are doing them right, that is, which in most cases for me I’m still NOT), it’s really staggering. Everything is soaked with sweat afterwards.

I like the instructors, I like the camaraderie of the people involved (something I didn’t expect to like and feared I’d struggle with), and I like how I feel afterward. I don’t know that I like it while I’m doing it yet, but I do like the times when I have a breakthrough, or “get” something I wasn’t previously doing correctly. And the emotional part of it really helped get me through what has been a very difficult couple of weeks. It’s possibly the best thing I’ve done for myself in years.

So far, so good. I’ll report again here in a couple weeks.