Making Changes

Yesterday I finally said enough was enough and gave my notice at my day job. It isn’t some “two-weeks-and-I’m-outta-there” thing, I just told them that I wanted to leave and that they had as long as they need to replace me. Could be six months, a year, maybe even shorter than that (which is what I’m hoping for, now that it’s on the table). I figured it was the fair thing to do, given that they’ve always been fair to me.

I had planned to wait until 2017. We even have a whiteboard up on the wall called “Freedom 17″ that has all the things we want squared away by then. I turn 48 tomorrow, and my goal was to give notice on my 50th, with a plan to be gone by June. Late last year, early this, though, it became more and more apparent that I would be hard-pressed to make it that far. Little problems that used to roll off my shoulders with a shrug were becoming borderline meltdowns, which isn’t like me at all. Julia even had what she called an intervention to get me to consider that maybe I should try and bail sooner. Once I decided I would do that, the last couple weeks have been better, knowing that I’d retreat if necessary. Then a couple mild dust-ups that left me quivering with rage made me realize it was all getting to me more than it should, so I made the decision.

It is still stressful, but I also expect the steady paycheck has become a crutch that has allowed me to be less than gonzo in pursuit of doing other things. It’s something like put up or shut up time when it comes to increasing the freelance writing and photography stuff I’ve been doing, and I welcome the challenge. It will be interesting to see how things play out.

 

I Believe for National Poetry Month

I’ve seen mentioned several places that April is National Poetry Month. I’ve been cultivating an appreciation for poetry over the last couple years, so I thought I would post one of the ones I’ve noted as being interesting to me. Then I thought I’d try my hand at one of my own instead, as I’ve been dabbling at that a bit as well. So here is one I just wrote that is pretty much a total rip-off of Jim Harrison’s poem, “I Believe,” that I’ve mentioned previously. I’m going to be so bold as to even swipe the damn title.

I Believe

I believe in the leveling off after a

steep climb, blasts of rain on my

face, the sound of cricks and rivers

and lakes and oceans stroking the

sand and dirt, wind in the trees

and thunder. Christmas lights downtown,

food carts, ice cream trucks, and beat-up

old pick-ups, women with noses and

asses and personalities bigger than

what’s considered appropriate,

and dogs like that too.

The smell of clean sweat and

dirty sex and breakfast,

Men and women and children and

weeds and flowers and grass

poking their way through the cracks

between those spaces where the world

says they ain’t supposed to be.

 

Recombobulating

recombIt’s Sunday night as I prep this post for Monday morning, and I can’t tell you how elated I am not to have to travel this coming week. In fact I don’t have to travel again until Wednesday the 8th, when I take a short trip to Wichita returning that same Friday. After that, I think I am home for another two weeks back to back before heading out again at the end of the month. This should be a refreshing stretch, as I have been on the run what feels like non-stop since February or so. Being gone so much really gets one to feeling all discombobulated, so I’ll finally be getting myself back together in the comfort of my own surroundings (not in this area just through security at Milwaukee’s  Mitchell Field airport, where that image was taken on my iPhone). Things are really turning green in a hurry, and I can’t wait to get some miles under my shoes out in the fresh air.

This week I hope to catch up on editing some photos from this batch of road work that I intend to share here with a few of the stories behind them. That’s the plan anyway. Despite all this running about, though, I feel pretty good about where I am creatively these days, better than I have for some time. I have a couple queries out, and even a submission. I’ve been doing quite a bit of work for the Indy that I enjoy, and am looking into pitching a couple other ideas. Plus Julia and I are working on the Spring edition of the Missoulian‘s fashion insert, which is always fun. So even though both humans in our household age another year this month, April isn’t looking too shabby at this point.

Lost Champ

Books_WarriorOne of the things I enjoyed during my week in Mexico a couple weeks ago was that every evening when I was sitting down to dinner, both places I divided my meals between had large televisions viewable from just about anywhere. I normally avoid being in line of sight with these things, but in this case, perhaps by mere coincidence, I was arriving in time for extensive coverage of both soccer and boxing. Both sports are huge in Mexico, and I am a fan of both. I enjoyed getting to see the coverage, even though I could understand little of it.

I’m a week behind, but the Independent published my review of the new book by Brian D’Ambrosio called Warrior in the Ring: The Life of Marvin Camel, Native American World Champion Boxer. This was a guy whose heyday coincided with my teenage years, and I was well aware of him then. Here is an excerpt:

Sadly, as Brian D’Ambrosio points out in his new biography, Warrior in the Ring, few people remember Camel’s name and what he accomplished. The cruiserweight division—slotted between the light-heavyweight and heavyweight divisions—has never had much respect as a weight class. Its most famous champion was Evander Holyfield, who won the title on his way up in weight before ultimately claiming a champion’s belt (and losing part of an ear to Mike Tyson) as a heavyweight. The division’s anonymity is only compounded by the utter disinterest in boxing over the last couple decades. Once one of the biggest sports in the country, today, as D’Ambrosio writes, “no current sports magazine has a full-time boxing writer.”

It’s an interesting book. It made me miss the days when boxing was big enough that fights were held at places like The Carousel Lounge (which used to be a bar and is now a TV station about a block from where my band rehearses; my high school band played a Battle of the Bands there once, and recorded a demo in its basement) or even the Field House (as in the Adams Field House, which I think is called Dahlberg Arena now, or maybe both, I don’t know — it is where the University of Montana plays basketball). Yes, boxing is a brutal sport, and maybe deserves its death, but it still makes me wistful.

This is a small press book, so if it sounds interesting, please consider buying it.

 

The Roadkill Cafe

pheasant-1Last fall Julia came upon a pheasant that had just recently been struck by a car near our house; she’d been wanting to claim one for the feathers ever since we learned they seem to sacrifice themselves en masse on Mullan Road between where we live and Missoula (turns out it’s likely because THIS PLACE is nearby). When she picked it up it was still warm and completely intact. She brought it home, then dressed it and froze the meat. Yesterday it went in the crockpot with some curry and a bunch of other stuff that I generally don’t eat, all served over some wild rice. It was actually pretty damn good. 14 hours later neither of us is any worse for the experience either, so I would have to say our first experiment in eating roadkill was a success. Not that I expect to be carving any backstraps off roadside white tails or anything like that….

When she busted out the wild rice, we did have this conversation:

Julia: This is the official food of your people.

Me: What?

Julia: Wild rice. From the Great Lakes. It’s the official food of the Ojibwa people.

Me: Phhfft.

Julia: You’re saying wild rice isn’t the official food of your people?

Me: I’m saying it is at best the official side dish of my people.

 

Scourges Upon the Earth

From This Changes Everything, the fantastic-as-ever latest book from one of my heroes, Naomi Klein:

This-Changes-EverythingOne of the most interesting findings of the many recent studies on climate perceptions is the clear connection between a refusal to accept the science of climate change and social and economic privilege. Overwhelmingly, climate change deniers are not only conservative but also white and male, a group with higher than average incomes. And they are more likely than other adults to be highly confident in their views, no matter how demonstrably false. A much discussed paper on this topic by sociologists Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap (memorably titled “Cool Dudes”) found that as a group, conservative white men who expressed strong confidence in their understanding of global warming were almost six times as likely to believe climate change “will never happen” as the rest of the adults surveyed.

I saw Klein speak in Chicago back in 2008 and it was fantastic. She signed my little Moleskin book “Stay Brave.” That strikes right to the heart of things, doesn’t it? Bravery and kindness, that’s what we need more of.

 

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.

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