Monday, July 18, 2016

Facebook and Noise

(Warning. A mild rant follows. Not suitable for people who don't like re-evaluating things)

I get lots of inquiries from people asking me to follow them on Facebook. Inevitably, if I respond at all it's to say that I don't do Facebook. I tried it once and found the noise level horrific and overwhelming. Little on "my" page had anything to do with me.

And most things didn't actually seem to be ON Facebook anyway but, as with twitter, links to thing somewhere else. Facebook was just the medium for sending me where the person wanted me in the first place. All the political rants that seem to assume I agree with them anyway were nauseating (often worst when I did agree with them). Pictures of people I don't know eating food were not entertaining. (Pictures of food? Give me a break.)

The thing is, life's too short for that nonsense. It was nice to be able to communicate with people, when it worked, but I couldn't be sure people saw my messages unless they specifically answered, and for that, I have email which is nicer, more "me friendly" as it were. Most important, other than going through myriad servers, it is just a communication between myself and another person, one not categorized as a "Facebook Friend"--a strange marketing label if ever there were one.

Very quickly my enthusiasm for checking my Facebook page waned, and shortly after, I deleted it. That was about eight or nine years ago. I don't honestly think I've missed out on anything important in doing that (but how would I know, right?) but I do know it gives me more time, and time is a precious commodity.

Every day it seems that my "friends" on other sites invite me to join them on "the new Facebook"--something I believe the world needs about as much as it needs another Enron. I don't reply. I don't join. It isn't that I am not interested in what other people are doing, but I figure if you want me to know, there are a lot of ways to send me a message about it, and the point of all going to some site every day is rather lost on me. I'd prefer to hear from you in a unique way. I have one or two friends who call me on the phone. What a concept!

I do participate in a few online things that I consider marginal, but only because they are nearly automatic (take zero time from me) and I view them as relatively harmless. Increasingly this chaotic world makes me seek out the relatively harmless (in the wrong hands, nothing is entirely harmless).

If you love Facebook, if it works for you and what you need, I'm glad. It must work for a lot of people or they wouldn't bother (I hope they wouldn't). But I won't be there, and it isn't because I'm not your friend, or don't like you, but because I don't see it as a substitute for whatever it aims to substitute for. The truth is that there is not a global online community. There are online interactions, but not a community. And sticking "global" and "community" together as a single term... well, think about it for a while. If it still makes sense to you, then fine.

Recovery TIme

It's been a long time since I updated this blog. Most of June was spent traveling 4100 miles in our van, Mobi. We left Silver City and camped in Navaholand, then went through Monument Valley north, caught hwy 95 to Capital Reef in Utah. Spectacular colors and rock formations. I'm not sure why people make such a deal of Monument Valley, because once you turn onto 95 the views are amazing.

We camped there one night and then drove a short distance to Calf Creek Campground where we stayed two nights. Beautiful. And hot. It was well over one hundred degrees, and roasting in the screen tent during the day. We took folding chairs and sat in the creek most of the day.

Then we went toward Bryce Canyon, turning north and heading west on I-50--billed as the loneliest highway. Now there is a road that lives up to its billing. We camped in a KOA, for lack of a better alternative. 

We made it to California the next day, camping in a free campground about 100 miles outside of Shasta in a lovely treed area along a river. The next day we made it to Hilt, California, our first destination. That's where Dagny's son, Lorenzo, lives and we got see the amazing young ladies his two daughters are becoming.

This trip was all about visiting kids, grandkids, and my mother, who just turned 95. That meant a few days in Hilt, then heading to Seattle. We did arrange to camp south of Portland for one night, getting together with my old music-writing pal, Frank Milan (formerly of Silver City), then the next day we got to Federal Way, where my mother lives. My brother Jim lives there and our youngest brother, Dan, and his lady Naomi, made it up the same day, so it was a reunion of sorts.

After a lovely visit, we headed to Bellevue  WA for a few days to see Dagny's daughter Selene and her two boys. Again it was great to see how they'd grown.

Then we came back. Constitutionally unable to retrace our steps, we headed down to Eastern Orego, went into Idaho and Wyoming, then into Utah. We did have to backtrack a bit, and we wound up in Moab where it was again scorching hot. At 4 am it was 77 degrees and headed above 100, so we packed up and left, getting home the next day.
We got back before the July 4th weekend started and hid out. Now, in a few days, I'm going on another road trip, this time with my friend Javaid Qazi. He'll be by here to pick me up and we'll be going to Marshall, IL, taking his wife's ashes back to her family for a ceremony there.

It's a lot of miles, and in between I've been writing. The last trip, driving a 22-foot Uhaul in convoy with two others from Portland to Silver City, gave me an idea for a short story. In particular, staying in a freeway motel in California was... inspiring, let's say. I just finished a draft of the story and will let it sit for a time, then get back to it. It's called Motel Endings, and came out with a rather Raymond Carver flavor to it, in tone, if not language.

I'm hoping all my trips will give me material for fiction. Travel is supposed to open your eyes, after all, and a writer with open eyes is handed diamonds. Usually they need a lot of polishing, but life isn't supposed to be easy.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Life Happens While Making Plans

"Man plans; God laughs" -- ancient Hebrew proverb

Recent events around our New Mexican mud hut have reinforced for us the futility of trying to plan what happens next (we knew better, but the temptation always crops up), and we are stepping back and regrouping. You can't push on the universe, but you can declare your intentions and then let things happen. Of course, adapting to whatever variations are introduced in the process is your own lookout.

That's where we are now. The house is off the market and we've put some things in motion to see about getting the house to a point where the mortgage companies will love it again. Who would have known they won't loan money on a house because it doesn't have central heating? And guess what? To get a loan to do the things that will make it marketable, you have to have a marketable house?

Where is Joe Heller when you need him?

All this means any thoughts of hopping in the van and moving south or buying a boat are on hold for the time being. But that might not be a bad thing. Captain Len's First Church of Sailing With the Wind teaches about the right working of things, and sometimes it's important to see if maybe the obstacles placed in your path serve a purpose beyond raising your blood pressure. So we talk and think about what we should be doing, rather than what we thought we wanted to do. It bears re-examination.

In the shorter term, this summer, to be precise, we will take a van camping trip to the great NW and visit Dagny's kids (and grandkids) and my mother--Bonnie will be 95 that month and probably planning to climb Everest or somesuch, so I want to swing by and see what's going on. Her health is amazing, considering the mileage she's put on, but not so hot at the moment. Seeing as the future insists on not revealing itself to me, we want to get by and say hello and catch up.

Of course, visiting my mother isn't quite like it is for most people--she's a moving target. Yesterday we learned she is planning on moving again in a month, so we might have to work to catch her in the first place. We will put out some Mom traps and see what we get.

Then we will head back home.

To preserve my sanity I've got other trips on the to do list, including a road trip with my old friend (it's the friendship that's old, not us) Javaid Qazi. He has family business in Indiana, so I'll ride shotgun. And then... well, now that gets uncomfortably close to planning again, and we know the dangers that holds--here there be dragons..

Monday, March 28, 2016


Our plan to sell our house and to see a boat we liked very much down in Panama hit a little snag. That being that we don't seem to be selling the house. We had some people take a very serious look at our ancient adobe and decide it wasn't right for them. They looked long and hard. The house has some sort of magic about it that makes a certain kind of person fall in love with it, and it's rather inexpensive as houses go in this day and age, but it also needs some work.

For years now, we've invested heavily in our art making. It's been our priority since, oh since forever. That means using whatever spare money we could generate on art supplies or trying to sell art. So we haven't done much with the house other that remove a few non load bearing walls to create space for Dagny to work. As a result, there is a fair amount of comestic work that needs doing. This is an obstacle for anyone wanting a house they can move into and just unpack. It's also one reason the house is priced below market.

So, we accept that it isn't pristine, and that frustrates immediate sales. And we have little patience for waiting for that perfect buyer to show up on our doorstep. So what do you do?
In our case, we regroup, rethink. Maybe even take a moment to listen to what the universe is telling us. A wise person doesn't push against the universe. It isn't healthy or fun. If the message is that it isn't the moment to go sailing, well okay. What then?

Well, seeing as plan A failed, we move to plan C (plan B is always "jump over the side" but in New Mexico it's not as functional as it was when we formed it during our boating days.). And what is plan C? We fix up the house. If we had money, that would be simple. But in our case, it means taking the house off the market, get a home equity loan of some sort, use part ot pay off the van and the rest to get the work done.

Then we... well, we aren't sure what happens next. The future is a fuzzy place. Maybe we rent it out and join the carnival... Well, probably not a carnival, but its all part of some circus. Anyway, we do something. Something fun and interesting. Maybe we put it back on the market. Hell, we don't even know how long it will take to do the things we need/want to do.

But that's okay. Not knowing is a good thing. After all, it's all just part of an adventure. Like the rest of life--you have to make it up as you go along.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Van improvements

In the last post I talked about some improvements Dagny has made in the interior of the van, some functional and some aesthetic. She redid most of the cabinetry and now it looks like this.

To the immediate right is the stove/oven that comes out easily. When we camp for longer periods we have a pop up tent that serves as additional living space and a shelving set that goes together to make a kitchen. Even when it's hot we can cook in the tent and even make homemade dog treats for Carl Roberts (the world's greatest Giant Lap Schnauzer).

The top shelf of the green boxes holds a battery operated LED lantern in place.

Here is a wider view so you can see there is standing space. Further back are the high-tech fridge (just add ice) and a porta potty. On the close end of the bunks, just off camera to the left, is a cool medicine chest that is just inside the sliding door. It holds toothbrushes, first aid stuff, comb and brush, and important dog things. (Goes without saying)

Next week we'll get to see how efficient this all is.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Road Trips

While waiting for the house to sell, I've kept busy with writing and also with road trips. Some old friends from Portland Oregon needed help moving to New Mexico and when I volunteered to help, they flew me up so I could drive one of the UHaul trucks down for them.

Flights of fancy

When you live in Silver City, going to the airport means driving to Tucson or El Paso. It's a tossup, but the weather was getting nice so the day before my flight, Dagny and I went to Tucson, and we camped that night at Colossal Caves. It was great and in the morning, as we sat in our chairs eating breakfast, we got a visit from several cardinals--two males and a female. We'd never seen cardinals in the wild before and they were gorgeous. They knew it too, and they posed in the trees and came within a few feet to give us a good look.

Being able to camp out on February 9th is one of the attractions of the Southwest.

On the road again

Portland has grown a lot since the last time I was there. I was actually going to Gresham, and it felt like Gresham was bigger than the Portland I remembered.

We finished loading and two days later, headed out in a convoy of three trucks and a car. As road trips go, this isn't the ideal strategy, partly because the nature of the vehicles and the weather dictated that we get on major freeways, point our noses south, and just drive to LA, turn left (harder than it sounds) onto I-10 and drive to Lordsburg, NM, where you head back up into the mountains. On the other hand, the roads were predictable, except that I-5 and parts of I-10 were in terrible shape. We were bounced around. I've seen better roads in Cambodia. It was hard to believe that a place that is so dependent on cars doesn't make the roads a priority. Arizona does much better.

But we did it. We and the stuff survived, so we called it a success.

Preparation for getting underway

 Now we are home, but Dagny and I are making a trip to Phoenix early next month. She's been modifying the van, tweaking it to be better suited for our on-the-road lifestyle, and we'll camp at Lake Roosevelt for a couple of nights (coming and going to Phoenix) and see how well it all works and give her ideas for more mods.

We've camped at Lake Roosevelt before and it's a lovely place.

We are evolving toward heading out the door, not waiting for the house to sell in that respect. Already we've gotten rid of stuff, and even at home, we are starting to winnow down our cooking utensils to the things we can fit in the van.

Fitting things into the van and still being able to cook, sleep, work... It's a challenge.

I've pretty much worked out my idea of a minimal office. I'll upgrade my computer before we hit the road, but ditch a lot of the "clever" gadgets that I thought might make things easier and me more productive. As it turns out, I'm better off taking a step backward, getting back to just writing on paper and then using a computer as a typewriter for a second draft. There's a lot involved in that decision, but what it comes down to is that I need to focus on the writing and not the tools. I love working in Scrivener, and I love my Mac Book Pro, but anything else is window dressing that will require maintenance. I'll get a newer Mac Book Pro because they don't have hard disks, and living on the road is hard on mechanical things. When we get a boat, salt water is always an issue. I went through a lot of computers the last time we lived on a boat and the most common failure was the hard drive.

So onward and upward.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Control What You Can

When I get involved in a project, whether its moving, or writing a book, or learning something new, the only part that is hard for me is waiting. Things might be difficult or frustrating, but if they are within my control, persisting, pushing ahead, feels good.

But waiting? Sitting around until someone else makes a decisions, accomplishes a task... not so easy.

Selling the house involves a lot of waiting, and I can't control most of that. And I can't do anything about moving until I know when the house will sell.

But there are things I can do. I can write stories, update this blog, and work on short-term projects that lay the groundwork for the next steps, and make them easier. Those things I can do, and they are important.

Every moment of an adventure doesn't feel adventurous. I just have to remind myself of that.