Nothing Logical About It

While I think that private, uh, enterprise space travel is a little out of this world, spacey (if you will), I’m glad Captain Kirk is getting his big chance in Jeff Bezo’s space vessel, Blue Origin. “Captain Kirk is rocketing into space next week — boldly going where no other sci-fi actors have gone.” (Source)

I was a Trekkie. Yep. Back in the 1970’s. I was a little late coming to the wonders of Star Trek, but I finally arrived. It was a big part of my life, actually, which tells you all you need to know about my life at the time. It went on TV at 4:30 every week day and I never missed it. When I started graduate school (1976) and was discharging my duties as a teaching assistant, I had a terrible dilemma; keep full office hours or bug out 15 minutes early?

At first it was no big deal. No one came to my office hours, but after I’d been teaching for a while (my very first ever class), students started coming around and hanging out. I took off at 4:15 no matter what. One day a kid said, “Why do you always take off early?”

By then, less intimidated by my new status of professor, I felt OK saying, “Star Trek comes on at 4:30.”

The kid (understand he was only 4 or 5 years younger than I was at the time) started laughing. “We all go to the union and buy a pitcher and watch Star Trek. Come on.” At the time, 3.2 beer was legal for 18 year olds in Colorado. I was promoted to “cool professor who drinks beer with students while watching Star Trek.”

I had — in my “office” at home — a life sized free-standing Mr. Spock. When, at the end of the quarter, I invited my students to my and the We-Were-Too-Young X’ house for a party, my students were amused (understatement) to find Mr. Spock standing there. Of course, someone brought him out to the living room to join the party.

Possibly the high point of all this Star Trekkery happened after what seemed like a lllllooonnnnngggg Star Trek hiatus, a Star Trek movie came out. I was visiting my brother and his then wife in Santa Rosa, CA and we decided to go see the movie. The lights went down. The crowd hushed. The Star Trek theme song came up and my brother and I both cried. His wife’s amusement bordered on disgust… “You two,” she said, and shrugged.

It didn’t end there. No. YEARS and YEARS maybe DECADES later, 2009, all this lost in time, my stepson and his wife decided to have Christmas with me in my little house in the San Diego mountains. They brought everything including post-dinner entertainment. We spent the afternoon in the Lagunas where there was 12 inches of snow, then came home for supper. Afterward, presents opened, wood stove cranking, dogs dozing…

“I wasn’t sure about this,” said my stepson. “I think you’re going to be surprised. It seemed like a strange conceit to me, but I think it works.”

He popped a DVD into the DVD player (obviously) and, yeah, here came the music. We were all reverentially silent, the film “rolled” (spun) and we enjoyed it.

I could offer a long analysis about Star Trek but already 900,000,000 people have beat me to it. At this point in my life I think it’s enough to say I really, really liked it. Good luck, Captain Kirk. Live Long(er) and Prosper.

Troppo Pesante

I was watching a film — not a great film — the other night, A Home of Our Own. It is a monument to suffering set during the early 1960s, about an impoverished woman struggling to raise her 6 kids and provide them with a home, using everything she has — brute stupidity, ignorance, stubbornness, necessity, determination, and a limited amount of charm, enough to make her a sympathetic character. She also has a sufficiency of that quality that has suddenly become so popular, “grit.” BUT as I watched I was hit by the tremendous weight of my own memories.

It was strange that realization hit me in Italian. “Pesante,” I thought. “Troppo.” Too heavy.

If I go to a spot in the infinite library of my mind and remember some small something, the whole thing opens like a book, incredible details, days, hours, colors, and I feature in them not like the story-teller but a character, sometimes a curious little girl, sometimes a young woman with no idea what’s going on. It is a bright series of days, of feigned certainty and motion.

One of the readers of this blog is writing a memoir. She expressed how, for her, the past — memories — are not just events in time and that the process of writing a memoir they are transmuted through the creative act of writing. I’ve written a few books based on my life experiences that focus on a moment, a period, in my life or an activity. But these others? The weight of them and their rapacious detail?

I just don’t know. I think I have a phobia about going there with my keyboard, my fingers, my mind.

Tedious Quotidian Update 43.7.3.vii

Teddy Bear T. Dog and I escaped for a short, hot ramble yesterday. It was redeemed by small puffy clouds passing overhead sometimes giving us shade, a luxuriant, cooling WSW wind, solitude and late summer colors. There has been so much smoke in the air in recent weeks that it’s been challenging to find a window of opportunity. Teddy had a GREAT time. There must have been a whole Noah’s Ark of animals out there since his last jaunt. The day was clear, even to the end. A bright, white moon — the first in weeks that hasn’t been orange from smoke — passed overhead.

This past weekend was my 50th (51st) high school reunion, but I didn’t go. Friends texted from the reunion saying they missed me and were going to Zoom. I attempted that twice, but for good or ill (I’ll never know) there were problems. Photos on Facebook illustrated the passing of time. I was thinking last night as I looked at the photos that we’re all massive accumulations of stories, some of which intersect. How in the world can all of those stories even fit into one room?

I really want to know about these people. I liked them in high school. We were — as it turns out — a rather astonishing group. My English teacher told me that but I thought she was just being encouraging. I wonder what — for each of them — was the biggest moment for them in the 50+ year interval (other than the births of their children)? What do they wish they could have done but never had the opportunity to do? What did they do that they never imagined they would do? Something wonderful? Did they “stay on course” or (like me) wander all over the place? Are they who they thought they’d be or, back then, did they really have NO idea? Did their values change along the way? How? And here I am: the same “girl” I was back in the day, wanting to have deep conversations with people.

My deep conversations are here on Women’s Wilderness Legend, Waterproof. Some of my high school classmates read this blog and, as a result, they, at least, know me, but not everyone gets up every morning and spends the golden 30 minutes drinking that blessed and sainted cup of awesome coffee, punching the keys on their laptop.



Remuneration…

Seven years ago when I was cleaning out “archives” preparing my move back to Colorado from California I found this old pay stub from Head Ski. Most of of the cool stuff I found I photographed and threw out, this too. None of the jobs I did at Head Ski were great jobs. The first (fall 1974) was a factory job, on the line, finishing skis in preparation for the Christmas rush. I wasn’t completely aware of that at the time, but when I was laid off I understood it perfectly. Part of me — now — understanding how things worked and knowing what happened next — part of me wishes I’d never quit Head Ski. I wouldn’t have stayed on the line. When I was called back from lay off I was put in the mail-room, a middle-world between the office and the plant.

This pay stub is from the interval during which I worked in the mail room. I did cool stuff for the company at that point and even met Howard Head who was a charismatic, compelling, optimistic character who liked me. If I’d stayed? My imagination paints all kinds of wonderful things for that alternative reality, but who knows? Maybe back then I felt some sense of foreboding thinking of continuing to work at Head Ski. I don’t remember any such feeling, but??? I do remember thinking that with a B.A. in English, I should be doing something profoundly important.

I don’t see it that way any more.

Not long ago a reader commented on a blog post that we live many lives in our lifetime. This pay stub evokes a whole life, confusion, odd choices, long drives, an undetermined future, a bad marriage.

So what did this paycheck cover? It was a weekly thing. Rent was $140/mo in married students housing at the University of Colorado. Our apartment was by the track, the very track you can see if you watching Downhill Racer in which Head Skis have a cameo role. Five sacks of groceries (paper bags) usually added up to about $25. I figured $5/bag and that was a couple weeks, depending. Laundry? A handful of quarters. In short, this was a normal, lower-middle class pay check, about the same as I make now even though the numbers on my “pay” check look like a bigger number, the same amount in the sense of “real wealth” (as defined by Alan Watts) which is what that paycheck buys.


Summer continues relentlessly. The air has been so smoke-filled that I’m not going outside much. I know sooner or later it’s going to break and fall will arrive and then the good times. Meanwhile, having done my five apple paintings I’ve moved on to a medium I can’t control 100%. It’s a good thing. As I carved away at these bits of linoleum, I thought of when I learned this. I was 15. Most of what I do as an artist I learned in 9th grade. Good or bad? I have no idea. Anyway, the challenges here are mechanical: keeping the tools sharp and not cutting myself. 😀



Mammaries are Made of This

Back in Nixon’s time, when the door opened ever so slightly to the People’s Republic of China, there was a thing called “Ping Pong diplomacy.” I don’t know the whole story, the ins, the outs, the backs, the forths, but I do remember it made us all question the way we held our ping-pong paddle. Suddenly it wasn’t cool to call ping-pong ping-pong, it became “Table Tennis.” When I got to China about 10 years later, I didn’t see a single person playing ping-pong. Badminton, but no ping-pong. Still, it was an amazing historical phenomenon and if you’re interested you can read about it here, “How Ping-Pong Diplomacy Thawed the Cold War.” It’s a wonderful story.

My other ping-pong story is pretty sordid (now you want to read it?) and icky, but… In 1977, I had a professor in graduate school who was a letch. Maybe more than one, but I only learned about the one. I was (and probably remain) a pretty naive kind of female human and when he invited me and (allegedly) several others to his apartment for a ping-pong tournament, I believed him and I went. Of course, no one EVER showed up but we “waited” for them. At a certain point the professor made a grab for my mammary gland and I was out of there, nauseated and angry. BUT in the interval of waiting, we did play a game of ping-pong in the rec room of his apartment complex.

A month or so later a friend — a grad-school schoolmate — had a party in her apartment. I went early to help her set up and get a head start on intoxicants. At one point, I was telling her the story of my bizarre evening with El Groppo. We were laughing about it and playing air ping-pong. I was already Bed, Bath and Beyond to the wind so I didn’t notice that people had begun arriving. A game we had begun in an empty room finished in a room with a dozen people sitting around on the floor, watching. The coup de grâce of the performance (as it was then, by virtue of the arrival of an audience) was me saying, “Oooooh what a cute little booby!” quoting the professor.

And there on the floor sat that very professor. To this day, I believe he deserved the public humiliation.


And, from the Waybac Machine, this is what my garden looked like on September 9, 2020



Blow Blows

Back in the seventies, you know, during disco, Farah Fawcett, Studio 54, platform shoes, Stayin’ Alive, all that, blow was big among the young. For a short time, my boss (who was also a friend) was spent a lot of weekends in Aspen where he had a friend — W — who had a friend (etc.) The moment came for me to “try a few lines,” and I took the moment with that combination of “thoughts” shared by young people — I wanted to be cool and I wanted to find out. It was a disastrous evening and no, I’m not detailing it here. I was very glad to go home the next morning.

My next experience with it happened in Aspen, as it happens. I was picked up in Glenwood Springs by, yes, the very friend who always got my boss high, and taken to his house where he was going to meet “the man.” The man was straight from South America. I didn’t, myself, “meet” the man because the man has to stay under the radar, and who knew but what I was a narc? But once the man left, W set a couple of lines out on a mirror on the coffee table and I did one. Uncut coke.

Short cut to a bad weekend.

From there I was driven to a hotel in Snowmass where my boyfriend’s parents, sister and brother in law were staying. I was going to spend three nights sleeping on the floor of their hotel room and have free skiing for three days then they’d bring me home. Or something. Sad to say, the blow I’d snorted was so pure that I was up for two nights. I don’t remember skiing those beautiful slopes or much else about the experience except that it was hell lying there on the hotel floor faking sleep and wondering if I’d ever come down. Finally, at about 4 am one morning, I wrote a note, left it on the dresser, shouldered my stuff, took a taxi to the Aspen airport and got on a plane. They were cheap back then so if you’re thinking, “Wow! All this blow! Aspen! A plane!” don’t. $40 for the flight was all the money that weekend cost me. In other ways that weekend cost a lot. Probably the best skiing of my life and I missed it even though I skied it. Nice meals I couldn’t eat and the company of people I cared for. Missed that, too.

Flying home over the winter Rockies, picking out geological features, and feeling real joy at the first sight of Denver, I decided, “No more blow for me ever.”

Not a very challenging resolution. I didn’t like, didn’t like, didn’t like cocaine. I tend to be a little hyper and wired anyway. That was beyond insult to injury. Who in hell found that shit fun? How could it enhance ANY experience?

A year later, a lawyer friend at the law firm where I worked wanted us to go to Aspen together. I arranged with my druggy Aspen friend, W, (who was a well known architect) to stay at his place. W had plenty of room for us and was happy we were coming. My friend drove. We were not prepared for the jangly strung-out mess W had become. My lawyer friend spent one night, sneaked out and went home, leaving me there (some friend….). I kept trying to put a good face on things, which included driving with this guy in his (formerly beautiful now dilapidated) Porsche Targa to a lumber yard to buy a large mirror we brought home in the top-less Porsche two-seater. That thing could have shattered any minute and then?

That night we went to a party at a house he had designed. He was a mess. I mingled and my friend did more coke and no one else did. A woman who was there said, “Do you want to come home with us? You’re not a couple, are you?”

“God no,” I said. “Just old friends.”

“That’s a relief.” She was that worried about W. He WAS scary. About 2 am we went “home” and I lay in bed thinking about my next steps, then realized I had rehearsed them. I called a taxi. If I had to spend the night at the airport, I would. I remembered the beautiful flight of a year or so before and I was eager to repeat it. This was fall and even in the high country winter hadn’t fully set in. The taxi company called back at 6 and I set up my ride. W — who was “up” night and day, heard everything, came and hung up on the taxi company. He insisted he take me to the airport, “I don’t know why you’re leaving,” he said. “You can’t go.”

“I can and I am leaving,” I said. “You’re a mess.”

He got angry, but we still got into the Porsche. I prayed we were going to the airport, and we did. At the airport W began giving me a tour of the features of the airport that he’d designed, including a passive solar wall. I can’t say that wasn’t cool, but I wanted out. Then W wanted to show me something he needed a key for, and he went to look for someone who could open something for us. The minute he turned away, I ran outside to the tarmac where the plane was loading. That was it.

Below me the mountains were golden and dark green; the peaks already snowbound; the lower cirques still filled with blue. Seeing that from a small plane was redemptive, beautiful.

A couple of years later W, who was on the Aspen City council, collapsed during a meeting. He died soon after of heart failure. He wasn’t even 35 years old.

Slept In

My parents loved poetry and read it to my bro and me all the while we were growing up. Then, in school we studied even MORE poetry. In high school we read a LOT of poetry, so much that I graduated with the belief that poetry was a big thing for everyone in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD.

I know now that what we studied says a lot about the generation to which my teachers belonged. Some of the poetry was called “experimental” because of the use of language, the way it looked on a page, and probably a bunch of stuff I don’t remember.

The three main guys from that group who found their way into these distant strands of my life are William Carlos Williams, e. e. cummings and Theodore Roethke. I know there were others, but they didn’t “stick,” and among the three who have? Williams and cummings “stuck” because I couldn’t forget them (even though I wanted to). Williams proffered that infernal red wheel-barrow glazed with rain water beside the stupid white chicken, and cummings inflicted my life with a little lame balloon man who whistles far and wee (???).

But Theodore Roethke stuck because a couple of his poems informed my life (and are beautiful).

There were other poets, of course, the main guys, Frost, Sandburg. On my own I found the Beats, but Roethke has remained a different kind of voice.

So there we were, a bunch of kids, analyzing poetry written by this very, very, very complicated man. The poem that my teacher thought was most important was “The Waking.” I did not know when I was 17 how true it is, but I know now. And she was right. It is important.

The Waking

BY THEODORE ROETHKE

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.   
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?   
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.   
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?   
God bless the Ground!   I shall walk softly there,   
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?   
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;   
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do   
To you and me; so take the lively air,   
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.   
What falls away is always. And is near.   
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   
I learn by going where I have to go.

Featured photo: Me, Mr. Nichols, D. Ballard, Miss Decou looking at a drawing for our literary magazine which was very grandly named The Empyrean. And that’s how we dressed in high school until sometime my senior year.

In other news, WP just informed me that I’m on “a streak” and have posted “8 days in a row.” Huh? Seriously, “encouragement” from WP creeps me out.

Ride Through the Time Warp

I’ve always written and for a long long time my writing was just transcribing my daily life. That would have been during the late eighties and early nineties. I thought my life pretty strange, often incomprehensible, and also because I just HAD to write. I didn’t have a story. Among the stuff I wrote were narratives of the time I spent with the boys on bikes, a bunch of neighborhood boys who piled their BMX bikes and selves into the back of my truck and went with me to Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego where I hiked and they rode. I also wrote a screen play for the video we were making. I knew that the boys were incredible and that their sport was beautiful. Most of all, we were all having fun.

I’ve recently been in contact with one of the boys on bikes, well, one that I never lost contact with. He’s now a dad in his 40s and he’s teaching his kids to ride BMX. They are all on a team together in Phoenix, AZ. I see his posts on Facebook, and I feel a warm little thrill inside. I know how hard it was for him to get past the chasm of the teen years. He didn’t have a dad, and he’s being the dad to his kids that he never had. He and the other boys — and maybe the lady driving the truck (that would have been me) — were all square pegs, so to speak, and all of us were on the verge of being hit by some major life shit.

I asked him sometime last week if he’d like the stories I wrote about us back then. I was so happy that he does. So, I put the stories I still have together in a little book with some of the few photos that still exist. We took a lot of video, but few still pictures and of them? I’ve moved house twice… It’s a pity because, as he told me, they are the only photos of his childhood that he has. The same with the stories. I don’t have that many. I’ve gone through my notebooks of writing practice (there is some really BAD writing in there) and a lot of it (besides being bad writing) is only marginally about the boys and mostly about my deteriorating marriage. As if the 26 journals comprising The Examined Life weren’t enough!

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/12/14/rdp-monday-peg/

It’s a Pulcritudinous Day in the Neighborhood

Back in the day, when we were approaching high school graduation, we began prepping for the college boards. College back then wasn’t community college; it was a four year liberal arts institution that’s still around, I think. ANYhoo, there were a couple of exams we had to take in order to apply to institutions of higher learning and these were the ACT and the SAT. There was a little debate about whether we needed to take BOTH tests but since some schools wanted one and other schools wanted the other, many of us took both. Both exams are still around.

I didn’t expect to pass the math sections of either exam. I don’t believe I did. That was about the time “pocket” calculators came out and they were incredibly expensive and not allowed in the exams, anyway. I didn’t go to school with any kind of math tool except my strange brain that moves numbers around and recognizes 3 as B and 5 as S and l as 1 etc. and my two hands. My teachers coached me around my fear and frustration, “It will be fine, Martha. You’ll score very high on the verbal sections, and you have all your extra-curricular activity to make you an attractive candidate.”

It’s true. I did a lot of extra-curricular stuff in high school. I don’t even remember all of it at this point, but I got a full ride to a woman’s college in Denver. That was my mother’s dream. I couldn’t really go very far away from home because my dad was so ill and the family so friable.

We were intensely prepped with vocabulary, but anyone with the predilection I had for Victorian fiction was ahead of that game. People back in the 19th century seem to have truly loved words. And then, those with a good education usually studied Latin, Greek and a modern language bringing even MORE words into their world. At that moment in my education I believed that truly educated people had a classical education and I meant to get one. Learning vocabulary for the college boards was a breeze for me. Pugnacious, bellicose, belligerent, quarrelsome. Bring it on.

I suppose I was pretty obnoxious because the best friend of my boyfriend said, “You kiss HER? Isn’t that like kissing a book?”

Fighting words.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/12/02/rdp-wednesday-pugnacious/

October 31 again

Since I was a kid some 60 years ago Hallowe’en has become a really big deal. People decorate the outside of their houses elaborately, while we just carved a couple of pumpkins and called it good. During the interval, a transition period, if you will, before Hallowe’en became a big business, I decorated the outside of my house with stuff I made. My neighbor across the street played a tape of scary music on a boombox in his open garage and I hung sheets and stuff from my palm tree. I was living in City Heights, a “ghetto” part of San Diego, known for being the part of the city where many immigrants made their first American home.

Hallowe’en is a multi-cultural holiday and it was so much fun to see all the kids and their parents, still dressed in their various “old countries” clothes as costumes, coming to say “Trick or Treat.” It was sweet, inspiring.

My dad sometimes reflected on his childhood Halloweens. They would have been different anyway — fewer cars on the roads, no giant bags of candy. His stories involved more tricks than treats; much pushing over of out-houses, that kind of thing.

My dad is the little kid with his eyes closed blowing on a noisemaker. The witch is his big sister, the other kid is his cousin, probably 1932 in Loveland, CO.

My brother and I learned a trick from my dad and we pulled it a few times. It involved one kid standing on one side of the street, the other kid across from him on the other side and both pretending they were pulling hard on a rope. Then, when a car stopped, the kids “dropped” the rope and walked away.

I think that was the last year they let us go out. 😀

When I was teaching, having learned how scared kids are of English class, I didn’t feel a costume was necessary. I just painted a little vampire blood in the corners of my mouth if Halloween fell on a school day. It was plenty. Students would see me on campus, come up to talk to me, and when I came out of the shadows, and they saw the “blood,” they screamed.

Featured photo: My brother Kirk dressed as a rodeo clown, me dressed as I have NO idea, Debbie Mahotca, our neighbor, dressed as a gypsy, 1961. Hallowe’en was always cold in Bellevue, Nebraska, and often snowy.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/10/31/rdp-saturday-shadows-2/