Archives

INVENTORY: (scrolling top to bottom)

  1. Your Step Sister’s Boobs
  2. The Utterance of Moo (and other excerpts)
  3. Hotspot Hobo
  4. A People’s History of Lee Noble
  5. Gray’s Anatomy Wholesale Supply (TM)
  6. Aim high, Homeless Guy
  7. Diary of a Tough Kid
  8. Osama Bin Laden’s Death
  9. Wilderness is All But Dead
  10. United Networks of Facebook
  11. Mind for Sale
  12. The Jungle
  13. Eulogy of Earth
  14. March Madness
  15. Philly, Art and Life
  16. Mixed Martial Arts
  17. Proof in the Soil
  18. Buddy Movies

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Your Step Sister’s Boobs

My corner of the infield hadn’t seen much action, but I had to stay alert. Third base is the hot corner, after all, and I had my pride to defend.

The visiting team was one of the best in the league. My friend Billy from school played on it, and his accountant father was the manager.

League officials even allowed Billy’s older step sister, a skilled softball player, to play for the team. Something to do with ‘politics’, my dad had explained, when I asked him why Billy’s team was the only one with a girl on it.

I didn’t see what Mikhael Gorbachev and the Persian Gulf War had to do with baseball, so I let it go.

I was nervous, wanted to win and get bragging rights over Billy, but I was a perennial all star. Nothing to worry about. If a ball came my way I’d get my glove on it.

This guy late in the visiting team’s lineup came up to the plate. He didn’t look like much, but I took my fielding stance. Billy’s team could hit, so I had to be ready for anything.

Two pitches into the count I heard a commotion in the visitors dugout. Before the next pitch I glanced over.

Billy’s father was watching the game, but the coach and a team mom had Billy’s step sister sequestered in a corner of the dugout. They had their backs to her, and the rest of her teammates were trying to peep, or trying not to look, through or around or under the wall of parental guidance that had blocked the 11-year-old girl into the corner.

She started to wriggle out of her jersey. I glanced back at the pitcher and he was still between pitches, so I stole another peek. I had a clear shot from third base.

I was shocked, stupefied. I could see why she didn’t wear a training bra yet, but there was something there. It was the first time I’d seen anything like it. To pre-pubescent me, I was achieving a stage of manhood, learning a valuable anatomy lesson, and winning the lottery. I saw Billy’s step sister changing jerseys.

Then I heard the clear sharp ping of aluminum. I looked at the batter. The white speck of a ball that caromed off the bat grew into a moon. I threw my glove up too late. The line-drive hit me in the eye socket.

Whether or not I cried or didn’t cry cannot be confirmed or denied. The injury gave me a sense of guilty satisfaction.

I wore my first shiner with mixed feelings. I was too ashamed to admit to my good church-going parents that I’d been caught peeping, too proud of my luck not to tell my friends what I’d seen, and too embarrassed to have missed the ball not to tell Billy the truth after the game when he made fun of me for missing the line drive.

“I saw your step sister’s boobs.”

He had been in the dugout trying to keep the other kids from looking, so he knew exactly what had happened.

“You perv. That’s what you get for lookin’.”

(various facts, names and whatnot, have been changed to protect the innocent)

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The Utterance of Moo

To untrained ears, cattle say the same thing over and over again. Around the world, cattle mooing is as ubiquitous as the pastures and farms where they live.

While lowing and mooing are practically the same thing and often used interchangeably to describe how cattle communicate, lowing has a choral quality, and mooing is more of a speaking practice.

For the sake of argument, the bovine language practiced by cattle is called Moo. In Moo there is only one word. The variations in tone quality and duration of the single word determine its meaning.

Moo is the name of the language, it is the word in the language, and it is also the sound the word makes.

To explain, a cow moos, and the sound that it moos is the word moo itself. It is much more efficient than human languages in terms of the lengths it takes, or doesn’t, to find new terminology. It finds meaning in the context and manner of its speaking, or mooing. It is sometimes mooed in unison by a herd; it is sometimes mooed in call and answer form and otherwise may be used in casual conversation about a rising sun or unusual odor, and organizational settings, such as herding, and warnings about potential predators.

*

In some cases, what takes humans a dissertation to recite takes cattle only a heartbeat, and what takes cattle a lifetime to profess may take humans a breath.

Among the common herd, it may be said that cattle think of this word as holy; yet it may also be said that it is profane (cows have weak short-term memory and a habit of curtly reconciling themselves with contradictions inherent in their culture). In an effort to clarify, a cattle poet-linguist-philosopher, a mooist, would tell you the sound is neither sacred or profane exclusively. It is at once form content and function, a fluid symbol with more baggage than a wagon train that is yet as light as a breath. While from the outside Moo seems simplistic in vocabulary and obsessed with vocal nuance, cows think of it as a much more sophisticated than human languages because of the training one must undergo in order to perceive the nuances in the utterance of the word moo.

In fact, a bovine might argue against the use of the English term ‘word’ to describe what ‘moo’ is. Cattle think of ‘moo’ less as a verbal symbol than as a literal sonic manifestation of self in context, when the soul/mind must profess itself and/or cannot be contained.

Bovines don’t technically think of themselves as bovines either, because a bovine is a classification of animal biology and not mooism, which is the prevailing art/science (to be clear, there is no distinction in moo between art and science) among mooers. They are mooers, those who moo. They don’t think of themselves as speakers of Moo, they are the mooers of Moo.

Hearing moo uttered in a new context, a young bovine might not fully understand the meaning of the usage of moo. It takes many years and much experience among bovines to begin to grasp the subtleties of Moo in their entirety.

The greatest Mooers are known for their ability to adapt moo to any context. Beauty is found in the application of moo to the situation, which is a result of the elaboration of the sound of moo depending on precedents and context. The poet-linguist-philosophers of Moo, any mature bovine who has digested the nuances of moo and learned to utter it capably, are called mooists, and the casual mooer is simply that; however, the subtle complexities of the average mooer’s life at times merits recognition as poesy.

And the title The Utterance of Moo is not a lame attempt at a play on words. In Moo, the pronunciation of utter does not correspond to udder, since there is only one word and it is always pronounced moo (pronunciation and utterance are different). It is an unfortunate coincidence that it translates in English this way, because the low humor it may evoke would trivialize the complexity and sincerity with which cattle utter moo.

That’s right, mooists do not recognize plays on moo; to be quite clear, plays on moo are impossible because a play would require a degree of orthographic complexity and semantic confusion that does not exist in moo. The Utterance of Moo is a very literal and sincere undertaking.

*

Mooers consider human language, in fact, all of human existence, unnecessarily complicated. If a mooer overcomplicates something, a moo or another routine action, such as chewing its cud or making a pie, the other mooers will derisively call the subject a two-hoof heel walker(human). It is similar to the way speakers of American English will call someone a Polack. Mooers consider two-hoofs very clever, yet petty and unwise.

***

The Cloven Truth of Mooism – (Two-fold truth)

1. Mooing is power – Moo is the central element of Mooism, which seeks to encapsulate mooer cultures and traditions. Learning to moo is one thing, but uttering moo is an experienced level of communication, across boundaries few mooers dare to violate. Learning to utter moo is how a mooer realizes itself among mooers. By hearing moo for what it is, and mooing it so, thereby manipulating the application of moo to new contexts, the mooer becomes a mooist.

2. Power is fleeting – Yet by mooing alone a mooist cannot bridge the gap of generations of breeding and culture. The unutterable consequences of being a mooer, the physical reality of context in which moo is uttered, can not be transcended by mooing.

 

 It all drips down into a calf’s poem, called:

The Mooers Milk

To be the bull you were born to be, moo the moos you were made to moo, and do the deeds you were deemed to do.

No other truth is told as true, and no yen was yours to yearn, than the cud you chose to chew.

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Hotspot Hobo

I’ve been cut off. My free wireless feed is no more. Maybe I’ll rename the blog Hotspot Hobo.

Thanks to a powerful open wireless network connection that I had picked up trouble-free in my apartment, I never signed up for my own service. But a week ago the signal called NETGEAR was gone. When I scan for signals, I can see all the others, the ones with foreboding padlock icons next to them, but that doesn’t do me any good.

Since I know none of my neighbors moved out, I assume the owner of the NETGEAR signal I hobo-ed must have noticed their bandwidth usage skyrocket this summer and finally opted to close the network. After I suffered a displaced fracture to my collarbone and wasn’t allowed to play outside, I began streaming Netflix with a junkie-like fixation. I probably could have moderated my usage and avoided notice, but all those back episodes of 30Rock and Sons of Anarchy, B-movies and Nat-Geo docs weren’t going to watch themselves.

Now I’m cursed to hop from one unsecured wireless hotspot to another. That or sign up for my own service, which just doesn’t make sense because I only have a month and a half left on my lease, and more than likely I’ll be in a new place come September.

So here I am, paying for a cup of coffee instead of home brewing just so I can log on at the café for an hour or so and get some work done. Checking facebook and dawdling on Craigslist just isn’t the same on a smartphone. And reading the news on it is the worst.

It’s kind of ridiculous, I admit, to imagine myself humping the MacBook Pro around town looking for a hotspot, cowering in the shadows of annoying coffee shops and stale public library study rooms until security has something to say about it, but that’s where I find myself. The life of a blogger and admitted facebook addict with no better option in the foreground.

Maybe I’m better off this way. After spending so much time streaming video while recovering from the collarbone injury it’s probably good to endure the storm of human interaction on the everyday city street and deal with the changes in the weather.

Luckily, it comes at a time when I’m on the verge of a full recovery from the broken bone, so I’ll enjoy unsecured access to the great outdoors and open road again soon. Unless a Google search for “How to hack into a secured wireless hotspot” yields any insight. ~ TS

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A People’s History of Lee Noble

1982 to Present

 Ages 1 to 5:

RASCAL – Could still barely talk, gained reputation as a rascal for dousing sunbathing mom with bucket of water. Mother, wearing sunglasses, was pretending to doze in lawn chair while boy played in adjacent kiddie pool. She observed boy gaze at her ponderingly, as if to figure out whether or not she were really asleep, then dip bucket into kiddie pool and proceed to douse. Whether he did it out of orneriness or because he was concerned about her overheating remains to be seen.

CROSSDRESSER – Sister, four years older, enjoyed dressing boy up in her old clothes, with even a periodical application of mother’s smuggled lipstick. Photo evidence exists. Father put stop to these activities when he discovered them. Last known incidence of transvestism.

Ages 6 to 12:

SCRAPPER – Teamed up with best friend to collect metal scraps (screws, chain link fence pieces, bolts, bottle caps) in school playground during recess for one year. Stored ‘treasure’ in paper bag in hole in asphalt at edge of parking lot. Kept bag in old box of toys in bedroom until family moved out of childhood home ten years later.

PAPER BOY – Just like the Nintendo game, earned $45 a week delivering newspapers at 5 AM beginning at age nine in order to have own money to buy baseball cards and a new bike.

COUGAR BAIT – Reached second base with older woman (thirteen year old) in janitor’s closet during JV basketball game. Would have gone all they way if had not been caught by PE teacher/coach, who never turned them in. Broke up with girlfriend after 2 months because relationship was getting too serious.

Ages 13 to 18:

TRUANT – Skipped first two months of church youth group to walk to neighborhood gas station (Ricker’s) and buy candy. Sneaked away after mom dropped off at church side door. Returned to church just in time to play basketball in gym after service let out. Finally started going to services when youth pastor saw him in gym and inquired into his whereabouts. Has not liked youth pastors ever since.

AFICIONADO – Over the course of six years, proud consumer of more than 100 different kinds of root beer, plus specialty sodas like Ale-8-One and Dr. Enuf, and collector of used bottles. Repeats of Jones Cola labels do not count. Collection still boxed in parents’ attic.

HIPSTER – Paid friend Pete Gaunt to take ironic senior pictures before irony was fashionable. Bought ‘homeless’ outfit from Goodwill and dragged it around local little league baseball diamond, then wore dirty costume in series of photographs depicting self as homeless youth in downtown alleys, behind dumpsters, and on park benches. All in the name of making fun of/rejecting traditional senior pictures of the time that featured velvet backdrop curtains, trophy collections, letter jackets and cars with tinted windows. Mr. Gaunt is now a professional photographer in Austin, Texas.

Ages 19 to 28:

TBD

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Gray’s Anatomy Wholesale Supply (TM)

Since dropping the YX600 with me on it, I ordered the $25 worth of parts it’ll take to get it back in road-worthy condition.

The inter-web has a bounty of online parts warehouses, and it took lots of time clicking through mind-boggling ‘exploded’ views of mechanical diagrams (they show major parts, like the clutch for example, taken apart so each tiny spring, plate, bolt and washer is visible and numbered for cataloguing) and adding up estimates to find the combination of parts most beneficial to the long-term beauty of the machine and security of my wallet.

The blinker lens and clutch lever added up to about $20, plus some shipping. Now with minimal elbow grease the bike will be back in no time.

*

Next came time to find the part that would fix me, broken collarbone and bruised shoulder (read: ego).

With a referral from my orthopedist, I found an American parts supplier on the Inter-web called Grey’s Anatomy Wholesale Supply for the Human Body ™. When I clicked on the link, a pop-up window appeared advertizing a parts supplier in China that claimed to have parts to fit American specs, but I X-ed it ASAP, opting for the costlier home-crafted materials.

Thank God for stem cells. After years of cloning by intrepid scientists, doctors have these supplies on hand. All it took was a cash deposit from an open minded parent and a culture of stem cells and original parts.

The parts age at the same rate as the source, so, barring any deviation due to your lifestyle or chronic conditions, the parts should be a healthy fit whenever you need them.

When I moved the cursor over the dropdown box for year, 1971 to 2011 came into view. I selected my birth year, surname, given name and disambiguated it from the multitude of results by typing my social security number into an adjacent search field.

An illustrated anatomically-correct replica of my body came up in a pop-up window, and I clicked through the appropriate categories, skeletal system, upper body, shoulder, left, to see an exploded view of all the bones, tendons, ligaments and cartilage that allow the shoulder to reach, carry, stretch and sometimes slouch.

*

After adding the clavicle to my shopping cart I looked through the schematic to try to find out what it would cost to get a few other upgrades or replacement parts. I’ve been living in this body for more than a quarter century, after all, and am showing some wear and tear.

Unfortunately, there are no upgrades because you can only order original parts, and my referral only prescribes one (1) left clavicle with cartilage.

*

Of course, there’s nothing to fix the bruised shoulder (read: ego), only time.

Now that the part is in the mail, it’s time to get an estimate on the labor. ‘eBay Medical’ has a listing of reputable orthopedic surgeons. I’ll just put up a listing with the work I need done and let the job go to the lowest bidder with good facilities and a solid reputation.

Craigslist Ad

WANTED – left collerbone for 1982 Noble Lee, 4X4. Lookin fer new manufactures original part, but a like new/litely used bone fit to model specs will be considered. Send pics please.

Current model features broken clavicle in healing process. Make an offer for trade and it’s yers. Can’t have all these old parts layin around.

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Aim high, Homeless Guy: A public service rant  

Five cents? A nickel? That’s it? That’s all you want?

Was it because that was all you needed, or because that’s all I looked like I was good for?

For the record, and not to brag or anything, but I usually carry more than a nickel in change, or even cash, at any given time. Most of us do.

This low-balling must be why you have to make your rounds so often, circling a two-block radius around the FUMC across the street from my row house apartment every Sunday—from 11:55 AM until about 12:30 PM—hitting up the Good Christians for whatever metal didn’t jingle the offering plate during service.

That may also explain why you stalk the block weekdays too, when the nursing college classes let out and the co-eds’ ID badges flash and dangle down the sidewalk.

Maybe they give you the nickel change they get back from buying a Naked Juice for $2.95 at the corner store, and their suburban consumerist fatuity is at fault for habituating you to this austerity. I gotta say, don’t sell yourself short, brother.

A nickel? Really?

What the fuck are you going to buy with a nickel?

You can’t get a goddamn gumball for a nickel. You couldn’t park your van downtown  long enough buy a scratch off ticket for a nickel.

A nickel! That’s not even a hustle, man! That’s a drag. Begging like that won’t get you anywhere. You’re better off at the mission.

It would take twenty nickels just to get you a McDouble with cheese, two hundred for a decent meal and four hundred (!) before you scrounged up enough scratch to buy a dime bag (because everybody knows, adjusted for inflation, dime bags cost twenty bucks!).

At least quarters add up a five times faster, and dollar bills don’t make so much noise. Had you asked me for twenty, fifty, shit, even a hundred, you would have piqued my interest. Twenty bucks shows some ambition and, honestly, a hustle for fifty sounds like business to me. I would want in on that action.

To be clear, I’m not indiscriminate in my insensitivity to the plight of the dispossessed. If you’ve got a good pitch, or at bare minimum don’t come off like a prick, I’ll give up some of my Hard-Earned.

For example, I gave a vagrant a fancy camping water bottle to conceal his vodka in last fall. He was hiding in the piss alley between my house and the next, getting his Tuesday afternoon drink on and dodging the black and whites, so I told him the landlord would call the cops if he saw him there and sent him on his way. And I didn’t do this for my comfort, so much as the nice neighbor lady’s. You see, I didn’t want him to go all boogey-man on her when she came home from work.

And, when I saw him this spring, I was glad to see he still had the stainless steel canteen dangling from a carabiner on his backpack.

You see, I’m not a humanitarian. Just human. As a person of limited means, that is truly about the best I can do, besides this little pep talk.

So next time aim high, Homeless Guy. Maybe you’ll score big. Don’t let your Amish upbringing (I assume because of your haircut [read: hair chop], your accent, and your tendency not to look women in the eyes that you are a rumspringa defector) reduce you to bum for a humble pittance. A nickel don’t spend far in the English world.

You deserve more, and this city can do better than that.

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Diary of a Tough Kid

June 8, 2011

Dear Diary,

Spring was looking pretty rosy and but June so far is black and blue and the icepacks can’t refreeze fast enough.

One fingered typing is as slow as it sounds. That almost gives up the ending, so I should start at the beginning, with a DVD I’d been wanting to see.

Two weeks ago a Diary of a Wimpy Kid came in the mail from Netflix. A kid’s movie, yes, but the perspective, somewhere along the lines of a wholesomeFreaks and Geeks, as well as the connection to a bestselling cartoon novel was why it ended up in the DVD queue.

That day I was busy packing and tying up loose ends before a big road trip slash canoe adventure slash fishing reunion, so the red DVD envelope remained unopened in the mail pile.

The next day I pointed the hatchback west and drove. It was a long-anticipated return to a very special place, a pilgrimage to the Minnesota border country, a million-and-a-half-acre wilderness of backwaters and pine forests I used to call my seasonal home.

There among the weirdly good-natured, mild-mannered and unreasonably tall Scandinavian-Americans I had learned a few things: how to shoot a moving target, how to reel in a six-pound trout from thirty feet below your canoe, how to stoke a sauna, how to provision a back country excursion, how to gracefully and silently flip a canoe from the ground to my shoulders with one hand and flip it down to the ground with the other, which is magical to witness but requires only the least slight of hand, and more practice than power.

But these things come with the territory for some of the folks up there, and are less a sign of toughness, or whatever, than of community.

Some 2600 driving miles, 15 canoe miles, four miles hiking—including a 480 rod portage (translation: carrying canoes/food/gear on your shoulders and loose[!] items in hand a mile and a half to the next body of water…twice) later—, and more mosquito bites than I could count, I arrived back in Lancaster, the biggest little city in PA, with fish stories, campfire memories, North Country drinking endeavors and a sense of accomplishment.

The trip awoke my sense of connection to that beloved wilderness, of spring peepers that deafen the afternoon bogs, of abysmal black new moon skies beyond the bottom of the campfire trees, of skyline treetops punctuated by watchful bald eagles and the mirror-like stillness of a lake surface in the calm before the storm. Not to mention old friends, tired stories being reenergized by new audiences, and great music to tease the bonfire flames into a flicker and dance.

The summer had just begun, and it was only getting better. Back at my apartment in the city, I hopped on my motorcycle to fire it up and see if the headlight and gauges that had been shorting before I left for vacation were still off, and they were working. All seemed right on East Lemon Street.

But, when I failed to ensure the kickstand locked into place, the bike fell over with me seated on it, and the impact of my shoulder hitting the sidewalk broke my collarbone.

The next night, with x-rays, a new clavicle brace (which by the way is not a wrestling move or a yoga pose, but a medical torture device) and a Vicadin prescription all with my name on them, I returned to the rowhouse apartment to get some neglected things done.

Of course, sitting on top of my pile of mail was the red DVD envelope—Diary of A Wimpy Kid.

I could hear the goddess Irony and all my enemies, now laughing, mocking me in a chorus from my subconscious.

Fuck it. Let ‘em sing.

I tore open the envelope with my one free hand, put the post-vacation chores on hold, washed down the pain killer and my pride with the last beer from the fridge, popped the DVD in and pressed play.

Chores could wait. I needed a good laugh.

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Osama Bin Laden’s Death, 5/4/2011

The End of A Chapter in the War on Terror

Officials say that after ten years on the lam, America’s Most Wanted is gone.

If Osama Bin Laden is actually dead, I have a feeling that killing him was a symbolic victory in the war on terror, because by some estimations he had become a figurehead.

*

Bin Laden represented religious extremism at its worst.

We are engaged in a global struggle over wealth and power, where the themes of personal freedom and religious authority are the prevailing story lines.

Terror and civility are at odds, yet neither are innocent. Where terror strikes from the bottom up with indiscriminate violence, civility crushes from the top down with painstaking license.

To a civil society, terrorism is the most gangster of evils, desperate and outlaw. Where a gangster is an outlaw that profits from fear, the terrorist goes further. Terrorists act with disregard to the boundaries created by traditional power structures because those limits exclude them. They act in the name of a justice or god that only they ordain, taking the innocent bystander as collateral damage.

*

So, deep down inside, yes I am somewhat relieved and want to believe that Bin Laden is dead, because I wish that his demise would mark the closing chapter of religious extremism on a global scale.

But, assassinating President Barak Obama would not destroy the forward movement of hope in his constituents, because it has momentum. Likewise, killing Bin Laden will not end Islamo-fascism, because there are many other factors keeping it alive. ~ TS

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Wilderness Is All But Dead

It’s spring and I want to start thinking about when the ice is going to melt off the lakes, how much bus fare to Duluth is going to be and who will be there when I arrive to shuttle me and my six-month duffle the rest of the way to the outfitter. But after a season away from the only wilderness I have ever considered home I will return this Memorial Day not to work, but as a guest, a tourist.

I don’t dare to complain. I have a life here in the city: job, apartment, friends and family. And there is food in the fridge—well, when I remember to buy it—and a motorcycle title in my name. I have what I need and more. Things are positive.

*

Still, I miss the land without roads, the lakes and rivers without motors and skies without the yellow fuzz of city lights. What stuck out about the wilderness for me was just that, the negative; that is, not what I didn’t like, but what wasn’t there. Sleep without beds, wolves without cages and trees without highway medians and mulch. Days without showers and meals without kitchens and fish without plastic wrappers, without thirty-one percent solution to keep it fresh in the truck during transit and bulk up the weight so the grocer can glean more profit.

Deep in the coldest richest lakes trout the size of a football swim and reproduce without the mocking reservations we make for them in civilization, where they are bred in droves and fed in captivity until we deem to set them free, simply in order to lure them back and extract them from the water with a violence only they truly suffer, and thus I cannot fully understand.

Indeed, the land is without a legal human resident. No rock or shoreline falls in any soul’s domain. Land without owner. Skyline without flagpole or steeple or bell tower or silo. Fire without mantle, smoke without chimney, stream without dam and river without nuclear reactor.

*

The freedom of wilderness is about the lack of supportive structure of civilization that keeps us trucking along half the time whether we like it or not. The freedom of wilderness for me was the freedom to live or die, to make the effort to keep moving when the cold sets in or to build a fire when darkness falls.

When wilderness is juxtaposed against civilization, it gains meaning in this void, the negation of structures both physical and social. But where is wilderness outside the realm of a nation’s flag? There is hardly a speck of continent or dot of island on the planet without a claimed stake.

And so wilderness is a mentality, a banner carried across the mindscapes of the initiated, seasoned trekker. You may find it on paper and on signs at trailheads and maps and under your feet, if you believe the words written there, but that dated kind of wilderness, the rugged frontier, the temptress of pioneers and empires, is all but dead. The oceans keep earth’s last secrets and the crust conceals our riches.

So when I paddle into the Minnesota lake country to fish and tell stories with old friends, wilderness is an attitude, it is in our laws, our hearts and our actions, a careful respect for one of the last unspoiled, unpredictable and uncommon places we share. And it’s up to us to keep the attitude alive. ~ TS

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United Networks of Facebook, Supreme Court Opinion Summary, case no. 65-12895

This is a summary of a United Networks of Facebook supreme court opinion that I write in the future, when I am the chief justice of the highest court in the social network, and the New Facebook Revolution Front has succeeded in making the online database into something more than intended by founding father His Holy Imperial Awesomeness King President Mark Zuckerberg and his bros when he got buzzed off light beer and wrote the original code to allow them to judge pictures of coeds online. ~ TS

Summary: The Original Friends of Facebook v. New Facebook Revolution Front

The Original Friends sent a cease and desist order to the Front that would have forced a return to the glory days when female residents of their university dorms could be organized into number categories based on prevailing standards for sexual arousal.

When the Front continued to operate in a forward thinking capacity, constantly integrating new marketing schemes and promoting their blogs, bands, other crap from the internet they found interesting, and gloating about aspects of their lives on the newsfeed, The Original Friends filed for an injunction against any activity more sophisticated than gawking at pics of hot chicks online and posting shots of themselves bonging beers at spring break.

For the purposes of the case, New Facebook Revolution Front is defined in class action terms, as a loose association of users tending to favor new and relevant ways facebook might impact their lives and further their goals for professional and social advancement and integration. The Original Friends of Facebook is a specific group of eight guys who used to share neighboring dorm rooms at the University of Phoenix Online, and had competitions finding the hottest babes on facebook and trying to hook up with them.

The Original Friends argued that by integrating advertising schemes and advancing the social network toward a personal and group social and media marketing tool members and proponents of New Facebook Revolution Front irreversibly changed the way contributors to the database, called users, depict their lives and therefore began to see themselves as more than ranks of hotness and filters for cheap trash beer. This, according to the Original Friends, was an affront to coolness and a slap in the face of the whole reason they went to college in the first place. Representatives for the Front argued that Mark Zuckerberg, being the Holy Imperial Awesome genius that he is, must have foreseen more potential in facebook than its original use, and founded it with them in mind. An integrated social network would become not only a marketplace for global culture, but culture itself, allowing individuals to engage in activities as diverse as exercising creative freedom, keeping note by note records of long distance relationships, overthrowing tyrannical governments, and even managing their imaginary farms.

The court decided that despite the prevailing fact that the founders of facebook most probably wrote the original code only to compel college dudes toward the sociopathic behavior of using a computer mouse to judge women by the depth of their cleavage, The Original Friends had no right to inhibit the advancement of the social network toward a more integrated use in society, because being among the first to have signed up for the service did not give them a controlling stake in any respect, and they are douche bags.

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MIND FOR SALE: OBSOLETE, $500 o.b.o.

Will trade for iPad or café racer (Brain not included)

Google has taken over.

There is no point. I have stopped trying to resist. The minds that we have cultivated for millennia are up for sale. No, not for sale. Up for grabs. You will soon put yours out on the curb with a cardboard sign asking for nothing in return.

And why? Because it is obsolete. Which means you don’t need it. So forget about it. As if you could help it. Sooner or later all the run-on sentences won’t matter anyway.

Sure, companies still print newspapers, almanacs and encyclopedias, with a high degree of professionalism, but you know people, from seniors in high school to seniors in life span, who go to Google before any other reference tools.

Why? ‘Convenience,’ which translates into a multitude of reasons: laziness, access, necessity, boredom, anxiety, freedom.

The popular search engine is encroaching on more than just the printed sources, too. Sometimes I use Google if I’m slow to recall something I already know.

We’re even to the point where we know how to word a search engine query to get the best results. Instead of asking the code outright, why does my bike shake if I take my hands off the handlebars at high speeds? type, bike wobble, and results appear. The simpler and more specific the better. It also helps if you type it how the author of a page might be writing about the topic, instead of how you are thinking about it.

That’s right, search engine optimization is the poetics of Web browsing. The fastest route to a Web surfer’s wallet is a straight line—vivid and straight to the point.

*

Marshall McLuhan, legendary communication theorist, said the medium was the message, and we’re still learning that lesson.

A medium like Google or any other search engine will change how human society functions, and therefore change the way our minds exercise our brains.

The relationship of middle men (Google) to products and consumers (information) is, after all, inflationary. That means search engines are getting between us and what we want, when the good stuff is already out there for us to get and all we have to do is find it for ourselves. We’re missing the experiential gift of life in 3D.

That’s why you have to keep playing your cello and riding your bike. Stay on the phone with your grandmother an extra half hour talking about doctor visits and do a crossword puzzle and teach your dog a new trick. Paint some art. Buy a painting. Learn how to bake bread without a machine and then use a sewing machine to repair a seam. Snail mail a love letter. Chop wood and make a fire and cook over it and later play a drum solo on your steering wheel at a red light on your way to work.

Not that a change means the end of us. Maybe the expedited research on Google will mean we have more time to do the things we love. I use Google, after all, in every search scenario I do, even to access Wikipedia.

Maybe that makes me a hypocrite. Maybe not. I don’t blame Google. They’re just so easy to single out because they’re good at what they do.

I wouldn’t let just anybody take over my brain after my mind becomes obsolete.

***********************************************************************

THE JUNGLE – Can’t see the jungle for the beasts

A man with a Tarzan body has a bull in a headlock. Shading obscures most details of his face, but we can see close-cropped hair, the outline of a noble brow, a prominent nose and a strong jaw. The bull’s eyes and mouth exhibit great distress. Hanging behind them is a meat hook on a chain. A piece of riveted steel and a brick wall make up the background.

It is probably no coincidence the color scheme is two-tone, like a bruise: black and blue.

*

The saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

When I shop for books, I ignore this advice. I walk through the bookstore aisle and if a cover looks classic or edgy, I pick it up to read the cover blurb and find out more. If a few good reviews or a well-written synopsis pulls me in, I just might buy it.

I used to go to the Times online and peruse the titles and descriptions of the top-selling books, or look at the Booker, Pulitzer, National and Critics Circle awards. But when nothing on those lists jumps out at me I resort to wandering the aisles.

That’s how I found The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair. It’s about an eastern European immigrant named Jurgis who moves to Chicago at the dawn of the twentieth century and gets caught up in the era’s meatpacking industry. But it’s a human story.

*

I’m writing a story about animals. So, as research I’m scouring literature for animal stories, in order to discover whether or not any part of my work coincides with another’s.

That’s what led me to pick up Sinclair’s book. The bull on the cover and a quote from Jack London on the back were enough to convince me to read it.

Jurgis’ story is an agonizing, brutal and terrifying account of industrial slavery in the United States at the turn of that century. No tragedy is too far fetched and no luck too bad for the hard-working, loyal, eager Jurgis. A man who begins the story with a family and hope by the end is alone and drubbed into submission by the corrupt Chicago political and industrial machine.

It is a story about human rights, or a lack thereof. Through it, Sinclair cries foul, begging the world to take notice.

It is not a story about animal rights. However, since animal abuse and the slaughterhouse floor are part and parcel to Jurgis’ fight, it includes scenes that would rival the most shocking animal rights propaganda.

*

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not an animal rights purist. I fish, hunt and eat meat. Still, I see great virtue in what animal rights advocates do, from preserving wild places to lobbying to improve the food industry and much, much more.

Anyone interested in progressive food culture (organic, local, free-range), viewers of films like Food, Inc., and Supersize Me would see something all too familiar in The Jungle, that the campaign to keep the industry accountable is ongoing.

Sinclair doesn’t pull any punches. I suppose I can rest easy. In his creative vision we are the hulk on the book’s cover trying to bulldog the beast, symbolically speaking, to bulldog corruption, and not the beast itself, destined for the cleaver and oblivious to the grand scheme.

It’s true. The Jungle left me tender in a few spots. Fortunately, bruises heal. ~ TS

************************************************************************

Eulogy of Earth, 3/23/2011

Dear Readers,

I wrote the moon a blues lullaby once. The night before each new moon I rock the big baby to sleep.

In light of current events, I want to be proactive and write a eulogy to the earth, in the vein of news outlets that write obituaries for people who aren’t dead yet, so I have one ready in the event of its demise.

Like the country preacher selected to eulogize a man in his congregation who only attends holidays and potluck suppers, I only know the earth I’ve seen first hand, and have drawn inspiration from those who know better than I do, and photographs.

Take it for what it’s worth. I hope I never use it.

~ TS


EULOGY OF EARTH

Earth: The Dawn of Time until  **/**/****

For all I care the moon is a wheel of cheese and the constellations are an iPad application. The earth is my galactic body and makes for the wildest ride.

I celebrate a planet, like a bluesman decrying alcoholism, natural and relevant and hypocritical. This song is tantamount to heresy, a metered effort against the grain, aimed at what is common.

Not common in the sense of what we are mutually grasping toward, but what is so obvious it is overlooked, of the possible weighed against the necessary, the novel pitted against the radical, and the naysayers and yes men matched against the poets and their gods.

*

We crawled deep into the bowels of time and found caverns where frat brothers used to hold beer vigils, kin to bats and rednecks, muddy of knee and elbow and chin and belly. White skin from the shadows and wide pupils from gazing into the abyss. Scratched helmet and compacted neck vertebrae, we could have been crushed, lost, sickened, fooled. But with help we found the glory of our star again.

I stood at the edge of a volcano and summoned la noche de San Juan, the burning of books and effigies, retired family Bibles and broken crucifixes, furniture and portraits of ex-lovers, the chemical smell of the trappings of modern life going up in smoke, and jumping over the bonfires until the leg hair singed and the San Miguel made the ground quiver and the body quake, and with each leap the hexes and baleful memories faded into ash with the decommissioned American flags. The gurgling rock reeling in the pit spat and hissed like acid reflux, a geyser of lava erupted into the air and gravity caught it again before it could escape the crater.

We drifted steadily across the prairie, stolid in a varicolored taffeta balloon launched across the skies. The breeze nudged us mightily, aloft on a whim, no protection save the wicker and a her craftsman’s assurance. The basket tilted and swayed underfoot, the treetops morphed into broccoli puffs and the bodies crept like model train figurines, false and somehow vulnerable. It was an early moment of godhood, that potential harnessed by angels and other daredevils of the skies, a horizontal omniscience, peering across the plane toward the arc of the globe, beneath the vault of sky, birdlike and impermanent.

I ran headlong into the breakers, faithful in a wave’s strength to propel me back to shore. I could have been lost at sea, turned away by the tide, never to toe the sand again, but each time earthly forces sent me reckless back upon the beach, and thanks to that benediction I can recite this dirge.

*

What lies within us all is what binds us together. The buzzing stardust. The jitter of electromagnetic waves pervading. The Breath of God.

Fog on lakes, the sound of waves breaking, rain on a dusty afternoon, green anything, first frost, trees, white pines but also weeping willows and paper birch, hot sand underfoot, the cool shade of desert ravines, thunderheads and three cloud skies, hilltops overlooking valleys falling into the ocean, any noise that water makes except a dripping faucet—why is it that something that by itself is so maddening is so beautiful in symphony with countless others? how is it that in poetry rainfall and string theory are the same?—and echoes tumbling down mountain shoulders.

The impact earth makes on us are great and permanent. The impressions it leaves in our minds are fleeting but resonate. The only stronger effect on the will is the abstraction of civilization out of so many disparate parts.

The abstraction is our palette, and the earth our orbiting canvas. Celebrate a body painted, wild and spinning free. But don’t forget what lay beneath.

************************************************************************

MARCH MADNESS – Best S@#$ Ever! 3/16/2011

The Savage is taking the blogger’s equivalent of a lay up this week in order to relax and pay homage to the greatest spectacle in college sports, the NCAA Final Four. If you know me or basketball you may find the following eclectic list mildly entertaining.

Check back next Wednesday for a return to normalcy, in the form of a proper update. ~ TS

March Madness – Top ten reasons it’s the best month of the year

10. Rioting – If your team loses, you and 15,000 of your closest friends are allowed to go to a college campus, get raging drunk, turn over cars and set them on fire, pull down traffic signals, and then fight internally until the police tear gas you. It is as fun as it sounds (Re: Bloomington, 2002).

9. By Default – If World Cup Soccer didn’t operate on the leap year format (once every four) it would win the top spot. But since international soccer players have pro teams to serve and bills to pay, meaning the international schedule is a protracted one, March Madness wins the award for best of the year.

The World Cup is simply the best ever.

8. Nostalgia – Pennsylvania suffers a dearth of basketball hoops. Where I grew up, a basket was as common as a driveway. Every church had a matchbox court, the playgrounds were lined with backboards, and the high school gymnasiums were big enough to seat the entire student body.

Here, when people find out I play basketball at the gym they act like I just admitted to owning rollerblades. Which, by the way, if there’s any confusion, is not cool.

7. Truancy – Some kids’ parents take them out of school for deer hunting, ski powder, the fishing opener, or for longer spring break beach bumming. My mom let me get out of school so I could go to another kid’s house and watch a college basketball tournament on TV. I was cool – I promise.

6. Sadism – Filling out brackets is great and all, but watching the SportsCenter addicts among your friends keel over in anguish when the airheaded chick from work wins the bracket pool is sadistic heaven. Don’t forget she picks teams based on numerology and jersey color.

5. Underdogs – The sixty-four team Final Four bracket format is an internationally recognized breeding ground for these scrappy mutts.

Think David versus Goliath. And root for David. It’s always a better story, unless you’re on Goliath’s team. But then you are a Philistine, which doesn’t bode well for your social standing, and, by virtue of the analogy, puts you in league with anti-Semites. So, root for the Giant killers already.

4. Name dropping – By the way, did I mention that a kid who graduated from my high school in Indiana is on a number one ranked team? Check out number 52, Gary McGhee, the 6-11, 250 pound center for the Pitt Panthers. Too bad our poor little school is no longer extant. Our mascot wore a kilt and our band played bagpipes. Beat that.

3. Diversity – The range of styles of play in the NCAA is incredibly wide, representing regions, philosophies, team dynamics and individual leadership and coaching dominance.

Great games happen when worthy opponents cut from different cloth are pitted against each other. See Magic versus Bird, 1979.

2. Hunger – You will never see better athletes putting on a bigger show, in essence competing for better jobs (for the truly NBA bound and the delusional not-so-likelies), anywhere else. They want it bad. Real bad.

It is at once radically inspiring and wildly pathetic. My ambivalence hits a peak ripeness. Only in America.

1. Legends – With all due respect, witnessing great competition and monumental coming of age performances in a civil setting. Humanity on a good day.

************************************************************************

PHILLY, ART AND LIFE – Frames of Reference, 3/9/2011

Homeboy had an art opening in Philly last Friday. I took the day off and caught a ride with him and his girlfriend, ready to celebrate with marathon food and drink.

We started at a free concert at noon at the XPN World Café. A Bloody Mary set in motion what I call the “highlight reel.” When I start that early I later recall the day not as a logical narrative—beginning-middle-end—but in vivid, disjointed snapshots, sound bites and three-second bloopers.

Sometimes life is like that, like something you see on TV.

You know, like, when a semi-truck with an advertisement on the trailer drives by on the street outside your window and you say, hey, that’s like a product placement in a movie. And then you say, oh wait, the product placement in a movie is meant to take advantage of the material reality of advertising in consumer life to pitch a soda, or whatever, in art, not the other way around.

Woops.

On one hand, how you see depends on what dominates your frame of reference, media or the thing itself, art or life.

What I took away from the opening, on the other hand, are bits of each, because the epicurean marathon lasted well into the night.

*

After mingling at the art show, I latched onto a mixed media exhibit in a separate room at the gallery.

You enter a dark square room from a corner door. Two TVs cast a bluish glow throughout the space. The outer walls, ceiling and floor are white. A black wall halves the room, standing floor to ceiling, with gaps at the sides to allow walking around the perimeter. In each vertical half of the black wall, a large square hole, like a window with no pane, opens onto the other half. You could reach your arm through it, or just look.

Facing the black middle wall from either side, you see a TV on the floor on your left at the foot of the wall and a plain, wooden, backless bench long enough for three or four people against the wall behind you on the right.

The exhibit is a circuit—walk in, walk around the wall, watch the TV, sit on the bench and watch the people on the other side of the wall watching the TV, walk around the wall again, watch the next TV, sit on the next bench and watch the people watching TV again, walk out.

It may go without saying that most of the viewers chose to watch the TVs, their frame of reference as a TV viewer (read: media consumer) in an art exhibit (read: forum for critical cultural engagement), and left asking each other how a TV on the floor in a dark room is art.

The TV was a diversion, a different Hollywood classic film on each screen. Judging by the comments of most of the viewers, they saw one installation with two samples—each side of the room showing a different movie in an eerie (e.g.: dimly lit) room.

Whether the artist intended it or not, I saw duality in the experience, one level allowing us to view art, as TV viewers, and another allowing us to observe others viewing art, for those who chose to spend time reflecting on the bench.

My frame of reference became the exhibit itself, mostly because I was initially lazy enough to sit on the bench and crane my neck over to watch the TV at a bad angle, and then because I finally looked at the people on the other side and saw the big picture.

I stayed on the bench until the people got boring, then I found my way back to the cash bar.

*

Not surprised. I am a young clown learning to juggle, observing one moment, interacting the next, often fumbling one ball while the other pauses at the top of its flight path.

Nevertheless, the TV room gave me a fresh way to look at the rest of the artwork in the gallery.

Homeboy’s show, a space over from the TV room, was busy and well-received, no matter how I apply to it my commentary about frames of reference and observations of the art gallery crowd.

Brightly lit, colorful and full of provocative, imaginative material, it drew a larger audience than anything else in the gallery that night. Unless you include the cash bar.

But that’s not a shot at The City of Brotherly Love or the gallery. Using adult beverages to draw a crowd seems common enough. In art and life. ~ TS

************************************************************************

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS – Whether you like it or not, 3/2/2011

Locked in eye contact with an angry local, I said nothing, glaring back at him, skittering between ire, confusion and fear. I had ten seconds earlier bought a Bud Heavy at the bar and walked back toward my table. Then he open-handed me in the chest for no good reason.

I was in a local sports bar in a stridently blue-collar section of a Hawaii port city. I’d done nothing wrong, and I didn’t want to give this vodka-breathing jerk the satisfaction of a palpable reaction, anything he could grasp as an excuse to use his fists.

So I just stared.

Far be it from me to pretend the tough guy. The closest thing to a real fight that I’d had involved getting the jump on a drunk who came to a party at my house looking to beat up a guest. This was years before. I had played interceptor, shepherding the melee toward the exit. The meathead in question freaked out and I ended up, in the words of bystanders, “riding him down the stairs” that led to the front door.

Not something I’m proud of. We’re lucky neither of us broke a neck when we fell down the flight of stairs (the force smashed the floor post clean off the banister, but with some wood glue, screws and a power drill it was an easy fix the landlord never noticed), and I’m glad it resulted in nothing more than a college-kid grudge.

*

To me as a boy, boxing and amateur wrestling were awesome. Kung fu movies too. Now boxing and amateur wrestling seem archaic and most martial arts films are more choreographed than an episode of Glee.

Boxing particularly, which was unparalleled badass, now seems as predictable as a historical reenacting of the civil war, thoroughly outmoded by mixed martial arts, as edgy in contemporary American life as hitch-hiking or starting a “performance art” band (which is to say, not edgy; a fifties and sixties throwback).

Enter mixed martial arts (MMA) – arguably the most exciting and readily marketable example of international fusion outside the culinary arts and interior design (omitting popular music because it’s too obvious). MMA ignores the arbitrary barriers of martial arts traditions. It honors a fundamental code of conduct: respect the will of your opponent. In effect, if he beats you, give up. If you beat him and he admits defeat, have mercy.

Granted, many see MMA as a kind of post-modern barbarism. In the absence of authority, chaos rules. The lack of a unified technique (governing aesthetic values) in MMA would make it appear, to a boxing aficionado in particular, to be a messy scuffle with ground striking. And of course, I’d bet most of the fighters don’t have as lofty opinions of their sport as I do. Most of them probably just want to kick a guy’s ass and get paid.

But MMA is the onset of a movement toward something else. With the ethic in place, a style has yet to fully develop. The reductive formal quality eliminates the posturing tendencies of many martial arts. It seems to lay the foundation for a new fighting style, minimal and efficient, appropriating the necessary and effective from many value systems and putting them into practice, daily testing the science of combat.

What Bruce Lee sought to do with the philosophy of Jeet Kune Do, MMA fighters are probably slowly developing in practical terms every time they step on the mat.

I’d like to say these guys are pioneers, revolutionaries, forefathers, legends in the making. Because of them a fighter, or a philosophy of hand-to-hand combat, may arise that nullifies existing value systems and thereby unifies what is indispensable about them, how to attack and defend, a Zen of fighting.

*

All fancy talk and prophesy considered, I know more about the theory than the practice of fighting, which brings me back to Vodka Breath, the tough guy of the blood shot eyes in the local bar.

stared at him. Not stared him down.

I can’t say whether it was a deer in the headlights scenario (I equal Bambi), or a high noon showdown kind of thing (truthfully, he seemed more piss drunk than pissed off). At this point I don’t care either way, really, because it’s over; however, I like to imagine Vodka Breath realized I came in peace and decided not to “pound me out,” as they say on the Big Island, because I didn’t talk smack.

My “indispensable” lesson of martial arts was the anticlimactic, that of passive resistance, acting by not acting. To have reacted would have been more destructive than I could afford. I had nothing to lose. What’s more, I had nothing to prove.

He won the contest of fleeting machismo, but I walked away with a moral victory — hands clean and head unscathed, the luck of escaping another day without health insurance. ~ TS

**************************************************************************************************************

PROOF IN THE SOIL – Organic food/farming in Lancaster County, 2/23/2011

I know people who flew to exotic tropical islands to volunteer on organic farms.WWOOFing, they called it. It’s a movement, of sorts.

I ended up volunteering for one in the widely-renown farm country of Lancaster County, in southeast Pennsylvania. Despite its charms, it will never equate the breathtaking splendor of Hawaii or the Philippines. Yet, it wasn’t a loss. It demonstrated how a small progressive farms works in a vibrant local economy.

I had known the farmer, Buck, as a friend, from nights at the pub talking about days spent guiding paddling tours in wild places, although for different companies in distant places. Life had brought me to his home turf, and I wanted to learn more about his venture.

Digging into the soil for harvest and cutting and preparing fresh grub as a volunteer was a refreshing break from city life. The depth of Buck’s understanding of his plot and his pride in the fruits and vegetables of his labor impressed me, and I gained a clearer picture of the farm and the people that make it work.

When it came time for him to make a hire late last spring, Buck asked if I would be interested in committing to a few mornings a week as a paid harvester. Had I known 2010 would measure up among the hottest summers on record, my decision may have been different. A journalist by trade, I was not a farmer by training or temperament, and my relationship to the land and elements had previously been recreational and sporting. Stoop labor in sweltering heat and humidity was not on my bucket list, but the opportunity presented itself in simple terms: get involved in something bigger than yourself.

So my relationship to the land and the farmer and his family grew. Through hot days and rough weeks, scant rain and excessive shine, receding irrigation ponds and searing sunburns, Buck and the crew weathered the season to provide the distribution tables with an abundance of produce that lasted into late fall.

I’m proud to I tell people around the city about the farm, part of a greater movement redefining our relationship to our food, focusing on organic quality from a local source that is a family-run small business.

I get excited when I overhear people in the city talking about “that C.S.A. they got wait-listed for on Route 501 south of Lititz, the one where all the shares are sold out for 2011,” because that’s Buckhill, the word is out, and it is so good that people don’t mind waiting in line.

I’m impressed by the farmers’ vision for what they can do for their community by making a place for people to come together. From farm tours, to the fall harvest party, to welcoming new volunteers, to the simple fact that distribution is held in an open roadside setting where members can mingle and share the harvest bounty, Buckhill Farm is creating a space where food, family, and community interact in a way that has long been lost in American life.

Maybe you already know that and that’s why you clicked on this link. But there’s something you might have missed. We, the people, aren’t the only benefactors.

The proof is in the soil. Take the earthworms, for example. They have returned.

Before Buckhill began growing, the fields were so depleted of nutrients the small creatures were scarce, if present at all. Now, thanks to special caretaking, we see them squirming in the clay, reveling in the improvements too, a minute but encouraging sign of renewed health and richness, a return on an investment of good deeds and a benefit to future generations.

We share those benefits. And by them we can see Buckhill setting a fine example of what a farm can do. Growing organic produce by rigorous standards with the foresight of good stewardship, it fosters a community that will allow it to keep growing. ~ TS

**************************************************************************************************************

BUDDY MOVIES – 2/16/2011

During a break from class I leaned on the railing of the third-floor balcony outside the lecture hall overlooking a courtyard full of students. The professor, a multi-lingual Spaniard, stopped to chat.

By and by youth social life in Spain came up, comparisons were made, and she objected to the American habit of having a best friend. She was indignant about it. The prof, a real Maja, said kids in her home country are clique loyal and wouldn’t name a friend best above others.

This Maja was ten years older than I, credentialed, hyper-educated and spoke sincerely and articulately. In her formation she was more than a maja, but outwardly a full fledged maja. At the height of her argument she tenderly placed her hand on my forearm where I leaned on the railing and focused her eye contact.

The touch meant little to her, being more professorial than flirtatious, but it hit me like a rooster crowing. The combo of her intellect and femininity made my paradigm back flip. I was 22, after all. I liked what she said and how she said it because it affirmed how I’d acted for the last four years.

*

In retrospect clique loyalty in Spain is a cultural difference and probably not better or worse, but with the Maja’s comments, I reexamined my social life. After losing one best friend to disease and the next to drug abuse I had focused more on schoolwork, extracurriculars and social networking than investing in any single person.

I kept distinct circles of friends—partiers, fishermen, philosophers, dudes, hippies—where I held various ranks (dissident, peon, decider, meathead) and moved among them at will. I didn’t want an anchor. I wanted to go where I wanted and when I wanted.

That’s typically called “a floater” in American slang, and is dangerously close to a flake. But, whatever. If they held it against me they never admitted it (although, there was one group of guys who always said it was “like Christmas” when I came over to hang out, and I never asked if that was because a guy with a beard just brought them all sorts of awesome presents, or because it only happened once a year).

*

All this to say, six years later, after having lived in a dozen houses and five states, I have no desire to crown a best friend but I have compensated with a nostalgic liking for buddy movies.

You know the type. Two buddies undertake a great adventure. Obstacles arise. Girls enter the picture. Drama ignites. Hilarity ensues. Adventure ends. Cut to credits.

We’ve seen that movie over and again, from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, to Harold and Kumar and Wayne’s World.

Though it’s simplistic I like this analysis, not because it says anything definitive about our souls, but our wallets. And in a consumer economy, suffice it to say, where go our minds our money follows. (And vice versa; chicken-egg scenario)
Buddy stories sell because people relate, and they have for eons.

The buddy thing goes way back, crossing cultural barriers: Jesus and John the Baptist, Siddhartha and GovindaMontezuma and Coyote, Kerouac and Cassady, Bill and Ted, Tom and Huck, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Asterix and Obelix.
When I imagine myself in these roles, mounted atop Rocinante preparing to battle giants, or hitch-hiking west chasing amphetamine-hyped fantasies, I wonder who I would recruit as a cohort.

There is a wingman list, whether they like it or not, from the past six years. They witnessed the formative moments of my four year itinerant period between venturing away from my hometown and discovering a new one in Lancaster. Among them are Homeboy, Cagney, Tio Leo, The Sensei and Damn Yankee (I won’t use their real names here because a few of them are respectful professionals).

I wouldn’t call any of them the best friend but they were my buddy movie co-stars and they deserve mention, even in pseudonym.

*

I shouldered my pack from hostel to hostel, taberna to taberna, trekking solo around Spain after completing my coursework. The Maja was far behind me and every night crowded with strangers becoming friends, just to start over again the next day. A transient life, whether between cliques or cities, is watching great but fleeting relationships pass. It’s charm is the daily imperative for regeneration, wave after inexhaustible wave of energy with each new break you catch.

You learn to appreciate the crescendo and make an amicable parting. Still, I dwelled on how I had responded to the professor’s arguments against naming a best friend, and what it meant at the time.

The best friend is the person you want around to help you retell your best stories. ~ TS

One response to “Archives

  1. “When going back [to the land] makes sense, you are going ahead.” –Wendell Berry

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