Caveat: cracked up

Arthur and I were walking down the road.

As sometimes occurs, a vehicle drove by. Some days, there are no vehicles driving by. But when a vehicle drives by, Arthur knows who they are, about 80% of the time – it's a small community, up here, and he knows the people who live along his road.

So sometimes the vehicle stops. The window rolls down. A conversation happens.

In the SUV there were a husband and wife. The wife was driving. The husband had a sling type apparatus on his arm. They were going to a medical appointment in town. A story ensued – the man had fallen down on his boat. The wife apparently knew about Arthur's recent experience. She said something to the effect of, "We can't have all this falling down!" 

Arthur concurred with his dry, laconic humor: "Yes. Fallin' down ain't all it's cracked up to be."

I found this pretty funny.

[daily log: walking, 3km]

Caveat: Finaliza septiembre

Hora de la ceniza

Finaliza septiembre. Es hora de decirte
lo difícil que ha sido no morir.

Por ejemplo, esta tarde
tengo en las manos grises
libros hermosos que no entiendo,
no podría cantar aunque ha cesado ya la lluvia
y me cae sin motivo el recuerdo
del primer perro a quien amé cuando niño.

Desde ayer que te fuiste
hay humedad y frío hasta en la música.
Cuando yo muera,
sólo recordarán mi júbilo matutino y palpable,
mi bandera sin derecho a cansarse,
la concreta verdad que repartí desde el fuego,
el puño que hice unánime
con el clamor de piedra que exigió la esperanza.

Hace frío sin ti. Cuando yo muera,
cuando yo muera
dirán con buenas intenciones
que no supe llorar.
Ahora llueve de nuevo.
Nunca ha sido tan tarde a las siete menos cuarto
como hoy.

Siento deseos de reír
o de matarme.

– Roque Dalton (poeta salvadoreño, 1935-1975)

[daily log: walking, 4km; tromping, 300m]

Caveat: Workaday with 김치볶음밥

Today was one of those days where I felt like I had a job, even though I don’t.

The “storage tent” Arthur ordered – which is for me to put my extra stuff in – arrived. It’s a large object: a box of a kit that needs to be built. So it was at the Alaska Marine Lines freight office in town. That meant we had to take the trailer into town (though in retrospect I think if we’d really wanted, we could have put the box into the back of his SUV).

To take the trailer into town, we had to rearrange the trailers parked in the driveway – there’s a heavy-duty cargo trailer and a boat trailer. Arthur wanted to drive these trailers around, and my thinking was that he has a lot more experience driving trailers around than I do, on the steep driveway and one-lane dirt road, so I let him, just kind of watching and trying to be a spotter for when he should stop backing up.

Clearly Arthur was struggling with the 3D puzzle aspect of backing trailers into the odd angles of his driveway. I know that it’s not an easy thing – I don’t presume that I could have done much better. But for Arthur, who is accustomed to a sense of expertise and smooth competence with this type of thing, I think it was painful for him to confront the fact that he just wasn’t doing well. Over and over, he would back up, hit the bushes or the side of the road, missing his target, and have to pull up and try again. I mean – I’ve been there. Trailers are hard to back up. But he was getting frustrated and angry, as he does.

I couldn’t do anything but just let go and let him struggle. And worst was that, after we finally got the trailers where he wanted, and we were getting ready to drive into town for our weekly Thursday shopping and errand trip, well, Arthur noticed (and I did too) that he’d managed to place a huge dent in his front bumper while doing all his back-and-forth navigating the trailer. It was clearly a new wound to the vehicle, and noticeable.

Arthur was devastated. I think not just that he’d dented his SUV, but that he didn’t remember doing it. I could see him kind of deflate, and I recalled sitting with the SLP (Speech Pathologist) at the VA, a month and a half ago, and her saying, “Well, perhaps he’s just going to have to have his moments of failure, for his new limitations to hit home.” I think this was just such a moment.

I drove into town. At one point, in one of the parking lots, it became my moment to have to back up the trailer – because we were hauling around, to pick up the storage tent. Arthur started to try to tell me how to do it. As I said, I’m certainly no expert trailer-backer-upper, either. But then he just grumbled, “don’t listen to me, you saw what I did.” It was a moment where he showed his shame and embarrassment.

We got the tent. He left the trailer hooked up to the SUV in the driveway, perhaps thinking he’d want to tackle more backing up tomorrow. I’m not sure I’m up for it. But it’ll have to happen, I guess.

It was not that difficult a day from a task standpoint. It was emotionally rough, I guess you could say.

On a brighter note, I had made some 김치볶은밥 (kimchi fried rice) for lunch, and Arthur conceded it was “quite acceptable” – which is high praise, coming from him.

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A cloud in the afternoon.

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[daily log: walking, 2km]

Caveat: walking in the rain

If I didn't go on a daily walk because of rain, I think I would end up walking very little here. We had many days of perfect sunshine, but with the departure of our guests, the clouds arrived to console our solitude, and it has rained. And rained. And that is normal, here.

So I told Arthur, I was going to walk, rain or shine, every day.

He came along, but he didn't want to go as far as I did. So he turned back, and I kept going. His retreating, hunched back, gathering the rain, was a sad thing to see. In a way, it was a snapshot of mortality, there, on an empty road.

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I walked farther, counting my paces. I think, like the good Romans before me, I have about 1000 paces to a mile. So I added a 1000 paces to the trip to the first bridge and back. About to 6.5 mile on the Port Saint Nicholas Expressway.

I have been doing data entry of my own overdue tax information – I have to file for US Federal taxes for every year since 2012 – because when I got cancer in 2013, I felt other things in life were more important that US Federal tax forms which lead to neither owed money nor refunds – it's pure paperwork without purpose.

But now that I'm back in the US, I have to do it. So I'm working on it. Slowly.

This is my day, then. Here north of somewhere.

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[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: A Cube For Me

I had trouble with Rubik's Cubes, when I was young and they first appeared.

I felt I should be good at doing one – it was my teenage ego, maybe, thinking, "I'm smart, I should do this."

But I didn't enjoy trying to solve it. It's not that different from my relationship with all kinds of puzzles and intellectually demanding games, like sudoku or chess. I feel like I should like them, but I really don't like them at all.

Eventually, I successfully solved a Rubik's Cube. Once.

I considered that I'd done my duty, and haven't touched one since.

Here, finally, is a Rubik's Cube that I can fully enjoy and support.

[daily log: walking, 4km]


Caveat: Just Us Chickens (And Goats and Dogs and Bears…)

This morning Arthur and I took Wayne to the Klawock airport, and he flew back to his home on Vancouver Island, BC. 

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That leaves just Arthur and me alone together again, at this place Arthur calls "Rockpit, Alaska." That's Arthur's name for his location. Typically it's called "Port Saint Nicholas" but that invokes images of Santa Claus or some Russian colony that never existed, maybe. I like the name Rockpit.

On a walk down the road, I noticed that fall comes early.

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And Raven, observing the world and then taking flight.

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As the saying goes, it's "just us chickens," now. But that seems to refer to the neighbors' chickens. The immediate neighbors to the east – with whom Arthur does not really get along – also have goats and dogs, who are somewhat annoying because they generally run loose, and no one informed them as to the location of the property line. So yes, I have seen goats on Arthur's front porch, and dogs on his dock. Of course out in the woods, there are bears.

I no longer have any excuse to not work on some of the unpleasant projects hanging over me: e.g., my tax problem. This has me somewhat depressed.

[daily log: walking, 4.5km]

Caveat: Cake

Today was Arthur's birthday. Last week was my birthday.

Wayne was very cool – he ordered us a chocolate cake, with both of our names on it. So we had a birthday party. And the rain came, to help us celebrate.

Here is Mr. Heron, on the dock in the damp drizzle, this morning.

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Here is the expressway, on our afternoon walk.

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Here is the cake, and two people getting older.

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[daily log: walking, 4km]

Caveat: On Conversation

I don't have much to report. We went out on the boat today. It felt like Arthur had decided this would be a last trip of the season. When we got back, we pulled the boat out of the water.

Pictures.

A cloudless morning.

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Driving the boat out the inlet, past the base of Sunny Hay Mountain.

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The captain of the boat removes the boat from the water using his cleverly designed boat ramp system with trolley.

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In the afternoon, walking down the road, the clouds at last have returned to Sunny Hay Mountain, after our mini drought.

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Unrelatedly, here is a thought for the day:

"[M]ost conversations are bad, so your proper goal is to make them worse (so they can end) rather than better." – Tyler Cowen.

[daily log: walking, 4km]

Caveat: Chupe de pescado al estilo alasquense

I made chupe de pescado. This is a South American dish, a type of fish chowder. I had it frequently in Chile, and later I had it often at a Peruvian restaurant in Newport Beach, California, when I was working there one year. So I made some. I thought it came out pretty good, given my own handicapped taste-buds.

Here is the picture after everything is made.

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Here is my serving for dinner.

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Arthur pronounced it "acceptable" – which is praise, in his language. Wayne liked it too.

Here is my recipe, adapted from various found online.

Mi receta de chupe de pescado blanco al estilo alasquense:

INGREDIENTES PRINCIPALES

6 patatas
2 cebollas picadas
1 zanahoria rallada
1 cucharada de pimentón dulce
½ cucharadita de orégano
4 cucharadas de mantequilla
2 tazas de pan rallado
3 tazas de leche o leche y crema mixtas
1 taza y media de caldo
ajo picado al gusto
sal al gusto
pimienta al gusto
½ kg de pez blanco (eg hipogloso)

PREPARACIÓN DE LA RECETA

En primer lugar, pelamos y cortamos las 6 patatas en trozos y las ponemos a cocer en agua salada. Reservamos.

Salteamos en mantequilla las cebollas en un cazo con el pimentón dulce, orégano y zanahoria hasta que las cebollas estén tiernas.

Añadimos 2 tazas de pan rallado, las tres tazas de leche, la taza y media de caldo y agua a partes iguales, sal y pimienta al gusto, el pescado.

Añadimos también las patatas, tapamos todo y lo dejamos a fuego lento hasta que el pescado esté hecho, aproximadamente de 5 a 8 minutos.

El chupe deberá quedar tan espeso como una bechamel, pero si no nos gusta tan espeso, podemos añadir un poco más de leche.

[daily log: walking, 3km; tromping, 100m]