I left the small world of Arthur's land at Port St Nicholas, Alaska, this morning. It's very beautiful, there, but I'm not sure I could ever live there. Seems like I'm a city person.
["back-post": written 2009-10-30, posted 2009-11-02]
Begin weird dream.
I'm sitting around in a place… an unfamiliar institutional setting of some kind.
We're in Korea, but no one there is Korean. One of those dream-facts that are simply "known," that we're in Korea.
We're discussing veganism. I'm pontificating: veganism is a good idea, but it's like right actions for the wrong reasons… it's just like so many other health-related fads and panics.
Think about religion, in the same way: right actions for wrong reasons.
Well, the others are agreeing or disagreeing, but politely. Polite discourse.
Some really old-looking man comes in, with a poofy white beard and wild hair, but neatly dressed. looks a little bit like Victor Maclane (remember him?). I wonder, is the place we're sitting around actually the Casa, in Mexico City?
He comes in, bows politely, and indicates that he needs access to an electrical outlet behind someone's chair. We rearrange ourselves and let him set up his device. The device looks like something related to cookery. But he simply turns it on and then leaves the room, a-puttering.
And suddenly this heavy, repetitive baseline begins, and a melody in low-tones begins to rattle over and over. It sounds as if it's being played on only the bottom octave of the piano: dun-da-duh-dun-da-duh-dun-da-duh-dunn-dunn. But a catchy little hook melody, all the same. Well, something like that. Really, it's like a club or rave dj track.
The noise is coming out of the device the old man plugged in. The old man is standing in the doorway, looking back at our alarmed expressions, grinning mischieviously.
What's with that?
End weird dream.
Here's what you can see if you stand at the shoreline of Arthur's property, looking west down the Saint Nicholas Fiord toward Craig (sort of off to the left). That's Sunnyhay Mountain with some fresh snow sticking up in the clouds.
I went on a drive today, just to go exploring. During all my time here, back in 98, I didn’t do much exploring beyond Craig and Klawock (which are the island’s “twin city” metropolis, with something around 2000 inhabitants, combined).
So I drove up to Coffman Cove, which is where the ferries from Petersburg and Wrangell stop, then I went down a 40 mile dirt road along the east coast of the island to Thorne Bay, thence back to Klawock. A big circle.
Driving on these old forest service logging roads is all about dodging potholes. I made a video of the drive along the Port Saint Nicholas Road from Arthur’s place into Craig. It’s 8 miles, but takes 25 minutes, dodging potholes all the way. I’ll post it, when I get some bandwidth.
Today, about halfway between Coffman Cove and Thorne Bay, I saw a downed tree across the road (see pic at right). Someone had used to a chainsaw to carve a path exactly pickup-truck-sized through the branches and under the main trunk of the tree. I took a picture.
OK, more later.
["back post": written/created 2009-11-09]
Here is a video I made of a trip to the post office from Arthur's house in Alaska. I thought it would make a nice contrast with the one I did in August of my trip to the bookstore in Seoul.
Soundtrack is Cat Stevens' "On the Road to Find Out." We went on the road. And we found out.
"World's largest free-range lunatic asylum" was the phrase used by one of Arthur's neighbors out here on Port Saint Nicholas Road to describe Southeast Alaska. Sounds about right, maybe.
Many people who come out to such remote locations as this extoll the amazing experience of a night sky littered with thousands of stars with absolutely no interference from the lights of civilization. But personally, I find the experience of stepping outside in the middle of the night to be much more amazing when the sky is heavily overcast: it's a thick, deep blackness that is unparalleled. Nothing can be seen at all. Zero light. Yet the sky is above, you can smell the salt air of the fiord at your feet, the trees, the eternal drizzle.
My uncle Arthur's house is beyond cell-phone range, DSL (that he's "borrowing" from the neighbor via wi-fi) is spotty, and it's been down anyway because of a tree-branch-thru-wires at around mile-marker 2.5 on the round-the-bay road. So… I've been off-line, until today, coming into town to the Craig Public Library to go on wi-fi and make this post.
But I'm enjoying my visit, and being out in about as middle-of-nowhere as one can get, here on Prince Of Wales Island, Alaska.
More later, then… for next time I come into town.
It was actually almost clear when I arrived. But that’s pretty rare, in Southeast Alaska. Mostly, it’s about rain and gusty wind. I think I saw somewhere that Ketchikan is the rainiest city in the US – not sure if it’s true, but it’s got to be near the top of the list, anyway.
Unlike everyone’s image or expectation of Alaska, much of the Southeast isn’t snowy or frozen, even in winter. When I stayed here in 98 for several months, I only actually saw snow twice, and both times is was a damp rain-to-snow-to-rain that never got around to sticking to the ground.
I walked around some last night, but there wasn’t much to see. The part of Ketchikan where my motel is has a couple of high-rise apartment buildings, which seems downright strange for a rural American city of less than 10,000 inhabitants – it fits in better with what I would call an “Asian” model of urban development: the idea of high density plunked down in the middle of nothing. I don’t remember those apartment buildings from before, but when I was here before, I didn’t spend much time in Ketchikan.
I'm flying to Ketchikan today, to visit with my uncle.
So much for the "low carbon footprint" lifestyle, eh? Driving everywhere. Flying everywhere. Uh… carbon guilt.
(oda ambigua a la gran ciudad de El-ley)
La persona típica lleva varias patrias en su alma. A mí, me pertenece un media docena, al menos. Entre estas patrias, de alguna manera, la metrópolis de Los Ángeles podría ser la patria más patria de todas, porque aquí nació mi padre y también su padre, mi abuelo: así, patria de padres.
Yo, nacido de otro lado, entre niebla y lluvias y una infinidad de coníferos, nunca sentía ningún amor por la gran ciudad de mis abuelos; ciudad de asfalto y desierto y carreteras y palmeras y grandes shopping malls tras otras shopping malls. Pués, por lo menos, no cuando de niño. Sin embargo, era siempre un lugar fascinante, desafiante, y de sueños. Podría contemplar el smog con una claridad insólita.
Años después, mi papá volvió al Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles de Poríncula. Yo también he logrado acumular una quinta parte de una vida humana vivida acá. Ahora amo a Los Ángeles, tal vez porque la odio también, y vice versa.
Me encanta encontrarme en un Starbucks cualquiera, y darme cuenta de que la joven a mi derecha está quejandose de algo trivial con su madre en el cellphone, en coreano, mientras la mujer profesional al otro lado está explicando algún procedimiento médico, en ruso, mientras veo en frente, por la ventana, un anuncio al otro lado de la calle en la escritura impenetrable (para mí) del idioma armenio. Y todo es normal.
Me encanta manejar por tres horas en carretera, arriba del 65 millas por hora, y no haber podido salir de la megalópolis.
Me encanta la silueta de unas palmeras sobre las montañas.
Padezco un amor ambíguo, porque también la odio. Odio el calor de casi todos los días, y lo aburrido que es el clima. Odio la carencia de transporte público adecuado. Odio su solipsismo cultural.
Es patria, pero no es patria querida. Es patria ambívala, media querida, de índole casi aleatoria o accidental.
All the years that I lived here, I never did much stuff like this: my brother has a friend who works at a cinema in Hollywood, and they spontaneously invited me to a "special screening" there on Friday night. It was a cinema screening of some episodes of "The Guild," a web-based video series, followed by a screening of "Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" – the title alone should give you some idea of the sheer extent of the genre-bending that was going on. I liked both – I had actually been aware of (but had never seen) "The Guild," but "Dr Horrible" was completely new to me, though I'd have been interested in it immediately, since it's a Joss Whedon project, in part (Whedon created Firefly / Serenity, for example).
And several of the actors / directors / producers of the projects were there, too, as a "panel" to answer audience questions, afterwards. So I got to see Whedon and several of his talented brothers and other various writers and collaborators in the two projects (which were intertwined creatively but not at all plot-wise).
Overall, it was a fun night.
Today, I went to Mojave (a small town out in the Mojave desert about 70 miles north of L.A.) where my dad's significant other's house is, and my dad and she and I hung out for the day just chatting and such, mostly.
I spent a major portion of yesterday visiting my old haunts in Burbank, where I worked at Paradise Corporation (a pseudonym) from 1998 through the end of 2004. As large corporations go, it's pretty much run-of-the-mill, but as a work environment that brought out the best in me and helped me to grow and learn, it was a fabulous place. Three of the best bosses I've ever had were there, and the three of them are still working there, and I got to see each of them. Luz (who was my first boss when I started as a temp worker in the AR department) is now in Finance, and Tom and Carol are still holding down the fort in National Accounts, which was my most accommodating home there.
I also got to visit with my crypto-sister Joanne, as well as Gina and Judy and Marina and Oscar and Tracy and Diana. And I had a great chat with Kevin in finance, who was my "best customer" for complex business analytics and reporting off the data warehouse. Lastly, I saw Spot and Karen in IT, where I wasn't always completely at home, but those two as individuals were reliable and welcoming team-mates, back during my abbreviated sojourn as an "official" programmer/analyst (as opposed to my longer and somewhat more successful career as a "stealth" data warehouse hacker working for the sales and marketing people).
Anyway, this is a "shout out" and thanks to everyone I saw there: I often think of my time there very positively, and I feel grateful for the genuine friendship they offered me, which is often hard to come by in a workplace.
OK. I'll be the first to admit that maybe North Hollywood isn't the most representative population sample.
I had my third major experience of "reverse culture shock" today. The first was in the grocery store on my first visit. The second was at that social gathering with my friend Bob's friends. And now… just wandering around.
I took my truck in to the dealer for its 100,000 mile service (the actual dealer where I originally bought it, which they thought was weird because it's got Minnesota plates and all that). But they took a long time to do it, and so I killed some time by walking around my old stomping grounds in Toluca Lake and Noho (North Hollywood).
Boy, there sure are a lot of weirdos. I suppose there might be a lot of weirdos in Korea, too, but I don't notice them because I'm not as tuned in to the cultural norms they might be breaking. Perhaps because, ultimately, in Korea, I'm the weirdo.
How is it that I came to quit my job as a database programmer and become a teacher in Korea?
I came across a little refrigerator magnet that said "Leap and the net will appear." At the moment, I can't remember if I found it or if it was given to me by someone, to be honest. Actually, it's possible my father gave it to me.
But I had it stuck to my refrigerator for some time, and I guess at some point, I simply leaped.
Life goes in circles, sometimes. Or spirals. But you find yourself back where you once were, before, and you wonder if you've gone anywhere, or done anything.
Thus it is for me, sitting in this corner of my father's living room. 11 years ago was nearly the lowest point in my life, and I'm very greatful to my father for the help he gave to me at that time, but there is also some psychological difficulty attached to sitting in this same corner, gazing out across my father's musty and (too) cluttered living room, and recalling that time. The air and my heart feel equally heavy and thick.
I'm feeling anxious about the "quality time" I need to go spend with my accountant, today. The long procrastination on the tax issue is finally coming to an end.
And meanwhile, to pass some time, I've been surfing blogs on the topic of Korea, and finding all kinds of reasons why I don't want to go back there, after very nearly convincing myself that that's what I really wanted to do. I'm vacillating. Or oscillating (like one of those murderous Korean household fans). Sigh.
I made this video while visiting my nephews in Phoenix.
["back post": written / created 2009-10-12]
I'm off to the land of LA.
We saw some buffalo while driving across northeastern New Mexico yesterday. And some mountains and stuff like that. Here's a video of the buffalo. (Note that the title for this blog is a grammatically correct sentence in English, although the buffalo we saw weren't, in fact, "buffalo buffalo," but rather "new mexico buffalo").
I saw my first snow of the season yesterday. That's not really such a milestone, when one is traveling around as much as I am, but it was still wonderful to see. It didn't really stick, but there were fat flakes floating down for a few hours and there was a solid frost on my truck this morning.
And now I'm off to Phoenix via New Mexico. More later…
My honorary nephew Henry discourses on monster trucks.
I’ve been saying I would post a video from my visit to Ulleungdo [울릉도] for a while, and I finally have. It’s not as carefully edited as the ones I made before, but it’s a glimpse of what I saw when I was there. The music is 행복하길바래 by 임형주 [haeng-bok-ha-gil-ba-rae = “I hope you are happy” by Im Hyeong-ju]
I arrived at my stepsister Brenda's house yesterday evening, here in Erie, Colorado (sort of between Denver and Boulder). I actually met my niece and nephew, Sarah and James, ages 3 and 5, for the first time. And this morning, I built legos with James for a while — bonding with kids it pretty easy, huh? And then we walked to a book fair at James' school, and I realized there were a lot of books I'd love to acquire and have on hand in Korea, if I decide to go back and teach there some more. I managed to limit myself to just a few books however.
I'm on Brenda and Eric's computer, so I'll make this a short post. More later — I was finally making some progress putting together an Ulleungdo video last night. Maybe that'll get posted, but I'm off to pick up my dad at the airport, now — he's flying in from LA and we're driving back there together via Phoenix where we can visit my other sister and nephews there. So that will give me a chance to spend some time with my dad.
My little pickup truck turned over 100,000 miles yesterday. I can imagine what everyone is thinking: Jared drives so much, how can he have a truck that’s over 9 years old and only now be turning over 100,000 miles?
I think the reason is that although I have taken many road trips in this truck (I’ve done the Minnesota/Phoenix/LA/Portland circle at least 6 times by my count, plus several loops out to the east coast too), I have only rarely used it for substantial commuting. I always tried to arrange my life so that my commutes were short or even walkable, so except for that rather unpleasant almost-a-year when I was driving almost every day from Long Beach to Newport Beach, I’ve never had a commute over about 10 minutes. And of course, for the last two years, it’s been in storage, putting on exactly zero miles.
So, anyway, I set out from Bob and Sarah’s yesterday morning, and per my usual randomness, I decided to avoid interstates for a few hours. I traversed northwest Illinois without even getting onto a 4-lane highway: I drove to the west of Rockford, around Freeport and Sterling, through many small towns and past the endless umber expanses of ripe corn and soybeans.
I crossed the Mississippi at Clinton, Iowa, and follwed the river on the west side down to Bettendorf. It was along this stretch that I happened to notice my odometer was at 99999. I looked up and saw a sign with an arrow: “Picnic Area, 1 mi.” So I drove to the picnic area (not, in itself, anything worth blogging about), watched the odometer turn over to 100,000, and then took a picture of my pickup truck for its “milestone” moment.
I crossed Iowa on the interstate. I went through some pretty major rain around sunset at Omaha, and I stopped at a motel near Lincoln, Nebraska. And here I am. I’ll post pictures when I get a better internet connection.
I'm going to drive to Denver to see my sister Brenda (and my father is meeting me there). I could make it in one very long day of driving (it's about 16-18 hours from southeastern Wisconsin), but I'm intending to divide it into two days. So tonight I'll be somewhere in eastern Nebraska, I would guess.
I had one last bowl of borsht last night, it was so delicious. And then I had some "apple brown betty" (apple cobblerish) that Sarah made, for breakfast. Also very delicious.
Henry's first words to me this morning: "It's morning so I decided to wake up."
Today I went to a “corn maze” with my friend Bob and my honorary nephew, his son Henry. These are quite the midwestern phenomenon, they’re pretty fun. Here’s a website showing the actual maze [UPDATE: the link rotted – no replacement link found] we went into. Because Henry is only around 2 years old, we ended up converting a dead end on the star-shaped trail in the upper left quadrant of the maze shown in that picture (roughly west of the Ecuador, which makes sense if you see the maze map aerial photo) into a pull-ups changing station.
I drank some hot apple cider and Henry had more fun in the parking lot inventorying the various vehicles, including some tractors and an ambulance, than he did in the maze.
At the risk of seeming like an indulgent “uncle,” here are some pictures of Henry. The first was a picture of him at the corn maze, looking through a cut out of a car. I did it with my cell phone because I forgot to take my camera to the corn maze.
The next pictures show him hamming around the house.
This is a picture of him this evening at a gathering at some friends of Bob and Sarah’s, wearing interesting “shades.” Cute kid.
One reason I love visiting with my friend Bob is that he inspires me and motivates me to cook things that I love to eat. When we were roommates, many years ago, we used to concoct all kinds of things together, and he always seemed to bring out my creativity in the kitchen. Certainly it’s true that cooking with (and for) others is much more fun than cooking by myself, which is why I almost never cooked anything elaborate in Korea.
So, Bob motivated me to make something I often crave: borsht.
I drove through Peshtigo, Wisconsin on my way back down from the UP (you-pee = Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, one of my favorite places on planet earth). I saw not one, but two, signs in Korean in this tiny town. Of course, knowing what they said made them less interesting: one said 시온교회 (Zion Church) and the other said (태관도 Taekwondo — of course). Still, it was weird seeing these signs in a tiny town (population <1000).
Here are some pictures from the UP.
Odometer: Start 99408 End 99833 = 425 miles.
But it’s beautiful. I drove to Duluth, just for the hell of it. Because I love Duluth. I’m not sure I could live here… though I often fantasize about it. It was very windy, and there were waves on Lake Superior.
Then I got really crazy and drove to Houghton. Michigan. I got here after dark, but I’ll look around tomorrow before recrossing Wisconsin, north to south, and visit my friend Bob and his family.
Notable music from soundtrack: Röyksopp, Jesus Jones, Cat Stevens, Dylan (of course)
Odometer: Start 99107 End 99408 = 301 miles