Adventure Family Deployed!

In March 2020, I was supposed to visit my mother in Beaufort, South Carolina (where she lives, and where I was born), but COVID obviously had other plans for us all at that point, so the trip was scratched. Likewise in April 2020, when Marcia and Katelin were supposed to make their annual Girl Power Trip (they were both born on March 8th, which is International Women’s Day in most of the non-retogressive world)(e.g. not here) to Costa Rica, but that trip also bit the dust, along with several others in the months ahead.

While I know it’s too soon to declare that COVID is behind us, with the entire family as vaccinated as we can be, and with hospitalization rates down significantly, we decided that we’d finally re-schedule those trips this month. We drove to Las Vegas two weekends ago and spent some time with Katelin and John in their fab new house there, then last week, Katelin and Marcia flew off westward to the Big Island of Hawai’i, and I flew east to the land of my forefathers and foremothers. Marcia and I think this is the greatest distance we’ve ever been away from each other in our 35-ish years as a couple. Felt very weird, especially since we’d not spent a night apart since the dawn of the Anno Virum.

Our outbound trips from Las Vegas were both pretty heinous. Marcia and Katelin were supposed to go from Vegas to Los Angeles to Kona, but after tickets were secured, Delta Airlines decided that they needed a bonus stop in Seattle on the way out, as well, to turn a reasonable trip into a full-day-plus slog. My flights (Vegas to Dallas to Savannah) were both way late, and there was a truly horrific storm over the Mississippi Delta, so we were routed down to the Gulf of Mexico to try to get around it. After the fact, I pulled up the FlightAware trip report just to make sure I experienced what I thought I had experienced. I did:

I’ve flown a lot over the years, and I’d say that the turbulence and amazing high-altitude lightning were among the most intense that I’ve ever experienced. It was a relief to hit the tarmac in Savannah a few hours late, but then I discovered that my pre-paid rental car had long been given to someone else, that the taxis that service the airport were no longer running, and that the Uber/Lyft crowd seemed to mostly be asleep as well. I didn’t actually make it to my hotel room until well after 2am, and I only managed to avoid sleeping in the concourse or walking three-ish miles down a dark and narrow country road by convincing an Uber driver to let me pay him cash to jump in a car that someone else had secured.

But then I headed up to Beaufort the next morning, and all was good. I had a lovely visit with my mother, got to see my aunt and her husband for a superb Shrimp and Grits dinner, and hit most of the personally significant spots that I normally visit when I’m in the area. Highlights included the hospital where I was born (and where my Dad died), the house my parents lived in when I first came home from the hospital, a couple of urban shacks where my Mom has lived over the years, Beaufort National Cemetery (where my Dad is buried), Stoney Creek Cemetery (where most of my other ancestors on that side of the family are buried), the Village of McPhersonville (where said ancestors once all lived), Old Sheldon (a ruined stone church that would have served my family in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries), and Hunting Island, which I consider to be the finest beach on the American east coast. (Even though it sustained incredible damage from Hurricane Matthew a few years back). I also got to eat most all of the things I crave when I’m home, including the aforementioned Shrimp and Grits, a Shrimp Burger and hush puppies from the Shrimp Shack, a heaping helping of boiled peanuts, a good bowl of Brunswick Stew, and various and sundry other white trash specialties from the Low Country. Mmm, mmm, good . . . . even if I’m still feeling the salt and fat bloat from that tasty, tasty fare.

I flew back to Las Vegas on Sunday, and Marcia and Katelin arrived back there early this morning after a red-eye from Kona. This time, all of our flights were smooth and on schedule, so that was a relief. I met Marcia at the airport and we motored on home, arriving just after lunch-time, happy to be back in our nest, and looking forward to sleeping in our own bed tonight. Marcia and Katelin took photos of their trip, and I’ll probably set up an album for that once they send them all to me. I was my usual photo-obsessed self, and have posted my usual album over at Flickr of the trip’s highlights. You can click on the image of Stoney Creek Cemetery below if you’d like to see what else is over there; most of the snaps are from the Low Country, with some bookends of our time in Las Vegas.

We’re traveling to Minnesota next weekend (Marcia’s homeland) to attend a memorial service for her sister, so I will probably have another post of this ilk when we get back from that. We’ve got a couple of other treks already on the books in the months ahead (California, North Carolina/Tennessee, Albuquerque, and a return to the Grand Canyon), so those will no doubt show up here too.

Got to make up for lost travel time while we can. It feels good to be be abroad again, as much as we love being here, and coming home.

10,000 Words In A Language Which We Understand (Sedona #12)

(Note: Click on any image above for a full-size view, or visit the links below to see what I’ve seen in prior months and years).

PRIOR ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

O For 10,000 Words To Sing (Sedona #11)

Land of 10,000 Words (Sedona #10)

Fumbling Over 10,000 Words That Rhyme (Sedona #9)

10,000 Words On A Chair (Sedona #8)

The Night Has 10,000 Words (Sedona #7)

10,000 Words From The Exit Wound (Sedona #6)

What Are 10,000 Words For? (Sedona #5)

10,000 Words In A Cardboard Box (Sedona #4)

10,000 Words (Bless The Lord) (Sedona #3)

Brighter Than 10,000 Words (Sedona #2)

10,000 Words (Sedona #1)

Storm Force 10,000 Words (Chicago #10)

Ship Arriving Too Late To Save 10,000 Words (Chicago #9)

Beyond the Valley of 10,000 Words (Chicago #8)

Return to the Planet of 10,000 Words (Chicago #7)

Revenge of the Son of 10,000 Words (Chicago #6)

Son of Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #5)

Yet Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #4)

Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #3)

10,000 More Words (Chicago #2)

10,000 Words (Chicago)

What Should Be Done

1. Marcia and I have been getting our healthcare insurance coverage for the past 18 months via the COBRA program, which allowed us to receive benefits as part of the last healthcare policy group she’d been a member of at the point when she retired from full-time work. But as our eligibility for that program came to its end, we visited the Federal Healthcare Website to see what our options were for the year(s) to come. We found a very good plan at a very reasonable price with a very nice Federal tax subsidy associated with it, and enrolled in said program accordingly this week. Thank you, President Obama, for that. We appreciate you, always. And we miss you!

2. Bauhaus were a tremendously influential and much appreciated band for me through most of the 1980s, and their successor bands (Love and Rockets, Tones on Tail, and solo projects by members Daniel Ash, David J, and Peter Murphy) kept me rolling in good music for years-to-decades after their original collective creative run petered out. I had read that the original quartet were on tour again this year, but was surprised when they issued a new single (the first new music they’ve released in 14 years) a couple of weeks ago, called “Drink The New Wine:”

The music media have been much impressed by the song’s origins, created via the surrealists’ game trope “exquisite corpse,” in which each of the group’s four members recorded their segments of the song independently, without having heard the other three members’ contributions. The results are shockingly coherent, but, then, that’s the point of the game, in that brilliant collaborative newness may (and in this case, does) emerge from the chaotic creative process behind the work.

But I’ve not seen (m)any members of the critical community recognizing that this is not the first time that Bauhaus have hoed this row, with one of the best songs from one of their best albums (The Sky’s Gone Out, 1982) being titled “Exquisite Corpse,” and being created under the same rubric. Here’s how that one sounded; it’s a personal fave:

Note well that the title of the new song makes it something of a sequel to the title of the earlier song, as they evoke the original surrealist quote penned by André Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Prévert, and Yves Tanguy: “Le cadaver exquisite boar le vin nouveau,” which translates in English to “The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.” Bauhaus (the group) also deployed this creative technique on a fairly rare b-side, where they titled the track with the band members’ names and the order in which said members created their contributions to the cut in question:

Always happy when artists I admire and respect return from long hiatuses with works that are challenging, yet anchored in their core creative values. Here’s hoping that Messrs Ash, J, Haskins and Murphy continue to make new music under their Bauhaus imprimatur. It’s a good one. I miss it.

3. We finished watching the first season of Our Flag Means Death last night. I’m all in behind the brilliant Taika Waititi, and will pretty much happily watch anything and everything that he does (except for his Marvel Universe Movies, because I boycott superhero and Marvel Universe Movies as a point of principle, as I think them a tired and sore blight on our modern culture) (but I don’t mind Taika making them, if they fund his original work), but even with that expectation for excellence, this series went in ways and places that I’d not imagined it going, and it was all fantastic. Here’s the trailer, as a tease, and I most emphatically recommend it to you:

I’ve read a lot of reviews and analysis of the series over the past few weeks, but few writers seem to have picked up on something that I knew going in, as a fan of the sorts of “tales of human suffering” books that tell stories like this one: lead character Stede Bonnett (played by Rhys Darby) was a real, historical character, who did indeed serve with the legendary Edward Teach (a.k.a. Blackbeard) for a period of time. Because my brain is somewhat broken, I found myself playing this musical version of the Blackbeard story on my internal mental jukebox for hours on end, the ear-worm factor in full, florid display:

4. I’ve written at length here over the past 18 months or so about the amazing natural beauty of our home region in Northern Arizona, and its exceptional geological history. I’ve written less often about the human history of the region, but it’s fairly incredible in its own ways. One of the cooler factors about rambling about this part of the country is finding petroglyph sites, where ancient humans left their marks by carving both decorative and utilitarian works of art in the region’s red rocks, often darkened black by microbial growth and aged lichens. I paid a second visit to one of the less known, but visually spectacular, petroglyph sites in our area this week, deeply enjoying these most cool art works, all by my lonesome:

When we’ve read or heard talks about the ancient cultures of our region (most notably the Sinagua People, who left the area en masse around 1400 AD), the writers or park docents do tend to focus heavily on the practical aspects of the places where the Sinagua settlements were developed, but I believe deeply that our ancestors were just as attuned to aesthetic “location, location, location” concerns in their own ways as we are in ours. Yeah, you needed safety and food and shelter and water back then when you decided to pitch camp or develop a settlement, sure, but I’d bet good money that the folks who carved these figures, and others in the area, also sat down at the end of the day, looked out before them, and said “Dang, this sure is a nice spot!” Here’s the view of this site, just before arriving at the rock carvings. Nice spot? Yeah, it is. Definitely.

Back From the California Coast

Marcia and I made it home from our California Coastal trip last night, part one of which was described here. We drove the southerly route this time, from San Clemente to Sedona via San Diego and Phoenix, with hiking stops in Cleveland National Forest and Yuma, Arizona, on the way back. It’s something of an amazing smorgasbord of geology to make that drive: we started at sea level on the Pacific Ocean, climbed up to 6,000+ feet above sea level in the National Forest, then dropped back down below sea level into the Imperial Valley and El Centro, then steadily back up through various desert regions (including spectacular sand dunes right along the border of Mexico), then finally returning to our red rocks region at 4,500 feet above sea level. Lots to see, lots to do, most of it fabulous to look at. Katelin and John came out and joined us in San Clemente for a few days, so that made the trip even better.

We had done a trip last summer that covered the coast and inland regions from The Russian River Valley up to the northern California coast. This time, we covered Los Angeles down to the Mexican border. So with international travel still seeming iffy for us in the near-ish future, we’re already plotting a summer 2022 driving trip that will start in the Los Angeles region and end in the Bay Area, given us a full north-south path through the Golden State. Tacking on earlier trips to Death Valley, Yosemite, and the Lake Tahoe regions, and we’re finding California to be a fantastic vacation resource for us from our home state next door. As we look to our next adventure over that way, I share some snaps from our last trek below. As one does. When one is me. Click on the sunset view uphill from the San Clemente Pier to see the full collection.

Hello 2022: Live from the California Coast

Having bid adieu to 2021 last week, Marcia and I loaded up the family truckster and headed west for California. We spent two days in Palm Springs, and made a day trip over to Joshua Tree National Park (with a swing by the infamous motel where Gram Parsons died) while we were there. Then we drove down to San Clemente for a two-week stay in a lovely AirBnB condo right near that town’s North Beach. We greeted the new year with a quiet evening of Netflix and Chill, nothing notable or special, but that was okay.

We’ve been walking and hiking every day, and have also made some road trips up to Los Angeles (where I, of course, had to visit a list of prominent music-history sites) and San Juan Capistrano, where the swallows are not resident at this time of year. Katelin and John will be flying over from Las Vegas this weekend to join us for a few days, and we’ll be driving back to Sedona after they head home. (Speaking of home, and in exciting family news, they are closing on a new house this morning!) Weather has been lovely for most of our trip, and we’re safely enjoying the change of scenery, actively conscious and mindful of the latest eruptions in the seemingly-endless Anno Virum.

As I always do, I’ve been snapping sites and scenes, and have posted a gallery of our adventures thus far. You can click on the image of me sitting at the highest point in San Clemente to see the full gallery. I’ll likely add a second one when we get home next week. Until then, be safe, be smart, and here’s hoping that 2022 doesn’t bring us anything close to the litany of horrors that 2021 perpetuated upon us all!

Best Of My Web 2021

I’ve been online for a long, long, long time, in the relative terms that Internet experience can be measured. This blog’s archives extend back to 1995 (before the word “blog” even existed), and I was romping and stomping about in virtual spaces even earlier than that, like some digital dinosaur hauling its hunky heft through a primordial dial-up ASCII swamp.

With a quarter-century-plus experience in sorting the garbage that spills out of the Interweb’s pipes, I think I’m pretty discerning in plucking the shiniest gems from the stinkiest spew of the online world. And being a community-oriented sort, I’m happy to leverage my online explorations to share a roster of the websites that moved me most over the past year, in the hopes that you might find them engaging and entertaining as well.

Before I get to this year’s roster, though, I do have to note and acknowledge that my long-time, most-favorite website went dark this year, after author Rick Harris died of cancer this past April, way too young, leaving his Thoughts on the Dead website behind as an epic example of how fine writing can build worlds, and communities. Honestly, for as long as I’ve been online (which is a long, long, long time), I’d likely cite his written work, and the community he built, as perhaps the greatest thing that I’ve loved and embraced and endorsed through this, our digital era. He was a true once-in-a-lifetime genius, and I miss him and his writing, a lot. More thoughts (or “Thoughts”) on that, if you missed them when I first posted them, here.

A couple of other long-time favorite sites have either gone dark or sporadic in 2021:

  • Rob Madeo‘s Keyboard Krumbs: At the time that I am compiling this list, Rob’s site seems to be consistently returning a “Nothing To See Here” response to hits from my browsers. That’s happened before, and it may just be a short-term hosting thing, or it may just be a super-good writer deciding that he’s had enough of this online nonsense, and choosing to spend his time and creative energy elsewhere. (I embed a link to his site above, even though it is broken as I do so, in hopes that it will return at some point, either as an archival resource, or as a going concern). As noted years ago in the link from his name above, I hold Rob in very high acclaim as a guy who can say a whole lot with a very small amount of text. I seriously see that as something to which I should and could aspire, but I’m just too damn wordy, so I’m doubtful that I’m going to ever rise to his level of brilliant concision.
  • Mimi Smartypants: Another long-time favorite who has appeared on my “Best of the Web” lists many times over the years. Her site is still live as I type today, but she’s only infrequently posting at this point, such that it’s a thrill whenever one of her new missives arrives. (We got one this week, as it turns out, hooray!).  I have loved her writing for many, many years, but the sense of awe and respect that I feel for her work was amplified dramatically during the four years when we lived in Chicago, when I was a bus and train-riding fool, making her references to those always-interesting modes of transport, and the work and residential neighborhoods they connect, all the more brilliant and real for me. Not to sound like a weirdo stalky guy, but she used to write about L stops and bus routes that I also rode regularly, so it was satisfying on some plane to know that she might have been sitting behind me some days, describing what I was looking at and seeing and smelling better than I ever could have.

I’ll be first in the fan-boy line when and if Rob and Mimi make a big, splashy return to regular web posts, but if that doesn’t happen, then I doff my cap to them both for the years of grins and giggles that they’ve provided me. And having acknowledged Rick and Rob and Mimi as part of a most respectful preamble, I now move on to the ten websites that are live and active as I write this post, and which provided me the greatest quantities of giggles and joy and thoughtful thoughts and entertainment over the past twelve months. I hope you will give them all a look-see and (where appropriate) a follow, as they’re all worthy of your support and engagement.

  • Going Medieval: Dr. Eleanor Janega offers (in her own words) “Medieval History, Pop Culture, Swearing.” I love all of those things, and I adore her site, which brings history to life, while illuminating and (often) eviscerating modern stupidities that are anchored in misunderstandings of the past. Great writing and great fun. My Website of the Year for 2021, for sure.
  • The Haunted Generation: I spend a lot of online time mucking about with folks in the British Isles, but few things make me wish I were English more than this site. The creators deftly explore cultural and media tropes from the years of our shared childhoods, and their work is educational and entertaining in equal measure, especially if you are drawn to the weird.
  • Aphoristic Album Reviews: I love a good music-nerd list, which is an “a-DUH!” statement for anybody who has read this site for more than two weeks. Aphoristic sits sweet in my current reading pantheon as the work of another list-making fiend, whose tastes overlap with mine regularly, so I feel smart being able to meaningfully respond to his great work.
  • Art & Crit by Eric Wayne: In my experience, there are folks I admire as tremendous artists, and there are folks I admire as tremendous art critics, and the Venn Diagram of those two communities has but a tiny over-lapping sliver. As small as that sliver is, Eric Wayne sits within it, a super creator, and a super analyzer of others’ creations. Great reads, always.
  • The Blue Moment: Richard Williams was a long-time writer, editor and/or on-screen personality for Melody Maker, The Times, The Old Grey Whistle Test, and many other music-adjacent outlets, making him one of the most-influential music thinkers to emerge from Britain in the latter part of the 20th Century. His website offers more of the same, gloriously, thankfully.
  • The Fall Online Forum: While the amazing musical group that originally inspired the creation of this site are no more, (see here), the community built to celebrate them (and countless other topics of interest) churns on, and I’m happy to have it as my current “Serial Monogam-E” site of choice for real-time Internet interaction, other social media be damned to hell.
  • Vinyl Distractions: Carl Johnson is a long-time web connection from our Albany days, and I have deeply enjoyed his My Non/Now-Urban Life and Hoxsie! websites over the years. His latest offering is basically an online tribute to his record collection, and, of course, that tickles me to no end, both in terms of what he owns, and how he writes about it.
  • Ramblin’ With Roger: Another friend from Albany days, Roger Owen Green is a super-long-time daily blogger of refined tastes and interests, many of which closely align with my own. Roger also brings his formidable librarian skills to organizing his information, and that’s a noticeably great thing in the mostly mucky mire of poorly-curated online experience.
  • Messy Nessy Chic: One of the most-interesting sites online, and also one of the prettiest. Nessy’s every-Monday “13 Things I Found on the Internet” series is a weekly highlight for me, and her/their articles throughout the week are almost always interesting, educational, and visually sumptuous. A fine creative and commercial aesthetic here, worthy of emulation.
  • Chuck The Writer: Chuck Miller is yet another friend from Albany days, and like Roger above, he is a long-time daily blogger, so you always have something(s) new to read from him, no matter how long you wait between visits. Chuck is also a tremendous champion and advocate for online community-building, and I deeply appreciate his fervor on that front.

Dr Eleanor Janega’s article from “Going Medieval” which compared/contrasted Modern Influencers and Medieval Damsels was a mind-blowingly fun bit of history writ large, and snarky.

O For 10,000 Words To Sing (Sedona #11)

(Note: Click on any image above for a full-size view, or visit the links below to see what I’ve seen in prior months and years).

PRIOR ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

Land of 10,000 Words (Sedona #10)

Fumbling Over 10,000 Words That Rhyme (Sedona #9)

10,000 Words On A Chair (Sedona #8)

The Night Has 10,000 Words (Sedona #7)

10,000 Words From The Exit Wound (Sedona #6)

What Are 10,000 Words For? (Sedona #5)

10,000 Words In A Cardboard Box (Sedona #4)

10,000 Words (Bless The Lord) (Sedona #3)

Brighter Than 10,000 Words (Sedona #2)

10,000 Words (Sedona #1)

Storm Force 10,000 Words (Chicago #10)

Ship Arriving Too Late To Save 10,000 Words (Chicago #9)

Beyond the Valley of 10,000 Words (Chicago #8)

Return to the Planet of 10,000 Words (Chicago #7)

Revenge of the Son of 10,000 Words (Chicago #6)

Son of Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #5)

Yet Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #4)

Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #3)

10,000 More Words (Chicago #2)

10,000 Words (Chicago)

Land of 10,000 Words (Sedona #10)

(Note: Click on any image above for a full-size view, or visit the links below to see what I’ve seen in prior months and years).

PRIOR ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

Fumbling Over 10,000 Words That Rhyme (Sedona #9)

10,000 Words On A Chair (Sedona #8)

The Night Has 10,000 Words (Sedona #7)

10,000 Words From The Exit Wound (Sedona #6)

What Are 10,000 Words For? (Sedona #5)

10,000 Words In A Cardboard Box (Sedona #4)

10,000 Words (Bless The Lord) (Sedona #3)

Brighter Than 10,000 Words (Sedona #2)

10,000 Words (Sedona #1)

Storm Force 10,000 Words (Chicago #10)

Ship Arriving Too Late To Save 10,000 Words (Chicago #9)

Beyond the Valley of 10,000 Words (Chicago #8)

Return to the Planet of 10,000 Words (Chicago #7)

Revenge of the Son of 10,000 Words (Chicago #6)

Son of Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #5)

Yet Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #4)

Another 10,000 Words (Chicago #3)

10,000 More Words (Chicago #2)

10,000 Words (Chicago)