Sunday, June 3, 2018

Still a gear head

I couldn’t sleep, I was wide awake at 3:00. I finally rolled out of bed and got ready, I gave Cakes a kiss at 3:30 and got on the road to Santa Cruz. There was no traffic on 101 as I headed north. I set the cruise control at 80 and kept my eyes on the road and the mirrors.

An hour and a half later I was south of Santa Maria. Still no traffic. I was driving my 2007 Corvette Z51. I slowed down to 20mph, shifted into 1st gear and floored it, I shifted at the 6,000 rpm red line, 1st then 2nd, then 3rd, then 4th I shifted into 5th gear at 140mph. The heads up display showed 168 in 5th gear. I lifted off the accelerator and let the the car lose momentum. While I was accelerating I’d kept my eyes ahead on the road, a long way ahead. As the speed dropped I cautiously looked around, I was slowing down but everything except the road ahead was a blur. Road signs whipped by, too fast to read. The speed dropped under 100, then 75 and I reengaged the cruise control and continued north to see my daughter and her kids.

168 is the fastest I’ve ever driven a car, the 2nd fastest? I hit the 155mph speed limiter on our AMG Mercedes one night on the Mass Turnpike. According to all the road tests a Z51 has a top speed of 186. I did 20 mph less than that and never shifted into 6th gear.

Modern high performance cars are mechanical miracles, the Corvette (and the Benz) settled down over 100mph, the design and aerodynamics literally push the car down on the road the faster you go. Both cars were stable and comfortable at speed. As fast as it was, the Corvette routinely delivered gas mileage in the high 20’s even the low 30’s when I drove at the speed limit. I never got less than 20 in town.

The amazing thing is as I accelerated the Corvette, the car never slowed down, it accelerated as hard over 100 mph as it did between 20 and 100. I didn’t time it, but I know from start to finish my high speed run from 20 to 168 took less than a minute. Checking the road test numbers bear me out. Funny the car had a built in timer, I could have timed my run, but didn’t think of it.

The first time I believe I drove a car over 100mph was my dad’s buddy Bob Anton’s ‘56 Thunderbird.

I was 13 years old. I don’t think I really topped 100, the ‘56 Bird’s top speed with a 312 V8 and a stick was 113 mph. Hard to believe, a basic Toyota Corolla with an automatic would kick the T-Bird’s ass.

I use Amazon Prime, it gives me a chance to read new magazines and delete them when I’m finished. I downloaded the July Car and Driver yesterday on my Kindle. Good issue, very good.

C&D tested the Ford EcoSport tiny SUV, it has a 3 cylinder turbo charged engine. In the performance test, the writer said, “your grandmother could knit a sweater in the time it takes to get to 60, have her keep knitting and by the time the EcoSport finishes the 1/4 mile she would have a turtle neck and a pair of mittens done.” So not all the new cars are that great. The EcoSport is about as fast as its great, great, grandpa, Bobby's old T-Bird, the car I thought I drove 100mph.

Did you know Rolls Royce is building an SUV, an all wheel drive, 3 ton SUV? They are, it’s called the Cullinan and it’s even got a low range! It has traction settings like sand, mud, snow, etc. Base price $325,000.

RR offers 90 different colors for the leather interior and they’ll paint it pretty much the color you want, all it takes is money.

One of the options RR offers on the Cullinan is the “Viewing Suite” two well appointed leather seats electrically emerge from the tailgate, a table, matching the wood trim inside the car, appears between the two seats. You can sit back, enjoy tailgating at your alma mater, watch a polo match or your kid’s soccer game. No matter what you’re into, Rolls Royce has you covered. Like to fly fish, you can order a fishing module, like to shoot trap, you can order a shooting module, anything you want, customized for your taste and desires. You can order your Cullinan set up to be driven by your chauffeur with a glass partition that separates you from the hired help. The car comes with custom glassware for in flight cocktails.

The Cullinan is quite the beast,it has 563 horsepower from it’s 6.75 liter V12 and a top speed of 155mph.

You know where they debuted the Cullinan? Abu Dhabi. RR feels the oil rich countries of the middle east will be their biggest market for the Cullinan.

Know what a “Glider” is?  It’s a new truck with all the latest in safety and comfort features built by Peterbilt, Freightliner, Kenworth and others. They sell the truck without a drive train to aftermarket companies who install rebuilt pre-2002 engines, transmissions and running gear in the “new” truck. They do it to beat the EPA diesel standards. The gliders put out 430 times the particulates of a modern truck. Our new trump EPA has loosened the rules and are allowing the glider builders to build and sell 3 times the number of trucks allowed under the old rules. The glider builders contributed over 600k to republicans in 2016.

ZF the German transmission maker has 29 locations in the US, in their main plant in South Carolina, they employ 8,000 American workers. ZF has had facilities in the US since 1880. I wonder if anyone in the administration even cares about pissing them off?

C&D interviewed engineers from all the major automakers, they asked about the lowering of the fleet mileage goals, consensus was it is stupid and makes no sense.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Never Again...

Somehow, we set aside the registration notification for the Grand Cherokee...found it last night shoved behind a stack of Cake's paperwork. She jumps on the DMV website to get the registration updated. Can't do it...why? Needs to be done on online 10 days before the tag expires, that's fair.

I tell Cakes', "I don't worry honey, I'll run over to the DMV in the morning and do it in person."

Check the hours on the website, 8A-5P. Not a problem. Up this morning at 5:30, make coffee, check the news on line, read the LA Times, drink more coffee and eat a piece of toast. In the shower, shave, put on khakis and blue t-shirt and I'm out the door, I arrive at the DMV at 8:15.

I can't find a place to park, the lots full. The line stretches out the door for a half a block. Jesus. I park a block away in the courthouse parking lot, walk back to the DMV and get in line. It's 8:23.

A woman in line ahead of me is reading her Kindle, I kick myself in the ass for not bringing mine. The line moves at a glacial pace, it's getting hot, the DMV office is nicely landscaped and there are trees about 50 feet ahead of where I am, of course the people close to the trees move off the sidewalk and line up under the trees. I can't wait because I'm standing one the sidewalk in the hot and getting hotter sun.

Just in front of me in line is a Hispanic guy, he's studying the commercial driver's manual. A woman in nursing scrubs double parks a gray Honda sedan, hops out, runs over and hands him a large coffee. She gives him a hug and a kiss and runs back to the Honda. The guy looks at me and says, "My wife, she's a good girl." I tell him, "Yes, she is."

In my head I'm thinking the smell of his coffee is driving me crazy, I could really use a cup. 5  minutes go by, he looks at me pulls the plastic top off the cup and asks, "You want to finish this?" I nod enthusiastically and take him up on his offer. The coffee was great, perfect in fact. Now I have a friend in line. His name is Ricardo.

Ricardo was brought here from Nicaragua , when he was 6. His father was in the Army and was faced with the choice of becoming a Contra or a Sandinista, since members of his family were on both sides, Ricardo's family got out. They were granted asylum, moved first to Fresno for farm work, then moved here and worked construction. Ricardo drives truck for a company that does highway demolition, they rip up the old pavement, load it up, take it to a crusher and then recycle it to be used for base material when the road is repaired and repaved. He's been working for the company for 24 years. My new friend has two sons, both born here, one just got out of the Navy and the other is a senior at Cal State Northridge, his daughter is in high school and wants to be a nurse like her Mom. Ricardo and his family travel to Nicaragua yearly, he says since 9/11 and now trump es un hijo de puta or it's a son of a bitch.

Ricardo and I talked about baseball, he loves the Dodgers, we talked about Alexis Arguello, the World Champion boxer, when we finish we're finally at the door. The line breaks down into two groups, one group goes left, the other right. Ricardo and I go left to wait in the line for window 7.

It's 11:39. We've been in line for over 3 hours.

It takes 20 minutes to get to window 7, Ricardo get's sent to the testing area, I get sent to the waiting area, all the seats are taken. I do have a number now, BB0036. The last BB number called was BB0010.  How the hell long is this going to take?

A number gets called, a woman gets up and heads to window 3. I take her seat. I'm so stiff from standing I can hardly sit down. Out of the corner of my eye I see an old guy, I'd seen him in line, he's using a walker. He's looking for a seat. I give him mine. He looks exhausted and on top of that he looks like he's at least 90. He's got liver spots on liver spots, a wispy white beard and hair and he's wearing those old man Nikes with the velcro straps, I stand he sits we talk, he's 77. His voice is so weak I need an ear trumpet. Nice guy. I'm thinking, "Holy Shit, I hope I don't start sliding down hill like him over the next 5 years."

It's almost 12:20, they've called 2 BB numbers in 15 minutes. There's a side door, I walk around the building for a few minutes. I hit the rest room, pee and wash my face and hands, there are no towels, I have to swivel the hand dryer up and blow the water off my face.

I finally get a seat again, I do yoga moves on my neck and arms, I jiggle my legs. I'm sitting looking at the backsides of people doing the paperwork at the windows. I see some huge asses, young and old asses, some are really big and if your ass is that big, why would you wear yoga pants?

I notice most people are wearing some kind of athletic shoes or sandals. One woman has on dressy flats. Not one guy has on dress shoes.

There are kids waiting to take their behind the wheel driver's test, are they nervous. So are their parents. One Mom and daughter combo are interesting because the mom is wearing clothes you'd think a 16 year old would wear, her daughter is dressed like a 40 year old mom. maybe they simply decided to change things up this morning. Mom has a heck of a set of fake boobs and she's proud of them.

I'm starting to lose it, it's 25 after one. This is insane, I've been here for 5 god damn hours!. I text Cakes, tell her I may not be home for dinner, could she bring me a sandwich or something.

I hear BB0033, in a couple of minutes I hear BB0034, immediately they call BB0035, they call it again, they call it two more times. Hot damn a no show. They call BB0036.

I got to window 3 as fast as I can on my stiff legs. The DMV kid says "Hey how you doin' sorry about the long wait, it's always like this on the last day of the month." He has spiked hair and a huge earring. I hand him the paperwork, he looks it over. After he prints out the new registration, I initial a copy. I run my card, he gives me my new registration and tag. I thanked him and he smiled. It took 90 seconds.

It was 1:32pm

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Vision Quest II

Part 2.

Another hour of walking goes by, I see antelope, Prong Horns, off in the distance. I don’t see any more snakes, they may be around but I haven’t seen one since this morning. Down another break and back up a ridge and I come to a town, a Prairie Dog Town. In the Badlands the Prairie Dogs are the black tailed variety. Here's what Teddy had to say,

"Around the prairie-dog towns it is
always well to keep a look-out for
the smaller carnivora, especially
coyotes and badgers...and for
the larger kinds of hawks. Rattlesnakes
are quite plenty, living in the deserted
holes, and the latter are also the
homes of the little burrowing owls."

This is a small town, maybe 50 burrows stretching over an area of a football field. When they see me, they make a lot of noise. They pop in and out of their burrows to take a look at me. They look fat and happy. I’m not fat, but I’m happy. I say goodbye to the Prairie dogs and keep walking.

I have an ear worm, the opening rif of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” Dun datta dun dun, dun datta dun…”We come from the land of ice and snow, where the midnight sun and the hot springs blow…” My fraternal great grandfather came from the land of the ice and snow when he was 14, at 18 he spent his first winter on his North Dakota land living under an overturned wagon. He used the wood he had to build a shed for his animals, out of money and out of time, he dug a hole in the ground, flipped his wagon over it and moved in, he warmed the inside with a tin can stove. When the long winter was over, he plowed and planted his first crop,that done he built a sod house. This tough man with Viking blood, fathered 7 children, 2 boys farmed, another owned a gas station, the 4 girls all graduated from college. My grandmother Clara was his firstborn. His name was Gullik Gullik Gullikson, the son and grandson of Gullick. They were good looking people, one cousin, Claudia was Miss North Dakota.

Off to the Northwest the sky is getting dark, the wind has switched to that direction and it’s a cool wind. I can see the thunderheads building. I better move if I’m going to stay dry I need to get low, along the banks of the Little Missouri, in a grove of cottonwoods and make sure the grove is above the high water mark. I’ll need to break out my little mountain tent, need to get set up before the the thunderstorm hits. According to the trail map there is a river crossing about a mile away, to walk there and get the tent up I’ll need 45 minutes, do I have it? The air smells like rain already and the the dark clouds are filled with lightning. I can see bands of rain starting to fall off to the Northwest. I’d better hustle if I’m going to beat this. 

 I decide to get off the trail, I find a wash running down to the river, it’s steep, maybe a quarter of a mile long, I take it. I stumble and fall on a rocky stretch, I bounce on my ass a couple of times, scraped both my palms. I get up and keep on going, I made it to the river bank. The river curves off to the south, there is a long stretch of rocks, then grass, then cottonwood trees across the river. I wade across the river, I left my boots on this time. In the trees I threw off my pack. I found a grassy spot under the trees, I stomped the grass down and set up the tent. I threw my gear inside. I dug in a pocket on my pack and pulled out a garbage bag. Under the trees I gathered small sticks and twigs and put them in the bag. I found bigger pieces of dead fall and stacked them by a tree. I put the plastic bag over them.

The rain started after thunder and a bolt of lightning that was close at hand, I got in the tent and waited. The worst of the storm passed and a heavy rain followed in its wake. It was warm and humid in the tent. I could smell myself. I dug out my backpacking soap, my towel and my flip flops. I stripped and walked naked to the river in the rain. I stood on the rocks in the rain and scrubbed myself down head to toe. I dried off under the trees, the rain was slacking off. Back in the tent I dressed in a clean t shirt, shorts. I brushed my teeth and spit the toothpaste out the door of the tent..

My left palm was bleeding, I cleaned it up, put first aid cream on it, a sterile pad and gauze. My little first aid kit contains a pair of light rubber gloves. I cut the fingers off the left hand glove and pulled it over the bandage. The first aid done I straightened out the inside of the tent. I rolled out my thermo-rest pad and sleeping bag, bagged my dirty clothes and waited for the rain to end. In an hour it was over.

I kicked a spot clear in the wet grass, made a circle of river rocks and got a fire going with my dry kindling, I added wood and built a good sized fire. I built what the Indians call a white man’s fire, meaning it was too big.

I smell sage, I found it and threw it on the fire, sage is supposed to cleanse your soul and it smells good too. Does my soul need cleansing? Probably.The thought crossed my mind that I could use a peace pipe as well. The grass was wet, but a plastic garbage bag kept my butt dry. I poured some whiskey in my camping cup, I sipped it and watched the sunset by the warmth of my fire.

Dinner was from the only can I carried, a jumbo sized Dinty Moore beef stew, I took the top off, cleared the fire off to the side and set the can on the coals to warm. Every once in awhile I stirred it with a fork. It was delicious. I heated water and made some tea, added a bit of my whisky, ate an apple and cheese for dessert. I strolled the river and watched the sun go down it was a quarter to nine when the sun ended its journey.

I was tired, I hiked maybe 10 miles today. It’s a good tired, I’m clean, I’m well fed and I have a dry, warm place to sleep. I undressed in the tent, zipped up in my sleeping bag. I watched my fire through the little mountain tent’s door. 

While the fire slowly died, I had a million thoughts in my head. I don’t want to think about my job, the woman I’ll meet in Nantucket. Instead I think about something I recently read. About 150 miles west of here, in Montana there is a historical site, Pompy’s Pillar. In 1806 during their expedition Lewis and Clark split up, Clark traveled down the Yellowstone River while Lewis continued west on the Missouri. Sacajawea  with her son Jean Baptiste traveled with Clark. The boy was nick named Pompy by Clark. When they came upon the 150 foot high rock outcropping on the rolling prairie, Clark named it after Pompy. He carved William Clark, 1806 into the rock. The members of his expedition who could write also carved their names in the rock.

In the story I read, the author writes  an egotist named Sarvis painted his name on the Pillar next to Clark's. I know Alva Sarvis, he taught a University level Art class I took when I was in high school. On his way to his new job at San Diego State Alva decided to sign Pompy’s Pillar. 

Sarvis was an early hippie, he invited me to a couple of parties at a house he shared with other grad students. They drank wine and smoked pot, I was so sheltered at the time I believed only Mexicans smoked pop. I met an under grad girl at one of his parties, we got along nicely or like my mom would saw we got a little thick.. I had a deep sense of satisfaction when she started her semester of student teaching at my high school. She’d often wink at me when we met in the hall. One day she stroked my cheek in front of my friends. I wonder what ever happened to Cindy or Miss Larson as everyone else had to call her.

I’m too old to be on a Vision Quest, I’m too well fed to be on a Vision Quest and do I need a Vision Quest anymore?

The Native Americans all had some form of a vision quest for their young men. It worked like this, a maturing young boy, 13 years old or in that age range, would go off by himself, alone for the first time in his life, alone without water or food and wander. eventually he would have a vision of sorts, brought on by lack of food or water or by the elements. He would come back and sit with his elders and tell them about his experience, something significant that he saw, imagined he saw or he dreamed during his quest. The boy’s adult name would come from his quest, if he saw a lone Bison bull on a hill and the Bison was dark in color, he may become Black Bull, if he saw a pair of Eagles, he may become Two Eagles. I always liked that story when I was a kid, I still do. I think, after this trip my name should be “Many Horses” or “Avoids the Snake” or better, “Wisely Avoids the Snake”.

I have to pee, As I stand outside away from the trees, the sky is clear, there is no ambient light, the stars seem very close.

I gather some sage, rub it in my hands and carry it back to the little tent. I listened to the coyotes calling as I fell into a deep sleep.

It’s still dark when I wake up.

I’ve packed light, I have and orange and an apple left and a few chucks of cheese. I fix my coffee and eat the fruit, I’m packed and on my way by first light. I’ve got mileage to make this morning. My left hand is throbbing and I can see blood through the rubber glove. The split in my palm is deeper than I thought it was, oh well.

On the top of another butte I avoid a Bison Bull as he gets up from a wallow, he’s eyeing me and I give him a wide berth, he watches me, then gets bored and starts rolling around again.

A mile later I see a herd of mule deer. They are browsing alongside the river. They look fat and sassy. I can’t count the points from this distance but one buck has a tremendous rack. As I walk along, I wonder if people who never get out of their cars when they visit places like this realize what they are missing.

Not long before the trail ends, I stop and watch some more Prong Horn Antelope, eating their way along a grassy slope, long necks, white throats, white butts. They move slowly as they eat, ever alert, always looking around.

When I got back to my rental Ford, I toss my pack in the trunk. The rest room, it has running water, just cold water, but running, never the less. I wash the dust from the Achenbach Trail off my face and arms. In the mirror I look rested, clear eyed. 

My hand hurts like hell. Back at the car I re-bandage it. The cut on the fat part of my palm just down from my thumb is still open and seeping blood. I’ll stop at the emergency room in Dickinson and get it stitched. 

My hand repaired, I get a hamburger,some fries and drink a couple of beers at the Esquire, done eating it's on the road east to my Mom’s place across from Hillside Park in Bismarck. She’s making BBQ ribs for dinner. A skill she learned from an old black woman in Laurinburg Maxon, North Carolina during WWII. Damn they are the best, as my brother says, "The food that killed our father."

On the highway, I-94, at 75 miles an hour, I’m already thinking about my next Vision Quest. Maybe I’ll do a Phil Weld and simply sail out in the ocean for 12 hours, turn around and sail back.....

I'll close with this from Teddy...

"We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune."

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Vision Quest...

Part One

Camped in a grove of Cottonwood trees twenty five yards from a tight loop of the Little Missouri River. Across the river is a ridge line, the top of  a butte. It’s summer, an early evening in June. I’ve gathered some dead fall for a small fire. I hear a horse whinny, another answers and I hear hoof beats, I look up. On the ridge line there is a small herd of wild horses. The horses start down, I count them, 18 total, of the 18, 5 are foals just a few months old. The horses make their way from the top of the ridge, they raise dust. They gather on the bank of the river, wade into the water and drink. A dark brown stallion watches the herd, two younger males, the horse equivalent of teenage boys hang back as the mares and the foals drink.

I’m cross-legged in the prairie grass, watching them, the breeze is blowing towards me, they can’t get my scent, if they could would I bother them? I hiked a couple of miles to get to this spot, it’s not close to the road, I’m not in a campground, I haven’t seen another person since I left the visitor’s center 4 hours ago, how often would this little herd ever see a human being? Very few people hike this trail, it’s 18 miles long.

The stallion organizes his herd and gets them moving back up the ridge line, he watches them and then drinks, when he finishes, he looks directly at me, shakes his head, turns and goes after his herd. He’s a big fella, handsome. Now they’re gone, in minutes the dust settles. I walk to the riverbank, there are hoof prints in the sandy mud.I stare up the trail to the top of the ridge. I’m going to follow them tomorrow.

Back in my camp, I pour some whiskey in my cup, I toast the herd. Start my campfire, I cook some chicken and noodles for dinner on my backpacking stove. It’s cooling off, I put on a light fleece, drink another whiskey and watch my little cottonwood fire.

Why am I here? . I’m almost two thousand miles from home. A few days ago I was drinking scotch at the Ritz Bar wearing a Brooks Brothers suit, I was there with a beautiful woman. She thinks I’m crazy to be here, here by myself. Vacationing by walking round in the middle of nowhere, alone. I didn’t explain it well, she didn't understand. I’m going to meet her on Nantucket in a week. I think about her and then push her from my mind when I zip up my sleeping bag. The coyotes sing me to sleep.

Awake before dawn, I pee on the ashes of my little fire. I boil water on my stove, I wash my face in clearest part of the muddy river.Coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. I pour the creamer from McDonalds in Dickinson over the oatmeal and sprinkle a half of package of Mickey D’s sugar on it. I finish breakfast with another cup of coffee and an orange. I feel good, I’m rested. Time to break camp.

At the river I take off my boots and socks, roll up my jeans and wade across. In ten minutes I’m on top of the ridge, dawn has past and the sun is up and warm on my back as I hike west across the prairie. I’m following the horses.

This is primitive land, the Indians and the French trappers called it Badlands, it hasn’t changed much. 

After an hour of hiking, I see my horse herd., they are grazing off in the distance. Seeing the horses enjoying the buffalo grass, I remember they are all runaways, their ancestors ran away from the Spaniards who brought them here, over the centuries they were joined by more rebellious horses. War horses, ranch horses, draft horses, big horses, small horse, maybe a few Shetland and Welsh ponies too. Theyl carry rebel bloodlines. Wild horses. Feral horses. Mustangs.

 I move on, the trail is faint. Few people walk it. There are no boot prints. I see a rattlesnake, we give each other space.

There are birds, meadowlarks, two note whippoorwills, Teddy Roosevelt called them poor wills. 9 different hawks live out here, doves, magpies, swallows. I like the swallows with the red badges on their wings. There are falcons, eagles, Bald and Golden, Osprey, crows, ravens, magpies and Vultures. There are a pair of hawks in the air, I watch one float on the updrafts, fold its wings and dive to snatch something from the ground.  

 There is a bird called Killdeer, its call sounds like "kill-deer". The English called it the Chattering Plover". Not far from here there is a town named Killdeer. 

The migratory birds are north of here now in the month of June, they’ll pass through again in the fall, ducks and geese of all kinds. I’ve seen them on the water on a cold, late October morning, thousands of them, so many their body heat creates fog on the cold water.. But this is summer and they are hundreds and hundreds of miles away raising their babies.

I walk better than 3 miles an hour in the city, out here, I’m slower, it’s rougher. I guess I’m covering maybe 2, maybe less, because of the stops. I settle on 2 miles an hour on average. It’s noon and I’ve been humping this pack for almost 6 hours. Time to rest, time to eat. I’ve walked 8 miles this morning, maybe more, maybe less.

When I’ve hiked with my family or friends, they accuse me of walking too fast. That’s why I like to hike alone. Bob Dylan wrote a line in “It Ain't Me Babe“, move at your own chosen speed. I’ll take Dylan’s advice anytime. It’s always good. At least for me it is.

I have a 2 and half gallon water bag, I’ve used about a third of it. The water out here is either muddy or muddy laced with alkali, either way it’s not good to drink. You can pump it through a filter or boil it, it still doesn’t taste good. I’ve had giardia once, I don’t want it again.

My lunch is hard salami, sharp cheddar cheese, crackers, a Fuji apple and Hershey Kisses. I really wish I had a cold beer.

When you’re backpacking, carrying a load on your back, you don’t want to stop for more than 15 minutes, if you do, you get stiff and you lose your motivation. My goal today is 13 miles, I'm motivated. I move out and as they used to say in the Army, I’m “moving out briskly.”

The trail leads into a break, then up to the top of another butte, at the top I look across to a broad valley. There is a large herd of buffalo, American Bison or  as the Lakota called them Pte. They once ranged in North America from Great Slave Lake in Canada down to the Mexican border and further south. They were found in the east as far north as New York state and down to Florida. We drove them to brink of extinction, a noble animal with millions of years of evolutionary history. We almost erased the Bison in less than a 100 years.  In 1830 there were 40 million buffalo roaming the US by 1900 there were 300. Why? So we could starve the plains Indians and move them onto reservations.

 I’m mesmerized by the Bison. In all the time they’ve been around the only predator that’s threatened them are people like me, like us.. The plains Indians, worshiped them,  conserved them and when they took one they used virtually every part of the Bison for food, clothing, housing, cooking utensils. The Bison was a precious resource, essential to their lives. Native Americans were good to the Bison and the Bison were good to them. Medical researchers and scientists have determined the healthiest and tallest people in North America for thousands of years were the plains Indians. Plenty of exercise obviously, a balanced diet from the land and the healthy, low fat Bison meat they ate was the reason for their good health.

Bison are tough animals, they’re extremely fast and agile, think of an NFL running back who  weighs a ton and is 3 times faster. Add to that a very bad temper. It’s not safe to get close to them and I won’t. The Park Service says more people are injured in our National Parks by Bison than by bears.

I watch the herd through my binoculars for a long time, I’m glad they’re are thriving again. I feel privileged to see them living as they always have. Living as they should live.

I head down the trail again, I’m happy, I feel good. It’s warm and breezy. I have a thermometer on the strap of my pack, it reads 81 degrees.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Living Rough...

When I lived in Boston's Back Bay, I spent a lot of my time on the streets, I walked to work, I walked to play and I walked my dog. I walked all the time.

When you walk, you get closer to everything, you not only see the weather, you feel it on your face and hands, if it's cold you feel it everywhere. You see people up close, you interact with them, you make friends with them. My fellow "dog people" and I would go out for drinks to celebrate our pet's birthdays for god's sake. Any excuse for a get together for cocktails. Hey, it was always fun!

Being on the street on a daily basis I got to know a guy named Vern. Big guy, barrel chested guy, big handed, big footed guy. Big Vern had thinning gray-blonde hair and a big friendly smile. 

Vern caught my attention one morning as he was shaving, a Gillette razor in his left hand, a small mirror in his right. Vern was shaving outside next to a park bench on Commonwealth Avenue, shaving in the early morning sunlight. On the bench was a backpack, a US Army Alice. On the ground, propped against the bench was a bundle of cardboard, a sleeping bag and a small pillow all wrapped and neatly tied in a clear plastic drop cloth.

After that I saw Vern almost everyday, the days I didn't see him, I figured the cops ran him off and he slept somewhere other than Comm Ave. 

Vern and I went from nods, to hellos, to short conversations. The dog liked Vern and so did I. Each morning I bought two coffees at Marlborough Market, one for me, one for Vern. Vern liked cream and two sugars, I skipped the sugar.

Over the summer I got Vern's story. He had been a skilled carpenter, his wife died of cancer 14 years ago, she was 38, Vern was 40 at the time. Vern started drinking heavily, he drank on the job, got fired, got fired again and again.Vern drank all day, everyday for 12 years. 

Out of work, behind on his mortgage, he did what drunks do, he got drunk. He crashed his pickup, totaled it. Arrested for DUI. Vern had no money, he spent 6 months in jail. When he was released on probation, everything he had was gone, no house, no furniture, no tools, no truck and no family to help him. 

Vern had to hit the streets, he'd been dry for 6 months. He was on the street, but he went to an AA meeting everyday at the Arlington Street Church. On warm days he sat on the bank of the Charles River, on cold or rainy days he could be found in the reading room at the Boston Public Library. Vern kept himself clean, as clean as somebody who lives outside year round can be. I'd let Vern shower at my place, he used my washer and dryer too. 

Winter was coming, one morning in November it was 10 degrees outside. When I handed Vern his coffee, I asked him why he didn't spend the night at a shelter. All he said was, "Have you ever spent the night at a shelter?" I never have, but I think I knew what he was saying.

One of the dog people had an idea, she knew a woman, an older widow who owned a house on Comm Ave with 4 rental units. The woman was always complaining how difficult it was to find a good handy man. Vern came over to my place, showered, washed his clothes and I gave him an old winter jacket of mine. he looked good and ready to interview. 

The dog friend introduced Vern to the lady with the apartment building. She liked Vern and liked him even better when she heard his story. She made a deal with Vern. In exchange for taking care of her building, doing the routine maintenance, he could have the dark, tiny, impossible to rent efficiency apartment in the back of her building's basement. 

Vern took her offer. he was off the street for the first time in a long, long time. Within a year Vern was the go-to handy man in that part of the Back Bay. He's healthy, happy and warm in the winter. And he's got a few bucks in his pocket, the last time I saw Vern, he bought our morning coffee.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

"That Son of a Bitch!"

After the 3 radio stations I managed in LA were sold…that made a total of 6 sold in 11 years. I’d had it with the radio business….

Of course, I decided to take one more shot.

I bundled together the money, made an offer on a station in Boston, the guy accepted the offer, we shook hands on the deal. My lawyer sent him a purchase agreement. 

This was Thursday, I was excited as hell. I flew home to LA on Friday morning, I was a little hung over from the celebration with Sharp in Boston on Thursday night, but I was good.

My wife picked me up at LAX, we stopped at Pann’s for lunch. I had chicken and waffles, she had a salad. We laughed, we made plans and decided we’d move to either Beverley or Marblehead. I voted  for living in the Back Bay again, but somehow in a democracy of two, she has more votes than I do.

I waited the entire weekend for the purchase agreement to show up, I was supposed to get the document via email and then a signed hard copy to sign and send back with a 10% deposit. I didn’t get it Friday or Saturday. I didn’t get it on Sunday. I called him at noon pacific time on Monday.

He answered his phone on the 8th ring.

“Oh hi, I was just going to call you.” He said.

“Hey man I haven’t got the purchase agreement yet.”

“Well, I ah…ahh.”

“Do we have a problem?”

“Well, uh huh, yes.” he says. I could smell the sweat from all the way across the country.

“If you tell me what the hang up is, let’s get it fixed.”

“I’m sorry, but I’ve sold the station already.”

“What? You already sold it to me last Thursday. We had a god damned deal, you and Sharpie and I pounded it over breakfast, we agreed on everything. For Christ’s sake, you sat there and made a deal with me and you were working another deal at the same time?”

“Not really.” He sounded nervous.

“What do you mean not really, what did you do, use our agreement to leverage more money from another buyer? I’ve known you for 15 fucking years, you’ve eaten at my house, you’ve been over at Christmas. My wife thinks you walk on water. We’ve hung out together, I sat by your hospital bed when everybody thought you were going to die from a god damn stroke…and this how you fuck with your friend?”

“It isn’t like that, not at all, I uh, kind of had this going on before we talked and uh…”

“Why didn’t you say something?”

“It kind of came up after we talked last week.”

“We didn’t just talk, we made a deal, we forged an agreement and we shook hands on it. It was done.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

“Sorry enough to complete our deal?”

“I can’t, the other deal is done.” He said.

“How much more money did you get?”

“Way less money.”

“What, you sold it for less money?”

“I sold it to the Archdiocese, for 250 grand cash and a 1.9 million dollar tax credit, plus they are going to rent the tower site from me and pay a monthly fee for program production and studio rental. They signed a ten year deal on the studio and a 25 year deal on the tower site.”

“I hope you and Jesus get along….and I hope his checks are good.”

I hung up the phone. I was pissed. The minute I set it down, Sharpe the broker called from New York.

“Did you get the agreement back yet?”

“No. He fucked me and you at the same time.”

I told Sharp the entire story, when I finished he said, “That son of a bitch.”

I hadn’t hung up from Sharpe for more than a couple of minutes when the phone rang again. It was a guy I’d worked for early in my career, he called to congratulate me on becoming a station owner, I told him the story, when I finished, he said, “That son of a bitch.”

I took the dog to the park and threw the ball for him until my arm damn near fell off, I got back, checked my phone, two messages. I called back, told them what happened and guess what? The son of a bitch thing. Both times.

When my wife got home, I told her the story of my day. She didn’t say anything, she got up poured herself a glass of wine, came back into my office. She looked at me and said, “That son of a bitch.”

Monday, April 2, 2018

Memories and Old Airplanes

Santa Paula has a small private airport  with a wonderful history, it opened in 1928. ( It's home to just over 300 aircraft, many of them historic, some military, some private, it's a busy little place with almost 100,000 take offs and landings yearly. Every Sunday the airport  has an open house and the public can wander around the airport, the little museum, talk to the aircraft owners and watch the plans take off and land. Santa Paula Airport brought back memories for both Cakes and I. 

My father was a WWII pilot, he fell in love with flying when he was a young farm boy,when he flew with a barnstormer in an old Jenny. Dad was hooked for life. He joined the Army Air Corps cadet program when WWII broke out. After the war my dad taught flying in a Army surplus J3 Piper Cub. One of his students was a local car dealer, he convinced Dad he shouldn't be a school teacher and the rest is history.

The first plane I can remember flying in was a Stinson Station Wagon. We flew it to Iowa to see one of Dad's WWII pilot buddies, Mom was right seat and my Cocker spaniel, Dusty  and I were the passengers. mom brought a potty chair along "just in case"

Here's another "station wagon" we saw yesterday, a late 40's Chevy Suburban

I flew with my Dad in a Stearman biplane, I could barely see out of the cockpit..we saw this beautiful restoration yesterday. Helmet and googles required.

I flew with dad in Er Coupes and Naviatons...the Naviaon was built on the WWII T-10 airframe, tough as nails. Yes, the seats got wet when it rained or snowed.

We flew in every Cessna made including the light twins. Dad's all time favorite single engine  aircraft to fly was the V Tail Beech Bonanza, the Bonanza was the first high performance single available to the public. Beech is still building them. The Bonanza will cruise at 160 knots for almost 600 miles,, we could fly the 2100 miles from ND to Florida in 11 hours of flight time, we'd stop 4 times for food and bathroom breaks, we could have made it with 3 stops, but Dad would never push the margins.

Beech doesn't build the V Tail anymore, it's hard to fly since it was quirky for inexperienced pilots. My dad had in addition to his Private pilot's license, he had his instrument, mult-engine ( up to 4) he was an instructor, he could do acrobatics and sky was licensed to fly float planes and ski planes too.

His dream and mine was to get me licensed by age 14, I was well on my way when he had his first heart attack the summer I turned 14.The FAA grounded him for several years. I took some lessons later in my early 30's and soloed in 5 hours, Dad's teachings came rushing back and flying seemed so natural and easy., Soloing was enough for me. I still think about flying though.

I would have loved to have the old man with us yesterday at Santa Paula, the hours we spent there with the old airplanes were bittersweet.

One last plane, this is a restored 1936 Howard, 19,000 hours of restoration, the owner still flies the old Howard a lot, it's leaving soon for a trip to Idaho Falls. It's got a hopped up Pratt and Whitney rotary engine giving it about 150 more horse power than stock, it performs as well as any modern single but uses much more fuel. The plane is flawless. The owner's father had one when he was a boy.