It was August of 2010. I saw the lights of Anchorage from the seat of my plane as we prepared for landing at Ted Stevens International Airport. My family had lived in Anchorage for a few years when I was very young but at age 32, this was my first time back in Alaska, as an adult. This trip had begun in my imagination, about a year before, as I walked around the Indianapolis Zoo. I was fascinated by a placard about grizzly bears, located nearby to a rather sad looking, caged Griz. The placard told of how a woman was attacked by a grizzly bear, in the city of Anchorage no less, while out for a jog in the park. For some reason that resonated with me. It wasn’t a sadistic thing, I don’t take pleasure in the suffering of joggers. I was just completely enchanted by the idea of a state like Alaska, where bears and moose made their presence felt, even in the biggest of cities. It was strange, that moment, but …
For me, 2019 brought a big shift. In the fall of 2018 I knew that I needed to make a change. I had resigned my management position at McCarthy Lodge, at the end of the summer season, but it wasn’t quite clear what I should do next. Should I look for another seasonal summer Alaskan gig? Or should I look to do something else entirely? Was I going to continue to live my nomadic lifestyle, spending summers in Alaska and winters in California? To complicate matters, my health had suddenly taken a bad turn, back in the fall of 2018, and problems in my gut had led to me losing a great deal of weight (which was alarming because I’m already a skinny dude). I was feeling extremely low energy, to the point where a simple, short walk just about did me in for the day. At that point, all options were on the table.
I’m slowly working my way north in my subcompact Fiat 500, which I converted into a little camper car, of sorts. I stripped it down to the bare bones, took out all the seats with the exception of the drivers seat (which I admit to giving consideration, however short-lived, to the idea of taking it out as well), and I stuffed it full of stuff with just enough room for a sleeping area where I can stretch out long-ways on the side of the car that formerly housed the passenger-side seat.
I’m trying to make the most of my remaining time here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I start out tomorrow and in the meantime, I’m packing and getting the car ready for the trip up north to Alaska, but I try to squeeze in some walking and hiking time. I was hiking a few weeks back with an activist friend, Nick, a union organizer. I was introducing him to Fall Creek State Park, which is walking distance from my house. Fall Creek is also my go-to trail because apart from being so close and accessible it’s also not very heavily trafficked. It’s got all the splendor you’d expect from a Redwood forest — towering, serene trees, a barrage of gorgeous greenery, and a stillness that serves to refresh the civilization weary soul.
A week from last Saturday was the big kick off push for Bernie Sanders campaign volunteers. There were nearly five thousand gatherings across the country, many that congregated in living rooms and around kitchen tables and private homes, across the fruited plains. There were several in my area and since I wanted to get a pulse on how the campaign was going, I attended three of them.
I recently came across this little homily from one of my favorite spiritual teachers, James Finley. He’s been called the spiritual teacher that spiritual teachers listen to when they listen to spiritual teachers…or something like that… In any event, what makes him compelling has nothing to do with needing some kind of esoteric or highly specialized knowledge. It’s that he’s just had a mature presence, the picture of someone experienced, i.e. he has suffered, but he is also relaxed and calm, which always gives me a sense of reassurance, because when someone who is serene and light can talk about the deepest most difficult shit that we have to endure, then it means something. [Footnote: my auto-correct keeps changing “spiritual” to “Doritos.” I change it back, but I’m quite certain that there are Doritos teachers who are also fans of James Finley. There is no doubt in my mind.] In any event, if you have ten minutes to watch the homily, let me know what you think. [Note on photo: that’s early 2012, when I …
The other night I went to the restroom to pee. It was sometime after six, I think, and I was winding down my work day. I rounded the corner, and came to the restroom door and saw that it was being cleaned by an older gentleman. I said that I could come back later, which basically meant that I would just hold it until I got home, but he was gracious and pleasant and told me to use the restroom, please.
Irish pub in downtown Santa Cruz, shamelessly luring youth from the local University (UCSC) away from their studies.
The other day I was cowboy on a skateboard, doing his part to keep Santa Cruz weird.
Coastal California joins the fun of chilly winter weather. This is the first time that I’ve seen this kind of frosty freeze on my car windshield in the morning. Of course it isn’t like the brutal Midwest cold that I grew up with — Dakota drifts of snow that cover houses and small buildings, not is it like the icy Indiana roads that would send my car careening into the yard of one of the good folk of Winona Lake, Indiana, if I took a turn just a wee bit too fast — but it’s something, notable enough for a photo op.
Activism is good for the soul. I want to change the world, like anyone else, but for me activism is also extremely therapeutic. It reminds me that there are other people who see injustices in the world and believe in their bones that things don’t have to be this way. That’s especially true of big activist events like the Women’s March. It’s kind of a beautiful thing, to be surrounded by smiling faces and to snap a hundred pictures of the explosion in creativity that surrounds us: all the catchy and colorful signs, the carefully crafted costumes, the music, the chanting, and the chalk art on the streets. Yet in the midst of this exhilarating experience of solidarity, opposition and hostility can sometimes come from unexpected places and from unexpected people.
My new accounting gig is in downtown Santa Cruz. In order to avoid paying for parking, I prefer finding street parking up the hill, in the Mission district, an area with a beautiful Catholic Church and an old mission building. It’s a nice little walk, from the Mission district, but not too far, and I get a pretty view of downtown Santa Cruz, when it isn’t pouring rain. We’ve had a lot of rain — it’s the rainy season — but this morning it was clear and I caught the last little bit of the morning sunrise.
For me, 2018 was another bad year. Apart of me really hates to call a year “bad” — or any time period. We live and learn from any and all experiences, blah, blah. We call know that we can make the best of difficult situations, etc. A part of me gets it and understands that I can’t control the circumstances of my life and that in order to successfully navigate tough times, I ought to be mature and learn from shitty experiences, but some years are just harder than others. So, another part of me is fine with saying that 2018 sucked.
I got out on the bike for a few rides this spring, out among the big trees. Big Basin Redwoods State Park is only a short ride from the house — round trip of a little more than 20 miles or so — and there are several low-traffic roads to cycle on, here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Here’s a few pics: