The Good Life

It is sunset, or getting on that way; the sky is still light, but starting to show pink over toward the ocean. The koi are splashing happily in their pond (or at least they seem happy from here) and the sound of the waterfall is soothing.

That paragraph took about ten minutes to write; I thought I was out of the traffic lanes but several family members stopped by to say hello. I am at a family reunion, a gathering of friendly folk who have quite a bit if DNA in common — and the people who went and got married to them. There are a lot of Seegers here, and a lot of Jerrys, but I am the only Jerry Seeger.

The kids and the koi have developed a working relationship — the kids bring bread and the glorified carp eat it. It’s a relationship that brings satisfaction to both parties.

Only, as I typed the above, the elder of the younger set informed me, “we’re going to try to annoy the fish.” Which makes me wonder: Is the ability to be annoyed a measure of intelligence? Angry’s pretty easy, but it seems like annoyance might require a little more imagination. He’s going to do it again, I just know it. Oh! There! He did it again! I knew it! Damn that pisses me off!

The youngest of the young ones just showed me her stick. “Nice and sharp!” she informed me. Oh, to be young again.

What was I going to write about again?

A Late Easter Celebration

Were you to see That Girl and me crouching in front of the microwave, laughing like idiots while watching Peeps expand into large marshmallow spheres, you might at first be inclined to blame the second bottle of wine. However, last Easter That Girl had stocked up on Peeps just so we could nuke them. She wanted me to see the glory that is a Peep in a microwave. Glorious it is, my friends.

The yellow granulated sugar and graham cracker crumbs all over the floor the next morning, those you can blame on the wine.

Another Brief Message to the Gatorade Marketing Team

A while back, while on a road trip, I wrote a message to the boys at Gatorade. In a nutshell, I told them that all the flavors were silly, and many of the names of the flavors were downright stupid. To that I have this to add:

Lemon-lime and strawberry mixed together are awful. Making the result the same color as regular lemon-lime is criminal.

Thoughts while Sitting at My Desk

I am sitting in our office right now — I am at my desk and That Girl is behind me, working on a project of her own. This is a very satisfying way to be, for a wide variety of reasons.

First, of course, is the very presence here of a place called ‘my desk’, to be found in ‘our office’ in a home that also contains That Girl. The second satisfying thing is the presence of That Girl’s desk in the same office. Third, there is the fact that we are both able to be productive in this arrangement. (Your definition of ‘productive’ might not match mine — for instance I consider writing this blog to be productive.) So that’s all good.

It’s critical that we can get things done in this arrangement, as That Girl was laid off while I was out stomping around in Kansas. If you don’t count the whole “no money, no security” part of the equation, it’s working out pretty well. That Girl has been ramping up her online poetical presence, working to market herself and maybe even get to where she can support herself doing what she loves most.

I’m hoping to get to that place as well, of course. I’ve been spending the last week working on Jer’s Novel Writer. A recent operating system update made a few pieces work oddly. (Yes, that is a euphemism for ‘wrong’.) While I had the hood up I wanted to fix a couple of other issues. The software is nearly ready for release, better than ever, but that hasn’t left a lot of space in my brain for using the software for its intended purpose, which happens also to be my intended purpose.

Once I get this release out, I will be turning back to my writing (and, ideally, blogging). I have a whole bunch of things to work on. At the start of the week I thought, “I’ll get that bug fixed and then get one thing ready for submission per day for the rest of the week. Here it is Friday and there’s not much rest of the week left.

If I sigh really heavily, sometimes That Girl rolls across the office and gives me a hug.

Road Music

Is it just me, or is the dinosaur rock of my youth fundamentally superior road music? ZZ Top or Boston just seems to lift the car a little bit. I wonder if the loss of roadliness in modern pop music is a reflection of changing values in our country, the fading of the American Road Myth.

I figured if the road was anywhere in American music anymore it would be country, but you know what? If the sampling I found on various radio stations today is any indicator, it’s not. A couple of tunes displayed a sense of humor missing in other pop genres, but the road wasn’t to be found there, either.

Has America lost its musical road mojo, or am I just imprinted from my golden days of youth?

More Road

I write this in Kingman, AZ. When I set out this morning I asserted that today was about miles, gobbling up highway and not getting distracted by the little blue lines on the map. I even drove with the top up much of the day. To call the drive a success, however, I really should still be on the road, chewing up a few more miles. Tomorrow will be a long drive.

With the top up, it is still possible to have Road Trip Moments, and often music will play a larger role, due to reduced wind noise. As I hit the ramp from I-25 to I-40 the Who was playinig “Going Mobile”, and the Mountain Dew purchased at Santo Domingo was kicking in. Hell, yeah, baby, the po-lice and the tax man won’t catch me, I’m mobile.

Still, the freeway is a marvel of engineering designed to make travel boring, and it did its job admirably.

Somewhere around Gallup I was in the slow lane (being a fine, upright, law-abiding citizen), and I saw a white dog standing right in the middle of the fast lane, fairly well camouflaged. I was already aware of the BMW and the semi truck side-by-side behind me; things looked very bad for the dog. My plan: ease over closer to the dog and honk the horn, startling him into the median. Still not ideal, but better than where he was.

My plan had one major flaw: by the time I came up with it, I was well past the dog, and watching the drama unfold in my rear-view mirror. I didn’t really want to see a dog get smushed, but I couldn’t not look, either. The BMW driver didn’t see the dog until the last moment, and swerved toward the median to avoid it. The dog got a clue at last, and skipped away from the hurtling sport sedan — almost, but not quite, into the path of the truck. The last I saw, the dog was standing, straddling the white stripes as the truck blew past it. I do not know the end of that story.

I could have sworn there was a gas station just past Winslow that was relatively cheap. There isn’t. Yours truly was getting a little worried for a while. I turned off the Air Conditioning to improve mileage, and buy the time I found fuel I was One Sweaty Dude. I put the top down when I refueled, and turned off the music. It was having a tendency to drag me out of the story I have been playing with in my head.

Other than that, there’s not much to report from today’s travels. I now return to Mad Dog’s Dog House for dinner. I wonder if they’ll remember me from last winter.

A Long Ramble

Note: When you spend a long time driving, you have a lot of time to think of stuff. I pulled a few paragraphs out of this episode and put them in one of their own, but this is still one hell of a muddled ramble. Even without the Theology and sociology, we’ve got us some philosophy, a (somewhat disguised) treatise on storytelling, thoughts on agricultural practices, lovely, curvaceous roads, and lunch. Not in that order.

I slept rather late this morning, in a awkward position it would seem as my entire left arm was numb when I finally stirred. I lifted it and flexed it, enjoying the curious feeling while it lasted. How nice it is to be easily amused.

Awake, showered, ponytailed and behatted, coated liberally with PABA, I got the hell out of Dodge. One more life ambition checked off. I headed in the direction of Garden City. All around me food was being made. Big round fields of it stretched across the landscape, the radius of the circles defined by the length of the irrigation pipe. I heard the grumbling engines working to draw the water from the depths and pump it out to the thirsty plants. Sometimes I passed other factories dedicated to turning the vegetable food into meat food. The only exception to the single-minded devotion to food production was an occasional oil well. One way or another, it was all about energy.

I was well past Garden City when I started to wonder if that was the way I really should be going. Not so much, it turns out. At Lakin I made a course correction, crossing the Arkansas River and heading due south on Sunflower 25. The Arkansas was bone dry. As I went south the land became more sere, the spaces between the verdant circles greater and the uncultivated areas scrubbier. It occurred to me that, like the oil, the water would run out some day as well.

The highway was not crowded, and I was gradually catching up to an SUV. I thought I smelled burning rubber, and soon after a cloud of blue smoke came from the left side of the SUV. Only after a few more seconds did the driver hit his brakes and begin to move to the side of the road, the smoke getting thicker all the while. At first it was difficult to tell in the mirage of the hot pavement, but it seemed like something was separating from the truck. The something resolved itself into a tire, or at least the tread of a tire, a big rubber donut bounding across the road and into the ditch on the other side. The SUV pulled over, its naked, shiny chrome rim shooting sparks as it dragged across the pavement. The truck had super-low-profile tires on expensive wheels, and one of the tires had lost its sidewalls and gone off on its own. Important note to people who buy fancy tires like that: Check the pressure often. Those tiny sidewalls don’t give you any room for error.

Hugoton is an attractive little farm town, and I decided it would be a good place to break my fast. I stopped at Dominoes, which was doing a fair lunch business when I walked in. It may surprise you to learn that I was the only long-haired male in the place wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sandals. As any Czech will tell you, however, a friendly hello to the people in charge will almost always be returned in kind, and I found I had stumbled into a very friendly place. By Czech standards. The men in their blue jeans and shirts with snaps discussed offshore drilling and the price of oil (down nine cents), along with farm topics, and the waitress spent her time trying to drown me with iced tea. Ah, America! When I paid, she asked, “do you want some ice tea to go?”

I joined highway 56 in its dogged pursuit of WSW, across the Oklahoma panhandle. It’s the sort of road that people joke isn’t 100 miles but the same mile 100 times. One mile was different, however. At the side of the road was a cross, elaborately decorated. Someone had died there, presumably as the result of an automobile accident. I had to wonder, why there? Sometimes when you see a roadside memorial you can piece together what happened. A sudden curve or the end of a passing lane. You can see the threat the driver faced and understand it. Other times, like this time, there are no such clues, no such reason. It could have been any place along that road. But it happened there, at that mile, and that is where the story ends (or begins?), and that mile is forever changed.

I imagine there were people who asked, why him? after the accident. Perhaps there were clues, the driver’s own personal dangerous curves — drugs or alcohol or fatigue or cell phone. Perhaps not. Perhaps, just like that unlikely mile, there was nothing to mark that person for death. Someone else ran him off the road. He had a blowout. In that case, why him is just as meaningless as why there. There’s really now answer at all, no reason it might not be me next time.

Fuel in Clayton, and a decision to take the Cimarron-Taos scenic route. Not a difficult choice, really. I found myself on the sort of road small sports cars are made for, on the sort of day that convertibles are made for. (Note to drivers of big-ass pickup trucks creeping along at twenty miles per hour: If you see a bunch of cars behind you, just pull over for a moment. It’s obvious you’re not in a hurry anyway.)

How is it that Taos, NM, has near-perpetual traffic problems?

Now I am at the folk’s house, windows open, the temperature comfortably cool, thinking that I’ve spent way too much time blogging tonight (as I’m sure many of you will agree), especially since I have a story I thought up out there on the road that I want to start working on. That’s the thing about the road — you just can’t stop thinking of stuff.