Saturday, June 2, 2012

Missoula: Small city of franchises

I met Marla at the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch last year, and she and I hit it off. We always went out to the bars together to dance. I decided to visit since she lived only four hours from my destination.

It turns out that where Marla is staying near Missoula is actually only a 2.5 hour drive from Glacier National Park. I guess I could have finished the Lake McDonald hike I'd started after all. Oh well. When Marla got home from work, she and I went out. She wanted to hike to the "M" on the hill next to the university in the city. We started up the wrong trail, and crossed maybe 1/4 mile of very wet grass to find the actual trail. By the time we found it we were exhausted, and Marla said we were a long way off, so we decided to head down instead. It started raining harder anyway. I liked hiking up better than hiking down--although the path was zig-zagged, it was still steep and hard on the knees.

We went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. The food made me feel icky, but it tasted well enough. There are no diners or small restaurants from what I saw of Missoula--everything is a chain or a franchise. If Marla started her own restaurant, I think she'd be well off, or she'd have a lot of customers at least.
 Here are three of Mike and Melissa's children and their giant dog, Napoleon. They said he's just over a year old. That's wild. He smelled like skunk and was shedding all over the place. Melissa homeschools the kids and she gave me a banana pudding recipe. She packed me a lunch of leftover baked mac & cheese, her Olive Garden Salad, and her delicious banana pudding. She and Mike have been living in Montana for only a couple of years. They let us sleep in their camper that night.
This is the house that Mike and Marla are working on. They just finished the roof. Mike has a contractor's license and was working on cabinets before they took on this roofing project. It's been raining in the area for a good week or so, and whenever they come home they're filthy. It was interesting to see Marla at work in an outdoor environment; I've always seen her as housekeeper, server, or kitchen assistant. It suits her, I think. She's going to have experience in every work skill in existence.

Glacier Drizzle

 Glacier National Park. These are the ruins from a forest fire. The trees are ghostly in the fading light; understandable, since they're dead. Because I drove in at night, I got through the gates for free. I also came in on the 14-or-so-mile dirt road. Driving on dirt roads is not fun in a car like mine.

I applied to work at Glacier this summer, but didn't get the job.
 I woke to this view. I crashed in a parking lot next to the bathrooms in Apgar Village. Although it was only 11 p.m., there was no one around, so I felt no qualms about running out to the bathroom in my underwear. It was the first time I camped in my car and got to use a real flush toilet and a sink, other than outside a store. I loved it. And after I calmed myself and stopped thinking about grizzlies smelling the sweet kielbasa I cooked earlier, I slept soundly.
 An older ranger told me that Rocky Point was a short hike. So I went there and took the trail to the McDonald Lake Campground. I hiked in the drizzle for a good hour, then turned around, because I had to get to Missoula at a relatively decent time, and I thought I had a four hour drive ahead of me.
 The burn is dark as pitch; imagine two deep green eyes staring out at you.
 This view on my return trip through the burnt woods.
I took this picture at Rocky Point, which I saw on my trip back. 
I saw this on the side of the road somewhere and had to stop to take a picture. There are a lot of things that I got too lazy to stop for, and I kick myself every time I think about them. Like when I saw a calico cat curled up on a rusty hood and didn't bother taking a picture. The cat almost blended in with the rust.

Friday, June 1, 2012


 I arrived in Seattle just in time for the free FolkLife Festival. There are free concerts, and there are dozens of bands, singers, dancers and hustlers hanging out on the corners. I really like this band--the fiddle is my thing. They played a few modern songs, and also some I'd never heard before. The interesting part is that the entire band except for the man on the far right, are all in their 20s.

I also saw a two-person band on another corner: a woman playing an accordion, and a man playing a saw, the kind that bends. The saw made the strangest sound I have ever heard, it sounded like it came straight out of a horror movie. I bet it would keep any wild animals at a distance.

The street bands played all music: jazz, rock, pop, folk, and so on. It was amazing, and by far the best part of the festival.
This is definitely what I imagine a gypsy would dress like, although I never imagined that her musician would be playing the bagpipes.
 This girl taught me and Sierra some Irish step dancing. This was the only real dancing I've done in weeks. I'm dying to get to Yellowstone and leave for town bars to go swing-dancing again.

Another thing I NEED to mention about Seattle: pot and drugs. Everyone that I met was very upfront about their personal drug use. One guy was carrying a white rat on his shoulder, and he let me hold it for a second. When I gave her back, the guy said, "Just so you know, I'm selling liquid mushrooms..." at which point I interrupted and said, "Actually, I'm a straight-edge, but thanks." And he was so cute!

Another guy was spinning a heavy black pole and he let me have a go at it. He told me that the ends were thick because they could be lit on fire and spun in the dark. I thought he was cool. I told him my name and he said he probably wouldn't remember it because he was so high on mushrooms. He tried to get my number, but I told him I don't give it to strangers, and I'm from Massachusetts anyway, which seemed to satisfy his drive.

Later, some friends of Miguel's invited me to come with them to a heavy metal concert. It was held beneath apartment rooms in a corner of the city. The room was tiny and full of smoke. I stood in the doorway for ten minutes, trying to keep my stomach from churning. After turning down a joint that was offered my way for the second time, I told my group I was heading out, and left. The air outside was clear and delectable. I don't know what it is about me and smoke but I don't think it's going to fade anytime soon.

I slept in my car in a grocery store parking lot. The wind was loud and it felt like it would be cold the next day.

 Miguel's friend Greg took us to the Wayward Vegan for breakfast. He got two blueberry pancakes and a plate of veggied-up biscuits and gravy (all vegan, of course.) It was delicious! And he wouldn't take my money for it.
 The day following the concert, Miguel didn't want me to leave with awful impressions of the city, so he took me on a tour. This is the gasworks park; it must have been an old mill or something back in the day. Now all the pipes are painted bright colors and posted signs read: KEEP OFF. "Can you tell why this is a great place for Parkour?" He asked. Look at all the places people could climb? I wanted to climb all of it...
 This is the Goblin under the bridge (the Aurora, I believe). That's a real VW bug under its giant hand. It wa built in 1990 for no obvious reason.

He showed me around the U-District, and other places that I can't remember the name of...we walked down Broadway. From the outside I thought that The Metro Clothing Company might be my scene, and it proved to be: shiny black and red corsets, long dresses, high heels with clockwork cemented to the heel, metal spider rings, and more. I was blissful. However, blessed store or not, I was not dropping $113 on a short red and black dress, no matter how beautiful the design was, or how soft the material.

This is the gum wall at Pike's Marketplace. It's just as well that the marketplace was closed when we got there, because my camera died right after I took a couple pictures of this wall. Look closely--sometimes there are secret messages in the inches-thick gum.

Miguel says that this is the marketplace where guys toss raw fish around and yell out prices and sales and stuff.

Water and Begging

The drive to the rainforest appeared unfriendly to the homeless and the beggar. I later realized that Seattle is  overflowing with people playing on the streets or outright begging for money. Still, I'd never seen a sign like that above before.
 Miguel found the watering hole. People gather here, like it's a cool hangout. A few were working on a mosaic made of glass or pieces of porcelain.
This person told us that the spring's water is 10,000 years old. We emptied my bottles of store-bought or faucet-filled water, and filled them with some of this untarnished water instead.

Rain Forest


 Miguel and I drove by this cemetery on our drive east to the Olympic National Forest. We had to stop to survey the damage. Along the roads short pine trees were planted and have begun growing in an attempt to hide the destruction. There were miles of trunks and probably hundreds of pounds of tree branches and bark left behind--wood that Miguel considered, briefly, for firewood, until we found that it was wet to the touch. If you're going to cut down the forest, why not take all of it? I felt like a fairy-creature on "Fern-Gully."

I met Miguel last summer on my drive through San Francisco.
 This is the world's largest Spruce tree. It's 191 feet tall, and 1,000 years old. If you look at where Miguel is walking, you can tell how large the tree is in comparison. It was fun climbing around the trunk, which seemed like it was built for circling, because the base wrapped around like a rough spiral staircase.

The river is strong, the color like a pale blue flower, nearly white.
 This is a giant dreamcatcher made of barbed wire. I assume it's a dreamcatcher, anyway. We didn't see the "No Trespassing" sign until we were driving away.

 We move closer to the rain forest. Even the air tastes wet. The clouds were overpowering in many spots.
 We drove 14 or so miles down a pot-hole-studded dirt road, looking for a place to pull over and camp out. Finally we found this long U-turn, and pulled in there, hiding my car behind a stand of trees in hopes that it would not be spotted. Our first day there was no rain. It still took Miguel nearly two hours to get a fire started (well, it is a rainforest) with our damp wood, damp sticks, and damp moss, while I dissected onions and stuffed them with hamburger. As difficult as carving the onions was, I preferred my "woman's" task to that of starting the damn fire. 

The second day, just after we got back from our hike, it began to rain. The clouds weren't going away, and it felt heavy. "We better do something," I said, "it feels like it's going to pour." So far, we'd been able to lean under the giant tree behind us, and it kept half of the table dry, but rain was falling faster. I grabbed my tent tarp from the car and we started stringing it up. In minutes, the sagging places in the tarp were filled with puddles. Luckily Miguel had twine and patience, and we had a fairly protected eating-place. 

 The bark of some trees reminded me of the fire-resistant bar of the Sequoias, only whereas the Sequoia bark felt spongey, this bark was hard.
Branches like the weak arms of beautiful ladies, soft green moss dangling from their wrists. 
 Crossing a mossy log is easier than crossing one with no moss at all; bare bark has a slippy, dangerous surface. The only problem with moss is than it can hide rot or it can slide off and take you with it.
 This picture shows how large these trees are. They weren't as tall as the Redwoods, but hiking beneath them felt just as majestic.
 That's me. I really liked the giant roots sticking out of the ground. It reminds me of the frill of a triceratops (the back part, which tends to be spiky, much like the pointy roots).
 What does this branch remind you of? Have you ever seen "Rocko's Modern Life?" Remember Heifer?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

City of Grunge #2

On my drive into Seattle the skies were overcast (go figure) and these lyrics played on the radio as it began drizzling: "Rain keeps falling down, down, down..." It's called "Don't You Forget About Me," by Billy Idol. Although the story has nothing to do with rain, I like that it came on during that time.

According to many, Seattle has the best beer. I'm not sure how true this is (considering that I HATE beer) but this bar is sure selling a lot!
My Seattle host, Krys, and I swapped wardrobes for a night at the karaoke bar "Yen Wor", "better known as 'The Young Whore'," Krys said. She braided my hair and I learned to not make sudden movements or risk the plastic boning stab into my ribs. The bar turned out to be pretty dead on a Wednesday night, and I sang six or seven songs, beginning with Faith Hill's "The Way You love Me," and ending with "Hotel California" (I've gotten very good at singing this song).

There was this guy there alone. He had a wonderful voice, and I invited him to sing "Moondance," with me, which he did. We sounded good, but sometimes forgot where words came in and we pretty much sliced that song into bitty pieces. It was a good time, and there weren't enough people in the bar to be broken up about it. The night was full of meeting stranger-boys and Krys trying to get me to leave, "but I've got one more song!"--and no one danced. I sang "Stray Cat Strut," in hopes that someone would dance. But no one did. I ended up dancing alone for a few songs, but it wasn't the same.

City of Grunge #1

We discussed grunge and music and people who conform to nonconformity yet flock together; but we didn't discuss anyone like this. My host in Portland, Oregon had taken us out to a concert to see a few no-name bands. The second turned out to be all right, but not anything much to dance to for me, since I'm so used to goth music now. Meet Guy-in-the-fake-fur-cap. I didn't catch his name since it wasn't offered to me; my host to the right, Arya, heard his name but she forgot it quickly. I had actually dragged us into initial contact with this guy. He was asking us about clubs in the area, so I assumed he was a traveler like me; not so. He said he was from Portland and didn't go out much, which left me immediately disinterested. He talked about poetry and then he and Arya got into a conversation about South America--she stayed there for five months, visiting Ecuador and Argentina, among other places.

While they talked, I admired the treehouse in the center of the room and the writing on the walls in the bathroom. Writing on bathroom walls, and toilet paper dispensers, and doors, seems to be a passionate passtime for people in the small-town city (Arya's view). It became clear that neither Arya nor myself were interested in no-name-fur-cap, so we got away and left just after the third band got onstage.
We admired the way these boys were touching this pool table. "It reminds me of 'Gossip Girl'," she said, those books with the active images on the cover, waists and legs walking with shopping bags barely visible in the top corners; no faces visible. Everyone at the concert (maybe they don't call it that?) was dressed down, it seemed: baggy t-shirts and sweaters, pants, messy hair and hats; no one was attractive. I felt out of place, and thought that maybe Arya did too, since she was wearing the lowest top in the building. I never asked.

Arya likes dancing, but it seemed like no one else did. I am no longer used to the stillness of bodies in a room blaring music, it seems rude, almost disrespectful in a way. It isn't classical jazz or opera, people, it is music, just live a little! I never would have said something like that before last summer.

Arya studies anthropology in town. She doesn't seem to like it as much as she thought she would, saying that her school is "liberal-arts" based, meaning that there is no doing, that it's all textbooks and studying. However, since she is an anthropologist, and I am a journalist, we got along very well, and talked for hours about everything from major-related studies to our favorite teas. Part of me wishes I had asked to stay just one more night, but I decided to head to Seattle.

Snow Cap Dream


Of all the places Eric told me I should visit in Oregon, I only stopped at the Painted Hills and here: the Timberline Lodge. I went form the slightly-wet, warm base of this mountain, up to the top where fog rolled in like rolls of fat down an overweight man's waist. The wind was biting and fierce, and I swear that it was driving sleet into my eyes. Finding the famous building which was used as the outside for "The Shining," was not easy in the fierce weather.
There were many quirky furnishings in the lodge, but this animal-hide lampshade it one of my favorites.
 This is the upstairs bar/dining area. Every table and chair was wooden, although the chairs were all different and there didn't seem to be any order to where they'd been placed. The stone chimney stands in the center of the room; it's as round as some Sequoia trees.
another suggestion from Eric. I brought my computer and updated my blog while drinking a mug of hot chocolate--specifically named: "Snow Cap Dream." It was hot chocolate with a stick of cinnamon, toffee bits, lots of whipped cream and caramel. It was delicious, although I still can't decide if it was really worth the nearly $5 it cost.

Burn and Release

My beautiful purple blanket got stuck in the jam of my trunk the night before. The trunk would neither open nor close fully, so I turned the rear light off and decided to leave it for morning. In the morning, I went back to trying to figure it out. I had to sit in the rear end of the car, on top of bags of clothes and my blankets, while trying to come up with a solution. I considered cutting the piece from the blanket...but obviously that wouldn't work; the piece would still be stuck around the jam. So, without really thinking about it, I decided the only way was to burn the blanket out.

I had my water bottle close by, and wet the part of the blanket that was caught just to be safe. It took several matches, and several attempts at lighting the blanket down under the latch instead of letting it move up toward my hand, but it worked! The flame burned the corner that was caught and the trunk opened with a satisfying click.

I stayed with Krystine in Bend, Oregon the night I got my blanket caught. She lives in a cute two-bedroom house with her dog Quincy. She has frequent epileptic attacks, and told me not to freak out if she had one in the morning. She tends to fall asleep with the TV on so that her eyes are never completely in the dark, since total darkness can send her into an attack. It sounded scary, and also debilitating. She can't have a license because she never knows when it will happen, and most of her family lives only a few doors away. There wasn't a lot of food in her house since she eats often at work. There was a basket of plastic apples on the counter. On the table there were a few candles that she can't light because of the epilepsy. I wish I hadn't driven for 13 hours and could have talked to her more.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Banks Lowman Road (from Idaho to Oregon)

 The Banks Lowman Road is the route you want to take through possibly all of Idaho. If you like soaring mountains covered in green, with a river running through it, this is heaven. I found it difficult not to take a thousand pictures, and I still wish I'd gotten more.
It might sound dirty, but this is one crack I want to climb. The problem is, it's right along the road, a very bad place for climbing. And I didn't have a partner to belay me.

 I might have been in Oregon for this picture.
 Welcome to the Picture Gorge. Go look it up.
I was upset that I was getting to the Painted Hills at such a late time, but this turned out to be a good thing; with the falling sun and the rain, a rainbow had formed stretching from one side of the hills to the other.
 The deep blush on sand looks so much like a rash or a burn that it's almost painful to look at. But it's beautiful as well.