Archive for May, 2008

She Said You Wanna Check Out A Rowdier Bar–It’s Saturday Night I Replied

May 31, 2008

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Superior, Wisconsin

July 27, ‘80

Biking was good, and I arrived in Duluth around 6 p.m. I didn’t stick around. Except for the hills, the old city wasn’t that impressive. On my way out of town, I had to cross a bridge that didn’t allow bicycles. The bridge connected Duluth to Superior, Wisconsin. There was a fifty dollar fine if you got caught crossing the bridge on a bicycle. The traffic wasn’t bad, so I rode across the bridge. Embedded in the pavement, in some spots, were large metal bars with gaping spaces between them. After almost wrecking my bike on the first two holes, I found that if I rode across the bars counter to the direction of the highway I stood a pretty good chance of not falling through the holes. It was a relief to make it to the other side of the bridge without a ticket, and in one piece.

I decided I needed a drink to celebrate my arrival in Wisconsin. Bars were not difficult to find in Superior, the place was full of them. Inside, I ordered up a nice 45-cent draft, and a pizza (even though it had sausage– for religious purposes I had given up eating red meat a couple of years ago). Some girls came in and sat at the bar next to me. One of them asked me if I wanted to check out a rowdier bar. I said, “Sure, it’s Saturday night, isn’t it!” I figured I could roll my sleeping bag out behind the gas station next to the bar. It was already dark, so I stashed my bike there, and went off with the girls.

Before long, I was out on the street, walking around in a drunken haze. For me, it was too many beers too fast. I remember being in one really crowded bar where I ran out of beer. Instead of pushing my way through the crowd to get another one, I walked over to a shelf by the pool tables and grabbed a full beer. With beer in hand, I just kept walking, right out of the bar. That incident was so totally out of character for me that I knew I had gone over my limit, but I had also lost the girls. Luckily, just before the panic set in, I ran into one of them on the street, and she and her friends drove me back to my bike. Behind the gas station, I more or less crawled out of the back seat of their car, and that’s where I remained until morning. When the sunshine and the gas station attendant intruded on my hangover space, I went looking for coffee.

I couldn’t enjoy bicycling. I felt a little better after I stopped at a restaurant and had pancakes, eggs, and corn beef hash. Actually, the corn beef hash wasn’t all that good (again the red meat), but I needed to get my alcohol-wracked body back in shape. I spent the night somewhere in the Wisconsin woods, and after the next morning’s breakfast, I finally started to feel normal again.

I’m presently cooking at a wayside about 20 miles from the Michigan border. I’m frying up some potatoes, onions, and eggs. I’ll be in tiptop shape when I cross the Michigan border tomorrow. The last three days have been beautiful. If my memory serves me correctly this is only the third time I have had three days in a row of good weather since Oregon.


July 29

It’s a beautiful morning in the upper peninsula of Michigan. I just met the wayside greeter lady. She’s very friendly, and quite a character. At 73 she’s still going strong. She lives with her son on a small farm.

Yesterday, while I was writing in my journal, the clouds started to roll in, and by the time I had finished eating breakfast, I had to don my rain gear. All total, I was in and out of the rain four times, but I missed the main cloudburst by hanging out in a store. It started really raining about 30 minutes after I reached the wayside. I almost got caught in it because when I pulled in this nice family immediately befriended me, and I was obliged to drink a beer with them. They were really nice people, but when the rain hit, I was still putting up my tent.

It doesn’t look like rain today, but the voice on the radio, coming out of one of the parked cars, just said thunderstorms for tomorrow. Oh well I guess I can handle a few more days of rain. Anyway, it looks like a super day today. Yesterday, when I was in and out of the rain, I noticed a bulge in my front tire–bummer. I had over a hundred miles to go before the next big town. I patched the tire on the inside
of the bulge. With that added strength, I should make it. That said, I am disappointed in myself; strapped to my sleeping bag, I carried a used spare tire all the way across
Canada. When I hit Minnesota, I threw it away. I figured I was home.

In The Winter They Got Snowed In A Lot, Sometimes For Weeks

Upper Peninsula Farm

July 30, ‘80

Hi journal. Lots to talk about.

Back at that wayside, before I was able to head out, the lady greeter came over to me and asked if I ever worked odd jobs. She wasn’t really offering me a job, but she was offering me food and a place to sleep if I would help her son put up bails of hay. It was bailing time back on her farm, and the job, apparently, was strenuous and a bit dangerous. “Normally I help him,” she said, “but I can’t get away today.” If I ever had a romantic daydream, it was putting up bails of hay in a barn’s loft. The closest I had ever got to living that dream was when I fed bails of hay into a mulcher. I worked for a sodding company and the hay kept the sod from drying out. Under those conditions, I found out what straw sticking to sweat felt like, but it still wasn’t the “real thing.” This time around, however, I wasn’t just going to throw bails of hay, I was going to see how people survive using only their God given wits and resources! After I told the lady I would help (and that was the easy part), I headed off to find the farm.

The farm was twelve miles northeast of the wayside. To get there I had to backtrack four miles, and then go north on a county road. After another four or five miles of pitted pavement, I found myself in “no man’s land,” and that’s when I made another turn and headed down a bumpy, gravel road, my eyes clued to the bulge in my front tire. After a mile or so, I began to regret my decision, but I gave my word, and besides, I was repulsed by the thought of wasted effort. Before I reached the farm, the road went from gravel to a dirt trail. After two and half miles of bicycling through the backcountry of northern Michigan, I came to the meadow where the farm was located. I was not happy. Scratching through my sweaty t-shirt the five or six insect bits that I accumulated along the way, I road up to the house and found nobody home. I sat on the steps of the back porch contemplating what to do next.

The house itself was a small, wooden structure, badly in need of paint. Out back was a falling down barn, and on the other side of that was the hay field. I was ready to leave when out of the hay field came this roaring motorcycle headed in my direction. I was warmly greeted once the guy on the motorcycle realized there was someone sitting on his back porch. After introductions (his name was also Guy), I explained to him that with a little coxing, his mother had gotten me to volunteer to help him put some hay in the barn. He just chuckled and said, “Yeah, she’s always looking after me, but I can handle it. And anyway, as you can see we don’t have a barn.”

I felt a little uncomfortable. Guy was right, the barn was good for only firewood, and there I was in the middle of nowhere, talking with this guy who didn’t seem to need my help. But more importantly, he wasn’t surprised to see me. It was as if I was just another “no name” his mother had sent him. I wanted to get on my bike and ride, but I bit my lip and said, “Well, here I am. What do you want me to do?” As long as you’re here,” he said, “I’ll go get the tractor and we’ll stack some hay.” And then back into the field he went on his motorcycle. Minutes later, he was back, pulling a wagonload of hay with his tractor.

Once I started working, I felt much better. Guy turned out to be a nice guy afterall. What I originally took to be slow wittedness wasn’t. Guy talked slow, even slurred his words, but he was not “slow.” He did have a hard time with why I was there, though. My desire to get a feel for what it’s like to be a farmer just didn’t make sense to him, but I couldn’t fault him for that. Before we were through, we had stacked 150 bales of hay, and secured the stack with plastic. The hay was protected from the long, cold, windy, Upper Peninsula winters by using tires strapped together with ropes (and in some cases chains) to hold down the plastic. “I always seem to lose the weather side, but the rest of the hay, or hopefully most of it, remains good throughout the winter,” he said. The hot, very hot afternoon sun saturated me in sweat, grit, and the smell of the barnyard. I was not disappointed. The conversation I had with Guy was the best part of it, though.

The Kitzman’s numbered nine children with twenty-nine year old Guy the only child still living at home. Together, he and his mother worked the farm. According to Guy, his seventy-three year old mother did the same work I was doing. (I didn’t know whether to be happy for her or sad. It was a little hard to believe, however.) All the children, except Guy, were born in the little shed out back. The shed now contained a calf and a very pretty colt. The Kitzman’s had lived on their farm for a long time. In fact, the gravel road I came in on was named Kitzman road. The farm itself was 350 acres, but only 150 were cleared. The farm fed 10 cows, 13 horses, 2 pigs, 2 geese, and one dog. They kept a grove of apple trees to keep the bees happy, and the bees produced
the Kitzman’s sugar. Sitting just inside the back porch was a milk separator and butter churn. Also, on the back porch, a huge number of houseflies were buzzing around. They were three or four inches deep on the window seal. When we went inside the house, after the work was done, I found myself sitting in room full of flies. “They’re here because of the heat,” Guy told me. “When the sun goes down, they thin out some.” They didn’t seem to bother Guy, but they did me. The room itself had some furniture scattered around the wood stove. Aside from the refrigerator and radio, no other signs of luxury were present. It was pretty easy to tell that the Kitzman’s lifestyle was work, work, and more work.

According to Guy, in the winter, they got snowed in a lot, sometimes for weeks. They survived on his trap line. It produced food and brought in $1000 to $1500 each winter in pelts. It was a two-day affair to run the trap line, which meant a cold night in the woods each time he went out. Occasionally, he even got caught in his own traps. He told me he never worried about it, since his mother fixed everything. One time he shot himself in the knee with a 22-caliber rifle and had to walk three miles back to the farm. His mother fixed that too. Guy’s trapping even developed into a philosophy of life. He told me there are four kinds of people in the world: the sheep that follow, the wolf that is always out to get the sheep (by the way, while trapping guy has run across wolves — upper Michigan wolves), the conniving and complaining coyote that will do whatever it takes to survive, and the trapper. The trapper is always ready to fight, both for himself and for others. In either case, though, he is always fighting. Guy considered himself a trapper, and that was apparent.

My trip to the farm was a great experience. I originally planned to spend the night, but I was already uncomfortably dirty, a love-boat to the flies, so I thought it best to say farewell to Guy, and bicycle off into what was left of the afternoon sunshine. The northwest wind not only made bicycling easier, it also took away the barnyard smell that had not left my body. Before the day was done, I had covered another 40 miles. I camped that night at Perch Creek wayside, another beautiful Michigan wayside—paradise for long distance bicyclers.


It’s The Run The Biker Off The Road Game Again

May 24, 2008

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Lake Michigan photos (photos from here on do not necessarily correspond with blogs)

Winnipeg, Manitoba

July 21, ‘80

Well here I am sitting in the Winnipeg youth hostel. I spent the last two nights and most of yesterday lying in my sleeping bag on the floor of that vacated granary shed. I couldn’t leave because of the rain, and now I have pleurisy. Anything more than shallow breathing causes pain—no fun. The worst part of getting to Winnipeg was when I hit the urban areas. That’s when traffic picked up. In fact, I had to take an alternative route in order to avoid a couple nasty truck drivers. Well, I didn’t really avoid the nasty one, but before I tell that story I need to log in my dietary experiment.

I began the day by thinking I wasn’t getting enough roughage, so I bought a stalk of celery and a jar of peanut butter. By afternoon I had half the celery gone, and I was beginning to experience severe stomach craps. I found an outhouse and, over a thirty-minute period, lost my guts. I never really felt sick, though, so I knew it wasn’t food poisoning. But for that short period, I was in a lot of pain. I passed by another picnic area where I spent some more time relieving myself and then things started to get better. Well, better until I encountered that nasty trucker.

I was keeping to my six inches of pavement when two sixteen wheelers rolled up behind me and started playing that old game of “who can be the first to run the biker into the ditch.” It was potash country and the trucks were loaded. The first trucker started horning me from about a quarter mile back. Then he pulled up right on my tail and laid on his horn. I was riding on a suicide shoulder already. The edge of the road dropped off into six inches of loose gravel. At any speed that transition was dangerous, but at fifteen miles an hour, on a fully loaded ten-speed, that fall would have resulted in a bloody mixture of flesh, dirt, stone and mangled bicycle.

While the asshole honked, I filled my head with nam myho renge kyo, and finally he flinched first. As he slowly inched his way past me, I had already made up my mind that I would not flinch, and I didn’t. I took a deep breath, and readied myself for the second trucker. He gave me a couple warning honks and drove on by. He had probably already won his buddy’s money—I was still there. I wasn’t about to hang around for a three peat, though. I turned south at the first opportunity.

I still had a ways to go before Winnipeg, and I was looking for a place to camp when I met another truck driver–a nice one—at a truck stop. He asked me if I wanted a lift into town. I told him sure, and I arrived in Winnipeg around 9 p.m. He even dropped me off right at the youth hostel where I checked in and immediately took a shower. If it weren’t for that 90-kilometer truck ride, that shower would have had to wait for another full day of biking.

Groomed and clean, I went for a walk downtown. I didn’t run across any bars that I wanted to drink in, but I did take a walk up some stairs and paid $5. for a backrub from a topless woman from Trinidad. The price went up with added stimulation. I had already satisfied my curiosity, though, and that was really all I wanted to do. Actually, I really enjoyed just talking with her. She was a very nice, dark skinned woman, and, I believe, she enjoyed my company also.

July 23

Before I left Winnipeg, I exchanged my Canadian money for U.S. currency. When I came to the last major town before the border, after a hot, sunny, day of bicycling, I stopped at a pub and spent all but my last five Canadian dollars. Knowing that I had to drink four or five beers and eat onion rings was a delightful experience.

My evening bicycle ride was super. I was in the wilderness again, no traffic, soft yellow sun at my back, pine trees and aspen all around me, and best of all I was biking on a newly paved highway. When I came to a picnic area in the middle of nowhere I immediately set up camp. It was pancakes for dinner, and in the waning daylight, coyotes serenaded me—fantastic.

I’m presently finishing up my morning pancakes and coffee. Yesterday I took my limit on sunshine and today its supposed to rise to 30 degrees centigrade, again. If I’m not careful I could overdose. To complicate matters, I just discovered a hole in the bottom of my canteen. Except for those few hassles, I have no worries at all. I’ll be riding my bike in the States come evening.

Four Heart Attacks In A Year, It Was Still Cigs And Salted Beer For Harry

Virginia, Minnesota

July 26, ‘80

It was sunny and windy. I survived both. I camped at a state forest campground in the most northern part of Minnesota. I didn’t make my usual 80 miles.

The next day it rained, almost all day. The rain and highway (worst since Prince Rupert) made bicycling impossible, so I gave up the effort, and pulled into a grocery store. When I started eating crackers and honey under the protective awning, a customer asked me where I was heading. After I gave him a brief trip summary, he said, “If you can get your bike in my car, I’ll drop you off at the Fall’s turn off.” I was trying to reach International Falls before I gave up hope. I made it to town just in time to make my purchases—dry slide (for my chain), a canteen, and one bicycle tire. The rain had finally stopped, so I proceeded to replace a tire and clean my bicycle. After that I stopped at a local bar to celebrate my arrival in the States. I had three beers, and watched Buck Rogers on TV. I camped around eight miles down the highway.

In the morning, bicycling was excellent–sunny, but not real hot, on a good to great highway with moderate traffic, through very nice northern Minnesota scenery. When I arrived in Virginia around six o’clock, I inquired at a gas station about a campground with shower. The boys hanging out at the gas station were sympathetic. They didn’t know of any, but they told me about a swimming hole not far from where I was. I really needed a shower, and I didn’t want to rent a room, so off I went, backtracking to find the dirt trail that would take me to the swimming hole. The sun was still hot, and the water wasn’t all that cold. The boys were right; it was a nice spot to swim.

Clean once again, I went looking for a laundry mat, and stumbled upon a baseball field that I thought would substitute nicely for a campsite. (I wanted to camp close to town because I had made a morning appointment to have my bearings greased or replaced). It looked good, but I didn’t want to make my presence known until after dark. I needed to find something to do until then. As I was walking my bike on the sidewalk, making my way to the street that would take me to the main part of town, I noticed a blinking bar sign in a window of a house, or at least I thought it was a house. I had never experienced a bar, if indeed it was a bar, in a residential district before. But then again, I had never experienced northern Minnesota before, either.

When I climbed the three or four steps up to the screen door and looked in, I saw two men and three ladies, all old people sitting at a bar. I knew of neighborhood bars, but this was more like a hallway bar. I made a head turning entrance, and as I walked past the ladies and sat down on a barstool between the two men, the bartender put his huge hands on the bar and said, “What’ll it be?” I said, “How about a Papst.” He said, “No Pabst,” so I asked, “What’s on tap?” “Miller,” came the reply, “This bar only serves Miller.” “Okay,” I replied, “give me one of those.” I got the message; if you wanted a beer in this bar it had to be a Miller. Four unoccupied stools remained at the bar, and there was a man and woman sitting in one of the three booths situated on the adjacent wall. The best part of the place was that if you happened to fall off your bar stool, for whatever reason, you would probably end up in one of the unoccupied booths; I mean the place was that narrow, that small.

By the end of my second draft, things relaxed a bit. The large chap behind the bar even asked me if I was new in town. When I told him about my trip, everybody got real friendly. I became just one of them after that—a good feeling. The guy sitting to my left even moved over a stool, and proceeded to fill me in on the history of the place. According to him, the place was Dick’s hobby. Dick was the bartender. In fact, everybody in the place lived close enough to the sign in the window to see when he was open. “That’s why we’re here,” Harry said, “we saw the light, and lucky for us too, because it’s the cheapest beer in town. When Dick turned on the light, it meant that he and his wife were fighting, or that he was lonely and just wanted some company.” Harry was right about the beer–thirty-five cent drafts were cheap.

Before I left the bar, I bought Dick a beer. “I’ve had four heart attacks within the last year,” he said. You wouldn’t know it to look at him, though. His huge mid ‘50’s frame looked healthy, except maybe for the telltale sadness in his eyes. You couldn’t even tell that he was working. He had a beer in hand the whole time. “The doctors told me to quite drinking, smoking and eating salt, but here I am enjoying this cigarette and beer, with my friends,” he said, as he salted down the head of his just poured beer. “So what do I care if I don’t make it through the night. At least I’ll go happy.” Harry later informed me that Dick took seriously the part about drinking with friends. According to Harry, if Dick didn’t like you, he cut you off, and getting cut off at Dick’s meant stay away. “You’re lucky,” Harry said. “He likes you.” Yes, I was lucky, and Dick was a likable guy. It was a pleasure to meet him. Getting drunk
with him was a bonus.

It was midnight when Harry and I staggered down the steps of the hallway bar. Harry invited me to spend the night at his place and I happily accepted. In the morning, after eating breakfast (Harry lived alone), I left to go to Western auto where I had my bearings greased on both wheels. I needed new cones on my front wheel, but nobody had any, so I just had to hope the new bearings and grease would get me back home.

Watching Prairie Thunderstorms–Some Dump On You, Some Don’t

May 17, 2008

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Wet Tent, Saskatchewan

July 14, ‘80

Hello journal. Tonight you’re talking to one tired desperado. At lunch, I met a man who told me Calgary was 256 miles due west, a two day ride. Those miles have just caught up with me. I stopped a bit early when I found this secluded campsite. I’m in a gully on the other side of the railroad tracks that separates me from the highway. It looks like Saskatchewan is going to create some problems come tent time. It’s flatter, less trees, and more farms.

Bicycling wasn’t as good today. The sun did its job, ninety-two degrees worth. When the clouds rolled in, I was beginning to cook. I was lucky. With the clouds, came the storms. Bicycling on the prairie you get to watch the thunderstorms roll in. Some dump rain on you, some don’t. Wondering when it’s your turn causes considerable anxiety. Right now there is a black cloud coming in over my shoulder. We’ll see how that turns out. If it rains, I’m just going to close my eyes hard, and roll over. I’m only a page away from turning the lights out anyway.

Morning rain is the best; you’re fresh and can enjoy it. There’s a good chance you will dry out before the day is through. But evening rain is nothing short of melancholy because you have nothing to look forward too except—wet, cold, and tired. No tenth gear today, instead there was a headwind, and a shitty highway that varied between cracked asphalt to cinder surface. Aside from the intense heat that sapped my morning energy, and the thunderstorms that upped my anxiety level, the day wasn’t too bad. I made good miles. Also, just before I found this campsite, I stopped at a Dairy Queen and bought a fish dinner and had a Dilly Bar desert.

Here are a couple of thoughts that I want to journalize before I forget: While biking, I sing a lot, especially in the mountains. More than once I have lost my voice. By singing, I get to express the emotion that builds, as the beautiful scenery intensifies around me. I know lots of melodies, but few words. I just make the words up as I go. Nobody hears anyway. (I’m back. I had to zip up the tent. It’s raining.) Words don’t really matter; it’s the singing that matters. When I’m not singing, I tend to think about home–my apartment, guitar, stereo, color TV, cold beer, and my cat, Heather, sitting on my lap as we watch a good movie together. My paintbrushes are always handy if I get bored. (I hope my tent stays up. I should have done a better job putting it up.) I hate to admit it, but on a couple of occasions, I actually thought about a quick train ride home. Like maybe right now, if one was only near.

July 15

I’m finally getting it together. I guess Saskatchewan has free tent camping. All you have to do is ask for the “tent spot.” I found that out at my last stop. I also asked if that was the case in Alberta, and I was told “no.” There you had to pay. Anyway, I’m presently a happy camper, eating peanuts, bread, cheese, eggs, and beer. What a life! I have even figured the beer out. You go into a hotel and order a beer and then get two more to go. Up until now I thought all alcohol had to be bought at the retail brewery. I’m enjoying my second Pilsner and if the rain holds back, I’ll be able to finish it.

I awoke to the same rain that poured on me all night long. I biked for the first six hours in the rain, and then it was just cloudy, with a few scattered showers. The temperature was hot, in the high eighties, so the rain was warm—the best kind. According to the local residents this was the first rain in six weeks. I bet if the farmers new what I could do for them, I would be kidnapped. On the radio, the weatherman told me that tomorrow it’s supposed to be sunny. That’s about right; I did ninety-five miles today, and tomorrow I’ll reach Saskatoon. It’s only my bicycling that attracts the rain! Actually, the rain gives me something to write about. What I hate though, is crawling into my tent with wet clothes on. That hasn’t happened much on this trip—knock on wood. Tomorrow I’ll have a roof over my head and a real bed to sleep in, but best of all; I’ll be calling up Jean to see if she’s up for that promised beer. I’m excited about that.

No Plumbing, Days Of Rain 240/yr, No Mortgage Payments-Priceless

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

July 18, ‘80

I cleaned up my bike as soon as I arrived In Saskatoon (gasoline the running gear,
apply new oil, check for loose screws, etc.), and then I went to the laundry mat. On the phone, Jean said, “Sure, I’ll buy you a beer.” When I went to her restaurant and drank my first beer, she agreed to go to a movie with me. After a few more beers, I left and went back to the YMCA, which was substituting for the youth hostel. After that, I bought tickets for the
8:30 p.m. showing of The Empire Strikes Back, and met Jean at the theater. We had a half-hour to kill, so we went for a walk.

We got along pretty well, but Jean didn’t like the movie. She wasn’t into Star Wars. Afterwards, we went for a beer, and at the first hotel last call had already come and gone, but at the second one we got served. In Saskatchewan there was no set time for “last call.”

I already knew Jean to be, from our conversation back on the train, pretty damn independent. She was twenty-six years old, had just quite a good government job (she said temporary jobs gave her more freedom), and was in the process of selling her house in Prince Albert (a relationship gone bad I guess. She didn’t want to talk about it). She had also made up her mind to join her wilderness girlfriends who were homesteading on the Pacific coast. “You never had to worry about mortgage payments,” she said, “Of course, there wasn’t any plumbing and you had to expect 240 days of rain a year, but you got use to it.” I always considered myself a nature lover, but a Paul Bunyan I’m not. I asked her if the girls ever got lonely living like that and she said, “Oh, there’s men, but they come and go, and that’s fine.” I wanted to walk her home after the bar, but she wouldn’t have any of that, so we hugged and I said “goodbye.” She hollered back at me that she would write.

The next day, when I finally headed out of town around 11 a.m., I had a brisk northwesterly wind at my back. Under lots of sunshine, I had put 120 miles behind me before day’s end. I would have put even more, but I had a flat tire. I ended up camping behind a garage next to a garbage dump because at the campground that I stopped at they wanted $4. to set up my tent. Needless to say I was up early, around 5 a.m. I was hoping for another good weather day, and I was not disappointed. I put another 120 miles behind me.

Right now I’m sitting at a picnic table at a free campsite. When I stopped to fill my canteen last night, I asked the guy at the gas station if he knew where I could set up my tent, and he told me about this place. When I rolled in, I was shocked. The place was large, and very scenic. There were fire grates, piles of precut firewood, and the grounds were green and well kept. Best of all, there was a bathhouse with free hot showers. I had carried with me a couple of beers, so I was set for a great evening.

I’m presently finishing up in my journal, and eating my morning pancakes under a rising sun. What a treat!

July 19

Yesterday I thought the day was going to turn into a scorcher, but it wasn’t all that bad. Bicycling was good. Although the wind at my back had kind of petered out, it was still another long distance day.

Right now, I’m sitting in an empty grain storage shed, watching it rain cats and dogs. There’s only one leak in the roof. I was originally trying to hide behind some trees, out of sight of the highway, when I stumbled upon this place. I am lucky to be here. Goodnight! I’m tired.

July 20

A poem attempt that failed.

Sixty Miles Later I Biked Into The Biggest Rodeo Stampede In The North

May 10, 2008

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July 11, ‘80

After a breakfast of blueberry muffins and coffee, we thanked Tony, Noel, and Stan for all their hospitality and then started hoofing it out of the backcountry. Up around Jonas Pass, Peter and I left the trail to explore the rising mountain columns above us. I discovered the entrance to a natural amphitheater, and in the center was a huge rock. With a little imagination the rock became an altar. Of course, I had to climb it, and lying prone on top, I offered myself up to the gods as a sacrifice. All that was play, but lying there, looking up at the cloud whiffs breezing by, all play stopped. I was filled with primal emotion. When it came time to leave, I felt completely renewed. When Peter and I met back on the trail, we started out for the hostel once again, and we made it back before dark.

The following day, after I said good-by to Peter (we exchanged addresses), I started bicycling toward Banff. The weather was good, and since I was already at the highest point of the Jasper-Banff highway, it was downhill from there. After coasting into what seemed like a bottomless valley, I was greeted by a strong headwind. Ten miles later, I sought shelter at a youth hostel. On the door, I found a poorly scratched message that read, “Make yourself at home. Gone to Hilda Creek hostel to work. Be back tomorrow.” All alone in the hostel, I watched the rain fall through the hostel’s solitary window. After a period of long silence, I reached for my journal and started to catch up on the events that had just taken place.

The next morning, and after only two hours of bicycling, I had to look for shelter once again. Just before the downpour, I went into a tavern at Lake Louis. After the rain subsided, I was back on the highway and headed for the largest tourist town in the Canadian Rockies. However, the beauty of Banff was more than worth the hassle. Upon arrival, when I asked for directions from some guys about to enter a tavern they invited me in for a couple of beers. Later, the same fellows treated me to a “welcome to Banff joint” just outside the tavern. When I finally did get to the Baniff hostel, I got the shower I had been waiting for and called it a night. My last shower was on Vancouver Island.

After heading due east on the following day, and sixty miles later, I was no longer in the Canadian Rockies; I was rubbing shoulders with cowboys and cowgirls in the town of Calgary. I biked right into the middle of the Stampede, the biggest rodeo in the northern hemisphere. At that hostel, I had to stand in a long line. I was lucky to get a bed. The only thing that saved me was that hostel members got to go in ahead of non-members and I was a member. Outside, a whole city block full of hostel kids was left standing with no place to go.

After I stowed my gear, I went exploring. The streets were crowded. It was like New Orleans at carnival time, except I wasn’t on Bourbon St. and, “aw shucks, it was just me and a whole bunch of bandannaed cowboys being happy together.” After getting a taste of the streets, I ambled into a rodeo bar and got myself a beer. The ear blasting country band was playing lasso music. After all the bicycling solitude, I wasn’t up for that kind of noise, so I decided to pack it in early.

Back at the hostel, in my corner seat, in between writing down sentences in my journal, I sat back and watched the activity going on around me. There were lots of people. I had a great place to sit, between the kitchen and dorms. I was having so much fun “people watching” that I didn’t even go outside to watch the fireworks. Tomorrow, I’m off on a different kind of bicycle trip, hopefully on a flat, dry, surface, under sunny skies, with little or no competing traffic. I can dream, can’t I!

Now I Know Earthy-The Prairie-Total Immersion

Some Farmer’s Field, Alberta

July 13, ‘80

I awoke to pouring rain, and found myself out in it promptly at 9 a.m., the hour everybody had to leave the hostel. For five continuous hours I bicycled in the rain. Nothing-new there! In fact, I was beginning to feel like a rain god. I had been telling people that rain followed me everywhere, and if it hadn’t been for the disc jockey on the radio telling me that the sun was about to chase the clouds away, I think I could have easily convinced myself that I did have some sort of mystical rain connection. With that thought, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. It’s amazing what you do to amuse yourself when you’re t
raveling ten miles an hour and you’ve got thousands of miles to go. Anyway, the sun finally did come out, and bicycling got a whole lot better.

I stopped at Drumheller, a town on the edge of the Alberta, badlands. But that was after the big decision. I had to decide whether or not to visit Jean in Saskatoon, or take the southern route that followed Canada’s border with the States? I figured going north would add another six or eight hundred miles on my trip, but how could I pass up an opportunity to visit Saskatoon, Saskatchewan? That name alone had magic power. And, Jean, the girl I met back on the train in British Columbia would be there. What more could I ask for? Besides, she promised me a beer! On the other hand, if I took the southern route, I would have to fight the trans-Canada traffic, and if there was anything I disliked more than bicycling in the rain, it was bicycling in heavy traffic. Of course, I knew the beer Jean promised me might not happen—so, to alleviate my fears, I stopped at the nearest hotel and ordered up my usual four drafts.

After talking with some locals, I toyed with the idea of sticking around to explore the badlands. Apparently, lots of paleontologists were attracted to this place. From just the small part that I bicycled through, I had no trouble envisioning roaming dinosaurs, and that was in addition to its natural beauty. In fact, the place was called the valley of the dinosaurs. But, as much as I wanted to stay, I also knew it was getting dark, and I needed to get my tent set up, so I bid the friendly bar people adieux, and headed out of town. A few miles down the highway, I set up my tent and called it a night. I went to sleep anticipating dinosaur dreams, but I also hoped to see a morning sun. If the sun turned up, I knew I would be called back to bicycling. If it didn’t, well–I didn’t have to worry about it because it did.

I awoke to sunshine. I couldn’t remember the last time that had happened. It was a no-shirt day, too, my first of the summer. You had to like bicycling in bad weather to make long distance bicycling worthwhile, but under a hot sun, on a good highway, with little traffic, and the Chinook winds at your back, you forget all about the bad stuff. After weeks of mountain biking, I found the prairie beautiful. My head was swimming in the fragrances pouring off the yellow flowered wheat fields. It’s funny, but I have not talked to one person who liked crossing the prairies. Maybe they were heading in the wrong direction. Moving through one field after another, I gained a new appreciation for the adjective, earthy! The prairie was total immersion. The people in the cars and trucks were incredibly nice, also. Most of the time, I had to deal with honking horns, not this time, though. The Albertans were really friendly. They made me feel like a human being–a good feeling.

It’s getting to dark to write. I’m in a farmer’s field, not far from the highway. I just hope tomorrow will be as good as today!

Lift A Stone And God Is There; Ask A Question And God Is There– End Of Five Part Blog

May 6, 2008

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New Model Of The Observer/Observed Relationship Commentary Concluded

In The Beginning was the paradox: How does unity coexist with multiplicity? How does oneness make room for otherness? How does the all- perfect source become something less than it-self? God, being up for this challenge, solved the dilemma, and She did this by (gender is optional here, in fact, it’s probably best to think of God in terms of process, in terms of “processing divinity”) the liberation of Her own non-being. This event had to be performed in such a way so as God could both be and not be God in the same phenomenon. Her solution is doable, even logically doable, in the form of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is. In this double negation, God becomes free in the phenomenon of not, not being God, while affirming (by implication) the God that is free to not be God. In other words, the liberation of God’s non-being becomes God’s immanence while, at the same time, there exists an implied transcendent God. God’s immanence is particularly important to humans because divine immanence gets called “reality.”

[The idea that God is free to not be God is unusual but not unique. In the journal, Deconstruction and Theology (1982, p. 89-90), Robert P. Scharlemann, in the article The Being of God When God is Not Being God, adds some commentary to this idea when he says: “The thesis I should like to propound here is that, in the theological tradition of this picture (the concept of finite being as ens creatum) is that the world is itself a moment in the being of God; what cannot be thought is that the world is the being of God when God is not being deity, or the being of God in the time of not being.” It follows from this view that an infinite amount of diversity is both permitted and discovered in God’s freedom not to be, a diversity that, ultimately, is at one with God. What makes this possible (and logically consistent) is the peculiar state of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is, for this being, in addition to characterizing God’s freedom, also characterizes the liberation process that evolves God’s freedom (God becomes more free as freedom evolves) and this freedom, ultimately, characterizes physical events, biological events, and psychological events, (or the divine self-consciousness of the here and now).]

Pure change, or that which is both release and preservation, bond and liberation, is what’s happening within the polarity of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is,--the defining poles of God’s immanence. However, this change changes conditions and evolves. At a higher evolved level, this change becomes continuous in the space of discontinuity—becomes alive. Evolution, in addition to evolving content, evolves “form” also. A change in form is not necessarily a change in meaning however, e.g. two means 2, 1+1 means 2, 4-2 means 2. In the same way, the meaning of ~~b, being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is, is conserved in the life/death cycle of God’s non-being. This transformational change of non-being from physical to biological, and from biological to psychological (non-being experiences self-awareness in a physical environment) can be described as follows:

Let the V image represent God’s freedom. Let one side of the V represent the empirical world (aesthetic continuum) and the other freedom. Identify the vertex, the bottom of V, as ~~b (the purist form of unity). Somewhere above the V vertex, on the freedom side of the V, let the letter b represent life and ~b represent the negative space of life (~b on the empirical side). Life moves freedom forward and in this case upward too. Further up the V, let ~bb (discontinuity occurring in continuity) represent the next stage of freedom—the participatory moment of a conscious self, and let b~b (continuity occurring in discontinuity) represent (on the empirical side of the V) the physical event of self-consciousness. With the advent of self-consciousness, freedom again moves forward. The V grows larger (and wider) as the story of civilization unfolds.

What God’s freedom is defining here is God as Immanent (the phenomenal world) and God as Transcendent (the God of all religions). All we can know about Transcendent God is that God exists. The space of logical implication tells us that much. On the other hand, we can know a great deal about God’s Immanence because that’s what we deal with on a day-to-day basis. Everyday, as a self-conscious being, we participate in inquiry, analysis, conscience, and imagination. Now, let’s take a closer look at what the form of ~bb, of b~b~bb entails (the freedom of the human mind).

What separates, on this level of non-being, humans from other animals, is the experience of number, identity, language, etc., in a word, symbols. As has been pointed out by Piaget, the symbol is a product of cognitive structure, which, in turn, is a product of the externally given structure of an animal’s accommodation/assimilation of its environment. Even the spatial and temporal structure of mental events, is, according to Piaget, a product of natural structure, but, and this is a big But, why do humans, as opposed to other animals, share the same experience? Suppose that knowledge and self-awareness does not arise, phoenix like, out of natural structure, but rather, arises from both natural structure and the uniquely human cognitive structure of b~b~bb—with ~bb basically representing the structure Sartre’s pre-reflective Cogito!

In so far as the human animal is defined by God’s non-being, humans become aware of non-being, and out of this awareness, by implication, arises a “mental given.” This “mental given” is experienced as the object pole of consciousness—the unreflective consciousness, while not being the object of consciousness allows for conscious reflection on the content (the “mental given”) of consciousness. Functionally, ~bb, or the cognitive experience of discontinuity occurring in continuity, is very close to, if not identical with, both Sartre’s pre-reflective Cogito and Piaget’s center of functional activity. Discontinuity occurring in
continuity, or cognitive ~bb, not only identifies the source of conceptual representation– symbolic meaning, it also explains why our thoughts should be able to represent the world outside our mind, especially when it comes to the application of mathematics to physical theories. Since both the world and our ideas are created from the logic of existence
(~~b, God not being God in the form of an affirmation of God), there is a necessary correspondence between mind and world. In other words, the laws reflected in nature correspond to the laws of mathematics reflected in our minds since both are based on the more fundamental law of the logic of existence—God becoming free in the phenomenon of not being God.

Going out on a limb, so to speak, I would like to get a little more specific concerning another consequence of the structure b~b~bb. This structure represents the “capacity to represent,” which, in turn, is embedded in the life structure of ~bb, which, in turn is further embedded in the original structure of God’s non-being, ~~b. God’s non-being then is what we observe and study, and when possible predict. Predictions are possible because the evolution of the universe takes place in this space that separates, embeds and connects—connects to the “space of logical implication.” So now we may ask: What are the pre-conditions for this state of affairs?

Determinism, locality and continuity allow for the reductionist methods of science to work; that is, until science penetrates deep into that area where the integrity of the physical universe breaks down, where the deterministic motions of mass points no longer exist. At the depths of the “material world” there exists a fuzzy world that exhibits only statistical behavior, behavior only when we observe it– when we separate ourselves from it. There we find a physical reality with no uniquely determinable location, a physical reality that exists in several states at the same time, a physical reality structured by a mathematical equation. In God’s non-being, or, in this context I guess I should say, in the theory of freedom’s structural form, two “forms” stand out as a way to better understand the contradictory concepts, which remain at odds with one another in the theory of relativity and quantum physics.

The same attributes (discontinuity, indeterminism, and non-locality) that characterize self-consciousness characterize also the “double negation” that serves as the ground of freedom. Both of these “forms” generate implication. At “ground” implication remains open, while in self-consciousness, implication opens up the human world-historical-process. In other words, the negation that lies at the center of self-consciousness, the negation that permits our capacity to solve mathematical equations, lies also at the “ground level” of our experience with quantum physics. Because observation takes place in the space of continuity, determinism and locality– self-consciousness’s negative space— there is an unavoidable clash of worlds—the world of continuity, determinism and locality (relativity) clashes with the world of discontinuity, indeterminism, and non-locality (quantum physics). Bottom line—the theory of relativity accurately describes natural phenomena. Einstein’s equations, when applied to the world of physical events, provide accurate information concerning our status as participating agents in the physical universe. Likewise, quantum mechanics accurately describes natural phenomena. Only the phenomena being described are “fuzzy” because, as it is throughout freedom’s dialectic, the space that separates also embeds and connects. In other words, on the quantum level, self-consciousness confronts its own ground condition in the form of the “phenomenal strangeness” of quantum physics.

Ultimately, from its most holistic perspective, freedom’s structural form tells us: Were it not for the negative space/condition of determinism, continuity, and locality, the discontinuity, non-locality, and indeterminism of human consciousness (opposites are necessary to conserve wholeness) would not be free in a world of our own experience (by degrees, experience of our own choosing), seeking truth, justice, and religious meaning!

To sum up my worldview, in as few words as possible: My worldview is, very close to Wolfgang Pauli’s. [The three physicists I quote (paraphrase) here are described in Ken Wilber’s book: Quantum Questions, Mystical Writings of the World’s Greatest Physicists]. A Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Pauli, earned a reputation for being a ruthless critic of ideas during the time when physics was birthing the principles governing sub atomic particles. His contributions were numerous, including the famous “exclusion principle” and the prediction of the existence of the neutrino. At the center of Pauli’s philosophical outlook was his “wish for a unitary understanding of the world, a unity incorporating the tension of opposites,” and he hailed the interpretation of quantum theory as a major development toward this end. (p. 173)

My worldview is also in tune with the profound reverence Einstein held for rationality. Einstein believed that scientific knowledge ennobles true religion—not the religion that inspires fear in God, but rather a religion “capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself.” For Einstein, “the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence” was the highest religious attitude. (p.113)

But, even more than with Pauli and Einstein, my worldview resonates with Arthur Eddington’s. He was possibly the first person to fully comprehend Einstein’s relativity theory. He also headed up the famous expedition that photographed the solar eclipse which offered proof of relativity theory. Eddington believed that if you want to fill a vessel you must first make it hollow. He also said, “our present conception of the physical world is hollow enough to hold almost anything,” hollow enough to hold “that which asks the question,” hollow enough to hold “the scheme of symbols connected by mathematical equations that describes the basis of all phenomena.” He also said, however, “If ever the physicist solves the problem of the living body, he should no longer be tempted to point to his result and say ‘That’s you.’ He should say rather ‘That is the aggregation of symbols which stands for you in my description and explanation of those of your properties which I can observe and measure. If you claim a deeper insight into your own nature by which you can interpret these symbols—a more intimate knowledge of the reality which I can only deal with by symbolism—you can rest assured that I have no rival interpretation to propose. The skeleton is the c
ontribution of physics to the solution of the Problem of Experience; from the clothing of the skeleton it (physics) stands aloof.” (p. 194)

So, given this new model of the observer/observed relationship, what intimate knowledge of reality can we claim? What personal insight into our own nature can we claim? Last night I took another look at Stigmata, one of my favorite movies. Just before the end credits ran, these words appeared on the screen: “The kingdom of God is within you and all around you and not in buildings of wood and stone. Split a piece of wood and I am there, lift a stone and I am there.” These words, words taken from the gospel of Thomas, were recorded in the Aramaic language—the language of Jesus–some nineteen hundred years ago. The next words that appeared on the screen were these: “Whoever discovers the meaning of these sayings will not taste death.”

Self As Vessel At Its Source

May 3, 2008

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Commentary On New Model Of The Observer/Observed Relationship continued—Self As Vessel

The source of everything, including Northrop's two-term relationship, lies embedded in the indeterminate aesthetic continuum.

As was pointed out above, considerable emotional currency goes into preserving the meanings that give us comfort. In an odd sort of way then, you might say the more invested we are in production and consumption (blue quadrant), the more we expand our red emotional horizon. However, a passionate desire for wealth and power has little in common with the empowering emotion that calls us to love, beauty and truth. The gorgeous sunset that sometimes swells our eyes to tears is not just a product of the spinning earth; it is also part of the spontaneous, pulsating, emotion that flows from the whole of the aesthetic continuum. The material of the poet, painter, and musician is not the product of Locke’s mental substance; rather, it is the empowering emotion that inspires life, imagination, and awe. The mental substance, which Locke presupposed as necessary in order to explain the existence of appearance, is no longer necessary because appearance is not just appearance, it is the real stuff of the universe. The syntactically designated, indirectly and experimentally verified, theoretic component of knowledge treats the real stuff of reality—the aesthetic component, as a mere sign. The aesthetic component of our experience is not a mere sign. The immediately grasped, emotionally moving ground out of which all things arise, beckons us to seek the impossible, express the unspeakable, and imagine the inconceivable.

Emotions, therefore, are not, as Locke believed, and many of the religiously informed persons who followed him also believed, the product of bestial urges that must be subdued. It is also unfortunate that Plato, although recognizing emotions to be an inseparable part of the human psyche, identified them with evil. For Plato, reason was the great charioteer, forever reining in the unruly emotions. It is to the credit of Northrop’s two-term relationship of the aesthetic-theoretic experience that emotion gets valued on par with reason. Indeed, reason becomes sterile without emotion and emotion without reason becomes another word for misery. The poet William Blake said it best when he said: “It is good when you are in a passion, but not when a passion is in you.” All emotion is meaningful, but that meaning gets stunted when unjustifiably restricted by Locke’s use of the three-term relationship of appearance, material object, and observer. It is high time that we catch up to the curve (instead of lagging far behind it) and give emotions and sentiments the psychological freedom they deserve. In order to do this we need to break the habit of regarding feelings, emotions, and the immediately given portion of human nature and the nature of all things as being superficial appearances,-- mere symbols for validating an out-dated worldview. It is time to regroup, to move beyond that which was once considered progressive but now inhibits, to move beyond that which has outlived its usefulness.

One aspect of this obsolete worldview, however, should be carried forward. Locke linked consciousness with the divine. He reasoned that since consciousness was the only thing not mechanistically determined, it connected human beings to God. I share that view, but for different reasons, reasons that will become apparent as I continue to describe the two-term relationship worldview. For instance, if human experience is defined by two types of experience, the aesthetic and theoretic, then what about the rest of the natural world; is it also a product of a two-term relationship? The answer to that question, I believe, will be found in the content/form interdependence of freedom and freedom’s “limiting condition,” embedded in the emotionally moving ground out of which all things arise.

Northrop's two-term relationship of knowing, as opposed to Locke’s three-term relationship, brings several philosophical dilemmas into focus, but the one that concerns us most here is that Hume's atomic sense data and their associations, are only a part of the aesthetic continuum. Experience is much richer than Hume supposed and his atomic sense data indicates. That this is the case the philosophies of William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Henry Bergson, and the Gestalt psychologists—just to name a few, affirm. Hume's sense data is determinate for only the center of our perceptive field. At the periphery of this field, sense awareness is fuzzy and indeterminate. Embedded in this indeterminate aesthetic continuum lies the source of everything, including Northrop's two-term relationship. Locke linked consciousness with the divine. I also link consciousness with the divine, but I do so through the logical connection that both binds and separates--particle/wave, life/death, self/not self, reason/feeling, observed/observer. It is this logical relationship that makes the condition of bound/separated possible. In the above diagram, the relationship that both binds and separates the blue (physical), purple (discourse), and green (life) quadrants is depicted by the bridges labeled 8 and 9. What underlies all evolution then, are these bridges that both bind and separate everything to everything else. The bridge that is missing from the above diagram is the one that binds and separates everything to God (Brahman, sunyata, the unmoved mover, etc.). If you don’t like the world God here, even though what I am talking about includes all rational, emotional, and physical possibilities, then feel free to call this bridge by its other name, the class of all classes. Here’s a little narration that, hopefully, will make the concept of bridges more plausible. I now present the following whimsical story (how whimsical is for you to decide). To be continued....