Saturday, December 26, 2009
By the turn of the century before last, Cornell had finished building its main quadrangle on what used to be Ezra Cornell's high pasture between two gorges, but the campus was still separated by Fall Creek Gorge, from the undeveloped heights on the North. The side-gorges and steep glens made construction projects a special problem in the Heights, but Cornell wanted to reach across and put some women's dorms over there.
So the University held a design competition for a bridge to the Heights.
Oliver Fast, a post graduate student at the time, submitted a design for a full -span, stone arch, supporting not just the road-way, but also two stories of class rooms and prominent observation posts . Stone stairs wound down through the abutments to more rooms and chambers. Despite seeming archaic, the bridge would have been a feat of modern engineering, using Fast's own twist on the new iron-assisted, fero-cement, construction techniques, which the Ithaca architect Clinton Vivian and others were pioneering at the time.
The Fast proposal was just too new, too old, too crazy..... and to nobody's surprise, the competition was won by the steel bridge you see there today: radical then, but an antique now. They don't build steel erector-set bridges like that any more. And simply maintaining them has become a branch of historic preservation.
The barbed cable , tension core construction, which Fast invented never did catch on anywhere, and the next bridge across that gorge will likely be a spider-tech nano-fiber sequestered-carbon based, double-reflex, tension/ suspension system, which will itself weigh less than a city bus, and will be quickly reeled in for redeployment elsewhere.
But on the same day back when the design competition winner was announced , Oliver Fast wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Cornell Daily Sun, declaring in unprintable language, at unreadable length, and with no chance of having it published, that he would blankety blank go somewhere and build the blankety blank thing himself. for himself, and if necessary, by him blankety blank self.
Oliver Fast never went far, but this was at a time when professors were so poorly paid that they had to be rich already to take on a Professorship. so the exposure got him commissions to design mansions in the Heights. Each of the best Heights estates had its own dwarf-glen, or was a winding eminence between two border gorges.
Portuguese and Italian stone masons left over from the Cornell blue stone boom easily shifted to laying up houses like follies in Jane Austin Country gardens... or like mausoleums in her cemetery.
Homes with hundred yard, pounded cobblestone driveways and stone gate- posts the size of smoke-houses.
And then came the junior-faculty houses, closer to the curb , like ornamentally disguised gate-keeper cottages.
Fraternity houses became his particular speciality . Many Fraternity Trustees payed to go with some kind of fantasy historical theme, often Gothic or Medieval, with secret chapter rooms, and winding stone stairs connecting levels. Fast was good with that. The fraternity work made him rich.
Fast isn't known to have had family, or even any romantic affairs, or any social interactions outside of chess games, but his success allowed him to buy his own land in the Heights.
A deep, dwarf gorge cut through the middle of it.
Fast never drew any real plans for his Bridge House. And there was never even a point where we could say he first started.
Before he could think of beginning, he had to make extensive pick-and-shovel explorations into the structural stability of the abutment areas.
And then he kind of had to install the footings and cassons, so that the exposed shale didn't crack and collapse.
Cayuga Heights , Forest Home, and County Court record show that , although he never did get a building permit, the village boards were not able to stop Mr. Oliver Fast from continuing what he argued was essentially only maintenance of and improvements to natural stability
Just the temporary timber frame support for the abutment and the arch must have taken more than one season to construct..... and after that, things only went slower. The unique barbed-iron cable which he installed under tension in canvas tubes for the cement cores he had poured through the stone work, must have frustrated and slowed the traditional mason a lot.
Up the years, as the structure rose to a second story of rooms above the arch, the few stone masons who hadn't moved on or gone back to the old country, died off or became too old to climb. He kept his last old stone man around strictly as a chess partner, until that one got to be too old to stay awake at the board.
Fast finished hoisting and installing the thumb-thick, tray-sized, roof slates all by himself, one dark day a week before the fiftieth Christmas of his life.
He climbed down from the roof the last time that day and walked into the main foyer of Bridge House....into an empty chamber.... on what he must have suddenly realized, was a bridge to nothing....and him with nothing but nothing to do ever again.
Because, within a month of hanging the last roof tile, Oliver Fast attempted suicide by jumping off his bridge. But the scale was too small to kill him. He was lucky that it was early winter with two feet of snow and oak leaves drifted into the gorge. And lucky to have worked so long as his own earth-mover and stone mason, because, although his legs were paralyzed for ever, he was able to haul himself up out of the gorge .
After six months in a sanatorium , Fast still had enough money that he could return to Bridge House, supervise some remodeling, and then spend the rest of his life ( and the money) being cared for by a live-in Scottish nursemaid/ cook/ house keeper, and her husband the butler/gardener/ nurse's aid He had allowed them to bring their little rat terrier at their insistence that it was a working dog. There had in fact been a rat problem, but the dog spent most of it's life after that in Fast's Lap, which was fine with the dog and the man.. The Mrs. was a great cook, and . McRobbie himself was a chess player, and a busy amateur wood carver.
That is all,according to the day maid, who lived down in town and walked up to Bridge House each day. She testified that the two men sat around in front of the fireplace for as many hours carving chess pieces and arguing about books , as they did playing chess. Arguing and waving their carving knives, the men never went for each other's throats. Fast gave the maid and the milk man big tips at Christmass, and Mrs. McRobbie gave them scones and macaroons throughout the year.
In short....they were jolly happy for most of a a dogs age.
Then, following a particularly jolly Christmass dinner attended by the milk man and the day maid ( who were later married ) , Fast died of sudden heart failure .
He left everything to his dear McRobbies, with left overs for the maid and the milk man, although at that point, the real estate was most everything, and it's legal status was in question.
For reasons never made clear, the McRobbies disappeared a few weeks after Fast died. And they never did reappear to claim the questionable estate .
Some things will always be a mystery, and that is just fine, because we have to move on with history, and the point is: here for a time was a happy family. And, whatever you may have heard, happy families are not all the same.
Monday, December 7, 2009
As Davey Weathercock, with Olive the hen, I have a regular gig for Tiny Town Times, improvising a weather report from here on Pumpkin Hill. My nominal brother Davey Warren who edits the blog, used his photo manipulations software to squinch up my face for the blog profile picture so that I look more like the gnome you maybe imagine me to be...knowing I am so very short shanked.
So no, folks, there is no Davey Weathercock. It is only me: William Bonaparte Warren. But let's suspend disbelief for five minutes please.
So no, folks, there is no Davey Weathercock. It is only me: William Bonaparte Warren. But let's suspend disbelief for five minutes please.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Gee is gone off again, but she didn't take her little red guitar with the door in its back. You open the door with a finger hole that has a painted morning glory vine twining out of it. The flowers are the pale blue of Gee's eyes. She pretends to play the guitar some , but mostly it is a portable cabinet for her big French knife, with the stone and steel.
The last time I wrote, she'd gone to Ithaca, just to pick up some smoked salt ... and to look in at Bridge House, she said.
I expected her back that night, but she was gone for a week...stayed overnight with the raccoons and graffiti at Bridge House, then took the rest of a week getting back. She makes a friend and professional contact every five miles.
She says travel is how she focuses.
I'd say even if she goes nowhere, she is always several places anyway. Or several people in one place. She says she's my Muse, but it's Davey who's supposed to be a writer. Why doesn't she amuse him? They ignore each other.
I don't know exactly what a muse is supposed to do, but it seems like mostly she just wants to be in the blog.
Like any aspiring actress in any town, tiny or big, Gee has usually been without a stage, and has mostly worked in the hospitality trade.
The overhead, tray-flourishing, side-steps she performed during her early restaurant gigs made Gee well known in Ithaca as the Zobo Waitress, but most of her acting jobs were with a few up-stairs theater companies which entertained fewer people than they employed, and payed only the land lord. That was before Missy Hooligan came through town.
A year or two after I myself had left town, Gee went off with Missy Hooligan's Tall Animal Review - a funky and eclectic bunch which included pseudo-apes on stilts and skates, a peg-legged, tattoed hog, and a coordinated shoplifting team, and also offered a wide range of theatrical improvisations.
When Gee joined the Hooligans, they began to include the little "dinner theater" productions, in which Gee was the star.
And she earned the two ee's in her name with her billing as the Mystic Miss Gee, the Palm Reader.
She has a nice professional way of taking your hand, while catching your eye with her own eyes - with those pale blue, nearly transparent irises that make you think she could look into your head. because it seems you can look into hers........ and and then she looks at your life line, and shudders at what she sees, turns away briefly and thwn offers a pleasant and vague prediction about travel and friendship. Or at least that is what she did for me. I'm guessing that her regular customers tipped her generously, for not telling them more.
The Missy Hoolahans , or Houlians, or Hooligans ...... by any name and in any era, or current mix of hippy, beat, and gypsy..... are a bunch of fellow travelers you wouldn't likely bring home for lunch: all artists of opportunity. They own very little, and sleep with their chickens , cats, dogs, and children, in or under vans and homebuilt trailers. Mostly, they launder their clothing without removing it. But they were artists and didn't need any license.
When the convoy made camp in some hidden place... often in a well located cemetery..... she could walk up to the door of just about any inn, restaurant, or bar, and talk the management into exchanging some dinner theater, for dinner itself.
She was all sincerity and enthusiasm...still is...without any acting.
Until the final acts, never more than three of the Hooligans appeared in the dining room during their productions. But twelve or twenty would be out back, busy writing themselves into the play, and they would each troop through at some point before the group bow and chow.
They were all charming...or entertaining....or distracting enough that they were usually well thanked and fed......but occasionally they were chased away or arrested, and they sometimes disbanded....for a while.
Once, for a Christian Businessman's fund raiser, they staged a Murder mystery robbery which, as far as the robbery part went, only pretended to be pretend. Not all of Missy's crew were involved in planning the robbery, , but those three got several years each in prison, and the Hooligan's dispersed for five whole years.
That was more than fifteen years ago. They have been seen around here again, only recently.
When they didn't get busted or otherwise interrupted for a long stretch, Gee would tire of that life.
So after the caravan arrived at some place where she wanted to stay for a while...she would just walk up to an Inn and tell the manager that, for no money at all, she would gladly clean a bathroom top to bottom ... as a demonstration..... and what's more, she would do it in fifteen minutes flat as they watched.
She would go over the place on all fours, sometimes plonking around on two inverted buckets with the bales over her feet, and scrubbing the ceiling with her hand brushes . She had a special pair of bushes with leather straps which, as the last step, she buckled onto her feet, then flooded and skated the floor clean This was all done with more ornamental movement than was practical....but she did do it quick as she said, and on the basis of her performance, maybe mostly on the basis of its entertainment value, she could get up to thirty dollars each to clean additional rooms.
I guess most people were so charmed they didn't stop to think that if they paid her thirty dollars for fifteen minutes of work, they were payiing her a hundred twenty dollars an hour.
No problem..... they would soon bring her into the kitchen, and before long hand her the general hospitality functions, and weeks of Inn sitting, especially for inns with multiple, demented and demanding pets.
She looped many times around the country between New Orleans and Nova Scotia, usually taking several years to complete a loop. Ithaca was not in the loop.
Somewhere along there she somehow gained a daughter, who split off on her own, a while back.
Oh I guess I don't want to know everything about her life between then and now.....or even between the time she left here for the smoked salt and when she straggled back.
After that, Gee was here again for about a week.... or maybe it was two or three short ones.
My housekeeping and personal grooming had gone a long way down a steep slope since she'd been away, and I was glad to have her home . it seems like most of the time she was back here, I spent in the bathtub .
This trailer is small enough that one of us has to be sitting somewhere if the other is only going to move around...... and especially when she's cooking or cleaning, launching around on my dry-wall stilts to do the ceiling, or wielding that big French knife of hers.
One day when she had been chopping and mincing for her portable pancake pies while thinking about other things, she powdered her face with some New Hope Mills pancake mix.
I was sitting in the bath with the old IBbook clam shell open on a board I had put across the tub,
When Gee walked in, her face all white with that pancake mix, I couldn't even see the oak leaf tattoo on her cheek.... I grabbed the edges of the tub ......my knees jerked and knocked the board.... and tipped the IBook into the water.
I snatched the clam shell out of the tub, and Gee hung it over the towel rack, but we both knew it was dead.
She was only interested in getting me to guess who she was made up as.
In the dewy, overheated atmosphere of the trailer, the New Hope pancake mix was already rising and bubbling on Gee's face.
She was being who?
I guessed Michael Jackson, which pissed her off. Jackson Pollock; not funny. I guessed Michael Jackson again.
The correct answer was Cameo White. If I hadn't been more concerned with the dead computer, I might have guessed it; she had been talking about Cameo White ever since coming back from Bridge House.
Why exactly Gee would identify with someone who died alone and was partially eaten by her dogs..... I can't say, but she tells me she wants to play the role of Cameo White in a movie set at Bridge House. Not that anyone is planning to make a movie.
Gee went yesterday to help her friend at the inn with a pet-wake they were hosting, and said she might stay over night to help with the breakfast ......then I know she was going to help with some tastings at the winery up the road for a string of wine tour buses coming through.... so I don't know when I will see her again exactly. But I've got the red guitar.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Every morning this August, I went down to the chicken house and called the hens out to range with the three guard roosters - Dot, Lefty, and Whitey.
Some harmonica clucking and a trail of black berries gets them away from the door fairly easily. The native blackberries are the biggest and sweetest here this year I have ever seen in the wild.
But most mornings the hens then went right back into the hen house as soon as they had snapped up all the berries , and I was back in the trailer, having a bowl of berries myself.
The chickens knew that those hot and humid days of Blackberry Summer were going to be like a great big light bulb sitting smack on their backs.
Chickens don't exactly know the future, but they know the weather and are very sensitive to everything that comes from above.
They also sensed that pretty damn soon, molten chunks of glowing matter might just possibly come streaking down from the sky. Because August is the month of the yearly Perseid meteor shower.
Chickens are well aware of it, but humans mostly don't notice because most people are either living inside the regional light bulbs or are still blind from the protracted and overblown fireworks of July. And anyway, most people wouldn't notice a shooting star unless they got hit by one.
As the rate of the meteor fall was just picking up in early August, when there was still a fair amount of water in the ponds, G and I sometimes watched the sky at night from on our backs in the middle of the round pond. Except for picking blackberries a to watch the sky at night, me and G spent as much time indoors as the hens did. We were cooking and tubbing in the day time, and up in the cupola at night... under the the wide screen of stars, with the occasional fucking thunderstorm blowing by.....mostly sound and furious clouds, like stampeding buffalo ghosts.
And with the moon racing through (don't look directly at it or you will be blinded) , lying there was all in all the greatest thrill since flying in dreams.
But Dot, Whitey, and Lefty, roosting on Davey's deck rail, were not amused. They muttered at the thunder, and when an occasional star streaked across their piece of sky, they made the clucking five syllable alarm that sounds like "Jesus fucking christ", and then the roosters in the chicken house would start it up a few beats behind, and they would continue until they all came into unison and then it gradually quieted down to a murmer and to a mere rumor.... until the next star alarm.
Yeah, chickens know that thunder storms and meteor showers and shit from above in general are just dandy until you get hit by something.
And now brother Davey knows too . He isn't quite beaten flat, but he looks like he has at the very least been struck by lightning several times. He has taken some hits. Maybe it is about over now .....the pace of the events has slowed down...and he is starting to come out of doors.
Here's the hit list:
In the dog days of August both of Davey's dogs died; his truck quit; his hard drive died so he lost all the data; a close old friend was put in jail for a few years; he heard that his child hood ex wife - missing since - April, was most probably murdered; one of his three college room mates whom he had not seen in forty years, and who had just in July refound each other.... and with whom he was planning a reunion here in August....died suddenly..... and then Davey strained his loin or his groin or something, when burying the second dog, so now he can't sit still to write.
Of course he doesn't write much even when he isn't thunderstruck . The point is that he has been knocked silly by all this, but I still say that , half drunk and with the flu, I myself could write his biography on an etch a sketch, in about half an hour.
I just can't do everything at once...even if G can.
And what about the trip I planned, hauling and poling the Arc up Cayuga through the great lakes Chain to Great Bear Lake on the Arctic sea? It's not entirely off the agenda, but it is at least a couple of years away at this point.
My work here isn't finished. I think I have managed to get the chicken range under control, but we are without dogs now, so other critters are drawing nearer. The skunks are back living under the chicken house, and that is good because the coons and every other sort of chicken killers will stay back a little, but the chickens, especially the roosters, do not control themselves without some help, and I don't think Davey is ready to get with it..
I wish it would rain, really rain. People think it has rained a lot, but it was only a lot of sound and furious clouds. The water-table is very low by my measure: The dug ponds here are as low as they were during the drought several years back that killed all the bass in the upper ponds. Either it hasn't been raining (however it may seem to sun bathers and container gardeners) or else someone is sucking the water out from under us. Maybe the miles and miles of Cargil salt mines under the lake are flooding . Or maybe the natural gas companies or Nestle company is coming at us sideways for their bottling or fracking water.
A cat came creeping around last night. I saw it. Black and white. The Roosters raised the ruckus call.
G got a ride into town with her friend from the inn, to get some vinegar and hickory- smoked salt She said that while she was there, she planned to peek in at Bridge House.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
says she wants me to get a big fancy G, like the bigger one shown above, tattooed on me somewhere.
?Like maybe on the lower forty acres of my back?
I knew the G-on-me tattoo was one of the ideas that would most likely blow right through on its own, but we splashed each other and argued in the tub for half an hour about whether it made better sense as a tattoo for her own left butt hock...... since, on her right hock, she already has a tattoo of fractal stars in the constellation of the Big Dipper . The dipper handle extends down her leg, the north star out of sight. I kind of like it.
Actually I don't want the big G on her either, but until this discussion about the G letter , G had never told me that her real first name was "Virginia".
Virginia Ann Something-Something.
She doesn't go so far as to say what her maiden or married (ex) names are.....but she says they belong to well-known people she doesn't want to be associated with. I don't know for sure if that means she necessarily ever really was associated with famous people of whatever names, but thanks to the Cornell legal aid clinic, and a liberal judge , G is her legal first name. It is a G without a period, pronounced like the letter G but signifying nothing fixed.
Ask anoyingly what the G stands for , and she will say it doesn't stand for shit, and I had always given her that.
So I learn that G's parents named her Virginia Ann, and always called her by the whole Virginia Ann , which made boys of a certain age think of Virgin Aunts,or Ants in bras, so they would make appropriate comments.
She adopted "Ginny" as her name with friends, at school.
But when she was sixteen, she walked away from her home (in another tiny college town she won't say which) leaving with nothing but a shopping bag full of whatever stuff was on top of her dresser, and some compact food from in the fridge, including cheese, carrots, and a head of garlic.
From nowhere, like she gets everything else, she got the idea that chewing Garlic would keep male predators at bay, and as she walked out of town she husked and chewed gartlic cloves like they were sticks of Dentine.
A few prospective rides drove off as soon as they could get the window rolled up, but all in all the idea worked from the beginning, and she arrived in Ithaca on her second or third stop-over.
She stayed around Ithaca for ten years before I ever knew her. I passed though but was in the wild most of that time. She still had the garlic habit when I met her then. But it never bothered me.
Back then G asked herself what she wanted to do in life, and she told herself it was to be in movies. She some how thought that working in a movie theater in Tiny Town Ithaca was a way to start. She worked the concession stand at the Paradime Mall theatre complex until someone complained about the garlic pop corn.
When working or applying for work she usually wore long, kinky, apricot colored hair in scarfed bun, but outside, she generally let the hair fall around and in front of her pale eyes. Her hair has micro kinks in each hair, which has a hallo effect in many kinds of light, and also really holds scents.
The garlic aura kept her out of attempted Massage school too, but the big aura didn't keep her from getting a series of jobs in hippy restaurants: Moose Pie, Apple Blossom, XYZ , Frankie and Johnnies, Uncle Bodie's and the rest.
Using the plumbing at her job and sleeping on group home couches, at communes, and at pet sitting locations , she was tolerated, and protected, and gradually made herself necessary, then moved on.........around and around the ten or twelve hills surrounding Tiny Town. She likes to move. She might want to move me.
Ironically, or what ever you want to call it , she actually stayed a virgin until she met me.
But, believe it or don't, I didn't realize then that she WAS a virgin. That's because I was a virgin too - if you rule out episodes with trees and flowers, melons, and mud banks - not unusual with feral boys like me.
We have both come a long way , and it has been quite a while since G habitually chewed raw garlic, but along with her big Thing about Urine Utility, and her many other Big things, G is still big on garlic......only it is dietary garlic now.
I can go along with that. I will submit to her cooking. I can hardly get the grilled garlic zuchinni out of my head. It sticks to the inside of my head.a
G says that she is trying to develop a menu for a new Bridge House Inn. That again.
I can be easygoing like nobody else you know, but I'll go along with that move just as soon as I get a giant G tattooed on my ass.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Early last week G and I had just got into the bath for a long summer night's splash, when I noticed the yellow billowing at her end of the tub. She has obviously been pissing in our bath water as a regular thing, along with always adding the fuzzy sumac clusters, the juniper berries, and the dried pine needles she always puts in. All the herbs and flotsom turn the water to an Adirondack river amber after an hour or so.
We get in a lot of tub time, and G is a real mermaid in the water. Mermaids don't climb out of the sea to piss.
Piss power is one of her nut issues that I don't argue with her. She had already told me more than once that ammonia is the best cleaning agent. And she mixes piss water with vinegar to mop the floor. The former President of India or somebody used to eat gold and drink his own urine every morning.
I'm learning. She explains to me, waving her arms with the floating leaf tattoos. I just take it in.
She has a small red guitar with a cracked sound box and no case, which she pretends to play when she pretends to sing. She says she is writing an "Ergonomic Memoir" all in her head. And she says I might need to help her with the second draft..
Be her secretary maybe.......... but then she says she wants to be my muse.
She thinks she really is some kind of fairy, and she definitely is a witch. She is just like she used to be our first time around, only more so. She looks forty at most, and she has to be sixty at least.
She doesn't act her age. She puts spells on me, but has all kinds of conflicting ideas about what I should be twitched into doing. Maybe building a barn and starting a feral cat rescue and garlic farm here, or maybe moving back to Bridge House, or both. And build a high-heat, Hopi style, adobe outdoor oven in the yard. I put up with the over-stimulation and with her transparent, watery blue eyes . She could probably get me to do most anything. She could sell piss-cola to penguins.
Monday, August 10, 2009
My editor slash brother Davey's problem........ as simply as I can state it,....... is that , deep in his heart, he doesn't really believe that other people exist.
This is a big problem if you are related to him in any way, and especially if you live too damn near him, Like I do here at Dog's Plot..
Anyway, this morning G fixed me her special French Canadian Toast, using our chicken eggs, rather than the traditional gull or tern eggs.
"Deliciosso," is what she promised, and I don't think that is a French Canadian term, but she was right. G has cooked and chored at all kinds of Inns from the Extreme SouthWest, to the far NorthEast, traveling with a French Cook's knife about sixteen ax-handles long.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Yeah. Events have run over me and kept on going...so where was I before the dog died?
Talking about this trailer I'm in :
It's a "Hunter" from the forties or fifties. Years ago, it was parked down near Long Point among the squatter shacks on the strip of land between the railroad track and and the water.
Eventually they built an addition onto the trailer ; and later on, while they were building an even larger addition onto the first addition, they gave the old trailer away to a passing hippy couple in a pick-up truck.
These kids towed the trailer up into the woods in back of a local farm where they already had a little off - grid homestead, and there they attached new aluminum cladding , built authentic looking doors, and put a skylight over the trailer galley..... but then they only used it to store craft materials, , while they continued living in their little house .
Sun, rain, snow...... many moons and years blew by...... the couple split, mice moved into the trailer, the roof began to fail, and the skylight to leak..
Around then, Brother Davey was in exile from Ithaca, and in ruin from his Bed and spectacular Edgewood Place Bed and Breakfast forclosure, Had stuffed himself and his too much of his stuff into Little Nose Johnson's small traveler trailer here on his daughter's property. She has a soft spot for terailers and for him, so she let him haul the old Hunter out of the woods and set it up behind her little house on the hill.
He tried,to stop the skylight from leaking, but couldn't, so he built a cupola right over the skylight. He wanted it to be big enough so he could at least sit up there....so that's how high he made the walls.
But with the arched plexiglass roof over that, an average size adult can stand up in the center of it....and from the road, it looks like two trailers mating . It is nice up here at night though. When I was a kid, I thought the sky was a plastic dome; up here, it more or less is.
In the rear end of the trailer, Davey also built a bath-tub/bed combination....lid down it's a bed, lid up a tub. I have to give him credit for the tub bed. it suits me just fine. I always liked tubs for sleeping, and it's good to have the wet/dry option..
Then......like I said back a ways..... after he lived in the place for about a year , and, when his daughter and family moved out of the main house, he moved across the yard, leaving the trailer once again to insurgent mice and the weasels.
And now, after living for a year the Ark I made, then getting crowded out by rescue hens and living in the chicken house for a few months..... I find myself in the trailer.
But I didn't move myself in. I was moved in while unconscious.
The last thing I remembered., I'd been scything out in the orchard .
And then I was surfacing in the beforementioned bath tub which had been unused and empty of everything but mouse and weasel turds for several years.
My head was so heavy I could hardly lift it out of the water,
I looked up through the bath fog, not at clouds racing past the sun or moon, but at the blond birch paneling and a smoke detector with its mouth hanging open.
I gradually recognized where I was, but had no idea how I got there ......and who it was that I heard grinding coffee and the airy whistling on the other side of the sliding door.
And no, I didn't recognize her as she came through with the coffee.... what with the oak leaf tattooed on her cheek and blue ink maple leaves streaming down her arms .....
She knelt down by the tub and waved her chipped, maroon fingernail in front of my eyes. . Beyond the tattoos, that skin mostly big , pale freckles like shadows of floating leaves on the bottom of a stream. And that pumpkin - chanterelle hair..
She helped me sit up in the tub and she held the coffee mug to my lips.
A raft of fuzzy stuff floated on the coffee.
Rafts of the fuzzy berries in the bathtub too, Sumac berries. And the bath water was slightly pink, as if I had bled some. Maybe I had.
If I could have lifted one hand to feel my head, I would t have found the sharp lump there, but me and my hands were not yet communicating.
Then she says: You'n me........... born to be free."
That crazy rhyming habit. Makes her speech so halting, it drives me nuts.
I didn't smell he raw garlic she used to chew like gum to keep human predators off....but It had to be her, my poetry girl. I couldn't move, or hardly speak, but already I wanted to hug her and to wring her freakin frecklly neck.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I was brought into this family by a dog, and I have lived more with dogs than chickens , or even people, so I have known a lot of dogs, and Davey's old Deerdra was a gifted dog.
Her gifts were her sharp and sensitive nose, her great ears, and her blazing speed. A dog's dog; she was a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Greyhound, with a waist like a wasp, lungs like bellows and the ears, the coat..... and almost the speed, of a deer. Then, no more than six months ago, arthritis took her over all of a sudden, like an ant army. At the same time, her hearing went, eyes clouded, and her rear end seem to get disconnected. She hung on by her nose.
When I still slept in the Ark up by the house and Deerdra could still stand up and walk, but couldn't manage the porch steps any more, and she needed. more and more to go pee in the night........I would hear her whine from the top of the stair.
Davey sleeps very well, to put it mildly, especially after a beer or two and a Victory at Sea video attempt......... so I'd have to come out the Ark and carry Deerdra down.....and back up the stairs later.
After I moved out of the Ark and down into the chicken house so as to make room for the hens rescued from their abusive sisters, I was no longer available for doorman duty, and by then Deerdra could no longer get up without help, or lay down except by falling.... which happened whenever she tried to turn around or back out of a dead -end in the brambles. .
So when she whined in her bed, Davey had to carry her out...and down the stairs...though sometimes she would be whining not because she needed to go out and piss, but just because she was in pain.
Then, she would wander off , trying to find her way out of the dark , until she fell off the path. After a while, she would began to whine and later to yip like a coyote....so even I heard her from the chicken house..
And since G. and I began sleeping up here in the trailer cupola, I can see most of the paths all around and through the high grass and dog bane vines .
I would listen in my sleep, but often enough I just get a feeling that sent me with the plastic sled and a flashlight out to some quarter of the place, where I would sweep the dark with the light until I caught her eyes, then put her in the sled and slide her over the grass back and under the house where the roosters shelter in rough weather . She would then sleep exhausted, sometimes till afternoon. She'd become virtually deaf, blind, and confused. The only blessing being that thunderstorms didn't make her crazy insane anymore, and she slept through the fourth of July fireworks. If Davey would do a better job of keeping the paths, it would help everything, because sometimes, walking the easiest route, she would go up and down the driveway until she accidentally walked right out the other end
.A few nights ago, something made me sit up in the Cupola all of a sudden, so I got the flash light , ran out to the end of the driveway and shined it up and down....and here she comes, forty yards off still, right down the middle of Rt. Ninety.
She escaped death by any texting salt truck driver at that time of night.
But then a few days ago, saying nothing to me, Davey left here with both dogs in the back of the truck, and came back after a couple of hours with Taino in the cab and Deerdra in the back, wrapped in a blanket , dead as a cold burrito.
He took her out into the orchard in a wheel barrow.
Two days later, Davey's old truck died in the driveway, and now Davey himself doesn't look all that good.
He's been quiet ....but soon enough, he'll be crowing at me about the rent again. Anyway, I better hang on here until he' s a little less fragile
. He won't be ready for another dog for a while yet. I ought to find a kitty and shove it into the house some night, but he isn't much of a cat person. Not much of a people person for that matter.
The place could use a whole litter of kittens, or a barn full of cats, so many mice and chipmunks , and baby rabbits around here. Clean em up. Especially if we are going to try and have a food service operation here. But I sense some resistance.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Since my blog has been picked up by the Tiny Town Times internet tabloid , it seems like I ought to post more often so as to not disappoint frequent readers, and Dog knows, there's plenty going on here all the time that I usually let pass because of other priorities....but that doesn't mean they aren't frigging amazing.
Like Frinstance: We get a wide variety of egg colors and even vague patterns from the Dog's Plot hens. And then a week or two ago, we got the most amazing egg yet.
You see it here. It looks just like the Northern Lights. and at the same time, exactly like the flank markings of a male Brook trout in Rut.....and I say this as one who has seen the Aurora Borealis over the Alaska highway, and once over Aurora New York, and who has savaged many a vivid Brookie from the Oswegatchie.
I just hope that we can produce them as a regular thing.
All in all, and all in one, it is a stunning demonstration all over, of the Oneness of all things. From now on I'm going to treat ALL the hens with royal respect, at least until I find out which hen is responsible for what I call the Glory Egg. Basicly, this could be the greatest thing since Joseph Smith went up the hill a few miles from here and came down with seventeen hundred solid gold tablets, inscribed with
a four hundred thousand word, previously unpublished bible fiction, which would have weighed in at at sixteen tons, and would have taken him sixteen days with sixteen oxen to fetch, except that his tablets were only an ordinary half crock of shit, and this Glory Egg is the real fucking thing, pardon my Anglo Saxon. Like where are they now, the golden tablets?
I wanted to preserve the Glory Egg of course, so I dipped it in melted paraffin , put it in one of Davey's sweat socks. which I stuffed it into a yogurt container, and put way back in Davey/s fridge so it wouldn't dry out or go infertile ........especially in case there aren't others and we want to hatch and breed from this one. I checked it once every few days to make sure it's alright.... and when I looked just a few days ago, it was not alright....it wasn't even there.
Davey had cleaned the fridge, which he does like once every three years, and when he looked into the yogurt container , saw his sock....and took a whiff of it, he thought it was an advanced instance of yogurt rot. so he put the lid back on , and he shoved the thing into the kitchn trash he takes to the dump instead of into the compost, where even dog shit is good enough to go.
I suppose I should have used one of his clean socks, but he probably would have been pissed at me then too.
I'll not make a fucking religion about it..... just wait and watch the eggs fall.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Last night, I dreamed I was riding again in the cupola of that Alaska Rail Road caboose on the way to Moose Pass, firing my new-bought, pawn- shop .22 revolver out the window.
I saw the flashes out the leaky sides of the gun chamber, but couldnt hear the shots, because of the clackety clack of the railroad track. The train seemed to keep on rocking and rolling through most of the night........ until I smelled the coffee.
The coffee ....I smelled it before I opened my eyes .
Gradually, I noticed G.'s airy whistling from the galley below, and remembered where I was: up in the cupola of the trailer Davey set up and lived in only a year or so before Mnetha and family moved into town and he relocated across the yard, leaving the trailer to the mice and weasels.
It took a major blitz-surge to get the inside under control, and the weasels still chase the mice between the walls at night.
I can hardly believe that, after all we have done to get this abandoned trailer into shape, Davey's asking us to pay rent. To pay him rent, now that I am doing just about all the work of the place outside of writing his memoir....... and it looks like even that won't get done unless I do it.
Propped up on my elbows in the cupola , looking out through the condensation on the plexi like from inside a cloud, I saw the reddish-blond blob of a deer grazing just a few yards off and below, near one of Davey's caged fruit trees .
So many deer. Last night after our mushroom feed and before sleep, looking straight up at the traveling moon, we heard the yippity- yipping of a dozen coyote cubs out back, probably celebrating over another fawn they'd torn apart .
The open state land around us produces as much weight per acre in mice and deer as an acre in Idaho produces potatoes. The lusher the season and milder the winters become, the more fawns are born. And this year is junglly lush, with trees breaking in a moderate wind because of so much leafery, squirlly grape vines crossing the highway on telephone wires, fawns in sandboxes and flowerbeds. It's crazy.
The coyotes don't do much damage to the deer numbers...can't keep up with them, but the deer themselves do a lot of mischief in the orchard....worse even that the roosters.
So wouldn't you know, in late May, about when the pregnant does were tramping out of the woods to do their damage, Davey went up to Lake Bonaparte to fart around and do some dock work, leaving me in charge of everything here at Dog's Plot.
When I walked out back on the trails he had scythed from grafted pear tree to grafted pear tree, I saw that the deer had already been sampling some of the grafted shoots, so I took a lot of the buck thorn brush Davey had cut and leaned it around the most exposed of the clone trees . But I saw that really, the best thing would be to expand the mowing and fudge the trails some so they don't just lead the deer right to the trees.
The machete is my preferred tool for just about everything except driving nails, but it's mostly a one at a blow tool, so I would need to use Davey's scythe.......and since the scythe itself is longer than I am, I had to get out my dry wall stilts too .
In the shed, there was a robin's nest on one stilt, so I moved it to a snow shoe. I don't use the stilts much here at Dog's Plot...mostly just for when I go to town.
I'm pretty good on the stilts....so t someone passing me on the sidewalk might take me for a slightly arthritic but spry person of normal proportions, rather than a the guy with the partially descended legs....... but the scythe was a totally new thing for me.
I got up and going alright though. And the scythe is such a powerful multiplier of effort , that I was soon moving through the grass like a hover craft. Carried away by the tool. Not really the way to mow.
Out by the Black Berry patch, I heard the twittering of what I assumed to be the mocking bird that flits around here doing imitations of crows, finches, and the squeaky wheel on Davey's wheelbarrow......... when suddenly it stopped and a human voice shrilled out "Careful you don't take my head off with that fugging thing." I stumbled, tottered, and fell.
I managed to throw the scythe aside, but I hit my head on something.....I think on on one of Davey;s Buckthorn stumps.
When I came too, I had a pulsing bump on my forehead like a horn about to come through. I was soaking in the bathtub Davey had built into the back of the trailer. From the galley, came the sliding notes of that free-bird whistling and the sound of the manual coffee grinder.
My clothes and stilts were piled in the orange tobbogan sled on the floor beside the tub.
Never mind the horn of pain on my forehead, I was more comfortable than I remember being for years.....too comfortable to move .
Within a few minutes, that coffee scent came snaking under the partition door.
Then the door slid aside, and she walked in with a tray.
With that hair color somewhere between pumpkin and chanterell, With the tattoo of an oak leaf on one cheek, and a fall of maple leaves down her arms.
" it''s me,!" she said, but at first I didn't recognize her.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
At the height of my celebrity on campus while I was secretly living in one of his office desks, Alan Pike once introduced me at a Temple of Zeus poetry reading as "a cross between Toluse Latrec, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Rimbaud", but I didn't take it unkindly - my low stature after all was largely the reason for the spell I was able to put on an audience - .and about then Pike showed his real sympathy by showing up one day with a pair of drywall stilts he had bought for me on impulse at Ithaca Paint and Decorating.
At first I only clunked around the Goldwyn Smith. upstairs practicing on them at night. They were no match for the grace and speed of the lost fiber-glass rod legs Doc Howe had made for me, and my girl Garlic said they violated my true nature..... but one foray to the downstairs level established that , when I was mounted on them, people who were more or less familiar with me from the Temple of Zeus readings, didn't recognize me at all....so at least they would allow me to seem somewhat ordinary and stay up with the crowd.
That Spring, Geof Hewit , an editor of the the Trojan Hearse student literary mag, asked me for a poem they could publish, so I gave him the proven "I'm going to hump your leg". But - emboldened by my popularity - I changed every "hump " to "fuck".
The Hearse courageously accepted and published it.
Being a performing poet had gone to my head, but the prospect of actually being published , got me so excited that on the afternoon the magazine came out, I strapped on my sheet-rocking stilts and bell bottom pants, pulled on my pocket fedora, and went down to the Willard Straight student union, where the Hearse staff had set up a table near the front steps and were selling the magazine.
Sales were not exactly brisk, but I stood and watched from across the street, fascinated for almost an hour to see that I existed outside my self, magically and multiply, on paper.
The action heated when two campus police cars arrived and the cops confiscated every remaining copy of the magazine from the sales table..
Later, they also gathered up all the Hearse mags in the Campus store, and all from the magazine office in the Straight.
The campus chief of police who decided to impound the magazines would later became the Ithaca chief of police and gain fame for proposing a preventive detention compound at Stewart Park where young people could be concentrated to prevent them from rioting....or at least from rioting anywhere else. His plan would never go into effect, and his offense against freedom of the press would be corrected when the Cornell president (who had been out of town at the time) returned.... but not before a mass protest the following day, at the scene of the crime .
I was there....more or less invisible on my stilts. There was also a good contingent from the writing side of the English department faculty, including Walter Slatoff, Archie Ammons and old Baxter Hathaway, and also, I think Jim McConkey, the only one of them still living, and who may remember it differently,
But Geof Hewitt, standing up on the Straight Stump, introduced Baxter , who was standing with Archie near the back of the gathering. Baxter didn't come forward, but lit a cigarette. People drew away from him so that he could be seen and heard, or in case it was a bomb he was lighting. He was shaking with some kind of fury, but he didn't speak until he had taken a good draw on his Parliament.
"Note," he said, finally " the offending poem is not a great poem, and it may not even be a good poem, or one could argue that it is not a poem at all. It may be offensive to Mrs. Grundy or the chief police, but it is not for them to edit the Trojan Hearse, or to decide what shall be allowed in print."
Well, those may not be his exactly his words, but they were words to that effect, and the effect on me was to make me particularly glad at that moment to be invisible.
Anyway, invisible though I was, I was obscenely exposed to myself. Also, it was very clear that my residence in the G.S. desk was not going to be a secret much longer.
Afraid that there might be a call of "author, author", I backed away and left the rally right then.
I went back to Goldwyn Smith, cleared out the desk, and then went to Edgewood Place, where I picked up the old guitar case and some traveling clothes. I walked half way to Varna still on the dry wall stilts, then went down by Fall Creek, stowed the stilts in the guitar case and began hitch-hiking to Lake Bonaparte..... once again traveling as the midget musician who always got the ride and usually a meal, even if his guitar turned out to be only a harmonica.
I never even said good- bye to Garlic.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Look at this picture of Dog's Plot homestead. What do you notice? Not so much the little box of a come-lately house which now rests on the old foundation..... but rather the mighty Scots Pine which the old folk probably planted even before they started to girdle the existing trees and clear the stones, rocks, and ox-sized boulders out of the new fields
Why is it it is that those hardscrabble immigrants who had to transport their entire households and tools to build and grow what they would need, brought with them seedlings of trees that bore no edible fruit, particularly pines, to a country already prickly with pines?
Recently my friend the park ranger and Adirondack guide who goes by the name Riverheart, told me about some friends of his in the central Adirondacks who have a small business harvesting woodland herbs and essences. For the last several years they have been providing Scots pine pollen to scientists who have been looking into its chemical composition and running tests to determine its effects on certain medical conditions, such as arthritis, and Lyme disease.
The natural function of the pollen, in addition to the fertilization of the female element of the pine, is to act as a growth stimulant, and there is anecdotal evidence that limited doses have the same effect as Viagra. But beware. according The Natural Testosterone Plan; for Sexual Health and Energy by Stephen Harrod Buhner:
"The chemical analaysis has revealed that the
"Pine pollen contains large quantities of exceptionally potent sterols. One such, brassinoloide, is a powerful growth stimulant to plants. The brassinosteroids in pine pollen are also very similar in structure to many animal steroid hormones and produce similar steroidal activity. In addition to these kinds of sterols, pine pollen also contains significant human male hormones such as testosterone and androstenedione and relatively large quantities of amino acids and other essential nutrients. Scots Pine ( Pinus sylvestris) pollen has been found to contain androstenedione, testosterone, and epitestosterone in high amounts.
Cautions: Some people are sensitive to pine products- seed, pollen, bark, resin and so on. Negative reactions can run from mild allergies to anaphylactic shock. If you have a history of allergies to pollen or severe reactions to bee stings, do not use without consulting your health care practitioner. Adolescents should not take pine pollen.."
You can't look at these huge rocks which make up foundations, line the wells, and stud the hedgerows around here without speculating about how those men and boys moved them. There is a lot to be said for the sheer determination of the Scots Irish, and for the clever use of levers, inclined ramps, sledges and oxen, but there is also every advantage in having a gigantic testosterone and steroid producing plant looming over your home. It is no surprise that the Scotts and Irish who had been driven off their land by the English who destroyed most of the pine forests and put sheep on the land, would gather up some seedlings and take off across the water.
The presence of the big pine here helps explain some of brother Davey's bone stressing over-enthusiasm with the digging bar and shovel, such that he made some efforts his bones could not really support, and it also explains the supper aggessiveness of the roosters here, not explicable in terms of roostosterone alone.
Last year I decided to stop marketing Roostosterone on Ebay not only because of the occasional wattle and comb effect on customers, but also because of the difficulty of harvesting the stuff. But with the Scots pine.....which will be pollinating in May, there will be no such problem . I'll just shake the catkins in a bag....and as far as intended or unintended effects....well it is a natural substance to which we are all exposed to some degree, and it is up to every individual to manage what she puts in his mouth and visa versa. Anyway what could be worse than arthritis and Lyme disease, or maybe cancer?
For better or worse, I expect to be gathering pollen this Spring. It should provide a good boost for me pulling the Ark when I haul off to the Great North....so I may not need to get the Yak I have been considering and can't really afford anyway. Also, I could maybe sell some along the way to finance my travel, but, I'll leave the mail order marketing to the people a Woodland Essence: http://www.woodlandessence.com/
So don't bother me about it. And for Cripes sake, be careful. Note especially that, although this may actually be beneficial to some women, it is not for the allergic sort of person, and particularly not for adolescents.
I wouldn't even want to be around an adolescent stoked on the stuff, unless maybe he was at the bottom of a well or harnessed to a sledge.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
It wasn't generally known around the English department that I lived under a desk up in the junior faculty office garret , but only the most abstracted prof wouldn't notice me - barely four feet tall without my prosthetics - as I shuffled around Goldwyn Smith Hall, sat in on writing workshops, or appeared among the plaster casts of broken statuary at the Temple of Zeus open readings.
When I stood on a chair that first time to recite "Tripod, the Three Legged Dog" , people bent lower and fished in their coffee cups, but at the first line - " I'm going to hump your leg "- Archie Ammons let out a big country guffaw, and immediately the place echoed with laughter which resurged each of the three times in the poem's six lines that I threatened to hump their leg. It was a lame poem, but a few months later, crudely revised and worse yet, it would make me so infamous I would decide to disappear.
After that first reading, there were those who called me Tripod and made the obvious third-leg jokes, but Tripod was a real dog, truly famous on campus in the fifties, and long forgotten before most of them had appeared there. He was a malamute -half wolf- sled dog who had lost a front leg to gangrene as a result of a fight injury. He was useless as a sled dog after that, so some student had brought him back from a trip to Alaska, but it was not all that hard for Tripod to become top dog on the soft-dog Cornell campus.
At that time Cornell was an institution where it was a matter of pride and unofficial policy that any dog could attend any class. Dogs walked to campus with their fraternity boys, stayed and strayed all day, and hardly created more than a ripple of chuckling when they flopped down beside the lecturn or mated in the back of the lecture hall.
The beginning of the end of the dog years came when Tripod killed a couple of other dogs and was deported back to Alaska , but still in the early seventies when I was living in the desk , If anyone had suggested that you should not let your dog outside unless you were attached to it by a leash and that you should pick up its turds with a plastic baggy, that someone would have said, "pick up turds with a plastic baggy? What's a plastic baggy? What do you want with dog turds?
I wandered with a frisbie and Pike's dogs during the day, and I became a regular at old Professor Cole's introductory Geology lecture class they called "Rocks for Jocks." I liked the big story of the geological landscape, and the ecstatic phrases that rolled through it, like " glacial erratic boulders" .
I wrote it down in my tablet and drew pictures of glacial erratic boulders on page after page , some the size of houses and with pine trees growing on the top.
A slight girl with pumpkin colored hair was sitting two seats from me and because of her powerful aura of garlic, everyone else was at least three seats from her. I had also noticed her at the Zeus readings, and around about when I was throwing the frisbie for the dogs . I always sat fairly close to her in the Rocks lectures because there was always plenty of room around her ...anyway I have always been a dog for strong smells, so we were alone frequently in our private garlic bubble.
She wasn't more than five feet tall, with that pumpkin hair and big freckles mostly covering her pale skin like leaves on water. She was thin and superficially ethereal.... except for the heavy smell of garlic. She ate it by the whole clove from a Cracker Jack Box.
Her eyes were so pale green or gray that it was hard to see where they were directed, but she had obviously been watching me and my doodling .
One day before old Professor Cole had finished shuffling the notes that he never looked at because he had been giving the same scintillating lecture for years, the garlic girl, who had sat down only one seat away from me that day, tore this poem out of her notebook and pushed it onto the writing arm of my chair:
" That Glacial Erratic is nothing ecstatic,
or a god-egg that fell from the sky.
But it's not so mundane as if it fell from a train:
a garden stone imported from Shanghai.
Its purely symptomatic of ice in the Arctic
Which built up in the Great Bye and Bye."
It was very cute , but all I could say was thanks.
She offered a grin and a garlic clove from her cracker jack box. I put it in my shirt pocket instead of eating it right there, and that is all that passed between us until the class was over, but the deal was done, and after class, we walked out in our private bubble of garlic mist.
The garlic, she would tell me, was to keep predators off, and Garlic was the name she went by. She never told me her real name, but she said her father was an ornithologist, a specialist in raptors. I never heard about her mother. Garlic said she could see that I was no predator. This was true....a scavenger , but not much of a predator, certainly not a sexual one, and at that point, I was a twenty-some year old virgin who had never humped anything but trees. Garlic took me down to a place in the gorge where she kissed me and told me that I was an elf or a fairy.....in the magical sense......we took garlic together and she came with me to my desk lair. We pulled out all the drawers to make more space and that evening she discovered my General Dinglehammer - she was the one who came up with that name for it.
From then on Garlic sat with me in Zeus, called me Pan the Man and Boneypart in public, was with me privately every night, insisted on climbing with me on the rope rigging through the skylight to the G.S. roof where, ecstatic, we rang the dingle bells in the copper valley , held on and came through it , even as we slid half way to the eves and scared the shit out of me.
That outrageous behavior didn't have consequences or get noticed, but we were becoming conspicuous. Davey said I should stop bringing Garlic to the office...maybe some envy involved. I doubt any girl ever told him he was a magical being. Anyway, I think some of the other junior faculty up there were beginning to sniff around and talk. Global forces were at work. Erratic love had to go.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
I'm a motherless child who's had at least half a dozen pretty good mothers and old Alan Pike was one of my best mothers of all. When I limped up onto the Arts quad, he took me under his brawny wing and saw to it that I was fed , then put me up in the junior faculty attic office he shared with my brother Davey, and did his best to administer an emergency Ivy League education.
Before he invited me to camp under the spare desk in their office, Pike had known me mostly from Davey's exaggerated accounts of how I used to climb with the raccoons, and sleep up in the pines, or float the whole night long out on Lake Bonaparte. Pike had something of the feral romantic in his own nature, and also I think that as a fairly short man, he felt especially comfortable with me - a really short one..... though with my legs on, I would be taller than him.
You might not notice that he was a small man. He didn't wear lifts or talk really low, or really loud, or punch you in the nose, or use any of those cheap little-man tricks. What you noticed was a figure like a tensed railroad spike which seemed like at any moment it might suddenly flip end over end through the air and thunk six inches deep into the wall, just to make a point.
He was a genius, knew that he was, and acted the part to distract, entertain, impress, and to teach . On top of that he was extremely self critical, and generous with others to the point that he suffered fools.... and he was a lot more delighted than Davey was to have me living in their office.
When he brought me a doggy bag of Chinese carry-out for the second time that first week, he also left me a bottle of Chianti.
And when he discovered during his office hours the next week, that I hadn't half finished the wine, he stayed around after hours until I wandered in, and then he helped me drink it.
I had never been a very good drinker : if I didn't guzzle, puke, and pass out, I just became a stump, not able to do anything but listen. So I listened, and Alan told me a lot about wine, and then he told me about technical climbing, and he told me the little story about his awakening as a genius.
He had taught himself to read at age three, but he was not all that extraordinary as a kid until he took the I.Q. test at school and his parents told him that he had scored at the high genius level.
With that knowledge, and from that moment on, he became the expert on everything, the leader of every activity, the president of his class and of everything else.
If he had decided to, he could have been the first Jewish President of the American Baptist Convention. He was a competition High Diver in high school, a Yale scollarshp Wiffenpoof with perfet pitch, then a Navy Seal, underwater demolition expert.
His tastes were wide and his and appetite for literature , music, food and wine was huge and contagious: He liked the cheap Italian wines, but he talked a fine line of French Vinifera too.
So after a very few evenings with him, I was aware of a whole lot more distinctions than I could taste.
As with wine, I didn't have much taste in poetry, and at that point, I had never even been drunk on it. I remember telling Pike I liked stories and useful information, not stuff like apple blossoms falling softly on cow dung, and he said that wasn't bad at all..apple blossoms falling on cow dung....that I should sit in on one of his writing classes, that there was all kinds of poetry - even informative poetry.
For an instance of that, he brought out the poem where James Dicky describes how he'd made a blow gun using a length of aluminum electrical conduit, and made darts from straight sections of coat hanger wire he sharpened by dragging the points over the asphalt of his driveway .
Well I wasn't about to attend poetry classes but I thought that was a pretty good poem and I said so.
So the next time Pike came in, he had a piece of conduit, a box of cotton balls, a few coat hangers, wire cutters, wrapping thread, and a brick for sharpening the darts on.....and we did it up as in the poem.
We hung a doggy blanket between some chairs and we set foam coffee cups on top of the inverted waste basket, then shot at them for probably a couple hours.
Pike had those Whiffenpoof Seal lungs, and I have a good pair myself, but mainly good blow-gunning is in the technique. It's is like woods-=whooping, or attacking a hill on a bike, or blowing a trumpet: a fast intake which radically expands the lungs, the diaphragm, the chest cavity and the cheeks, as if you had been blown into..... and then the quick bounce back.......
Fwhack ! Very satisfying.
Sometimes the dart would go right through the blanket, clatter against the wall, and leave the cotton ball to fall on the floor.
We filled a lot of plaster chips with tooth paste in the next week...... and eventually we got a dart board.
Davey had told Pike about how we had once used a bow and arrow to get a climbing line over the house at Edgewood Place, so that gave Pike the idea how we could use the blow gun to to get up through the sky light of the office.
He bent the end of a dart into a loop, tied monofillament to it, then pushed the dart about a foot up the tube packed several yards of nylon monofillament behind it, letting it trail out to loops on the floor. The floor end of the mono was joined to twenty five yards of heavy cord, which ran to one hook of a treble boat anchor with tennis balls on the points. He had tied a hundred feet of climbing rope to the anchor eye.
About one A.M. on a cloudy , but not so cold night in November, when there was likely to be nobody around to see us, or frolicking dogs to get hit with the dart, we pulled my desk under the sky light, Pike stood on the desk, stuck the blow pipe out and whooped the dart over the ridge of the building.
He went out to locate the dart, and I stayed in to manage the ropes, but he came back in after twenty minutes saying he hadn't been able to find the dart. . So we went out together and after a few minutes of sweeping the air with our hands we still hadn't found the mono, nor stumbled on the dart.
I picked up a doggy stick and went around waving waving it to extend my reach, then up the steps to the statue of the seated Goldwyn Smith himself.... and there was the dart, right at the feet of Goldwyn Smith, with the mono draped over his shoulder.
So, I went back to the office , got up on the desk and, when I jerked the line to signal him, Pike proceeded to hauled on the monofilament . I made sure the knot and the cord tied to it flowed through it, then with a broom, helped ease out grappling hook...... the climbing rope followed easily..
Fifteen minutes later we were up on the ridge toking on Pike's corn cob pipe, and he talked l about K2 and the Hindu Kush .
I still have the blow gun. I keep an old fly rod tip section shoved down into it, so that I can roam around using the tube as a walking stick, or a rooster whacker, until such time as I want to whip out the rod, and fly fish or blow darts.
The skylights are gone now, and Pike never made it to K2, or wrote his impossible thesis on the impossible Pynchon, or finished the story he was always mulling, which changed as he mulled it, and was as last I know about a recluse who lived in an abandoned bus with a dog pack.
but there were enough adventures ahead that there were some to look back on, only one of which was with both Davey and me too: a canoe trip, which was mostly carrying the canoe, and mostly the two of them doing it, along the old Alpine road to Indian Lake,
I'm no help carrying a canoe: too short without my legs, too bouncy with them. It was June, which means mosquitoes, black flies, and vicious punkies.
We smoked weed continuously to keep the bugs off, got bloodied anyway, and deeply stoned in the bargain. We caught half a dozen bass, which we ate half-raw, and with great pleasure. Stoned or not, I remember it all well.
We talked in the cooking smudge and into the night; we recalled the climbing of Goldwyn Smith and Pike pretended to argue that the dart had landed exactly where he aimed for, but given the complications and the distance and his frank newness to the blowgun then, the place he had aimed for logically would be the last place one ought look for it.... or otherwise he would have found it himself.
He explained that for the same reason, if you are going to celebrate by shooting a gun up into the air, you should try to aim it exactly straight up, because the last place it is going to come down, is into the top of your head.
He said, If a drunk Albanian gypsy shoots off like that , every one in the encampment who has managed to keep his head so far, runs to stand as close to the gunman as possible.
Matter of fact, said pike, when I had found the dart, he had been just about to look for it in Goldwyn Smith's Lap .....he had actually aimed for the lap not the feet, but it probably hit there and clattered down to his feet where I located it.
Near the place we camped on narrow Lake, Alan did find - lying a few feet from one another close to the shore , a pair of muskrat jaws bones, but with no skull or other bones near.
One day late that summer, after I had been out behind his place picking blueberries, he gave me f the muskrat jaws, which he had wrapped together at the hinge ends with the teeth pointing at each other, and strung on a raw hide boot lace.
I still have it right here. A minor work of genius.
Monday, April 6, 2009
It's a shame I probably won't be staying here at Dog's Plot long enough to see pears on Davey's grafted trees, Dog help him . But I've got an idea for another project: a project which might even bear fruit before I ship out.
And this time, I'm going to do it myself.
I'm no student of wine, but I can drink a jug of it now and then, and one of the first things I learned from Alan Pike ....and which any beginning student of wine history also knows..... is that when the native European vines developed a root blight back in the twentieth century, it was found that the New World vines were resistant to the disease. So our New World root stocks were exported to Europe for the Chablais and the Chardonadys and all that to be grafted onto. Now, by virtue of these roots, French Champagne is as American as Jerry Lewis.
You know where I'm going with this: I am going to graft cultivated varieties onto the wild grapes.
It should be even easier than the pear grafting. All I'll need is the machete to split the stock, cuttings from the survivors among the half dozen vines Davey redundantly planted a couple of years ago, and to seal the grafts, some tar from one of his abandoned cans behind the trailer.
I'm pretty sure that I get better results than the one-in-four success rate Davey got by doing it in too early spring , when he got prematurely excited about the reproductive process. I can hold the enthusiasm until things are really growing and no frosts are expected.
I won't have to plant, I won't have to water, the vines I graft onto will already be well established, and I won't have to support or prune or cage them. I'll graft above the reach of deer and rabbits, and just let them go right back up the trees they are based on.
I know from the heavy-bearing, never-pruned old vine that wrapped around the south west corner of the house at Edgewood Place, that a single vine can occupy as much space as half a dozen are allowed in a vineyard, and even if it won't produce as much as six vines...a third of that will be fine. About a ton. If it hadn't been for the coons and possums which came into town to harvest them, the weight of the grapes alone would have brought the arbors down.
And anyway, it isn't as if I was going into business here, or had to pay for tractors, yard help, harvest crews, fences, nets,, and electronic protection, etc.. etc. etc. So there you go: Free Range Grapes.
Well, it's as cold as a witch's grapes today and I can't even push the chickens out of here.... but the season is close to the turning point, so I'll go out and cut some bud sticks off the chicken house vine today before they swell, then stick them in some baggies in Davey's fridge until the time is right.
And this afternoon I'll get back to grubbing out some more buckthorn stubs before Dangerous Dave finishes up his obsessive peening and whetting and comes a whacking with the brush scythe.