September 30, 2003

Day I – Home’s All Right

Let us see if the loose threads of the last few days can be captured.

I arrived in Minneapolis Wednesday night, and the first bit of news I caught (besides the late-breaking story that professional women picking up their luggage at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport are freakin’ hot) was that some kid shot up some more kids at a small Minnesota school. Well. My first thought was that we need to run a public service campaign to keep these things from happening. Kids need to know that homicide isn’t cool. It would be something that needs to run during the commerical breaks for after-school cartoons. “Hey kids? Do your peers make fun of you at school? Don’t have any friends? No one wants to sit with you on the bus? Maybe suicide is the answer you’re looking for! It works for thousands of Americans every year. Perhaps this will be the year it works for you!”

Whoa. This line of thought brought me to a complete stop in the path of the automatic door to the parking garage. I cocked my head to one side and considered. Yes, I decided. I didn’t want to press it any further, but it was definitely a job for Something Awful.

I went out to eat with the folks at the Gold Nugget in Minnetonka, a little hole-in-the-wall goldrush bar that has the best onion rings and burgers you’ve ever tasted. It used to be called Alkali Ike’s back in the day (whatever day that was), and it shares a parking lot with an auto body shop. Proud to be back in the Midwest I slapped the table with my palm and ordered a Grainbelt Premium. “Gimme a Primo!” It came straight from the tap in a frosty mug.

Wednesday being my birthday, we needed a cake. I wanted an ice cream cake so we went to the Dairy Queen right down the street. I wanted a cake with a clown and balloons and maybe a chainsaw and a triple-jointed arm. They had a giant smiley face cake, which I decided was just fine. The 15-year-old girls behind the counter, who were giggly and busy making eyes at me, offered to write something on it. I considered the infinite options: funeral announcement, classified ad, a dirty limerick or two… but decided on “HAPPY BIRTHDAY DANE.” Dane being my name, usually. I let the girls choose whatever color they wanted. They chose blue. I told them I loved it.

When we got back to the house my friend Diggity Dan had just showed up. Willis was home as well, so we all gathered around the table and ate ice cream and talked and laughed. They were all good things. We thought how funny it would be if a town had both a Dairy Queen and a Poison Dairy Queen, and people would knowingly buy Dilly Bars and such from the Poison Dairy Queen, just because it was in a more convenient location than the real Dairy Queen. The conversation quickly spiralled beyond anyone’s comprehension but my own, and that too was eventually lost in the fray.

Too soon it was late and time to retire for the evening, as tomorrow was to be another day.

We know time.

The Westback Side of My Eyes

We are safely back in Hood River, and by we I mean me, and by me I mean everyone else who is also safely back in Hood River, and by everyone else I mean those who never left and have always been safely back in Hood River since the Beginning. The plane flew over Mount Hood and I got to look at it and say I did that. I muttered a lot of things to that mountain from 30,000 feet.

A full report on the events of this past week is pending, and will likely be released in installments. Right now it is black beans and rice night, however, so I need to walk down to Safeway for peppers and onions.

Wouldn’t you like to be a pepper, too?

September 21, 2003

180 degrees

I survived our 1/2 circumnavigation of Mount Hood. I’m plum exhausted and chilling to the new Mates of State album, eating Hot & Spicy Cheez-Its, sniffing Nag Champa and trying not to fall asleep.

My nose, neck and arms are sunburned. I had forgotten that I’ve been working an inside job the last few months and have lost my bronze Hook armor. My boots absolutely munched my feet to pieces. The bottom of my right big toe is missing, my heels are shredded and I have countless other blisters pocketing my toes. It makes sense, considering. We rode hard this weekend. Twenty-two miles of hiking between 5,000 and 7,000 feet over two full days, with god knows how much elevation change. Charging above the timberline and through snow fields, alpine meadows and old-growth forests.

I realize now that those awful feet of explorers, with their huge raw wounds and oozing holes, are just a matter of degree. Eventually you reach a point where you just stop caring. The pain becomes part of the challenge; a morbid ballet played between the will of man and the fury of nature. You bite your lip and charge on not for the benefit of your body, hardly, but for the enrichment your soul. You realize that you need the intensity, the colorful agony that reminds you that you’re alive, that the atmospheres of a billion worlds are being pulled into your lungs and circulating red beneath your skin. It’s a brutal worship of sky and earth, body and soul. It is under this terrible strain that we can truly discover ourselves.

And at the same time the sheer beauty was enough to pop your skull. Rugged and graceful, gritty and elegant. I watched spiders drift up the mountainside on silken threads. We spent saturday night at 7,000 feet atop Gnarl Ridge. We watched the sun set on forested hills and mists gather in valleys. We watched as the sun fell behind Mount Hood and cast its shadow beyond the hills and into the deserts of eastern Oregon, a huge dark tooth spread out across hundreds of miles of countryside. And we could see the edge, the line where the sun met darkness in the barren and dry wilds of Oregon.

Mars dominated the heavens long before the sky grew black, and stars slowly popped out and filled in the growing darkness. The Milky Way stretched out above us and we decided against setting up the tent. Satellites sailed silently over our heads, their strange patterns summoning explanations of conspiracy. The wind picked up. At first we thought it was indicative of bad weather approaching, but as the sky stayed painfully clear we realized it was the just air on the mountain channeling through the Newton Creek valley. Mount Hood’s icy breath chilled us until dawn.

And then. Heather Canyon, Mount Hood Meadows, the White River and finally, after a grueling ascent, Timberline Lodge. 180 degrees of Mount Hood complete. Celebration with beer and burgers at a rough bar in Government Camp, the premier lawless snowboard town of the Pacific Northwest. If you don’t ride, and if you don’t smoke, and if you don’t get in fights, you have no business here in the winter.

And if you get the two-for-one drink pin at Charlie’s, it will pay for itself over a long weekend.

September 19, 2003


It be Internationarrr Talk Like a Pirate Darrr!

Having trouble gettin’ yar blood in ordarr? Have a look see at this histarrical note from last summarr:

Pirate Day here at camp, and t’is been a day of legends. Pirates invaded our camp through the waterfront (in a fine motorized craft with two canoe outriggers) and raised the Jolly Roger over the green waters of Lake Independence. I was among the roudy bunch, boasting a bandanna, a belt of rope and a powder blue suitcoat with the name “Enronbeard” on the back.

Read on about the Birth of Legends!

September 18, 2003

For Immediate Release

I must pack, for tomorrow I leave on a backpacking trip for the weekend. We’re hiking from Vista Ridge to the Timberline Lodge, along the east side of Mount Hood. The hike will take us more than twenty miles and halfway around the mountain.

Today after work we drove to Timberline to plant the Green Dragon so we’ll have a crafty means of getting home when we emerge from the woods. Today would not have been a good day to hop up and down on the roof of Oregon. Clouds swirled madly over the summit of Mount Hood, like a vaporous hand clutching the gearshift of the gods. Before we left the lodge we filled out and submitted a Backcountry Preparedness Form, which more than anything read like a press release in case of our grisly deaths.

From our vantage above the timberline we could see Trillium Lake in the fading light. Its surface was perfectly still, like a pool of quicksilver reflecting the pines along the shore. It looked like a hole in the ground to a reverse universe.

Then I slammed my left hand in the car door. Hard. The door was completely latched and I had to pull it open to release my hand, which now had a deep purple canyon running across the back of all my fingers. We filled up a Dairy Queen cup with snow from the side of the road and I iced my hand for the ride home. It still hurts (especially the middle finger, which is a shame because it’s the most communicative finger) but really I’m still in shockenaw over the amazing resilience of the human body. Today is the Last Quarter Moon, and if I can stay alive until Sunday I will have officially survived a third of a year in Oregon. If I survive the entire weekend I may pursue another expedition (or a dition-expe) into some woods next weekend.


Ahoy, ya’ll!

Just one more day until International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

This day is wholeheartedly endorsed by the University of Minnesota Duluth Coolest Club Ever. The CCE is a creative thinktank dedicated to the discovery, analysis and dissemination of all things cool and cool related.

What really gets me is the ‘international’ scope of this day. International, like, Nepal. Or Burkina Faso. Or the South. David, I want pictures of little Japanese businessmen crammed in a train like sardines, all dressed as pirates!

Or should I say? SAAAARRRRdines!

September 14, 2003


While kiting today I received my first round of threats from a windsurfer. I had to emergency land my kite twenty feet away from him:


“Sorry about that!”

“Get the hell away from here, smelly kiter!”

“Dude. Sorry.”


“Relax, man.”


“So what are you gonna do about it? You gonna tack upwind and kick my ass?”

“. . .”