May 10, 2004

The Forests of the Northwest

There is nothing like coming around a bend in the trail to be greeted by a lush green valley, with steep walls of trees still steaming with the wetness from last night’s rain. Multiply this experience by a million times, with every possible variation imaginable, and you may have some idea what my weekend was like.

The rainforests of the Pacific Northwest are a peaceful, haunting place where mountains, streams and pines resonate with a damp silence. The cool, moist air perfumes the lungs and soothes the buzzing mind. Green life seeps out of every crack in the earth, and if you listen closely you can actually hear the forest growing. Green encroaches on all sides, and with time you begin to understand who is the true master of these woods. Though sedated by the thick atmospheres, you quicken your pace to harmonize yourself with the life expanding around you.

The harmony takes, but it only takes for so long because both you and the forest feel hunger. Your steps become sluggish and you pause just for a moment to catch your breath, because you can see your breath just as you can see the clouds of steam rising from the hemlocks.

You stop moving, and your feet cast down thin roots that snake into tiny crevices. You try to lift one foot, and then the other, but you don’t try too hard because you can breathe now and that’s all that matters. You take a breath, perfumed with a soft breeze from the coastline. Ivy sprouts from your fingertips, coiling up your arms like delicate veins of jade. Tendrils of moss drop down from the trees and slowly wrap around your limbs. They massage your muscles, working deeper and deeper inside.

You tilt your head back and laugh. Deep, joyful laughter, resonating from the depths of your soul. Your body has never felt such nourishment. The green seeps in from all sides. Your heart leaps in ecstasy, slows, and then stops. Consciousness remains. Nay, consciousness replaces a previous unconsciousness. Your roots thicken, your limbs thicken. You remember things. Time passes, and with time, time becomes irrelevant.

In the forests of the Northwest, there are no trees at all. There are only the souls of those who were blessed with wanderlust.

May 9, 2004


Whoa. I just got back from the Coast, and by no stretch of the imagination this has been one of the best weekends of my whopperjawed life. A highlights reel? Really? Ahh shucks, ya shouldn’t have:

A free map of California.

A morning trip to the 7-11 (including 2-inch long fingernails).

Free Bags of Manure.

Bags of Manure: $20.

“I locked myself out of my room.”

“You’ve only been here ten minutes.”

“It’s been a productive ten minutes.”

Hotel rooms with fireplaces.

The taste of salt hanging in the air.

Crashing ocean waves that remind me of Lake Superior.

Catching the magical talking crab.

Learning how to pronounce “Yachats.”

Riding my bike uphill.

Pushing my bike uphill.

Riding my bike downhill.

Riding my bike down hills that make riding down stairs seem like eating a delicious piece of cake.

Emerging from the woods a new man.

Emerging from the woods with aching muscles caked in mud.

Once again feeling the interaction of muscle, skin and sinew.

Chocolate covered granola bars with a whopping 210 calories each.

Driving down a road until I reach the sign that says PAVEMENT ENDS.

Tormenting giant slugs because I find them utterly fascinating. Shouting at them to see if they can hear.

The yellow “Pedestrian Crossing” sign in Yachats, where someone has removed the fellow’s head and put it in his hand.

“There’s a telephone in the bathroom.”

Running through sea gulls on the beach.

The Drift Inn Pub.

Continental breakfasts with grapefruit juice.

The pathetic old man in the hotel lobby: “Well, time to get back to real life. It was fun to leave for awhile.” My barely masked desire to grab him by the collar, shout DON’T YOU SEE, OLD MAN?! in his ear, and make him understand.

Making fun of giant black beetles cuz they’ve got purple on them. “Ha, ha! You’re purple!”

Talking to squirrels and then not talking to squirrels, and then watching them get really mad at me because I’m not talking to them, anymore.

A bandanna soaked in a cool stream.

Spending two full days on trail and never seeing another soul.

“I win!”

The Funeral Procession to Eugene

Soaking in the Terwilliger Hot Springs after a long day of hiking.

“My broken what?”

Taking delicious slurps of life.

May 5, 2004

Requiem for Ra

Augh. I realized today that it’s been nearly two months since I’ve done anything more physically demanding than walking up a flight of stairs, and I’m really starting to feel it mentally. I feel like I’ve been slowly rotting away the last few weeks, that I’ve become increasingly bitter and crabby and sulky. I mean damn, I’m acting like I’m in college again. My body is on the brink of being completely healed (falls in gravel pits and attempts at snowboarding notwithstanding), so soon enough I’ll be able to pull this wreck around and quit being such a sour-puss. Honestly, there’s no excuse for this. It’s spring time in Bend, it ain’t forty below, and I didn’t shot a man. Johnny Cash has no words for this.

My injury did give me the opportunity to really focus on improving my skills at web design, and as a result I’ve pretty much maxxed out what I can learn about HTML and CSS. Hand me any design and I can probably slice it up and make it work. Quickly. Consistently. In Internet Explorer, Opera, Mozilla and Firebird. If I had a Macintosh testing station at my disposal, well, I could probably make these things work in there as well. Anyways, ya gotta start somewhere, and now I’ve got a pretty good head start.

So really, in the absence of other pursuits I’ve become a markup code monkey, and the upshot of this is that there is surprisingly little I still need to learn about hypertext and stylesheets. This is quite neat, as it frees my hands to delve deeper into learning Flash, JavaScript, PHP and MySQL, but it’s also frustrating in that I now find working with HTML and CSS, well, kinda boring. While my coding is far from perfect and will no doubt evolve as I continue to learn more about things I currently can’t even fathom, I’m already writing better code than 90 percent of the people out there.

I say this not to be boastful, but to shine light on a benchmark in my growth as a web designer. To keep this thing interesting in the future, I’m gonna need to dig into some areas that I haven’t had an opportunity to explore up until this point… more graphic design work, more experimentation with scripting, interacting with databases, a dash o’ Flash, DHTML, etc.

Really, it all comes down to learning new things. Thanks to the last few months I can now write happy code, drive a stick shift, shoot a rifle, and do my own taxes. I’ve also got a few plans to keep myself busy over the next few months, which include hitting up the singletrack on my new Specialized, getting back on my kiteboard, leading climbs at Smith, tinkering with FreeBSD, and learning how to play the bass guitar. Down the road I plan on dropping out of high school, hooking up with a shitty punk band, touring the country, and becoming addicted to heroin and whores.

Last night Simon threw a going-away kegger for himself. We had a bonfire in his back yard. I got drunk and used my outside voice. I toasted a marshmallow with my bare hands. The cops showed up three times.

May 3, 2004

White trash need websites, too.

Not much to say for today, beyond the fact that I made my most kick-ass Phad Thai ever. In the past I’ve always made the mistake of trying to sautee too much rice noodleadge at one time, which results in a disaster scenario where half my stir fry ends up in the burner, the other half ends up on the floor, and a half that mysteriously condenses out of the ether ends up in my mouth. This time around I rethought my component ratios, turned up the green onions and bean sprouts, turned down the noodles, and everything turned out dandy. Why, I would go so far as to say it was absolutely divine.

Also today, I stocked the fridge at work with a 24-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Morgoth gave me huge amounts of crap for getting such crappy beer in such gross quantities, but I fired back with the fact that it was actually him that carried the PBR into the office. My hands were full with a grocery bag of gorp and pieces of The Bread Craze that is currently taking our shop by storm. Most of the fridge was already filled with 96 cans of Mountain Dew, and the only space left for booze was in the crisper. Let me tell ya, 24 cans of beer can really fill up the crisper, though even Morgan agreed that it was important our beer remain crisp. Especially the crisp, refreshing taste of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Our next goal at work is to get a kiddie pool and set it up out front by our garage door. I figure this summer we’ll all take turns soaking in the pool wearing nothing but dirty white t-shirts and underpants, drinking Pabst, and flinging empty beer cans at passersby as we mock them ruthlessly. I figure that this is the professional image my company wants to convey, especially when we have scheduled meetings with our clients.

May 2, 2004

Away and Back Again

It’s late, I’m tired, and I happen to be covered in poisonous wasp spray and homemade gorp… hence, I’m gonna sit here and flap my hands around to loosen them up a bit. To some people these are the sundry exercises done to avoid carpel tunnel, but to me it is called writing. Or authoring. Authoring with horrible penmanship and smudge marks. Mistakes? If I still worked for a newspaper I could request that “special” sand to help blot out my factual errors. You know, the sand that’s ground from the bones of the innocent.

I’ve developed some strange sleeping habits this weekend. Saturday night I fell asleep at 11:00 pm in my car on the volcanic shores of Mount Hood. It was a restless night, wrought with peculiar half-dreams about friends and lovers both old and new, and sudden starts to wakefulness to fend off the demons gathering in the shadows where the moon refused to shine. I woke up at 5:15 am to finish my drive back to Bend, got home just after 7:00 and slept until 10:00.

Waking up early in the morning is the most painful thing on earth for me, and there are only two situations that make it bearable. 1) I’m camping, or 2) I’m on a road trip. I hate driving at night but I love taking that early morning stretch, where the world looks like it’s wrapped in a blue haze of cigarette smoke. The sun isn’t up but the earth isn’t dark, and the entire landscape is holding its breath in anticipation of the sunrise. Maybe it’s nothing spectacular, maybe it’s just Nebraska, but while the rest of the world still sleeps, for that time it is your Nebraska.

At 7:00 pm on Friday night I went to take a quick nap, and ended up sleeping until 9:30. My roommate came home around 10:00 so I kicked his ass in Tony Hawk 3 before settling down to an evening of half-hearted web design and a ragingly passionate session of Warcraft III. Sometime after 2:00 am I went to bed, and woke up at 7:30 am to do a few chores ’round the house. I had some business at the Mountain so around 10:00 I paid $2.11 a gallon for gas and swung on up into the Cascades. When I got back in town I hit up some garage sales and considered picking up an 8-track recorder. I eventually decided against it and drove up to Hood River instead.

It was great to see my town again. Hood River was right where I left it, and the cradling hills of the Gorge felt a lot cozier than the scratchy deserts of Bend. But that’s why we do these things. If we never left Hood River we would have no idea what it would be like to return to Hood River. If we never left Duluth we’d never know what it felt like to pull over that hill and finally see Duluth, and all the chilly turquoise waters of Lake Superior, unroll far below.

After spending Saturday afternoon meeting up with as many people from the cast of thousands as humanly possible, I ducked out of Hood River around 10:00 pm to begin the trek back to Duluth. I mean, Bend.

I mean, home.