Mike: Tamara, where are we?
Tamara: Where are we?
Tamara: Uh, we’re in Dolores Park in San Francisco.
Mike: What’s it like here?
Tamara: There are less hipsters and people selling pot brownies than usual. I think because of [the nearby music festival] Outsidelands.
Mike: Here comes Flink … that’s a question.
Tamara: That’s a question?
Flink: [Suggesting an interview question] Dear diary, what’s your fucking deal?
Tamara: Did Mike ask you really probing questions? Like “where are we”?
Flink: He asked “is everything okay”, which I answered somewhat peevishly.
Mike: I’m sorry, these are hard to do and the pace of the interview is really slow.
Flink: I doooooon’t knooooooow — No, don’t write that for God’s sake.
Mike: Tamara, we saw a goat and a camera crew earlier. Can you describe some cinematography that you thought was especially moving?
Flink: Man, some of these guys are really good at throwing frisbees.
Tamara: That’s a really bad segue. I watched this short documentary in China [wherein a guy wanted to explode a really big rock for the sake of art and the final explosion shot was really cool. He had to find the right rock and bribe local officials.]
Flink: I can safely say I would watch the fuck out of that.
Tamara: When we walked in, we didn’t realize it was 45 minutes long, and the story leading up to it got kind of boring. But the explosion was good … Now I want to watch this documentary about the goat.
Hello, Portland! It’s about 6:30 pm at the Stumptown Coffee on Division St. in Southeast Portland. The Dolores Park interview is from August 12th. Today I went for a hike in the Mount Hood Wilderness with Tamara; she flew up here from San Francisco for the weekend.
I went to school here in Portland, at Reed College, and lived in Southeast Portland for four years after I graduated. In a lot of ways, Portland still feels like home. The summer after my sophomore year I spent a lot of time in the Mount Hood Widerness, and it was nice to revisit an old trail that I still sort of remembered. We hiked up to Burnt Lake from the south trailhead.
Portland is a nice city. And I’ve tried to settle in my home state of Iowa as an adult, but it’s never quite worked out right for me. So I think I’ll spend some more time traveling this month, then settle here in Portland, again. The trick to living here is not to be bothered by skinny guys with ridiculous mustaches. For years and years I wished Civil War-era facial hair would make a comeback — be careful what you wish for, I guess.
Hey Mark! Greetings from California. I’m up in the mountains at Castle Crags State Park in Northern California, just south of Mount Shasta, sitting next to the Sacramento River. A Union Pacific Train just passed by on the opposite side of the river, and now that it’s gone you can hear the traffic on Interstate 5. Beyond I-5 is the rest of the park, including the campground where I spent last night and the actual crags for which the park is named.
I took some artistic liberties with the drawing above — I didn’t actually drive to the top of the crags, although I did hike up to a viewpoint. The helpful sign at the viewpoint informed me that Castle Crags is a rock formation known as a granitic pluton, although I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with that information. I’m pretty cynical, so I assume that some granitic pluton awareness council placed the sign in hopes that it wool encourage me to buy granitic pluton futures or invest in a granitic-pluton-based hedge fund.
Ever since the pig attack earlier this summer I’ve had some impressive scars on my legs. Unfortunately, they are like magnets for crazy people. Yesterday in Redding a weird guy on a bridge started talking to me, and when he found out that my pig attack happened on the same day that he chose to leave his apartment and all his belongings behind, he started acting like we shared this great kinship and launched into a tirade about his former neighbor who smashed his window in, and how the cops didn’t believe that his neighbor did it, and in fact they thought that he had smashed his own window in, which proved that his neighbor was a cop. Fortunately, I’ve learned that it’s easy to disengage from a guy on a meth rant with the six simple words “I have to go now, goodbye”.
Later on, at my campsite, a weird but harmless dude who’d ridden his bike here from Florida talked about his plans to end his trip by climbing Mt. Shasta, which is not really advisable, at least not if you’ve never climbed a mountain before and plan on doing it alone and don’t know that having snow on a mountain makes it easier to climb.
Hey Mark — While driving this summer I’ve had a lot of time to think about what works well with the Vanagon — both mine in particular and the model in general — and what doesn’t. And I’m pretty happy with mine. Even though it’s only two-wheel drive, I haven’t had any problems getting around. But still, a Syncro would be nice. The problem is, everyone else feels the same way.
So I took the liberty of designing some budget-conscious alternatives. Do you think Rocky Mountain Westy might want to offer these conversions to customers? If so, I’m willing to license any of these designs for a modest fee (payable in either cash or sandwiches, depending on my financial situation).
The first design is the easiest to implement, but would require you to partner with an equine specialist. My advice is to beware of anyone who thinks it’s okay to give an animal a name with six or more syllables.
The second design is a little trickier, and plus it looks like the kind of thing someone on the Internet has already probably done.
But the third design — this is where the Vanagon aftermarket is definitely heading. Practical, but plenty of character. A V-8 diesel 4×4 powertrain for less than the cost of a barely running Syncro Westy. Better (i.e., non-zero) towing capacity. And cup holders that came built in from the factory.
Sure, the idea seems like Volkswagen heresy now, but give the world time. Pretty soon we’ll all be wondering how we ever lived without it.
Hello Morgan! Greetings from Red Bluff, California! The Golden State enjoys a reputation as one of our country’s most liberal places, but I do not think the people responsible for propagating that reputation have spent much time here. On the one hand you have San Francisco and Los Angeles and et cetera, but on the other hand you have pretty much the rest of the state, which ranges from mixed-bag to Palin-esque (in terms of both attitude and policy preferences). It’s a big, weird, politically schizophrenic state.
Red Bluff lies somewhere between mixed-bag to just-right-of-mixed-bag, or at least that’s the sense I get. I’m not sure why I’m going on about this, other than that I drew my proposed California state mascot and I guess felt compelled to explain it using information that I assume you already know.
But here I am in the state that gave us Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, gay rights, and a world-renowned state university system.
I like Red Bluff. Or at least I like substantial aspects of life in Red Bluff. I like that it’s not a big city, I like the hills and oak trees that surround the Sacramento Valley, I like the proximity to the mountains, and I like the hot, dry summers and cool, rainy winters. Over on the coast the culture is I think what you’d get if you could put Ken Kesey and all the characters from his book Sometimes a Great Notion into a superpersonality supercollider. Over here it’s more like Jonh Steinbeck and pre-sobriety Johnny Cash raised a child together and it turned out to be Red Bluff.
The more I write, the more I think I really like Red Bluff best when I’m just passing through.
I spent a couple days down here at my aunt and uncle’s place after taking about a week to travel north from San Francisco along the coast and then through the mountains. I had the staples removed from my legs back in Santa Rosa, and I had the remaining stitches removed from my legs a couple days ago thanks to the help of a family friend. The “examination table” for the procedure was the La-Z-Boy recliner in my aunt’s living room. I think I got better health care here in Red Bluff than I did on any of my follow-up visits in Santa Rosa.
Hello, Morgan! It’s now mid-afternoon and I’m about thirty miles north of Red Bluff. Redding is warm and sunny and the air coming into town was hazy with the smoke of forest fires burning to the east. The fires are big, and Red Bluff was a little hazy this morning, but this is really something.
I’m sitting at a picnic table above the Sacramento River, looking at the Sundial Bridge, a pedestrian/bike bridge designed by a guy named Santiago Calatrava, who I don’t think was super well-known when he designed this bridge, but has since become Mr. Hot Stuff. He designed the transportation hub for the new World Trade Center site, and … I don’t know, also a bunch of other stuff. The point is, Redding was into Santiago Calatrava before he was cool, which I guess means the Redding city planners are architectural hipsters.
I watched a short-ish documentary about the bridge on Netflix. From what I remember it seems like the bridge was a controversial project whose construction was a hard-fought victory. I think it’s a good-looking bridge. In fact I would probably describe it as funky, but that’s mostly because I’m listening to a funk mix on my headphones, which engenders positive feelings and a tendency to describe things I like as funky. (Conversely, when I listen to the Democracy Now! podcast, I feel depressed about the world and have a tendency to identify things I think are undemocratic.)
So, here I am in Redding, listening to 1970s funk and enjoying the warm weather and campfire-scented air. And I’m eating cherry tomatoes from my uncle’s garden, with a side of dry-roasted peanuts. I think peanuts and tomatoes have a brain-clearing effect, because after yammering about funk music and a footbridge I don’t know what to write about next. In fact, I must have paused for a good five or ten minutes before writing that last sentence, just staring at the river.
Okay. Golly, I’ve eaten a lot of peanuts and spent a lot of time staring at the river. I don’t know why this place is called Turtle Bay. It’s clearly a river, not a bay.
Later today I drive north toward Oregon. My friend Tom is getting married in Portland on Saturday, and I want to be there for the shindig. It’s essentially a de facto college reunion for me. After that I’ll be orbiting Portland for a while, I expect, trying to draw out the summer, camping and doing what hiking I can.
I don’t think I have a good conclusion here. I like rivers and bridges, maybe? I’m not sure what the take-home message is there.