Thursday, December 30, 2010

I got my new camper top yesterday and they didn’t give me the discount I expected but they still took off $90. It’s great to be done with that monster I had on the truck and now I have to get the new camper top ready for the new curtains which Rose Tailors is making for me. They won’t be done until Tuesday so I have plenty of time, and tomorrow should be a good day to work on putting in the Velcro patches. I may also put in the cargo nets, but it is much lower than the old top so I won’t be putting in the kayak paddle holder of the ladder support.
I had a nice walk with Rob after working out on the bike at home for twenty minutes, and I started the new blood pressure medication and hopefully that will reduce the problems with my arms and hands.
I had a lesson with Justin Craig today and we sounded okay. Having a couple more days to work on my licks will certainly help. I also picked up some Bose speakers for my computer, since the old ones were broken and the Bose ones weren’t that much more.
I had a response on Match and we have e-mailed back and forth but I haven’t heard back from her about getting together (which she expressed interest in) so I am not sure what is going on there.
I did some work on my syllabi this morning and I am almost done with everything although I may try and change Brave New World for another Alice Munro book of short stories. Like 1984 or Animal Farm, Brave New World does offer an interesting historical perspective on how the future was seen to be, so it might work okay.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It took a couple of hours to get off the boat on Monday morning, mainly because I was on the bottom passenger deck and our deck came last. But I waited in my room for most of the time, so it wasn’t too awful. I guess the biggest turnoff of the cruise was all the wasted food. I saw so many finished plates with large amounts of food on them. I think people should eat what they take, unless it really tastes bad, and the food was fairly good.
I was able to check the weather before I got off the ship and since it had snowed around 5 inches in Virginia the night before—and it was going to be very cold there all day--I figured I would drive to Charlotte and spend the night, then head back to the hollow so I could plow the road before it melted and froze on Tuesday night.
I stopped for a long bike ride outside of Columbia and it was pretty cold but I wanted to keep up my good exercise routine. When I got to Charlotte I practiced and then took a nap before I headed into town. It was very cold so I decided to eat near the truck, at the Rock Bottom Brewery. It was inexpensive and decent and warm, which was all I wanted. After dinner I felt more like challenging the elements so I put on my face mask and toboggan and walked up to the ice skating ring, which had a number of people but certainly wasn’t crowded. On the way back my only goal was to get back into my warm truck and soon enough I had the engine running and the heat on. Back in the room I sorted out all of the stuff from the cruise and then practiced for another 20 minutes since I may be performing at India Garden on Saturday and I wanted to be ready.
The drive up from Charlotte seemed endless, but eventually I got to my office, did a couple of things, and then drove to the hollow. Fortunately, the snow was only about four inches, and I easily drove up to the house. Everything was fine in the house but the solar was down to 49% and I had to immediately put the generator on. Once that was going I got the tractor out and I scraped past the hay barn and down the steep hill and then back with no trouble. I just hope I don’t get more than 5 inches or I am going to have to hire Mike to clear any heavy snowfall. The work Ronnie did on the road really helped and I think I am a little better at operating the tractor. Working during the day and after a storm also makes things a lot easier. After that work, I practiced a full 45 minutes and did 20 minutes of hard biking and some weights. I had to start emptying the truck to get ready for the new camper top tomorrow and that went well.
Now it is time to head in for supplies and the watch the first half of the Philly game.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010 was the first day of my cruise, which was scheduled to leave at 4:00 with my arrival at the Union Pier supposed to be at around 12:30. When I awoke I was nervous, about getting there on time and just all the unknown aspects of cruising. I didn’t want to leave early so I went for a walk on the beach, and then took a quick nap, then I showered and packed my stuff up. I left the room at 11:00 and once I got to the truck I spent 40 minutes sorting things out. I got so nervous that I had to take a Maalox tablet to calm my stomach. I did not consult my camping list or I wouldn’t have forgotten my tevas or my sunscreen, but I did not and I have no doubt I left something else I need in the truck, but that is a minor concern.
On the drive to the pier I called Kelly and she told me that she did not get the job at the University of Maryland, and her mother was already on her about getting another job, sending her an extensive, bullet pointed e-mail. Kellly said that Alfredo was going to write to her mom and I hope that will help. I told her that—considering her six months of severance—she should take a month off before she even begins to think about work.
When I got to the pier I had no idea what to expect but it was extremely well coordinated, from first checking in, paying for parking, dropping off my two bags, and then parking. There were people to guide you every step of the way and my nerves calmed quickly.
After I parked I took the shuttle to the ship and after having my backpack examined and x-rayed, I had to check in again and then board the ship. The rooms weren’t ready but they furnished us with a varied and tasty lunch, and after that I walked around the pool or Lido deck and above that for a number of laps.
It was almost 4 when they mustered us to 5 stations in case we had to evacuate, and showed us how to use the lifejackets. Shortly thereafter the book began to move from the pier and after going backwards for a while, we started forward and the cruise was officially underway.
I went to my cabin and settled in and then went back on deck to watch the sun go down to the left of Charleston, and see the shoreline disappear. I got a nap in and did some more walking and some TV watching and then went to dinner around 8:30. The waitress tried to slip me a 4 dollar bottle of water but I confronted her about it and her boss came over and apologized and said they wouldn’t charge me for the water. It was slightly unpleasant but I stood my ground and I made it clear everything should be transparent.
I walked around a little more and then I caught some of the welcoming show in the crowded universe lounge at 10:30, which was a little tacky, but perfect if you had been drinking.

The second day of my cruise was decent, although being with someone would have been much better. I woke early and saw the sun coming up, but a bank of clouds prevented it from rising from the horizon. I began my walks (I must have done five miles today) and then I went to visit the medical clinic because the continuing problem with my arms and wrists and hands has me genuinely worried, particularly whether the blood pressure meds are causing the problem and if there could be permanent damage. The doctor assured me that there would be no long term damage and thought I should stay on the medicine unless things got worse. She did think I should talk to Rob when I return. I loved the name of the clinic, the “Fantasy Medical Clinic” and I had some fun with the nurses with the name. Feeling much better, I did work on the computer, organizing my files, and working a little on my new poem. A noise started in my room (sounds like it comes from inside the outer wall) but the crew could do nothing about it. I will probably have to wear ear plugs tonight. I then went to the gym and rode the stationary bike for almost thirty minutes and then did some weights (using a pair of eight pounders). After lunch I took a nap and then went walking and met a choreographer, Nia, and her sister who was a field biologist. Nia was interesting and kind of cute but I don’t think I am capable of much so I just chatted with her. I watched some TV and then did some more walking and took a few pictures of the setting sun, not particularly exciting. I then caught the first half hour of the show, which was okay but none of the singers had much of a voice although they were all competent. After that I had dinner (lobster tail and tiger shrimp with Caesar salad and veggies, followed by one scoop of chocolate ice cream) which was adequate but uninspired.

I got up early on Friday, excited by the prospect of seeing a new place, in this case Nassau. I was ready to go at seven but passengers couldn’t disembark until a little after seven thirty. It was a long walk just to get off the pier (five ships eventually came in) and then I began walking around Bay street and some of the side streets. I was hoping to find and open store to buy sunscreen and flip flops, but nothing except coffee shops opened till eight, when a food store opened and I got some sun screen. Nassau was quaint, with some brightly colored wall art, but this section seemed touristy. I went back to the boat to wait for the nine o’clock starting time for my sail and snorkel trip and that went off a few minutes later. It was another long walk to the catamaran, and it was a little tricky to get on and move around, particularly on the floor which was a woven rubbery material. I sat next to a woman and her son, and quickly found out that she had lost her husband nine months ago (in March) in Afghanistan. I talked to her about writing her story (a story about her husband will appear in Reader’s Digest and an article mentioning him appeared in the Atlantic), and offered to take a look at it if she came up with something. I helped her and her son get ready for the snorkeling since they had never done it, and then it was time to jump in. I got down the latter okay, put on my fins and off I went. The reef looked dark and in pretty bad shape but there were some fish below so it was pleasant enough. I went back to the ladder to see how she and her son were doing and they seemed to be waiting till everyone else started. Finally she come down the ladder and when she got to the water she panicked and had to retreat up the ladder. Her son came down and I helped him in the water but he was pretty uncomfortable, although I did get him to put his head under a couple of times. After I got him back to the ladder, I wasn’t sure if I should go up and try to get his mother into the water, so I swam around a bit and then went back up the ladder. She decided to try again and I offered to help her so I went down without my gear, jumped in, and calmed here down enough to get her into the water for a few minutes. I held her arm and spoke gently to her the whole time and she did put her face under a couple of times. She lost her fin on the way back to the ladder and one of the crew members had to retrieve it. After she got back on board, she huddled up under my gore-tex jacket and stayed that way, looking down at the water, with her son huddled under a large towel. It was rather pathetic.
Once we returned to dock, I decided to stay in town and walk around and I spent more time on Bay Street and had lunch at Conch Frittes after failed to find the recommended Fish Fry. Conch Frittes was pretty bland. The conch fritters had almost no conch in them, and the sweet potato had been cut in half and wasn’t cooked very well. The snapper in a bag was okay (actually two small fish) but very bony so I had to be careful. It was expensive and not very good but the very nice waitress assured me that it was native food. I was now pretty tired so I struggled back to the ship and dropped off into a deep nap which I woke up from at around six, just as the ship was leaving. I was still very tired so I lay in bed, drifting off and watching a little TV, and finally got up enough energy to get up around eight thirty for dinner. I thought I might go to the fitness room or at least walk around after dinner, but I was done for and after watching TV for a few minutes, dropped off and slept from perhaps ten until after six. I was slightly worried that I had picked something up (or that my synthroid was old) but I feel better this morning, and I intend to go into Port Lucaya later this morning to see the market and perhaps go swimming on the local beach.
I must say that everything is geared toward mega shopping and shore excursions and banal entertainment and enormous eating possibilities, and though one could spend a lot of time walking on board and working out, that is not a high priority. If my hands and arms were better, this trip would have been more fun, but I am glad I am doing it, especially since I am not sure I will be physically able to do another one. I have almost made my mind up to return home quickly when the cruise finishes because I want to try to figure out what I can do to help my hands and arms, if anything.

I did take a private taxi to Port Lucaya but it was worth the comfort of Aniska, the driver, going slow. We chatted amicably about the island and its 51,000 inhabitants, the various industries (tourism being prominent, but some oil and manufacturing along with a little agriculture), and the various hurricanes.
When Aniska dropped me off at the Radisson at Port Lucaya, I walked to the public beach and immediately went swimming. I was the only one actually immersed in the chilly water and with my goggles I was able to see the sea grass but no fish. The ocean was very calm and that was the highlight of Port Lucaya. Since I have several degrees in non-shopping, the famed market at Port Lucaya held little appeal for me, but the setting was attractive particularly by the water.
Aniska picked me up two hours after she left me off and that was plenty of time, as she had suggested.
Back on the ship, I walked some, chatted with Nia’s sister and her mother, and for a few minutes, Nia, and then went to the fitness room to work out. I avoided anything which hurt my wrists, but I did manage to do some weights and a few of the machines.
Back in my room, I was lucky to see that the Heat were playing the Lakers at 6 and I watched that while I worked on my syllabi. The Heat were very good, particularly defensively, and won convincingly.
After that it was dinner time and I thought tonight’s meal (with a ahi tuna and salmon appetizer and a turkey and stuffing main course followed by the melting chocolate cake) was better than average. One of the hostesses chatted with me for a bit, and I wished her well in her attempt to get off the cruise ship and into a restaurant.
When I got back I was tired and went to sleep until 5 in the morning, and dawn found me writing.
I still have a day left but I am clearly not a great fit for a cruise, especially with the problem with my arms and hands. If that had not been such a concern, and if I were with someone, I could have had a much better time. I remembered my second trip to the Blackwater river in British Columbia, where my ex and I fished for two days and my knee caused me a lot of trouble, and several times I screamed out when I twisted it the wrong way in getting back into the raft. Still, I fished hard and had a pretty good time. If my hands problem remains, I am just going to have to get used to the constant minor pain and the limiting stiffness. Otherwise life will become very dreary indeed. I also thought of my father and how difficult things became for him around sixty. I certainly have his genes although my knee problem owes itself to an injury in my late twenties.

My final day on the cruise was at first slightly boring, although I did some work on my long poem. Things started getting interesting when the weather started getting bad, with gale force winds and ten to twelve foot seas. A lot of people got sick but I remained untouched, although I avoided coffee in the evening just to be sure. I walked around the Verandah deck three different times and I really enjoyed the power of the wind and the rolling sea. I worked out in the gym, riding the bike for twenty minutes (and I can see that I have to ride harder at home to really get my heart going), doing some weights and using a few of the machines for my arms. I am getting the tone back in my arms and shoulders, but my hands still hurt, although perhaps a little less. I watched some football and a couple of movies since the shows didn’t appeal to me at all. I did go to the casino and lost ten dollars in ten minutes at slots.
Monday morning, my last morning found me up at 5:00 and after a cup of coffee I decided to get my stuff ready. I had already missed the opportunity for the crew to carry my bags but I can do that myself. At breakfast, I spoke with a few people who thought the cruise wasn’t very good, especially how cold it was the last day and a half. It was cold in my room and I wore my sweater to bed. The couple I sat next to thought the food was mediocre (which I had to agree with) and that this ship had been quarantined once and that some of the Katrina refugees had used the ship. I thought the overall experience was decent, and it did prove that I could handle some rough seas. We will be docking in less than an hour and I am ready for the cruise to end.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday turned out to be more pleasant. My arms felt better and I was able to do a little yoga and some light weights after a walk on the beach.
I went to have lunch with my Aunt Theresa and that was okay. I then went for a long bike ride and though my hands hurt, the pain was bearable.
I had agreed to dinner with my cousin Joyce and her husband Marv and I was dreading it, but it was quite cordial, the conversation lively and going on till after ten. Marv mentioned that blood pressure medication could be what is causing my arm and shoulder problems, so that was good news. I will have to talk to Rob about it and see if a different medication might help.
This morning I went for a beach walk, and that tired me out even though it was only a couple of miles.
I am now washing my clothes for tomorrow’s cruise and then I will head into Charleston for a walk and hopefully dinner at the Peninsula Grill.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I got off early, deciding that I wanted to take a hike in the Congaree National Park. That turned out to be an excellent idea, and I walked about 3 miles, mainly on the boardwalk and a little off it by Weston Lake. I heard plenty of pileated woodpeckers and saw a couple of deer. After finishing I was exhausted so I napped and after a quick lunch headed off to Charleston, only a little more than a hundred miles away. Everyone was driving eighty so my seventy seemed rather pedestrian.
I called my aunt Theresa and she was delighted that I agreed to come over tomorrow for lunch but already I can see that my visit is going to be longer than I like.
When I got to Wild Dunes, I went for a bike ride after watching some of the Eagles/Giants game and seeing the Eagles fall far behind. I rode all over, but about halfway through, I partially lost the vision in my right eye, or rather it was like a positive, and most of the shapes were in blue. I was pretty scared and thought I might be having a stroke, but after five minutes, my eye cleared and I continued riding for another twenty minutes. Boy is my body betraying me.
I got back to my room and to my surprise the Eagles were only a touchdown behind and driving. Mike Vick made a couple of fine runs and then threw for a touchdown pass to tie things up. The Giants got the ball back and the Eagles forced them to punt and the punt went straight to their best return guy, DeSean Jackson, and he raced in for a touchdown with no time left. An improbable victory to say the least.
I was going to go out and take a walk but I felt too tired and a little down so I just stayed in and watched the Jets play Pittsburgh and that had an exciting ending also with Pittsburgh just missing winning the game.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I paid for my golf outing last night as my shoulders and arms were in a lot of pain. I didn’t sleep very well, but I took another naproxen and that allowed me to drift off. Long nights are never good for staying composed and with the pain some loneliness set in. I missed my ex quite a bit but I know she has moved on and with all my health concerns I am not sure I even want to meet anyone else. As I told my friend Kelly a few days ago, I was feeling “old, lonely and vulnerable” and I guess that just about sums things up. My partner had ample justification for leaving me, but that logic doesn’t help very much.
Today I woke up and after finishing my grading and posting the grades, I decided to try to ride my bike before the rain came down. I went over to the park near Trade Street and though it was pretty cold and my hands hurt, the weather held and I rode about five miles. Then I walked around to the new Mint Museum and had lunch at Halcyon, located in the Mint. The food was very good and watching the snow fall for a few minutes had a certain urban beauty to it. I decided to e-mail my ex a birthday greeting which seemed the polite thing to do.
I walked back to the Discovery Place and went to see the 1:30 Imax showing of “The Alps” and I am extremely glad I am not a mountain climber. The photography was spectacular and at a few points I almost had to grab on to my chair.
After a nap I drove to the mall near Pineville and the traffic was intense but since I was in no hurry, I waited patiently and finally got into the mall after about 20 minutes. I decided to have dinner at Red Lobster before the crowds came and had a nice meal, and watched NC lose to Texas in a really close game. After that I practiced and then went for a long walk in the mall, finishing with a small cup of coffee at Barnes and Noble and the purchase of The Count of Monte Cristo. This is a book my friend Gloria has been recommending for years and it will be perfect for the cruise.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I am feeling much more upbeat. I got through the 5 inches of snow by staying at Rob’s and then spending hours shoveling snow for the neighbors—augmented with Wayne’s snow blower. Then Rob and I walked to the post office on University Boulevard and stopped at the Starbucks. We took the bus back most of the way, but it was still an adventure.
Today I drove out to my hollow and my truck made it easily up to the house and then I was able to scrape the snow off the road with the tractor by angling the blade. It did take me two passes but the blade did a fine job. My thermostat wasn’t working again but I left it on a little higher (at 60 it seems to stick) and sprayed it with compressed air in case dust is a factor. I left the water trickling in both sinks and there is really nothing that would be harmed if it froze. Mike is going to come check every 3 or 4 days so that makes me even more comfortable.
I am still not done grading, since the snow caused my Thursday final to be canceled. But the electronic final is working well and I should have all those grades done by tomorrow. Grades don’t have to be in until Monday at 5 so I have an extra day if I need it.
My blood pressure is stabilized and my wrists feel better and most importantly the colonoscopy was fine, and Rob thinks I may be able to go two years before the next one.
On the way down to Charlotte I stopped in Mooreville and got in nine holes of golf. My swing was not great at first but by the third hole I was hitting okay even though my four week layoff certainly showed in my short game and putting.
I spoke with my aunt Marie and she asked me to visit Theresa and I agreed. She has been very good to me and it isn’t that much of a request.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

These new problems with blood pressure and arthritis are disconcerting. I have spent over a year in my hollow (five years is my goal) with a bad knee. Now I am having increasing problems using my hands and the blood pressure situation is troubling. Does this mean I might have to move out sooner than I would like, and sooner than the economy will let me get a reasonable price? I have always said that if I died tomorrow, I would have no regrets. I had a good long term relationship with my ex partner; I have written many articles and books; I have become a competent jazz musician; I have traveled to many, many places; I have flyfished and kayaked numerous rivers; I have lived in my hollow for over 15 years. How many people can hope for such a rewarding life? I really do feel so grateful for everything I have been given. I am a little sad that this new stuff has hit me just now.

Monday, December 13, 2010

It is 14 degrees out and Rob and I are going to go for a walk at 9:30pm. I will probably seize up and die but if I survive it should be something to write about.
I went out this morning for about five minutes to feed the trout and regretted every second. I can’t wait to get down to warmer weather. My ice cube trays froze up very quickly, so I guess the cold offers some slight advantage.
My dinner with Gyorgyi last night was a lot of fun, and I should see her again on Friday to help her move some furniture.
I was going to stay at a Comfort Inn down in Charleston but I decided to check out Wild Dunes and they had a pretty good deal for a room at the hotel, $104 a night, which was 20 more than the Comfort I was going to stay in. I will stay at Wild Dunes three nights, go on my cruise and then stay three more nights when I return from the voyage.
I gave my first final today and I will grade that tomorrow night while I am getting ready for my colonoscopy on Wednesday. I am not worried too much about the procedure and I think the results will be fine.
I was able to clean up my office some, getting rid of extra copies of magazines I have published in, taking out some old income tax and professional expense files, and sorting out my miscellaneous pile. Very productive.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Today is turning out to be a waiting game. I would like to go up to Roanoke and perhaps have dinner with Gyorgyi, but the hourly weather report says that it will be freezing at 7, just when I would start driving home. It probably makes more sense to simply go home after I do my errands, so I am unsure what to do. I do have new tires on and it is only 1:30 so I am not sure if I should drive up there now, and see how things progress. I like walking around Roanoke, so that might be the option.
I did 20 minutes of bike riding and I went swimming at the RU pool so I hope that will help my weight and my blood pressure.
My grading has gone very well and I have about an hour’s worth left to do.
The oranges I bought from Maddie are excellent and I think I am going to juice some so I can use up a lot of them.
My friends seem to have so much going on, real problems with real anxiety, and outside of my pretty minor health stuff, I am doing quite well.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I went swimming yesterday and I rode my stationary bike pretty hard so I hope that will help me lose some weight and get my blood pressure down. I want to try to get off the blood pressure medication and today (the third day on it) my afternoon pressure was 137/67, much improved.
Today I rode hard on the bike again and I went for a walk up to the orchard. I vacuumed the house and cleaned out my instruction manuals. I also think I have the Quipp jump start device figured out (I can’t find the manual), but even though I installed the cables on the generator (I was so lucky that the generator is already set up for electric start), I am not going to try it out unless it is an absolute necessity, meaning that I can’t start the generator with the pull cord. I did charge the batteries for six hours, and they were low, both the first and second below the red. With bad weather coming in tonight and expected to last for 3 days, today was the day to get them charged. I also got one stack of movie questions graded and tonight I will start on the second batch.
Our performance last night was quite good, even though the audience reaction was non-existent. I practiced hard today and I should be able to do the Christmas songs next Friday.
I talked with Kelly today and she appreciated my gifts, for her, Alfredo and Lucia, and she has a third job interview on Wednesday. If she doesn’t get the job, then she would be paid for six months without having to do anything. However, at the end of that, she wouldn’t have a job, which could be real scary these days.
I am really looking forward to my trip to Charleston and my cruise. I am ready for some golf and some warmer weather.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A scary night. I got home around 10 and the temperature in the house was 48, so obviously the heater or the thermostat wasn’t working. I moved the thermostat to 70 and the heater instantly went on so I knew that I would have heat, at least in a few hours. I sat there watching TV bundled up and eventually lit the stove and two of the top burners. I thought the CO2 detector might go off but with the stove fan on low, I was fine. When I went to bed around 12, the heat was in the mid 60s.
The next problem was that my wrists were hurting more and more and by the time I tried to go to sleep, my right wrist was very painful. I couldn’t find a comfortable position for it so I kept waking up and a couple of times it hurt so much tears came to my eyes. I got up and I realized that I couldn’t start the generator even if I wanted to, but thankfully I had charged up the batteries the day before and there will be sun for a few days. Add to this my continuing high blood pressure and living in the hollow seemed a lot more difficult than I wanted.
When 8:30 came I drove down to the pasture and called Rob’s office and they told me to come in at 9:30. After waiting a little while, I got to see Rob and he told me that the wrist problem was from one of my yoga postures and that the inflammation was because I stopped the Alleve to try to lower my blood pressure. He told me to go back on a stronger dose of Alleve and he gave me a prescription for a blood pressure medication, saying that this would help prevent a stroke, which both my parents suffered, though in their 80s.
I am tired but I feel much better knowing what is going on and I may take a walk with Rob tonight.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The first snow, of perhaps five inches, came yesterday and it wasn’t much of a problem. I did scrape the road with the tractor around 5:00pm but the snow stopped shortly thereafter and I didn’t have to go back out. I had taken a hike to the orchard earlier and it was very pleasant to watch the snow fall and to feel the silence that a snow storm always brings.
My solar is working very well. I charged it and equalized it and last night it stayed at 100% and even this morning it was 100%. The battery was at 50.3 and I assume when I return home it will be below 100%.
I did a lot of straightening up in the house yesterday, and when I return today (after my walk with Rob and some shopping), I will do some more. Even with my regular culling, I still have lots of stuff I don’t need.
On my way in today the road was slippery and I saw four cars that had slid off. That’s what I want to get home by 3, and also to watch Tiger and see if he can win the Chevron Challenge.
I have to grade one more paper and then I am ready for tomorrow.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A good day grading and practicing in the morning and then driving up to Roanoke for a break. I donated my old sax to Valley Repair and they can use it for parts. I walked around downtown Roanoke for a half hour and then had a nice grilled tuna lunch at Awful Arthur’s. Then it was back home and since it had warmed up I decided to do some tasks.
I pruned the fruit trees so that I won’t get smacked around on the lawn tractor, then I took the plug out of the pvc pipe so the pipes won’t break when it gets real cold. I started charging the batteries and by late afternoon I had them to 100% (although I didn’t check what they really were with the hydrometer so I may be a little surprised in the morning). I also changed the oil in the generator so it should be fine till spring. I started to equalize the batteries but I will have to continue that tomorrow. I also went and cleaned up the Sisson road a little, a few bottles and cans.
My refrigerator experiment is working okay, but the temperature stays in the mid 50s—even when I fill the ice bucket--so that may be too warm. Fortunately, I will plug it in again in late February.
The peas, spinach, and lettuce seemed to have survived the freeze so I watered them and we’ll see.
I checked the 500 gallon propane tank and it still reads 87% so that is great.
I emailed another woman on but she didn’t respond so I guess I will keep trying.
I have set up my Vancouver trip (both Amtrak and Hertz), and I went with the 16 days out west adventure. That will give me more time to wander and also to see some of Plutonic’s projects if they will let me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It is getting very cold and I was pretty chilled on my hike this morning. The solar is getting a bit low but it should be sunny the next three days so it should build back up. I think I am going to stop working on the greenhouse until late February. When I got back from Thanksgiving the lettuce and spinach and peas had frozen and it seems a good time to end things for the winter. My icebox is working well and tonight I will freeze up five more trays of ice. The temperature inside the refrigerator is about 50, slightly warmer as the ice melts. I will plug the refrigerator back in in late February. I have ketchup, mustard, mayo, yoghurt, organic salad, half and half, and some shredded cheese stored and we will see how they last. My classes are almost over and that feels very good. This weekend will be rough with final papers in the Environmental Lit class and portfolios in the poetry class.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I have decided to address in my blog how I have ended up staying over 15 years in my hollow, but first I would like to first share a humorous essay I wrote (hopefully part of a book of humorous pieces) I composed several years ago which deals with how I ended up in my present house.

Finding the right home, a permanent place that is comfortable to your psyche and wallet, can be an arduous and challenging process. You can end up looking at hundreds of listings online and then spend endless weekends inspecting various properties for water damage or windows that actually open. The choice could also be to have a house built for you, and that undertaking can be even more ambitious, having to choose designs and contractors, cabinets and color schemes. Not long ago my partner and I completed the latter process, one which had a multitude of comical moments.
For eight years I lived in a small cabin deep in a southwestern Virginia hollow. Without running water, an outhouse served my bathroom needs, and on icy February mornings my visits were quicker than Nascar pitstops. I washed in a large plastic tub sold to mix concrete in, though I usually used shampoo. My cookstove was a two burner Coleman, and few could boil water for spaghetti as well as I. It was a relatively Thoreauvian existence, the nearest house more than a mile away, though I doubt Emerson would have seen me as “Man Thinking,” more like “Man Fumbling.”
Two years ago, however, my life took a major turn. I had reunited with my partner and she decided she wanted to build a log dwelling on some acreage she would purchase. She owned a comfortable if somewhat crooked old house in Christiansburg (the kitchen floor was so slanted we could have used it as a climbing wall), but she wanted to live away from town. We had talked about building in my hollow, but my partner felt there would be too many problems with electricity and access—and me being there--so we began to search for a dozen acres or so, well removed from any populated area. We eventually found a lovely ten acres that bordered Jefferson National Forest and by late winter she had a contract on the land, though in retrospect a contract on the realtor would have served her better.
As the closing date approached in February, things began to fall apart. The fellow who was to prepare the site informed us that there was a lot of rock, which might even include some expensive blasting, though he quickly ruled out the need for an atomic device. Since the land was steep, Bob (not his real name) advised us to put in a full basement, appealing in terms of space, but costing as much as my entire cabin, and my truck. Then we found out that the original septic permit had expired right after Lincoln had been shot. The realtor guaranteed us that a new one would be quickly approved, but the closest site that would perk was somewhere near Chicago. We were faced with putting in a costly drip irrigation system in addition to enough backhoe and bulldozer work for Bob to retire on. We ripped up the contract.
At this point I brought up the hollow again, and now building there seemed the right thing to do. We would save 8 million dollars and we even figured we could stay on schedule with the April delivery of the log house package my partner had ordered.
We hired a soil scientist to help us choose a building site, and things began to get complicated. Because of the poor soil quality, we would need a drip irrigation system anyway. Then, after deciding, at Bob’s suggestion, to place the log house on a flat area between two small streams, things virtually stopped. Early on it was too wet to bring any heavy equipment in and when it dried out enough, Bob would fail to appear. We shifted the delivery date of the logs to August 19, and considered getting another backhoe man. Finally, however, Bob got to work in late May and started clearing around the house site. We thought we could be ready for the logs in August then the weather turned against us. That summer was one of the wettest on record, and by the time things finally dried out, our logs had arrived, but Bob seemed to have left the earthly plane. We waited day after day, week after week, until Bob finally returned, smiling and ready to get back to work. I was livid but my partner’s ability to deal with thieves and murderers—after all she was a lawyer—proved valuable and in by mid-September we had a level area where the house would go. However, Bob now discovered that there were several underground springs cutting right across the site. It would never dry out in this or any other geological era. We considered another location, but fortunately brought out an engineer who thought a long and deep French drain and a series of subdrains would cure the problem. Excited and elated, we talked to Bob and pretty soon he had the work done.
The logs had been covered and according to our contractor Mark, they would be fine for at least six months, but I worried about them getting ruined. My concerns deepened as the weather turned mostly wet again and Bob seemed to have left North America.
Our housing situation made things even worse. My partner had put her house up for sale in early spring, assuming that we would have a new and luxurious log house by fall. By May she had a contract on it, and by June it was sold, leaving us with the expectations of living in my cabin for a couple of easy summer months. With the delays, however, it became clear that we would have to spend the winter in my cabin—and perhaps the rest of our lives. It was very close and very tense. My partner started searching the internet for hit men and I began to peruse blow gun catalogs. We didn’t argue much but when we finished, instead of being able to go off to another room, we could hardly get ten feet away from one another. Privacy on those nights was a pushed blanket between us, and a silence as cold as the wintry wind blowing just outside.
Thankfully, Bob reappeared in early December, having either finished his stint with the CIA or gotten an okay from his parole officer. In a couple of days he had the foundation dug and Mark had it framed. My partner and I held hands one evening and several days later looked at one another. Had we grown old? I wondered if, like Prufrock, I should wear my trousers rolled. We were actually going to have a foundation. I thought of canceling my blow gun order, and we both dreamt sensuously of flowing concrete. And it came to pass the next day. We had our foundation and our love had survived. The Bible was right about building on sand: concrete is much better. My partner and I felt like singing the night away, but fortunately for the forest creatures we simply talked together, and slept with Lincoln logs clutched in our hands.
With the foundation in, Mark took over and by early January the subflooring was in and we were ready for the logs. My partner and I had spent a long five months caring for them. The wind shredded the heavy black plastic, and we had to purchase a long and expensive tarp meant to cover the space shuttle. Of course the tarp would never stay in place, despite tying it carefully enough to hold a maximum security prisoner, so every few days saw me on top of the somewhat shaky log bundles, worried that one of them might tip over and crush me, often cold and sometimes wet.
But Mark was moving along and by early January the logs were placed and by early March we were ready for the rough-in inspection. When late March finally arrived, we felt like astronauts back from the space station. The warming weather brought us outside more and more and hepaticas and coltsfoot began to flower. The house looked more and more livable, and each evening when we returned, we would notice the new work done—or left undone. Mark’s workers were affable and decent, but some days they must have spent their time reading Moby-Dick or War and Peace. They also liked to take long lunches, driving the twenty minutes into town and perhaps attending a college course or two before they returned with the waning sun. Still, the work proceeded, and in early May we were able to spend the first night in our lovely new home. Technically, since we didn’t have a Certificate of Occupancy, we shouldn’t have, but it was impossible not to after ten months in the tiny cabin. I told my partner she would sneak up sometimes to use the plastic tub instead of the new bath and shower, but I must admit I haven’t caught her yet.
We quickly settled in, and then we got the bad news: our state of the art, twenty two thousand dollar septic system—with a peat moss filtering tank that produces almost drinkable water and a pump tank with a control panel that NASA would have envied—did not pass inspection. It turned out that the designer of the system, a high priced engineer called, say, Ned had not taken into account the simple fact that all three of the tanks had to be at least 50 feet from the stream. I guess his equivalency degree from the University of Phoenix hadn’t included the class in numbers. We were stuck. Now we had to apply for a variance, and it quickly became clear that variances were as hard to get as a fair vote count in Florida.
Ned submitted another plan, but when the health inspector came out he found that Ned’s sketch didn’t correspond to our system, and our application failed. We thought of appealing to the Supreme Court, but Florida came to mind again, and we decided to think of other options. Ned thought we might get away with peeing less, but I was doubtful. Instead, I thought of moving the tiny stream to behind the house, which would give us 50 feet from all the tanks. Ned considered the idea, but decided that he would resubmit another plan, this time using the correct numbers and leaving out his sketch of Mickey.
To add to our concerns, as winter approached, we found that our brand new Munchkin boiler wouldn’t work for more than a few hours before turning off and sending us, from its digital control panel, an error message such as, “Judgment Day is near” or “Do you know where your children are?” We had no children so we were safe on that one and I just hoped that Bob and Ned would find themselves in the down elevator, and that it would be an express.
While we waited for the contractor who had installed the boiler to come fix it—he seemed to respond only to the calls of certain Pacific whales--we began to use the vent-free furnace in the living room for heating the entire house. This worked okay, with a few small problems. First, to warm the bedroom to a reasonably comfortable temperature, the expensive remote control thermostat in the living room had to be set high enough to melt lead. Since both of us fish, our split shot supply increased rapidly, but wearing asbestos suits while sitting on the couch quickly became tiresome. The second problem was that the remote control unit was defective and even after the dealer replaced it, it seemed to be controlled by sunspot activity although I must admit I never fully proved the correlation.
However, I talked to the Munchkin folks, and their field representative explained to me over the phone, after I told him that we had a solar system, that it was probably due to a grounding problem with the furnace. He began to jabber away in what I thought was Munchkin—perhaps it was just technical jargon—but what I got out of it was that we had to sacrifice three goats and hang cannonballs on the furnace. I asked him to clarify his instructions and it was clear I had misunderstood: he wanted me to drive in a ground rod and connect it to a green screw in the electrical box. With that accomplished, the furnace worked fine and we could turn off the vent-free furnace.
We waited for several months for our variance application to be approved and then this stunner: we were apologetically told by the Health Department supervisor that we weren’t supposed to have filed for a variance—that is done before you build something—so we needed to file for a consent order. Septica wrote the order up herself and in six weeks we had an approved document. We wildly celebrated our good fortune—until we actually understood the entire order. The provisions of an underground wall and a thousand gallon overflow tank with an alarm seemed a little excessive, but it was how this alarm had to work that chilled our enthusiasm, and Ned’s.
He didn’t see the need for the alarm since the present pump tank had one, but an alarm that had to be connected to a phone in order to contact the health department if it went off was literally impossible for us to achieve. Our cell phones wouldn’t work at the septic site, and we were at least a mile from any telephone poles. The whole point of our house was to be off the grid, so bringing in a phone line would be incredibly expensive and would defeat the entire purpose. Ned contacted Septica and she said that there was no revising a consent order, except though the death of the applicants. My partner and I started to choose lots but then I again brought up my idea of moving the stream.
We talked to our new excavator—we had given up on Bob—and he thought he could do it for less money than the consent order provisions. We probably should have contacted some state or federal or intergalactic agency, but we had learned our lesson. After my partner found a Supreme Court decision that said a landowner could divert a stream from its banks as long as it returned to its original channel before it left the owner’s property, we told Ronnie to start digging. I didn’t have the heart to ask my partner if it was a U. S. Supreme Court decision.
Once Ronnie began, almost all our admittedly scrawny grass disappeared, then the mulch and flowers on one side of the house. It seemed a rebirth, but we were both looking to retirement. However, after three days, we had a new stream bed around the back of the house and at least fifty feet from the septic tanks. It looked raw and more like a ditch, but as we began to fill it with erosion control stones and shape the banks a little, it began to have a more riverine feel. Then Ronnie opened up the last section and the old current took to its new course. Well, almost. Because of the steep and rocky slope behind the house, Ronnie had to stay exactly fifty feet from the tanks or face some formidable and costly extra excavating. In doing so, he grazed the gravel at the edge of the French drain. He hadn’t been worried but the next morning, we had a stream that disappeared when it passed the French drain—and reappeared in the middle of our driveway. We thought of a fountain there, but being rather traditional, we decided that a driveway should not include any trappings from the Bellagio casino. More digging, more gravel and drain pipe, more wheelbarrows of money, but three more days left us with a truncated French drain and a stable stream that ended in a lovely little waterfall.
We were readying ourselves for a return to the Health Department by purchasing body armor and crossbows when our luck finally changed. In the mail, we received our C of O. We were stunned since we hadn’t yet informed the Health Department about the stream diversion, but a C of O is a C of O, and that was the last thing we needed before we could legally inhabit our log home. We had survived and that night we slept like pinecones, having put the body armor and crossbows up on E-bay.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving break is almost over, but I had a great visit to New York. I saw Julian and Gabe and Francesca, my Aunt Rose, my Aunt Marie, my friend John and his mother, and Herb and Susan. I did a lot of walking around Manhattan, up to Times Square and down to 14th Street, around the World Trade Center, where you can see the unfilled reflecting pools. I also walked around Park Slope on 5th, 6th and 7th avenues. I really would like to live in the city for a few months. I also took two long walks with my Aunt Marie through Bayonne park and through the bird sanctuary.
Today I drove back from Harrisonburg and the solar system is working well (all settings met) with the old hydrometer reading 1230 in battery 1 and 1240 in battery 2. The house was in good shape and after unloading the truck, I fed the trout and checked out the greenhouse, which was in good shape. I am going to redesign the drip endings so they will work more consistently, though the old ones worked well enough during the break.
Before I left, at Bryan’s behest, I had unplugged the refrigerator and when I got home with some perishable groceries and a bag of ice, I realized that my cooler was still in my office. I figured that I could put the ice in a big bucket and that would work for the day, but instead I put the bag of ice in the lower part of the refrigerator and placed the perishables in there also. It was at 50 degrees when I left, and it will surely get down into the 40s. I am going to put ice trays out at night so I won’t have to buy too much ice.
My friend who lost her baby is doing better according to her mother, but I haven’t talked to her in at least a week and I will wait until she wants to talk.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Finally the Thanksgiving break has begun.
I had Bryan out today and he worked on the solar electric and explained a few things to me and showed me how to change a couple of settings which will make the solar more efficient. David, who is working on the septic system, also had some good news about the electric. He is setting up the pump differently and it should save half the electricity. The pump is a big drain on the system.
My dear friend has had to terminate her pregnancy because of all the problems the baby had. She has had a terrible three weeks but hopefully she can begin to recover soon. I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about when she is going through right now. I did ceremonies the last three mornings for her baby, and as I started the first one, I realized I had to include my ex-partner’s baby, who passed away a week after he was born, also with great problems and no chance to live. I burnt some sage, then walked down to my favorite pine tree, beating my shamanic drum and chanting for the two little boys and for my friend. I invited the babies’ spirits to come visit me if they were in the area.
I got my grant to go out and research the Freda Creek situation in British Columbia, so that is a real break. My money is getting tighter and tighter and the $2900 will help a lot.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I got a lot done this morning. My knee was much better even though I took a long walk with Rob last night. I loaded up the battery container and the batteries from the old solar system. I cleaned out the leaves in the cattleguard. I fixed up the road in a couple of spots with gravel and scraped the leaves off it. I also rode the lawn tractor for a few minutes to charge it up.
I have given up on equalizing the batteries for now, at least until Brian comes out and figures out what is not working right. I found out yesterday that it makes no difference what I set the maximum ac charge at—the same amount goes in whether it is set at 1 or 30. In the past it used to kick out above 21 but no more.
The visit by my students didn’t come off because no one could find a car to drive out in after Danielle got the flu. It allowed me to do all the morning chores and go play golf. After an evil start (6, 6 on 1 and then 8 on 2), I shot a 47 for 9 with four pars, including my first par on number 6.
My performance on Friday night was first rate, and with Luke and Bobby playing we sounded quite good.
One more week before Thanksgiving break and I need it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Time is racing past. I have taught all week and I am performing later this evening. Luke will join us so that should be fun.
I have ordered a new camper top and they are going to give me a discount; how much, I don’t know. The present price is just under a thousand so it should be somewhat less.
I am working to equalize the batteries. I haven’t had to use the generator at all in over six weeks, but equalizing the batteries will require it. The batteries started at 1225 this morning and when I turned off the generator,they were at almost1240. I hope to get them to at least 1260 by Sunday.
No hike this morning because my walk at Radford yesterday caused real problems for my knee. I did a lot of stuff indoors and then I went to play golf, exactly right for resting my knee.
I still haven’t talked to my dear friend but I know her situation and it is awful. I am waiting for her to contact me and then I will try to help out if I can.
I will be having my Literature and the Environment class out on Sunday. That should be fun but I hope my knee recovers a little so I can clean up a bit before the students come.
I heard from my friend John and I should see him Thanksgiving day. I look forward to that, and to all my other visits during Thanksgiving week.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The visit last weekend from Ken and Sandy was a lot of fun, and we did some hiking, dining and watching the world series (both of them are Yankee fans). They made me a wonderful birthday dinner, the entrée being fresh striped bass that Ken caught and cooked. It was terrific.
Today I went for a morning hike and it was rather cold, but with most of the leaves down I spotted a few deer up the steep slope, and enjoyed the oak leaves which are still green. A multitude of crows, called a muster or murder, flew over me when I was watering the new grass. After they landed I started cawing and they all flew out to investigate. It was fun to watch them wheeling around. I also noticed that the yellowjacket nest that I sprayed a couple of weeks ago and then covered has been dug up. Whatever has dug it up left a couple of small sticks in the hole so it may have been a raccoon.
I checked out the attic and I can’t see any insects up there at the ridge (and it looks fine) so I am not sure what is going on up there. Something is causing some insulation to drift down so I had better put back the insulation and check further. I also found a big bag of good clothing that my ex left. I am going to drop it off at her friend's.
I haven’t heard from my friend and I know she is very sad right now. My other friend is doing a little better but she is always day to day.
I have given up on the camper top and tomorrow I am going up to Leonard to replace it. I hope they will give me a break on it since it was such a disaster.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Playing a little catch up. Things in the hollow are fine and my teaching is moving along. I could really use the thanksgiving break right now but it is still a few weeks away.
Almost everything is done with the chapbook, and I will be very glad when it is finally finished. Dealing with publishers is no fun at all.
I drove to Annapolis this weekend to see Maddie’s marching band performance and I thought they were quite good even though they finished 14th out of 15.
I have a couple of my friends that I am very worried about and there is little I can do for either one. I will keep sending some good energy from the hollow and try to be as supportive as I can.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I am on my way to the Peaks of Otter to meet my friends Ken and Sandy. We will drive back along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Roanoke, enjoying the spectacular views. They will be staying for the weekend and I am excited to show them my hollow.
I certainly spent enough time cleaning up the house. I washed all the windows and doors and scrubbed the floors in the bathroom and the kitchen, along with vacuuming the entire house. It hasn’t been that clean since it was built.
I got a tax notice recently that said that the hollow was still assessed at the same price, but that the house had declined in value a few thousand dollars. Since I am not planning to leave for at least five years, it really doesn’t matter.
Two days ago a bear tried to get in the cabin and tore out the screen to the storm door. It was partially my fault since I was leaving the regular door open to ventilate the cabin better since I still have many books up there. Now I have closed the door and there should be no more problems.
Next week will mark my three year anniversary from colon cancer. I am doing very well, as my last tests showed, and I will really celebrate my fifth anniversary.
The work on the chapbook is moving along and I like Marina’s artwork. I think one of her sketches will make a nice cover. I still have no blurbs from Herb, Gyorgyi and Lou, so I might have to push them a bit.
My teaching is going well, but I did catch two students cheating and I am going to reduce their grades by ten points.
On my last hike up to the orchard I saw a heal-all and a lyre-leaved sage, the latter totally unexpected.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Maddie performed very well in Lynchburg and I was able to help Cathy and her out by driving them home after the competition. I took some pictures of Maddie and sent them to Cathy today. The thing that struck me most was the Gretna band, which had only seven musicians and very little talent. I felt bad for them but I guess if they want to perform, let them perform.
My performance last night was excellent and “Black Coffee” actually had the diners listening and led to applause from all of them. I also got dinner out of the deal (I wonder if I have to report that on my income tax).
Another fine morning hike and I cleared a little more in the orchard with the trimmer. The window cleaning job is almost done, so I feel good about that.
I thought my mouse problem was over but this morning I found two mice in the traps so I guess I may still have some under the house. I hope that the black snake under there is very hungry.
The solar is working very well, and I haven’t had to use the generator for quite a while. On a sunny day I am getting close to 5 kw in and only using a little over 2. I may be able to keep the refrigerator on until December or even longer. The batteries were at 1215, which is not bad, though I will have to fully charge and equalize them at some point.
Most of the wildflowers are gone but on the road up to the solar panels there are still thin leaved coneflowers blooming and asters and goldenrods.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Another week of teaching is done and I am more than ready for a long break. Unfortunately I don’t get that break until Thanksgiving. That means I teach 12 weeks straight, have a week off, and then 2 more weeks of teaching. Obviously the last two weeks fly by, but I wish we had a break in the middle of the fall semester like the spring semester.
Another wonderful hike in the colorful leaves. We aren’t far from the peak, and it is a great time for a walk. I noticed how the leaves have gathered in the smaller hemlocks, and they look like Christmas ornaments. The wind will scatter them soon enough. There are plenty of shaggy manes around and still a few things flowering.
My camper top sealing job worked pretty well but I had one leak and now I have sealed that up. Let’s see what the next rain brings. The new screws that I drilled in the front of the camper top are not holding that well, but they are better than nothing.
I have almost finished cleaning all the windows, and they look much better. However, I am glad I have a day job. The windows are double-paned, and I think some of the dirt is on the inner part of the double pane.
I am performing tonight (the sixth week in a row) and I feel pretty good about it.
Tomorrow I head for Lynchburg to see Maddie perform in the marching band competition there.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Another pretty good performance at Gillies, especially “Black Coffee,” where both of us soloed very well.
I decided that I would clean the windows before Ken and Sandy visit so I started that last night and did a lot more today. I found that the two sills that face the east needed to be stained because they were cracking so I did them and one more. I am about half done with the entire job and it is nice to have clean windows.
After working on the windows, I hiked out to the orchard though my knee was a little tender. While there I watered the new grass and it is coming in very nicely. The leaves are changing but they are not near peak so I hope they will be in good shape when Ken and Sandy come at the end of the month. Still some asters flowering.
My school work is finished so tomorrow will be an easy morning. I may play golf before I go to my lesson with Justin Craig. I played this afternoon and on the altered course, shot a 48 for ten holes, and debated trying to play the back 8. I am pretty sure I could have broken 90, but I wanted to watch the Jets play and I did, the Jets winning an exciting game against Denver.
Not much going on at but I am not worried at all. I am really enjoying my independence and I am glad I can spend some extra time walking in the evening with Rob. I think it helps him to talk with me.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A concern has come up and it is my own fault. I put a screen up all summer in the entrance way to the crawl space to keep the humidity down and a few days ago I noticed that I have visitors, several mice. I picked up some traps, some new ones with a different design, but by the morning they hadn’t caught anything. I do have the three young mice trapped in a vertical roll of aluminum flashing, but I couldn’t catch them to let them out. I hope that having the door closed will end the problem but I called Mark Vaughn, the fellow who built the house, and he sent over one of his workers two days ago to seal the crawl space so no mice will get in the house.
Cameron inspected the crawl space and said everything was well sealed but he sprayed some of the foam insulation in a couple of questionable spots. He also put out some bait and just as he was finishing he spotted the best trap I could have, a pretty large black snake. I am glad for the snake’s presence and after it finishes its hunting I will try to catch it and put it back outside. So far none of the mice have gotten into the house and I have seen none in the traps.
Today I did some work up in the cabin and some around the house before heading off for a hike to the orchard. I just beat the rain back but it is so bracing to hike now with the cooler weather and the leaves starting to change.
I will be performing tonight again at Gillies and I think this is my fifth week in a row. That may be a record. Justin and I are working on “Light My Fire” and that should be fun to perform even though I am a little nervous about playing the rather fast organ intro on my sax.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A productive day, first grading and reading and practicing saxophone. I then took a hike to the orchard. After that I reset the solar electric charger so it will get more direct sun and then I trimmed the trees near it so it will get even more sun. I used the tractor to bring up a load of dirt and I leveled off the new area I had dug out a few weeks ago. I also put some seed down and watered the entire area. Some new grass is coming up. I also used the tractor to level the road a bit although it didn’t do much on the section Ronnie rebuilt. It will get smoother in time.
Noah’s Bar Mitzvah yesterday was memorable and he handled it with poise and intelligence. The ceremony was touching and the luncheon afterwards was first rate. I am glad that both Noah and Rob have that behind them.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Nothing big to report. My walks up to the orchard continue almost every day and it is so lovely right now. Some of the leaves have fallen but the real color is still to come. The rain will help give us a first rate autumn, and the weather seems to be holding steady, sunny and not too warm.
The green house is producing more lettuce and spinach, but the new strawberries don’t seem to be growing too well. They seem to be doing nothing, but perhaps I’ll have to wait a while.
My droid has been replaced but I wasn’t able to transfer the contacts because the old phone wasn’t working right and I didn’t save my gmail user name and password. It is very frustrating, but partially my fault.
I am doing some summer planning and I think I am going to do two trips, one out to Vancouver Island (taking Amtrak to Whitefish, MT) and one where I drive up to Bar Harbor. I have looked into the ferry from Goose Bay up in Labrador but that would be a lot more driving, something I am trying to avoid. I love planning summer trips.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I was able to play an easy round of golf today and I shot very well. It is nice to be back after two weeks off. Tomorrow I may try to play from the longer tees.
I have finally finished up fixing the campertop on my truck. The last thing was to secure the front of it better to the bed of the truck and I drilled in two ¼ inch self tapping screws, one on either side. That should hold for at least a day or two. The big problem is my road and the Sisson road. The ruts beat the truck up and the campertop gets loose quickly. I will be so happy when I replace the truck in a couple of years and get a smaller campertop.
I walked up to the orchard and there was still a great lobelia flowering, plus all the goldenrods and asters. I sprayed the yellow jacket nest in the morning but there were still yellow jackets around.
I also took some pictures of the house, the greenhouse and the orchard and I will try to add them above.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My shoulder is even better and I may try hitting a few golf balls tomorrow.
I planted some more spinach in the greenhouse and fertilized the new strawberry plants.
I am still spending some time cleaning up and I got rid of more useless things today. I also lowered myself down a steep bank to get a few pieces of debris from when my dam washed out. Now it is perfectly clean down there.
I took a walk this morning out to the orchard and I found a nest of yellow jackets right on the perimeter of the old garden. Some creature appears to have dug up the nest and I will have to spray it early in the morning since I can’t mow the grass there. Yellow jackets can be real nasty and I don’t want them around.
The flowers are finishing up but white snakeroot is still flowering along with many asters and goldenrods. There are still a few wingstems left flowering.
My classes continue very well, and I think the poetry class is going a little better.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The results from my tests were fine. I didn’t even call to get them so I am glad I have gotten a healthy distance from the terror I felt three years ago.
I had to reseal my camper top because it soaked everything inside during the day and a half of rain we had. I hope all the work will pay off since it is a pain taking everything out and drying it.
My left shoulder is making progress and I think by next week I will be able to play golf again. I would love to hit a few balls but I don’t want to reinjure my shoulder.
Justin Craig and I are going to work on Light My Fire, a song we both love. It will be a nice break from straight jazz.
More spinach from my greenhouse and the lettuce is almost ready.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Things are going very well even though my shoulder is slow to heal.
I did a very good performance at Gillie’s on Friday, and it was fun to play with Bobby the bassist. I haven’t played with him in a year or so and it makes it much easier for me since he keeps a steady rhythm going. My solo on Black Coffee was my best ever, and the overall audience reaction was first rate, lots of clapping.
I finished staining the entire back porch, just before the wonderful rains that came today.
I also took some of the runners from the strawberries and planted them in the one remaining box. I hope they take. I also cleaned out the greenhouse and did some cleaning up in the cabin.
I went to see Maddie Gallo perform at the Chilhowie marching band competition and it was a lot of fun. She was very good and her band won all the awards.
I e-mailed the vet up in Rocky Mount, but I almost wonder why I want to be involved with someone. I do like living by myself and I am not sure I would be a good partner right now.
I survived another blood test and flu shot and I am not too worried about the results since I am feeling so good.
Things are going very well even though my shoulder is slow to heal.
I did a very good performance at Gillie’s on Friday, and it was fun to play with Bobby the bassist. I haven’t played with him in a year or so and it makes it much easier for me since he keeps a steady rhythm going. My solo on Black Coffee was my best ever, and the overall audience reaction was first rate, lots of clapping.
I finished staining the entire back porch, just before the wonderful rains that came today.
I also took some of the runners from the strawberries and planted them in the one remaining box. I hope they take. I also cleaned out the greenhouse and did some cleaning up in the cabin.
I went to see Maddie Gallo perform at the Chilhowie marching band competition and it was a lot of fun. She was very good and her band won all the awards.
I e-mailed the vet up in Rocky Mount, but I almost wonder why I want to be involved with someone. I do like living by myself and I am not sure I would be a good partner right now.
I survived another blood test and flu shot and I am not too worried about the results since I am feeling so good.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I have had to take a break from golf because my left shoulder is killing me. I hurt it fixing the holes in the porch from the hot tub and it isn’t healing. Jeff, the massage therapist, worked on it and that helped but I really strained something in the shoulder so rest it is.
I have put in my research grant proposal for Freda Creek but I don’t have any great hopes. I didn’t get one last year and my proposal is the same.
I keep hiking every morning and that is a great joy. It is almost October and today will be 95. We really need rain or the leaves are just going to turn brown.
A couple of days ago a pack of coyotes woke me just at dawn and they seemed to be right outside the window. They make quite a racket but it’s their world out there so I will just enjoy the wildness.
My solar is still working very well, with sunny days producing from 3.5 to 5 kilowatts and my usage is between 1.8 and 2.5 kilowatts.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Still plenty of wildflowers on my morning walk, with horse balm still around, white snakeroot, great lobelia, orange touch me not, wingstem, asters and goldenrods. It is wonderful to live in the hollow, especialy in the spring and fall.
My greenhouse is doing well and the sugar snap peas and the spinach in two new planters have emerged. The first three planters are full of spinach, lettuce and sugar snap peas and I should be eating spinach in a few days.
I stained the small shed with thompson’s and all the major stuff is taken care of but we could use some rain. I would like to see how the new ditching and waterbars work. It is so dry I watered the trees in the orchard.
I haven’t used the generator in weeks and the solar is at 1225, which is fine. I hope to keep the refrigerator going until December if possible. Right now on a sunny day I am bringing in about 3.5 kilowatts and using about 2.
I got a very high evaluation from my chair and I also turned in my research proposal for Freda Creek. It would be a big help to get some funding for my trip out west this summer.
I also signed up for a 5 day cruise in late December. I hope it will be fun and I hope it leads to another cruise.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The road looks good and today I scraped it a bit, and added another water bar where Ronnie finished ditching the road. I rebuilt the other two and took the tractor up to the orchard and cleared the last space around the perimeter so now I can run the lawn tractor around the whole orchard. I also seeded the new spot so I should have grass there soon after we get some rain. It does look rather nice.
Nothing new on but I certainly am not in a hurry to meet anyone. If the right person comes up, then I will contact them.
The house is in very good shape right now and I want to treat the small shed with Thompson’s when I get a chance. Every time I take a walk I find something else to do.
The wildflowers are still quite lovely, with New York Ironweed, mistflower, white snakeroot, great lobelia, orange touch me not, round leaved white aster and several goldenrods to name a few.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I lucked out with the weather today. I got the grass cut just before it started raining.
After the grass cutting, I decided to work on the holes in the porch from the hot tub since the rain prevented me from working outside or doing a hike. I finished cutting out all the rectangles and then I prepared the patches that will fit underneath. I was a bit worried about whether I could place then without help but I got all four of them fastened with the screwgun with little trouble. Next I had to cut the pieces of 2 by 6 that will fit in the holes and that also went pretty well and it was easy to secure them. Now the porch is all fixed and looks very good.
I really like how the road is coming out. It should be a lot safer this winter.
Last night I went to the Radford High School Football game mainly to see Maddie Gallo perform in the marching band and she was quite good, as was the game, won by Radford with a final second field goal.
I still have some of the orchard road to trim and I wonder if I should just close the whole thing down. It would save me a lot of work and the orchard was not my idea. I may wait till the following year to decide.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ronnie has started work on the road and it looks much better already. If we get a lot of snow, I shouldn’t have a lot of trouble getting up to the house.
I did some cleaning in the orchard shed, and I found a black widow spider with web right by the doorway. I don’t mind black widows (one lived in my outhouse many years ago, and I did examine things a bit before I sat down) so I left it alone.
I cleared up by the solar panels and after I spent a good hour up there, I got over 5 kilowatts in for the day, up from 4. That is a big difference and may mean I can keep the refrigerator going for an extra month.
I started clearing the stuff left from the hot tub. I removed the piping and cut out the holes into even rectangles, easier to match. I have to put some plywood pieces underneath so the flooring pieces will have some support.
My greenhouse is going very well, and the peas are over four inches tall. I took out the tomato and bean plants and I will put in some more things this weekend.
My classes continue to go well, and I want to keep them going smoothly. Usually I will get one or two disruptive students but so far things are calm.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The fall wildflowers are a lot of fun to study. I have identified at least twenty and a couple still have me baffled. I have been walking regularly in the morning and it is such a joy to be in such a lovely spot.
My teaching is going well, and I think I have gotten the Literature and the Environment course back on track. My other courses are going quite well, so that always makes me feel better.
Rob Solomon and I took a second walk to Deerfield and we identified perhaps twenty plants, including mistflower and New York Ironweed. It is very near his house and the flora is much more interesting than in his neighborhood.
Justin won’t be able to play this weekend so I won’t be performing till next week. In our lesson today we worked mainly on new stuff.
The woman I e-mailed didn’t respond so I will wait till another promising candidate appears. I am really in no rush, as my life is reasonably calm and very productive.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Things are going well. My performance last night was pretty good even though my horn gave me some trouble.
I took out the rock near the cabin solar, sprayed the cistern locks, cut more of the road to the orchard, cleaned the orchard shed a little, treated the steps with Thompson’s, put the kayaks back in the tractor barn, cleaned up the greenhouse a little, practiced my horn, wrote a poem for Noah Solomon, and started preparing my classes for next week. I also copied my poetry manuscript to a disk so I can send it to Finishing Line.
I sent my first e-mail out to a woman in Roanoke who seemed interesting and attractive.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It’s Thursday, September 2, and I have just finished my first week of classes. My only concern is with the Literature and the Environment class where I might have been a little preachy. I know I should avoid that but nature still remains my passion.
I have finished my Faculty Annual Report and set up a reading for October for Jim Minick and his new book. I will try to set up at least one more reading this semester.
I have everything under control in the hollow and I have been hiking to the orchard regularly. There are quite a few flowers out, horse balm, thin-leaved coneflower, white snakeroot, great lobelia, orange touch-me-not, a couple of species of tick trefoil, oxeye daisies, fleabane, goldenrod, and some asters are starting. I carry my 22 in my pack when I hike and it does give me a feeling of security.
I have planted the greenhouse with spinach, lettuce, and sugar snap peas and all have come up. I still have an occasional tomato and some string beans.
I have also joined I contacted my ex when I returned from my western trip and she declined to see me so it is definitely time to move on. I have had a number of women interested in me on but none have sparked my interest so far.
I am hard at work to get my poetry manuscript ready for Finishing Line Press, and that is going okay. I hate to do this kind of thing, but having a chapbook out is a positive thing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Things are going well as I prepare to start teaching. We had our first meetings today and they went fine.
Yesterday I almost put my hand on the head of a big black snake (see above) but fortunately I drew back in time.
I am going to get the propane heater fixed tomorrow and Ronnie is coming to check out the road job. I hope he can do it for under a thousand.
Finishing Line Press has accepted my chapbook of poems about living in the hollow and that should come out next year.
I also purchased a 22 caliber pistol. I have read of recent attacks by dogs and coyotes and I saw a TV show about them. I walk by myself all the time and with a bad knee I couldn’t get away from a pack of dogs or coyotes or even climb a tree. I shot it a few times and I was pretty accurate but I really just want it to scare away any problem animals. A friend who knows guns thinks it is a really good idea and I have to agree, even though I am not a gun person, but I do want to be safe.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A good deal of good news. I was able to clear the water system in about an hour, although the water people advised me to check for bacteria. I may have to shock the system with chlorine. Fortunately, the Rinnai on demand water heater is fine after I ran it for a few minutes. I sprayed the huge hornet nest last night and killed almost all of them, but a few were still flying around this morning. I purchased the pin for the three point hitch, and Mike will help me put it in next week. The road is certainly passable, so I can get by. The solar was fine but pretty low (1200) even though the gauge in the house shows it to be at 97%. I started the generator just to test it, and it started right up.
I practiced this morning for a full 40 minutes, the first time in many weeks. My Selmer is sticky as usual, but after cleaning it a little, it played fine. I should be performing next Friday if I can get my playing back in shape. I finished the poem for Kelly and sent it to her. I hope she enjoys it.
Ronnie called me back and I will talk to him next week about evening out the worst section of the road.
I start teaching next Monday and I am ready. I do have some paperwork to finish up.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I am back in the Neversink, where I slept in my tiny cabin last night. I fished the gorge for an hour, but didn’t go very far upstream in order to save my knee for the photo shoot this afternoon. I ran into the legendary Phil Chase, an environmental activist that has been an important factor in the present health of the river and its wonderful flow of 100 cfs (not too long ago it was 15). I hooked a big trout right by the old bridge, but he broke off instantly. I got two other hits but brought nothing in. That was fine with me; it was wonderful to be back in the gorge.
On last Saturday morning I headed into town to have coffee at Dunkin Donuts and to work on a couple of projects, the main ones being my new poem about Kelly having another baby and about the river rescue on the Stillwater. I cut all of the earlier stuff about my kayaking experience and I fiddled with the baby poem. Both are getting there.
I did some shopping and did a very necessary laundry (I was down to my last shirt). After that I went to the “New” Nugget tavern and had lunch and watched Tiger play poorly again. If his putter was working he would have been in it.
I called Joey but his phone wasn’t working so I decided to drive out earlier to beat my friend Phil Chase to the best spot and Joey and Rebeka were ready to go.
The shoot itself went very well and Joey/Justin got one ten inch brook trout. We are planning to get together tomorrow. I met Joey’s mother Katharine, and she was attractive and interesting.
Jump forward to my return to Virginia and things started to fall apart. There was a tree fallen across the road so I had to walk up and get the chainsaw. After cutting it up and clearing the road, I found that my water was very dirty and letting it flow didn’t clear it. I went up to my cabin to clear it at the faucet there and to my surprise the top of my cabin had been taken over by swarming hornets who was very upset by my coming up and turning on the faucet. I waited a few minutes for the hornets to calm down and for the water to clear but the water in the house was still dirty, potentially a big and expensive problem. Then I started to scrape the flooded out road with the tractor and half way down one of the three point hitch pins broke and I had to get a new one at Wimmer later in the afternoon. I have to get Mike to help me put it in on Monday or Tuesday. The satellite TV also wasn’t working since it had been off for six weeks. Who knows what is coming next?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The picture above is of the Poudre River near Fort Collins, Colorado. It signals the end of my western trip and the beginning of my return to the east. I brought up about 5 fish on the Poudre but failed to land any.
As I drove toward the Catskills for the photo session, I played golf, rode my bike and was astonished by the 100 degree heat.
This morning in a Starbucks in the Plaza section of Kansas City I wrote this poem for my ex partner, in a whirl of intense passion and focus.

For Tracy

A Creek in British Columbia

We had driven three thousand miles
To fish this one stream, especially to try
Three of the deepest pools.

I wasn’t sure I would ever be back,
The chemotherapy finished the month
Before, numbness still in my
Hands and feet, and a bad knee
the doctors thought may have also come
From the toxic brew.

It didn’t matter as long as I got you here
And you caught some of the fifteen inch grayling
That visit each summer.

I wouldn’t cast at first,
wanting the pleasure of each fish
To be only yours, partially because you were my best student,
From your first cutthroat on Yellowstone’s Bear Creek,
But more because I wanted to thank you
For coming to spend the last hour or so
Of the chemo sessions.

After Janet got the intravenous needle in,
And I had covered the site with a small towel,
I would busy myself with my laptop, a newspaper,
Or a book, but after two hours my focus faltered
And time slowed like a heart about to die,
But one that didn’t, the minute hand on the big clock
almost refusing to move.

Then you would appear, dressed for court,
And the seconds would return, like punished children
Sent to sit in the corner and now released,
and I could actually smile
For a moment and bless your coming
Like some simple sacrament.

So those grayling were my gift,
And as we neared the biggest pool,
I watched and knew my present
Was better than anything store bought,
Perhaps not equal to yours,
But the best I could do in difficult times.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Photos from Arches National Park

Thursday, August 5, 2010

my first swimming hole on the American

My visit to my friends went according to plan, long, catch up conversations, bike rides and hikes, and some terrific dining. I didn’t mind the city driving except once riding back to Fremont on I-880 at midnight. It was too fast and I was too tired.
I left on Monday morning and decided to take a scenic route up into the Sierras and that was a good decision. I rode along the American river and stopped twice to swim in the icy, turbulent waters. I passed the Carson river and that was also quite appealing and if I had had time I would have fished both rivers. However, I wanted to get to Las Vegas by Tuesday so that meant I had to make up some miles.
I crossed the Monitor pass and then headed south on California route 395, which quickly paralleled Mill creek, which was rocky and pretty fast, obviously fed from the snow fields in the High Sierras, but eminently fishable. Nonetheless, I wanted to get across to Nevada 95 before dark, so I didn’t stop but I hope I can get back and fish all three rivers some day.
The next morning I stopped to take a long bike ride near Tonopah, and then drove the rest of the way to Vegas. It has been tremendously hit by the recession but the in town traffic on I-15 didn’t hint toward any decline.
A couple of years ago I worked on a Fear manuscript (which tied my colon cancer with the economic disaster) and after talking to my friends Dave and Pat, I think the economic part of Fear may still be a viable topic. While Vegas and Nevada may be in exceptionally dire straits, many of the pundits are predicting a double dip recession nationally. I wish I could be more optimistic but people are scared and too many are out of work and we have an incredible deficit. I have given up on any thoughts of retiring early, and I will probably have to stay in my hollow for many years since I doubt I will be able to sell it for a decent price any time soon. But at least I have a secure job and a reasonable salary.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The view at Point Cabrillo.

The pool I went swimming in on the Durphy Creek Trail.

I decided to stay in Eureka, and though I chose a Quality Inn, the neighborhood was suspicious, with a lot of homeless people passing by. I remembered my talk with Mark Wells about Portland and the homeless and crime problems, but Eureka seemed pretty sad. I didn’t venture far from the motel.
On Thursday, I knew I was going to visit Richardson Grove State Park and hike the Durphy Creek trail and I accomplished that. There was a place to stop 4 tenths of a mile in, with access to Durphy Creek and there I took a quick dip in a delightful, icy pool.
After my hike I decided to head down Route 1 toward Westport to see the coast since I was not going to drive to San Diego. That 22 mile stretch is not something you want to do after a cup of coffee and the endless curves had me queasy by the time I was half way through. I knew the coast might be fogged in so when I got a few miles from the coast, it was no surprise that I lost the sunlight.
When I reached the coast, it was stunning with a low cloud cover but I was a little concerned with getting gas since I didn’t have much extra, though I knew there was gas in Westport, according to one of the road signs. Unfortunately, the pump at the store there stopped working just as I got there and I had to drive to Fort Bragg to get gas. I did use my extra gas on top so that really came in handy. Even with the extra gas I did drive to Fort Bragg with just a couple of quick stops to view the coastal terrain. I wanted to make sure gas was available there.
After Fort Bragg, I knew I needed some exercise so I stopped at Point Cabrillo Lighthouse and walked the half mile out to it, chatting with a young family part of the way, and even working my way down the rocky shore close to the water. It was a stunning area, with a cold wind to keep me moving.
After that I stopped to camp at the state park in Little River, and had a fine dinner at the Little River Inn, going of my bland diet a bit but enjoying every bite.