Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Let's make a deal

So I recently found something pretty cool, it's called the Ark of Taste (link). Basically, what it is, is a list of endangered foods, either because of their extreme regionality, or because their production is known to a limited group that's likely to die off any day now and take their knowledge of food production with them. Now to someone like me, who takes food very very seriously, this kind of list is a godsend. There were times in my life where I would try anything once. Now that I eat kosher it does limit the things I can try, but as long as it's not pork, shellfish, or buttered beef, I'll still probably give it a go.

Imagine my excitement when I discovered there is a local source for one of the items on that list! And that source is the hardware store! That item is Jacob's Cattle Bean, something everyone here tells me is common as water. I guess, in Maine, people use JCBs all the time, but, regardless of how well known it is around these parts it's still on the list!

So here is my proposition to my readers. If you can procure for me any one item from the Ark of Taste, or, if you are feeling really adventurous, something from the International Ark of Taste (I'm not entirely sure of that list's authenticity, but I can't find the international list on the Ark's website), and then send it to me I will in turn send you a bag of rare beans.

There are three rules to this exchange:
1. There must be some indication that the product you are sending is the product you claim it to be. Now a lot of the items are manufactured so that should be easy, but for the produce and meat and herb items it might be a little bit more difficult. I don't require a lot of proof, something written on the bag will probably be enough.
2. There has to be a decent quantity of it. This will obviously depend on what, exactly, is being sent, but I think it should be easy enough to follow. No sending me one peach and expecting a few servings of beans in return (unless it's that rare peach with a ruby pit). Obviously, if you have a rare turkey you want to trade for beans I don't expect you to send me a dozen... hell something that big probably a couple of drumsticks will do. I think that there won't be any problems here.
3. As I mentioned above, I'm kosher, so what does that mean? Well, pork and shellfish go right out the window. I can only eat mammals that have cloven hooves, which pretty much limits me to cows, sheep, goats, deer, and the like. Fish and fowl are pretty much good throughout except I can't eat raptors, but I don't think anyone does so no worries. Reptiles and amphibians, no. Insects and other bugs, no. Any milk product that contains meat, no. All vegetables and fruit are A-ok. Cheeses are great. I dunno, ask me if you have any questions.

So I figure some of you might be looking at that list and thinking "Like I'm really going to send this guy some bison steaks for a bag of beans." That's fair. I see it as a way to encourage people to try something they normally would never have because they don't live in the 10 square miles where it's available, I'm not offering this to try and score some expensive goods. I would trade the beans for a packet of spices as eagerly as I would for a box of pullets.  I mean, you really gotta want to try some new beans to actually go through with this plan, but, if you're like me, the prospect of trying a food that is made exotic by it's scarcity... well maybe there's someone reading this right now who's as curious as I am about these beans.

And no, I haven't tried them yet myself, sorry, but I do plan on it. Apparently they are great to cook in "bean holes", but, probably not a lot of those right now.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The impossible happens

This morning something I never thought would happen happened: It was too cold for my dog. The weather report says it was -2 this morning, and I can attest that it was pretty darn cold. She did fine until we got to the point in our walk where we leave the asphalt and move onto the snow covered path she started to lift her paws and whine. I was worried that she had stepped on something under the snow and hurt herself. This last February she was racing around with a friend of hers and she stepped on a piece of glass and almost cut her toe off. It was pretty bad, her foot is permanently disfigured, though not enough to really affect her. Pretty quickly I realized that she hadn't hurt her feet, her feet were cold. I had to carry her off the snow back onto the asphalt and we just walked around the town instead of going off on the path.

It warmed up quick though. By the time I took her on her afternoon walk it was up in the twenties. It really reminded me of summer in Sacramento when we'd get ten/fifteen days of triple degree heat and when it dropped down to, say, 97°, people would walk around talking about how pleasant it was. All of the visitors or people who have just moved there are shocked that people think 97 is so cool. Well, when it's -2, 20 degrees is fucking balmy!

I thought I'd finally head to the Chinese restaurant today, it being Christmas and me being Jewish, but the place was closed. Not surprised, seeing as how I'm pretty much the only Jew here. So, thanks to that, my Christmas was pretty much uneventful, which is sort of how I like it. But, for the rest of my readers who celebrate the arbitrarily marked birth of Christ (son of God or not, it's not actually his birthday today), a merry Christmas to you, hope it was peaceful and joyous and full of food. Please, if you celebrate anything this season, remember it's not what you buy or where, it's not who wishes you what, and it's not about a fat man coming in your chimney, it's about miracles, perseverance, and a hope for peace and happiness for everyone.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Life on other planets

It was cold yesterday, the kind of cold that made you wonder who first described the Earth as a "habitable planet" and whether they had ever been anywhere outside of the Caribbean. Sure, we inhabit the Earth, but in many places only by living behind thick walls within arms distance of a heat source. By the definition, Mars is habitable. Hell, by that definition, Neptune's moon Triton, location of the lowest recorded temperature in the solar system, is habitable. And if we were on Triton, as the temperatures approached absolute zero, the dog would still demand a long walk during which she'd spend considerable time sniffing every small rock we came across, which would be impressive since Triton is so cold it's atmosphere is almost entirely frozen so there'd be very little gas for her to use to sniff but that'd bother her about as much as the temperature I'd wager.

I was hoping yesterday morning, when the temperature was around 4-6°, that she'd take a step outside, decide it was far too cold, do her business quickly, and then drag me back home. She's not the hairiest dog. In fact, she has three distinct completely bald spots; underneath both arms and on the belly, yet the cold doesn't affect her in the slightest. It might help my mood if what we did at all resembled a walk. I'm not sure how you'd best describe the drag--stop for five minutes, drag--stop for five minutes routine we have, but it's like no other walk I've ever experienced (unless you count the time when I was five and wanted to prove to my parents I could walk the dog, so, without their permission or knowledge, I leashed the dog and brought her out front where she immediately spotted a cat and proceeded to drag me down the pavement on my back while chasing after it).

In other, non-cold related news... nothing. It's all about the weather now. Well, it's the first night of Hannukah (or Channukah, for those of you who need to see a 'CH' to pronounce it with the proper volume of phlegm) so I should probably do something about that. I have a menorah... I just sort of worry about burning candles. This block already burned down once in the '20s, and I wouldn't say I've kept the place especially fire-proof (still a lot of newspaper packed moving boxes around here). Maybe just a quick light and then blow it out before I take my eyes off of it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The weather report and other annoyances

It is supposed to get cold this week, very very cold. In fact, Sunday is supposed to drop to 12°! That's 20° below freezing, or -11° for you Celsius fans. Of course, I doubt it will get that cold because the five day weather forecast out here stinks. Hell, even the right now weather is off. It's supposed to be dropping below freezing as we speak, but I just walked my dog out there and couldn't even see my breath. It's in the mid-forties for sure. I'm more then certain that it will be cold. I'm in far eastern Maine, the fact that my toes are still intact this late in December is flukey if not downright miraculous. Still, it's like this every week, I check the forecast and then toss it out the window because it's off in every sense. If it says it's gonna rain, it's sunny. If it says it's sunny, the sun has died and we are propelled into a nightmarish world of perpetual darkness.

There are some interesting behaviors around here that I'm not sure are part of a larger tradition that I am unaware of or is only local. Since Thanksgiving a large number or people and businesses have put single electric candles in each window. Normally I would take minimal notice of this kind of thing, but when it started popping up around town like a virus I couldn't help but spot it. Every window, one candle. I've never seen that before. I'm guessing it's a New England thing, something from way back that the rest of us Americans have forgotten in our haste to move West.

Another interesting thing people do around here is only live in the back of their houses. I'm serious. A lot of the houses around here are quite large and consist of three distinct parts. There is the front, original part, the back, used-to-be-a-carriage-house-but-now-converted part, and the part added later to connect the two. At night around here every house front is dark, but, if you walk around, there is a single window in the most back corner possible lit up. Just tonight I passed a house that I pass almost every night with my dog that I swore has been empty the entire time I've been here. I've never seen any signs of life from that house, no activity, no cars out front, and definitely no lights. Tonight I came upon it from a different angle then normal and sure enough, one back window lit.

The only thing I can think of is that the older parts of the houses around here are poorly insulated so people stick to the back, between the carriage house and the facade, where the newer construction might be more warm. The other idea I had was that it's possible that, since most of these houses were built before 1910, there is a sort of Victorian idea that the front of the house is for entertaining guests, while the back is more of the common family area. Whatever the case I really can't stand it. I know, it's an odd and sort of callous way to feel, but the only effect that all this rear-of-the-house living does for me is make every single building around here appear abandoned. There's just no life around here at night because, instead of having a house that looks warm and occupied, everything is dark and empty, like a dead city.

And one more callous thing I shouldn't hate but do. People around here are way to quick to stop and let you cross the street. Maybe it's all the years I spent in a city, but people are just way too polite in that regard around here. They even stop when you have no intention to cross, and then they honk at you to let you know they've stopped. I can't count the times I've been paying attention to my dog sniffing someone's yard, not even looking at the road, only to be honked at. And then I look over and the person in the car is waving me across, as if every person on a sidewalk who has stopped walking only did so to cross. My dog stops, I stop. Unless I'm looking impatient at a crosswalk I don't need anyone to let me by. I appreciate it when it's needed, like there's a huge line of cars and I won't have a chance to cross unless some kind person stops for me, but if you are the only person on the road, even if I am obviously interested in crossing, just go ahead and pass, I can wait the extra four seconds, I'm gonna wait in anyway just to make sure you plan on coming to a complete stop.

I know I know, how can these things bug me. It's always the little things with me. It doesn't bother me at all that the grant I'm supposed to get from the school still hasn't come through and my tuition remains unpaid until it does. It doesn't bother me that all this warm weather is probably the result of global warming and in five years this city will be under glacier-based water. It doesn't bother me that I've been craving (and indulging) an unhealthy amount of sugar lately. But people stopping to let me cross the street? Those bastards.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chill out

Man it's been cold lately. Sunny, but cold. I guess I didn't expect it to be much different, but expecting and experiencing are two entirely different things. Still, the sun is nice, though I wouldn't mind some snow either, and I'm more the prepared for Winter, what with my many heavy coats, gloves, boots, wool socks, etc.

The cold does give me a little concern, however. Until recently my heat has come on sparingly. The grocery downstairs is kept quite warm and that leeches up to my room keeping things pleasant, but this last weekend the temperatures stayed below freezing the entire time and my heater started to kick in pretty regularly. Without that heater I'm not sure what I'd do. The reason I think about this is that although it is a gas heater the thermostat is run by electricity. During the first snow storm of my stay, that Halloween Nor'easter, the power went out almost the entire day and it got pretty cold in here. Should the power go out again this Winter I worry that it may get very cold in here. That gas heater is the only heat I have, there is no fireplace or anything like that and I feel like keeping Machias in power may not be the highest of priorities so if there is a power outage maybe it will be a long one. I guess bundling up like mad and wrapping myself up with my dog in bed might keep me warm, but miss natural-fur-coat probably won't stand for it and instead bug me about taking a bazillion walks.

This is all speculation of course. Other then that initial power outage there has been snow and rain storms without any interruption of power (interruption of internet for all of Washington county sure, but the power was still on), and no one here has given any indication that long power outages are at all to be expected. Maybe they'd let me bring my dog to a lounge at the school. Well, probably won't happen, but if it does I just hope I have enough socks.

Today I got into one of those conversations that you really don't have time for but you also have no excuse to interrupt. I needed some mint for some cacik I was making so headed downstairs. While I was purchasing the tiny amount I needed the clerk was talking about how her young daughter had been in a locally produced horror movie and she wasn't sure she wanted to let her watch her own film. I started to talk about horror films with her and an older gentleman who was in the shop. Eventually it was just me and the man talking and the conversation began to drift. Turns out he was this old hippy-ish guy who lived in Portugal and was in Machias to visit his daughter and son-in-law. He was the type of guy who had basically lived everywhere; Sonoma, Sweden, Denmark, Florida, South Carolina... Apparently he got most of the places he lived by sailing (whether he sailed from Portugal in this instance I don't know). We talked about social issues, politics, and family backgrounds. All this time I wanted to go upstairs and make my cacik so it could marinate in the fridge for awhile (can something really marinade in itself?) but despite the fact that I'm not a fan of talking politics and wasn't entirely interested in telling my whole family history, I couldn't inspire myself to make up some excuse to leave. It wasn't one of those moments where you're really uncomfortable and want to get the hell away from a person, I genuinely just wanted to make my food. I guess I wasn't so eager for my psyche to step in and shut me up cause I ended up talking to the guy for an hour until I really had to pull away because Hastur was expecting her afternoon walk.

The cacik got done when we finished out walk and is in the fridge now, and it's really good. Once again, though, I am reminded how hard it is to make garlic paste without a garlic press (THAT WAS NOT A HINT! NOBODY SEND ME A GARLIC PRESS!).

Friday, December 9, 2011

The days keep rolling

Now that I've settled in, taken care of all my school stuff until the semester starts in January, and the weather hasn't done anything bonkers lately, I'm having a hard time finding things to write about. Other then a day earlier this week when all of downeast Maine lost internet access nothing of significance, either internationally or in my apartment has happened. I guess, in a way, that's sort of what living in a place like this is about, the things that happen happen somewhere else while life here just keeps going much like it did in years past. The only difference now is that transportation eats gas not grass and we have these quaint little electronic gadgets to distract us. That is, until those gadgets go out for an entire day and I find myself trying to make a projectile point out of flint so that I might be able to hunt for food and clothing.

It wasn't that bad, it actually gave me some time to write.

So I finally got a desk delivered to me awhile back. I expected, you know, a nice little desk I could keep my laptop on with a couple of drawers so I could attempt some organization. I came home from walking the dog one night to find the box sitting at the bottom of my stairs. Now these are some steep, steep stairs. Luckily they aren't that high, but their angle is pretty extreme. In fact, one thing I find endlessly amusing is that my shower has handholds, probably to conform to some kind of Maine law demanded that apartments be accessible to the handicapped. That's great and all, but I couldn't even get up those stairs with a badly stubbed toe, let alone a condition that required handholds in my shower.

So anyway, this box is at the bottom of my stairs and after giving my dog her post-walk snack I go back down to get it wondering why the FedEx guy didn't just bring it up himself. Well, I figured that out real quick, the desk, unbuilt and in a fairly small box as it was, weighed 123 pounds. I weigh 210.The stairs are steep. I think you can see where this is going.

It was a good thing I was in my snow boots because otherwise I wouldn't have had the traction I needed. I tried dragging it up but cardboard isn't made to hold 123 pounds like that so the box started ripping. I thought about getting some help but the store I live above had closed and everyone was gone and the only other people who live in this building were not at home, and even were everyone there they'd all be small women. Sure, a group of small women could probably help quite a bit, but all together they probably weigh less they I do so I wouldn't want to put them in danger of being crushed by a mail order desk.

I finally planted my feet as firmly as I could and pushed it up the stairs. It took about twenty minutes, and a couple of times it threatened to slide back on me like some kind of lead sleigh with a cargo of ballast and plate armor. But, obviously, I managed to safely get it to the top and drag it to my room and proceeded to build the shit out of it.

Now all I needed was a chair. I popped over to a used furniture store next door and managed to overpay a bit on a shitty little chair that I figured would do until the opportunity to get a better one arose. I realized, a little bit later, that I have two chairs with my kitchen table and, seeing as I live alone, have absolutely no need for both to sit there. It wasn't much money I spent on that chair, but it was enough to do a load of laundry or try that Chinese restaurant that may or may not be edible. And then today a health and human services place down the street closed down and left a bunch of furniture and office goods out for garbage or whoever wanted them, including a bunch of chairs and a dry erase board. I went back after walking the dog but not in time to get the dry erase board, but I did find a great chair that was just perfect for what I needed. Again, I can't figure out why I spent that money.

It's been pretty cold the last couple of days after being near sixties for about a week. The one problem with the weather here, and it's not really a problem with the weather at all, is that it is impossible to predict. Just this week the weather report said it was supposed to snow on Wednesday, but then Wednesday comes around and there's not a cloud in the sky. This weekend was supposed to be sunny and fairly warm, but right now the temperatures are dipping rapidly and there are definite rain (snow?) clouds in the sky.I checked the weather this morning and there was never any mention of clouds. It's almost like I gotta lick my finger and stick it out the window to know what's going on out there.

Well, until school starts I'm just going to spend a lot of time writing I guess. My adviser/instructor has put me in an independent study class with him as the instructor with the goal of finishing a novel so... better get some practice in.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cabin fever

Before all my readers start to send me or my mother concerned emails, it's not me with the cabin fever, it's my dog.

This was her schedule today:
4:30am- Wake me up. No reason, doesn't need to go outside, no strange noises, no one coming or going in the building, just a sudden need to be up and interactive.
7:00am - Go on a walk, go bat shit crazy over every stick she passes.

She's been doing that for a couple of days now. All of a sudden sticks are more important to her then anything else in her life. She will try to drag me across traffic just to get to a stick, and then if I don't let her have it she starts to fight me. I have no idea how long this is going to last, but I hope she gets the hint that I don't approve of it soon and it stops.

10:00am- Suddenly run around the apartment whimpering like she's been badly hurt. I had to get her to sit and yell at her to get her to stop. She was fine, not a scratch on her, and before it began she was standing on "her" chair looking out the window, nothing more.
11:30- Afternoon walk. Drinks out of a puddle on the side of the road for more then a minute. She has a full bowl of fresh water at home, but much prefers road water. I forgot bags so of course she tries to poop on someone's lawn even though she pooped less then four hours ago. I dragged her away from the lawn and took her to a wilderness trail but she never attempted after that.
12 to 3:00pm- I was gone for about an hour and a half doing laundry so I missed some possible crazy time, but luckily she spent the time I was home just napping so here was a little island of sanity.
3:15pm- Late afternoon walk. Again with the sticks and puddles. She also tried to drag me across the street again, but this time there was a car right there that hit the brakes loudly skidding to a stop. She was so frightened by that that she dove the other way, hopefully that's the end of that behavior (but I doubt it).
Currently- She is sitting on her chair chewing on a giant, I assume moose (but it's impossible to tell because apparently moose anatomy is the least illustrated anatomy on the entire planet if my internet searches are any indication) vertebrae I found on our walk.

Hopefully that keeps her until further notice. Frankly, I'm getting pretty sick of her today, it's like she's been determined to ruin my day.

Other then the dog, school is starting to get noticeably close for me. As of next week  I should have my entire next semester planned out. I checked yesterday and I still don't seem to owe any money... I wonder when my tuition is due?

I also discovered tonight, when I went to the gas station across the street from me for the first time (I was in desperate need of a Coke) that they carry Aero Bars! For those of you unfamiliar with Aero Bars, it's a chocolate bar produced by Nestle that's mostly available in the UK and the EU, but very hard to get in the states. It is found in Canada, but in California the only place to get it is at Cost Plus, and yet here they are at the gas station across the street. I love Aero Bars, and I was considering driving over to St Stephen, New Brunswick (Chocolate City Canada) to try and find some, now I know I can just walk across the street! That almost completely erased how pissed off the dog has made me today.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Change is in the air...

... and all over the ground, and piled a foot high on my car...

In case you haven't guessed from the change in background it snowed today. Either that or I did laundry, I'm not sure if that image is snow or powdered soap. Well, in any case, that's what it looks like outside. We got six, maybe up to eight inches. It's pretty nutty, especially because, despite the fact that yesterday morning was a frigid 19° it was bright and sunny, whereas today, with it snowing like a Christmas scene in a sappy movie, it was in the thirties even at 6:40am when I took Hastur for a walk.

She loved it of course. Bounded around like she was made for it. And to think that I was worried because she is such a short haired dog, she even has a completely bald belly. She couldn't care less about the cold, she just wants to run in the snow. I gotta find her a sled team to join because she needs to find a way to work off all the energy she gets from being in the snow. She'd have a blast dragging someone around, it's what she does to me every day anyway.

It snowed for pretty much the entire day. Big fluffy sticky powder, the good stuff, not the lame mush that fell in October. By the time of our long afternoon walk it had died down to the snow equivalent of a drizzle. Our afternoon walks take us to the school. Since it was practically deserted due to the holiday I decided to let Hastur off leash on the soccer field. Man did she take advantage of that. She raced around in big circles, falling into snow banks, tripping and rolling around, chasing snow balls I made for her.

Foolishly I decided not to bring my camera on our afternoon walk thinking that pictures of a snow covered school would be boring. I will not make that mistake twice. The campus will definitely be abandoned tomorrow so we'll do it again and this time I will capture it.

Being in the snow really brought me back to my childhood in Utah. I didn't really remember what it was like to be in a snow storm like this, but I can recall it now. I remember that I never really felt cold in the snow, even with my gloves and hat off. I remember how annoying it was when you stepped in a pile of snow that went about your boots and big chunks of snow got between your boot and your pants and you either had to let it melt into your socks or try to dig it all out. I remembered the serenity a freshly laid sheet of snow can bring. I didn't remember, until our evening walk, that fresh snow also illuminates everything. It's not an illusion caused by it's whiteness, it actually makes the night noticeably brighter.

Well, this snow isn't going to be long lived, it's going to get up into the 40s again this week, and probably rain as well. I'm pretty disappointed, especially because the longer it takes for a solid, long lasting snow pack to form the longer it will be before the school pond freezes and I can do some skating.

Ah well, in the meantime, here are some pictures I took this morning.

Hastur dressed for the weather   

Our morning walk with a huge high tide

Main street

View outside my bedroom

A very serene graveyard (search for ghosts in the picture... if you dare)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Seasonal adjustments

The weather has been very fickle lately; warm, cold, rainy, sunny... often all for in the same day. Last night when I went to walk Hastur at about 7:30 it was 55°, by morning it was 22°. Tonight it's already in the mid-twenties which means long underwear for the morning walk. But, despite its inability to pick a state of being, I think the weather is finally forming a pattern. It's supposed to snow Wednesday, after which it will start to get a little bit warmer, but not much. I believe it is starting to move towards Winter around here, which could be a lot of fun, or not. I don't know yet just what kind of Winter it will be. If it continues to be more often sunny then not, as it has been, then I won't be overly thrilled. Freezing temperatures without snow are pretty pointless. Snow would be great, heaps of it even. Who am I kidding, I just want to skate on the school pond, play a little hockey.

Apart from the weather the other big change is the sudden animosity towards my dog. People up until recently have been really nice to Hastur. A woman even stopped me the other day to have a conversation about her, during which Hastur surprisingly just sat and waited prompting the woman to describe her as "very well behaved" which is, of course, a completely false. I don't know what got into her to cause her to act like a well trained dog, she must have not been feeling well. On that same day the woman complimented me on Hastur, another man came out of his house while we were walking past just to scold me ahead of time in case she should drop a load on his lawn. Hastur was not leaving anything on his lawn, nor has she ever, so there was no call for the attitude this guy was giving me. He was preemptively mad at a dog turd that didn't exist. I'll grant him that his lawn is one of the best maintained in town, most of the lawns here are left pretty unattended, the idea being, I assume, that the elements will take care of the mowing, but regardless he could have simply told me he didn't want her pooping there and I would have politely assured him it wouldn't happen. Instead I got a lecture about an incident that happened in his mind. And just because I know people don't quite get what happened, it's not that he was mad about some dog poop in his yard, he was lecturing me to make sure I understood that he never wanted any poop on his yard.

And then on Saturday the man who owns the antique store on the bottom floor, who was very nice to Hastur in the past, came out of his shop while she was peeing on the lawn to yell at me about letting her do so. I mean, c'mon, it's a dog peeing! It's not like it's rude, she's a dog! I mean, if she was peeing on some of the wares he displays in front of his store I'd understand, but we were a good fifteen feet away. In fact, we weren't even in front of his store, we were along the side, and it's not even his lawn to begin with, it's my landlord's.

If you've had too many incidents where some uncouth dog walker has left his dog's dirty little business on your lawn I can understand not wanting to risk the same with any other dog. In that case you ask nicely if the person walking past with their dog not allow it to poop there. Fine, I think most dog owners wouldn't begrudge a politely worded request. There is no need, however, to prejudge anyone like the guy did coming out of his house to actually yell at me. Further, who gives a flying fuck where a dog is peeing? You know why we let dogs take a piss in public when we ourselves do not? Cause they're dogs! We can't impose our social mores on them, otherwise they'd always be in pants and only mate under the covers behind doors they've somehow latched. And of course we'd expect them to wear a yarmulke and learn the torah. She's a dog, she's gonna pee on grass, that's what they do. Sorry if the thought of urine is uncomfortable to you, but it's not, nor will it ever be, to her. Just deal with it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Natural tendencies

I saw a bald eagle this morning while walking the dog. It is the best wildlife moment I've had so far. I've seen deer, plenty of deer, but I've seen deer in the wild plenty of times. Even in Sacramento they were practically in my back yard (along with an extended, multi-generational skunk family). I'm not sure I've ever seen a bald eagle in the wild. I know I've seen them in captivity, or recuperating at a rehab facility, but not flying across a river as I walk past with my dog. I may have seen a wild one on the Alaskan cruise I took, or the few times I went to Yellowstone... I really can't remember.

Obviously Maine has a lot of wildlife. Some of the animals that I know are here include; badgers, wolverines, skunks, racoons (saw a dead one already, roadkill), porcupines, beavers, a bunch of weasel types, and of course, moose and (flying) squirrel. Other then the many deer and the eagle the only other thing of significance that I've seen is maybe a wolverine. I don't know what it was because I only caught the last quarter of it as it crawled into the brush. It was very low to the ground, the tail was dragging, and it had greasy thick black fur. Honestly, it may have just been a huge cat, I caught the briefest hint of it, without knowing for sure I can't really call it a wildlife experience.

I did see some huge tadpoles today at the school pond. I wonder if this warm weather has fooled them into hatching early or if it's common to get tadpoles just before everything freezes over? I think I heard, many moons ago, that tadpoles can sort of hibernate. Or maybe they'll fast track it to frogs, which i know hibernate, before the pond turns to ice.

If I may be allowed off topic for a moment there was a question that came to me tonight. Which has done more to advance the market of the other; milk for Oreos, or Oreos for milk?Discusss amongst yourselves.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The show goes on

Things have really begun to settle down here, beginning to feel like home. For one thing, the dog has finally remembered that she enjoys eating anything off the ground that even remotely resembles food, something she'd forgotten about in the hustle and bustle of moving. We walked through the cemetery today and she shoved her nose behind a gravestone and came out crunching on a bone. What kind of bone I have no idea. Let's hope someone just happened to be eating chicken there.

I've been trying to get the apartment decorated. I have quite a few nice pieces of art to hang up. Problem is, I'm not too keen on putting more holes in the walls. For some reason there are nails hammered in everywhere, but not in a way conducive to hanging anything. They are placed with no discernible planning or pattern. On one small spot of wall there will be two or three nails in a row, each a different height... too close together to really put any one frame on them, let alone three. Or there will be two nails, one about normal height for a picture, the next a good foot or so lower so I can hang one picture, but two would look ridiculous.

I could always remove a few nails, set things up right, but like I said, I'm not sure I am comfortable putting a bunch of new holes in the wall. I guess the last tenants didn't really care, but for the life of me I had no idea what it was exactly they were doing. I did take advantage of some of the more well placed nails, but for now a box of art goes unhung.

Still cooking for myself almost exclusively. It's sort of difficult to really cook here. A lot of ingredients I'm used to are unavailable, and the ones that are are sort of dumbed down. Like yesterday when I wanted to make enchiladas but couldn't find any corn tortillas. The wheat tortillas I did find were as thick and doughy as lavash bread. They ended up soaking up far too much sauce and basically liquifying. The enchiladas didn't turn out that great. Asian food is a little better represented, except one of the brands of Chinese sauces is called AH-SO written out in a stereotypical Chinese script. I think the sauce's one defining trait is that they are all neon colored and thick as jam. The store does carry more authentic sauces too, but the AH-SO sauce is the most prominent. Also, the store's habeneros have been green for two weeks now. I don't think anyone knows it should be any different then that.

Weather's been absolutely fantastic though. If you look at a color coded temperature map the entire state of Maine is blue, except for this strip of orange and yellow running up the coast. I guess this kind of weather runs right up into New Brunswick a bit too. In a lot of ways this place is like San Francisco. This morning when Hastur and I went on our walk it was cloudy and rained a little bit, this afternoon there was not a cloud in the sky and it was warm and still, and then when I took Hastur out on her long evening walk it was cloudy and windy again. Still, this coastal weather should make for a nice mild winter. I hope there's some good, light snow, but I don't think I'll have to beware any blizzards or extreme storms.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I'm dreaming of a grey Channukah

When my stuff was delivered one of the movers, who was from Bangor, warned me that it was probably going to be a wet Winter. He believed that all we were going to see was wet, sloppy snow. I sort of trusted his judgment, but hoped he was wrong. Now, I'm worried that he was right.

It's raining today, rained yesterday as well, and the forecast for the rest of the week is more sun and rising temperatures. I realize that it's not even mid-November, but looking ahead I don't see this weather changing anytime soon. Not only that, I anticipate that, when it does change, it will do so gradually, keeping things wet, warm, and not exactly Wint'ry. In Sacramento the dog didn't seem to care about the rain at all, but around here she really doesn't want to be outside in it. I'm not sure what the difference is. It's quite warm here right now, so it's not that she's cold. I dunno, I guess it's her new thing.

I actually really wanted snow. More then that I wanted ice so I could break out my skates, maybe play a little pond hockey. I'm sure it will eventually get cold enough to ice over the pond at the school, but maybe not enough to thicken it to the point where people can skate on it. Especially not if the snow storms are interspersed with rain. It makes for a Winter I'm not exactly looking forward to.

In happier news I met with my adviser at school this week, his name is Marcus LiBrizzi (look him up, he's got a couple of books out). He's really excited to have me in Machias, mostly cause he's a total ghost and monster nut so we have a lot to talk about. We spent about half the meeting talking about the supernatural, and the other half finally getting some classes together. He's putting me into a directed study course, basically the class is meeting with him once a week for half an hour with the object to try and complete the book I've been planning to write for awhile now.

He's an entertaining guy. This Winter break he is going to the Amazon to do some ghost hunting. Where and how, I don't know, but he's really excited. Remember how I told you, my readers, about the town Atusville? Well, he worked on the cultural aspect of the project that revealed the former existence of the town to everyone. We talked about that for a bit too, since I worked on a similar site when I was an archaeologist in California called Allensworth. He mentioned that the area (which is way back in the woods, too far for me to randomly roam) is very haunted.

It's sort of interesting talking to him about that kind of stuff. He really believes in it, at least in ghosts. For Marcus, these things are very real. I'm not sure what his goal is in studying and writing about ghosts. Does he want to prove their existence, or reveal their nature to the world? Or is it purely a personal thing? Does he want to prove it to himself?

For me, I prefer the mythology of the thing. I don't know what the hell ghosts are. I've had my own experiences that I know were real, but the cause is less clear to me. I like the mythology involved. I'm fascinated with the human need to create monsters, sort of like I'm fascinated by what drives people to racist ideas. Human's, by nature, are rarely willing to admit their own flaws, and I think that the monsters we create are our own ways of dealing with those flaws. People have all the traits of the beasts that haunt us, and by telling stories, especially stories where the humans prevail, is often our way of fighting our own selfish and destructive tendencies. I'd love it if ghosts and vampires and werewolves and the like existed, not because I want to fall in love with some eternally pubescent sparkly vampire, but because it would give the world so much more depth then it actually has.

Believing in ghosts and the supernatural is kind of like believing in soul mates and true love. It probably doesn't exist, but when you deny it your reality becomes so much more grey and dismal. To allow yourself to believe, whatever the reason is, creates a richer, fuller life. At least, that's how I see it. Maybe that's the driving force for Marcus's forays into places like the Amazon, all in the name of hunting ghosts and ghost stories. Maybe for him, ghosts are a symptom of a vast, uncharted world that he's only one photo, or one experience away from tapping into. Hell, I'd like very much to join him in that world.

In other news: I wash way too many dishes in a day. How am I, one person, using all these dishes? Like, three times a day I have to wash! I have to figure out how to use fewer dishes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Moved in

So finally, after over two weeks, my stuff arrived today. I took the whole day to build my bed frame. For those of you who have never had to build Ikea furniture, it's difficult enough to do with their recommended two person system, doing it by yourself, especially a queen sized bed... no fun at all. But, I did it so this is my first post since arriving in Maine not written uncomfortably on the floor. That's really about all I did, though, so tomorrow is going to be one long day of unpacking. I'm really going to have to take a trip to the trash place this week.

There's something I want to address about New England that I've noticed ever since I got into Massachusetts. People are constantly smoking at gas stations here. There's a gas station across the street from my building and I walk past it two or three times a day and every time there are two or three people smoking.Actually, people hang out at that particular station a lot. Not sure exactly why, I think hunters meet up there before heading off... or maybe it's just the best available spot to gather around here. Anyway, it's not the only place. Every time I've gotten gas in New England, from driving through to filling up here in town, people are smoking. Put that on the list with driving fast, thinking Dunkin' Donuts coffee is good, and not knowing what a chile relleno is.

I really miss chile rellenos. If there was one thing that I am desperate for from back in Sacramento it's chile rellenos. In Sac if I ever felt the desire for a chile relleno I'd just go down the street to the nearby taqueria and get one. Or, if I wanted a much more expensive, but heart-stoppingly good chile relleno we had a restaurant for that as well. I don't think there is a place closer then New York City where I could get a chile relleno. Maybe Boston... maybe.

So I finally broke down and got food from a restaurant tonight. There was just no way, after spending all day building my bed and doing more general unpacking, that I had the time or energy to cook for myself. I got pizza from this place called Fat Cat which is surprisingly far away from me, and by far away I mean probably a 15 minute walk. Still, since every single other thing in town is within, like, a five minute walk of me, Fat Cat is a bit of a shlep. Pizza was actually quite good, made far better by the box of hot sauce that came with my shipment today. Still, I don't want to eat out much, I like being able to cook my own food all the time. Now that all my kitchen stuff and spices are here my meals will be even better.

Well, time to remind myself what sleeping in a bed is like.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Reality is setting in

I've been dealing with my recyclables a lot today. I remember when recycling first sort of took off and cities began to offer it as part of their garbage service. You had to have separate bins for all your different types, you had to make sure each container was washed and I remember smashing your aluminum cans was the thing to do. I don't remember if it was mandatory or not, but everyone seemed to be doing it. Eventually cities got the hang of it and everyone stopped caring about all that. In Sacramento I'd just throw all the paper, aluminum, tin, plastic, glass, and cardboard I had in one can, sometimes still full of food, and just let the city sort it out.

Well, the good ol' days are back.

In order to recycle anything I have to wash it, remove the label, and smash it as best as I can. It's just one more thing in regards to my trash that I never anticipated having to deal with. For those of you who don't know yet, I don't even have garbage service out here. I have to take all my trash, in city approved bags that I have to buy, to, well it's not a dump. It's called a transfer station which I assume just means they transfer it to the dump. Their recycling program is not that old, only a few years I think. I'm not even sure their transfer service is that old.

It's just one more thing that has really got me thinking about whether or not I'll ever truly get used to living out here. Is two years enough for me to find a way to be truly comfortable in Machias? I realize that things like trash service and ethnic restaurants (or really, just restaurants) and coffee shops are modern conveniences that for the vast majority of human history no one had, but I've become very used to them. In all my years on Earth I've never had to go without these things. You think about all the stuff we have to take for granted these days and people wonder if they could get along without internet, or ATMs, or texting... but no one wonders about garbage service, or where I'm from, fresh vegetables, or even having to make your own meal every night.

Machias was first settled by Europeans in the 1760s. At that time vegetables in Winter were completely unheard of. If they heard me complaining about having to take my own trash to the dump they'd probably slap me with the broadside of a plow. But I still feel like I just can't get used to this whole thing. I'm here for at least two years and I'm not sure that's going to be long enough to get acclimated to a way of life far different then the one I grew up in. Of course, I've also only been here two weeks, have no furniture, have no friends yet, and other then walking the dog no real schedule. I could look back on this post in six months and laugh at how naive I was, or I could look back on this post in two years and think "Yep, I was right on the button there".

I totally get it, it's a different way of life, simpler. Even the trash issue makes it sort of simpler, in a lack of modern contrivance sort of way. Everyone here just acts like it's the way things are, but I know things are another way too. It's weird cause I am in no way roughing it, but I feel like if I was roughing it I wouldn't be having this issue. Like, I'm in an apartment with electricity, running water, refrigeration, heat, even internet... but I have to take my own trash to the dump!? If I was in some wood stove heated cabin, getting my water from a stream and getting all my news from the rare merchant that happens to cart by I'd probably think nothing of dealing with my own trash.

Ok, I seem to be making a huge deal about the trash thing. It's not that it's that big of a deal, it just happens to be the illustrative example of how different everything is here for me, and it hasn't even really snowed yet! I'm just not convinced that I can really settle here, that I can ever be at home here, fit in. I said that people really should live in smaller communities like this, that it's better for us socially and psychologically, and I'm not saying I'm wrong, but it turns out it's A LOT different then what I expected. City life leads you to expect certain things from your existence that town life isn't even aware of.

Well, here's to the next two years, let's hope it's worth it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Finally, the ocean

I've been hesitant to make any day trips, even though I was worried that the days were on the verge of becoming far less pleasant, because I never knew when exactly my furniture would be arriving, that is, until I got a call from the moving company telling me it would be this coming Saturday.

Armed with that information I picked the first clear skied, warm day to pack up the dog and head to Roque Bluffs State Park. Roque Bluffs is this little area almost directly south of Machias which sits at the end of a kind of peninsula in Englishman Bay (Machias Bay, which is kind of like the San Francisco Bay of the area is just west of me and also has some parks I'll need to visit, along with some very old petroglyphs). It's got one of the only natural white sand beaches in Maine, as well as a large pond and a few miles of hiking trails. After making a couple of wrong turns we finally found the right road and drove straight to the park.

Now the park technically closes for the season on October 15th, but they leave all of the trails open. What they don't leave open is the parking. I discovered that there were only two ungated parking areas, and one was so far back from the beach, and what I thought was the park, that I didn't even notice it. The other lot had four spaces, two of which were handicap spaces, the other two were occupied. I pulled in briefly and thought about just parking there, what were the chances that I would get a ticket from a closed park? In the end I decided to back out and find another lot. Funny thing; as I was pulling out a couple wanted to pull in behind me. They didn't know yet that both of the spaces were handicap. As I drove off I saw them hestitate to pull in and I knew they were wondering the same thing... what were the chances?

Turns out the other parking lot was far better for my purposes because the trails led out directly from it. There were a number of trails to choose from, but not really knowing the difference between any of them I just picked one and set off. The way that trails are marked around here are with colored paint on tree trunks, an interesting solution that is by no means permanent, there was one marker tree I found that had fallen. Each trail has a different color so you can tell whether you've found yourself on another trail or not.

That's one muddy beach
We followed our green trail until we reached a little inlet, Pond Cove it is called. The beach, if you could call it that, wasn't exactly on the trail, but the dog and I went down a small embankment and went out towards the water. It was low tide and the beach was as thick with seaweed as the land behind it was with trees. It also was almost entirely shin deep tidal mud.

Let me take a momentary tangent here to address something about Maine. Maybe it's just the season, but everything around here seems like a total swamp. Navigating the trail down to the water was very difficult because every thirty feet or so was a huge muddy expanse I had to find a way around. Sometimes there would be boards set out so people could cross, but the other side of those boards would just be mud hidden under leaves and moss. There were two things that I found lucky, however. The first is that the mud and water always seems very localized, step just inches outside the border and it's completely dry. The second is that, for whatever reason, the mud does not stick to anything. If i accidentally missed a mark and stepped in the mud, or if there was a hidden puddle in the loam, my shoe would come out wet, but totally clean. Tidal mud... now that's another story.

The dog went totally nuts in it, racing around like, well, a kid in a mud puddle. A stinking, rotting mud puddle. She tried a bunch of soggy driftwood, drank from fetid tidal pools, and got mud in every conceivable nook on her body. She even had the grand idea of shaking to get the muck off only to end up spraying it on parts of her body that was nowhere near the mud, like her face.

Did a glacier leave you here?
The area is heavily scarred from glaciation, as is pretty much the entire state. There were some very large rocks that were probably dragged there by ice tens of thousands of years ago and have been sitting in the tide ever since. There were also some interesting rocks which I was took some pictures of.

This rock was quite small, but had a huge striation running through it. The interesting part was the crystal vein that followed the crack. It extended out into the crack in a kind of bulbous, almost pasty fashion. My theory is that, after millennia under tons of ice, once the glacier finally melted away the crystal was allowed to expand and kind of melted out like wax. If one of my geologist friends who is supposed to be following this blog would like to chime in and correct me, I would really appreciate it.

This rock also had some great striations. I can't tell if it's due to glaciation or something in the tides, but in either case the gouges were deep and numerous. Not sure what kind of rock this is either. Most of the rocks around here are granites or slate, this, I believe, is something else. Maybe a shale. Again, geologists, put your two cents in.

When we got home the dog immediately went into the bath. She really, really stunk. It took two washcloths to finally get her clean enough for me to allow her into the house. Of course she immediately laid on my sleeping bag.

That was one of the last times, however, she would do that. I got some packages yesterday from my mother who included an old dog bed for Hastur. She took to it immediately. In fact, she's barely gotten off it since it came. That meant last night was the first night since I got here that I could actually sleep in my sleeping bag rather then unzipping it and spreading it out to share with the dog.

Turns out that's not exactly as good as it sounds. Physically, sleeping in the sleeping bag instead on on the wooden floor does not make much of a difference. The biggest difference is not things like my knees and elbows have a little bit a cushioning so they don't bother me while I'm turning around, but my back and hips still are very awkward. Emotionally, there is a very big difference having the dog on the bed instead of sharing a sleeping bag with me. It was comforting to have her pressed up against me all night, now I'm just some lonely schmuck in a sleeping bag on the floor. Well, only two more nights of having to suffer through this, then I can finally start to settle into this place.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Get lost

As I've said, there are a lot of little hidden areas in Machias. Small spaces that are probably missed by people who don't care to look for them.

Things such as a plaque signifying the location of the former town of Atusville, a town founded by a former slave just after the Revolutionary War for other former slaves that is now nothing by forest. Machias is something like 98% white Christian, and other then a farm across the street from the plaque and the plaque itself there isn't any evidence of Atusville's existence. It's too bad, for one this city could use a little color, but also it's sad that a community like that could completely disappear. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I'm sure that Atusville was abandoned naturally. There are surely hundreds of cities that never made it scattered all around Maine. Actually, the citizens of Machias are pretty proud that a black community, and there certainly weren't many then, let alone now, was right in their very midst. The plaque, and by extension the missing city, are way out on the very edge of Machias, the only reason I ever found it at all was by walking pretty much as far as I was comfortable along the Down East Sunrise Trail. It's easy to miss if you don't have an eye for things like two foot high pedestals in the middle of the forest like I do.

Also nearby Atusville- Sylvan Park, and old harness racing track that has been abandoned for... I dunno, at least 50 years, probably more. Apparently harness racing is a big thing in Maine. Right now there is a ballot proposition (or as they say here, question) that if passed will create a bunch of jobs in harness racing. Plus I found out all about Sylvan Park from a website that catalogs long lost Maine harness racing tracks. You know if there's a whole catalog there must have been a lot of them. There are a bunch of buildings sitting in Sylvan Park rotting, but the track is still pretty visible. I'd like to run my dog around in there but it's fenced off as private property. Now why do people do that? Why do they fence off land that they will never do anything with? Why do they deny people access so it can just sit there and rot? So they can horde it all to themselves for some reason? I guess if someone were to enter one of those buildings and get hurt you might be liable, but I'm sure that a fence all the way around the place won't do anything more to stop people entering those buildings then just a fence around the buildings.

Yesterday the dog wanted to go on her afternoon walk early so I said to her "Fine, we'll have enough time to get lost somewhere". In the afternoons I like to walk her around the college, and they just so happen to have a series of trails that run behind the school. I took her back there once and we just did a quick loop, but I made note of some other trails that branched off that I'd like to take sometime. So I figured it was the perfect time to do a little exploring. We got to the point where the trail looped back towards the school so I took the opportunity to go the opposite way. The trail this way was wide and open. It was a bright day and there was both human and dog prints in the snow so I was pretty confident that I was headed somewhere other then the deep woods. Soon though, thanks to all the melting snow, the trail became a deep bog so I had to turn around.

We got back to the point where I had turned away from the school but my desire for adventure had not been satisfied so I took the first side path I could find. This path was far thicker then the last one I had taken, and I also, unlike the last one that led directly in the opposite direction from the university, I couldn't tell which direction this path was taking. However, like the last path there were footprints so I figured it was bound to lead somewhere.

The going was so much more difficult on this path, and it didn't help that instead of my boots I was wearing my Adidas indoor soccer shoes. The going was so rough that I let the dog off leash so she wouldn't just be trying to drag me through the brush. She went along the path, nose down, so I let my attention drift off into the forest trusting her sense of direction.

Soon, however, I became less confident that I was following a legitimate path. It was obvious that it was some kind of path, but whether it was one maintained by the school for people to trek on their free afternoons wasn't as obvious. There was no more snow so there were no more footprints to follow, but the dog was still following some scent and I figured, what's the worst that could happen?

Very soon after those doubts came to me we came into a clearing with a bench along side the trail. Proof, to me, that we were going a right way. There was snow in the clearing, but no footprints, still the bench bolstered my confidence so we continued the way were were going. Past the bench was yet another bench, however, past that the trail became even less distinct. A couple of times I thought about turning back, but I checked my phone and had service, plus it was warm and there was a lot of day left so I continued. After hiking for awhile we came to an open area on the side of the hill we were on. It was all granite, snow, and ice, but there were two benches there as well so I continued to think we were on a path that led somewhere. The site posed a lot of problems. The granite was at a steep angle and every part of it was slippery. When there wasn't snow, there was ice, when there wasn't snow or ice, there was wet moss, or a deep puddle hidden under wet moss. The worst part was, on bare granite, you can't find the trail. I wandered back and forth on the bare granite trying to find a path out of there, but now I couldn't even find the path we came in on. My dog, with all her four wheel drive glory, was bounding up and down the hill mistaking my pacing for excitement and trying to get me to chase her. I kept telling her to find the damned path so we could get out of there.

I knew this was one of those situations where I was less then a mile from civilization, I could hear cars and thought I spied roofs, but I didn't want to try to forge my own path and possibly get even more lost, especially because I wasn't entirely sure which way the school was. Every time I took a step into the forest Hastur came running through like she had found a path only to try to lead me through a bog, or across a steep ravine, or just some random direction in the woods. Finally I decided that I would just head down the hill. As long as I was heading down, I figured, I wouldn't get lost, and I also believed the road was that way. Hastur actually managed to find a decent way down that only had a few branches head height that I had to deal with, and after trudging through the underbrush for a bit we came out in someone's backyard. I got the dog back on leash and we headed towards the road.

Turns out we were about two blocks away from the school, but in a different direction then I had believed. I'm still convinced there was no path out of there, which makes me wonder what idiot put two benches on a hillside that you can't escape from? Or maybe that was the point and had I tried to spend the night there I would have been killed and turned into a carpet. Well, it's moot now since the dog and I survived our forty minute (I kept the time) harrowing journey through the Maine woods.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The winter wonderland that almost wasn't

Thought you might enjoy this view of the town from my walk this morning before we got into the meat of the post. This is looking west along the river into town. You can see, if you look very closely, the end of the falls right at the left edge of the buildings. You can also see the white rooftops left over from yesterday's snow.

So there was a lot of talk out East about this crazy October snow storm that was shocking everyone from New York City north, only it wasn't touching Machias at all. On Saturday, as I was talking to my friend in Manhattan about all the snow that was falling on her the skies in Machias were bright blue and it was a gorgeous day. As the day wore on, however, clouds began to roll in and I got worried. Not worried cause of snow, I was looking forward to snow. Worried because I feared it would rain first and then snow leaving a layer of ice underneath the fresh snow that my dog would no doubt try to pull me across leading to me falling and breaking an elbow.

Sure enough, around nine, it began to rain hard. It continued to rain until at least 12:30 (I was staying up late to watch a West Coast hockey game) and I thought "Maybe it won't snow, maybe it will just keep raining and I won't have to worry about the ice".

Well, I was rudely awoken, as usual, by my dog around 6:30 to find that it had, in fact, snowed, and was still snowing. Big disgusting wet blobs of ice and water being whirled around by powerful gusts of wind. Not at all the kind of snowy scene I had been looking forward to when I envisioned my, and Hastur's, first snow.

Well, putrid weather or not the dog was gonna force me to take her out. I got bundled up as much as I could and then considered putting boots on Hastur but she's always so hyper when a walk is looming I didn't think she'd slow down enough to let me get them on. So out we went into the harsh conditions. She took one step outside where big clumps of snow driven by the wind with enough force to hit her like hail started to pelt her right in the face and she immediately turned around and ran back into the house.

She was torn because part of her was desperate for the walk, while the other part did not want to go back out there. I tried putting her boots on making another go of it. This time she wondered a bit around the front grass but was still very uncomfortable and ended up kicking the boots off anyway. We went back upstairs and I exchanged the boots for her jacket. Again we went outside and this time she started to get into a bit. The jacket was really helping, I think she didn't like the way the snow was hitting her so with her jacket on she could ignore it better. We took a short walk, for us, and she really started to get a feel for the way snow worked.

Later in the day the weather got really nice. The wind died down to practically nothing and the snow became soft and light. We went out again and this time Hastur really started to have fun. She did everything she could to make sure she was walking in snow. This last week, every time I've walked her, she's tried her hardest to walk in the middle of the road. Even when I've shortened her leash to just an inch or so she's tugged on it to try to get into the road. This time I was walking in the middle of the road to get away from the freezing puddles and snow banks left by the plows and she was tugging me to the sides of the road so she could walk in the snow.

The past week she's been... pretty good about walking on leash, but yesterday she was pissed. She wanted to romp all through the snow and every time she had a moment to walk on the snowy grass she'd start to jump and prance on it... that is, if she wasn't attacking the leash in the hopes i would let her off of it.

So in the end a shitty day turned into a not-so-shitty day. The only think keeping it from being a great day is that the power went out for two hours earlier in the day, when it was still windy and freezing, and I lost my heat. It wouldn't have been much of a problem if I had all my things here, I would have had blankets and coats and all sorts of other things to keep me warm, but all I have is a sleeping bag. When will my stuff get here damnit!

Well, today, at least, is really nice. The rest of the week should be the same. Be even nicer if I had some furniture.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The waiting game

Let me begin with a correction: The other church about a block away from the Catholic one is a Congregationalist church, not a Baptist one. And I do believe it is the older one since the house directly across from it has a plaque denoting that the lot was the location of the house of the first minister in Machias which was back in the 18th century. So, points to you, Congregationalists.

The oldest extant building in town is Burnham Tavern, just a couple of doors down from me, which was built in 1770. It's a very significant building in American history. Don't remember if I mentioned this before but it's the sight where the colonists planned out the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War. They were led by a man named Jeremiah O'Brien who later became a captain in the Massachusetts navy, and is very much of a hero in Machias. A lot of roads and buildings, and even a fort are named after him, not to mention a bunch of American naval ships over the years. Not sure how much of the building is original, probably not a lot, though the outer walls do appear to be leaning outward and it looks like the roof is going to collapse downward if that continues. It has been well kept up though, there's a museum inside (closed for the season) so they must keep it in good repair. I don't know, but I do look forward to it opening again in Spring.

There are a lot of little treasures to be found around town. Yesterday, Hastur and I were finishing up our walk in the little park by the river (which smelled like a rotting sulfur plant) when she found this little overgrown path. It was definitely a path, but it looked like no one had walked on it in a very long time. As we walked I noticed another little side path going up a hill. As I followed it with my eyes I saw it led to a little cemetery. Now I knew this wasn't the main cemetery in town as I've walked through that many times. Little secret, if you want to find a cemetery in any town, go to the highest point. No, this was some other cemetery, but the graves were as old at least as the ones in the other cemetery. I took Hastur that way wanting to explore this new find. You know whose graves they were? Jeremiah O'Brien and his brothers. They were perched on the backside of this hill in a yard. Jeremiah's grave had a fresh American flag planted on it, so someone, I assume the owners of the home whose yard these graves were in, still kept up the little cemetery. There were other graves too, but I didn't want to go traipsing around some stranger's backyard so I took Hastur back towards home.

It was another beautiful day this morning, yesterday was overcast all day, so I decided to take Hastur east on our walk. Normally in the mornings we follow the Down East Sunrise Trail, which I believe just follows the now defunct railroad tracks that used to go around the town. Every morning we've headed west, up into the wooded hills. Saw a large pack of deer, all does, yesterday. So today we went east, towards the ocean. Not sure if the trail ever makes it to the ocean proper or just winds farther north, we never really made it that far, but the way we did take followed right up against the river, which smelled far less at this point. It was bright and cold and I let Hastur off leash, finally, so she could enjoy herself a little. She really took advantage of it a couple of times, running through the grass after invisible animals.

I have a theory about the river stink. The top soil around here is very sandy and loose, but under that is a very thick layer of what is nearly peat, very compact mildewy compressed grasses, leaves, and assorted other biologicals. AS the river eats into the lower layer it must take with it a lot of bacteria just waiting for some oxygen to bloom. And once bloomed it must go crazy on all of wood and iron and petroleum and any other things in the river worth eating which creates a huge amount of methane and other caustic smelling gases. I have seen two things in the river that lead me to this conclusion. One is the large rust colored blooms that are covering all the rocks and logs in the river and staining the water orange. These are the same sorts of mats you see in Yellowstone where the water is cool enough to encourage bacterial growth. The other thing I've been seeing is a lot of foam. You get foam from agitating water full of dead and dying microbes, or industry, but there isn't a whole lot of industry on the Machias river, not a whole lot of people along the Machias river, so I think it's the microbes.

It's such a nice day I wish I could take Hastur to the beach, especially because I can't be sure just how many more days like this there will be, but I also can't afford to miss my furniture, should it come. I'd go anyway and hope to catch their call and race back except I barely get any service in my home where the signal is strongest in town, so there's no way I'm getting any call at the beach. It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to share my sleeping bag with Hastur, and she takes most of it believe me. I could really use a bed right about now.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A bright new day

There are some people who took my last post way to seriously so I want to assure everyone it was the natural result of four straight days of driving mixed with an empty apartment and a crazy dog. Other then continuing to do everything while trying to recline comfortably on a wood floor, everything is going fine. Things are slowly starting to get back to normal, and once my furniture arrives I think Hastur will figure out that we're staying and stop acting all unglued.

It rained yesterday morning and was fairly warm, but today I woke up to blue skies and crisp, nearly Winter air (otherwise known as Winter air for those of you reading in California) so I decided to take a short walk and snap a few pictures.

This is the view outside one of the windows of my apartment. It's Hastur's favorite window to people watch, and then people bark when someone does walk by. You can see the church steeple above the trees, that's the Catholic church, there is also an old Baptist church about a block away, not sure which one is older.

The river is quite high right now, and smells awful. It reminds me a little bit of the Napa river in the way it smells, kinda sulfurous and rotten. Not sure if this has anything to do with the tides, though even above the falls it still kind of smells that way so I don't think the tides have much to do with it, though part of the smell is brine so maybe... I've noticed a surprising amount of garbage just thrown into bushes or ravines, not sure how often that happens or if it's leftovers from long gone habits, but I think the smell may be associated.

 With the river so high the falls are really engorged. My apartment is very well insulated so I don't hear the falls or the traffic even though they are both right outside my windows. Also, even though it's been getting pretty cold at night I don't think my heater has ever turned on. This place really keeps the heat. Anyway, it's loud outside. Not sure what happens in Winter. Certainly down river where the tide comes in the water won't freeze, but maybe the water in the falls will. It's been a long time, since Utah, since I've seen frozen waterfalls. I've always thought it was a beautiful phenomenon.

Here's Main Street. It's hard to tell from this picture but the majority of the buildings there are banks. I don't know how Machias became the banking capital of Maine, or why a city of 2200 needs more banks then groceries, but it sure was easy to find a new one when I needed to open an account. I'm with the Bank of Bangor which compensates me for all ATM fees I incur so that's pretty cool. You can also barely see the sign for the hardware store that just so happens to have more bulk spices then I've ever seen in my life. Gonna be spending a lot of time there.

Finally, here is the front of my building. My windows are the three on the right (or on the left of the building, whichever way you want to look at it). There is also a window facing the parking lot in front of the yellow building that Hastur enjoys looking out of, making sure she lets people know she sees them getting out of their cars. I'm also told that there is some dog obedience meeting that's held in the parking lot on Thursdays, I'll definitely bring Hastur out so she can socialize a bit.

So there you go people, stop worrying about me, I'm doing fine, maybe better or worse depending on how you thought I'd be doing after such a strenuous move that is far from over. Point is, I'm here now, I'm settling, and I have at least two years to make a home out here so there should be no concern over my well being... MOM.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What the fuck am I doing in Maine!?

Seriously people, I just drove four days, got very little to no sleep, had to eat in Gary, Indiana and now I'm in Maine? And the dog is wondering the apartment whimpering for some reason, even though just an hour ago she loved the place? And there is not a single good cup of coffee in all of New England? I have no idea whether I just made a huge mistake or a great decision. Maybe I just need to let the fatigue wear off and the dog settle down but I think I'm safe in saying that I'm a little over my head here. Well, it's a fact now and there is nothing to do but weather out the storm and see if the house is still standing. Or, if somehow, the storm replaced it with a better, more successful, more happy house.

Some highlights of the trip include:
  • Greg realizing that we left the Trivial Pursuit cards, that we were going to use to keep ourselves focused during the more boring states, at home only blocks away from the house saving us a lot of tedium. However, I didn't remember that I forgot my jacket in the garage until Nebraska.
  • Deeth Starr Ranch. It's a real place in Nevada.
  • Speaking of Nevada, Wendover, Nevada is one of the oddest places I have ever seen. There is a casino there that's rear is exactly on the border with Utah.
  • Speaking of Utah, I missed it all because it was either too dark or I was asleep. Missed all of Pennsylvania, New York, and most of Massachusetts the same way.
  • At one point I was in very real danger of falling asleep at the wheel so I pulled into a rest stop. Hastur has a tendency to get excited whenever we stop because she figures she's gotta get out and explore so she immediately began whimpering and pacing. As I was trying to calm her down someone casually walked past the car sending her into a violent bark tantrum. We finally calmed her down and slept there about an hour, but she remained in a stiff, seated position the entire time. When I woke up she finally got that walk she wanted. It was below freezing out but all my clothes were packed deep in the back of my trunk and I couldn't get out anything warmer so I ran her around the rest stop while completely frozen. This became something of a tradition by the end of the trip.
  • Almost ran out of gas about a bazillion times. You know what turns out to be worthless on road trips? Chevron accounts. We didn't see a single one after Salt Lake. The one in Salt Lake was a bit of a happening as well. I was running out of gas so used my phone too find the nearest Chevron. It gave me directions to one that was 22 miles away, a bit of a stretch but I felt I had just enough gas to make it. As I was putting my phone back where it had been cradled I saw a sign that said "Next Exit / Chevron".
  • Best 24 hours of driving ever? I started the day in Iowa at 9 am Central, made it to Maine at 8 am Eastern the next morning. During that time I personally drove in the states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.
  • I don't know why but my GPS seemed to have me circling around Cleveland. Look, I know there are some interesting things in Cleveland like the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and... I don't know, maybe Drew Carey statue somewhere, but I don't think my GPS was justified in having me take freeway after freeway within urban area.
  • The other thing that my GPS did was take us away from the Chicago. I thought we'd be driving through Chicago. Guess not. We didn't even drive close enough to any of the lakes to see them even though we were around Chicago, Gary, Toledo, Cleveland, and Eerie, all of which are port cities. Also, I thought I'd be going through Buffalo, didn't even come close.
  • After Greg drove himself to the Boston airport I got to drive back through the city back towards my destination. I gotta say, I love you Boston, but fuck you, Boston! Who designed that city? I made about a hundred underground corkscrews that went over bridges which I then crossed going the other direction only to find myself underground again. Plus, every single person was going like 75 in a 45 zone. I think that's what they mean when they say that New England drivers are the worst. They aren't, Sacramento drivers are, but New England drivers always seem to be speeding.
  • I really, really hate Indiana. There were a lot of places that I wasn't too fond of, but Indiana I absolutely hated. First, they love gigantic sound barrier walls around their freeways despite the fact that there is nothing behind them. The walls are so big you can't tell what services are on the other side of them so if you need gas * shrug *. Second, Gary was the shittiest place I've ever been, and I've been to some very shitty places before. Then, to top it off, their toll system is absolutely awful. They give you a ticket when you get onto the throughway (aka 80) and then charge you based on the exit you take. It's a fine idea in theory but in practice it faces two problems; 1) No one wants to get off the freeway so businesses off the freeway don't get any customers at all, and 2) They massively limit the number of exits so say you missed your exit and need to get off the freeway and backtrack (and this is sort of number three here), first you have to wait probably close to 30 miles for another exit, then you have to pay the exit toll, then you have to pick up a new ticket, drive back to the exit you wanted, and pay the exit toll. Wisconsin had a similar system but for some reason, even though the state is about twice as wide as Indiana, it was far less to cross it. New York and Massachusetts also had systems like that but they didn't run the full freeway. Toll roads are lousy enough without Indiana screwing everything up.
  • I simply cannot sleep in the car. No matter how hard I tried or how tired I was, I could not sleep in the car... Until I was driving. It's weird how you can be concentrating on something so hard like not driving off the road and start to drift off, but the minute you try to legitimately sleep in your seat you just can't do it. The morning where I was really worried I would fall asleep so stopped at a rest stop even though I had only seconds before been falling sleep with a stiff back and hands on the wheel, I couldn't really sleep at all when I tried. A similar thing happened to me once I got to Maine. I felt myself starting to doze off so pulled off to go get some Tim Horton's coffee and immediately upon leaving the freeway I was wide awake.
  • Tim Horton's actually makes decent coffee.
  • I don't know if I'm a better driver now, a more patient person, or whether it was the difference in cars, but when I attempted to drive to New Mexico with my friend Jason at 19 I couldn't drive six hours without getting tired of it. This trip, at one point, I drove 13 hours and only stopped because I wanted to try and get some sleep even though I easily could have driven two or three more hours.
  • I learned that my dog can vomit very quietly and with little aroma.
I have to admit, I'm in a bit of a panic here, and have been since I had to drive back through Boston by myself. I don't feel unprepared, I just feel way beyond my comfort zone. I mean, the entire "Mexican" section of the local grocery store is just taco shells and Taco Bell salsa, and they have no cage free eggs! And the worst part is, no one seems to realize that there is something wrong with that. What's a California boy in Maine to do?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Halfway to forever

In a matter of about 27 hours Greg and I made it from Sacramento to Omaha. Everyone was pretty impressed except for us cause we had to sit in the car and experience every single mile along with the dog.

Actually, Hastur has been doing really well. She gets excited when we come to a stop and I have to take her out and run her around wherever we are so she can work off some energy. It's nice for me to since I tend to get really sore during long car rides.

We still have 1500 miles to go. Pretty sure I can survive it, not sure how much sanity I'll have left at the end, however.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Tonight is my final night in Sacramento before the BIG drive to Maine so of course I woke up feeling a bit ill this morning. I'm feeling pretty much 100% now, but another night on the floor in a strangely cramped sleeping bag might make things worse tomorrow... maybe I'll make a go for the couch tonight.

Everything is packed, all the necessary things I needed to do are done, but I'm left with quite a few optional things that I missed out on. It's funny, you look at the calendar and you think "yeah, I still have time" and then suddenly it's your last day, your rabbi is in a meeting during the only time you have to see him, and that restaurant you had to have just one more time just happens to be closed.

Or, even more stupidly, you close your bank account and then go on to Amazon to download some good albums to burn for the road except you have no debit card to pay for them with. Like I couldn't have done that yesterday.

Everyone wants to know if I'm excited, or wants to talk to me about how exciting what I'm doing is, but I'm completely numb to it. I want to join people in their enthusiasm for me but with all the preparations I've done, all the pin-point planning, all of the time spent just getting ready, I've lost everything but the apprehension of having to deal with the dog in the car and the fear that I'll be spending more time in that car then I planned. I just want to get to Maine and spend time in my empty apartment. As such all my conversations about it have been pretty monosyllabic. It reminds me of the recent death of my grandmother. She was so close to death for so long that it got to the point where I felt she was already dead, and then when it happened it was less of a tragedy and more of a conclusion so I really didn't have anything to say about it anymore. I feel like my move has already happened, I just haven't caught up to it yet so when people say "Aren't you excited?" I'm like, "No, I'm already there".

I feel bad cause I should be excited and I worry that I'm letting people down, or maybe even blowing them off, by not being happy to talk about it. I'm sorry, I just don't have anything to say! I'm moving to Maine, I will be living in Maine, at this point that's the whole story to me. Once I get there, once I have the chance to settle, I expect to get all that emotion and excitement but right now I just want the whole damn thing to be done already.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Damn you IKEA!

I went to Ikea last night to see about getting a new bed frame. My last bed frame, also from Ikea, was completely destroyed. For once it wasn't shoddy Swedish particle board that caused the breakage, it was my femur. Coming back from the bathroom late one evening in the dark I thought I had made it all the way to my bed. I put my hand down to leverage myself onto the mattress only to find that I was about four inches short. I fell forward and slammed my leg into the sideboard shattering it at the headboard and almost shattering my leg. With the sideboard damaged beyond repair and unable to support my weight the center support had to take it all which went far beyond its capabilities and it bent. With the support bent all the slats keeping the mattress up fell off resulting in the mattress falling on one side. I sort of repaired it by replacing the slats with cinder blocks and boards.

I actually wasn't too keen on getting another Ikea bed even though it wasn't entirely the fault of the last one that it broke. I found out recently that the founder of Ikea was one of the founders of the Nazi party in Sweden. Technically he doesn't own it anymore but there is some people who think he may still benefit from it so...

Unfortunately Ikea has the dual benefit of being cheap and not constructed. Both are very advantageous to me, the bed I bought is sitting in the garage in two compact boxes perfect for not costing me more to ship across the country.

The boxes themselves led to an interesting moment. When I went to go pick the boxes off of the shelves I noticed that the hole in the cardboard to show you the color in box 1 was different then the one on box 2. The box 1 color was the one I was interested in so I went all over the warehouse trying to find one that matched. The guy I talked to thought maybe the different color was the unexposed wood and that the other side might be correct, but he wasn't confident, so I went back into the showroom to give it a look. When I got back to the bed I saw that the side panels were definitely the same color as the head and baseboard so I crawled underneath to take a look. The color of the unexposed parts was unstained so I knew something was up.

I went back to the warehouse and discussed it with Greg who mentioned that I might be able to get a discount if the colors didn't match. I'm not fashionable enough to really care about furniture color and a discount sounded cool so I went to find another worker who was also really concerned about the color difference. He went and got a manager who came over and reiterated that it was the unexposed color. I told him I had checked and it definitely was not so he opened the box and took a panel out. It was the correct color. Turns out the hole cut in the cardboard didn't show the product at all but was just a piece of paper which was the wrong color so I bought the bed without reservation.

I also considered buying a desk. I will need a desk but I'm trying to keep my shipment small so here's hoping I find one in Machias somewhere. My landlady/grocer and her coworker told me that furniture is pretty easy to find. There are a couple of thrift stores and I live above an 'antique' store that also seems to be something of a thrift store. I did, however, pick up a nightstand after Greg suggested it and I agreed it would be worthwhile so now I got that going on the truck too.

So that makes me almost entirely ready for the move. I have to get some all weather tires and that's really it. I loaded up my car with most of the boxes I'm taking with me, only leaving out food and my toiletries, as well as all the dog's goods. So it's finally getting real people.