[22 Mar 2020> Finishing up our 1996 journel transcription (picking up from here) up until the end of 1996 when we sat in an IP shed in Elko reading books, surveyed a radioactive site in Idaho + oh, we got married...]
taking a drive down to the tip of Baja
October 3, 1996— Elko, Nevada
Finished up with my Peace Corpse [sic] physical and other errands so I had three days to just hang out before I came here. Read Scott Bradfield’s Short story collection [not sure which 1, maybe The Secret Life of Houses]... didn’t like it as much as History of Luminous Motion [little did we know we would 1 day end up re-publishing it!]. Too sketchy, like he tries to condense a novel into a short story, doesn't pay enough attention to detail or dialogue. One thing he definitely has a knack for is sneaking some totally bizarre concept in with the mundane. And his attention to detail as far as particulars of suburban California lifestyle is right on. Not just suburban California, but a particular brand unique to Bradfield—places like Fresno, South San Francisco, Lompoc, the San Fernando valley, etc. Started writing a new story which I haven't thought of a title for, I'm thinking either "Belly of a Blind Fish" or "Hang Man", or maybe even something more pretentious "The Cave Gods" except I don't want to give it away that there going into a cave. This guy Jay blindfolds this other guy C.G. to take him to a "virgin" cave. Jay a cave god, wants to share the cave with no one (except C.G.). But he's a total asshole about it, to the point of being psychopathic (he packs a gun). It takes place near the border down by Patagonia and during an intense monsoon. They encounter a snake in the entrance (escaping the rain), Jay kills it. Rappel down into a new hidden part, trail a string to find their way out. They find vampire bats and maybe some old sloth bones. Eventually they get to the bottom of the cave and there is a big pool of water. They shed all their gear except waterproof flashlights and swim underwater. They see white flashes. Ends up they are Mexican blind cave fish. All of this is to provoke philosophical discourse concerning the whole cave god thing, whether it exists if no one has ever seen it. There is also a lunar eclipse going on. Don't know what's going to happen from there, maybe they get into a fight or maybe Jay ditches C.G. in the cave or C.G. shoots Jay with the gun. Still working on that as well as A Nepalese Honey Hunter thing.
It was a sad departure. I was getting spoiled being able to spend so much time with the cub. Flew through Salt Lake City and switched to an even smaller plane (seats 30) to Elko. Back to Nevada. The client is Neumont. They kind of just threw a bunch of us together with vague instructions. Met up with Claren M, an old-timer who's been doing geophysics since the sixties. The gear is archaic Zonge gear which he knows nothing about so it's good that he has me along. They gave us the wrong cables and chargers (looks like the gear was last in Indonesia) and everything is vague. We'll suss things out tomorrow.
Oct 8, 1996 — Elko
3:45 a.m. Don't really care if I get back to sleep or not. I can always sleep on the job. Yesterday I read Faulkner's The Unvanquished and finished a few hours before "work" was done and was bored off my ass. Started doing pull-ups and sit-ups and push-ups, those are funny words, -ups. Such is the life of the transmitter man. I stare off into the hills. Hills that would be mountains by most other standards, thousands of feet high. "Hills" only because they have a rolling quality to them and are set against a backdrop of more rugged 10,000+ foot peaks. And nothing but sagebrush. When the sun shines a certain way I can see the black wires spanning out across the hills, three of them, one 2000 feet, another 4000 feet and yet another 6000 feet. I realize the immensity of land I am pumping electromagnetic pulses into. I smell the sage. The blue sky that goes on forever, always horizon to horizon. The words for Nevada are big and open. A vacuous space to project my emotions. I look at a mountain and think of all the mass it contains and it makes me feel tiny. Yesterday I saw David Matherly, ½ mile off, cruising along carrying his gravitometer. He looked like a little ant traversing the landscape. I know it was Dave because the day before I was running around on a quad, going to beef up and water an electrode and saw him. He was cutting out early because there was an earthquake. We agreed to meet later for dinner to catch up. He's been working solidly for Newmont, mostly in Nevada. Been in Elko six months, 25 days on, 6 days off. That's a little much. But nevertheless I envy the life of a gravity man because it is low hassle, it's mostly hiking and surveying, and you work alone.
This job has been a clusterfuck. Claron is a nice enough guy but he's definitely not production-oriented. Not that I care as I'm getting paid a daily rate and I don't have to worry about taking the heat but I do want to go home and some point. At this rate it will be months, but the snow will be flying before then. Claron's 62, been doing geophysics since before I was born. I'm sure he knows geophysics inside and out, but he needs to learn some logistical planning, who needs to be where doing what. He's got a 5 man crew for what Zonge used to use 3 or 4. Took us 2 days to build the electrode. Granted they are 2000 foot dipoles, he has us all go out, 4 watch as 1 digs a hole and pounds a stake. Or they take the wires out one by one. I try to make suggestions, but he's stubborn. I told him days ago that we could use a repeater or a base station, but it wasn't until yesterday, when we wasted hours because he had to send John running around to the top of the biggest hill between us to be a relay man. "Derek do you copy?"
"Yah, go head."
"We're ready for twelve to thirteen."
"Twelve to thirteen, coming up."
"You got twelve to thirteen at eight point five amps, that's eight point five."
I don't even hear him relay it to Claron because he would have to run across to the other side of the mountain. And that is basically my communication with the outside world. Every ten to fifteen minutes while the transmitter is running and then an hour or more while they are moving. They only finished half a spread yesterday.
I was off in Faulkner's south, thieving mules with Baynard, Ringo and Baynard's grandmother.the adolescents, Baynard and, I was smelling the sage as verbena. What a brilliant book. I only wish I could achieve such fluidity and clarity, almost as if he held his breath while writing the whole novel. Not a single sentence gives him away.
Sometimes I envy the wire pullers as they cover ground. Yesteday Claron found a mono (the male counterpart to the matate). And they said there was lots of flint. But every time I'm out pulling wire or running around on the quads my allergies go ballistic. This sagebrush is killer. Burns my eyes, stuffs me up, can't sleep at night. Been taking sudafed and that helps a little. Makes me have crazy dreams. So in that sense I'm glad to be chilling in the IP trailer because my allergies don't act up as much. We need some rain or a snow. It already snowed here a few weeks back. Right now we're in the middle of a heat spell, record highs in the 80s. But it is chill in the morning, low-thirties. A fifty degree temperature difference between high and low. As if the sky is so big and vacuous it can't keep anything in.
October 11, 1996 —Elko
Sneezing like I need to purge. It's five a.m. and I can't sleep. There has been a new resurgence in the Kevin drama. I called Kevin three nights ago. Actually I called down to Eric's and got Brian G of all people. But Kevin was up at Granini's. He was acting really depressed and kept saying— "I'm really tired, I just want to go to bed." I didn't sleep much that night, or actually since then. It was the last thing I'd want someone in his condition to say. So I called him the next day and told him he needed to get out of California. I had talked with Zo about it and we were thinking he could just come to Tucson and stay with us til he found a job or whatever. Or actually stay with Zo since I won't be back for a few more weeks. Kevin was desperate enough that he was up for the idea. When he went back to L.A. last week he made some money and turned around and got high. [right after he got out of rehab]
I thought about it a lot and it was starting to seem like a really bad idea. When I got home last night, the phone was ringing off the hook. Even L called me telling me that she was worried and didn't sleep the night before. (Kevin left a message on their machine and David's off in Boston.) All these people worrying about Kevin and when it comes down to it Kevin isn't going much to help himself. So it really wouldn't matter if Kevin came to Tucson. Besides that it would be an incredible burden, that sweet Zo is willing to shoulder. He's being all wishy washy, doesn't want to bring his car, etc. So I spent the whole evening on the phone back and forth to Kevin, Zo, mom, etc. and then can't sleep all night and finally I'm to the "fuck it" point. Kevin's got to deal with it himself. It's cruel to have us all worry like this. Any other person in life, if it wasn't my brother, I would just say let natural selection take it's course. There's enough people in this world. It's sink or swim, dog eat dog. I've met others who struggle harder and have no one. Who deserve a better chance. But as the Bruce Springsteen song goes, "but when it's your brother, sometimes you look the other way." I just don't know if there's anything I can do at this point without pulling me or Zo, or my relationship with Zo into the quicksand.
We finally finished the first spread. Read Richard Ford's Wildlife. It was alright. Started reading McCarthy's The Crossing. Spent yesterday wrenching my kidneys out moving the transmitter site. Spent seven hours driving on rocky and and sandy, heinous terrain getting relocated. And then pulling wires and pounding trodes. My reward was finding a little, chipped arrowhead. Not far from my transmitter site, it's in a scenic saddle, good place for an Indian camp (where I found arrowhead). I was driving with Mike Lowe and got a severe reality check. At first I was really entertained by his language, it's straight out of a Faulkner novel. "I's ain't educated like you's is." He got to talking about his family, how he married his wife when he was 17 and she was 16, how he didn't "want to have no kids but I put my dick in her and wham! Out popped the first one. And after that one was born I stuck my dick in her again and out popped another." Now he's almost my age and 4 kids, 2 of them teenagers. But he loves his wife and says he wouldn't have it any other way. "Nuttin' like an old lady to tame your wild hairs. I tell you, my old lady she whupped me into shape." And I started feeling for the guy, he had to leave work because one of his kids was sick, I overheard the cell phone conversation, stuff about respirators and steroids. Then I got to asking hime why he just recently move to Elko from Ohio and he says, "well, there's Mexican's here but they ain't all that bad. It's blacks I don't care much for. Being from the south and all, we don't like blacks. And there was black kids in school with our children." Then maybe he started to sense the stern silence from me and went on. "I like some black folks. Most of my family is Klan, but not me." I couldn't believe I was sitting next to this guy but when it all comes down it, it's just a matter of ignorance and being born in this environment. He's a nice enough guy and he means well (at least to white people). He said his wife invited us all over on sunday for a home cooked meal (pot roast) so I'm due in for a treat.
October 13, 1996 — Elko
Half day today. Only because we had a twelve and a half hour day yesterday and I bitched to Claren. Went to Red Lion and played Caribbean stud poker and got a full house, dealer didn't have ace-king showing, but I still got $75. Walked away from the table with $50. Ate an omelette and a piece of pie a-la-mode and tried my luck again at black jack, but lost a $20 bet. Still came out ahead but I was thinking it would have been nice to win $200 to pay for Zo's cavities.
Finally got Claren to sit on transmitter today and I ran receiver. Not that I didn't like running the transmitter, it's a great chance to get a lot of reading done. I finished The Crossing. Great, but too much like his other books. Guy rides around on a horse around the Southwest and Mexico. McCarthy goes into gory detail of every plant he passes and every critter he kills and eats.
Starting to get a little cooler. It's been in the 80s which is record breaking for this time of year. My eyes sting from the smoke in the casino and the dust on the road. My allergies are inflamed. All my clothes and stuff is covered with dust. The insides of our vehicles are draped in dust. Lots of magnificent dreams that I can't explain but have amazing scenery and imagery. I'm going to work on "Belly of a Blind Fish" and take a nap.
October 17, 1996 — Elko
"I laugh at all his jokes so he likes me. I agree with every thing he says so he'll like me. I wear pretty dresses so he'll like me." This is the beginning of a story that Zo is going to write. It was 7 degrees this morning. Today I read Hemingway's The Garden of Eden and I wasn't in Nevada, I was basking in the sun on the beach at Cannes. I was between white sheets with Zo. minus the third party menage a trois, and all the drinking. It was an excellent book. Perhaps one of his finest. And the fact that it's not finished makes it even better, because it leaves you hanging, or you finish it yourself. And actually, it seemed finished, there was closure. Catherine leaves and he is with Marita. I started to read Caverns a project lead by Ken Kesey and a bunch of his students. It didn't come off well. It came off as not having an individual style or voice, which I guess is to be expected if the book is written by a dozen people. But I'm obsessing over caverns right now. This job is really getting to me. It's nothing I'm proud to put on my resume, that's for sure. A motley crue are we. Claron, the 62 year old that reminds me of Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond. Okay, I'll give him a little more credit than that, he's a good sport. I would be sick of doing field work after that many years. Half his anecdotes are about go-go dancers, and every time we pass this whore house on the way to and from work he always has to make a comment about it or honk or something. But he says he loves his wife and they're perfect for each other. Then there's John, the Charles Manson looking, wild mountain man with a mormon upbringing. Big eastern European looking hooked nose and blue eyes, kinky long hair that looks like dreads even when it's clean (which is rare). Scott is this repressed conservative whose always stroking the hairs of his thin mustache, he speaks in a monotone voice and his eyes roll around in their sockets sometimes when he talks. Then there's Mike, and I already talked about him, but there's always more. Today he was telling a typical story—"We's was at my brothers house drinking southern comfort with my brother-in-law and cousin when my brother's wife, she starts in on nagging him. She decided to sleep there on the couch where she could keep an eye on us. Once she fell asleep my brother pulled down his pants right in her face and goes to fart on and speckles came out. You should've been there, it was cool. He speckled all over face, like squirty diahrea and she didn't even wake up."
We have a new Mike we acquired from Geotemps. I guess the idea being that we would have two extra guys that could be building the next transmitter electrodes in advance. The only problem is that we don't have the wire and Claron is too air-headed to organize such an effort. So usually a few people are sitting around doing absolutely nothing. Sometimes they'll just sit in the car all day long and sleep. And that's about all they're worth. Even a simple task like being a radio relay you can't trust them on. It takes more time to make sure they're doing things correctly, in that space of time you could have done it yourself. Anyways, the new Mike is cross-eyed, has dentures, has one kidney and is very unhealthy looking. He refuses to wear long sleeve shirts and makes fun of me, like I'm not macho enough, when I wear a jacket and it's seven degrees out (as he tries not to shiver.) He's 37 but he's got a wife that's 18. They already have a kid and another one's on the way. They live in a cheap motel and eat microwaved food. When we asked him to look into getting a jacket, the next day he bitched about how jackets were $23 a walmart and he couldn't afford it.
Anyways these guys are complete slackers, they sit around a lot because there’s nothing for them to do. But when there is something to do they act like they are working for the government and decide to take their lunch break. You can't trust them to do anything. If you send them off two thousand feet, who knows where they might end up. We finished the line in the Piñon range today. Got into some interesting Juniper hills on the last spread. Rusty green with white-blue nugget berries, surrounded by sagebrush going to seed, looking like millet.
I'm too tired to write. I love Zo more than imaginable. No emotions in my life can come close to the comfort and yearning she induces in me. The sheer pleasure of being with her, or even when I'm not with her and the thought of her. I want to marry her and we are going to get married. Not just for the peace corpse, though that's what brought it up, but because I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I am excited that I have had two job offers out of Tucson in the past few days. To be able to work and come home to Zo every night. To make love to her every night. To eat dinner with her every night. To share the shelter of our den. Now I am like the bushmen whose gone to throw the coke bottle of the edge of the earth, and all he cares about is getting back to his tribe. He is not a complete person until he gets back to the tribe. And Zo is my tribe. We may be wandering nomads, but we are still a tribe.
The two jobs; this guy from On Sight analysis heard about me from somebody I don't even know but he left a message and I called him back and they have a job opening out of Tucson, and they needed a geologist with 3-5 years experience. He hadn't seen my resume but he was excited about me. So I managed to fax a resume off to him. They also need someone ASAP, so we'll see on that. I got a message from Georgeanne at Geotemps, actually I couldn't decipher the message. The Indian man at the reception has the worst handwriting I've ever seen. Maybe he's trying not to write Hindi, who knows. But it sure smells good in there and I wish they would feed me some of that garam masala. Anyways, I got a hold of Jim because all I could make out of the message was "Fink". Jim didn't call, but gathered that Georgeanne did and that it was about a job with LASE, or something like that. The job is in Tucson at the University and is more a research thing. I'm about to call her back to find out more. It looks like it's fixing to snow.
October 20, 1996 — Elko
I really don't want to be here. This job will never end. My allergies will never see relief. It snows but it is still dry and dusty. I sit up in the truck on a high ridge watching the snow come in, curtains, that hang, suspended, but never really falls. It falls on all the other mountains and valleys except where we're at. And when it does it doesn't stick. It's like feathers that land and keep blowing through the sagebrush. This morning there was a dusting of snow on the hills and I sat in the truck and watched it melt. The snow remained only in the shadows. That's a very important note that I almost had to write down to make sure I remembered to say that. The snow remained in the shadows. In the shadows of the sagebrush or salt bush, in the shadows of mountains, in the creases of the hills. When clouds covered the sun the shadows remained but they were white, like a negative image. The generator was acting up today and I was praying that it would die. The receiver was also freezing up. It was so cold the screen would turn black.
Today was the day Mike invited us over for "supper". We drove out to some town Devil's gate that's fifteen minutes east of Elko. If you can call it a town. More like a bunch of trailers scattered in the desert. A yard of dust and sand and broken toys. Shag carpet and cats and dogs, an iguana was the centerpiece of the living room in a big smelly cage full of rotting vegetables. The iguana had two festering cysts on it's back. The clock was a piece of driftwood lacquered with pictures of persian cats. Fake wood paneling walls. He's got four kids, all with bright red hair. Uncles-in-laws, sisters, brothers, brothers-in-laws, etc. live in neighboring trailers. One uncle was busy at work splicing into his phone line so he wouldn't have to get his own phone. Obedient kids, they all had to wait their turns to take baths and change into military fatigue pajamas. Dinner? Celery dollopped with peanut butter, Deviled eggs, soggy frozen vegetables, dry turkey that tasted like wood, buttery potatoes, stove top stuffing. Fake wood paneling walls, pictures of Jesus. Every one was drinking Jack Daniels and coke or cheap wine from a box. Conversation? "I tilled a lawn in Ohio but dem rughead neighbors used to park their cars on it." Or the story about how he acquired the nick name 'Stinky'. (There's two versions, one is that he worked in a coke oven or some job dealing with high doses of radiation and his toes glowed in the dark. The other version was a job where he had a locker and he would leave his smelly shoes and socks in their all week and one time a mouse was seen escaping from his locker and as soon as it reached fresh air it keeled over and died. It was different, I'll say that mjch. like being in a Raymond Carver short story.
Read Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Of Love and Other Demons, not as good as some of his other works. Read 100 pages of The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata before I put it down because it just wasn't grabbing me. Also read Elmore Leonard's Cat Chaser. Good for a generic mystery trash novel. Helped to pass a frigid day sitting (3°) sitting in the unheated IP shed.
October 25 — Elko
Enough's enough. I'm ready to go home now. I'm going absolutely crazy here. It's almost like it's a sick joke/conspiracy to tax my patience. Just the complete innefficiency of this project and the field hands. Scott left. They were to interview this guy from Elko to take his place. A taxi driver. I started envisioning the taxi driver from MTV and to be honest this guy is not far from it. When John and Scott asked Claron about what they should ask this guy (Claron didn't want to meet him) he just said— "Just make sure he has vital signs and can walk and chew gum at the same time." Of course I laughed thinking it was a good joke. Something I would say out of bitterness. But Claron was serious. He's completely apathetic. So I went along to the dinner/"interview" with this guy and no one really asked him anything so I asked him if he had boots and hiked a lot. He said yes to the boots (though we find out now they are walmart golashes) and said "yah, I used to work in pest control walking around checking the mouse traps. I probably used to hike over thirty miles a day." Yah right. The guy didn't have a clue, but Claron didn't seem to care, so why should I? But even by the next morning I could tell he was even getting to Claron. He looked at a broken controller cable and said "looks pretty scientific" and started telling us about how he learned electronics from a radio shack home radio kit. Then he started asking annoying and stupid questions. Claron grabbed the cable back and said— "look, we hired you for your strong back and weak mind. Keep it that way. Don't ask questions, just pull wire when we tell you to." I laughed aloud at that. Now Claron was in the spirit. The sad thing is this guy doesn't even have a strong back. He's a spineless amphibian. And Claron is spineless. Now it's gotten to the point where I actually seek out the company of hill-billy hippie-freak John or the racist backward ass Mike as a relief to Mike jr. or this new guy Jim. Jim Baker. Even the name is a joke. This whole thing is a twisted joke. The guy Jim knocks at my door at 6:30 in the morning all rearing to go to work (we work at 7:00) and asks if he can leave his cooler and stuff in my room. I tell him to go wait in the parking lot. As if he didn't catch the clue, the next morning he does the same thing and asks me if we’re going to work (it's drizzling out.) I told him not to ask me but wait in the parking lot or ask Claron. A few minutes later he knocks again and I say— "what?"
And he says— "Can I come in?"
And I say— "What for?"
He says— "just to, you know, shoot the shit."
I told him to wait in the parking lot, that I wanted to eat my breakfast in peace and do my morning business. Everything that Jim or Mike asks or does annoys me. Mikes one of those guys that he means well and tries to help you, but he's always getting in your way, or he'll decided to clean up the IP shed for you, without asking and put stuff away in totally ridiculous places where they don't belong so you spend half of the next day finding them. Today all he had to do was pull a wire four-thousand feet. I specifically told him exactly where he had to go with it and he was like— "yah, yah, I know." And the line was flagged and there was topofil and he had been on this line once before. So I drive around and pack the receiver up and Mike jr. is nowhere in sight. I start backtracking down the line to find him and he's walking in the wrong direction, 90 degrees off course. So I have to yell at him and ask him where the hell he's going. I call Claron on the radio and ask him to call Geotemps and get us something that can walk in a straight line, that this guy is a useless cog in the wheel. That was his only task of the day, walk four thousand feet in more or less the right direction. This is the guy that's 37 and brags about how young his wife was when he met her (16, pregnant and 260 pounds) and Mike say's— "If that was my daughter I would of taken you out into the woods and shoot you in the head."
Anyways, I was getting fed up with this whole situation, especially when pay day rolled around and I realized my paychecks were less than these moronic guys who are total slackers and have absolutely no experience in this sort of shit. So I called up Georgeanne, had to call her at home of course because we never get back at a reasonable hour. Told her that I wanted out. That if I was so invaluable to the whole project why am I getting paid less than the lame field hands that don't know north from south and are totally out of shape. I mean I trained Claron on this gear. And he's got me running the receiver and babysitting these guys. I told Georgeanne I wanted out by next weekend, that I could easily train somebody to run transmitter. Or if they really needed me then I should get a lot more money and should be compensated for all these hours that we are working. Bitch, bitch, bitch. I hope I didn't bitch too much. I mean it was partially my fault for being talked into this daily rate. It's been snowing off and on for the past few days. But we've worked everyday except for one day it was raining and we farted around for half the day. Standing around in the rain waiting for Claron to decided whether we should work or not. He won't watch the weather channel. I've gotten to the point where I don't talk much. I don't talk at all to Jim or Mike jr. They'll ask me a stupid question and I'll just pretend I don't hear them. Shit, I am so tired early evening but not at two in the morning.
October 28, 1996 — Elko
It was daylight savings time yesterday so now I have an extra hour in the morning. That's got to be the most ridiculous custom I've heard of. I would think that we should still leave for work at the same time according to the sun (at sunrise) to take advantage of the dwindling daylight. But I'm not going to argue with Claron because this way it will be harder for him to ream me with extra hours I'm not getting paid for. Did I mention that I got the job in Tucson? That's part of the reason I'm so antsy to get out of here. If I can work a 40 hour week in Tucson and come home to Zo every night, why should I work an 80 hour week with morons here in Elko? I really can't wait to get the fuck out of here. Phone sex can only be so interesting. We did have a half day off and I went and gambled a bit, won $50 at blackjack and quit. But then I went back to my room and within minutes got extremely bored. Wasn't inspired to write, I read enough while I'm working and there's nothing to do in this town except gamble. So I went to the Red Lion and spent most of the afternoon there, playing Black Jack, Craps, Caribbean stud poker, etc. Lost the $50 I won and $50 more. I don't know what the lure is. I'm just fascinated by the whole subculture in casinos. The attitudes people acquire. People are normally so stingy with their money, but in a casino it's like a game. I'll see some guy from the mine sitting next to me betting a hundred dollars a pop, and I think of it as a day's work, or what $100 can buy. But I guess I blew almost a days salary, but I was getting paid for the day off while I was gambling so I guess it worked out, though I should've saved that money. Money, money. What a strange thing. We can't deny that we are somewhat ruled by it, because most of our ambitions require money. Traveling, eating good food, buying books and climbing gear and gas, seeing movies, having a car. But I'll be just as happy having my expenses paid and living with Zo in South America. We won't need to buy anything there. It's just America. Everything costs money here. Except watching the snow come down. So yah, the job in Tucson is just waiting for me. In the department of geological engineering at U of A. $14/hr. R and D on some prototype geophysical data processor funded by the department of energy. From the sounds of it, it has more environmental applications than geo-exploration.
Kevin is now substitute teaching in San Francisco. That would be a sight to see. He says it's complete bedlam, the inner city kids totally ignore him and are totally unruly. At first I thought this would be great for Kevin, but it's seeming to make him even more bitter.
I just can't wait to be home with Zo.
November 3, 1996 — Salt Lake City airport
Finally going home. Time stopped this past week. It seemed the job would never end. It snowed more. Our line passed between the two pits of Newmont mine (largest gold producing mine in the country). It was hectic. Wires going over the haul roads. Big metal Cats, Backhoes, water trucks, Haul-Pacs, etc. Each one grotesquely out of scale. Such that when back in the real world, trucks on the freeway seemed like little toys. My transmitter site was on a peak between the pits. I had to monitor various mine frequencies to find out when they would blast to tell the others to observe radio silence (not to mention to get the fuck away from the blasts. So I would sit in my little shed listening to all the dispatch of trucks and machinery necessary to shuffle around massive amounts of dirt. When they would blast we would stop and watch. One of the shots we were right above the pit. We could see the grid of holes where all the explosives were. Then there was a chain reaction, the flash against the overcast sky, the top twenty feet of soil over an area of a dozen football fields rose ten feet in the sky and dropped back down in loose piles, bursts of clouds of colorful dust, from gold to red to purple, then the rumble in the ground and than the blast in a series of rapid fire shots like chinese fire crackers. More dirt loosened and ready to be scooped up and hauled away.
Nothing was stopping us. Even it was a full on blizzard with no visibility, ice melting through the seams and dripping all over live wires and me and the high voltage transmitter, Claron would insist we go out and we wouldn't get anything done except waste time driving out there and standing around getting cold. It was the most dysfunctional operation I've ever been a part of. I tried to ignore my surroundings, just think about my daily wage and the fact that I was getting a lot of reading done. Read M Scott Nomaday's The Ancient Child and and Writing the Southwest, a book Zo gave me that was an overview of all the prominent 'Southwest' writers. I read a few other books but I can't remember off hand. (Just had a bout of diarrhea. No warning. Maybe it was that cappuccino. I had a Chile Relleno for dinner last night and an omelett with Jalapeños for breakfast, so needless to say it burned the rim of my butthole.) My immune system is shot to hell. All that sagebrush and dust just eroded away at my defenses. And then sitting around all day in the wet snow and freezing mornings, is any surprise that a few days ago while I was sitting at the transmitter I started to get the cold chills and runny nose and was feeling feverish. I couldn't even read because I was starting to hallucinate. I could see little amoeba things swimming around in the corners of my field of vision. When I tried to focus on something it would spin like a broken record. I'm still fighting that and now I have this stomach flu. I'm a wreck. I've decided that most everything is pretense except personal health and happiness. People spend so much energy trying to look nice or show off how rich they are. Then there are those who just are.
When I got off the plane they paged Jessica White. We've been talking a lot lately about marriage. It feels right. I'm looking forward to just 'being' with Zo. It doesn't matter what we do. I don't feel any obligation to pursue anything, to be some radical climber, to constantly being pursuing some unusual exploit, to be the best at everything. Not that I've lost ambition to travel. I just don't feel that addiction, like I have to so people think better of me. Now I don't care what anyone thinks except Zo and she has accepted me as the way I am and I have accepted her as the way she is. I don't care if she doesn't want to climb with me or if she can't keep up, I can alter my pace. I have been on a never ending pursuit. As these southern boys put it, I had a hair up my ass and it took Zo to tame those wild hairs. To make me slow down and smell the flowers. I really feel that I can spend the rest of my life with her and be happy.
About the wedding... she has told her whole family. We're thinking we can get married over thanksgiving in Vegas. (As I write this they just showed Sigfrid and Roy on t.v.) I don't want to invite any family on my side. It would be kind of cool to have David as best man. He's the only one who I think would respect this as a special moment for me and would genuinely be happy to be there. Mom would twist it into a fiasco, she would piss me off saying stupid things. Kevin would unconsciously attract negative attention to himself and I don't think he gives a fuck what I do with my life. So I can't really invite anyone. If I invited David and not anyone else then people's feelings would be hurt, so it's best if we just elope and she can invite her family if she wants. I don't want to ruin my moment, our special moment. About the ring... Zo has a thin gold band that has been passed down in her family. That's cool because I don't believe in the whole diamond industry. It's all propaganda. Gold is fine by me. All this exploration I've been doing is for the gold in this ring. And rings are pretty powerful symbols.
I was restless my last night in Elko and my flight didn't leave until 11 o'clock the next morning. Almost finished "Museum" but can't decide exactly what the very end will be. I needed to get some money to pay back Claron since my credit card had expired and I couldn't use my bank card. I went to the commercial and of course they managed to get money for me, though they charged me an exorbitant fee. So I figured I would play a little black jack to get the fee back as well as for my speeding ticket. Won $80. Zo got a speeding ticket a few days after I did, her first, so I wanted to pay that off too. I went to the Red Lion and wasn't having luck at black jack so I switched to craps and walked away with another $65. Almost enough to pay both tickets. It's all about not wanting to win too much and just walking away. Another hour and I board a plane to Tucson. Zo is cooking eggplant Parmesan. I can't wait to touch her and let my eyes feast on her. Waiting in a terminal. In limbo.
November 5, 1996 — Tucson
Home sweet home. Back in the den with my cub. She is cuter than ever. Got back sunday night, Zo cooked me eggplant parmesan. Made lots of love. She woke me up the next morning, she was singing "the hurricanes a blowing, nature is growing . . . always the population growing, always the money owing, (I asked her about this the next morning and she said it was "Puerto Rico" from West Side Story and she didn't remember or know why she was singing that in her sleep. She is an angel. I was still sick but I went to Geotemps the next morning and Ben B called and wanted me to start right away. At least I got half a day off, but I spent it unpacking and going through my mail. Started work at the LASI (Laboratory for Advanced Sub-surface Imaging) lab today.
November 9, 1996
Went to the department of geological engineering to meet Ben. I was a little nervous because I was feeling under the weather, didn't feel like meeting people and having to make an impression. Ben was late. Typical neurotic Jewish professor. Department head. Goes into a long spiel about the "Ellipticicy system" and whose involved and his neurotic do's and don't's. Very anal. Giving me lectures about security, breaking stuff and money. Finally he introduced me to this graduate student, Ralf, who gave me an orientation to everything. Ralf's this kind of goofy but cool guy from Germany. Met everyone else in the lab, most of who I've forgotten their names. We had to load up the system for use in the field. The system is mounted on these six-wheel ATV's, looks like it's for moon exploration. Ben's very anal about everything having it's place and everything looking good. It's all a matter of appearance to Ben, the D.O.E. might pay a surprise visit and he wants to impress them with how good the system looks. i.e., no cheap fixes, nothing practical to make things work, but you got to fix it to make it look good.
The next day I was given a "To Do" list with about thirty items on it. Most of them things that would have been faster and easier to just do rather than write out a list. "Figure out a better method for making the warning label on the truck's dashboard stick" or "put ATV keys on the LASI truck key chain." I got my visiting scholar ID and keys and that sort of bureaucratic stuff. Then started in on errands. Drove all around town to purchase supplies. I can only use certain "blanket order vendors" that are in this notebook. And then when I go to these stores it's always a big pain to charge, they send you into special rooms to talk to sweating account managers who ask for all sorts of numbers and I was just told one number so I repeat it over and over, "30-70-80" until they give me what I want. Kind of weird when you think about it, you could just walk into a store and say you're with so and so and make up a number and talk somebody into giving you stuff. Never asked for my I.D. or made me sign for anything. Then I get back to the lab at 4 and Ben's freaking out saying we need this transmitter coil stand to take out in the field the next day at 7 a.m. Got to have the transmitter coil exactly 1.16 meters off the ground. Cut up a bunch of PVC pipe (can't use any metal, wood requires nails) and glued it all together in a rush to get home to my little cub. Little different working long hours when you have a warm creature waiting with a hot meal. eature waiting with a hot meal. It's so great to get off work and go home. Not back to some sterile hotel, but back to our little abode, our shelter, our dwelling, our den. And to be able to be walking across campus and pop in and visit Cub, or one of her speeches. I saw a speech she did on Apolipoprotein editing stuff. It was very technical and I couldn't understand any of it but she's a very good speaker and knows her stuff.
Thursday we went out into the field. Me, Ralf, Melissa and Ben. Had to drive the LASI trucks with big trailers and stuff out to the Avra Valley test site (what Zonge called the Ajo test site.) Unloaded the moon buggies and got the coils into place. Quite the operation. They had previously arrange these sheets of aluminum into a a 60 by 15 meter plane to form a perfect earth. What physicists would call an infinitely conducting plane. Drove around on the perfect earth taking measurements. Won't cover much ground on this job, that's for sure. It very precise, and very shallow. More for looking at groundwater contamination and More for looking at chemical and radioactive contamination. I was running the receiver after a while, Ben just sat in his explorer talking on the cell phone. Ralf sat in the "dog house" processing the data as we got it. They have this high tech communications equipment that can relay data instanteously as you get it to the dog house so somebody can be processing it. Kind of nice to be done out in the field and not have to process when you get home. Just go home to Zo and pasta and wine.
We had decided on a wedding date, over thanksgiving. I called Kevin and mom got on the phone and asked what I was doing over thanksgiving so I told them I was getting married (as an excuse as to why I wasn't going home for thanksgiving) and they wanted to go and I don't really want them to. Kevin sounded genuinely surprised and happy for me, but I just don't want to ruin such a special moment. So I basically left it as I'll let you know if you're invited. But now we've decided to postpone. Zo's mom was a little concerned that it was rushed. So we thought over Christmas might be better. Yesterday we got a letter from the Peace Corpse and they are really putting us through the ringer now, and this is the last straw. They're telling us we have to jump through more hoops, I needed to see a doctor because I put down that I was allergic to cats and dust, no big deal. And then they told me I had to write out this personal statement because when they asked "do you get depressed?" I honestly answered that I was human, don't we all at times. I clarified that it wasn't clinical depression. And then they said I had to get glasses and an eye test!! I already had a thorough eye exam and I was reading the bottom line and had above average eye sight (20-15). And Zo's is even worse, she has to get an orthopedic check on her shoulder and get EKG's and heart stuff done because she said she had a heart murmur. And we don't get reimbursed for this. Ridiculous. You couldn't have two more qualified and healthy individuals. They don't know what they're missing. Red tape will be red tape. Zo is feeling insecure about the whole thing because I'm all "fuck 'em, we don't need to jump through more hoops. There's other ways of working overseas"— And she takes this as backing out. Thinking it will change things between us, when she doesn't realize that each day she becomes infinitely more luscious and precious in my eyes. She needs a plan for her well-being. But I'm trying to warn her about having all your eggs in one basket and how that will only lead to a big let down. Need a back up plan.
November 11, 1996 — Tucson
Saturday we went to the mall. Bought cowboy boots, fossil sunglasses, two pairs of jeans, two pairs of shoes for Zo, a lava lamp and engagement bands. Yes, wedding gold wedding bands. Nothing fancy. Just plain 3 mm 14 kt. rings. It's taking a bit to get used to wearing a ring, especially a wedding ring. It's like a constant reminder. The ironic thing is the peace corpse thing is falling through. Besides the medical stuff, now they're asking for a marriage certificate and we don't want to have to run out to get a license for them. We'd rather do it on some Greek island or in Portugal or something. But for now we can be engaged for a while. I like that word better anyway, 'engaged'. It's got a better ring to it. And besides, you can be married for the rest of your life, but how long can you be engaged? I also prefer 'fianceé' to 'wife'. 'Wife' doesn't even have a ring, 'fianceé' sounds like it stems from the romantic languages. Très français. Has connations of trust, fidelity and loyalty.
We saw the Tibetan Song and Dance Ensemble at Centennial hall. Complete with Gyuto monks chanting. I'm not crazy about the music but just watching the people and their costumes was mesmerizing. Amazing the similarities between Native American music and Tibetan music, as well as how they look and dress. Nice to get dressed up and go out on the town for a change. Tucson's not that bad, it could be worse.
Sunday we were going to go climbing but Zo had to work and I couldn't find anyone else to climb with so I went hiking in Romero canyon. Went past the pools and up into the saddle between Romero and Sabino. There was hordes of gnats that made the hike annoying, but at least it kept me moving at a fast pace. I went up to Five-mile wall. Cool to hit a familiar landmark that you've only approached from another direction. Someday I want to hike Mt. Lemmon from the base to the top in a day. I could've done it if I had started earlier. Still, I hiked 18 miles in a little over 7 hours, with about a vertical mile of relief. Zo is a little sick so we didn't climb today. Instead we hiked up in Kings canyon. They have a bunch of interesting petroglyphs down in the wash.
November 17, 1996 — Tucson
Back into a new routine. Go to work at seven or eight to the LASI lab. Drive out to the Avra Valley site. Unload the ATV's. Set up, start the generators, hook up the fiber optics, set up a tape measure over buried targets, etc. and then after that (once it's tuned for a particular spacing, which is a pain) you drive two meters, lower the coil on a winch (while somebody behind on the transmitter ATV lowers the transmitter coil). Jump out and line it up exactly, increment the station and push "start sounding". Wait for about three minutes, make sure there is no balancing errors, and then winch it back up, drive two meters forward and do it all over again. Went out with various different people, but Melissa went out every day. She's starting to getting really annoying. Diarrhea of the mouth. Blab, blab, blab about all sorts of meaningless shit. Funny how some people just aren't comfortable unless they are always talking. Anyways, it's getting boring and easy, and if I start to think about what I'm doing scientifically it get's even more frustrating because the whole system seems unpractical and the data meaningless. I can't get a straight answer about what 'ellipticity' tells you. I notice no change in pattern as we go over targets. If you take two readings in the same place it doesn't repeat. It's just a random column of numbers. But I guess that's what working for the university under government money is all about. As Ben says it’s all appearance. The system looks really high tech though a simple nanotem set up can give you a lot more information and is a lot more practical and portable (if the ATV is even at a slight tilt, it doesn't work!) Oh well, I'll just collect my paycheck and be happy that I can come home to my little nugget every night and wake up with her every morning.
Seth was in town last week. We went out to eat with him and hung out at the Shanty. Just like college days. Except back then Zo couldn't be trusted. Kind of weird to look at this guy and think that Zo went out with him for three years. He's very shallow. Mark was also in town. He's a little more complex. He's living in New York trying to make it as a writer. He's succeeded in getting an agent at William Morris and was describing the whole writing scene in New York.
Kevin checked into a half-way house in San Francisco this week. Sounds humbled. Went climbing yesterday. Drove up Mt. Lemmon but when we got out of the car (I was just thinking I'm renaming "Nandi" to "Roadrunner" because that's what the horn sounds like) it was cold and blustery. Ending up going back down to Milagrosa which was quite the scene. Chicken legged sport climbers everywhere. Went to the sunny wall because there was no one was over there but a party arrive right as we got there. Christie and two other guys. We did the 5.8 on the far left, if felt a little hard. I guess we haven't climbed in a while. Then I led Mocha (5.9) and Zo followed it, at least making it to the chains. She was getting very frustrated with herself. So we went to go do the easiest route at Milagrosa. There was annoying people camped out at the base and we had to wait. Really annoying eurosport climbers. Did St. Valentine's Day Arête (5.8)and Zo got really frustrated and didn't finish it, though she had gotten through the crux. Today we are going to see a basketball game. And I'm going to start the great American novel.
November 22, 1996 — Tucson
Today I am thirty. I think back on what I thought about thirty-year olds when I was young and they seemed old. Just like when you're in first grade and six-graders seem huge. But I don't feel any different. I wonder if people regard me differently? It doesn't seem like it.
Went out into the field for a few days this week. Doing a dense grid over a buried sheet. Taking a sounding every meter on lines a meter apart. Saw all the Zonge guys out there one day— Tim, Scott and Scott, Zoe, etc. I'm glad I still don't work there. I feel more comfortable around academics. We're done now out at Avra and now we are preparing for Idaho. Yes, now it's Idaho, not Denver, and so far I am the only one who is for sure going. They'll probably hire another Geotemp to help me.
I just got back from the doctor, having my "allergies" checked out. They got a good laugh out of it. Especially when I told Dr. Sudweeks that they wanted me to get glasses because I have 20-15 vision. He wasn't quite sure what to do, so he asked me into a consultation room (I looked around, expecting there to be a cat in there), — "so, tell me about your allergies."
"Well, if a cat is in the room, I start to sneeze, so I remove the cat."
He acted like he was going to give me the run around, saying— "well, you have to have a general practitioner give you an allergy evaluation. . ." He gave me some time to panic a little. "But I think I can help you. But you'll have to pay. It says here you won't be reimbursed. You'll have to do us a favor."
And of course I am resigned to —"Yeah, I know."
"While I am typing up this letter I want you to go out and get us a dozen doughnuts or bagels."
"Fair enough." I couldn't help myself driving back with a dozen doughnuts so there was only eleven. After I type up a letter that says I won't kill myself, we're in the clear. Except for the marriage license, which will be a pleasure. Only it's a drag that it is pressing.
Oh yah, looks like I may get published. in some reivew called The Climbing Art. Not much, but it's a start. It's the only thing positive heard, I get rejection letters almost on a daily basis lately.
Zo took me to Scordatos last night for my Birthday. We were greeted at the door by a family of Javelina's. They came right up to us. Sniffing inches away from my hand. Zo has been spoiling me all week with little gifts. I better get to work.
November 25, 1996 — Tucson
When we went for my free birthday dinner at the Red Robin (I don't know what possessed us) they gave me free dinner and balloons at the expense at having to listen to them sing at our table. When I got into the parking lot I let the balloons go. They sailed straight up into the dark night amidst a roaming search light.
The next morning Zo and I were on our way to climb when we saw four balloons all the way on the east side of town floating by. We chased them through side streets. They looked just like the ones I let loose the night before. Strange thing to think of the balloons floating all night during our love making and while we slept. I wanted to chase them until they came down. But the closer we got the more we doubted whether they were the same balloons. We went up to windy point and climbed R-3 (5.8), both pitches. Zo was freaked out. It was cloudy and eerie and cold. So we drove to the top and hiked Marshall gulch into the wilderness of rocks and then returned via the aspen trail. There was a dusting of snow on the ground in places and it even started to spit. We stopped in summer haven for soup, hot pie and coffee.
Yesterday I went up with Greg and Magdul (spelling?), his south african girlfriend. Unfortunately Jeff S and some other guy tagged along. We went up to this place above windy pint called the outback. The infamous secret new climbing area. It was a long hike through burned out forests.
"Warmed up" on this 510d which I did but fell when I tried a direct ending to avoid the contrived bullshit. Nothing special. I scoped out the area for future reference. Mostly lame and contrived climbs on shitty rock. After that I jumped on a 5.10b that little Jeff had led. No problem. Very contrived. Then I TR'ed a 5.11a that was excellent, though short. No falls. Then I hooked back up with Greg and Magdul as they were doing a 5.10b pitch to get up on this ledge. Everything was skewed and deceiving. A very strange place. Greg led this 5.11a that took off from the ledge. It didn't look to steep from the ledge, it wasn't until he lowered off that we realized how overhung it was. I managed to get most of the way up before I ran out of steam. I finished it after a few falls. No power. Nice to TR hard routes for a change.
Today the Peace Corpse called us. Thirty percent chance that we'll go to Honduras. Zo doing some AIDS stuff in public health and me on toilet detail. If Honduras doesn't work out (June) then we will most definitely go to the Dominican Republic in July. Prepping gear for Idaho this week.
December 1, 1996 — (Phoenix)
4:10 a.m. December has just begun. Spent turkey day at Zo's folks house in Phoenix. Had to do the ask the father for his blessing thing. I was kind of nervous about it, how do you go about doing something like that? Waited til the men were stacking firewood. He looks at me and says— "you think it's gonna be that easy?" But he was just giving me a hard time. Said he was concerned if we were getting married just for the Peace Corps. But eventually he consented that he approved unconditionally.
Had the turkey and napped it off. Lounged around the next day and Zo and I decided to go see an Imax film and shop and that kind of stuff. Took everybody, including Sather, out to Thai food on friday night. Had to leave Saturday morning and Zo was so bored already she decided to come back with me. Got the Penske (26-footer) and picked it up, drove the two ATV's into the back. The thing's huge. I set off for Idaho in a few hours, going back to the lava-lite lit den warmed by the dreaming cub to enjoy a few more hours.
December 2, 1996 — Arco, Idaho
One thousand and eight miles between here and Tucson. I reluctantly left the little cub in the den. We saw "Looking for Richard" and ate at La Parilla Suiza on the last night. Didn't sleep very well that night. By the time I left I left Cub in her jammies and fur-lined leather coat it was nine. Traffic out of Tucson was insane. Maneuvered the big rig through the skinny construction lanes through Phoenix. Before I got to Flagstaff there was snow. I crossed the border at Page and kept going in the dark until I got to Kanab and stopped to eat and watch the X-files. Slept in til 8, which was for the better because it had snowed more overnight and the roads were hard-packed snow and ice. Very beautiful, red sculpted sandstone covered, and accentuated by fresh snow. The road (89) followed the half-frozen Sevier river. Lots of horses and cows with backs covered with a blanket of snow. Couldn't tell the wild horses from the tame ones. There was a large herd of sheep with a lone horse standing in the middle. Another herd of sheep I could only see because the black sheep stood out and I looked again and saw the whole heard, blending into the snow. There was a graveyard with only the taller tombstones sticking out above the snow. The whole state was blanketed in snow. Traffic got hectic again up through Salt Lake City and Provo. Immense mountains lining the whole valley that runs up the center of the state. I surfed all the local radio stations for company. I ate sunflower seeds and drank coffee. I even stopped and ate a big mac. Determined to kick the vegetarian habit. Eating meat is so glamorous. Besides we'll definitely have to take it up if we head to the Dominican Republic.
It was dark by the time I got to Idaho. Drove through Pocatello, imagining what it would look like during the day. A stop on the Oregon Trail. Between Blackfoot and Arco the road got treacherous again (most of the snow had melted or been plowed off the interstate by noon). It was hard-packed with snow and black ice. I got to Arco and checked in at the Lazy-A motel. Very friendly people. I have an orange refrigerator and fake wood paneling, and a gas heater that works. Ben called to say the D.O.E. people don't want us on the property mucking up everything in mud. I told him they're crazy, it's so cold there can't be mud. So I may be packing it up and heading back very soon. I still have to meet this Joh B (temp guy) character at the EBR-1 (nuclear reactor turned museum) at 8 a.m. because he's not listed in the phone book. This whole place is spooky and lonely.
radioactive site we surveyed in our 6-wheeled buggy
December 4, 1996 — Arco, Idaho
Arco's claim to fame is that it is the first town powered by atomic energy. I got in here late Monday night and Tuesday I went out to EBR-1 to meet the temp and Ben. It was balmy and lightly snowing. Snow covering the ground. Everything a greyish off white. I waited at EBR-1 for over an hour. There was two big heat transfer reactors that were some experimental attempt to make a nuclear powered airplane. The display on how they actually got them to that spot was most interesting. And of course the old, first functionaly nuclear reactor. Not the usual towers that we see, but just a modest brick building. Unfortunately it's not open during the winter (though our escort at WSMC offered to take us through after work). Finally Ben showed up in his little red rental car. We had to go back to the main gate to get I.D. badges. There was a mix-up with our temp, he called the INEL directly and they told him to meet us there at the gate. But Ben was freaking out thinking the guy might get confused. The lady (our first escort), seemed like she wanted to punch Ben. Didn't take her long to figure him out. She gave us a safety lecture, but ended up we didn't have to do the training. Our temp, John B, showed up way late. He reminds me of the teacher in "Stand and Deliver." We went over to WSMC where we were transferred over to another escort who had access to that complex. We had to get radiation badges and fill out more paperwork to get into that building. At least the main gate. Once through the main gate, we went through a bunch of offices and talked to a bunch of people trying to figure what's going on. No one seems to know and I can't get a straight answer out of Ben. My hunch is that he is such an anal dweeb that no one wants to deal with him. Finally we got an escort that could take us into the complex and we went through these detectors and more gates. But it ended up she didn't even know where the acid pit was. We asked around trying to find someone who did.
It was all a huge clusterfuck of red tape. Then we had to eat because that's what everyone else did. By the time we got the ATV's unloaded and set up on site, it was 3:30. We couldn't get the MF working. Didn't have much time to fool around with it as we had to pack it up by 4:30. Ben came with me back to Arco and I ate dinner with him.
Up early again this morning and got the same escort, this pregnant woman named Andrea. Before she did this job she worked in asbestos control. I asked her if this kind os stuff bugged her, especially being pregnant, but she didn't care. We got the MF system working, or I should say I did, as Ben just paces around acting like a neurotic freak. Read a line and switched the system over to HF (high frequencies). Nothing works right. The oil in the generators had the consistency of molasses (it was below zero this morning) and we had to put them in a heated boiling before they would crank over. Half of the frequencies were functioning properly, so I just skipped them just so we could get data. The fiberoptics doesn't work. The cables too stiff. When you bend them they crack and break and Ben freaks out. Anyways, he's finally gone. Tomorrow we’re supposed to get slammed by some big storm. Hurricane force winds right now on the Oregon Coast. We'll see if I can even work tomorrow. Too tired to write any more.
mandatory radiation test at end of every day
December 6, 1996 — Arco, Idaho
Looking at the map, I noticed Ketchum, Idaho is not too far from here. That's were Hemingway sat in his hunting cabin and decided to put the barrel of a shotgun in his mouth. This is the first time, that I can think of, that I have been working out of town and have had a planned day off. Where I now I can stay up late and sleep in. Not only that, but it is a whole weekend. And it's just begun. I started it off by eating macaroni and cheese and canned corn (I have a lot of better food and time to cook, I just thought that sounded good) and drinking Henry Weinhard's Hefe Weizen. Maybe I won't even go anywhere this weekend. Except to look for the hunting lodge where Hemingway blew his brains out. If Ketchum is anything like Arco, I don't blame him. The ironic thing is I have Faulkner's 700 page biography with me.
So of course when Ben leaves we get lots of data. No stress. We read three lines as opposed to one and we got a late start and finished earlier. We got a late start because we were hit by the storm from hell, which I didn't think was so bad, but everybody was freaking out about it. I should think people in Idaho would be used to snow. I got to work on time but nobody was there and they told me if anyone did show up they would have to worry about getting all the snow cleaned up. There was about four to six inches of new snow, isn't that an average snowfall? The busses showed up three hours later as did my temp. But we got three lines done. The snow was so deep that the skid plates of the ATV's were riding up on it. They were designed to be amphibious after all. And setting the coils down accurately in the powder . . . on top of a tape measure sinking into the snow and blowing in the wind . . .
I got back to Arco and modemed the data off to Ralf then went and got some broasted chicken at Pickle's Place. There was a bunch of old-timers having a town meeting of sorts at the table behind them. Even had flags set up and everything and were keeping track of minutes. Pickle's place features deep fried pickles on the menu. I get back to my room after a chilly twelve block walk (the entire length of the town)(hard to park that beast) and I'm back and forth on the phone to Ben and Ralf. There freaking out over the data. Ben's acting like it's my fault, asking me "are you sure you were doing this, are you sure you were doing that . . . eight and sixteen megahertz are fluctuating wildly, that won't do. Then Ralf pipes in (we're on teleconference) "did we get good data last year at those frequencies?" Ben goes to get the report. Ends up in the final report they didn't even include those frequencies because they were so bad. At this point I just want to go home, I got a message from Zo that Brett W at On-Site Environmental called and I had high hopes it was about a job. Not that this job doesn't pay well, I just don't believe in it and can't stand Ben. It was decided that I would re-read one more line, extending it and changing some of the parameters and checking the repeats so I could phone them in on the cell-phone. From there they would decide if I would pack it up and go home. I really wanted to finish it up there and then.
The next morning John the temp guy was almost two hours late. There was more snow and he had slid his 4x4 off the road and had to have a tow truck pull him out. Why does everyone have such a hard time driving on these roads with 4x4 and snow tires and I haven't even so much as slid in this big truck with radials? So when he finally arrives he was bitching all day about how how he spends three to five hours driving, pays twenty dollars in gas and eighty dollars in towing, and they compensate him thirteen dollars for the trip out here. I told him if I were him I would put his driving time down on his timecard. Otherwise what he is making doesn't even pay for his drive out there. He's a strange one, as is Andrea, our pregnant escort. When we eat lunch they spend the entire time talking about hunting and the differences between venison and elk meat. Our how much they hate any place except Idaho, or who's been in the coldest weather or the details about their cars. You'll be talking and suddenly out of the blue, John will interrupt and start telling you the details about how he changed out his transmission or something. Once when we were walking back to our trucks he told me to hold on a second and he reached into his tool box and pulled out a socket wrench. "This set me back one hundred and twenty dollars." He's always looking off to the side and into the sky when he talks. "But they'll replace it for my life time if it breaks, no questions asked. Not that it will break, but if I broke it they would replace it. For free." Now what are you supossed to say to that? "Cool." So John finally arrived and we uncovered the ATV's from another couple inches of snow, and unburied the tape measure which was broken and strung all over the place because a snow plow ran it over. Re-read the line and when I checked repeatability, it was about as repeatable as the variation between stations. Ben wanted me to modem the data during lunch, Ralf would chew on it for his lunch and they would call me back and give me the word to stay or go. I made it clear to Ben that I wasn't crazy about spending the weekend stranded in Arco, Idaho and that I thought they were flogging a dead horse. I would of liked to stay —"face it. Your system sucks. You've never had good data, why is it going to happen now with all this snow and cultural noise like drill pipe casings, powerlings, metal storage sheds, everywhere." But academic nerds will be academic nerds and he wanted to give it the old college try.
I rushed off during lunch to get the data off, praying that it would either be very bad or very good. I set up my lap top on the security man's desk (Black, grey and white fatigues (winter camouflage?) and big guns.) Zipped up that data and borrowed his phone line but something was funky. I had the dialing rules right and everything but the modem didn't like these government phone lines. Must be wired differently. Was on the cell phone simultaneously to Ralf and the computer expert at CCIT trying to solve the problem but on go. Had to make a decision without looking at the data and after many back and forth's to Ben and Ralf, the decision was to stay.
Well at least I didn't have to worry then and there about how we were going to get the ATV's into the trailer. They’re so dead now they don't even have the power to drive over a dropped glove, how are they going to make it up those ramps? So we read another half-line and I returned to Arco where I could reflect on this foreign concept of having a day off on a job. I could stay up late and not worry about what time I have to wake up. Macaron and cheese and beer. Television, computers and books. Maybe I just won't leave this room. The heater is cranked full blast and it's just enough to fight off the cold. I woke up when it was light out, the diffused white light through the white curtains. I look out my window and see the piles of snow and gravel on the sides of the road. Two sets of bunny tracks across the untouched snow. My big Penske truck. A big Lazy-A sign (with the letters in 'LAZY-A' all skewed) with an an unlit neon arrow, vacancy, t.v., a humble church with a sloping corrugated tin roof and a chimney billowing smoke, amidst bare trees, branches covered in snow . . . all back lit in white diffused fog. What to do.
I'm thinking about a story. A kid who's obsessing over stage dives. Whose father drives a snow plow. Small town Idaho kids who go punk though they've never seen a band, they try to go to A bigger town like Boise to see the Dead Kennedy's, the problem is how to get there. Steal their father's car or sneak into the back of a delivery truck, that goes into the D.O.E. site. . . Now to write "Stage Dive". I also noticed that when I was looking at the overview map of the R.W.M.C. complex, I noticed that they found Mastodon/Camel bones right near where the acid pit is where we're doing our survey. Not to mention we're surrounded by buried nuclear waste.
December 10, 1996 — Fillmore, Utah
Didn't do much my weekend off in Arco. Saturday I never even left my room, I wrote the first 12 pages of Stagedive, watched the U of A game and maybe some HBO movies. Every time I looked outside it was snowing so I wasn't too inspired to leave the room. Around nine I get a call from the front office telling me that Cathy Pfeiffer had called earlier at noon and was wondering if I wanted to work the next day (sunday) but of course it was too late by the time I called back. Damned people at the office. It was a good thing though because the next morning it was really coming down. Almost up to a foot had piled up on my parked truck.
I did get a hold of Cathy and ends up she wanted to do some lines over the "cold test pit", which I know Ben didn't want to do and I didn't particularly want to because it meant loading everything up and unloading it again. I told her that Ben didn't want to do anything at the cold test pit and she was more or less like— "well this is D.O.E. funded and D.O.E. wants to see data over the cold test pit to see if it repeats from last year”. So I quickly backed out and said— "hey, I'm just a temp worker hired by Ben. You're gonna have to call him and talk to him."
So Sunday I wrote more and started getting really bored. I did manage to get out, walked across town through deep snowdrifts to eat breakfast. Drank beer and watched football. Watched "Heat" and "First Knight". They day seemed to go on forever. The snow had turned to rain and things were getting soppy.
Monday we managed to read four lines in the rain. We probably could've packed it up but Ben was all concerned about seeing the data first. So left everything and came back to Arco. I modemed the data but at eleven o'clock Ben calls me back saying they never got it. So I log back and on and send it and Ben and Ralf were right there at the server and watched me log on and send it, but it wasn't getting to Ralf for some reason.
So the next morning I packed up all my stuff and then went to the site and started packing up and Ben called and said they still didn't have the data. I basically ignore him and kept packing it up and drove the ATV's off the site after having them inspected by Rad Con (radiation control). Did manage to get the Rx ATV up the ramp but only after parking on a downslope and having two people help push. We were packed up by ten. Ben still hadn't received the data and was apprehensive about me leaving the site without they're having seen the data. "What else can I do Ben? I've done everything from my end."
Nevertheless he wanted me to stop at the first phone I saw and try again. And of course how often do you find a public phone that you can unplug and steal the line? I did finally find a phone in a truck stop but that didn't work and I asked at a restaurant and went back behind the counter and got my computer all hooked up while the waitress is all —"I've never seen anything like this, all this high tech stuff. I didn't know you can run a computer on a telephone line." But that attempt didn't work either. After fiddling around for a while trying different things the battery was dying so I sacked it and just got back into my truck and turned the phone off. Drove through the rain, it rained all day but there was still snow everywhere. Through Ogden and Salt Lake and Provo traffic. Then I was rudely displaced, evicted from the freeway by highway patrol. I turned on the radio and ends up there was some chemical spill that closed all four lanes of the I-15. They didn't even tell us how to get around, but I just started following the majority off the traffic though half the people looked lost. The road wrapped into the boonies up into the mountains. Eventually I escaped on to another road cutting back east but it was very narrow and you couldn't see the middle line and there was a stream of big trucks coming the other day. The whole interstate detoured onto a small windy country road, in the dark, in the rain. What a mess. And then when I finally did make it back to the interstate all the hotels were full. I finally found a more expensive place down the road that has a jacuzzi and pool and is very nice but I've spent most of the evening trying to modem the data it finally went through (at least on my end). Didn't even eat dinner, except for sunflower seeds the whole day long.
December 16, 1996 — Tucson
Today we are getting married . . . legally, anyway. We're going to have our ceremony in Phoenix on Christmas eve. I like that, the Phoenix from the flames on Christmas eve. The giant bird rising out of the ashes of the ruined city on the day the metaphorical hippie was born, not to mention the whole winter solstice connotations. Then we are going to take our honeymoon down in Baja, driving the whole way with a car full of climbing gear and diving gear. Just as my father did as a young man, even younger than me. We will come back January 5 or so, the day dad killed himself. Then I will look for a job and all that. But that is still to come.
Drove like a bat out of hell back from Utah, through the red sculpted sandstone of Southern Utah, around the Grand Canyon and through reservation land to Flagstaff. And straight through Phoenix rush hour traffic to Tucson. Back in to the arms of my lover.
Unpacked the Penske the next day all by myself. And that was it for my gig with LASI. Au revoir. I won't miss Ben, but I will miss the easy money working in Tucson. Not much going on with Geotemps right now, and with Christmas and all and getting married and prepping for our honeymoon I probably won't be working until January. Liz and Amber came on Thursday night. They stayed at our place. At least Zo and I got one night of unbridled passion in. We had to be muffled and slow with them here. Saturday Zo went hiking with Liz and I went climbing with Frank. We went to the Canines cuz Frank wanted to do Lobo Direct, but he was unsure so I started us out on True Grit (5.9), which was supposed to be a warm-up but had me a little nervous. All the clips are in the wrong places and there is potential for nasty falls. Frank didn't want to do Lobo so we relocated to Space Cowboys (5.9+). Always a classic route. I love the contorted stemming and full body movement, not just straight up climbing. There was these other guys at the base of the climb that had this dog that was growling and biting his own leg like it was a possessed phantom limb. I also scored a nut tool and a biner that someone dropped. After that Frank was being indecisive and saying he just couldn't get too excited about this rock, that it was nothing like Joshua Tree (what a spoiled shit) so I turned him on to Palms Down (5.10-) and that shut him up. What a fantastic climb, I forgot how good it is. Great lay-backing, finger locks, hand and fist jams, off width, slab, . . . a little of everything and sustained. It never lets up. We went to do Centerpiece after that and that really shut him up. Matter of fact he didn't even get to the crux and he lost his composure. He spent quite a bit of time hanging on gear and not wanting to commit, and finally he lowered off and we had to hike around, set up a rappel and clean it, then clean the anchors and hike back around. It was getting dark by then so I didn't have a chance to climb anymore.
Sunday Zo, Liz and I went to the street fair. Amber had already left back to Phoenix. Then we took Liz to the airport and didn't really do much of anything else except Zo got me some really cool Sorel slipper clogs at Bob's. Now this week I have to revamp my resume and send some out, I have to plan our wedding and trip to Mexico, but Christmas presents, and hopefully I will have some time leftover to climb and polish up "Stage Dive" and "Museum". Maybe even send some writings out.
December 19, 1996 — Tucson
Spent the past few days doing errands and looking for work. Sent out some resumes but I'm not going to put much more effort into it until after the holidays. Didn't particularly want to deal with buying presents and all that either, though I did buy Zo a nice Camera that is compact and goes 28 mm to 70 mm. Zo bought her wedding dress and I bought a new white shirt.
I'm definitely psyched to go to Baja, especially after I talked to Mom to tell her. First off, David is in Korea and will be thru New Years. Evidently, Leslie was threatening to divorce David because he was going to Korea and when David told his company that (on the verge of quitting?) they gave Leslie a ticket to meet him out there. Great for a new born baby, an overseas flight, full of viruses and what not to a cold country just for a week to take the plane back. And I'm sure David will be really busy but Leslie will demand attention undoubtedly and stress David out. Poor David. Poor Annika. And Kevin... evidently he came down to 2063 to pick up a rent check and took a detour. When he arrived back at the half-way house they drug-tested him and he failed so he was back on the street. Granini wouldn't let him stay there so he's leeching off Arthur. Arthur's roommate is calling Granini demanding that Kevin leave or he will leave.
When I called Kevin he sounded like shit. Slurring his words in a stupor. He said he wasn't high, but I don't know what to believe anymore. He was on the verge of tears the whole conversation, talking about his suicidal thoughts and how he was good for nothing, etc. . . It was very hard to listen to in the comfort of my room, it's just so beyond my control, I don't know what anyone else can do. I don't think he will live. He said he can't make it on his own, that he will either end up dead or in jail. He doesn't get paid until Jan. 2 and he says he's glad he doesn't get paid because he fears what he would do with the money. But he says he still goes to work, that the students ask for him back. The phone sounded so weighted on the other end, voicing his grief. What do you say? The usual, "only you can help yourself." And I know I have been there, I've slept in my car in random places, desperate, thinking I had nowhere to go, breaking a bottle and holding the broken end to my wrists, or our half-hearted time attempt at sticking our head in an oven, but I never had the addiction on top of that. I never had access to drugs in my most desperate moments. I might of given the chance, who knows, I got lucky. But I was just as rational about it, just as I am now and just as Kevin is. And I know what people told me was valid, and Kevin knows it's valid when we tell him he's on his own, that it's sink or swim and that it's all up to him, but it's a physical thing that grips you. It's a chemical imbalance, and in his case it's fueled by an incredibly strong addiction that is like being possessed by the devil. I guess what it is like is belaying somebody on a climb and they are running it out and they are on the verge of falling, they have no protection and are looking at groundfall, but you are only belaying, there is nothing you can do but watch. You can yell advice up to them, but you are on the comfort of the ground and they are hanging by their fingertips. And you could catch a fall if they had some protection in. It's like that story that Canadian guy was telling me about why he doesn't climb with strangers (though he was climbing with me), he met up with somebody and they went to climb and this other guy was leading. He was passing bolts, acting like it was easy and a bother to clip the bolts. They guy slipped and fell in front of him and died. And here he was holding the rope but there was nothing he could do. It would be on thing to watch somebody free-soloing and die, but this guy was tied to him. He anchored this guy to his death. And he didn't know who the guy was. That would make a good short story. Also could throw in the whole idea of climbing so much that you lose your fingerprints.
[the above journal entry (left column) as it appears in Textiloma episode 9 (wich we'll post in it's entirety in a few days:]
December 22, 1996 — Tucson
Everything's a go for Baja. Got the insurance, letter of consent from Bank one, a jack, fix-a-flat and all that kind of stuff, beta on climbing (what I could find anyway), etc. My vacation has started already. I either wake up and lounge on the couch writing like I am now, or I go climbing. It was cold the last few days so I actually went to the climbing gym twice. Once bouldering, another time with Zo. It was a good workout if anything.
Yesterday I went to the Hawks Bill Spires area with Sean to do possibly the last two of routes 5.10- and under that have at least two stars that I haven't done. We hiked up from Green Slabs which is actually a beautiful hike, while you're in the drainage. Sean's still recovering from knee surgery so he was a little slow. We started out on Birdman (5.8, 3 pitches) which the book described as tricky route finding, good pro and good exposure, which I guess all of which was true. But two star route, I don't know. The exposure was only in brief parts, most of the route traversed on ledge systems and up gullies, it was more a mountaineering affair. I led the crux pitch, the 5.8 section was short but strenuous lay-backing. I kept thinking about how that guy Jeff broke his ankle on this climb, he said a number two camalot pulled, but there was much better gear to be had, he shouldn't of hit the ground. Nevertheless it was something to think about as I hung on placing gear. The last pitch (it was three pitches plus two more of third class scrambling) was probably the best pitch though it was only 5.6. Getting around in that area is a pain in the ass. The gullies between the spires are steep and chocked full of scree, but there is also a lot of cactus and shin daggers there, so as you're trying to down-climb sketchy stuff you also have to watch out for needles. And it seems that every plant was spitting seeds and stuff at us, so our clothes were covered with itchy debris. It's a very unique area, though, it has a very different feel than Windy Point though it is really only a few hundred yards away. And there is no crowds to contend with. We hopped on Bionic Cheesecake (5.8, 2 pitches) after that which looks very intimidating from the ground for good reason. But oh was it classic, two stars my ass, it was true adventure, nothing else like it on the mountain. Sean started to lead the first pitch which was a beautiful crack in an arching dihedral on steep to overhanging rock. He got to the point where the dihedral slanted to an undercling and the footholds disappeared and he lowered down. I give him credit for even trying it, being that he's been out of the circuit with his knee surgery and all. So I pulled the rope because I didn't want to trust his gear and led it back from the bottom, checking his placements before I clipped into them. Once in the crack it was like not being on Mt. Lemmon. It was solid and you could get some wild stems. Gear wherever you want. I got to where Sean bailed, he just didn't want to commit to the strenuous underclinging with no rests. I plugged a piece in and went for it, got to a big horn, but it was a little unnerving as the rock quality wasn't so great. And then into a hand-crack that pulled onto a blocky sharp ridge. All the angles were wild. Exposure to either side, everything twisted and skewed, very precipitous. I was feeling a little vertigo which was not helped by the howling wind once on the arete. What was even more wild was the way the route was going. The ridge jutted up into an overhand that was split by this slot/v-chimney with a crack in it. It looked very intimidating. Every time I would look up I would get dizzy. I set up an uncomfortable hanging belay and belayed Sean up. Swapped the rack and he climbed past me up weird angular bocks and into the overhanging v-slot. A combination of contorted stemming, chimneying with the upper body only and underclinging got him to a point where he suddenly appeared on the edge of this jutting rock that was like a diving board, hanging way out over me. It was a wild pitch. I had been hanging on my belay for a while and was cold and stiff and dizzied by the jagged and warped exposure. I surmounted an awkward bulge pasted a fixed hex that I wasted little time on up into the contorted overhanging dihedral. Stemmed into it and got into the chimney. The exit move involved grabbing onto a column that you could get your whole arm around and onto the diving board lip. Awesome exposure and more exposed climbing up big chicken-heads. Who needs to climb 5.10 to have fun? These were adventurous routes and we didn't clip a single bolt or fixed anchor.
Now a lazy sunday of writing. Zo is working. She just called me and I had to jump up from under these blankets, set the lap top down and in the process spilled my coffee all over the place.
Christmas day — San Diego, CA
My first day as a married man! It feels just fine. So complete and heavenly, it has only enhanced our relationship, taken it to another level. There's no question now as to our commitment.
Zo lays next to me now in her white silky nighty that she got for X-mas, reading "Eva Peron" (another present, this one from me). She is a vision of divine beauty, her skin so pure. We just made love so our skin is flushed. We tore the sheets off the bed and I'm sure everybody in this travel lodge heard us. That's what honeymoons are all about, right? We made love three times yesterday. We are ravenous beasts, we smell each other and paw at each other. We have uncontrollable, instinctual urges. Touching her makes me want to squeeze beyond the flesh, beyond the substance to something else. Something in the million years of evolution. I am too tired for more words.
December 26, 1996 — Bahia De Los Angeles, Baja California, Mexico
We drove to Phoenix on the 24th, got there around noon and hung out. As 4 and then 5 p.m. rolled around it started to occur to me how very weird it was that I was getting married. Something I thought I would never do. The Justice of Peace was coming at 6. Most people make such a big deal about it, building it up. And I guess it is a big deal, but now reason for the hype. Ours was so simple, mellow— so special. I wore a new white shirt, slacks, my black freshly polished shoes, and then R brought me a sport coat and put a tie on me, kind of a bonding moment. M took me aside and made it clear that I was part of their family. Such kind-hearted and genuine people. Started to get a little nervous. Sather showed up and all the woman were like a flock of clackety hens getting Zo ready. She was wearing a black dress that we frantically searched for the night before after she tried that light blue dress and realized that she looked like a pear, nothing special. So we ran around the mall, could find nothing in white, so why not black? Who cares about tradition. White should be for funerals, black should be for weddings (in my book).
Next thing I know is Judge Orr shows up. As I was letting him through the door he got beeped and had to marry someone over the phone and do some other legal stuff. We got married next to the Christmas tree. Out the window was a full moon (our honeymoon will end on the new moon). Judge Orr dawned a robe and started to speak, it took about fifteen minutes. It was unrehearsed and though religious in tone, he said some stuff that struck home. Two hearts beating as one. And then I was saying "I do" and fumbling to put the ring on her finger (it was a tight fit) and then I was kissing the bride and that was that— we're married. We are a single unit. Judge Orr left $100 richer and we all went to eat Italian. Came back and iced it with cigars by the pool (the women smoked cigarillos). Then we went to bed and consummated our marriage in her parents home in Phoenix. Was having trouble sleeping at three in the morning so I attacked Zo to reinforce our consummation. Then she was side awake and excited about Christmas. At 6:30 she was parading around with that trumpet playing music box statue, playing "When the Saints go Marching in". We all got up and opened presents.
driving down the length of Baja
December 27, 1996 — Santa Rosalia, Baja California Norte
I can't write as fast as we are moving down the Baja Peninsula. Christmas morning... the morning after our wedding. We made out like bandits. Backgammon board from Kim, leatherman and plaid shirt from Santy claus (parents-in-law). Took off on I-8 through Gila Bend and into San Diego. Stayed at a travel lodge on the marina. Went to eat in the "Seaport Village". Kind of hard to find a place to eat on x-mas day. The seafood was good. Woke up and got an early start to Mexico. Got through Tijuana without much hassle. Stopped in Ensenada for fish tacos. Through the mountainous region, acclimatizing to Mexico driving. The whole boarder zone should be declared a disaster zone. We started to make a count of all the dead dogs and were up to two dozen by the end of the day. Plastic debris everywhere, extending off into the distance. Empty fallow fields, sprouting only with garbage. Shanty shacks. Unfinished resorts, like they ran out of money half-way through and just left the skeleton to be occupied by birds and animals.
We left the grey Pacific coast and got into the Boojum forests, stopped every so often to check out random ruins or roadside shrines or just the desert landscape. Scoped out Cataviña for climbing potential. A lot like Joshua Tree but Joshua Trees replaced by Boojums. And most of the rocks are boulders. Not many domes big enough to put routes on. We were gonna camp but we decided to push on. Zo didn't seem like she was much into climbing and I don't blame her. There would be plenty of beaches to come and we can always climb at home. Drove all the way to Bahia de Los Angeles, got a room that was kind of a dive, ate at Guillermos. Woke up and watched the sunrise walking on the beach. The sun rise over the Sea of Cortez. Ate Chorizo and eggs and gassed up at some house that pack-ratted gas. Through more police gun-checks and onto this 4-WD dirt road to Mission San Borja. Four hours of this bumpy road from hell just to see this old adobe mission, but it was worth it. We didn't see another car, just the old "keeper" that lived at the mission who let us into the belfry, and kids that we gave Christmas candy to and some dogs and cats. Then back to the Trans-peninsular, lunch in Guerrero Negro. Cruisin' to the B-52's. Arrived back to the Sea of Cortez side to this town Santa Rosalia. I guess French colonized this area looking for copper. They imported wood to build houses. Funky architecture, like Key West, rusted out smelter, fishing boats. Very different look for Mexico. Found a great hotel, stone walls with red carpet, kind of medieval and big like a dungeon, and it's overlooking the Sea of Cortez. Ate at the hotel restaurant, excellent steamed clams, seafood soup, shrimp cocktails, fish al mojo de ajo. A band was setting up for a wedding. People showing up in tuxes and dresses.
December 28, 1996 — La Paz, Baja California Sur
Woke up in our dungeon. Didn't sleep much as the wedding reception went on til the wee hours of the morning and everybody was walking by our room in a drunken state and we could hear the throbbing of the band. We tried to get some infamous french baguettes but it was not open yet. We did see the metal-panel church designed by Eiffel. Pressed on to Mulege, a warped fishing village nestled in a mangrove swamp gone tourist village for those thinking they are Harrison Ford in Mosquito Coast. Found a good breakfast place after driving all the dusty backroads and coming across the mission. The mission had a great view of the town and the river/swamp. After breakfast we went snorkeling at the lighthouse point. It was cold, hard to motivate to plunge under. Once in we saw many fish, angles and neon tetras. The water was clear. There were pelicans perched over our heads on the rocks.
We had intended to climb this "volcanic plug" near la Purisma but we were low on gas when we reached the turnoff to the dirt road. We also had plans to stop and go whale watching in Lopez Mateos, but it was still early in the season (whales don't come until mid-january) and there wasn't much else in Lopez Mateos so we kept blazing through to La Paz. We could've stopped in Ciudad Constitucion but it looked like a boring agricultural town. Pulled into La Paz, eyes strained from the headlight glare. The map sucked so we drove around town trying to find non-existent hotels. Ended up at Posada del Englebert (owned by Englebert Humperdink). When we were checking in there was this old guy dressed in silk sweats, gold chains, diamond watch and rings and Elvis glasses talking on the phone in the lobby— "my credit's good. No. No. I'll call you, don't call me." He was tan and leathery and had blonde styled hair. We figured it had to be him. The room was nice, dark wood trim, cast-iron lights and a fireplace. When we went to dinner the old Vegas Crooner was at the bar. He jumped up to seat us. We asked the waiter if that was Englebert and it was indeed. What a weird scene. His French wife was sitting at another table and it seemed half the people in the place were relatives or in laws from Monaco or something. Obnoxious spoiled kids running around, undisciplined. Parents drinking and smoking. Didn't sleep much as in the Mosquito Coast.
church designed by Eiffel
December 29, 1996 — San Jose del Cabo
Woke up at Engleberts and had a poolside breakfast with all those weird Monaco people. Drove into La Paz but we weren't really inspired to stop. Continued on south to the cape, counter clockwise, via Todos Santos on the Pacific side. Todos Santos has the reputation of being the Taos/Sante Fe of Baja— art galleries and coffee shops. It still wasn't inspiring enough to stop. The beaches further south, that was a different story. Mile after mile of pristine, deserted beaches. We picked a random dirt road and followed it to the beach. Stripped naked and swam in the ocean thought the waves and the undertow were rough. Laid out and sunned, not a soul in site as far as you could see. Clear beautiful water, pure sand.
Did a drive-by of Cabo San Lucas and continued on to San Jose del Cabo. The hotel we had a reservation at sucked so we blew them off. We were eating at the Tropicana, feeding the cats, thinking we would just camp out when we noticed they had a hotel and it was nice, lush gardens surrounding a swimming pool, parrots, etc. So we got a room there and explored the town more.
Ate elotes and helados and went shopping for glasses for Zo and shorts for me. Went to the bar late and watched stupid drunk gringos and a band from Trinidad playing cheesy fiesta music. Made love three times, upon waking, during our siesta and before sleep.
somewhere in Baja
December 30 — On a secluded beach somewhere on the tip of Baja
Ate croissants and banana with coffee by the pool and fed the Toucans and parrot. We packed up and went to Cabo San Lucas. Parked at the Hotel Sol Mar, but got kicked out so we parked outside the entrance and walked in lugging our climbing gear. Straight through the lobby and on to their beautiful empty beach. Scrambled over the rocks and started seeing some old rusty bolts and routes that looked familiar from what I remember in Climbing magazine. The rock was pretty manky, slabby and gritty, no sharp definition, everything weathered, the cracks flaring. There wasn't really anything that looked worth doing. We got to Playa del Amor, it was absolutely beautiful. Pristine beach surrounded by rocky outcrops and an arch at Land's End. The southernmost point of Baja. Postcard beach. There was other people there, most of them came on boats. I checked out all the rocks for climbs but nothing looked worth it. Only Paul Piana's 5.11 routes with rusty bolts and weathered webbing. It was hot as hell anyway, there were signs that said "No Climbing" and the water was looking too nice. We hung out and body-surfed instead. lt would of been weird to climb on the beach.
Ate lunch at Carlos N Charlies, explored Cabo— Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe, bought Huaraches then started our trek along the coast east and north of San Jose del Cabo. The road was washboard and dusty. At first there was lots of traffic but it died out eventually. When the sun was falling we looked for a camp site. There was tire tracks on the beach so I drove into the sand. The sand was soft so I figured I would try lower on the beach where it was hard. I don't know what I was thinking, bad call. It was worse down below. I was really digging in, I stopped to put it in 4-low. Couldn't get going again. The clutch was burning up. We were on the slope going down to the waves. We'd have to get momentum to get back up on the main beach and we couldn't even get back moving. I was starting to get this sick taste in my mouth and just had this bad premonition. I could just picture the tide rising and burying our car. Zo was starting to panic, she was breathing hard and I could tell she was nervous. I tried to keep her calm but I knew we were up shit's creek. We dug the tires out and then I stuck it in low and rocked it out. Once moving I tried to go up the slope but I started to drag so I went back onto wet sand and just kept moving, hoping the angle would give. The clutch was burning and Zo was hyperventilating, I was trying to keep my cool but I was tasting adrenalin. I had this sickening sensation. This was perhaps the stupidest thing I had ever done in my life. In the middle of nowhere. If the tided came up . . . ooh but I was tasting adrenalin. I just kept moving around a corner and there was a slight incline, I got speed and made it up onto the upper beach. At least we were safe from rising tides. Kept plodding until there was an opening where some fisherman were hanging out. We flew right by them and their barking dogs to the safety of the road. What a relief. Thank our lucky stars. We found a secluded bluff overlooking a beach and stopped. Set up the tent gathered firewood and beach-combed, watching the sunset. Made a casserole and drank wine then made love despite being sandy and what not. The sound of the waves crashing, the stars, the dying fire, the still sparking embers glowing, and now Zo asleep next to me. She has the beauty of everything in her.
playa del amor
December 31, 1996 — Cabo San Jose
Last day of 1996. We woke up in our tent and watched the sunrise. Made coffee and walked on the beach. Then we packed it up and went to Cabo Pulmo for breakfast. Asked around about climbing and diving. This guy told us that the reef met the beach, so we went there and I'm not sure it was the reef proper but it was good snorkeling and there was coral. We went for a hike out along these bluffs, I saw a lot of good rock but nothing worth going back to get the climbing gear. We decided after all that we did want to spend New Years in Cabo se we headed back. Stopped in Cabo San Jose but there was no rooms so we tried Cabo San Lucas. It was getting late and everywhere was booked. We drove back towards San Jose looking for campsites to no avail. We tried Cabo San Jose again this time desperate for anything. Finally found a room at "Señor Tomorrow's" and showered. Then came the problem of finding a place to eat. Most everywhere was booked but we did find a nice place. Then we made love and fell asleep before midnight, but woke up when we heard the fireworks, sirens and the bustle. That's it for 1996, the year I got married.
[... onward to January 1997]