[5 Feb 2021> Haven't flashed back since renaming this Life in the Blog of Ghosts in anticipation of having our entire life chronicled online. We're up to 1997, by now we journaled on our computer so it will go a lot faster (granted they're txt files from old defunct file formats so we have to weed out the jibberish + there's probly still stray randomness + strange hidden characters that seem to wreak havoc w/ Dreamweaver). We're picking up from Dec 1996 when we got married then went on our honeymoon driving down the length of Baja.... + yes, that means this coming December will be our 25th anniversary.]
January 2, 1997 — Santa Rosalia, Baja California Norte
Woke up on New Year's day and made love. Went to the Tropicana but still no vacancy so we just went to the beach. There was a Pelican who was getting very friendly with us. It was a calm beach where we could swim out far. I sculpted [our bedder-½] in the sand. We went back to get a room at the Tropicana. Lounged by the pool, reading and sunbathing. Made love. Went down to the bar to eat and watch ASU in the Rose bowl. They lost but it was a good game. Drank a bottle of wine in the room and made love some more and watched HBO. Fell asleep early.
Thursday we started our trek back. Stopped in Todos Santos for breakfast. Then went straight through to Santa Rosalia. Playing the initial game or crosswords while we drive. Got a room at the same hotel as before but this room is not as nice. Not the dungeon overlooking the sea. Our minds are set on getting home though we are sad to be leaving.
January 6, 1997 — Tucson
From Santa Rosalia we blazed on through Guerrero Negro and when we got to Laguna Chapala (the town) we got on the dirt road to San Felipe. Seventy miles on a rocky road until Puertocitos. We got a blowout about halfway. Couldn't even really tell it was so bumpy but I started fishtailing all over the road like a boat. A little nerve-wracking not having a second spare and being in the middle of nowhere. But we continued on after Puertocitos it became a paved road, though I'm not sure it was any better. We got a room in San Felipe and had mariachis serenade us at dinner. San Felipe is so white trash. We didn't waste any time getting out of there. Through Mexicali (got a new tire) and back into America. Back to Tucson! So many movies to see, but of course movies like Evita or the The People vs Larry Flint won't be here for a while. So we settled for Beavis and Butthead and 101 Dalmatians. Just getting things back to par. Very frustrating day today. Got the Trooper fixed back up, oil change and tune up and they supposedly fixed the idling problem but then I waited for an hour at emissions and it failed. Spending lots of time and money on this car. Can't wait for the simple life of the Dominican Republic or Honduras. [We had applied to the Peace Corps (reason we got married, so we could go as a couple) + we're waiting to hear back.]
I had a job interview with this company that wanted me to do translating but then it got cancelled last second cuz they found somebody they had worked with already. It was only a few hours a day anyway. I did get an interview for tomorrow with Sigma Labs as a "Technical Specialist/Operator", we'll see what that's all about. I went out to get a tie and then figured I needed a sport coat. But then I was thinking it was a waste if we were leaving for the Peace Corps soon. And then the idea of buying a piece of cloth for $30 seemed ridiculous when you can buy a pair of blue jeans for that price. What a strange ritual. So I will just dress casual. I'm leaving town anyway, right? I hope I never have to wear a 3-piece suit or anything.
It's raining here and it's supposed to turn to snow tonight. Our bedder-½ has been sick. She managed to stay okay the whole trip and the day she gets back she gets sick. Vomiting and diarrhea— she's in pretty bad shape. Now she's crashed on the couch. Finished reading Tobias Wolfe's In the Garden of North American Martyrs, good stuff, most of it anyway. A lot like Ray Carver but more depth, more variety. Not as crafted though. Hard to pinpoint his voice. Waiting for the snow. I've never seen snow in Tucson.
January 9, 1997 — Tucson
Didn't really snow. It got damn cold and at one point little white fluffs were blowing around in the sky but that barely qualifies as snow. The surrounding mountains got socked though. I went to my interview at Sigma labs. They seemed pretty happy with me except for my lack of direction and commitment. The V.P. who interviewed was kind of a dead beat, but then he brought the president in and he was this spunky Italian guy named Angelo. They do thin film stuff, making capacitors and testing materials. Research. Big investment for them to take me on as it's not a redundant production job. Still waiting to hear for them.
Took the Trooper in for an oil change and tune up and then took it to get the emissions checked for the registration. Waited in line for an hour just to fail miserably. Took it back to the dealership, more waiting. Finally they told me my #2 cylinder was gone and I needed a valve job. I was pissed. Went to the manager where I bought it and wanted to see proof that I had passed emissions when I bought it. Not that that means anything as they could have doctored it. But I think they sold it to me with a dead hole. $950 to fix it. I was pissed that I had to pay for the estimate. I took the car into this guy Mark, who is looking at it right now. The #2 cylinder is definitely not firing, but he's not so sure it needs a valve job, could be a lot of different things he says.
Meanwhile took our bedder-½ to student health. She spent a day on the couch. She's better now. Carless, I am running around to job interviews on our bedder-½'s little bike. Most promising was an interview with U.S. Microwave, this small-time lab that electroplates stuff and does photolithography. Grungy physics, practical. The owner, Dennis, seemed to like me (though as usual, kept implying that I was overqualified) and I could deal with working there as it a small kick-back company that does a variety of things. And it's nearby (whereas Sigma labs is all the way in Oro valley). Still waiting on that. Waiting on everything, run out of job openings and companies to apply. Waiting on my car. Meanwhile I'm getting another batch of writings together to send out. But my printer cartridge went out and the only place I know to get one is way on the other side of town.
Our financial situation is getting desperate. Know input and a lot of output. Our bedder-½ got a quarter time RA, which at least is something while she finishes her thesis. And she is getting a $3000 loan today which she is going to give me half of. It's going to be tight, but we're so in love it doesn't matter. So in love. She is more beautiful every day, more angelic. She is the light in my life, she tames the wild hairs up my ass. She is the meaning in everything.
January 12, 1997 — Tucson
Is rejection good for character? I begin to wonder. Every day is rejection, "sorry you are overqualified" or "we found somebody who's qualifications better meet our needs". Or "sorry but we can't use your work at the present time." I have enough rejection slips to wallpaper my wall. And enough job denials to wallpaper the living room. Rejection after rejection in both job-hunting and writing. And the bills are piling up, my printer cartridges go out or I run out of paper and can't afford to be sending out writings. The car's busted, that's still in the shop. We have to cab it to get groceries. Groceries go on credit. We walk miles to the movies and see lower-priced matinees and then sneak into another to get our money's worth.
Enough bickering, though, because I did get a job. Some company called CAP-2-LLC. They needed a soil sampler to go to Cananeia, Mexico for 2 weeks on, 4 days off kind of deal. $12/hr w/expenses and I'm working alone, so it sounded ideal. Except for the being away from the nugget for two weeks at a time. As we were making love that night I was thinking about how I wanted to have her every night. But bills have to be paid, and besides being out of town it's a great job. Working alone in Mexico, good exercise, hiking, and Cananea is beautiful from what I hear, just south of Patagonia. The next day I reluctantly accepted David Brown's (from CAP-2-LLC) offer. I was looking into getting a FM-3 and all that. I was also to use my own vehicle. But then he calls back in the afternoon and for now I'm going up to Superior with this guy Chuck Roske to help him out. Coming back to Tucson every night. The Mexico thing is still questionable, but David Brown said they probably have enough work this side of the border to keep me busy for at least a few months. Even better than the Mexico gig.
Went climbing with Frank yesterday. It was chilly and I had to be back in the afternoon to pick up my car so we just went to the hairpin turn area. Found the three new climbs I had heard about in the next gully up from "Rosie". Started on this 5.10b. Frank led it. It was short but pretty hard, especially with cold fingers. Then I led this crumby 5.8+ which was a pile. It was steep and angular and kind of interesting looking from the ground, but the rock was very flakey. I wasn't really thinking about the climbing, but more about whether the rock would hold. We were able to top-rope this long sport route that was called Go, Speed Racer, Go (5.11a) which some guy told us was 5.10d/5.11a but I think 11a was closer to it, and I didn't even make it through the crux. It was very pumpy, classic sport climbing, like Milagrosa. No rests at all. I got to the steep headwall and I was so pumped out that my arms just couldn't physically pull me. One move from pulling out over the bulge I gave up on it as my arms were pumped enough. The holds were there but it was too steep for me. Frank did it after a few hangs. I found this killer 50-foot traverse along the base that had at least three 5.11 cruxes on it. Could do it in pieces, and after many attempts was able to piece it all together.
January 18, 1997 — Tucson (Superior)
Monday I went out to Superior with Chuck Roske. He looks like a cross between Larry Hagman and Newt Gengrich, not the type you'd expect to find doing field work. He's got a pot belly and he's probably in his fifties. But he's got a mellow temperament and is easy to get along with.
It's almost a 2 hour drive to get there, around the backside of the Catalinas and then up the scenic Pinal parkway. We made our way casually, stopping for doughnuts, stopping at the post office, etc. By the time we get up there it's like 11. The logistics of this soil sampling method are perfect. You couldn't ask for a better job. They (the company is called CAP-2-LLC) give us a map with red X's all over it. Using a combination of map topography and a hand-held GPS you have to locate each point and take a soil sample there. It's not redundant like working off a grid can be. And you cover a lot more ground since the points are spaced at least a half a mile apart. Most of the points are along roads, out of convenience, but that may be different now that I have arrived.
Chuck has told the people at CAP-2 that he doesn't feel too confident venturing too far from the truck so they don't give many "walk-ins". We had some in this canyon and I grabbed an augur and the GPS and told Chuck to meet me at this bridge at a certain time. He was blown away. He wouldn't even walk to the edge of the canyon, he thought it was so intimidating. But I disappeared down into Arnett canyon and let the GPS do most of the work. I just walked along enjoying the spectacular scenery. The creek was flowing (it rained the first couple days of the week) and there was birch and willow trees on the banks. The rugged Picketpost Mountain towered overhead. I've seen Javelinas and Wild horses on a couple of occasions. And a first for me, I found some "Apache Tears", these round black obsidian looking things. I told Chuck I'd gladly do all the "walk-ins" and that I'd actually prefer to. He's happy because he likes doing the "drive-bys" so everybody's happy all around and I'm sure this company will be happy to have me around.
The Trooper is still in the shop, total nightmare. The mechanic is totally dicking me over. Postponing it, day after day. Never returning my calls, and then he increased the estimate to $980 and I went ballistic on him and threatened to take legal action and he lowered the estimate. But I still don't have the car, he blames it on the machine shop not getting the head back to him. I got this truck to use from some geologist at CAP-2. An old beater ford with bald tires. So now we go up in separate trucks and split up. We've been working on the area west of Superior and soon will be up into the crags of "Queen Creek" where all the climbing is!
We heard from the Peace Corps— Honduras on June 3. The training is in Honduras, in Tegulcigapa. We have to do more paperwork and we had to get these Special passports, another nightmare of hassles. Got off work early and we got to the federal building and dealt with imbeciles. They told us they'd have to take our current passports and I showed where the letter the Peace Corps sent us said otherwise and the guy had something up his ass and finally we told them to piss off and we went to the post office and they were much cooler about it and we got to hold on to our passports (I mean, how am I supposed to work in Mexico? In response to which the guy at the federal building said— "well, you'll just have to quit your job won't you?")
January 26, 1997 — Tucson (Queen Creek and Bisbee)
Experiencing car hell. Day after day of trying to get an honest answer out of this Mark guy. Waking up at odd hours of the morning having anxiety attacks thinking the reason they can't finish the car is cause they completely fucked it up. They got the head back so that's not an excuse. Every time I called it's like— "all we have to do is hook the vacuum hoses back up and do the timing". And the next day the same story. I make threats, consider small claims court. Every day I don't have my car it costs me $70 I could be making off my car. And the embarrassment of having to either borrow Clark's old beater truck (which I locked the keys in out in the field and tried everything but eventually smashed the smoking window in with my geopick) or getting a ride off Chuck.
Another week up in Queen Creek (Devil's Canyon to be more precise). Have touched on all the climbing areas. At the beginning of the week when I had Clark's truck, I went all the way in that road to Lower Devil's canyon. I remember when I had my van and parked it to walk in I was looking at the road thinking that even in a 4WD it would be insane. And that part wasn't even bad comparatively. Past the pull out for the climbing area it gets really gnarly and I almost got stuck in there because getting back out I had to go up this steep hill of bowling ball sized boulders and I was spinning in place spitting the rocks out behind me. I had one target right on top of the Lower Devil's canyon main crag. Saw some climbers camped out there and chatted with them for a while.
As the week progressed I worked my way up that road, taking long walk-ins to get the remote sites. At one point I traversed along the top of "Apache leap"—incredible views. Sometimes it amazes me that I get paid to do this. It's so fun, it's like hiking with a purpose. Navigating using topography, compass and GPS to find the red X's on the map. It's even funner than plain hiking. It's extremely rugged terrain. Even the areas that look flat on the map are chocked full of boulders and when there are no steep boulders to navigate, the brush is thick— manzanita hell or cat claw grabbing through my jeans and ripping my skin. Sometimes I just pull my hands into my chest and go back first through a dense thicket like a football player. Sometimes it takes all my strength just to push through and I'll yell out an— "arrrgghh" and it makes me think if somebody ran across me what they must think. Even though this job is very low stress and I'm sure I'm getting a lot more samples than's expected of me I still go until I'm dripping sweat and out of breath. Once I drop the truck off Chuck and I would go up together and then I would plan a route and he would drop me off. I would be able to do like 8 or 10 walk-ins, packing them all through rugged terrain while he would pick up ones along the roads and he would only get half as many.
Later in the week we started working east of Devil's canyon. I did one walk-in where I started up above Upper Devil's canyon and worked along the rim and then down into it. I followed the watercourse, lots of green water, huge boulders and big trees. Stopping only to hike up the bank to get a sample. And Chuck would be there to pick me up at the other end.
Last Sunday went climbing with the nugget at Chimney rock. Did Georges Buttress (5.7+) and Stripper (5.8, 2 pitches) both a little challenging to get gear especially as I didn't bring bigger pieces. Our bedder-½ was pooped after that. She hasn't been climbing for a while.
We watched the first 4 episodes of Roots last week in honor of MLK. The weird thing was to see an unexpected cameo of O.J. Simpson playing a tribal chief. We'll watch the last two episodes today being that it's looking like rain, which foiled our climbing plans for this Superbowl Sunday. Yesterday we drove to Bisbee. Oh yeah, we finally got the car back. It's been over 2 weeks. It runs fine but the check engine light comes on when you go over 55. Not like you're supposed to go over 55 anyway right after a valve job. I wanted to get some mileage on it to "wear it in" so I could get emissions checked, which was the whole cause of this mess. So we drove to Bisbee. Our bedder-½ had never been. She had never been to Tombstone either so we stopped there. We went to Bisbee and walked around and then took a tour of the Copper Queen mine. They put these coats, helmets and lights on us and we pile onto this rickety train that took us into the labyrinth of tunnels.
[stupid pic they take as part of the tour]
The walls were lined with cool rock. It was cold and dark (47 degrees). The tour guide was an ex-miner who said his name was "Juan Valdez" but no one laughed so I guess he was serious. He blabbed on about the history of Phelps-Dodge and most people looked bored but I thought it was interesting. Maybe because my work directly or indirectly leads to this carnage. And the whole concept of Phelps-Dodge returning to Bisbee kind of fascinates me. I can't imagine all the good old boys returning to Bisbee and getting along with all the poets and queers and bohemians. It would be such a strange clash of cultures. Here's this community that thrives on the quaintness of Bisbee being a sort of ghost town, when in fact it's alive and kicking and there's still millions of tons of ore yet to be extracted. It was an interesting tour, we saw all the different types of ores and drills and I even rode a rusty bicycle that went along the train tracks. Digging holes can cause all this?
We saw Sukay last night. Eddie Navia, the Charango player and composer, was pretty incredible as was the music. But the founder, this dumpy new age hippie woman, Quentin Howard, was a total joke. She told these stupid anecdotes about Pachamama and out of body experiences. But who is this gringo to profess about Quechua culture? I'd rather hear it firsthand, or just have her shut up and listen to music. And the costumes were like flash Gordon meets Baywatch, nothing I've ever seen while I was there. Cheesy and lame.
I'm reading Robert Scott Falcon's journal on discovering the South Pole (I abandoned Paddy Clarke's Ha Ha Ha— didn't keep my attention). Being the first to bag a peak is one thing but being the first to reach a pole? That's a bit abstract. It's almost an imaginary spatial construct, but I guess it is special in the sense that it's the furthest south or that it's the axis by which the earth spins. For whatever reasons it fascinates me as the motive for a quest, an expedition. His journals are full of accounts of miserable weather and conditions and I haven't even gotten to the land travels. They are navigating through treacherous storms and seas chocked full of ice floes and ice bergs, so dense that they get stuck in the ice and have to stop and wait. It's great firsthand stuff. The world of literature needs more adventure. Maybe I will take it upon myself to fill that niche, adventure/literature.
January 30, 1997 — Globe, AZ
Monday went out to Silverbell, just for the day. Nice for the change of pace and for nostalgia. Worked east of Silverbell in the flats, with JABA I worked only west of the mine, but I noticed that they had recent claims to the east. Good thing I left when I did otherwise, I'd still be at Silverbell every day. I mean one day wasn't bad. It didn't take long before it was boring, lots of creosote and Palo Verde. Did get through an area with a lot of pottery, and maybe a part of a matate. Took the Trooper in to get emissions tested and passed with flying colors. Thank god.
Tuesday went to work back near Devil's canyon. As usual I took all the walk-ins. Planned some big loops, connecting the red X's. Planning the logistics of where to leave the car, how to take advantage of topography and washes or so-called trails which usually don't exist. And that's on the map. Once in the field, then you have to take realistic logistics into account, cliffs, rocks, cactus or thickets of bushes. I've been reading Scott's Last Expedition and I can relate to the accounts of getting stuck in the ice, and how he describes plowing through ice floes. Sometimes it's easy to go 20 feet, but then you might run into a thick clump of manzanita. You always have to be looking ahead, at the overall picture, maybe sacrifice a little bit of initial bit of bushwhacking or climbing up a rock to get into the clear for a long stretch. As the crow flies I go maybe 10 or 15 miles a day, but when you take into account all the zig-zagging and uphill and downhill, who know how much ground I cover. All I know is I'm hiking all day. I get back to the Trooper and I have salt crust formations running down my eyesockets and above my ears, soaking through the rim of my leather hat. If bushwhacking was an Olympic sport I'm sure I could compete. It's a little like football, look for the holes, dodge, jump, avoid the cholla, or sometimes just get momentum and plow through catclaw or scrub oak bushes. I guess orienteering has competitions, maybe I should look into that, that would fun. That's my idea of sport.
Wednesday I worked in the rawhide canyon area. On average I do 17 or 19 samples in a day, all hike-ins, while Chuck has done 5, 9 and today 3. And they're all along roads. I don't know what he does all day. Today I finished up the Superior map and into the Pinal Ranch map. Into the granite, it has a different feel to it and everything is on a larger scale. Big mountains and I would have one sample on top. One thousand feet of vertical just to take one sample. Sometimes it's hard to motivate to go all the way, it would be so easy to cheat, it's just a bag of soil. I went on a large loop in very rugged country, miles away from where I parked the Trooper. Luckily I found a drill road going back around the other side, otherwise I might have been late in getting back. Should be done here tomorrow. This is the first time I've spent the night away from our bedder-½ since we got married.
[... February 1997]