Tag Archives: Travel

Does This Depression Make Me Look Fat?

I think it has been a bittersweet couple of weeks. There needs to be more activity here, and so I should provide it. The bitter part is staring down the barrel of Winter. However, the sweet part was seeing my high school friend and his wife in Madison, WI a weekend ago. Grass always seems greener when you walk off your property, which is usually used (I’ve noticed) to discourage you from doing something new. I think it’s better used as fair warning, to really make sure you’re making a calculated risk. Anyone travel anywhere recently?

The other sweet part is I have written some more. The sentences aren’t strung as cleverly as I enjoy, but I’m trying to keep Kurt Vonnegut’s advice in my head:

Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

And a chunk of what I’ve been writing:

We stop near a large portcullis and even larger pegged wheel, and I stare at Molvin until he wiggles out of his nest in the back. Grabbing the moist boards of the wheel, he cranks and grunts for the better part of a minute. The barely-lit sewer painted a lively picture which entertained me as I listened to his incessant bitching. Water reflected movement all around me, and slid across the walls of the sewer from the manmade river underground. The long pools wave in strange formations.

Inside and out, the moving wall mosaic had a pleasant rhythm, exciting and returning for encore. The grunting mule behind me was too busy to observe anything. Balancing himself horizontal to the ground by his stomach, he crunches his stomach a few times in a fruitless wiggle. The best that comes of it is a clinks of the chains wrapped around the wheel.

Two tunnels down, the lights stop. It shimmers momentarily and stops again. Staring made the made the light return. Returning my attention to Molvin, I whip my head back to the same spot. Black. “Move,” I mutter, “move, move, move, please move.”

“Ye git dan h’re an’ help den, Jesh!” Molvin’s ruddy face cranes from its parallel position to shout profanity at me and I jump out of the driver seat.

“Damn the gods, Molvin, do I have to do everything myself?” Maybe that was my anxiety getting the better of me but there’s no retraction after that.

“I s’pose ye do, now help!” Quitting the acrobat routine Molvin crouches at the rotten straw near the mechanism.

“Fine, if it gets us closer to the bath house.” Sliding down the seat my approach to the wheel is quicker than I would normally perform. Waiting for Molvin to stop his intermittent bitching, I dig my feet hard into the rocks. The portcullis moves in screams as we strain to roll the wheel in motion. A feeling of nausea tingles in my nose as I close my eyes softly and whimper but we continue until a pawl prevents it from falling at the top. The halls return to the quiet display it once was. Swallowing hard, little prompts me to press on through the gate.

Copyright © 2016 Corvidae in the Fields

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Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

I happened to find this article from The Wire in my Facebook feed yesterday morning. The condensed version is Amtrak providing “residencies” to “writers” for “free.” As I’m lead to believe “free” is meant to be they don’t have a price tag yet, “writers” are to be determined by Amtrak, and “residencies” suggest spending a night in a sleeper car. What I gather is they’re still in the stages of determining if this will work out for them.

It all started when a New York City writer made a suggestion that found its way to the right people. Go figure. Once the test run was offered to a colleague of said writer, it made itself into print. Many involved in the writing community have expressed interest in the project for its “creative atmosphere.” I can agree. This combines two of my favorite activities: being in motion and writing stuff down on paper. I write on paper because I like to doodle, and edit, and tap my pencil on the pad and stick it behind my ears.

It made my heart ache for about two hours with flare ups each time I edited this entry.

Why would such a fun idea be so painful?

Granted it’s Amtrak, with its memories of crashes and other problems.

…but so what?

Airlines have their risks. Why the Hell does it hurt so much?

For the business conscious, it’s a matter of supply and demand. I could see the demand flying into outer space. The supply, on the other hand, would stay at a precious few. I did write my reflections on the amount of writers in this world, and how much of a mind trip it is. What would make me so special? Such things are declared to be a case-by-case basis.  I’m never good at case-by-case basis. I’ve known this since I was little.

I find myself often imagining the worst and hoping for the best even when history has given me many examples of outcome. I suppose I could work it around my job, but why even go that far? These things aren’t meant for me. The only time I get anywhere is by having a multitude concrete achievements to precede me. There isn’t anything magical about me.

Society is fickle, very fickle. Winning its favor was never my strong suit.

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The Etherway

“Where shall you head this time?” The supervisor smiled genuinely at the recycling shade mounting the sweep leading to the Etherway, a stream of energy which swaddled the planet like transparent gauze. “Do I have any options?” The dust condensed in small areas to create speech. Its formless presence emitted a soft glow in an array of misty colors on the platform. The administrator opened his photfolio and examined its contents closely. A light sigh brought forth, “OK, there’s Calgary, Mexico City, Brussels, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Cairo, Chengdhu, Bucharest, and St. Petersburg.”

The satin-like fog sat in suspended animation, almost an attempt to convey consideration. Flowing free, its cosmic dust mustered “Brussels, please” before it continued its way to the induction platform. “Very good. The Brussels stream will arrive in forty-five seconds. Remember, time is the essence of the Etherway. Introduce yourself into the flow precisely when I tell you.”

“I understand, Administrator General.” A dip over the cloud emulated a bow, and the specter readied itself for another trip to Earth. “Excellent. Starting induction in forty, thirty-nine, thirty-eight…” thus began the rhythmic sequence announced by management.

As time does, it began to lengthen the more attention it is paid. Self-conscious, it stops its fleet movement to reflect upon its trail. The shade began to do the same, recounting the path it had made along side the Etherway, the lives it had lived, the death it saw, the moments it witnessed, all a testament to its longevity. The majesty of this massive construct which fed life upon ash and clay filled its void with astonishment and muse.

“Attention! Three, two, one! Now!” The administrator grew overwhelmingly anxious at the looming mishap. Maybe the spirit became aware too late. Maybe the booming voice of the controller was a bit more frightening than intended, but for whatever reason it hesitated. A split second, that’s all it took. The massive current changed direction and made the Lebengeist crash-land in a Kyrgyzstani yurt. “Great,” thought the ghost, “I’ve got to get out of here, if it’s the last thing this kid does. This is going to get interesting.”

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Friday, December 27th, 2013

Now that Christmas is over, I can go on being slightly less miserable. Wednesday night held an impromptu trip to one of the few open restaurants around, 20 minutes north of the Fields. The others were jammed with cars of what I assume to be early travelers or people trying to escape from their relatives. I had some beer in front of a searing HVAC vent while watching the Americans trounce the Canadians 5 to 1 in hockey. Yeah, that was amusing.

I also happened to have light conversation with a man from the California/Oregon area. He was a happy fellow, touting the virtues of craft beer his employer sold down the road. I welcomed the conversation though. He was enthusiastic to escape his roommate’s family, and I was fond of discussing something that didn’t involve reminiscing about family affairs before I was born. Christmas Eve dinner is really for my parents and their siblings. It’s a stale situation for the likes of me.

January’s fast approaching, and aside from getting another year older, it’s going to herald reporting season with the various Federal, state, and local governments. I’ll churn out more paperwork than I do in six months to appease the self-righteous bureaucrats who think preparing even more will do a world of good. It won’t though. Cheater’s gonna cheat.

No apologies here, as an accountant, the Internal Revenue Code needs an overhaul. Expecting people to file their own taxes appropriately has produced abysmal results. The filer is so overwhelmed, they don’t care how it gets done as long as the government agencies are happy. They are absolutely lost when it comes to reading their own 1040. Been there, done that. The individual shouldn’t have to purchase software or go to an HR Block-type establishment to complete this. This tax code is getting too complicated for its own good. Just set a tax rate, have the employer send a reconciliation to the IRS, and be done with it.

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Hey! That’s not county fair!

A few months ago, I vowed a trip to the county fair to get a fresh batch of pictures. As fate would have it, I completely forgot it existed while it was here. That’s a little disheartening, but I can surely show the pictures I collected a few years back. There’s always next year, too. It’s not like this is its last hurrah… or yeehaw, as the case may be.

When I moved back from Charlotte, NC almost four years ago, I was bitter. Shocking, I know. While I still have my moments of frustration, the house has provided enough distraction to avoid sitting in self-destruct mode for days on end. That’s progress I think.

In an acerbic mood, I took it upon myself to document all the instances I saw the Confederate flag here in Hooterville. The county fair was rife with them.

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Confederate Flag on faux mink.

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Window sticker selection.

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This space cliché not only likes the Confederate flag, but it likes to smoke pot while admiring it.

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It would be downright blasphemy if it weren’t sold as a belt buckle.

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There is a saying in marketing. “If the people want Cheetos, then they shall have orange fingers.” I can’t help but think this is a similar situation.

“Why, Nate,” I hear you say, “weren’t you just living in a Southern state?” To that I would say yes, however, it’s not the flag I’m concerned about. It’s the dim Yankees that display it on their possessions. Listen up, Ohioans. You were part of the Union. Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman hailed from your state. To any Southerner with a shred of pride, you will always be a God Damn Yankee. They’re not going to be fast friends with you, and carpetbaggers are greeted with a weary eye. They do not want you! I know this first hand.

The other reason I went to the fair is to witness all of the “that’s probably not a great idea” moments.

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I love the smell of jingoism in the morning. It smells like “mission accomplished”!

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This was the walkway to all of the insanely disgusting fried food vendors. Want a whole block of fried cheese? We can do that.

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Say hello to “Buck,” the animatronic deer head. Its concept is like that of “Billy Bass,” but only to promote the virtues of this “mountain man” meat vendor. I don’t know… seems legit.

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Here we have the local Republican headquarters shilling for more votes. Dead center, we see young Republican feathers. I didn’t think Republicans would be the ones supporting tribal representation.

This is all part and parcel of why I left town in the first place. I’ve met many on my travels that tell me, “you’ll find this anywhere.” To that I say, “you can also find a way around it elsewhere.” It’s the truth, too. The area’s too small to circumvent an attitude of which I loathe to watch. I see it everyday, and wish for higher standards of behavior. I know I won’t get it, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

At the end of the day, though, where else could you see something this majestic?

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I now have a strong urge to play Megadeth.

All pictures © 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Driving on Observation and Instinct

Driving without navigational aids (i.e. GPS, Google maps, etc.) is rewarding to me. Understanding that interstates with three numbers are a beltway and two are a stretch of road brings so much more to the travel experience. Other bits of information like odd numbered interstates generally run north and south, while evens run east to west fit smartly in the library of my mind. It’s like I’ve taken control of my activities and wield them in powerful ways.

The biggest lessons of all aren’t presented by any department of transportation, however, and come with experience. First and foremost is the emotional conditioning a driver needs to shrug off things like panic. I’d assert that panic is just as deadly as drinking/texting while driving. You make poor decisions out of fear.

One big fear as a rural kid was the fear of getting lost. As directions would have it, there is an impression of one true way to get to your destination. After phrasing it like this, we all know that’s not the case. We never think of it in terms of that though. Do we? “[expletive removed] I missed my exit. What the [expletive removed] am I going to do now?” Well, there are a number of things and all of them do not involve slamming on the breaks and trying to cross eight feet (~2.5m) of asphalt at 75 mph (~120 kmh) with ten feet (~3m) of clearance.

After five minutes of working on the planning efforts (timeline, webbing, etc.), I decided I had taken a wrong turn with My City by the Bay. What do I do next? It certainly wasn’t panic, as that would be pointless. The fortunate part for me is this story is only in draft format, has not been to an editor or any publisher, and certainly hasn’t been purchased by a reader expecting to be entertained. That’s the good news. The bad news is there’s about 4,000 words I’ve spent quite a bit of energy on which have no identifiable use as of right now. That’s not to say they could be recycled later on, but for right now I see them as a square peg in a round hole.

This is a time where I should see the situation as good thing, a chance to reflect and change things for the better. On the other hand, it’s also going to be a time spent throwing a metaphorical ball at a whiteboard like Dr. Gregory House.

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The Passage of Time

Past these fields of yellows and greens

hearty, humid perfume percolates

Streams, like time, intermittently appear

to  show destinations to and fro

Movements in time, familiar yet hazy

change through a celestial lens

A longing as far as the lifeblood flows

remains slightly out of my heart’s grasp

Existence moves my leaden feet

to a place of separation anxiety

Specters of history dance in the distance

often calling my name

Eager to capture its true meaning

I wonder if I’m the hunter or the haunted

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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I know this is fairly rough on the eyes and without much in the way of rules, but the importance isn’t for the public. It does give a decent window into what I hear in my head at times though. The meaning is very personal to me, and encapsulated my thoughts last night at dinner. Mind you, this was at a Wendy’s next to a young redneck with a torn muscle shirt and a trucker’s hat.

Sunday was full of driving and reading, as Saturday was full of heavy lifting and grunt work. The labor was fruitful in a sense, as I’m now in possession of two family heirlooms. Both of them need maintenance, but I know it’s nothing out of my capacity. A winged table will need to be reassembled and refinished while a grandmother clock needs a call to an horologist (I like the French term better, pendulier). I believe the clockworks are in need of some fine tuning.

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Oh, Canada

As a few of you know now, I took a vacation the last few days to Niagara Falls. Yes, I went to Canada on the Fourth of July. It was a really good decision, because people were elsewhere celebrating while I traveled.

First off, Canada is quite similar to America but there are subtleties. One, it’s much cleaner. I get so tired of the amount of litter and garbage I find in the States. It’s so slovenly! It’s so disrespectful! I past a chewed up couch on I-90 in Cleveland. A couch. There was a little bit of litter here and there in the Great White North, but something seems to tell me it’s not all from careless Canadians. One point awarded to Canada.

The more important difference is personality. There is an identifiable general persona of Canadians. Many of them aren’t as expressive as Americans, if only because that’s not how they were raised. In America, there are places where people just don’t care about warmth or social grace. The Philadelphia area is a prime example. Many, many times I was met with blunt people with very coarse behavior. Philadelphia left me a little cool, and I’m not the warmest sun in the galaxy. That’s their prerogative, but it takes some real work to get black marks for being uncouth.

Niagara Falls was a great destination. The Maid of the Mist boat tour is a must! Make sure your poncho is on tight though. The Clifton Hill area is geared toward families, and it reminds me of Cedar Point in some respects. The Canadians know what drives their economy there, and it does become a little bit of a tourist trap. I’m not that type of person, but others enjoy wax museums, carnival games, houses of horror, IMAX shows, and flashy dining.

I found more comfort on the quiet sidewalks of Queen St. There I found the Paris Crepes Cafe. I haven’t had a crepe in years. My goat cheese, honey, and walnut dish was masterful. After my time spent in the cafe, I popped off to a bar for a pint of Alexander Keith’s red and some honest Canadian hockey food: poutine! For those that are unfamiliar with the dish, it’s french fries with cheese curds and beef gravy. So heavy, yet awesome in a totally unhealthy way. It’s not all that odd. We have mashed potatoes and gravy, right?

One of the other non-tourist activities I enjoy doing is driving around. With the support of the GPS I went all of Hell’s half acre and had myself a grand old time. Canadian driving is like slow-speed mayhem. I took it at the posted km/h, but people were driving all over the place, that included under a meter from my bumper. I was often in the wrong sections of town. I was in the low-rent districts, the middle-class neighborhoods, and the suburbia as a tourist. Not all Canadians are happy with the idea of Americans. I even got cursed in French by some teens riding bikes, thinking my lack of French skills would somehow make me feel stupid. Well, here’s a little tip Canadians: if I don’t care what you have to say, you can say it in any language you want.  One point awarded to American brass.

The highlight of the trip had nothing to do with the falls, though. I was at the resort Friday evening, and a man came out of the hotel room area looking for a seat. I offered the open seat next to me. He was meeting someone and also pulled up another chair. While he waited, we struck up a conversation. By his accent, I could tell he was German. As it turned out, Mike was and a journalist from Berlin. He and a long-time friend took their families to vacation in Niagara. They wanted to chat before they headed in different directions in the morning. Now looking back on it, I think I might have stunted that meeting. Hopefully, that transgression was forgiven.

We talked about America, Germany, Canada and more interestingly Berlin before the Wall. I had no idea it was an artist’s enclave at that time. The reason being was its inexpensive living. It was walled off from the rest of the world and no industry could get in. There was one highway between West Berlin and West Germany. West Germans were not allowed to take any exits nor were they able to take their time. If they arrived at the border later than expected, they were pulled out of the car and interrogated. This was only thirty years ago. That’s within my life time! This is what America needs to avoid becoming, metaphorically and physically.

At the end of the discussion, Mike said, “this is what I love about Americans. You are all so open. If this was Europe, we would not be having this conversation. It wouldn’t be meant as rude. It would just be you sitting there and me sitting there… and that is it.” It was such an informative and entertaining talk, I got a little choked up after Mike and I parted ways. I’ve wanted a discussion that was political, civil, and intellectual for so long that it brought me to tears. A meaningful, intellectual conversation without hostility or ego. Sometimes, it’s the small things that are worth a mint.

Maid of the Mist

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AC? No I’m Fine.

As Glenn Frey would say, “The Heat is On.” It’s 30C (86F) out in the fields with little sign of cooling off any time soon. I couldn’t be happier, as I’m through with the cold. Let the sweat drip from my jaw, I want the sun. This is part of the reason why I moved south a while back. It’s actually why a lot of Ohioans move south. I used to keep the windows open in the Charlotte heat until it hit 38C. Any hotter, and I was concern it’d ruin any perishables I had in the house.

Much to my surprise, I wasn’t turned on by Phoenix. Being the glutton for punishment I was, I went at the end of July to see some friends that relocated out there. Most of my contacts are now flung all over the states on their own life paths. I don’t begrudge them that. It’s definitely their life to live, even though I miss them so. It also makes for a terrible night out. I can’t call my friend of 19 years to go out for a couple of drinks at a bar.

Has anyone else traveled to a location they thought perfect then get an unpleasant surprise upon arrival?

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Junior High Dance on Main Street

In an effort to avoid being holed up in my abode on a Friday night, I decided to attend a local event in town. There’s an annual party in downtown Hooterville involving a makeshift stage, a couple of cover bands, a smattering of food carts, and lots of cheap beer. These elements are vaguely familiar to the county fair, including the people.

Being there was alcohol involved, a block of Main Street had to be fenced off like a playpen. All of the adults were now children, and couldn’t wander past the gate with their beverage. It vaguely reminded me of K. Jean King’s Celebratory Gunfire: Why You Can’t Drink in the Park. There’s plenty of distrust and control, admittedly with some reasonable concern. Idiots ruin it for the rest of us.

I found the event unimpressive. Shocking, I’m sure, for those who frequently read my blog entries. There’s still a valid reason though: it reminded me of the junior high dances I attended. Everyone was clustered in familiar circles, there were several people in attendance I didn’t care to see, the music was mediocre at best, and it left me wondering what exactly was I expecting.

During a long, sobering march to pick up cigarettes (in and of itself a complicated struggle) I had plenty of time to think what the Devil was I trying to accomplish. I was trying to accomplish something. I know in my gut when I set out to find an experience, even if it had little  definition at the time. There was no time like the present to figure it out.

As it seems to me, I’m looking for: like-minded people, vivacity in community, and a fresh start. When corralled into these three categories, I can easily extrapolate them to other facets of my life. Explaining them in more detail, I’ll discuss each item with a bullet. I’m very business oriented, you see, and businessmen like bullet points (pew! pew!). I also get a sick pleasure out of seeing someone shoot me with finger pistols. It’s only second to referring to oneself in the third person.

  • Like-minded People: Sure, the phrase has probably been worn out by now. I’m not terribly sure how else to reword it though. “Logging in to the right hot spot” perhaps? Regardless, the fact that I don’t feel a connection with the general population is worrisome. I grew up here. I had many similar experiences as the rest of these people. Why, then, do I not bond with them in such ways as other communities do? I’ve watched resonance happen in Greenwich Village, Austin, TX, and in other parts of the country. It’s different here. The feel is totally different. People work together differently. There’s no other way to describe it.
  • Vivacity in Community: Whether it is my perception through years of buildup or genuinely observed, there is a complete and utter lack of energy in this area. It feels very tired. Everyone is simply there. They could be replaced with cardboard cutouts, and the atmosphere wouldn’t change. The crowd is a nonentity. I find this troubling, as we’re allowed to have personality. No one seems willing to take it out of the box. Why is that?!
  • A Fresh Start: From personal experience, this is not taken as seriously as it should. A few years ago, I spoke with a medical technician from New York who relocated to Hooterville on a job offer. She said, “it’s strange here; the majority of people I’ve met never lived anywhere else in their entire lives!” People like me often get accused of being too familiar with a place. We’re labeled as malcontents and told “familiarity breeds contempt.” For a population that has had no desire to leave its place of origin, that may very well be the only lens available.  What about all of those ghosts (read: bad memories) piling up over the years? What about all of the bad blood? What about the freedom of anonymity? This counts for much more in happiness than people are willing to give it.

Ultimately, I think I’ve worn out my welcome around here. I’m like the annoying relative that doesn’t know when to wrap up his affairs and “head back home.” What’s concerning is that I don’t have a home, not in a metaphorical sense anyway. For many years, I thought I knew my home if I saw it. Now that I’m older, I’m starting to question my instincts.

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