Everyone Knows It’s Windy

Ahem.  Yes.  1967.  I was 13.  Remember 1967? 

It’s windy.  Today and yesterday, in NOAZ (that’s what they call Northern Arizona), upon wave of wind up to 50 miles an hour!

The sky is a perfect blue diamond.  I’m surrounded by forest, Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, some kind of Spruce.

The waves of wind from the South-Southwest pile up on that majestic escarpment, the Mogollon Rim, and spill over into the Coconino Plateau, which rides above the Rim like a giant plate rising to 8,000 feet before cracking in half to form the Grand Canyon.

And I, in my tiny RV, with my not so tiny canine pal Atina, had a choice to either go crazy in the two days (so far) of relentless waves of wind, or…or not.

At times the wind rocks the RV so hard, I think it’s going to tip over.

Atina thinks so too.  I can tell by the way she clings to me and farts.  As I write she is wrapped around my leg with her ass in my face, farting great clouds of evil fumes.  At the risk of being covered in red volcanic dust, I have had to open the window.

Every three or four minutes, another wave of wind-here it comes now-roars through the tree tops and through my window.  Atina sleeps, heaves a big sigh, farts.

I’ve been nervously checking my NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) high-definition radar app for any approaching precipitation.  This volcanic soil, when rained upon, becomes a treacherous soup of slippery mud.  If the soil becomes saturated, it can turn into quicksand.  So I watch the sky and keep track of the aviation forecasts.

I’ve always loved weather.  When I was 10 or so, a gigantic tornado passed right over our house.  We were listening to a record on the old record player.  Suddenly there was a deafening roar.  The dog dove under the couch.  The lights flickered.  The phonograph slowed eerily to a halt.  The lights went out.  The roar passed overhead…we thought it was a low flying jet, but strange… Then the lights came back on, the record player started up again, the dog came out from under the couch, and everything went back to normal.

The next morning my mother and I went to the laundromat.  It wasn’t there.  Just nothing but the concrete pad it was built on.

The mile-wide tornado sheared the city of Toledo, Ohio, off at second-story level and dumped it into Lake Erie.
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My father and I were big buddies.  We used to pack a lunch, a frying pan, a little bag of corn meal, a couple slices of bacon, and our fishing tackle, and we’d go fishing.

Dad taught me to fly fish.  I was good at catching twigs from overhanging trees.  We never caught anything, but we did forbidden things like chewing tobacco (yecch) and smoking corncob pipes (blecch). 

We did better fishing in ponds, where we caught pan fish: crappie, sunfish, bluegill–cleaned and scaled them on the spot.  Dad taught me how to make a small cooking fire, and we’d fry the bacon, roll the fish in cornmeal, and fry them in the bacon fat.  A delectable feast.  We ate them, fins, tails, and all.  Crunchy.

We went surf casting in the ocean, using long heavy rods baited with 8-10 inch long Styrofoam lures called Atoms, bristling with hooks, in hope of catching a bluefish and not getting bitten.

Once I was in a rowboat in Narragansett Bay with my friend Becky.  The bluefish were running, a huge school of them, so many that it seemed the boat was riding on top of waves of bluefish instead of waves of water.

We happened to have fishing poles, so we threw a line in, without bait, just bare hooks.  Becky hooked one immediately, and it fought so hard it took both of us to get it into the boat.

(Breaking news: Atina just puked.  She’s such a good girl, she urgently asks to go outside when she has to puke.  It was the Malinois Empty Stomach kind of puke, so I just fed her.)

We got the angry bluefish into the boat.  It thrashed and snapped, jumping around in the bottom of the dory.  Bluefish have a mouthful of deadly sharp teeth.  They can take a finger off, and bluefish bites seem to always get infected.

Becky yelled, “Hold into him, there’s a club in this boat somewhere!”

It was her father’s dory.  He was an avid fisherman, so there had to be a club in the boat, for whacking fish over the head.  That’s how you kill a fish.

She had to find the club, because the only other choice was to throw the fish overboard and cut the line.

But this could not be done without getting bitten, because a dory is a deep sort of boat.

No luck with the club, so we pulled one of the oars and whacked the fish to death, but then a wave came along and snatched the oar; and we were forced to paddle back to shore with one oar, which was not an easy task.

In normal conditions, if deprived of an oar, a person would jump into the sea and push or pull the boat ashore; but the sea was filled with snapping bluefish, so we managed, after a long time, to get the boat to land, more worried about what Becky’s father would say about the lost oar than anything.  Becky’s father was a kind man; he didn’t say anything.  He was a man of few words.  Not so, her mother.

One bright blue morning, Dad and I packed up our surf casting gear and headed out for Horseneck Beach to try our luck.  Somebody had told somebody else, who had told Dad that the bluefish might be running.

By the time we got to the beach, it was starting to cloud up.  Nevertheless we hauled our tackle to the shore and threw a line in.

The tide seemed to be coming in strong, although by the tide tables it should have been turning, just at the end of going out and starting to come in (“neap tide,” in fisherman’s terms).  High tide wasn’t for a good few hours yet.

But we cast our lines and tried to smoke, he his cigar and I my Balkan Sobranies, daring black cigarettes with gold leaf where the filter would have been, if there had been a filter, which there wasn’t.  By this time it was impossible to smoke, as the wind kept putting our smokes out.  So we put them away and turned our attention to trying to get our lures in the water.

But the wind, which was now howling like a banshee, kept throwing our lures back in our faces along with sheets of rain and salt spray.  We decided to pack it in and go have lunch.

We threw our fishing gear into the back of Dad’s Ford pickup and wallowed through the driving rain to a nearby fishermen’s bar that served the best conch chowder ever.

The scratchy t.v.was on.

When we came through the door, soaking wet, stamping our dripping boots on the mat, the boys at the bar said,

“What in the world have you two been doin’ out THEYAH?  In the middle of this hurricane?  You-ah lucky you didn’t get taken by a storm wave!”

Hurricane?  HURRICANE!  Nobody said anything about a hurricane.

The lights went out, and the barkeep lit kerosene lanterns.  Dad ordered us beers (yes, I was only fourteen, but the law was that a minor could drink if accompanied by a parent), and we lit fresh smokes.  The fishermen looked on approvingly.  We ordered hot conch chowder, and crumbled Common Crackers, which the barkeep scooped from a barrel, into the rich stew.

It made us forget, temporarily, that we were soaking wet.

(For you who did not grow up in New England in the ’60’s or before, Common Crackers, also known as Ship’s Biscuits, are rounds of flour, water, and baking soda, slowly baked until completely dehydrated, and dangerous to teeth unless broken up into chowder.  They keep indefinitely when stored in an airtight container, and thus were taken on long sea voyages on whaling ships.  As long as they don’t get wet they are good practically forever.)

After the wind died down some, we hydroplaned for a couple of hours till we got home.  My mother was frantic.  No cell phones in those days.  For all she knew (she wailed, through tears), we could have been taken by a storm wave.

Mom seldom approved of our adventures.  That’s one reason we seldom took her along.

The wind-waves seem to be slowing down now.  The NOAA weather discussion said it was going to, but I don’t trust it, as that’s what it said last night and today was worse than yesterday.

So I’ll keep on recollecting pleasant memories of dangerous adventures that turned out good.  Atina and I are warm and dry, and we’ve got plenty of food and water, without bluefish…although they are very tasty.

image

My father, with a giant pot that he made for a demonstration at some art school or other.  Note that the pot is wearing his apron and hat.  He was 5’8″, so that gives you an idea of the size of this pot.

Below on the far left are a salt glazed porcelain teapot and vase that he made.  The rest of the pots were made by his former graduate students.  From a show in 2001 more or less.  I hope he’s playing in mud in Potter’s Heaven now…and enjoying a good conch chowdah, with a good cigar for dessert.

Troublemaker

I’ve been thrown out of two places in my life: a leather dyke bar in Provincetown, Massachusetts, because I wasn’t butch enough; and just tonight, the campground I’ve been staying in on and off since February.  My crime: complaining to the manager because my camp furniture had been removed from my campsite; and when they claimed they hadn’t removed them, then I reported my possessions as stolen.

Tonight as I came in to pay for my reservation, they informed me that I was no longer welcome because I had “made a scene.”

Hmmm.

I don’t think asking to speak to the manager because one’s personal effects have disappeared really counts as “making a scene.”  Especially since this was the second time things of mine have “disappeared” at this campground.  The first time I also reported it, and got blank stares for an answer.  This time the blank stare treatment really got to me, because you’d think they would care if their paying customers were losing their camp furniture.  So I said I wanted to speak to the manager, who shrugged and said she didn’t know what had happened to my things.

I tried to think of other reasons they might want to get rid of me.  Maybe it’s because I always pick up after my dog.  Maybe it’s because I’m very quiet, am rarely seen aside from taking long walks with same dog, never play music except with headphones, and don’t make trouble except for when my zero gravity lounge chair and a whole load of laundry disappear.

It would have been nice if they hadn’t waited till I came in, after dark, to tell me I’ve been banned.  I had to scramble to find a place to park my van for the night.  It’s too late to go up to the forest, so I have to make do with the truck stop.  It’s usually OK to park overnight at Wal-Mart, but not here.  Fortunately there’s a truck stop an easy drive away.  Very, very noisy, but any port in a storm.  Time to break out the earplugs…

This is very inconvenient, at this particular moment in time, because I have to make my special oat matzahs for the Passover Seder tomorrow night.  I was planning to make them on my portable grill tomorrow morning.  Cooking in the truck stop parking lot is considered poor truck stop etiquette (!), so I will have to figure out something else.  Maybe one of the marijuana dispensaries will let me get my matzahs baked in their parking lot!  Just kidding.  Sort of.

If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Another

That’s what I always say.

Yup.

I’ve been stranded at this rather dull RV park for over a week now.  Maybe longer, I don’t know.  The days here waft from one into another.  There are benefits: the Catawba River runs through my back yard, and even though the ground is still soggy from last week’s flood, Atina revels in having a place to run.

It’s a joy to watch her stretch out like a greyhound–she has the deep chest, sucked-in belly, and long legs that eat up the ground.  She never lets me out of her sight, though, and after a scary misadventure getting stuck in briars chasing a squirrel (she can’t resist a squirrel!), she always comes to my call.

Today she even got to play with a short pudgy mutt who didn’t mind getting tromped all over by a puppy three times his size.

There are real showers, and an expensive but clean laundry room, and a restaurant where they serve breakfast and lunch for cheap.

In fact, this morning while I was in the canteen filling up on lousy coffee, Atina found the new bag of laundry detergent, the kind that is little pouches of clear liquid, and decided to sample the wares.  Imagine my chagrin when I came in and found the bag ripped open, with an oozing pouch, and a guilty looking pooch on the bed.

I know a bit about detergent ingestions, and although I am trained not to panic, I did, a little, then read the label.  It said to wash out the person’s mouth with water.  Do not induce vomiting.

First I checked her mouth, in the vain hope that she had perhaps just sniffed the material and realized it’s not a treat.

But oh no, her lips and gums were slippery!  Thank goodness, she was not foaming at the mouth…But I had to wrestle her mouth open to check it (just try prying a Malinois’ mouth open, I dare you.  They’re not called “Malligators” for nothing!)  Her tongue felt unnaturally slippery, and there was a faint but present aroma of unscented soap.

So I wet a shop towel and went to work cleaning her lips, gums, teeth, and tongue.  Guess I won’t have to brush her teeth tonight.

Remembering the olden days when my ER was also the regional Poison Control Center (with a red phone, just like the White House), I counted up the pods and was relieved to find that all were accounted for, and that the one she had punctured was mostly full.  That was reassuring.

I did call the vet just to make sure, and he said the worst that could happen is diarrhea (oh boy!).

This is a great place to camp for a night or two, rest and refresh, fill up the water jugs and dump the holding tanks and be on one’s way West.

However.

It’s not the amenities that keep me here, but the repair shop.  Sadly, I’m becoming a regular.

First it was the mishap with the waste water tanks.  I went over a steep spot in a parking lot driveway and bumped the underside of my rig.  Interestingly, I was on my way to this very RV park to do my weekly chores (real shower, laundry, dump tanks, take on water) when this occurred.  I discovered the damage when I opened the “black tank (aka toilet waste)” valve to dump it, and instead of going down the sewer pipe, the nasty stuff poured out on the concrete pad, right under my rig!  Shit.

This was right before Christmas.  I begged and pleaded with the service manager to get my rig into the shop, just to look at it and see if it could be quickly mended, but they were working with a skeleton crew and could not do.

So I hung out till the following Wednesday, when they were at least able to look at it and decide that they could fix it, which they did and I am glad.

I went back up the mountain to my own property for a couple of days, because they were going to fix something else on Monday and I wanted a break from here.

So, on Sunday I started back down the mountain, because I had to have the van in the shop by 8 and I am not an early riser, so I planned to camp here the night before.

What is this “down the mountain”?

The locals call it “Cox’s Creek.”

It’s the most dangerous piece of mountain road in the Eastern United States, and according to one truckers’ guide to mountain passes, the most dangerous in the country.

Marry up continuous switchbacks with grades ranging from 7% to 12% and you’ve got a recipe for trouble.

Signs warn:

“The ONLY runaway truck ramp,” and

“ROAD WORSENS BEYOND TRUCK RAMP”

…balm to the soul.

I’ve been having some issues with the traction control thingie, or at least that’s what I thought it was.

Nope.

As soon as I pointed ol’ Jenny’s nose down the mountain, something went very wrong.

The front end of the van started bucking like a bronco.  I tried to slow down, but couldn’t!

I switched over to manual and put her in third, and the thing over-revved so I had to slow her down by tapping gently on the brakes until I came to THE ONLY RUNAWAY TRUCK RAMP, where I pulled off and got out to check for a flat tire, but there was none.

So I crept down the mountain at 15 miles per hour, with a veritable parking lot honking at me from behind, but there was nothing to do about it.

Got down to the relative flat, said a prayer, went to the repair shop in the morning, got my whatever it was (I forget now) fixed, and headed out the park gate to go back up the mountain to get something done before having to be back here on Friday (tomorrow) to get the furnace fixed.  Ho hum.

But as I took the gentle left curve out of the park, my brakes locked up completely and I came near to sliding clean off the road and over an embankment.  I caught the fear in the eyes of the driver in the oncoming lane.

So, rather than going up the mountain, from which I could no longer come down, I went to Wal-Mart to stock up, since it’s clear I’m not going anywhere for a while.

Having arrived safely at Wal-Mart, I thought it would be wise to check the fluids.  I grew up with grease on my hands, and even though these newfangled vehicles are now foreign territory to me, they still have oil and transmission and brake fluids, so I checked ’em.

Sonofabitch but the brake fluid was low.  Very low.  That made sense!

I consulted the manual to see what kind of brake fluid this beast takes, since I was at Wal-Mart and all.  But it said DON’T top it off if it’s low, because being low means there’s a leak somewhere, because it’s a closed system.

And so forth.

But what luck!  The town I happen to be stuck in is home to the only Chevy dealership for miles around that has a lift that can handle a 4 ton van!  Yay!

So, after another weekend stuck in my RV park (which is not free), I get to haul ass over to the Chevy place on Monday.

I was really, really hoping to get the fuck rid of this van before shit like this started happening.  I can smell a lemon when I’m living in it.

My new “unit,” as RVs  are called, should be finished, um, next week.  I’m supposed to drive to northern Michigan to trade in this heap and pick up my freshly built one, with dual wheels and four wheel drive, yay!

However.

I am not at all sure that I want to make that trip, in the middle of the WINTER that I was not supposed to be here for, in The Lemon.

Tomorrow, while the furnace is being fixed, I am going to call the factory that made it (The Lemon) and explain all these things.  My aim is to have the new unit delivered to the local dealer, with a considerable upward adjustment of my trade-in allowance.  Or Else.  Something.

As for The Lemon, all I ask is that it gets fixed sufficiently to get me where I’m going next.

Wherever that is.