The fast, and the feast

November 24, 2022

Top o’ the world, ma!

“When out of sorts, walk a hundred miles,” wrote Jim Harrison.

I only managed a hair over six miles, but then I’m not a lionized poet, author, and screenwriter describing the perambulations of Doug Peacock in “The Fast,” written for Smart magazine and collected in “Just Before Dark.” I’m just a retired free-range rumormonger who felt a tad frazzled after a week of backwash from the abrupt departure of Herself the Elder.

She was not my mother, and I am spastic in financial matters weightier than a crisp Jackson in the wallet, so with sister-in-law Beth in town to backstop Herself I felt my place was in the kitchen, feeding the women to keep their strength up as they rassled various fiscal and familial alligators. I think Jimbo would’ve approved.

I baked, sliced, toasted, and buttered bread; scrambled eggs and cooked oatmeal; sliced apples and assembled sandwiches; and made turkey chili with red kidney beans, a more substantial chicken posole verde, pasta with a mildly spicy sauce of tomatoes, garlic, onion, chile, and black olives, and spread the leftover sauce onto prefab shells for pizza.

Not exactly the labors of Heracles. Nothing out of the ordinary, really. I’d have done most of this cookery anyway, just over a longer period of time. But with Herself fetching a head cold home from her visit to Maryland, and Beth occupying the spare room we use to confine Miss Mia Sopaipilla at night, what sleep I’ve been able to scrape together between cookery, cleanup, coughs, and meows has been less than restful.

When yesterday proved to be a beautiful day, I decided to get outdoors for a while. But with the brain firing erratically trail running seemed iffy and cycling positively suicidal.

Looking west from the corner of trails 365 and 365A.

So instead I grabbed my hickory stick and took a two-and-a-half-hour skull-flushing stroll along the hem of the Sandias to the edge of the Cibola wilderness and back again.

The universe mostly accommodated my desire for relaxation, solitude, peace, and quiet, perhaps with an assist from the Albuquerque Police Department.

The APD is disbanding its Open Space Unit, dispersing its four officers and one sergeant to the mean streets of The Duck! City, and giving police service aides the responsibility for locking and unlocking trailhead gates.

This changing of the guard isn’t supposed to happen until February 2023. But maybe someone missed the memo, because the three parking lots I passed on my hike were locked up tight and as a consequence the foothills trails were mostly empty. I took a small water bottle and my own sweet time and thought not at all about food.

This afternoon the sisters are taking a break from estate management and eBaying to whip up a raspberry cobbler. Once that’s squared away Beth will prepare lobster tails, I’ll tackle the salmon, spuds, and asparagus, and Herself may or may not do a small green salad. It’s been a long week, and she’s still not 100 percent. We’re all tired. So it goes.

If you observe the holiday, or even if you don’t, give your loved ones a little more gravy on their taters, maybe a bigger slice of pie. A little sugar, don’t you know. Don’t forget to raise a glass to any empty seats around the table.

“Salmon? Did someone mention salmon?”

A friendly gesture

November 24, 2022

We’re taking out the garbage, but we’ll be back later for some observations and a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat (if Officer Obie doesn’t get us en route).

While you wait, walk into the shrink, wherever you are, and sing a bar of “Alice’s Restaurant.”

R.I.P., Mary Pigeon

November 20, 2022

Heather, Beth, Mary, and Shannon in 2004.

Herself the Elder, a.k.a. Mary Gaye (Kerr) Pigeon, went west on Thursday in Albuquerque. She was 89.

Born in 1933 on a farm in East Texas, the youngest of 10 children, Mary raised three girls of her own and spent a quarter-century working for Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Her father, B Kerr, was a sharecropper. Her mother, Mary M. Kerr, was a homemaker.

Mary attended schools in Nacogdoches and Abilene, graduating from Abilene High School in 1951. Afterward she studied at Massey Business College in Nacogdoches.

In 1958 she married Robert Pigeon of Ontonagon, Mich.

Their first child, Beth, was born in 1960 in College Station, Texas. Shannon (Herself) was born a year later in Nacogdoches. And Heather was born in Frederick, Md., in 1962, after the family moved east so Robert could take a position with the Atomic Energy Commission.

With all three children in school, Mary went to work. In Frederick, she took a job with the First Baptist Church. When the family relocated to Oak Ridge in 1980, Mary signed on with the First Presbyterian Church.

Two years later, the couple divorced. Her ex eventually remarried, but Mary never did.

In 1992, Mary began working at ORAU, in a temporary position. It proved anything but. By the time she retired 23 years later — at the age of 82 — she was the executive assistant to a vice president in health communication. Mary loved that job and was proud of her accomplishments at ORAU.

Armed with quick wit and sharp tongue, Mary did not suffer fools gladly. But she had a lighter touch with animals, particularly cats, and supported the Helping Paws Animal Network of Oak Ridge.

She devoured mysteries on her Kindle, especially Susan Wittig Albert stories. Other pastimes included crossword puzzles, dining out, shopping, spending time with family and her wide circle of friends, and binge-watching episodes of “The Big Bang Theory.”

Beth, Mary and Shannon share a giggle in The Duck! City circa July 2021.

In her later years Mary wanted to be closer to her daughters, moving first to an apartment in Palm Bay, Fla., near Beth, and then to assisted living in Albuquerque, near Shannon.

She arrived in The Duck! City just as the novel coronavirus began triggering lockdowns in elder-care facilities, and endured quarantines in tiny rooms, conversations with loved ones through closed windows and/or over the phone, vaccinations, and masking, all piled atop the traditional indignities of advancing old age.

In her final year, with restrictions lifting, Mary was able to rejoin the wider world, enjoying in-person visits with family and friends, getting her hair and nails done, shopping, and going out for meals.

Shortly after her 89th birthday, COVID finally found her. It did not keep her long.

Survivors include Beth and Darren Morgan of Woodsboro, Md.; Shannon and Patrick O’Grady of Albuquerque; and Heather and Bill White of Smyrna, Tenn.; two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

No services are planned. Come spring, Mary will return to East Texas, where memory took her in her final days.

Out out out!

November 16, 2022

They said they wanted to get everyone outside. Turns out they just wanted them out of the building.

Well, Outside Etc. is at it again, driving an additional 12 percent of its staff into the vast publishing wilderness.

Newspapers and magazines made it possible for a wastrel like Your Humble Narrator to earn a meager living and even have a bit of fun while doing it. But at times it seemed that half the job was keeping one step in front of the headsman.

I got laid off once and frequently fled under my own steam upon hearing the thin keening of file upon blade. Oh, it’s not good here. How about over there? Or there? After a half century of this I managed to coast across the finish line more or less intact, albeit with two flats and a broken chain.

Lucky doesn’t even begin to describe it. I could’ve been broomed off the course and into the tumbril at any point, and plenty of spectators and competitors would have cheered as the ax finally fell.

It was and remains a rough old road. Betimes I miss it. But not often.

“Information wants to be free,” someone once said. Not someone who actually collects and distributes the information, of course. But plenty of their customers feel that way, even as they insist on being paid for their own labor.

I haven’t “joined” Outside Etc. for the same reason I don’t watch “sports” on the TV. I’d rather be doing something than reading about it, listening to it, or watching it.

Hell, I didn’t even want to work for Outside Etc. Not once I’d seen the contract. And they were proposing to pay me, not the other way around.

Maybe some things just don’t scale up well. I think I grasp the general concept — build a one-stop shop for all your sweaty fun — but it struck me as sort of a Spandex Ballet, some anonymous cable company with a thousand channels I didn’t want to watch.

It sucks to get the heave-ho. And I know a few of those heaved, and also ho’d. But some of them will stagger away from that crumbling tower of babble to build something a little homier, maybe more like the corner bike shop instead of the sporting-goods section in Sprawlmart. The rumblings are already out there, in forums, on Substack, even Twitter (though this last may be about like shouting “Fire!” in Hell).

Who knows? Without all those grandiose schemes weighing them down, Outside Etc.’s refugees might just find a living in it. And maybe a bit of fun, too.

Leaf me alone

November 15, 2022

The autumn took the rest, but they won’t take me.

No, it’s not the last leaf on the tree. But it doesn’t have a lot of company.

A cold snap this week brought us a soupçon of snow and temps in the 20s, a superfluous reminder that mid-November is not always shorts weather, even in The Duck! City.

Speaking of truths that should be self-evident, The New York Times has a piece this morning explaining that calling elections rigged and their results fake probably isn’t the best way to drive your base to the polling place.

Casting doubt on the legitimacy of elections might be an effective tool for galvanizing true believers to participate in a primary — or, at its origins, to storm the U.S. Capitol in order to overturn a losing result. But it can be a lousy strategy when it comes to the paramount mission of any political campaign: to get the most votes.

“If you tell people that voting is hard, or voter fraud is rampant, or elections are rigged, it doesn’t make people more likely to participate,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, a nonpartisan group that works with election officials to bolster trust and efficiency in voting. “Why would you want to play a game you thought was rigged?”

Plenty of people already think that their vote carries no weight, makes no difference. Maybe they’re blue voters in a red state — hey, been there, done that — or vice versa.

But when you make voting more difficult than it needs to be, tell the electorate that their ballots might get shitcanned to Area 51 by the Illuminati, and just generally waffle-stomp your own dingus into a thin paste, well … this doesn’t exactly encourage folks to take a seat at the table and ante up.

And if you don’t play, you can’t win.

On a related note, turnout might trend upward if some parties fielded candidates long on defensible policy and work ethic rather than screeching psycho knucklefuckers, pistol-packing “Red Dawn” wanna-bes, and vengeful bored man-babies.

Some movies you only need to watch once. Sequel not required.

The buck(et) stops … where?

November 11, 2022

The safety was off on KFC Germany’s semiautomatic content-creation process.

Nothing says “Kristallnacht” like a bucket of extra-crispy. In whose army were you a colonel, sir?

Food for thought

November 10, 2022

“Only a bonehead would try to predict what happens next. So, yeah — ‘Reply hazy, try again later.'”

“What do you think about the election?” the waitress asked.

“I’m glad it’s over,” I replied.

It’s not, of course. And it won’t be for a while yet, maybe not until just before the 188th Congress gets sworn in on Jan. 3, 2023.

When we finally get there, more than a few of the noobs — and plenty of the holdovers — will kick off the session by lying through their artificially brightened teefers as they take the oath of office.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

But before we cross that crumbling bridge over the Styx we have many a long, hard mile to walk, through a wall of sound that even Phil Spector would deem overwrought. Enduring the media’s dissection of the 2022 midterms will be like trudging through an animal shelter that takes in only werewolves, banshees, and howler monkeys, and whose keeper is La Llorona.

The National Kindergarten for the Criminally Insane may change hands after Jan. 3, but you probably won’t get bitten if you keep your hands away from the cage.

If the inmates do wind up in charge of the asylum, Sleepy Joe will get carpal tunnel from ripping their frantically scribbled Crayola fever dreams off the Capitol refrigerator. But he has a generous medical plan. And once he’s past the first few impeachments the rest of his shift shouldn’t be any worse than a casual lunch with Hannibal Lecter.

Speaking of lunch, the green chile chicken enchiladas at El Patio were delicious and the service cheery and superb, all as per usual. I paid my tab, left a preposterous tip, and took the scenic route home through the North Valley, with a brisk autumn wind robbing the trees of their gold.

Erection Day

November 8, 2022

“Bad morning, Mr. O’Grady. We trust your wait was unpleasant
and overlong. Sauron will see you now.”

Looks like Mordor out there, doesn’t it?

High cloudiness robbed us of our full moon/total lunar eclipse this morning, and the Repugs will take everything else this evening, if you hew to the conventional wisdom.

Kevin Drum, who is a reasonable fellow for a lefty blogger, argues from time to time that the United States is a center-right country and that Democrats “need to moderate if they want to win over centrist voters.”

Maybe. But I think the Donks have been trying to be Repug Lite for a while now, to no particular purpose, and no matter how far they tiptoe to the right, they will always be at least one long goosestep behind.

“You got to put the kibble over where the slow dogs can get some,” as Roy Blount Jr. advised in “Why It Looks Like I Will Be the Next President of the United States, I Reckon.”

And the Donks do, bless their hearts. But it’s generally a sprinkle of some vegan non-GMO Oregon Tilth Certified Organic small-batch free-range hemp kibble, in a bespoke ceramic bowl, with 10 percent of the profits divided among Planned Parenthood, PETA, and the ACLU. And the marketing thereof — why this is a good thing and not just a stone saucer full of sawdust and spider webs — is polysyllabic and ponderous and even harder to swallow than the chow.

So the slow dogs bite the hand that feeds them, and then they scamper over to where the loud fella with the red tie is th’owin’ the raw meat on the ground.

Well sir, before long the slow dogs aren’t feeling so good and the national yard is a monument to canine intestinal distress and the loud fella with the red tie has wandered off somewhere to holler into a microphone about how everything’s gone to shit and the libs are to blame.

And so the libs trudge into the national yard with shovels and bags, clean up the mess and doctor the slow dogs while the loud fella with the red tie hollers at them through a bullhorn from the other side of the fence because that’s where the shit isn’t.

And before you can say “FREE DUMB!” the only thing any of the mutts can think about is how good that raw meat tasted.

Here comes the night

November 7, 2022

Trumpkin.

When did The New York Times add a Dire Portents section?

This morning, Mother Times hit me with this:

“During the early hours on Tuesday, darkness will slip across the face of the moon before it turns a deep blood red. No, it isn’t an Election Day omen — it’s one of the most eye-catching sights in the night sky.”

Not an omen. Ho ho ho, etc. As if. Fake news!

Then why was the moon a decadent orange during the early hours of this morning as it slipped behind a neighbor’s house?

And why were there Trumpkins scattered along my hiking route this afternoon? I saw at least three, among them the one leering at you from the top of this post.

And finally, why is KUNM bitch-slapping me with “Here Comes the Night?” right this minute? And not the good one, by Them, but some two-bit tosser’s take on the 1964 classic (featuring Van Morrison).

“Well, here it comes … here comes the night.”

So soon? I’m not ready for the night. What else you got, Ma?

“How to Follow the News Without Spiraling into Despair?”

How quintessentially capitalistic of you, Ma. Sell me the disease with one hand and the treatment with the other. A mindfulness methadone clinic for the hopeless news addict. This morning’s shaman is this afternoon’s snake-oil salesman.

Here comes the night? Got a news flash for ya, Ma. It’s already here.

Just chillin’

November 4, 2022

Weather, outside, frightful, etc.

Sorel, God of Cold Feet, paid us a surprise visit last night.

Hard to believe the glider boyos were cruising the friendly skies just the other day.

The day before Halloween Herself and I saw three gliders working the thermals near the Menaul trailhead.

But Halloween has come and gone. We “fall back” on Sunday, and then slide at high speed into Thanksgiving, winter solstice, and Christmas. It ain’t always sandals-and-shorts weather, even in The Duck! City.

I’m not ready. I never am. I used to race in this shit? When? Was I still on drugs?

Herself is made of sterner stuff. She bundled up and sallied forth with a fellow Democrat to distribute campaign literature.

Comrade Eeyore is likewise on the hustings, telling The Guardian that Democrats “have not done a good enough job of reaching out to young people and working-class people and motivating them to come out and vote in this election.”

Hey, comrade, Herself is no passenger in this garbage scow. Ain’t her fault the officers are all rumdums.

Being of the Vanguard, I was needed here at Headquarters to propagandize over hot tea and a Taos Bakes bar. Arise, ye prisoners of starvation, and fetch me another mug of tea.

While I await the Revolution I’m also baking a loaf of bread so I don’t have to stand in line for it like the proles.

Here in a bit I’ll go for a run, if only because I never know when I might have to. It’s all this weather is good for. You can’t ski in it, or make snowballs with it, so you might as well pound ground, keep the muscle memory sharp.

The forecast for the day after Election Day is not encouraging. We may be feeling the heat, but not in a good way. I’m thinking of feet held to the fire.