9 years ago today, I presented “fuck stats make art” to a full house at SXSW, scored hash brownies and MDMA in Austin, drank whiskey backstage with the black angels. 11 years ago, signed up for Twitter. Also brother Bob’s birthday.
These days, a challenge to just get out of bed for a cup of tea… I’m really trying to “move on”, find “acceptance” and “close the book on old life” but it sure the fck ain’t easy with such wild & fulfilling actions in my past
This past summer, after literally losing my mind, I decided to step into the abyss… Bravely, intrepidly and without compromise.
Holed up at a mountain cabin while chaos swirled around my lives, I listened to the message from records from decades ago, I hot boxed my beloved bus were so many happy memories happened, I reunited with charming characters from my past and even better, met their children who are adults (moreso than me anyway), then with a solid head of mushrooms and MDMA, this plan came to me.
On a psychedelic carpet, i clicked enough buttons on the Internet, to purchase an abstract variety of plane tickets to send me a round like a manic boardgame in search of a new flavour of truth and reality.
Salt Lake to Las Vegas to Pacifica to Chaing Mai and now to this anonymous city where I’m practically the only foreigner in a city mourning the death of their beloved King, I’m finding comfort and solace and healing.
In scant days, I will leave again into uncharted territory, beyond what science and reason says is capable of this haggard body but I refuse to except anything but finding some sense of joy.
I can live with pain I accept, but I cannot accept living without my brain and without my heart and soul. I am born to give, exist to share, and I am empty without those.
Without a safety net, without and emergency escape route, without language skills, without the strength to punch my way out of a wet paper bag, I have built a tiny universe and painted the walls just the colour I chose.
Who will return to the West Coast on December 6? what will I look like? Who will I be? I am indifferent to all of these questions as the destination is simply a byproduct of the journey.
The journey is me and I am the journey. Brick by brick, I will gently apply the mortar to rebuild, to renew, to replenish and regenerate from the very mitochondrial cells outwards.
(Yet another yet very welcome) article about Beat Poets working as Fire Lookouts in North Cascades.
Desolation Lookout Jack Kerouac’s post still stands. IMAGE: COURTESY NPS
How to pick a Fire Lookout Cabin to visit? Are you capable? Perhaps these remarks from Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac will inspire (or retire) your ideas.
Art on High: Beat Poets on the Fire Lookouts
What was Jack Kerouac doing on top of a North Cascade peak? By Allison Williams 8/1/2013 in the August 2013 issue of Seattle Met
Excerpt, Regarding the remarkable Mr. Snyder:
Gary Snyder was the first poet to get a job as a fire lookout, manning the now-gone station atop Crater Mountain in 1952 while writing and studying Zen; his old friend and fellow poet Philip Whalen took a nearby post the next year. Then, on the night of a now-famous 1955 poetry reading in San Francisco, Snyder was introduced to the young Jack Kerouac. (Allen Ginsberg, drunk on wine to calm his nerves, did the introducing before going onstage to perform a new poem called “Howl.”) Snyder convinced Kerouac to try a stint as a fire lookout, since he himself—a burgeoning anarchist, albeit a pacifist—had been banned due to McCarthy-era blacklisting.
Kerouac later wrote about the summer in Desolation Angels and The Dharma Bums, giving his pal Snyder the pseudonym Japhy Ryder. Snyder himself penned poems about the experience throughout his life; “Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout” concludes:
I cannot remember things I once read A few friends, but they are in cities. Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup Looking down for miles Through high still air.
& (by the end)
“I wanta go where there’s lamps and telephones and rumpled couches with women on them.”
Fans of Beat Lit heroes are no doubt aware that Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac and Phillip Whalen (among others), spent time thinking, writing, meditating, spacing out in remote forest fire lookout cabins.
Usually the job would include a few weeks of RipRap trail making before being dropped off with a burro worth of supplies to spend a few months being stunned by beauty, accepting solitude, riding out wild storms and growing beards.
These jobs still exists – even with all the technology, nothing is better than a practiced eye up in the sky.
There are several articles about this job and these places which seem to appear from time to time.
Challenges of healing include crazy wait times for referrals to specialists and clinics. Called a major specific clinic in Vancouver today to check in on progress:
them “when did you submit referral?”
me “oh more than a year ago”
“we found you, yes you were referred May 2015, so that means we’ll be able to see you in…. let me see… May 2017.”
“we’ll call you then”
Comments and annotations:
to Scott Orr: each province runs it slightly differently but, one of the biggest problems is lack of Drs as they can probably make more elsewhere the problem starts there. There are many more efficiencies in the care now (shared xrays and digitized records) for “normal” stuff (breaking a bone) and great programs for critical illness (cancer centres) but i am an odd case and odd cases often slip between cracks. in this case, its a new chronic and complex clinic inside a hospital so its an odd situation all over. The other critical solution is integrated care where mental and physical are not treated entirely differently. Also respect for alternative therapies… but like i said, you break and bone and dang its easy and no cost. But i am weird in more ways than normal :)
to Tristan Schon: truth man, my first year or two of treatment for this conundrum (ME/Fibro/CFS/etc) was all medications which just about turned me to jello, and group cognitive behaviour therapy which managed to freak me out more. The best results ive had (meaning relieving pain and making a bit of brain fog go away) is soaking hot mineral springs and getting Thai massgae where they bend and twist ya. Otherwise, phoenix tears (rick simpson thc oil) and CBD capsules sorta maintain me (though i’ll admit to the occasional diaxapram when i cannot leave the house due to anxiety) – its the last vestige of a formerly absurd scrip roster.
Also, if i’ve learned anything medically through this it is: the brain, gut run the show and the body mostly follows along. You can patch up the body way easier than the fixing gut and/or brain. As a result of the weakness and fogginess from the Fibro and scrips, i’v fainted full out a few times with 3-4 significant head traumas which just complicate the whole thing. Like makes harder to separate what’s what and Dr’s (kinda understandably) cant be awesome at everything.
Etc: Just a note to say, “dont worry about me” i am stick handling the medical system with frustration and annoyance but im happy to be alive and realize how far i’ve come. I live in constant pain and brain/cognitive fog and i require lots of rest but my illness is “weird” and not as easy to fix as a broken bone. Sometimes, i just need to holla aloud and each of you are very kind for checking in and offering support and advice.
A dear friend’s teenage daughter was heading out on her first foreign adventure–as such, i passed along a few thoughts. Sharing as perhaps others will find helpful.
Hi E.,It’s Dave here – and while I don’t have knowledge of all things, I do have a lot of knowledge about traveling… Not about fancy hotels and airline miles and gourmet restaurants but instead, grassroots travel where you immerse yourself in the culture and never really quite return home because much of your heart remains behind.
Now I don’t know all the details but I understand you’re going to a rather “developing” (hate this term but…) with a school group to do a humanitarian project – all that is awesome and, since I’m here, I’ll share a few random tips for you to consider while you ramble.
First off, all that stuff about packing light is very, very important. Consider your clothes a “uniform” and trust me, no one cares what outfits you wearing plus, one of the funnest things to do is buying clothes local and then you come home with a neat outfit. I take clothes which are quick drying, dark colors, and well-worn in so I don’t mind giving them away when I leave.
Since you have this extra room in your pack now you will fill it with something much more valuable: treats for the people. I don’t mean important expensive things but some of the things I take include: sets of pencil crayons, notebooks, pens and buttons with fun designs, postcards from my home town (remember agricultural people around the world love seeing photos of animals and farms and plants and so on), sometimes deflated soccer balls but those are a bit clumsy.
My last big trip I printed out hundred postcards of my art so I had something to give to people that really created that connection much more than a “Facebook friend.”
Document extensively but use cameras judiciously. What I mean by this is that photos are often the worst way to connect with the people (there are exceptions like instamatics), as it put something between you and them, and that something is also an expensive piece of technology.
Now photos are so important and I’m so grateful for the few foggy images I have from my first travel spots, my rule was to buy one or two disposable cameras, peel off the outer wrappers so is just a plastic black box and then I am limited by those 24 or 48 exposures so each shot had to be very important.
Sure lots of them turned out really lousy but the intention was a lot of fun. Now I travel with a sardine can film camera which produces hazy water-colored memories which sort of seemed like how memories fade.
Instead, I love to make notebooks, fill up journals, scrapbooks with all my travel artifacts (ticket stubs, postcards, brochures, signatures, sketches, maps,…) These give you an interactive talking point with folks as you meet them and, of course travel with a pencil bag so folks can sign and add their thoughts to the big jumbo book, plus flip through and see other artifacts of me and my journey. I even throw in a few family photos and stuff like that before I leave to show new friends (as well as stave off the possible homesickness).
This one may sound weird but stay with me: I (usually) have a rule in which once I decide where to go, I learn nothing about the country.
This seems super counter-intuitive but, because traveling is so easy now (my first trip to Europe at 21 was before cell phones, Internet, ATMs, common currency etc.) so to keep that “degree of difficulty” up to snuff, I go in naïve so I can feel like an early explorer, there before the masses.
Now I realize that doesn’t fit exactly with the logistics of your trip but the thought of going with a clear mind and minimal expectations opens up so many opportunities. Think of the place as white paper or canvas waiting for your contributions rather than pre-coloured with the drivel of guide books and instagram stories.
Great examples is: “the most famous tourist site in every country” in which you can line up for hours to see something which you could go to another town and see something less crowded, perhaps not quite as magnificent, but almost wholly to yourself.
In other words, find your version of what’s awesome and discover the story(s) for yourself. Trust going to places you’ve never heard of or never expected, and you’ll find bits of magic which you can feel like you were the first person to document.
OK, health stuff… Like you, I’ve struggled with terrible migraines on and off throughout my life and now I’m dealing with a bunch of other crappy illnessess (fibromyalgia, CFS/ME etc). So, when I travel, I always have my little “safety kit” of killer soft eye mask, best earplugs, lavender oil, sticky heating patches from Japan for my shoulders and back, various ointments and magic to deal with onset of crazy pain.
Like your situation I suspect, once it hits, you are done and need to shut down until you sort it out. So make sure you have your emergency escape kit and don’t be afraid to take an extra day in a quiet room when you need it.
You are young, South America is just getting going (keep in mind it was a collection of “banana republic” – another lousy term, sorry – dictatorships for most of my life) so you can return again (and maybe again). The important point is to come home inspired and not battered.
Besides my beloved scrapbooks (if you want links to view photos of them just let me know) I also often take an audio recorder and love to record ambient noises of markets and streets and crowds or music or buskers and when I’m home and feeling blue, I put on my headphones and the audio drift you back better than any photo ever could (usually).
Also, with my travel artifacts besides scrapbooks I also make big “static montages” meaning a kind of wall-hanging collages with all my bits and pieces floating and stuck on, sometimes with some paint, and a bit of narrative on top.
Anyhow I could go on and on but mostly I’m just super excited to see you heading out on an adventure. Your Mom tells me so much about you and while I met you was a baby, I look forward to seeing you as an adult one day soon.I am constantly available to offer any bits of scattered wisdom or encouragement… At your leisure…
Also, i thought if i posted a massive amount of goodness on this channel, it’ll overwhelm all the talk about that one guy, and that one problem, and that other situation, and all that stuff, and all the disagreeing and whining and wringing and so on.
Remember, you give power to what you discuss – positive or negative, its what he/they/she want. #leeches Your actions and words are your most powerfulness so wield judiciously.
More about Fire lookout tower in Cascadia… the low down the mechanics of running these operations and the rugged folks who made it happen. Plus name checks for the town of Sedro-Wooley which i’ve spent time in years ago.
Story posted on Aug. 12, 2002, last updated June 15, 2010
Regarding Jack, Gary and Phillip:
The most famous firewatcher was Jack Kerouac, who spent part of the summer of 1956 in the tower at Desolation Peak near Mount Hozomeen and the U.S.-Canada border. Like some other watchers of the day, he anticipated his time there as a period of reflection and meditation and cleansing in the solitude. His friend, poet Gary Snyder, signed on as a fire lookout earlier — at Crater in 1952 and Sourdough in 1953, but was blacklisted by the Feds and did not return for 1954, the “high summer of the great fear,” as historian David Caute described it. Snyder’s Reed College friend and fellow poet Philip Whalen manned Sauk Mountain in 1953, then Sourdough in 1954 and 1955. Snyder was the one who alerted Kerouac to the joys and solitude of the mountains. All those sites north of the Skagit are part of the Mount Baker National Forest that was originally patrolled by the legendary ranger Tommy Thompson.
Whatever Kerouac thought he was seeking, he found what many others did: monotony and boredom after the initial excitement. We learn from the Ann Charters biography, Kerouac, a Biography, that Jack came up from California in mid-June 1956, attended a fire-watching school for a week and then spent eight weeks on the mountain after being packed in on muleback. On the climb upwards he saw the charred snags that stood witness to the flash fire of 1919 that led to name of Desolation, part of the Starvation Ridge area. Nary a fire threatened his assigned area that summer so he spent much of his time on the routine chores of chopping wood, collecting bucketsful of snow for washing and cooking, communicating on the two-way radio, pacing about on the narrow trails, chewing Beech Nut gum and smoking his roll-yer-owns.
He slept on a wooden bunk with a rope mattress in the sleeping bag Snyder helped him pick out in Oakland. To amuse himself he baked rye muffins, played a baseball game with a pack of cards that he’d invented when he was a boy in Lowell, and picked a few sprigs of alpine fire and a wild flower every day to put in a coffee cup on his desk. Jack wrote at the desk facing away from looming Mount Hozomeen on his north, the dark, naked rock of Hozomeen coming to symbolize for him ‘the Void,’ with its clouds and thunderstorms, the two sharp peaks of Hozomeen looming in his window as he lay in bed, ‘the Northern Lights behind it reflecting all the ice of the North Pole from the other side of the world.’ During the long afternoons he sat in his canvas chair facing ‘Void Hozomeen,’ listening to the silence of his cabin and making up haikus. His experience that summer is the kernel of his later book, Desolation Angels, the companions he imagined dancing out of the fog along the ridge. The North Cascades Institute in Sedro-Woolley offers a course based on the experience of Jack Kerouac and his writing.