We live in a KENNEL

Mad marmot
Mad marmot

Somebody called recently and asked how summer was going. All I could say was dogs. Burt nailed it when he said, “we live in a kennel.” The Olvis was an 8 year masterpiece. No squabbles, high compliance rate, no teething. Cholvis. Chava plus Olvis is an entirely different universe. Olive is a bitch. Elvis is doing things he hasn’t done in years. Chava is determined to eat everything. Berries off of bushes, cigarette butts, all excrement, anything plastic. I found my ear plugs in his poop. I regularly go online for therapeutic readings on how to deal with a teenage dog. Chava is 7 months old and this is exactly when most puppies are given up for behavioral problems. It’s literally a full-time job to raise a healthy, happy puppy. Best advice so far: Never leave them unattended. All activities come with Chava attached. Leaving a curious puppy to his own devices results in destruction and heartbreak. If Chava can’t come it’s the crate. So far it’s all minor stuff but the list is endless and mysterious. We lost some apples. They turned up in Chava’s bear like poop. $20 of heirloom tomatoes? Eaten in 5 minutes. I caught him before he swallowed the paring knife he stole from the counter. Burt’s crocs remain mostly unmolested.

With every outing requiring a minimum of one and up to three dog companions certain activities have been entirely curtailed. I have not birded in a month. Music weekends have been spent with Chava lashed to our chairs. They say this phase will pass and pass quickly since Chava is a small dog. He’s holding steady at under 50 pounds. Maybe even under 40 pounds. I can still pick him up. Meanwhile I’ll keep reading dog therapy articles.

While we strategically manage the mouth of destruction we also face the normal rebellion of a teen. Chava sits. It just takes a staring contest and 2 to 3 minutes for him to execute. He can heel. As long as there are no sentient beings within his view shed. Same with come. Chava comes like a champ. As long as Elvis isn’t telling him to ignore us. Elvis can’t hear or see so he ignores all commands. Chava has noticed. Now Olive is noticing that Elvis and Chava are ignoring us. We’re fighting a mini-insurrection, a mutiny, if you will, of the canine crew. Dog therapy? Clamp down and reiterate all house rules at all times. Random sit and stay patrol. No food without performance. It’s all very exhausting after years of well mannered pooches. But both and Burt and I are united in the face of this challange. We cannot have obnoxious, ill-mannered dogs and live this lifestyle. Safety and sanity demand compliance. I’m hopeful that fall will find boot camp tapering off to just the chaos of life with 5 individuals.

And so now you know where I’ve been. It’s also kind of boring.

Burt
Burt
Theme of the era
Theme of the era
Dogs are everywhere.
Dogs are everywhere.
Blue Agave for our Baja counters.
Blue Agave for our Baja counters.
Music
Music
Giant silk moth caterpillar. It eats up to 85,000x its body weight in under two months on its way to moth conversion.
Giant silk moth caterpillar. It eats up to 85,000x its body weight in under two months on its way to moth conversion.
Dog. This guy is showing signs of not being an idiot or an ass.
Dog. This guy is showing signs of not being an idiot or an ass.
Olive is the top dog.
Olive is the top dog.
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On the Move

Bison bathing in dust.
Bison bathing in dust.

The kennel our three dogs let us share with them is on the move. We are out of work while the electrician and insulators get down to business. If those subs finish before we head south fo rthe winter we’ll move back to Jardine to advance the project but we will not finish. Our clients had a case of mission creep and the job was too big for us to do in one season so they’ll be on their own to get it done over the winter. Day one a couple months back Burt said, “I can’t do it all. I’ll get you started or we can leave.” They opted for us to get them started. So it’s framed and we are on the road.

First up was three days on the Beartooth Plateau. We are all suitably worn out by our high elevation hiking, fishing, and bird seeking. Olive and her puny heart did very well. Elvis managed a 5 mile day. Chava was a poop finding, dead animal eating machine. Free on the range and all he did was eat whatever he found. It came out as fast as it went in. One day we observed 8 defecations. I have to wonder how many we missed. He also seems to have grown a few more inches over night. His teen rage is subsiding. He recalled on command and is dropping food is we catch him in time. Yesterday I got him to expel a maggot filled rodent the size of a NYC rat. Chava is even considering heeling. He thinks about it but after about ten steps he rejects the idea. Soon, Chava, soon.

Today we’ve landed in Columbus for the fiddler’s weekend. We’ll head over to Town Pump for showers soon and then settle in for five days of tunes. We’re on the banks of the Yellowstone, under the cottonwoods. Swing on in and join us if you’re in the area.

Trying out the fish eye on the camera.
Trying out the fish eye on the camera.
Beartooth Plateau
Beartooth Plateau
White crowned sparrow.
White crowned sparrow.
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sTuCk in the MuD

Calle sin nombre
Calle sin nombre

Up here in the mountains we’re experiencing a microclimate of cool weather and copious rain. It’s buggy but nice. Yesterday we pulled in from a trip to the BozOne for plumbing supplies and sushi and a movie and as Burt attempted to position us into our spot under a tree we got stuck. The good news is were in a safe spot and sort of level. Bad news is: How and when are we getting out of this? I’m in the passive school. It will dry eventually. Burt is gearing up for an active response. I need a place to hide. If your wondering why we pulled the trailer to Bozeman for errands, there’s a three part answer. Elvis, Olive, Chava. It’s easier to drag the trailer and spend the night than try and keep the dogs safe and us unindicted in the truck cab. We live in a kennel and it goes where we go.

Check out the road sign above. A few times a week we wander the surrounding forest service roads and the other evening we found ourselves at the same address we use in Mexico. Calle sin nombre. The street with no name.

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Things happening

Western tanager and meal.
Western tanager and meal.

We had a gig this weekend at the Gardiner Brewfest. It was early in the day-long event so it had a low key vibe. Technically it felt like we did our job and we were assisted by a marvelous sound engineering team but it was sunny and hot and people were in the shade a long way from the stage. It was a long distance concert and so not nearly as fun as our Wednesday night shows at the Wonderland Cafe. There people are right with us and they’re on vacation and ready to have some fun. We ask where they’re from and what they’ve seen. Bears! Buffalo (bison)! Elk! We take regional requests and everyone gets in the spirit of the night. That is our kind of show. Come and see us if you are in the area.

After our set we hung around and had a beer and listened to the next band. A former co-worker of mine had come down to catch our set so we sat and chatted with him in the grass while listening to the next faraway band. After a while we realized our dogs needed saving and so we had to go. I wanted to see the headliners (they were our kind sound team) but three dogs need more attention than I could previously have imagined. It’s always something.

And then it was something. Gardiner is the most diverse place I’ve lived in Montana. There are tourists from all over the world here to see the most famous national park anywhere. And there are also seasonal employees from all points of the compass. Park concessionaires recruit and hire staff from all regions of the US and the world to fill housekeeping, hospitality, and maintenance positions. There are people of every color and diverse cultural backgrounds, languages, accents walking the streets of Gardiner.

Burt and I loaded our instruments into our former but now borrowed 1994 Subaru Legacy and headed up the hill to Jardine. Just at the corner we noticed an altercation between a white man and two black men on a corner in downtown Gardiner. I yelled stop but Burt was already slamming on the brakes. I jumped out of the car as I dialed 911. Now my cell phone is having a hissy fit these days. Sometimes people can hear me and sometimes they can’t. Now I can’t be sure if this screaming match between these men was racially motivated. Here’s what I saw: A white guy screaming and gesticulating wildly. He was stationed on the steps to a porch. He had a couple of friends on the porch behind him. The black guy standing was street side just inside a pole fence on  grass acting like he wanted to tangle. His body language said, “Bring it.” There was another man outside the fence. I’m not sure if he was trying to get his friend to exit the property or if he had his back. There was another man, older and white, on the opposite side of the black men.

As I approached the white guy was threatening the black guy. I was screaming the address as best I could into my phone and I yelled at the white guy, “Get back on your porch. Leave him alone.” Nobody was happy to see old white chick get in the middle. Glares all around. One of the ideas of my martial arts school was if you could protect yourself or somebody else, you are not just saving your own life, but you are also saving your attackers life. You are giving them a chance to not harm you and maybe there life will end up differently. So there I was yelling into the phone and yelling at the white guy cause he was the one going bonkers when the white guy does what I ask and goes to the porch. And he comes back with an axe. As he brandishes the ax he yells, “This is Montana and I’m white. I can kill you and nothing will happen to me.” Okay. This is a racially charged incident. No doubt now.

The man on the other side of the black guys is saying, “It’s not worth it. Get out of here.” And I am yelling, “Get back!” to the axe man. He turns towards me. The 911 dispatcher is yelling at me to leave. The dude is on one side of a fence and I am on the other. He’s 20′ away. We make eye contact. I am not one bit afraid. His racist, stand your ground, all too true statement has made me feel invincible. I meet his stare and he can’t face me. He looks away and turns towards the porch, swings the ax into a porch column and puts it down. Burt is now out of the car. The guy comes back towards us and the black men have crossed the street. The dispatcher is yelling leave, the police are on their way. The guy starts yelling at Burt for looking at him. Burt tells him it’s a public street and he can watch if he wants too. Since the danger has passed and the cops are headed over I slip into the car and we make our getaway.

Soon after a park ranger came to the gNash to take our statements. Gardiner is the wild west. Law enforcement here is a patchwork. We were told that the white guy was angry at the black guys for cutting through his property. His rental property. Apparently it is very common for local workers to take this shortcut. We also learned that none of the parties is a resident. They are all seasonal workers and they’ve had words before. The ax was hidden by the time law enforcement showed and the guy’s buddies denied he ever had an ax. Our word against theirs. Today I learned that nobody has been charged.

I find myself ambivalent regarding prosecution. If our intervention prevented a tragedy than that’s enough for me. And maybe it did. On the bigger, global scale I am pissed. Montana is a stand your ground state and that asshat was almost certainly right that he could have murdered that black man and gotten away with it. Maybe not after that indiscreet announcement of his intentions and bias but I agree he could have claimed he was reacting in fear and that he thought his life was in danger and the jury would have bought it. Black vs. white has a miserable record in this country. And, hell, in Montana you can shoot a fleeing white person in the back and still successfully claim self-defense.

It’s important to me to bring this up but it’s a little awkward. Please remember when I waded in there was no ax. I just saw some men heatedly arguing and thought I can stop this. My own bias led me to believe it was a race based altercation. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. How could I know from my car?  The ax and the vile racist utterance came out within moments of my arrival. It confirmed to me that stopping was the right thing to do. If only because I got to say to that guy in my actions NO, WE ARE NOT ALL LIKE YOU. It is our duty to call out racism and to do what we can to stop it.

Someone on Facebook metioned it’s probably easier to confront an ax wielding asshole than your sweet 80 year old neighbor. I think that person was correct. Personally I’m going to try and channel the power I felt in the heat of the moment into pushing back and educating friends and family.

Avocets on the Yellowstone River.
Avocets on the Yellowstone River.
Avocets in the leaves.
Avocets in the leaves.
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Emotional stability hard to find

We're playing full steam ahead with Zondra on the bass.
We’re playing full steam ahead with Zondra on the bass.

I’m not sleeping much. I don’t think it’s the incredibly vile political commentary coming from above or the horrific things happening to refugees on our border so much as it is the hot flashes. The hot flashes plague me at night. The other stuff haunt me during the day. I feel profoundly powerless on so many levels. I can’t work much due to general old lady-ness. The elevation, my back and the heaviness of the work have rendered me nearly useless or worse, a liability. I started physical therapy this week and we decided the trouble I’m having is the super laxity of my joints. I’ve always had hypermobile joints and it has served me well in many ways but as I get older and my muscle tone naturally diminishes things move way too much. So my PT boils down to a simple enough maneuver that is hilarious. It’s an belly button lift and a kegel any time I move. After months of this my PT says it will happen automatically and I won’t have to think about it every time I move. If I felt old before I feel really old now. Lift and squeeze, lift and squeeze. That’s it though. No other exercises just lift and squeeze and go about my business. That’s the plan for the low back. The moveable rib in my mid-back that comes and goes with shocking pain has not got a plan, yet. The PT says I might learn how to pop it back in over time. Meanwhile it’s still muscle relaxers and pain killers if it goes out again.

So feeling all decrepit as I am I decided it was time to replace this shoddy mattress. Amazon Prime brought us a top rated memory foam queen right to the gNash door for $450. I feel guilty patronizing the huge worker abusing corporation but have you ever tried to buy a mattress? Add to that experience living 2 hours from the nearest mattress store and you can see why the big A is irresistible. That and the thing cost half what I’ve paid for a mattress in the last twenty years. Sometimes I think these are the cultural issues that divide us. Walmart and Amazon have made life much easier in the rural areas of our deeply divided nation. I’ve been derided for shopping at Walmart and I respond with, “Where are we supposed to go? It’s all that’s left in rural America.” Luckily here we can pick up essentials at an independent store 5 miles away or head an hour up the road to my favorite grocery in all of Montana, also employee owned.

On the up side of the general negativity we are playing a weekly gig and it has been good. The tourist based crowds love to interact and shout out where they are from when I ask. Canada, Brazil, West Virginia, Spokane…Given our wide variety of tunes in our repertoire we have something to please everyone. Weeven got a rousing round of Wheels on the Bus for a kid filled night. Tips are adequate, too. The Wonderland Cafe has tasty food and a supportive staff but the best part is we get backed up by the flexible fingers and groovy beats of Zondra Skertich on bass. Z happens to be our client and the reason we are here working so it’s very convenient to have her in the band this season. If you’re in the area come on down.

Saturday we’re opening the Gardiner Brewfest. Music starts at 3:30. Pop in and have a beer.

Down below you’ll see my latest experiment.

I'm experimenting with my own hair conditioner.
I’m experimenting with my own hair conditioner.
This is the first batch.
This is the first batch.
New sunnies. I was hoping the purple mirror would be more obvious.
New sunnies. I was hoping the purple mirror would be more obvious.
My diamond encrusted glasses.
My diamond encrusted glasses.
These dogs. Harrumph.
These dogs. Harrumph.
Conditioner worked but not suave.
Conditioner worked but not suave.
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Three dogs are easier when we are stationary.

Every nice roll in the grass is interrupted.
Every nice roll in the grass is interrupted.

Despite the fact that the TeamCholvis just ate a dozen eggs and gooshed the extra into the seat cushions this morning I will admit that three dogs aren’t too trying now that we are stationary. Feeding, peeing, pooping, and exiting a vehicle multiple times a day drained TeamHuman. Leash 1, leash 2, leash 3…where’s leash 3…come back here…wait…wait…oh, there it is…clip…OKAY…12 paws hit the ground attached to three strings and a human. The human ducks and twirls and, to date, has not gone down. Occasionally a dog is loose. Maybe the hand didn’t quite have a hold or maybe the dog was never attached. Cue the gutteral command to STAY. Cars are almost always whizzing by when we get in and out. Adrenaline floods my body. The dogs always, so far, stop. I capture the loose mutt and we proceed to walk. Usually we split them between us. Burt takes Elvis and maybe another. I almost always deal with Olive. She’s fussy.  When one human must do the job alone it’s ergonomically uncomfortable to walk all three. Elvis must be dragged, the others pull. I try to channel my inner neutral balance between the sixty pound in each hand. The key is to transfer the pullers to the dog that needs pulling without throwing out your own back.

Happily the life threatening dog comfort walk is less frequent now that we are in our summer work spot. There is ample property for some free ranging. There is a yard. There are leashed walks that do not involved a vehicle. Cars are few and far between. Now if we take a leash walk I get Olive and Burt takes Elvis and Chava. Burt is the master trainer for heeling. After the pups have released some energy they might get free time in the woods. Chava and Olive are getting better at their off-leash heeling. Recall is only a problem for Elvis. He is deaf, stubborn, demented. I am always amazed at how much our older dogs teach the younger dogs. Elvis taught Olive, Olive is teaching Chava. But it cuts both good and bad. Chava has noticed Elvis getting away with all kinds of transgressions and has tried to follow the Elvis mentoring plan. Elvis won’t come, sit or wait for food so why should I? As my mom used to say: Because I said so. After a week of it Chava seems back on track with following us not Elvis.

So after a rough couple of weeks where we learned this Chava was stuck with us, that he might have ringworm, that he was growing so fast and eating so much and needed to be walked six times a day and once at night we’ve finally reached the spot where it’s only a little more energy to manage him. And he’s a good dog. And he doesn’t have ringworm.

Remember Seinfeld? Here comes Newman.
Remember Seinfeld? Here comes Newman.
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Good Medicine Jam

Monster jam
Monster jam

Our weekend was spent at my favorite summer jamboree. Every June the Simms brothers host a pile of musicians on their ranch near Helena and all we have to do is play, play, play. The Simms and their team of friendly helpers give us food and love in return. This year did not disappoint. First off Mike Simms shared with me how he is deeply into the Gypsy Carpenters’ blog. He started reading from post #1 and is somewhere in year two. That’s a lot of embarrassing material to be dredged up. Burt and I think Mike might know our past better than we do. It’s always a thrill to talk with a reading fan. I think there are 6 now.

Then I got to share my recent bigotry blowout story in person with Mike and a couple others. It felt good to get that off my chest. And then we played music and left all that other BS behind for a few days. It helps that our phones don’t work up in the mountains. My friend KaL came to walk me and Olive and Chava on Saturday. We caught up on all things dog and some not-dog. I miss KaL. We used to run millions of miles together. Now we walk a couple of miles a year. Next year should be better.

After our sore hands and fingers and brains gave up we headed to Helena for showers and tool collection. Today I am writing from Jardine, MT. Look it up. Grizzly central. We’ll be hear all summer. Stay tuned for more pictures with my fantastic birthday camera and tales of walking in bear country with the dogs.

Noodle dog
Noodle dog
Stay tuned. I got a new camera for my birthday. Chipping sparrow.
Stay tuned. I got a new camera for my birthday. Chipping sparrow.
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We all have to stand up for others

Me, post-confrontation.
Me, post-confrontation. My friend wanted to capture the superhero glow.

Recently I was sitting in an out patient surgical center in Helena, Montana minding my own business while waiting for a friend who needed a ride home. Scattered around the room were copies of Montana Senior News a magazine aimed at Montana’s rapidly aging population. I immediately noticed the cover photo was of Linda Gryczan a woman I happen to know and hold in high esteem. Linda was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that struck down Montana’s deviant sexual misconduct statute. While Montana’s law on gay sex was struck down a long time ago it is still legal to discriminate in all things on sexual orientation and gender identity in Montana. So LGBTQ people are no longer felons but they can be denied jobs, housing, and services. In fact, when Burt and I had some troublesome tenants that happened to be gay we were advised to use their gayness to remove them from our property. We were so offended by this thought we did the opposite and let them stay until the lease expired despite missed payments and property damage. The problem wasn’t their gayness. They were volatile young men. We knew nobody wanted to rent to a pair of teenage boys so we worked with them until the end.

So I picked up the magazine and started to read the article about the history of gay rights in Montana and specifically how elder LGBTQ folk in Montana have no protections when it comes to discrimination in end of life scenarios. Nursing homes can bar them or prevent couples from living together. Ignorant, hateful staff may treat someone poorly and it might be just fine with management. While I knew we as a society had a long way to go to make everyone feel safe and welcome and valued I had never thought of the heart piercing details some people must face on a day to day basis at the most vulnerable time in their lives. The article was written by another person I know, Aaron Parrett and Nan Parrett took the photos of the people that shared their stories and concerns. It is a really nice piece that discusses how far we’ve come and what remains to be done. It even mentions that most Montanans have a live and let live attitude and are uninterested in making sexual orientation an issue. I basked in the glow of the article being prominently featured and scattered on every table in the waiting room. There was an inkling of hope. You can read it here.

A few minutes later I was playing Bridge on my phone and I heard a couple come in and sit with their backs to me. The waiting room was about 10′ by 10′ with seats for 12 or so people. There were three other people in the room. I was seated furthest from the door. The couple comes in and starts bashing democrats and libtards loudly enough that anyone could hear. I ignored them. I didn’t even look up. Montana is Trump country. Not a surprise to run into people holding these views but kind of odd that they’d be speaking so loudly and negatively in a small public space. Then the man said: They even had a parade last week downtown with their flags and nobody cares…The woman says: You see them everywhere…The man replies: A bunch of them women were camped out at the campground last weekend all in the SAME campsite. Sharing tents. I looked up expecting to see some gnarled old timers and was appalled to see a heterosexual couple of about my age or younger spewing this vile hate loud enough for the whole room to hear. I said: You shouldn’t share your homophobia in public. The man says: I’m not homophobic. I say, sweetly: sounds like you are. Meanwhile I was thinking and they call us snowflakes. These two were undone by a magazine cover. Silence.

The silence was profound and there was a frisson of fear. The three uninvolved people looked like they wanted to turn invisible. Then the woman mutters: I just don’t understand why they need special rights. I stood up and yelled: Shut the FUCK up. Not my finest retort. I moved to get support from the front desk and discovered the receptionist had stepped away. I turned to face the couple. They were between me and the door. The man was leering and grinning. They were enjoying this. I realized I was in danger of assault. I was going to assault him. I exited the building and called the Surgicenter to let them know I was waiting outside since I know longer felt safe in their waiting room. For forty minutes I paced and basically freaked out. Here I was white and straight and I was getting only a taste of the fear millions live with everyday of their lives. I presumed I knew as a woman, and I do to an extent but this was horrifying. I was completely unprepared to feel their demeaning gaze and hear their vile, ignorant words.

In some ways I felt ashamed that I lost my temper. And in other ways it’s nice to just explode. I wish I’d continued to politely ask them to keep their views to themselves. I’ve confronted bullies at work and other places. I’ve had many men try and some succeed to intimidate me. I feel very much at risk as a female in our society. I do not feel equal. I do not feel heard. And yet I have so many advantages since I am white and educated and tall and bold. Eventually a staff member came out and found me. She’d heard what happened and apologized and thanked me for speaking up. I’m optimistic that next time I’ll be a bit gentler when I tell bigots to shut their pie holes. It takes practice. These situations happen when least expected.

I share this story not to garner praise or support. I share it so maybe you will practice and imagine and find the courage to say something, anything. We must drive hate back into hiding. We can do it.

 

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Long Overdue Poop Catastrophe

This is a shot with my new long lens.
This is a shot with my new long lens.

Many, many miles have passed under our truck this last week. We pulled out of Jack’s driveway on Monday and headed east towards Logan, Utah. We stopped and visited Great Basin National Park before landing in the yard of Burt’s friends from the year he experimented with college. But first the poop-tastrophe of 2019.

Longtime friends and readers know I have had many involuntary and surprising contacts with poop. Literal shit storms have followed me around since I was a wastewater treatment plant technician in 1984. All previous shit shows are now relegated to second tier events. That time to groover exploded and coated my chest with a brown air-brushed patina of feces? Not worth mentioning. The time the other groover exploded at the car wash when I was trying to illegally flush the contents? Ho hum. Olive rolling in human feces? Which time? Never mind. The shit coated bathroom behind the bus stop? The emergency evacuations in bushes, buckets, pants? The porno movie in Ecuador playing while I held the ‘door’ to the toilet shut and dumped? I could write a book and all would pale in comparison to the latest event. And yet it was so fast and stunning it’s hardly worth telling.

One great advantage to traveling with your home attached to your truck is there is always a bathroom when you need it, assuming you can pull over. Last week I had a sudden need for the bathroom. Burt dutifully pulled over at the top of the pass coming out of California. Nevada spread below and a icy alpine lake was by our side. The elevation was substantially greater than where we had just spent the last three nights. We were  five to six thousand feet higher that we had been at Burt’s dad’s house. It was gorgeous. I grabbed the key and dashed to the gNash. It wasn’t your normal urgent situation. It was a passing that required time and relaxation. I must have gotten dehydrated and, remember, I have that devious redundant and twisted colon. Think ungulates. Burt popped by to check on me and reported he’d seen a mountain quail. Dammit. A lifer bird and I was sitting on the throne. What could be worse?

Finally my work was done. RV life requires a degree of sanitary involvement that most of us would rather avoid. Since the toilet uses very little water you must turn and face your masterpiece and make sure it reaches its final destination. You depress the flush pedal firmly and quickly to try and induce a vacuum effect. If the poop is stalled extra effort is required. Some people use a pot of water to try and flush. A brave few grab a wad of TP and give it a nudge. The less brave or more health conscious use a tool we have named The Poop Stick. Poop sticks are disposable. when your poop is stuck you go get a stick, use it as needed, and discard. The result is that while it is very convenient to have a toilet with you at all times it comes with a price.

So there I was…Finally relieved of my burden. I turned and watched. Foot to lever. Firm and quick and BOOM. Instead of going down, or at least politely remaining stuck, it all exploded and flew skyward and hit me square in the face. Urine gravy with poop meatballs. My mouth was open. The word surprised is meaningless. I felt assaulted in the strangest way. Shock. Terror. Disgust. I heard a sound come out of me that I had never heard before. I was wailing and laughing and yelling. Burt came running WITH the dogs. Chava very helpfully ate the meatballs. I screamed at Burt to leave as I wailed that I needed help. Floor, ceiling, walls, and me were dripping in urine and a week’s worth of festering septage on top of what I had placed in the bowl. I started spitting and stripping while I kept wailing and chuckling. Burt left with the dogs. I mopped and cried and laughed. There was shit and pee in my hair. My glasses had saved my eyeballs. A long while later I came out of the gNash in fresh clothes but carried the knowledge that I was not clean. I could not wash hair without a shower. On the up side, the dogs were eager to hang out with me as we drove down into Nevada. Eau de Poo is a canine favorite. Urine has a lingering taste, too.

All day long I felt if I was slipping into some kind of dis-associative state. I veered between maniacal laughing and angry mutterings regarding the closest shower. I ate and drank but still imagined pee. We shopped at Trader Joe’s and Costco and I passed an entire day in a bipolar state of panic and hilarity. The shock of the blast was so profound that I found myself wondering how people emotionally survive bombings and other sudden violence. Something so minor as a toilet malfunction was bringing deep thoughts.

Of course we presumed the disaster was caused by the rapid change in elevation but we were wrong. The toilet is vented and had never exploded before. The real cause was a blocked vent. This became clear when the toilet exploded several more times over the next two days. Subsequent explosions were far less catastrophic because we had learned to gingerly press the flush pedal to let the tank off-gas. Still pee was on our seat and I took some mean hearted comfort in Burt getting hit. The persistent problem created a new sense of panic. I was ready to scrap the whole house but we hatched a plan on how to clear the vent. It was a muti-step and iterative plan but luck was on our side. The vent cleared as mysteriously as it clogged.

All’s well, for now. This could happen again. Despite my day or two of PTSD I’m already back staring at my shit and slamming the flusher as hard as I can hoping it goes down instead of up. Hope does not rise in this situation.

These ducks don't want to know.
These ducks don’t want to know.
I can't remember.
I can’t remember. Oh, yeah, looking for sagebrush sparrow. I heard it.
I ate the turd. So proud.
I ate the turd. So proud.
Regret.
Regret.
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More on San Pedro Mártir

Burt in aspen with pine cone epaulets.
Burt in aspen with pine cone epaulets.

El Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Mártir is named for the guy gate keeping in heaven. For a long time (until just this minute) I thought it was some guy with a last name Mártir. Wrong. That’s just a tag on Saint Peter (rock of the church) reminding us he was martyred. Another big oops there. I might have known once but had forgotten he was killed for his beliefs. And this lack of knowledge strikes me as very, very odd. I was just in this guy’s basilica inside the Vatican. My research today, quick and dirty, revealed the church believes St. Peter was crucified head down on the every spot of the basilica’s altar. But details are sketchy and it sounds like early church politics played a role in Peter’s unseemly demise. I guess the church, like so many other things, chooses not to tell the stories that cast it in a bad light. Things like the stories that demonstrate these guys couldn’t agree even in the time of Christ on what Christ was teaching. Nothing has changed. We do know that early Dominican padres founded a mission at the south end of the mountain range and the mountain range and park take their names from that mission.

The park was formed in 1947. It’s home to Picacho del Diablo (the devil is always around) the highest peak in Baja at 10,157′. Numerous large avian species take advantage of the remote and rugged terrain. Both bald and golden eagles are known to frequent the area but most important are the California Condors. The condor reintroduction program has increased the total number of these mighty birds from 22 in 1982 to nearly 500 worldwide today. About half the birds remain in captivity for breeding purposes. Wild populations are not yet stable. This spot in Mexico has had less habitat loss and environmental degradation than US release locations.  Consumption of both micro trash and lead ammunition are the greatest threat to individual survival. The birds in Mexico have successfully reproduced on their own.

Burt and I have seen these birds at three of their release sites and this was our second time spotting one in the Parque Nacional. Eight years ago we saw two. One flew over head on the ridge that divides the Baja peninsula, one side waters head to the Pacific Ocean and on the other they reach the Bay of California. The second bird was in the road trying to eat a red yogurt cap. I got out of the car and retrieved the cap. Think of that bird and those whales and fishes and sea life and pick up that micro-trash you see. It all flows downhill.

 

Desert bighorn sheep?
Desert bighorn sheep?
Map of Parque Nacional de San Pedro Mártir.
Map of Parque Nacional de San Pedro Mártir.
Chava walked out but Olive said, "No way."
Chava walked out but Olive said, “No way.”
Panorama of Bahia de California
Panorama of Bahia de California
Signs to El Mirador.
Signs to El Mirador. Astronomy telescopes on the ridgeline.
Rubber boa
Rubber boa
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