2.6.06 2.21.06 2.23.06 3.8.06 3.10.06 3.16.06 3.20.06 3.31.06 4.8.06 4.13.06 4.25.06 5.01.06 5.17.06 6.7.06 6.23.06 6.29.06 7.05.06 7.19.06 7.30.06 8.03.06 8.04.06 8.09.06 8.18.06 8.19.06 8.31.06 9.03.06 9.10, 06 9.12.06 9.14.06 9.15.06 9.18.06 9.21.06 9.24.06 9.25.06 9.26.06 9.27.06 10.05.06 10.07.06 10.9.06 10.12.06 10.13.06 10.20.06 10.23.06 10.25.06 10.26.06 10.30.06 10.31.06 1l.01.06 11.10.06 11.19.06 12.05.06 12.14.06 12.15.06 12.31.06 1.28.07 2.16.07 3.14.07 3.16.07 3.17.07 4.30.07 6.5.07 7.8.07 8.6.07 9.8.07. 12.31.07 1.17.08

Journal 2006 - 2007

Had to wrench myself away from the journals, like pulling a tooth. Done little work on Doppelganger since mid December but let it perk on the backburner of my mind. I had made a difficult but unavoidable decision to change a major thread in the book which was not solid enough to do the right service to the story. I then wrote and rewrote twelve chapters up to the point where inserting the new point of departure, which changes everything subsequent in ways large and small, no longer avoidable. I had felt that by the time I reached that point, I'd have a better idea of how to go about it. But no, I didn't know yet how to handle it. Something basic was still unformulated. So I forgot about it; jotted down a note or two as occurred to me and started up this journal, trusting the famous subconscious to come up with an answer. . . so long as I didn't push it. Psychologically, I'd been developing a sense of urgency about finishing the new draft. Had to back off that. Bad stance if not true. One of the more important tricks experience dictates is to say nothing when you have nothing to say. A dry spell is for reading. Lazing. Playing mandolin. Can't play horn till my gum heals from surgery.

Finally the idea came to me and I'm proceeding with confidence. The negative force against which my characters battle needed personification. Evil needed a face! How obvious, simple, even humdrum once I realized. So, I'm hot on the trail again and will return to the Occasional Journal format. Photos were a way of saying I hadn't disappeared while refusing to write except in my book - not even to explain myself. Because I wasn't sure what I was doing until I did it. Motivational hardball. Works for me.

Had a dream of triumphal joy last night, signaling, I believe, the turn of a page to the next chapter of my endeavors. The dream ended with me, Marmaduke, Barlow and Paul McCartney singing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. I thanked Paul for the memory of this. Woke up and went out on the porch and recalled all of the dream, rather than falling asleep and forgetting it. Some dreams are worth waking up for.

On a roll, on a run, one of the ones makes me pity anybody not pushing 65 writing this book. Can't think it will be anywhere near as interesting to read as it is to write. After completing that new chapter, which it took six weeks to conceive and three days to write, the doors are swinging open on the succeeding chapters, all of which appear ready and gladly to conform to the fine new thread of variegated evil.

Up in the corner of the page there's a photo Maureen took unbeknownst to me. That's the porch where I read, write and stargaze. I've missed the use of it during the rains. As the days grow longer and warmer I'll take start carting my PowerBook outside like last year - you can see the extra cord on the cold iron table. Prefer to write outside when weather allows. Been at it since May with two good breaks for perspective. I had to make myself believe I was done with it in order to take the first break. Then I had to stop again to reconsider the plot and began to wonder if I had the energy to dive back in.

Strength returns. The dental op plus pain pills and antibiotics left me a little short on game for a couple weeks. Knew it would, it always does. This is my fourth time through that procedure.

Neglecting the journal the same way I neglected my book while I was attending to the journal. Seems I can only maintain focus on one thing at a time. Real, that is, not incidental focus. Not doing enough "out in the world" to make a daily journal very apt. Glad I picked up the mandolin while I couldn't play horn due to bruised gums. Not too motivated at guitar right now. It always leads to songwriting, which is, of course,a major focus, competing with the writing I want to concentrate on for the time being. Let that land lie fallow awhile. If I don't get back to it, you can bury me there, upside down with a sign that reads 'farmed out'.

I can toot trumpet again, and intend to keep my lip from getting totally lax. Working on John Dowland's song, "Flow My Tears," from sheet music. But the mandolin snuck in during the layoff and captured my interest again, which it does every decade or so. It also has the virtue of keeping my guitar calluses hard and re-interesting me in the flat pick, which I abandoned due to arthritis. Same reason I quit using fingerpicks. Bare fingered picking doesn't annoy that joint. I believe Leo Kottke stopped using fingerpicks for the same reason. Am experimenting with new ways to hold the pick, including wrapping a rubber band around my index and middle fingers to change the variables. Seems to work. Maybe I'll have a double ring made. Better yet, hit the shops and find two rings I can solder together. ( LATER: bought two silver rings, but it didn't work as well as a rubber band!)

I'm not thinking of music in terms of performance, let alone recording, these days. Not that I intend to cash it all in, not by a long shot, but I await the change of planets that makes it possible. I tend to be a fatalist in these matters rather than a positive go-getter. Fortunately, I didn't pick a course in life that demands performance of me whether I will or no. If I don't have the copious and diffuse energy I once had, enabling me to juggle half a dozen projects at once, I'm able to concentrate on one thing successfully. Regardless of what my major thrust of the moment is, I need music to return to. That's where the balance is.

No news from the Land of the Dead to speak of. David Nelson just called to fill me in on the New Riders. The half dozen gigs they've played have sold out and they're making plans for more. Would be great if Dawson got it together to join with them. He's not adverse but has had a bad couple of years after losing his wife Alana. New Riders might be just what he needs, and, needless to say, Nelson and Buddy Cage would welcome his participation; the other key players, Spencer Dryden, Skip Batten and Dave Torbert having taken early checkouts from the Purple Sage, along with Dale Franklin, beloved manager, half of whose ashes are scattered in her garden in Nashville and the other half scattered by me and a few friends at the site of her demolished cabin site in China Camp: the two places her heart lies. That band had good songs and knew how to play them. Seeing them open for the Dead again would probably be too much to hope for, but what a party it would be!

Buddy Cage called last night and we had a good rave about plans to revive the Riders. He doesn't want to call it a reunion since, as he pointed out, half the guys are dead. He wants to call it a renaissance. Why not?

I was just remembering how Friend of the Devil got written. First off I wrote these four verses one afternoon back in 1969.

I was living in Madrone canyon with the Garcias. The NRPS had asked me if I wanted to play bass with them and it seemed like a good idea at the time. So I worked up that song on bass, added a few verses plus a chorus and went over to where David Nelson and John Dawson were living in Kentfield and taught them the tune. The "Sweet Anne Marie" verse which was later to become a bridge was only one of the verses, not yet a bridge. The chorus went:
I set out running but I take my time
It looks like water but it tastes like wine
If I get home before daylight
I just might get some sleep tonight.

I'd changed the fourth verse, about parlaying the twenty dollars into five thousand and, except for the all important Friend of the Devil hook, the lyrics were pretty much as they stand today minus a fifth verse which goes:
You can borrow from the Devil
You can borrow from a friend
But the Devil give you twenty
When your friend got only ten

We all went down to the kitchen to have espresso made in Dawson's new machine. We got to talking about the tune and John said the verses were nifty except for "it looks like water but it tastes like wine" which I had to admit fell flat. Suddenly Dawson's eyes lit up and he crowed "How about "a friend of the devil is a friend of mine." Bingo, not only the right line but a memorable title as well!
We ran back upstairs to Nelson's room and recorded the tune. I took the tape home and left it on the kitchen table. Next morning I heard earlybird Garcia (who hadn't been at the rehearsal - had a gig, you know) wanging away something familiar sounding on the peddle steel. Danged if it wasn't "Friend of the Devil." With a dandy bridge on the "sweet Anne Marie" verse. He was not in the least apologetic about it. He'd played the tape, liked it, and faster than you can say dog my cats it was in the Grateful Dead repertoire.
Although I learned all the tunes, I never did play a gig with the NRPS, who were doing strictly club dates at the time. For one reason or another I never quite fathomed, though I have my suspicions, I got shut out. Either that or I misread the signs and wasn't inclined to push. Nothing was ever said. In any event, a fellow named Dave Torbert showed up about that time. Just as well. One dedicated songwriter in the band was enough.

Exhaustion feels nice when you've earned it and have the time to indulge it. The 3rd draft of Doppelganger clocked in at 138,000 words, 315 single spaced pages. The last three days were the hardest: proofreading. I typed most of the chapters on the program that came with the system, before switching them to Nisus writer, the best words processing program value out there, for Mac anyway. But there was some problem with transferring the tab settings which caused an extra space to get thrown in at the beginning of paragraphs and I had to make literally thousands of repetitive tab adjustments, by hand, to get the tab settings I wanted. The plus side was that I was able to line edit the whole text as I went and deliver a relatively faultless manuscript to my agent.

My project now is to forget the whole thing and turn my attention back to life and music (same thing?) while the selling and publishing process take place. Of course, a whole year has vanished in the meantime. Well, I shouldn't say vanished. It's been a very long year indeed, full of hope and creativity. But I don't feel like tackling my "Beauty and the Wiseguy" novel just yet. I'll let the six chapters I've finished simmer on the back burner - decide if that's really the book I want to write next.

First thing I did upon completion was to pick up my horn and play awhile. I'd been playing only a few minutes of daily warmup to keep my lip from dying while I finished my book. When I'd played as much trumpet as seemed practicable, I picked up the mandolin and played "Billy in the Lowground," "Bill Cheatham," and "Paddy on the Turnpike." Look, I'm even making a journal entry!

Now comes the time of doubt. Book done. Sent off. What if I'm fooling myself? What if it sucks? Yeah, sure I know its got some good sentences and a least a few scenes nobody could fault, but does it hang together? Will I wish like hell I could cause it to be unwritten once it's shred to ribbons by the first (and maybe last) critic? Will I be instructed by them to go back to writing anthems for sexagenarian hippies and leave literature to grown ups? Yes, doubts - and they're right on schedule.

Only way to fill up the void is to write something else. Sorry folks, but a new plot idea occurred to me last night. Plotting doesn't come easily to me, but I got an idea by asking a few questions on paper and answering them. Genre? Magical realism, of course. What are the rules of the place? What are the abilities of the characters? Who is the primary character? Who is the antagonist? What's at stake?. . .then I was off and running. Wrote a page by hand. Added a bit to it today, just to say I was well started, though I don't intend to hit it very hard until my depleted energy from the last project is renewed. Doesn't do to get too obsessive at this stage in the game. It was exactly a year ago when I began the last book. Time and regularity get a novel written. Think about it. Two pages a day amounts to 365 pages in six months. That's how it's done. Try it. It's fun.

We, the government of the United States of America, have decided to return the sovereignty of your minds and bodies to you, the citizens of this great republic. We know that there are many who will disagree with this decision, preferring that the government retain rights of ownership regarding the minds and persons of adult individuals. We are prepared to face the reality that those who disagree with the granting of various previously circumscribed personal freedoms will perhaps muster sufficient votes to defeat us at the ballot box. This does not concern us as much as does the usurpation of the most basic of personal rights by those elected to serve rather than to rule. We are convinced that the herd mentality enforced by the assumption unto ourselves of the preventative administration of those rights is not the plan of those who framed our constitution and, as sworn servants of that constitution, we resolve to cease the levying of criminal sanctions on the exercise of personal preferences in regards to victimless activities of all description. It is our devout hope and firm belief that there is no alternative to the non-obstruction of full mature adult choice in matters of personal discretion if the citizenry is to come to the full maturity appropriate to dealing with the very real problems that face us as a people. Thank you and God Bless America.

We've had AT&T in our backyard for a solid week. They come and go as they please, sometimes showing up at midnight, sending crews that dig trenches in our hillside garden all day and through the night. Don't find what they're looking for and dig more trenches while the dog barks more or less continually as crews an d messengers come and go. The guys in charge of the crew wear blue jackets and FBI caps that say AT&T. Seems a cable that services Ross, the affluent community on the other side of the hill, has broken. Hundreds of people in Ross, including the fire department, are without their internet. AT&T will move heaven and earth, or in this case the ground in my back yard, to mend it. I hope they tamp the trenches down tight on the steep hillside when they're done. The mudslide danger is great enough as it is. I'm not an unrealist (though hardly a realist) and I know these things have to be done. I know that crews of chicano laborers sometimes need to dig deep trenches in my garden all night for the greater good. We even poured sand on the slippery flagstone path up the hill (rain, rain, rain) so they won't break their necks. Maureen gave a poor bedraggled worker a cup of hot cider as she saw him shamble disconsolately down the hill after digging in the rain all night. "God bless you." he said. Today another crew begins digging up the street for a new water main, which means we will have to take a mile long winding and dangerous road, which will become a temporary main route, to get to town. But life is good. At least we have a home and hillside garden to complain about. It is only situational. I'm not being singled out. Thank God I'm not paranoid. I'd rather be the one inconvenienced than one of the pour buggers digging all night in the rain.

And all of this, of course, pales to utter non-entityhood beside the plight of the citizens of Innisfail, Australia which was leveled by a hurricane last night. Just as soon as I have what seems like a legitimate gripe. . .

Just a howdy so you'll know I haven't died. The writing factory is in full swing. I've never worked so relentlessly in my life. Am (gasp) doing a 4th touch-up rewrite of Doppelganger. Why? Because it's worth it. I let it cool for a month, printed half a dozen copies and collected feedback, and meanwhile wrote a dozen bizarre short stories to keep my writing hand hot. Yes, you'll get to see all of this in due time but publishing is a slow slog. None of the instant gratification of recording. Clocking in at 138,000 words so far, I guess you could say I'm at the "mixing" stage with frequent overdubs. With every rewrite it gets tighter and brighter. But the tighter it gets, the more the remaining rough patches are revealed. I love the process, it's natural to me. I get to indulge my penchant for perfectionism (unattainable). It's like juggling elephants. Back to work.

Just got back from the New Riders show at the Mystic in Petaluma. It sure took me back. Packed out house singing along lustily on songs they didn't know they loved so much and suddenly discovered they did. Friends crawled out of the woodwork for this one. Betty Cantor was there and Annette Flowers; Michelle, who is to the Riders what Sue Swanson is to the Dead, first fan and lifetime helper. Dan and Patty Healy both looking great. Ramblin' Jack Elliot spry, spare, ancient and smiling. Other faces half remembered but accounted for. An aura of Joy quickly established itself, similar to the first night of the Dead at Alpine on an intimate scale (a weird parallel I know, but there you go) - the resurrection feel, not repeatable on demand. The spirit bloweth where it listeth. Everyone realized pdq it was one of those nights destined to be remembered, what the music is all about, all it was ever about: love, magic and kick ass songs.

I spent the night on my feet way up front, soaking it all in. Finally went to the back of the house, dead on said feet, with Maureen and Kate to await the encore, which was, fittingly, the late Buck Owen's "Truck Drivin Man" a song no Riders show ever omitted to play. The band's manager spotted me seated in the rear of the Mystic, said the band wanted me to do the last number with them. I said I'd worn my voice out singing along with the crowd, which was true, not to mention not having been on stage since opening for the Dead & the ABB at the Gorge a century or two ago - but there was some part of "no" he didn't understand, as a good manager shouldn't, so without bothering to have my arm politely ripped out of the socket I went up and did it.

Long time since I've been on stage but I can always pull a Ripple out of the hat. How sweet it was to finally sing with the New Riders of the Purple Sage after nearly forty years. A deep emotional experience on the heels of one of the best NRPS shows I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of them. Old Nelson had tears in his eyes, Buddy sitting there like a great glowing Buddha of the pedal steel. Old home night in the 21st Century. The ghosts of Spencer Dryden, Dave Torbert, Skip Batten and Dale Franklin singing along on the chorus, JG present in the melody itself.

The missing Marmaduke seemed supernaturally imminent in the voices of Michael Falzarano of Hot Tuna, whose rhythm guitar is simple and absolutely superb, and of Ronnie Penque and Johnny Markowski of the DN band who acquitted themselves with honors. Each of the three is capable of believably copping the Dawson style without which it wouldn't be the Riders. So much so that it seemed like a chorus of Marmadukes on the harmony parts! I won't even get into what a storm Nelson picked on his Telecaster, and of course, Buddy is Buddy. Nuff said. If this sounds like a rave review, so be it. Go get 'em Riders!

Went out walking downtown, between storms a sunny noontide breather, but couldn't find my hat. Decided to buy one at a sport store on my walk, chose a 71/2 black Boston baseball cap with a black B. Twenty seven bucks for a baseball hat? I expect(ed) to be wearing it a long time. As I write this I see my lost cap out of the corner of my eye. So there I am walking along in my new hat, digging myself in store windows. Looks good. Come up to the corner and there sits a crazy old black man on a stone bench singing away, making up verses about what he sees. I make eye contact, not being a New Yorker, and he begins singing to me: "You don't wanta be like that / You don't wanta wear that hat / It's a stupid world, it's a stupid world / You don't wanta be like that". . . and the light changes to "Don't Walk." He keeps singing the same verses, louder, I can tell he's singing them right to the back of my head. The light changes and I cross over. For some reason I don't wanta wear the hat. I take it off. There's a silver dollar size sticker on the brim saying what size the hat is. I peel it off wondering if it had anything to do with the song. I don't think so.

Publishing is a waiting game. If you can't stand the heat, get in the refrigerator! A New York agency is excited about my book but wants me to keep re-writing it. At 143,000 words this is no slam dunk but each time it gets closer to heart's desire. Still awaiting judgment on the last rewrite. Between drafts I keep busy writing short stories. Got 28 of them so far. Don't want to get serious about another novel until the cycle on the current one is complete. Got a couple started but they didn't compel me to finish them. When I write a short story that doesn't want to end I figure I'll have the seed of the next book.

When I started writing Doppelganger I didn't even know why I was doing it other than obeying instinct; just kept writing at it every day to find out. Now I know why. I was awakening to the fact that my post-Dead life was in danger of becoming directionless. This is no longer so. As long as I'm using my gift to the utmost of my ability, whatever the form, I make my own direction. I can't rely on others to provide it for me. They're having the same problems themselves. Out of the turmoil and testing of this time, interestingly handicapped by aging, maybe something different and worthwhile will arise. If not, it won't be for lack of trying. The thing about resting on laurels is it sucks.

This is a delicate thing to write. I don't want to misrepresent anything. Let the fact that I don't know much of what you'd just assume I know speak its own truth. I don't know who "runs" DeadNet now. It's a mystery. I think it may be a web design company but that's only a guess. Whoever or whatever the decision structure is, I've been out of the loop for a long time.

Based on ignorance born of secrecy, it's my perception that DNC is in a holding pattern, DeadNet being stone broke (which is why the opening page hasn't been fixed - slow modems: try www.deadnetcentral.com) and awaiting transfer, or so I understand, to Rhino Records which, so I hear from the grapevine, may market our music, including subsequent Dick's Picks, if negotiations work out. I understand they're not a bad lot and want to administer it as righteously as they can. How righteous that might be remains to be seen. Quite a job of cat herding involved. Without an active Dead configuration to support an office or in-house record company, I understand the necessity for such a solution. Does this mean the Dead won't tour again? I don't know that that necessarily follows, but it makes it more possible not to do so without a fiscal penalty.

However that pans out, it's important to understand that the spirit of DNC is you. Regardless of who is running it I believe there will continue to be a forum, if not the shoot-em-up tavern brawl of our late lamented past. DNC was an experiment in internet democracy and we all got a chance to see what untrammeled democracy really is in such a context, first hand. Anarchy. The ascendency of the shrill and the exodus of the thoughtful. Present company excluded, of course. So be it. It is a bitter pill and I don't know if any lesson was demonstrated other than that people cannot be expected to shell out money to be abused. This perhaps proves it wasn't really a democracy after all. . . but I think it was, for quite a long time. It was often joyous madness, but it burned me out and I stepped back in an act of simple self preservation. Delegated, as they say, authority.

I've long resisted the knee-jerk impulse to disassociate with the diminished vision by withdrawing my name as titular "webmaster" because I think it would be an admission of defeat. Yes, there's contradiction there, but I'm glad I didn't. At this juncture of disintegration, dispersal and re-alignment, I reserve the option to hold fast and see what arises from the ruins. Things run their course and then change; the long view is often worth considering. I think the way things change depends a lot on how we decide to perceive them. Do we resist change from the get go and become self fulfilling negative prophecies? Or do we adopt a "show me" attitude, voicing our concerns on DNC as predictable problems actually arise, especially misconceptions of who "we" are. We have an arcane tradition accumulated over forty years which is somewhat different than pop-culture perceptions. We know who we are and don't need to be defined to ourselves in a patronizing manner. Fair warning to the new proprietors: light hand on the reins. One thing seems fairly certain, the new guys can hardly make a worse mess of it than the outgoing regime. In all fairness, they had a lot on their plates.

If you think this post is a cop out, you might be right, but continuing silence would be a bigger one. From my ex officio viewpoint as originator of this colorful catastrophe, I say what I'm saying because I'm the only one able and willing to do so. I've got no boss and no serious axe to grind. However I did conceive and build DNC back at the dawn of time, with the technical assistance of Tom Paddock, and care what her fate is. It's not just another website. This is the attitude I've chosen to adopt. Watch and wait. Reciprocate respect for respect.



Dear Sean,
I'll try to answer your concerns as best I can. Your moving letter is representative of what I fear a lot of people are thinking: what's with the breakdown of basic human decency in the Grateful Dead? Probably have to take that point by point. The archive.org fiasco, in my opinion, has to be laid at the feet of lawyers who went over the band's head and made a right mess of things; as they did with the Tiger guitar business, doing news interviews on their own and leaving the band members to clean up the sewage spill with their reputations.
It's quite a delicate beast, this fan/band symbiosis characterizing the Grateful Dead's famous contract with its public. The media loves to get its teeth in our presumptuous jugular. Compensatory spin, also known as self defense, is generally ineffective due to hedged language. You can just tell a lawyer looked it over first. Probably doing a bit of that here myself -- I do feel protective of the family concern, but there you go.

By the way, when I say Grateful Dead I'm not referring to the surviving members of that generational phenomenon expressed as music, but to the Mythos generated around it in which all who believe are able to partake according to their belief. I hate seeing the endemic cynicism of the times hamstring that lofty giant which everyone admits was bigger than any of us.

In the aftershock of the tragic death of Vince, an amiable man and a fine musician, the Grateful Dead is once more a target of public disdain, fueled by passion and indignation. Its ethics and humanity are being publicly questioned on a deeply troubling level. Sic transit gloria mundi. Do I know the score? To a degree. But I'm not concerned here with either justifying or condemning the attitudes which make a group of musicians, who must seal themselves together in that intimate time capsule called a tour, make the decisions they do concerning who they want to travel with and why. It's not necessarily democratic and it's not always pretty. They choose what they choose for reasons as much personal as professional.
Some people are angry at what they perceive as the band's throwing over of Jerry's chosen keyboard player. That's off base. We all chose him. I listened to the auditions and said "He's the one." Everybody was in agreement. As for saying anything further, stick your arm in the sink of gossip and it rises to suck you in. The attacks on the band members are heartfelt and, were they based on accurate assessment, could be accounted righteous. One must not entirely discount a touch of 'rising to the occasion' in the bias of the information shaping perceptions of purported evil doing in the wake of this sad event. But grief is like that, it brings out extremes. Who is entirely guiltless? Not me.

In your letter you say " I don't know how much of my resources I'm prepared to plow into this if half of what I read is true." Hey, me too. But what if what you read is only half true? What if events tally but the interpretation placed on them is wrong? What if events have justifying precedents and antecedents of which you are entirely unaware? Or, if aware, interpret by a code of valuation foreign to the situation of participants? Are you willing to throw over something you truly prize on the basis of hearsay? Listen - I know these people. They're bastards. Yet I find myself here trying to interject a little perspective into their public scorching because they're my bastards. They played the songs I helped write with love, taste and sublime dignity. You know what I'm saying because you heard it too. Otherwise you'd have no problem switching to brand X. You wouldn't ask me to give you a sign so you could continue to believe. I hope this scattershot letter will do, I thank you for your note because it touched me to write this, which I think should be written - if you'll excuse the public reply.

A shelf of books could be written and still only lightly perturb the surface of who the Grateful Dead were, are, and why. A book must have a point of view and I submit there is none extant sufficiently wide and informed to do more than tease curiosity. That possibility probably passed with Ramrod. Think of something approaching your own life's complexity of nuance and multiply it by the number of characters in our scene, past and present, and put the spotlight of the world on it - see what I mean? There is an official Grateful Dead story, chronological highlights which are largely, and rightly, Garcia oriented, but no possibility of a comprehensive estimation. It wasn't a story, it was life. There's a difference.
Judgments for and, more recently, against the Grateful Dead are made relative to a rarefied catalogue of sixties stereotypes. But there are names involved and when those names are sullied, the people bearing them feel distress. Those so offended can even be prodded to say stupid stuff in self justification. In a lose/lose situation wisdom dictates keeping one's own council. Hence the relative silence regarding most internal matters.
But people demand answers. Failing answers they go away. Please don't do that. Just don't expect golf balls from a walnut tree. All I can offer is perspective; a limited one at that. Answers are a different matter.
I may personally believe the only answer is to continue creating one's art while being careful not to live beyond one's means, physically or psychically. Sure. But that's not what people twant o know. What they want to know is: who's to blame? Not the music. If the music were to blame they wouldn't be asking the question in the first place. Play the recordings. I put as many clues there as I could. In a way, they are one long letter to the Grateful Dead. The tensions involved created art. I think that art lives. Go there for answers.

Best to you and thanks again for voicing your concerns.


Before I Wake - notes on turning 65

Ours was no chance alliance. Events conspired to make it what it was and not otherwise. The path by which it materialized is closed now, eroded by rain, flash flood, hurricane and revised memory. The path that is not closed is still in process and so cannot be defined. It will become its own definition. Who will walk it is a mystery, but it will be no chance alliance.

Hope cannot cut through the prevailing noise of this era, we must sustain what remains of that ephemerality from the ashes of the 60's, a generation whose dreams were dashed and did not recover. There is never success, there are only efforts.

Since the new path cannot be defined, it cannot be attacked, ridiculed, turned back on itself and scuttled by those who resent its glaring and unforgivable unusualness. The desire of adversaries will be to prove that, despite its unusualness, it is very usual indeed. The usual makes inevitable inroads into the unusual since its force is unrelenting. But first it must be defined.

The unusual emerges from unpredictable quarters, thrives awhile, makes mistakes, innocent and otherwise, similar to its predecessors, and suffers an eventual descent into usualness, thereby surrendering its uniqueness, more often than not pleading economic necessity. Which is not untrue.

Meanwhile, vagueness is the protection of the path to come. There's no bull's-eye on that target until it becomes solid enough to be decorated with one. Are there any identifying marks? "Adequate conceptions in whose possession true felicity consists," advises Spinoza.

What will cause its destruction? Notoriety. Defined into prominence, it will be consequently defined out of existence, surviving only in a much altered form if at all. But there is a thread of continuity between all such paths: an identifiable sense of hope.

Did I ever tell you the story of how there almost was no Jerry Garcia? We were in our late teens and Jerry had definitely decided to go pro but he was worried about his name. He is of Spanish-Irish-Swedish extraction and, contemplating a career in folk and old timey music, he felt that the name Garcia might be a hindrance to his acceptance in the form. He was seriously wondering if it might be a good idea to use his mother's maiden name, Clifford, with its Anglo Saxon roots. After all, he wasn't particularly interested in Spanish, Swedish or mariachi music. I could see his point but thought it might be difficult to adjust to calling him Clifford (everyone in the crowd being on a last name basis). I told him I'd had a difficult time changing my name from Burns to Hunter when my mother re-married. My friends refused to have any of it and it took years to get used to. I figured that self identity had a lot to do with it. He mulled it over for awhile before deciding, in agreement with Thoreau, that any job that requires a change of dress style is probably the wrong job - same with a name.

I also remember saying something like "The name Garcia will become what you make of it." There was never any doubt in the minds of his friends that Garcia was cut out to go somewhere. Nor in his mind either, truth be told. On the other hand, he might have given "Cliff Notes" a whole new layer of meaning.

There's something I've been noticing but hadn't put together until my walk this morning. People in the world don't get any older, other than those I know. The median age seems to be in the mid twenties. There just aren't that many codgers driving around or ambling about. Check it out. I guess my age group sits around home waiting for their social security checks and bewailing their bad knees. Maybe it's always been that way. I think it's great that the world stays young, considering the alternative: sidewalks blocked with oldsters on walkers. Most of them probably feel they've seen what there is to see and to hell with it. I try to avoid that attitude and on a good day I do.

Been reading a lot lately, as I generally do in Spring and Summer. Severe allergies dictate that the pollen rich half of the year is my study time. Kicked the season off by finally reading "War and Peace." Takes awhile to get into it but once it ignites it's hard to put down. Am halfway through Lisa Randall's "Warped Passages" at present. Parts of it are hard going, of necessity: a not-for-idiot's rundown on classical physics, relativity and the present state of quantum theory written in such a way as to provide background for grasping a tantalizing inkling of string theory and as much as can be said about multiple dimensions without resorting to equations. No New Age hocus pocus here, just the straight dope from a respected authority. Also working my way through all the Fantagraphic collections of "Krazy Kat." There is a heppy lend furfur a-wa-a-y.

Mickey asked me to do some minimalistic lyrics for the new edition of Rhythm Devils. No verse/chorus stuff - just strong repeater lines to add a vocal element to the mix. It's quite a challenge: finding just that right couple of lines that will bear repetition without sagging and deliver a cumulative message by sheer force of the music. Interesting enough to drag me out of lyric retirement for a look-see.

He's got an amazing lineup for the band (which I'll assume it's not my business to unveil, other than to say that WK is involved.) Mick and I are similar in that we generally have some project cooking which manages to slip by the attention of the music world at large. You could have knocked me over with a feather when the Lauderdale album, with the best reviews I've ever received, went belly up in the market place. There's no accounting. And, of course, there's the inexplicable fate of Mystery Box, which, I'll say again, made me lose faith that excellence alone is any guarantee of earning your production budget back. I do have faith that when the smoke clears, another generation down the line will discover both those recordings and wonder the same thing I do. What gives?

Faith? Well actually I kind of tacitly believe, without spending much time explaining it to myself or others, that as long as I'm doing what I feel talented for and am driven to do, and not acting too selfishly about it, I'm acting appropriately for what I am. Should I put that aside to spend time acquiring faith in something else? Somebody's religion? Somebody's politics? What if I later found out I was wasting the time I should have been spending doing what I feel I'm best cut out to do? I'm certain there's something bigger than my brain and my ego going on. I kind of take that for granted, how could it be otherwise? I'd love to believe I'm working in concert with whatever that is. I hope so. If that's faith, then I have it. If not, show me a sign.

Belief? Without resorting to a dictionary, which reports what a lexicographer believes, I define it as logical interpretation of what I've actually seen or that which, putting two and two together, dependably yields four. Faith, in contradistinction, is confidence in what I have not seen but dearly hope to be the case. It is more rugged than belief since not amenable to logical dissection or disproving, as in the case of Einstein's theory of which he said something like "all the experiments in the world cannot prove relativity right but one could prove it wrong."

Thought you might like a looksee at what I'm up to these days.besides going through the publishing bends with Doppelganger. I wrote a book of short stories to relax from long form.. It was so much fun I ended up with 37 of the damned things. No one except a few friends has seen any of them, so I'll include you in the club.


Me and my squad were the last ones off the boat and the first back on, ready to do it again. Sailing since April, here it is April again. Where do you know that takes a year to go? Try Australia to New Zealand by way of Antarctica, double back North, over the top and down the other side of the globe on an expedition to prove the Earth really is round, or approximately so.

Slow going around Baffin Bay and we thought we were goners when the ice shelf collapsed but being quick with buckets and ice picks all we needed was vermouth and gin to make a perfect martini. But it was a dry voyage, except in the sense that we sailed on water though sometimes it didn't seem so.

All kinds of measurements from satellite agree in broad detail with charts patched together from accounts of shorter voyages, but seeing is believing and I don't mean seeing the lay of the land from the air in a flying machine. Have you ever noticed that the oceans and the Great Lakes appear motionless from the air? You can see waves but they seem frozen. This is a verifiable fact as anyone flying over big bodies of water can attest. Why is nothing ever said of it? Because it goes to show that what is real up close is something else altogether from a distance. So by what right do we extrapolate the Earth is a ball on patchwork evidence? Maybe it's convincing to some, but others are not so easily taken in.

Might I just point out that in our journey we saw not a hint of curvature? The horizon, you say? Why does it just seem to drop off if there's no curvature? Why not, with equal justice, assume that the Earth is a Mobius strip?

Are we laughed at? Of course. Scorn is the first and last refuge of the benighted. Round-Earthers are the worst of the lot but Flat-Earthers are not much better. We Unknown-Earthers get it from both sides. Takes guts. Takes vision and determination. Takes a sense of humor.

One morning near the beginning of our voyage, during sunrise in Antarctica, my squad and I saw a very rare sight. We saw a pair of wings extending from horizon to horizon and probably beyond because you couldn't see the tips, only the vast pinions. And they were gently flapping. The Sun rose portside and we were flying directly toward it, veering slightly to the West as it rose higher. After awhile the sunlight got too bright to see the wings anymore, though they did not seem in the least ephemeral at dawn.

I am not going to come right out and say that Earth is a bird. But I'm going to suggest it strongly. Yes, we took pictures and, no, they did not come out. Taking 180 degree pictures at dawn is tricky business. We'd have needed to prepare in advance and how do you prepare for something like that? Story of science. I understand that repeatability is necessary to establish scientifically acceptable fact, and I appreciate this, but what if the truth is a one-off deal? Something that doesn't stir itself to show at your beck and call? It's my surmise that the angle and spectrum of visible sunlight, the temperature, and the subdued intensity of early morning chroma conspired to show something which is generally beyond seeing. Were the sighting not unique, it seems it would be mentioned somewhere in the literature of sea and sky.

Imagine yourself standing shoulder to shoulder with me and my squad, "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" playing over our boom-box, the great wings of Earth flapping in a cloudless sky heading directly toward the rising sun at the South Pole, glacial ice reflecting tender prismatic colors reflected in the chill blue of deep water at twenty degrees below zero. For a moment you would wonder, along with us, why anyone ever thought Earth was anything but a bird.

Propaganda, that's why. Even Mother Church, after defending the notion of flat Earth for six hundred years had to finally acknowledge Copernicus and Galileo or look silly. After the traumatic shift in ecclesiastic gravity signified by that great shift in conceptualization, they'll be dogmatizing Round-Earth for another six centuries. I'm sure Jesus doesn't give a damn one way or another. He's so high up I doubt He sees things in three dimensions anyway. It's as with the frozen motion of the waves seen from an airplane. Distance is not simply perspective, it's difference. That's my point and I think it's a solid one.

We saw no wings in the Northern polar waters, nor did we expect to. Hoped to, yes, because once you've seen such a thing the heart cries out for an encore. But seeing it once ever after changes how one views things. Even if you see the wings but a single time, you know they're there­­have always been there. Perhaps they fold at night for rest and coast on momentum and the winds of space. I have no opinion on the subject.

I can't say we circumnavigated (loaded word!) the whole planet because we ended our voyage in Fiji. We weren't looking for a world record, just the truth. It will be hard to get another voyage financed, but my squad and I would like to re-visit Antarctica, at the very least. We're one and all addicts of the wings and won't rest easy until we're back on a ship searching them out again. Once you've seen them, nothing in life seems worthwhile but the thought of seeing them again.

To this end we've established a line of T-Shirts and coffee mugs bearing our logo and the words "Earth is a Bird." So far they're not selling too well and we're thinking of changing the logo. Maybe it's a little too eagle-like; people might subconsciously equate it with some kind of political message. Believe me, this is way beyond politics.
I should mention we already have an off-shoot sect. Although they accept the factuality of what we saw, they tend to the notion that Earth is not a bird but a winged serpent. They say their view has substantiation in legend whereas ours is merely intuitive and interpretative. What we saw was wings which could have belonged to anything. Yes, well, in that case let me counter propose that Earth is an angel and muster the song "Earth Angel" to substantiate it. Or better yet, if we're going to get silly in the first place, suggest that angels are birds. Reductio ad absurdum.

8.09.06 . . .Eleven years?
Jerry was the complete package, wrapped with a ribbon and marked "Return to Sender." Our long time sorrow reminds me of the 50's cartoon where Dennis the Menace is sitting on top of a heap of unwrapped Christmas presents and boxes about twice as tall as he is saying: "Is that all? "

I finally decide to apply for social security. I heard it's dead easy. I go to the internet site. Says you can't do it with a Mac. Gives a phone number which relates that due to the volume of calls I've got to call back some other time. I go back to the site. It says I need:
My original birth certificate or other proof of birth;
My original citizenship or naturalization papers;
My U.S. military service paper(s) (e.g., DD214 - Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty);
My W-2 form(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year.

Discharge papers? Maybe knowing my name, rank and serial number, which I remember, will help­­that's all you need to surrender to the enemy according to the Geneva Convention. All bureaucracies seem like enemies to me. What the hell, since I have to mail my papers (no way) or bring them in anyway, I might as well fill in the forms while I'm there. For someone as lazy as me it took months of lost payments to get as far as the internet site. No doubt they'll save more money on me before I drag my dead ass to the office. I've got institutional paranoia like nobody's business. I'd rather go to a Backstreet Boys concert than the DMV. I justify it by deciding I'm helping the SS administration not go broke. Public service.

Woof! Computer burn. Wrote my cover letter, attached the pdf file of "The Red House," bcc'd the mailing list and hit the send button. Unlike last week, nothing gratifying and kinda mystical happened. Where did that magical moment of transmitting to scads of people go? "AOL is not responding," came the message. Indeed. I tried again. After another half-minute wait, same message. Well, let's hope AOL is malfunctioning and the problem doesn't lie with the size of the list which is considerably larger than last week... I sent a single message to myself and it popped up immediately. Bummer.

This, I realize after scanning the stunning lack of information on their website, means a phone call to AOL. I needed to know is there a size limitation on bulk emails. After a brief jolly announcement about the new AOL and one about the high volume of calls, recommending I seek online help, I got the computer. I humored the digital voice for awhile, answering its questions simply and clearly and got routed to someone who couldn't help but would route me to someone else who couldn't help, although they didn't put it quite that way. I just knew it in my shoes. They rerouted me to someone else who rerouted me to someone else who possibly could: a Swedish grandmother. Somewhere along the line I gathered there was, indeed, a size problem with the list, but they would put me on a white list. I am white, so that's all right. I would be with my people, bulk mailers who aren't spammers. In 72 hours. She took my mother's maiden name for security and said to go to keyword: "groups" ­­spelled that for me, wanted to know (as they all did) if there was any other way she could help me. I wasn't entirely sure I'd been helped but thanked the sweet old lady because I couldn't understand her too good anyway. At least she didn't mimic a computer voice like the second lady I talked to.

I went to keyword: "groups" and was provided with a place to type the email list. Hell with that, I went to the list and command copied it and inserted it in the file. Said I was done, it said no: you gotta put a comma after each one. This took quite a while, and I double checked to make sure I hadn't slipped and invalidated the whole process by hitting a period somewhere instead of a comma. Fine. On the plus side I realized I'd duplicated half a dozen names on the list and erased them. Then I clicked: "open new group"­­or something like that. Red letters appeared accusing me of having more than 50 addresses. Well, duh! They might have told me that in advance. I erased the damned thing, signed off, went back to my old setup and split the list in two. A to M, N to W. Noticed an email in the box and wondered if it was another subscription to add before I posted the story. No, it was a letter from AOL congratulating me on starting a new group.

With bated breath I formatted, took a deep breath and clicked "send" to spam the first half of the list. Success! Same with the second. Out went the Red House. There's always a work-around.

Having a great time polishing up the short stories before sending them out to gratifying response. After the first couple of releases, I started running them by bluegrass maestro Sandy Rothman, who also happens to be an ace professional line-editor able to detect a missing hypenation at fifty yards viewed backwards through a dental mirror. Sandy doesn't want any credit for the work, he just digs doing it, but dammit­­credit goes where due whether desired or not.

Hypenation is an arcane quasi-science constructed of tradition, usage, and occasional common sense. Same goes for English compound words. . .a great mystery even to most professional writers who rely on in-house line-editors (probably got at least one hyphen in this entry wrong by now­­overdoing is as bad as not doing enough!) to preserve their manuscripts from beady-eyed professorial contempt. I read fast, usually a couple of novels a week, and don't really notice the little -'s. But I'm beginning to do so. I got placed in bonehead English in high school; never did learn how to diagram a sentence­­not that I ever tried. BTW, I hate the way HTML won't give me a dash­­just two lousy hyphens. I used to be able to insert paraqraph indents (instead of double spacing between paragraphs) but modern browsers seem to prevent the trick I once used to do this. HTML was born illiterate and probably propagates it.

Modern browsers also lock me out of updating my Archive web page with my decade old Adobe Page Mill HTML writer. This impasse is fairly recent. There's probably a simple fix, but I'm out of touch with the kind of people who used to walk me through it. I bought a new webwriting (if that's not a word, it is now!) program but can't make heads or tails out of it. As you can see, I use no bells or whistles, which is what the new webwriting programs are all about. Damned if I could figure out how to copy, change and export an opening page with the $250 program I bought. "Simple & Intuitive" my left hind leg! After a couple of days of frustration, I erased it from my disk, which is too full anyway. I'm doggedly waiting for a duo-quad Mac portable and I wish they'd hurry up because this G4 is dying fast. Luckily I can update this journal by using a simple bypass method; where else could I kvetch to the world?

Watching the dawn beginning to filter through morning mist. Lay awake thinking rather clearly, picked up my notebook from the floor beside the bed and wrote it down:

Professionally, there is not much I want anymore other than the will and spark to continue writing, along with the perception of growth that seems to accrue from the act of creation. It's never about "grown." . .it's always about "grow."

Thoughts of "success," though not entirely gone, are far from commanding as much of my field of awareness as once upon a time. I'm willing to trade them without regret for the consciousness of serving my talents on a day by day basis, And served they must be under pain of losing them. I cannot conceive of a me who does not write. A me who does not perform is as may be. These things were settled, I think, in the beginning. I'm grateful for applause, but it does not move me as deeply as executing a well turned phrase.

Success, as popularly conceived, is nothing but frustration. I've had just enough to judge and not enough to be drowned. It tends, both in my own, and in my experience of the experience of others, toward bitterness and disillusionment. It's no small thing to comprehend that vaunting ambition distances the ability to love by setting the sites elsewhere.

I'm still startled by the loving acceptance my work receives from those it is intended for­­not the world at large, but those who've supported me for quite a long while. If I can't give them everything they would seem to want from me, I give what I can and feel blessed to be able to do so. It is my lifeline. I don't write for myself. I already know what I think. Hmm. . .is that true? Not entirely, but valid enough in the sense I intend.

Though I know myself to be skeptical, I hope I'm less than a Cynic. I do realize that my personal happiness appears to arise from the overcoming of obstacles, self-set and otherwise. Often, simply stepping aside is all that overcoming entails. I don't feel I have any particular right to lie in clover or rest on my laurels; though my strength to do many things wanes, it is replaced by a sharper focus on the work that remains. What still calls.

Not to wax self-congratulatory, I have, this morning, a feeling of "so far, so good" which is far from unsatisfactory. Such thoughts as these only bloom at dawn. I've been driven by demons in my time, and find I prefer this scaling-back of expectations. Let others bend backwards for further fame, success and wealth. I like being able to live with myself, and those I care for most, in a more steady flow of mild satisfaction with what the day does not grudge to offer. Triumph can get to be a bit of a bore.

And now it is day. Sunday as it happens.

9.10, 06
If you're like me you have so much proximity to death and misfortune in your own life you probably look at the news and say, yeah: things are rough all over. The plight of movie stars and the protection of their babies from photographers probably doesn't move you much. Injustice is assumed. Bad leadership? Has there ever been any other kind? It's the double A types. Only ones who seriously want power and will screw over anyone and anything to gain and keep it. What else is new? Misguiding news? I've never seen a newspaper report about anything I personally know about that was not more or less, generally more, off the beam. By extrapolation, I assume this is true of world events. Reason is: the real facts often don't make a very interesting story. Often, in fact, are not a story at all. Have you noticed that a great number of things you used to believe were good for you have been discovered not to be good for you at all? Then, after awhile, they are good for you again. In moderation. I think coffee was the last one. I'm writing this because I'm feeling kind of blue this evening and I'd like somebody to blame for it. But hell. . .maybe it's just me. You don't gotta have a right to sing the blues. You just have 'em or you don't a lot of times. So have a safe and sane September 11th and if it gets you feeling a little too damned down, remember: it's also Mickey Hart's birthday. Set aside a moment in your heart to wish him a good one. It may help.

9.12.06 at the river
Returning from a morning walk along the Cazadero road, I dragged my kayak out of the cellar and hauled it down to the river for the first time in two years. By the time I got it there, though the briars and brambles are mostly cleared, I was too pooped to paddle. So I tied it to a tree in the bushes and will go down later. Due to the weak knee I need to employ another form of aerobic exercise than walking. I used to kayak every day until my shoulder stopped me. The shoulder curse was due to too much guitar playing, paddling only exacerbated it. I used to practice for my tours with plenty o' pain, but performance itself didn't seem to bother it. Odd that. Same with hay-fever at an outdoor gig. It goes away when I'm performing­­have never sneezed onstage. Adrenalin?

Speaking of stage, spotlights confuse me. If I can't see the audience I get abstracted. I can even forget I'm performing until I hear applause. That's probably what clapping is really for: to get performers back in their heads. I've found I prefer staying in my head, within limits of course, onstage. Otherwise the experience is lost. Clapping is also time for tuning. The better I play the more time I get for tuning, due to more clapping, and the better the next song will sound. The self tuning guitar I used for awhile made tuning so easy I didn't have anything to do between songs but stand there like a thumb, or bow or drink water. Or check my fly. That is the worst, people won't tell you, or if they do you think they're requesting Free Bird in some kind of code. Spotlights make for sweat. That makes you play better but sweat-salt in the eyes makes hats or headbands practical. Hats look either country or hip-hop and headbands look like some sort of perpetual ecology message. Washing the face might help but who has time to think about things like that before going out to rock? I've found I don't really feel high heat, per-se, onstage, though cold is another matter.

Doing as I promised myself I would. Push, coax, and drag the boat into the river. Blackberry vines want to help. It takes ten minutes to find the right angle of approach from the treacherous sandy hillside to the beachless water. There's a likely looking driftwood log solid against the shore. Used to be a small beach here; at other times there've even been a couple of docks, one floating (it floated off) and one stationery, eventually ripped apart by the river's full flood fury. Been quite a few different beaches here, and often none at all. The floods change everything and there are a lot of them. Two canoes, a rowboat with a motor, and a couple of kayaks have also been claimed by the river before I found out how high it could rise.

Getting into the bobbling boat is, finally, an act of faith though I hedge the bet as many ways as I can. Can't hop, can't jump. It must be one fluid decision when the boat is fully afloat, as it is, only kissing the bank with the starboard side. Me ungainly, stiff and out of shape. There's always that moment of committing the body from being-on-shore to being-on-water which becomes more and more automatic as one learns to trust the old reflexes, which I don't dare do at this point. My reflexes are different than they once were; I have to compensate for the bum leg. One leg gets necessarily folded under in the act of getting in and it can't be the left. So here I am sitting on my big bulky running shoe. Leave it there until I check the stability of the boat in the current. Oboy, it's a strong one. Driven by the wind it wants to whip me off to Monte Rio and I'm not strong enough to deny it. All I meant to do was paddle around and absorb higher hydrogen from the late afternoon sunlight. Now I remember the river is often like this later in the day. Mornings are placid. I rock and roll to the other side paddling a big semi-circle which gets me back to my starting point. The current is much less aggressive at the shore. I grab the log and pull myself in. My left leg must lead, dammit. Well, as with my shoulder on stage, it doesn't give me any trouble.

That was a dangerous thing to do by myself, with no witnesses, as I realize later. Not even fun. But I figured out a more usable approach for tomorrow and boating is safety itself when the river is gentle enough to swim in. No I don't. Downstream from Santa Rosa. Maybe there'll be some beach exposed at low tide. The Russian River is tidal and can flow in either direction depending on wind. It empties into an estuary before meeting the sea.

I used to carry a tide table in my wallet and use it when I kayaked the bay, after getting stranded in mud at low tide in Tiburon. I was so strong in those days I paddled through the mud rather than waiting two hours for the tide to rise. Were my arms ever sore. Wouldn't be surprised if that was the day I compromised my shoulder.

Got in the kayak easier this time, late morning water agreeable to any direction of travel with only a slight upstream bias. Still no beach but more log. Had a brief paddle downstream, realizing how well I know this stretch of the river and its moods. Where the snags are. Maybe several floods have moved some of them, produced others, since I was last on the river. Didn't go far enough to tell much. Found a snug place to lodge the boat between the bank and the log. I can stand up getting in and out. Fell twice, once getting off the log to shore, oof!. . .again when I was trying to find a place to tie the boat-rope (there is no place) and I suddenly slipped helplessly backwards into two feet of murky slime water. Uninjured but self-embarrassed I had to laugh, realizing this and only this would make the morning memorable. I slogged back up the path, after figuring out a piss-poor way to secure the boat. I shouldn't neglect to mention that, once on the water, rudder down, paddling was, as usual, much like flying.

What made me think I could put my wet shoes in the dryer? Three revolutions showed me this was a bad idea. Muddied up the dryer good too.

Didn't realize DNC was down. I thought it was my 56k phone modem out here in the woods.

Kind of want to go for a paddle, kind of don't. Instead I take a coil of rope down to the riverbank. Sandals with bald tread (shoes still wet from yesterday) are too slippery for an overweight man on dirt powdered to dust at a 60º decline which rapidly becomes 180º if I slip. Tied the 35' rope to the last tree before the steep patch (ouch! gotta trim those blackberry vines back) and lowered myself like a mountaineer to discover, gladly and unexpectedly, that the rope reaches all the way to the boat. I tried to pound some handhold stakes in the mucky ground near the log but they pull out as easily as they go in. Nothing but a small claw hammer to pound with. I used to have tools of all kinds but they've walked as tools do when used by many hands. Not theft, it's just what tools do in the 4th dimension. You'll find them all in the 5th dimension, along with your socks, roachclips and bic lighters. No ballpoint pen cap is ever truly lost.

Been thinking about the 5th dimension a lot lately: yonder where the sheer horrified amazement of the instant of realization exists in stationary permanence, before probabability lines start collapsing and reality is re-assessed, and found terrifying, here in the 4th dimension. 9/11. Could someone go back and undo it? If it were possible, we have to assume someone already has. . .many, many times. This may be a particular version of the 4th dimension where that doesn't happen.

Time is where everybody dies but me. Or you, in your case. It's not bad design, it's necessity. Without uniform entropy there's no fourth dimension in the first place. . .and therefore no 5th. There's no answer to "when will I die?" because there's no when for either of us at the cease-time juncture where we appear, to others, to have died. That thought is hard to hold, perhaps should not be held; it offers more hope than we really need to be active participants in society. We take it on faith that our activity, such as it is, is useful, and odds are we are not mistaken. Bees make honey, people make abstract purpose. Only one is good on toast, though.

What can be said of the 5th dimension that is not mistaken, since speech seems evolved for strictly 4th dimensional purposes? Poetry notwithstanding. It might be fruitful to assume that the nature of the 5th can be characterized as being in opposition to the physics, psychology and perception we employ in our own duration saturated continuum, which is to say the place where something written, such as this, might be read. "Next-door" relative motion is kaput. Light has no speed. Gravity is plausibly a force acting across all dimensions, but in a dimension without motion is entropy possible? I'm not saying it isn't. Entropy is a waste-product of the utilization of energy: the steam, the sweat, the boiling away. Hot stuff. It slows down when cooled. Why refrigerators work; yours, not mine. . .mine's busted. Better go get some ice.

Okay, I got ice. To continue: something does" happen" in the 5th. Probability collapse performs some sort of gyre. Quantum mechanics operate there or the 5th dimension could not exist in this universe or any other. Size may be irrelevant. What is smaller than a grain of sand and bigger than a mountain? That's a 4D riddle without application in the 5th. Could we go and live there? Maybe can and do in deep dreams where no energy is used in the dreaming, not even to remember it, just instantaneous exchanges of information which may be needed for purposes beyond reckoning. Supposition. Atoms know what to do: spin both ways at once. Be all over the place at the same time. As for electrons, they can change their minds about what they are and I don't blame them.

There are several normative reactions to writing such as the above couple of paragraph:[(A): You don't understand enough to be saying what you're saying about this. Leave it to experts. (B): I don't understand what you're saying. (C). . . and I'm not sure you do either.] I was just out taking a walk along the main road through the woods, and had a few moments of large clarity; stopped thinking and saw. I didn't break the spell by congratulating myself, just looked at trees or whatever presented itself to the eye, with a heightened sense of dimensionality. Once I started thinking again, I thought: such a state of mind, somewhat more protracted, would probably be a necessary precursor to observing whatever traces may be present of a 5th dimension. Not easy to maintain with occasional cars whizzing past, but I feel sure it was an answer to my question: How? Not a breakthrough after a lot of mental strain, just an easy and obvious answer. If you're hepped up to look for the 5th dimension, you gotta clear the mental decks and look, without prejudice, at something other than the usual. From the corner of the eye, so to speak. Can't assume you'll recognize it if you see it, but in my case I found a nine foot length of bent pipe (Like an A without a crossbar, flattened at the apex) which I carried back to the cabin. I have a feeling it'll make a perfect grab rail down at the bank of the river if I can find a way to attach it. The river actually is time. It's not a metaphor. Yes, of course it's many other things besides, but a 5th dimensional guard rail might do the trick and keep me from falling in again. No one will ever notice I didn't, but I'll know. I'll go see what's up with it.

Appears to be no use at all yet, but I'll find a way to make it irreplaceable if I bend my mind to it. It's hollow enough to string a rope through (rope through a string?) which could be a clue. Used the blunt end of a hatchet to bang a 6 foot metal fence stake into the edge of the water for a handhold. That and the rope helped me out of the boat with relative stability, after a short paddle, and back up the log on my knees. There's a place to fall if I stumble but it's blackberry brambles and stinging nettle. Somebody's walked with the shears, dammit. A hatchet doesn't work too well on brambles, but I did what I could. When I figure out what to do with the bent pipe I won't be forced to my knees no more! Returning, I put another 25 strokes of the ripsaw into a fallen tree trunk which blocks the path. Been doing that each time I go down. Make it easier when I have to drag the boat back to the cellar. Gonna get in shape if it kills me. Okay, okay, I wore a life jacket this time.

Just back from town with Teva river booties and a $70 kayak hatch cover. Hope it fits. No rain, but critters crawl in. Tiny spiders that bite on the webbing between the thumb and index finger and make me hope I haven't touched poison oak, which isn't showing its virulent red yet. Got it over every square inch of my body once, picking up a wet dog. I learned to avoid both in one fell swoop. Thought I was immune to it. Never got it again. Have noticed nettles don't sting like they used to. Diminished tactile response. Generally a good thing unless you live in the jungle and need to know when you've been hit with a tiny curare blow-dart. Strike that. There's no antidote anyway.

Today, nothing calls me to the river. A day to laze around reading and writing. Shoes still wet so I'm moving them around the yard to catch errant patches of sunlight through the redwoods. These giant trees keep things cooler in the Summer but tend to breed dankness in the Fall and Winter. They make for aloof and solemn neighbors, rising above frivolity to block out the sunshine. You can't just go cutting them down to make a bigger patch of sky available. They're protected by law and they damn well know it. They wrote that law­­engraved it in the minds if not the DNA of indigenous people. "No Hurt Sequoia. Heap bad medicine." There are legends to explain why it would be bad to harm Sequoia, but none of them are true. It's because Sequoia wanted it that way. Because Sequoia said so. Even termites keep their distance.

Thought I'd go down and pound another stake in the river, try out my shoes, put on the hatch cover. Cut some bramble (found some rusty shears). Wouldn't want to die of a thorn scratch like Robert Schumann. Not a blackberry thorn, anyway. He chose a rose­­or did the rose choose him? Did I choose to go paddling or did the river choose me? Finding myself astride the kayak in order to put the cover on, I could find no commanding reason not to take a spin and so I did. The cover fit snugly. The shoes make everything %200 easier.

Pounding stakes into river mud might seem an exercise in futility, but dig. . .I'm only expecting them to last for a week or so, by which time I'll be over my temerity concerning balance and be dancing back and forth across the log. Hosed off my river shoes thinking they were waterproof. They were muddy but dry. Now they're clean and wet. Maybe I should put all four shoes in the dryer and go for a walk?

A comical motor powered boat passed as I was climbing out of the kayak. It looked like a cross between The Surrey w/ the Fringe on Top, and The African Queen. Two persons sat sedately on dining room-style chairs. I waved. They waved. Other than that, I've seen no boat traffic on the river in four days. Got it all to myself. Tomorrow is Saturday and there'll likely be boaters. I like that too, if it feels festive. Everybody having a great time on my river. It is definitely still the 20th century on the river. Not one iota of anything that isn't. It's somewhere between 1947 and 1996. This area used to be an elegant and expensive Victorian getaway with its own short-gauge railroad running from the Golden Gate (pre-bridge) to here. Traces, but traces only, remain. Very marginal area economically. Constant floods keep real estate depressed. Sonoma wine country. You'd think the local juice would be cheap, like vino tinto in Spain, but mostly no. More brands to choose from, of course. So what am I drinking? Spanish Port. Can't ever seem to get with the program.

Managed to stay away from the boat today, courtesy of Mickey Hart who just loaded me up with five new Rhythm Devils arrangements to write words for. Hot tracks. Better yet, something to do with the coming days other than pounding stakes into the river and writing long journals about it. The first one I listen to almost sings itself­­it appears to be about. . .The Fifth Dimension! Strange how that works. . .

At the rate of about thirty or forty strokes per day, while going and returning from the river, I finally sawed through the log constricting the path for boat hauling. A pulley might be better for dragging it up the bank, but the fact is the boat's pretty well hidden in the snags and I prefer to leave it there until it's time to go. Knowing how intrinsically lazy I am, in the physical sense, this is probably the deciding factor of whether I decide to put-in at all, a good deal of the time. So far I think I've only missed one day: the day I came, when I pooped myself out just dragging the boat down the path.

As far as safe goes, it's safer to not go on the water at all. Today was safe as safe can be, though, water so low I got caught on the upstream gravel beds. They're worse than they used to be and one must zigzag from one shore to the other to avoid them. Planned to go out for half an hour but threading the maze extended the trip. Got right in the boat and back out again with minimal clumsiness though, so my banging about with stakes and ropes worked. The centerpiece of the whole putting-in spot is the bent piece of pipe I found in the 5th dimension the other day. It snugs the boat between the log and the shore, as though it were made for that specific purpose, and provides a handhold for getting in and out of the boat. It also provides a good bannister to help me walk along the log to the handholds I placed to get me to shore.

Though now but a gentleman paddler, I was once a daring kayaker. I used to paddle out past San Quentin, where the guards in their posts would watch me with binoculars to make sure I wasn't going to spring anybody, and out into Richardson Bay where the water is deep and often powerful. One of my favorite tricks was to go to the Larkspur Landing Ferry Terminal and wait for boats picking up speed to head for San Francisco. I'd sprint out into the great wakes of the Ferries, while passengers waved, provoking a great adrenaline rush and getting good and wet. Life jacket? I didn't own one. Just thought I'd make a note of that in case I've given the impression here that I'm a complete novice and a perfect wuss. Just a mite decrepit. That said, I've always had proper respect for the sudden changes a temperamental tidal river can throw at you. Like rock & roll, cross currents out of the blue.

Summer over, first day of Fall. Went out and busted 'em a bit today. Week of muscle conditioning and a day off yesterday, here's me bent down to cut headwind resistance, equal amount of push-pull on each oar stroke, lower hand the fulcrum, hauling ass over the choppy little waves, using the current's force against it. Racing form. Knowing enough not to use a quick reversing stroke in that particular kind of current, having dumped myself once many years ago­­only to avoid a sudden snag or rock is a quick reverse called for in powerful current, and then only if you can't avoid collision with a push of the paddle on the obstacle. Felt like doing more when I got back to Dock V, but put in instead. No call for sore muscles tomorrow. Brewed some mandarin orange tea and am settling down to work on the Rhythm Devils songs, asking myself the old question: what would be worth saying? Universal is fine but if the answer can be personal, so much the better.

Coming back downstream I spied a fluorescent green object which proved to be a flexible polymer tube three feet long, two inches in diameter, with a half inch diameter hole through the center. Nifty. A fine example of late 20th century fabrication. I snagged it and immediately discovered it made a good brace for my leg which bothers me if I leave it extended, nor can I sit cross legged or kneel. It's flat on my ass, with the leg drawn up and pressed against the edge of the cockpit, which is a bit sharp. The tube allows me to draw both legs up and braces them snugly. Small increments of balance multiply in a light craft on water.

Continuing on my way, I spotted a big piece of floating white stuff near my put-in place. I can hardly call it a dock. It was a rugged old piece of dense foam which measured 3' x 5' and almost 2' thick. Some sailor spiders lived on it. I roped it and towed it over to the put-in place. Got out and pulled one of the highway marker stakes out of the muck and pinned the foam in place with it (there was a convenient hole for the purpose). Then I tied the stake to a rope and secured that to a log. I have no idea what it's for yet, but it looks like it can be the beginning of a temporary dock once I find a few more pieces, lying by the highway or floating down the river, that seem to attach. Find it first then discover its purpose. Make order out of the shards of entropy that get left lying around.

Read in the news that scientists have reversed macular degeneration in rats with stem cell injections. Three blind mice will soon be a thing of the past. Macular degeneration is what happens to eyes as they get older, making for conditions such as dropping something small and not even to bother looking for it. It's just a blur down there. I've long been reading with pattern recognition. If I stop to look at a particular letter I sometimes can't quite bring it into focus, even with powerful readers. I have to be careful typing periods and commas, can't really differentiate them without a lot of squinting in 12 pt. type. I've stopped driving once twilight sets in. Not enough definition to be safe, much less at night. Wonder how many of us will go blind while they hassle over allowing stem cell research to proceed as it should? Small price to pay, for some, to get another jackass elected to Congress and assure the reign of the religious right. Or just maybe this is the item that will interest enough people, religious differences aside (most everybody over 50 anyway) they might have to back off. Meanwhile, my eyes are kind to my contemporaries; I don't see wrinkles. I'm sure I look ten years younger in the mirror, to myself, than I do to others. I quit riding my motorcycle when I couldn't accurately distinguish gravel patches on the road. Maybe I saved my life? Who knows.

Up at damn 5. That's what comes of going to bed early, reading myself to sleep with Heinz Pagels' Perfect Symmetry and The Chicago Manual of Style. The mysteries of the cosmos and the mysteries of hyphenation. Explosive and contractive. I'm sure I had dreams but no memory of them. The night before I dreamed like a house afire, got up before dawn and wrote it down in detail, had a cup of coffee and went back to bed. I don't like getting up before dawn so usually stay up late.

Maureen and Kate came up to see me yesterday. I'm here on retreat, hiatus, sabbatical, whatever, with their blessing as I fight like a dog to get back into shape. Exercise, diet and self-examination. Kate said I look four years younger than I did two weeks ago. We each planted a willow tree. Hard saying goodbye and returning to my solitude.

While I was waiting for them to arrive, I decided to look over one of the new Rhythm Devils tunes I've been having trouble with. I had an interesting, albeit negative, set of lyrics. I suddenly said to myself "Stop tinkering with it. It's not worth saying. Trash it and start over." I've Had it With You became For This One Hour and flowed effortlessly onto the page. I've always found that lyrics that give me trouble do so because the originating idea is wrong. Effortlessness is the best possible indicator of a fortunate approach; a lesson I learn over and over, each time like a new revelation. It's hard to get easy.

. . .continued from yesterday
I guess it was a sea lion. Head like a basketball popped out of the water to check me out. Critters from the ocean, usually seals, swim upstream in the night at high tide and get trapped by the shallows when the tide is low. Lots of egrets, cormorants, and geese in evidence. Haven't seen any pelicans yet but they're around here in season. Thought I saw a stork. I went forty-five minutes downstream, lured on by placid water reflecting the trees at the bank with scarcely a ripple. Coming back upstream took an hour and really challenged my muscles for the first time in many years. A long stretch was all gravel shallows, I could see ducks standing rather than swimming, knew the swift downstream passage adjacent to the bank would give me trouble on the return trip. Indeed it did. Not beginner's water. Shipped a few quarts of it. A great time.

Only passed one other craft, just as I reached my put-in spot; some doofus sitting atop a kind of toy kayak looking like a perfect idiot. Bet he didn't get far before turning back. Little did he know the dangers that lay ahead.

. . .today
Despite feeling like Hercules yesterday, adrenals well flushed, I did something unaccountably wise today. I stayed away from the river. By rights my shoulders should ache from the severe tasking of yesterday's battle against the current. I kept getting swept downstream and having to redouble my up-streaming efforts. . .not only to reverse massive counter-momentum but to outpace the river and forge ahead. I'd say there was a good five to eight minutes of this, not counting a minute I clung to a drain pipe sideways, resting and figuring, wedged against the pipe and the shore (which is where I shipped water). I said to myself "this is serious. Think." The deep and rapid water are adjacent to the shore­­it's the edge of an underwater hill and only about three yards wide. The rest of the fifty yard neck of the river is only a few inches deep; duck posing water, no floatage (yes, I could surrender to the stream and cross to the shallows easily; get out and wade, pulling my boat to deeper non-rapid water­­but that's not the game). Time became so involved with space and momentum that only my watch knows how long it took and I wasn't checking it. The concentrated force of the Russian River was running through a creek-size space at this point, and I was opposing it.

As I struggled out of the excitement into suddenly easy water, I started thinking about two senses I'd been employing. One is the sensual apprehension of what a river is and is likely to do, which is a physico-mental merging, an attunement. It's a kinetic sense similar to the feel of biking, Cessna flying, scuba diving, and tricky driving. Or of being on stage playing music. Parachuting and bungee jumping would have their equivalents. I believe hunting partakes of it. Each has a discrete place in the sensorium unique to itself but all share the thrill factor.

The other, more peculiar, sense I experienced was a sensorial unity with the rudder of the kayak. This is the first kayak I've had with a raiseable metal rudder. I haven't been quite sure what it's exactly for; tend to just leave it down for whatever minimal directional stability it might render. But lately, as I explore more distant parts of the river, I've noticed it does a little tap dance which is a better warning than my eyes can sometimes give of approaching shallows. I noticed that when it starts tapping, I instinctively seek out areas where there's an inch or two of depth difference. It's partly auditory and partly kinetic; beginning to replace purely visual judgment. I lean forward to redistribute weight and can tell by a lightening tap if the move succeeded. When the rudder strops tapping and starts scraping, I reverse-paddle quickly because the next few feet could ground me. In the game I play with the river, the river gets a point if I have to get out and pull the boat.

On the basis of yesterday's effort, I've decided to let my shoulders (and hands) regroup today and come out paddling tomorrow. I'm satisfied I have strength in reserve I didn't know I had, along with practical knowledge of how to get the most out of a double oar, pushing with the upper hand while pulling with the lower, rather than the placid water style of pulling with little push action. I've practiced the circular stroke out on the bay where there's seldom something like a hidden snag or a boulder to plow into. Once I get my breathing and rhythm coordinated it feels like flying through very thick air­­a mighty joy. The left/right stroke is for cruising, resting each arm between strokes: going forever mode. The circular stroke is for speed and imposing one's will on the river. There are innumerable spontaneous feathering strokes to adjust to meandering currents, but only two master strokes, it seems to me. Sometimes the river goes both directions at once, one side North, one side South, along the edges, meandering sideways in the middle, sometimes forcefully. I know people like that.

Gray this morning. Or is that grey? Is there a difference? Cold and no sun. River. . .should I go or wait for some sun? It's only 9:38 so there's lots of time to decide. Ah, nuts. . .I'll just go down and see how the river is.

The river was. That's the best that could be said but I launched rather than walk back up the path. Clever psychological diversion I pulled on myself. From a distance the redwood forests looked like pine trees covering hills which could pass for mountains by an adjustment of perspective. Gray flattens dimensionality. Gave me the distinct feeling I was kayaking in the Pacific Northwest. Trapped by shallows from going very far up- or downstream this morning, I used my imagination. BTW, I should probably define the banks as running east/west rather than north/south since the river runs to the ocean, but in such a winding way it's hard to tell. I should get a compass. I like to know stuff like that. Further correction: I measured the flotsam foam today and found it to be 8'x2' and 1' thick. It turns out to be handy for tossing things out of the boat, like oars, lifejacket, and wet filthy towels. I keep my rusty shears afloat on it and take a whack at the brambles once in awhile. Decided my put-in place is a cove. It's 11:39 now and here comes the sun. Drat.

11:12 and still waiting for the sun. Not going to be gypped again. Revised and sent off another lyric to Mickey instead. I'm not posting them online because they're still work-in-progress and subject to change. I've always preferred that people become familiar with the music before reading my lyrics because I consider them a unit. Many will disagree, but I don't consider lyrics to be poetry. If they happen to overlap that category, fine, but their intent is to serve the music.

Angry with the world today. That high-school murder in Colorado, an hour's drive from Columbine. It feels like leakage from the national insanity. Maybe I'll just go down to the river anyway, sun or no. I need it like a mangy dog needs its flea collar.

1:01 p.m. and you already know what the next line is going to be: the sun came out just as I put in. Good solid water, neither quick nor measly. Good glimmer. Brisk not-in-my-face type of wind. I thought I saw big fish leaping, turned out to be seals cavorting. One followed me for awhile, then swam alongside another while, then led. They're curious and companionable. Big brown eyes full of intelligence. Turning back upstream, I barely scooted over an invisible submerged boulder which scraped at my center of balance and tried to tip me. Adrenalin moment. Fortunately I was not going fast. Paused in the area and memorized all the features. An unsubmerged boulder nearby is the best reference point. One point for the river for surprising me; one point for me for making sure it won't happen again at that particular spot.

Second day of rain. Was caught on the river by a light drizzle yesterday, which turned into real rain just as I got back to my cove. The steep slope to the shore should be good and muddy today so, unless the sun comes out, I'll take a day off. I could use it and no sense in slopping the boat up with grook. My great purple paisley cushion fell unnoticed into the water where it soaked overnight. I put it in the dryer but all the kapok came out. I re-stuffed it into the ripped cover and wrapped it in a T-shirt. Got plenty of needles but no thread.

Kapok kapok in my hair
Kapok kapok everywhere

I coulda sworn I got all the kapok outta the dryer before I put my clothes in. . . .

later: Sun came out but I've already had a hike and that'll do for today. Been working my shoulders and lower back hard, and they appreciate recuperation time. So far, so good. None of that old arthritic pain, just healthy soreness. Knee seems to be improving too, due to rhythmic bracing against alternate footrests while paddling. Different muscles are being exercised than in walking.

End of the predicted two day rain. Nothing but sunshine ahead; no need to get greedy for river-time. Should be a nice Indian Summer. No better time of year. Driving to the store I saw, with a twinge of envy, quite a few canoes and kayaks on the glass-smooth river glorying in the autumnal light. More boats than I've seen in three weeks. Must be that the river is higher than usual, allowing passage over the river-wide gravel-bar which deters most boaters. I often ask myself if there's anything I want to see badly enough upriver to get my feet wet and usually decide there's not.

Pleased to report that I'm starting to add a little guitar to my daily regime. Been awhile.

Milky sky this morning, opaque. Lots of good reasons not to go down to the river. It's cold. I don't feel like it. It might be muddy. I tripped on the stairs--just enough to know I'm not so coordinated this morning. Maybe I'm getting a cold. Maybe everybody telling me to be careful is making me paranoid. Maybe I'm too old for this. Knee doesn't feel all that great either. . . . Next thing I know I'm putting on my watch and wristband, slipping on my Tevos and shutting that damned negative radio program in my head off. Click!

The river is a couple of feet higher today. Don't know if it's due to the rain, or because I'm putting out an hour later than usual, or both. I decide to head east since the gravel shallows will be passable. First thing I see is Bighead, who is either a large bull seal or a sea lion. A little while later I see what I'm almost sure is a stork. White and slender with a five inch yellow pointy beak, long angley neck, no ruff on its head. Now that I've got a compass, I need a bird book. Maybe it's a kingfisher. It went in the water and got a fish. I saw it go down the neck. Next I saw three otter (otters?) messing around on somebody's deck. They looked like they were up to no good and eyed me suspiciously before heading up the hill.

I paddled energetically for an hour and nothing would do but that the consarned sun broke through for the last two minutes of my ride. I don't feel bad about that, though, because it quickly disappeared again.

Latest I've gone out, 1:15pm. The river is more active in the afternoon and it gave me the good workout I've been building up to. The river was rolling, rather than streaming, powerful but not contrary, easy to read. I paddled fifteen minutes upriver, past the dock where the otters were scavenging yesterday. A couple stood there arguing. Turning back, I paddled half an hour downstream. Saw a pelican. The water was dazzling, fields of incandescent diamonds; quite transporting. I could have gone on forever at that extended moment, but it was time to turn around and let the brisk wind, now at my back, sail me home. I cruised on past my cove then circled back and used up the rest of my allotment of strength attacking the rolling wavelets fiercely. Best day yet, and I felt like I'd earned every stroke of it. Before going in the house I turned and said to the afternoon "I was with you today!"

Later in the afternoon, after three, the water often gets a little too energetic for this old boy. The most important thing to remember, always, even when headed for snags or rocks, is not to transform forward inertia into brake-and-turn inertia too quickly in active water. Best way to learn that is take a good spill, as I did ten years ago. Jimmy Cliff stopped singing from my cassette machine immediately, right on the beat. Reggae is the perfect music for paddling..

Typically handsome weather provided a lot of company on the Sunday river. The higher water levels made the barriers passable. First floating agenda I passed was half a dozen Samoan men arguing on a rubber raft. They had fishing poles. I know where the fishing holes are, but they were all well out of range of this contentious raft. Too much counter current. I didn't see them on my return trip so I presume they swamped or got back upriver to their cars. I didn't make it as far as the fishing holes myself on this circuit. Next I saw three canoes parked abreast in the water, the contents of which were having a party, passing food and drink back and forth. When I reached my half-hour turnaround point, I entered the orbit of another kayaker, so I did a slow circle to let him get way ahead and subsequently slipped into the gravitational field of two talking ladies in canoes. They talked all the way back to my put-in spot. I didn't let it faze me; the river is for all. Today, Monday, is a day off. Feel good, not sore, but a fourth day of all-out exercise would be physiologically incautious. Stocked up at the health food store and varied my usual dinner of a baked yam with steamed rainbow chard. Got some protein powder and flax seed oil to add to it. Used too much oil and got queasy. Read the label. Oh, a tablesdpoon. . . . Did I mention my refrigerator has been busted since I got here and I'm storing my food in small foam ice-chests? Yeah, I could get it fixed but I'm enjoying the challenge. What to do today? Got one more Rhythm Devils tune to finish and the guitar beckons. . .

Got that RD tune set, but there's something missing. A familiar nagging feeling tells me I'm going to throw away a considerable amount of work because the three syllable repeater line it's based on may not be the right three syllables. Thought about it while on the river but no dice. Workaday water today. No strong central character to the flow, just a lot of disconnected conversations prompted by the wind. Couple of bankside chainsaws for music. The sunlight was bright enough but had lost that magical tinge that characterized last week's sky. Wore myself out good and proper, as usual. Climbing back up the hill isn't making me puff and pant and nearly black out like it was three weeks ago. Progress! Good day on the guitar yesterday. Realized I've been playing for fifty years now. Bought that Stella for twelve bucks when I was fifteen. What a lousy guitar! First song: I Gave My Love a Cherry. . .that had no stone.

Letting a pear get soft in a bowl in the kitchen. No longer edible, it gives the room a nice odor. This marks my passage through time. I don't know why I never ate that pear. It's not that I don't like pears, but I've often bought them and failed to eat them. And it is a failure.

Yesterday I noticed a moth in the river beating furiously. It seemed like a good exercise in precision kayaking to rescue it from fairly turbid water. Calculus is involved. Curves and momentum and trajectory. The brain knows how to do it naturally. Couldn't catch the moth on the paddle; it just washed off. Re-angled and tried again. Same. Then it got caught in my boat's interference pattern and dragged alongside but I couldn't keep it in sight to get it with my hand. I paddled away until I saw the moth struggling again fifteen feet away from the boat. Went in slower and caught it on a piece of foam. It had stopped struggling. Put it on the front of the kayak and paddled on. After awhile it showed signs of basking in the sun. After another five minutes it took off, doing a little dip right above my head. "You're welcome," I said. I don't make a practice of this. It was just a challenge that presented itself.

Today's water was contradictory going downstream. A nice stiff wind made waves which I aimed right into, bellows-breathing for power. Saw another kayak taking a free ride back upstream. That would be me in another half hour. No need to spare my muscles for the return trip where I just basked like a moth in the sunshine of these increasingly cool days, letting the wind blow all typical thoughts right out of my head. I know this hiatus must come to an end soon, so I'm sucking it dry. I want to be on the water when I'm on the water, not off in my head; that's not only bad boatsmanship, it's bad lifesmanship in general.

Finally got that last tune off to Mickey. I found the three syllables that tied it together and didn't have to scrap the work I'd done; just point it up a little. "Comes the Dawn."

It's 6:30 am. Been up awhile. Delighted to find that Mick just sent me another track, at my request. I didn't like being finished with the project yet. Taking forever to download 19.7 megabytes on my 56k modem, so I'm listening to the cut from yesterday's RD rehearsal tape in snatches as it creeps over the wire. I don't have cable up here and, frankly, hesitate to get it. Keeps me out of touch with the culture; an ongoing project. 78 percent downloaded after half an hour. Strange mystic track. Powerful. Dragon-like. Time of the Dragon.

Took a day off from the river and devoted yesterday to "Time of the Dragon." Finished at 10:30 pm and went to bed brain-dead and satisfied. Reviewed it this morning and it still felt good, so I brushed up a few lines and fired it off to Hart. I think it'll work.

Nobody out on the Saturday river at noon except me. Cool and breezy, intermittent sun. Took it easy. Been wearing myself out a lot, which is good, but not always. The usual griebs and egrets seem to have moved on, being replaced by more massive birds; geese, herons and cranes I expect. Haven't seen Bighead for a couple of days. He was a regular for awhile.

Went into town for ice and lightbulbs and tapioca. Thought I'd stop at the ATM and was headed that way when I passed a big, grim looking guy who said in a commanding tone: "Why don't you smile?" Busted! I called "Thank you!" to him, but he didn't bother to turn around. Policing frowners is a dirty job but someone has to do it. What he said made me laugh, so smiling was easy. I went in the store beaming and the lady in the store beamed right back. As I did the rest of my shopping I continued grinning and everybody lit up and gave it right back to me! Thing is, I'd been in a perfectly good mood before, my face just wasn't reflecting it. How was I to know? Maybe people should wear big buttons that say: smile, asshole! to remind us.

Waiting for the refrigerator repairman. I've been dining out of ice-chests for the last six weeks. It was blowing warm air when I got here. This trip to the river was more about getting in shape than about creativity. Haven't done much writing, other than the half dozen tunes for the Rhythm Devils and these journal entries. Put steady time in at guitar to build my fingers back up. My practice is shorter and more concentrated than it used to be in order to avoid arthritic problems. So far, so good. Shoulder pain a thing of the past, knock on wood. No more four or five hour practice sessions for me. Probably best to do as I've done, building shoulder strength through kayaking before putting any guitar-strap demands on it. Knee much better, partially due to the eighteen pounds I've lost. I thought walking would be sufficient exercise and didn't do the recommended physio-therapy after the operation. Stupid. I've always been so strong and quick-healing it didn't occur to me to do so. The footrests on the kayak give the right kind of exercise. All things considered, I inhabit a sixty-five year old package and am heir to the physical limitations thereof. The repairman is here now, wants to know how old the refrigerator is. I bought this place eighteen years ago. That's how old it is. . . .Well, the refrigerator is dead. Needs a new compressor and the guy said it's just as well to buy a new one. I agree. Guess I'll go buy more ice then hit the river.

Mindfully practicing mindless guitar exercises while waiting for the refrigerator delivery, and downloading Rhythm Devils performing"Your House" (10.19.06). Wish I could give you the url but it ain't mine to give. Will take about half an hour on my 56k modem. Four days on the river and now a day off. I've been paddling eight of the last nine days. Oveerddooing it a bit, but it's so hard not to go. Ah, here's the truck!

The kitchen door is too narrow. Off come the coils and the refrigerator doors; in it goes. Guy needs to use my phone because there's no cell-phone reception in this neck of the woods. Fortunately the song had just finished downloading.

Your House
Into my shoes and up on my feet
Out of the house and into the street
Down to the corner, left at the light
Block and a half and then make a right

Walk by tiptoe, walk on my heels
Cats on the corner out makin' deals
Look at me weird, but I don't react
Gotta walk right and that's a fact

Gotta get to your house, your house
Gotta get to your house
Gotta get to your house, your house
Gotta get to your house, yes I do

Down the alley and over the wall
Dog at my heels not friendly at all
Flat on my belly crawl under a fence
Almost there barring accidents

But accidents happen, they usually do
Whenever I'm trying to run into you
There's wires and brambles to trip up my feet
It seems like fate doesn't want us to meet

refrain: Gotta get to your house, your house. . .

Torn and tattered and scratched and sore
I finally make it to your front door
Knock three times, no-one replies
Saturday night so it's no surprise

You gave me a key, I let myself in
The floors are polished, it's neat as a pin
You left me a note and what does it state?
Headed to your house, I just couldn't wait!

refrain: Gotta get to your house, your house. . .

I call my house, you answer the phone
say: you can come over but I'm not alone
there's someone I met on the way over here
that looked like you in the dark from the rear

Out of your house and down to the street
retracing my steps when who should I meet
but someone who looks like you to a T
and seems to be looking for someone like me

Love on a floor that's neat as a pin
You moved out and I moved in
Hope you're happy at my address
The windows are clean but the floors a mess

refrain: Gotta get to your house, your house. . .

Refrigerator In at 12:30 yesterday, by 2pm I already had ice cubes! The way I use ice cubes, they will probably become permafrost. Today the temperature dropped. Steady rain predicted beginning Halloween. So that's that for this trip. I picture the rain crashing down just as I make my getaway.

Here's the lyrics to another Rhythm Devils tune. I see there's a link to the mp3s in the PhilZone.

See You again

See you again
Odds are ten to ten
When others are forgotten
Be seeing you again

See you again
when Winter turns to Spring
If I cannot say just when
It's sure as anything

See you again
In all your mighty glow
Young and strong and live again
and ready for a show

See you again
See you again
Generations come and go
Then come around again

Counting up the things that count
on the fingers of one hand
Music, love, and friendship
and the rest of it be damned
In the land that time forgot
where clocks have wooden springs
seven thirty on the dot
can mean mean a lot of things

Can mean a lot of things, I tell you, mean a lot of things
A lot of things could mean a lot of things could mean a lot
Things could mean a lot of things, remembered or forgot
A lot of things could mean a lot of things and maybe not

It could mean I love you
And want to treat you right
Could mean I got an hour or two
to spread across the night
Could mean I'm lost and lonely
And full of songs unheard
Could mean I want you only
If you only say the word

See you again
See you again
On this you can depend
Be seeing you again

See you again
In all your mighty glow
Young and strong and live again
and ready for a show

See you again
See you again
Generations come and go
Then come around again

Playing out e-ter-nity
A moment at a time
Admission's always free
It don't cost you a dime

See you again
See you again
When others are forgotten
Be seeing you again

Goodnight, goodnight (See you again, see you again)
Goodnight, goodnight (See you again, see you again)
Goodnight, goodnight (See you again, see you again)
Goodnight, goodnight (See you again, see you again)

Woke up at 2:30 and can't get back to sleep so I've made myself a cup of tea and decided to write in my journal. I've been sleeping soundly due to all the exercise, so this is unusual. I'd been dreaming about a concert hall where they were playing bad recorded music to a huge audience. A bunch of kids had been kicked out for protesting and I was outside trying to encourage them to stand on their rights and sneak back in. The dream had something to do with immigration--probably due to watching Cheech Marin's "Born in East L.A." earlier in the day, which ends up with him leading a charge of hundreds of Mexicans across the Tijuana border to the anthem of Neil Diamond's "I Wanta Live in America." Hilarious but serious in intent. Woke up with a parched throat and knocked things on the floor in the dark trying to find my glass of water on the piano bench I use for an end-table. After drinking the water, my mouth remained dry. Just finished the tea and am still parched. If I drink another cup of Tetly's I won't be able to get back to sleep for sure. I'll make a cup of mandarin orange spice tea instead. . .drank it, mouth still dry. Moral: don't take a naproxin sodium pill (Aleve) before going to bed without drinking plenty of water with it. Okay. Enough of this. I'm goin back to bed. Got a river to catch in the morning.

Last day on the river, so I gave it everything I've got: hour and a half of virtuoso paddling--if I say so myself--singing Lauderdale's "Head for the Sun" at several points while plowing into sparkling wavelets. Just the chorus, I don't remember the verses. I love the river so much and I don't think it's indifferent to me. Some of the big birds know me now and don't bother to fly away anymore. After saying farewell for the season, "See you again when Winter turns to Spring," I dragged the boat up the hill and halfway up the path. I'll drag it the rest of the way tomorrow morning while I'm washing the sheets and finishing the clean-up of the cabin I began this morning. Then I drive home in the rain.

Bought sixteen KitKat bars for Halloween. Hope someone shows up to collect them, I'd hate to ruin my stringent diet. If the sixteen don't cover it, I'll break out my box of Power Bars. Then lights out!

I need a few days away from exercise. Even going for a walk was a mistake today. Body wants to lay around and rebuild; a lot of tissue's been taxed. I won't magically return to the relative vigor of my mid-fifties but I didn't expect I would. But I was letting old age creep up on me unawares; it doesn't have to happen for a couple years. I think I'm getting wiser in my choices and would like to maintain the ability to enjoy the results. It gets to be a job, that's for sure. That's for damn sure. The ability to know a few things for sure might be worth getting older for. We'll see about that.

Didn't rain today but it was mighty murky. Saw a powerboat pushing a hundred foot wharf down the river. Must be fixing one of the Monte Rio beaches up during the winter. Good idea. They rent-out kayaks and gravel is a clumsy place to put in. It twisted my head though. Put the river in a strange perspective, like finding a hat in a cake box.

Decided to write myself a song today. Said to myself: you're a songwriter, write a damn song. So I noodled around and found a guitar groove I can live with. That's necessary because it takes me a long time to write a song for myself. Lyrics permutate as I develop the groove and emerge kind of naturally as I work out the arrangement. I'm never completely satisfied with them. But that's nothing new. I rarely have been. I've been tinkering with half a dozen tunes for years.

Just heard Willie Nelson doing Stella Blue. I dig the way he understates and lets the words carry the message. Mastery. I felt, somewhere around the second verse, that Jerry was listening with me. An extraordinary feeling. He was very proud of our songs. At their best his melodies are as good as any and better than most. Stella Blue is unique. Nothing else like it. The Major, major 7th, suspended four to the 4th chord which opens it, then the drop to the minor in the ninth bar, set a dark and wistful mood that couldn't be more accommodating for the lyric, as well as standing beautifully without it. There's no feeling the words could exist in any other setting or that the setting could take other words. I like that about it. It becomes a reality all its own.

Journal back up after being down awhile due to necessity to re-write old server program instructions to agree with Mac X protocol. Major-major. (Yes, Sergeant?) My archive/journal has a domain of its own now and should remain stable regardless of what crashes around it. Famous last words. Of course you won't realize that unless you bookmark it.

Back home and loving it. Beginning a regular exercise program so I don't get fat and start dying again. My breath is so strong now I'm planning to get the bagpipes out of storage. Not to mention tooting the horn and the didj. When my health fails, those mighty instruments drop away. I consider them an extended part of my cardio-vascular system. The guitar, by contrast, is an extension of the nervous system.

Some people are a bit confused as to where my short stories are coming from. There are those who, assuming I'm a nut case, look at them as symptomology. Others, charitably believing me to be wise, look for spiritual instruction or validation of their own beliefs. This could be a bit risky. I am neither master psychologist nor prophet. No, really! But I hope I'm not unperceptive. I tether my ambitions to that possibility.

Although I subscribe to the hypothesis of the transformational power, for good or ill, of the imagination, I make no effort to present a clear and detailed exposition of my personal belief system in my imaginative writing. I see what I see and hold it close; do not offer it up for argument or definition. It's an import, not an export. If you try to see through to the core of that statement, you'll probably end up looking at yourself.

When writing fiction I find pleasure in examining various extraordinary belief systems as though they were true, extrapolating the consequences to the point of absurdity or epiphany, depending on the internal consistency and degree of humanitarianism involved in the conceptual framework under investigation. If I can communicate the enjoyment I find in doing this, plus provide a little food for thought, I've succeeded. There's no other realistic gauge of success I know of.

Putting in major guitar time again. Got myself a remote so I can play through my new amp from anywhere in the house. Got a new guitar. Interesting how that happened. I ordered the latest Mac Notebook from Apple. By the time they got around to filling my order, several weeks later, I'd lost my wallet (it was never returned) and I had to cancel my credit cards. Naturally they couldn't send the computer on a cancelled card, so I told them to forget about it. I ordered a reconditioned version of my seriously beat-up Powerbook G4 for under a grand on the internet instead, deciding to wait on getting the dual core machine until I know it's stable. The computer, looking like new and containing a faster processor and double the memory, arrived in ten days and I bought a new amp, remote unit, and a Taylor T5 electro-acoustic guitar with the money I saved. And still had change. I consider that the best aspected loss of a wallet I've ever endured. Got all my cards replaced and a new drivers license in the meantime.

Folks are having a hard time finding this journal since the big URL change last week when I surrendcred my address at dead.net, which now belongs to Rhino Records. I get daily email wondering where I am or if I've given up the journal. Typing my name into Google reveals the new link at the very top of the page. <www.hunterarchive.com>. Am I sentimental about my old URL? Not in the least. This one is easy enough for me to remember.

Weirdest damned thing just happened. The phone rang and it went to message-receive just as I got to it. The caller had hung up so I pressed the replay button. It was my own voice saying: "Hello. . .anybody there?" Okay. . .just figured out what must have happened: somehow the message-receive function got tripped and the person calling (it was a 212 number) was slow hanging up. . .so I had time to say "hello," wait a second or two, then say "anybody there?" before the caller got the phone back on the hook and cut the connection. It had to be something like that, right? Maybe it had to happen like that to keep the planet from going off balance and careening into the sun. You never know. It's rare enough that it's never happened to me before.

Got about a dozen of the story mailings returned by mailer daemon today with "box full," "unknown addressee" or other "undeliverable" messages. Anyone who is subscribed but didn't get a mailing today: 12.14.06 (or any other Thursday) can get a resend by sending your email address to gorgonzola2000@aol.com. Write re-send in the subject box and let me know if it was a single story you missed, or if you are a new subscriber and want the whole collection to date. Don't know how to handle this growing problem other than by posting this info here. I leave the name on the list in case the problem gets cleared up at the server end.

Will write a real journal entry soon. Lots going on.

If there's one song I dislike above all others it's "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" as bawled by Bing Crosby over the speakers of a supermarket. I've just walked back from the experience after discovering my car had a dead battery. I went to get bananas for my Spirutine only to return home and discover there was no milk. The damned song ran through my head the whole time. Not only does the song anger me, I've been known to curtail shopping over it. Whatever was slightly rancid about the 50's, that song encapsulates it. A song I hate to like is Bing singing "White Christmas." It was playing in the dentist's office Tuesday as I was undergoing agonizing surgery. I was pleased about this because I will ever-after associate it with dental pain rather than a smamry snow setting as envisaged by Irving Berlin as he writes his Xmas cards in Florida. Wonder what kind of ASCAP royalties that song earns? More than all mine lumped together, I'll bet a hefty horse!

Speaking of songs, Jim Lauderdale and I just got together for four days of intense songwriting. He's decided his next record should be another set of our collaborations. Neither of us is too dismayed by the pathetic sales of "Headed For the Hills." Says more about the business than the tunes. Gets right down to it, It's more important to write and perform good songs than to get righteously rewarded for it in royalties. Of course, to attain both is preferable. Be that as it may, the money gets spent, but you gotta live with the songs you write for the rest of your life. This is not just philosophizing, it's the God's own truth!

My jaw is down to normal size today after a few days on anti-biotics, Ibuporfin and Vicodin. Last week seems like a fever dream with a great sound track. My Kettler Kadett rowing machine finally came; it took three hours to screw together, but it's a humdinger, with fairly realistic rowing action. Only "rowing"machine I could find that has the oar-like feature. Nineteen minutes on it yesterday and I'm sore all over despite 600 mgs of Ibuprofin every six hours! Hell, I thought I could do that short amount of time easily after a few hour and a half sessions on the river last month. Must learn respect for the machine. Have bought a four DVD set called "The Blue Planet" to watch while I row. Blue whales and lots o' sharks. . .

New Year's Eve 2006

The Boxes of Dr. Spasmodious

Dr. Spasmodious sat at his desk,
the end of the year drawn nigh,
haunted, harried, full of gloom,
watching the seconds die.

The maid behind him sloshed her mop
in a bucket of silvery suds;
unborn children watched through a crack
in the floor of the attic above.

We were together, you and I,
with other children yet to be born,
between the ages, if not in life,
one to the other, eternally sworn.

You, frail and fair as a lily,
held my hand by light of the moon,
pale beams brightly spilling
on boxes all over the room -

boxes heavy with dust of the dead,
time and decay - all but one:
tied with a shining bit of thread
fine as a baby's hair and red.

"Tell me your prophecy, Maid of the Mop,"
said the Doctor downstairs below,
"What's simple to you is subtle to me.
What sort of year will this coming year be?"

She shook a spark from her long red hair
which flew like a star to his tree
"Spring will be damp and Summer dry
and Autumn come presently . . ."

So saying, she bound her flowing hair
with a ribbon of scarlet twine,
returned to mopping the floor away
until nothing remained but shine.

Down we came with cautious tread
you, I, and all of the others -
bearing the box tied with a thread
fine as a baby's hair and red.

The maid once more unloosed her hair,
gray now as clouds when laden with rain.
You she chose, took by the hand,
allowed, out of all, to remain.

The rest she kissed both sides of the cheek
as the chimes of the New Year dinned,
one by one sent each through the door
to dissolve in the rain and wind.

Dr. Spasmodious watched from his chair
on the point of a tear but refrained.
He smiled instead, held out his arms
to you who were spared from the rain.

"Welcome my child to life again,
to the kingdom of hope and pain.
Let two thousand and seven arrive;
may grace prevail and we survive!"

Some are wondering if I've dropped off the Earth. . .no journal entries lately and all. That's not intentional, it just happens I sometimes get so involved in other writing that my journal molders forgotten. From that point of view, absence is probably a good sign. Nope, nothing as decisive as falling off the world, though that gives me an idea for a story. . . .

Reading a lot, as usual during the winter­­mostly Civil War stuff like "Lee's Lieutenants." We're the direct result of all that, and no mistake. A century and a half later, how are we using the unity for which so much blood was spilled, not counting that of the indigenous races we earlier took the land from? Oil was not an issue in those days. Nor was world domination on our minds. Maybe, in terms of cause and effect, you just can't snatch a virgin continent from its natives and make it work right. But you could probably do a better job of it than we've managed. Our sense of national identity, our official myth, is so tied up in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War that it is unlikely the detailed and balanced truth, such as it is or might possibly be, will ever emerge on this subject until the United States is as distant from this point in time as ancient Babylon. . .or perhaps even an ice age away.

Well, as you can see, reading up on the War Between the States doesn't make me into a cheerful critter. If such chronicles don't make a reader sorrow plentifully, it must be that that reader's soul is made of burnt toast or bituminous clay. Or that imagination fails.

All set up snug for the beginning of allergy season. Bring on them damnable nice, nice days of pre-seasonal Northern California Spring. Global humping. Have enjoyed a nice wet but not sodden conclusion to Winter so no complaint. I know how to do this: don't expect much of myself until sundown when the grasses stop filling the breeze with invisible itchy little bullets, what others call fragrance. Got my rowing machine and my kayak simulator standing by. A new air purifier just plugged in, expensive, hope it works. All I don't have is a cork lined room like Proust. That's because my walls are mostly windows. Best writing room I've ever had. Some people can't write if they're facing a window, it breaks their concentration. I concentrate too well; anything that breaks it is welcome. Trumpet, guitar. Anything but the phone with its inevitible invitation to stop thinking about this and think about that. Give it a rest...what are you, a monomaniac? Dunno, I just know it takes regular uninterrupted spaces over a long course of time to turn out the amount of work which makes me feel "profitably engaged" with my chosen life. There's not another chance after this, or so I've convinced myself, whether it's the truth or not. My excuse for not writing in the journal this month is: I'm so pleased with "Red Sky Fishing" and the tangential eight-month experiment in publishing via email that I've plunged into writing a second volume of short tales. Just completed the first of several I'm working at: "Jumping Off Place." In the midst of a fertile writing project, life can get so involved with syntax and the imagination there's little extraneous left to write about. Chance, Fate or Destiny have their say about that, of course. I want their inevitable calls to find me wide awake in mid-stride, productive in my art, manufacturing tangible dream.

At the river. Went down to look it over. The dam is open so the water level is several feet higher than in November, and it's considerably broader. Basically a different shoreline. I've been almost four months away. The input cove I pieced together of scraps is gone, the log underwater, the huge piece of foam which I found in the river returned to the river. The sturdy pull rope is still in place to hang onto going up and down the hill. I towed a small kayak down, preparatory to checking things out tomorrow. My big kayaik is too much trouble to get down the hill until I'm sure what I'm going to do to jury-rig another temporary dock. The river has eaten several attempts of mine at more permanent embarcation points.

The bank is slippery mud. I lowered the boat into the water by rope, then my footing gave way and I slipped helplessly in after it. Up to my waist. I was able to laugh at myself, so the river laughed with me. Demi-baptism; doused for staying away so long. Clambered in and off I went down the river. I was alert for the ways a kayak on the river is unlike a kayak simulator. First off you don't fall in. Secondly, when you get tired on an exerciser you can stop. When you get tired on the river, you may or may not be in the vicinity of your docking and the current may or may not have carried you blissfully downstream a good ways before unexpectedly strengthening. The exercise machine has given me the cast iron muscles (!) to turn the second state of affairs into a non-event. So, I felt like a half-soaked pro. Nice sunlight, warm, early afternoon. No big birds at all. Just mallards and not that many of them. Tomorrow I'm going to buy a sledge-hammer and a bunch of stakes and put handholds everywhere. Start inventing a new put-in place.

Staked the bank out, dragged the big kayak down. In order to know exactly where i want handholds on the shore I had to sledgehammer while seated in the floating kayak. This requires a certain skill one is not necessarily born with. A new phenomenon I've discovered is that, while paddling, I keep cruising right into nests of snags along the shore before I can veer away from them. This is because my stroke is much stronger from working out on the exercise machine; without realizing it, I'm going much faster with what feels like a normal stroke. I guess Superman had to learn all kinds of adjustments to deal with the light gravity of Earth. Found a dandy slime-encrusted deflated floatation-mat hung up in some snags. Tossed it over the back of the boat and paddled back to my cove where I staked it to the bank, then paddled off. I will begin accumulating similar junk to cover the mud. I bought a whole box of stakes.

It'd sure nice having a refrigerator up here. When I go to the supermarket I can buy what I like without considering how it'll fit in ice-chests, how perisible is it, how compact?. . .do I need more ice? This is real luxury, which is only bought at the price of prior necessary economies. That goes for a lot of things in life, including fame and fortune. The most I ever enjoyed money came when, after working for the GD as a songwriter at fifty dollars a week, I got a seventy-five grand advance after Workingman's Dead was released. I thought I was set for life. Bought a new Saab for twenty-five hundred, cash. The next day somebody put an egg in the gas tank at a huge party up at Mickey's ranch. I like to berlieve one of the kids did it because it was new, not because of who it belonged to. I'm pretty sure that would be the case. As for fame, I'm the printed last name under the song title and content to keep it that way. Got recognized today, a great rarity; if it happens seldom enough I can enjoy it, in a startled sort of way. it can put a bounce in my stride for awhile, there's a definite energy exchange. One feels for the person who realizes they have just stopped you while you're going about the business of your life, hoping you won't be angry. No, definitely not angry. . .just given the opportunity for a sudden intimacy with a stranger for which one is never quite prepared if one is a late-middle-aged man, sartorially non-discript and only rarely mistaken for Sean Connery. . .

At home I use the Speedstroke machine every other day for an hour to the strains of loud gamelan music. Riding the river is less controlled exercis: you start, you stop. you turn, you glide, you rest. I overdid it a bit last time I was up here, in the Fall, and think that two days on, one day off is appropriate until my body gives me further notice one way or the other. It's all about strengthening and maintaining my shoulders, not hurting them or wearing them down. No shoulders = no guitar. Seeing those 2003 movies of my perfortming (which somebody put up on the Hunter page the other day) showed graphically why I had to stop performing with "Big Red." The angle my shoulder had to assume to get around that big black body was too much. I never look at videos of my performing or I might have figured that out sooner!

Happy St. Padraig's Day!

Doing damn near absolutely nothing for the first time in 40 years. Undermining some basic assumptions. Feeling much like I did at 25, unsure of which way to turn-- the world appearing to be a private party to which I'm not invited. . .and may have to crash my way into on the assumption there's something going on that wasn't going on before I swore off parties. Sometimes (make that often) wonder if my extraordinary amount of creative work isn't just affirmation of the existential fact that, as Lew Welch wrote: "Trails go nowhere. They end exactly where you stop." I never particularly wanted to stop. Nd.ot then, not now. Don't know if I have the mechanism for it.

The difference between 25 and now is that there isn't a whole endless futureful of undisclosed panoramas lying ahead of me. There's little I want other than to lose myself in my writing, and to experience the indulgence of my family when I emerge from time to time. I wonder how healthy that is? First, do no harm.

Now it can be told, of one who with sheer determination overcame the pain in his hands, while driving kayak, long enough to inflict real damage resulting in inability to open a bottle top or play guitar for nigh on to six weeks. Is healing and how sweet to be able to resume playing. Not to mention opening bottle tops. Nothing like nearly losing to give appreciation.

7.8.07 Shall we gather at the river. . .
The path down to the river was so densely overgrown when I got here I couldn't pass. True jungle. Could almost hear the cockatoos & monkeys. Rather than face the kind of work that endangers fingers, I drove to the tourist beach (4th of July weekend crowded) and rented a tiny yellow ocean kayak for an hour. Ignorant of the mysteries of this craft, I quite naturally got in. Initially puzzled to find myself sitting in water, it seemed the boat was attempting to swamp itself! This bouyant plastic dingy's got several inch-and-a-half diameter HOLES purposely bored through the deck to allow this: to let the ocean out is my guess. Since my sweatpants were already soaked I decided to carry on paddling after receiving appropriate verbal warning not to go under the bridge (homeward) though I could go as far as I wanted in the other direction as long as I returned by six-thirty and wore my life-vest at all times. I could tell by the guy's tone of voice he didn't personally care if I wore it, headed right for the bridge, or came back at all. He just worked there.

The river was glassy so I was able to stay out an hour without bringing much strength to bear on my hands and lower back. My hands checked out, no pain between thumbs and forefingers. Hallelujah! Keep it so. Gently all the way. My back seemed servicible, but there's no telling about that until later. In fact it proved mildly sore and stiff next morning. Twenty minutes in my own kayak didn't help much so I decided to go for plan B: anti-inflamments. That worked well with no soreness showing after a half-hour paddle this morning. Aleve tablets will have to do. . .wish I could get some of those anabolic steroids. Get pumped up while I'm at it. Yeah, yeah. I know. Thing is, I've got to do this. I'll give up my paddle when they pry it from my cold dead clutches.

Had the smarts to wear river booties at the tourist beach so I didn't get my shoes wet. In an earlier journal entry you may recall I tried to de-liquify my running shoes in the clothes-dryer. It is better to have wet shoes. Moral: keep a spare pair when you're mucking around rivers. You can't walk far in booties. They're crafted to do a limited number of things well; drying quickly and substituting for shoes are not among them.

Getting into a pair of damp booties without socks feels like slipping your feet into a pair of slugs, especially when it's cold, but you get accustomed to it fast unless you're one of those people who keep their mind in their feet. I know I am sometimes. Also you forget about a wet bottom in an ocean kayak pretty quick unless. . .

The day after my oceran kayak experience I hired someone who knows how to use a machete, left him to conquer the stinger nettles, blackberry ticket and poison oak. Once I was standing in my own cove, the reiver didn't exactly welcome me back. . .it seemed instead to ask "what the hell were you doing on the other side of the bridge in an ocean kayak?" Proving that rivers are not telepathic. That comes later. When it's time to leave. I'm up here to do some writing. What I don't know. Starting with this.

I order a cappuccino. The guy starts making it, singing the line "Take the long way home" over and over, striking me as being amiably balmy, when he is called to the back room. He sets the steamer cup down and disappears with a curse. After about five minutes I'm thinking about snatching the espresso in the paper cup (paid for) and splitting, but decide to wait because I know I won't come back again if I cut and run and the place is handy. I'd been meaning to check it out.

A couple of minutes later the guy comes back and apologizes saying "Boy am I glad that's done with." He tells me the story: a boy found $300 in the shop and turned it over. The guy said if nobody claimed it, the kid could have it. But the guy's wife didn't think that was right: "We pay a lot to keep this place running and if money is lost here and not claimed it should belong to us." He wants to please his wife, but the boy's mother calls and says the boy should have the money as a reward for his honesty. . .which the guy doesn't disagree with, but doesn't want to lock horns with his wife. He just wants to do the honest thing but isn't sure what it is. He also notices the foam has gone flat during this ethical dilemma and replaces the milk. What he did was tell the boy's mother, on the phone, he would split the money with the boy, his rationale being he could have lied and told the kid that someone showed up and claimed the money, and keep it all himself. He reasons that if the kid should be rewarded for honesty, so should he. So he'll split the money and if the kid doesn't understand, he tells the mother her son should call and the guy will explain this somewhat torturous reasoning personally. I silently suspect that neither his wife, the kid's mother, nor the kid will be pleased.

He obviously wanted my approval about his decision so I said "What counts is what you feel when you wake up at 3 a.m." I didn't disapprove­­there was something Solomonic about his decision. Like when two women were arguing over the ownership of a baby and brought the case before Solomon, who ordered the baby to be cut in half and each woman to receive her share. They quickly withdrew their complaint.

Drawn into a creatively resolved ethical dilemma when I just want a double cappuccino, it goes to show lessons are to be learned where and when you find them. Perhaps someday that particular lesson will apply to me, but meanwhile It was a damned good cappuccino, so I'm glad I

Angry forearm ligament due to too much backstroke puts me out of commission for the rest of Summer. When it hurts to look at my watch, it's time. Cool. Trumpet coming along fine, keeping the breath strong and my mind on the linear line. New song "Fandangalero" feels like a hit. I have to remind myself I'm still in the business where that always unlikely thing could happen, though in what context I truly can't imagine. The carpenters hammering away next door (yes, even in the forest) just beat out the rhythm of my new song. Have they been evesdropping? I was singing the chorus line over and over. . . it goes: fandanga dangadangdang bang gangagangdang fandangalero. Soon the whole world will be singing it. People will come together over it, make love to it, set their ring-tones to it. . .and peace will reign! What the world needs now is a major tongue-twister.

Here is my updated yearly offering of Dr. Spasmodious. Happy New Year to each of you. May grace prevail and we survive.

The Boxes of Dr. Spasmodious

Dr. Spasmodious sat at his desk,
the end of the year drawn nigh,
haunted, harried, full of gloom,
watching the seconds die.

The maid behind him sloshed her mop
in a bucket of silvery suds;
unborn children watched through a crack
in the floor of the attic above.

We were together, you and I,
with other children yet to be born,
between the ages, if not in life,
one to the other, eternally sworn.

You, frail and fair as a lily,
held my hand by light of the moon,
pale beams brightly spilling
on boxes all over the room -

boxes heavy with dust of the dead,
time and decay - all but one:
tied with a shining bit of thread
fine as a baby's hair and red.

"Tell me your prophecy, Maid of the Mop,"
said the Doctor downstairs below,
"What's simple to you is subtle to me.
What sort of year will this coming year be?"

She shook a spark from her long red hair
which flew like a star to his tree
"Spring will be damp and Summer dry
and Autumn come presently . . ."

So saying, she bound her flowing hair
with a ribbon of scarlet twine,
returned to mopping the floor away
until nothing remained but shine.

Down we came with cautious tread
you, I, and all of the others -
bearing the box tied with a thread
fine as a baby's hair and red.

The maid once more unloosed her hair,
gray now as clouds when laden with rain.
You she chose, took by the hand,
allowed, out of all, to remain.

The rest she kissed both sides of the cheek
as the chimes of the New Year dinned,
one by one sent each through the door
to dissolve in the rain and wind.

Dr. Spasmodious watched from his chair
on the point of a tear but refrained.
He smiled instead, held out his arms
to you who were spared from the rain.

"Welcome my child to life again,
to the kingdom of hope and pain.
Bring love in the midst of dark and hate,
New Year's Day two thousand and eight."

January 17, 2008
Mid-January already? All I can say about that is: time is a team of horses running along a beach backwards at sunset. You can't set your watch by them. I got an hourglass for Christmas which measures forty-seven and a half minutes at a turn. This is my new rough measure of time and I think it's a good one, if accidental: an hour is too long and half and hour is too short for most creative tasks. Like walking the dog or practicing m7b5 chord forms out of the Joe Pass book.

Writing a new heap of songs for others lately and reckon I've found my 2cnd wind. Who? Wait and see. It's not good luck to say. For a long time I couldn't think what to write about, but then thought "Oh yeah. Writing about something is what you do to pass time while you're waiting for a real song to come." They land like eagles on your budgie perch. You know them by the way the branch snaps.

The Animal Rescue Site is having trouble getting enough people to click on it daily to meet their quota of getting free food donated every day to abused and neglected animals. http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/CTDSites.woa