Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cooked kharu gos, lamb with spices, for friends Elizabeth and Kimberly. Afterwards we watched ken burns' the national parks on pbs. These things went together. Kharu gos, available in a NYT recipe, is a small wilderness of spices. Cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and chopped dried chiles are first sauteed in a pan. (Austin Whole Foods offers a serious selection of dried chiles). Then after the onions and lamb are added you pour in coriander, turmeric, cumin, ginger, and garlic. The aroma is similar in some respects to indian curries I've made but sweeter and a little less home-invasive.

Friday, August 21, 2009

In Park City, Utah. Visited Salt Lake City last night to see Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Driving west at dusk one emerges over dark side of mountain into sunbathed urban valley. Stunning to sit in massive conference center auditorium, awash in clean, expansive sounds of great choir. At rehearsals audience is sparse and allowed to come and go. I felt like a pilgrim entering room from where I had been.

Two nights earlier was sitting on desiccated log, eating tuna out of pouch, isolated at far end of Upheaval Dome at Canyonlands NP. I had turned around to see something resembling four-inch scorpion sneaking by in dirt. Assumed deadly but later picked up Audubon Field Guide to Insects and Spiders at bookstore and found out it was Jerusalem Cricket. Next day hiked four hours to get back to car, up and over craggy breaches in canyon walls, getting inkling of what Brigham Young and Co. encountered pushing westward into this territory. To go from dusty, prehistoric-feeling southern Utah into pristine religious complex was exhilarating.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

At the Lazy Lizard Hostel in Moab, Utah, binging on free wi-fi after a week of not touching a keyboard. My concerns lately have been along the lines of "do I need a bear canister for back country camping at Canyonlands NP?" Local store clerks say no. One said she slept out in the open with a bag of food next to her and nothing happened. At Rocky Mountain National Park they require you to rent a canister. The ranger there told me leaving so much as a crumb in an untended tent would ensure its destruction by wildlife. (As a crazy coot a Cormac McCarthy book says, "this (that) is a hungry country.") The canyons north of Moab aren't so hungry.

I'm laying on a scratchy bedspread in a small room with walls painted to look like clay. The smell of ramen noodles drifted under the door an hour ago. Somebody's watching a documentary about arlo guthrie downstairs. The TV is pretty loud but somehow not annoying. I feel at home here. I know that the fun of hostels is supposed to be meeting other travelers but I really don't care to go downstairs and sit on the couch. People are generally more perceptive than I have been giving them credit for. When I force myself to be friendly, what an intelligent person sees is a guy forcing himself to be friendly. Where's the joy in that?

The McCarthy book is Blood Meridian, what I consider the dark twin of McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. Both books were published at around the same time and both brought mad literary skills to bear upon the Western genre. Blood Meridian is so violent it makes the story line for No Country for Old Men seem like Dr. Seuss. I'm not giving anything away. Hard to say if McCarthy is telling an untold true story or really just exploring dark psychological territory via 19th century Texas history.

Time for bed. There are crickets in Moab, but not in the woods at Rocky Mountain National Park. There are screech owls there, at first I thought it was a shrieking child.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The weather man said on Friday that there would be a 3 (three) percent chance of rain, emphasizing how minimal the chances were. It's raining. I feel like I've won the lottery.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday, February 08, 2009

muerte a los baristas

I recently watched Linklater's Slacker on DVD, along with a ten minute trailer for Viva Les Amis, a documentary that mourns the loss of a locally owned cafe that was replaced by Starbucks. Three Starbucks baristas are interviewed. None of them seems to know much about the former cafe, and their tepid mannerisms would seem to symbolize all that is troubling about Generation Y. They are articulate and self-confident, but so dispassionate and uninformed as to seem pitiful. I think the filmmakers make this impression deliberately, and that there is something distasteful about it, about any generation that would sneer at a younger one for not being cool enough.

I recently bought coffee at Starbucks and actually liked the "The Way I See It" quote printed on the cup. Can such a thing remotely compare to experiencing a live hub of counterculture? Of course not. But perhaps a beautiful thing about being young is that nobody gets to do it in exactly the same way. 

The Way I See It #76

"The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life." 

- Anne Morriss

There's always Spider House.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I'm wondering why the state department's warning about travel abroad in Mexico hasn't caused more public outrage. Israel recently invaded Gaza on the grounds that a developed nation has the right to protect its citizens by invading a neighboring state. We are no longer safe to travel in Mexico, millions of Mexican immigrants within our borders live in terror that their family members on the other side might be kidnapped and held for ransom, and the Mexican government is too weak to control the activities of armed groups within its borders. Either we are noble to endure these terrors in the name of respecting Mexico's territorial integrity, or we are just too numb to care. 

Organized crime in Mexico has grown from drug distribution into widespread kidnapping and extortion. My sense is that Mexico has safe areas and unsafe areas, just like in the U.S., only the unsafe areas are more concentrated in Mexico. The facile state department memo reduces the safe areas to "legitimate business and tourist areas." We have the right to demand something better. For example, since the city of Monterrey is not a premier tourist destination, should I consider myself "warned" by my government not to explore its outskirts? The city has one of the highest per capita incomes in Mexico; why should any U.S. memo compromise my rights there?

Backing up a bit, I recently became interested in traveling to Mexico. Having loved trips to New Mexico in 2007 and 2008, I have a feeling that I'll love Mexico for many of the same reasons: the culture, the land, the shared history. This is my personal taste. A U.S. citizen could feel the same enthusiasm about Iceland. To ground this in principle, I believe that since I live within a culture infused with Mexican people and cultural influences, my "pursuit of happiness" should include the freedom to explore this culture at its source. In this light I view the state department memo and general complacency of the U.S. population at large as threats to my civil liberties. I want to go to Mexico and not have to worry about being kidnapped.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

there's nothing worse than having seven minutes to eat a bowl of extremely hot oatmeal, and also drink a cup of good but very hot coffee, and also write a blog entry to mark the new year. it absolutely doesn't get worse than that.