Galveston Has Fallen

photo 5(2)Galveston has fallen into the drink a few times. Perhaps common knowledge but I guess not, don’t build a city at or close to sea level, especially not on the windward side of an enormous gulf where warm water breeds storms of a vicious nature. Victorian Texas didn’t get the memo and so they not only built a city, they built a beautiful city… To replace the beautiful city that burned down just after the War of Northern Aggression/Civil War/Recent Unpleasantness as well as a few additional fires.
photo 4(2)The hurricane and flood of 1900 consumed most of that city built to replace the city that burned.  Sitting on an island is a hazard for any city.  At the height of summer, when all of actively mobile Houston was catching the then fresh air (this was before Texas City, what people say, oh I smell Texas city [it’s a sulfur cancerous smell]) the city succumbed to a violent storm. Somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 died. It was a terrible blow to the city and to the ruling class of Houston.

photo 1(4)To respond to nature, rather than give up the island and retreat to the mainland, give Mother Nature back Her uninhabited island, the City Fathers (with the Mother’s tacit blessing I am sure) asked and demanded of the State Wig Party (or whoever they had) to call upon the Federal Government to activate the Army Corp Of Engineers who, one generation removed from sapping the defenses of Charleston and assisting Sherman in salting the earth, came to save Galveston by pushing up sand and rock and pouring a varied amount of cement.
photo 5(3)So they built a sea wall. Raised the city a few feet. And saved the day. The blessed city was rebuilt rebuilt and large houses again sprung up. Then… The car came. The un-segregated city came, and “earl” was discovered off the coast turning the agrarian mainland and pristine gulf into one industrial and endless southern version of New Jersey’s “Meadowlands”. And anyway, on a jet the average middle class duck could get away to Mexico for the warm un-brown ocean waters and Colorado for cooler calmer weather.

photo 2(5)It is a hot walk in any direction and as I rode my rusted rental bike, I wished for some trees.  Hurricane Alicia.  Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Ike, and a number of other smaller storms have killed off most of the major trees in and around the city and they have not since been replanted, not that a few saplings could provide much shelter from the sweltering sun.  I rode about quiet streets and many houses were just lone survivors sitting unused in a field now overgrown and lumpy, the way so many former cities look today.
photo 3(3) So again… Galveston fell into the shitter. This time, not born by ocean winds and the raging of tides.
Not that the ocean had finished with Galveston. Having become a place for the rising middle class to store boats and toys in various beach houses, Neptune had his way with the city not once, but twice since the implementation of Reaganomics and the trickled down approach. So, other than FEMA coming with a fuckyou letter, and the closing of any military outpost still extant, there was little help for Galveston, and again the fine houses and establishments and rows of second home fell into rack and ruin.
photo 4(3)Today oil rigs being repaired vie for a skyline along with cruse ships on their way to and from other places. The downtown is like Brigadoon as are so many “historic downtowns” – existing for a moment and then vanishing.  Several building downtown still bare the scars of various storms, social economic and natural.  One store, an antique shop, was apparently a much larger place according to the proprietor, a suspicious older woman who took my interest as some type of preparation for a heist, least the total crap that was her inventory stolen in some Oceans 11 incident… It was a long time ago since this storm and still upstairs was closed, a curtain held off the back end and it was clear that whatever this place had been before become a junk shop was much grander and now entirely a footnote in history.
photo 1(5)From the other side of the island the seawall rises to protect the current ruined development and aspersions of future greatness.  The ocean ebbs and flows a chocolate brown. As I was there the health department declared the water the same as “toilet water.” Nevertheless, the locals insisted the water was plenty safe.  I had to take them at their word, since it looked plenty horrible but I was there for the ocean.  I took my chances with the flesh eating and brain eating bacteria and other wee beasts of the poo poo kingdom.
photo 3(4) What is now the Pleasure Pier was once a hotel of some note called the Flagship Hotel. Rita tore a hole in it, the man at the bar stool said to me, for some reason, given the exuberance of that weekend, I was not entirely sure his motives and whether he was trying to engage in conversation to pick me up or just being friendly. The hole was there for years. You could see rooms, all made up, the beds, the furniture, the pillows in place. But there was a missing part of the building and it just stood there. Then [unintelligible] bought up that and [other locations not noted so hence forgotten] and built that pier and is sitting on the rest of the places.  I thought of the poor black sections of the old town. Run down and sun burned. I thought of the Dollar Stores and Chicken Places that ruined a once grand boulevard…. Huh? I inquired.  But, their table had been called and he and his party bid me goodnight. End of history lesson. (You can learn more from another great blog HERE)
photo 2(4)I bumbled back to the hotel. Bikes and trikes and ambulatory vacationers drunk and sober traversed the Seawall and off, off in the distance was a series of storms marching across the  mainland in gloriously varied coloured light.  Galveston is still alive, somewhere between being a southern gulf coast Coney Island and the chemtrail manufacturers of Trenton, NJ. From most beaches on the east one can see the smoke stacks spewing godknowswhat from the refineries and the deep sea intercontinental freighters are so common and regular surfers have abandoned native waves for riding the wakes of these heavy with PRC goods floating cities.  These beaches are full of people and beach culture, even if it seems to be past not just one, but several hay-days.  The old city itself has its charm, but like the beach, it could use an injection of some sort, something new, maybe a few trees would help too. Rebuild.  Just in time for the next storm.

photo(2)Editor’s Note: Sadly, much of this may be a rehash from an older blog post.  The writer of this blog was there to learn how to surf but didn’t seem to get a new view of the city of Galveston.  Perhaps a fresher perspective will be provided should the writer choose to post about that experience.

Born on The Bayou

photo 3(2)So it is that the Buffalo Bayou is that river that runs through it, and the “it” is Houston, Texas.  The Bayou suffered the fate of so many waterways in this nation.  It brought commerce, development, armies, and settlers at first and people built where it was safe to build and generally avoided the flood areas of where in the flat hard dirt land there were many.  Then, sometime in the history of the technologists and designers, the common idea was to second-guess Creation and move, dig, rend, and asunder (not sure I used that word correctly), and recreate the waterway in the image of Man.  Usually Eisenhower.  Strangely enough.  So it was that during the time of the highways of moving entire mountains, the Bayou looked like just another disobedient ditch that needed moving, shaping, and of course, cement.  This happened to the horror of several concerned citizens who banded together to fight the cementing over of the bayou but it was not until many years later that the project of reclamation finally started to gain traction.  In time, some of the cement was rolled back, some of the bulldozed areas replanted with native plants.
photo 2(3)Every city has a favorite river to dump our bounty of civilization and wonders of technology that have past their de rigueur Born On Date.  So amazing that while we can link molecules together, give sheep jellyfish genes, we still dispose of a spent tools inactive and radioactive the same way a smart ape eating ants from a mount carefully gets rid of their “eatin’ stick.”  By tossing it aside.

People, humans that is, have a instinctual drive to organize their lives along some important water system.  Since the first civilization arose for Mankind some 5773-20,000 years ago (depending your interpretation of scripture, various skulls, jaw bones, and links to dubious articles on Facebook) we have been having a relationship with some important waterway.  This relationship is that we find a wonderful fork in a pristine river, a lake deep and blue, a set of tributaries important to a diverse set of species both flora and fauna, and we hover over it collectively, and as one organism squeeze out a continuous emission of floaters, sinkers, and just plain spray.
photo 4(1)This isn’t just the humors that flow from our bodies we toss into the drink, this is our dinner scraps, soaps and fragrances, car parts, spent toys and games, deflated Patriot footballs, bodies of sexual rivals, and all manner of chemicals including fluoride… except that last one is supposed to be good for us.  The water is an instinctual draw to our Jungian Ubermassweldinstein need to toss away those spent items, seconded, this blogger thinks, to our Freudian attraction to cliffs.  It would be a wonder, then, to have a willing subject, given them an armload of baby napkins, Big Gulp cups and other refuse from the car and a package of chicken legs right on the expiration date and set them between a cliff and a raging creek to see what is the true human nature – or is it always a choice? – between tossing the crap into the waters or flinging them off a cliff.  Ask yourself.  Water or cliff?  I will go that the majority of us choose water.  Or at least by the look of most waterways, especially those in populated areas, we choose water as our vessel for all we refuse.
photo 1(3)That, and the nature of water ensures that the shit we spread about falls into our storm drains to be sent to the many creeks, to the river, to the ocean, and to the huge trash tip out in the ocean.
Today the Buffalo Bayou still is part of a fight to reclaim.  Sections still languish under cement panels while there is still much to be seen floating on the top of the waters.  Cups, tyres, all manner of containers… the strangest is the water bottles.  So puzzling we drink fresh water out of containers we then dump… into the fresh water.
photo 1(2)While there was a section that was hit hard and damaged by the storms of 2015, and some of the area next to the downtown is under construction and maybe because of this most fear to tread beyond a certain point, there is currently a build up of derelicts, homeless, and a vague smell of something illegal beyond the aquarium.  Nevertheless, this growing parkway is a fine example of city’s people taking back the potential of this space, the history, and working with nature to fit it into the city rather than charging against Her.
photo 3(1)The park area provides a smart pathway with many beautifully designed bridges gives so many new trails for biking, running, or walking away from the ever present traffic of Houston where cycling and communism are still seen as being one and the same.  The “bike lane” from where I was staying on Upper Kirby to the park was but two or three blocks… while the rest was a speedway of death and White Bicycles.  Within the park there is safety, special trails for runners, and points to stop and take in the view with pavilions, water fountains, and a space to sit and rest.

What is taking shape in Houston has a lot of potential if these groups, citizens, private and public property owners can continue to move in the same direction, continue to push the green space up and down the bayou.  There has been so much damage done to this area of the world.  However, more are coming to the common cause to protect, preserve, and replant, since… what was here was created by the most important builder of them all, The Creator…. or 400 billion years of random chemical and biological events.  Take your pick as to motivation.  The outcome is something we all can enjoy.

photo 2(2)Editor’s Note: Some words were made up for this post and do not exist in the OED.

Flagpole Sitta

photo 5It is true. As an over-educated under paid Northeastern radical who like to type on the Internets, I had great expectations in my visit. I had high hopes. I wanted to catch something as ridiculous I could bray about. Something like the old museum of Religion of St Petersburg still housed in a church… A church given back to The Church and again active after 70-80 years. It was strange listening to The Liturgy being sung as the faithful wandered in and out as I examined the SOVIET exhibits showing how G/g/_/o/d/s/es/ess didn’t exist. The old museum in Sofia with the Stalin painting yet taken down. The museum of ethnic diversity close to wherever I was in central Russia. Or the bad museums of India that were state run and charged me at a different price because I was a foreigner. “How do you know I’m a foreigner,” I yelled at the manager. You did not ask me for a government ID? You speak English just like me.  Isn’t this a democracy?
photo 1Tienanmen Square, the old center of the revolution against Mao and the current fascist regime had every part replaced. Exactly. It was not “as if” nothing had happened. Officially. Nothing had happened.  Don’t ask.  Don’t ask your host family, don’t ask people at the hotel, don’t even ask AOL at the internet cafe (this was some time ago).
From ignorant museum interpretation in Morocco to just silly exhibits in Peru and those road side museums to this and that to the birthplace of Mary Baker Eddy, forever blazed into my mind from my parent searching for this, “fucking place” until we found it, in the driving rain finally found a “fucking tree, she was crapped out under a fucking tree?!” My parent was always one with words.
photo 2(1)So there I was. At the Confederate Museum, in Richmond, the heart of the rebellion. I have been to Gettysburg and a few other sites of the Civil War but since their army never made it as far north as I had the money to travel (until lately), I have not really been to The Deep South. Most of what I know about the Civil War is from books, Ken Burns, and Gone With The Wind. Most of what I know about the Deep South is from that one black and white photograph of the German Shepard held by the police trying to bite a black man. And the song Fat Bottom Girls.  I don’t have many southern friends. My family that moved down there never talks to us. The South may as well be a foreign country. Same as when I visited Russia. People’s Republic of China. &c..
photo 2Sadly, I didn’t get my silly apologetic museum song and dance. I didn’t get signs or interpretation that was fit for clickbate, or good listicle fodder. Not even a funny Bookofface update status joke Instagrammy thing where I would be like, lookitthesepeople n how backwards they are. The museum focused on the experience of the rebels. The army divisions, and the horror our police state unloaded on those said rebels. Slavery was a horrible institution. But so was sending hundreds of thousands of immigrants (mostly from Ireland thanks to the famine the British had orchestrated) to their death to ensure The South would remain a colonial state beholden to the textile mills of Lowell, Laurence, and the factories of Brooklyn where growing numbers of “workers” swelled the ranks, disposable and expendable. Lincoln did not enter the war to free enslaved people. Radical Republicans  (those used to be the ‘good guys’) were a bother and dragged him to that side. Abolitionists were a pain in he asshole. But, that cause rallied the day and galvanized the North.
photo 3History is complex. Imagine your own life. All the dumb things that made sense at the time. It is the victor that writes the simple story. The easy to remember story.  We used to have an easy story.  The North fought the South to free the Slaves.  No more.  The “the north came into the civil war for economic reasons and then used slavery as a propaganda rallying point” is now taught in most advanced (read private $30k a semester USD) universities. I first read that version of history in a translated issue of Signal. A German National Socialist People’s Party (Nazi) publication from 1932 (maybe 1936 as I gave it to my professor for her to use with German history students). I am not sure how we have even replaced our Northern Romantic version of the “we freed the slaves” with something taught by Nazis… In 1932.  Or 1936 since I gave the book to my profession and don’t remember the date.  This is why I would have made a bad historian.
Upstairs in the museum was a history of the flag we are talking about. This flag wasn’t the national flag of the Confederate states but a battle flag. The thing you run to when everyone you know is dead and you just fired your last round and in the smoke and the cries and the quick and the dead, you run for your life toward.  The exhibit carried that story from pieces of surviving battle flag though how it became a symbol of hate and part of segregationist propaganda, use in a growing popular culture, and how it occupies a strange position in our culture, having for many taken on a new meaning while for some it has become THE symbol of everything wrong in this nation.
photo 4I left the museum disappointed. I left it without some “got ya” moment. I thought of two stories.
When I was a kid a neighbor had a friend over and as they were drinking this friend started to tell me about the battlefield. You know, those movies are crap. People didn’t just get shot, hold their sides and die… He looked off, full of pain. Do you know what a man’s guts smell like when they’ve been blown out of him. “Enough, enough Karl, he’s just a kid” Mr. Bloom told him. The man had fought in the German Army. Perhaps 16 or 17 years old. A gun and a need to run to safety, even if that was a rallying point we, the children of The Googles, would fear and be offended, and take down.  That Nazi battle flag, that was his safe colour.  It is hard to reeducate someone who saw a flag as a lifeline home since trauma, whether gotten from a good or bad cause, is trauma, and has a lasting and complicated impact on someone’s life.
photo 1(1)I was riding on a subway. Gotham. The melting pot. I was just back from The People’s Republic of China. I was proud that a kid from [redacted] that grew up in a household that barely had running water, where we often scrounged for food, a kid that had rarely worn shoes until going to work at 16, made it half way around the world. I had on the lapel of my blazer several buttons (was the style back then). Next to my Dump Reagan button was several Mao buttons from the Cultural Revolution. Harmless to wear. The elderly Asian couple sitting in font of me didn’t think so. They said nothing. But I saw something in their eyes. Terror. Flashbacks and what we now call PTSDs. I felt bad. I didn’t know. I mean I knew Mao was an asshole but… I just didn’t think that some people now in our nation came here because they fled terror, hunger, and oppression. And that smiling face on my lapel worn in irony was, in so many ways not just something people could post outrage of Facebooks, but something that awoke deep and primal fear.  Fight or flight… right there on the subway.
photo(1)On the way out I stopped in the little gift store. A man in front of me wanted to talk to someone in charge.  I found my great grandfather’s grave. He had fallen in Bladensville. I want to make sure he has a veteran’s memorial at his headstone. The obliging and polite manager took his information in order to pass it on to the right people. The Sons of the Confederacy.
I walked up to the counter. I had the cheeper flag since why buy he cotton one? I was just looking for something ironic for my cabin… I needed something to sneer at with all my Northeastern/[other country] affiliations and education out the yin and yang.  But at that moment. In front of a real person with a real connection, a strong and emotional family connection to the Recent Unpleasantries/War of Northern Aggression/Civil War/ American Civil War who had found this lonely grave all weed choked and forlorn from some fuckteenth battle we have all but forgotten … I just sort of stood there… Thinking about what I wanted to get out of this visit and how I wasn’t given what I wanted… And I felt like a total asshole.  I bought the flag. But every time I look at it. I see that weed covered grave of a hundred thousand and not my ironic little joke.  I will try to end up on the right side of history, perhaps, in time, I won’t be seen as occupying that place and my image will be reviled and stepped upon. Depending on The Victor of some future war.

photoEditor’s Note: The visit to the museum was about a year ago or so.  Maybe 14 months.

Ice House Rules

photo 3In the middle of Upper Kirby, a quiet neighborhood to the west of downtown Houston, sits the old ice house.  In the days before air conditioning and refrigerators, people from Upper Kirby would come to the ice house to get blocks for their ice boxes.  In time the ice house was converted into an outdoor bar and roadhouse for the local tradesmen and roughnecks and more lately a center of posers and doutche bags, at least according to several folks I spoke with about the city.  Oh the Ice house, I used to love that place but man it’s changed, said the bar tender and part-time musician.  No more live music since the neighborhood gentrified, said another bar man.  No more free hotdogs on Friday, according to a reviewer on Yelp… I guess they ran out of hotdogs or whatever.  I can’t evaluate as a historian, I can only put on my anthropologist hat and listen, which is a very strange hat to wear in public since that hat is constructed of feathers, stones, and carved ancestors holding enormous erections in their hands.
photo 5Whateverthehell it may have been Backingtheday, today this ice house out on West Alabama road is more an activity complex than just a bar.  Along with a stage that may-or-may-not house musical acts from time-to-time, there is a horseshoe pit, basketball hoop, pool table table, and a ping pong table. The flaps of the old ice house are open during business hours and this forms the core of the complex.  Inside this core are the waitresses/trons.  The offerings are but bottled beer and wine by the plastic cup and the staff move about as in any typical bar opening and pouring and wiping and tab closing out.  From this core the wings spread out in a set of extensions and additions to shield patrons from the pouring ran or the pounding sun or both at the same time since this is Texas and in the Big Country one can be standing in the rain and get a sunburn concurrently.
photo 2Perhaps gone are the electricians, plumbers, and average Working Mans, but it seems here and there sitting at the bar or a table or two are some old members of a useful trade.  The rest are members of I guess useless but higher paid trades that take longer to master the art of the bunk.  University student-looking people clustered about tables and talking about Leben und Kunst, Gotterdammerung, and Schmuck. Men ridding $40,000 USD motorcycles park them outside and then cluster together in loud groups.  And the typical crowd of tattoos and fun people one would expect at any bar on a weekday.  Were to have just a little less history, and a little more irony, it could be Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  However, when the Honky-Tonk plays on the jukebox, and one spies the poster proclaiming that someone, probably a staff member, is having a baby, and the dog on the table starts barking at an imaginary specter, it is clearly no place like Gotham (except for perhaps the Gowanus Yacht Club).  Additionally, when one sits down for a beer or ten, it is common to be talked to by other patrons or even the bar tender.  This happens frequently outside of Gotham.
photo 4It seems that bar culture in Gotham is a lonely affair.  Sad and broken individuals cluster at the bar surrounded by the din of those smart enough to have come with friends and have someone to talk to, even if it is to loudly talk about the same shit you talk about at the office.  It is on rare occasion that this writer has been spoken to at at bar in Gotham, and usually it is by someone who wants to eat some part of my body with fafa beans, metaphorically or not.  Outside of Gotham, drinking at a bar is not a solitary time to contemplate, meditate, and get shitfaced.  No sooner have I made myself a seat, opened up my book, that someone speaks.  To me.  At first this took me by complete surprise.  Did you not know I came in here to be alone?  I have this book and I like to have a drink as I read and I am too lazy to make it myself.  I’m just here to observe, not participate.  Nevertheless, I have warmed up to this idle chatter from all who may be close by, different ages, genders, occupations, and levels of alcoholism, and when someone says, “Oh so where are you from,” I don’t stare at them in disbelief or consider they must be talking to the ghost sitting behind me…
photo 1The ice house out on West Alabama road is indeed a unique gathering spot and great place to enjoy after work when the sun has set low.  The Texas heat is mitigated a little by the series of fans, but it is still in the outdoors and one may sweat as much as the frosty bottle in front of you. Everything abruptly stops about 11PM since closing time is midnight, an ordnance in Houston for places that don’t serve hard alcohol. It lets the patrons shuffle back to their condos, bungalows, or ride on into the night on Memorial Drive on their expensive toys.  Whatever the ice house may have been ten or twenty years ago may have changed as has the area.  And for some, that is indeed for the better.
photo 2(1)Editor’s Note: No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog.

The Best Little Blues Club

photo 1(4)“You sure you want me to leave you here,” the country western lady Uber Taxi driver said to me as she eyed a very large woman wearing a very gold lame dress.  I said I was OK.  Does your phone have service?  I checked.  Yes. And battery power?  I checked.  Yes.  So you can get a lift out of here if you need it?  Yes.  “You know you’ll be the only white [person] here?”  I assured her that I could take care of myself and thanked her for checking for my safety but I was going to listen to blues not score premo yay yo from a cartel or walk into a Scheiße
sex club buttered up and carrying a box of butt beads.

photo 3(4)I then understood this is not the sort of blues club one goes to in Gotham.  Up in Harlem where the busloads of Sweeds turn out for Tuesday night supper clubs, or downtown Jazz clubs packed with NYU girls with belly rings and tan lines from flopping about the beaches of Tel Aviv.  This was not the place people from the other side of Houston come to.
Situated on the outside of town in the cement piles of discarded monuments and scrubby lumpy shrubs where once there were neat upon neat rows of houses, sits the best little blues club in Houston.  Houston has a lot of poverty, a great deal of wealth, and run down sections that are hard to focus the eye upon they seem so out-of-place in a First World nation.

photo 2(3)Today the Best Little Blues Club (BLBC) is itself a snapshot of days gone by.  The Chitlin Circuit.  Clubs once all over the nation, but especially in the Deep South, where black entertainers could enter and leave through the same door as the patrons.  Where there were no divisions other than those who knew one another, and those who didn’t.
The establishment is out there in the ruined section of town.  Right by the train tracks and highway, is ramshackle, run down, stapled together, and altogether perhaps a danger to be within it looks like a film set for a blues club.  But, this is the real thing.  Owned and run since the early 1970s by the same gentleman, the club occupies a maze of additions held together by spray foam, carpet remnants, and decorations left over from all sorts of private parties. The BLBC has no fancy sign, it does have a classic car out front but one has to know that this place is here, and on certain days, like Sunday afternoon, open for business.
photo 3(3)Inside it is exactly like Back in The Day.  Those days may have been mean, and remainders of this history we cannot yet cleanly escape, but in those days of segregation places like this served a community, maintained a strong unique culture, and allowed a group to form tightly.  Members of any private club always knew who was in, and who was on the outs.  Nevertheless, there should be no nostalgia for those days as there should be no pity for having lost the Borscht Belt, the Irish Alps, German Village, or the passing of those many whistle stops on the Chitlin Circuit.  At the same time, history does not vanish, and often we remember the good things in history and the bad things in our life and often in this mix up we breed nostalgia and a romantic notion of what once was and what we wish were today.
photo 5(2)We don’t want to return.  We don’t want poverty and inequality, but for good or for bad, these hard lives and unfair conditions make the best blues.  You can’t have daddy buy you a car for your high school graduation party to replace the pony and turn out good blues.  Clearly these old musicians are familiar with the facts of the heart and the long days that march to the vanishing point without any pork in the pan.  The music is going strong and all the patrons are dressed up in various styles from church going attire to party clothes.  Clearly no one rolled out of bed to be dragged here but thought about it. What am going to wear to BLBC?  Crazy church hats.  Long overcoats the colour of which may surprise most designers.  But people dress to impress, even if the majority of the establishment is populated by silver headed folks who yet party but are of a certain age.  The fun starts and ends early.  “How you doing,” one man said to me.  Another came by and asked me the same question.  I could see some wanted to size me up.  I had a conversation with the owner and chatted about being in that day from Gotham.

photo 4(2)An affable master of the dance, he ushered me inside and pointed to the bar.  Passing the large groups clustered at tiny tables, I could see a few eyes upon me since I came in alone and people that look more-or-less like me have been in the news more than once for coming into places with people like them for no good reasons and with no good outcomes.  I was just here for the music, as was everyone else.  I ponied up close close to the bar and tucked in a few beers which put me and those about me at ease, or at least not causing a fuss I was able to vanish into the woodwork and just enjoy the music and maybe that Uber driver had woken up some slight discomfort of the unknown.  I mean… I have never quite fit in no matter where I go.  So, this was in that way, no different. Right?
photo 1(5)The band plays on a little stage.  Around there are different environments.  When this crowd was younger, so many nooks and places I am sure the walls could tell stories about.  There appears to be a central part of the whole establishment.  An older core from which various additions were tacked on to.  The stage if blocked by decor.  Old musical instruments and a few posts supporting the roof.  Clearly this is about the soul, about the music, about the little dance floor, and getting people moving, not about posing on stage looking at invisible cameras.
photo 5(3)And music they did make.  I leaned against the bar and watched a very elderly man, I am sorry but while locally known I am not familiar with his name, turn the house on its end.  At the end of every song the dancing couples would return to their little tables or rush the bar for drinks or huge bowls of ice that came with wedges of lime, little cherries, and maybe a slice of lemon that are then taken back to the table (wink wink), or those cheep drinks that you can’t officially buy (everything is a donation freely given).  When the next song starts, the same couples rush up from their tables, abandoning their drinks, and rushed back onto the dance floor so they would not miss a single note of the performance.
In time, the evening grew to night and I had to get back to the hotel since I had an early day.

photo 4(3)“I got to work early too,” the older man told me, “but you don’t see me leaving yet!”  He winked and patted me on the shoulder.  I made pleasantries with the owner and stepped outside, turned on my phone, and contacted The Ubers.  “You OK” a patron asked me as I sat on the bench.  Yes, I am, just waiting for my ride.  You know where you are?  Yes.  You have a way home?  Yes.  I thanked them for looking in to my safety and just then the car came.  A VW with an after market exhaust pipe that made it a little loud.  I got inside and the young man asked me, what kind of a place is this?  Blues.  The Best Little Blues House.  Really, you went here alone?  I looked at my Uber App.  The name Max struck me as short for Maximilian.  Maybe I was just assuming by the hint of a Spanish twang in his voice.  Yes, I came here alone, and you should come here too.  It safe? he asked me.  I looked at the old couple holding one another as they walked back to their car.  History doesn’t just vanish in a day.  For good, or for bad.

photo 2(4)Editor’s Note: This is not a review or recommendation but a reflection from a night out on the town. The writer of this blog does not get paid to promote.  However, if your candy-coated ass would like to see the best blues in Houston, check it out by starting your journey HERE.

One Man’s Treasure

photo(1)There is a thousand cities hurting and rotting and sitting in the sun like this one.  Numb.  Lifeless. Just looking dead-eyed into shattered areas of humanity that have lost their footing and fled, all as ghosts.  Why? A thousand million likes and snapchats and posts and blogs and FWD emails and petitions and searches and articles and ink and digital lamplight, written in coal, diverted rivers, and radiation will tell us what to think will tell us the answer. We can never know why.  The reasons are many perhaps.

Don’t go to that neighborhood.  They are there.  The zombies.  It has fallen apart.  It isn’t what it used to be.
They don’t live there anymore.  They have moved in.  Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, Latham, North Brother Island, Newark, St. Louis, Westfield, Third Ward, and a thousand hundred other names. Things have changed.  Times have changed.  Those old days are not coming back.

photo 5(1)Where are these places?  What happened here?  Did we lose some sort of war?  Has this been happening all the time and now, older, we look out the car window but this time we are driving, we are no longer asleep on the bench seat in the back.  We have to look at the roads.  Pay attention to the signs.  We have to know where we are going.  We now see how things are changing.  How each year, we are older still.

I think of the sand.  Dug from from pit.  Clay from the riverside.  Burned into bricks.  Trees reaching for time unknown.  Light and winters frozen into tall boards.  The many hands that carted away those trees, dug the foundations, moved rock and earth by hand, and created little houses, large warehouses, edifices great and small and entire communities. And what of those 500 years of trees?  Those millennium of rock?  The eternal light frozen in static energy?  What did it take for that small bungalow to be put in front of us, used perhaps a generation.  So many that believe in evolution are prime to say that things change, evolve, or die.  They do not think of the millions of years of transformation that have accumulated in order to allow them to heat their house, just for one night.

photo 3(2)It is said that matter cannot be destroyed, it can only change shape.  Perhaps this is true.  But we many do not live and love in that chalk mark and dusty academic perfect universe of theory and light refracted but here-and-now and must make do with those things before us.  Where are our bricks, hardwood, and stone?

photo 4(1)When we have wasted and spent all those forests, rivers, and field, what will we build with?  Will we also create something great and lasting, or are our efforts to be pushed aside in ten years hence, to see everything we have toiled to create brushed aside by the hand of fate and the lactating breast of progress pumped out with all manner of machines?  Strange times and ideas, hot spirits and spit up theory as a child with colic crying in the night, since we can ignore these thoughts and they will go away.  Each day history erodes on its own.  We, however, are helping it at an unprecedented way.  However, what else are five billion moving, feeding, breeding, pulsing and throbbing individuals to do?  Remain Still?

photo 1(3)I remember a grandfather lamenting that the bank was being renovated.  Being given a facelift, the old stone being tossed away.

We sweat so hard to put that in place, he said.  We sweat so hard.  I saw 75 years of hard work and pain in his face.

The other day I saw slabs of marble, a former staircase of a mansion of note, tossed into a large and yellow piss-smelling dumpster.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  Will we always have such treasure?  Everything in time, fades into the fog of memory.

photo 2(2)Editor’s Note: This could be anywhere. But it is here.

Mount Marcy Playground

photo 1(1)Hiking is perhaps today’s most expensive form of slow travel.  This is not the jaunt through parks central or polite trails that are lined with the occasional bench or interpretive sign post but the hike that entails a serious drive to some trailhead in order to then strap on a pack with provisions and gear and to blunder into the woods for a given amount of time in some difficult terrain in order to see this brook, or that mountain.
Hiking is serious and add to that camping and this is today no longer the sport of simple fools, but those fools that can afford the tent, sleeping bag, maps, camp stove, back up camp stove, Meals Ready to Eat, and whatever else can be taken not due to the intrinsic utility of such object but because it only weighs such-and-such so why not take the three masted rotoscoping terpsichorean bike?  All this costs plenty of money.  Unless you want to use all that old heavy stuff out there in the garage.  That crap your uncle Mordecai gave you…

photo 1(2)One place to burn your hard earned income not he joy of then carrying about your belongings in some refugee cosplay is to take all your wonderful REI stuff strapped to your fanny and push it up Mount Marcy. Mount Marcy is the tallest of the 47 peaks of the Adirondack Wilderness Area, and at the summit affords spectacular prize for the intrepid hiker to rise above the treeline and from this alpine summit (watch you don’t squash one of the rare alpine plants) and there strike many poses as well as attempt to show off the hundreds of miles in all directions you can see that just can’t be captured by our current iteration of the iThingy’s camera.  So, you will have to tell your friends, “you sort of have to be there” which is true.
There are several routes in, and one affords a simpler access point however it is not surprisingly more populous – especially on busy weekends.  The road less traveled is that from the Upperworks Road.  This is not some secret entrance.  It is a long and hard more often than not muddy traverse to Colden Dam and the first camping area and then on an additional four even more difficult miles until coming to the final section of boulder hopping and some shimmying to get up to the summit itself.  For many this is the preferred route since it gives access to less crowded camping, some options to go to different mountains, and of course the monument at Calamity Pond and view Lake Tear of The Clouds, the recognized starting point for the great Hudson River.   However, spoiler alert… it looks like a muddy and inconsequential pond. Most of the most important things in life pail next to the constant fodder we champ and chew, the CGI explosions, the volcano space alien gods, the movie star with the air brushed body.

photo 2While wilderness in its right, most of the trees (one can see a few from the trail that are the exception) are about 30-60 years old.  This is a young forest.  One thing to be aware of is that most of if not all of the wilderness areas of the Northeast were once battered and exploded dried up parcels of spent chit.  Logged, mined, poked and prodded, so much of our now Forever Wild was the site of some industrial activity over the past several hundred years.  It is amazing to hike for miles through impossible and imposing trails only to come across some abandoned blast furnace, block house, or quarry.  Eons ago one such endeavor was to mine for iron and smelt this into something that could be transported down the Hudson River.  Here, the Hudson River is no more than a piddling stream, and when it does enlarge to a creek there are often rapids and drops to hamper any travel.  There are two abandoned furnaces on the road to the Upperworks Trail head.  These are but the remaining monument to what actually was a failed venture sometime in the early part of the 19th century.  Closer to the trail is an entire lost village.  Buildings tossed into ruin by time and the elements.  When I first hiked the trail to Mount Marcy these structures were still intact enough to enter and cause some little mischief – however… today, they are but match sticks.  Hike as long and hard as you can.  Put in a full day, but you will come across others who have hauled in far more heavy a load and sometimes when I see arranged boulders and remnants of mines deep in the wood, my body has a sympathy fatigue for those old ones who passed through this world in a more virile ago oh so long ago.

photo 3(1)The trail of Upper Works at first passes through an area that was logged not too long ago.  When I first did the hike the wreckage of machinery and the clear cut forest somewhat spoiled the fantasy that I was pushing into the wilds of the green earth and I almost turned back wondering as to how long this spent and blackened landscape existed (this was before the Internet so I could not ask Uncle Googles). The trail pushes through and enters that richer forest.  This is also where the mud starts in earnest.  Real serious mud.  This is not child’s play mud pie material, oh no, not the “Junior wipe your feet or you will track it in” mud, but professional-grade, high refined, thick and splashy sucking mud.  Red, black, tan and gray, it comes in colours and textures to please all.  With a heavy pack sometimes one’s foot vanishes into the muck and you have to break open your Cub Scout book to look up quicksand and tar pits.  The sounds accompanying the hike are whatever few birds are about (if you listen you will know when you have ascended in altitude as the bird song is thinner as is the undergrowth) and the simulated flatulence of the splashing slickery sound of your companions, yourself, and the dog someone thought was a good idea to bring until he got all covered in mud and burdock as they slog along.

photo 2(1)There are no views along the first several miles of the trail.  Then, of a sudden, you are at a lake and your eyes can again adjust to see something not three feet ahead and made of wetness.  You may need to put on or take off your glasses at this point.  The lake is not quite a lake but the Flowed Lands – more marsh then anything else – and the mountain you see is Avalanche Mountain, sight of, unsurprisingly, an avalanche of epic proportions that occurred due to a forest fire sometime in the middle of the last century that caused huge swaths of the mountain to flow into the… flowed lands.  There are two ways to go on from here.  Or stay at the lean-too – sight of an epic bear experience I had some years ago.  Stay on the official trail and climb yet another bump, or cut close to the shoreline and while you have to ford a stream and put up with more mud, it does shave off a few minutes.

photo 4The dam at Lake Colden affords yet another clear view of Avalanche Mountain and not much further on are the first clusters of official camp sites with one or two (I think one) lean-to structures.  Do not camp just anywhere and do not build a fire.  Again, the illusion is that you are in the Wilderness but at any time a Forest Ranger can manifest, just melt up from the forest floor like Mephistopheles and summons you for your misdeeds.  Also, the forest ranger station is about 2 miles away, or to measure by the ability of any ranger, about a 10 minute walk.  At the suspension bridge there is a fork of sorts as one can set up camp to the right or continue on to the left the 4 miles to the summit.  I have camped at this location three of the four times I have been to Mount Marcy.  I don’t plan to do this again as I am convinced it is haunted.  I just have nothing but bad “we’re sleeping on top of an Indian burial ground and I totally saw the film Poltergeist and know how that turned out” sort of heebie-jebbies.  Other than the Old Ones dwell in the forest here, it is a simple camping site close to water and with another lean-to and two privies.  Again, just when you think you have made some kind of a conquest by bringing your candy coated ass out in the woods with your granola bars and titanium pots, someone came here and build little houses and privies in the woods with chain saws and hammers.

photo 5The trail up to Marcy turns ever more difficult or perhaps you are just fatigued and sick of slick rocks.  There is a hint of a reward as the stream next to the trail has formed many chasms though with millions of gallons of water are flowing (depending on the time of year).  Another great section of selfie-producing moments but the trail does not forgive.  At one point log stairs are the only way up and down, made difficult since a few steps are missing, and have been for years. And then another cluster of campsites, and the trail pauses in elevation for a moment before again ascending.
There are some very attractive options given along the trail to see other mountains.  Other summits that are closer, perhaps afford a similar view, but with Marcy there, the majority of non 47 devotees keep pushing ahead.

This time our hiking party did not summit the mountain.  Due to a series of unfortunate events and the limitations of the weekend, we were unable to get more than close by to the mountain.  Perhaps 3 or so miles, which seems to not be a considerable distance, but believe me, the trail is not something to be taken lightly.  We will try again in the coming months, perhaps the coming weeks.  Maybe we will avoid it all together and let the mountain remain in peace.  Having spent all that money on our camping equipment, it would be a shame not to use it again.

photoEditor’s Note: For detailed information on the park visit this wonderful site HERE.