Lunaya Pravda

28 July 2007

Out of the comfort zone--reconnecting with an old friend

Warning: naval-gazing found below...

I did an incredibly terrifying thing tonight. From time to time, I jump on IRC to keep in touch with friends I don't normally email. Tonight, to my surprise, my old friend B. happened to drive through the channel I was in.

With trepidation, I debated with myself the merits of saying anything to him. Three years ago, we didn't end our friendship on a particularly pleasant note, partly because we were truly fed up with each other, and partly because of pressures and stresses coming from outside our friendship. Neither of us was in a good place in our lives, and rather than talking about it or working through it, instead we took our frustrations out on each other in cold, subtle, nasty ways. Because our friendship had been so close, almost like siblings living on opposite sides of the continent, I was hesitant to put myself out there or set myself up for any kind of sting that might dredge up old wounds. There was so much at stake, I thought, why should I put myself at risk?

But, as if my fingers made the decision for me, I had typed out a message to him. It took me a good 10 or 15 minutes to actually screw up enough courage to send it, but the next thing I knew, we were chatting.

It was strained at first. One word answers. Then the inevitable distracting small talk about family and such, all to avoid the pink elephant in the room we knew we'd inevitably have to face. Then we eased into it. The bad history, the miserable last few months clinging to some scraps of friendship. Slowly we laid out all the cards we'd been holding for so long. In as much honesty as we could muster, we talked about it all. I can't speak for B., but it was a catharsis for me. I'd always felt blindsided by the deterioration of our friendship, like watching a fruit I thought I had been dutifully watering wither on the vine. Over the past three years, every so often, I'd give the matter some thought and still had little idea what exactly went wrong. From our final conversations long ago, I gleaned enough to realize it wasn't all about me, but how much of it was me? Tonight, I got honest answers to those questions that had been nagging me.

We both were to blame. We were both driving each other mad and behaving badly towards each other. We both saw the vestiges of friendship crumbling around us, and neither of us had anything left to spend on salvage. Back then, B. was cold and surly. Until tonight, I'd never acknowledged or given much thought to just how angry and confrontational I had been. I'd been watering our friendship with poison. He'd been killing it with an early frost.

After we carefully laid out all the ugliness between us, we talked like there were never three years separating conversations. I never realized precisely how much I missed my talks with B.--his quick wit, his biting sarcasm, and his keen memory. We talked as effortlessly as we ever had, perhaps because neither of us held anything back. The air between us was going to be pristine, dammit, even if it meant talking for five and a half hours.

And now, I'm sitting here with an overabundance of emotions swirling around my head like canaries. I can finally stop mourning the loss of a friendship very dear to me, which brings me peace. I look at those three lost years, and feel sadness at such wasted time. In truth, it is clear that three years separation brought positive changes in both of us, the most significant of which is the perspective and sanity we probably wouldn't have gained were our energies still hopelessly mired in unintentionally dumping on one another. Lately, we'd both been wondering about each other, and that leaves me with optimism that we aren't going to let another three years pass us by without so much as a hello.

But most importantly, I feel nothing but gratitude for whatever part of me mustered the strength to hit that one little key and reach out to him. I didn't let my fear of losing his friendship all over again conquer me. That little victory over my own cowardice, and the rewards it brought tonight, are priceless.


26 July 2007

Blatant emotional pandering

Wash. congressmen want to fight 'meth mouth'

"It is disgusting, utterly disgusting to see a little kid's teeth rotting out," Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said at news conference Thursday, flanked by four huge pictures of gaping mouths with blackened, rotting teeth.

Good fucking grief. This is such blatant emotional pandering for the purposes of drumming up support that I actually threw up in my mouth a bit. Little kids? When was the last time you saw a little kid with meth mouth, Senator? Say, someone around 8 years old? We're supposed to get all teary-eyed because the scourge of meth is ruining the teeth of American children everywhere? Spare me.

Teens and adults--NOT children--are the ones getting meth mouth, and I have little sympathy for them. But judging from the rest of the article, I'm supposed to pony up because a segment of the population not only doesn't care for their teeth, but actively pursues a course that will destroy their dental health? That dog won't hunt, sorry. Not that I think it's the taxpayers' responsibility to pay for dental care, but if we're going to be forced to pay, why not start with the folks who are actually trying to care for their teeth, not those who (metaphorically) knocked their own teeth out in a drug-induced haze?

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23 July 2007

Bone-rattling sound and fury...and fantasy

This weekend I had the incredibly exciting experience of attending my first drag races--the NHRA Nationals, to be precise. Despite my apparent handicap from a pair of ovaries, even I was nearly overwhelmed with a desire to grunt Tim Allen-style and cry for "More power!"

Top fuelers are definitely my favorite--they're fastest and loudest. Despite ear plugs, I could still feel the extreme decibels rattle every bone in my body, both during the burn-out and the actual race. Tony Schumacher set a track record at 333 miles and hour. Once I got over my natural reaction to flinch and squint at the green light, I was able to observe how much the tires deform and the difference in the throttle opening between the burn-outs and the races.

Dad walked me through the pits explaining various things about racing engines, such as the difference between cross-flow and reverse flow cylinder heads. I also had dumber questions such as "Why do they call them funny cars?" answered. Perhaps none of this info will ever be useful, but that doesn't mean it isn't fascinating.

This weekend seemed as good a time as any to tell my dad a secret fantasy of mine--getting an old car and fixing it up together. In my fantasy, we'd hunt down the parts and do most of the work ourselves, farming out anything we couldn't handle, like body work, for example. Ideally, I'd like to attempt this with a muscle car of some sort, but really, almost anything would do. I want the learning experience and the joy of undertaking a project with my father, who is sitting on some 35 years of comprehensive automotive knowledge.

What kind of dreams are you sitting on, and have you told anyone about them in the hopes of bringing them to fruition?


12 July 2007

Conversations with the young

J (age 10) is folding laundry and picks up a bra. Clearly horrified by it, he holds it delicately between forefinger and thumb so as to minimize skin contact.

Me: It doesn't have cooties, you know.

J: No, it's worse. It has boobies!

Me: Actually, right now, it doesn't, but some day you may not mind them so much.

J: Gross! I'm NEVER going to smother my face in them, if that's what you're thinking. (pauses) Well, maybe I won't mind them so much after I'm 21.

Kids can be such a trip.

08 July 2007

Tales from Montana

When P. said he'd show me "the real Montana" that last night, I suspect he was referring to the outdoor scenery, but the quintessential image that stuck with me is this: you know you're in Montana when you find yourself bouncing around helmetless on an ATV in the wee hours of the morning behind an armed man with a beer in his hand.

Needless to say, I had a blast in Montana this past week. This was my second trip out, and while the verdant Pacific Northwest is still my number one leading lady, I'd be lying if I didn't say Montana, with her relaxed attitude and carefree lifestyle, is gaining on her.

Day 1

The first full day there, I didn't do a whole lot. My car was in severe need of a washing because I appear to have done my utmost to hit every insect in western Montana on the drive out, so after a bit of a lie-in, I drove to town to gas up and wash the worst of the bugs off. Then spent the rest of the day hanging out at P.'s gulch drinking beer and waiting for K. to arrive. I rode up to the gulch with M., which helped to correct the unbelievably wrong directions we took last year getting up to the gulch in the dark. P. threw his meat on the grill for us, and we whiled away the time giving each other shit and slapping away the mosquitoes.

Day 2

The next day, K., B., and I spent some helpful but self-serving time cleaning up T.'s upstairs apartment so that we weren't stepping/tripping over things or getting covered in plaster dust. What really struck me was when I found T's truck keys under a particularly large pile of papers. He hadn't seemed to be terribly concerned that they had been missing for some time--"Oh, I was wondering where those went." I know I'd have been tearing my house apart for the keys, but not T. K. and I made a trip to the store for oil soap and a mop, and we polished the furniture (or "we polished his wood", if you prefer).

After we'd showered all the plaster, dust, and oil off and felt refreshed, K. and I drove up to Gem Mountain to pan for sapphires. For a mere $12 FRNs, you are given a bucket and the necessary tools and instruction, and you're rewarded with an oddly satisfying mix of mindless activity and small finds. By the end, I'd gotten good enough in my washing technique to get the sapphires into the center of the pan. Because it was near closing time, the line to have our sapphires evaluated for gem quality was pretty long and not budging, so K. and I decided to shine on the evaluation at that time and drive up to Skalkaho Falls. Beautiful drive, interesting conversation, and the serenity that only rushing, bubbling water can provide. Who can ask for more?

Day 3

On the morning of day three I wasn't feeling well, so I had another lie-in while K. and everyone else went up to P.'s gulch to help him dig a trench for some piping. I didn't want to feel entirely lazy and useless, so I mopped T.'s floor with the oil soap. Not sure how much of a difference it made, but at least I accomplished something (and inadvertently gave myself a defense for later when I discovered I was maligned for not digging with everyone else).

When K. got back from the gulch, we packed off into her Element for our reservations on the underground mine tour at the World Mining Museum in Butte. When our tour began, I found myself wondering if we'd inadvertently booked the geriatric tour, as we were by far the youngest on the tour, and two of our fellow tourists had canes and severe difficulty walking. The guide walked us down the hill to a trailer where we were all fitted with hard hats, headlamps and belts with battery packs. Inside the mine, the temperature was 48 degrees, and I was a bit concerned because I hadn't brought a jacket, but it felt heavenly after the outside heat. We were shown various types of mining equipment, some outdated and some in use, and went far enough in to see the main elevator shaft, which is now flooded with incredibly foul-smelling polluted water. The guide also showed us some examples of the wiring and patterns they use in blasting, and talked about Nonel and detcord, both of which I remember from my days hanging out with the demolition crews at a now-defunct bombing range outside Denver where we all worked.

What struck me most was the map at the mine entrance showing all the various adits, tunnels, shafts, drifts, and other excavations under the city of Butte. The maze extends as far underground as 4 miles, and makes the land supporting Butte look like Swiss cheese. I'm certain the scale makes a difference--it's hard to tell how far apart all those tunnels really are--and because much of the tunneling is flooded, the water would help prevent collapses, but it was still mind-blowing to contemplate that much excavation under a town. I know the Paris Catacombs preclude the construction of tall buildings because the ground can't support the weight, and that thought kept running through my mind while I looked at that map. Come to think of it, Butte doesn't appear to have tall buildings, either...

Then we visited the Berkeley Pit viewing area. On the underground mine tour, we learned that pit operation stopped in 1982, and the pit contains the water from multiple mines in the Butte area. Actually, the area where the mine sits used to be home to several towns built over underground mines. When the price of copper was high enough that open pit copper mining in the area became profitable, the Anaconda Mining Company paid the homeowners off and then allowed them to buy their homes back--just the structures themselves--for $1. The owners would then use the remaining money to have their homes moved, keeping whatever was left over.

K. drove us back to town for a barbecue at a private, seasonal I'm not sure how to describe someone who doesn't bother with permits, inspections, worker's comp, or any other nanny nonsense to run an eating establishment and make a little money for part of the year. There isn't even a roof. But it makes my heart swell to support such an enterprise, and the food was to die for. F. graced us with her incredibly dangerous flourless chocolate torte with a raspberry/strawberry coulee, B. brought a wonderfully mustardy potato salad, and the grilled meat was as excellent as I remember. Later in the evening, someone undertook the Herculean task of herding us all into a group photo with a smattering of guns and birds raised, and one of Dull'Hawk's "Time's Up" flags. I'm thinking this needs to be a tradition for TCF (or at least Granite County) meetups from now on.

Day 4

Much of the day was spent getting laundry done and wandering around town with P.'s daughter. We'd been warned by P.'s wife that if we ventured up to the gulch, we'd be trapped into putting up the forms for the concrete walls being poured the next day. Whew--bullet dodged.

After laundry and errands, we gathered to watch fireworks from near the house P. used to be renting. It wasn't of the scale of the shows wealthy folks around Lake Tapps put on every year, but for such a small town, I was impressed at the lengths to which a few residents went for a good show.

After the fireworks died off and everyone bugged out for bed, K. and I drove to Missoula in the middle of the night for food. After staying up 'til dawn just about every night, 11PM was just too early to fall asleep.

Day 5

This was when it started to get seriously hot around Granite County. Near 100, if I recall correctly. K. and I wanted to see the concrete pouring, so we didn't bother to shower in that heat and headed up to the gulch. Everyone had set up their chairs in the shade of the pines at the edge of the clearing. The whole thing didn't get rolling for a couple of hours because the trucks were late, but I took plenty of pictures of P. up on the wall using the concrete vibrator, a source of much sophomoric toilet humor. It is utterly appropriate that the pumper truck had the word "schwing" painted on it.

Tired of sweating our asses off in that weather, we drove back down to town to shower so K. could get her tortilla soup dinner ready. After much herding of cats (again), we got dinner arranged upstairs, and enjoyed a particularly excellent meal. After K. and a local took off for the lake to look for beavers, the rest of us took up a particularly cheap game of Texas Hold 'Em, a new one for me. My family plays poker often enough, but it's always dealer choice. P.'s daughter managed to bluff her way into a winning particularly good pot from her father, and the highlight of the evening for me was cleaning P. out in one hand. His ego needed a knock down a peg or two...not that it'll stay there.

After everyone left, I was far too awake to sleep (again), so I drove to Butte and back just listening to tunes. Butte has all their original mine shafts lit up in red lights at night, and the effect is particularly striking from a distance.

Day 6

K. and I intended to get back to Gem Mountain to have our sapphires evaluated, and we were hoping to have lunch with E. in Three Forks, so we called to set things up, but couldn't reach him. Out of the 20-25 sapphires I found, two were flawless and large enough to cut, totaling 2.20 carats. I suspect I'll have them heat treated to clear up their cloudiness, but I kind of like the idea of having them set in jewelry while they're still raw. There's a woman over near the coast I met on an art walk not too long ago that designs and makes beautiful jewelry. Perhaps I'll save up and see if she can fashion them into something I'd wear.

We tried reaching E. again afterwards without success, so we continued back to Butte to visit Montana Tech's mineral museum. Holy crap it was hot in there! Not a lick of air conditioning in a room with 25-foot ceilings and far too many windows. For a while, I took pictures of the minerals I found interesting, but then it occurred to me that I should be photographing the minerals I don't know, not the ones I do. And they had a nice selection, with some displays focusing on valuable types of rock commonly found in Montana.

Because we'd promised to help P. take down the forms that evening, we drove back to T.'s to pick up some stuff and change into work clothes and then headed up to the gulch. Because I'm still touchy about doing anything to damage the new vehicle, I hadn't driven it up there yet, but gave it a shot that time. As P. put it, I popped its cherry. Handled great, and I didn't bottom out once.

The weather had graced us with some cooling after another sweltering day, and taking down the forms went pretty fast once the person who didn't want to work took off. (Oddly enough, this was the same person who made some rather rude comments about me not digging back on Day 3.) With six adults and two kids helping, we got it almost entirely done in about four and a half hours, with a few breaks in between. Towards the end we pulled K.'s car around to use the headlights so we could see. Much of the time we were rewarded with an impressive distant lightning display that the Rockies often provide in the summer.

Afterwards, we sat around in our greasy, filthy clothes and shot the shit. One by one, folks dropped out or passed out, and by three or so, P. and I were the only ones still awake enough not to wuss out on some early morning off-roading. Which is when MY defining moment of Montana that started this entry occurred. Looking at aerial imagery on Google Maps now, I think I've figured out where the hell we were, which wasn't too far from the small lake we were looking for but never found.

We had a couple of mishaps along the way which left me covered in bruises and sore as hell, but I haven't felt that alive in a long time. For the first time in a long while, I can honestly say I didn't want to come home. Because the sun was up by the time I came down from the gulch, I didn't bother sleeping. I just showered, packed, and left. But the latte I picked up in Missoula didn't wake me up like I'd hoped, so I pulled off at the next rest area and napped for 45 minutes or so.

Now I'm just laundering the grease and dirt off my clothes and thinking of some changes to make and goals to meet in my life. A second home in Montana might be in there somewhere...

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