Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fiction and Literature

It's been three weeks since Sammi's birthday and it's a new record: she hasn't spent any of her book money on the Barnes and Nobles gift card. Until today. (She was helped along by the fact that we've been out of town and running around each of the past three weekends.)

So today, while she and Michaela perused the Young Adult section, which, if you haven't checked lately is almost exclusively packed with vampire and immortal romances, I sought refuge in the Literature section.

Sadly, though, my Literature section has been, long ago, combined with the general "Fiction" category.

Some of the great works, the ones I ache for Samantha to discover someday, are lost between so much dross. I started to keep a running list of the pain:

John Steinbeck is shoved in a little space amid Danielle Steele and Nicholas Sparks.

Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward snuggled up against the works of Sister Souljah.

Emma and the Vampires sits to the left of Ulysses.

Victor Hugo's masterpieces take up a small portion of a shelf mainly devoted to the "timeless" works of Stephen Hunter.

Annie Flagg (of Fried Green Tomatoes fame) precedes Flaubert's Madame Bovary, followed by shelves and shelves of Ian Fleming.

Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, meet Bret Easton Ellis' Glamorama. I'm sure you two have much to talk about.

Kate Chopin would pitch such a wonderful fit to see her shelf space filled primarily by Tom Clancy and Mary Higgins Clark books.

And Michael Connelly's works probably don't realize how close they are to Conrad's Heart of Darkness, I suppose.

Charles Dickens, meet Eric Jerome Dickey. I'm sure 100 years from now one of you will still be on the shelves.

Here's a favorite run of titles: Get Lucky, Don Quixote, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay .

Jane Austen, here is David Baldacci. Jane Eyre, meet The Lucifer Code.

Yes, I am a literature snob. I want books that have stood the test of time, that speak beyond their own time and pull us back to images and meanings of humanity that change the way we think, to have a place of honor on the wall, grouped together for the curious reader who may not know, but wants to find out, what all the fuss is about without having to claw through so much drivel and flash.

I love modern fiction as much as the next person. Amy Tan, publish a new book of fiction already. Sherman Alexie, I still read you and think of the tongue-tied moment of stupidity when I got to meet you. Tim O'Brien, I can't go to the bathroom in a bookstore or library without thinking about that talk I attended -- thanks. Keep writing. I will keep finding you.

But even my modern fiction heroes would, I hope, agree that there is a profound difference between what bookstores categorize as "Fiction" and "Literature" and the mash of the two is jarring and a just a little painfully ironic.

Yes, we can get into all kinds of arguments over who will decide what should be classified as literature and what criteria we should use, but even that discussion would be a welcome distraction to things as they now stand, with no one any better than anyone else, because everyone is special (and beautiful in their own way. . .).


Monday, September 20, 2010

Harriet Carter, you're weird

When we moved to Colorado, the postal service had a heck of a time with the fact that we'd moved our address once to the in-laws address in the same town (also Masks) and then moved it again after a few months to Highlands Ranch, CO. The sweet Navasota PO just couldn't seem to sort out that NELL was NOT one of the names we listed to forward mail on to Colorado.

So for three years now we are still getting sales catalogs with Nell's name showing up in our mailbox. The most regular of these is Harrier Carter, whose catalog is filled with all sorts of strange little inventions, not a few of which you have to admit you wish you had thought of.

However, I have to say there are some of these items that are just a little too weird for my tastes. And the pictures really don't make things any better.

I mean, I just cannot fathom the desire to strap this thing around my neck and start pumping for all I'm worth while my neck stretched to Alice in Wonderland proportions. Is it just me, or does this poor woman's face look just a little swollen from the anaconda-squishing going on?

I also am trying desperately to imagine a 60+ something person (the demographic this magazine seems clearly aimed at) who would actually WANT to wake up to a drum solo?? No wonder it's on sale...

And there's this. Words just fail to express the utter doofiness contained in this picture. Tedious sweeping? As opposed to the tiny little hairs that will spend an eternity hiding in the seams of this Lost in Space contraption?

Really? Because putting your tired feet up on the regular couch just doesn't cut it?

And now we come to what must be the Crazy Old Farts section of the catalog. These are apparently designed for people whose height of humor is limited to toilets and clips of men getting doubled over by footballs in their groins.

First up, the bank that farts (6 flatulent sound effects!!) when you insert a coin into the "slot". Good. Grief.

Flushing sounds every hour on the hour. . . how relaxing!

And finally . . .

Is that Cary Elwes?
Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fall '09

Dad's Fall 2009 collection I've been enjoying for a year in the digital frame.

Time for some new aspens pictures soon, though!

Santa Fe '74-'07

Santa Fe and the surrounding mountains: one of my favorite places on the planet.
Monday, September 13, 2010

Chicago Lakes Hike 9.12.10

(Excuse the filthy lens)

Yesterday Stephanie and Deana arrived bright and early to set out on a long hike up to Chicago Lakes near Mt. Evans. They are just shy of Summit Lake that you drive by on the way to the top of the 14er.

We got to Echo Lake before 9:00 and set out from the trailhead.

Within minutes the vistas open up across the range. You can already see small pockets of aspens turning gold on the mountainsides.

The hike is ranked as difficult for a number of reasons. Primarily it is about the terrain and incline of descent/ascent. This trail is notorious because after hours of hiking, you will have to make a monumental climb UP. However, at the start, you're going down happily. Unless you're Stephanie who has a thing about the steep drop-offs. In which case you're better off going down staring directly in front of you.

After a while, the steep drop offs turn into tight switchbacks. This is when the twinge in my knee starts fussing more often.

After a mile's descent you hit a little slice of paradise at the creek, with its cold running water and that luscious sound of peace and tranquility.

After that respite, the ugliest part of the hike is upon you, which explains why there are no pictures. You hike a mile up a dirt road at a really steep incline and wish you were back down at the creek. However, at the top is the reservoir where the cold winds come off the water and you can catch your breath. This is a little less than halfway to Chicago Lakes. It is about here that I start to worry about how my knee will hold up. What started as a bit of a twinge and got louder at some of the descending turns, is getting worse. But I'm not bailing out now.

Small falls over rocks join the reservoir in places. It's about 10:30 and we've been going about an hour and a half at this point.

At the far end of the reservoir is this wonderful little cabin.

Beyond that is wide open spaces. And rocks. Lots and lots of rocks that all seem to go UP.

The sky stayed heavily cloudy most of the day, so it was perfectly comfortable the whole afternoon.

At the signage for the trek to Chicago Lakes.

Pictures import too small on blogger (the photo issue is the number one drawback on this site) to see the text, but if you see a light blue blob at the top right, that was Echo Lake. The red rectangle towards the center says "You are Here" and way further down the map are the blue blobs that are Chicago Lakes. The last lake on the map is Summit which is apparently directly OVER the second Chicago as the climb is straight up.

Here's the topographical view of the ascent to the lakes:

From here to the Summit Lake is 6.3 more miles with a rise of over 4000 feet.

So let's get started!

The higher we go, the more golden the aspen stands along the trail. Fall is upon us.

A long portion of the climb is through a massive burn area. This emptiness still makes me a little sad, even though I know the cleansing is necessary in the long run.

The colors of the ground cover springs up from the ash-rich soil are dazzling.

And, incredibly, while we are taking a break, Stephanie cell phone rings! The service is spotty, but I'm still impressed.

More aspens along the way:

And lots more hiking. Note I am taking pictures on the levelest spots. When we hit the steep parts and the heart rate goes skyrocketing, there is no interest in photography.

Heading into another stand of golden aspens.

One of the creeks fed by the lakes travelling down to the reservoir.

Crossing another stream along the way.

Note how our following the leader is resulting in shots of me farther and farther behind. The knee is not happy. But the rest of me is :)

We finally reach the lower lake around 1:45 and stop to take a break.

I try to head up to the second lake with Stephanie and Deana only to realize the knee is starting to swell and the ascent is going to be too steep and technical for me to make. So I lounge like a lizard on a warm rock near the lower lake and psych myself up for what is going to be a long, slow hike back. I also wrap the knee, which turns out to make it much, much more painful.

So let's skip the majority of the way back experience, which would just be me slowing everyone else down, Deana taking my pack, Stephanie taking my camera, and me, thanking God and Stephanie for the hiking pole that made it possible for me to naviagate the rocky descent on a knee that now refuses to bend. From 2:30 until 5:00 I drag it along like Frankenstein's monster. Plus every other muscle in both legs, especially the hips, are starting to scream because I did the stair climb yesterday in addition to this 8 hour hike. Not my wisest planning, to be sure. And the odd way I have to walk also rubs blisters all over my right foot on the "good leg." When I take my socks off later they bear a remarkable resemblance to these:

Back through the burn area, down and down and down.

Favoring the right leg and clinging to that pole for life:

Just past the reservoir again, Deana finds a heart shaped rock. We're taking that as a sign.

However, we're not too sure what to make of this sign. Anyone lose their XL boxer shorts along the hike?
When Courtney and I did just the portion down to the reservoir and back, we had to stop 4 or 5 times to get our heart rates down before continuing. Here's a mark of how slow I had to go: didn't stop once. Here's Stephanie NOT looking down. She'd been looking back at me the whole way until this point.

A little mouse watched me shuffle by from his perch in the rocks.

A last look across the sky as the sun gets lower. It's just now 5:00.

See the smile below? That's cause I'm not going to have to spend the night in pitch dark in the cold on this trail!

The orange moss on the rock side of the trail.

And the aspens up above

This blue bird shadowed us the whole day, even over to the lodge when we were eating dinner.

Thanks to the constantly opening door of the lodge and the wonderful food, they have a fly problem. I guess this is one way to combat it, but it doesn't make looking up very appetizing.

So we look down: the southwestern burgers have arrived. We're pointing to the guacamole, in case you were wondering.

And then, while I can barely walk, there is something terribly therapeutic about pie and coffee.

And a fantastic sunset over Echo Lake to end the day on.