Saturday, March 28, 2009

by Jack Kerouac

"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity"
Ecclesiastes 1:2

My, my, Jack. What have you done?
The answer, it seems, is "everything under the sun".
This book starts and ends with reference to Ecclesiates, or the "Wisdom of Solomon", from the Old Testament. It shows a Jack who, in his older years, did in fact turn back to his "little lamby Jesus", as opposed to the Buddhism heavily endorsed in the last Kerouac book I reviewed (see Dharma Bums).
It is also the prattle of old and hardened Jack, heavily hitting the sauce during this time and entrenched in the cultural viewpoint of his mother. The book was written in a tone directed towards his third "wifey", Stella Sampas, in an attempt to show her where he had been and how he got to where he is now. The story is a recap of Jack's "formative" years, covering time periods from his early years as a student and athlete in Lowell, MA, to his time in the Merchant Marine, and ending with the death of his father in 1944. It is essentially the description of the events that led him to find his calling as a writer.
It is also the most boring and tedious work I have read of his, and runs a close tie for the most difficult Kerouac book for me to finish (up there with Visions of Cody). I would not recommend this book to anyone who was not a serious Kerouac fan like myself. In truth, it was only my desire to know all about his life and read every line he has written that compelled me to finish this book. I kept wanting to put it down in place of another fiction novel.
The book is somewhat interesting in that it includes details from Kerouac's life history not found in other places. Some of the stories from the Merchant Marine days are actually fascinating, including his travel to exotic locations. It amused me to read stories about him leaving the boat when he wasn't supposed to to get drunk somewhere, sometimes losing all his money in the meantime and having complicated scenarios where he has to somehow get the money to get back to the boat. To know about what inspired him to write before he wrote anything that amounted to much was engaging, and I would love to get my hands on a copy of The Sea is My Brother, or the manuscript he lost in a taxi cab that was never recovered or published.
Another facet of the book that I found interesting as well is how he refers to his friends, or doesn't, in this book. By this time in Jack's life, his friendship with Allen Ginsberg had lasted through several decades. Ginsberg was, I believe, instrumental in getting Jack published and getting him literary attention. Even though their friendship had suffered a cooling off period due to Kerouac absorbing some of his mothers anti-sematicism, Ginsberg was still victim to phone calls in the wee hours of the morning from a drunken Jack. However, Kerouac says very little about Ginsberg in this book, even though this was a significant friendship during this time period, and what he does say is not very nice ("I never really liked him much", also a suggestion that Jack and his first wife felt Allen to be lecherous). The book does, however, wax sentimental about William Burroughs (all these people by pseudonym, of course), who by this point had put Kerouac clean out of his life for all his wine-reeking offensiveness as a friend.
Historically, this book is important in terms of understanding how Jack the boy became Jack the man, who published many novels of importance during his lifetime. However, it is written with little of Jack's usual "poetry-like prose", is missing the language that made his previous books so popular. It is a good story without the narrative and depth to support it. The style is tedious and the tone pretentious, and I would put any other Kerouac book in front of this one as more accurate examples of what I loved about his writing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

She shakes her head and looks at me.
"I still can't believe that. I just can't imagine it," she says.
We are standing outside on the wooden balcony patio of a club where we have come to see my first lover perform. I am talking to an old friend, someone I knew in my teenage years and probably haven't seen in over fifteen years.
"I just would never imagine that you would have married a soldier. That doesn't seem like your type at all."
"Why?" I ask her all the while thinking, I had a "type"? I ask for elaboration. "Because I was all 'peace, love, and -fff'-?" I make a sound of an inhale while holding my fingers up to my mouth, as if I was smoking a joint.
"Yeah, because of the peace, love, and fff..." she says, also bringing her hand up to her mouth as if she is smoking some herb, and laughing at me. Suddenly the years catch up with me, and I remember the girl she must be remembering, the one in long boot cut jeans and funky necklaces, hanging out with the long haired boys with a roach clip in my pocket, a Kerouac book in my hand, and The Beatles playing on a cassette tape in the car.
The funny thing is I don't feel like I have changed at all. I myself have been caught up in the dilemma of being married to someone who supports something I completely oppose. I would nonviolently protest his deployments but no one seemed to notice. I would stick a flower in the muzzle of his gun, if he was allowed to bring it home.
I don't support the war, but the war supports me, I used to quip while anxiously awaiting his letters home. Or, I don't support the war, but I support my soldier, while filling care packages to go overseas to an APO for sorting before being delivered to a base in the desert.
I never meant to marry into the military, and I tell her a story about how my college boyfriend was headed to the military until we got serious, and I told him how adamant I was that I would not be a military wife. He decided to go in another direction instead, and eventually I ended up breaking his heart anyway, to marry this man, this man who was NOT going to be a soldier but still had a contract for a few years with the National Guard. Then poof, 9/11 happened, and that which never happened before started happening - they started sending the National Guard, our "weekend warriors", overseas to fight the war on terrorism. Suddenly three of the ten years we have been married has been spent apart while he fights, something I don't believe in, for our "freedom".
At any rate, I am wondering what "type" of person she would have imagined me with. Would he have long hair and some kind of eclectic profession, some sensitive pony-tailed guitar player? I run through my top five loves in my head again, trying to determine if I had a "type".
Meanwhile we are there to watch one of those five perform with his band onstage. I was struck by something while watching him that I never noticed before, in all these years of rememberance of years past. There was something remiscent in his jaw structure, in his mannerism, his profile...Oh. I never noticed before how very much he looks like my college boyfriend. He makes a face a couple times on stage that was exactly like one R used to make to me sometimes. And I realize that maybe, just maybe, I had some kind of type there, some physical characteristics I was looking for without even realizing it.
Maybe it is a little unfair to lump them together. After all, their life circumstances and professional interests are completely different...
But for a moment there, watching him center stage, I think...maybe I did have a type after all.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Texas Challenge 09
Fredericksburg, TX
This year's Texas Challenge was much different than last year's, both in the individual and collective experience, and in format and style. Now for weeks the weather has been gorgeous and I have been dying to go camping, and go on a wild caching spree. Of course, as Nature would have it (she is such a bitch), it turned nasty and cold the weekend of this much anticipated event. There were a lot of cold cachers out there (172 logged the event last I looked)!
I planned on caching on the way out there on the five hour drive or so from northwest Houston, but the very first one I stopped at, it just got me pissed off and not wanting to cache. It was so cold and the rain was just biting into me, and I took one look and said "&^%$ this!"
Luckily for us (me), the rain let up when we hit the other side of San Antonio. I was able to grab a handful of caches around Blanco, off 281, before Ted reined me in and said we had to get going. (My favorite one was Kokopelli's Hangout. It is a really cool area and I am glad we stopped there.)
We had to get to the campsite in enough time to check in, pitch our tent, get situated, and then we had to get down the road to go to an event nearby, in the little town of Luckenbach. Don't tell me you don't know the song! (If you do, sing along...let's go to Luckenbach Texas, with Waylon and Willie and the boys). Here are my boys outside the old post office, converted to a country store with a bar in the back (smoking area only). Around the corner was a dance hall with live music, and a little feed shack to buy some food. Elisa bought me a beer while we were here and we looked for a cache together. I really wanted to spend more time with her but both of us had our families pulling us different directions.
Last year I took my oldest son to the Challenge, and he and I camped it. This year, we went as a family and took our new tent our friends Mari and Todd gave us for Christmas. Boy was it cold! The first night the wind about blew our tent away. I saw vacancies at the local hotels and kept trying to convince Ted we should reconsider our accomodations, but he was insistent that we camp.
When I went last year, it was the sixth Annual Challenge based on a system that had worked over the years, but had generated a lot of geographic rivalry. Last year, there were a lot of disgruntled cachers, particularly from our area, seeing as that our last (or was it third?) place ammo can was kicked over to us instead of being treated with respect. Many people also felt the scoring was sketchy. There was talk of torn chads like you hadn't seen since Bush's brother helped him with the election....
This year, "Mrs Captain Picard", aka Julie, along with several Central Texas cachers, organized a different kind of Challenge. You could enter the competitive event, which previously was the only event, or you could choose to do "casual caching". The Challenge Hide Team hid around seventy caches all around Fredericksburg and surrounding areas. For each one that you found, you stamped a card, and when you returned that afternoon, you received a ticket for each stamp. The competitive challenge was not based region to region (usually we have four: North, Southeast, Central, or West) but team to team, with divisions for coed versus single sex teams and different age brackets. This competition was held at Enchanted Rock, which is a beautiful big dome shaped rock (technically an exfoilation dome) in a scenic spot in the Hill Country of Texas. Instead of my doing the competitive cache with other SE Tx cachers, the four of us did the casual caching together.
The town of Fredericksburg itself has its charms. It is an old German town that stood by its roots and still has a Main Street filled with unique stores that caters now to a tourist crowd who come to enjoy E Rock, German food, antique shopping, and wineries. This sleepy hamlet, albeit Spring Break and German festivals, boasts to be America's #2 Wine Destination. It also hosts fascinating eateries, such as the original Porky's restaurant, at which we took this photo at the end of the casual caching.
My husband kept telling me about this awesome pulled pork sandwich he had there about two months ago when doing more processing of soldiers for upcoming deployments. I wanted to check it out, but when we got there, I had to order a cheeseburger instead of the pulled pork. He says I was missing out, but really I had missed out the night before, because I didn't realize the Luckenbach "feed shack" was cash only, and we were only able to get chili dogs and water with the dollars we had on us.
Now, my caching experience was not what I thought it would be, but it turned out all right. Originally, my friend Elisa and I were going to ditch the guys at a fishing hole with a child, and take the other child caching with us. We were going to hit it! Unfortunately, the weather did not favor that plan. ):
It was blustery and cold that first morning, the morning of the Challenge, so instead of cooking a hot breakfast over the grill that we planned, we all piled in the car to head into town for some kolaches...Now if there is one thing I love about German food working its way into Texas consciousness, it's the kolache!
So we were all in the car and I was texting Elisa, but she didn't get my message until she was at the campsite looking for me. She had to come there to pick up her card anyway, but I felt bad about missing her. By the time she called me, we were finding our first cache of the day.
We spent the day driving all around the town hunting caches. My plan for maximizing our cache find went out the window with the change of plans to go with our families instead of us girls. We managed to find a lot right in the town before the kids started insisting on going to a park. We decided to deviate from the Challenge caches and go after two non-Challenge caches there in town that were at a park. When we did this, I realized that the little one's diaper had gotten wet and leaked out all over both the pairs of pants he was wearing (we were all layered with clothing due to the forty degree temperature outside).
I had new diapers with us but not new pants, so we decided to go back to the campsite and regroup. This took about half an hour out of our day and really threw us off our rhythm. After this interruption, we headed south instead of north to town, and started grabbing some of the caches "off the beaten path" on back roads. The back roads made Ted nostalgic for his hometown and he started going on and on about how much he hates living in the city and we should get a place in the country. Our route led us to many wineries (the Hide Team hid a bunch outside these places), and once he started wine tasting to pass the time while I hunted the cache, he got even more nostalgic.
Some of the caches were hidden outside old school houses from earlier last century. These were double ticket items, in an attempt to generate more visits to them. At one of the ones like this we stopped at, an elderly German lady who went to school there as a child had some treats out and gave us tours, telling us stories about her days there at the school and what life was like for her growing up in the area.
At our last cache of the day, I ran into some friends of mine from back home who had done the competitive Challenge that morning. They were out hitting casual caches now, but they were very worn out! These women are also my friends on Facebook, which has turned out to be a good vehicle to get to know people better. At this stop, there was also a lady who was videotaping people finding the cache for a documentary she was doing.
By the time we finished eating at Porky's, it was time to turn in our cards at the pavilion near the campsite. It seemed like everyone in my family was ready to take a nap now except for me. I wanted to be there to see what was going to happen next. We put the twenty three tickets we had earned in the raffle. I was hoping to end up with the grand prize, a weekend getaway at a Bed and Breakfast there in Fredericksburg, but my friend Joy won that instead. We ended up with a duffel bag, some kitty cat tiles, and a couple kids toys. I am sure Julie did not plan on spending hours up there on stage giving away prizes, but there were just so many of them! It made everyone feel like a winner to get something.
They actually had to put the raffle on hold to get to the rest of the event, which was announcing winners of the creative cache contest, and then the main event, announcing the winning teams from the competition earlier. To everyone's surprise (most of all, the four people on the team), one of our teams won their division! This team was comprised of three fellas and a girl that actually I met about a couple months ago, right after she moved to the area, and encouraged to come to a local event, where I introduced her to one of the other guys (my attempt at matchmaking), who invited her to come play with them this weekend. It was exciting for me to see them then go on to win the prize together, which was the geocoin minted for the Challenge on a necklace.
The whole weekend, what was so amazing to me is that I didn't hear a single complaint. Not about the scoring, not about the way things were run, about the organization, nothing. Well, maybe the weather. It astounded me and I think was a testament to how well this year's Challenge Team did at planning. There was no regional animosity, and I think that was a benefit of moving to the different format. I hope they keep this format in the future.
As for us, we made it through the weekend without anyone freezing to death. We got about 39 caches for the trip, which was a decent amount. It is actually an amazing number when you consider that my husband who has about a four cache limit was with us, and we got an average of 13 caches for the three days we were doing this. We got another handful of finds on the way back, until we went after one in Sequin that not only was off the beaten path but was a tough micro to boot. We didn't find it but we lost a lot of time, and suddenly all caching was halted so we could make it back home in a timely fashion.
We made it through a weekend camping with a fight or an injury, so I am pretty happy about that. The children all said they had fun and are interested in camping again, which I am also happy about. I think that anyone who didn't go this year because of previous year's experiences really missed out. It was actually a really great time.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


At the church service today, the subject was the wrath of Caiaphas. The gospel example given was John 18:12-23, with the parts about Peter taken out. It read a little something like this:
Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officals arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father in law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people.
Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teachings.
"I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I have always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said."
When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. "Is this the way you answer the high priest?" he demanded.
"If I said something wrong," Jesus replied. "testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?" Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.

The sermon followup (questions to think about in the week ahead) also referenced the following passage from John 11:49-50.
Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up. "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than the whole nation perish."
The study question did not, however, mention the following line, which I feel is significant:
He did not say this on his own, but as the high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.
Nor the next, which also is significant, but did not seem to go with the rest of the passage:
So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

During the sermon, I found myself trying to put the pieces of this puzzle into a congruent whole that matched where the minister was going with it. Personally, I don't think the first part, the actual reading, demonstrated any wrath on Caiaphas' part. Rather, it was Annas that Jesus was brought to, and a guard who smacked him, and even in the subsequent passages there is very little about Caiaphas. This Gospel seems to leave out some details about what may or may not have transpired between Jesus and Caiaphas - it hints that after this incident in front of Annas, Jesus was taken to see Caiaphas, but then, after an interjection about Peter again, the story picks right up with Jesus being taken to Pontias Pilate. In Luke, there is even less detail.
The referenced verse from John 11 doesn't really show, to me, wrath or rage on Caiaphas' part, either. It is true that at first the verse reads as if Caiaphas would have Jesus die for the greater good, but then it contradicts that, as if he did not say this in anger at all, but simply as part of a prophecy regarding the way the situation would play out. Then, however, the text switches to suggesting that the Sanhedrin would then cause the prophecy to come true by their own actions, by plotting the death of Jesus.
Interestingly, the Gospels of Matthew and Mark tell a more detailed version of the same events. In those two books, there is an account of the interaction between Caiaphas and Jesus (Matthew 26:57-68, Mark 53-64).
I do see the wrath of Caiaphus here, in these lines:
Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"
"I am", said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need more witnesses?" he asked. "You have heard thie blasphemy. What do you think?"
They all condemned him worthy of death.
Mark 14: 60-65
However, I am postulating a theory on Caiaphas. What if, instead of playing the bad guy, he is simply serving his role in God's plan? What if it truly is happening according to the prophecy?
After all, the events have unfolded much like the prophecies found in the stories of David, the Psalms. None of it has been much of a surprise for Jesus, who himself prophesized his own death three times on the way to Jerusalem. It happened much like he said it would, when speaking to his disciples, like here in Mark 10:33-34:
"We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later, he will rise."

I think it is easy to look at Caiaphas and see wrath, see the baseness of human emotion that pushed him to seek the death of Jesus. I see greed, in Judas, who turned him in. I see fear in Peter, a desire to avoid a mortal death and in return, betray his friend and leader. However, in all of them, I see men playing a role in a human drama in a pivotal political scene, with God's direction. What if it was the voice of God that inspired the prophecy of Caiaphas mentioned in John 11: 51? Without these men's weaknesses, the greatest moment for us sinners would not have happened. (Maybe we exclude Peter on that one - however, what purpose would it have served for him to be crucified along with Jesus for admitting him? He had greater work to do on the earth yet following the death of Christ). In the death of Jesus, we were saved, and the grace of God became available to us through him, and his sacrifice. Without these men, this might not have happened, and then where would we all be? What if it happened exactly as it was orchestrated, with the "bad men" led by God's hand?
We know God is powerful, and awesome. We have seen the amazing things he can do. He alone chose this place, and this time, to send his Son. He lead him right into the hornet's nest, a political drama about to unfold that would set the course of history. Do we think it was by accident? The prophecy of Caiaphas did turn out true - this one man died, and it brought the scattered children of God together and made them one, saved through the blood of the lamb.
The sermon given that day suggested that Caiaphas was acting out of selfish, worldy pursuits, instead of for a higher purpose. I think that in fact, he played the role that he was fated to play, and simply brought about the circumstances where we would be made anew in the grace of God through his Son, Jesus.
It was, in fact, according to the prophecy. The prophecies of Jesus himself about his own death, Caiaphas' forecast, the striking coincidences in the Psalms, to me lay out a grand design. Who are we to question God's plan? It makes me think that maybe even the bad experiences, even the people we question about and are repulsed by their actions, are here in our lives for a reason.

Monday, March 02, 2009

I haven't written about travel bugs in a while. In fact, I had to go all the way back to last summer to see what feature # was next in the series I meant to write about my favorite ones. It's not that I am not as interested in them. In fact, I have a contest going on with my own right now that is kind of fun. I think I just moved on to other topics instead. Maybe I was having too much fun with my digital camera and telling stories to go along with all the pictures I've been taking.
Anyway something weird and wonderful happened to one of my travel bugs that I just have to share.
One of the very first travel bugs I ever made up and sent out into the world was Love Potion #8.5. It is a little vial of perfume with a charm hanging off it, something given to me by Pegah back in high school, and the name is sort of a joke about my husband and I's "not-quite-perfect" love spell. Anyway, I attached this item to the dog tag I bought off the website and sent it out with the goal of heading to Colorado Springs, where we met. I also outlined some very specific places I would love to have a picture of it in front of, places of significance in our relationship and the early months of our dating (like in front of the "Kissing Camels" rock in Garden of the Gods, where we had our first kiss).
Anyway, the bug managed to make it into the hands of a cacher who promised to take it to Colorado after three brief months, and after stopping in Arkansas and California along the way. I thought it would reach its goal really quickly. Then it didn't actually get dropped for several months, and then cachers started moving it the wrong direction in Colorado. Then, a year and four months into its journey (and on my son's birthday), it got picked up by a cacher who said he goes to Colorado Springs, and even Manitou, one of the places I mentioned, fairly often, and he had asked if I wanted him to hang on to it until next time he went.
So, a year and a half later, he finally makes it down to the Springs area. (Meanwhile he had taken it on a lovely tour of Paris with him). He drops it off in a cache.
But not just any cache. This is where the story gets weird.
I check out the cache he places it in, Weasel COS, and it strikes me that the name of the cache and the name of the hider are both familiar to me. This is a unique cache owned, partially, by h2o z, who lives in Klamath Falls, Oregon, the place where my husband and I moved right after our early courtship in the Springs area. This same cacher has a cache called Weasel in Klamath Falls that we found on our visit to that area this summer! (He is also a Charter Member of
So, I think it is really strange that of all my 62 trackables I own, that the one that symbolizes my husband and I's relationship ends up in a cache on CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN BLVD for pete's sakes (the main drag to the zoo, where I worked when I lived there), in a cache owned by someone who lives in my husband's hometown, a town of 19,000 halfway across the country!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Funny GIRL
Some people say I don't have a sense of humor. They think I am too serious, or don't laugh enough at their jokes, or need to lighten up. I don't think that it means I don't have a sense of humor.
Because I know I do. I make myself laugh all the time.
Sometimes writing geocaching logs online cracks me up. I am totally amused by what I write, but it is a joke with no audience, nobody else to let in on the punchlines.
So I am going to let you in the joke. If I make you laugh, let me a comment, or email, or in a message from your geocaching profile....

hardings couldn't find K's Cache (Traditional Cache)
This cache is giving me an existential crisis. Like, I am standing there in what appears to be an empty field with nothing but questions. Who am I? Am I K? Do I know K? What am I doing standing here looking at mud with a GPSr in my hand? Am I really a geocacher? I reach for clues but no one answers the phone. I start to wonder if it is a puzzle instead, and I wonder why a likely spot seems so far away from my self. My accurary reads at 16 ft, but I have no idea who and what I am. Until I find my true self, I might not be able to find the cache. Alas, I must leave this place and seek my soul to find the answer to this quest. I will be back, but by then I will have been changed ever so slightly and perhaps only then will I discover the true meaning of where this cache is, and what it all means.

February 8 by
hardings (1349 found)
So, it was a dark and windy night...evening...well, around dusk. We stopped to grab this one on the way back from Austin. The wind whipping through the trees made an ominous sound as I made my way along the geotrail and around the briar bushes. A large bird suddenly took off above my head, the wings of an owl flapping along with the mysterious "ooo-ooo". I was getting a little spooked. As I reached over to grab the cache, I let out a spooky sound of my own, of a bit more odiferous nature. After that, I didn't hear any spooky sounds. I think I accidentally stumbled upon the trick to keeping ghosts at bay....took the Tb tag. Thanks for a nice gas..uhm...cache.

And one more...

February 12 by hardings (1350 found)Came by after work. Did I mention I was blonde? that kind of handicaps me sometimes, like today. I saw the gate was locked but also noticed a break in the fence on the right. It was the skinny test, and I took it, and was failing miserably. I kept trying to squeeze through but my female parts were in the way and no matter how much I sucked in, they weren't getting any smaller! After bumping my finger painfully, I decided to look for another way, and that is when I noticed the people gate next to the main gate, which was not locked. Did I mention I was blonde? After that, it was a matter of getting over and approaching from the right direction to be able to spy it, sign the log, and walk off brushing leaves out of my hair and nursing my hurt finger. It's better now, and I got the cache, so hey, thanks for the find.