Songfishing

This post is centrally about song writing, but the principles apply to many creative pursuits:
Since about the middle of last century, a Particular sort of musician has been identified as a “Singer-Songwriter.”
The term has become very popular in the last thirty years, identifying an artist who typically accompanies themselves, seldom with more than one or two backup players, usually writes alone or with at most one partner, and is expected to at least be able  to take their show on the road with minimal support or fanfare.  The singer part of the title is pretty obvious.  Their works will usually include lyrics and they will sing to their audience.  The writing part is where the rubber hits the road…or something else hits the fan.

I propose that many can sing and play well, while few can write well, and that what will be remembered, what will give an artist standing and longevity, and also give the most to humanity, is the writing.  I also believe that the process of writing a song is like many creative endeavors, having two distinctive elements which are each indispensable: fishing and cooking.

There is both art and craft in creating and performing a good song.  The art is to have vision, to be open to experience and to collect images, ideas and feelings, and to see how they relate to one another.  That is fishing.  One must wait. Hunting for a better spot, even diving with a spear sometimes works, but mainly, keen observation and patience tend to win out.  The materials for creativity float by, and the best artists pick the ones they need, and keep them handy for when another connected (or connectable) piece floats by.  Then, when the collection has grown to a critical mass, and the necessary parts are ready to be assembled into a song (there are enough fish in the boat for a meal) it is time to cook them up.

Actually composing the song is the workmanlike process of assembling the stuff one has gathered into a form which the audience can receive (eat, or absorb – not necessarily totally understand, but at least want to hear it again) and then to perfect and perform it.  Some people are better at one than the other, but both wings are necessary for the Singer-Songwriter to fly.

More on Singer-Songwriters: WikiPedia

Webzines:

Pitchfork Media (Independent Artists)

Rolling Stone (PopCulture)

Singer-Songwriters in the wild:
Concerts In Your Home

Guitar Pickup

A vignette from the 70 hours collection

© 2016 Wayne Slater-Lunsford

The pickup that stopped in front of me was painted in turquoise house paint, showing brush marks and rust bleeding through, but the engine sounded smooth and strong. The miniature man who jumped from the passenger seat to the roadside had flames in his eyes, to match his tousled strawberry-blonde hair, and he shouted across the 15 feet between us “How much you wan’ fo’ dat guitar?” As he strode up to me, we were eye-to-eye, though I remained sitting on my back pack. His shabby, dusty clothes hung loose on a strong frame. I smelled some too-sweet wine on his breath.

I said, “It’s not for sale.”

He shouted over the whirr-buzz of the cicadas in the trees, “Everytang fo’ sale, hippie!  How much you wan?”

“I make my living off this guitar, and it is NOT for sale!”

“Ain’t nobody make a livin’ off a guitar, onless you Johnny cash or Pete Fountain.”

“Well, I do, and besides, Pete Fountain plays clarinet, not guitar!”

“Tooshay, so I’ll l give you twennyfi dolla fo’ the guitar.” (opening a fat wallet and fingering bills)

The hulking driver watched intently from behind the wheel of the turquoise wreck, but did not move.

“Mister, this guitar is not for sale!”

His burning eyes settled on mine, and the wheels whirred, and the cicadas whirred too.

“Well, then I gotta fight ya fo’ it.”

“Man, that ain’t right! You a thief?”

“No, HELL no!,” the eyes flared, then narrowed, and I swear that burning hair stood up on end, and his lip quivered. “If you win, you get de truck.  BOOdrow! (over his shoulder) Fetch dat pink slip from out de box!”

“Mister, I ain’t gonna fight you.  All I want is a ride.”

“No choice! (reaching for the guitar) now, han’ it ovah!”

When his fingers reached the guitar’s neck, close to my own, I grabbed that hand and yanked hard, standing up. The tiny, wiry man stumbled several steps past me, arms flailing and hot head bobbing, into ankle-deep swamp water. Then he stood looking away into the swamp, waving like a cattail in the wind, long enough for me to wonder if I could get my precious guitar into its case before he came back at me again, perhaps with a weapon. He slowly turned a beaming grin toward me, and yelled, “BOOdrow! Git down from dis hippie’s truck, an’ leave de pink slip onna seat! (staggering up from the water, nodding at me) We walkin’ now!”

BOOdrow didn’t stir.

“Man, I am tryin’ to tell you I don’ want no damn pickup truck! All I want is a ride!”

“Well, you can give yosef a ride, now, Hippie (the sandy eyebrows lifted) an’ mebbe me an’ BOOdrow, too?”

I began putting my guitar into its case, muttering, “I just want a ride however far you goin’ up this road.  I do NOT want a truck!”

The cicadas whirred louder as he contemplated the concept. His gait was steady and solid as he led me to the truck and held the passenger door for me, bowing low. I tossed my guitar and backpack into the bed, and took the middle seat.  BOOdrow eased the purring Dodge up the two-lane, and the breeze was kind to our foreheads.

“You shore now? Dis a damn good truck.”

“Yes sir, I am.  I don’t have money for gas to get me to Denver.”

“Well, can you swang a hammer and yank a saw? Me an’ BOOdrow just finished building a house, an’ got paid.  We gonna lay out tomorrow, an’ start another house Monday.”

“I am a carpenter and cabinet maker, and I can even do some sheet metal, But I gotta meet my girl friend in Denver.”

“No you don’t! You can marry my sister.  She cooks as good as she looks, an’ that is mighty fine!  You can stay wit’ us until we build you a house.”

“No, I mean it – I’m going to Denver, no way else.”

We bantered happily up the two-lane until BOOdrow took a right turn onto a narrow road that burrowed eastward, into the Cypress and moss.

“Well, this is my stop.”

“No; dis’ a shortcut!” He and BOOdrow exchanged mischievous grins.

“This road goes East, and I know damned sure Denver is North and West of here!  Let me down and on my way!”

“No; jus’ pause a little – you gotta eat! You taste my sister’s cookin’, you gonna think again about Denver.”

“Now, damnit, first you grab my guitar, and now you gonna kidnap me?”

I turned the ignition off and threw the key out the window, right past HotHead’s nose.

His grin broadened and he jumped out as the truck shushed to a stop. I jumped out too, and he said I had to help him find the keys.  I didn’t mind.  As we walked back to the keys he kept on about the fishing and the Crawdaddys and the Fay-Doh-Doh dance parties there, and I saw the keys first, and snatched them up quick.  He chuckled and followed me back to the truck.

“You fas’ on de uptake, Hippie. You could do good in dis parish.”

I gave him the keys at the door, and went to haul my stuff from the truck bed, but just as I got my pack onto my shoulders, BOOdrow gunned the engine and threw the old heap into gear. I didn’t have hold of my guitar yet, so I jumped into the bed along with it.  HotHead craned his little neck to look back, and burst out laughing to see me with my face against the window.  He hollered, and BOOdrow pulled over, and then HotHead smilingly helped me and my guitar down from the truck.

“Damn, you fast, Hippie! Sure you don’ wanna meet my sister? Can’t blame a man for makin’ one last try, can you?”

“Hell, maybe not… (fighting a grin) but you best get outta here quick, before I think on it too much.”

They disappeared into the moss, and I dug out a can of vegetable soup, opened it and ate it cold, and it was pretty damned good.

A guitar floating in the swamp

I was afraid this would happen.

Swamp Pirates

As we walked under another streetlight, I shoved my hands deep into the front pockets of my jeans, and squeezed my shoulders up high, while trying to pull my head in like a turtle, and looked over at Chauncey.  Grinning, he copied me, and we both stifled laughter and made goofy faces, sailing through the cool night air, thick, soft silence enveloping us, the sleeping neighborhood unaware of the fun being had by two bad boys out on a lark.  We approached my house with eyebrows raised, silently agreeing to see if we could get my mom’s beetle to start without a key, and quietly enough not to wake anyone. I popped the hood, exposing the luggage compartment above the gas tank, and Chauncey pulled out his flashlight. I deftly removed the cardboard that separated luggage from the back of the instrument panel, and saw the ignition switch, with bright red and black wires attached by spade connectors. What could be easier?

A few seconds and I had determined which wires needed to be connected to which, so we rolled the car out onto the street. We pushed it half a block away, so the noise of the engine starting would not be right at my house. Without letting it lose momentum, I ran alongside the nose, and made the connection, not to the starter, but just to the main electrical. A few panel lights lit.  Chauncey moved around to the rear to really give it a serious push, and I jumped into the driver’s seat. I put it in second gear, and eased the clutch out, and the little sewing machine turned over sweetly and began to purr. I slipped it back to neutral, and Chauncey ran up to jump into the passenger seat. Then with heads ducked and barely able to contain the laughter exploding inside our chests, we gently accelerated out of our neighborhood.

The hot-wired little beetle was lively and light, and soon we were flying through the night on larger and larger streets, past businesses shuttered or about to be, toward the expressway. Atlantic Boulevard was one of two main roads out to the beach, and we headed east toward the ocean, cool dark air rushing through open windows, and through our souls. For no particular reason, I turned south onto St. John’s Bluff Road, toward Beach Blvd, and the pavement soon gave way to washboard oyster shells. We made goofy faces at each other, pretending that our brains were being rattled out of our heads. On either side of us, berms of oyster shells divided the road from the Florida swamp, and the headlights created a warm yellow bubble, with a great black unknown of trees and creatures and foreboding to either side.  No houses along this stretch, but we knew Beach Blvd. couldn’t be too very far away… and what the hell was that on the right?  A trailer hitch pointed down and stuck into the roadway, from between two automobile tires… and a red primer frame that disappeared into the dark swamp on the other side of the berm. I braked hard, creating a cloud of oyster shell dust, and stopped only a dozen feet past the thing.

“Whoa! Hold up a minute!” We both jumped out and left the bug idling, to survey our find. It was a sand rail!  A dune buggy, left in the middle of nowhere, WITH THE KEYS IN THE IGNITION!?! I scrambled down to the driver’s seat, turned the key, and it started right up!  I told Chauncey to turn the bug around, so we could head home with our prize. He went to do so, using up a lot of road to do it, since he wasn’t used to four on the floor.  He would jerk forward, trying to find reverse, then jerk forward again. I chuckled at his antics and our luck. From my seat in the sand rail, whose nose pointed at the sky, I spun the tires a little to get it over the berm, but of course, the trailer hitch had it anchored. I jumped out, slogged through a few feet of green slime and up the berm, to dig out the hitch.  Chauncey was fifty yards down the road, finally headed back this way, and I knew that when he got there, together we could get the buggy unstuck and out of the swamp. I began looking around for a tree branch or something else to use as a shovel, and directly across the road – I mean perfectly straight before me – a porch light came on.  The buggy was aimed at the driveway of a trailer house about a hundred feet away, which we had totally failed to see. One thing I could see, as if in broad daylight, was the rifle in the hand of the bath-robed guy standing on that porch. My face fell off.  I launched myself toward the approaching beetle, waving my arms and shouting something stupid. Chauncey barely slowed enough for me to clamber in, and started off again, headed right past the trailer!  I screamed at him to stop, to turn around, but it was too late.  As we passed the trailer, the crack of the rifle hit us like a sheet of ice.  Each of us looked to see if the other was dead.  Both of us will swear to this day that we heard the whizz of a hunting round inches from our noses, zipping through the open windows of the bug. Chauncey just kept jamming gears until we were moving as fast as that little 1300cc bug could go on the washboard, rattling our teeth and dusting the whole swamp.  As we hit the pavement nearer Atlantic, we saw a police car heading our way. Too late to do anything but drive as normally as shaking hands, ragged breath, and exploding heads allowed. No red lights… no siren.  No deputies drawing a bead on us. They passed us, heading toward the scene of our disgrace.

huntinground

At Atlantic Boulevard, I told Chauncey to turn right, toward a small tract of houses just a half mile east of us. Somehow that seemed to offer the best cover, in case the cops came after us.  As we wound through the small streets, toward the back of the tract, the houses thinned out until it was all empty streets with weeds growing between them. Finally, in a cul-de-sac surrounded by tall grass and littered with rubbish, we had to turn around. Because it was so obstructed, Chauncey had to do a three-point turn, and I helped him find reverse. We cringed at the loud thump from the rear of the car, and the way the rear end lifted up and then crashed back down.  Stopping, we jumped out, to find a four-foot piece of lumber stuck to the left rear tire by A NAIL, jammed up into the fender well, holding that wheel up and preventing it from turning.  Pulling and cussing and kicking at it did nothing. I got back in the driver’s seat, and with Chauncey pushing and lifting, we eased it gingerly forward until the board was flat on the pavement again. I dug around the nose of the car for the tire iron, and bent the nail away from the tread, and there was no hissing, no deflation of the tire.  We both almost fainted.  The ride home was long, slow, and very, very quiet.

 

Flume Flail

One July about 1999 or 2000, the family got a great deal on a room at Squaw Valley off-season, and we enjoyed exploring around Lake Tahoe for about a week.  After arriving in the wee hours, we set out the next day to tick two items off the list , one for Mom &the boys, one just for me.  I had heard that the 12-mile Flume Trail, on the East side of the lake, was one of the best MTB (Mountain Bike) trails in the world. FLUME TRAIL LINK   The Ponderosa ranch (where the Bonanza TV series was shot) is near the north end of the trail, so while my wife and sons visited the movie set, I rode that trail.  There was a truck road I could use to leave the trail and get down to Incline Village and the Ponderosa, beside Lake Tahoe.  They dropped me at Spooner Lake, near the south end, and drove to the ranch, while I hit the road from the campground to the trail proper.  As I churned along through the loose sand of the jeep road, I passed a few people, and finally mentioned to one pair that I thought the Flume Trail was single-track.  They pointed up the steep mountainside to our right, and said that the trail was up on the ridge, a mile or so above us.

I hadn’t researched this trail enough to be sure, and they seemed rock-solid, so I backtracked to a small trail I’d seen heading from the jeep road up toward that ridge.  It was much too steep to ride the bike, so I threw it over my shoulder and headed up.  Nice little trail, sparsely-traveled, through scrubby pine and fir… and then narrower and narrower… until it was more of a rabbit run.  Still, by the angle of the sun, I knew the ridge must be up there somewhere. I came to a small grassy clearing, and the trail just ended.  Circling the uphill side of the clearing, I found nothing that even resembled a trail, so I gulped down some water and began making my own trail through ankle-deep bark chips, up to the ridge.  The bike kept tangling with the brush I passed, and I was getting pretty exasperated, when I stumbled onto a proper ridge trail, single-track, heading north and south.  Must be the Flume Trail.  I clipped in (pressed my shoes to the pedals so that clips on the soles locked into catches on the pedals) and began to roll along the narrow, beautiful trail. I passed a sign, which faced the north, and turned around to read “Hiking trail only. No horses, motor vehicles or bicycles.” Looking down at the dirt of the trail, I saw no bike tracks. Maybe the part of the trail to the south was foot only, and this part was OK?  As I kept going, and the terrain opened up to grassy slopes, I did see one set of bike tracks, and felt better.  Then I began to feel worse. The smooth, meandering dirt track traced through more and more rocks and small boulders, until it was again hike-a-bike. That was when I met the one other human I saw on that ridge, a gruff gent in alpine gear, who told me I was not supposed to take a bike on that trail.  I said I thought it was the Flume Trail, famous among mountain bikers, and he pointed north. He told me that the Flume Trail was four miles that way, around Marlette Lake.

Flume&RimI had climbed that steep slope and gone several miles out of my way, using a trail I was not supposed to be on, because I had not gotten an actual map and traced my intended route carefully ahead of time.  Today, I’d pull out my cellphone and it would show me where I was, map the trails, and give me an estimated time of arrival. Back at the turn of the century (nice ring to it, eh?) all I had was a couple of “You are here” reader boards, and a couple of verbal descriptions.  I hated that I was on a foot-only trail. I respect that designation, and don’t ever intentionally abrogate it. I wasn’t upset about the extra distance, but I was very concerned about the time.  We had agreed to meet at the Ponderosa, a couple of hours after they dropped me at Spooner Lake. Now the 12-mile ride on an established bike trail had turned into 16 miles, with a lot of extra hill climbing and bike carrying. I was going to be hours late!

I continued north, ate some snow (Yes, in July, at over 8,5oo feet altitude) and finally found an outrageous downhill that got me to Marlette Lake.  There I took up the actual Flume trail, and followed it along the edge of the lake to where I could see Lake Tahoe, 1500 feet below.  The trail leaves Marlette and clings to the western slopes of the mountain, eventually meeting the truck road for a 3-mile downhill to Incline, beside Lake Tahoe. I had to carry the bike again in several spots, but other bikers I met along the way assured me that I was on the right trail. It was beautiful, but I was feeling time pressure.  When I finally got to the truck road, I was ready to bomb a little, to make up what time I could. The truck road was hard and fairly smooth, so I was flying. I came up on a hairpin turn and could see a berm at the kink, which told me it needed special attention.  I set up my approach perfectly, and was carving my line precisely, when I unexpectedly got airborne because of a shelf I couldn’t see from above. That put me a foot left of where I wanted to be, and my front tire caught on a rock I should have missed. I endoed. When the front stops, but the rest keeps going, it means flipping end-over-end, and one mainly hopes to land with some sort of grace, maybe roll, and not get tangled up in the bike. I was able to clip out (disengage my shoes from the pedals) and the bike and I separated nicely. I rolled a few somersaults before stopping.

I stood up to survey the damage, and the bike seemed intact, though twisted a little. Then I noticed that my left shoulder was bumping my chin. It was not supposed to be able to do that. I didn’t see much blood, so I was not worried, but I couldn’t ride the bike that way.  I pushed at the shoulder, but it hurt, and didn’t move much. I grabbed a branch of a small pine tree next to the trail and leaned away from it, but my hand reflexively let go. I tried it again, but could not hold onto the branch when I yanked against it.  I was able to wedge my wrist into a fork, and leaned hard away from it, pressing at my shoulder with my right hand, and that did it. I heard a squishing sound, fell flat on my back and saw a whole galaxy of stars, but my shoulder was now closer to where it belonged.  I straightened the handlebars of the bike, checked over what I could, and clipped back into the pedals. I rode the last couple of miles down to the Ponderosa’s parking lot, and met the family there.CollarboneCurveOrtho

We went to the emergency room, and they marked my crash on a map there. It was a hundred feet above the hairpin turn they call “Collarbone Curve.” Apparently, riders come down that road too fast for that curve, lose it and go over the berm, breaking a lot of collar bones.  I was special, though. I broke mine before even getting to the actual hairpin.  They said that my makeshift setting of the bone had already aligned it as well as they could.  They put on a figure-eight wrap and told me to sleep on my back with a rolled-up towel between my shoulder blades. One thing that seemed to bring the ER nurse extra pleasure was scrubbing out my abrasions.  Everywhere blood and mud was sealing up the ground-down parts, he went after the mess with hydrogen peroxide and abrasive sponges, and a cheerful grin. After that came gooey gauze and mummy wrappings. No lollipop, but at least I got one really cool x-ray of my shoulder to take home.

collarboneANN

I enjoyed the rest of the vacation far more with the wife and boys, hiking rocky streams, enjoying the lake, and taking the tram up to the summit.

To Fly and Die on Kauai

The engine opened its throat to a groaning growl as I pushed in the last bit of throttle I had.  The plane was not shaking yet; I was keeping it above stall speed. My three passengers were getting some once-in-a-lifetime views of the vine-hung, red-brown cliffs beside us. I pulled the yoke harder, slowing below best-angle speed, easing toward the right, because I now knew there was no way we were going to climb over that ridge.  I was going to have to turn this thing around inside this tiny space, and fly back out, where I could climb more gradually out…. If I could keep it flying at all. I smiled at my knuckles, which had not yet turned white… then at my wife in the seat next to me, and said, “Take a picture while the left wing is high, and you can see Pu’u O Kila Lookout up there.”

The faces and cameras of a few people hung over the railing 200 feet above us, documenting a crash for the NTSB to investigate later.  As I gently transitioned from the shallow right bank toward that side of the canyon, to a left bank, to actually make the turn, the stall horn warbled a couple of plaintive notes, but the passengers followed my cue and remained relaxed, enjoying the spectacular views of the mountains up close… very, VERY close.  My hand did not shake as I hit the switch to add the last bit of flaps I had, and gingerly eased the aircraft into a 60° left bank, then a little farther, letting her settle and lose a little altitude, in exchange for a tighter turning radius.  This was going to be the most precise maneuver I had ever performed … and the blood drained from my smile to settle in my gut…

Not fair! The weather report had quoted no wind at all, but the downdraft at the ridge spoke of 30 knots or more.  That, plus the extra weight in the aircraft, meant we could not pop over the ridge the way I had done a dozen times before.  We were stuck inside Waimea Canyon, and as good as dead.

I had taken many friends from Oahu, where we lived, across the 100 miles of open sea to Kauai, the oldest and prettiest of the Hawaiian Islands, and developed a little tour that was always a lot of fun.  On Friday afternoon, we’d land at Lihue, on the south-East corner of the island, closest to Oahu, and rent a car.  We’d pile our stuff in it, and drive past the Menehune fish pond and through Hanapepe, then along the south and leeward coast, to Waimea. There, we’d have a snack and head up the mountain, alongside the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” to Kokee camp to spend the night in the clouds. Next morning, as the mist burned away, we’d go to the very end of the road, to Pu’u O Kila Lookout. From there, we could see the ocean to the North, framed by the enormous green Kalalau valley, and turning to the South, we could see into the red-brown clay valley that cut deep into the island, and I’d tell the passengers that we’d be flying through that valley soon.

We’d head back down Kokee Road, find breakfast at some place along the way back to Lihue, and pile into the airplane, leaving our baggage in the rental car. With ¾-tank of fuel and no baggage, the plane was light and agile.  We’d retrace our path of the afternoon before, swooping low over the Menehune Fish Pond, climbing to crest the Hoary Head Mountains, and pass by Poipu surfing village. Then we’d follow the beach, and just about the time we could see the tiny island of Niihau off the left wing tip, we’d be over Waimea.  There, I’d turn us mauka, toward the center of the island. Instead of following Kokee road as we had driven, I’d stay low, inside the canyon just east of it.  The brown and red soil was spotted with lush green, and tiny streams flowed at the bottom of every ravine. As we passed the center of the island, the elevation even inside the canyon was rising, and we’d climb gently toward my favorite spot. I had pored over flight charts and topographical maps for hours to find it.

At the very end of the longest arm of the canyon, there is a ridge.  Kokee Road ends at the Pu’u O Kila lookout, and Pihea Trail continues along that ridge. I had used that spot many times to thrill my passengers on these little trips.  We’d dawdle along inside the canyon until very close to the ridge, then I’d pour on some power, build up some speed, and pop up over the ridge to a view of the enormous, deep-green Kalalau valley, with the sea and sky rising from the beach in a crystalline blue bowl.  I’d swoop down through the large, lush valley of wild boar and pakalolo plantations, and turn right at the beach. We’d follow the coast back to Lihue, spotting places we would visit later that day, and where we would camp that night. We’d stop at different spots on our way back to Lihue on Sunday.  We always returned to Oahu with eyes and hearts and cameras full of wonders.

This weekend did not happen exactly that way.  On Friday night, we camped at Polihale beach, at the end of the leeward road, instead of at Kokee in the middle of the mountains.  That was nice, but it meant missing Pu’u O Kila lookout, because clouds would likely have obscured the view by the time we got there.  Then, at the airport in Lihue, I learned that the weather would not let us do the Waimea canyon trip.  Winds and cloud cover were simply not in our favor.  No big deal – we had a great time swimming at the Kilauea slippery slide, and saw some beautiful caves and waterfalls, and bought some food to cook up at Hanakapiai beach where we camped that night.  Next day, we headed back to Lihue and piled into the aircraft, and the Sunday weather report was exactly what I had hoped for Saturday.  I had talked a lot about the trip through the canyon, and didn’t want to disappoint my passengers, especially my wife. Maybe this was our chance.  With a full tank of fuel for the trip back to Oahu, we took off. The tower let me use runway 17, because we didn’t even have the usual trade winds out of the NorthWest. That headed us South across Nawiliwili Harbor, and it just seemed inevitable that we visit the misty green Hoary Heads. After that it was smooth flying along the south coast of the island and up into Waimea Canyon.

As we turned from the beach toward the center of the island, we waved to Barking Sands, on the Leeward coast, where Navy aircraft would fuel up to run practice missions out around Niihau. That was also where the Coast Guard waited to hear an emergency beacon and go rescue, or recover body parts.  The day was severe clear, liquid bright, and the canyon was more brilliantly colored than I had ever seen it.  We wound our way through mile after mile of lush green trees and bushes dotting deep red volcanic soil. By the time we got to the ridge, I saw clearly the exact spot where I would cross it. I headed toward it, and began to ease the power in to gain airspeed.  We had to clear the ridge by at least 500 feet to be legal, so I began my climb at a point that would allow that margin of safety plus an extra hundred feet.  Nosing up, I traded airspeed for altitude, and kept adding power.  We were not climbing as quickly as I expected.  I peered ahead at the Keawe on the ridge, and damn it, they were whipping around in a strong wind coming across the ridge!  That meant that the air was bouncing high over the windward slope and then falling hard as it crossed the ridge, right in our faces.  That downdraft was not going to let me climb as I had so many times before.  We were stuck below the ridge line, and a Cessna 172 has no reverse gear.

This was NOT going to end well, unless I came up with a new plan, quickly. A pilot must always plan for unexpected adverse conditions, but cannot allow for every possible fault mode.  This was a problem for which I had only partially prepared. The weight of the full fuel, baggage, and some very solid souvenirs was holding us down, and the downdraft over that ridge was clinching the deal. I knew that a left-hand turn was more efficient in an aircraft with a clockwise-spinning prop, so it would be a left turn to get out of there, but I also needed the full diameter of the dent in the ridge where we were stuck, to get the bird headed South. I began the maneuver I had practiced as a commercial pilot, but never bet my life and the lives of others on.

Once I’d eased over toward the right side of the canyon and banked left, I followed the procedure I knew would allow the tightest possible radius turn, losing just a little altitude, hoping that it did not run us into the ridge. The aircraft began to vibrate just the tiniest extra bit, which told a pilot that we were nearing the stall buffet. The engine groaned on, and it got very, very hot in that cabin. Through clenched teeth, I spoke calmly over the cheerfully chirping stall horn. “We’re going to follow a different track than usual, and retrace some of Kokee Road, so we can fly over Kokee Camp.”

That sounded like a hell of a lot of fun, compared to piling into the ridge 100 feet below Pihea Trail.  The turn took about two years.  Finally, I saw the canyon walls begin to back away from the left landing gear, and a little while later I began transitioning to normal flight, closing the flaps, easing back the power to cruise climb, leveling off and heading south. The sweat on my forehead felt cool.  The aircraft was performing flawlessly. We cruised the 6 miles down to where a low spot made it easy to get over to Kokee Road, and very gradually kept climbing over the gently rising terrain. Passing the Pu’u O Kila lookout, we had 1,000 feet to spare, and eased through the clear, rushing air above Kalalau Valley up to the Na Pali coast.

From there, the trip went as planned, along the windward shore, past Princeville, Kilauea, Anahola, and Wailua, then the 100-mile channel back to Oahu and Barber’s Point Naval air station, our home base.  Landing and post flight were routine, except I had to check carefully that there was no red clay in the tire treads.  That’s a dead giveaway that a pilot has been naughty.

Un-Do-Late

© WayneSL 2016
Some things you can’t undo.
Sometimes it’s just too late.
The legs undulate.
They move with steady, rolling motion
To no effect.
Perhaps the effect is just to ascertain
That they can move
Will move when commanded
But by what?
What is it that commands these legs to wave in the air
Calmly
Repeatedly
Then stop a while
Then wave again?
The body’s black and yellow stripes
The wings awry
Curl into a memory of force
Against the hard white-coated metal
Of the newspaper dispenser
The news inside already old
Before it had been printed
Hard, harsh glossy white
Enclosing printed paper that
Only a relic from last century would consult for “news.”

And the legs move again, coordinated, marshalled by some instigator
Some motivator feigning life
Crystals grow.
Muscles twitch.
Clouds fly.
Suns shines.
Life… is it memory?
A mud puddle retains the mark of a foot.
Is it thought?
A Traffic light presides over the comings and goings beneath it.
How much does this shell that flew
And ate
And mated
And daubed mud
Differ from the dervish
That spins and roars and skips a trailer
To flatten a house
And howling suck the roots from the root cellar?

I think therefore I am
But when I cease to think
Another mind may give me substance still
And stillness
Is it death or pause?
Death is just a longer pause, perhaps.
The fall does not kill
Yet being dead is not what hurts,
But landing and
Anticipation of the landing
Death is calm, complete, content.
Undulating legs
An experiment on
What is and is not
life.

 

Happy HollowDaze

Magazine cover by Norman Rockwell: Public Domain (pre-1929)

Magazine cover by Norman Rockwell: Public Domain (pre-1929)

BUZZKILL ALERT – THIS IS NOT A HAPPY STORY.

Not warm fuzzies, but something we may wish to remember
in this season of high expectations and harsh realities:


OPEN THE STARK STORY

SystemIsms

…thoughts on the human race to oblivion…

(some parts also published separately on this site)

BubblEyeRacism, and many other isms, are all about power,
and we have let that power turn and corrupt us

 

DEAD CALM

WayneSL 2012-06-22

Peace at Last.
Peace and Quiet.

None remains to challenge me
or disturb my reverie.
Even the hill on which I stand
dare not rise above my height.
I am Master of all that I survey
and I can see a smooth horizon
fitting earth to sky precisely
uniformly, according to My Will.
I have ground this planet
like a ball bearing
until it shines
as a dark mirror to my face.

Not even a crashing wave
can interrupt my dreadnought thoughts.
The oceans joined the blackened skies
evaporating before my iron wrath.
Unruly water, like the birds and beasts
and plants that wedged apart
the concrete steel and glass
that I had built.

They would not cooperate.
They would not take their places.
They would not do as they were told.
And it came down to me or them,
and now it’s down to me.
I dominate all I see.
I alone am free.
All that did not yield to me
I turned to ash.
I
bent their knees.

The piles of blackened bones are still
The neutrons even killed
the germs so there’s no smell.
In blessed silence now I stand
Victor of a perfect land
No tears or laughter have escaped my hand
No slightest movement flouting my command.
The only sound competing with my breath
is wind that howls through bones
charred black as death–

…and I’m workin’ on that.

 

We’ve had encouraging news this past week, with the “Supreme” Court actually upholding the rights of humans to marry and to have healthcare, and a wave of opposition to the pervasiveness of the confederate flag. My joy has been somewhat tarnished by knowing that the right to marry has been stupidly long in coming, and that the healthcare victory is not only very late, but woefully incomplete. More sobering still is the fact that the flag issue was precipitated by the assassinations in Charleston, 193 years to the day after 35 members of that same church were lynched, and the building burned to the ground. I had those terrorist acts on my mind, as I began writing this, but racism is connected to a lot of other Isms which both feed, and feed on, humanity’s fatal inhumanity. You see, racism does not consist merely of wrong thinking, or bad actions, or speech, and it is not an either/or status, identifying bad racists and good non-racists. Racism is a sociopolitical system, and it interacts with a lot of other systems (mostly isms) to concentrate power and privilege to some humans at the expense of others. It’s one of the malignant cancerous Isms that keep us divided, and therefore conquered. I don’t generally think of myself as racist, but to whatever extent I have benefited from the system, I am tangled in the harm, touched by the disease. It’s a disease which I believe reaches back 2 million years, to a fundamental change in the process of evolution. All species before us adapted over millennia to their environment, but instead, we adapt our environment to suit us, circumventing biologic evolution. Now, we build systems to serve us, and sometimes those inventions take on lives of their own. The genie of our genius offers to grant us wishes, and the hunter-gatherer in us asks for a longer spear.

Australopithecanthropi

Australopithecanthropi

Taint

WayneSL 2013

In the morning we go out to hunt
to gather and to bring home stuff
and if that stuff is in another’s hand
then there will be negotiation
a battle
a process.

and if it is Gaya herself
and she should oppose us
there is still
a process.

That process may be thorough yet
still the stuff brought home with us
carries a trace of its former place
the fingerprints of other hands
a tint of blood on the diamond
a twinge of cyanide in black or yellow gold
though refined it still retains
signs of its source: a stain remains.

We bring stuff back to the nest
to feed our young
to please the Queen
Then as they open stuffed mouths
to praise us
the poison cuts them off

And we
are indignant.

 

Not all Isms are destructive. For instance:
The principles of Unitarian Universalism teach me that:

Until we, as a species, recognize the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and grant them Justice, equity and compassion, based on mutual acceptance, which is the fruit of our search for truth and meaning, our consciences and our democratic aspirations will fail. In that case, our world will not have lasting peace, unfettered liberty, nor justice for all.   In fact, the web of life will likely have to heal a wound left by our self-destruction.

Humanity is at the foot (or the precipice) of an evolutionary change, that is deeply affecting all life on this planet, and the outcome will be decided by whether or not we, as a species, learn to share equitably, to behave morally, and to love truly. Our evolution has suffered some devolution too…. our cognitive ability may have surpassed our emotional development to a deadly imbalance. I fear for the human race and all life we encounter.

The lakes that beavers create, by building dams, make them one of only two species whose effect on Earth is visible from outer space. I doubt beavers will destroy life on Earth, but humans appear to be doing so. Just this week, while the feeding frenzy of the media focused on the horrific murders in Charleston, Stanford University announced the very credible and thoroughly vetted fact that humankind has initiated the sixth mass extinction in this planet’s history. There has been life on Earth 3½ Billion years out of its 4½ Billion years of existence. There have been 5 mass extinctions in that time, the most recent about 65 Million years ago. Our history of about 2 Million years is less that one half of one thousandth of the span of life on Earth, yet we have gathered to ourselves such an immense surplus of power, and are misusing it so egregiously, that we are clearly causing this sixth mass extinction, even without global thermonuclear war.

There can be little doubt that we are the first species here to have that capability. Our present level of cold, intellectual, technical power – the Machine Mind – has far surpassed our social and spiritual development – our Humanity. That imbalance means that too many of us are ill-equipped to choose goals and foresee their consequences, in order to guide the technique of execution. We are a juggernaut with a loose rudder.

 

Racism remains rampant in this world, as well as discrimination based on national origin, socioeconomics, sex, gender identity, creed… ISMS!
Use the ones that advance our humanity,
avoid the ones that diminish us,
and don’t let ANY of them control you.

 

ISMS

Original art by WayneSL

RIGID ISMS

song lyric by Wayne Slater-Lunsford, 1998~2012

We all live here, in the valley-
and we dance beside the river, deep and wide.
and our voices harmonize here;
and we share the river’s love along both sides.

Bayanihan, and Ubuntu
and Aloha and Communion all are one.
and our planet gives us plenty,
If we learn to share and let the river run.

Who’s that yelling a cross the divide?
That shadow in the sunset looming long?
They’re screaming at the other ridge as loud as they can,
but it Seems to me that both extremes are wrong.

From the dawning to the evening
Some fools on the ridges throwing rocks across,
but the rocks land here in the valley
and it’s the folk down here that pay the cost.

I don’t know why you would listen to them.
They speak of love but fear is how they rule.
They tell us we’re all beggars and that they should be kings
Don’t let those ISMS get the best of you.

Yes, we live here in the valley
not up on the ridges where the air is thin.
where our shadows can out grow us
and our voices echo but our thoughts are dim.

I don’t know why you would listen to them.
They speak of love but fear is how they rule.
We’re all one race of humans and you know that it’s true.
Don’t let those ISMS get the best of you.

We’re all one race of humans and you know that it’s true.
Don’t let those ISMS get the best of you.
Don’t let ISMS get the best of you.

 

LISTEN TO THE SONG

 

OverLag (DEFINITION)

Example of Overlag (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Overlag: The phenomenon caused by lag in a messaging system, or in the typing speed of one party (or by reflection, impatience of the communicating parties) whereby successive messages overlap, and the sequence of thoughts and intents becomes munged. The most common pattern is that:

  1. message A evokes a response B
  2. which is on its way, while message C heads down the lagging pipeline
  3. making it look to the initiating party, like response B applies to message C
  4. and message C then seems to be responding to… it’s a mess…

The intergalactic war of 2,335,478 BE (Before Earth) was fought over a misunderstanding created by overlag.

First known usage: 2013, Wayne Slater-Lunsford, in a FaceBook post, long ago banished into the nether regions of Cyberspace…

See overlag example in illustration, above.