Category Archives: Writing
I grew up in the south end of Seattle. In what, in 1993, became officially the city of Burien. It is a great little part of the country. Water on one side, mountains on the other. Seattle to the north and Tacoma to the south. Our neighborhood was a working class neighborhood. We lived on 142nd street in a rental house for ten years. The septic system would often back up. It was a sparse existence. It was heated with oil. But sometimes we couldn’t fill the tank. My parents had started us out in California where we lived in a new house in a new neighborhood with new cars and new schools. Then dad got sick and was out of work for almost a year. They lost everything. First the cars, then the house. That is how we ended up back in Seattle. I arrive just in time to start first grade . We didn’t have money for school cloths so Mom made us each a couple of dresses and bought us a package of new underwear and socks. It was quite hard on them. She got a job cooking at a Catholic boys home and Dad started driving big rigs. Those were the occupations they would have the rest of their lives.
Mom and Dad worked hard. they never called in sick. They never went to a doctor despite the fact that in the 60’s and 70’s Dad’s Teamster insurance was absolutely stellar. But we used it sparingly. No sense of being entitled but knew it as a benefit we would not take for granted or abused. Dad had witnessed awful death in the Korean War when he was 17 and 18. Now he worked and he tried hard to provide for his little family.
I was a silly little kid. I really never “got” what struggles Mom and Dad had trying to restart the family in Washington. How Dad must have felt losing everything he had worked for and how Mom worried about us all.
Dad really wanted us all to go to college. But in our neighborhood, it didn’t seem likely. Most people got jobs at the “Lazy B” aka Boeing. Good jobs. But Dad wanted college. So one by one each of us jumped in. I started Central Washington University in the Fall of 79. But I lacked real direction. And after several changes in my major, and schools, I simply faded into life at the corn cannery. I got married and was happy. But we, too, did not have a lot of financial means.
Back in California, before everything changed, I used to watch television with my mother in the morning before going to the afternoon session of my kindergarten class. (NOT KIN-DEE-GARDEN). We watched Perry Mason every day. I loved the court room stuff. I thought to myself that i wanted to be a lawyer. That prosecutor, Hamilton Burger doesn’t seem to win. Ever. I would try hard to win! But as life in Seattle and the bleakness of it settled in, I convinced myself I did not have the money or the brains to become an attorney. And the dream shrank to a small pit of regret in my stomach.
During my adult life in Ellensburg, I made the best of things. I loved being married and was generally happy. I always thought if I had only gotten my education I could provide more for our household. But stabs at this job and that job simply yielded a minimum of earnings. And then the divorce. The lowest time of my life other than the loss of my mother.
I went to Las Vegas where my father and brother lived. Joe had moved in 90 and Dad had gone in 94 after mom passed and he sold the house. I got a job selling D paper loans for Household Finance. I left there to sell long distance for a company that ended up nothing more than a call center full of shysters ripping people off and loving it. Then I went to Starbucks. None of these jobs paid enough to even exist. So I decided I had to reinvent myself. I had to do something! I went to Paralegal School and got a good job. Then I finished my undergrad in 2002 through WSU’s distance learning program. After that I got into law school. and as I sit here today, July 4, 2014 have been doing Hamilton Burger’s job for 6 years.
So what is the point of all this? Well, as I sat in the warm sun today, it occurred to me just what a person can do in this country. What millions of people come here for. The chance to make of their own lives what they desire to. It doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and work. It takes time and sacrifice. And it takes the sacrifice of military men and women in every war since the revolution. But it is also something that you can do any time in your life if you are willing to take the chance and not let the fear of change stop you. Live your dreams. Find out what you want and make a plan to get there. That is what Independence Day has given to me. Dreams……and the ability to pursue them!
Paul Fussell wrote that the speed of modern travel resulted in the mind being left behind. Without even knowing about what he wrote I somehow already realized that fact. But it is not practical to revert back to forms of primitive travel in order to get the mind right for an upcoming adventure. I have heard people really love cruise vacations where they are on ship and then arrive at ports of call and tour them. Perhaps the subliminal reason for the additional enjoyment is this very thing.
I have compensated for this by reading about my destinations for a long time leading up to departure. Everest was easy. I had read almost everything known to mankind regarding Everest over decades preceding my trip. Watched every movie and documentary too. Even poorly made ones like EVEREST, staring William Shatner and that Beverly Hills 90210 guy Jason Priestly. I think the only reason Shatner was in it was because it was about Canadian climbers and was so low budget that nobody would watch it without a name like his attached. Likewise for Priestley’s participation.
For my upcoming trip, I had only a cursory knowledge of Peru and its ancient Inca civilization. I had a class in undergrad that made me a little more aware of the Aztecs and Incas in the Americas. I had seen a documentary or two but I was a passive participant. When I had announced to the family that I would do the Inca Trail I had no idea what I did not know. My brother gave me the gift of the book “Turn Right at Machu Picchu”. It was a difficult read because the author simply sucked. In between the information about Hiram Bingham, his own story about him and his son retracing Bingham’s steps to discovery was flat, boring, corny and dull. Yes. All of those. Then one of my online friends at Trailspace who had been to Machu Picchu suggested I read “The White Rock” by Hugh Thomson. So I did. And I also read “A Sacred Landscape”, also by Thomson. I was thrown into the world that I soon would be visiting with full force. Both books were packed with history, geography, angst and adventure. I have started to be able to see the environs and the people in my minds eye. I hear their music. No, I do. Because I have several cds on my iPod with traditional pan flute music. FACTOID: Simon and Garfunkle’s song “If I Could” is actually an old Peruvian traditional song called El Condor Pasa“. Oh. You knew that already? I didn’t. That is how little I know of anything Peruvian.
Another pop culture fact a out Machu Picchu has to do with the persona of Hiram Bingham. The lead character in Raiders of the Lost Ark played by Harrison Ford is fashioned after him. Right down to the hat. I have one of those hats to bring with me for the trip! I am silly like that.
So with a little more than two months before Maggie and I get on the plane and make our way south, through Miami, to Lima and then on to Cusco, I am reading books, watching documentaries and listening to music. There will be no danger of me leaving my mind behind!
Much of my adult life and some of my childhood has been spent with the battle of the bulge raging. Like any war, there are times when battles are heated and times when there is not a lot going on. Times when I am winning, and times when I am losing. It is a tug of war that I consider the thorn in my flesh that the Apostle Paul refers to. There are many reasons that even outside the obvious health concerns, being big sucks. One thing I have learned over the years is I am GOOD at being fat. I am not so good at being thin. This is evidenced by the fact that when I have achieved victory, it is short-lived whereas the plumper times of life endure. The world is not built for larger people. And in a society where people are getting even larger, we push and push the look of anorexia over health. Marilyn Monroe would probably be made fun of in the tabloids for her weight if she had been born 15 years later. People are getting bigger while airplane seats get smaller, theater seats get smaller, cloths are skimpier. On the other hand, in the midst of the battle to overcome obesity in America, go out to eat at any restaurant and the plates are overflowing with carb rich dishes that are big enough to feed a family of four in the 50’s. I remember going to McDonald’s with my parents when I was 4. It was such a treat because going out to eat was not something that happened on a regular basis. We each got a hamburger or cheeseburger, what is now a small fry and a small drink. Dad got a large drink, which was the 16 ouncer. Considered HUGE at the time. He got a McDouble. Now, just to put that in perspective, each of the patties on a McDonald’s Hamburger is 1.6 oz. prior to cooking. There are 10 patties to a pound of burger. So Dad was getting about three oz. of meat. We couldn’t finish ours and maybe dad finished them for us, I cannot remember. But he didn’t get two or three for himself. And the bread he got was the same as us as opposed to a giant bun filled with two 1/4 pound patties. People who battle weight live in a world that tells them how bad they are, yet throws cheap, unhealthy, tasty food at them all day, 24/7/365.
I have blogged before and talked about my sedentary years and massive weight gain and debilitating back pain. Rather than go through all of that again, suffice it to say that after enjoying high school and college years being extremely active in sports and marching band, I sat down and didn’t get up for about 16 years. I would always dream about the things I would do if I could only lose the weight. “When I lose my weight I am going to: Hike, bike again, play ball, kayak, travel, shop more, wear cool cloths and be happy.” That is all I had to do. Some day. Meanwhile I tried every fad diet there was with little to no long term success.
Then it hit me: I did not have to wait until I was “thin” ( whatever that really is) to do those things. After all, I am not dead yet! So I started moving again. Did some 5k walks and bought a Kayak. From 43 to 53 I have done all my hiking, climbing, trekking, kayaking adventures as a big girl. Some times bigger than others, but never at what would be considered anywhere NEAR a healthy weight. I can only imagine the last 10 years without having had that epiphany. Certainly it would have been imminently more difficult to start at 53. But even then, I think I would have. We don’t have to look a certain way or be able to do things at a high level in order to enjoy them, enjoy the health benefits and live our lives. I am slower than the lighter and/or younger folks, but I still finish. I have had people look at me when I say what adventure I am off to next and actually ask if I am doing anything to lose weight before I go. As if those skin flints know at all what it is like to be big and if big people even feel any different from them whilst active. Some just plain look at me in disbelief. You can see the “THIS PERSON IS A B.S.er” sign flash on their foreheads. By the way, did you know Shakespeare invented the word forehead?
Truth is I do try to be healthier these days. Micky D’s and I broke up and I am now an aficionado of the paleo style of eating. Good fats, meat and lots of veggies, nuts and seeds. My beloved bread is gone now and even though I still do struggle with weight, I am healthy. I know this because my doctor monitors my health and she is a great doctor.
Me and Maggie leave for Machu Picchu August 30, 2014. I have not got near as much weight off as I would like, but I am working hard every day eating right and walking at work break, hiking at night. I am not waiting to wake up one day and find that I am suddenly thin. I may never be thin. But each day that passes is one I could have lived more. If I do not make the choice to have fun now, it will pass like a blink of an eye and I will be left with regrets. Don’t sell yourself short. Live now, rest later. 🙂
As the trek to Machu Picchu approaches, I am evaluating my tech gadgetry that will accompany me on the trip. It is important to take the things you think you need. Last time, I did not take my head phones on the trail. I lent them to someone who listened to her iPod the whole trek long. I have no judgment of that because each person’s trek is a personal journey. Some people think it sacrilegious to listen to your iPod (in the olden days Walkman) when you are in the wilderness. I think, like all things, it depends. In this case it is all about doing what YOU want to do. So this time, I may use them. I KNOW I will use them on the plane so the first thing I will take is my Bose Earbuds. These don’t give me that bruised feeling every other in ear bud has in the past. I intend to use them on the plane and maybe in the evenings. I likely will not listen on trail because I do enjoy just being out there and hearing the sounds that go with the sights.
The next piece of gear will be my kindle. Don’t get me wrong, I mostly am a book purist who loves the smell of Barnes and Noble as well as the sound of pages turning in a real book. I love dog ears and broken backs and spilled coffee with margin notes. My favorite thing is looking back at law books and seeing margins filled to the brim with color coded notes. But I also like the kindle.
It is great for travel and reading outside in the sun. I have a very regulated limit of weight to bring so this will be down with my kindle paper white that holds a charge a good month or more even with heavy reading. It also takes up very little space in my carry on and in the tent when I will use it. Maybe. That is if I can even stay awake after long days on the trail. Then again, on the plane it will be a welcome way to pass the 14 or so hours!
Of course, one of the most important pieces of gear on the last trek was my Spot Connect! Important in that it was a fun interactive way to let my friends back home spot me on the Google Maps and see where I was at the end of each day…that is until I dropped the needed iPhone into the squat toilet and ended my ability to connect the spot and therefor transfer
the coordinates to the satellite. But the spot connect is a fun way to map any trip. It is also a nice tool for hikers who are lost to be located on their hikes. But nothing to depend on because anything could happen to technology and POOF it is gone. Rain, Squat Toilets, Drop it in a ravine…..
After the Spot Connect I guess I must mention my iPhone. That is a great tool for connecting to the Spot as mentioned above as well as taking quick pictures and videos. It can also be used to blog and text home if I need my sis to intervene in the blogging like last time. She was a pretty good guest blogger. My iPhone is a 4S. I had lost the 4 in Nepal and got a new 4S upon arrival back in the good ol’ USA. But that 4S died less than a year later and Apple replaced it with this 4S which is now on its last legs. Funny that this extremely expensive technology seems to last about a year. And if it lasts longer, they find a way to obsolete it by not supporting it with updates.
Because I have NO charging for the Inca trail days, I will get a device that is a backup battery to charge my devices. Yes. It has come to that. This is a device I did not have in Nepal and have relied on all my pals at Trailspace.com to decide to get one. Those gues know life on the trail so I trust them. I took solar last time but it was not easy to use and weather impeded use of it on those blizzard days. This should be a much better choice for the short trip I will be on. I am opting for the ANKAR Astro Pro2. It should be able to charge my phone at least 10 times, which is far more than I will need.
After the iPhone the next bit of tech will be my MacBook pro! Yes, it rode the back of a yak to nearly 18000 feet and I know it can make it on the back of a porter or llama too! This will get less use as I will not have charging capabilities on the trail. But I will blog none the less and just knowing that is with me gives me the chance to write up a storm without the dang thumbs on an iPhone performing more errors than can be counted on hands and toes!
Now it is on to the big guns of photography. I will be bringing my Canon 60 D. I love this camera! It has 18 megapixel processor. Now, you might say that many phone cams are getting just as big. While the numbers are catching up, the processors are not. So don’t just listen to the number of megapixels. The processor is a CMOS Sensor whereas the processor in my iPhone is a version of their iSight external camera used for face time and chat in older formats. Nothing really special there. So the Canon 60D will get me some mad pix of the ruins, the environment and the people. It also shoots full 1080p HD video and the image stabilization is far superior to the iPhone videos. I get a lot of pleasure out of knowing this camera was by my side all the way to Everest Base Camp and will now shoot up Peru!
Of course, my favorite brand new addition to the 60D is a telephoto lens I picked up gently used and at a great price. This will be awesome for picking out the ruins around Machu Picchu that are lined up for whatever purpose the Inca spent all their time lining stuff up. So this bad boy may reveal things heretofore unknown to man. Well, that really isn’t likely. But I wanted to use the word heretofore.
One last item to bring: I will bring the ever popular GoPro camera. Two actually. I love these little cameras. I have mounts for my head and my chest, a grip and boom. They can capture wide angle and get some pretty nice video all along the way and at the ruins as well. They are light too. The batteries are sketchy, but I will get what I can out of them.
So, there you have it. That is what I am dragging up Dead Woman’s Pass with me on my 2014 Machu Picchu Deluxe trek! I thought I may bring a change of cloths or two as well. Stay tuned as I continue to gear up for this once in a lifetime trek!
Like you, I am busy. Despite every technical gadget designed to free up time, I seem to have none. Put that with my propensity to procrastinate and I ahe to figure out good ways to get my training in despite my schedule, my procrastination and the heat. So I have been using a fitbit to start challenging myself and competing one day to the next with the number of steps I take each day. So far so good. I in three days I have beat my previous day.It does stuff like count steps and measure sleep efficiency. Not sure about the accuracy there but I can say tht it seems to get the distance correctly logged. I went a total of about 4.5 miles yesterday on my actual walk. That combined with my just around town or house steps added up to over 12,000! Not bad. Really like that I can see the total as I go throughout the day on my iPhone. (Droid for you that shun the iPhone and choose and over-sized phablet instead. :)). I have a rout that is quite interesting really. It is funny how I found out it was interesting too. I just quit telling myself how boring it was to walk around the neighborhood instead of out at Red Rock or up at Charleston. Once I did that, all sorts of things came to light. Like this:
Once I escape the walls of my Sterling Ridge Sub-division, there is open road and open space.
That is one long stretch of road and as I walk down it I am made happy by the warm sun. I look over to the desert hills and think about the wild Indians from old western movies and the coyotes. How the Old Spanish Trail came through through there as a trade route. I envision a train of mule driven wagons with freight loaded high like my father in law used to drive in Eastern Washington. Part way down the road as I look to my right I see that little hill I first climbed the day I got my trekking poles and Everest hiking boots in 2011.Once you turn the corner as you skirt suburbia and hold on to what was considered good about the desert by many, you come upon a house that you really do have to be careful about. There is a hike Joe and I take to what I call BLOOD FIST CANYON because I fell and cut my hand on it.
This is one of those places built so far out in the desert that nobody would bather them. People that just wanted to be left alone so in the cheap outlying desert 20 miles out o that small desert gambling oasis of Las Vegas, they build their compound. Nobody would build out near them and they could be safe. Whether for nefarious reasons or not. I like to think they are old bandits. Maybe even some people who descended from Poncho and Lefty….or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. There is a big sign that tells you if you can read that sign, they can reach you with a bullet. And you feel a gun drawn down on you while you read it.
Interestingly, in a clas of old and new, a brand new charter school is being built…within range…of the compound!
Once I levae that southern most part of the walk, I am struck by the fact Las Vegas grew so big and so fast that they ran out of names for the little Home Owner Associations that make up each sub-division.
There is one last hint on my walk that this used to be quite rural. And not so long ago. My house was built in 2009. This is a master planned community called Mountain’s Edge, “The New South West!” There are no palm trees allowed here. Only native vegetation so it does not even look like most of Vegas to start with. In case you didn’t know, all those Palms take loads of water. No Bueno here in the desert. But here in the middle of teh edge of suburbia is a little horse ranch where you can take lessons!
You can see the encroaching housing. I am sure soon the complaints of the smell of horses and what they do will become the subject of some effort to close them down, just like the Pig Farm in the north of town. My view is coexist. They were there first. Should not have bought that house you got cheap and expected it to be worth more suddenly that you own it. But I digress. After passing the horses and reminiscing about Ellensburg with the farm ranch smells it emits, I turn on to Riley Street.
This conjures a bit of sad memory. I always take a moment to think of my Cousin and her husband…Steve and Linda Riley. Their death was the most horrible family tragedy and we all bare the scars in some way or another. But as I feel that twinge of pain, I immediately see the park and imagine Linda there with her grand-kids. The last time I saw her she was here for a visit and we had a big family breakfast at my old house. I have lost but two cousins so far and the last time I saw each of them was at that house. Great visits and great people. They would have both loved the park and how full of life it gets after the sun goes down.
After weaving through the neighborhood, I dip down into the wash. We have a lot of flash floods here in Vegas. So these water diversion areas are made nice for the vast majority of time that we have no rain and can enjoy a walk. But if it rains, get out of there!
After that I am about home with may about 3.4 of a mile to go after I pop out of the wash. There is so much to see in your neighborhood and a lot of history to think about. The best part is on the entire walk I can look over to Red Rock and see the place that is my favorite in all of Nevada.
I have enjoyed writing stories since I was a small child. I remember in second or third grade the teacher handing out the piece of paper with a place to draw on top and sets of three lines on the rest of the page. We wrote a sentence or two to tell a story and colored a picture above. It was always great fun to write out the adventures that were running through my mind.
When we moved on to fourth grade we started getting entire pieces of paper that could be written on and I didn’t have to think of any pesky picture to draw. Which I was not good at. I could write and write and never had any problem filling up the pages. other kids, not so inclined to write struggled with getting a full page. I asked for more paper.
I suppose the thrill I got reading just flowed over into wanting to write. But as in many things I do, I was (and am) inpatient and felt most happy breezing through the story and affixing the last period and calling it done. No proof reading or editing for me. The story was pure and unadulterated and that is how I liked it. Free flowing stream of consciousness.
In ninth grade English Mrs. Bickford required us to write a journal. I thought that by that age we were too old for that and was quite a stinker about it. We were to start off with a story about how we spent our summer. So I reported that I had been in the hospital suffering from a rare heart disease and not expected to walk again. No idea what one had to do with the other, but that was the story and I was sticking to it. I topped it off with a flourish by surprising all the doctors and nurses and my parents with a surprise walk and wouldn’t you know it? Just in time to play softball where I was the home run hitter of the summer! A little Secret Garden meets Marcus Welby, M.D. meets Matt Christopher. Mrs. Bickford was not amused.
I took a class, in preparation for college from Ms. Hall my senior year at Glacier Senior High School in Seattle. Now it is called Sea Tac. And the school is closed. The class was to prepare you for college writing. I loved the class but had a rude awakening when one day I was writing an essay about music. I started it out with “Everybody loves music.” She stopped me right there. She said it was an incorrect statement. Not everybody likes music let alone loves it. Some don’t like it at all. I wanted to say “I don’t care if people actually love music or not, I want them to either feel like they do , or feel like they will challenge my premise as they begin to read my essay.” But you didn’t say things like that to teachers then. It was a hook and I wanted it but I had to remove it because I could not risk my GPA. That may have been the first time I had to choose a battle! I felt something sort of go away. That freedom to just pour things out on a page was now muted. I liked the “jazz” version of writing…scat, improve.
I trudged off to college in the fall of 1979. I remember countless nights sitting at my desk in Alford Montgomery Hall on the CWU campus writing essays in my little composition book. Not for class, but for me. There was some good stuff in that book. I lost it in a move from Washington to California. I have always missed it and never been able to recreate the stories within it.
In law school I got another big slap in the face. By then I was in my forties, and though I didn’t write much, I fancied that it was my strong point and it would be something I excelled at. WRONG! Professor Strong pointed out to us that legal writing was like nothing we had ever done before. Not like creative writing or technical writing or scientific writing. It was an animal all its own and nothing we had done would give us an advantage. When I got my first writing back and his tiny block letters in red filled the margins and any other open space on the paper, I was crest fallen. Professor Strong was a nice guy with Urkel glasses and riveting stories about clerking for a federal judge while his roommate clerked for Justice Scalia. He also had a pension for Bush Bashing any time he could fit it in to lesson. He was a good writing teacher and I appreciated all the time and ink he spent on my that semester. I still feel my legal writing is not as strong as my other writing skills, but I still like it anyway. IT is a challenge and a challenge is good. It also created the ability to look at my non legal writing and actually do some editing, proofing, outlining and planning more than I had in me free-form youth.
In 2011 I started to blog. I had done some other dabbling in blogging but WhelanTrek has been the blog I have stuck with, though off and on depending on if I was doing a lot of outdoor activities to blog about. After the blogging for the Everest adventure, I wanted to write a book about it all. But I have not. But now I am in the mindset that perhaps I should write a book. So that is the real question all of these 900 plus words are leading to. Should I?