Monday, August 26, 2013

one day i'm an honored citizen, the next a parasite

no wonder i've woken up, fretting, in the wee hours, unable to sleep. welcome to the roller-coaster of life. ah, was it just a week ago they put me in a parade, cut a cake for me and gave me a little pin, later a delicious barbeque where work friends and friends from out of town mingled, as i hoped they would, thus bringing the two lives i've led together? 

and i surprised myself. i smoozed and smiled so much the muscles in my face were tired when i got back to the lookout. a wonderful day. yes, i was disappointed in one thing: i'd hoped they might give me money. ah, foolish hope, it makes us keep chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. no, no check, no provision for my advanced old age, if i'm unlucky enough to get there! once i can't work, it's the poor-house for me. 

that's not what i'm fretting about. i've had my fun, able to be creative my whole existence, travel the world. yes, extremely and gratefully lucky. nobody gets out of life alive. and that brings me to the downer: being accused of being a free-loader and parasite. i suppose if you live long enough in america, it has to eventually happen. unlike the eskimos, i haven't been left in the snow to die (yet). no, i'll limp along, paying almost half of my social security for 'free' medicare. 

the most terrible thing about our system: getting caught up in it, treated by doctors and nurses as though i were made of glass at 73, despite my grandfather living to a hundred, despite the fact one fire lookout still working at 87. i have never, ever felt like an old relic until my night in the hospital. my usual  doctor, barry furst,  semi-retired, and i got thrown to the wolves. not that everyone hasn't been extremely kind and helpful, except they scare me to death! 

barry always warned me about too many tests. though he did get me  off for a colonoscopy, to a prostate doc, and to a nephrologist (kidneys), he never used scare tactics to do so. and he said, 'they will find something.' how true that has  become. okay, i'll try your cholesterol medicine. alas, it gave me a rash on my ankles and i felt like a lead soldier on waking in the morning. yes, maybe my blood-pressure a little high. i'll try your lisinoprol. two weeks later i have what's called in the literature 'a useless cough.' not very reassuring for someone who's had asthma attacks in the past. 

hmm, okay, i threw out all the meat and cheese in fridge, cut out as much dairy as i could, tossed some prepared meals (indian, thai), and so on. i began checking my blood-pressure through the day so see the pattern. barry always said, 'if your blood-pressure ever drops to normal, you don't have a problem.' i've discovered it's highest when i lay around, like when i wake up in the morning. once i'm active, it starts dropping, and by the end of the day i'm back to as normal as i'll ever be. in the hospital i lay around all the time, hardly allowed to lift a spoon. and all those beautiful, attentive nurses, they certainly made my heart go pitter-patter. 

my credo: at some point i have to stop listening to other people and listen to myself. hence, fifty years on a mountain top, as odd as that makes me. this week i hope to re-gain my youth, despite a visit to a doctor (not barry) and a blood-test. oh, the confession, they did find a true problem. my sodium 'dangerously' low. damn, to shore up my kidneys, i'd been drinking lots of water. turns out that can kill you. and  likely my moment of dis-orientation came from it. now i drink less water, more apple juice, and, hallelujah, i can put salt on my tomatoes once again.

here are the first photos from my celebration day: with more to come. 

          "Never treat someone like they are old," said the Buddha 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A claustrophobic candle lights a fire.

To youth nothing is final.

            I've said everything somewhere. Fortunately, I can't find it.

   Is victory in a desert really worth it?

Too much order and you lose the ability to improvise.

                         Pornography is a joke.

    He needed to die, but he didn't have time.

Don't let me stumble over your truth.

          If truth were true, everyone would recognize it.

All governments lie.

                    I remember all the times I wasn't there.

    The now can be a nightmare.

                              Freedom of choice is not really freedom. You have to choose.

Every president needs a war.

                 "Americans want a president who will kill for them."  Arthur Miller  

I'm an introvert who can't stop talking.

                                  Mortality applies to everyone but ourselves.

     The flood came too late.

            The silent ones said the most.

                                       How can a country accommodate so many losers?

Truth is generally another name for opinion.

              The first time he saw the stars he thought he understood them.

    Some countries can only be ruled by despots some groups hate each other so much.

                          Don't let your dream girl get physical.

      Sex is only interesting when it gets you in trouble.

"Be a man!", they say. But - aren't all men mortal?

                                               She's just my hype.

                   He sat on his tombstone, still undecided what to do.

     The house always wins.

Playing a game is like faking an orgasm.

                                       It cost him a fortune to get something for nothing.

                He quit while he was ahead and fell behind. 

Debt made him ordinary.

                                    Losers never lie alone. 

        The big problem is what to do after you've won?

                        There are good thoughts and fun ones.

Whether you've won or lost, you've lost.

                                    Being awake is not all it's cracked up to be. 

more pictures: when my eyes watered

Friday, August 9, 2013

if you just do one thing long enough....

Fire Lookout Celebrates Half-Century of Service

After 50 years on the job, fire lookout Wayne Pease is not yet ready to give up his corner office. That's because his is not just any corner office. His comes with a view that even the most power-hungry executive might envy: 360 degrees of mountainous northern California national forest. Pease, who has spent 30 of his 50 years at Mount Hough on the Plumas National Forest (PNF), says that when he returns each season the view still takes his breath away. "I never get tired of it," says the 73-year-old.
                For five decades, Pease has been the eyes of the Forest Service, spotting and reporting smoke or any other warning sign of wildfire. Few have been on the job as long. No official record exists for the longest-serving lookout, says Dave Bula of the Forest Fire Lookout Association (FFLA). His group could name just two people whose service was on par with Pease's.
After all these years, Pease continues to find the work satisfying. "I still really like being able to spot a smoke," he says. "It's an adrenaline rush."
                But he harbors no romantic notions about his job. "You have to like washing windows."
                Pease is matter-of-fact about the occupational hazards. Over the years he's been hit by lightning "lots of times. The first time, I swear I levitated," he says. Although he has never had to evacuate, some of his former posts have burned. At Mount Hough, he figures he would jump in nearby Crystal Lake if it came to that.
Pease believes he was destined to be a lookout. When he was 11, his family took a cross-country trip and stopped at what is now Pinnacles National Park in central California, where he hiked to a lookout on North Chalone Peak. He recalls thinking, "This is pretty neat."
                By his early twenties, Pease knew he wanted to work as a lookout. Landing his first job, at Bunker Hill on the El Dorado National Forest near Lake Tahoe, was a matter of luck. "The guy they hired didn't show up, so I got the job," Pease says.
                Very remote, Bunker Hill had no telephone, no electricity and no visitors. During fire season, May through October, Pease worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for $1.95 an hour. He says he "went down the mountain maybe once" that summer. It was a tough assignment, but he can laugh about it now. "It's hard when you're young and lonely!"
Much about the job has changed since then. Today he works eight hours a day, 10 days on and four days off. He has electricity, a cell phone and Wi-Fi. He spends his time off in Chico, a two-hour drive away. "At some point the loneliness disappeared," Pease says. "It is so alleviated by the technology." He has more creature comforts, too. His "bucket shower" is a thing of the past thanks to a new tank that delivers enough water for a proper, if low-flow, shower. He still has an outhouse, though.
            The same technology that allows him to stay connected has also changed fire detection strategies. Thousands of lookouts once dotted the country. Beginning in the 1970s, advances in firefighting technology led to a decline in lookout use. Now, high-definition cameras, microwave wireless links and telecommunications equipment are sometimes used in place of or to complement staffed lookouts. Budget concerns and redundancy drove reductions in look-outs back then as well; many look-outs were simply closed because they had over overlapping coverage. California has 58 staffed lookouts on 13 national forests today, according to the Forest Service.
Pease continues to stand by the work he does, saying, "even the best technology can't beat human eyes that know the terrain. "We saved a lot of houses," he says of the time earlier in his career at Stateline and Angora lookouts near Lake Tahoe.
Proud as he is of his work, he acknowledges that in many ways the seasonal job has not been "practical." But it has allowed him to live the life he wanted by giving him the time and freedom to pursue his creative and intellectual interests. "I wanted the job to write," he says. Over the years he has earned a degree in English, written poetry, organized readings and produced plays. The off-season has been his time to travel. His destinations have included Asia and Australia, but his favorite place is Europe for its art museums. Today, his passion is photography. He maintains a website ( ) with hundreds of his pictures.
His tenure has also given him a deep respect for the forests he protects. "That first summer at Bunker Hill was magical," Pease remembers. "I have enjoyed being more participatory with nature." 
Looking back on his half-century of service, Pease says, "I don't have any regrets. Things speeded by so fast. I was always focused on the next thing."

Pease is being celebrated this Saturday, August 17 at the Plumas-Sierra County Fair. Fair goers are invited to stop by Mt. Ingalls Look-out at 2:00 o'clock, meet Pease and enjoy cake and story-telling.

Friday, August 2, 2013

my night in the hospital

of course i didn't want to stay! alas, the doctor said i'd miss important tests in the morning if i didn't: a brain-scan and a tracing of my arteries by ultra-sound, i needed to be monitored during the night. common sense made me give in. the action had already started, as the woman in the next examining room yelled, "i want to die! let me go! i'll blow my brains out." the duty nursed yelled back, "that's never going to happen. not on  our watch. that's not the way it works." this, certainly, affected my impulse to flee.

i didn't. beautiful young nurses and laughing older ones kept waking me up, testing my reflexes, drawing blood a couple of times. the brain-scan machine banged and hissed like a performance by dada (1920) artists. the ultra-sound fascinating, watching my blood gush on the screen like the sea and hearing the tremendous whoosh-whoosh like waves landing on the shore. i could see the evidence: my body really, really 72.8% water.

by noon, waiting for the doctor's analysis, i realized i felt helpless, having been waited upon so assiduously. how do the rich and presidents stand it? in a hospital your body becomes a prison. i began to doubt i could function on my own. two days later i'm fragile, on the edge of panic. lucky i could and did, driving back to my fire-tower last night, the truck stayed on the highway as i wove along the river. i'm sure this disquieted state will pass.

no, no, they found nothing wrong. since i'd woken up the morning off all this unexpected attention, lurching to one side, having a hard time not wobbling, grasping chairs and wall, they thought i might have had a TIA, basically a mini-stroke which passes before you know it, and an hour later i was fine. alas, two friends ten years young have had strokes recently. this stoked my alarm. my blood-pressure a bit high, as well as my cholesterol. two new cartridges of pills, damn-it-all, rest atop the micro-wave.

i need to be more grateful: no brain-tumor, no evidence of a stroke, clean veins. at my quickly advantaging age, no small thing. my neck's still stiff, and i think arthritis in that locale causing all the problems. pain-killer helped a bit and last night i could sleep in relative comfort, my dreams weird, as always with drugs. and, boy, i think those cute, caring, attentive young nurses made my blood-pressure rise!

        "No one, I suppose, genuinely admits the real existence of another person...Most people are for us no more than scenery."

                                                                                     Fernando Pessoa, The Book of                                                                                                                                                    Disquiet