Thursday, September 17, 2009

CIty life

All too often I feel a compulsion; I think it's an atavistic instinct, that borders upon panic, to leave the boxed in constraints of the city— to burst out— to see something wild; a river, a wind, a rain, an earth. And I go out to the garden to hang my underware and I see something truly prehistoric.

DInes on the Barbie

It's almost amusingly but surely eerily ironic to think that in Denver today you can settle down to a plate of freshly grilled sardines from Greece, cooked on Mexican Mesquite wood, and enjoy a bottle of Rose de Provence under the Chinese wisteria vine. How could the Ute have imagined?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Carrot Salad

I came home to an empty house. I had some shrimp in my pocket, a carrot in the fridge, garlic in the basket, a lime on the floor, fish sauce on the shelf, a pepper, cilantro and mint in the garden. I felt compelled to arrive at this salad.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lake Dorothy

We found the Arapahoe Pass trail and cut over to the Caribou trail taking us to Lake Dorothy at 12'100 feet. Didn't see any Caribou. Maybe they were here during the late Pleistocene, but were moved out or hunted out like the Arapahoe to make room for us white folk to enjoy these pristine trails without fear of terrorist activity.
All the way up with racing heart I could only think about my sandwich: Smoky, buttery Speck with mustard and Arzua Ulloa, a soft cow's milk cheese from Galicia. The bread, a German Rye style baked in Colorado Springs was given to us by the chimney Doctor, George who usually drops by the shop drowned in soot and trades the bread for Camembert. I imagine his soot blackened face absorbing creamy clean white Camembert.

Diamond Lake. Indian Peaks WIlderness. 10,920 feet.

Well, we weren't even trying to get here. We missed our turn off to the Arapahoe pass trail. Our intent had been to walk along the top of the Continental divide just to see which side we're really on. Usually, when I hike upwards, my head tends to incline downwards, concentrating only on the next step. I stare at the ground below and ignore what's up ahead and therefore frequently get lost. I do this in my daily life too. It's something I should watch. But, too much vigilence can all often take the surprise out of life and so it came to pass that we happenened upon Diamond Lake. Something to keep forever in your mind.

Gibson Lake

From our camp in the Pike National Forest, it was a ten mile hike to the lake and back. We came to spend a couple of nights developing our mussels which we did rightly. Two pots: one for each arm. We thank our friend Terry for having the strength, after sweating all week in her kitchen to supply such an ample mussel pack.
The lake at 11,500 feet, sports an enthusiastic community of small brained Brook trout.

Lake Neva. Roosevelt National Forest.

Two years ago Jack and I tried to get up here. It was late summer and we had to turn back because of torrential rain. We set up camp at the Rainbow lakes campground. There was nobody there. We dined in. We ate our familiar feast of salami, cheese, dried figs, bread, almonds and a bottle of wine. Background music was provided by the rains. They pelted their rhythms on the tent all night long. It was a little bit like listening to a Phillip Glass record but not as dry.
This time we were determined to make it to the lake. I had a pack with enough supplies to spend the night if necessary: A light tarp with pegs and rope, a whistle, a small first aid kit. Extra food and water. Whiskey. Rain gear, topo map and compass. It turned out I didn't need any of it because I had Jack. He's a master of these mountains. Knows them like the back of his heel.
Our journey began at the fourth of July campground on the Arapahoe pass trail. At eight in the morning on a Sunday in August, it is laden with cheery Boulderites donning BPA free Nalgene bottles and color coordinated REI clothing.
After crossing Boulder Creek we left the main trail and its congested highway of hikers. We followed the creek upstream.
We took a faint fisherman's trail, which narrowed into a scat of a deer trail. It turned into a scrabble of a sheep's trail, and many a winding rabbit run— sometimes taking us in circles as if we were chasing our tails. We came across some flattened grass where an animal had recently lain. We didn't know who or what but thoughts of bear and big cats were pawing quietly at our minds.
We stumbled across streams. We meandered in meadows of wild flowers. We bushwhacked through soggy brush.
When in the mountains without a trail I always find a firm hold in Edward Abby's dictum, "When in doubt, go higher." This was a constant comfort as we looked up and saw nothing but obstacle after obstacle of rock, boulder, talus, tree and thick brush.
We never saw a soul until we got to the lake. A solitary gentleman with his dog casting his fly into the wind at 11,800 feet.

Crater Lakes

Sunday, Ionah and I hiked to the Crater Lakes area up by Rollins Pass. I brought my fly rod but at 11,ooo feet it was too windy for trout. We lay in the lee of a rock and consoled ourselves with cold grilled chicken, Spanish cheese, dried sausage and a half bottle of Beaujolais. We watched as dark clouds gathered. There is something rewarding about finally reaching your lake.

If you tire of chains and the polished cleanliness of links

One of the boons of Denver city life apart from the muffled sound of nocturnal emmissions from downtown trains and the proximity to the Rocky Mountains is, The Tattered Cover Book Shop. By its name one would imagine it would literallly stock a plentiful supply of second hand, tattered covers. But this is not so; it's a classy place.
Like the golden dome resting on the state capital building, the Tattered Cover is a Denver icon. The carpet itself, spotless as it rolls its way down the regal staircase, could have come from any one of the Queen's lessor palaces. But for my taste, it's a little too prissy, a little too clean. It's like the room in my mother's home that was reserved just for guests—somewhat relaxed in a polite, formal way but not a room where one could comfortably pass gas in.
Personally, I prefer the chipped paint work, the creaky staircase and the handmade shelves of Powell's books in Portland, or the casual anarchy of Foyles in London, both of which offer an impressive array of used, tattered covers.
Long gone from Denver are the edgy used book stores that used to congregate on shady street corners or hide out in the middle of obscure blocks and provide refuge in coffee and books to the social unrests in our community.
But there are some holdouts yet. My own neighborhood, the Highlands, which is not its true name, as it was appropriated from the original Scottish Highlands down the hill on 32nd and Zuni with its twisty little lanes and its Argyle Place and its Fife Court. Apparently, the Scottish Presbyterians, having grown tired of the debauchery and oysters of downtown, got all martyred up one night, doused themselves with puritanism, settled the place upon the hill and created an alcohol free zone which they dutifully named, Highland Park. They stocked it with chickens and churches and prode themselves on clean living and lack of passion. So much for their Highland whiskey roots.
But, back to my neighborhood—the false Highlands. The true holdout here is West Side Books. Featuring both new and used covers and sometimes live jazz. Not a place to go if you know what you want. It's better that you don't. It's a place where time stands still and wisdom beckons. And it has remnants. Remnants of what this town once was. Long before the arrival of Narnes and Boble. Before Starfucks, before the Coors Lite and the obese Diet Pepsi stadiums. It's a place to go, a third place, a western place, where there is yet dishevelment, still a little rough and tumble, a place to graze in this once cow town become sports town with its new found facination for cleanliness and cute customer service.


Having had some time to reflect on my mother's death, I am consoled by the wisdom and lyrics of the late great American blues man, John Lee Hooker.
Based on conversations I had with her during the many hours we spent together at the Blackrock Hospice in Dublin, I think she would have been happy if Mr Hooker's words from his song "Burning Hell" had been her final epitaph. It goes something like this...

"Everybody talk'n 'bout that burn'n hell
ain't no heaven
ain't no burn'n hell
where I die
where I go
can't nobody tell
can't nobody tell..."