Weird Timing

I’ve been riding the 47 bus home every day this week. The weather’s been nice, and a bus offers a better view than Link. I’ve had no holds come in at the library, so there’s been no need to be up on Broadway.

Taking the bus home involves a couple of minutes wait on 3rd Avenue, and a 5 or 6 minute wait at 4th and Pike for the 47. Overall, it evens out to the walk home from Capitol Hill Station.

I left my desk at my usual time. As I walked over to the 3rd Ave bus stop, I remembered that I hadn’t ridden the streetcar home in quite a while. But I continued on the bus stop.

My wait on 3rd Avenue didn’t feel any longer or shorter than usual. It was a little odd that the first bus to arrive was a route 1 bus. Usually, it’s a 3, 4, 7 or a 70.

I got to 4th and Pike just as a 49 bus arrived. I checked OneBusAway. A 47 bus had left 2 minutes ago, and the next one was due in 19 minutes. I have no idea what happened – if my timing was off, or if something had happened to the 47.

I put my phone away. The 49 was still loading. I boarded it, and ended up with a good view on the ride home. Plus, I ended up walking past the library, even though I had no reason to go in. 

Dreams And Such

I have a recurring dream. In it, I am in a group of people, traveling somewhere. We’ve reached a point where a group decision has to be made as to our course. I’m holding a map. That’s all there is to the dream. The interesting thing about this dream is that I never see anyone’s face in it – just the map in my hands and other people’s hands pointing to various routes. I most likely have had this dream more often than I remember.

I had that dream this morning. It was a different version of it, and yet it was still that same dream. A group of us are in a van. I’m driving. We’ve pulled off into an alley, because we have an hour before we need to leave Los Angeles, and we need to decide what we want to do with that hour. Someone in the van points out the sign, over to the left, pointing the way to a Visitor Information office – they might have a suggestion. I drive us down the alley, make a right, make another right turn, and start to make another right. End of dream. Again, I don’t see anyone else in the van. All I see is the steering wheel my hands, and the view through the windshield. It’s a horizontal steering wheel, like the one in an old VW van.

Today, we spent the day in Everett, role-playing the vampire game. I’m still not enjoying it as much as some of our previous games, but it was a fun day.

Yesterday, Phillip and I went to the University District Street Fair. We rode a 47 bus to Westlake Station, where we caught a Link light rail train to University of Washington Station. (Why not catch Link at Capitol Hill Station? We were feeling lazy.) From there, we caught a 44 bus to Phillip’s office. (He had to pick up something, or drop off something – I’m not sure.) Then we walked to the street fair.

We spent almost three hours at the fair. I bought a tie-dyed t-shirt, a bow tie, some body wash from a West Seattle couple who not only recognized us from last year but remembered what we bought, and a deck of tarot cards. Phillip bought an unusual umbrella, made in India from an assortment of recycled parts.

And, of course, we bought food and drinks at the fair.

I took some photographs at the street fair, but none of them successfully captured the feeling and expanse of it.

We rode a 49 bus home from the fair, stopping off at the grocery store and the library on the way home.

A Childhood Favorite

The Incredible JourneyThe Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford, was first published in 1960.

When I thought about a book I loved as a child, this was the first book that came to mind. I don’t remember how old I was when I read it. I don’t remember if I’ve seen the Disney movie adaptation. Back then, I most likely borrowed it from the New Orleans Public Library bookmobile that parked next to the gas station across the street from the U-tote-M. I’m fairly sure I’d read it only once, until now.

John Longridge is a bachelor who lives in the countryside of Ontario Provence, Canada. He’s a writer. He lives a quiet, solitary life. Mrs. Oakes and her husband, Bert, live nearby and take care of Mr. Longridge’s house – the gardening, cooking, repairs, and so on.

Eight months ago, Jim Hunter, a friend of Mr. Longridge, had accepted an invitation to deliver a series of lectures at a university in England. John agreed to watch the Hunter family’s pets – a Siamese cat named Tao, an elderly English bull terrier named Bodger, and a young Labrador retriever named Luath – while they were away.

The Hunters will be returning in three weeks.

John Longridge is leaving at seven in the morning, for a trip to Heron Lake, where he and his brother own a hunting cabin. Mrs. Oakes and Bert will look after the animals, but won’t be able to come over until nine.

Before he goes to bed, John writes a two-page note for Mrs. Oakes, with a grocery list, and explaining that he’d be taking the dogs and the cat (second page) for a run before he left.

The cat accidentally knocks the note off of the table, and the second page lands the fireplace.

In the morning, John takes the animals for a run, packs up his car, and drives off, leaving the dogs and the cat in the yard. (They always stick close to home without supervision.) After twenty minutes or so, the young Labrador suddenly walks down the road. The Siamese cat and the English bull terrier don’t know where their friend is going, or why, but follow.

Mrs. Oakes arrives and finds an empty house. At first, she assumes that the animals were off for a walk to the nearby school. Then she finds the note Mr. Longridge had left her. She thinks it extremely odd that he had suddenly decided to take the animals with him, after making the arrangement for her and her husband to watch them, but eventually accepts this change of plans.

Something is telling the young Labrador that he must go home, and that home is to the west. He’s not going to go home alone. He’s going to bring the cat and the old dog with him.

The three friends make an incredible 300-mile journey west, across the Canadian wilderness. They meet wild animals, find food with their limited skills, deal with the harsh environment, and encounter friendly humans along the way. They’re house pets, so surviving is not going to be easy.

They manage to survive a collapsed beaver dam, an unwise attack on a porcupine, an aggressive farm collie, and a separation.

Meanwhile, John Longridge and Mrs. Oakes realize their misunderstanding, and begin a frantic search for the lost pets.

One thing I loved about this book, this time around, is that the dogs and the cat are not at all anthropomorphized. They are allowed to be animals, acting on instinct and motivated by hunger. It’s refreshing. They don’t talk to each other in English. They don’t understand what humans are saying, other than the basic commands they’ve been taught.

The points of view shift throughout the book. We, the readers, are told more about the humans than the animals understand.

The Incredible Journey is a children’s novel, with some scary scenes in it – the vicious, bloody fight with the collie, for instance. It’s an episodic adventure that moves quickly from one scene to the next. The characters (human and animal) are interesting, but not too complex.

The copy I borrowed from the library is nicely illustrated by Carl Burger.

  • A book you loved as a child

(I book I loved now, as well)

Samson Valley Begins

Last month, I excitedly logged on to Steam and looked for the new Cities: Skylines DLC: Mass Transit. I searched and searched for it, until I realized it was coming out May 18 – not April 18.

Today is May 18, and I bought Mass Transit. I disabled all my mods (for now) and I started a new city, which I’ve named Samson Valley.

Samson Valley beginning

My little city is still suffering growing pains, and the blimps and monorails and transit hubs, etc., will have to wait until the population catches up.

This is going to be fun!

Much Better

I don’t know if it was the yoga stretches, the cannabis back rub cream, lounging around all weekend, or a combination of all those things, but I woke up Monday morning without back pain. I’m walking normally, and not dreading that lead-footed bus driver. I even sat on the exercise ball through most of the three episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. we binge-watched last night.

There’s still the occasional stiffness, but I’m pretty much recovered.

Meanwhile, I finished the second part of Route One – that epic 24-hour drive around Iceland – last week, and started Part 3. In about two or two-and-a-half hours, they will be back in Reykjavík, and it’ll all be over. Unfortunately, my recent tasks at work haven’t been mindless enough that I’ve been watching it since Thursday. This slow TV event has been truly amazing.

La Ciudad Blanca

The Lost City of the Monkey GodThe Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas Preston, was published in 2017. It is a true story.

Deep in Honduras, there is an area covering 32,000 square miles known as La Mosquitia. Ancient maps called it Portal del Infierno (Gates of Hell). It is one of the last scientifically unexplored places on earth. It is also considered one of the most dangerous places on earth.

La Mosquitia contains thick rainforests, high mountains, swamps, swift rivers, and pools of quickmud. The forest is so thick that it’s possible to become lost just ten feet from your campsite. It is populated by deadly snakes, jaguars, and catclaw vines. Also, the towns surrounding La Mosquitia are controlled by drug cartels.

According to legend, deep inside La Mosquitia is an ancient “lost city” built of white stone, named la Ciudad Blanca (the White City). It is also known as “the City of the Monkey God”.

In 2012, Douglas Preston, a writer for the American Museum of Natural History, joined a scientific expedition, lead by a film producer, to journey into the most dangerous place on the planet, on a quest to find the Lost City of the Monkey God – if the city ever really existed, that is.

The book spends many pages covering the histories and legends of past expeditions – some dubious, some outright frauds, but none were able to credibly find Ciudad Blanca. These pages also cover the history of Honduras, as well as the banana and cocaine industries.

In 2012, the team used lidar mapping – never before used to map a rainforest – to search for likely locations for the city, before beginning their expedition. Every step of their planning was met with resistance from the unstable Honduran government.

The lidar images produced promising results, but aerial mapping is discovery, not knowledge. “It’s bad archeology.” A site has to be “ground-truthed” to be of value.

On Valentine’s Day, 2015, the crew traveled in vans from Tegucigalpa to Catacamas, with a military escort, through drug cartel territory – areas with the highest murder rates in the world. Then they flew by helicopters into the Gates of Hell, where no human had touched the ground in hundreds of years.

In several ways, it was a costly expedition.

The Lost City of the Monkey God is a thrilling book. I sailed through its 300 or so pages. The story is part archaeological adventure, part survival story, and part political intrigue. (Even flying a spare part from Canada to Honduras, via the USA, became a logistical headache.) It often reads like a crime caper. (The team hired a former drug smuggler, former archaeological looter, as their “fixer”.)

More than a story of travel to an archaeological site, The Lost City of the Monkey God is a story of the state of archeology in the twenty-first century. It is an essay on the importance, and futility, of conservation.

  • A book involving travel

O My Back

Last Monday, as I walked into the office, after a dental appointment, I suddenly experienced shooting low back pain. At first I thought the dental cleaning and the back pain were related (as in stress from a visit to the dentist) but I don’t think so anymore. It’s Friday evening, and my back’s feeling a lot better, but there is still pain.

I’ve been sleeping a lot, and the exercise ball in front of our home computer is uncomfortable. I haven’t missed any work this week, other than the dental appointment.

Every time I stand up, it’s an experiment. I brace myself, move slightly, feel for oncoming pain, shift my position, and try again. I’ve learned to slide to the end of a chair, and lift straight up with my legs and arms – which is a good habit to get into, even without back pain.

I’ve been walking slower this week. (Phillip can actually keep up with me.) I’ve been opting for elevators, rather than stairs.

I’ve been using the handicapped bathroom stall at work, exclusively. I love those railings.

I’ve grown to dislike lead-footed bus drivers. I’m not fond of gravity, when it makes things fall to the floor. Sneezes and coughs are my enemies.

Today was pretty much pain free. Still, there has been the unwise movement which feels like being hit in the back – I must look like some invisible object has hit me, too, judging by my coworkers’ alarmed looks.

It’s getting better.

 

Summer

The Summer BookSommarboken, by Tove Jansson, was published in Finland, in Swedish, in 1972. It was translated into English by Thomas Teal, as The Summer Book, and published in 2003. It is illustrated by the author.

The Summer Book is a short novel about six-year-old Sophia and her grandmother, their friendship, and their summer on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland. Rather than one continuous story, it’s a collection of brief stories, like vignettes. It’s character-driven, with hardly any overall plot.

Sophia’s mother has died. Her father is on the island, but we see him only occasionally. Although Sophia is the only named family member, she isn’t the narrator, and neither is Grandmother.

The stories center around Sophia, but she’s not always the main character. The stories are sometimes about visitors, friends, and neighbors on the island.

Sophia is full of curiosity. She’s prone to tantrums. Grandmother is patient, and talks through Sophia’s questions, but she is also a bit of a curmudgeon. Sophia asks how God is able to answer all prayers, about the anatomy of angleworms, or if it’s possible to love a cat who doesn’t love you back, and so on, and Grandmother does her best to provide an answer.

Sophia thinks it’s unfair that Papa is the only one who gets to call someone “Mama”. Grandmother won’t let Sophia call her “Mama”, even during play acting.

Grandmother is not above breaking the rules occasionally, if the need arises. Sophia is often her partner in crime.

The Summer Book is a quiet, leisurely novel. It feels like summer. There’s not a lot of drama. There’s some humor, but it’s not a comedy. It’s a picturesque description of life on a tiny island. The stories are delightful.

There’s a strangeness to this book. I don’t mean that in a positive way. The introduction and the back cover both tell us that these stories take place over a single summer. Yet, at least three stories start with “One summer…” The stories are not in chronological order, and span different lengths of time – anywhere from hours to months. One story covers a year of gardening. Sophia is always six years old – as if it really is all one summer. Yet, the book doesn’t always feel like a single summer. It’s almost as if these are unfinished outlines of stories not meant for a single book. Or maybe the introduction and back cover are misleading. It’s this confusion that kept me from truly enjoying The Summer Book.

Tove Jansson was primarily a children’s book author and illustrator. She created the Moomin series of comic strips and books. The Summer Book is one of her few novels written for adults. The introduction, by Kathryn Davis, tells us that it’s somewhat autobiographical. Tove Jansson died in 2001.

  • A book with one of the four seasons in the title