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Even-Numbered Day

November 24, 2015

Darkroom in basement 1960

November 24, 2015


Even numbered day.  I may turn on a fan for white noise in our bedroom on even-numbered days.  She hates fans.  Says they dry out her nose and she can’t hear the house creak, pop, do the things houses in the night do when they come alive.  I love . . . well, you get the idea.  Plus, I already know the house is alive, and I don’t care.

I think I already told you, forgetful reader, about my childhood darkroom at 334 North Avenue West, Missoula.  Before global warming, winters were colder and our basement, while not cold enough to, say, freeze water, made me shiver. It wasn’t cold enough that I could see my breath, but chilly.  And damp.  And dark.  I put my brother’s good Persian rug over the basement window.  The basement was good for a 10-year-old boy developing pictures.  And I still have them.  The photographs, I mean.  I used to buy supplies from a pharmacist downtown.

in 1959 my Grandma moved in with us, bringing treasures like my Grandpa Carl’s gas power lawnmower.  Also an electric heater with fan.  Or more properly, a fan with heater.  The heater coil kept breaking, but I took the heater apart and soon learned how to use a pencil to make the broken ends touch together and spark.  Then the coiled metal pieces stuck together and the whole system of coiled wires would glow bright orange.  I liked to huddle near the heater.  Still do.  Ran it while I developed pictures.  The heater’s control was on the back of the base, a metal tab that moved up and down in a slot.  The glowing coils didn’t seem to bother the developing film.

I found an old photograph of my photography developing equipment.  It all fit in a bookcase.  Most prominent was the fan.  I always felt better with a fan.  In 1959 I didn’t have to wait for an even numbered day.

Wheaties (R):  Our Religion?

Why fuss about things so long ago?  My experience today, like yours, is immediate and true.  No memory distortion, except the usual beliefs and notions we have about the world.  I’m not talking about religion here, but what we truly believe. Seriously.

I mean, really.  How do we know we can eat breakfast?  Well, maybe a box of cereal is nearby.  That’s what we believe.  Faith is believing what we know to be true.   Like cereal.

I’m almost through here.  Back to the church of Wheaties (R).  I used the example of Wheaties (R) on purpose, because my dad, who died in 1953 when I was four years old, told me the story of Goldilocks, only he substituted “Wheaties (R)” for “porridge.”  I don’t exactly remember, but he may have changed the “too hot, too cold, just right” with “too soggy.” Like that.

Traveling North

You’ll have to tell me your method, but when I journey through time I try to glide North, past Alaska.  This we all did in 1968, in August.  A sandaled and beaded hippie chick, tanned, backpack, in Eugene, Oregon, told us that the fires in the Alaskan interior could make you rich fighting them.  Hamburgers cost, like, $100, though, so you had to get out without spending much.  Okay. Hamburgers really cost $5 then.

Anyway, in 1968, this guy my age I met in Seattle had a VW van he bought new in Germany.  Had it shipped to the US.  He didn’t let anyone else drive for the first 4 or 5 days of our journey north.  Finally, when I drove, the old Alcan highway looked like a road across a ranch.  Only wider.  Come to think of it, the Alcan was far better than most roads across a ranch, but it wasn’t paved.  No, not damned much.

We picked up a couple of hitch hikers near Vancouver, British Columbia.  Both boys, maybe eighteen.  We drove northeast to pick up the Great North Trail.  For some reason you can’t just drive from Seattle up the coast to Nome.  For a long list of reasons.  “No road goes there” comes in there near the top.  Well, it rains a lot.  I don’t know.  I’d have to go there to really understand. We can go together.

The map said we needed to head toward Edmonton.  So we went that direction with our couple of hitch hikers, Canadians, who also helped us find our way.  They said Canadians men didn’t worry about being sent to Vietnam, although they had an army.  The two went to Winnipeg.  We let them out about 4 a.m. somewhere in the fog that was beyond my ability to understand, because I wasn’t driving or studying the map.  It started to rain.

We didn’t have anywhere near the cigarettes we needed.  We had no marijuana at all.  No intoxicant except the thrill of the road to the North.  We had no food.  We had just one spare tire.

The Compleat Idiot

We had no Good Book. By that, don’t you think I might have meant that guidebook north, “Mileposts,” (although technically that one is a magazine)?

No. More properly I would have been referring to “How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, Step-by-step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot.”  You know, the Good Book.  At only nineteen, I had never heard of the “Idiot” book, by John Muir.  Now you and most of us others can still quote passages.

Here are a few of my favorites from “Idiot”:

  • Just follow the instructions.  Don’t take shortcuts.  Don’t take long cuts either.
  • Take it easy with the wrench.  You don’t want to make the nuts crying tight.
  • Trust yourself.  It’s the only way.
  • We’ll put this engine back together, together.
  • You must love.  That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  It means if you, say, hurt yourself trying to loosen a stubborn bolt, pick up a tool and rub it like a feelie until your temper and good sense return.
  • Keep the inside of the engine crankcase remorselessly clean.
  • Don’t diddle with the clevis.
  • Buy good tools.
  • With bread and Muldoon in mind, you can make it to your destination before it gives up the ghost and says, ‘That’s all, mate.’


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