Saturday, February 28, 2004

After going to the library I walked to the post office to mail a post card. Then I decided, rather than turn right back around and go back home, I'd go look at the Chico Museum and see the Robin Hood Mural on 4th street. You see I'd just found the Exploring Butte County website and filled my head with all of these things I need to see.
The Robin Hood mural didn't impress me at all at all.
The Chico Museum is a pretty neat way to kill an hour though. The Chico Museum is only a little bigger than the main house here on our land. When you come in the door there's artifacts from what remains of the Taoist temple from early Chico from back when they were building the railroads and the Chinamen and gandydancers made up a good deal of the early population.
The main room has two stuffed black bears, one standing like a person in the most unnatural pose I've ever seen on two legs with his arms at his side and the other standing over a badger, which he's supposed to have killed. The dead badger's tounge is sticking out.
There's a section on John Muir because we are in Northern California after all. There's also info on the Bidwells, who are to Chico what John D. Spreckels is to San Diego or the Sutros to San Francisco. John Bidwell was a general (probably in the Civil War but I'll find out for sure) who built a big mansion here and a community started to fill in around their money. Or something like that.
The other room on the other side of the museum was my favorite part. It had old pictures of the surrounding mountains by Ansel Adams and people even older than Ansel Adams. And next to them were art pictures of the same areas by modern photo artists. There were collages and things like that. Really neat to look at.
Pat and Andi return tomorrow, but then they leave for New York on Thursday.
Rob called tonight. It was fun to talk with him although I couldn't be as loud as normal and I had to keep it clean because I was in the main house and my nieces were asleep.
I'm sleepy too because I walked for over three hours today. I'm walking more and more. Soon I'll be like Dr. Oblivious. Soon I'll walk like six hours a day.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Chico is in a strange space on the level of growth and of terminology. It's not a city by any means and probably won't ever be. It's not even a suburb yet. It's a large small town. It might one day grow into an urban suburb of say Sacramento just as Orange County is a large suburb of Los Angeles. But right now it's a really big little college town.
I thought about this this morning on a longer walk. I went to the post office to ship my orders (even with a week off for moving I didn't do too bad this month.) Then I went next door to Lyon Books to see what they had for me. It's neat because I'd heard them sponsoring a program on NPR and I walk by them every other day. I asked the lady where there was a drug store nearby (my mother caught the stomach thing I had.) She directed me about a twenty minute walk away.
On the way there I thought about how they have at least one major drug store. Next to the major drug store they have a major chain supermarket and I happen to know that there are at least two other major chain supermarkets in town plus Chico Natural Foods where I do most of my shopping. I'm told there's every fast food place you could want if you're into that kind of thing. There's a small mall about the size of Huntington Center in Huntington Beach, but with stores in it. There's a Walmart and a Target which make me want to carry rotten tomatoes in my car for when I drive past them. There are some small coffehouses, but at least two Starbucks.
There's also a tire dealer in town who gives away free beef if you buy a set of tires from him.
Chapman Town, the poor area where I live, is the low rent side of town right now. There's a house a block down with chickens that sometimes get out and roam the streets. You can hear frogs at night from the standing water across 20th St behind the brewery. But I'm told that the yuppies are moving into the edges of Chapman town, buying up that cheap cheap property, fixing them into Martha Stewart pastel homes and reselling them to other yuppies for high prices (which are probably still low by Orange County standards.) So the poor will probably be forced out of Chapman town in the next five to ten years by economics. Probably have to move to the outskirts or over to Oroville or something. But more likely Chico will just get bigger with the poor on the outskirts, pushing it all out a little further, pushed out by the rich.
The college yields a fair number of new residents into Chico because it's such a party school that many don't leave after they graduate.
Walking to the major chain drug store I was thinking about all of this and thinking about the unchecked growth that is presupposed in all walks of our culture. People say, "Of course we keep growing. You can't stop progress." And little more thought is put into it than that. I really think that there's only so much growth and consumption we can do before we kill ourselves with our greed. Already it hurts a lot of people and even more animals and plants who don't speak our language very well. It's one of those cancerous evils that grow slowly.
It makes me wonder what I can do to slow things down, to slow people down. The first place to start is within myself. Part of why I'm up here is to appreciate more by having less and getting less. I've already got a lot up here, much more than I need.
I think it's time for more people to start asking why we're supposed to keep growing all the danged time. I like some technology and understand its uses, but (realizing I may be labeled a Luddite) I've often said that just because we can do something now doesn't mean we should.
I guess my green side is showing in this post. Hope this wasn't preachy. Just some thoughts I had.
More reasons why they get other people and not me to watch my nieces

Abi: Uncle Paul, who is that on your shirt?
Me: That's Phil Lesh, he's a musician. And that's Pig Pen. He was a musician and a singer.
Abi: Is he like a pig?
Me: No, they just called him that.
Abi: Why?
Me: Because he was a fun guy I guess.
Abi: Where does he live?
Me: Well, he used to live in San Francisco.
Abi: Where does he live now?
Me: He died a long time ago.
Abi: Oh. Is he with God now?
Me: Yes. Yes he is.
Abi: Will you play some of his music?
Me: After your nap.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

My down comforter.
Singing `bout my down comforter.
Just got it today.
Whoa whoa whoa. Hey hey hey.
Gonna be snoozin' around
All wrapped up in down.
Wubba wubba wubba
My new down comforter
ter a lurra lurra.
Down a derry derry down down.
Guess whose birthday it is today.
No, but you're close. It's Johnny Cash's birthday today. So listen to some Cash today.
And now for the two film reviews.

SECONDHAND LIONS

If you're going to see this movie, you really should see it on DVD. The reason is that when this movie came out there were a lot of flummoxed critics. Many of them thought what I thought. "This is a story about a boy becoming a man with the help of eccentric uncles that is an uplifting tale of mirth and whatnot. It should suck. It should royally suck. It should `Jack the Bear' suck. But it's actually a decent film. Wahoppen?"
The DVD explains it. This film is an example of a director who is brilliant, near genius with editing. They have a deleted scene section in the DVD that pretty much all, except for the skeet shooting with ears of corn scene, would have blown all of the steam out of the film. The deleted scenes would have ruined the film. They deleted the scene at the end where they "explain" it all and there's the big contrived curtain call. It's really great to see it because you see a director making a coming of age story and actually showing some restraint. In fact a good amount of restraint. I'm hard pressed to think of any other film in this genre that does that. It's a genre that I dislike, but this is the best film I've ever seen in that genre.
Michael Caine really does some of the best monologue work in his film career in this film. I really lost myself in his narrative. To give a backhanded compliment, Haley Joel Osment, on the latter cusp of his childhood actor career, does a pretty good child performance. But the gold, the quiet excellence of this movie is Bobby D. He's one of our coolest living actors. This is one of the plot points on Duvall's career map (he seems to be recovering nicely from the stumbles with Deep Impact and Gone in 60 Seconds in what has been an otherwise great career. My parents really liked Open Range, but I haven't seen it yet.) And at 73, he could beat the tar out of any of us. I've got a lot of love for his work. Remember he started as Tom Hagen, Frank Burns and THX 1138. Oh, and Boo Radley. He's still making great films. God bless him.
Really I did not expect to like this one in any way. I expected to sit with my arms crossed scowling. But it tells a good story, it doesn't try too hard, and in doing so actually makes some honest moments.



HIGHWAY 61

This is one of my favorite movies. Certainly in my top 30. Maybe at #30, but it's right up there.
It took me a long time to find this film. I finally found it in a cheap bin at the back of a used record store in LA about two years ago.
It's a film about a young barber in Canada who finds a dead guy frozen behind his barber shop one morning. A beautiful roadie comes into town claiming that the dead guy is her brother and that they have to take him to New Orleans for the funeral. So the barber straps the coffin to the top of his car with the roadie and they take off down Highway 61. But Satan also comes looking for the body and the chase is on.
Earl Pastko, of many a B film fame, plays the crap out of the role of Satan. You could not ask for a better Satan.
The film was written by Don McKellar, who plays Pokey the barber who is one of the most lovable characters since Jimmy Stewart died. And Valerie Buhagiar, besides being one of the most striking realistically beatiful women to carry a film in recent history (certainly more than mainstream Hollywood would ever allow) really takes us through an amazing, harrowing character arch. So you've got three leads in this film that you've probably never heard of before giving some of the best performances you're likely to see.
And the script is whacked. Screwed up beyond the pale. Really well written too. It's smart and really twisted and very touching often all at once.
Jello Biafra plays a customs officer too.
Secondhand Lions is the kind of thing you get when you're in the video store with your family and you want to get something you'll be able to sit through that they all might agree on. Highway 61 is the kind of movie that you should spend some time tracking it down with strong obsession. I'm glad I did.
Now I'm working on finding a copy of F for Fake, which is actually in my top 5. I never should have given back the copy I borrowed.
It's one of the great injustices of this country and, at risk of turning political, one of the ugly sides of capitalism that in any point in any city in America you can walk five minutes and buy a copy of The Wild Wild West but Highway 61 is unavailable and out of circulation. I may have said all of this before, but somebody should work to change that.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I don't know if I'll regret this posting later or not. But it's my blog and it's about where I'm at right now.
Tonight I broke down a little. Today I slept a lot. Like the usual eight hours and then two two hour long naps. My stomach is still a little tender, but I no longer feel like I'm teetering over the brink of vomit. I ate a small dinner and felt much better.
My nieces were bad tonight. Just giving my mom a hard time. I was out here working for a good while after dinner and they were watching the Care Bear movie. I came in at the end of it. I won't ruin the ending for anybody.
Then my mom and I watched a film I've wanted to see for a long time. Whale Rider. I won't do a review on it because sometimes I find that I almost feel shameful to talk about or try and dissect experiences that are on a certain level. It was a long time after my England trip before I told anyone how I wept like a baby in Saint Paul's Cathedral. You should all see Whale Rider. It's quite a film. Maybe I'll try and review it after the next time I watch it. Having said that I'm remembering I only ever watched my video of American Beauty once because it did such things to me. But don't worry. I've got two other films I've watched since I've been here that I'm itching to review.
Anyway, I'm wandering around the topic here.
After the film I was a little weepy I'm not ashamed to admit. I was also shivering and my stomach was cramped. That was because the house was about twenty degrees and I was in my socks. Still am actually. So we went to turn on the heater and mom went to get a bag of things she'd brought me and forgotten about until this evening. There was yet more trail mix, a package of salmon, and a book. The book was one I'd seen in a catalog about midway through reading Return of the King. It's a devotional focusing around LOTR characters. I thought it sounded really cool and I pointed it out to her. She brought me the book.
And then she went back in her room and I broke down. I tried to get to my house before she heard me, but she heard the door close. After I'd composed myself a little I came back in and told her that I'm still not sure what I'm doing here. I had a lot of people that loved me in OC. I was amassing money and probably could have moved where ever I wanted to on my own steam by summer (except in OC. I'm not doing that well.) And I miss Boingo.
Up here there are trees and animals and I can walk everywhere and the downtown area is cool and I've got my own building. But I have a hard time with the squealy nieces to be honest. Nobody knows me. I guess I'm lonely.
Mom said she thought I was lonely in OC. I told her that was true as well.
She reminded me that part of the reason I came up here was because it was different and would kick me out of comfort for a while. I remembered that I came up here partially to get my inventory on shelves and in order.
And, like I said before, there were certain things I wasn't letting go of down there that might be easier to let go of now that I'm up here.
Then I remembered right after the movie that my mom said she hoped the girls wouldn't only remember her punishing them. They deserved it, but she hoped that they remembered some of the good things. I told her that punishment was just a blur to them now, but that what they'll remember is the fun and the kindness. Mom had said earlier that she had spanked Pat when we were growing up, but never me because she would only have to give me a look and I'd break down.
Up here it turns out I'm able to break down again.
And I came out of the conversation realizing that I have no idea what I'm doing. But neither does any one else.
I don't know if I'll regret this posting later or not. But it's my sight and it's about where I'm at right now.
Tonight I broke down a little. Today I slept a lot. Like the usual eight hours and then two two hour long naps. My stomach is still a little tender, but I no longer feel like I'm teetering over the bring of vomit. I ate a small dinner and felt much better.
My nieces were bad tonight. Just giving my mom a hard time. I was out here working for a good while after dinner and they were watching the Care Bear movie. I came in at the end of it. I won't ruin the ending for anybody.
Then my mom and I watched a film I've wanted to see for a long time. Whale Rider. I won't do a review on it because sometimes I find that I almost feel shameful to talk about or try and dissect experiences that are on a certain level. It was a long time after my England trip before I told anyone how I wept like a baby in Saint Paul's Cathedral. You should all see Whale Rider. It's quite a film. Maybe I'll try and review it after the next time I watch it. Having said that I'm remembering I only ever watched my video of American Beauty once because it did such things to me. But don't worry. I've got two other films I've watched since I've been here that I'm itching to review.
Anyway, I'm wandering around the topic here.
After the film I was a little weepy I'm not ashamed to admit. I was also shivering and my stomach was cramped. That was because the house was about twenty degrees and I was in my socks. Still am actually. So we went to turn on the heater and mom went to get a bag of things she'd brought me and forgotten about until this evening. There was yet more trail mix, a package of salmon, and a book. The book was one I'd seen in a catalog about midway through reading Return of the King. It's a devotional focusing around LOTR characters. I thought it sounded really cool and I pointed it out to her. She brought me the book.
And then she went back in her room and I broke down. I tried to get to my house before she heard me, but she heard the door close. After I'd composed myself a little I came back in and told her that I'm still not sure what I'm doing here. I had a lot of people that loved me in OC. I was amassing money and probably could have moved where ever I wanted to on my own steam by summer (except in OC. I'm not doing that well.) And I miss Boingo.
Up here there are trees and animals and I can walk everywhere and the downtown area is cool and I've got my own building. But I have a hard time with the squealy nieces to be honest. Nobody knows me. I guess I'm lonely.
Mom said she thought I was lonely in OC. I told her that was true as well.
She reminded me that part of the reason I came up here was because it was different and would kick me out of comfort for a while. I remembered that I came up here partially to get my inventory on shelves and in order.
And, like I said before, there were certain things I wasn't letting go of down there that might be easier to let go of now that I'm up here.
Then I remembered right after the movie that my mom said she hoped the girls wouldn't only remember her punishing them. They deserved it, but she hoped that they remembered some of the good things. I told her that punishment was just a blur to them now, but that what they'll remember is the fun and the kindness. Mom had said earlier that she had spanked Pat when we were growing up, but never me because she would only have to give me a look and I'd break down.
Up here it turns out I'm able to break down again.
And I came out of the conversation realizing that I have no idea what I'm doing. But neither does any one else.
So I'm online. I've got my own phone line out here. The phone company told me that it would cost $125 to rewire the phone jack for this room. Then they said that I could plug a phone into the phone box outside on Tuesday and make sure the line was working. So I said screw the phone jack and ran my phone cord out the window to the phone box. Knowing full well that I know nothing about phone lines, I hope there's not something terribly wrong with that idea.

Today I've got wicked stomach problems. When I first got up here, everyone had the stomach flu that lasts for a day but gives you crippling cramps and nasties. I thought I was out of the woods because it's been almost two weeks since I've been around anybody with it. But I woke up this morning ailing. I continue to ail.
I'm doing light work (i.e. the kind I can do right where I'm sitting) and taking it easy. I hope this isn't a sign that I'm going to catch every bug and beastie that my nieces catch. I'm usually quite healthy, but this is the second sick day I've had this year already.

Oh, and my arms are sore because I did something exceedingly stupid yesterday. It's about a fifteen minute walk to the grocery store and I needed water. I got two of the 2.5 gallon bottles and a six pack of water bottles and began my walk back. Yeah. Needless to say it was about a forty minute walk back.

In spite of all of this I'm actually doing well. My upper lip remains stiff. I'm listening to monks chanting on my stereo and the intermittant punctuations by the raging storm that's blowing outside. I couldn't have picked a better day to be stuck indoors. It's like Lear out there. I say Lear because Tempest would be too obvious and I'm far from the ocean.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Guess Blogger didn't like Word's punctuation. Sorry bout that. We've kind of gone back in technology here.
We've devolved!
We're all devo.
Okay, we?re back! What everyone needs to know right now is that I am not back online in my home. The phone line will be up sometime mid-week and then I have to get my internet providers figured. It may be as much as another week before I?m back up. Right now I can only check my orders and post what I?ve written in Word through other people?s computers. Postings will continue to be spotty until I?m back online in my home. Turns out it takes much longer to get a phone line set up than I had originally anticipated, but that?s okay. We must be prepared for mutations in our plans.
I?ll go over the highlights of the past few days because I don?t think I could get it all in if I wanted to.
Most of the drive up was uneventful. I listened to a lot of Phish and Dead and Ani and a little Devo. Also made it through Charles? mighty driving tape twice. It?s got a German version of ?Speedy Gonzoles? as well as Crosby singing ?Zing a Little Zong.?
My father?s truck broke about an hour out of Chico. One of the two fuel pumps went out (yes, his truck is so huge it has two gas tanks.)
It took us forty-five minutes to unpack what it took me three days to pack. Well, it took us that long to get it out of the truck and trailer and stacked in my rooms. I just finished unpacking.
That?s pretty much been the lion?s share of my time since I?ve arrived. I would wake up and put books on shelves for ten hours or more with a break for tea and ramen. But I?m done with that part and now, as mentioned, on to the getting set up online part.
Saturday my father took Pat, Andi, Joe (who helped Dad drive) and me out to eat at the Sierra Nevada Brewery, which is about a five minute walk from where I sleep (of course now that I don?t drink anymore?) There were five of us and not a one of us thought, ?Wait a minute. It?s Valentine?s Day. We can?t go out to eat.?
So we met all the couples in Chico.
Oh, and before I go on, I should probably describe my surroundings. I live in two rooms. One opens in the back yard towards the main house (where my bathroom is.) The front room has a window that looks out on an apple tree, which usually has scrub jays in it and stray cats beneath it watching the scrub jays, a small garden and a trampoline. I?ve covered most of this window with a book shelf that contains all of my personal library and the miscellaneous section of my inventory. Next to that is a door that opens into what I?m told will become my bathroom probably around my birthday. Right now it?s a room with a water heater in it. Next to that is a shelf of the high value books in my inventory, then the door to the second room, then my microwave.
The second room tells a story. It used to be occupied by a child who was ill or something at one point so a church youth group (seems to be Catholics) came and wrote their names all over the walls in sharpie. You can tell it was a youth group because of the in jokes and the fact that the writing stops about a foot and a half from the ceiling. Most of this is just names, but there?s some strange crap on the walls. My favorites are: ?You make a great goblin!? ?Dios te ama y yo tambien? ?You are talented at knocking down and building walls? ?Savor the decadence of youth? ?Superman seat grab? (I know it?s a bicycle term, but I like to think of goosing somebody with superhuman enthusiasm. Naturally I put my framed picture of Liberace up next to that one) someone copied ?The Red Wheelbarrow? above where this computer sits (I put my framed picture of Captain Samuels near that one) and there?s also a picture of a girl walking a dog that I?m happy didn?t get covered by my ubiquitous shelves. The second room is filled with shelves of my inventory. My stereo sits behind me with cds stacked to the heavens. There?s a dresser along the far wall where this computer sits betwixt Toulouse and the lava lamp, which is running as I type and I find it very distracting. I?d much rather be looking at it than this screen. I?m currently sleeping on a sofa bed, but that may change. I?ve done things horrible to speak of to my back since I?ve been here.
And nobody bothers me in my little cabin out here. It?s like I?ve got my own little home and it?s just the right size for me. I?m like Gary Snyder except with a lot of possessions. If only the bathroom were closer.
Chico, as I?ve seen it, is full of trees. The air is clean, but it?s rained five out of the eight days I?ve been here or nine days or whatever it's been. It?s got a hip enough community for a small town in the downtown or campus side of town but you can also go to the other side of the town where there are many churches and hometown buffets. It?s a big enough town to have a Ben and Jerry?s but small enough that you can be out of the city in forty minutes in any direction on foot.
The women are beautiful in Chico. I?m not one of those guys who only notices how the women look in a place, but I?m certainly not the kind of guy who misses it either. The majority of them seem to be beautiful in that small-town middle-America kind of way. But there seems to be some freaks because of the college too. A few anyway. A dozen or so young alien types.
A twenty minute drive north will put you in the mountains in a place called Paradise. I?ve driven twenty minutes east and found a giant sheet metal catfish outside of town near the Sacramento river. Don?t be surprised if I start writing like Whitman while living up here. There is also a large amount of bike trails that run hidden through town like a bicycle Neverwhere. The largest park on this coast is about three blocks behind our house.
This house is in a part of Chico called Chapman Town (what is it about me and that name?) It?s supposed to be the poor side of town, but it looks like the nice section of Garden Grove. At least externally. I?m told that two speed freaks live to one side of us and they've already had the cops out to their house since I've been here. Folks say that females don?t walk through the large park alone even in the day because people have been attacked. I?m also told that there?s a large number of homeless that wander our section of town due to my brother?s work being so close. My brother runs a meal and clothes dispensary, showering spot and safe house called The Jesus Center. Just as you?d imagine from the name, if you?re poor you go there and you get a meal and some rest and in return you listen to my brother preach for a while. He says that somebody threatens his life about once a week. Mostly by clients, but the place has been burnt to the ground once already by a neighboring business who wanted the homeless to be gone.
And yet everybody leaves their cars and houses unlocked. Almost everybody. I don?t. I don?t when I?m here because something about areas that are so nice that you don?t have to lock your doors always makes me think of the Clutter family.
My brother introduced me to about thirty people at church on Sunday. Their church is in what used to be a movie theater and they?ve done little to change it. The walls are garish purple, green and checkered. The seats are really comfy movie theater seats instead of pews. They kept the snack bar, which they call ?The Overflowing Cup.? I like the set up. But I?m still really looking for a Quaker meeting to go to or possibly a Brethren church. Something of my own that isn?t Calvary chapel.
On Monday, my brother taught a three hour class on the book of Daniel, or rather chapter five of the book of Daniel (which, oddly enough, is about writing on the walls.) He does three hours on a chapter each week. That was neat and I met a lot more people. Just as a little side note, people who get that in depth into the Bible remind me of Shakespeare scholars. They seem to have similar mind sets and approaches. They both seem to feel that each line is holographic to the entire universe. I?ve always liked that, although I think some biblical scholars would denounce me as a pantheist for saying it. Which is fine by me.
I got out and exploring on Friday, partially because Nissa called and told me that I sounded so very lonely. I wasn?t lonely, but of course since she said it I started to feel lonely so I decided to go out before some downward spiral began. I went downtown and pumped way too much money into the local economy. I found the place where I?m going to buy most of my groceries. I found the downtown comic book store which is so much better than the uptown one. My mother arrived around noon. She?ll be here for the coming week because she?s babysitting my nieces while Pat and Andi go on a cruise. I?m going to try and stay out of the way. Then I went to check out Bidwell park, which is the largest park on this coast and the one that they told me people get attacked at. Knee jerk reaction to an isolated incident or two I?m sure. Blame the culture. I?m sure I could go to Bidwell park every day for years and years and have a nifty time every time I go. There?s a river that runs down the middle of the park which looks like you?re allowed to swim in (although I wouldn?t dare until May or June. Right now it?s cold as sin up here.) And it is beautiful. The trees are all leafless and gnarled. The ground is green with red and brown leaves all over it. A tree or two with buds on them. Just lovely.
Saturday, I went to Paradise, which is grossly misrepresented. It has a great view to be certain. It has a great green cliff right next to it that descends into a dark green hollow. But the town its self is a retirement village. Everything is too far away from each other to walk. There are many antique stores, one good used book store, and one terrible used book store. Hardly worth a twenty minute drive. Kind of a dull man?s paradise.
Today I shipped my first Chico orders. Then I went and got my Butte County (it?s fun to pronounce it like I read it because everything up here is ?Butte.? My favorite is "Butte Creek") Library Card. I also walked around the Chico State campus and checked out their library. I learned that Chico State is terribly crowded.
Since then I?ve pretty much been finishing stocking the shelves before my orders reactivate and doing little things like getting my printer up and the phone line up. I?m sure I?ll do a lot more exploring and have more to report soon.