catastrophe jackassery

bug-out bag: A portable bag that contains essential items to help you survive the first 72 hours of a disaster, whether you shelter in place or head for the hills. Typical items include water, dehydrated food, energy bars, fire-starting tools, first aid kit, hand-crank radio (ideally with a cellphone charger built in), duct tape, hatchet, poncho, etc.

Living in hurricane country most of my life, I usually had a small stockpile of bottled water, canned food, candles, crackers and granola bars. The only time I ever tapped into it (other than raiding supplies when there was no other food in the house) was during Hurricane Ike when we were without power for a week. Compared to the people who were flooded out of their homes and lost everything, our week without power was a slight inconvenience. A technology vacation that saw us getting together with neighbors each night to grill what was left of frozen steaks while we drank wine by candlelight and listened to night noises usually obscured by air conditioners and other comfort machinery. You don’t realize how much a city buzzes until it stops making noise.

Here in earthquake country, we have a shelf full of Mountain House dehydrated food, a propane stove and propane, water, candles, batteries and a few other items. Where the San Andreas fault runs right by San Francisco, it goes inland when it passes the central coast, and our house is a couple of blocks up the hill from the tsunami inundation zone. If we lived closer to the forest and had to worry about fires that drive you from your bed in the middle of the night barefoot and running to your car, I’d probably keep photos and other irreplaceables in an easy-access container near the door. But for now, I’m comfortable with the minor level of preparedness we have.

I think bug-out bags are an interesting concept, but I haven’t felt the need to actually put one together. In Houston, there’s no place to bug out to–the mass (and needless) evacuation for Hurricane Rita showed there’s no escape from the fourth largest city when everyone’s trying to leave at the same time. And here, there are a lot more wilderness options, but unless we also have a tent and other supplies too large to fit into a big backpack, I don’t think a bug-out bag’s going to do it. If we have to shelter in place, we’ll grab the stuff from the cabinet as we need it. Having it in one bag wouldn’t make a difference.

Which brings me around to this: the Prepster, a “luxury 3 day survival bag.” It comes with the usual bug-out bag items, only in “luxury” form. Like grapefruit face cleanser and cilantro hair conditioner. I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been driven from my home due to some horrible disaster, I’m not fucking around with split ends. And who wouldn’t want their hair to smell like cilantro, am I right?

You can even get the bag monogrammed, bringing your grand total to $420. I’d love to know who their target demographic is. All I can picture is a tanned woman with a yoga body and long fingernails crying as she tries to rip open the packaging around her dehydrated “astronaut” ice cream while her boyfriend is cranking the radio in hopes of charging his cellphone as they sit on the small spot of grass in front of their townhouse. Their manicured dog keeps inching further and further away, unnoticed, and their neighbors are watching through the curtains to take a break from their own drama. What are they going to do on day four when their bag is empty? Smell their cilantro hair and hope someone saves them?

asdf

A bug-out bag wouldn’t have helped clear our driveway of tree limbs, post Hurricane Ike. Beer and whiskey did that trick.

Treffen #17

Treffen is an annual caravan of vintage VWs that journeys down Highway 1 from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. This is their 17th trip, but it was the first time they had a “Show & Shine” in Pacific Grove. There were dozens of beautiful Buses, Bugs and (my beloved) Karmann Ghias.

They’re continuing southward today, and if I didn’t have to work I’d position myself on the Old Coast Road above Bixby Bridge to get some great video. You can follow their progress here.

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they once were wolves

Does an animal that finds its asshole, an ice cube and its owner’s face equally delightful to lick care about seeing the Hollywood sign?

Does an animal that chases its own tail, surprises itself by farting and is scared of the vacuum want to go to the Grand Canyon and marvel at the enormity of it all?

Does an animal that, at the peak of health, is happy running for five minutes and then sleeping for five hours want, at the very end of its life, to pose on the prow of a ship on a crashing sea as the sun sets?

Or, to put it another way, when you have the flu, do you want someone dragging you to pose in front of the house from Full House?

I’m thinking “no” on all accounts.

Dogs are delightful, happy, soulful creatures that are content with very little. Ever notice how many homeless people have a dog or two by their side? That’s because dogs are down for whatever. They just want to love and be loved in return. The accommodations don’t matter.

You wouldn’t know that from what seems to be a disturbing trend of late (if you can call something I’ve seen a total of three times a trend). I’m talking about people finding out their dog is terminally ill, then taking the poor animal on a fucking tour around the US. You know, so Max or Maggie can see Las Vegas, the Space Needle and Niagara Falls before crossing that rainbow bridge. What a happy coincidence that the places dogs want to see before they die are also exciting tourist destinations that look great in photos and the coffee table book that may come out of this!

For those of us who love dogs and consider them part of the family, the end of the road is a sad and lonely place. If you knew your dog only had a few weeks or months to live, who wouldn’t want to make the most of that time? But let’s back up for a moment and talk about what dogs enjoy.

They love the smell of shit and dead things. I don’t care how manicured and prissy your dog is. Put her in a backyard with a dead skunk, and she’s going to be all over it.

They love to eat. Filet mignon or meat that fell to the floor from your Jack in the Box taco, it’s all a wonderful culinary delight.

They love to sleep. Take your dog out in the morning when they first get up, and within a couple of minutes they’re ready for a nap.

So, for someone who wants to give Fido an exit to remember, I’d like to recommend a few hot spots the pooch might actually enjoy.

  • Dog park. Plenty of other dog assholes to smell and maybe something dead to roll in.
  • Litter box. Plenty of cat turds to eat and maybe a cat to chase or at least growl at.
  • Your bed. Plenty of opportunity to be loved and maybe a little time for a nap.

Pretty simple. It may not get anyone a book deal or make them an Instagram star, but it will make their little buddy comfortable and happy. And isn’t that really the point?

adfg

Lest I lose my crazy-dog-lady bona fides, here’s my dog Stella in her CAR SEAT. Yes, she’s strapped in. I bought this for her when we moved from Texas to California, the longest journey the dog or I ever made. Do you know what she did 99% of the way here? She slept.

PS: If you’ve been spared these treacly stories, here’s a link to one of them. Doesn’t that dog look like he’s having a GREAT TIME and not like he was propped up for the photo and then quickly collapsed because he’s TERMINALLY ILL? The man said, “It was a little bit for him, a little bit for me.” Uh huh.

look, up in the sky

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I was about to hop on a conference call yesterday afternoon (yay) when I heard a plane circling nearby. I assumed another tourist fell off the edge of Pacific Grove and the Coast Guard was looking for them. Still, I went outside to look up–and saw this message to Ada.

The sweetness of the message coupled with the old schoolness of the delivery was just a delight. I posted a shot of the banner on Instagram, wondering what Ada said, and was happy to get a comment from her this morning. She said yes!

Romance is alive in Pacific Grove.

#GD50

Last weekend the Grateful Dead (or just the Dead, if you don’t want to insult Jerry) played two shows at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, 80 miles north of here, and this weekend they’re playing three shows at Soldier Field in Chicago, a few miles further. These five, swan-song performances mark the 50th anniversary of their founding. They haven’t played together in years and likely won’t again–so we went to both Santa Clara shows.

Considering Levi's Stadium holds nearly 70,000 people and these were mostly sold-out shows, getting into the place wasn't terrible.

Considering Levi’s Stadium holds nearly 70,000 people and these were sold-out shows, getting into the place wasn’t as terrible as expected.

Long security lines (with bag checks and metal detectors) gave us plenty of time to check out the scenery.

FARE THEE WELL

You'd think a band would get lost in a stadium, but the stage was HUGE.

You’d think a band would get lost in a stadium, but the stage was HUGE.

We knew our seats were "restricted view" but thought we'd be okay since we were on the side. Nope. Huge screens blocked any view of the band. So Saturday night's show was like being at a weird simulcast.

We knew our seats the first night were “restricted view” but thought we’d be okay since we were on the side. Nope. Huge screens blocked any view of the band. So Saturday night’s show was like being at a weird simulcast.

Not being able to see the band (and having a slight aversion to watching them on the big screen), I took the opportunity to people watch. I don't think I've ever

Not being able to see the band (and having a slight aversion to watching them on the big screen), I took the opportunity to people watch. So much good stuff. This dude danced the entire show with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. Whether that was prompted by chemicals or the music, I don’t know. Why not both?

The costumes people wear at Dead shows could best be described as "circus hippie."

The costumes people wear at Dead shows could best be described as “circus hippie.”

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It’s nice to live in a state that didn’t just humiliate itself over gay marriage (now called “marriage”). Also note the guy trying to fly a kite.

There were Dead flags, too.

There were Dead flags flying, too.

Gumby.

Gumby.

The crowd turned and looked into the sky behind the stage. I thought they'd heard some kind of pot dog whistle, but ends up it was a rainbow.

Toward the end of the first set, the crowd turned and looked into the sky behind the stage. I thought they’d heard some kind of patchouli dog whistle, but ends up it was a rainbow. A double-rainbow, actually, though it’s hard to see the second one in this shot.

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So. Many. People.

So. Much. Weed.

So. Much. Weed.

So. Many. Colors.

So. Many. Colors.

The seats for show number two were much better. The performance was, too.

The seats for show number two were much better, if not further away from the stage (this is zoomed in).

My friend Evan is involved in an effort to create a huge natural swimming pool in the middle of Houston. This beach ball was my Kickstarter reward.

A friend is involved in an effort to create a huge natural swimming pool in the middle of Houston (called Houston Needs a Swimming Hole). Thought I’d spread the word out here by sending this ball on a journey.

It made it all the way to the front of the stadium.

It made it all the way to the front of the stadium.

Hey, look who it is!

Hey, look who it is! Circus Hippie! And he wasn’t the only person we recognized from the first show.

We don't know these people.

We don’t know these people.

Things got more interesting after dark.

The 80-mile drive back home each night sucked, but it was worth it for a couple of pretty amazing–and colorful–shows.

bonfire at Carmel Beach

I didn’t know people build bonfires on the beach. I mean, in reality. I always thought that was a bullshit beer commercial thing. But James and I recently had independent conversations with locals who told us we had to have a beach bonfire. Especially since it may soon be illegal (or really difficult) to do so at the main bonfire location–Carmel Beach.

And, man, it sounded really fun, so why not?

the glenlivet

Pacific Grove was dry until the late ’60s and still maintains some puritanical views about the drink. Carmel is more open (container) about such matters.

chicken

The perfect beach dinner–cold, boneless fried chicken.

boy scout

James was a boy scout.

cold

This is how you dress for a summer night on the central coast. I was sitting next to a fire wearing a t-shirt, hoodie and fleece vest and was still a little cold. Maybe I should have worn pants. Next time.

june gloom

The original plan was to watch the sunset, but it was too cloudy/foggy (I’m not always sure which is which out here). The sky was the same light gray from the moment we arrived (before 6PM) until we left (almost 9PM).

fire

Bonfires were sprinkled all around the beach. The locals had coolers and chairs while the tourists had boxes specially packed by the hotel they were staying in. We watched one couple unpack everything, study the directions, build their fire and then awkwardly try to make their stemmed wine glasses stay upright in the sand. Stemmed wine glasses are for amateurs. Not just in a bonfire situation.

Dennis did California

Don’t freak out or anything, but this post is out of chronological order.

My dear friend Dennis came to visit James and me the weekend before I headed home to see my family (early May). Here’s what happened.

tripod

Philip, me and Dennis in San Francisco. The three of us met while working at the Alley Theatre more than a decade ago (time flies). Over lunch, we discussed our plans to bring queso to the Bay Area. Million dollar idea. All we need is a million dollars to get started. After lunch, I brought Dennis down to Pacific Grove for the weekend. Where SF is an expensive, exotic cat with vegan dreadlocks winding its way back and forth between your feet, PG is an old hound dog that barely raises its head from the porch. I generally prefer hanging with the hound dog, but it’s fun every once in a while to try to pet the cat.

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The fog started rolling in before we were out of San Francisco, and it followed us south. We teetered back and forth between fog and clear blue skies all weekend. Sometimes at the same time. Dennis is the first friend we’ve had visit, and we weren’t sure what to do for entertainment. So we did what we love–went to Big Sur. Two days in a row.

scamper

We took him to some of our favorite places. This is one of the Garrapata turnouts. I took this from the stairs going down to the beach. James suddenly lit out for some off-roading (seen here, scampering up a hill), and Dennis followed. 

tall

Here’s where they ended up. And they managed to get down without breaking anything.

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Sitting in the car waiting for the Point Sur Light Station gate to open. We did the once-monthly moonlight tour in April and loved it, so we were excited to see it was happening again while Dennis was here. (Notice the reflection of the ocean. And, though I may wear a cap like a dude, when taking a photo I hold my pinky out like a lady.)

point sur

It was a totally different experience this time–and still amazing. The weather was calm–no gale-force winds. The skies were cloudy, obscuring the sunset and moonrise. Our tour guide was dressed in a vintage lightkeeper’s uniform, and he carried a lantern. There were amateur ghost hunters in the group. Oh, and one more thing.

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Whales! I’d pumped Dennis up to see sea lions, whales and otters (he’d seen plenty of bears in San Francisco), but on his last night here we still hadn’t seen any whales. Even though, just a week ago, I easily saw water spouts while driving down the highway next to the ocean. We were gathered at the base of the rock the lighthouse sits on, and Dennis joked that the whole trip was a bust because I’d promised whales but there were none to be seen. Then someone in our group pointed and yelled “Whales!” Sure enough, there were two gray whales frolicking in the water very close to shore. Not only were they blowing spouts of water, they were also breaching and hanging out close to the surface.

gray whale

This was the best action shot I managed to snap. It was odd that they were so close to shore–hope they weren’t trying to warn us about aliens or great white sharks or great white alien sharks.

Our tour guide, inside the lighthouse.

Our tour guide, wearing a 1920s lighthouse keeper’s uniform. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that this same fellow told us some ghost stories later that night.

And then there's Maude.

And then there’s Maude, chilling at the Big Sur river.

I didn’t manage to take pictures of the two times we ate burgers (here and here). Or the time we ate It’s It. Just know that those important things happened. And they were good. So was our visit with Dennis. We’re hoping he didn’t find us too weird and will come out here again soon.

going home

Most things about this move have been wonderful. The one major black fly in my chardonnay is being so far away from my peeps. So a week ago, I went home to visit my family. James stayed here and held down the fort (that being the dogs, since we’re incapable of putting them in a GD kennel for a few days). I didn’t make it to Houston on this trip, but I still managed to eat queso four times (not kidding).

I flew from San Francisco to Austin. If we’d managed to work in a layover in Portland, it would have been the most hipster flight ever. My plane was diverted to San Antonio because the Austin airport was closed due to bad weather, and we didn’t have enough gas to circle waiting for it to reopen. Didn’t get upset because a) what can you do and b) my parents, brother and Tex-Mex were waiting for me once I actually made it to Austin, only 1.5 hours late.

We spent our visit talking, laughing, eating, drinking and chilling on the back porch watching it rain. It was perfect.

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An adorable two year old was seated two rows in front of me. He was incredibly well-behaved, entertaining those of us in the back of the bus the whole flight. He didn’t fuss when we unexpectedly landed in San Antonio or when we took off (again) for Austin. As we began our descent into Austin, for real this time, he Exorcist-puked–all over himself, his father, his father’s backpack, the aisle–and started wailing. Since we were back in the baby section (yay), the parents of the 15 other crying babies started passing the father wet wipes and towels. Interesting fact for us non-parents: the smell of baby puke is fairly indistinguishable from the smell of a fat hairy biker’s puke on 10-cent wing night. Once we landed, a flight attendant came out in a face shield and hazmat suit to clean things up. It was all very dramatic, but since I was traveling alone there was no one to receive my eye rolls. Unacknowledged eye rolls are the saddest eye rolls.

We took evening rides on my parents' mule (not to be confused with the animals two shots above) and were treated to deer, rabbits, raccoons, raptors and lightning bugs.

Each evening, we took a Mule ride (the four-wheeler, not the four-legged conveyance) on the back roads and were treated to deer, rabbits, raccoons, raptors and lightning bugs. Lightning bugs! I hadn’t seen those since I was a kid and thought they had gone the way of the dodo.

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It took me maybe 100 shots, but I managed to capture an image of one in my parents’ back 40. See center of picture.

;lkajdsf

The front of my parents’ house at night. It’s not blurry in reality. Ends up, I don’t make a very good tripod.

Mom downstairs at the job site. Dad and Tohner (Artisan Builders) are building a 10,000 square foot house.

We checked out a couple of Dad and Tohner’s (Artisan Builders) projects. This house is the biggest mofo house I’ve ever seen. Literally 12 of the house I live in could fit inside.

;lkjasdf

A close-up of one of Tohner’s art pieces. Who knew Martinelli’s apple juice bottles would make for such cool light fixtures? This piece has four. At night, the ridges on the bottom of the bottles make cool designs on the wall.

While Rowan just wanted to drive.

Rowan, ready to drive. We talked about Star Wars. He asked how old I was when the first movie came out (a year older than he is now). He hasn’t seen the first one yet–when he does, I want to know how the scene in the bar holds up for today’s six or seven year old. It was always my favorite part.

But it was still a good idea to check for cars in the rearview mirror. Molly was mostly checking out how awesome she looks in sunglasses.

Molly was supposed to use the mirror to check for cars, but she mostly used it to check out how awesome she looks in sunglasses.

Folks in Brenham are astir about the Blue Bell ice cream shut down.

To say Blue Bell Creameries is a major employer in Brenham would be an understatement. These signs are in practically every fourth or fifth yard.

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I turn to her and say: Texas. She says: What?

;lkjasd

I said: Texas. She says: What.

They've got big long roads out there.

They’ve got big long roads out there.

And donkeys.

And donkeys. Or maybe burros.

And wee rabbits.

And wee rabbits.

Last meal in Texas. Surprisingly decent queso at Bergstrom Airport's fancy Earl Campbell's Sports Bar.

Oh, and queso. Liquid gold. Texas cheese. This fine specimen came from Earl Campbell’s Sports Bar in the Austin airport. The chips were straight out of a Tostitos bag, but the queso was surprisingly good. Or maybe it’s just that there’s no more legit queso until the next trip home. Some day I shall crack the code of restaurant queso (the special ingredient is plastic!), and the West Coast will be mine.

10- year blog anniversary: people and places

horsiesToday is my blog’s 10th birthday. This is the last historical listicle.

It might seem odd to honor the memory of someone you love by making a bacon monstrosity, but Mason would have approved. In fact, he would have been there eating it with us if he could have.

I always knew I’d eventually go to the Museum of Natural Science with kids I share a little DNA with. Ends up, they were Tohner’s offspring.

Before moving, one of my constant refrains was that the Houston of my youth, the memories of which kept me tethered to the city, was quickly disappearing.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t still have much love for the place of my birth and the people who live(d) there.

I’ve posted a lot about our travels:
road trip to Grand Canyon
traffic in southern California
a family trip to Carmel and Big Sur
a ghost in New York

More recent travel posts were about our trip home to Texas. It’s different traveling home than it is traveling away from home. Maybe, in the long run, that’s what this blog is about.

10-year blog anniversary: potpourri

all workWe’re almost to the end of this journey back in time. One more post tomorrow, and then it’s back to the present.

This post is about how pussified writers (and many artists, actually) have become. How they need constant reassurance and stroking to put pen to paper, when so many who came before wallowed in obscurity (and even filth) but still managed to crank some good shit out.

You would be amazed how many people google “did phil collins witness a murder?” They find an answer in this post, which was born from a question my brother Mason submitted to my fake advice column on houstonist.com called “Ask a Dilettante.”

I’ve always promised to be honest in this blog, and I’ve mostly succeeded. This was a rare creative writing entry not based on reality.

First I fell in love with Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. Then I got a cold splash of reality that maybe it was a little more fiction than reality. Then I realized that most memories are at least a little bit fiction, even when we’re recounting them shortly after the fact, because we’re constantly placing events in the context of our own reality. And my reality is likely different from yours, even when we’re standing right next to each other and maybe I’m a little closer to you than I should be and it’s making you slightly uncomfortable.
http://cryjack.com/2011/01/03/want-a-copy-of-travels-with-charley/
http://cryjack.com/2011/04/12/travels-with-charley-redux-the-conflicted-edition/

Back in the day (2012, in fact) Google search terms that brought people to my blog would show up in a list on my admin dashboard. They were always way more interesting than my blog, so I was sorry when Google went dark on search terms.