Look at how red that star is. Oh, I know, my pillowcase was soaking wet. Did you just text me? I never use the hand dryer. You know that door makes a lot of noise when it bangs shut, right? I don’t have any idea what time it is. The insects are happy. I can see Orion’s belt now. Can you imagine coming out here before the road was paved? I don’t know if those people are just getting up or if they never even went to sleep. The river’s gonna feel good tomorrow. Why do you have that rubber band around your wrist? It is not possible to drink enough water. Is your dog dreaming in his sleep?
Man, where’d you find all that kindling? If you saw Orion’s belt that high above the horizon in the middle of September it had to be two a.m. Yeah, I had to wear ear plugs. Can kayaks leave a wake? Something absconded with the chips last night. What’s this spongy stuff? That guy slept in his van. I dreamt about box fans. What time are they picking us up? You can’t use that kind of pen on these notebooks. If it rains on your birthday that’s good luck, right? Those look like chigger bites to me. Almost nobody was wearing a mask. If you saw a reddish star that bright it was probably just Mars. It’ll go back up eventually. That fire’s going good now. Of course I brushed my teeth. Did you hear those ducks going at it in the middle of the night? Well, I’m supposed to wear a biteguard. It was worse inside the tent, believe me. I gargle if I can. Dogs actually shed a lot this time of the year. The whole thing was so stupid. Is he just going to keep going back and forth like that? Oh, that’s a cute mask. It’s amazing those things float. I don’t know, I think it’ll be fun. That was definitely an owl. What’s that movie where they all scramble like hell to get ready for the airport? You’re gonna have to get somebody back out here to take some photos. Hey, how easy is it to tear these things in two? Holler if you want a muffin. Did water get in there? Well, I was looking for my headlamp but it was one of those things where I needed my headlamp to find it. I’m in fine fiddle with an hour to spare. Those clouds do look pretty thick over there. I always travel with a couple of little soaps. Eh, I’ll sleep on the river...
What follows is a thorough, categorical examination of what I took with me to Tijuana when I traveled there on a mission trip with members of the Burlingame Presbyterian church this past July. I wrote this mostly for my own benefit, in order to pack smarter next time I travel, to Tijuana or to anywhere. Writing this out, which I did on the first full day I was back at home, also serves as a sort of trip debriefing. It's a different way for me to record an account of the trip, albeit in a more straightforward and less lyrical style than what I wrote while I was actually in Mexico (which can be found here)...
We're between mountains, like in Colorado, or Utah. Wall! Border wall. To our left, to the north. Contiguous. Iron? A rusty red. Eight feet high? It cuts into the hillside.
Suddenly it's a little greener. Wind in the palms. Some flattening out. By the looks of it, the playa at camp will be windy. Stones, boulders on the hillsides. I've lost sight of the wall as we've tended south.
This is a smooth road. Turning to the south. Large round boulders. Accesso planta dart. Windmill. This is the back way into camp. It has a rural feel but there's actually quite a few plants or factories back in here. The road has gotten very rocky. A metal structure manufacturer. Galvanization. A burned area. Car carcasse. Lots of old tires. A guy in a chair under the shade of a tree just looking out at the road. Railroad.
We take a right onto a much smoother, paved road. There are lots of cars stopped on the side of this road. There are canopies set up. Lots of them. Is it a market? We're close to camp. Turning right, I know this road. There's the old, snub-nosed flatbed lorry. The silo-like red cylinder lying on its side. Dust! At 14:42 we are at the Amor Hacienda Camp...
Hotel lobby, the comings and goings of guests. I emailed a PDF of the house building plans to the front desk with a request that they print it for me. Information continues to trickle in, about what we will be doing. According to the itinerary Dan sent out to all of the participants by email, "This mission trip is an intergenerational trip" where we will be "building houses in a depressed area of Tijuana."
Last night Graham informed me he and I are in charge of Van 7. I thought that had an eponymous ring to it. "Van 7", like it's a movie, or at least there's a trailer for a putative thriller called "Van 7" where a couple of guys—brothers-in-law: one a pastor, the other an underachieving blogger—are part of a church group that goes into Mexico except their particular part of the group ends up getting lost, drives into a bad part of Tijuana, has to use their fledgling Spanish, a little bit of luck, and the grace of God to get out alive, et cetera. It's actually not a bad idea...
* The pillowcase. I wasn't happy with the resting place the lumpy pillowcase offered. It's not the pillowcase's fault. When I woke at night after I got the good air mat from Frank what woke me up was my sleeping mind's dissatisfaction with the lumpy pillowcase. It was lumpy, it was damp, it was full of dirty wadded-up clothes or my balled-up second towel. What ended up working the last night was to stuff just the bottom compartment of my backpack and then put the neck pillow on top of that. So forget the pillowcase.
* Backpacking airmats. Completely useless unless I can sleep on my back. What just gives me an everlasting chuckle is how somewhere during the first night as I was tossing and turning on my mat—and as Graham was tossing and turning on his—I heard him completely let the air out of his mat, like a mat assassination. I don't know if that is what he was trying to do, in some sort of "F this mat" move but as the air was going out I thought to myself, "We should probably move on from these mats..."
He had asked her to help him get a few rocks for the fire. He had concocted what sounded to her like an elaborate idea for what she knew he was envisioning in his head would become not just his best fire yet, but the ultimate fire—a perfect fire, the perfect fire. He had brought with them a bag of sticks he had picked up throughout the neighborhood in the weeks leading up to this little trip. He was adamant about kindling and newspaper and turned up his nose at lighter fluid. She appreciated the purist in him, theoretically, but every once in a while he was craft a fire design that choked on itself, smoking a lot, but never really becoming a fire. Lighter fluid, for him, was just too easy.
They scavenged rocks from remnant fire rings at various vacant tent sites not far from the cabin. He expected her to know exactly which rocks he wanted her to pick up. But she didn't know, how could she inherently know something like that, what were his criteria? Who knew? She stood there, perhaps with her hands in her pockets, looking off at the river, as he tried to get at least two rocks in each hand.
I wrote nothing the whole time at Meramec. We camped, we floated, we sweated. Friday I camped with one of my five cousins, Lyle. He picked me up in his Sierra. I gave him a quick tour of the house. His brother had been here, a few years ago at holiday time. We crawled along Hanley and I regretted having suggested we go that way. Big Bend, Jack—quit forgetting about Big Bend.
Just getting my camp gear loaded into the truck I was sweating. He was sweating at work and never stopped. He must've hauled ass to get to my place when he did—left the mill at 3:50, down 70 to Soulard, fight the good fight along 64/170 to College City—I expected him at 5:30 but he got here at ten after. I was only a third of the way through a manhattan solidarity said I shouldn't have. But solidarity lost its good fight.
I. Getting There.Leaving 9:25a, cloudy...we're listening to the radio...the market is mixed, I did a bit of work this morning, B is driving..."I Touch Myself," I have an inexplicable memory of getting off a plane when I hear this song, of disembarking at the moment when you say "bye now" to the stewardess...and I remember … Continue reading Sam A. Baker State Park, August 8-10
I. Friday Night, Late Enough, Lying in Tent. That roar, that humming noise is not some dope's generator—it's the hulking skulking Labadie power plant. Its white noise comes and goes, I don't mind. That light from a few campsites down, that's the fire of two guys, not real country music but listening to country. I … Continue reading Klondike Park, Late June 2014