Monday, October 29, 2012

On the campaign trail with my running mate

All of us need a running mate. At the moment mine is Flo Rida. With the ipod on I lace up my running shoes. Dawn has arrived and I'm trying my best to get from the bed to the trailhead. Flo Rida gets me out the door then passes the responsibility to Joe Purdy. Still getting the lay-of-the-land from my temporary digs I scramble from the bedroom down the sandy hillside until I reach the dirt path.

The trail shoots east before turning into a wide loop that descends to the bottom of the gully, from there it's a steep climb back up to the house. I never time how long it takes to run this loop. It doesn't matter. If I had to guess its only about 5 or 6 songs long. 

Thoughts start cranking with each stride. I evaluate my priorities, reminding myself of Ghandi's words "actions express priorities." I think about where I want to live. I quickly reorganize my contacts that have expressed possibilities of employment. What about the French Chef who taught me so much during those weeks I helped him at that cooking school in Provence. Surly he could help me find a gig in New Orleans while I land something full time.

Joe Purdy hands off to Wye Oak. The cold morning air which first cooled my core now feels good. I can feel my heart beat. A doe jumps and bounds from the trail down into the tall brush. I stop and stare. Our eyes lock on each other. Neither of us move. The Roots start to play in my ears as we turn and run from each other.

The trail narrows into single track. I love this section. There's a short stretch here where yellow leaves litter the trail. Like a bridge that connects one season to another I race across the leaves deeper into the gully. At the bottom there's only one way home. Up.

Straight up, heart pounding, sweat inducing, its just a matter of how far I can make it before doubling over gasping for breath. No thoughts, only short strides. "Simmer down" by Bob Marley starts just as I stop on the side of the hill.

I'm on the homestretch. Only a couple hundred feet left. Switching to a slow walk, I enjoy the first rays of sun on the side of the valley. Old school Pearl Jam plays as I drop my running shoes, now damp and dirty, outside the door. Eddie Vedder has long been one of my favorite running mates in this campaign called life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Odd Job: Feeding a bunch of hungry hippies

You might think it strange to feel stress while wearing a tie-dye apron but that’s exactly how I felt. Bear, the owner of the pizzeria in Hope Idaho, had hired me to help him make pizza at the Barter Faire in Tonasket.

“Find your zen.” was the only piece of advice he gave me before turning me loose inside his retrofit van built for making pizzas. His tricked-out 80’s Econoline is fully equipped to crank out pies. Exactly what you would imagine if one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were selected for “Pimp my ride”.

Just as I started to find my groove, turning out pies as fast as I could Bear came to the back of the van, “don’t stress but we’re gettin’ busy so keep’em comin’.” Faster I thought.

The Greek pizza in the oven needed rotating. The “Village” was cooked and ready to cut. The pepperoni pizza needed be moved to the bottom rack. And the cheese pizza was ready for some heat. 

Shit. The cheese pizza wouldn’t slide off the peel. I forgot to dust it with semolina. Semolina flour, made from durum wheat, allows the pie to slide off the peel. I tried in vain to shake off the pizza but it became stuck in the oven.

Desperate to rescue it from the inferno I scooped it up only to drop it on the oven door. I felt like I was on an episode of I Love Lucy. I was in the middle of a culinary crime scene. I started to panic as the mangled cheese pie sizzled on the open oven door.

I dumped the disfigured cheese in the trash, built a new pizza and pulled myself together. After weathering the worst of the dinner rush I rolled out my sleeping bag on the floury floor of the van, tired from working a twelve hour day.

The next morning I awoke to Bear’s friend known as Africa John who mockingly shouted “Barter Faire! I’m popping the yellow one!” Fluent in French, Arabic and some Spanish, Africa is a weathered UN humanitarian worker turned hand-sculpted-stone-bead seller. The massive encampment was silent in the early morning as we sat with our cowboy coffee, taking a moment to watch the sunrise.

I spent the day working the till with Dora, Bear’s Mexican girlfriend, serving up hot tamales, puff pastries and pizza. True to its name many customers wanted to barter for food. Hats, chocolate, organic vegetables, pretty much anything imaginable as proven by a young man who offered to go get his “guitar and play a Jimi Hendrix song for a slice.”

Much of what I knew as normal was constantly challenged by these unique surroundings. After giving one guy his change he reached his hand over the tip jar and dropped some bud in my hand. “Here ya’ go man.” Another passed by the booth dressed in a loincloth “Yeah, I’m looking to start a land trust.” I heard him say.

This “fight the system” vibe seemed to radiate from everyone. At the Barter Faire “living off the land” wasn’t just a catch phrase dropped at farmer’s markets but a way of life.

Families sold yearn, old blue jeans, organic vegetables and other goods under E-Z up tents. Old vans, converted school buses and Winnebagos resurrected from the 80s were commonplace among the long rows of campers.

I felt like a foreigner far from home. My bald head seemed even more naked among so many dreadlocks. My “casual Friday” attire left over from an abandon desk job was in stark contrast to brightly colored natural fibers.

After four long days we loaded the van, strapped the hula-hoops to the roof and headed back to the land of electricity, running water, and cell phone reception. It was early morning as the dusty van rolled down a long stretch of road.

A faint morning fog covered the pastures along highway 21. Bear was at the wheel, I sat shotgun and Dora was seated on a plastic lawn chair lodged between the two front seats.

Sloping green forests were dotted with the yellow tips of tamaracks and the aspen leaves flickered in the sunlight. In that moment I couldn’t decide if I had found my zen or I was just dead tired.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Searching for tamales on my Triumph

Fall days were made for motorcycles. I wasn't home for more than a day before pulling the cover of my Triumph Bonneville. The open road was calling and I had an old friend to visit.

Pulling down on the throttle I headed north bypassing Coeur d' Alene, searching for unknown back roads, cutting through Rathdrum and Spirit Lake. Reaching Sandpoint I turned east wrapping around the north end of Lake Pend Oreille towards the small town of Hope Idaho.

I was in search of an old friend who I met along the coast of Mexico a few years back. I knew him as Oso, Spanish for Bear, but around these parts he's known as Bear. As luck would have it, he owns a Pizzeria in Hope which is a 2.5 hour drive from Spokane. 

I found him back in the kitchen making pizza with his girlfriend Dora from Mexico. "We met a few days after you left San Agustinillo!" He said looking at her with a big smile. "She doesn't speak english and I still don't speak spanish, so there's a lot of quiet time." "If something gets real serious we fire up the computer and use google translate."

We headed up stairs to the deck with a few of his friends to enjoy a giant pie with big chunks of garlic. "Grab a beer!" he said as we passed the cooler. The sun was setting over the lake as we talked about all the characters we knew back in San Agustinillo.

The evening ended in the kitchen. I helped him prep food for the massive Barter Fair this coming weekend in Tonasket Washington. "I don't know how patriotic you are, but you fold these like you fold a flag." He said, teaching me how to prepare Spanakopita. Meanwhile Dora was making tamales, "we're gonna sell tons of her tamales this weekend!"

It was late by the time we reached Oso's small cabin up on the hill over looking the lake. With no chance of rain I found a flat piece of ground, blew up my pad, rolled out my sleeping bag, and balled up my leather jacket into a pillow. It was a cold night but I was warm in my sleeping bag. The sky was covered in stars.

Search This Blog