Saturday, March 29, 2008

My Dad's Favorite Book

My dad's favorite book was THE RUBAIYET OF OF OMAR KHAYYAM (English verse by Edward Fitzgerald). He knew the book intimately and could quote from it endlessly, and enjoyed doing so. Sometimes I would be riding along some country road as my dad drove his pickup truck, neither of us sure just where he was taking us, just exploring the huge state of Georgia. And he would break into a recitation of this or that verse of the RUBAIYET, and then he would ask me to interpret the verse. I was a fairly bright kid, but not that sharp. I've always figured that I'm smart enough to know that I'm not as intelligent as all that.

But my dad's favorite verse was this one, and one which I never had any trouble interpreting:

"And fear not lest Existence closing your
Account,should lose, or
know the type no more;
The eternal Saki from the Bowl has pour'd
Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour."

My dad's personal copy of the book is stored somewhere in the house. I stumbled upon it a few years ago, but forgot to shelve it and it's sitting now in that box, under other boxes of books. Until we get a bigger place and I can shelve them all, it will likely remain there, waiting. But I stumbled upon a hardback copy not too different from my dad's copy, and I bought it for fifty cents, and it will do until I can once again discover the copy that my dad himself handled and read those decades gone.

"Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New Family Member

This is Lilly, our newest family member.

The best animal companion we ever had was a cat named Cinnamon. She lived with us for twenty years--pretty much from the time my wife and I were married until Cinnamon died of old age two full decades later. Cinnamon was a very affectionate and extremely intelligent cat, and we always wanted to have another Siamese cat if we could afford one.

Six months ago we met a woman who sold Siamese kittens from time to time, so we put in our "order" for a female kitten. Yesterday we picked up Lilly, a six-week old Siamese. So far, she's been a lot of fun!

Saturday, March 22, 2008


I missed hiking with friends today. Because I wasn’t paying attention to something as simple as a freaking two-line email!

I was to have met friends to ride to Linville Gorge to hike down to a place called Daffodil Flats. Just glancing at the email, I assumed I was to have met Andy at the same place as our last hike so that we could carpool to the trailhead. Last time we met at 7:00 am. I didn’t pay attention and, sitting there for 30 minutes without a cell phone, I assumed something had happened and he couldn’t make it. So I drove back home.

Where I discovered, paying attention this time to the email that we were to have met at 7:45.

Depression rests with me today.

Friday, March 21, 2008


I rarely write anything overtly political here. I just try to observe and comment about things that are important to me in my life, which are rarely overtly political--only subversively. Take the following for what it's worth without further commentary or judgment from me:

I left the house very early the morning of March 20 and went by McDonalds to get breakfast. I sat down to eat in the restaurant. It's in a poor neighborhood, but for some reason all of the clients this morning were poor white people. They were talking about Barack Obama, who had just visited the city where I live (Charlotte, NC). I observed the following quietly from my seat as I ate alone.

"Are you going to vote for Obama?"

"Hell no!"

"No way!"

"I'd die first!"

Then they all started chatting again.

"You know Bill's coming to town?"




"God, there was a President."

"I wisht he was our President now!"

"Lord, yes!"

I swear to Jove. Pretty much quoted verbatim.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hiking back into Winter.

The Pinnacle, in the Black Mountains, seen from Snooks Nose.

Considering my post from a few days ago, this one may seem ironic. But to Hell with it--here it is.

I went on a seven-mile hike with my pals Andy and Bob. This would have been a most confusing hike if my son had come along, as then there would have been two different Andys and Bobs along. But my son, Andy, chose to stay home when he learned the hike involved a vertical climb of about 3300 feet in less than four miles. “Screw that,” he said. Wise words, perhaps.

The trip began eventfully, for as we left I-40 and took the Forest Service Road leading to the Curtis Creek area of the Pisgah National Forest, we spied the largest flock of wild turkeys any of us had ever seen. I suspect about fifty birds. Andy pulled to the side of the road where we could gawk, take photos and videos and keep exclaiming how it was the most wild turkeys any of us had ever seen in one spot.

We then continued the short drive to Curtis Creek where the National Forest has an excellent campground suitable for tents and travel trailers. Several trails lead into the high country from this spot, including the one we were going to use: The Snooks Nose Trail.

While the temperature was quite comfortable at the trailhead, I had asked Andy if he thought I’d need a scarf. He thought not and I agreed and left it in my truck. Alas.

The trail begins innocently enough, climbing the slopes above the Curtis Creek Campground at a reasonable angle, but soon it becomes apparent that the trail engineers were either mountain goats or insane or diabolical; perhaps all three. For the track soon begins to tackle the mountain head on with no switchbacks or an attempt to find a milder gradient.

We passed through forests of beech and hemlock and poplar and oak and pines. A strange and oddly spectacular waterfall lies to the right of the trail on the way up—consisting of what is, for all practical purposes, a natural waterslide well over one hundred feet in height. However, due to the close growing vegetation (mainly rhododendron), we found it virtually impossible to take a good photograph of the feature.

Did I mention that the trail is steep? Indeed, it is extremely steep. But there was nothing to do for it but put your face into the mountain and slog upwards. Ever upwards. We discovered that there were two extremely long and steep pulls with only a short distance of mild hiking between them. Otherwise it was just a thigh-burning, lung-bursting effort to achieve the ridgeline. After some time, we made it to the first of the peaks—a rocky outcropping called Snooks Nose, and the namesake of the trail. This was a really grand place to see the surrounding peaks. To our right was the huge double peak of Mackey Mountain, and to our left was the Blue Ridge Parkway and the beginning of the Black Mountains visible beyond it.

The open area at Snooks Nose.

After taking several dozen photos we pushed on, achieving the top of Laurel Knob after a long and arduous climb. By this time, we had climbed 2,500 feet. Laurel Knob is a relatively prominent peak of roughly pyramidal shape, but there’s not much of a view from the summit. Its main claim to fame is that it is home to quite a number of acres of old growth forests with some truly impressive specimens within those groves. I hope to return to this area in the future to bushwhack to some of these trees—one of them being a poplar that is said to the be the largest of its species in the entire Pisgah National Forest.

Laurel Knob, viewed from Snooks Nose.
From there, we descended very briefly into a shallow gap and began another more moderate ascent to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Pausing again to drink some water and take a few photos and don our jackets (it was getting noticeably cooler as we neared the 5,000-foot elevation), we walked down the Parkway a hundred yards or so and caught the trail that would take us to the top of Green Knob.

The cool observation tower on Green Knob.

At the end of the climb of a couple of hundred vertical feet, the observation tower of Green Knob came into view. It’s quite an attractive structure of simple design. It once had a series of large glass windows in it, but these of course have been shattered out by assholes and idiots. As we climbed the tower stairs we felt the biting wind and realized that we had not merely hiked about 3,300 vertical feet, but had also hiked from early spring into late winter. Standing on the catwalk of the tower I peered across at the looming mass of the Black Mountains, shrouded in clouds, and realized that the upper elevations across the gulf were frozen in rime ice.

It was cold!

We hunkered down inside the tower room and got out the lunches we’d brought along. I drank lemonade and ate a roast beef sandwich. I fed our canine companion, Saucony, some cheese and we poured her a couple of dishes of water while Andy fed her some yummy dog biscuits.

Trying to stay warm in the observation tower.

Our intention had been to linger on the summit for about an hour, but it was so cold none of us felt comfortable up there. The wind was biting and the temperature was just too damned low. Even my hands, beneath my gloves, were growing numb with the cold. So we packed up and headed back down to lower elevations and warmer temperatures.

The hike back down was a bit dicey, as we all slipped several times on the extremely steep slopes. These kinds of trails are actually easier hiking up than down. They’re hard on your toes and the risk of falling is high. In fact, Andy fell twice and I came close to tumbling several times.

But, in short order, we were down the mountain and back at Curtis Creek where I scoped out the campground for the probability of a future trip with my travel trailer. I look forward to returning to that area to search for big trees as soon as I can make it back there.

Safe back down at Curtis Creek where we were at only 1800 feet and where it was warm.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

With the Dog

A few weeks ago I went hiking with a dog. Her name is Saucony. Twelve years old and diagnosed with cancer, she kept up with us all along the hike and kept me amused. I hadn't been hiking with a dog since I was a kid. I didn't realize how much fun it is to have a dog along on a hike. Sure, they scare away the wildlife, but I don't like surprising wild critters anyway.

Tomorrow I'm going hiking with Saucony again. And the guy she lives with, Andy Kunkle. I'll report how it all goes.

Saucony, on the top of Scaly Mountain, NC. The old girl was tuckered out.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Stopping and Starting

Sometimes when I post responses at other blogs, I hit on themes about my own life that I find myself repeating here.

I was responding to an excellent bit of art at Mia Wolff's blog that sparked some memories:

I used to do all kinds of art. Pencil, pen & ink, charcoal, some soft material carving and clay sculpting. When I hit my early 20s I stopped all of that (cold turkey)to concentrate solely on writing. I'm not sure why I did that, and sometimes I'll feel the urge to take up the charcoal, which was always my favorite.

I only tried color once--painting a landscape at the age of 16. I was so horrified at my inability to mix colors that I never tried it again. Even my art teacher was horrified at what I had done, as I was the best pencil artist in the class.

My one effort at carving soft material was pretty satisfying. A kind of soft plaster that my art teacher mixed up when I was taking classes at the age of 13. I carved a bear and it turned out really nice. Again, I never went back to that. Can't say why.

Similarly, from about the time I was 18 until I was in my late 20s, music was a big part of how I enjoyed my leisure time. I had music around me almost all of the time during those years. One of my favorite things to do to relax as to retreat to a dark room and meditate while music played. It didn't really matter what was playing--Borodin or Rolling Stones. It didn't matter, as long as I could think about the music and just drift with it and think.

And then, suddenly, pretty much without my noticing it, I stopped listening to music. To the point where music bothered me. If a radio was on, I'd turn it off. I never played records at all, and my record collection languished and gathered dust in bins and peach crates stored in closets about the house.

It was only when I discovered Napster in its legal but outlaw days that I started listening to music again. Those were great days for me, and I built up an enormous library of music that I listened to for hours and hours, recalling old familiar tunes, and making new discoveries.

And even though Napster, and then WinMX were closed down forever, I still listen to music far more than I did during the days when it was absent from my life, but not so much as in those times of Napster, maybe the only true example of communism that I've ever witnessed.

Old Napster. Jove, how I miss it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

To the Memory of Southern Snow

When I was a kid living in the mountains of northern Georgia, I'd talk to old-timers who had already begun to notice that it just didn't snow as much as it used to. This is what the corporate bosses like to call "anecdotal" evidence, dismissing it with a sneer.

The entire time I lived in the northern part of Georgia near the NC/TN border, it snowed only once in three years at the elevation where we lived (about 1400 feet). Often we would look up at the higher peaks at 3,000 to 4,000 feet and they would be covered in deep snow and ice which generally descended no lower than about the 2,000-foot elevation.

In those days, Georgia had the southernmost ski resort in the USA. It was called Sky Valley and would get enough snow days to make it worthwhile to open a few runs during the winter. But as the years advanced, it snowed less and less in the southern mountains of Appalachia. In years past, the mountains of Georgia would often be snowed under during the winter months. Now, though, something was happening. The days of looking up at the tops of the Cohutta Mountains and seeing those 4,000-foot peaks frozen in winter storms were becoming more and more rare.

In 2005 the Sky Valley Ski Resort closed its doors for good. As a ski resort. They continued to promote the place as a golf resort and housing development, selling second homes to the moderately wealthy and retirement homes to older folk. The snows have just about fled, and it's rare now to see a good snowfall in Sky Valley, Georgia. Oh, you might see the ground get coated in white from year to year, but it rarely lasts for more than a day before melting off. And there's no way that there is enough snow to supply a ski run; and not even enough cold nights to allow the making of snow with blowers.

So the idle rich have their golf courses as they plow up more and more forest land to build second homes. And they have a place to drive to from Atlanta and Chattanooga so that their big SUVs can belch ever more smog into the air. And the power lines criss cross the mountains, bringing electricity generated by coal-fired plants, spewing vast tons of carbon into the air.

And the madness goes on.

Here's to the fading memory of snow.

Rabun Bald, (seen from Scaly Mountain, NC), second highest peak in Georgia at 4,696 feet on which used to sit the Sky Valley Ski Resort. Alas

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Waterfalls in western NC

Gettin' antsy to go hiking again.

Here are some videos from my last trip:

Silver Falls

The Upper Silver Falls (above the lower one, naturally.)

The Lower Falls of Scotsman Creek

Monday, March 10, 2008

Amazing Tree!

Today I returned to the patch of green to measure the old giant:

It measured an amazing 18 feet and 3 inches in circumference. It's not a typical tree, with three tops sprouting from a main trunk (and may be, in fact, two or three fused trees), but it's still an amazing sight to come upon this huge tree in such an urban environment.


Saturday, March 08, 2008

A Patch of Green

I'm going to head back as soon as possible and measure the circumference of this tree.

Well, I was able to wander into a patch of old trees on my route
today. From what I've been able to gather, it was spared from being bulldozed because someone noticed that it was the site of a slave cemetery. The right folk fought the developers, had the land declared some kind of historic site, and thus the trees have been spared.

I had noticed for a long time that there are some big trees in there. Not least because one of the trees visible from the street is a bottle- shaped poplar large at the base which quickly tapers. Looking at the grove, I could tell that there were some even larger trees partially hidden.

The graveyard? Not certain, but level, free of trees, and covered in ivy.

So, today, on my lunch break, I took my camera and wandered in there. I should have taken my tripod, but I didn't and had to make do by finding sapling and bushes on which to balance my camera when I wanted to put myself in the photo for size reference. There were some very big trees in the grove, especially one poplar which appears to be fused from two or three trees. Its circumference is ridiculous at breast height, and I'll return to record it as soon as I can.

Things like this are always amazing to me. To think that these huge old trees exist in the midst of a vast, urban sprawl is both amazing and pathetic.

Surrounded by urban sprawl, a tiny patch of old trees.

Friday, March 07, 2008


In publishing "OOP" is the abbreviation for Out of Print. The Five Star version of THE FLOCK will soon go out of print. I've stocked some up, so it'll be available from me for a time. I'll be selling autographed copies via Both Amazon and B&N seem to have it still in stock for the time being. My agent is currently shopping the mass market paperback rights around.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Pull of Dirt

You live your life getting away from a place. You live there and grow there and are familiar with it...and face it--familiarity breeds contempt. It's true.

But you go back. There's the familiar. It can feel good to go back to a place, especially when there are a host of good memories that do a fair job of covering up the bad times. It can seduce a fellow.
Just about any place has its charms, I'm sure. My dad spent a good part of the later years of his life doing his best to get the Hell away from the Georgia low country where he was born and raised. And what the heck? He ends up back there at the end of his mortal coil.

I recall my father and my cousin Gene standing beneath the Glynn Oak, where it's said that Sidney Lanier penned "The Marshes of Glynn". And Gene and my dad gawked and gabbled over the beauty of the place. It was a beauty that I could not see, then. Later, I could and did, but just at that time I couldn't give a rat's ass about the marshes. And to hear my dad waxing all droopy-eyed poetical and softy over the place--well, it shocked me. The man who generally had nothing but ill to say about the land that was the bosom at which he had sucked.

It's passing strange, the pull of dirt.

Home is where you make it. And you're best served to make the best of things where you are. I can recall my dad champing at the bit to get up to the mountains of North Georgia where he thought the people would be different--where they'd be friendly and have a sense of fellowship. He supposed, I suspect, that there was a magical sense of the egalitarian up in those hills. What a shock he got when he found the mountain men of Georgia to be the most hideous humans he had ever faced. What a great gout of monsters into whose midst he had plunged himself and his family and his future.

The hot, mosquito-plagued flatlands of South Georgia suddenly seemed not so bad, after all. And at least he could understand the dialect and had a sense of what was in the heads of his fellow citizens of Glynn County, even if the mush between their ears was poisonous feces. It was poisonous matter that he at least recognized.

My dad spent the last months of his life having a fair time of it, I think. He reconnected with his nigh life-long best pal, Guy Frazier, from whom he had become estranged for a while. They caroused and I have to say that my dad seemed truly happy when he'd rediscovered his friendship with of his old-time revolutionary pals who'd ended up going to work at the Paper Mill and becoming head shop steward and big shot with the Union. Those two did nothing but drink beer and talk politics and go on fishing trips the last few months of my dad's life. I remember feeling totally crushed when they packed up the truck one day to head to Florida to go on a weeklong fishing trip with my Uncle Ersley. And they went without me. It was the first time my dad had gone fishing without me. Man, it hurt. But my dad was happy. I think he dropped dead not ten days after that trip. Good for him for heading off and having a grand time.

Yeah, the old home turf can feel good to a wandering set of feet.

Me--I don't really have a home turf. Born in Brunswick--lived there twice. Done that. Hated it, both times. Lived in Ellijay, and there are some great memories. But the 120 acres is gone--sold off and likely developed (from what I can see from Google Earth). I have no desire to see the 120 acres cut up into four of five "farms" with strangers on my old stomping grounds. It would likely kill me. As for the city of Ellijay--well, it's a land of ignorant, inbred, ultra religious buggerers. James Dickey wasn't speaking in metaphor when he turned Gilmer County and the Cooswatee River into the nightmarish environs of his novel, DELIVERANCE. I have no more desire to venture there than I have of walking into a lion's den covered in bloody ribeye steaks. Decatur, I will visit. Especially now that Mead Road is taken once again by the gentry and the poor are gone.
I don't really have a home turf, as most do. I feel connected to so little. No religion ever fevered my brain. Family ties are all but shattered. I care not a whit for any particular spot I ever lived. (Well, I did love Mead Road--but that was merely a neighborhood.)

The closest thing I think that I have to the feeling most get when visiting a place they think of as “home” would be The South. As a whole. It's my Land. My Nation. I like southern accents. Low country drawl. The Elizabethan gibberish of the mountains. The city-bred accents of the New South. I know what's in the minds of most of these idiots. Their minds are full of crap...but I know what it is. It stinks, and that's okay. It's the way things are.

But that's the size of it.

No more, no less.

Monday, March 03, 2008

A Fantasy Within a Dream Wrapped in Color

One nice thing about my days scripting for various comic book companies is that I still know a few comic book artists from my time in that industry. I met Mark Masztal through our mutual pal Steve Bissette (who tried to get us together many years ago--but just at the time I abandoned comics, unfortunately). Mark bought a copy of my novel, THE FLOCK and, he being a really good comic artist, did a mock cover for a non-existent comics version of my book. Here it is, in all it's wonderful glory, featuring The Scarlet Rogue: