Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Saturday salmagundi

Hash, actually

The ongoing heat wave here in Northern California is destroying our plant life like an apocalypse. Things aren’t just wilting, they’re turning black and vanishing, despite almost hourly watering. Worst of all, we had an oak tree trimmed back a few weeks ago, but it turns out it was shading a young redwood that is now turning brown before our eyes. We’re hoping that some aggressive watering inside its drip line will preserve it through the hot temperatures. Shame to lose it just because the oak was getting too close to the house. Would much rather have seen the shaggy oak bite the dust. We got a million of ’em.

And yesterday, while watering some of the parched plants, I got stung again – this time by three bees at once! It’s now total war between us. I don’t care if they’re endangered. I must obliterate them!

I finished reading Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad last week and came away just a tad disappointed. I think this can happen when a book gets über-hyped and wins all the major awards. This book also got the Oprah bump and is going to be made into a TV mini-series, as Colson himself revealed at the reading we went to earlier this year. I like his writing. It’s not overly flashy or dramatic, but it’s highly literary and controlled. Strangely enough, he uses very little dialogue in the book, which makes for long chunks of text in which characters think about things or his narrator consciousness reports on the places and times. Maybe that’s what bothers me. If I submitted a novel with almost no dialogue, it’d get rejected immediately for being too wordy and unorthodox.

I don’t like the taste of sour grapes, but I do indulge in them quite often.

We still have health insurance. Despite the best (worst) efforts of the Republican party. I’ll report on this again as things develop.

For my wife’s 60th birthday yesterday, we drove up to one of our favorite hikes in the Sierra foothills, Little Baldy Peak, up there by Robinson Flat on the Foresthill Divide. On the way, a big black bear went loping across the road about a hundred yards ahead of us. I was glad to be traveling in a large metal capsule. On the hike itself, there was still some snow on the trail at 7000 feet, and the dog played around in it as a swan song. He’s getting a little too old for this hike, though we do plenty of easier ones he can still manage.

After the Soviet Union fell apart, it seemed like we were going to avoid a nuclear holocaust in our lifetime. Later, who knows? But it looked good for a while there. Now, I’m not sure anymore. The deadly combo of Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump makes me think we might not get out of the decade alive.

Does that sound pessimistic? Well, when I heard recently that Boris Yeltsin actually had the nuclear briefcase open on one occasion (responding to a false alarm), I thought it’s pretty scary when Boris Yeltsin seems like the responsible man in a room containing him and the other two. Lordy.

I finished one of the great naturalist, Edward Abbey’s, books last week (Desert Solitaire – actually reread it after 30 years), and saw a kindred spirit in him. Aspects of him, anyway. And was surprised to learn that he died at age 62. Only two years older than I am now. When I think of the places he managed to insert himself into in his life, I suppose he was more like 92 in experience-years. He and a buddy got themselves down into The Maze, in remote southern Utah, before there were convenient, if dirt, roads to get close. I got the feeling he wouldn’t have minded dying down in there, where I understand Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid hid out for a time. As it was, he eschewed traditional burial customs and had his friends haul his carcass (wrapped in his sleeping bag) out into the Arizona desert, where he could feed some cacti and cliff roses as he decomposed. His last words? “No comment.”

Gotta love that.

5 comments on “Saturday salmagundi

  1. kingmidget
    July 15, 2017

    Regarding The Underground Railroad — I find myself almost always disappointed by the books that win all the awards these days. And a book with almost no dialogue in it would likely be a book I didn’t finish. While I don’t believe wholeheartedly in the show don’t tell writing rule, that sounds like a book with far too much telling going on.

    We’re experiencing the fine line between trying to keep plants alive and not watering too much. We ripped out our front lawn a couple of years ago and planted some plants that are supposed to be drought-resistant. And they’re dying out. So I’m watering them more and muttering under my breath as I do so.

    I still need to do the Little Baldy hike.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 15, 2017

      I don’t mind authors breaking rules to do something different, but there’s definitely a double standard. Known names can do whatever they want, while us obscure dudes have to prove we can draw first. Sad!

      • kingmidget
        July 15, 2017

        Books that won’t n awards have a whole lot of internal telling going on. It’s the part of a book I skim over.

  2. Ilona Elliott
    July 16, 2017

    Yikes! I was hoping you guys down there were much better off after all the winter snow, but I see on the news that there are lots of fires in CA and across the interior west–B.C. is really bad, multiple fires. Hope it eases up for you–for everyone, actually.
    Love Edward Abbey. The Monkey Wrench Gang was one of my favorite books. Desert Solitaire is a treasure, isn’t it?

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 16, 2017

      I was amazed at how well Solitaire held up. There’s just something about the way he reveres the wilderness that is timeless.

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This entry was posted on July 15, 2017 by in Et alia and tagged .
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