After the flight from Oakland and the layover (above), we flew on to Chicago. The plane left about 7, which meant an evening light had fallen across the planes and silhouetted the Rockies in the distance.
I once did a bike ride that started northwest of Denver and headed east into the high Plains. We started at 3 a.m. An hour or so into the ride, we crossed under the flight path into Denver's airport, in the middle of the farms and ranches that stretch from the city pretty much clear across to Kansas City. I rode along in the dark, watching the progression of the planes approaching from the north, each with landing lights on, each seeming to move so slowly they appeared suspended in the predawn sky, each silent until they were almost overhead, but even then the roar of the jet engines seemed muffled by the dark and the prairie.
You get another version of the same experience landing here: a long approach with the farms and ranches interrupted by just a few new developments flung out from the city. We approached from the north, the afternoon sun shadowing us on the fields below, right up to the edge of the runway.
A Tom Rush song for which I can’t find the lyrics online. If memory serves, it starts like this:
“Well, I locked my door as the sun went down
And I said goodbye to Boston town,
Took the Mass Turnpike down to Route 15,
That’ll take me on down to the New York scene.
Humming of the tires sure is pretty,
Think about the women in New York City,
On the road again.
Take the Harlem turn to the Jersey pike
And you roll through Philly in the middle of the night,
On the road again. …”
Me? I’m flying to the Midwest and then making stops along Lake Erie and points east. See you out there.
I’ve started to anticipate the evening not too long in the future when the barn owls that have nested a couple blocks away will have emancipated their young and flown on to find fresh rodent pickings. But for now, they’re still here: a nesting pair, by the best guess of close observers, and four young that appear to have started to go out and join the rat quest that starts just after sundown every evening.
Besides those half-dozen birds, dozens of humans have been showing up, sometimes all at once, to listen to the owls screeching or watch the birds wing out of their palm tree into the neighborhood. Tonight when I was out on the street, a woman pulled up in a diesel Mercedes (from the smell of it, an environmentally correct one, burning biofuel). She got out, walked over, and said, “Do you know what it is?” Before I could say anything, she said, “Two owls and their four puppies.” She then got back in the car and drove away.
I’ve heard there’s a biologist from UC-Berkeley who lives in the neighborhood and has been visiting the site to collect owl pellets. (You know–the regurgitated carcasses of their most recent meals.) Some parents are bringing their young kids. Some adults have brought flashlights or even heavier-duty lighting equipment to illuminate the owls and their tree. The owl’s human foster parents–the family in whose yard the owl palm stands–has taken to posting signs asking people not to disturb the birds during their early evening hunting time. So far, no one has tried to sing to the owls, play the bagpipes for them, lectured them on the virtues of the vegan diet, or used their presence as an excuse for on-street slam poetry.
There’s a story there, for sure. What I can’t satisfactorily put into words yet, though, even as I listen to and watch the birds, is why their appearance is so fascinating to me and the others who come.
The Dog’s main person is away this week. He is very aware of that fact and can be sort of moody and preoccupied about it. Yes, there’s some anthropomorphizing going on here. But there’s also this: The other day, at the schoolyard where we occasionally take The Dog to run around, he sat staring back out to the street and didn’t budge for a good 15 or 20 minutes. I was talking to another guy who had brought his dog out there–his dog was chasing a tennis ball around–when it suddenly dawned on me why the dog was so focused on the schoolyard gate. If his main person were around, that’s where she’d appear.
My strategy to get his mind on other things, at least for a little while, is long walks. He gets plenty of walks in the normal course of the day. Four, usually. But the longest we’ll have him out is an hour or so, and most of our strolls are shorter. But the past few days, we’ve been going far up into the hills from our place in the flatlands. A couple hours or a little more, five or six miles, with long uphill stretches, maybe including a couple of the old paths between blocks that I haven’t seen or walked before. I chart a route that will take us past water at least once, because The Dog works up a thirst. Then long downhill stretches back home, with more unknown paths (two tonight) and maybe a couple of deer loping along the street in front of us (happened tonight, and The Dog wanted to chase; it occurred to me that I might not see him again for awhile if I let him run after them).
I think this URL will work to show tonight’s stroll, which started about an hour before sunset and end about an hour after: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=3068855 .
Aftermath: dog is tuckered out. So am I.
First, the James Gang, in an old video that’s found its way onto YouTube (this version from some Japanese fans of Joe Walsh, apparently):
Second, by way of Disarranging Mine, an actual guy actually “walking away.” In Springfield, Illinois, no less.
My Chicago friend MK observes the current debate over the medical industry and how care is delivered (my formulation, now hers) fails to address a basic topic: “how we are getting sick in the first place.” She cites an estimate from Michael Pollan, the food industry critic and author of “In Defense of Food” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” that two-thirds of the medical expenses we incur as a society are directly linked to what we eat and drink.
That reminded me of an hour of KQED’s Forum that I heard about a month ago with Dr. David Kessler, former head of the Food and Drug Administration. He recently published a book called “The End of Overeating.” It’s an attempt to expose how we respond physiologically and neurologically to processed food (i.e., fat, sugar, and salt). Borrowing from advanced neurological research, he argues that the constant availability of, bombardment with, and ingestion of foods high in fat, high in salt, and high in sugar programs us to want more and more of the same (and boy, do we get more and more). The ultimate prescription is to disrupt that programming with a focus on what Pollan and others call ‘real food.’
Pollan’s formula is deceptively simple: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” (Written immediately after a breakfast that consisted of coffee and a ClifBar.)