Friday, August 31, 2007

Under the Stars

Looks like the weather will be cooperating for my camp out with Red Chief Saturday night. I think the little guy is going to have a blast. I know I will. With his always high energy level, getting him to sleep will be a challenge. The last time he used a sleeping bag at my house was during a blizzard this past winter, in the wilds of my living room as he and the Princess Mother had to stay overnight. He thought that was pretty cool; the Princess was not happy when kept awake by his giggling and squirming. This time, she has the night off and can relax at home. And with the start of Illini football tomorrow, I'm a blissful bison.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Grip & Grin

Actual on-the-scene photo of Red Chief and me in a battle of grips as I meet his challenge of arm wrestling. His smile forecasts the joy of his eventual death grip on me. Had to keep the little guy entertained all day yesterday as kindergarten was not in session. Big adventure this coming weekend as the Chief and I camp out in the wilds of my back yard.

Had to miss the Buffaloes' Burrito Loco Challenge and full moon run last evening as Itchy Brother from the burbs was in town and the family herd gathered. It's just as well that I missed the 4-mile run, followed by inhalation of a mammoth burrito, then a 5-mile trail run under the moonlight. Training has been lax.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Dude Abides

Clutching a big glass of wine last night, I watched "The Big Lebowski", which features Jeff Bridges as The Dude (above), an unemployed bowler who loves to drink White Russians. Hilarious, as are other Coen Brothers movies (Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, Fargo, Raising Arizona,). Always bizarre characters, strange scripts. I'll have to add Lebowski to my favorite movies list, thanks to Princess, who first got me to watch it. A new Coen Brothers movie, "Burn After Reading", is in the works, featuring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, and Frances McDormand (female lead in Fargo).

And speaking of the dude, Red Chief is in his first day of kindergarten. Noontime report from the Princess Mother was that the Chief was nervous at home before school, but once he was at school he was fine. He was thrilled to have his own locker and what's really cool is that he has new Spiderman shoes, which he claims make him run faster.

I've decided to drive to Yellowstone rather than go by plane, but exactly when I go is still under question. I can't wait too long or it will be too cold for camping. I was hoping to go in mid-September, but the closer that gets the less likely is seems it will happen then. I'll have to go by early October to avoid cold weather out there. The average temps for Yellowstone in October are 55 degrees (high) and 29 degrees (low).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

So That's Where He Is

Looking through a high school reunion booklet that lists names, addresses, and occupations of former classmates. Gotta find Phil Shoemaker, a good buddy who I haven't seen since high school graduation in 1967. I spot his name and read the entry "Living in Alaska . . . occupation: master hunting guide . . . flight instructor and Alaskan bush pilot and hunting & fishing guide since 1980 . . . degree in wildlife biology . . . lives on remote 40-acre homestead near Katmai National Park. . ."

Sure enough, after I google his name I find his WEBSITE. A big smile under his Grizzly Adams beard and holding a huge silver salmon. I'll have to e-mail him. This is by far the most unusual occupation listed for my classmates. Another surprise was a fella who used to live a few blocks away from me and went to school with me all the way from kindergarten through high school. A self-described hippie in the 1970s, he is now a pastor. You just never know.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I Should Have Worn My Buffalo Hat . . .

. . . that would have had them staring. Went to my 40th high school reunion this past weekend. Wasn't going to go, but a last-minute call from one of my old high school buddies got me out and about. When I arrived at the reunion one of the first people who greeted me was the one person I had wanted to see most. He had come all the way from California, and I had memories of him and me running on a golf course in the summer of 1969, both of us wearing old Converse basketball shoes and both of us smokers at the time, trying to get me in shape before I went into the army. Didn't work. I wasn't ready for 4:30 a.m. wake-up yells from my drill sergeant followed by running in combat boots on a cinder track. After the reunion a group of us went to a downtown street festival, which was much fun. But it was sad during the evening remembering those of our class who had passed away, including Vietnam War killed, those from cancer and various others causes, and a suicide. The suicide, which happened just a few years ago, was particularly tough to understand because he was a father of four, was very bright and apparently had been leading quite a successful life. I had gone all through grade school with him too and we had been particularly close then. I had not seen him since high school, but I'll always wonder why Mike decided to end his life. I'll always have fond memories of him.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bring It On! Head Bangers in Wyoming

Yeah, another video. This is magnificent: two buffalo bulls battling, accompanied by symphonic music and chorus. Right now at Yellowstone National Park the annual buffalo rut is taking place. A Yellowstone visitor describes the battle of the bulls: "Their guttural rumblings resonate across Hayden Valley as the bison gather for the annual August rut. If you pull over next to a herd and shut off your engine, you can hear the most amazing combinations of snort and sneezing, roars and bellows, and what sound like the loudest and longest belches you’ve ever heard! What makes the bison rut so fun to watch is that there is always something going on. Bulls communicate and dominate by a series of sounds that range from snorts and grunts to all-out bellows. Researchers have found that these roars can be heard nearly 3 miles away."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Into the Wild, Onto the Screen

I'm re-reading the bestseller INTO THE WILD in preparation for the release of the movie on September 21. This may well be my favorite book, and I am eagerly anticipating the movie. Sean Penn wrote the screenplay and is the director of the movie. Judging from what I have read, especially in the latest issue of OUTSIDE magazine, which has the movie as the cover story, Penn has tackled this project with an iron will. For several years others tried to get permission from the family of the book's subject, Chris McCandless, to tell Chris' story. The tenacious Penn earned the family's trust after many discussions with them about how the young man's story should be treated. Penn promised the family that the movie would be the only project he would work on, and he did just that for two years until the movie was completed. In the Outside magazine article, Chris' mother says, "I want this movie to do what the book did: grip people in the heart. Make people think. Bring people and families together. It's a lesson." Penn went to great lengths to tell the story accurately. I have a feeling the film will be special. We'll see.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Survival in the Land of Television

One of my favorite TV shows, Survivorman, begins a new season tonight on The Discovery Channel. Les Stroud (above) is the very entertaining host who has himself planted in all sorts of challenging environments without food, water and shelter. He does not have a camera crew with him but carries the camera equipment and films himself. His fire-building and shelter-making skills are especially interesting. Les is a likable and honest "victim" and admits to mistakes he makes while on his survival quest. Will I have the necessary survival skills when Red Chief and I camp out in my back yard in the near future? For example, if we run out of marshmallows to roast over a fire, what do we do? A challenge, to be sure.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Toasted Buffalo

It's Holy Thursday, and the herd will run in 90+ degrees on the trail at Mahomet this evening. It's all good. Got Tim moved into his new place, and I'm already missing Ali. Maddie looked all over the house for him last night.

Very busy these days. The Kid (sister) and her tribe are coming down from the burbs this weekend. I will be manning an aid station for the Howl at the Moon ultra Saturday. This event features a bunch of crazies (buffaloes included) running a loop for as many miles as they can go. Gee, must be great fun in the heat. I'll have to post photos.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Tails of Dog Days

Ali Baba, my house guest and great lover of people.

Surveying for squirrels.

My son Tim, who has been living with me the last month, moves out tomorrow, taking with him his pit bull, which has stolen my heart. I must admit I was a little horrified when Tim told me he had acquired a pit bull from a woman who had three of them and had to give up Ali, whom she had adopted from the Humane Society. I have never known such an affectionate dog. After being alone all day, Ali will greet me, prancing around the house like a bucking bronco on crack and licking me with the force of a wet bullwhip. He is always happy to see people. Two problems: he thinks he is a lap dog, so he will relax his entire form on you when you are in a comfortable chair; and, he is as strong as an ox, so taking him on walks is always an adventure, especially when he spots a squirrel.

Survived three days of watching Red Chief last week. Much fun, but keeping a fully energized five-year-old amused all day was a challenge. The Chief and I have a big camp-out in my backyard planned for the near future with tents, sleeping bags, a fire, s'mores, the whole bit. Roary (see "Animals Around My House" section at right) will protect us during the night. By the way, please welcome Perry to my "animals" section. He is a constant reminder of what I could be if I don't eat right and exercise.

The Champaign Park District's Mini Tri Saturday for me was a strange race. I had not "trained" for this event, which consists of a 400-yard swim, 6-mile bike and 2-mile run, but it's mainly a fun thing that I don't take seriously. It was my first look at the newly remodeled pool area, and when a fellow race participant told me the first part of the swim was a joke, I went over to see what he meant. It was a meandering 200-yard stretch of water, called the Lazy River, and when it came time for my swim, I immediately knew what my friend meant. I was both annoyed and amused when the tops of my fingers actually scraped the concrete bottom of the "river" a few times. That's just too shallow. I swam the whole thing, while many actually dolphin dived or even walked and ran the pool. Thus, they had faster swims. This fun race is 25 years old, probably the oldest race in the area, so the tradition continues. Whole families do this event; I have seen kids as young as 10 participate, as well as a gentleman in his 70s. I didn't even start my watch to time myself, but I had a good swim, sluggish bike and OK run. This is an all-out speed race, and I didn't have it. My effort was good enough for 6th of 16 in my age group, but I know I can do better.