Satori on a camping trip

Resting the legs that just got her through an ass-buster hike, and relishing Margaret Atwood, is my wife. Barb’s being kept company by the world’s most stalwart terrier, also recuperating from the unforgiving but panoramic Bill Williams Trail.


Just because I don’t use drugs anymore doesn’t mean I don’t get high. I’m the same headbanger I was in college.

Just spent a half-hour enjoying Spotify on my laptop and Bose speakers, rocking out to: “Everything Is Broken,” the Dylan song nailed by Kenny Wayne Shepherd; off of Grateful Dead (Skull and Roses), “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad (Not Fade Away),” “Johnny B Goode,” and “Me and My Uncle,” the original full-throated rock ‘n’ roll roar and cosmic twang; and, because that country spirit moved me, old “El Paso” by Marty Robbins.

Got my eyes closed rocking back and forth in my swivel chair, not caring how loud it is out the windows. Jerry Garcia still makes me tingle.

Just because I don’t smoke cannabis or snort coke or drop acid anymore doesn’t mean I don’t get high. Just because I don’t gape at internet pornography anymore doesn’t mean I don’t have a sex urge. Just because I live in austerity doesn’t mean I don’t live.

Ever find you had to redefine happiness? It’s not just about doing everything you “want.” I will meet my maker; this aging Hebrew needs some metaphysical lambs to throw on the fire, as well as some new kinds of celebration to mark a new stage on his trek.

Barb and I just went camping at Dogtown Lake near Williams, a four-day trip. Even after hiking Bill Williams Trail, a seven-mile ass-buster (my calves still hurt), I got back to Prescott weighing five pounds more than I’d set off at! We ate good. Cooked on a grate over an open flame, partly because I spazzed and spilled a pan of water onto the propane burners of my camp stove. I love eating outside on a camping trip. I do enjoy the woods.

I’d crawl out the tent in the dark or dawn, start a fire, put my bashed-in camp percolator on the grate, and wait. Ah, those first cups tasted so damn good … warming your hands on the fire, feeling the woods waking around you.

I dig Williams, that whole area. I read where Sam Shepard loved Williams, so I’m in good company.

Barb and I spent a lot of time at our campsite reading. She’s become quite the bookworm. She’s in a book club, says I should join, there’s only one other guy. Maybe I will. But I’m too bossy in my opinions. She’s in love with Margaret Atwood.

Me, I’ve been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, relishing the poetic moments, where a phrase might break through the personal-historical murk into a nugget of crystalline truth. I’m not sure Toni Morrison’s right, that he’s our generation’s James Baldwin, but his argument for reparations, available on The Atlantic, is riveting and important.

I enjoyed Zadie Smith’s latest essay collection, the spare Intimations. She embraces the moment in all its nuance and complexity. Whether she’s talking about warring cultures, drugs, or politics, she’s keen-witted and amusing. If Nigella Lawson taught England how to cook, Zadie Smith taught the world how to think.

Blasted through Bari Weiss’s How to Fight Anti-Semitism on my Kindle. And I’m going back to temple. One of the things I love about The New York Times these days is the mix of liberal and conservative voices. Bret Stephens and David Brooks balance off Michelle Goldberg and Jamelle Bouie. My favorite columnist is tart-tongued, laconic Maureen Dowd, who can take down a pompous braggart in four seconds. Bari Weiss is a liberal with conservative guard rails. Everything she says about the hatred leveled at Jews over Israel is brave and correct. We both don’t like Netanyahu but feel Israel must be defended and supported by Jews, who hold her to account! Weiss chronicles a phenomenon as old as the ages. It’s refreshing to hear her assert and reassert her ethnic and religious pride. The old poison from the far right is easier to deal with than the insidious, censoring voice of anti-Zionist bile on university campuses. I get why Seinfeld won’t play colleges anymore.

But maybe the big prize has been the book I’m still getting through, one I should have picked up a long time ago and did finally secure on Amazon. The Hero With a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell, has changed me. My therapist tells this quacking neurotic he must work on improving his self-image. I’m trying to see in my life the delineations of an actual hero journey. Who has this kind of scholarship anymore? Reading this makes me see things anew. It’s vast yet hits home in moments of intimacy. Wisdom comes from the heart, not the head. Dreams and myths beyond our ego impel and shape our journey. Campbell offers a guidebook on how to say yes to this crazy world, beyond stifling shoulds. He teaches us how to love, how to dig the trip we’re on.

I know a fine woman who didn’t think she had it in her but insisted on tackling that mountain. I might want to pull my head out of my ass and pay attention to her. I’ve found that’s generally good for a better return on investment.

It’s nice being back home, having bathed the foot stink away, and re-immersed myself in all the old household rhythms.

I finished watching a two-part Western on my Roku feed, Broken Trail. You get a good story when Walter Hill’s in charge. (He directed The Warriors and 48 Hours, perhaps guilty pleasures, perhaps acknowledged gems.) Here, Robert Duvall’s aging cowboy says he’s not as brave as he appears. Says he wakes up in the dark and remembers all he’s done and not done.

Asked what he does when that happens, he says he tries like hell to get back to sleep.

Being awake has been fairly kind to me. But I know what he means.


Below: “I know, girl, my tongue’s hanging out too.” At the top of Bill Williams Mountain, better than 9,000 feet up, in the pine wonderland of northern Arizona.

3 thoughts on “Satori on a camping trip”

  1. Yup. I read your blog. i appreciate your insight. And let’s face it-any connection to the past adds sentimentality in our old age. There is a lot said in this post! Of the several comments I thought, the one I had to ask is do you know that Weiss resigned from the NY Times? Did you see her letter of resignation? By the way, I find your renewed interest in Judaism intriguing.


    1. You know, I did not know! It must have been part of NYT’s internecine war between lefts and rights. I like Weiss’s unabashed refusal to duck her Jewishness. It’s good to hear from you. Thanks for reading. Yeah, a lot said in this one … maybe a little too much; on reflection, I thought it might have been a little ongepotchkit, all over the place. And I don’t know if I’m becoming disarmingly confessional or just plain wacko.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s