When you get to Pahrump it feels like the end of the world. It’s California desert country, on the northwest edge of Death Valley National Park. Driving into town we pass Bride Street, Gravel Pit Road, and WTF Sand and Stone. Next to the Mobil where we gas up is a storefront church. It might have been a travel agency at one time, Anywhere But Here Travel. Now, in big letters above the door, between two crosses, the church identifies itself: IT IS FINISHED. What, as in end times? Continue reading →
I’ve been having doubts about my hat. It’s a hiker’s hat, with a full brim all the way around, and a drawstring that hangs in front of my ears and can be cinched under my chin. I bought it sort of on the fly. It was a careless oh-what-the-hell purchase. I knew I would need a hat. In three weeks time we would be walking eight National parks.
Unlike my wife, who looks great in hats (and she will tell you so, and it is true), a hat on my head can look ridiculous. When I buy a hat, attention must be paid. Continue reading →
There it is, a dinosaur footprint. How about that?
We’ve just finished the lower Antelope Slot Canyon tour, outside Page, Arizona. Along the way our guide, Ryan, has been giving us a short course in geological history, which my wife translates from English into Italian for our friends Luigi and Adele. Her translations are brilliant, embellished by her impressive knowledge of American Indian culture. Continue reading →
My wife and I are having breakfast one morning at a local restaurant. In this establishment, you stand in line and place your order at the cash register. You take a number, find a table, and wait for your food. We’re here early. The restaurant is full of men. It’s the power breakfast hour.
While we wait for our food we watch more men come in, many of them dressed in summer business casual. A couple tables over, two guys with a laptop talk in hushed tones. At the table next to us a guy leans over a legal pad, checking his notes. He’s wearing a black and white gingham shirt, jeans, and running shoes. He’s got serious, shiny, freshly-combed-back Gordon Gecko hair. In a couple minutes he’s joined by another guy in jeans. Their meeting begins. Continue reading →
My freshman year of high school the wrestling team had no one to put in the 95-pound weight class. That meant at every meet the team would forfeit that match, giving the opposition five points for free, and an automatic advantage in the final score.
The coach at the time was a guy named Jack Curl. He was a big guy with short blond hair and an easy smile. In the fall he coached football. That’s where his heart was. He also taught gym, although “taught” somehow seems like the wrong word. “Moderated” or “presided over” or “benignly neglected” might be more accurate. I recall him walking around the gym holding a clipboard, blowing on a referee whistle he wore around his neck, yelling at kids. Winter semesters he coached wrestling, which as the phys ed guy he probably had to do. I don’t think he knew much about the sport. He referred to it as “wrastling.” Continue reading →
A couple Sundays ago we spent the afternoon in the emergency room in Santarcangelo di Romagna. We went to Santarcangelo because it was a sunny day in April. We went because it’s the beginning of pea season. We went because we thought we might shop around a little and then have lunch.
We were in this store and my wife was looking at sweaters and I was trying on a pair of pants in a changing room in the back when I heard her say, Oh. Continue reading →
It was a real blacksmith’s anvil that belonged to my dad, before him to my grandfather, before him I don’t know who. This was no beginner’s anvil. Coal black, it had felt the heat of a forge and the beat of hammers for a hundred years or more. It had a bick, or a horn, for hammering curved pieces of metal, it had a step and a pritchel hole, it had a smooth face with a rounded edge on one side. It sat on a log end. Anvil and log together I’m guessing weighed somewhere in the area of 250 pounds.
It was late afternoon. We were leaving Murlo, which I have to say was something of a disappointment. Somewhere along the road in Tuscany we’d seen a billboard or two for Murlo, with its iconic cowboy image. And somewhere along the road in Tuscany we’d talked to someone, probably in a wine bar, who told us about it: Murlo, town of the Tuscan cowboys. I said it sounded like a football team. Continue reading →