The Ubiquity of Multiple Devices

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One of the less obvious takeaways of my previous post was that I assume the availability of multiple devices for my computing needs, both creative and consumptive.  I became acutely aware of the assumption a few minutes ago, writing a post for my fireapplered.net weblog.  I was using my MacBook Pro to write the post, while using my iPad to update the Jetpack plugin on all my WordPress sites.  And my iPhone was occasionally notifying me that it was once again my turn in one of my current LetterPress games or another.

Remember when we had to share time on a university mainframe to get access to computing power?  Well, actually, I realize that probably most of you don’t remember that, but I do.  I remember how incredibly empowering it felt when I got my first computer, a truly personal computer, that sat on my desk for me to use anytime I wanted it.  And now I’ve got no less than three computers offering me their services at any given moment.

How specialized these devices have become, while they are concurrently became more general-purpose.  I have text editors and word processors on all three machines… and access to web services that serve similar purposes.  Right now, for instance, I’m using the editor baked intoWordPress to create this post, an editor that I could easily access with any of the devices currently within arms reach.  I’m using the MacBook Pro, because I grew up with computers having keyboards attached to them and that is still the way I am most comfortable entering letters.  The soft keyboard on the iPad is a wonder, and I am facile enough at using it that epublishing using only iOS devices is absolutely possible (which is what fireapplered.net is all about).  It’s also handy to be able to use the iPhone to edit posts and other text in a pinch, but no one would say it’s an ideal way to do the job.

So even though I have three devices that are all general purpose enough that it is hard to think of a type of task I can’t attack in some way on all three of them, I find myself turning to a specific device based on how I prefer to approach the task.  Rather than having a hammer, a screwdriver, and a wrench, I’ve got three devices that will all pound nails, turn screws, and hold bolts but do so in ways that make them fit for slightly different situations of pounding, turning, and holding.

A for instance.  All three of these machines allow me to record and edit music, in a general purpose sense.  And I have used all three for that purpose.  But I tend to use a specific device for specific circumstances.  If I suddenly find myself with a lick or lyric line in my head, I use the iPhone to capture it by humming or singing.  If I’m hanging out at the sound board for a band I know and want to capture the performance, I’ll use the iPad with a portable interface to record the stereo mix off the board.  If the band is getting together to work on a demo recording, I use the MacBook Pro and a full interface to capture multiple performances on different tracks simultaneously.

Like I say, the devices are getting both more general purpose and more specialized at the same time.  It’s a great time to be a developer.

Ihnatko, Android, and the Space Between Devices

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So, Andy Ihnatko has a new column up about switching from his iPhone to an Android device… specifically, a Samsung Galaxy S III. At first, this only registered for me because, to be blunt, I’d never much cared for Ihnatko’s writing, and in a previous life, I’d basically written him off as an Apple mouthpiece that wouldn’t be able to get a gig outside of Macworld. By the time Johns Gruber and Moltz had both linked to it without apparent irony or ridicule, I was curious to go read it.

It’s just the first part of what promises to be three columns, and everyone has their preferences concerning how they use their stuff. But the first read-through left me wondering what he was talking about. His first big complaint, “When I’m typing fast, I’m accidentally triggering speech-to-text All. The. Freaking. Time.” is apparently so bad that “This is the single iOS quirk that makes me hate my iPhone.”

That’s just never happened to me. I’m not trying to say he’s wrong or that you shouldn’t believe his review, I’m just saying I have no frame of reference for it. It’s never once happened to me.

Likewise, his second reason for de-switching is the larger screen size of the Galaxy compared to the iPhone… he complains that reading a book, watching a video, or reading comics is easier on the larger screen.

I’m not feeling this one, either. I mean, all those things are the reasons I carry this iPad with me wherever I go, right? Because you just can’t do them right on a phone.

I realized that Andy and I simply use our devices different ways, and choose different sacrifices and compromises along the way. It is nice that my iPhone will let me read books or watch videos or write weblog posts if I’m stuck without other options, but none of those things are why I carry my iPhone. I have an iPad for those tasks, because I would not be happy doing them on a smaller device. I don’t even see the appeal of the iPad Mini… It’s too small and cramped to do the things I want. Hell, I’ll start the line for the MAXiPad now, the one with the magazine size 9 x 12 inch display.

Andy doesn’t have the same requirements I do for casual reading, watching videos, and reading comics, so the Galaxy works for him in a way it would not for me. I don’t require my iPhone to be a volume text entry device, so it didn’t fail me the way Andy’s failed him.

I mentioned not caring about the iPad Mini, I don’t care much about the Mac Airs for much the same reason: because of the specifics of how I use the devices, the Mini is both too big to substitute for my phone, and too small to substitute for my iPad. The Mac Air is too big to substitute for my iPad, and too small to substitute for my MacBook Pro.

I wonder if Andy ever considers ditching his iPad for a Mac Air?

jjewell.com 9.0

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I keep telling myself I’m not going to number these things anymore. I keep doing it anyway for failing to come up with a better hook for the post announcing the next new look and/or direction for the site. Occasionally this progression has meant a change of format, often a change of design, and typically the promise of a certain type of content or other.

All I’ve got for you this time is philosophy.

jjewell.com was always intended to be my business on the internet.  It has taken many forms, but obviously never one that made me happy with it.  And I find myself involved with jjewell.com more and more away from my desk and traditional computer.  Plus I’ve learned a lot after going through these changes so many times.

We live in interesting times… the way we do business is fundamentally changing.  As in other areas of my life, I’m inspired by Benjamin Franklin, publisher.  The printing press has come to the people, and I want to help them work it.

jjewell.com will be built to show off the modern version of the printing press, and to help other people use it in their own lives.  It’s going to be closely linked to jeffjewell.net, jeffjewell.org and neofrugal.com.  It’s mostly going to be created using iOS devices.

I hope someone finds it of value.

Re-presenting The jjewell North American Tour 1998

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I first established the jjewell.com domain in 1996.  I can’t really remember what it looked like, right at first, and neither does the Internet Wayback Machine.  But when 1998 brought the closing of the manufacturing plant where I was working and provided me with a severance package, my fledgling web empire became the home of my first weblog (although they weren’t even called that, yet… much less “‘blogs”), the story of the jjewell North American Tour 1998.

And actually, the Internet Wayback Machine doesn’t even remember what that looked like… but I do.  It was raw html coded in notepad.  At first it had a dark grey marble background image with bright text in blue, green, and yellow.  Yeah, I know: that didn’t even last the length of the tour, it ended up in more classical looking greys and navys by the time I returned home.

At any rate, those updates from a cross-country road trip contain some of what I consider to be my most entertaining writing, and I’ve wanted to repost the series somewhere.  I finally decided that jjewell.com was where they were born, jjewell.com is where they should dwell.  So I’ve retroactively posted all the NAT updates here.

Now… between these old posts and the Wayback Machine, it’ll be days before I find time to do something useful…

Asheville, NC – evening

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Last update from the road, but only just barely.

So why the hell would I stop in Asheville, about 50 minutes from home?  Damned if I know, talk to Roberta Verona, it was her idea.

The last mechanical problem, that “missing,” or just not wanting to take the gas uphills, particularly after running for awhile, popped up again.  I alternated between 60mph down hills and 20mph up hills for about 20 miles into Asheville.  Luckily, if you enter North Carolina from the east on I-40, it’s pretty much straight down for an awful long way.  After getting onto I-26 and wrestling with the question of whether to just tough it out the last few miles, I remembered talking with my dad the night before (and he thought I never listened to him…).  The last thing he said was “Don’t push the RV too hard.”  So, actually, it’s my dad’s fault I’m in a Shoney’s just outside of Asheville.

It feels good to be home already.  An old girlfriend lived in Asheville for awhile when we were together, so I know the city pretty well, and the drive back to Greenville is basically a long driveway for me at this point.  I feel like home.

I can’t wait to introduce Scout and Kato to Crash.  I’m secretly hoping that the boys will kinda team up on Kato, who’s been pretty rude to Scout since she showed up.  No respect for it being his house first.  I just have a feeling Scout and Crash will get along.

The second thing I’m going to do is file the new “big books” I got in San Diego.  The big dogs get special treatment including two Mylar sleeves (one upside down inside the other, to seal without any tape.  We don’t like tape anywhere near a multi-hundred dollar comic book)  and are filed off separately.  This way I get to look at all the coolest stuff without digging around in multiple boxes for it.  Hey, so I’m a geek.  I like it.

After that, I’ll start the arduous unpacking process.  I’m not even going to try to get everything tonight, but I’ll bet all the comics and Atari stuff gets unloaded first.  After that, I may just play until I fall asleep and worry about the rest of it tomorrow.

There will be at least one more trip update, perhaps more as things like photo developing happen.  I’ve also discovered that I have something to say about this whole Clinton thing (on long trips, AM stations stay with you longer than FM, for some reason, so I’ve been listening to Rush Limbaugh take enormous glee in demanding impeachment, indictment, disbarrment, excommunication, deportation,and a good flogging for Mr. Bill.  As usual, the fat man makes some excellent points but fails to reach the appropriate conclusion…).  It doesn’t really fit into the update category, so it looks like I may start using my webspace to shoot off my big bazoo about stuff on some regular basis.  Stay tuned…

Somewhere, NE

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I already mentioned the problem with long drives–plenty of time to think of great things to say, but they leave my tiny head before I get a chance to write them down.  Another problem is that I keep rolling into campsites at one, two, maybe three in the morning, and really don’t feel like doing much other than sleeping.  I tried to make this one a little better (theoretically, I should have been in a little after midnight), but another damn time zone rolled by and these stupid campsites are impossible to navigate at night.  Particularly by yourself.  I had to unhook the Tracker by myself in the dark because I couldn’t make the turn they wanted me to and you can’t back up with the Tracker attached.

Hey, only two distinct topics in that paragraph, I’m back on the road to literacy.  I technically could go back and start a new paragraph at “I tried…,” but this way it’s like a look inside my mind, a “Making of The Update” kinda deal.  My treat to you.

I’m kinda punchy after all the driving, so I’ll apologize in advance for what this update must look like.  540 miles today, 625 yesterday, and 508 the day before.  Yowza.  If I can get a decent start tomorrow, and if Roberta Verona keeps running as well as she has been, I’ll be waking up in my own bed Wednesday morning (actually, more like Wednesday afternoon, at the rate I’m going).

But again, that depends on tomorrow being another 600+ mile day.  I hope I can get to sleep, what with the adventures getting the RV parked tonight and the fact that Nebraska’s thermostat is set noticeably warmer than Wyoming’s (I miss Wyoming, I didn’t know how good I had it), and the fact that the campsite I finally got wedged into is only 20 amp electrically.  Don’t know & don’t care precisely what that means, but the practical implications are that I can’t run the AC.  Oh, well, I think it’s safe to run the fan (and by “I think it’s safe” I mean I’m doing it now, and have not yet exploded into a huge fireball that scatters debris for miles and miles), so I’m doing that, anyway.

Called Suzy on the run from somewhere in Wyoming (it’s fun just to say that… really stretch it out now:  WHY-OOOHHH-MING.  See?  Fun) and she commented that I sounded a lot better, and looking at what I’ve read I think I’m reading a lot better, too.

I think I got to the point where I didn’t _have_ a point, anymore.  Newport was fantastic (and it’s currently my choice for where-to-live-after-I-leave-SC, whenever that might be), but I really wasn’t _doing_ anything there.  I had gotten to all of the places that I’d planned to go, met the people I wanted to, took the photos I hoped for (well, I missed Grand Canyon, but there’s not a chance in hell I was driving back through Nevada just for some piddly-squit hole in the ground, I don’t care how good it’s PR department is…), and ended sentences with the prepositions I wanted to (see, the rules of grammar are yours to toy with as long as you draw attention to it before the reader notices!  Silly reader!).  Steve Winwood helped me realize that it was time I should be going, and that was all it took.  Zoom, like an RV on rails.

I am looking forward to getting home.  I miss Scout a lot, I know this probably sounds weird, but that cat is the best friend I’ve ever had.  Crash and I are getting along great, but still…  I’m also looking forward to sorting out all the stuff I’ve accumulated and stashed throughout the RV.  I’ll bet I’m going to be surprised by half the stuff I find.

And I’m looking forward to my music.  I’m still not sure what the first step is as far as getting in front of lots of people, but I’m pretty sure there will be a homebrew tape available with acoustic stuff written, recorded, or otherwise worked on while on the road.  Right now it looks to be six songs, but there may be a seventh if the stuff that’s been roaming around my head the past couple days stays there long enough for me to get a chance to extract it.

So, plan on me being home sometime Wednesday (although I’m secretly shooting for late Tuesday night).  And we’ll go from there.

Somewhere, ID – afternoon

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I did Oregon wall-to-wall in a day yesterday.

Roberta Verona has seemed as though she wants to run, so I’ve given in to the request.  I went far past the distance I was expecting yesterday, and I’ve already got three hours worth under my belt today.  I expect that will be the first of three driving sessions today, which should take me through Idaho and Utah and on into Wyoming.  That means I’ll have run the entire western portion of I-84.  84 is the only Interstate with an eastern section and a western section, I think.

I had thought of a ton of stuff to say while driving, and I’ll probably forget most of it now that I can write.

Approaching Portland from the south is not the way to see Portland.  Spend your time on the east side of town, playing in the Columbia River Gorge.  Although the scenery was going by at a steady 55 miles an hour, it was fantastic.  Around one turn you get a view of a mountain (I’m assuming Mt. Hood) that’s like all the magazine pictures of mountains.

Turns out they have desert in Oregon, too.  The good news is that the heat isn’t nearly so severe, and there’s actually little towns every so often to break up the monotony.

Not that I stopped at any of the little towns.  Apparently, I’ve decided I’m ready to be home, because driving has been easy, even long hours of it.  Although there have been a couple places that I’ve been tempted to stop (Snake River Canyon, for instance.  By the way, the Snake River has done some spiffy landscaping, even outside the Canyon proper), the overall impulse is to drive on.  So I’m driving on as long as it lasts.

Crash (that’s the kitten’s current name, due to his tendency to crash into stuff while he’s playing, as well as his ability to force me to narrowly avert crashes as I remove claws from my ankles…) seems to have taken to travelling okay.  He spends a certain amount of time alseep in my lap, then he’ll climb up the steering wheel and sleep on the dash for awhile, then he’ll climb down the steering wheel and across my left arm (this is tricky while I’m steering, and he has been known to bounce down my leg and into the floor while attempting this manuver, which gives you some insight as to how he’s earning his name) and sit on my shoulder looking out the window for a while.  Then sometimes, he justs disappears for a while.

Every time I stop, he wants out.  I keep telling him that he has to wait to get to South Carolina before he can go out and play, but comprehension does not seem to be his strongest suit.

So anyway, Crash and I are cruising through the mid-west.  I don’t know if it qualifies geographically as “mid-west” yet, but there’s lots of straw and hay and cows.  It’s pretty dull.

I saw the coolest cement plant last night.

I thought that needed to have its own paragraph for the full effect to set in.  But, seriously, about one in the morning last night (for me it was right about midnight, but I crossed another one of those damn time zones along the way), I saw a bunch of lights up in the distance.  Now, it gets _really_ dark out in that mountain/desert/prairie melange they’ve got going, so dark you can’t see more than a couple feet off the edge of the road.  Lights in the distance can be tricky to figure out.  At least twice before, I thought that there must be a river up ahead, because the lights were obviously a bridge.  Nope, just an interstate up the side of a mountain.  So I’m trying to be logical and figure out what this thing is.

As I get closer, I can tell there’s a bunch of three different types of lights, and random others here and there, all in a fairly tight grouping.  Doesn’t look like a town, doesn’t really loolk like a bridge (unless they’re building spiral bridges out west these days).

Like I say, turns out it was a cement plant.  There was a big steel frame structure, with bluish lights at regular intervals, a massive building that looked like it might have been made of stone (or, duh, cement, I guess) lit weirdly from the top and bottom with yellowish/brownish lights, and a low brick officy kind of building.  There were also a bunch of normal type streetlight dotting the facility.

The two big buildings, lit like they were, looked like something I would have seen in Las Vegas, but bigger.  And the real amazing part was the way the different lights played off of the rocky, hilly landscape, throwing multiple oddly colored shadows off of every stone.  Really neat.

That’s about all I can think of to bring you up to date, which is a Perkins just off the 84 in Idaho, past Twins Falls heading east but not to Pocatello yet.  I’m not hungry anymore, but damned if I’m going to leave any of this French Silk Pie.  I intend to stay at one or the other of two KOAs along I-80 in Wyoming, depending on just how far I drive tonight.  Hopefully, I’ll get to actually post this at that point…

Lincoln City, OR – late night

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Last night on the Oregon Coast.  In some ways, the last night of the trip, because I think the rest is starting to look like one long drive.

I had wanted to get to the Northeast, but it’s just not in the cards this time around.

I knew it was going to be a long way back, at least approximately equal to the distance out here, anyway.  But, damn.  Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa.  Ain’t a narrow state in the bunch of ‘em.  Except for Idaho, I’m going through them the long way, too.

Well, hopefully by sticking to Interstates (84, 80, 70-some-odd I think, then 75) Roberta Verona will be on level enough ground to do some serious hauling.  I do have a nifty book from National Geographc that list interesting sites by the Interstate they’re near.  So you just turn pages in the I-84 section as you go east.  So I might still find some cool stuff to take pictures of.

But overall I’m done.  I’m overextended, financially and mentally.  There’s no structure to my life right now, so I keep veering off one edge or the other.  I’m getting tired more, even though I’m sleeping more.  I slept for eleven hours last night, that can’t be normal.  And paragraphs end up looking like this.  Never a good thing.

I’m not going to schedule very far ahead, but I’d like to make it across most of Oregon tomorrow, then into Utah the next day.  Because of extended days driving, I may not be able to post updates very regularly at all.  We’ll see.  On the road is when I do the best writing, I think, so maybe they won’t get posted until late, but hopefully they’ll be worth it.

I’m not sure what else to say right now.  Like I mentioned, I’m tired, and I’m weary, if you understand the difference I’m talking about.  It doesn’t feel like there’s much there to come out at the moment.

I made last trips to both the Rogue Tasting House (Garlic Cheese Bread & Beer Sampler) and the Rogue Public House (“Public House” is where “pub” comes from, I found out some people didn’t know that.  Oh, a Hamburger and a Brutal Bitter).  The guy at the Tasting House is really cool, and he recognized me even though I randomly shaved off my moustache and goatee last night.  By “randomly,” I mean I couldn’t say why I did it, not that I sliced away random parts, leaving others.  I think I’m going to grow them back.  My mouth looks uneven and my lips got all chapped today.

Alright, I’m just going to stop even attempting to have paragraph breaks mean anything.  Sorry for my behavior, but I told you I’m not operating at peak efficiency (just to underscore my point, it took a couple tries to spell “efficiency”).

It’ll be good to get home, although I’m not looking forward to some of the things I’ll have to do once I get back.  You know those little junky details that pile up at the end of the day?  I’ll have two months worth of those.  Ouch.  And Scout’s _really_ going to have to go out… (Just kidding.  Suzy and Mark have been taking good care of the kitties, I understand).

Okay, so there’s not much for me to say here.  Hope to keep updates coming, otherwise, I’ll see you all in a couple weeks.

Newport, OR – evening

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Well, I’m still in Newport.  Apparently, getting an existential imperative to get out has little practical weight when compared to the necessities of laundry, full holding tanks, and an RV full of junk just tossed around over the past week.  And when I told them I was staying one more night, they told me that was my sixth night, and I get the seventh free.  So I’m now scheduled to leave Friday morning.

I did my laundry, and got most of the junk appropriately stowed.  It was early afternoon, and it was a nicer day than it was yesterday, so I decided to revisit some of the cool places I went to yesterday, to see if I could get more color in some pictures.  Of course, I ran out of 100 speed film, which I was using a lot of because I am hoping to do some enlargements of this stuff when I get back.  Oh, well.  I put some 200 speed in and hoped for the best.

It’s hard to judge whether some of the shots were better or not, I’ll just have to wait to get them developed.  But at Boiler Bay, I saw a whale.  I say “saw” because I only got one shot of it, and I’m not sure how well it came out, so I’m not promising anything.  I’ve got the 210mm lens, but that’s really not enough for wildlife shots (in case anyone’s looking for a nice Christmas gift for me, we’re talking Nikon Auto-Focus, something in a zoom to 350mm or so…).  And besides, whales are mostly underwater animals.  You can spot the spout when they surface, but try getting a camera aimed and a shot framed before the thing’s underwater again.  I stood out there a while, eye to camera, pointed in the general direction of the last surfacing, but no luck.  Oh, well, again.  Perhaps the one I got will turn out to be wonderful.

Now I’m back at The Chalet having dinner, because my stomach didn’t let me sleep well again last night.  The dinner I had here a couple nights ago was the only one this week that has let me sleep.  I’m going to try to get to sleep at a reasonable hour tonight and tomorrow so that I can start travelling early Friday.  Hopefully, my stomach and the kitten will go along with my little plot.

Well, I should have had pancakes again.  The chicken pot pie was kinda disappointing.  So was the strawberry pie, but at least it did have real whipped cream on it.  Not enough, of course, but it was a step in the right direction.

Oh, well.  It doesn’t look like I have much of value to say right now.  I know, par for the course.  I’m going home.

Lincoln City, OR – late night

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I met a girl today.

But actually, that happened pretty late in the day.  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  Let’s put the horse up front there.

The vets in Lincoln City were finally open today, so I took Stray Boy in for a once over.  I’d already bought ear mite medicine, and the vet gave him some worm medicine.  Apparently kittens are basically born with ear mites and worms.  Other than that, he checked out great.  About 10-12 weeks old, they guessed.  Born on the Fourth of July, maybe.  So I felt pretty good about that.

The pancakes from the night before had gone down relatively smoothly, so I figured a patty melt wasn’t too far out of line for lunch.  Wash it down with a nice smooth milkshake.  So far so good.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  The vet and lunch had ended up taking a bit longer than I had planned, and I had knocked around the ideas of shopping (at least one guitar store and no less than three used book stores had caught my eye.  Plus there was one of the omni-present Outlet Store Malls, and the Toy Liquidators and the Starter Outlet signs were tantalizingly right there on the freeway.  Starter does the Dolphins’ uniforms, so I figured I had a decent shot at getting a non-Marino jersey there.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a Marino jersey, it’s just that they’re everywhere.  I kind of like to get the oddball numbers.  I’ve got a Mark Clayton era #83, for instance.  Would you believe there’s not a #83 on the team this year [unless Gadsden picked up 83.  He was added to the roster after I last checked it.  That would be cool, he's going to be something]?  I’ll have to web crawl around to see what I can find once I get home), or going to see Keiko off (the whale from _Free Willy_ has lived in the aquarium here for some time, and as of tomorrow, he’s off for his new home in Iceland), or stopping at several of the numerous State Parks dotting the coastline to see if there were any cool places to take some pictures.

I decided on a combo shopping and picture trip.  The Starter Outlet and the Toy Liquidators were busts, but there was also an Eddie Bauer outlet and I got a great fleece jacket.  I found a graphic novel at one of the bookstores, one I almost paid full price for at San Diego.  I got it for half cover, here.  I also got _Dianetics_ and _Dianetics Today_ for a buck apiece, both of which appear to be internal editions printed from within the Church of Scientology.  The _Dianetics Today_ looks for all the world like a first edition.  I have such problems dealing with my life that this type of book, that gives you the straightforward answers to everything, fascinate me, even when all external evidence points to it being a fresh steaming load.

I started getting into the scenery as I left Lincoln City.  The day was rather overcast (which, as far as I can ascertain, is par for the course in this area at this time of year), so I’m not entirely sure my pictures will come out as well as I hope.  But I shot places with such colorful names as Boiler Bay, Foulweather Point, and Devil’s Punchbowl.  Hopefully, the photos will live up to the names.

Along the way I stopped at a music store I’d seen.  No Napa Valley tape shelves (sorry, Dad), but they did have one of the Epiphone Firebird re-issues.  I was sorely tempted to just slap that puppy on a credit card and go, but good sense (or chickenshit, I can never tell the difference.  See below…) prevailed.

The last stop was Yaquinto Head (I think I’m spelling that right).  The sign along 101 says “Yaquinto Head Outstanding Natural Area” and has some government seal on it, in what about amounts to a challenge, in my book.  So I gave it a shot.

The main thing that everyone sees is the lighthouse, and, hey, it’s a lighthouse.  But some of the views elsewhere on the promontory are eye-popping.  Right out from where I parked was an inlet where the bay had cut holes in the cliff walls, so there were tunnels and pillars of stone with surf pounding through them.  On the other side, you could actually walk down to the beach, which in this case was covered entirely in small black rocks worn smooth and round by the waves.  Dozens of yards of them, in every direction, who knows how deep.  It was like walking in a sandbox full of marbles.  At the far end of the beach, away from where the stairs were, was an area where two huge rocks guided the surf a particularly long way up the beach.  As I got closer, I noticed this… sound.  As the waves receded and the undertow pulled at the beach, hundreds of these little round rocks clattered and bounced their way back into the ocean.  The sound was like being inside the biggest rainstick ever.  I felt very alone realizing that there was no way to even take a picture of this, no way to share even a shadow of it.  You’d just have to go there, I’ve never heard that sound anywhere else.

So, after agreeing that this was, at the very least, a noticeably Above Average Natural Area, I started to leave.  There was one road off down the side that I hadn’t taken, so I did.  Something about tidepools.  I parked the car.

And there she was.

There was only one car in the parking lot, presumably hers, and she had on blue sweatpants and an overshirt that matched, so I assumed that she was a park ranger type getting ready to tell me this area was closed for the day (it _was_ getting late).

She was stunning.  Tall and thin, dark skin and eyes, with unweidy amounts of black hair that moved as though she had conscious control over it.  She walked as though she’d been outside all her life.  She talked as if I was her oldest friend.

It didn’t take long before I realized she wasn’t a tour guide, she was just there looking at cool stuff.  She confessed to touching the wildlife, in spite of the signs.  Well, there were great reds, and great greens, but not in the same picture… so she improved upon nature somewhat.

Her name was Cherie (I’m assuming the spelling.  She did say it was French).  We talked about the things she’d seen, and where she’d traveled.  When I say “we talked” I of course mean that she talked and I stood around with my mouth half open.  She talked about the tidepools, how they didn’t seem to have as much life in them as she’d thought they would, about how one of the plaques had said this was an experiemental area, about how she thought these were man-made.

I regrettably added little to the conversation.  She seemed so excited, so full so life, so thrilled, just to be… there.  I felt so small, so far away, so insignificant compared to what was… there.

I have friends who would have stayed in touch with Cherie for years, have traded letters and hostel addresses, news of low airfares and names of people who’d let you stay in their garages for free.  I have other friends who would have slept with her right there in the tidepool.  I was there, she was there, I could have done any of those things, if only…

If only…  If only I knew what I’d wanted to do.  If only I had any idea what I was doing.

She was there talking to me and I felt as shallow and lifeless as the artificial tidepools.

We walked back to the cars and I managed to say something about loving to travel and see things but being hamstrung by fiscal realities.  She talked more about youth hostels and places in Norway and Guam and Guatemala that would pay your way in trade for some small amount of work restoring castles, digging for fossils, or even shearing sheep.

I think we both realized at that moment that she was in a place I can’t yet comprehend.

I have not found my middle road.  I do not understand where necessity ends and sacrifice begins.  I cannot see the difference between a calling and an impulse.  I celebrate the trivial and fail to believe in the meaningful.

I drown in what I don’t know because I can’t stand on what I feel.

We got into our respective cars and drove off.  I turned on the radio so I wouldn’t have to hear myself think.  Steve Winwood told me: “When some cold grey wind is blowing, and there’s nothing left worth knowing, and it’s time you should be going…”

I’m leaving Newport tomorrow.