Three Things (and Some Really Bad Photos Taken on My Phone):
3. Weather: Glorious. It’s practically summer outside. Temps are in the 70’s; the sky is blue; sundresses animate the sidewalks; the only question is to bike or to boat? My face is crisped from too much heat. Typical. It just feels so good to be warm. My grandmother would not be happy.
2. The South: We just returned from a trip to the South to see my family. These are the take-away points you’d be interested in:
- Business: I’m a fourth generation-er in our family lumber business in Mississippi. Back in the 1940’s, my great-uncle Charles Barge bought 50,000 acres of southern pine and grew it into a sustainable tree farm.From this growth, premium forest products are processed in a mill in Macon and shipped all over the world. Meetings are held annually for two reasons: tax purposes and to keep the younger generations involved. The older I get, the cooler I think this is.
- Joy & Business: After years of absence due to travel and immaturity, I’m finally on the board for the second year in a row for Barge Forest Products. This is simply a formality, meaning I can’t vote or anything official til I hold stock (you can laugh). But it does mean I participate in conference calls throughout the year and show up to the annual meetings held at Lake Forest Ranch, a church camp and the compass foot of my childhood.
- What We Did: This year, we welcomed three husbands and a couple of grandbabies. Our family has upwards of 40 people, I guess, but I’ve never counted. Then we toured the sawmill, discussed automating systems (i.e., reducing manual labor costs) and ate.
- Food: Food is at the center of my family’s culture. Mornings are filled with Folger’s coffee and whole wheat pancakes made by the same grandmother who wouldn’t be happy about the amount of UV exposure I subject my skin to on an average day. The schedule revolves around meal times, which consist of sandwiches from the Mennonite and/or Amish bakery, barbecue from the Shell station in Macon and catfish dinner at J. Broussard’s.
- Fish: One afternoon presented the opportunity to cruise the brown, three-acre lake I grew up on and toss lures and worms towards the mouths of the incredibly short-termed memories of suicidal blue gills, catfish and bass. Nick caught the bass, I caught the blue gill and a catfish (for a good time, see video footage on Nick’s Facebook page).
- Hoops: One evening was spent playing basketball, my dad’s favorite thing on the planet to do. Only this year, there were only six of us. So we played a lot of Knock-Out and laughed til we cried. It was the best night of bball ever.
- ZZZs: We slept the restful sleep that is only found in the safety of 50-year-old soft sheets in the quiet confines of grandparents homes where there’s nothing really to wake up for and no cell reception or internet. We slept a lot.
- Next: Three days after arriving we left. Dad dropped us off in Gulfport where we picked up a rental car and drove to Ocean Springs so Nick could finally meet my mom. A walk to the beach, exploration of nearly 10-year-old Katrina damage and a divine meal of grouper, polenta and strawberry shortcake kept the wheels on our nearly 10-year tattered relationship. There’s still major cracks and water marks that will never leave but there’s hope.
- We spent the next day in New Orleans popping in and out of dive bars, following locals’ recommendations for swampy, soulful music and letting the good times roll. The rabbit trail eventually led to B.J.’s in the Bywater area where free red beans and rice were served as a white Cajun man sang gritty gospel on a 10-foot wide stage flanked with three saxophonists, drummers, guitarists and a tinny piano player. A three-mile walk at three am took us back to a too-short nap before we had to rouse and drive back to Gulfport for a flight to Durango.
1. Durango: “The perfect place to live your first year of marriage,” some have said of our 450-square-foot 463 1/2 East 5th Avenue spot. It’s no longer ours and our stuff is now stuffed into a 5×10 storage unit for the next six or so months. The 4Runner is packed to the hilt with gear, duffel bags, books, maps and music that will satisfy every need we have on the road between now and October. We’re couchsurfing this week while Nick wraps up work at Pine Needle Mountaineering. I spend the days running and biking the dusty trails around town getting burnt by the new hot sun. Fort Lewis College graduation was yesterday so from this corner bench I see young folks clad in last nights’ clothes, dark sunglasses shielding bloodshot eyes from that burning sun and parents who should probably leave already. We’ll leave, too, in four days for a season of guiding in Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon and Yosemite. But the leaving is different this time – Durango is basecamp for the Martin’s, so we’ll return and maybe the Corner Bench Chronicles will, too. Maybe I’ll learn consistency as I move into my 30th year of living come July 26th. Maybe. Meanwhile, it’s too sunny out to stay in today. I should probably wear a hat.