Well, work and waiting for feedback from the bank, on the offer I made for the house. It looks, by the way, like I'm going to be turned down, because I can't come up with a large enough downpayment to qualify for a conventional loan instead of an HOA loan. This makes me sad ... it's a beautiful house, and I would have been happy in it ... but I just don't have the cash.
Definitely time for a vacation.
On the 10th, Dan and I took off for the forest, to mess around with camera equipment and watch the meteor shower. We got out of Oakland in the late afternoon since I had to wait around for the UPS truck. One of the things I received was a large tripod-mounted mechanical arm for my camera, which can be used to create 360-degree panoramic photos. I'd gotten hooked on the idea earlier in the year when I went browsing around Réunion island in Google Earth, and saw a panorama of the Milky Way spread out across the entire night sky. It seemed like great fun to compose, shoot, and construct such unconventional, immersive photographs. A neat technical exercise; and I could use the camera I already owned.
The traffic up 101 was ugly. After battling it until early evening, I stopped in the small town of Cloverdale to grab some additional camping snacks, and discovered that there was a Farmer's Market going on, with music and fresh food. Dan caught up in his car, and we browsed around for a while.
The dude manning the barbecue had a wet towel over his head to block the sun. I offered him a hat, but he said his towel worked better. Then he handed me a chunk of roasted pineapple on a stick. It was delicious!
After half an hour or so of hanging out, Dan and I got back on the road. I listened to Machine Code's "Canticle" track on repeat for a while, caught in the mood of the music, obsessing over my past. It's an instrumental track except for one sample: A woman with a serious tone of voice, as though she is giving important advice, saying -
"You need to destroy it."
- as an artificial stringed instrument plays a few broad, repeating chords. The chords repeat, then a thunderous breakbeat cuts in, merging with the chords and the sample and twisting them into various shapes. The music fills my mind with images of vegetation and stone and reflections in still water, warped and broken as if viewed through shattering glass. I remembered how this song spoke to me when I first heard it, seeming to confirm the decision I had reached to uproot yet another part of my life because it was poisoning me. I've always loved building things and breaking them has never come naturally, even with my instincts clamoring for it.
Writhing, shattering glass, scattering light; you need to do this. Maybe I'd had enough of destroying things. Maybe it was time to take whatever I had around me and build again.
Anyway, highway 101 brought us to Highway 20, and things got rural. I could tell because we passed a convenience store and saw several horses tethered in the parking lot alongside the cars. Night fell rapidly. I rolled up a twisty mountain, then down it, then hit a rock-and-gravel road. A woman was standing at the edge of a field, flagging down the train of cars that I led. Four cars loaded with strangers. Dan was somewhere behind me, ... perhaps? The woman was frantic, crying and screaming that she'd lost her dog.
"That dog means everything to me! Everything! If you find her I swear I'll pay you a million dollars!! She's tan. She's a mixed breed; I don't know what. I lost her around here. Please help!"
This is paraphrased. The woman was mostly babbling, and the various drivers asked her various questions from rolled-down windows, which she did not answer. "What's the dog's name?" "How big is it?" "When did you lose her?" No coherent response.
I considered it. An untrained dog of unknown size, that might not even know its own name, let loose to roam on the edge of a national forest. Night has fallen. No sign of it. A hysterical, raving owner. There is nothing I can do here.
I rolled up my window and drove on, away from the cluster of stopped cars. Truth be told, my desire to help was compromised by my irritation at the woman for being so ill-prepared. If that makes me a jerk, so be it.
I rolled onto the washboard roads and pulled ahead of the cars, which had followed suit and abandoned the woman. I intended to get ahead of the pack so that they didn't have to breathe the huge cloud of dust I would undoubtedly kick up, since I was driving a large van. The forest pitched the road left and right randomly. Some deer scrambled across. I tailed a rabbit for a hundred yards or so. I played the Silent Hill soundtrack to set the mood. What a drive!
The road got worse, and as I checked the squiggle on the iPad I began to worry that perhaps Dan would be thwarted by the potholes and rocks and turn his car around, or worse yet, get lost. I pulled into a clearing and waited, and pretty soon four cars went rumbling by. I thought the one on the end was Dan, so I pulled in after the group. The road tilted down, and we all descended the mountain.
It was like driving down into a coal fire. Or down into hell. Brown dust billowed everywhere, turned orange by headlights, obscuring everything but the car ahead. The road bucked and roared and the trees arched above, closing us in. I had a great time, actually, but I was glad no one else was in the car with me. It would be unfair to force this insane driving on someone else.
At the bottom of the mountain the road split three ways, and all the cars ahead turned left, which I knew was the wrong way. If Dan was among them, he was now definitely going to get lost. Ahead was the entrance to a parking lot, with the gleaming windows of a general store at the far end. I parked in the lot.
That's where I met ... THE KITTIES!!
I was quite distracted by them! One of the owners of the general store told me a few of their names.
Dan arrived, his car covered with dust. Turn out he wasn't lost after all, just catching up. We consulted our maps and got back on the road, and after some more twists and turns, we found the gate to the cabin. The road was really crazy at this point - branches dropped across it, or leered out into the middle of the lane at face-height, to be snapped by the windshield. Huge holes. Exposed roots, hard as speed bumps. I laughed out loud at the absurdity of it a few times, while another part of my mind spooled through different emergency scenarios. (What do we do if Dan runs off the road? What do we do if one of us gets a flat? Do we sack out here in the van until morning? Follow a map back to the general store? Et cetera.) Good to relish the chaos and plan around it simultaneously.
Anyway, the cabin was as awesome as Dan promised. We parked and worked in tandem, moving and arranging and unpacking in silence for almost an hour. Dan got a lantern lit. I set up the panoramic camera and Dan figured out how to mount it on his tripod, and I took a first run. The photos were dark and aligned poorly, and I stayed up until 4:00am learning the software and making notes. Here's a flattened version of what I ended up with:
I like how you can see the lantern, while also seeing the shadow of the tripod being thrown against the opposite wall.
Flickr is hosting a scaled-down version. The full picture is actually twenty THOUSAND pixels across, and you can read the label on the fire extinguisher in it.