Yeah? No? Maybe?

In the past few years, the phrase "yeah . . . no" has become a bulwark of conversation-- SlateRadio concludes that the phrase creates "conversational harmony," and to that I say "yeah . . . no" as I see it as more of an insulator, an opening parenthesis that keeps a statement from being too definitive (not that this is a bad thing, life is complicated and it's often hard to give a straightforward "yes" or "no") and I also think we're adept at ending statements with some insulation, a closing parenthesis . . . such as: but that's only my opinion or it's complicated or but hey, what the fuck do I know?

Sagacious Aphorism #6

When you carry too many things, chances are you will drop one . . . but you will avoid the dreaded "making of two trips."


A light year attendance-wise for the Outer Banks Fishing Trip XXI, but no other complaints . . . the water was clear, the beer was cold, the breeze was refreshing, and the food at Tortuga's was great (even the jerk chicken and the Bajan burger) plus our friend Craig-- who couldn't make it because his children had abducted him and taken him to Storyland -- did something unprecedented . . . he took an educated guess at our whereabouts and "called in" a round of drinks to the bar; other things that happened 1) Whitney was on a boat 2) we listened to Lonely Island and T-Pain sing "I'm on a Boat" 3) Ian bought a keg and then passed out within the half-hour 4) Jerry used stacks of poker chips to "write down" the phone number for the pizza place 5) everyone had a bed, but Johnny still slept in the hammock 6) Ian lost his expensive sunglasses in the ocean and we searched for them . . . unsuccessfully 7) Bruce told another joke 8) it took me nearly twelve hours to get home, and during this time, I learned that Rob and Jerry do NOT dig my favorite podcast, Professor Blastoff 9) Johnny told me I have to watch Snowpiercer and the mini-series Lonesome Dove 10) we gambled on corn-hole 11) Marls tried his best to make a major work/life decision but found the OBFT not the ideal venue for this sort of thinking 12) there was much reminiscing about past OBFTs and the consensus is that they somewhat run together in our minds, and we need a spreadsheet to remember what happened when 13) Jerry was the first person to ever use a cane on an OBFT . . . anyway, thanks again Whit, the Martha Wood delivered another great time.

Sagacious Aphorism #5

Just because you can't see a rattlesnake, doesn't mean it isn't there (this goes for fish, spiders, and serial killers too).

Sagacious Aphorism #4

Bob Dylan doesn't make any sense.

Sagacious Aphorism #3

It's better to endure the pain than the alternative.

Sagacious Aphorism #2

When you pretend things are made of lead, many of your friends will desert you . . . but not your true friends (I dimly recall that my friend Whitney and I invented this game circa 1991, in Daytona, Florida, when we should have been attending wet t-shirt contests and dance parties, but instead were annoying our hotel-mates by pretending that various objects in the room were made of lead: beer bottles, food, books, and -- probably the most annoying, which made people start to desert us-- the blanket that I was pinned beneath, which I had to slowly "roll" off my body . . . it was interminable-- and illogical: how did I get under it in the first place? and while Whitney and I found this hysterical, the rest of our fraternity brothers thought there were better things to do on spring break rather than watch two poor mimes enact an endless skit without a punch line, and so they left us; the game rears its ugly and boring head every so often-- I was once pinned to the floor of The Weeping Radish Brewery by a condiment sized cup of lead horseradish, and even my children have played it on occasion).

Sagacious Aphorism #1

When you put yourself under great pressure and time constraint, it's harder than you think to write a sagacious aphorism.

It's Aphorism Week!

After completing an epic cross-country journey, I'm sure I have some sagacious wisdom to dispense, and so I'm declaring it "aphorism week" . . . get ready for some timeless adages (and this has nothing to do with the fact that I'm going to visit my buddies in North Carolina, and need to mail it in for a couple of days).

There's One Place Like Home (And It's Home)

After two mammoth driving days, we made it home . . . and the house was still standing . . . so a big thanks to all the folks who made this possible: house-sitters and dog-sitters, mail-getters and garden-watchers, my adventurous wife and kids, and-- most importantly-- the biggest thanks of all to our 2008 Toyota Sienna, for putting in over 6000 miles of fast, wild, and bumpy driving without a flat or a hiccup or a breakdown.

Road Trip Day 23: Time To Reflect (Because We Drove Twelve Hours)

Some places we visited on our trip that I'd like to live: Des Moines, Hot Springs, Minneapolis, Emigrant, Pittsburgh, Rapid City and Alta . . . but probably not Richfield, Ohio (despite the fact that the byzantine Days Inn has a strange, dungeonlike indoor fun area with a pool, mini-golf, cornhole, ball pit, arcade, hot tub, and playground in a dimly lit gigantic interior covered courtyard space . . . my kids loved it . . . until Alex got ejected for hitting a mini-golf ball so hard it ricocheted up to the second level and bounced off the window of a room overlooking the courtyard) and even though there were many places we stopped where I envisioned myself leading some alternate life, I'll be happy if we make it back to Highland Park in one piece.

Road Trip Day 22: Watery Thoughts

Minnesota is the "land of 10,000 lakes" and this means:

1) that you have to go ahead and name all ten thousand of these lakes . . . so you get the usual suspects-- Sand Lake, Bass Lake, Pike Lake, Birch Lake, Moose Lake and Big Lake-- and more interesting monikers, such as Lake Vermilion, Burntside Lake, Miners Lake, and Bad Axe Lake-- and then the unfortunate . . . Leech Lake (although Lake Vermilion could certainly have been called that, as a number of leeches feasted on the deliciously pure blood of my children)

2) there is plenty of stuff to catch in these lakes, including a non-native southern delicacy-- the crawdad-- and my kids caught enough of them that we were able to have a "boil" and eat them up (for pictures, head to Captions of Cat)

3) all the lakes overshadow the fact that the Mississippi River begins here, rather humbly as a trickle up north, but even in Minneapolis, the river isn't very impressive (we walked beside it at Boom Island Park, and it's about the size of the Raritan in New Brunswick) and I don't think my kids understood what the river becomes as you head south . . . that's another road trip (they did understand how good the Mexican food was at Maya though . . . there's an ethnic neighborhood on Central Avenue full of Mexican, Arabic, Thai, and Columbian restaurants, and the food we had was out of this world, a pleasant surprise on a trip where we mainly ate burgers and bbq).

Road Trip Day 21: Feeling Minnesota

We made our way from Bismarck to the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, where we stayed with our friend Sabine in her cabin on Lake Vermilion; the cabin is an original Sears Roebuck kit that was dragged across the ice to Echo Point, a scenic peninsula that juts into the lake-- this makes for good fishing, and I caught several species of fish: perch, smallmouth bass, and a walleye . . . and my kids caught loads of crawfish . . . but the fish story of the visit was the one that nearly got my son Ian; this fish story is verified by testimony from my wife: while Ian was wading near the dock, waist deep in the water, a huge Northern pike approached him and didn't swim away until Ian swatted him with his net.

Road Trip Day 20: If You're Ever in Bismarck . . .

We stumbled upon two great things in Bismarck: 1) the Best Western Plus Ramkota hotel has a mini-waterpark, with one large and two small slides . . . this was a lot of fun until my kids got into a fight-- which included cursing and scratching-- over who was going to go up the stairs to the slide first, even though there wasn't anyone else in the pool area 2) Reza's Pitch, a soccer bar and burger joint, which wins the prize for best burger on our road trip . . . and they have a neat system for how you order, you fill out a little sheet of paper, checking off what sort of cheese, sauce, and toppings you'd like on your burger and then you hand that to the waitress (and they have a great local beer selection, to boot, and one of the waitresses was very informative about rodeo culture and bucking broncos and wild bulls).

Road Trip Day 19: We Visit Another Obscure State Capital

My family and I are morning people, and so driving west to Montana was a pleasure-- the sun at our back, gaining hours as we passed through time zones-- but yesterday morning we turned the van around, and started back home, and so I drove east, right into the sun, with nary a tree to block the rays, because Eastern Montana is a vast range of prairie, hills, and exposed sandstone-- an ocean of unpopulated land to rival Wyoming-- and there wasn't much of a difference in the terrain when we crossed into North Dakota, but we're hoping that things start to change tomorrow, when we head east from Bismarck into Minnesota (and if you need visuals, head over to Captions of Cat).

Road Trip Day 18: We Learn Nothing

Though I have already issued a warning about the size and scope of Yellowstone, we did not heed my own sage advice yesterday, and after cruising east into the Lamar Valley (otherwise known as America's Serengeti) and seeing herds of bison, a wolf (this was through someone's scope-- there are these lunatic folks who set up very expensive magnification devices on hills in the park, and then drink coffee and chat for hours, until they see something . . . and they are quite hospitable about letting regular people with $30 binoculars from Sports Authority use their equipment) bald eagles, coyote cubs, a buffalo carcass (some other lunatics watched this thing all night and got to see a grizzly pick at it) and possibly a badger (I didn't see this but my kids did, and they claimed it was a "wolverine" until we went to eat dinner at Rivers Edge Bar and Grill in Pray and they saw a badger pelt and claimed that was what they saw . . . anyway, after seeing all this stuff and doing a hike around Trout Lake, we then drove down to Old Faithful-- which none of us had ever seen-- and it took a long time to drive down there, and then when we got there, the parking lots were enormous and full, so we had to park far away-- and there were hordes of people waiting for the geyser to erupt . . . which it did . . . and it was impressive, and then it started to rain, which cleared everyone out-- so we got to walk the miles of boardwalk and see the other geysers without the nuisance of the hordes of people, and once we completed the loop through geyser country, we caught Old Faithful for a second time, which was fun, except we had to run to our car-- the way you run to your car when you are leaving a concert and want to beat the traffic-- in order to get out of the parking lot, which is an odd thing to do in the middle of a national park in Montana, but the best thing about staying north of Yellowstone in the Paradise Valley is that if you've had a ten hour day in the park, you can stop at Chico Hot Springs on the way home, and swim in the ninety five degree pool, while drinking beer, even though it's cold and rainy and giant storm clouds are swooping in from over top of Emigrant Mountain.

Road Trip Day 17: Riparian Reunion

We floated a beautiful stretch of the Yellowstone yesterday-- and though the trout weren't biting, the time passed quickly-- as our river guides were my old friend Darren and his wife Pam; I hadn't talked to them in fourteen years, so we had a lot of catching up to do (the last time I was out to visit them, I blew four rods in my friend John's Jeep Wagoneer and we ended up living on Pam and Darren's apartment floor until Pam got so annoyed with us that she left town . . . John had to sell his car in Billings) and because the river was so high and fast, our trip only took a few hours, so we spent the rest of the afternoon at Chico Hot Springs, an idyllic spot under the shadow of Emigrant Mountain . . . and Catherine and I had a great time chatting with Darren and Pam, but the real surprise of the afternoon was that Alex and Ian had a great time hanging out with Annabell and Larkin-- in other words, Alex and Ian had a great time hanging out with a couple of girls . . . Montana girls who raise their own sheep and sell their own eggs, but still, actual females, which is impressive for my boys (this might be explained by the fact that they were starved for socialization with kids their own age, after spending so much time with their parents, and so even girls would suffice-- but Ian did ask if we would ever see those kids again, so I think they actually liked them).

Road Trip Day 16: Dog Days and Dog Years . . .

My favorite moment in Homer's Odyssey is when Odysseus-- after twenty years of adventuring-- finally returns home and finds that his house is overrun with suitors, who are accosting his wife Penelope; Odysseus disguises himself as a beggar in order to infiltrate the scene, and the only one who recognizes him is his faithful dog Argos, who then "passes into the darkness of death, now that he had fulfilled his destiny of faith and seen his master once more after twenty years" and while I certainly don't hope that my faithful canine companion Sirius dies of happiness when I return, I do hope he passes out for a few minutes to show his loyalty.

Road Trip Day 16: We Do Some Stuff In Yellowstone

We drove back into Yellowstone today, and:

1) we took a hike on the Howard Eaton trail into the Hoodoos-- and though the roads and main parking areas of the park were crowded, we didn't see a single person out on the trail . . . but we did see some moose scat and a number of fresh bear footprints, pointing the same direction as we were walking;

2) though we didn't turn a corner and run into a bear, we did see plenty of marmots and pikas;

3) we hiked into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone via Uncle Tom's Trail -- a set of steep switchbacks and three hundred sheer metal stairs . . . and though there was some ominous rumbles and a few flashes of lightning, we didn't end up being a horror story on the sidebar: "stupid family dies on vacation";

4) I thought I saw a bear, but it was a bison in a ditch and then we stopped the van because a number of other cars were stopped in front of us, and a guy pointed out a grizzly bear in the distance to Catherine, but it disappeared into some trees before I caught sight of it . . . however, I did get to see a red fox squat in front of our car and poop in the road;

5) a woman told us a herd of moose had come down from the woods into the Mammoth junction area, but she didn't know the difference between moose and elk;

6) we realized that if you want to do three things in Yellowstone, you'll probably only end up doing two of them . . . it's a huge place;

7) after the long drive back to Emigrant, I walked over to the river with my spinning rod, balanced on a slippery log, fought off mosquitoes, and lost several lures to submerged tree branches . . . but it was worth it, because I caught a nice looking rainbow trout.

Road Trip Day 15: Recommendations

If you are going to visit Yellowstone National Park, I recommend:

1) staying at the cabin we rented in Paradise Valley, though it is thirty miles north of the park, because it's much quieter than the tourist traps around Yellowstone, the scenery is beautiful, the hiking is excellent, and the fishing is world class (I fished for twenty minutes yesterday morning and caught a bunch of whitefish and a good sized brown trout, and we saw the owner and his son pull in a huge rainbow and an even bigger brown trout in the evening);

2) hiking to Passage Falls -- my son Alex has definitely recovered from his virus and set wickedly fast pace-- Catherine, Ian and I could barely keep up with him;

3) eating at the Wild Flour Cafe & Bakery and Follow Yer Nose BBQ in Emigrant-- the tall girls working at the bakery make delicious pizzas, sandwiches, and treats and the pleasant dude from Alabama makes genuine southern bbq and sides at Follow Yer Nose;

4) Bozone Amber Ale and Red Lodge Bent Nail IPA.

A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.