When I was a very young boy all the gas stations in our town had colorful, little propellors strung between posts. Designed to attract customers, the propellors would spin in the breeze and make an odd, fluttering sound that I still remember well. I’d look out the window of the back seat of our station wagon and watch the propellors in marvel. I’d roll down the window so that I could hear their sound. I’d get down low as to get a good view of the propellors in the sky. I wondered if they might take off at any moment, carrying the gas stations with them.
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A red flash! I blinked, thinking it to be some kind of short circuit deep inside my retina. Another red flash! Was it an illusion? Or was there something in the brush ahead? I left the path and walked lightly among the dead reeds, trying not to make noise. Stealthiness was an impossible task. The dried, hollow sticks snapped easily under my weight. Flash! Flash! The red flash moved further yet away. It was toying with me.
The Boucher Trail had lived up to its expectations. It was steep, precarious, and exhilarating. But, even though now at Yuma Point, we weren't quite done with it. There was another leg of the trail to be negotiated on the next day—a long traverse to Dripping Springs Trail and then up to the rim on the Hermit. The grand loop would then be complete.
It takes at least two days for me to detach my brain and soul from our wired world. The first night in the canyon is often one of withdrawal. There are no distractions, no phones, no Internet, no books, no television, no nothing. There's only everything that the heavens have to offer—that is if the night is clear. On this first canyon night it wasn't. But the full moon was glowing and trying to assert itself behind an eerie and stubborn mist.
There were more slides on the Hermit Trail than I cared to count. I actually did try to count them for awhile but decided to keep track of my foothold instead. I lost track at around the ninth slide—which was a big one. I heard myself groan as I climbed over the massive boulder field that constituted the slide. It cut off the trail at an almost-perfect perpendicular angle. The trail continued on the other side but my attention was to my left where everything dropped off into nothingness. The nothingness continued for about 1000 feet straight down where it ended in another boulder field. "It's all academic," I muttered to myself. "It would only take a fall of about twenty feet to kill me anyway. The rest just adds drama to the story." The next noise I made was another grunt as I safely landed on the other side of the sl
Karl, Tom, and Mark are off again on a wild, Grand Canyon adventure—our seventh annual trip! So, La Macchina Fotografica will be on vacation as well. We'll have some great new photos and stories to tell when we return later this month.
Usually, the newspaper has a perfunctory little story on the longest day of the year. It usually starts out with, "Today is the longest day of the year," or other such witty prose. Newspapers have a habit of repeating things incessantly like little children who have just learned a new word. Another repeated annoyance is the proclamation at the start of California's fire season. "This year is predicted to be the worst fire season on record." Every year is predicted to be the worst fire season on record.
It could not be so. Fifteen days in Venice seemed like a long time during the planning stages of this adventure. Fifteen days as a visitor in any city should be enough. There have been places—the memories are sadly indelible—that have worn on my psyche after a single night. Fifteen days in Venice in the dead of winter, it should have been enough. It wasn't.
Venice, Day 4. The office wasn't where it was supposed to be. And then when it was where it was, it was closed. This is the Italian bureaucracy. To ordered, logical minds it's infuriating. Yet, with some practice, dealing with the Italian *statali*, or government workers, can result in a pleasant, and altered, state of consciousness. Simply abandon your plans and any expectations. And find a bar.
The vaporetto is Venice's public transit service. Venice being Venice, the public transit does not have tires nor rides on rails. It floats. This alone makes it superior to any public bus, train, or subway on earth. Add in the canals and lagoons of Venice and the comparison to public transit anywhere else becomes a bit silly. Riding a vaporetto is like nothing else that life has to offer.