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The First Slippery

I feel the first slippery

silken drops of poetry rise

to spill from the pen-tip:

How to catch them perfectly, in

which spine-stitched notebook,

creamy satin pages yet unsullied?

The torrent presses, escapes, warm, wet

ink spills, runs through fingers grasping,

visions glitter in soft jewel colors

a message thumps in tick tock staccato, pulse

racing now thickening warm verse slipping

onto the damp page, elastic

slick with portent,

dry soon as the

moment surely

fades

The '68 Jeep

In my 49 years on earth, I've learned only one thing with total certainty: it's that any bad day can be cured by a drive into wild spaces in a classic Jeep. This fact has accompanied me through life. Pretty sure my dad taught it to me. If so, he was right.

This is the story of my Jeep. Not any Jeep, mind you: it joined the family before I did. I laugh when I see ads for "vintage" Jeep Wranglers that date back to the early 2000s. Mine was a 1968, older than me. Before the Wrangler was the AMC and before that was the Kaiser, only one short generation removed from the old Willys that had served hard time in World War II. And it was still largely unchanged in design. The Kaiser was still so simple you could airdrop it to troops in a palletized container and have them assemble it in the field. In the winter you froze, in the summer you cooked. If it rained, you stood a decent chance of getting wet. But it was a Jeep: worth it!

Continue reading "The '68 Jeep"

Slumbering Giants: the End of Rail

Back when North Carolina was called the Rip Van Winkle state, asleep while industry raged on all sides, local industrialists shared a vision of prosperity that only rail builders could usher in. It was the late 1800s, just four decades after the cease of Civil War hostilities, and North Carolina was suffering. But before the century would end, a network of steel rail would connect North Carolina's textile mills and tobacco farms to the markets of Virginia and harbors on the Atlantic. And there they would stay for about a century before consolidation, truck traffic, and changing interstate markets would make some of them superfluous.

Rail lines are tough to make disappear, though. So if you know where to look, you can still find their bones slumbering under forests. And Lord they are beautiful. Continue reading "Slumbering Giants: the End of Rail"

The End of the Road

Nothing gets the pulse racing like escaping from the world we're living in now, and discovering the worlds that lived before us: it's a reminder that nothing lasts forever, not even this.

North Carolina's Haw and New Hope River valleys were formerly prone to horrific flooding. The hurricane of 1945 was one of just many hurricanes that laid siege to what was already a poor valley, putting it under water. The US Army Corps of Engineers came up with a plan to flood it permanently, offering a mechanism of flood control and providing hydropower for electrification of the region. When it was done, Lake B Everett Jordan had become a permanent fixture on the Piedmont landscape. Continue reading "The End of the Road"

The Bush Pilot

The only thing better than a pilot's license is surely a friend with a pilot's license. And in 2016, such a friend with a big heart, and an empty seat in his Cessna, offered to take me on a ride I'll never forget.

Matt was flying Cessnas for a small company in Uganda. "Take me along some day if you've got space for me," I joked one day. But it was half-hearted and a joke. So imagine when one day he called me up and offered me a ride in exchange for some help loading up a guy who had broken his leg in the rural bush of northern Uganda. I could scarcely meet him at the aerodrome fast enough. Continue reading "The Bush Pilot"

From Samsung Note 3 to Note 9

I bought a Samsung 3 in 2013, and used it relentlessly for the next six years. That's a long time, but thanks to the now-banished feature of a replaceable battery, I was able to prolong its life by three years longer than other phones simply by spending fourteen dollars on a new battery when the original one began failing! Finally this year, the GPS started to fail and it seemed time to upgrade. Here's what I won, and here's what I lost by going to a new device: Continue reading "From Samsung Note 3 to Note 9"

Linux in 2001: as good as it ever got

SuSE Linux 8.1

So, in a bout of nostalgia, I laid hands on an old DVD containing SuSE Linux 8.1 pro and installed it in a VM, and have been using it all week. I last installed this OS in about 2001 on a Compaq Presario with 128MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive.

It's unusable in a couple of ways: websites are mostly https these days, and this OS doesn't have the certificates or the cyphers to make the modern WWW work. But other than that, it's a pretty great experience. Thinking back on the last 17 years of Linux, I'm thinking this is as good as it ever got: Continue reading "Linux in 2001: as good as it ever got"

The bus to Kazancis

The more time I spend in Ethiopia, the more I like it, and the more it draws me in. Even after a decade in sub-Saharan Africa, this is something new and different. And though Ethiopia outside the capital is truly a different world, Addis reminds me an awful lot of Managua, another place I called home for many years.

Maybe it's that familiarity that led me so effortlessly into adventure.

I had traveled across town for a meeting, and back out on the street found the local bank machine wouldn't accept my card; stupidly, I'd set out in the morning without drawing some cash at the hotel. And out on the street I had no access to wifi, so my phone was useless to call for a ride. I hailed a few cabs, all of whom roundly refused to carry me for the cash I had on hand. What to do? Continue reading "The bus to Kazancis"

Threading

image of fence post, drawing by Randall Wood

Threading my steps along

that stone-strewn way I missed

the breathless luminescence of

cactus flower, hovering among

the spines.

Neither did I glance

up from my path in Time

to glimpse the newly

washed faces in radiant grin.

But weaving

through the litter over

scarred earth I thought

as I bent to the ground,

Why do I see only sadness?

-- Esteli, 1998

Mynahs by Morne

Bulbul, Mauritius

We left Mauritius in December of 2010, thinking it was as far as we'd ever traveled, and that we were leaving a piece of paradise, never to return. So I was shocked to find myself there again only eight years later. It's as far as I remember, but when you reach a destination at the end of many, individual jumps, it seems farther. Continue reading "Mynahs by Morne"

The Sands of Hargeisa

Hargeisa, Somalia

It must have been around late 2014 after a full nine years in West Africa: I was deathly bored of the continuous struggle to invest in the governments of poor places while remaining infinitely wary for the fraud and misuse that comes with the pleasure of spending another people's money. I desperately wanted to leave the donor business. "Also," I told Ericka, " if I don't get out of this sector, some day I'm going to find myself on a plane to Somalia or something."

So the irony wasn't lost on me when I boarded a plane for Hargeisa just a few years later. Continue reading "The Sands of Hargeisa"

Addis Ababa

Addis

I'd been predisposed to hate Addis. I knew the hills outside of Addis were green and beautiful, and a friend who had worked there frequently told me Ethiopia itself was wonderously beautiful. "But not Addis," he added. Fair enough, few emerging market capitals are what you would call lovely. But a popular travel writer characterised the place as filthy and rutted and festering, and that's the image I braced myself for as I arrived.

Instead, Addis was pretty interesting. Continue reading "Addis Ababa"