Vortex of Blue, Part 2

This story continues…

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Poster from a saloon in Oregon

The tune wrung from old keys reached into the quiet corners of the mansion, seeping under doors and ruffling curtains made of tulle and lace.  It was neither cheerful nor somber but lively in the fashion of player pianos used to lull gamblers and thieves into smoke-filled saloons.

Hubby stares grimly at the tube as his team fumbles the ball.  “Damn.” Monday night football holds no magic for him, neither had the New Yorker managed to pull me in.  After martinis we’d managed  a half bottle of wine each.  Next would be chamomile tea, a quick check of email and off to bed. Our ritual every night at home, however, the morning would bring a change in routine.  Mt. Shasta at sunrise.  I planned to bundle up at dawn and sit on the veranda with my camera.

Shasta at sunrise

It was our sole reason for stopping at a B&B far from the highway and miles outside the tiny town of Shasta – the chance to see the fabled sunrise over Shasta. To witness the power of the crystal mountain, my obsession since a brief glimpse from the Amtrak many years before.  I was sure it wouldn’t disappoint.

“Since the game stinks, let’s go down and find out what’s going on,” I suggest.  Surprisingly hubby agrees. I suspect he wants to check on the bird.

From the top of the wide staircase we can see the back of a man playing piano seemingly at the altar of the throbbing mountain.  He is hunched over the keys, explaining the tune to a man listening intently on his left. The listener glances at us as we descend the stairs.  His look is not welcoming.  Is there a private party going on?  One for only certain guests at the B&B?  The pianist turns and smiles in our direction.  I’ve seen the man before but can’t think of where.  I’m tempted to tell hubby I’ve changed my mind but we’ve been spotted and so we continue our descent.

At the bottom we are welcomed. “I see you’ve been lured into our web!”

The voice comes from a woman lounging on the velvet divan as if she owns it.  “This is my find, “ she tells us indicating the piano player.  “We ran into him on our evening walk around the lake and clicked immediately.”

“The piano playing is lovely.  We just couldn’t stay up in our room.”

She, to whom I evidently owe the evening’s entertainment, continues. “He writes his own songs!”

“Ah, lovely.”

The pianist stops his improv and spins on the bench to face his audience.  Besides the woman on the divan, there are four outdoorsmen standing near the billiards table, cue sticks in hand.  High ranking ex-military would be my guess. One of them gives the woman lounging on the divan a smirk which she does not see but the pianist does.  He chuckles, surveys the group without a word, then turns and begins to play another tune, this one more like a dirge.  The colonel puts another log on the fire.  The flames leap,  tiny fire sprites pirouette in the black hole.  The outdoorsmen resume their game.

In a high back chair in the corner is a lone woman.  She’s younger than the rest of the guests and reads a book while sipping blackberry wine.  She is pretty in a dignified, I want to be left alone sort of way, more of a Sandra Bullock than a Angelina Jolie.  I can’t help but wonder if she is traveling alone or if there is a husband upstairs watching the football game.

The man who’d been sitting next to the pianist moves to the velvet divan to ferret out a corner, a space to plant his shrunken derriere next to the women, evidently his wife.  She makes some remark about how he used to be a surgeon.  “I’m a retired surgeon,” he counters, “not a used to be.”

“Humph,” she snorts. “He’s played all around the world – in Hollywood and New York.”

Obviously she is referring to the pianist and not her husband. As the tune gains in melancholy the surgeon’s wife holds court.  They live in an affluent bay area suburb but they’re not “those kind of people.”  I want to ask what kind of people are those kind of people but hold my tongue.  There’s no way of saying such a thing without sounding snide.

When the crescendo sinks into minor keys, the young woman in the high back chair rises to leave the room.  The pianist stops. The woman freezes.   Suddenly he is in front her.

“I like to ask audiences to meditate on a color – any color.  The emotions that color evokes, the images  – that kind of stuff.  And then I’d improvise a tune, feeding off those emotions and images.  What color do you think I just played?”

The young woman shrugs her shoulders.  It dawns on me she might not speak English.

“Blue,” he says. “The color you were thinking.”

Again she shrugs her shoulders.  He leans into her face, his colorless eyes locked on hers.  His face is long and pale, his hair thin and grey.  He wears a dark blue morning coat from a different century.  I have seen him in nightmares.

Booo!  (to be continued)

Vortex of Blue

If you don’t believe in the supernatural I challenge you to spend a night in the shadow of Mt. Shasta.

SunriseShasta

Shasta at sunrise

Then get back to me.  Don’t wimp out and stay in Redding.  Park your fanny at the Crystal Mountain B&B (which has no website) or the McCloud Hotel.  Both are filled with Victorian charm and offer incomparable views of the mountain.  More to the point, both are haunts of the blue men who protect the mountain.

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McCloud California

Mt. Shasta is located in far northern California in the newly formed state of Jefferson.  It’s an ancient volcano surrounded by a redwood forest.  The area economy was dependent on the lumber industry but now the mills are abandoned and the locals, pissed, which is one reason why they want to secede from California.  After secession they intend to grow and smoke all the pot they want and reopen the mills.  Of course, being proud libertarians, there won’t be safety regulations or mandatory health care so… good old Governor Moonbeam Brown’d better expect an army of stoned amputees to migrate south if Jefferson secedes.

Despite the abundance of game in the area, Indians avoided the shadow of Shasta:

"Mount Shasta, so far as I have seen, has never been the home of Indians, not even their hunting ground to any great extent, above the lower slopes of the base. They are said to be afraid of fire-mountains and geyser-basins as being the dwelling places of dangerously powerful and unmanageable gods." Chapter 10 of Picturesque California 1888 by John Muir

Not so modern day adventurers.  According to new age websites, Shasta is a gigantic crystal guarded by the ascended masters of the Lemurian City of Light.  Lemuria was the Atlantis that sunk somewhere in the Pacific.  Before it sank, the ascended masters migrated to Shasta (don’t ask me how) where they are seen from time to time by hunters, hikers, and seekers of the light.  However there’s some disagreement about what these masters look like. They’re either:

  • four feet tall and speak English with a slight British accent,
  • very shy Lizard people
  • or tall, thin blue men who dress in robes and speak only in Sanskrit

On our way back from Portland, we opted to spend the night at the Crystal Mountain B&B primarily because it had no website and I was in the mood for adventure.  I was told by Ed, the proprietor, that our GPS would be useless in the shadow of the mountain thus he gave us a set of directions which I scribbled on a the back of an envelope as we neared the exit to the tiny town of Shasta.

Stay west/ highway, turn at fish hatcheries, Lake = bad!!  Turn back.

The sun was starting to set; the back country roads dark and quiet.  We got lost.  Once, well maybe twice.  Never found the fish hatcheries but stumbled upon the lake.  (Lake=bad!)   Finally, after slowly re-tracing our route, we found the turnoff to the Crystal Mountain B&B and followed a dirt road up the hill past aging apple trees dotted with bright red Mackintoshs. Apple orchards in the fall always have such a delicious smell.  I know its the small of death and decay, still, when mingled with eau de pine tree and whiff de chimney smoke the sensation of wonder always overcomes me.

While hubby figured out where to park, I climbed the stairs to the ranch house (really a three story mansion with a spectacular veranda!)  where I encountered a man and woman sitting on rocking chairs gazing silently east.  They gave me nary a glance or howdy, so I turned to see what had them in such a trance.  It was the mountain.

Mt. Shasta sunset

“Hello?” said I, opening the heavy front door and wandering inside the mansion.

“Hello!”  returned a cheerful, high-pitched though melodic voice.

The entryway was empty as were the cozy parlor to the right and the cheery dining room to the left.

“Hello?” I said again

“Hello.”  The voice returned.

After a few more rounds of hello I found my greeter.  A large macaw watching the sunset from a Victorian bird cage in the dining room.

“There you are,” I said.

“Hello,” she replied, cocking her head just a smidgen in my direction.

A few moments later a human greeter and hubby arrived on scene. She (human greeter) had a rough name, one you’d expect on a ranch hand and not the pleasant young women who offered us homemade blackberry wine and showed us to our spacious room on the second floor.  Below our window a young dog howled piteously.  The lighting was dim.  The decor early nineteenth century cathouse.

VictorianShade

We’d had lunch only a hour before so we decided to stay in, have a martini (hubby always travels with martini fixings) and take in the sight of the mountain from our window.  The mansion was quiet save the dog.  Then it’s owners arrived, tenants of a lower floor apartment, and all was peaceful.

An hour passed.  Then the bird began to whistle.  Unlike its pleasant “hello” the whistling was annoying. “Someone is teasing the bird,” hubby said. If there’s one thing that will send hubby over the edge, it’s an animal being mistreated.

The whistling stopped as someone began to play  the piano.

The myth of the blue men isn’t unique to Shasta.  Short blue men were also said to guard the Lehman Caves on the border of Nevada and Utah.  Other blue men legends include the Taureg tribes of the northern Sahara, the Ainus of Japan, the fir gorum of Scotland and probably many more that haven’t been documented and researched.

In the case of the Taureg, they use an indigo dye on their robes which eventually bleeds into their skin and even their blood.  The Ainus have a thing about handlebar mustaches.  Even on women.

Ainu woman with blue mustache tattoo

Ainu woman with blue mustache tattoo. Very attractive.

The fir gorum (blue men of Scotland) were actually Africans, so black they seemed blue.

Then there are The Blue Men of the Minch (also known as storm kelpies), who occupy the stretch of water off mainland Scotland, looking for sailors to drown and stricken boats to sink.

But how about the blue men of Shasta?  What were they? We were about to find out.

To be continued…

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I just returned from western Oregon, where green unfolds in shades unlike any where in the world.  They’d had a wet September but the first weekend of October was perfect.  Sunny, crisp.  Lovely.  Unless you’re scheduled to be inside.

Portland – tripping back in time.
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View from the Mark Spencer Hotel – a funky, landmark hotel in the Pearl District

I hadn’t been to Portland Oregon for many, many years.

Eons, really. Oh, I’ve driven through in a car or on a train but never stopped. Truth be told, I was trying not to dwell on who I was back then, a bit of dandelion fluff shedding all over the world, trying on each new place and, if not finding a fit, packing up and leaving town. I was looking for something I couldn’t and wouldn’t find but try telling that to a romantic nineteen year old.

OldBuilding

Warehouse/art studios/cafes

The eclectic-ness of Portland has been totally outed by the TV show Portlandia,  so I won’t try to describe its unique ambience,  however, I am pleased to report that they haven’t started the “see the wierdo” bus tours they have in San Francisco.

Witness the depravities of the  hippies in Haight Ashbury or the homosexuals in The Castro from the comfort and security of an air-conditioned, double-decker bus!

But I’m sure that time is coming.  Soon air-conditioned buses will roam the kinkier neighborhoods, pointing out the many hipper than  thou restaurants, cafes and bookstores and what will the young hipsters of Portland be called I wonder?  The Porties?

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Skull lampshade at trendy Mexican restaurant.

Bridge

One of Portland’s eleven bridges

Getting around the downtown is easy. Streetcars run the numbered streets while the Max “trains” run on certain named streets, however, the downtown area is easily walkable, unlike San Francisco with it’s many vertical hills.

One word of caution:

Beware the cycling hordes… especially on a bridge at rush hour. Whiz, boom, bang – they do not share the walkway.  Fiendishly and with a single mind towards the evening’s hyper-caffeinated hip activity, they do not yield or even warn with a bell.

The Wordstock Convention
Wordstock

The friendly guy across from us. He was giving out candy guaranteed to “make you gay.”

This two day celebration of the written word was the reason for our trip North.  I’d heard about it from my editor and decided, what the heck.  A chance to mingle with other writers, see what other publishers are doing and meet my editor in person.  I didn’t know what to expect but I wasn’t alone.  No booth was quite alike, some folks hawked their products and services; others just smiled at passer-bys, many of whom were students at either Reed of PSU.  Authors attempted to speak at three large stages, often drowned out by avante garde musical performances.

I talked to many other writers – some shy about “admitting” they wrote, others anxious to talk your ear off.   I especially enjoyed Karen, an strong, vibrant woman whose husband had recently passed.   I hope she keeps on writing.  I hope someday she’ll share what she writes with the world.  I know she has something special to say.

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Cyn and Julie. Okay – I’m not a very good photographer!

But the best thing about the conference was getting to know my editor, Cynthia White of Cyntactics, and her compatriot Julie Klein of A+ Editing, two ladies who have the greatest respect for aspiring writers no matter what the genre and style.

The trip home – the Crystal Mountain and it’s legends  – next blog
SunriseShasta

Mount Shasta at sunrise as a storm moves in.

Final answers…

Blogger’s Note: This is the last post regarding answers to this quiz.

6. Halloween is important to 
Nevada because:
a. Pumpkins are its major
cash crop.
b. On October 31,1864 Nevada 
was admitted to the union.
c. It's Alien Appreciation Day

b.  Halloween is Nevada Day.  When I was a kid we always got the day off from school to watch the cast of Bonanza –  Paw, Adam, Little Joe and Hoss   – parade down Virginia street on their horses along with a whole bunch of other mounted men and women shooting off their guns. Now the Gay Rodeo, Hot August Nights, and River Run festivals are the big deals.  How times change.

7. Bat Guano is used in the following ways:
a. Fertilizer
b. Explosives
c. Laundry detergent
d. All of the above
e. What the heck is bat guano

Oh my, this is my favorite question!  The correct answer, believe it or not, is d. All of the above.  In fact not only has bat guano been used to create fertilizer, explosives and laundry soap but it is so over-mined in parts of the world that legislation has had to be passed to regulate the industry. (See Guano Islands Act in 1856, which gave U.S. citizens  exclusive rights to deposits they found on unclaimed islands.)

Unfortunately the mining of bat guano is causing damage to many species of cave-adapted invertebrates who rely on bat feces as their sole source of nutrition, destroying local paleoclimatic records in strata that have built up over thousands of years, and endangering the bat colonies themselves. Bats are highly vulnerable to regular disturbance to their roosts. Some species, such as Phyllonycteris aphylla, have low fat reserves, and will starve to death when regularly disturbed and put into a panic state during their resting period. Many species will drop pups when in panic, with subsequent death, leading to a steady reduction in population.

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The Lehman Caves – image from climb-utah.com

The bat caves in FLIPKA were inspired by the Lehman Caves which are located in the Great Basin park some thirty miles southeast of Ely Nevada. Indians tried to protect these caves by claiming they were the sacred caves of the dead, guarded by a “little man with a blue beard” who would bring “dire consequences” to anyone who entered. It worked for a while.

Unlike the fictional caves in FLIPKA, these caves are open to the public, however their location –  at least five hours from Vegas, Salt Lake City or Reno – ensures they get so few visitors that conservation has not been an issue.  And mining is not an issue because it’s a National Park.

Other fun facts about bat guano:

Bat Guano Tea

Not really tea. Do not add hot water. Do not drink.

But without a doubt the most bizarre use for bat guano:  Bat Guano tea.

In this case the “tea” is actually a fertilizer.  Yikes, I hope someone doesn’t take the manufacturer literally.

Giant Red Haired Cannibals

This post was written almost four years ago in support for the release of FLIPKA, which is set in the land of giant red-haired cannibals, Northern Nevada.  Other multiple choice questions about the politics and history of that quacky state can be found here

4. The Giant Red Haired Cannibals are not a legend claims:

a. The journal of legendary scout Kit Carson
b. Life Among the Piutes by Sarah Winnemucca
c. Mark Twain’s autobiography
d. Aliens 

The legend of the giant red haired cannibals dates back to a massacre sometime in the early 1800s near the small town of Lovelock Nevada.  The local Indians (the Piutes) claim they attacked a group of ten foot tall men, forcing them to retreat into a cave which they then sealed with brush and set aflame.  The men had red hair and an appetite for flesh, particularly children.

Sarah Winnemucca

Sarah Winnemucca

When the Europeans started inhabiting the area, they dismissed the subsequent tales as Indian folklore until the daughter of a well respected chief, Sarah Winnemucca, wrote Life among the Piutes.   In it she claimed that her father had been amongst the braves who committed the massacre. Something about the legend being in print gave it a hint of veracity.  Just a hint but that was all it took.  Soon evidence of those giant humanoids was found by bat guano miners in a cave near Lovelock and documented. Unfortunately the evidence disappeared in an earthquake that sealed the caves but the legend persists, as you can see by clicking the following link: http://whofortedblog.com/2013/07/29/are-the-huge-handprints-found-in-nevadas-lovelock-cave-evidence-of-a-lost-race-of-fabled-giants/

I first heard about the Red Haired Cannibals while camping at Pyramid Lake, a shallow body of salty water approximately thirty miles east of Reno on Piute land.

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The Pyramid on the eastern side of Pyramid Lake. From nevadaweb.com.

The Indians don’t camp at the northern end of this lake because of rumors surrounding the  Pinnacles, eerie piles of tufa rock that resemble beehives. My father claimed the large spiders and rattlers on the formations scared the Indians away but…

Pinnacles

The Pinnacles – home to the giant, red-haired cannibals?

As I lay in a scratchy mummy bag, staring up at the stars it was easy to believe that the giant red-haired cannibals hadn’t been killed off.  That their ancestors hid inside the Pinnacles, sneaking out after dark to grab children from their sleeping bags and drag them home to roast alive on their Weber grills (hey, these are modern day cannibals) while they had a beer and joked about the stupid white man.

The “Trick” Question

Blogger’s Note: This post (and the ones to come the next couple of days) contain the answers to this quiz, posted last week.  They’re of particular interest if the oddball state of Nevada is of any interest to you and it should be – it’s a strange place.

3. Prostitution is legal in Nevada 
(this is a trick question - pardon
the pun).
a. True
b. False

Prostitution is actually only “legal” in certain counties in Nevada.  True, the majority of the counties have voted to legalize prostitution but in the counties which include Reno, Sparks, and Las Vegas prostitution is not legal. You have to go across the border to a neighboring county to get your kicks or hire an “escort” from one of the casinos ($$$$).  When they use the term legal, what they really mean is regulated. A legal whorehouse complies with state regulations which include the paying of taxes of course.  In addition girls in the regulated houses must also undergo weekly venereal testing.  It’s always about the money folks. Most gals prefer to work for unregulated houses where they don’t have to be prodded weekly by condescending medical “professions” and they get to keep more of what they earn.  In Nevada, sex is a business.  Modern day whore houses even have web pages and the remote ones, landing strips.

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Vintage tee shirt

Some houses of ill-repute have deceptively innocent names  (Warning: the below are live links to actual whorehouses.  Send junior from the room if you intent to click on them):

Others are upfront about their business:

Many of them try to sound so cute like there something just so fluffy and sweet about giving a blow-job:

Others, well they boggle the mind – like the Alien Cathouse or Chicken Ranch.  I mean, would you want to have sex with a chicken?  An alien cat perhaps but a chicken?

Home means Nevada

Blogger’s Note: This post (and the ones to come the next couple of days) contain the answers to this quiz, posted last week.  They’re of particular interest if the oddball state of Nevada is of any interest to you and it should be – it’s a strange place.

2. Who owns approx 84% of Nevada?

a. Federal Government
b. The casinos
c. Howard Hughes’ estate
e. Aliens

The answer is the Federal Government although just about any alien being in the universe would have a better chance of getting a cordial welcome in rural Nevada than a Fed.  Feds are generally greeted with shotguns.

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More welcome in Winnemucca Nevada than a Federal Agent!

What the government does with this (our) land is never  disclosed to the public, thus it’s best not to take an unmarked dirt road into the desert as Fi Butters did.   You may well find yourself looking down the barrel of a gun held by either a soldier or a cowboy whose face is hidden by shades and a baseball camp.  Don’t ask them what they’re doing or why you can’t go down that road.  Just turn around, if you can.

Other fun facts about Nevada:

  • Despite libertarian leanings of the state’s rural residents,  Nevada has the harshest penalties for drug offenders in the country.  You can buy alcohol twenty-four hours a day, sell your body, gamble away everything but the family dog, and shot trespassers in the back but you better not lit up a joint!  They’ll put you in jail for life.
  • Nevada has the most hotel rooms per capita of any other state in the United States (and probably the world).
  • Coincidentally, Nevada’s divorce rate tops the national average. Hum, coincidence?
  • Church attendance in Nevada is among the lowest of all the US states.
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Most attended church in Nevada – the wedding chapel (this one is called Graceland. Guess why?)