Monday, December 20, 2010

One Asshole Headshrink

I saw lots of psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors when I was young.  Most of them were completely clueless, a couple were fairly decent.  None of them "helped" me in any recognizable way.  In fact, very few of them seemed to identify any real "problem" that I needed help with, and not one convinced me of it.  All they did was hear my parents say they were having problems, and slap the "label of the day" on me.

First I was Hyperactive.
Then I was ADD with Hyperactivity.
And I was given an amphetamine that has now proven to cause serious developmental problems in children (funny, because it's only prescribed to children).

I can't help wondering if THEY ever wondered, "maybe the reason this child can't pay attention to me is because I'm boring, and he doesn't want to?"
Nah.  Probably not.  Their own psychological defenses would have prevented that.

Later on, and for many years, I was prone to pretty severe outbursts whenever I was angry or frustrated.  This was, of course, very annoying (to me too) so I saw other "experts" about it.

One very nice doctor finally hooked me up to a variety of wires and suction cups, spent entirely too much time trying various drugs on me (I was taking a whole handful of pills, at one point as many as seven, three times daily, and having blood drawn and tested sometimes twice a day... I think this explains the tattoos), and gave me the latest contemporary label:
Manic Depressive.

I was given more drugs, of course.
Sometimes I even took them.

I remember lots of sessions with this doctor, who I remember quite fondly, and other members of his team.
We talked at great length about my behaviors, my potential, and my feelings.  We discussed strategies for changing that behavior, reaching the potential, and better controlling the feelings.  (By the way, they only worked when they were my idea, but any shrink can tell you that.)

There are things I DON'T remember...
Like how that doctor (and his team) never once sought to find out much about my home life, or my real history.  (Well, we talked about how much I hated my step-dad, but not in much of a productive way.)
He never found out, because he didn't really attempt to, that I had never been taught - never been encouraged, or even allowed - to deal PROPERLY with things that made me angry.
This had caused a compounding problem... just BEING angry or frustrated and not being able to deal with it properly made me MORE angry or frustrated.  Any surprise it led to outbursts?
I don't even have a PHD, and it doesn't surprise me.  Doc wouldn't have been surprised either, had he bothered to find out.

(To any aspiring headshrinks...  you can't just OBSERVE CURRENT BEHAVIOR and think you know anything.  And don't DO anything, with drugs or psychological methods, until you KNOW something.)

By the way, this isn't necessarily a criticism of my parents (well, aside from the fact that the aforementioned step-dad was the cause of 90% of my anger and frustration).  MOST people don't really know how to properly deal with situations that make them angry... how are you supposed to teach your child something you probably don't know yourself?

So really, I'm not "Manic Depressive" (no, this isn't just a self-diagnosis, even though I have respect for self-diagnosis).  I don't have an "anger problem."  Just because for a long time I felt anger or frustration more intensely than I should have it doesn't mean I had a "chemical imbalance" or something wrong with my brain.
We have behaviors we learn, and behaviors we don't.
Sometimes we learn things later than we should, sometimes we never learn.  And I've both learned and continue to.

But here's the problem...
The fucking LABEL.

There's something that happens to OTHER people once you've been labeled:
They cease to be able to see you as "normal."  Their perspective becomes skewed.
When someone knows (thinks/heard the label) I'm Manic Depressive, ANY negative emotion or reaction I have, or statement I make, is BECAUSE OF Manic Depression.  It's like it's not physically possible for me to have a normal reaction to negative stimuli (regardless of what the reaction itself may be). In fact, any "stimuli" whatsoever is completely dismissed by the biased observer.

Every single person in the world reacts emotionally and behaviorally to stimuli.  Most people do so appropriately to a degree.  Bad or negative experiences make us angry or put us in a bad mood.  Good ones make us happy.
Not me.
The only reason I can possibly be angry, or in a bad mood, is because I'm "Manic Depressive."  Whether or not things are going my way today, or something bad or frustrating has happened to me is completely out of the question.  Not even figured into the equation.
And the messed up part is that this is the case even though the "outbursts" have gone away.  I can't, calmy and politely, say "you know, that kinda pissed me off and I'd like to talk about it."  Even THAT is "being Manic Depressive."  (Pretty convenient if you happen to be in a relationship of some kind with a "Manic Depressive" and are less than perfect yourself.)
Just having a negative feeling is a symptom, not an effect.
And guess what?  That's frustrating as hell, too.

So I don't know where I'm going with this.
I'm kinda done, just ranting a bit.
But there is a point.  If, that is, anyone who's a shrink or aspires to be one reads this (or, I guess, if you interact with someone who's been labeled).

I know that "doctor-patient confidentiality" doesn't pertain to anyone who has a legal guardian (children, "mentally unfit").  But when that's the situation, remember that psychological labels (and other illnesses, I'm sure) affect more than one person.  When that's the case, be hesitant to give a person a "label."
The label itself may just cause more problems in a person's life than the "mental illness" you think they have.

Alright... that paragraph was for the doctors.
For anyone else who has a "labeled" person in their life, here's one for you:
Remember, even if someone you love has a real mental illness, it's not ALL THEY ARE.  No one is 100% mentally whacked....  they're ALSO NORMAL.  SOME times their behaviors, feelings and thoughts are influenced by actual, real experiences just like yours.  Do them a favor... don't treat them like they're crazy when they're not.
You'll be a lot more helpful that way, if you can be, and a lot less frustrating if you can't.

Friday, June 18, 2010

You're being watched by the Hills

So, I just finished watching "The Hills Have Eyes" (2007).

If you like horror movies and haven't seen this one, do yourself a favor and watch the original instead (1977, Wes Craven).

This was crappy, predictable, horror-film cliche ridden drivel at its finest.
No, not its finest... there is such a thing as FUN cliche ridden drivel, but most of those horror movies KNOW they're drivel and don't take themselves seriously.

This one didn't, and did, respectively.

Interestingly, guys like Wes Craven created most of the things that are now "horror movie cliches," but "The Hills Have Eyes" didn't fall as neatly into the mold as most horror movies do, and the remake (at least it said "based on" the Craven film) was nothing at all like its predecessor.
The only things it had in common were: a gas station, a desert road to nowhere, mutants and an Airstream. (It was mentioned in the film that the Airstream was an '87; you would THINK they might have made it a '77 to pay a little homage, but no.)

I will give nothing away here. Not that you can "spoil" a movie in which you'll know exactly what's going to happen anyway, but if you might see the original horror masterpiece, THAT can be ruined. (Though, not really by watching the remake.)

In fact, there's really no point in saying anything at all.
If you're a horror fan, you know exactly what is going to happen in this one before you even see it... minute by minute, almost word for word.

As I watched, however, I DID allow myself a LITTLE BIT of suspense because of a certain thing that I know about the Craven film. Every time I "knew" what was about to happen in THIS film, as it stands alone, I thought, "well... what I'm expecting ISN'T what happened in the original, so let's wait and see."
Which was then followed by, "yep, well, there it is. Craven be damned, I was right after all."

Having learned to watch horror films in the still continuing "cliche" era, and watching Craven's film later in life, it "got me" at every turn, and in the end something had happened that very few modern filmmakers have the sand to do, though of course I'm not going to tell you what it is. (The truly savvy horror fan could maybe guess what it is from what I've already said. But then, the TRULY savvy horror fan has already SEEN 1977's "The Hills Have Eyes," and probably realizes exactly what I'm talking about.)

Modern horror films go for shock, gross-outs, and cheap startlings. Not true of the earlier masters.

Craven's film genuinely frightened me. It made my muscles tense and my fingernails dig into my palms... my head half-turn away... my feet pull up off the floor into a slight, defensive fetal position (and in irrational fear of what might be under the sofa).  It made my heart skip beats.
It didn't "shock" me. It SCARED me. And having grown up on cliches, it genuinely SURPRISED me.
It made me afraid to go into the desert, had I lived anywhere near one and planned on venturing out into it.

THAT'S what horror films are supposed to do. Or at least that's what *I* want from them anyway (unless I'm looking for a good, cheesy laugh, and then I prefer my director to be AWARE that he's making cheese). I'm not impressed with your fancy digitally animated creature effects, but rather your ability to create real FRIGHT in me.

All the 2007 "Hills" made me afraid of is going to a movie theater and wasting eight and a half bucks on a horror film.

Monday, May 10, 2010


I'm sorry, and I know I may catch major flak for this (from my two readers)....

But is anyone else tired of the "every soldier is a hero" attitude?

Putting on a uniform and successfully passing basic training makes you a SOLDIER.
Surviving a war or "police action" makes you a FORTUNATE soldier.

Performing a HEROIC ACT, for others, above and beyond any reasonable expectation of human conduct, while making one's own personal well-being a secondary concern makes one a HERO.

Has every single soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan done that? Of course not. Very few even get the opportunity to do so, let alone rise to the occasion.

Have we lowered the standards of what makes a Hero so much that all one has to do is serve? Not, of course, that SERVING isn't HONORABLE. But there's a difference between an honorable person and a HERO.
Does every soldier get awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor when they get home? Well, why not? They're all "heroes," right? And that's exactly what the Medal of Honor says about a person: this is far more than an average person, this is a HERO.

I could have kept this to myself. It's no problem.
I agree strongly with the honorability of serving one's country. I grew up with the military, am a real patriot (meaning I didn't suddenly start waving a flag on 9/11/'01), learned military tradition through the US Army ROTC program, and then was a soldier myself. And you know what? I don't consider myself in any way a hero, even though I'm proud of who I am and what I've done. Would I have thrown myself on a grenade to save my comrades? I don't know... fortunately I never had the opportunity to find out. But I served with Honor, and continue to honor those who do.

The reason I can't keep it to myself any longer is that I know that not EVERY soldier serves with honor, let alone heroism. Soldiers are, for the most part, pretty much like the rest of us: there are Heroes, most are average, and there are bad apples.

Not too long ago I worked with a guy who had recently gotten back from Iraq. Like many, I could tell he was having a hard time adjusting to normal, non-soldier, civilian life. But from what I learned about PROPER military service, I know he never "adjusted" HONORABLY to that either.

This guy regularly made me sick to my stomach with stories. Not of "war stories" (he saw very little actual action), but of stories of his and some of his buddies' behavior.
He informed me of every nasty prejudice term they had for the Iraqis - not the ENEMIES, but the civilians they were there to protect. He informed me of every bigoted attitude he and others had toward them.

He told me stories of how they harassed and bullied the locals. Not the "suspicious" ones... all of them.

He told me how they would often amuse themselves by making Iraqi children fight each other for a piece of candy.
And disgusting things they would make them do for an American quarter or dollar bill.

And he never once told one of these stories with the sour taste of shame or disbelief in his mouth. He told them as perfectly normal anecdotes, like you would tell me what you did over the weekend. Like he expected me to be amused, or even impressed.

So up until the point at which I knew this man, this former soldier, I figured calling all soldiers "Heroes" was simply a matter of semantics. Whatever... who cares... I know what a soldier is, and if everyone else wants to call them ALL heroes, and that helps to build a strong national identity, NO PROBLEM.

But then I learned that not ALL soldiers are honorable, or even decent human beings, let alone "Heroes." Of course, I never would have assumed they were... we're all human after all, but it was fine with me for that knowledge to be out of sight and out of mind.

BELIEVE ME... I can't stress enough that I honor, respect and appreciate those who serve in our Armed Forces. Agree with "the war" or not, being a soldier CAN BE the most honorable of all professions.

But now, every single time I hear someone say something like, "our heroes in uniform" I think about THAT guy, and his buddies. I know they're in the minority (I hope), but I'm reminded that NOT everyone who puts on a uniform is in ANY way a Hero.

When you say that ALL soldiers are Heroes, you're saying THAT guy is one too. And frankly, if you think THAT guy is a Hero, you make me as sick to my stomach as he did.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Dream is gone

This is old news, but I just found out about it and it really hits home.

The Dream Theater in Monterey, CA was built by artisan hands, with community in their hearts and minds, in the early-to-mid 1970s (I think).  It was a wonderful and beautiful small theater, originally a single screen but they added a smaller screening room in the mid '80s that could seat about 30 people.  It was loved very much by its patrons and owners.

And me.

It was wonderfully, perhaps even gaudily, decorated in 1970s "hippy-chic," art-deco inspired style.  Lots of color, natural woods, and stained glass.  The ceiling was illuminated in delicious, swirling patterns, and it would slowly change colors until the movie began.  It featured a real silver screen, protected and covered by 3 layers of curtains:  in front was a lush red velvet, horizontally opening curtain, then a vertically rising gold lame drape (also known as an "Austrian"), and finally a shimmering white, horizontally opening screen protecting curtain.
Every movie started in proper, grand style, as you watched those 3 curtains opening up, "revealing" the experience you were about to have onscreen.  It was reminiscent of the "good old days" of Hollywood, when a movie was a Big Deal, not just what you always do on Friday nights.

They had three different kinds of comfortable seats.
The front row was big, comfy reclined seats, right down on the floor and leaned back to the perfect angle to see the large screen up in front of you, framed by cushioned arm rests wide enough to actually share with your neighbor (the only such arm rests I've ever seen in a theater).  Behind those were rows of the more standard, but still well-cushioned, rocking theater seats.  The back row was all loveseats, compartmentalized with little three foot walls for privacy.

It was just lovely.  As a movie lover and traveler I've seen a lot of theaters, but I've never seen another one that was anything like the aptly named Dream.

I have fond memories of the Dream Theater.  My friend, Ricky, lived a couple of miles away in Pacific Grove, and on MANY Saturdays I stayed the night at his house so we could sneak out and go see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight, after which we would go to the corner Bob's for pancakes and coffee.  I was a young teenager, a very impressionable time of my life with lots of experiences happening, and those nights at the Dream had at least a little to do with who I would later become.

I don't remember how or where I heard of the Rocky, but the Dream Theater was the first place I ever saw it and heard the immortal lyric, "Don't dream it, be it," which immediately became a permanent part of my life's philosophy.  Everything I consider myself to be, or at least the best parts, can be traced back to having heard those words, and that theater was the first place I ever heard them.

I, and several of my friends, became very hardcore fans of the Rocky in those days.  We would walk around in school singing the songs, or even reciting the entire script word for word.

The first time I ever made out with a girl, it was in the back row of the Dream Theater.  Sadly, I can't recall her name at the moment, but I can remember the experience... obviously that's one of "the big ones" in our lives.  Not only was it my first "make out session," but it was also my first real date.  I have no idea if she ever saw the Rocky after that, but I know she didn't see it that night.

On Halloween 1987 another girl I was hot for, Barbra, and I stayed at Ricky's house.  I was dressed as a rock star, guitar and all... including some boots with 4" heels, which I regretted painfully by the end of the night (hey, it was the "glam rock" era, it's not MY fault).  She was dressed as one of my groupies.
We made it to the Dream early, and were lucky enough to get front row seats.  When I say lucky, in this case I mean it.  The theater could seat, as I recall, about 200 people.  They stopped selling tickets at 250, leaving it standing room only and likely a fire hazard.  Someone opened the emergency door and let in lots more people, and by the time the movie started that night the place was elbow to elbow.  Barbra, Ricky and I, sitting low in the front seats, could just barely see the top of the screen, but we were excited to be there anyway.

That was the night I had my first sexual experience.  Under the cover of being surrounded by people, obviously looking at something besides us, I put my hand under Barbra's skirt and touched a girl "there" for the first time.  She was wearing pantyhose, and I stayed outside of them, amazed as a teenager would be that I was getting to touch anything at all.  A couple of hours later I found out that I had been "missing" the whole time, but you wouldn't have known it from her reaction.  She was obviously enjoying the experience.

Incidentally, I say "first sexual experience" because I didn't lose my virginity that night.  I DID wind up getting beyond the pantyhose, but I was nervous... I was doing really well at what I was doing, and was afraid that if I tried to do anything else I would get it wrong, be too awkward, whatever.  I didn't lose my virginity till several months later, with a different girl, but that "first sexual experience" is still a cherished memory in my life, and it began in the Dream Theater.

My family moved away from the Monterey area a couple of years later, and I've yet to go back and visit.  I've always planned on doing so, to see the places I used to go to as a teen.  I've thought of the Dream very fondly very often in my life, and have always dreamed I'd one day go back there.  It's the one place in that area that I'd MOST like to see again.  I would love to see another movie there, perhaps even The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  I'd love to sit in that unique front row and gaze comfortably up at that beautiful screen.  I've held a dream in my heart that one day I might make out with another lover in that back row, maybe even "get lucky."

And now that dream is dead.  The Dream is gone.  I will never get to have that experience again, or even simply see the place where it happened.

I just found out that, sometime in the mid-1990s (I think), the city of Monterey bulldozed the Dream Theater to make way for a fucking strip mall.

I'm trying to keep this blog clean, and I will do my utmost best to never use the "F" word here again, but I also believe in the appropriate use of "foul language" when being descriptive.  I believe it's appropriate here.

A FUCKING strip mall.

My heart is broken.  I feel like a little piece of me is gone, ripped loose by ragged claws.  I feel like I just learned that one of my best friends from high school was murdered.

It didn't "die of old age."  It didn't get bought and changed by the new owner.  It isn't "not what it used to be."  It was BULLDOZED.  As if we have too many beautiful, quaint theaters, and not enough fucking strip malls.

We all go to movies, and we all had experiences involving them when we were young.  I'm sure that most of our "first dates" were at the movies, it's part of our culture.  But this place was truly special.  It wasn't just some giganto-multiplex, it was something beautiful.  It was built with people's hands and hearts.  When you saw a movie there you felt like "HOLLYWOOD."

And now it's gone.  I can't even find pictures of its interior on the web.

My experiences there, and my feeling of loss, would be enough to break my heart.  But there's more to it than that.

Nowadays in my life my mission, the thing that concerns me the most, is the steady and constant destruction of CULTURE in this country.  I have and will go on and on about our "culture of shopping."  I see a lot that disturbs me, but this is the first time something has so truly and deeply "hit home" with me.  Until now, I have been railing against things I SEE, and try to keep my own distance from.  I try not to let the things that bother me affect my own life...  I try to inform and teach by my own example.

This time it's ME.  The Dream Theater was CULTURE.  REAL culture, and MY culture.  I feel like a part of ME has been mercilessly killed off.  TO MAKE ROOM FOR A FUCKING STRIP MALL.

Come ON, people!
When do we say, "enough is enough?"  How many places do there have to be to buy cheap shoes and TVs?
How many modern coffeeshops and fast food restaurants do there have to be before we decide there's one "close enough to home?"

One day we will all look around, and EVERYTHING that MEANS anything to ANY of us will be gone.


And you can't rebuild the Dream Theater.

What happens when you go on a second honeymoon to the place where you met your wife, and it's gone?
What happens when you want to go back to the little bed and breakfast where you conceived your first child, and it's now a Holiday Inn?
Where did you have your first kiss?
Where is the first place you ever fell in love?
Or heard the Beatles?
Where did you go to cry when you broke up with your first boyfriend?

Do you want your child's fondest memories to be made in some mall or fast food restaurant?

But it will be OK, right?  Just fine.  No problem.  When we feel bad because we have no culture, or because we have no place left to reminisce on our childhoods or other formative parts of our lives, we can all just go buy a new pair of shoes, a new shirt, a new CD, and we'll feel just dandy, right?

There's nothing I could possibly buy right now that could make me feel better about losing the Dream.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Personal Definition of Concepts

I just found it interesting that when your focus changes, sometimes how you define certain concepts do too.

The example of the moment is "productivity."

Last night I stayed up all night surfing the internet.  I read MANY blog posts, searched for new blogs that interest me, made a few comments here and there.  I finally started a Facebook page of my own, something I have mixed feelings about.

I also wrote a bit here, but nothing completed for posting yet.

The Facebook was, of course, an incredible distraction once I got started on it.  I searched several schools that I went to and found that I knew almost no one that I went to school with.  Oh well, the drawback of having been a lifelong "loner."  I did find some of my friends from back in the day, and reconnected with some more recent ones.  I added several of my family members.

Since my whole purpose in starting the page is mainly to network for various reasons, one of which is  to start generating more traffic for this and future blogs, I will do my best to refrain from spamming my old friends immediately with "check out my blog!"  I have selfish motives, but I'm also very interested in how my friends' lives are working out.  I look forward to being more "in touch" than I am traditionally.

What I just realized is that I've now experienced a conceptual definition shift.
What I did last night, for most people and until my recent past, was waste a lot of time on the 'web.  An entire night of it.

But now I'm focusing on doing something different, partly for a living and partly as a stimulating hobby.
I want to WRITE, professionally in some capacity.  I'm trying to hash out some ideas in my head and find a voice with which to write a book (I actually have strong ideas for more than one kicking around in there).

Much of what I read last night was also stuff on how to make money blogging.  ( )  And I learned a lot.
My blog searching was mostly for the purpose of finding similar bloggers with which to network.  The comments, while real and honest, were mostly for the purpose of starting to network more and hopefully drive more traffic to my own blog.

So was finally signing up on Facebook.

So...  while what I did all night was pretty much the same thing I do a lot: reading and chatting on the internet (though I did do it differently, in different places, but it felt the same), because of a change in my own personal perspective and motivation my definition of that activity suddenly changed.

The very same activity that only yesterday would have been a "waste of time," is now defined as exactly the opposite: Productive.

As I sit here and think about it, I'm very intrigued by this concept.
Perhaps if our habits are so difficult to change, maybe there are ways to adapt our lives, focus, perspective, motivations, etc. in such a way as to turn "bad" habits into "good" ones.

I'd like to finish this post with two questions:
1. What other examples of a "changed definition" can you think of?

and 2. What other ways can you suggest of adjusting behaviors or perspective to turn bad habits into good ones?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Saga part 7, Beer and Mustard

I rarely get up in time to have breakfast before I have to do whatever it is I'm going to do.
I blame this on the fact that I really "come alive" once the sun goes down. I love the nighttime, so I tend to stay up late and enjoy as much of it as I can.

I began somewhat breaking this habit over the course of this Summer. Emphasis on "somewhat."

I awoke plenty early that Tuesday morning. Normally "snoozing" means the obvious, hitting the snooze button several times once the alarm goes off, but on mornings like that one it's different: I woke up several times before the alarm, and only went back to sleep so that I wouldn't find myself having too much time to kill first thing in the morning. I don't want to have enough time to get distracted, just enough to do what I need to do.

I turned my alarm off at 5:45. I sat up, alert and awake, pulled some pants on and crawled out of my tent to find...

A bagel.

Well, not really just a bagel, but not much else either.

There was also a trail of debris leading into the woods, made up of the remains of such items as plastic grocery bags, half-chewed sandwich rolls, and various empty food packages. The trail led me to a tree, behind which I located a startled raccoon who had, just prior to his startling, been quite preoccupied with the enjoyment of my bag of delicious cookies.

He quickly did what any prudent raccoon would do under such circumstances: He looked at me quite foolishly for an instant, then darted off as quickly as he could. Carrying the bag of cookies of course.
I barked at him and he dropped the bag so that he might dart more quickly.

I cleaned up his mess back toward my tent to see what I had left that was salvageable. Most what remained was still at least chewed on or tainted in some way. One of my everything bagels made it and so did the cream cheese that I'd gotten in small, sealed packets. Good, I could have breakfast. There were a couple of cookies that seemed alright, so I went ahead and ate those.

And I had beer, and mustard.
Most of the marshmallows made it.
I also had the two canned ice coffees I forgot to mention in the previous chapter.

I put my remaining bagel into my suitcase, grabbed my towels* and Dr. Bronner's, opened a coffee and went off to have a shower.

You may be wondering why I didn't put my food in my suitcase to begin with, and I'm glad you asked.
I didn't want anything coming into my tent (where I wanted to have my suitcase) to get at food.
If something was going to get my food, I didn't want it to rip up my suitcase too. (These are the things you have to think of when you don't have a car to put your stuff in.)

I've never seen a shower like the ones at Green Lakes National Park before. There was just a push button where the knobs would normally be, you push it in and the water flows for about a minute. There was no way to control the temperature, but after a few pushes of the button it was comfortably warm. It was a little bit aggravating to have to push the button every minute, but I did really appreciate it as a conservation tool. It also kept me from just standing there enjoying the hot water for a while like I normally do, and so therefore wound up giving me a little more time.

After showering and having my breakfast of a wonderful everything bagel, untoasted unfortunately, I packed away my things and prepared to head out. Since the marshmallows were the only thing left that could be easily gotten to, I put them into one of my saddlebags instead of leaving them at the campsite. I gathered up the remaining crumbs and walked a good couple of hundred feet out into the woods from my site, dumping them on the ground for the next lucky varmint.

I felt a little bit bad starting up my noisy motorcycle early in the morning in a campground, but there were plenty of signs of folks already stirring around me. I like to think I didn't wake anyone, and if I did that they got back to sleep easily enough. (Lots of people seem to be up pretty early when camping. I guess when folks are away from their TVs there isn't as much to do late at night.) I normally start the bike and let it warm up while I get all my gear on, but this time I waited till I was suited up and then rolled out with the choke on and as little throttle as possible. I figured if I had no choice but to BE noisy, I could at least be courteous and get away as quickly and quietly as I could.

* For packing light, I use 2 small linen towels instead of a big terry one. They're very absorbent, they dry quicker in the sun, and they take up less space. For my pack, I folded these up long and narrow, and tucked them into the flaps on the outside of my suitcase that hold a backrest. They didn't take up space inside, and they pushed the backrest into a perfect position for long riding.

Also, Dr. Bronner's is an excellent all-purpose soap. It can clean all of you and most of your stuff, and if you care it's also biodegradable. That's not a product plug, it's a recommendation for something helpful in minimalist packing.