KingMidget's Ramblings

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Tag Archives: Caples Lake

So Little Time

So much to say.

I wonder this.  After a tornado whips through Oklahoma City will we hear from some buffoon of a right-wing religious nut who says it’s because we have allowed homosexuality and abortion and all sorts of godless liberal things to spread their evil wings across the land?  Or do we only hear that when tragedies strike blue cities or blue states?

Sorry for that.  I feel tremendously for the residents of Oklahoma City.  I can’t imagine what they must be going through now.  But I can’t help but feel the hypocrisy of the rabid religious right when things like this happen.

* * *

Patience.  A virtue or a curse?  Discuss amongst yourselves and get back to me.

Why do I ask this question?  Well, because I want to.  Maybe.  No, actually, it’s because of this.  In many ways, I have exhibited patience beyond the limits of human endurance.  In others, I am as patient as a four-year-old at Christmas.  An example of the former — well, heck, let me put the cards on the table — how to make my marriage and family work.  An example of the latter — well, I’m still like a four-year-old at Christmas when it comes to gifts.  No, that’s not good enough.  Here’s another example.  Why have I chosen the self-publishing route?  Because I don’t have the patience to deal with agents and publishers who take months and years to do anything.

* * *

I’m going … drum roll … no, really, this is worthy of a drum roll … here.  I heard about the Mendocino County Writers’ Conference on Saturday.  I sent the application and check in this afternoon.  I’ve attended one such conference before.  Hundreds of people.  “Workshops” and sessions that were attended by dozens of people.  Meaning they were really lectures instead of workshops.  The MCWC is different.  They limit attendance to 100 people and have six different workshops going at all times.  As a result, there shouldn’t be much more than 15-20 people in each workshop.  In other words, they really are workshops.  Not lectures … yawn.

Here’s another key to this.  Last summer, I spent a few days at Caples Lake.  Just me and my laptop, camera, some art supplies, and a hefty supply of beer.  OK, and food, too.  Since then I’ve thought I need to have some ocean time and have thought that the Mendocino coast (a couple hours north of San Francisco) would be a perfect place for a few days of solitude, writing, and reflection.  Badda-bing.  Mendocino County Writers’ Conference.  I’m there.

And, I’m staying here.  In my mind when I’ve thought of this retreat I wanted this year, I’ve envisioned a cabin that’s near the ocean.  Close enough to walk to the sand and the surf.  Close enough to hear the waves and quiet roar.  It’s one room and nothing more.  It’s quiet, except for that quiet roar that never ends.

Once the conference is over, I’ll be sticking around for a couple of extra days just so I can … be.

Going back to that whole patience thing … I want this now.  I don’t want to wait.

And, I don’t want it just for now.  I want it forever.


Day #2: Most significant 2012 expenditure

What was your most significant expenditure in 2012?

It doesn’t have to be necessarily the biggest expenditure, just the one with the most impact.

What difference has it made to your life?

I needed to think a little about this.  For the most part, 2012 has not been a year of spending money on “things.”  Yes, I bought a Kindle Fire and I mostly like it, but it comes with negatives as well — providing more distractions than I need.

Beyond that, I really can’t think of any other material object I’ve spent money on this year.  Then, it came to me …

This summer, I spent about $1,000 on me.  I went to Caples Lake.







For four days and three nights, I did my thing.  I wrote a draft of The Marfa Lights screenplay.  I worked on a story.  I painted and tried to sketch.  I kayaked the lake.  Had a great conversation with another writer and her photographer husband at the Kirkwood Inn.  I made the absolute best tacos ever.

What I learned was that I was OK being by myself and while I was I made more of a point to have conversations with strangers — the couple at the restaurant, the guys who worked at the cabins where I stayed — than I might otherwise.  This is one of the things I believe I need to do — seek people out, find out what their stories are instead of staying safely in my bubble.


A Moment or Two

Okay, the flies are driving me crazy and the mosquitoes turned me into a bumpy mass last night.  But, who’s complaining.



I’ve spent today focused on the third draft of my script for The Marfa Lights.  I’ll have it done before the sun goes down.  Tomorrow, I’ll be kayaking for a bit, and going with the flow.

An Unexpected Trip Down Memory Lane

I write this from the picnic bench outside my cabin at Caples Lake.  Inside the cabin, five feet away, I can’t access the place’s wi-fi.  But outside, amidst the buzzing flies and with the lake only fifty or so feet away, I have a bare blip of a connection.  So, here I am.

The two hour drive here was an odd trip down memory lane for me.  I’ve lived in Sacramento since March of 1966, when I was  just over a year old.  Sacramento’s biggest claim to fame is that it is halfway between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.  Well, except for that whole Gold Rush thing (but, then, that didn’t actually happen in Sacramento), and … wait a sec, something will come to me.  OK, maybe not.

Yes, Sacramento is known as the place between.  For far too many people, there is no here in Sacramento, only there … meaning the mountains and the ocean.

For forty-six years, the Hwy 50 corridor to South Lake Tahoe has provided me with a lot of memories and it was part of my trip today.  I started thinking back to all those times we drove the road when I was a kid.  For sledding at Strawberry Hill, for a week at Echo Lake, for camping along the shores of Lake Tahoe, and for other reasons I no longer recall.

There was this cool place in Cameron Park called Sam’s Place.  It had an arcade and skee-ball, sawdust on the floor, and served up basic food like hot dogs and hamburgers.  It was a regular stopping point on our way to Tahoe, like the Nut Tree headed in the other direction towards San Francisco.  Years ago, Sam’s Place disappeared in the name of progress.  Now, there are strip malls and chain restaurants in its place.  How does a place like Sam’s survive in a time when everything has to be chain.  There’s an Applebee’s there, a Safeway, a FoodSource, a Quality Inn and Suites, fast food restaurants, and … well, just too much.  It was a better place when it was Sam’s.

I remember coming back from Tahoe and always knowing when we were nearing home.  There’s a curve in Hwy 50 that brings you out of the hills and presents you with the Central Valley.  At night, the lights of Sacramento and its suburbs would twinkle in the distance, bringing us home.  I wanted to get a picture of it on the way out today, but couldn’t.  Hopefully on the return.

As I grew older, I made those trips myself.  With friends to play blackjack at the casinos, with my own kids to play in the snow and see the wonders of Lake Tahoe.  One of the things that struck me as I drove through the mountain roads today, was how I used to always drive down the two-lane mountain roads that knife through the forest …

… and think about writing a story about what hides or lurks in the forest’s interior.  It was probably a Stephen King influence on me, but I thought that regularly back in the days when I wanted desperately to write, but had no idea to go about doing it.

At about the halfway point today, I passed Jenkinson Lake, which provides me with two memories.

First, in the sixth grade, I went with my class for a weeklong trip there.  No parents, just a bunch of pre-teen punks and some teachers and chaperones.  One of the activities was a hike around the lake, which that year wasn’t so bad because it had been a dry year and the lake was much reduced.  What I remember was that several boys who wandered off at some point were assigned the valuable chore of lugging large rocks the rest of the way as punishment.  Other than that, it’s just a black hole.

I think about that and realize that a lot of these things we do for our kids to give them experiences and memories, over the years, will become just like my trip to Jenkinson Lake — a recollection that it happened, but not a whole lot more.  It’s a shame we don’t find a better way to hold on to these memories.

My second experience at Jenkinson Lake came about 15 years later when I spent a 4th of July camping there with friends.  It was the first, last, and only time I have ever camped where there aren’t showers and the toilet was nothing more than a hole in the ground with a ramshuckle structure put up around it.  More importantly than that though was the stupidity of the guys in the group.  This is a place where fireworks are illegal.  There aren’t illegal and legal ones.  They are all illegal.  Of course, one of the guys brought fireworks of the “illegal everywhere” variety.  After the sun went down two or three of the guys took their rockets out to the end of a spit of land that jutted out into the lake and set them off.  Ten or fifteen minutes later they were escorted back to our campsite by a couple of forest rangers.  🙂

Ten miles from Caples Lake, I turned a bend and spotted Thunder Mountain and Silver Lake.

In my early twenties, my parents started spending a week here every summer.  After a couple of years, they started to invite their children to join them.  For more summers than I can remember, it became a tradition.  They rented two six-person cabins and we spent part or all of a week together.  The parents, the kids, significant others and spouses, and eventually grandchildren.  It finally got too big … fifteen people can’t fit into two six-person cabins, but I look back at those days we spent at Silver Lake as probably the best family time we ever had.

Hiking, kayaking, relaxing, drinking beer, playing cards and games until late in the night.  Talking, spending time together, and for the most part, it was all positive.  The first couple of times I went up there was when I was in law school and, as I told everybody back then, after a year of classes and full-time work, what I wanted to do at Silver Lake was absolutely nothing.  So, frequently, while everybody else was hiking every day, I was sitting at the cabin, enjoying the peace and quiet.

Eventually, however, I joined in the hiking fun.  Hiking over this ridge to a lake on the other side.

Hiking to the top of Round Top with my brother one year.

This is, by the way, the view from the parking lot where I’m staying the next few days.  Round Top is the rounded peak in the middle.  To climb it you have to hike a few miles in and then spend 45-60 minutes scrambling up loose rock to get to the top.  From there, on a clear day you can see Yosemite to the south.

Beyond those hikes, though, there were many others.  My oldest, when he was four and a half, joined us on a four or five mile hike that took us to Frog Lake, Winnemuca Lake, and Woods Lake … without a complaint and with a smile on his face.  He was a little trooper.

[Edited to add]  I can’t believe I forgot to add this.  Thunder Mountain is hike-able, also.  Family members did that hike those first few years when I wasn’t that into it, so I never did.  New goal (time to update the Bucket List again) … hike Thunder Mountain.  But, I have a great memory of Thunder Mountain (and, seriously, how can you go wrong spending vacation time by Thunder Mountain?).  Silver Lake has regular summer thunderstorms late in the afternoon.  During one such storm, while we were at the opposite end of the lake, my mother and I had the brilliant idea of trying to get a picture of lightning striking Thunder Mountain or at least in the sky above Thunder Mountain.  Being the exceptionally smart people that we were, we stood in the wide open space at the end of the lake with our cameras out in the middle of a thunder storm.  I’m so glad lightning didn’t find us.  And, no, unfortunately, neither of us got the picture we were looking for.

There are so many memories of our time at Silver Lake.  I didn’t realize they would hit me as hard as they did as I made this drive.  Our family, I think, was happy there.  I know that the memories of my kids back then help provide a little balance to the struggles I have with them now that they are teenagers.  I just wish there was a way to grab a little bit of that magic that existed when they were younger and sprinkle it on our lives now.

Unfortunately, it’s not just with my kids, but with my larger family as well.  After we got too big for Silver Lake, we spent a couple of years going to Convict Lake and then a couple more at Lake Tahoe, before essentially calling it a wrap on the family get-togethers.  Too much stuff, too much words, too many feelings rubbed raw in different ways, make the get-togethers more difficult.  I wonder if we’ll ever do it again.  I’m guessing not and it’s too bad, but it is also reality.  People grow in different directions and frequently grow apart.  What worked one year doesn’t necessarily work the next.  But, we have these memories.  I hope, unlike the memories of my sixth grade trip to Jenkinson Lake that are now not much more than a black hole, that the memories I have of Silver Lake, of my family in happy moments, and of my children when they were beaming with the simplicity of a few days at a lake, don’t find a black hole to slip into.  They’re too precious, still too real.

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