Road Trip Through the Washington Palouse and the Channeled Scablands of my Childhood

That ribbon of highway

This morning my mom and I woke up bright and early  to head out on a small road trip to Portland, Oregon (Full slide show at the bottom). My older brother, who lives in Portland, is moving into a new house. We are to help in the effort. Rather then take the hum drum usual rout to Portland from Spokane we consulted our atlas, guide books and road maps. We sought to make a rout that would take us through the dramatic and awe inspiring landscapes of the Palouse.

The Two Sisters

The Palouse and the scablands are the large amounts of land that is most of south eastern Washington State and south-central Idaho. Formed by the cataclismic Missoula Glacier floods of about 14 million years ago, the Palouse is a rolling, rocky and absolutely stunning landscape. The floods moved millions upon millions of gallons of water across the land. The hills are actually wave lines. If  you can picture a wave in the ocean pulling back leaving small ripples in the sand. The hills of the Palouse are like that, but only huge.  So if you sit back and take in the vista, you can start to imagine the size of the waves and the strengths of the currents that could create such immense wave lines.The Palouse was also shaped by lava flows which add striking rock formations that seem to come out of nowhere.

Grain Silos and transport site

The Palouse is also the heart of Washington’s agricultural industry. On the Palouse is ranching and mostly wheat farming. The small towns that dot the landscape primarily exist because of the grain silos and the trains that pass through picking up the grain.

We plotted a course which took us south to Ritzville then to Washtucna, the Palouse Falls, Stark and a many small towns in between. The highway is narrow and lies like a dark ribbon across the hills. The frost held tight to every bush, tree, shrub and stalk of wheat making everything look crystallized. The clouds where heavy with snow and before long it started to come down and a fog rolled in as we hit Walla Walla.

We made a pit stop at the Palouse falls, a stunning 200 foot fall. It was

The Palouse Falls

moving but the pool the water falls to was nearly frozen as was the foam. The deep canyon surrounding the falls was lined with row upon row of long icicles.

After passing through Walla Walla we hit the Wallula Gap. This is where the millions of gallons of water in the Missoula Flood was forced through a narrow channel. It is a dramatic entrance into the Columbia River. I can not fully describe how much I love and long for the Columbia River. To see it is to feel joy and great

Wallula Gap and the Columbia River

sadness. The daming of the Columbia is one of the great acts of cruelty done by Indo-Europeans to the land and to the Natives people of this region. The Columbia is, for some reason, so very special to me and its inability to flow freely has always made me feel remorse as well as anger and fear. There are Native elders who can tell the story of sitting by the river near The Dalles as the rising water from the newly built dam up in Boredman quieted the rapids and ragging current.

Passing through The Dalles my mom pointed out a very small Native American settlement along the highway. She has a friend who is a lawyer and a number of years ago he negotiated new fishing rights for the tribe that traditionally fished along that stretch of the Columbia River, which before the dams was a rolling and tumbling Cielo Falls. For years the men of the tribe would be arrested trying to regain fishing rights to the shores of the Columbia. Finally they were granted such a small piece of land which to settle. But the Columbia does not rage past. It slops ashore like a lake.

The snow really began to fall around this time. It was near white out conditions. Across the river I could see a train making its way along the far bank, chugging away. It made me smile and think of my train ride out here and the train ride to come when I head home to Boston.

We inched our way towards Portland, arriving at 6pm. Portlanders really don’t know what to do when it snows except slam on the breaks and go absurdly slow.

Here is a full slide show

My Decade – A Brief Walk Through the Disaster that is my Memory

I toyed with the idea of coming up with various top whatever lists for the year and for the decade. But in reality others with more time and inclination will do a much better job of summarizing the various odds,  ends and foibles of the past decade of human civilization better then I. Ergo, I have simply attempted to pull from my rather clogged up and muddle mind the key points of my decade. I think, perhaps, somethings are out of order or misplaced. This my friends is why I need an intern, personal archivist or that nifty spell they use in Harry Potter to pull memories out of brains to store them in little jars to be revisited at ones leisure.

Thusly I present M.bot’s decade in review. A rambling and stumbling look at what I’ve been up to these last 10 years of my life. Complete with huge holes and glaring inaccuracies. Please feel free to add, fill in blanks, question and comment as you see fit.

Onward!

2000:

  • 1st year of college at the University of Montana in Missoula
  • My mother stocked up for Y2K. Including purchasing 50 gallon drums of water and burying things in the back yard. Got me stoked for the end of the world.

2001

  • Rock climbed most of the year in all points south of Montana and in Kentucky. Had a blast. Don’t think I did much school work.
  • Dropped out of Business school and nearly failed a class on Buddhism
  • Had boiling water poured down my back, sustaining 2nd and 3rd degree burns. Got to stay home in Spokane for a while with my cat and best friend, Charlie.

2002

  • Hell if I know.
  • Would sit on the side of Mount Jumbo and listen to the herds of elk move through the saddle.
  • Went to DC for the IMF/WB protests

2003

  • Finished college with a degree in sociology. Had to talk my way into the degree since I technically didn’t have the appropriate credits. A kindly secretary in the department finally signed off on my graduation application.
  • Left Montana and wouldn’t return for 8 long years.
  • Got a job at Payless Shoes. I opened new stock and prepared it for display. I used to try on all the shoes.
  • Went to the IMF/WB protests in DC and the big anti-war demos happening there in the build up the invasion of Iraq.
  • Moved to Olympia, WA to work for  the State Fisheries, Ecology and Parks Committee. Still don’t know what it is I did for them. But got paid well.
  • Didn’t eat anything  past 7pm for a whole year because Oprah said it was a healthy thing to do.
  • Lived with my brothers band. The living room was a recording studio so I had to crawl out my window and walk around the outside of the house and in the kitchen door to get food.
  • Moved to California and bummed around for a bit.
  • Traveled to Cancun for the WTO protests (though Mike M. doesn’t believe me because he didn’t see me there).
  • Seeing Lee the Korean farmer kill himself on the gate surrounding the WTO meetings was perhaps one of the most formative moments in my life as an activist. Drove it home that everything we work for and believe in is because people’s lives are at stake.
  • Moved to DC!

2004

  • Moved into a really creepy and stressful house in Eastern Market with 14 other people. I lived in a closet for a while.
  • Caused a ruckus with pals and the Mobilization for Global Justice (MGJ).
  • Picketed the CAFTA negotiations everyday at the Mayflower Hotel. What fun!
  • Made Lots of new and lovable friends (Fuzzy, Rachele, Matt, Basav, Catherine, Kieth, Lisa, Tia, Jeff, Kristine, Sarah, John, Lori and so many more to come!)
  • traveled to Haiti after Aristide was over thrown in a coup.
  • Celebrated 50th birthday of the World Bank by throwing a party with friends in the Lobby. Rewrote the lyrics to Happy Birthday for the occasion. Something about 50 years of death and destruction.
  • 1st of many times I would be thrown out of the Bank and/or IMF.
  • Party Liberation Front does an anti capitalist action during the RNC in NYC on Wall Street. Gets us all thrown in Jail. Most successful unsuccessful action owing to the fact that the police (including the chief of police) reacted with such numbers that they shut down the area more effectively then we ever could.
  • Turns out the PLF was  infiltrated by a undercover cop named Sammy. That’s how the police new we were coming. Woops!

2005

  • Went to Porto Alegre, Brazil for the World Social Forum with my pal Matt. We had to pretend to be married in order to share a room at the Jesuit hostel.
  • Moved into Catherine and Basav’s amazing basement. Best house I ever lived in while in DC. The very best! I even became part of their adoption process as a member of the household. Went to immigration, had an FBI background check, the works. Now they have little Ranvita and I feel like an aunt!
  • Purchased my most beloved red and silver Jamis bicycle. A “bad ass commuter” as the guy at Landry’s bicycles says.
  • Went out on the road for an epic tour with  Cindy Sheehan and co. from Military Families Speak out doing media. 30 days in a Winnebago with some seriously stressed out military families and vets.  Another reason I pop up in google searches a lot. Mostly being disparaged on right wing blogs.
  • Got a  plot at the Blair Road Community Garden with John, Lori, Fuzzy and Tia. The place swelled to three plots and became my oasis in the city and a sort of refuge from the grind.
  • Helped form the DC Resistance Media Collective which among other things did some bang-up media around the 2005 Inauguration protests. The DCRMC is partly responsible for the ridiculous number of times I come up when search on google.
  • Did media and comms at the inauguration and along with lots of other people was doused in copious amounts of chemical agents by some over zealous, trigger happy DC cops. The incident would lead to a law suit which change DC police policy to heavily restrict the use of chemical weapons. Go us!

2006

  • Another hell if I know kind of year.
  • Joined the National Conference of Organized Resistance (NCOR) Collective.
  • worked in the media office at the School of the Americas protests in Fort Benning, GA.
  • gardened a lot at the community garden
  • didn’t work for a while
  • got pretty sick actually – for a long, long time. Might still be sick actually.
  • Worked briefly at a Big NGO (BINGO) and failed at the bureaucracy.

2007

  • Began traveling a lot between DC and California to spend a lot of time with my dad.
  • went to Germany with a pal for the kick’n protests of the G8 – marched through miles of wheat fields, out ran a German water cannon(!), broke through not one but 5 police lines to successfully blockade the G8 summit. It was crazy! Pictures!
  • quit my job
  • moved into a crappy, crazy house – no idea why I gave up on the good ole basement.
  • went to the first United States Social Forum in Atlanta. It was amazing! So very inspiring.
  • I was diagnosed with asthma which I still blame on Atlanta.
  • Became friends with V-suds after she decided I was cool and not trying to destroy MOB’s life. Now we’re all chummy as can be.

2008

  • Didn’t work any sort of regular job.
  • spent a lot of time in California with my dad.
  • worked a lot at the DC Infoshop, trying save it from closing. Kind of like trying to save Beta from VHS.
  • helped to curate the Expressions of Nakba exhibit for the 60th anniversary of the disposition of Palestinian lands.
  • Performed “My Palestinian Pen Pal” puppet show with Anna for kids.
  • Asylum vegan cheese fries make a come back and my gut doth protest!
  • Did a rock’n action with some wonderful folks to protest the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war. Pictures!
  • No War No Warming mobilization in DC keeps me busy but not too busy.
  • Decided to move to Boston
  • My dad passed away
  • I spend the summer in California with the family
  • I actually make the move to Boston into the finest house I could have dreamed to live in.
  • I started my first real job in 2 years

2009

  • enroll in Boston Universities Graduate school of Social Work for reasons only known to the gods. Best I can tell I need some way to better structure my time.
  • Adjust, and readjust a million times over to emerging new realities and life courses that I encounter in a life post my father.
  • Have many a New England adventure including apple picking, the Stonehenge of the Americas and a village made from Jelly Belly’s.
  • Holy cow! Mahsa and I canoe the 740 mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail in 35 days. You better believe there are pictures!
  • Decide Twitter is the Jam
  • Miss DC friends fiercely!
  • Begin to plot next big scheme (shhhhhhh, its top secret and involves goggles).
  • Plane gets hit by lightening thus I stop flying all together and take a train across the country to see my family.
  • see to wolves while passing through Montana and remember how gloriously beautiful the west is.

The end of the m.Bot decade! Phew! What do I have planned for the next decade. Oh boy! That is another list in the making that will include the resurrection of my zine and more blog posts.