High Sierra Ghost Stories

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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11 Responses

  1. This was a quite moving piece of writing, Burt. Thanks for doing it.

    I especially liked and identified with this part: “Or I can accept that this is part of what went into making me who I am and not hide from my past. It’s oddly comfortable to wallow in rumination about things gone wrong in the past, which dominate over the reminiscences of things that went right in the past.” I have my own sites I return to from time to time where I ruminate either about things gone wrong, or things that went right but were too brief and are now losses. And I do get the sense of “comfort” you refer to. It is indeed odd, and maybe not 100% healthy or good, but it’s not 100% bad, either.

    Anyway, again, thanks for writing this.Report

  2. Genya Coulter says:

    You did an amazing job of capturing the beauty and the backlit echoes of despair that exists in the High Sierras. My parents got married at the Harrah’s Casino up in Tahoe, and I remember any number of ski and camping trips up there where the grownups in my life were more preoccupied with marital discord than the stunning natural beauty of the place. Gorgeous piece, and thanks for reminding me of home.Report

  3. Aaron David says:

    As Gabriel says above, this is a moving piece of work. Thank you for writing it.

    As far as ghosts of lives past and the places they haunt, I will take them any day over the sterile environments that some people choose to end their time in. Tahoe is deeply beautiful and a place I too seldom enjoyed when I was living in Sac.Report

  4. North says:

    This is a beautiful piece of writing Burt, I hope it was as therapeutic for you to write it as it was for me to read it.Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    A lovely essay.

    My haunted houses are places where I know I will probably never go again. Muskeegon, Michigan. Mount Kisco, New York. Athens, Ohio.

    If I did go to those places, I’m sure that I’d find myself vaguely offended that all of the ghosts I was hoping to be haunted by have been relocated elsewhere. The Malt Shop that I enjoyed as a kid is no longer a wood building but a modern construction, shiny and chrome. The mall that I worked at is gone, the Barbie Aisle forever more unstraightened. Walking around the new buildings hoping to have old memories surface but none of my memories are there.

    That’s what happened the last time I went to Michigan. My childhood haunts are no longer there. The field we used to drive past to go to the grocery store is now the Dental Clinic District. The family restaurant now sells light fixtures after a failed stint at selling furniture.

    Progress as exorcism.Report

  6. Maribou says:

    Thank you for this beautiful essay, my friend.Report

  7. One of the things I hate about getting older and doors closing left and right is that I avoid even happy memories. I never look at baby pictures of my oldest sons, for example, because they upset me too much that those days are behind us. I push away memories of people who are gone (either dead or just moved on) because it’s sad to think about never being able to see them again. And going places where I felt hopeful and optimistic about what the future would hold, is downright depressing now that the future is here and so few of those things I was so looking forward to, ever came to pass.

    When you get to be our age we have to realize that whereever we are, this is it. For better or for worse.

    I find I focus more and more on the now to distract myself from the possibilities that I once had that aren’t there any more. Which is sad in and of itself because planning for the future was a coping mechanism that got me through some hard times. But now I know “the future” was never really nothing more than an illusion all along.

    Really really good piece.Report

    • I take your point with gusto. In my youth, there was a lot of future to look forward to. Now that the numerator of years I’ve actually lived is a much larger portion of the denominator of the standard allotment of years a human being gets in a western industrial nation, it’s more of a “no time to waste” sort of attitude that has supplanted youthful hope and optimism. I think that’s especially true in my case, having had my life progress partially reset on me. There’s a lot to rebuild. And no time to waste doing it. Only now, my foot hurts a lot more than it used to.Report

      • Yes, that’s absolutely the case for me as well. Due to having a heart problem (luckily it’s easily controlled and non-fatal but took them over a decade to figure that out)I ended up facing mortality a lot sooner than most and have had that “no time to waste” feeling for some time, but life just always throws its curveballs at you. I realized recently that all those things that were going to happen someday, that I’d been clinging to aren’t going to happen and have experienced a pretty major emotional upheaval as a result. (and yes, the ravages of the body can’t be overlooked as a complicating factor in lliving the life you hoped to lead)

        I wish you all the best moving forward!!Report

        • Aaron David in reply to Kristin Devine says:

          You know, there are two CDs on the shelf that I really loved back in my twenties that I just cannot bring my self to listen too at this point in my life. Not because they are bad, quite the contrary. They simply bring up too many memories at this point. Good and bad. And I am just not at a point for that particular nostalgia.Report

  8. Burt Likko says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your supportive comments.Report