For Seventeen Years Now, I’ve Been a Boatman

From Anything Worth Doing: A true story of adventure, friendship and tragedy on the last of the West’s great rivers by Jo Deurbrouck:

1d21a7d631f2f78a8d86f7235068b6b8_f82For seventeen years now, I’ve been a boatman. I take people down whitewater rivers in the West. Through the summer, I pretty much live on the river. Set up a kitchen at a different camp each night, lay out a bedroll to sleep on the river bank above the river running, below the stars shining.

I’m supposed to be there. I feel very much at home, at ease and comforted, between the songs of the birds and water and the silence of the stones and the canyon.

– Clancy Reese

This book is the story of Clancy Reese, a famous river guide, and his untimely death on an ill-fated river adventure. I loved this book. It is equal parts beautiful and terrifying, and the suspense Deurbrouck, herself a river guide, builds to the penultimate moment, is masterful. I spend a lot of time on and around rivers, and if my respect for them and the danger in their beauty wasn’t already extremely high, it is even more-so now. If you love the wilderness, this is a can’t miss.


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One-Sentence Journal, Week Twenty-Nine

Missed last week on account of writing deadlines, so here are two weeks worth. . . .

  1. 04/08/2014:  Beautiful sun and 70° today in Missoula, a perfect evening for getting out on the river trail downtown and reacquainting myself with how out of shape I’ve gotten over the winter.
  2. 04/09/2014:  Didn’t quite match the number of miles afoot that I did yesterday, but did meet my goal and time outside is never time misspent.
  3. 04/10/2014:  The big dog went to the vet today to have his teeth worked on, the poor old bastard, but a few hours later (and a handful of c-notes) he seems much improved.
  4. 04/11/2014:  Yes, I do believe I shall indeed go see Captain America: The Winter Soldier, for a third time.
  5. 04/12/2014:  At the close of an afternoon of bright sun and activity, little smells better than a dark rain cloud blowing in on a breeze through an open window.
  6. 04/13/2014:  No band practice today, and I’m finding the head full of enthusiasm that I carried around December-through-February to have about evaporated in the arid clime of, “So what are we really going to be able to do next?”
  7. 04/14/2014:  Reading downtown tonight by Gwen Florio, whose new mystery, Dakota, is set in the Bakken in North Dakota, a place and idea I find fascinating.
  8. 04/15/2014:  Julia turned 50 today, and she was almost inconsolable with tears when she saw all the folks who turned out at Flipper’s to wish her well, not the least of whom was her friend Caitlin, who had come all the way from Massachusetts.
  9. 04/16/2014:  Chasing around Missoula after a couple of blue-hairs was an exhausting — but surprisingly entertaining — undertaking, despite the food coma I went to bed with.
  10. 04/17/2014:  I paid the price today for all the shenanigans of the past couple days, existing in a fog that was only navigable by the knowledge I have tomorrow off.
  11. 04/18/2014:  A steady rain is drumming on my roof tonight as I write, the house otherwise dark and quiet, and I like it.
  12. 04/19/2014:  It felt good to get my legs stretched out on one of the multitude of trails that comprise the Crazy Canyon system in Missoula, and I am reminded just how truly fortunate I am to be able to live here.
  13. 04/20/2014:  Easter Sunday, more sun, laziness, and a multitude of noisy geese flying by waves outside my open window.
  14. 04/21/2014:  Flew out of Missoula today on my 200th trip for my current employer, bound for Detroit Rock City, where I had lunch in Mexicantown, a mere half mile from the bridge that crosses into Canada.


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Gratitude Monday

Writing this the evening of Easter Sunday, I’m grateful I wasn’t raised with a ton of dogma in my head. My parents exposed me to religion as a child, but I wasn’t forced into believing anything, or terrified into accepting someone else’s idea of truth, so I never really had to “unlearn” anything. Seems like that has been a major issue for scores of people, so I’m quite thankful it hasn’t been one of mine. I’m grateful I don’t carry any scars from being forced to believe something I really didn’t.


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One-Sentence Journal, Week Twenty-Eight

  1. 04/01/2014:  I hauled my fat ass up the M trail for the first time since last fall and it was a slow, grueling slog that didn’t get better until I fell into bed much later.
  2. 04/02/2014:  Another bane of the social media world is the wider spread of campaigns that have musicians, artists, writers, etc. groveling for “votes” on some-such page in order to win awards, exposure, etc., a practice I have grown to utterly despise, particularly given that in the past I have been guilty of participating in several of those very enterprises myself.
  3. 04/03/2014:  Thursdays are most bearable when you arrange for a vacation day on the morrow, rendering them a Friday (and I have no idea if that was even a viable sentence, but it sure felt good to reflect on).
  4. 04/04/2014:  After a couple years of anticipation, Captain America: The Winter Soldier  hit the big screen and exceeded all of my wildest expectations and hopes, a feat rare in the annals of Hollywood excess.
  5. 04/05/2014:  Orvis, the fly fishing company, sponsored their Second Annual Down the Hatch Festival here in Missoula, including a series of short films at the Wilma, all based on fly fishing, an event which simply cannot be hyperbolized as to the amount of ridiculous fun it provides. In an unprecedented breach of “one-sentence” protocol, I will point out though that Julia really let me down by not winning the drawing for an expenses-paid fly fishing trip to Belize that she had guaranteed she would accomplish this year.
  6. 04/06/2014:  As the first episode of the new season of Game of Thrones appeared on our television screen tonight, anticipation heavy in the fetid dogs-compromised humidity of our living room, I considered the twelve or so weeks looming before us and breathed out loud, “Aw, fuck, here we go again. . . . “
  7. 04/07/2014:  True to form, The Man finally delivered on getting our meager tax refund to us today, a solid seven-to-ten days from when we really could have used it, to which I responded by forging Julia’s signature right below the line that threatens the penalties for doing so.


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One-Sentence Journal, Week Twenty-Seven

  1. 03/25/2014:  I attended a reading tonight at Shakespeare and Co by author Peter Stark, who writes the kind of adventure-based historical nonfiction that makes me marvel that anyone ever survived anything at all.
  2. 03/26/2014:  A brand new baby mule — all legs and head — has appeared at the farm just down the road, and I will make it my spring mission to capture the little bastard in a photograph.
  3. 03/27/2014:  Let it be known that the Arizona Wildcats alum in my household threw in the towel at halftime and retreated to bed, leaving yours truly alone to hang with them to the bitter end where they managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
  4. 03/29/2014:  Peter Stark, the writer whose reading I attended earlier in the week, made my day via email by sending a thank you for the photos I took of the event, which had been passed on to him by Zoey from the bookstore, proving that simple courtesies — especially those unlooked for — are the key to sowing happiness.
  5. 03/30/2014:  Rattlesnake Canyon remains under snow, though the trails are mostly patches of ice broken up by mud and discarded baggies of dog shit.
  6. 03/31/2014:  It was chilly walking along the Clark Fork this evening with the usual breeze coming from the southwest instead of down Hellgate Canyon, and the water is inching higher with the earliest signs of spring run-off.
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Gratitude Monday

Ah, Spring, you may still be shy about showing your face for any length of time, but I can feel you’re here and I’m grateful, regardless of what you still try and throw our way.

Last Thursday morning didn't look much like spring

Last Thursday morning didn’t look much like spring

Yesterday I put on last summer’s hiking shorts and shoes and hit the trail. While the snow is mostly gone in Missoula, up the Rattlesnake there is still a crust of snow and ice right at the trailhead and continuing up as far as I went. Still, I got in four or five (slippery) miles and it felt great to breathe the air and just be out in it.

Rattlesnake Creek, looking south toward Missoula

Rattlesnake Creek, looking south toward Missoula

The locals seem happy to see a change in the weather, and what a little sunlight will do to make a cozy bed out of a big ‘ole manure pile.

Filthy neighbors

Filthy neighbors


I’m grateful that sunny weather is just around the corner, with days growing longer and longer in which to enjoy this beautiful part of the world I’m lucky to live in.


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Seize the Day with Burning Might

spirit-caravan-tour-datesThe middle of last week I was in Texas and received a text from my kid. “Spirit Caravan is playing in Spokane on Sunday.” I almost didn’t believe him, but I looked into it. I knew they had reformed, and that they would be in the Northwest, but not particularly close. Spokane had indeed been added, and given that’s only three hours away, and it was an all ages show, the road trip was on.

Spirit Caravan is one of my favorite bands, though they broke up several years ago. Scott “Wino” Weinrich is a living legend to those of us into this kind of music. The last time the band had been through this part of the country (13 years ago!), not long before they broke up, I promoted and opened the show for them with my band, Lazerwolfs. I’d become friends with Wino; on a trip to Maryland a few years ago I saw his band at the time, The Hidden Hand, then spent the night and next day at his house. Over the years we’ve stayed in touch off and on, but I hadn’t talked to him since I saw him with Saint Vitus in San Francisco three or so years ago.


Long story short, it was a great night. The band killed. Sherman (SC’s bass player) was great to hang with and swap stories. This is a dude who loves the life of heavy music (and weed) that he’s devoted his life to. Hell, even Al, the merch guy, remembered our time together in Missoula so many years ago. It was good to reconnect with him as well. As for Henry, the drummer, this was his first tour with SC. He also drums for Saint Vitus. He’s a friendly guy, whose only complaint is that he’d only had a couple weeks to learn the tunes.

sc-5 sc-18


Most importantly, my boy and I got to hang out with Wino, and Sid was clearly thrilled. It’s a blessing to hang out with your idols sometimes, and it’s even better when they treat you kindly. That was really the point to me, as Sid was very young when he met Wino before. Now, as a young rocker himself playing a style of music that Wino is a pioneer of, it was a big moment for him.

Sid's face says it all

Sid’s face says it all


Here’s the song they closed with. It destroys me. It’s a cover of an Animals tune, recorded when Wino was in his band The Obsessed. The man has a soulful voice and one of the best set of hands in the world of guitar playing. Sweet riffs, and an ability to cut loose — like at the 3:20 mark — like few others. Hearing it live was something else.


At one point Wino was talking about his own children, and domestic issues, and other things guys — long in tooth and gray of beard as we are — tend to do when we get together. His oldest son, whom I’d met in Maryland as a toddler, is 13 now. “He’s really cool,” Wino said, with a smile. “He’s….” and he struggled with words, then he drew a circle with his finger, encompassing himself, Sid, and me, “He’s one of us.”


If you want to see a gallery on flickr of all these shots, dig it HERE. I’m pretty proud of them.


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One-Sentence Journal, Week Twenty-Six

So I’ve missed a few weeks since the last time I did one of these. Big deal. It’s my blog, I’ll do what I want, and that means picking up where I left off. There’ll be a few more than seven days of entries this time; next week it should be back to normal.

  1. 03/14/2014:  I’m trying not to get too caught up in the sun and warmth of the diabolical teasings of mid-March in Montana.
  2. 03/15/2014:  Stepped out on my front porch this morning, took a deep breath of frosty air, and was rewarded by the sight of a bald eagle swooping low as if she were considering landing in the tree just in front of me.
  3. 03/16/2014:  I was pleasantly surprised at band practice today to discover just how far last month’s battery of live shows has taken the new material.
  4. 03/17/2014:  A windy, gray, soggy morning did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of all the new beevlings from gamboling around the neighboring fields kicking up their hooves.
  5. 03/18/2014:  I rose at a godless hour this morning to travel to Houston, Texas, home of endless toll roads, sky-scraping overpasses, and a zillion pounds of impatient automobile metal.
  6. 03/19/2014:  My evening plans were thwarted when I discovered I’d left my credit card at last night’s dinner location, merely an hour-plus of soul-crushing traffic away.
  7. 03/20/2014:  Happy Spring Equinox, and I was pleased to find some trails to wander on the fringes of the Greater Houston Awfulplex.
  8. 03/21/2014:  Returned home to a mailbox that included some awesome Richmond Fontaine swag I ordered weeks ago and promptly forgot about.
  9. 03/22/2014:  A beautiful sunny day for a road trip and camera safari.
  10. 03/23/2014:  Blasted off on a whim to Spokane with my obnoxious mutant offspring that led to another excellent bonding session via the Power of Rock.
  11. 03/24/2104:  “If you can’t party with the big boys…. ” is my response to Sid’s announcement that he picked up some form of food poisoning or something at the 24-hour roadside Mexican joint we dined at last night; readers of this entry (unlike me) will be spared the graphic details of his descriptions of the malady.


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Gratitude Monday

Yesterday afternoon Sid and I piled into the car and drove to Spokane to see a rock show. It was 1:30 AM Missoula time when we initiated the drive back; by the time I dropped him off and walked through the front door at my house it was 4:30 AM. It had been a twelve hour trip, and I was beat. Well worth it, though.

What I’m grateful for is that we arrived home safely. The roads were clear and dry, and the weather was fine. I don’t worry about my driving, or even knowing when to stay on the road and when to pull off to get some rest. I worry about all the wildlife that share that corridor through two mountain passes and some otherwise thinly inhabited land. I don’t even much like driving the twelve miles or so home from Missoula after dark for the same reason. There’s not a lot to be done when fate brings a critter and even a conscientious driver together, though, unfortunately.

But we made it back no worse for the wear, with no untimely encounters with deer, elk (we saw some on the way over, though), moose, or anything else that draws breath.

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Details: 199 Trips and Counting

As this post publishes, I’ll be headed to Houston, Texas, for a work trip. My 2nd trip to this particular city in 2014, my 7th trip of the year overall, and the 199th trip in the 12 years I’ve been working this gig. Yesterday as part of my Gratitude Monday post I included a snapshot of the map I have on the wall of my office where I’ve kept tally of everywhere I’ve been. My friend Yale said he wanted to see the entire map, so I threw together a half-ass attempt to do so. You can kind of see the pins — mostly red ones, though there are yellow, green, blue, white, and even a couple black, evident if you know where to look.

click to make bigger

click to make bigger

Nor surprisingly the bulk of the work has been done east of the Mississippi. I’ve always kind of thought that the place I’ve gone the most is the Chicago area. However, turns out the state I’ve visited most is California, which kind of surprised me (22 trips). The Chicago area — or at least the Illinois part of it — is second with 21. However, if you include Gary, Indiana (which I think one should, since I’ve always flown into Chicago to get there and it’s no farther from Chicago proper than some of the other suburbs I’ve visited), then it does indeed push the whole Chicago zone out front with 24. Texas is next with 16, then Wisconsin with 13. It’s only fitting that it looks like trip #200 will likely be to California (the LA area), if  my schedule holds.

I spend a lot of time turning my chair sideways and just staring at that map, looking at the holes where there are few if any pins, and wanting to go there. The vastness of West Texas, for example. I’d like to fly into Nashville and make a driving loop through Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The South Carolina and Georgia coasts. And don’t even get me started on Alaska.

As for my system of pins, it’s highly scientific. Red is for work trips. Yellow are places I’ve been for work as well as places Julia and I have visited. White are places that I visited while on a work trip, but separate from the work trip (like taking a vacation day while on a work trip to hit Yosemite park, or wrapping up a day early and driving up into Maine from a work trip to Philly). I’m really hoping that, if it stays busy as the weather gets nicer, I can add a few more of these.

Green pins are places Julia and I have visited, while blue are places we visited and actually spent the night. I’ve thought about stabbing the map with the places the band has played as well, except that most of the cities are already accounted for . . . and I’m out of pin colors.

I wonder if there is some kind of app that I could plug the spreadsheet where I track this stuff into and it would throw the data out onto an online version of this map? Seems feasible, doesn’t it? Someone needs to get on that. . . .

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