Not Suitable For Hothouse Flowers

The following is an excerpt I got a kick out of from Anything Goes, the latest work of historical fiction from one of Montana’s best, Richard S. Wheeler. I was particularly amused considering I was in the storied old mining town of Philipsburg, MT, when I read it. I have a full review of the book — the tale of a traveling vaudeville show touring Montana somewhere in the first decade of the 1900s — coming out later this week in the Indy.

512g1JDW5OL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_“Are you going to start heating up the building?”

“Firewood’s dear in Philipsburg, Mr. Beausoleil, and it’s a habit in town to get along without it.”

“I will want the building fully heated as soon as possible.”

“Your foot lamps will do it, sir. Light the lamps, and your limelight, and you’ll have plenty of warmth. That and a full house, warm bodies.”

There was some reality in it, but not much. “Mr. McFarland, our contract provides that you’ll supply a house suitably prepared in all respects. And that includes heat.”

McFarland looked annoyed, but finally rang a bell, and soon a lackey appeared. “Start the stoves,” he told the man.

He turned to Beausoleil. “There are two potbellies flanking the stage.”

“I have new acts, and people wish to rehearse, and disease has already damaged my show, sir. We had a death, and the loss of an animal, and that meant two acts down.”

“So I heard. We’re hardy people here, sir. We don’t need all that coddling. Miners are used to having bad lungs, so cold air makes no difference to them. That’s reasonable. I’ll add a firewood surcharge.”

“Surcharge! The contract calls for suitable conditions.”

“You’re in Montana, Beausoleil. What’s suitable here is not suitable for hothouse flowers.”


One-Sentence Journal, Weeks Sixty-Three and Sixty-Four

  1. 01/17/2016:  A quiet day passed in the studio reading, making some notes, and wrestling with getting myself squared away.
  2. 01/18/2016:  An icy morning drive introduced a day in which the clouds broke open and the sun shined brilliantly the entire time Darla and I wandered the riverbanks.
  3. 01/19/2016:  Woke up on that proverbial “wrong side of the bed” and never seemed able to get right with myself.
  4. 01/20/2016:  Julia and I spent the day in the car out scouting for photographs and just “looking at stuff,” a pastime I’m happy to be in a position to indulge more often.
  5. 01/21/2016:  Slept in and missed the morning yoga class, but I did make the 4:00 PM option, then followed up with a surprisingly excellent evening band practice in spite of myself.
  6. 01/22/2016:  Betty’s Divine holiday party included riding around in an RV, talking to friends new and old around a fire, and me being a complete teatotaler.
  7. 01/23/2016:  Live show tonight with American Falcon; one knows things are going to get odiferous onstage when your guitarist greets you at load-in with, “I just made the mistake of having a gigantic Mexican food dinner.”
  8. 01/24/2016:  “I’m not getting up until noon!” I said as I finally made it to bed at 3 AM Sunday morning, and I came close to living up to my word.
  9. 01/25/2016:  I know the whole “artisanal toast” thing at coffee shops is pretty trendy right now…but PB&J toast at Clyde Coffee is a luxury everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy.
  10. 01/26/2016:  Our old leather couch went to the dump today to make room for a new one being delivered tomorrow, but not before we broke out the knives and skinned it thoroughly to enable its hide to be reborn into something new and useful.
  11. 01/27/2016:  90 minutes over a couple beers talking poetry and other associated bullshit with one of my favorite poets.
  12. 01/28/2016:  A bald eagle takes off from a riverside snag and flies so close overhead that I could hear the hiss and flex of its wings, like words whispered into my ear.
  13. 01/29/2016:  There is a notable sense of the stakes being higher when trying to acquire reasonable proficiency with a tool whose sole purpose is lethal.
  14. 01/30/2016:  Debacle of nearly unprecedented proportions in the hot room today, at least so far as recent history is concerned.

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Some Bullet Points Concerning The Revenant, the Amazing HTFU Movie of the Year

Since I made a big deal about it when I first saw the trailer back in July, and one of my favorite poets once suggested I looked like I could be in the movie, I figure it’s probably worth my time to write out a few observations now that I’ve seen the film a couple times. Perhaps it will be worth your time to peruse them? If you’ve seen the film as well, I welcome your commentary. There are likely spoilers below, so keep that in mind.

  • If you snarkily refer to the movie as just “the most recent version of Dances With Wolves” or something inane like that, I’m here to tell you you’re a moron and are incapable of having intelligent discourse concerning movies that will likely be talked about for a long time, whether you like it or not.
  • If you’ve heard that the cinematography is mindblowing, or something along those lines, that’s because it is. If you haven’t heard that, let me tell you: the cinematography is mindblowing.
  • There are stretches of incredible excitement, but it is a slow burn of a film. If you don’t like slow movies, it might not be your thing. I like slow movies if they are also gripping, which this one is.
  • Be warned, it’s pretty damn violent too.
  • I don’t think you can really fake the hardships the actors went through and be believable. Which is why director Alejandro G. Iñárritu put them through such a difficult process. If you haven’t heard the stories of how rough the shoot was, work some google magic. Being a hardass was a good decision on Iñárritu’s part, because it makes for a compelling piece of art.
  • This movie truly is art, and it has its weaknesses. I left the theater wondering why I bother to go to shitty blow-everything-up movies, even though they’re (sometimes) fun. Watching and reflecting on The Revenant has made me completely question my approach to my own artistic endeavors, and that’s a good thing.
  • I could accept Tom Hardy winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor over Stallone in Creed, but I’d still be irritated.
  • The movie really isn’t anything at all like Michael Punke’s book. Entirely different scenes, different ending, the works. They are two completely different tellings of roughly the same story.
  • The bear attack scene is arguably the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen in a movie.
  • In fact, the entire movie is like a cautionary tale of all the horrifying ways one can die out in the types of landscapes I like to saunter around in, doing the types of things I most love to do.
  • The early fur trade in North America was a brutal, bloody business. Especially for the friggin’ beavers.
  • We take way too much shit for granted these days.
  • People who shrug that DiCaprio’s performance wasn’t that big of a deal because it was “only cold” or whatever have obviously never been outside of a climate-controlled environment for longer than it takes to waddle from the car to indoors. I’ve been cold; I like the cold. But this stuff was COLD, and that shit is terrifying and makes you act like a crazy person. In other words, the distance from “Whatever….” to “Fuck this!” is way, way shorter.
  • Whiners take note: just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Even if he had access to wifi, I doubt Hugh Glass would have dragged up social media and typed, “Wounds still sore, can hardly feel my hands.” Or, “Sigh. ANOTHER travel delay. Indians ran me off a cliff, spending another night out in the woods. Inside the body of my horse. Maybe I’ll get home SOME day.” HTFU, people. Please.
  • The whole subplot with Glass (DiCaprio) having a son isn’t part of the book, and I’m not sure it was necessary to add. Then again, the average movie goer probably wouldn’t buy the theft of a rifle, a knife, and some sundry equipment to be enough motivation to stiff-arm death and seek revenge. But in reality it was. Chalk it up to being one of those things that is too true to be believable as a storytelling frame.
  • The subplot with the kidnapping of the Indian woman, and the subsequent rape scene, etc. was totally unnecessary. In fact in a lesser film it would have been the turning point that made me ultimately give it a thumbs down. Again, I understand why they added it; my guess is it gave the story a reason for a band of Arikara Indians to be hunting white people in the wilderness. Again, different from the book. Cutting all that shit out and shortening the movie by a third probably would have improved it.
  • There were a couple too many dream sequences, but I did like the otherworldliness they created kind of hanging over the entire film, though.
  • The soundtrack is phenomenal too. I’ve been listening to the hell out of it. I’m listening to it now, in fact. I may never listen to rock n’ roll again.
  • I think the actions of all the various factions involved are portrayed honestly and fairly considering how shit was going down, as we know it, back then.
  • There were moments of clunky dialogue here and there, but folks painting it with a broad brush as being all terrible are simply wrong.
  • I liked it better the second time I saw it; I could just sit back and absorb it all without expectations. The first time I was too busy measuring its events against the events of the book. In fact, considering I read Peter Stark‘s fantastic Astoria at around the same time (another frontier book — 100% nonfiction — set in roughly the same time period), I kept getting events from the two books interchanged. Are you one of those people sneering and going all, “Like that could happen!” over The Revenant? I suggest then you read Astoria. The stuff those early people out on the frontier went through makes you wonder how anyone ever survived anything at all. We should all be extinct by now.
  • I’m pretty much in favor in all of us going extinct right now, frankly. It’s an election year, after all.
  • I think there are deeper meanings and symbols in this film that I haven’t mentioned, but that’s for film buffs to debate. I just like good movies. This is one of them, and it’s a good guarantee we don’t have to worry about a sequel.


Count My Blessings

I woke up cranky yesterday, pretty much rode it all day too. Thing is, I have no reason to be. Did you know some people really can’t see colors, or certain colors? Google that phenomenon if you want the science behind it, but here’s a video of a dude seeing a sunrise for the first time because he has some special glasses.


Note to self: don’t take stuff for granted.

One-Sentence Journal, Weeks Sixty-One and Sixty-Two

For the record, in reading back over these, I only had to change “2015” to “2016” on about half of them.

  1. 01/03/2016:  American Falcon rehearsals continue with more consistency than ever before, and I’m excited about some of the things we are hoping to accomplish this year, not least of which is the release (finally) of our second batch of songs here in the next few weeks.
  2. 01/04/2016:  First real “working day” as a professional freelancer and I spent it primarily running errands and used, maybe, 0.05% of my daily allotment of creative energy.
  3. 01/05/2016:  River channel iced over tells an exciting story via the crisscrossing tracks of little critters passing across, while two herons on the bank opposite, several hundred yards apart from each other, continue to stare into the gurgling water, standing frozen.
  4. 01/06/2016:  I had no idea how cathartic it would be to gather up all my testing documents and project notes from the past few years of my old job and stuff them into the flames of the wood stove at my mom’s house, even if in the back of my mind I could hear my old man clucking with disapproval.
  5. 01/07/2016:  Tonight I was fortunate to spend the evening drinking whiskey and toasting unemployment with a rowdy pack of fellow writers and ne’er do wells, all of whom have become quite dear to me.
  6. 01/08/2016:  After months of anticipation I finally found myself in a seat in a theater watching The Revenant, and I was not disappointed.
  7. 01/09/2016:  After three days straight of feeling like the current day was Saturday, I finally woke on Saturday and I thought it was Sunday.
  8. 01/10/2016:  It was a startling moment this morning when I stepped out into the cold of the front porch and a male pheasant erupted from below in an explosion of madly flapping wings and squawks of panic, an outburst that could have led to a change of pants if it had occurred out in the woods unexpectedly.
  9. 01/11/2016:  Last week felt like a vacation, yet this morning, and all day really, I felt distracted to do tasks I no longer need to bother with, since I no longer have that job.
  10. 01/12/2016:  I cashed in a gift certificate today and acquired a forearm tattoo of the apocryphal Ernest Shackleton “newspaper ad” calling for men for a dangerous adventure, which I have taken on as a metaphor for the rest of my life.
  11. 01/13/2016:  Yesterday I wrote about my own lack of connection to David Bowie in the wake of his recent passing and the subsequent tide of commentary about it, and, adding to my amazement, it has become the fourth most popular single day post in the history of my website.
  12. 01/14/2016:  My review of Jim Harrison’s latest book of poetry went live via the Missoula Independent today, and it’s one that I’m happy to say I feel I managed to do a pretty good job of capturing how I feel about the work in question.
  13. 01/15/2016:  On the way to see The Big Short, Julia quipped, “You’re really going to be mad and hating the world after this movie…. ” and man, was she ever right.
  14. 01/16/2016:  In a rare weekend of back-to-back trips to the movies, I must report that The Revenant for the second time was even better.

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Art of Floating

41kZEc9AX4L._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_I’m a late-comer to reading Jim Harrison. I encountered a rave review in 2007 of his novel, Returning to Earth, when it was first released. Reading the book I was captivated. In a subsequent interview, I learned he identifies himself as a poet. With some few exceptions I had not really “gotten” poetry at that point in my evolution as a reader, and I couldn’t understand why on earth anyone would choose to be a poet when clearly they were adept at the novel form. After all, isn’t that the pinnacle of storytelling?*

Then I started reading Harrison’s poetry. The man really knocked down some doors for me, and now I make a point to read poetry every day, even as I must admit I could probably read and re-read his over and over for the rest of my life and be satisfied.

His newest collection, recently released by Copper Canyon Press, is called Dead Man’s Float. I have a review in the current issue of the Indy. You can check it out HERE. An excerpt:

When I read the last few poems of this book and closed the cover I sat back in my chair and looked around. The sun was shining brighter than it had for days. I could see through my window several house finches at the feeder hanging from the branches of the tree out front. My dog slept on her cushion, back-to-back with a bitter old cat. They used to be mortal enemies, but both now find themselves too old to expend the energy for animosity. Reflections like these seem the soul of what Jim Harrison writes about, at least to me. Few enough are the books I decide to keep beyond a culling or two. Barring fire or flood, Dead Man’s Float will be in my library for the rest of my life. If it’s the last poetry collection we get from Harrison—and I hope it isn’t—it is as fine an example of his efforts as any.


Here is one of my favorite poems from the book, this one called “Apple Tree.”

Sitting under the apple tree on a hot

June day harassed by blackbirds

and a house wren who have nests there.

I’m thinking of the future and the past,

and how the past at my age has become

obviously so much longer than the future.

The feeling always precedes my sense

that severe weather is coming. I don’t believe

in doom or destiny — I believe in turmoil,

thunderstorms in the head, rolling lightning

coming down my brain’s road. As an artist

you follow the girl in the white tennis dress

for 25,000 miles and never close the deal.


You’ll be hearing a lot about Jim Harrison on this blog in the coming months, I believe. I’ve dedicated myself to reading as much of his work as I can find, and I’ve found much of it.


* That’s a rhetorical question, of course