No Need to Bother

Recently, in a bid to consider trying my hand at writing the occasional bit of poetry, I pick up a copy of Jim Harrison’s In Search of Small Gods, open to the first poem, and shortly ask myself why I should even bother to try, considering he’s already summed up everything I want to say. . . .

I Believe (by Jim Harrison, from In Search of Small Gods)

I believe in steep drop-offs, the thunderstorm across the lake

in 1949, cold winds, empty swimming pools,

the overgrown path to the creek, raw garlic,

used tires, taverns, saloons, bars, gallons of red wine,

abandoned farmhouses, stunted lilac groves,

gravel roads that end, brush piles, thickets, girls

who haven’t quite gone totally wild, river eddies,

leaky wooden boats, the smell of used engine oil,

turbulent rivers, lakes without cottages lost in the woods,

the primrose growing out of a cow skull, the thousands

of birds I’ve talked to all my life, the dogs

that talked back, the Chihuahuan ravens that follow

me on long walks. The rattler escaping the cold hose,

the fluttering unknown gods that I nearly see

from the left corner of my blind eye, struggling

to stay alive in a world that grinds them underfoot.

 

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Take Them to the River

I bought one of these seat saver things from one of my favorite online shopping emporiums so that we could take the dogs on adventures without them totally befouling the back seat of our only current means of transportation. Yesterday during my lunch break Julia and I took all three of the beasts to Council Grove State Park for a splash or two. A good time seemed to be had by all.

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Posted in Personal, Pets | 2 Comments

No Complaints

A week ago flat out sucked. But this past weekend really couldn’t have been any better. It closed out on a glorious Sunday which included:

  • Perfect summer in Montana weather
  • Iced coffee on the deck in the morning sun, watching the dogs snuffle around in the lawn freshly mowed the day before
  • Breakfast at The Good Food Store with my Best Girl
  • 60 sweaty minutes out in the woods up Pattee Canyon
  • Two hours of sweaty AMERICAN FALCON rehearsal
  • Evening fly fishing on Rock Creek with my Best Girl
  • Grilled bison patties and steamed asparagus for a late dinner

Yeah, top that! Hell of a way to kick off a week. And today, Monday, I believe I’ll be feasting with my kid and my mom, who happens to be celebrating a birthday.

Happy birthday, Mom!

 

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Hot Summer Nights

We — not just my barking household, but the entire neighborhood — were awakened in the wee hours by a crack of lightning and thunder that sounded like it struck right outside our door. Today, in the hills just beyond, is a smallish fire. I’m listening to and watching a helicopter battle it with water from a bucket dipped out of the Clark Fork River that flows just a half mile or so yonder. I shot this picture standing on my front porch. It’s a little spooky. I’m curious to see if I’ll be able to see flames later tonight. I suspect I will.

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A First For Everything

Last week I was working from a site in Southern Indiana. The customer opted to order out to a local sandwich joint for lunch. When the food arrived, we stopped working and broke out our little styrofoam boxes. I ordered a club sandwich. It came with a pickle spear and a small bag of Lay’s Classic.

One of the guys I was working with was particularly impressed that I was from Montana. He said he’d never met anyone from there before. As we were eating, he nods at my sandwich and says, “You probably don’t get a lot of these in Montana, do you?”

I look at my sandwich, then at him. I make a gesture with it and say, “A lot of these?”

He nods. “Yeah, what do you guys eat up there?”

I frown, glancing again at my sandwich to see if there is something special I’ve missed, then look at him again, puzzled.

“I mean, is there anything food-wise you’re particularly known for?”

I just shrug and say, “Well, pretty much anything we can run off a cliff first we’ll eat.”

That generated a decent laugh (and it’s a line I’ve used before in jest) but I was still surprised. Of all the weird ideas people have had about Montana, beyond simply not knowing where it is, this was the first food-related episode I’ve encountered. They also asked how far I had to travel to get to an airport, something I’m asked quite often. This time I answered that it depended on the season, since in winter I must get there by dogsled, canoe in the spring runoff, horseback in the summer, etc.

 

Posted in Travel | 8 Comments

Los Angeles Street Art

I mentioned last week that I would devote a post solely to the photos I took of street art around the area of the Arts District in Los Angeles during my epic June 2014 Summer Vacation to Los Angeles. Well, dig this. . . .

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Battered By Waves

The Queen of the Sea

The Queen of the Sea

In the ongoing documentation of my epic June 2014 Summer Vacation to Los Angeles, we’ve reached Day Three. This was beach day. We’d met up with our friend Angela and her three boys — young men — the night before for dinner. This day we reconvened, piled into Angela’s Moby Dick (it’s a white Tahoe or some-such), and headed for the beach. We parked just a couple blocks away then walked on down. Being the middle of the week, it wasn’t crowded at all.

I love the ocean. I had a blast just diving into the waves and being buffeted about. Couldn’t have asked for a better day either; warm, but not scorching hot. I put the adventure case on my iPhone (it’s waterproof), then plunged back into the surf. I took a couple pictures, then shot a short SnapChat video of Julia making playful with the waves. I waded back shoreward, maybe thigh deep, to send it to all of her co-workers at Betty’s Divine.

Thing is, the swell was coming in steadily, and at times the waves were plenty big. I was manipulating the message on my phone when I heard one of Angela’s boys say, “Uh oh….” I looked up just as a wave broke, literally, right on my head.

Now I’m a big guy. Six feet tall, carrying way too much weight at this point, and sturdy. I don’t often get the sensation of just being totally manhandled. But brother, this wave dropped me like a poleax and proceeded to, I believe the term is, “washing machine” me. I mean, I’m only in about knee deep water, but a series of three or four waves surged in and broke right on me, rolled me back and forth across the bottom, all but tore my damn shorts off, and would not let me up (holding my phone out with one hand didn’t help). I was choking on sea water because I was laughing so hard. As for Julia, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard her laugh so hard. It was pretty damn funny.

The rest of the afternoon was uneventful. We parted ways with Angela and family, then headed to our hotel for the night (after a stop, of course, at In & Out Burger). It was a grand day.

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Vacation life is hard life

Vacation life is hard life

 

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A Conversation About Freedom

This conversation from a book I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced reading copy of, Cry Father, by my friend Benjamin Whitmer (due in September, so pre-order now!), was on my mind this past Friday. The 4th, of course, being one of those holidays with an overwhelming “You’re either with us or against us!” tone as it relates to the qualities of our beloved United States of America. Lest I be accused of being less than grateful for the cosmic good fortune of being born within these borders, I will say I love a hot dog, a cold beer, and a pretty, well-endowed girl in a stars-and-stripes bikini top as much as the next guy. But, you know, I’m not on board with a lot of that other stuff people seem to feel obligated to say about how “free” we are in this country.

Rather than rant I’ll leave it to fiction. This excerpt is a conversation in a bar between a crooked border patrol agent (Carmichael) and the book’s primary character (Patterson), in a bar. Technically I’m not even supposed to excerpt this book because it isn’t the “finished” copy, but fuck it. This is good stuff.

9781476734354_b0410“You really Border Patrol?” Patterson asks. He knows he probably shouldn’t be asking questions, but he can’t help it.

“Remember the Alamo!” Carmichael yells. Every head in the bar snaps around. He flashes his badge and they all return to what it is they were doing. “I’m fucking with them. I wouldn’t bust them on a bet.” He sighs happily.

“Isn’t that your job?” Patterson asks.

“On the clock.” Carmichael shrugs. “These’re the only things keeping us free, these places.”

“How do you figure?” Patterson asks.

“Think about it,” Carmichael says. “You’re out on the street, you’re on somebody’s radar all the time. And you’re always breaking the law. You know why?”

“Why?”

“Because there’s too many of ‘em to count. There’s laws about everything. Smoking. Eating. Mattresses. Even crossing the street. You know how many laws apply to you in Mexico when you need to cross the street?”

“No idea,” Patterson says. “I’ve never been to Mexico.”

“None, that’s how many. In Mexico, if you need to cross the street, you cross the street. They figure if you’re a fully functioning adult you can probably make it across a street without state intervention. That’s freedom, son. And it ain’t here. Here they’ve got things like jaywalking ordinances. If you can think of anything more insulting to your freedom I’d like to hear it.”

“I’ve thought about it.”

“Think you could name all the laws you’re subject to? Right now at this very moment?”

“No,” Patterson says. “No idea.”

“Fuck no, you can’t. Nobody can. You couldn’t follow all the laws if you tried. You can take it from me. I can’t even name all of them. If somebody wants to put you away, they don’t have to invent a reason. They can just scan through the law books, find one or two you’re breaking, and there you are, you sorry son of a bitch, you’re in jail. Because they’re always watching you. You can take that from me.”

“They hate us for our freedom. That’s what I heard.”

“Horseshit,” Carmichael says. “That’s one thing about Mexicans, we hate them for their freedom. That’s what all those peckerwoods down on the border with their rifles and their lawn chairs are protesting. That somebody has the right to just act like they’re free. To go wherever they want, freely. Drives them bugshit. I know, I have to deal with them.”

“So why is here free?” Patterson asks. “Why this bar? It’s in this country, subject to the same laws as everybody else.”

“No it ain’t.” Carmichael shakes his head. “Nobody’s watching here. You’re invisible. None of these fuckers even exist. They can come and go and nobody even notices. Nobody wants to notice. This country hums along on the simple fact of them not being noticed.”

“They’re free because they don’t exist?”

“Exactly. There’s nobody watching them, and when you’re in one of their shitholes, there’s nobody watching you. With them it’s almost like you’re living in America.”

“You really do love your job.” Patterson’s a little impressed.

“Fuck yes. I love every one of these little son of a bitches. Those who think they’re protecting America by keeping these people out, they’re full of shit. There ain’t no America left in the places they’re protecting. Their fucking malls and their fucking crosswalks and their fucking subdivisions. Freedom’s something that’s been designed out of those places.”

 

Posted in Books, Politics | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The Garment District

LA-1Vacation day two. The morning after Joshua Tree we were up early and on the road back to LA. See, the Taschen Book Store was having a big 50% – 75% off sale on damaged and display books, and it was mission critical we get there early to see what was what. This was a big deal because they put out cool books, we already have a few of their titles, and given we receive their catalog Julia already had a few in mind to look for. We headed to the Hollywood location (the other one in the area is located in Beverly Hills) which is located in this swanky little indoor/outdoor mall thing called the Farmer’s Market. We scored some books (about 30# worth, actually, all but one or two being pretty smutty), ate donuts and drank coffee, people watched, and I went down 0-2 in creepy child encounters (1 at Joshua Tree, and 1 harrowing experience in the restroom here).

From there we headed to the Garment District in downtown Los Angeles. Wow. What an experience. Julia was looking for some particular fringe for a project she is working on. The movie business may be what LA is famous for, but if you want to see where the rubber really hits the road, this is where you go. All manner of wild fabrics on display, mass produced garments for sale that come in from all over the world and go OUT all over America, etc.

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Then it was off to the warehouse district, where there are warehouses and distribution for just about everything you can imagine. Produce. Pinatas. I knew the factory where American Apparel makes their stuff is in the area, so we went looking for it and found it. I make my living moving around in the manufacturing sector, but damn if I wasn’t blown away too. By then we were hungry; perfect time for some hole-in-the-wall tacos.

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We went looking for the late, great Al’s Bar, which is in the Arts District. We found where it used to be, which is now a location of some magnificent street art. I’m going to safe those images for a post of their own. Julia got to chatting with a couple folks out smoking cigarettes in front of the Art Share LA building, which was just across the street. This led us to getting a tour of the facility from a guy named Terry Ellsworth. It was a beautiful space, and what they are doing is very cool.

We plunged back into traffic headed west for Long Beach and a reunion with our friends —  Angela Davis and her crew of young men — vowing to return for more district exploration before our trip was over.

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Outside My Window

On the feeder out the window just to the left of me, a lovely male/female pair of Evening Grosbeaks.

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