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.

 

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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.”

 

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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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Joshua Tree

JT-11Vacation started at 4:30 AM on Wednesday morning. We blearily got to the business of gathering up our stuff (we’d packed the night before) and heading out the door. A few hours, a couple flights, and we were feet-on-the-ground at LAX about 10:30 AM. An hour waiting through a beleaguered check-in at Hertz and we were on the road, headed south and east to Joshua Tree National Park. We stopped at a Trader Joe’s on the way and stocked up on fruit and sandwich fixings.

A few observations we made right away:

  • The street signs over the freeways in LA, normally a bright green, are gross with traffic grime to the point of being beige. “Greige” was the color Julia assigned to them. That amused us.
  • Southern California is terribly dry with drought.
  • The Prius we had ended up in looked small on the outside, but was surprisingly roomy on the inside.
  • There are a shitload of windmills out on I-10, more than I remembered.
  • Driving through the town of Yucca Valley, the last town before the town of Joshua Tree, was a disappointment that tried to diminish my otherwise good cheer. It was overrun with the typical Starbucks, Wal Mart, and fast food franchises one sees everywhere. That worked against my vision of what I was hoping to experience during this part of the trip.
  • Joshua Tree the town quickly reestablished my vision of what I’d hoped to see in a grimy, run-down desert town.
  • We enjoyed speculating on the people who come to desert towns to live, with their bizarre arts and willingness to sacrifice comfort to make lives in them. We both admire and are fascinated by these people.

It was 99° and 3:30 PM or so when we arrived at the Safari Inn, our home for the night. A perfect little roadside dump of the type we prefer when we travel (“I like my motels like I like my women,” I quipped shortly after squeezing into our room, “Roadside and cheap!”), but charming, with a nifty little courtyard out back.

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We made our sandwiches, talked about Gram Parsons and his death at the Joshua Tree Inn, relaxed a little, then I went out to explore. Bought a hat and a sunglasses case. Verbally jousted with the creepy proprietor at the Circle K. Even found the World Famous Crochet Museum, pictured below in a swipe from Dita Von Teese’s Instagram account:

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Dita, unfortunately, wasn’t there waiting for me. Next time. . . .

 

That evening we drove up into the Joshua Tree park to be in position to watch the sunset. The landscape is indescribable, and photos do it little justice. We listened to Sweetheart of the Rodeo by The Byrds. We stopped at a couple spots on the way up to Keys View and just wandered around. I saw a speedy little lizard. The forests of Joshua Trees were gorgeous. At the top, we were joined by a number of other tourists there for the same reason. I was stared at relentlessly by a young German kid. The smog over the Coachella Valley was thick. It clouded every direction. The sun set. We descended to our motel room, ate another peanut butter sandwich, then retired. We’ll be back.

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Vacation Long Time Coming

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 9.21.39 PMJust arrived home Sunday afternoon after a few days in the Los Angeles area on an actual vacation. We flew out early Wednesday morning and were going pretty hard until we flew back again Sunday. We had a great time. I may elaborate further throughout the week as I get photos sorted out, but in a nutshell we saw some things we’d never seen before, visited some good friends, and basically just did whatever the hell we wanted. Weather cooperated, hovering around the 80° mark, for the most part, which was so much better than the upper 90s I experienced back in May.

Still, it is quite a welcome return home. I love Southern California, and would go there more often if I could. But for all its beauty — the mountains, the ocean, the wild and creative things people do there — it is also a blight. The smog is so thick that even on a clear day it’s a little gross. We could have done at least two or more things if we hadn’t spent so much time in traffic. Coming home to breezy and cool temperatures, blazing sun in a flawless blue sky one minute, then iron gray clouds and storming the next (stand in a spot and turn a circle and you can see all that happening at once depending on the direction you face), it is as if everything is viewed in high definition. I didn’t take any pictures this evening, but maybe I should have . . . it was something to behold. Absolutely crystal clear, waves of forested texture as the light stroked the slopes of the mountains, just all that touchy feely postcard stuff. As much as I love seeing other places, Montana remains a glorious place, and I am truly fortunate to live here.

 

(As I write this Sunday night at dusk, suddenly a cacophony of coyote yips and howls erupts. I open my window the rest of the way and kneel in front of it to listen; maybe a minute or so. Two of them sound to be about 100-200 yards to the west, and I can hear another one well off in the distance to the north; just as suddenly they are quiet. I do love it here!)

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