One-Sentence Journal, Weeks Thirty-Eight and Thirty-Nine

Missed posting last week, so here are two weeks’ worth. . . .

  1. 10/06/2014:  Quoted at lights-out, without context: “Didn’t we end up with a bed full of beans once when your bag broke?”
  2. 10/07/2014:  Every time I get outdoors — up in the hills, along the river, wherever — I feel like the world just gives and gives and I’m not doing a damn thing to give anything back.
  3. 10/08/2014:  Pleasantly sore and muscle-tweaked at bedtime from this morning’s workout, yet the best part is knowing that, as an off day, I don’t need to even think about doing it again tomorrow morning.
  4. 10/09/2014:  I’m not sure I want to live in a world where Gone Girls is considered a good movie, as it is awful in ways that only movies with “based on the runaway bestseller by…” in their description can be.
  5. 10/10/2014:  American Falcon rock show tonight, where I get to chafe at being the oldest guy in the room.
  6. 10/11/2014:  Little sleep the night before makes for a lazy Saturday, only improved by gray skies and pouring rain from wire to wire.
  7. 10/12/2014:  Today I walked through Flipper’s bar in order to use the restroom and felt a surprisingly strong tug of desire to start watching football again; games on all the televisions, its fans gathered in factions around the bright screens, drinking beer and choking down bar food, seeming to enjoy themselves.
  8. 10/13/2014:  Sad day today as we learn that our little Velcro does have a tumor, and it is indeed terminal.
  9. 10/14/2014:  For the second time in less than a week I find myself driving home on the dark side of midnight, a turn of events somewhat unprecedented in recent years.
  10. 10/15/2014:  I’m not ashamed to say I’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy four times in the theater.
  11. 10/16/2014:  Fall mornings like today — brisk, sunny, damp — are so gorgeous they almost make my heart hurt.
  12. 10/17/2014:  I spend so much time up in the hills lately, it’s easy to forget how gorgeous a fall evening along the river across from downtown Missoula can be.
  13. 10/18/2014:  This afternoon was spent measuring, cutting, taping — crafting! — in poster board, even as Julia shared the space while performing the same tasks in fabric.
  14. 10/19/2014:  Scenes from a parking spot by the river trail: a couple, seemingly older than Missoula itself, sauntering along; a hippy guy, his flannel tied around his waist, ambling along playing a handmade wooden flute; a young man on a bmx bike, racing along hands-free, air drumming to the music in his ear buds as if his very life depended on it.



Bazaar of the Bizarre

Saturday I stopped at the Albertsons to pick up a few groceries. As I was standing in the aisle, puzzled, trying to make the correct choice from the various brands of organic quinoa on offer (who am I kidding, I was in the candy aisle trying to find the best price-per-pound available on dark chocolate), I became aware of a conversation happening just a couple strides to my left. An Albertsons employee — a young woman, maybe late-20’s/early-30s — had a table set up where she was giving samples out. She was engaged in excited discussion with a man who looked old as dirt, but in reality was probably my age, if not a little younger.

They were discussing our 44th and current President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama II.

I don’t like to talk too much politics or religion around here, but I can’t not talk about these two. I couldn’t hear the woman so well, as she had her back to me, but the man was reasonably audible as he was facing me. I couldn’t pick up every word, but the gist of his points were this:

  • Obama is a proven, and self-admitted, Muslim
  • “What are people going to do when he ‘dies’,” the man said, making air quotes with his fingers, “and rises again as the anti-Christ?”
  • A minute or so of explanation about all the events detailed in the Quran that line up with things Obama has done that prove he is, indeed, the anti-Christ, and will, indeed, rise from the dead
  • A moving statement about how much he feels sorry for people who can’t see this truth, particularly because they aren’t acting with their own minds and are essentially zombies
  • “They’re brainwashed!” I clearly heard the woman offer with particular enthusiasm, like the child who suddenly finds that, against all odds, she has the answer to the question the teacher throws out to the room

There was more, but I didn’t stick around to listen; I’d found the chocolate I was looking for. I considered politely interrupting and asking, “Excuse me, but you people don’t actually believe this horseshit, do you?” But I didn’t, I just went on about my business of driving home, followed by cruising the park with my hot undead wife looking for brains of the living to dine upon.

Look, you ask me, and I’m going to cop to believing in some crazy stuff. Aliens? Who doesn’t? Bigfoot? Are you kidding me, of course! But I’ll say so with a twinkle in my eye, parrying a “But science has never proven they exist!” with “AHA! But it hasn’t proven they DON’T either, so FACE!” There are things I believe in because I want to. It makes life more interesting. More fun!

You can say the same thing about religion. If faith brings you comfort, if you can be peaceful about it and not try and force your ideas on me, I’m totally cool with whatever gets you through your day. Truly. There are plenty of solid teachings there that, if more people followed them, the world would probably be a better place, and I think some people find a much needed community in faith. Peace and love; do unto others; and it harm none, do what you will shall be the whole of the law.

To me, believing in the existence of some large, hairy, unseen denizen of the Pacific Northwest isn’t so different from believing in, I mean literally believing in, the majority of the characters in the Bible, right up to Jesus himself. There’s more valid scholarship questioning his actual existence in fact than there is proving Sasquatch doesn’t exist, for that matter. But hey, whatever floats your ark. Like I said, it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other, as long as you don’t try pushing others around with your beliefs. It would help if you stay away from all the stoning and murder and all that other creepy shit those old bastards snuck into the holy text too.

Still, when faced with zealotry and ignorance like I overheard in Albertsons the other day, it blows my mind and is a little frightening. To think there are people that actually believe that stuff, in the USA, in 2014, is amazing. I don’t know how they manage it. Look at the statistics for the USA these days for how many people believe in some of these wackier ideas, or don’t believe in others — particularly as it relates to little things like evolution and/or climate change, “theories” that are as close to scientific fact as little theories like, I don’t know, GRAVITY — and then you will know why I feel like we are pretty much doomed.

As for Obama, well. I see my share of stupid bumperstickers, email jokes, whatever. The racist ones in particular make me shake my head. When you play that stuff you’re poking fun at a guy while displaying your own vastly underdeveloped intellect. I’m no fan, didn’t vote for him (I haven’t voted either R or D in the presidential election since 1996, but this being Montana, with all of two electoral votes, my vote in that particular race means do-dah anyway), but I wouldn’t say for all of his disappointments it’s not like he’s failed in everything. He’s about what I expected, which is why I never got on his bandwagon.

The political discourse toward the man has been enlightening as to how screwed the USA is these days. I don’t see it changing. I just hope we don’t run out of brains to feed on before Obama comes back from the other side with hellfire in one hand and shark mouths for fingers on the other. Politics in general, for crissakes. Is there a larger group of mostly old, mostly white men who are more out of touch with the rest of us than those we elect? We pretty much have the country and government we deserve. Kudos to those people who still have the energy to try and change some things here and there.


At Any Given Moment

They look like they're joining the Marines tomorrow, but they'll melt your face tonight

They look like they’re joining the Marines tomorrow, but they’ll melt your face tonight

Last Friday night my band, AMERICAN FALCON, was set to rock The Palace in downtown Missoula. It was a warm night, and there was a ton of activity downtown. We arrived around 9:00 PM or so, loaded in, then were just kind of hanging around outside. In an oddly surreal setting, what with all the young people running up and down the street hooting and hollering, and the thudding, muffled grumble of a metal band starting up inside, there was a large group of religious folks across the street singing spiritual songs. Based on their garb I’m guessing they were from one of the various Hutterite groups in the area (or are they Mennonite? Hell, I don’t know….). After a while they broke up, but then a woman, with two young girls in tow, started making her way up the sidewalk with a handful of pamphlets and plenty to say to anyone who would listen.

She ended up beside me, telling her story about how she’d given up drugs and alcohol and sex with her boyfriend and all that awful stuff, then she asked me if I was ready to face death, ready to face Jesus. I just shrugged and said that when the time came I really didn’t have much of a choice but to face whatever comes next, and who really knows what that is, right? She looked at me, and she said, “You know, a lot of people your age and your size die suddenly. You need to be ready, you need to get straight with Jesus.”

I just kind of laughed and looked at Travis and Jimmy. “Did you hear that? She just called me old and fat.”

“You’re gonna die at any moment,” Jimmy said.

It’s an interesting thing, playing these shows. It’s something that, when it’s happening, I still love. I wish we could do it more. The other day I was flipping through this part-memoir, part-photo book by Nikki Sixx from Mötley Crüe. I’m not really a fan of the band but I’ve seen the guy’s street photography and it’s pretty damn good. This particular book didn’t have much subject matter that I was that interested in, but I did read a passage where he was talking about his band members. That he doesn’t feel like he’s aged at all, but when he looks at the other guys in the band he sees how they have aged, and knows that they see the same thing in him.

I certainly relate to that. Looking in the room around me, I see other rock people, whether band members or just people out for the evening, and it’s the same crowd I’ve been seeing for decades now. They look the same as they ever did, and I don’t feel much different. But I know I’ve changed, and with the miles and the gray hair and all that I know I look like that old burnout that doesn’t belong there. Until we start to play anyway.

Being gigantic is my own stupid fault, and I also know it ain’t as bad as it looks. But earlier this summer, when my son was having some difficulties, I realized that I would be a hypocrite to lecture him about taking better care of himself if I didn’t do the same. It isn’t always easy to make the right decisions — to eat right, to keep our minds right, to exercise — especially when it seems the American marketing machine is trying to lure us down paths we shouldn’t take. There’s a quote I’ve seen attributed various ways to various people that goes something like this: self discipline is the highest form of self respect. I like that.

Still. I’m not that old, especially coming from a long line of people too stubborn and ornery to yield to an early death, and fuck you if you think I should be spending my time on things more “age appropriate.” I’m not as fat as I was even just a couple weeks ago, and I’m almost forty pounds less than I was when we did our residency in February. The band can still rock with any pack of young punks that square off with us, and I can still beat my big, strong kid arm wrestling. So don’t count me out just yet. . . .


Doris Hecker: October 28, 1921 – October 9, 2014

My grandmother on my mom’s side passed away last week. She died peacefully in the hospital with family there. If there’s a decent way to go, that’s probably it. My mom is doing fine; reflective, as one tends to be in these types of situations, but that’s never a bad thing.

I was much closer to my grandma when I was younger. We spent a decent amount of time at her house when we were kids, especially when I got into junior high and spent so much time playing D&D with my cousin, who lived with her. I remember staying there for a week going to soccer camp when I was in junior high as well. My lips got incredibly sunburned, I remember that. I can remember my mom arguing against Nixon to my Grandma’s then-husband, a guy named Lee that I remember had a couple Harleys in the back garage. Lots of little snippets of memories like that. Christmas trees. A black widow spider found hanging in the corner of the kitchen that had to be removed. Her little dog, Bingo. The Plymouth Valiant she drove forever. A piano. The bookshelf to the left right inside the front door where I once found a boxed set of Thoreau’s works . . . which now resides on the shelf behind me as I write.

I am in the neighborhood of where she lived at least once a week. For people who know Missoula, she lived about half a block off Higgins on Fairview Avenue, right across from Dornblaser Field. The Grizzlies still played football there then, and I can remember all the streets being choked with parked cars on game day, and the cannons being fired whenever a touchdown was scored. When I was in high school and our marching band would combine with all the other regional bands for a “mass band” for the U of M homecoming halftime show, that was the field we marched on. I’ve never even been inside the new (new as of 1986) stadium they play in now. Don’t even know if the high school bands combine to play arrangements of popular songs like they did in my day.

When I was young I was a big sports fan, and she always was too. She was from Nebraska; I know she was always a big fan of Nebraska football. When Ted Turner launched his Superstation, I used to watch a lot of Atlanta Braves baseball at her house because we couldn’t get cable at my house (that wasn’t a parental decision, that was the reality of living in the sticks; we had a whopping two channels, and neither signal came in worth a shit). She also took me to a Montana Grizzlies basketball game at least once. I distinctly remember seeing Michael “Sugar” Ray Richardson drop 40 points on Gonzaga University. I remember the college students chanting, “Bullshit! Bullshit!” to bad calls by the referees. I looked on agape, my grandma merely wrung her hands and pulled a distasteful face. I remember walking down court side to the bench and getting Richardson’s autograph. You could still do things like that in those days.

I remember her picking me up after the first game my team lost when I was in little league, and I started crying, and she told me how important it was not to cry when you lose.

I remember getting a t-shirt that had the album cover of the 1978 KISS: PAUL STANLEY solo album (one of only a couple records I owned on 8-track, cassette, LP, and CD) on it. I wore it all the time. When she saw it, she wrung her hands, pulled the distasteful face, and said, “Oh, honey. Oh, honey.” Her demeanor was a constant source of humor for all of us. She didn’t like what she didn’t like, and while she might show her dissatisfaction she was never cruel about it, at least that I can remember. I don’t remember her ever being cross with me at all. I can remember many times when she would clap her hands and smile and say, “Oh, isn’t this FUN!”

She was Czech and Danish by blood, maybe more than that, I don’t know. When I went to the Czech Republic for work, I brought back some coins and paper money and put them in a little frame for her.

In the last few years we would sometimes see her at the grocery store near our house, as we only lived maybe a mile or two from her as a crow flies, but as her health failed and she couldn’t get out, I didn’t see her much. The last time I saw her was at a birthday party a couple years ago. Maybe her 90th? I don’t really know. Years compact as one gets older, and I’m regularly shocked to realize things that seemed to have just happened actually occurred several years ago. That probably makes me sound like a terrible grandson, but my family has never been particularly tight. I think my ex-wife visited her more than I did. It’s given me pause for introspection myself, but I’ve never known any other way so it’s hard to understand if I should feel any differently. I don’t know what she thought of me, but I have no doubts she loved me, even if maybe in the last couple years she wouldn’t have recognized me. Any regrets are mine. I regret not knowing more about her life, because there is a lot of it in 93 years. She had a full life and people loved her. That’s not a bad state to go out in.

Me, my mom, and my grandma at the Uptown Cafe on my 40th birthday

Me, my mom, and my grandma at the Uptown Cafe on my 40th birthday

One-Sentence Journal, Week Thirty-Seven

  1. 09/29/2014:  Hitting my favorite haunts after an uneventful travel day to Minneapolis, one of the few opportunities for a direct flight, and I’m reminded how beautiful one of the women who works at Birchbark Books is, who I believe is also Louise Erdrich’s daughter.
  2. 09/30/2014:  I wonder if the first person to ever write one of those Hallmark-style corporate mission statements posted in the lobby of every company I visit gets royalties for all the plagiarism going on.
  3. 10/01/2014:  Whenever I am in Minnesota I always pick up the latest available edition of Boundary Waters Journal, which sets me to daydreaming of canoe and kayak adventures in the watery North Country.
  4. 10/02/2014:  The I-90 corridor where Minnesota borders Wisconsin, as well as the stretch of Highway 61 shadowing the Mississippi River heading kind of north and west from there to the Twin Cities, is as gorgeous a stretch as anywhere else in a country overflowing with beautiful landscapes.
  5. 10/03/2014:  Coming home to a pet who is suffering — even when prepared for it — still really sucks.
  6. 10/04/2014:  Stayed up late watching Into the Cold, a documentary of an expedition to the North Pole, and after seeing these two dudes hunker down in sleeping bags in -40° temperatures made me doubly content to waddle down the hall, step over three farting dogs and one vicious feline, and slip between the sheets of a bed already warmed by a sleeping woman.
  7. 10/05/2014:  Band practice and then a photoshoot for Missoula designer Fool’s Gold Jewelry makes for a satisfying day of creativity, made all the better by sunshine, good people, and a shot or three of Black Velvet.



Like a Civil War Field Hospital

One of the downsides to traveling a fair amount is that inevitably something goes down at home while I’m away. Whenever it does, I always say, “Why does stuff like this always happen whenever I go out of town?!” when the reality is that bad stuff rarely happens, and when it does, it’s likelier to happen when I’m around.

Here are a couple examples. Once I got home late after a trip and found a note that Julia was at the hospital. She’d fallen down the stairs, then had to drag herself back to the top, hobble out to the car, and deliver herself to the emergency room. She’d broken her foot. Another time one of our dogs starting acting out of sorts and was delivered to the vet, where Julia learned the beast had swallowed a rock and needed emergency surgery. Then there was the time I got a couple calls from Texas in the middle of the night, which I ignored, only to find out that my kid had landed himself in jail (long story), and the number the jail phone calls out from routes out through Texas. Yeah, that was pretty awesome.

No way am I suggesting that Julia is some wilting flower who needs a man around to take care of things. Hardly. She’s a hell of a lot more capable in most ways when it comes to day-to-day bullshit than I am. It’s just a drag to have to deal with stuff alone, and I always feel a little guilty when I’m not around to pull my weight. Like while I’m sitting in a movie theater, or eating my weight in expense account pizza, she’s dealing with calamity.

One morning this past week while I was in Minnesota, Julia discovered that one of our dogs (coincidentally the same one who’d required emergency surgery as discussed in the preceding anecdote) was bleeding from the back of her leg. Further investigation revealed some kind of cyst, or sore, or abscess, or whatever had busted open and was leaking profusely. This dog, Velcro, is (allegedly) a Jack Russell terrier. She’s also a nutcase. She’s a rescue dog and kind of a whackadoo, but she’s also loving and dear to us. She is gangly and misshapen, frankly, especially at the back end. We’ve always suspected that if any of the dogs ever developed some weird malady, it would be her. Yet she continues stumbling along, and has to be at least 12 or 13 now.

Long story short, Julia took Velcro to the vet. The vet said the wound was clearly infected, that it could be an abscess but could also be a tumor, as they sometimes will swell up and burst. He gave her antibiotics to kill the infection, then once that is under control and the bleeding hopefully stopped, he can investigate further. Velcro came home. The morning I was headed home Julia warned me that Velcro didn’t look so good, and that there would probably be some blood tracked around the house accumulated from the time she left to pick me up at the airport and then we arrived home again some hours later, and that I should be ready.

I really wasn’t prepared for the reality of her words. There were streaks of blood everywhere. The house even smelled like blood. The entire back of one of Velcro’s legs was streaked with it. It was stressful, as anyone with pets who are suffering knows.

Now, a few days removed, the worst is over. She still bleeds a little now and then, but her spirits are back to normal and the house doesn’t feel like a place where limbs have been amputated. She goes back to the vet on Monday to be looked at again. Last weekend, though, we were supposed to attend an Octoberfest party at the home of the woman Julia works with at Betty’s Divine. In explaining to Aimee why we couldn’t make it, Julia provided the following artistic rendering on a sticky note of Velcro’s condition. It’s pretty spot on, right down to the bulbous ass and odd hair patterns. Poor Velcro. Still, the picture’s pretty funny.


Hopefully Velcro doesn’t have a tumor. She’s loving the extra attention, though, particularly the nightly heated butt compress while piled up on Julia’s lap on the couch. We’re hoping for the best, or at least something close to it.


Shrinking the World in Minnesota

hhbc-1When I was in Louisville earlier this summer, my last evening there I had dinner at a place called Eiderdown. I also had a couple beers I really liked called “Flaming Longship” from a small brewery in Minnesota, Hammerheart Brewing Company. This is what they are all about, per their Facebook page:

Two brothers (in-law) brewing hoppy, smoky, and often oaked beers that are influenced by the beauty from the lakes of Minnesota to the wondrous mountains of Norway.

We love good beer, Nordic history, vast forests, epic mountains and of course, the lakes. We have made it our mission to keep the flame of craft beer burning by brewing great beer in our own style and supporting the spread of craft brewing world wide. BREW STRONG!

While in the Minneapolis area last week for work, one evening I decided to drive an hour to Lino Lakes and visit the brewery. It’s a cool place; wood floor that clumps nicely underfoot, exposed beams, a dragonhead prow over the door, Nordic flags out front, etc. I ordered a beer, told the bartender the story of how I’d heard of them, then took a seat at a long table to soak it all in. A few minutes later a long-haired, bearded guy sat down across from me, introduced himself as Austin Lund, and proceeded to question me re: where I’d gotten the beer in Louisville. Turns out that not only is Mr. Lund one of the two brothers (in-law) that own the place, but he’s also the Master Brewer. AND he is from Louisville, and has only been in Minnesota a couple years.

We spent the next 90 minutes or so just swapping stories. Talk of the outdoors, wildlife, beer, beer culture, his trips to Norway, things like that. Bottom line is that if I didn’t have a friend in Louisville I’d never have encountered Eiderdown, never would have had the Flaming Longship, and never would have ended up having a great evening in a strange place that made me feel good about the people I share the world with and my place in it. That doesn’t happen often. When it does it’s pretty cool.


I had a free afternoon before the morning of my departure. There is a company who makes canoe paddles I’ve had my eye on for some time now called the Sanborn Canoe Company. They’re about three hours from Minneapolis, but I figured what else was I going to do? I pointed my rental car south and east. The day was gray and rainy and blustery as hell, but that didn’t bother me.

I’ve made the drive on I-90 where Minnesota and Wisconsin meet a couple times before and it’s gorgeous. It’s not flat at all, there are plenty of rolling hills covered in trees. This time I also hooked up with Highway 61, which runs sort of N/S along the Mississippi River. This terrain is nothing short of breathtaking, particularly on a wet and cloudy day like mine, where the bluffs and cliffs appear and disappear in the mist. I enjoyed it immensely; it reminded me of the Columbia Gorge in Oregon in many ways.

Sanborn is just a wood shop that sells paddles and other stuff. I was maybe there all of 20-30 minutes. The guy I talked to — a younger dude, his name escapes me now — was one of the founders and also very friendly. I don’t think they get a lot of drop-in visitors, but I got the grand tour and had their manufacturing process described to me. These guys are another example of the type of people I find so inspiring: folks who pick something they love to do and figure out a way to make a living doing it.

I’d like to get down through there again. There’s never enough time to explore these places, it seems.

riverbank-2 riverbank-1