Friday Reads – Closer to the Ground by Dylan Tomine

About-Closer-to-the-Ground~~element51From an actual conversation in the car, instigated by the excellent Closer to the Ground by Dylan Tomine.

Julia: Would you eat one of those clams that looks like a dick?

Me: You mean a geoduck?


Hell no.

Why not?

Because there are already enough things I like to eat. I don’t need to muddy the waters with more things.

But what if we went to some fancy restaurant on the coast or something, and they had all this kind of seafood on the menu?

I think it’s a bad idea. That’s how vacations get ruined, people eating weird food, then they spent the weekend in the bathroom. It’s not like we go out to eat at fancy places very often anyway.

You never know, you may love it.

(Ponders a moment, considering) I like clam dip. And I like those little oyster crackers.

(Rolls eyes)  How about as an appetizer? We could try it as an appetizer!

No! Why would I do that? It’s not worth the risk.


Yeah, risk. What if I didn’t like it? Then I just spent $12 on something gross when I could have had the bacon-wrapped prawns, which are always going to deliver.

I’m getting it as an appetizer.

You better bring your own $12 then.

I will bring my own $12! I’ll throw it right out on the table!

Go ahead. Keep your clammy fingers away from my bacon-wrapped prawns while you’re at it!


I read this book back in January and loved it. It’s excellent and inspiring. I loaned it to my mom, who also liked it. And Julia just finished reading it. You should too. Here’s what it’s about:

Closer to the Ground is the deeply personal story of a father learning to share his love of nature with his children, not through the indoor lens of words or pictures, but directly, palpably, by exploring the natural world as they forage, cook and eat from the woods and sea. Closer to the Ground captures the beauty and surprise of the world – and the ways it teaches us how to live – with humor, gratitude and a nose for adventure as keen as a child’s. It is a book filled with weather, natural history, and many delicious meals. Dylan Tomine, formerly a fly-fishing guide, is now a writer, conservation advocate, blueberry farmer and father, not necessarily in that order. His work has appeared in The Flyfish Journal, the Drake, Golfweek, the New York Times and numerous other publications. He lives with his family on an island in Puget Sound.


Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I’ve been traveling a lot for work; I’m in the midst of a stretch of 7 trips in 8 weeks, with a couple more pending. Thankfully, modern communication technology does not keep Julia and I from blasting sweet nothings over the cyberways, even as I toil away at the front lines. She’s so sweet. . . .

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In Which I Make My Wife Scream In Bed: A Post-Thanksgiving Tale of Joy

Just came from the store. Julia is already downstairs, settled in, TCBing on her laptop from between the sheets (And a blanket. And a down throw. And a down comforter). I know the last couple days of Thanksgiving debauchery have left her in a guilt-ridden state, full of woe, post-pecan pie. But that stuff isn’t going to eat itself, you know, and I’m really no help when it comes to pie.

So I was at the grocery store, and as I passed the ice cream cooler my feet automatically turned me into the aisle. See, since hearing of this new, limited edition run of ice cream, Julia has been on the prowl for it . . . and we’ve never seen it. I even checked out a couple places when I was in Portland a couple weeks ago, to no avail. Actually seeing it is like wanting to see the Loch Ness Monster, or the mighty Bigfoot or Yeti. It’s been going on for months. Kind of an obsession, really. Apparently, as this article states, its availability has been challenged, for typical bullshit, panties-in-a-bunge, concerned American what-about-the-children reasons:

Prepare to cry tears of joy, sorrow, or indifference because at some grocers, Ben & Jerry’s “Schweddy Balls” ice cream is no more.

The popular limited edition ice cream flavor that took its name from the Saturday Night Live sketch starring Alec Baldwin as a baker named Pete Schweddy is being pulled from some grocery store shelves, thanks in large part to groups like One Million Moms who were worried that the “vulgar name” was too offensive for the tiny impressionable ears of children.

Very, very concerned parents: 1
Ben & Jerry’s: 0

We’d given up hope of ever actually seeing it.

Until now:


I felt like I had just encountered the elusive gulo gulo in the parking lot, gnoshing on a passenger pigeon. I had only a moment’s pause, because I knew Julia was already overcome with sugar. But I couldn’t not buy it, could I? If I’d taken a picture and not bought it, I’d probably be sleeping in my truck tonight.

So I bought it, and when I got home, I took a bowl and spoon and descended the staircase. Told her to close her eyes. Held it before her, and said, “Okay, you can open them.”

She squealed with delight.

Don’t ever let it be said I don’t know how to give a lady what she wants in the sack, people.



The YMCA is for Fighting

As I was coming up the sidewalk on my way to pump some iron during my lunch break today, some guy was coming out, and he had a young girl, probably eight or ten or so, with him. He was all sweaty, his face was bright red, and he had a basketball under his arm. I assumed he was leaving the high octane open pickup basketball that occurs every Mon/Weds/Fri. Hell, I’ve even played a few times; a couple years ago I made a point to regularly.

Anyway, as we sort of crossed paths, I could hear what he was saying to the little girl (his daughter, I presume; he looked to be about my age).

“He doesn’t want to play basketball. He wants to fight. He wants to get his ass beat. At the YMCA. By me.”

Ah, testosterone and frustrated jocks. Two things that go together like fire and gasoline. What a dork.

Of course, I can’t really talk. There was a guy who played a lot when I played regularly. An older guy, a lawyer, I learned. He was a loudmouth and a dick, and I didn’t like him. Julia and I would see him around town sometimes, and I’d always point him out in a whisper and a jabbing finger in his direction.

“See, there he is!” I’d say.

“Who?” Julia would say.

“That guy,” I’d say. Blank stare. Maybe even a shrug. “You know, my nemesis from the Y!”

“Oh, that guy.”

If she rolled her eyes, she was smart enough not to let me see it.



Born to Drive

About ten days ago something happened that rarely happens: a work trip coincided with a little planned vacation, and Julia was able to accompany me. We had been planning a mad dash of a trip to Portland, and then a customer materialized for a project out in Tillamook, OR, which is just about 90 minutes west of PDX. So rather than fly I rented a car in Missoula on Tuesday evening and we blasted out very early for the 8.5ish hour drive to Portland, then from there out to Tillamook by afternoon. It was the quickest 8-9 hour drive I’ve ever done, I think.

(Hey, beleaguered reader, I know you’re busy, so wanna skip all the jibber jabber? Dig the epic slideshow of images from this trip right HERE)

The only stop we made in Portland outbound was IKEA. Julia had her eyes on a chair, so we braved marital discord to take a cruise through there. I say “marital discord” because, as we were leaving, Julia commented that we’d made it through. Apparently this is one of those stores that can make husbands and wives get short with one another. I don’t know, I was just happy to stretch my legs a bit. It was actually fun.

It’s mindboggling too, the way all these areas are set up so fancy; the arrangements screams, “If you buy this, you TOO can have the perfect home!” We were sitting in one little living room set, and Julia said something about how we don’t have any rugs on our floors. I said it’s because we can’t have nice things. I said if we want to decorate them, we should just throw down rushes; straw. There was a woman nearby who burst out laughing. Sadly, it’s kind of the truth.

Our favorite set was this little 235 sq ft setup they had. I could totally live in that amount of space — it would be perfect. It was so much better than all the huge kitchen and living room setups. 235 sq ft to live in, then a studio out back about the same size? Perfect. After browsing around about an hour we went out to the warehouse to get our chair and stuff.

Then it was time for a reward.

From there we bolted out to Tillamook. We checked into our motel, then  chilled out a little. We went for a reconnaissance  drive and saw the factory for Tillamook Cheese, and learned they have a visitors’ center. Of course we had to stop!

Inside they have a gift shop and a store where you can buy their merch and other Oregon stuff. What they also had was a raised balcony where you could look out over the production floor. That was pretty cool. There was plenty of cheese makin’ going on.

You know what’s in these vats? Well, Tillamook makes ice cream too….

Which we were then obligated to sample, of course. And by sample I mean “eat huge double scoops stuffed into a waffle cone.”

I know this all sounds touristy as hell. So what would a touristy report be without a goofy touristy photo to go along with it?

Hey, Kids

From here it was on to the ocean. A chilly, blustery day out on the coast, but beautiful as ever. What needs to be said about the ocean, really?

We wrapped up the evening with dinner from a taco truck. What a perfect way to end an awesome day.

The next morning before work I got up early and went for a walk out behind the motel into Tillamook farm country. It was a cool, misty kind of morning . . . but beautiful. Yeah, it’s dairy country, so the smell wasn’t that great, but I still enjoyed it. Snapped a few pictures while sauntering about.

I wrapped up work early that afternoon and we dashed back to Portland in time to check into a new motel, freshen up, then head out toward the Powell’s Books location on Hawthorne. We went to a cozy restaurant called 3 Doors Down and joined one of my favorite authors, Bonnie Jo Campbell, for an epic feast. She was in town teaching in the low residency MFA program at Pacific University, and tied in a reading from her brand new book, Once Upon a River (click the link for a chance to win a copy!). She was also accompanied by her friend (and former student, I believe) Eric Miller, whom we are all too happy to meet as well. The final member of our party was a kind woman whose name totally escapes me; also a former student. After stuffing our faces, we walked around the block to the store and attended the reading. It was excellent. I was going to videotape it, and thought I did, but apparently the batteries failed. Boo!

Wait, was it that? Could it be a Donkeygirl original that Bonnie is wearing? It is! Julia brought it for her, and Bonnie dashed into the restroom so she could wear it during the reading. How kind of her! She even introduced Julia to the room as her “personal designer.” Now the two them are hatching up costume ideas to dress Bonnie’s two donkeys in.

She looks so serious in these pictures, but hey — writing and reading is serious! Bonnie, however, is every bit the gas to be around I expected she’d be. Can’t wait for her to come to Missoula this fall so we can hang out some more.

After the reading, stuffed, we retired back to the hotel. The next morning we slept in, I snapped a couple shots out our window, then it was back on the road. We made it home in time for me to play a rock show with AMERICAN FALCON that night, then up early the next morning for Saturday Market. Yeah, it was a lot of driving and a whirlwind trip, but it was worth every minute.

As if all these photos aren’t enough, there are even more! You can see a slideshow on my flickr page HERE.