Wednesday, May 25, 2011

that's a wrap

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower.
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

- written 1923 by Robert Frost

This poem came into my life from a dancer I once dated. She fancied these few verses by Frost. And in short order I found myself enjoying the same poem from time to time. Now is one of those times.

There was the first post on this blog and with this, the last. For over a year and a half I have been doing my best to report stories, faces, places, personalities and inspirations on any given day. I have enjoyed the people who informed me every so often that something I wrote made them feel something or see something beautiful. Those uncommon comments fueled my tank along the way.

For a multitude of reasons I will no longer be keeping my notes from the field. The short answer is I feel this blog has run its course. I no longer feel I am reporting moments of inspiration the way I set out to do in the beginning. You can be sure life's smallest moments will still catch my eye and grab my heart but that is where they will stay.

To the handful of dedicated readers I thank you for your interest in my bits of banter. And for those who dropped by every once in a while I hope you managed to take away some enjoyment from this dusty diary of mine.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I gotta go attack life.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bullwinkle (and gang) in the backyard!

I arrived back at the house after my run and the thought hit me- "i wonder what time of year that moose usually comes around" I made a few more steps down towards the creek and spotted Bullwinkle in my backyard! Had I not been jamming to my tunes i would have spied him before i spooked him. He saw me and made an unhurried effort in the other direction. Hence the "backside of Bullwinkle" pic.

And then, just as it was about dark I noticed some odd movement mixed in among the bushes across the creek. After several minutes of investigation it became clear that they were porcupines grabbing dinner. I had no idea they enjoyed such meals, several feet from the ground. Again, a sad photo, just to give some idea.

Monday, May 16, 2011

An unexpected change in terrain

So this video makes me laugh. It was filmed up on St Helens by two guys who were part of our group that climbed this past weekend. Though I dont know them well, both guys are extremely talented backcountry skiers and have tremendous passion for the outdoors. And this video was just one of those special moments that happened to be caught on camera:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Skinning up and skiing down Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens erupted 31 years ago almost to the day. I know this because I was born one month before she blew her top, sending ash hundreds of miles in all directions. Much of the Pacific Northwest corner of America watched the sky turn dark in the middle of the day on May 18, 1980.
I found myself in a car with a few fellow co-workers on Friday after work. The car was loaded with skis, tents and the goal of "skinning"to the top of Mount St. Helens. Skinning is a term used to describe alpine touring, the act of walking up hill on skis and then taking off the "skin", a strip of material that attaches to the bottom of the ski to grip the snow that is removed when one feels the urge to ski down.
The morning started out perfect. The sun was out and the guys and I were making good time up the mountain. Alpine touring is an art I am only starting to learn and appreciate. It takes tremendous cardio strength and strong leg muscles to hold a good pace while heading up hill.

The point when things became interesting started around the time we found ourselves in a dense fog some 700 feet from the summit. A complete white-out where you could see no more than 7-10 feet in front of you and the fog/cloud cover matched perfectly with the white snow giving the sense of vertigo.

Pushing up towards the summit we found ourselves along the ridge line. The only telling feature that allowed us to know we had made it to the crater's edge was the 50 foot long flat ridge line and the faintest white line that represented where the sky and the edge of the crater met.
Stripping our skins from the skis we started to slowly ski down through the fog. We had lost any clue as to where we were exactly, hoping after we skied through the fog we could find our sense of direction. However, not only had the fog moved further down the mountain we had inadvertently skied further west of the trail head that would lead us back to the car.
I will not bore you with the five hour unexpected traverse we did in order to find our way back down the mountain to the parking lot. It was a lesson for me on many levels. The most important being how disoriented one can get in a complete white-out. And a close second is to pay careful attention to maps, compass readings and land marks even on what is assumed to be the simplest of journeys.

Darkness and rain began to fall just as we happened upon the trail head. Making it back to the car felt better than it usually does. It was a great weekend spent with some great guys. I collected many beautiful moments from this weekend. Some I acknowledged as they happened and others only came to me in hindsight. But on this late Sunday night all of them are now filed neatly away in my mind as "that long day on top of an old volcano".

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother Nature's version of speed dating

The other day I finished a run in the hills behind my house. It was one of those awesomely moody May days in Spokane, the first part of my run it poured rain but still managed to have patches of blue sky and then minutes later the sky spread out into an endless sea of blue with big clouds spaced apart like ships in a harbor.

Finishing my run I grabbed some water and walked down near the creek. I have learned so much from nature, mainly how simply perfect it can be without even trying but also (more recently in connection with this day job i have) is the understanding that without making time to be "in" nature and absorb its splendor you will miss it. All of its little secrets. So now I make a point of walking down by the creek as often as I can to be surrounded by all that mother nature is cooking up for this summer. example:

That's right, mother nature was throwing one of the biggest parties of the year in my backyard. As I stood in amazement at the 4 or 5 clumps of ladybugs on stray weeds, i couldn't help but feel as though I was in NYC looking out from my window to the skyscraper across the street seeing a totally sick rooftop party, wishing to god I could get my funk on with them.

That's when I realized I was wishing I was a ladybug, which made me think I pushed it a little too hard on the run. No, but seriously, this is crazy cool. I mean, what is going on here? This has to be mother natures version of speed dating. Which begs the question: do female ladybugs fall for those same cheesy pickup lines that get tossed around bars across world on any given Saturday night?

Friday, May 6, 2011

NEWS FLASH: wild turkey is not just a cheap way to get hammered

It's bike-to-work month at Mountain Gear, the outdoor retailer where I work. I have an old steel frame LeMond that I have been riding to work. It's 12 miles almost on the dot from my house to the office. For those 12 miles in the morning and after work I'm free to think about life as it passes by. 

The chilly spring air is cool on my face. Rolling out from the driveway I always make a point of looking over to the field where a group of wild turkeys graze in the early morning. I'm crazy for the "big fan" turkey. Its big tail feathers open and close so perfectly its hypnotizing. 

There's a bakery that I pass on my way to work, the smell of donuts crawls into every part of my nose. Its like breathing in a sea of wonderful calories. The cars and trucks speed past me until I am able to find a side street or the centennial trail which follows along the spokane river. There are a few runners and an old lady I see in the same stretch of trail every morning. We smile at each other now. Knowing that the sun is making us become summer socialites, if only for that morning moment. 

A small stretch along the river is an abandon dirt path. I could find another way on some busy street but i always prefer this way, it reminds me of walking in Spain. I had the great fortune of passing a man with a weathered face and nomadic eyes the other morning. We looked at each other. I was decked out in nerdy bike gear, he was pushing his existence on wheels, yet there was this split second where our eyes connected and we nodded at each other, a silent hello as dawn became day along the quiet flow of the river.

For all these reasons I love biking to work, well that and it reminds me of my time with Lyudmila.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


For 11 years there sat a dusty, stinky, saggy couch in the garage. It came to me one summer when I was working as a roofer, the hardest job I'll ever have. As a side job my boss was gutting his aunt's house. I was doing dump runs and this couch was on the list. With sweat beading down my face, I asked "Can I have this old couch?"

Over the years I would glance at it in the garage. I would think about refinishing it. However, knowing it would not be cheap my travel budget was always fed before my "home furnishings" budget.

It wasn't until recently that I got serious about putting life back into this 1930's piece of furniture. So serious that one day I loaded it on top of Ruth and headed downtown for a place called A & E Upholstery. Tucked way back into a residental neighborhood there is a man named Tom who is the son of a Norwegian craftsman. He learned everything he knows now at the age of 78 from his father. 

He looked over my crusty couch, or as my sister says, chesterfield, and told me he could resuscitate this retro piece. Days later I paid him a visit. He was busy in his workshop replacing the springs and padding. I looked through what seemed like thousands of fabric/color swatches before deciding on the look I wanted. I enjoyed working with Tom on the design aspect. To go into a department store and buy what they have on the floor is one way to do it. But I really appreciated working with a local craftsman down to the color of the piping around the side panels.

I love old things. I especially love when old things become new. The long slanted armrests were what grabbed me 11 years ago. Now, as it resides in the living room, I sit and ponder what memories were made and what memories will be made on my chesterfield.

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    The Man in the Arena is Greg Mortenson

    Sorbonne, Paris France
    April 23, 1910, exactly 101 years ago today. I like to imagine the sunny spring morning when Roosevelt made his way through the narrow streets of Paris to the Sorbonne to deliver his "Citizenship in a Republic" speech. I love imaging his voice belting out this long speech, ringing into the crowded auditorium. An excerpt from his speech is now part of me. I quote it often to myself having committed it to memory. It reminds me to stay focused in a world full of distraction.
    -It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.- 

    April 23, 2011, exactly today. From the reports Greg Mortenson is going through or recovering from minor heart surgery. He has been blasted this past week since the news program 60 minutes "investigated" accusations into the mishandling of donor funds for his charity that builds schools in remote parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I've taken a deep breath, I've digested the news reports from both sides, I've spoken with friends and colleagues about these recent events surrounding Greg, who I saw speak only a few weeks ago.

    Google these reports if you so choose. Having been a follower of Greg's work for many years I've been impacted by these unsettling reports maybe more than most. Having spent time in Central Asia, albeit a much safer region than where Greg goes, I have come to appreciate the amount of courage, energy and sacrifice one makes when traveling/working in some of the most remote regions of the world.

    The majority of what Greg is accused of means little to me. If parts of his story don't match up, questions about funding, not enough board-members, yada yada yada. All of it can be true for all I care. We live in a world of hyper judgment, every one is a critic. I went for a run this morning and thought about Greg. Then I recited Roosevelt's quote.

    I'm addicted to doers. The ones who do something with this life. Who get out, who get UP and do something. Mistakes may have been made along the way but here is a guy who has championed a voice for education in a region of the world that for so long has been repressed and forgotten.

    Let me put it this way. Let's say there happens to be a house party down the street. Drinks, food, music. Sounds like a good time. I pass through the front door and see Greg in one corner and Karl Rove in another. Both seem to be telling stories, each has a small crowd listening intently. Based on everything I know, absolutely everything can turn out to be true about Greg and I'll take his insights about life any day over the alternative.

    There are evil people in this world. Greg Mortenson is not one of them.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    What I would try if I had nine lives.

    Are you kidding me. This has to be one of the most amazing videos I've ever seen. Nothing like the vicarious adrenaline rush from a helmet cam.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    The White Buffalo and a drawing in the NY Times

    I can't say I put the proper amount of thought and time into writing these posts in recent weeks. It often feels to me like i treat this blog the way Pollock painted minus the intrinsic beauty his artwork has.

    Below is a drawing I snagged from the NY Times book review. It was about a book that involved a women who drowned after (i think) she got married to the love of her life. I really can't remember the book review that well. what sticks with me is this amazing sketch. It connects with me on some weird level, i guess its the uniqueness of the imagery. What's it do for you?
    NY Times artist, feel free to let me know who drew this so I can give proper credit to this image

    Below is a song. Like all the best music I learn about this artist was passed to me by an amazing friend. I recently learned about THE WHITE BUFFALO from a friend who is constantly informing me of artists I would never come across if not for her wicked taste in music. To me, his voice singing these lyrics spark something I never get enough of. The silent, intangible short film of feeling which soaks the brain in inspiration and the heart with wonder. 

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Sydney, I'll come running

    If I turn these notes from the field into a confessional I admit here and now that I cannot dance. But it is not that I don't practice at odd times.

    Like for example when I downloaded this song by Brett Dennen, "Sydney, I'll come running" off his new album. There is no reason why you should also like this song, I'm only saying that some of us have songs, well, I'd like to think that all of us have songs, that send our arms and legs into a hypnotic craze of movement. Which is exactly what happened on my run in the forest today. Nature had no idea what to do with me. The squirrels and owls scattered and it had everything to do with my dancing.

    P.S. I am certain I will listen to this song so often that I will get sick of it within a few days. But until then I am busting out some killer dance moves.

    How to make green energy funny

    Ok, so I know it's a little dated and maybe you've already seen this video before. But having watched it several times over the years it still makes me laugh and I hope it makes you laugh too.

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    A view of the Spokane River that I had missed for two decades

    I strolled down to the water's edge and checked out an amazing sight the other day. Huntington Park is a must see right now. The massive amount of water flowing down the Spokane River is a sight to behold.
    What I find just as amazing as seeing the falls up close is that I didn't even know this park existed until the other day when someone asked if I had been down in Huntington Park. I'm feeling pretty dumb considering how many years I have spent in this town, you'd think I'd have it pretty well mapped out by now. Proof that cool stuff surrounds us, we just have to keep training our eyes to see all that is out there.

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Red Rock Rendezvous

    Taking photos is one thing but as part of this new gig I've become the unofficial video guru for Mountain Gear. Here is my debut piece from the stuff I shot at the Red Rock Rendezvous climbing festival:

    So here's to appreciating all those cool shots and awesome editing techniques I see everyday in films. I never stopped to think how much talent it takes to shoot and clip all that cool stuff together.

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    A friend gone but never forgotten

    To say we became fast friends is fitting considering I only spent a few hours with him in total. I met Eamonn one hot afternoon in Zamora, a small town in Spain along the Via de la Plata. I had strolled into town with a few hundred kilometers under my pilgrim belt. I had several hundred to walk before reaching Santiago. He and I met at the local hotel, which had a western movie saloon feel to it. Naturally we gravitated towards each other and our shared language, he being Irish and me, of course, being Canadian. We walked through town trading stories about the Camino de Santiago as we made our way towards the local parador, found throughout Spain, paradores are castles that have been converted into luxury hotels.

    Eamonn spoke with an Irish accent, tall for his age, white hair, and a giant smile. Meeting such a kind man as Eamonn was in direct contrast to the bastard I met the day before. I was approached by a horny homosexual pig farmer way out in the countryside the afternoon prior. The pervert had a strange look in his face as he started following me along the dirt road. Before i knew it he was asking me something in Spanish and tapping me three times on my crotch with his hand. I looked him right in the eye, shouted "NO" and proceeded to bolt down the road. Looking back, only briefly to see what he was yelling about, I noticed he didn't make an effort to follow me, only standing tall with his finger held over his mouth as if to say "shhhhhhh, no one needs to know about the crazy pervert that lives along the Via de la Plata."

    As we made our way down the narrow streets of Zamora I told this traumatic tale. Eamonn's laughter at many parts of my story was exactly what I needed. He began laughing with little concern for social graces. I mean, I had just met this Irishman and he was finding humor in something I thought was going to ruin my entire pilgrimage. But that was all it took for me to realize how humorous it really was after the fact. However, I stated I was going to walk the rest of the way to Santiago with my Swiss army knife open to the largest blade. Laughing again, he was able to muster up some control before telling me in complete seriousness, that that would only raise the level of confrontation and it would be best if i put the knife away. Now we were both laughing.

    Finding a table in the Castle's courtyard we moved on to more important subjects, sharing much about our lives, our approach to the Camino, and thoughts on life in general. I remember trading impressions of JFK with him, we both seemed to enjoy Kennedy more than the average person and each seemed interested in exchanging that knowledge.

    We said our goodbyes that night back at the hotel lobby. He was staying in the area, spending his holiday at a local ranch nearby and I was continuing on to Santiago. We would trade emails over the next several years. I had grand plans to visit him in Cape Town. But then the emails stopped. I would email him and get no reply. Months would go by and I would email him again. Still nothing. It has been a few years now. I have to assume at his age, there is the very real possibility he passed away.

    Even so, I still write emails addressed to him. Knowing he will not reply does not matter anymore. I write him anyway, because I believe writing to a friend, expressing how much they have impacted your life, never falls on deaf ears.

    So that's what I write when I write my friend, Eamonn.

    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    What does Roller derby, kayaking and a falling skier have in common. Nothing, other than making for some awesome video.

    I know. I know. I'm leaning on youtube far too often these days for content on my blog. But bear with me, any video i post on this blog is (in my opinion) worth watching. The youtube links are rarely discovered by me, rather they tend to come from fun friends who enlighten me with a wide range of taste, a lot of them have some relation to my new gig, that being videos related to awesome outdoor adventures but then there are those who are just down right funny from left field.

    This one makes me laugh only because it looks as though the skier survived a rather long "fall". Since working as the content developer for Mountain Gear I've been handed all sorts of very cool camera equipment, including a GoPro helmet cam, which as the title suggests, straps to your helmet. Such as this joker did, only it is supposed to capture you being a hero not a jackass.

    The next video was passed my way by an energetic co-worker who, in a previous life, was a river guide. I couldn't help but get a flash of my misfortune on Latah Creek while watching this very talented kayaker. I think i could learn a thing or two from this dude.

    Then. Representing left field. This video happened upon me from California. Roller derby is something I've never really understood, but I mean, dont get me wrong, I'd never think of saying that directly to one of these ladies. i guess it's like the saying goes, to each his/her own.

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Some ends and odds...

    I have my very own rock climbing harness. It was thanks in large part to having very little experience climbing that I pulled the trigger on my own climbing gear the other day. I hope this will become a new hobby of mine. Go out and try it if you haven't. It's the body's way of solving a sudoku. Positioning your hands and feet in such a way as to move up. Not for a minute am i going to pretend i have a clue as to what I am talking about, yet, but in the mean time, check out this video. There is having guts and then there is this kid:

    And then there is the ending in American Beauty. The ending of certain movies stay with me. forever. Kevin Spacey along with the music from Thomas Newman is a combination that has inspired me for years. It's that feeling I'm addicted to, how words and film and music come together to instill some powerful piece of wisdom. Maybe its just me, and i'm fine with that, i know i'm a little off but check out it for yourself:

    and finally, the other night after work I met up with my friend Matt. At the checkerboard. Entering this seedy/wicked cool East Sprague establishment for the first time. None of it that notable, just a kid in a small town drinking cheap beer sharing thoughts about work, stories about the week, of a friend who just had a baby named Charley, and about a dear friend who is sick in the hospital without knowing what is wrong with him. All the while a deep rumble under the ocean blue was stirring a massive shake off the coast of Japan. The bartender slipped on a record, an actual record on the player, The Specials, the first track began to play and life, beautifully unmoved by any problems big or small, continued second by second to the sound of this great song:

    Sunday, March 6, 2011


    One of those sunny afternoons spent on top of a snowy mountain. Two friends with snowshoes. A dog named Finney. And the quiet surroundings of a warm winter's day.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    some odds and ends.

    this blog is suppose to be concerned with my notes. and as much as I try and resist putting up material other than my own I feel a pull to share the things that make my skin jump. the people that get my heart pounding. the things that come across my mind's eye which reminds me to attack life not just live it. some points of recent interest are as follows.

    William Burroughs has to be one of the most interesting people to walk the earth. He also happened to be an insanely talented writer. There is a new documentary called A Man Within which chronicles his life. Certainly his life was one few could ever pull off or want to pull off for that matter but I find such people fascinating in their ability to embody a supreme sense of self regardless of consequences or concern for the status quo. Maybe because it is so far from how I live that I find this take on life endlessly fascinating. I have yet to watch the documentary but the trailer is below, and it looks to be a pretty crazy cross-section of people who knew him personally. But without even watching it I know it will be missing a great interview from George Whitman, the owner of Shakespeare and Co. (as in the bookstore where Burroughs wrote and researched his most famous work Naked Lunch)

    Not to say Joe Purdy is a new discovery by any means. He's been playing great music for several years, it's just I only happened upon him the other day. Something about his voice, something in the way he plays the guitar makes me feel a little more connected to life, which is never a bad thing. His song worn out shoes (below) has played very loud on Ruth's CD player more times than I'd like to admit.

    And then there's Greg Hill. This guy is passionate about backcountry skiing. So much so he climbed two million vertical feet in one year. The only way to really understand that feat is to put on some skis yourself, and walk up a mountain for a day. I think his level of intensity and determination allowed him to achieve this goal. I am impressed and astonished at his mental and physical strength. I was hoping to interview him while up at the backcountry festival in Nelson this past weekend but he didn't make the event. Below is a short video of his quest to give you an idea of what he did.

    2 Million With Greg Hill from FD Productions on Vimeo.

    Sunday, February 27, 2011

    a shot of zen

    It's 11:05pm on Sunday night and I'm running on fumes. I've been running around with a camera at Coldsmoke this past weekend. It's a (ski) powder festival at Whitewater, an awesome ski hill in Nelson B.C. It was for work, you know, this new job I landed has me running around chasing seasonal outdoor adventure, not long from now it will transition into rock climbing.

    Lots could be written about the time I had up in Canada the last few days. If you ever get the chance. Go to Nelson. Such a sweet town. My short recommendation has nothing to do with the fact that I'm Canadian at heart or that it was amazing skiing, or that the town itself is a beautiful patch of wonderful restaurants and lots of independent shops all of which is surrounded by soaring mountains and pristine lakes.

    But attempting to go beyond the banter, below is the beginning of a new goal which coincides with a new camera. I am going to enter the world of video. With tiny steps I will be adding short videos (along with the usual photos) to this blog.

    short. simple. videos.
    like this one. a shot of zen.

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    A little plug for a little exhibit

    I am happy. A few of my photos have found a home. Which is to say a better home, on a wall at White Box Pies rather than tucked away on my laptop. I had the idea a few weeks ago and worked with a local framer in Spokane, Dick Hughes of Lee Frame Shop to put six images behind glass in simple black frames. Is it anywhere close to the super cool scene I found under the Louvre, not a chance. Is it fun to think that a few strangers could grab inspiration from seeing the photos while waiting in line for a delicious piece of pie, hell yes.

    Sunday, February 20, 2011

    Hang on!

    I admit I've missed jotting down a few notes from the field recently.  The work-a-day lifestyle since landing a full-time job in Spokane a few weeks ago has left me short on time and exhausted my creative fuel tank. However, I'm confident that in due time I will find a way to have sufficient energy/time for both my job and my notes.

    Who's ever out there, "hang on" while I sort out something often referred to as the work/life balance. Although they may be a little less frequent, I will continue to post whenever inspiration strikes.

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Monday morning.

    Sometimes you get up Monday morning, look out the window and cannot see anything else except two North American River Otters cruisin' around Latah Creek...

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    The Madrugador Dawn Patrol

    My favorite word in Spanish is madrugador, meaning "early riser".

    A 4:30(am) wake-up call had me looking down at snowshoes attached to my feet by half six. Still dark, I felt fully awake thanks in large part to the cut of cold air covering the base of Mt. Spokane. A sweet silence hovered over my senses as I looked out across the white sheet of winter. Being surrounded by that awesome silence on top of a snow swept mountain creates a quietness I only wish would stick with me long after the experience expires.
    The collective movement of snowshoes and skins commenced an ascent towards the summit, their strong grip on the frozen floor created a crisp rhythmic crunch with every step. I pushed forward, following behind what is known as the "Dawn Patrol". A quick glance over my shoulder leaves little wonder why this diehard group claims such a title. I stopped for a moment and admired the day's first sunlight sweeping over the mountains, rolling low into the valley, rich colors scattering across the horizon like a paint swatch.
    Looking down on Spokane, I realized the view from the summit was far sweeter than a few more hours of sleep.

    Sunday, January 30, 2011

    Not just any sunday

    Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes the world spins in such a way you stumble upon adoptive grandparents. A person who has acquired several decades of wisdom just happens to enter your life with the appearance and feel of a grandparent. As luck would have it, my neighbor Don, has shifted into the shape of a grandpa over the years I have known him.

    Returning home means long conversations over coffee with Don, discussing my most recent travels. It means a return to the impromptu creek side assessments about life or pre-paid cell phone plans, or the endless observations about mother nature's artistic infusion of birds, beavers, or whatever else catches our attention while chatting next to the peaceful flow of water.

    It also means going to the movies. Before noon of course. It's only five bucks before noon. He drives. We park downtown. We leave sufficient time to get coffee before the movie. I try to keep up with Don's inquisitive mind. I'm pretty sure we've sorted out most of the world's problems over such coffee stops.

    Neither of us are very picky about what movie we watch.  Last week it was The King's Speech, today we saw The Mechanic. It's a Charles Bronson remake about a well trained assassin, full of well scripted macho dialogue, an extremely cool headed Jason Statham,  heart-pounding revenge, double-crossing, and as Don jokingly describes any film we see (regardless of storyline), full of "socially redeeming value". The movie played and the credits rolled.  We agreed it was a great movie.

    I couldn't help make light of the brief nudity as we gathered our jackets from the seat backs.
    "...and it was a bit of a love story as well," I said referring to the few gratuitous-however-brief-love-scenes scattered amidst an almost constant flow of bullets.
    Not missing a beat, Don replied between chuckles "Yeah, that was touching."

    Don drove up my driveway next to his house, I stepped out, thanked him for the movie and took notice of the beautiful sunny day. A January day they only dream about on the west side of the state. It wasn't long before I was enthralled with the gladiatorial battle being waged out the window. A few bald eagles have been hangin' around recently. But today it was a free-for-all above the bend in the creek between bald eagles and massive hawks of some sort. I grabbed my camera and snapped a few shots overhead.

    A moment later I found my friend Tom at the front door. "TOM! Hey there's some crazy sh*t going on..." He interrupts me. "YEAH, i know, i saw two sheriff's cars, a fire truck, an ambulance and some kind of search and rescue team turn off onto Hangman Valley road." I was rather surprised at how much his "crazy sh*t" differed from the "eagles vs. hawks" I was referring to. So I grabbed my jacket and we did the only thing that made sense on this beautiful day, we raced out the door and onto his motorcycle.

    Tom jumped behind the handle bars and I jumped... in the sidecar. Now understand it takes a certain level of humility to ride in a sidecar. The reason being you cannot help but feel like the driver's bitch when riding at such a lower level literally and figuratively. A demotion no self-respecting male (or female) would necessarily enjoy feeling. However, having already ridden sidecar a handful of times with Tom, I took my place in his basket of death with a respectable level of sidecar self-confidence.

    It was only as we turned onto the freeway, gaining speed, did I start to question the rattle that sounded like a loose bolt. Glancing down I quickly reviewed how this piece of tin was attached to Tom's side. The thought of being in a motorcycle accident is not a pretty picture. Sitting in a sidecar thinking that same thought induces intense paranoia. So I did the first thing I thought of to calm my nerves. I silently quoted the badass Shakespeare quote I committed to memory about death and buried the image of me someday wearing a t-shirt that says "I  the jaws of life" way down in my brain.

    We leaned right as the motorcycle turned onto Hangman valley road. It wasn't long before we were stopped by a sheirff who was turning traffic around near the scene of the accident. Just then a woman passed us on foot and said "Someone drove their car into the river." Not able to see much we pulled U turn as directed by the sheriff who's glance gave the look of "nuttin' ta' see here boys".

    We headed back the way we came, deciding to ride to the top of Tower mountain, a few miles away. The temperature was dropping, but the sun was still making its case as the afternoon grew long.

    Up and up we went, darting onto a dirt road near the top I asked Tom if he had taken this way before. "NO." he shouted over the roar of the motor. We passed several signs which informed us that, regardless of how a motorcycle with a sidecar can take two men into the wilds of south Spokane, it was still forbidden to pass onto private property. But we pressed on, until we found ourselves staring down a steep, rutted, dirt trail. "I don't know. Maybe we should turn around." Tom said with a degree of timidness that took me by surprise. I suspected his logical assessment of our situation had something to do with his imminent clash with fatherhood in a few weeks. In addition to the deteriorating road conditions I knew the last sign we passed stating something about a $1000 fine for trespassing was also eating at him.

    I admit, I too had concerns not only about how steep the oncoming trail looked but also the looming threat of a sign that actually name's its price on those who choose to cross an invisible line. But no official sidecar companion, such as myself, ever entertains the possibility of "turning around". No, the sole purpose of the poor sucker sitting in the deathtrap is to be the ultimate believer that given the awesomeness of our transportation we can challenge both gravity and property rights without suffering any negative repercussions.

    So, having successfully made my case, Tom proceeded forward. And yes, while driving down the steep, muddy, rutted, section of the trail, we each had our own thoughts about what injuries we would suffer if the downhill incline proved to be too much, pinning Tom on the ground and dropping me from the sidecar pointed skywards.

    Thankfully, none of our worst fears were realized as we crossed over Tower mountain, passed by someone's house, and used their driveway to regain access to civilization. Back on the road, Tom informed me over the noisy motor, "Boy, I never get the chance to engage the sidecar's drive shaft. That was awesome!" adding "But I gotta admit, I was getting a little nervous back there." Looking up at him, hating how much I felt and looked like a seven year old in a sidecar, I yelled back "What were you worried about, the terrain or the trespassing?" Without hesitating he replied "BOTH."

    The cut of the cold air was starting to get to us. Finding an upside to my oyster shell existence I took a moment to appreciate the cereal-box size windshield placed in front of me. I ducked low, maximizing its effectiveness. We looped around and found ourselves on the other side of the accident, this time with a clear view of the SUV in the river. Turns out, a woman, drunk, missed the hard left turn, smashed over a guardrail, down a 20 foot embankment, and managed to keep driving for another 60 yards straight into the creek/river, dragged out by a rescue team, taken to the hospital and charged with DUI. Looks like we have a new challenger for the "Beyond Stupid" award.

    It was at this point in the ride that Tom informed me he couldn't feel his fingers. Always quick to make fun I stopped short, realizing how much more the driver is exposed to the elements than the legend sitting in the protective sidecar. We headed for home, his fingers beyond numb, ready for the ride to be over.
    Sometimes you're lucky. Sometimes the world spins in such a way you cannot help but give thanks to how your neighbor's shape shifted into the form of a grandpa, how you arrived home to find a bunch of bald eagles battling hawks in your backyard, and how your friend Tom dropped by the house riding his Russian Ural.

    And it all happened on a sunny day in January.

    Thursday, January 27, 2011


    Inside Eric's workshop I stood staring at the beautiful eight foot long custom built tug boat he just finished building with a single thought on repeat, "PLEASE COME TRUE!"

    My entire being was overcome with the wish to see a pack of boisterous gnomes run out from different hiding places in the shop, each one making a speedy circle around my towering legs before converging along the base of the tug boat, cursing and swearing like sailors while taking positions, then hoisting it upon their tiny shoulders they charge down to the lake, bursting into fits of loud laughter as they pile inside, making a clean get-away. All of this organized chaos unfolding with such a high degree of bewilderment neither Eric nor I have time to respond.

    Sadly, even the little bit of lingering I did before saying goodbye couldn't make my wish come true.  The best I can do is head on down to the Spokane boat show where this great little tug boat (commissioned by the Spokane Yacht Club) will be proudly displayed, trusting that by day's end most of it will be marked with tiny foot prints, not from gnomes but from nice, little (human) children.

    I know, tragic but true.

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    A road trip with David Foster Wallace

    If pulled into thirds my life's last chunk has been a wonderful gob of gigs. Like the other day when I stopped in and said hello to Mike, one of the best bosses I have ever had. We shook hands and traded smiles. "Just the guy I wanted to see" he said before asking if I could swing down to the Tri-Cities (3 hour drive from Spokane) early this morning to pick up 30 bags of cement. "Sure!"
    Last night I sat in front of an endless sea of online audio books. Who? Who wants to join me on this road trip? Twain? I briefly considered his new autobiography but passed, too long winded for the road, was looking for something more edgy. Maybe some fiction? And then it hit me, DFW.  David Foster Wallace was a writer of extreme intellect and immense talent who battled the beast of depression until 2008 when he took his own life.
    I will not pretend to be as big of a DFW fan as Terry, who I met while staying at Shakespeare and Company. Talking with Terry about Wallace, seeing how much he knows and appreciates Wallace's work I couldn't help but become interested. Admittedly, I have only dabbled for the most part, reading some of David's amazing essays, with the hope of mustering the mental dedication it will take to conquer Infinite Jest, DFW's glowing masterpiece of fiction.

    In the end I decided to download Although of course you end up becoming yourself: A road trip with David Foster Wallace for my trip. It turned out to be a collection of recorded conversations that give a rather personal look into David's brilliant world. The book was written by David Lipsky, a Rolling Stone reporter at the time, who set out to interview the private Wallace shortly after the giant success of Infinite Jest. I wasn't even past Sprague Lake when I realized I had made a great pick. As it is an audio version, the book's long exchanges of taped dialogue (Q/A) between Lipsky and Wallace gave the awesome illusion that Wallace was riding shotgun.
    Blazing back with bags of cement in the bed of Mike's massive pickup truck I can't say that this gig afforded me the same amount of insight that my apple run provided but the beauty of any road trip is that each one takes on a life of its own. This just happened to be one I will remember sharing with David Foster Wallace.

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