This is a story about how, in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, in the spring of 1998, I became old friends with 20 or 30 seniors on rumspringa from Green Bay Wisconsin and how they almost destroyed Western Europe with a photograph.Read More
While in Minneapolis for a brief, busy weekend exploring new apartments and job prospects, a mid-April blizzard hits town and I miss my flight home.Read More
I have never been very current on fashion, so my trips to the mall usually included eye-opening updates on trends. Apparently, judging by the three Russian figure skaters, there was some huge fad for czaritsa chic going around.Read More
The road is a roiling, lusty sway through the always-green tangle of our Tillamook State Forest. West, the forest’s magnificent deepness drains suddenly to gash-open swaths, clear-cut raw. The shorn hills seem caught bare, obscenely bright and dry and uprooted, scattered about with the once-wise trunks of once-impenetrable forests, now gray and kindling. This moonscape is only made more conspicuous by the roadline of trees—spared by the loggers—serving as a faux curtain to obscure the landmaster’s handiwork. (It isn’t fooling anyone.) Quickly though, the land pulls back again, under the heaving shroud of fir and blue spruce, the drinkable wetness of sod and turgid cedar and the iron tang of constant and forgiving rain.
First, salt, then ion. A creamy seabreeze indicates large water is near. Here, it seems, salt is a way of life: a fine, ruddy patina has settled on, has worked its way into, all surfaces. We’ve only just unpacked the jeep, hauled the coolers and the many bags into our rental and, already, my daughter’s fine hair sprouted a wicked twang of voluminous curls. The beach is near, so we walk, and as we walk, the ocean’s deafening shawl gathers, a constant punctuated only by a thumping wave tearing at the breakwater. Mom is out of her sandals and, toes-spread, makes for the water’s edge. I leave on my shoes and, still remembering the many ruined vacation-shoes of my childhood, sandpad delicately behind her. From here, from the water’s edge, stretching inland behind us, a tsunami plane, for miles and miles. Everything within its incredible reach—houses, people and even the solid forrest—is doomed.
Dad and I set ourselves to a practical task: building a fire. It is a simple task, but one that requires some amount of teamwork, cooperation—which can be touchy work for a father and a son. Luckily, our prospects for fuel are scant—we must scour a nearby forest for kindling. We return with a bumper crop of branches and logs—all of which are hopelessly water heavy. Miraculously, a saw is located in our host’s garage. It is small and dull, but we have time. Dad holds down a thick, surprisingly solid wooden corpse while I maniacally lop off burnable hunks. From a nursery of tissue and twigs, puny flames are coaxed into a roaring, white-hot fire—the sizzling wood weeping an acrid liquor. For now, brute determination has won the day, which, normally, is not a good thing. But this time, at least, it feels good—this small accomplishment between men notoriously clunky at (but eager for) knowing one another.
In the absence of birthday cake, pumpkin bread—impaled with candles—will have to suffice. My daughter helps to blow out the waxy fire threatening her grandmother’s cake, nearly losing her eyebrows in the melee. Cheap champagne (a new family tradition—landing the cork in our neighbor’s back lawn signifies good luck) is uncorked. The shot ricochets around the rental. We consider a long life lived, and how—glasses raised, clinking—it actually isn’t long at all. But there is no time to mourn—the past may be brief but mourning only makes it briefer. There is only time to fashion a notch in this moment and move on, happily spent, back home and back to work.
On a recent whim trip to Seattle, an old native is stunned to see the city he once knew, transformed into… something else. Here is a small tour through the place he once knew, accompanied by wildly inaccurate and purposely false claims about their history.Read More
That magical time of year, we can eat cornbread every day.
One Thanksgiving, (it was more of a 'Friendsgiving,') I was the only one who brought stuffing to a dinner of over twenty people. I made a cornbread stuffing. Like all my stuffing and chili (and pretty much anything else I cook), it was a prototype. Sometimes the prototype is a flop. But this batch was incredible, and I'll never be able to recreate it. Not ever again.
I made my way through the obnoxiously crowded room, to the buffet, where there were a host of other dishes—potluck style. Everyone had brought a dish to bring. It appeared, there were a couple trolls in attendance, determined to ruin everyone's Thanksgiving dinner with gluten free, nut-free, vegan, sugar-free, enjoyment free food. There was something called a ‘Vegan Paleo Pumpkin Pie’ that looked like something fallen to earth, from outer space. It was horrifying.
Thank God! I thought. I had the mind to bring stuffing. And delicious stuffing at that. I was saved.
I went to the kitchen to fetch myself a wine glass and, literally, as I was rummaging around the cabinets for a glass, the party was called to the table and a crowd set upon the buffet. I was at least ten people deep (I'm not too proud to say, I'm always at the front of any line for the buffet) and in a panic behind the undulating, slow moving crowd.
By the time I was reunited with my stuffing, there was only a cranberry and crumbs left. I'm surprised those assholes didn't lick my pyrex clean.
To this day, I'm weird about my cornbread. I'm even weirder about my cornbread stuffing. Forever chasing the One That Got Away.
Here’s my totally not-special recipe:
1 cup flour (white, pastry if you got it)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup granulated sugar (closer to a cup)
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup melted butter
1 large egg
1 cup milk (whole milk, even if it means using the last of your wife's milk so you have to run to the grocery store and buy some more before she has her morning cup of coffee)
I mix the dry and the wet separately. Stir in the melted butter with the milk/egg. If you pour without stirring, (unless your milk and eggs are warm,) the butter will congeal into big clumps and leave melted pockets in the cornbread and it will be weird.
Once you combine the wet and dry, mix only as much so the clumps have disappeared and then immediately scoop into a well-greased pan. The reasoning for scooping immediately is that the wet reacts with the baking powder and the batter ‘rises.’ If it rises in the bowl, before you scoop, it ‘deflates’ in route to the pan. Scooping it immediately helps it rises in the pan, before going into the oven, all those air bubbles make the cornbread fluffy and cake-like, rather than sturdy and dense.
Serve with honey, butter and cracked salt
There’s a lot of ideas floating around. With a lot of time and a lot of luck, they’ll come together and become a book. Or two. Or three. Here’s what I’m currently working on.Read More
Giving a reading is the laziest form of show business. It requires no physical agility, unless standing still is considered agility.
There’s no singing, no dancing.
Not that song and dance is forbidden at book readings. I guess, if the mood should strike—knock yourself out.
But in terms of pizazz, reading from a book is one step above dragging in a tv.
It’s also a terrifying business.
What if nobody shows up? What, on earth, am I going to talk about for an hour? A whole hour! And, also, who even am I to be giving a reading? Last I checked there was not a deficiency of middle-age white mansplainers. Could the world be clamoring to hear from one more?
In spite of all this, I gave a reading at the Kenton Public Library.
The Kenton Library is my home library. So it was weird, to walk into my library and launch into addressing a crowd. I kept wanting to use my library voice.
More people showed up, than I thought would come. And the crowd was patient and forgiving. Some of them even got my jokes! (I think.)
My two new friends, Heather and Patty, even bought a copy of the book. I sure hope they like it. I hope, if we bump into each other around Kenton, that we’re still on speaking terms.
I’m very lucky for the opportunity to read at the Kenton Library. The staff was quite generous in offering their space and the valuable time of their employees. I am very grateful.
After my modest reading, and thanking everyone for coming, I was glowing. It was a lovely evening. It seemed like there was nothing that could ruin—
Nate Fasser and I drove to the Spirit Mountain Casino, not to gamble, but to try out for the Amazing Race. It’s a reality show that we weren’t going to get picked for. But the whole thing sounded so crazy, I simply couldn’t resist.
We had a great time catching up in the car (we rarely get to see each other). And we stuffed ourselves silly at the buffet there. I love awful buffets. Buffets are where I make all my best, worst decisions.
The idea behind the Amazing Race tryouts, from what I could tell, they were looking for a team of two people who had a strong connection and entertaining rapport that could easily translate to the show. The Amazing Race is a reality show. The premise is, there’s a ‘race’ kind of thing, in which people are given a challenge and must overcome a number of obstacles to beat the other teams to the end. Along the way, the teams laugh, and cry and they discover something deeper about life, and themselves.
At the Casino, there were a number of groups that were trying a lot harder than we were. There was a lady dressed up as the Oregon Ducks mascot. One guy, whose partner was in Minnesota for a wedding, he printed up a life-size cardboard cut-out of his friend. The people Nate and I were standing behind in line, it was hard to tell what their ‘thing’ was. They were both obscenely fit, but they were wearing the new Nike Air Max shoes, with the tags and everything. So… Go team?
You get one minute to make your pitch. Nate and I thought ours up along the drive to the Casino. We decided to introduce each Nate by asking the other Nate three questions about themselves. Two of the things were true things. One of the things was a lie. And it was up to the Nate being introduced to tell which one of those things about them self was a lie. Nate got his wrong (that he, one time, shaved his body completely bereft of hair). I got mine right, guessing correctly that I’d never danced on stage with Billy Joel.
Some day, Billy Joel. Some fine day…
At the end we had ourselves a little hug and a cheeser to the camera. What a great time! I’m lucky for friends with patience and a sense of humor.