Traveling with Dad

Dads are interesting creatures.

You spend your lifetime trying to figure out what they are and simultaneously how to be one.

From that moment of discovery, that realization that dawns when you crawl out from under your mother’s caring arms and into the world of men, you will never fully understand it, but it will consume you for the rest of your life.

At least it has consumed me these past fourty four years. Continue reading Traveling with Dad

Seven Billion Lonely People

Top of the Rock – New York City

I got up and read the news like everyone else did. I stumbled towards the toilet realizing in a wash of feelings, that another bright light had gone out of the world while I slept.

I felt a little lonelier than I had when I had gone to sleep the night before.

Anthony, Kate, Robin, my uncle Peter, so many other bright lights gone away leaving the night sky a little colder for the lack of their bright lights in it.

We are so damn lonely, we make it thirty two years, fifty five years, sixty one years, and we can’t make it another day. It compiles in remarkable abundance in some pit within us until it consumes us.  Continue reading Seven Billion Lonely People

Raging for Twenty Six Years

I remember the first time I heard Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut album.

I was a junior at a country high school. My brother and my best friend were deeply into punk rock, and I wanted to date this hottie college girl named Cheryl Carpenter.

I was all over the place, at times trying to fit in with the rednecks and the true-blue farm kids, and at other times trying to be what I saw my favorite others around me being.

I hadn’t really found a place for myself yet. Continue reading Raging for Twenty Six Years

The Zumwalt in Spring

Dark rain clouds hang low over the Zumwalt Prairie in May, 2018

A flat, steel-gray ceiling hangs low over the town of Enterprise as we leave headed north into the Zumwalt Prairie.

It doesn’t bode well for seeing the menagerie of raptors the region is famous for.

As you ascend the ancient volcanic plateau that houses the 330,000-acre prairie, agricultural production gives way to Idaho Fescue and Bluebunch wheatgrass.

Small cliff faces of exposed Columbia River Basalt line the road, and before the rain begins to fall, we see several golden and bald eagles, a Swainson’s hawk and a dark-morph red-tailed hawk.

As we level out onto the Zumwalt, the Findley Buttes, three shield volcano cones that managed to force their way up through the Columbia River Basalts, rise before us and dominate the landscape. Continue reading The Zumwalt in Spring

The Last of the Guardian Angels

Goodbye grandma Shook. The last time I saw her just a little over a year ago.

I have been so proud these forty four years to say that I still have a grandma.

My first set of grandparents passed away when I was in my early twenties. My last grandfather passed away about ten years ago.

And tonight, around 6:45 p.m., my last grandma breathed her last.  Continue reading The Last of the Guardian Angels

On binge-watching “Friends” with my daughter

Am I a terrible parent for letting my twelve-year-old daughter binge-watch the 90s super sitcom “Friends” over the last few weeks?

I’m sure by somebody’s standards I am.

But it’s been a particularly cold and rainy late winter and early spring, and I was curious about what she would think about the world I inhabited during my twenties. Continue reading On binge-watching “Friends” with my daughter

How to talk to kids about the end of democracy

Dr. Seuss’s art

This is not really a how-to essay. I’ve always hated anyone telling me how to raise my kids or giving me books about parenting.

But we’re living in the last days of the American constitutional federal representative democracy, and we have front-row seats to its rapid descent into hell.

What better teaching moment could you possibly ask for? Continue reading How to talk to kids about the end of democracy

The Vageries of Patriotism

http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/69fe/
Nationalism

We walked around the small town of Bandon waiting for the stores to open on a rainy, breezy Veterans Day. We wanted to taste local cranberries, so we piled into the Cranberry Sweets store just after someone unlocked the door at ten a.m.

After listening to the historical spiel, we walked around the store tasting candies to our hearts’ content.

“Happy Veterans Day,” the overly coffee’d retail worker sang. “Any veterans in the group?”

My daughter, who was caught in her tractor beam while she waited for popcorn samples to be put out, looked at her mother and then me, and shook her head no.

For some reason, I felt compelled to speak up. “No, no veterans in our family.”

My wife looked back at me. “My dad was a veteran.” Continue reading The Vageries of Patriotism

Into the Desert: Borax Lake and the Fish That Live There

Two BLM intenrns and an ODFW biologist prepare traps to rescue Alvord Lake Chub from a shrinking pond in the Alvord Basin.

The two BLM interns from The Chicago Botanical Garden both had the look of someone who has been in the desert one day too long.

Their bloodshot eyes surveyed the bleak landscape in the way you’d expect someone who had seen the same featureless view every day for months and months.

I rode in the government truck with them down to a spot in the lower Alvord Basin just a few miles from the Nevada border. We stopped and opened a gate in a fence and drove off into the sage brush for a long distance, before a small, dark tree began to take shape in the distance.

Continue reading Into the Desert: Borax Lake and the Fish That Live There

Into the Desert: Alvord Basin

There is a small, cold desert east of here that I have seen in my dreams for decades.

The Alvord Desert

It sits high up on a plateau created millions of years ago when basalts flowed over the area in giant, motlen floods .

It sits in the shadow of the snowy mountain, which catches the rain, leaving it parched and flat and featureless.

I had seen the Alvord Desert far below the East Rim Lookout on Steens Mountain the previous evening. The twelve-mile-long by seven-mile-wide playa looked exactly as I had seen it in my dreams, a vast, sandy nothingness stretching away to the south.

Continue reading Into the Desert: Alvord Basin

"THE WORLD BREAKS EVERYONE, AND AFTERWARD, SOME ARE STRONG AT THE BROKEN PLACES." – HEMINGWAY