3 Things


8 a.m. rain with the sun out: The act of being outside in your sweats with a hot cup of coffee on the kind of morning that will disappear forever—as all mornings do—should always be occasioned by an ominous purple cloud, a freak shaft of sun, and a resplendent shimmering rainbow off in the nearby distance. Right???

Cooking along with old-timey music on the radio: Soundtrack-wise, I’m gonna argue here that the sound of sizzling onions and a half-glass-of-wine buzz click in naturally with something warm and crackly, say Django Reinhardt or, like, Sam Cooke?

Charley Countryman: Currently streaming on Netflix. A fairytale, if such a thing can exist amidst the hardcore Romanian mafia. Which, hey why not?

Portugal Mega-Post


Hi to you. I’ve just returned from Portugal. I’ve been dreaming about that place for years, ever since I saw a picture of Lisbon—a whitewashed and red-roofed city tumbling down to the sea.

The place/experience/trip was epic as hoped. Sure, I submitted some formal complaints to the ether about airports, customs, and all the rude dickheads throughout. The shitty plane food. The hours of standing in line, as we all must, to fly somewhere. But physical acts of traveling aside, Portugal was, as they say, dreamy. Magnificent empty beaches. Tidy blue-and-white buildings. Olives. Bread. Wine. Sunshine everyday, everywhere, all the time.


A note about “tourism”: Personally, I travel somewhere for the there-ness. With the exception of Lisbon, Portugal was delightfully un-touristy, and, for that matter, un-crowded. We had room to breathe—really see/feel/taste what was going on in the place. This led to 2 realizations: 1) the U.S. is very crowded, and 2), the tourism industry kind of benefits the economy at the expense of the culture. Like, AirBnB brings in money, but it displaces people. I mean, the fairytale jalopy buildings of old-town Lisbon were filled, not with Portuguese people, but rather with foreigners who, like us, were Air-BnBing their way through the country. Truth be told, I peeped anti-AirBnB graffiti all around the city. I’m not sure exactly what I think. Big ups to considering yourself (like I try to!) a Traveler vs. a Tourist—but I came home with a gloomy feeling that the cultural spirit of a community is a lot more fragile than we think.


Medieval fortifications overlooking the sea. All the Portuguese castles had that sickest ocean views. “Easier to defend,” the ancients claimed, but we all know the real truth …


The pretty beaches in Peniche with the nicest little waves. Here is were I went surfing, bravely but poorly.


We took a wee day trip to Porto, a city in the North (where, obvi, port wine was born). I loved this place. It’s fairly untouched by time. Basically, you’re on the set of a Shakespeare at all times.


Medieval stairmaster! See ya, vacation calories.


Porto azulejos. Painted tile game on point.


Sundown on my birthday in Ereicera. Gold star emoji on this scene right here!


Palace hunting in Sintra. Yep, another castle with an epic view.


As a settlement, Lisbon has been around for 3,000-odd years. I’m a student of history, and I was super in awe of the cultural and archaeological mishmash. Phoenicians. Romans. Visigoths. Moors. Celts. Christians. See the pic below—it’s all layered in there like a cake!


Cotton candy sunsets in Lisbon, as seen from our attic apartment.


Stone-cold sightseers. Behind us, a statue of a prince, Lisbon city center, and the Tejo river. Got it? Got it. Now let’s all go drink a beer.


After a laborious week of avoiding octopus tentacles out in the fishing villages, we came into city and our veggie-minded stomachs were rewarded.


No-fucks-given parking situations everywhere you turned your head.


Ciao Portugal! Obrigado.

Birth-Day In The Life


When you’re not really in a celebratory mood, I find the best place to celebrate your birthday is far away. That way, the simple act of living is a kind of observance, both unique and memorable. As it happens, we’d planned a trip to Portugal a few months ago, and that’s where I was on Friday—the anniversary of my birth.

Upon arrival, we were in another world, a sunny, serene place where the people are forever in sandals, forever tan, forever gesticulating happily during conversation and forever ready to laugh with you, at you.

All I did on my birthday was slow down. The things I enjoyed most were as follows: The fairytale peach nectar we spread on our fresh-baked rolls as we drank coffee with the sun streaming down. The empty beach with the perfect aquamarine barrels. Mesmerizing. I could watch them forever and ever—the deepest, truest meditation. A respectable glass of cool, bubbly wine on an a modest wooden deck. The prettiest pink sunset—a little show just for me, as far as I’m concerned.




Then, Now, Forever


Two days after Lefty died, I went bravely on my first hike without him. A small road sign for the Pacific Crest Trail passed by the car window, and we pulled off to follow the path. We walked through blackened forests while big dark clouds rolled in and out, now drenching us, now not, and the mixture of rain and sun, of death and life everywhere, well it felt exactly right. All I could do was nod along. Yes, that happened. Yes, more stuff will happen.

When the vet came over last Friday, Lefty wagged up to her like he would any other visitor. Three days earlier, I’d stabbed the shovel into the hard dirt of late summer while he rested on the lawn watching me, looking straight into my eyes, and I swore he knew that I was digging the hole for him. He wasn’t afraid. On the threshold of the kitchen floor, where he always would lay to feel the cool tile and also to keep a close watch on me, he now slouched there sick and struggling to breathe. His head was in my lap, the wild river of my undignified tears raining all over it. I told him he was the best boy. There was the last big breath, and then the final quiet.

It’s hard. But I’m so glad I was there. Being in the presence of death is powerful–it’s the ultimate mystery. My intuition was high, and I felt the energy exchange. First it was in there, then it was out here. We wrapped that soft fluffy body in a soft, fluffy blanket and carried it out into the yard, knowing all the while that it was no longer him.

Anyway, my guy is gone.

He’s with Benny now. With Jake. With Poa. With Otis. With Orchid. With all our old buddies, then, now and forever.


Lefty’s Prayer


The dog named Lefty came into my world on the heels of opening an indoor skatepark, a tough era that wouldn’t have been navigable without the company of a life-affirming fluffball. And at this, he excelled. For the past 5 years, Lefty went where I went. Working. Skateboarding. Camping. It was all better with him there.



Two weeks ago, I found out Lefty had cancer. Now he’s on the other side. He departed us on an auspicious Friday—a lunar full-moon eclipse. We buried him at sunset under a sapling maple as dark-winged birds flapped south in formation and the sky turned peach overhead.

In 5 years, we had enough adventuring to last 5 lifetimes. Still, I thought I’d have more time. But you get what you get. We aren’t guaranteed shit. I do know that there’s no easy way to decide when it’s the right time to end another life.


Despite the profound silence in the house now, I feel lucky. How lucky am I for knowing this giant-pawed squealin’ bear? Friendship with animals is, maybe, one of the purist, most joy-giving things in existence. Dog tails wag with happiness and hope; their soft coats offer warmth and comfort. We feed them, we exercise them, we command them to sit and stay—and then we tell them they’re good. In return, they LOVE us. Pow!


The September Report


The mood I’ve been in for the last week and a half, contemplative you could call it, seems to suit this time of year, when summer floats like a feather to the ground, leaving you with a lovely sort of early fall, cool and clear, the sun inarguably gold—always shining on you at some odd autumn-ish angle.

I’ve been spending a lot of time at home. When I walk the dog, we walk slowly. It’s okay to slow down. And it’s okay when things end. Loss is, when you get to thinking about it, just the other side of love. Gah, which reminds me, I was watching the Netflix animated version of that Antoine De Saint-Exupéry book The Little Prince on Sunday afternoon (hey, I find it relaxing to watch cartoons on lazy weekends whilst I cook and tinker, don’t you?). Anyway, this movie snuck up and caught me unawares. Before I knew it I was gritting my teeth and the tears were flowing because, as it turns out, The Little Prince, well it’s a story about death. Stupid cartoons …

Favorites 9.7.16


The forest a long time after a fire. It’s my new favorite color palette. Instead of a verdant shading canopy, there’s just the bleached bones of trees, the sky, and plenty of sunlight to make the wildflowers go all crazy.

A wagging dog tail. Simple, contagious joy. Don’t take it for granted, as we aren’t guaranteed shit.

Not 4X4ing in a VW Jetta. When faced with a rugged bumpy expanse that’s more rock than road, it’s quite lovely to drive up it with a proper 4X4 vehicle. Maybe a truck? Something with ample clearance and suspension. Anything but a VW Jetta with a predisposition for tire problems.

The place where fall and summer meet. A liminal time, full of potential energy. One coolish morning, one shaft of sunlight, one gust of wind can completely change the day’s seasonal identity. Is it summer? No wait it’s fall. Now summer again.


To The Last Drop


Like snowflakes and people, there is no summer like any other one, ever.

This year, it was blistering hot at the beginning and the end; cool and mellow in the middle. I cannot complain. I didn’t eat as many tacos as summer’s past, but I did have plenty of pizza. Balance in all things. I sweat a lot and skated a lot. I tent camped. I boat camped. I swam in both rivers and lakes. I watched a punk rock show in a city park. I ate grilled summer squash, as well as strawberry shortcake. I ate orange watermelon! Whether riding my bike around town or reading from my book about hawks, I tried to always be outside at sundown—as those liminal minutes of dusk are the loveliest, most fragrant treasure of the warm season.

Anyway, hi, September, see ya Thursday!

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Lake Life


Just looking at these pictures makes me feel good. They’re from my trip to Lake Powell in Southern Utah last week. It was a red-dust playground of motorboats cutting the glassy water. We drove through 3 states to get there—way out to the very middle of the desert, but the long hours on the straight, hot roads were worth it. As said elsewhere, I love the southwest. The desert is elegant, beautiful and harsh. It was a magical trip.


1. 3 a.m. scenic pee. My child-sized bladder did me good service by waking me every night at the calmest, darkest hour, when the Milky Way burned bright overhead and the lake was so black, so still that it looked like just another star-spangled sky.

2. Lunch beer. As a bonafide lightweight, I don’t normally do lunch beers, but on vacation, on the boat, in the heat, on the lake, a very cold beer is the only thing you can possibly drink with your sandwich.


3. Houseboats. RVs on the water! What a concept. They seem kinda tricky to maneuver though, so don’t ask me to drive yours.

4. Kids in the water. A couple of 12 year olds, my nephew and his friend, spent every second in the lake. Splashing, swimming, sliding, dunking, diving, flipping, flopping, etc, etc. It made me very happy.


5. A dusk swim. Every night I slipped in the water right at purple dusk in order to wash off the day’s sweat and sand so as not have to sleep in my own filth. During this hushed time, I could float on my back in the silver water and stare up at the clouds turned pink in the fading light.

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Paint It Black


I’m about to leave on a quintessential summer vacation, but first, here’s a small post about a big game. Paintball. Have you ever? It’s very and truly scary. You sweat and your mask fogs up. All you can hear is your own breath coming in short frantic bursts. Right away or after awhile, it makes no difference—you always get hit. It always hurts. As the game wears on, your greedy hoarding of bullets gives way to reckless shooting everywhere, anywhere. And that, my friends, is paintball.

It was my first time playing, and I went ahead and wore a high-vis purple sweatshirt. Hindsight being 20-20, I could’ve worn black, but it honestly never occurred to me. I learned many lessons that night—the virtues of camo was just one.

I’m a poor shot. I’m a pacifist. For so many reasons, I’m not cut out for this type of thing. Still, though, it was fun, exhilarating you could even say. A physically demanding activity that leaves you covered in sweat, gooey paint, and bulls-eye purple bruises.

Thanks to Trevor G. for the all the action pics. War journalism is a noble calling after all—he’s truly one brave man.