Bone Tomahawk: A western told in a new strange voice. The most gruesome. The quietest. The scariest. The subtle/funniest.
King In The Wilderness: I make no claims to the rite of Martin Luther King Jr. history aficionado-dom but did watch this film and felt punched in the gut because he is, newsflash, a human.
Isle Of Dogs: The “new Wes Anderson movie.” A little piece about dogs and people and power and love and all that that encompasses—which is everything. Let it wash over you. Watch the toylike critters come alive and try and fail like we all do. Wait for the theme song “I Won’t Hurt You,” which is very weepy/beautiful, to link up with your pulse. It’s cool.
Arthur Miller: Writer: On the one hand, it’s a doc about an iconic writer, the voice behind Death Of A Salesman, a victim of the Blacklist, the one-time husband to Marilyn Monroe. On the other hand, it’s a doc about a daughter interviewing her dad and trying to unravel the family truths we all struggle with and search for and never really find. “Art is long. Life is short. I forgot the latter.”
The House: I theorize that if there’s a comedy featuring the world’s favorite funny actors that plops into your streaming service without having first taken your notice in the theater, it’s gonna stink. This important Will Ferrell/Amy Poehler film did not.
A while back after my boss returned from sabbatical in Europe, we had a conversation about the thing we really remember and hope for from a trip. Those encounters of “where-ness.” This has nothing to do with all the stuff you saw or plans you made, but rather a single experience—often just a flash—where you felt like you were an authentic part of a place.
He told of a sunset walk through Madrid with his wife, the air all warm and glowy pink, when they sauntered into a medieval square and were greeted by the student choir sitting on the fountain steps singing “Hey Jude.” The tune rose and fell as the pigeons flapped for scraps, and people milled around in a relaxed fashion—on their way home from work or out for an aperitif.
This moment had a live-in magic, and he thought he might remember it forever—or for a long time at least, long after he forgot the train rides and museums tickets.
It got me to thinking about trips of my own. What were the highlights? The squishy candy middles?
My rally through Canada last summer was full of them. Like: our first morning in Nelson—a laidback mountain town on a cold-water lake. My old friend Mark who lives in Nelson advised us on a morning wander. “Hike up the Pulpit early before it gets too hot,” he told us and we listened. Straight from the café with paper cups of dark roast still in our hands, we began our ascent on a morning of dazzling heat and beauty. The trail to the Pulpit—a big rock looming on high over the town and lake—was essentially just a steep set of stairs carved into a plummeting hillside. We climbed and climbed. Soon we were high on caffeine and lung-fulls of warm, tree-scented air. I nabbed a sweet, mealy saskatoon berry and popped it in my mouth. The temperature rose. We sweated into our tee shirts. Less than an hour later, we emerged onto the precarious sun-washed rock AKA my forever happy place. Overhead, bluer than blue sky. To either horizon, steep green valleys. Directly below, the city and of course the lake—calling us back down for an afternoon swim.
The dreamer in me loves every season. The realist knows life is better in the summer. I do do winter though. Me and the cold know something about each other, like on horrendous wet days splashing around in the streets when the foul weather reflects my inner gloom, or all the solitary walks through snow I use to cultivate quietness of mind.
Then spring comes and life’s just a grand fucking party.
THINGS I FORGET ABOUT IN THE WINTER
Sleeping with the window open.
Sunday mini-ramp sessions.
Feeling fresh air against the freckles on my arm.
Enough daylight after work for the pursuit of happiness.
I wanted to like the above short vid about pro skater Nora Vasconcellos, but kinda didn’t. Mostly because of how much its narrative was about what some iconic white men think about her skating rather than actually about her skating. (Elissa Steamer was briefly interviewed but had nothing to say about Nora specifically.) Also: it’s 2018 do we really still have to make movies about “what it’s like to be a girl in skateboarding”?
I guess so. Sure, a men-curated movie for the men-dominated culture—it makes sense. But is it progressive? Is it revolutionary? Is it punk rock? No. It would be cool to get away from that “female skateboarder” thinking and celebrate (and support) Nora, and all the rest of us, simply as “skateboarders.” That’s what we are?
I’m psyched that Adidas has a woman on their global team now. But IT’S ONLY ONE. One skater. One movie. Should we take our meager offerings and be happy with them? No. If we continue replicating the hegemony through skate movies, skate ads, skate product—and all the rest—by focusing the apex of accepted skate awesomeness on the opinion/control of men, then we continue to limit skateboard society from growing and evolving. Toward community. Toward creativity. Toward even more future awesomeness.
And any woman who rolls 4 wheels will tell you the patriarchy is still thriving out there in skate-land. From pointed disrespects coming out of bro culture and the boys’ club to softer daily annoyances, like the amount of times I get asked by men things like, “How long have you been skating?” Do any of my tight skater boiz get asked that? No. The condescension comes through loud a clear.
Anywayayayayay, I am happy for Nora out there getting that money, getting that movie, getting to skate for a living and getting to be herself … whatever that looks like—cool, creative, weird, talented, female, free. Let’s keep it going. Let’s skate as much as possible. Let’s have the most fun possible. Let’s collaborate to smash the state and create room for groundbreaking new possibilities, like, say, the expectation that women could fuel skate culture as much as men do.
As you may know, my guy gave me a sparkly ring last spring and asked me to be his wife. Eeeek! I didn’t blast the info via text or on social medias. It felt like pretty private news? I also enjoyed getting to bask in my friends’ surprise when I told them in person one by one. An unscripted facial expression from a bud—it’s the emoji of olden days.
Mark grew up riding bmx bikes, heckling and getting heckled on the streets of chowda-town, Boston. Behind the wheel, he’ll flip off five different people on a drive to the grocery store—but he’s the gentlest creature I know. The calm and ease he brings to his days is everything I want to live and be good at. I like how I can be stomping around in the fugue state of a bad mood and he just smiles and pats me on the head like, “Hush.”
We’ve bounced around everywhere from B.C. to Portugal. We’ve almost died together on an icy highway. We’ve lost our little pup too soon and cried together. We’ve hiked stairways to heaven in the high alpine, built sturdy cedar fences in the summer heat, slept under desert stars and shivered in hypothermic snow caves together …
Austin, TX: I went to Austin. It was cold and I got a cold. My intention for the trip, to skate/drink margaritas/wear short sleeve tee shirts, was shipwrecked by sickness and the evil, piercing temperatures. “Unseasonable,” locals called it. Still, I was charmed by the city, by its accessible tacos for every meal and the cheerful custom neon announcing every business. People say it’s like a “hotter Portland.” I don’t know about that. Austin has an altogether different feel. It’s rambling, winsome. It reminded me of the plains cities I hung around in my Coloradan youth, where dust was part of the decor and the streets were built wide so the tumbleweeds could roll on through.
The Fredericksburg, TX park—built by Billy & Cathy.
Me and Amanda at an Austin watering hole. We’re cool and we party.
Dark On Netflix: Crikey! It would be too reductive to call this show the German version of Stranger Things, so I won’t.
Snow in the city: I threw out kale seeds and then it snowed over the chartreuse sprouts. Later, the rain melted the blanket of snow away. There were the sprouts! Little fists of defiance pumping up toward the sky.
I procured a split board in the fall to reconnect with my love for winter snowboarding. In general I’m retired from Oregon resort riding. It doesn’t give me what I need and so I stopped thinking about it—stopped setting aside time for it.
With skins, poles and a dog, I can now explore in the deep snow heretofore only post-hole-able hinterlands. I went out to do that for the first time a few weeks ago, and the simplicity of it made me very happy. It felt so much more like “play” than any snowboarding I’ve done recently. Free from set agenda and people, from reliance on chairlifts or runs. Just me and a quiet ecosystem of powder dollops. And it was fabulous exercise. My body grew warm and my lungs worked hard. My face steamed into my goggles, and I sent a prayer up into the trees that my muscles would continue working, my heart keep pumping. They did. It did!
At the top—which wasn’t even the top but an unassuming pause point where we decided to strap in and send it—I felt that old excited flutter for the descent. An old forgotten feeling. And just like that I was off, dipping through the trees with the dog hot on my tail.
I’ve long suspected but never really known until now—splitboarding is the winter recreation of simple people like myself. It’s been warm here in town, but let it keep snowing up at altitude, so we can all get up and get out just one, maybe two more times.
A new mountain bike: In December Mark gifted me a two-wheeled steed in honor of the winter Yule. I’ve been craving a method to get way out into the backcountry and feel like come summer I will do many horrendous climbs and long loaping descends on this bike, and it will calm my troubled spirit.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer: I only read sci-fi when it comes recommended from my big sister, as she has immaculate taste in the genre. When this book arrived, I knew I must read it and did so in a matter of 3 days. It takes you inside a dreamworld flowing with the odd and creepy, never painting the full picture but instead a vague outline, remaining mysterious, knowing all the strangest things are cooked up by your own imagination. The book is part of a trilogy, and spoiler alert—they made a movie out of ’em starring Natalie Portman. Better get reading!
60 degrees on a Saturday: You wake up inside a house with glowing windows. The day shines with opportunity. Go out and do stuff, or sit at home, it doesn’t matter. Life is better in the warmth and light.
Rebecca Gates from the Spinanes: Me, Colorado, died red hair, corduroys and a cardigan, listening to the Spinanes in between Geology and German class. Fast forward 20 years to Oregon, and there’s Rebecca on stage in front of me playing soft-as-velvet acoustic guitar in a halo of purple light.
2017: The year that saw a new pup, a hundred road trips, a thousand trails—long, winding and otherwise. It was the year Mark gave me sparkly ring, and took all these lovely pictures of me wandering around. Proof! I embrace the wisdom of walking. It was the year I got a new job at Nemo. Procured a parcel of land in the woods near Bend. Built a fence. Cried over my old dog Lefty. Spent the night on a mountain in a blizzard and didn’t die.
Photographs aren’t real life, but they’re a slice of it. I’m glad my better half is always snapping away pics when I’m not looking, because then on dreary January 2nds, I can look back and know that I really did it. I went outside and followed the path, contemplating all the craggy views and forest sprites. I left behind the computer and the television in favor of simple happinesses with man and dog, blank-brained meditations on the trail and other moonshine of the mind.
If my year were only these images, I would be happy. Luckily, it was even more.
A winter solstice party in the sky: Sunday evening in the dead of winter is more like Sunday afternoon. What a fine time of day to walk the dog, though. On the way to the schoolyard the sky cracks into a magenta golden dream, like alpenglow, like cotton candy, and then on the way home it’s dark. The Christmas lights twinkle cheerfully as you walk by and peek in people’s windows, watching all the small, graceful moments of their quiet indoor lives.
Marc Maron’s WTF interview with Sam Beam: I’m still thinking about this conversation Marc Maron had with Sam Beam of Iron & Wine fame. What a gentle, funny human. What warmth. In my mind, he’s a bearded buddha, living like he does off in the woods of Carolina with five kids, a bunch of banjos and a head full of dusty tunes. He has the secret. He laughed at every single interview question—even the ones that weren’t funny. “You can’t be too serious about it,” he said. “It’s only life.”
Joan Didion: After watching the Netflix documentary about her, I was inclined to reopen Slouching Toward Bethlehem and spend a night reading wisdoms like this: “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 am. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were. I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be …”
Portobello rueben at Capitol: On a Tuesday night of no particular import we went out for bar food at Capitol on Broadway. It wasn’t our first choice, but Shan Dong was full and I refuse to wait for dinner in town of 10 bajillion restaurants. So. Amidst ladies dressed in shimmery skirts and men in dapper coats, I ate the reuben of a lifetime. Beet and cabbage slaw, hearty mushroom meet, crisp rye. Thank you, world! Thanks December. Cheers Portland. Sometimes, you just get it right.