Cinthia Ritchie, former Seward Phoenix Log editor and reporter, and author of her first novel, ‘Dolls Behaving Badly’ will sign copies of her book at Cover to Cover Bookstore Saturday, March 16 at 1:00 p.m. It’s one of a host of Seward’s 3rd annual Spring Break-Up Festival events this weekend. [...]
By Heidi Zemach for SCN Alaska writer Cinthia Ritchie’s debut novel Dolls Behaving Badly, released Feb 5 by...
Just released, with autumn themes, the book No Fear. This is the second in a series that combines confidence and...
BY RYAN REYNOLDS In any group or class of children, there will be some who for temperamental or physical reasons do...
Its time to honor a commitment.
Over the past year or so, from the shelves of the library, to the depths of the book sale, to chance meetings in dimly lit secondhand shops; Ive been a lucky man. There are over 60 books now that I have met, fallen for, and written about for Seward City News. What started as a quest to highlight the eccentricities of that wonderful little library downtown, has become something more something else. A fire-breathing stallion to gallop across the tattered, coffee-stained pages of the published histories of all things unusual. A peculiar smelling time machine to universes where those that fail to macramé are flogged in the village square. An ostrich-powered unicycle that runs on the dreams of lost jelly beans that lie beneath cushions of overstuffed couches. A
Well, you get the idea.
My real reason for writing today is to thank a very special woman, Nancy Rekow. Through the magic of the internet, Nancy came across a Weird Book piece that I had written back in November of 2008 about her book, Minnie Rose Lovgreens RECIPE FOR RAISING CHICKENS. (If youd like, you can read that piece here.)
Recently, a Third Edition of this wonderful book has been published through NW Trillium Press and Nancy was a little surprised to come across my column, especially considering that her book had been out of print since 1975 after a small publication of only 21,000 copies. Luckily for Seward, one of those early editions found its way here.
Id like to share with you what she wrote:
Yesterday accidentally randomly fortuitously I happened internetly upon your “Weird Book of the Week” piece mentioning Minnie Rose Lovgreen’s Recipe for Raising Chickens. Happenstancely, I am the person who knew Minnie Rose, tape-recorded her words, hand-lettered them, enlisted an illustrator farmer/friend, located and created/self-published that book back in 1975. And that subtitle, “The main thing is to keep them happy”–those were her exact words when dictating a part of the book, a section on what to feed one’s chickens. Obviously those words could help us navigate life, so I seized upon them and said, “Minnie Rose, that’s your subtitle.” And so it was.
Anyhow I’m writing to tell you that in May, 2009, my partner and I re-published the book in a 3rd Edition. It had been out of print since the late 1980′s (having sold 21,000 copies in the 70′s and 80′s). Basically it’s the same exact text, with some added endorsements and some excerpts from Minnie Rose’s rather dramatic life story, Far As I Can Remember, which I also tape recorded and which we plan to publish early next year.
Your Nov., 2008, article may be the most unusual reference to the book ever. We’re entranced by your terming it “weird” which it obviously is somewhat, though not at all to those hordes of chicken raisers ever invading the country. And as you probably realize, Minnie Rose’s advice is really practical as well as lively and unique. She was quite a storyteller.
Anyhow, we want to send you a complimentary copy of this new edition. So please let us know your address. Naturally the book is yours gratis, though obviously we’d be most appreciative if you praised it somehow–maybe by sending us a blurb, posting/writing something, reviewing it for Amazon or elsewhere, mentioning it to bookstores, having your library system order it–or whatever springs to mind. But, regardless, you deserve this new edition simply for writing your story of the weirdness. And incidentally, since I’m now in the throes of learning to blog (starting from scratch) I now identify with that poor chicken lost and hungry in the wilderness of night!
Nancy Rekow (& Everett Thompson)editors
Nancy, youre too kind.
But the best part about it? Yours truly is now the proud owner of my very own copy of the book, reminding me of why I was so captivated by it to begin with. Nancys work is a tribute to a way of life, and a source of knowledge that so many of us only view with faint curiosity as it fades before our eyes, passing with those that lived during perhaps the greatest century in history.
This is exactly what keeps me motivated to continue writing about books such as this. Through the many weird books, to the few odd bookpiglets, and now here, with the MBRL, the defining thing of every book I write about is that wonderful feeling one gets from holding one of these aging volumes in your hands, and sensing the love that led to its creation. Love that didnt worry about what people might think, or the critics might chatter. Love that said yes to weird, knowing that sometimes, its whats different in this world that matters most of all.
Certainly, Minnie Rose knew that.
Thankfully, Nancy Rekow did as well.
The Musty Book Rescue League is dedicated to increasing awareness of the forgotten treasures found on bookshelves and in boxes across America. If it looks odd and smells funny, the League is here to help.
Preamble (Perhaps ramble?):
The physical act of writing, Ive discovered, can have a curious similarity to say, a relationship with a close friend, separated by distance and alienated by a busy life, that may seem solid within your own mind as based on past experiences, but in reality can be closer to a forgotten house plant, dry and dormant, thats been hiding behind the curtains since last summer.
Surely my writing, sadly enough, would more closely resemble the cats favorite scratch&squat than some happy flower on a sunny windowsill. That being said however, Im happy to say (although a little embarrassed as well) that today, I have found that dead, pee-soaked plant, and there may still be life in there yet.
So, if youll forgive me, Im introducing yet another foo-foo title change as I try and figure out just exactly what it is Im doing with all these written words in a row, because really, its just about books. Well blame the rest of the odd stuff on being dropped in the cactus patch as a small child.
So, without further ado
Musty Book Rescue League
By Ryan Reynolds
If for nothing else in this wild and crazy, mixed-up world, we should ever be thankful for the specialists. Those who defy convention; the ones that consistently row upstream, that scorn the norm and have it their way, every day these are the people that bring a little flavor to our white-bread world of work and work, some play, then work. They are the ones that truly get it; that passion is a searing signal crying out aloud in prayer Do what you love! This day, the next, the years to come; for life is short, the years pass quickly, and if not now, today, then when? On what distant, hidden socked-in shore have you sent your dreams to lie in wait? Beyond a sea that spreads its arms and soaks you in excuses – where a thousand waves come crashing in? Today! Today! Live for today, and whistle high aloft your soulful song to call your dreams back to you.
Such would passion cry I feel, at least, as much, Ive heard before.
And yet, the world for many is more often an endless litany of so much to do, so much that waits, and never, ever, enough time for dreams. But, (but ) every day given to us is another chance to begin making our 4th Grade When I grow up paragraphs come true. Yes, it takes gumption. No, its almost never easy. But if more than anything in this world, turning walnut shells into guinea pig bikinis is what makes you happy, then for Petes sake get to it! Selling sexy guinea pig swimwear is what they invented the internet for right?
Of course it is.
Which takes us in a laser-direct line to this weeks book, How to Photograph Cats by Robert Pearcy, which I introduce with great pleasure. Here is a man who no doubt fought off his critics, tooth and claw, for the right to live his dream staging elaborate photo shoots of kittens in sunglasses, fat cats on hammocks and grumpy-faced Persians playing the piano. Where others saw only animal cruelty at the hands of bored little girls, Mr. Pearcy found his calling.
Like it or not, dream achievers like Robert Pearcy deserve our respect, and not just for being real-life examples of the everyday miracles our gluttonous capitalistic empirical society makes possible, or even for living lives tailor-made for Teen Disney; but above all, for the undeniable fact that working with models is tough. Just ask any surviving member of a Naomi This better be a 1 ½ Splenda packet skinny latte or you leave here with one eyeball Campbell photo shoot and theyll tell you. No matter how dangerous your average Victorias Secret angel can be, try adding sharper claws and legal immunity. Now thats adventure!
Yes, those Friskies ad campaigns dont make themselves you know. It takes one steely-eyed Captain to steer a ship like that around the rocks and into port, which is why its not too crowded a field. If you want to make it to the kitty-cat big time, youve gotta pay your dues along the way. The road to Cat Photographer stardom is littered with the painful scratches of Parakeet modeling agents and Assistant Gecko Wranglers that just couldnt handle the pressure.
But hey, dont let that stop you. With a pair of welding gloves and the perfect props, you too can begin the journey of a lifetime; one hissing furball at a time.
Just dont forget to keep the Band-Aids handy.
The Musty Book Rescue League is dedicated to increasing awareness of the forgotten treasures found on bookshelves and in boxes across America. If it looks odd and smells funny, the League is here to help.
“The Great Bear”
Edited by John A. Murray
Bears schmares. Lets talk about bears.
The other day, I was late to work. My phone was dead. The internal alarm clock stuck on snooze. Nothing too exciting. The fun part of the story though, is that since Im currently residing in a blue-tarped hobo camp out in yonder woods, and have joked about being woken up by friendly neighborhood bears from time to time, a general consensus was formed that perhaps my absence was caused by the better part of me now residing in some fat and happy, overstuffed bruin, asleep in the Camelot brush.
Thankfully, that was not the case. Yet the fact that being eaten by a bear near topped the list of reasons why I had not shown up to work on time, pleases me somehow. And so, I felt like writing about bears this week.
So today, for your ursine entertainment, were reveling in the golden prose of magnificent masters of the written word who through their merry rambles, encountered the one, the only, Grizzly Bear. The Great Bear, with stories from Edward Abbey, Aldo Leopold, Adolph Murie, Doug Peacock and many more, is a fantastic collection of encounters with this magnificent animal, with their stories coming from all corners of present and historical American grizzly country from Alaska to Arizona.
These stories, from first encounters compiled together by John A. Murray, make for a fascinating read on Alaskas favorite charismatic megafauna. From Ed Abbeys perch high in the Northern Rockies to John McPhee along the Kobuk river, these are men who met the Great Bear and were moved by the power of mountains in a single paw print; the ripple of muscle descending singing creeks.
Their words speak truth within fables. Celebrate the wilderness which the great bears presence represents. Embody the very spirit of life lived one day at a time. As I said, Masters.
Its quite the refreshing departure from so many other bear books that seek (more…)
‘Two Marbles to Change the World’
Inspired by, Marbles: A Player’s Guide by Shar Levine & Vicki Scudamore
A Dedication, if I may:
To Dad, whose unequalled strength in heart and mind I pray inherit half as much.
You are definitely way cooler than Batman.
So we begin -
Being a fan of ribald and rowdy humor, Ive often enjoyed the awful joke throughout the years of explaining the why and whereabouts of certain illegitimate children the world over who will someday curse my name in song. (I did say ribald you know ) And, though this ostracizing bit of comedic relief so oftentimes amuses only myself, I have nonetheless carried merrily along like a fat kid with gas in the ice cream parlor, content inside my own sweet bubble while seething discontent melts all around me.
And life was fine. Until last week. Then, the joke stopped being funny. (more…)
‘Hotter than Hell’
by Jane Butel
The first time I met Rosie was in the garden. I was seven years old. She was nine. We kissed beneath the warm and sheltering cloth of tangled vines, bumping our heads against tomatoes warm to the core from a watchful sun, laughing at the way such a silly game could make our noses tingle so, while all around us life was humming happy daydream lovely tunes.
Lost from the world in our own verdant castle, tracing green leaf fractured shadows made from lazy bugs too full to fly, we agreed that some day distant we would love each other just as much as our hidden kissing garden oh so sweetly loved the sun. And in that effervescent plumed tranquility, my heart was pressed into a mold that such, for love to fit and flourish fiercely, I fear at first my heart must break – then heal – in gentle hands I’ve yet to meet.
That was how much I loved Rosie. (more…)
Don’t Squat With Yer Spurs On!
by Texas Bix Bender
I’m not the soundest of sleepers. Oftentimes it can be almost impossible to hit the hay without a hundred different cockeyed rodents running through my head at once; which as you may know, is not a pleasant feeling. Plus it can leave one corner of my mind a bit, uh, musty shall we say? For this reason, (and in that elusive spirit of mental hygiene), my usual approach to vanquishing insomnia has been to think of hip, new sayings that will be all the rage at next week’s parties. An Oscar Wilde’esque exercise for my misbehaving mind of sorts. Perhaps you’ve heard of a few?
Some of the greats like, “You may not be able to burn down a popsicle stand, but you sure can make a tasty puddle”, or “Putting your nose in other people’s business is like checking out the underside of a dung beetle. Either way, it stinks.” Or, “Two cats in a tree with a dog makes three, then two, then one, then none.” Maybe, “Give a nickel for a fart and you’ll sell a lot of beans”? Really? Not even that one?
No matter then. It’s like throwing noodles at the kitchen ceiling. If you keep the fire on long enough, something’s gotta stick. (Sorry. Can’t help it.) But I did stumble across a real beauty the other night. My very first Sarah Palin saying, destined for the history books no doubt. Though it would help if I could get McCain to start spreading it around Washington D.C. next time Don Young throws another of his infamous pallet fires. (Bring your gun! It’s legal now!)
But before the hype gets a wee bit heavy, (and it often does), let’s make the scene. For I can just see ol’ John in the crowd now, waving his arms in excited conversation to a pie-eyed Cheney,(or Igor von Scary Sneer as his friends like to call him), when the moment arrives to deliver the golden egg. Here’s John -
“Listen Dick, for the last time, bombing California was not the answer to winning the election. I don’t care how many stinky hippies you can whip with one hand tied behind your back, it’s just not the way we do things in our own country. I warned you about hanging around with Rummy didn’t I?”
“Besides, everybody knows we had that thing in the bag until I picked that Palin woman. Where were you on that one Dick? Yes, yes, I know she’s hot but – what was that? Yes. I heard you the first time. Like the ass-end of a Patriot missile on its way to Iran. Great analogy Igor. But look Dick,(we are go for launch) having a conversation with Sarah Palin is like finding a flat cat on the street. If you want to see both sides of the matter, you better bring a shovel and wear your garden shoes, because things are going to get messy. And-no, excuse me, please go ahead. Mmhmm…no I don’t know where Don keeps his guns. That’s not like you to forget yours but I’m sure George has a couple on him. Let’s go get you one.” And so the night continues…one more mission for McCain accomplished.
But really, I can’t take too much credit for this veritable fountain of phrases. Turns out it’s in my genes. Dem Texan genes that is. Take my latest idle pleasure, Don’t Squat With Yer Spurs On! by Texas Bix Bender. Much like the work of one of his fiercest competitors, You Won’t Wipe Your Butt With a Cactus Twice, this one’s a paperback powerhouse of Western witticisms, churned out a dime a dozen. Though actually, at $6.95 with 128 sayings, they’re more like a nickel a’piece.
Of course, you can’t sell this stuff in Texas. Only a fool buys bottled water in a rainstorm. Why, you can’t hardly walk down a Texas street two feet before somebody somewhere will start yelling some old sayings at you. Whole conversations in fact, are held entirely in witty phrases, making it easy to pass the time even if there’s nothing to say.
Jim: “You know what they say Helmer. Half a saddle don’t make a horse.”
Helmer: “Sure, sure. But a pot full of beans beats a bite of beef any day in my book.”
Jim: “Reckon so. And any man’s a friend who shares his grub. ‘Specially if it comes in a can.”
Helmer: “Certainly. But the best friend a man can have is his dog, unless it’s a lady pen pal from San Francisco.”
Jim: “I hear ya there Helmer. But you know what they say about dreams don’t you?”
Helmer: “I do, I do. But you can’t throw a rope ’round the moon without one helluva tall ladder is what I’ve discovered.”
Jim: “Yessir. That’s ‘nuf said ’bout that.”
And so it goes. It’s touching really, watching two grown men talk about their hidden yearnings and long lost dreams through the secret language of contextual paraphrasing. All with a spoonful of country style gravy to help slip it into the gullet. Why it’s enough to make any wandering cowboy far from home, sing a lonesome, cowpoke tune to the starlit prairies of his youth. Yet the world keeps on moving and we all move along.
To the words of a life we’ll have written in song.
I hope you enjoyed these medium-rare Texas tidbits while they was still hot. And I surely hope to hear the “Beans” one in the Cantina next week. We all have to contribute something to society right? Chalk that one up for me.
I’m off for a dance with Patsy Cline.
‘Las Vegas, City of Sin?’ by Dick Taylor and Pat Howell
The sun is early to rise this day; the eastern sky an illuminated pastel painting swiftly changing. A young mother steps from the bed, showers quickly and dresses while the children are still fast asleep – the youngest one surprised by daylight, slumbering through his nightly gnaw on the ear of what was once a good looking rabbit. All is quiet within the walls of their average suburban home, yet the air is heavy with that sinking feeling of Monday’s come a bit too early. For once again the weekend’s failed to live up to its adver-televised empty promise; though they did manage to fit in a visit to the park for once, and there was a nice service at Church on Sunday, but now the work begins anew.
Within the hour, the family is in the car, passing through the twice-baked alien greens of an other-worldly beaten desert. The day is underway, the traffic thundering, and after dropping off the kids at daycare, Mom heads downtown to the office for another entertaining stretch of hours at the advertising firm, where the usual Monday gab and gossip eases bucking brains back into the shiny corral for productivity’s sake.
And so life continues.
Later that afternoon, the process will be reversed. Laundry done, children scrubbed and fed, and if they behave, perhaps a movie to fall asleep too. Off goes a page from the Word-a-Day calendar, on goes the old favorite t-shirt, and another day is in the books where nothing extraordinary happened at all.
It’s one of my all-time favorite pickup lines: “Honey, when you’re done with this zero, call the hero.” At which point I proffer a limited edition, Chewbacca commemorative pin, with my phone number and Capt. Reynolds – Rogue Squadron Leader written on the back to the lucky lady. (You’d be surprised at how often this works.) But now, times have changed. Turns out I was wrong all along. And those zeros? They’re the real heroes.
So, after reading Charles Seife’s “Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea”, I’m changing my stripes and saying farewell to this time-honored line. Although, I suppose with a few minor alterations I might still get some mileage out of it. “Hi, they call me The Zero. Like a bite of my gyro?”
No. It’s dead. Time to move on.
Which is exactly why this book, this idea, the very concept of zero is such beautiful trouble. From breaking the back of a treasured pickup line, to inciting mass Y2K paranoia – zero defines recidivism to a T. It just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. And while people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett may love this little number (and have world-class zero “puppy mills” to prove it), the fact remains that one single zero with a bad attitude could have them begging on the street by morning.
That’s the power of nothing, and everything, that zero holds.
So just where exactly did this naughty number come from? We’ll blame it on the Iraqis. They’re a safe and convenient scapegoat for this whole mess. And, even though the modern Iraqi people are entirely innocent, at least with this accusation we’ll be geographically correct; for our friend the Zero came to life in that most fertile of crescents – Mesopotamia. Just look at how well that turned out! (Well, those dang Brits didn’t help much did they?)
But ever since zero’s arrival on the mathematical scene, it’s been stirring up trouble. Take the famous Greek philosopher/mathematician/(and who knew?!)raw foodist, Pythagorus – the unwitting plagiarist of the Pythagorean theorem. (The Egyptians were way ahead on that one, but who wants to find hypotenuses with the Nakhtnebtepnefer theorem?)
Pythagorus was a man who loved numbers. The kind of guy who would have been flashing 80085 from his calculator during math class in the back row. For him, everything in the universe was connected through mathematics. There were no holes. No accidents. And definitely no zeros.
But, it turned out ol’ Pythagorus was wrong, and it took the West two thousand years to admit it. (He also refused to eat beans, so he must have been a rather recalcitrant fellow.) And while the Greeks were having fun drawing beautiful geometric patterns and shaping the foundations of western philosophy that would have a lasting, and somewhat crippling effect, on the advancement of math and science, the East embraced this little number and invented algebra, calculus (and presumably math nerds), centuries before the Dark Ages in Europe. Nice work fellas! It just goes to show, it’s good to try new things once in a while.
But let’s not discuss math for too long here. I am somewhat allergic to the issue. But I would like to share a fascinating number story that involves deceit, lies and devious acts. The story of how 5 killed 4.
Long ago, in ancient India, the numbers as we know them today were beginning to take shape. In fact, nearly ever number from 1 to 9 would be fairly recognizable by modern people – except for four. In the early days, four was a flirtatious 8 with a flattop. A young and daring number with nothing to lose, and the number 5 (which looked exactly like our modern 4) was her lover.
For years things were fine between them. 5 (looked like 4 remember?) was very understanding of 4′s experimentations with new age styles and whimsical alterations. He embraced them even. For one century 4 would appear as a striking cobra, the next a napping flamingo, and for years this was fine with 5. But then, something happened. 4 started to lose interest in 5′s old-fashioned style and began to come home late at night. Times were tense between the two of them, and the other numbers were growing nervous. Especially 6 who would hear 5 dream of awful things in the night.
It was 7 that brought the house down. (He was another one of those free spirit numbers who laughed at consistency.) Story was, 5 came home early one day to discover an algorithm unequaled to this day occurring in his bed. In a fit of rage, he whacked 7 so hard he’s been scared stiff ever since, but poor 4 was not so lucky.
For a long while, 5 was inconsolable over the great evil he had committed. And the nights were so cold with only 6 there beside him. No one knew if he would ever get over it, and the whole world was watching his every move. But something was happening in between. It seems that for some time, 3 and 5 had been having whispered conversations on the phone late at night, and this only intensified once there was no 4 there to stop them. One morning, 6 opened his eyes, rolled over, and nearly fell into the infinite void between them. For there was 5, who had moved in the night, cuddled up next to 3 and pretending nothing had happened. (I’m not just making this stuff up you know! Numbers are born narcissists.)
Now this could have thrown the world into yet greater chaos if it hadn’t of been for 6. Quiet little 6, whom no one could have suspected of such a bold move, had a plan. Thinking quickly, 6 saw his chance at last for true happiness, and after a hastily arranged shotgun wedding, attended by a few close numbers and letters, his foreign friend Mr. S was settled in by his side that same day. Of course, to not cause too much trouble, he had his name changed to 5, which was fine since 5 had become 4. Makes perfect sense right? As much as anything past fractions for me anyway.
And that’s the story of how the numbers we know and love came to be. Betrayal, murder, new beginnings and gay marriage. Who knew math could be so fun!
I think that’ll be all for today’s lesson. The Zero needs a sandwich.
I’ve got it bad. My addiction that is. For years now I’ve been a user, an abuser, and a multi-layered loser. And the worst of it is I didn’t even know it. That is, not until I read 12 Steps to Raw Foods; or as I like to call it, “The I Enjoy Eating Eater’s Guide to Developing a Guilt Complex”. Thanks a lot Victoria Boutenko.
So now you know my secret. Are you in the club too? Because if you’ve ever enjoyed a Bacon Cheeseburger more than you should have, or had sinful thoughts about chocolate late at night when no one’s around, or well, just plain eaten anything hot and tasty you’re entire life, then you my friend are an addict, plain and simple. I’ll bet you didn’t know that.
But Victoria does. And she’s developed a 12 step program to help break our terrible, life-sucking addiction to cooked food, in pursuit of a toxin-free, no more enchiladas ever diet that will save us all from an early, painful death. And did I mention every dish comes with a free glass of guilty conscience?
But don’t take my word for it. Why don’t we take the suggested survey here, just to confirm our sinful ways. I’m including my evidence just for fun.
Here it is:
- If you are not hungry, but someone offers you your favorite delicious food, do you accept the offer? Of course. To decline would be rude!
- If you know that it is not good to eat before bedtime, but there is some delicious food on the table, do you eat it? Yes, but maybe I could resist if everything wasn’t so dang delicious!
- If you feel stressed, do you eat more food than usual? Until the stress goes away or a button pops.
- Do you continue eating until your stomach feels completely full? That’s how I know the food works. And if I’m ever locked in a room full of cheese puffs – I’ll die trying.
- Do you eat when you are bored? Yes, despondently.
- Do you reward yourself with food for accomplishing achievements? Of course. It works for dogs right?
- At All-You-Can-Eat restaurants, do you usually overeat? Well, only because I’m on a personal mission from the God of Averages to make up for the “Oh! That was a filling salad!” crowd. So yes.
Okay, that’s enough of that. I’m tired of feeling guilty. Can I rant for a minute? Because the one truly fatal flaw in any raw food vegan’s dream of bland, utopian world domination is that you’ll have to kill all the animals or it just won’t work. I’m serious. It’s the whole “If we shouldn’t eat animals, then why are they made of meat?” philosophy. It just feels natural.
And though Victoria may preach that it’s all about listening to your body, there have been times out on long backpacking trips that anything with four legs and fur should be nervous. When the mere mention of steak and eggs sends my legs aquiver, because I get hungry! And my body says, “Ryan, you better kill something chubby real soon if you don’t want killer ninja celery stalk nightmares to chase you back home!” (My body has a twisted sense of humor.)
And take Alaska for example. While living on a diet of raw foods might work well for tropical climates and electronically controlled greenhouses, the whole principle of existing on raw food is inexorably linked to our lazy, modern civilization, which provides the framework for eating fresh-picked mangoes in the dead of winter from the other side of the world. Or, this week’s special: Organic twice-massaged Asparagus tips from the toe of Argentina. Is that what the earth intended? I think not.
And really, how would one hope to live a subsistence lifestyle in Alaska without meat? It’s impossible. You’d be dead in a month, found in the back alley of a Fairbanks pizza parlor in a pile of old pepperoni, because even though it sure sounds neat, Alaska thinks vegans are sissies; and wants to kill them.
I’m sorry, but that’s the cold hard truth. For every moose loaf turned away, or unwanted, unsmoked salmon filets, or berries and veggies not canned in Fall, there’s a sad empty stomach just waiting to crawl, back to the bright lights and unnatural fruits from exotic locations where goats play the flute, and you’ll have to realize that your wall’s a bit crumbly, and your house made of cards is in danger of tumbling, down from the clouds where your head has been lost, to adapt to the land where your anchor’s been tossed. Because this ain’t California.
Welcome to the real world vegans. I’m sorry if it’s mean and bloody, but that’s life. Always has been, always will be. And that’s okay. Because to live in this world, no matter what, something has to die so you can live. Maybe next go ’round you’ll come back as a peaceful clump of moss that sleeps under a snow bank 9 months of the year, but this turn’s at the top of the food chain. And you might as well enjoy it.
Thank you for listening. And now if you don’t mind, I’d like to leave you with a private look inside a peaceful raw food family dinner, so you can see that they’re not quite the most impractical people nature never intended.
“We decided to meditate as a family and listen to our bodies to see what they wanted. Then we heard the answer, just in time, very clearly. We were going to have grated organic Fuji apples, several chunks of organic pineapple and several pieces of prunes. Then we were going to stay on juices for three days.” Hmmm, oookay.
All I can say is, thanks Mom and Dad for not starving me when I was little. Can I come over for meat loaf next week?
I like sex. I’m sure you do too. And that guy who lives across the street, with the hamster ranch, pirate flag and Alaska’s largest collection of Cabbage Patch dolls? Oh yeah. You bet he does.
So we all have something in common. Sort of. Because although we may all enjoy that most frivolously sacrosanct of human pleasures, that certainly doesn’t make us bosom buddies. Even elbow buddies is a close one; sometimes close but often far. But that’s just it. Sex, sex and sex are all very different things. (Especially sex.)
So this is where it gets fun. (And prudes should probably stop here.) For as we delve into Daniel Bergner’s ‘The Other Side of Desire’, we enter a sort of conversational wilderness. A place few dare to tread. Where lust goes to die. A burial ground for unspoken passions. I’d like to believe we can avoid their fate. But we’ll see.
To begin with, even talking about sex outside of the bedroom can be difficult. And I’m not thinking of the idle boasts and outright lies that clustered groups of men will spin, but honest, forthright, (yes detailed) discussions that so rarely occur, but which can be wonderfully enlightening. You’d think for being the single most important aspect to the survival of the human species, a practical education on sex would get a little more coverage. But no.
Increasingly we defer to the world at large, to the “short-straw” teachers and awkward parents, and of course, the single greatest purveyor of knowledge the world has ever known – the internet. The most fantastic boost to human sexuality since batteries.
But just for fun, let’s pretend for a moment that the internet were brought down by a fiery comet, the earth frozen for a million years, and all life was exterminated. Have you considered the record we’d leave behind? Seriously?
Every now and then, and I do mean once in a while, there’s a book comes along that needs no introduction; no funny lines, or contemporaneous, odd observations to illuminate its eccentricities. It simply is, without discretion, an absolutely fascinating piece of supreme literation. The essence of what Project Bookpiglet attempts to be.
It all started this past week, due to the kindness of my friend Judy, that I met with such excellent fortune as to encounter such a book. For when one spends his days surrounded on all sides by books from every nook and cranny of the wild imaginations of an ever-eclectic passel of people, it’s hard at times to be surprised. Rare for the heart to skip a beat. And yet that’s exactly what happened that day.
Ladies and Gentlecrappers. Thunder Box fans. Friends of the John and the Necessary. The Sears Seat and the Shiver Shanty. It is my great pleasure to introduce to you: ”A Light Hearted Tour of the West On a Search for…The Two-Story Outhouse”, by Norm Weis. Please, hold the applause. And your appalled.
For this is no trite and filthy, potty-mouthed inflection, that with vain attempts seeks to shock you like a high-noon Georgia three-holer five weeks due. Far from it. For Norm Weis is nothing more than the finest historian this world almost never knew. But lucky for us, Norm wrote a book. And in that book, a true labor of love, he chronicled an architectural era the likes of which the world may never see again.
But surely at this point you must be wondering about the obese elephant in the room. (I’m sorry. It was just the trumpeting that distracted me.) But absolutely, this most ribald notion of a two-story outhouse deserves a prompt and speedy explanation. And you’ll get one. But first, let’s set the scene.
Dillon , Wyoming – 1897. It’s been one helluva winter, with enough snow on the ground to make even the heartiest of barroom drinkers spend a full day and night in their courageous attempt (from a second story window mind you) to prove that at least one yellow-snow well in Wyoming’s got a bottom this year. But this was Dillon for god’s sake. And these were enterprising people.
The town of all of eight buildings – the majority of them constituting saloons and a one place of ill repute (yet keen visitation) known simply as the “Hog Ranch”- was hardly bustling, and yet the brave and hardy souls that dug for the precious green those hill did hold were really onto something. Something big. Something tall. And yes, stinky when the wind was wrong.
As Norm tells it, “old-timers claim the outhouse began its spurt to new heights when a father of four got fed up with shoveling the path to the outhouse. It seems the thundermugs were filled from the previous night, and the emergency call was being sounded by two of the young ones. Dad was clearing the path through two feet of snow in a valiant race with the call of nature. For the third time that month, Poppa lost the race and suffered the abuses of an irate spouse faced with another foul mess.” Tragic.
Lucky for Poppa, he was a smart man whipped three times too many. He hired a carpenter to build another outhouse right on top of the snowbank, and another after that, and another, and another; until he made it ’til spring without having to shovel one more step. (Let’s try not to imagine the eventual thaw and fall) And so, what began as one man’s lazy path to the frozen throne, sparked an architectural trend in Dillon.
It wasn’t long after that brilliant idea plopped forth, that folks starting stacking one outhouse on top of the other. A sort of summer/winter combination. Though if you could climb, it was always best to put those limber limbs to good use, as life could be quite the bowl of brown bananas on floor one. Yet still, the two story outhouse of Dillon, Wyoming became the must have, gots-to-beat-the-Jone’s log cabin accompaniment of the West entire.
Why, I’m sure it was hard to imagine life without one once this modern marvel appeared. I can just see it now…
Out you run from the hog ranch on a mission some cold winter night, taking the slide down the tunnel to Der Scheisshaus just praying that the last guy there left the seat down (the ol’ brown seal they used to call that trick), and then once you’re there you still gotta wrestle off your drawers – and it’s dark as pitch – all the while hoping that brush across your neck was just a draft and not some cold and irritated fur-bearing creature you may have to battle at precisely the most untimely moment…
Why it’s plain it didn’t take too much of a genius to invent the two-story outhouse under such dreadful conditions. It was only a matter of time really. And once the days of shoveling snow and perilous tunneling were at an end, folks could get back to the important things in life. Mainly drinking, with a little mining on the side.
I hope you’ll remember that next time you take that lonely stroll to the Roosevelt with your tickets to the moon and a good magazine. You’re sitting on some serious history out there. Why not take a moment to remember all the squatters that came before. Those true outhouse pioneers that streaked a trail through the wilderness, ever in pursuit of the perfect pooper.
And if you do get a wild hair, and find yourself in the mood for a little Scat Seat touring this summer, I highly recommend a certain booth way out the road at the Manliest Hot Springs around. Well, as long as you can handle doing business with the eyes of a thousand cats upon you. Maybe I shouldn’t have shared that.
But I’m through here. (Been fighting this urge to wash my hands for too long now.) I hope you enjoyed this mostly euphemism-free journey through the history of elevated evacuations. I know I did.
Until next week, see ya where the seat’s down.
If I make it through this alive, I’ll owe Jesus a cheeseburger.
I really should have gone to church and made some friends a while back. For once again, we find that the Day of Ham has descended upon us in all it’s Springtime glory. And if I just show up at church on Easter without any warning, trying to weasel my way into a home cooked meal, it’s liable to arouse suspicion. And perhaps consternation? Yet nevertheless, I need my ham.
And don’t forget about the leftovers! Those bowls of ham soup and dee-licious ham quiches, exquisite egg ecstasies cooked hot with ham greases; and perhaps if we’re lucky (and the pig was quite large) a whole week of ham sandwhiching, ours free of charge. Thanks Easter Bunny! You too Jesus.
But besides ham, Easter is also an excellent to time to weigh one’s options on the ol’ mythical scale of wonders. To think about making that leap into the brave Christian fold if you’re not there already. And I do mean brave, because really, if we’re all in the wrong boat and it does turn out that there’s a wrathful Allah that that guy in the cave tried to warn us about, then we, my friends, are toast.
And is gambling with your eternal soul on the line really worth a nice ham dinner, hot cocoa and a letter from Santa? I would say yes. But it’s close.
Yet I jest. And why shouldn’t talking about religion be a casual, enlightening affair instead of the medieval teeth pulling it so often is? Certainly there’s the whole unfriendly heathen issue to contend with, and no one wants to be lectured on all their misgivings, but a relaxing discussion on the world after this one can be a fascinating journey of spiritual wonders. Or the annual meeting of the minds at the British soccer hooligan’s conference.
And that’s just it I suppose. Perhaps it’s a subject so ardently avoided due to the excellent chance of your hand basket catching fire in a hurry if you fall in too deep. And nothing ruins a dinner party like eternal damnation from a friend. Which reminds me of an excellent quote from that lovable egg-shaped Master of Wit, Winston Churchill that so adequately sums up a (let’s hope not) growing population in the world: “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”
Well said Sir. But where was I… Ah yes, religion. (Am I sinking or is it just the crushing weight of collective disapproval pushing me down?) I hope you’ll stay with me. For it’s exactly this frankly unfriendly fanatic attitude that’s our stick in the mud when it comes to finally achieving that Hands Across the Universe day of smiles and laughter. For isn’t it a bit odd that the two near insurmountable obstacles to our dream of world peace are religion and resources? (It’s always the R’s stirring up trouble isn’t it? Especially you recycling…) What ever happened to live and let be?
Well that’s exactly the approach Peter Occhiogrosso takes in “The Joy of Sects”, though you probably could have guessed that from the title. It’s a book that celebrates the six dominant religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam – while not being afraid to speak frankly about their misgivings. An approach I found immensely enjoyable and fair in all respects. Occhiogrosso is a man with a marvelous sense of humor and a deep respect for faith. And now bothofusknowso!
For as the world continues to shrink, and our differences are ever more flagrant, I find true religious tolerance, coupled with an appetite to learn more about our neighbors, to be an essential quality if we are to live in peace. For as Occhiogrosso warns us, “When the attachment to ritual for its own sake, or to ethnic identification, overcomes the avowed mission of religions to teach compassion and liberation from the limited self, then conflict and persecution may become acceptable options.” Sound familiar?
And did I mention I was raised Methodist? Not exactly a credit to the faith, but they didn’t ask me to leave if that helps. I guess it was just that whole problem of having too many choices. You see, I’ve never been much of a believer in brand loyalty except when it comes to guns, chicken fingers and pantyho-I mean ammo. And once I started reading those ‘dangerous’ books no one ever warned me about, I couldn’t help but be influenced by beliefs outside my own; alternately undermining and validating what I knew to be true. And while I sometimes regret my lack of “life member” status amongst the main religions, I’ve found a deeply personal (and still evolving) set of beliefs that suit me to a tee.
But before we go, can we talk about the whole ham thing again? I’m just worried about whether or not we made the right choice on which meat to grace the table come Sunday. You know, given Jesus’ Jewish heritage and all, isn’t it a bit like hosting an all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet on National Vegetarian Awareness Day? But maybe we should just forget about that. An Easter meatloaf just wouldn’t be the same, and I’d hate to sink my favorite ship.
But that’s enough from me. Let’s get on with the party! I hope I didn’t offend anyone, but if so, I would remind you of the wise words of that prominent clergyman Henry Ward Beecher – “A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It’s jolted by every pebble on the road.” Does that get me off the hook? Only time will tell.
Until then, Happy Easter everybody. And thanks for the protection Jesus. Now let’s go get that burger…
“Your Erroneous Zones” by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
The clock is ticking. The day slipping by. And still I have no mission true, not a solitary, sideways clue of what to put upon this blank, awfully clean and bright white page. I don’t know where this crazy week has gone, but it certainly left me no time to intricately weave between these measured lines my rattled, obfuscated mind.
Luckily for me, as I was passing by my crate of future book recruits, I was struck by the piercing, I-just-ate-all-your-cheese smile of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, eyeing me from the somewhat uncomfortably suggestive cover of “Your Erroneous Zones.”
My what? Now my initial reaction was that I didn’t want ol’ Wayne anywhere near my erroneous zones, Doctor or not, but all the same, I couldn’t help but wonder where, and in what condition, my erroneous zones were in.
Well, it turns out they’re big. And they’re in my head. You have some too I’ll bet. You see, these erroneous zones are part of a secret “what the heck is an erroneous zone okay fine I’ll buy the book” marketing strategy, which catapulted Dr. Dyer’s book to atmospheric sales levels. 35 millions copies?! #1 on the New York Times bestseller list?!! It’s true. And quite erroneous if you ask me.
But seriously, Dr. Dyer’s e-zones refer to behaviors and attitudes that effectively drown us in puddles of defeat, fear and rejection. These self-destructive patterns we create, and often without realizing we’re doing so, keep us from living the life we dream of. From fulfilling our grandest aspirations. Luckily however, there’s a way out of this entirely too erroneous muck.
Due to my current predicament (though truthfully a longstanding and grievous habit) of blatant procrastination, I made my way to Chapter 9: “Putting an End to Procrastination – Now”. Umm, on second thought, should I wait to read that chapter until tomorrow? No! Bad erroneous zone! Bad!
So I began.
A wise man, Donald Marquis, once called procrastination “the art of keeping up with yesterday.” I can relate to that. I’m actually an expert on the subject, as well as a genius when it comes to things I should have done. But I was impressed with Dr. Dyer’s simple logic behind defeating this horrible habit.
His advice? Basically, stop being such a worthless, lazy, no account stick in the mud and do something or don’t. And, stop whining. A literal kick in the pants, in the most literal sense of that word is what he gives you. Thanks Doc. And sorry about that whole cheese thing.
So, let’s work on those erroneous zones everyone. And most of all, just be yourself. That’s what I’ve found Dr. Dyer is trying to teach us more than anything. Even if that inner self is kinda weird, or a little crazy, or just plain should-be-left-at-home, it’s good to get out once in a while. No one wants to end up the crazy little Chihuahua that bites Grandma right?
Well that’s all from me. I’m off to work on my procrastination problem. I think that with Dr. Dyer’s advice, I can finally kick this dreadfully heavy habit. Which I’ll do, right after my nap…
Ryan Reynolds can be reached at email@example.com, but please, no erroneous emails.
I can still remember my Dad’s old Fire car; the one he drove for a short while during his earlier days working for the city Fire Department. And it’s not the make or model or even color that’s etched in my memory, but two other features that left such a strong impression on that little boy I once knew. One universal. One very special.
His twirling blue magnetic emergency light, and the radio.
The first held all the promise of SuperDad heroics at the flip of a switch – his hidden cape disguised yet ready, as he drove us to school in the morning. I always secretly hoped we’d have to rush off to a fire with our blue light flashing, but somehow no one’s house ever burned down between 7:15-7:45 in his part of town. Which is good.
Of the second I remember only snippets. A song here, a familiar voice there. There was something about the way that old car smelled, the stick of hot vinyl against bare legs in the summertime, the strange hazardous materials manuals I would read sometimes, that together formed a treasured, timeless contentment I knew then as simply happiness.
But there was also one thing more. And that’s, “the rest of the story.”
Every morning we would listen to Paul Harvey telling us stories on the radio, talking about the news of the day. There were lots of times I didn’t understand one bit, but somehow just hearing that voice always made me feel good. The man embodied “home” in so many ways that he has become an inseparable piece of Americana. A testament to our shared virtues of simple pleasures and common struggles. Somehow, even if I was headed to a math test I’d forgotten to study for, hearing Mr. Harvey on the radio just made things alright.
Especially in this age of fright fest Frankens and loudmouthed Limbaughs, Paul Harvey represented a time when respect was tantamount to professionalism; when those we disagreed with, however vehemently, were still our neighbors, our countrymen, and this was never more clearly illustrated than in his eventual opposition to Richard Nixon’s controversial Vietnam policy. Mr. Harvey began, “Mr. President, I love you, but you’re wrong…”
I love you. Pure and simple. Staunch conservative that he was, Mr. Harvey had every reason to continue to support the President at a time when his voice was one of the loudest in the land, and yet he was a man of principle above all else. When he chose to declare his opposition to a man he admired, though so many of his loyal fans would cry out in anger, he did so from the heart. The same heart that fell so deeply in love with his wife to be the first time he saw her. That self same heart that so many millions of Americans would come to love and admire throughout his seventy-five years on the airwaves.
Paul Harvey Aurandt was a great man. A national treasure. And regardless of whether or not you agreed with his views, you couldn’t help but respect him. As it should be. As it once was.
So here’s one for Oklahoma and the local boy done right…Good Day!
Ryan Reynolds can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hiking the Bigfoot Country
by John Hart
The moment I laid eyes on “Hiking the Bigfoot Country”, I couldn’t help but be swept away by a haunting memory I’ve tried my best to forget. It happened so long ago, in such a different time and place, that it sometimes seems it was all a dream. But alas, the events were far more real than even my crazy imagination could ever conjure.
I, was once involved in a Bigfoot sighting. And no, I didn’t catch the mythic ape-man on camera, traipsing through the mossy woods in an underexposed, poorly developed one hour photo. I was that ape-man! Allow me to explain.
Some years ago, when I was younger and hairier, I set off on a magnificent trek through the storied Klamath Mountains of Northern California; home to vast expanses of wilderness, active volcanoes, mysterious caverns, and yes, even ol’ Bigfeet hisself. Or Bigfeets as the case may be if there does turn out to be a herd of them.
The weather that summer was fine and dandy. Perfect for the type of maximum exposure leisure strolling that was all the rage amongst the back-to-earth types I had met during my travels. Why, in that neck of the woods, you couldn’t hardly chunk a rock without leaving a bruise on a naked person somewhere. There were naked people climbing mountains and fording rivers, in the trees and under bushes. As if the forbidden fruit were never eaten, and the good Lord himself had fallen asleep with life stuck on the Rasta station. Certainly there was no shortage of wildlife sightings in that neck of the woods I tell ya.
Now due to my proclivity for modesty, I had chosen not to pursue the full means to an end, and so had acquired a fur loincloth by means of hypnotizing several long-tailed weasels using my trusty power crystal necklace and some sage smoke. After that trick, and a few good knots, I was as good as clothed and warm to boot. It was time to meet the mountains!
I must have spent several weeks in those woods, chasing mountain lions, racing deer, spearing frogs. The usual mountain man stuff. But little did I know, the day that would change my life forever was soon to come.
It all went down on Tuesday, July 8th. (What? Your weasel loincloth didn’t come with a watch?) I was beginning to work my way back towards civilization, and was strolling along the trail, caught up in earnest conversation with a stuttering chipmunk who was seeking retribution against a neighboring gang of squirrels who had made off with his food cache. He was understandably upset over the ordeal, and was offering an honest percentage of that year’s nut collection as payment for my mercenary services; an offer we were debating with much enthusiasm.
And that was when we heard the screams.
“Eeeeeeeeehhh!!! Bigfoooott!!” Suddenly, there in the path ahead, a Girl Scout troop was fleeing. Again came the piercing screams, reaching octaves only Eagles match, filling the once peaceful forest with heart-seizing terror.
I was so shocked I could only stand there frozen, as afraid myself of the untimely encounter while the awful screams continued. Until, with a crack! (oh the horror!), my power crystal necklace shattered! The secret spell was broken! And with the three and angry weasels woken, their tails held fast to one another, I did what any man would do whose fearsome rodent undies he discovers need to fly the coop.
I screamed. Higher. Louder. Longer than any Girl Scout could. As a man with everything to lose, I went berserk, began to run. The Bigfoot sighting now was done! The mythic ape man’s song was sung. Another case to fuel the dreams of “science” mongers hunting fun.
So now you know the story. It still brings chills to remember that fateful day, but I owe my life, and structural integrity, to my chipmunk friend Maxwell. It wasn’t for his quick thinking and sharp incisors, those three now short-tailed weasels and I would most likely have made it to the moon, and the world would be one Bigfoot less.
So let that be a lesson to all you Bigfoot country hikers out there. Pay attention, wear pants, and always keep an extra power crystal close at hand.
You just never know when you’re going to need it.
Ryan Reynolds often takes walks in the woods. Please look twice before shooting at him. He can be reached at email@example.com
In circumspect pursuit of supinely divined literary delectations, notwithstanding erstwhile proficiency in such piffling matters considering the breadth of sullen sanctimoniousness our globe engulfs at present, one warm and fainéant afternoon not so very long ago, a fortuitous encounter with an unassuming book enkindled an expansive voyage of luciferous rumination, set to sail upon a burnished sea of eloquence.
And your response to such an irrefragable statement? Prior to accusing me of pharisaical prognostications concerning linguistic juggernauts, all for the sake of thoroughly trouncing colloquial witticisms in favor of monolithic incomprehensibility, a parenthetical catafalque of our modern tongue if you’ll allow, I bequeath to you, though breath is in me, a treasure found, a treasure shared -
Oh the hell with this, my brain is tired.
I’ve been browsing “How to Build a Better Vocabulary” lately and I guess I got a little carried away. Or should I say, “engulfed”. Without a doubt though, the average American’s vocabulary at present is radically different from fifty years ago. Go back a hundred years or more, and it’s almost a different language altogether. We’ve invented new words, altered others, and quietly done away with many more, all in the name of progress.
And while it’s true that the first two paragraphs were meant entirely as a sort of literary “shock&awe”, they can, and do, make sense. (I think) But the distance between such language, there and this, is immense; and in large part, our linguistic shortcomings have evolved from necessity, and rapidly so with the advent of chat rooms, text messaging and the accepted perversion of our language for the sake of time, space or comedy. Not an anvil around the throat of proper English per se, but no pair of arm floaties either.
But a good vocabulary is important for so many reasons. It broadens our intellectual horizons, impresses our friends and neighbors, and, most importantly, decreases the number of “duuh…” moments in life. And while reading this book offers no guaranteed prevention of future brain farts, it will fill the spaces in between in a most benignant manner.
Consider for example this collection of divinely syllabic morsels; a twisting treat for the vulpine tongue. Ollapodrida. Maunder and gravamen. Brummagem. Sabulous. Sternuation. (If you’re getting excited, you might want to jump train here) Triturated. Cachinnation. Cicatrix. Sequestration; sumptuary, otiose, morganatic, aposiopesis – tatterdemalion, stultify. Aureole encomium.
It’s a drug I’m telling you. A side of English you don’t normally see from 9 to 5, but she lets her hair down now and then, same as the rest of us. And while I certainly don’t mean to suggest anything so forward as a need for relationship counseling, when was the last time you felt passionately about your given tongue? Went wild with a tawdry fragment?
Don’t you think it’s time you fell in love, all over again. For the sake of the song. The rhythm in words.
Yet this time, without discretion, it will be a deliquescent dream. An afferent allolalia.
Your vocabulary awaits.
Ryan Reynolds accepts no responsibility for injured brain cells during the reading of this column. His own brain, as many suspect, barely made it through the final draft and is now in recovery. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org