Archive for the ‘Arts & letters’ Category

The news just repeats itself

August 19, 2016

Now and then I miss working in a newsroom. This is not one of those times.

Most days, daily journalism is like any other gig, only more so. Hours of tedium interrupted by moments of pandemonium.

But news in the era of what Charlie Pierce calls He, Trump, is a whole other ballgame. It’s like trying to sip delicately from a fire hose hooked to a septic tank. It can’t be done, and nobody should have to try, not even for money.

And certainly not for free.

Instead I’ve been trying — and mostly succeeding — in paying attention to the bicycle, may God save her and all who sail in her.

There’s Bicycle Retailer‘s big 25th-anniversary celebration, for example. I need to dash off a column and cartoon on that topic, which shouldn’t be too much of a stretch, seeing as I’ve had 25 years of practice.

And I’ve ridden four different bikes in four days — Sam Hillborne, Steelman Eurocross, Soma Saga, Jones Steel Diamond — and loved every minute of it. Well, not every minute — the Steelman’s low end of 36×26 is a tad tall on steep, sandy single-track for an auld fella — but still, it beats perching in front of the Mac, letting the shit monsoon wash over me.

This morning I got up, grabbed some coffee, and when Herself went out to walk The Boo, I shut off NPR’s “Morning Edition” and started playing some John Prine instead. Sometimes a fella needs a little country to restore his faith in a bigger one.

Hell sucks

June 25, 2016
You may never have read "Dispatches" by Michael Herr, but chances are you've shared some of his experiences at the cinema, in "Platoon," "Apocalpyse Now" or "Full Metal Jacket."

You may never have read “Dispatches” by Michael Herr, but chances are you’ve shared some of his experiences at the cinema, in “Platoon,” “Apocalpyse Now” or “Full Metal Jacket.”

Michael Herr deserves his own post, if only for “Dispatches,” a work I’ve mentioned here before.

He went to Vietnam for Esquire, not for Uncle Sam, and he had to have a breakdown before he finished the book for which he would be best known.

If you saw “Apocalypse Now,” you’ve heard his work (he wrote the narration). You got some more of it in “Full Metal Jacket” (he wrote the screenplay with Gustav Hasford, author of “The Short-Timers,” for his friend Stanley Kubrick).

But “Dispatches” was the real deal. Seventies reportage from the scene, slightly fictionalized, deeply admired, by the king of Gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, and by me, too.

Rest in peace, Mr. Herr.

Extra-credit reading

“Hell Sucks,” which became part of “Dispatches,” reprinted in its entirety at Esquire.

“Breathing In,” also from “Dispatches,” excerpted by NPR.

• Herr’s New York Times obit.

A remembrance by Graydon Carter.

A 2000 interview in The Guardian by fellow war correspondent Ed Vulliamy.

Endurance

June 17, 2016
Hal Walter and Spike in 2000, after winning what I believe was their second world pack-burro championship in Fairplay, Colo.

Hal Walter and Spike in 2000, after winning what I believe was their second world pack-burro championship in Fairplay, Colo.

My man Hal “Mr. Awesome” Walter, who races burros and raises an autistic son, is the subject of a profile over to Narrative.ly, just in time for Father’s Day.

You might think that managing what Hal prefers to call a “neurodiverse” child would be heavy lifting. But like burro racing, it has more to do with endurance, which just happens to be the title of a newish short book the man is hawking between his other chores.

Like father, like son: Young Harrison has his very own burro circa 2005.

Like father, like son: Young Harrison has his very own burro circa 2005.

Hal and I first met back in the Eighties on the copy desk of The Pueblo Chieftain, where we also dealt with varying degrees of neurodiversity and as a consequence enhanced our capacities to endure just about anything.

I went on to become an extraordinarily prosaic amateur cyclist while professionally lampooning leg-shavers, dope fiends, and leg-shaving dope fiends, while Hal became a world-champion pack-burro racer and author.

But we’ve remained friends despite our class differences, and thus I recommend that you read the profile and buy the book.

Well, well, well. …

May 27, 2016
"There's more to life than a little money, you know. Don'tcha know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day."

“There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day.”

Charles “Live Update Guy” Pelkey and I were discussing anniversaries the other day, and I was reminded that I’ve been working in my chosen profession for nearly 39 years now; 40, if you count the time I spent as a copy boy at the Colorado Springs Sun back in 1974.

No wonder I fail to amuse myself now and then.

This week was one of those times. Mornings spent working the Giro at Live Update Guy. Back-to-back ship dates at Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, which meant I had to crank out two “Mad Dog Unleashed” columns and two “Shop Talk” cartoons in two weeks. And two bike reviews ongoing for Adventure Cyclist. Thousands and thousands of words.

There are harder ways to earn your biscuits and beans — for example, maglia rosa Steven Kruijswijk went ass over teakettle into a snowbank coming off the Cima Coppi in today’s Giro stage — but nevertheless, now and then it feels very much like work.

Other things take a back seat. Cooking (lots of cold suppers lately). Chores (you should see the laundry pile). Cycling (I went for a 45-minute run yesterday because I was sick of bicycles).

And this blog, of course.

In “A Moveable Feast,” Ernest Hemingway wrote of a line he refused to cross:

“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”

I’m no Hemingway. I don’t write novels, or short stories; I don’t even do journalism anymore, not really. More of a rumormonger, actually.

But still, damn. I look in the bottom of the well lately and all I see are rusty pesos, a couple of dead silverfish, and … and. …

Say, is that the bullet that killed Vince Foster down there?

Illumination rounds

May 23, 2016
You may never have read "Dispatches" by Michael Herr, but chances are you've shared some of his experiences at the cinema, in "Platoon," "Apocalpyse Now" or "Full Metal Jacket."

You may never have read “Dispatches” by Michael Herr, but chances are you’ve shared some of his experiences at the cinema, in “Platoon,” “Apocalpyse Now” or “Full Metal Jacket.”

Once we fanned over a little ville that had just been airstruck and the words of a song by Wingy Manone that I’d heard when I was a few years old snapped into my head, “Stop the War, These Cats Is Killing Themselves.” Then we dropped, hovered, settled down into purple lz smoke, dozens of children broke from their hootches to run in toward the focus of our landing, the pilot laughing and saying, “Vietnam, man. Bomb ’em and feed ’em, bomb ’em and feed ’em.”

That quote from Michael Herr’s “Dispatches” just snapped into my head as I read this New York Times piece about the prez authorizing the sale of “lethal military equipment” to Vietnam.

Pretty much describes our entire foreign policy, doesn’t it?

Bomb ’em and feed ’em; bomb ’em and feed ’em.

The Pod People

April 8, 2016

OK, I’ve been threatening to resurrect the Radio Free Dogpatch podcast for a while now, and the stars finally came into proper alignment this week, so here we go.

For the first time Radio Free Dogpatch is not a solo effort — my friend and colleague Hal Walter joined me for a chat of about 75 minutes that I boiled down in editing to just over an hour.

RFD-BugCall it “Two Dudes Mystery Theatre.” We talked about the passing of poets Jim Harrison and Merle Haggard; Hal’s autistic son, and what it’s like trying to do creative work while raising a child who is not “neuro-typical”; and cooking.

For anyone who’s interested in the nuts and bolts of this Frankensteinian project, we chatted via Skype (Hal lives in Custer County, Colorado, while I’m in Albuquerque). On my end I was using a Samson C01U USB condenser microphone and an old pair of Bose earbuds plugged into an equally old iMac; Hal went even lower-tech, using a $50 Kindle Fire and some Apple earbuds, the kind that include an inline mic’.

I recorded our conversation using Ecamm’s Call Recorder, then split the convo into two tracks and dragged both into Apple’s GarageBand for editing. Once the thing was more or less the way I wanted it, I uploaded it to Libsyn, which hosts RFD and sends an RSS feed to iTunes.

During our ‘cast I promised to provide links with more information about some of the topics we discussed, and here those are:

Jim Harrison

• Tom McGuane’s “Postscript” in The New Yorker.

• Mario Batali recalls mealtimes with Harrison in Time.

• Jimmy Buffett bids a fond adios to his hermano on Facebook.

• Doug Peacock on Harrison and the art of friendship at The Daily Beast.

Merle Haggard

A recollection from Patrick Doyle in Rolling Stone.

• NPR’s “Fresh Air” reprises a 1995 interview with the outlaw country legend.

Cookery

• The food of Apulia, from Florence Fabricant in The New York Times.

• Her recipe for orecchiette with cherry tomatoes and arugula (being a barbarian, I add hot Italian sausage).

Final notes

If you find yourself interested in Hal’s writing, you can visit him at Hardscrabble Times (yeah, it’s been a while since he updated the ol’ blog) or order up one or more of his books (check the link in the sidebar).

Meanwhile, let us know in comments what you think. It’s a little rough around the edges, but so are we. Happily, the podcast can be improved.

R.I.P., Merle Haggard

April 6, 2016

A workin’ man finally clocks out. During one drink-and-drug-soaked road trip I played one of his “greatest hits” tapes so often that my copilot yanked it out of the deck and threw it out the window.

I let him live. I didn’t want to turn 21 in prison doing life without parole. ‘Cause Mama tried.

 

Sixty-two … something

March 28, 2016
The proof is in the pudding ... or, in this case, on the Cateye.

The proof is in the pudding … or, in this case, on the Cateye.

Well, I didn’t manage 62 miles on my birthday. Nor did I ride 62 kilometers.

How’s 62 minutes sound to you?

Yeah, sounds that way to me, too.

But this morning I managed a run that lasted exactly half that time, and I reckon that’s the equivalent of 62 minutes on the bike. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

It wasn’t an entirely unproductive birthday. My burro-racing pal Hal Walter has expressed interest in doing a podcast, so I broke out all the old hardware and software and gave myself a refresher course in Podcasting 101.

Everything still works — though what Apple has done to GarageBand while I was otherwise occupied is matched only by what they’ve done to iMovie — and we may do a short test run tomorrow, if time, Skype and Call Recorder permit.

If we actually manage to slap something together, I’ll give you the 411 on the sumbitch. Expect it to be heavy on the works of Jim Harrison.

R.I.P., Jim Harrison

March 27, 2016
Jim Harrison laid his Jim Hancock on my copy of "Warlock," though it was not among his favorite works.

Jim Harrison laid his Jim Hancock on my copy of “Warlock,” though it was not among his favorite works.

Damn. I go flying past 62 only to hear that Jim Harrison hit the binders at 78.

My burro-racing pal Hal Walter and I have been Harrison fans for years. Hal especially, since he’s an outdoorsman, as was Harrison; me, I just like to be outdoors, to no particular purpose.

We caught a Harrison reading once at The Colorado College — weird thing is, it was right around my birthday, if not on the actual day itself — and I recall Mr. Harrison being less than pleased with the book I asked him to autograph. Seems “Warlock” was never one of his faves.

I liked it, though, along with other tales: “The Man Who Gave Up His Name,” “Sundog,” “Wolf,” the “Brown Dog” stories and of course “Legends of the Fall.” His essay collection “Just Before Dark” is a keeper, too, as his collection of poetic correspondence with Ted Kooser, “Braided Creek.”

He’ll be missed, and not just by Hal and me. Bon voyage, Jim. Thanks for the tales, and for that autograph.

Turkocalypse now

December 31, 2015
Never get out of the bed.

Never get out of the bed.

“Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger.”

Maybe. Especially if the bush is in a sunny window. It’s nearly noon, and all of three degrees above freezing, and the weather wizards say that’s about as good as it’s gonna get around here until sometime in 2016, when we could be looking at 45 and sunny.

The horror … the horror. …

Still, a man must ride. The world is full of bicycle reviews and deadlines, and never the twain shall meet if a man doesn’t ride.

And after the riding there shall be the cooking and the eating of the tinga poblana, a recipe I found when I was purging my collection in the process of searching for something I hadn’t prepared yet.

And after the eating there shall be … resolutions? Naw. I’d like to ride more in 2016, maybe (gasp) do some more self-supported touring, and toward that end I’m throttling back on the workload a bit, discarding the most irksome of my chores like unused recipes. That’s about it from this end.

How about you folks? Any big plans for the New Year? Sound off in comments.