Posts Tagged ‘Jim Harrison’

R.I.P., Russell Chatham

November 13, 2019

“Crazy Mountains in March” by Russell Chatham, 1991.

The IRS can’t get Russell Chatham now. He’s skedaddled with his paints and brushes, vamoosed to a secret place where his creditors will never find him.

His flight west hasn’t interested the big boys yet. The New York Times, once Johnny-on-the-spot when it came to obits, hasn’t uttered a peep.

But his old hometown newspaper finally got around to writing a little something, days after the San Francisco Chronicle noted his passing.

It was apparently the dementia that got him, among other things. Once a Montanan and rounder, an artist and writer whose running mates included the likes of Jim Harrison, Thomas McGuane, and Rick Bass, Chatham died Nov. 10 in a memory-care facility in Marin County, Calif. He was 80.

Chatham’s landscapes adorn many a book cover, when they aren’t busy elsewhere, selling for tens of thousands of dollars. Indeed, it’s hard to find a Harrison book without one, and he dedicated “Sundog” to Chatham.

The artist also makes frequent guest appearances in Harrison’s essays. While fly-fishing for billfish off Costa Rica both men contracted bad cases of turista, but Chatham’s was by far the champeen, if you believe Harrison. In “The Tugboats of Costa Rica,” he wrote:

“I shall never forget his pathetic yelp in the night as he pooped his bed during a feverish dream about trying to eat a giant Mindanao clam that wouldn’t stop moving,” Harrison wrote. “This artist is a walking field day for a psychotherapists’ convention.”

In his essay “Seasons Through the Net” McGuane described Chatham as “a man who has ruined his life with sport,” a relentless angler and shootist “who “skulks from his home at all hours with gun or rod.”

“Russ never thought of painting as a career. It was just something he did,” said McGuane.

Bass called him “the greatest living landscape painter in America, famous for his outlandish appetites for food, wine, travel, art, music, literature, and the sporting life.”

And Chatham? He was busy doing the somethings he did, sport and art. Working without a net. Everything else would have to take care of itself.

“I’m not a businessman,” he told Charles Schultz for the Point Reyes Light. “If any money crosses my path, it is gone faster than butter in an oven. I have no savings, no retirement. I have whatever’s in my wallet. To a lot of people that would be frightening.”

He added: “The artist has absolutely no safety net.”

This didn’t mean that he was unaware of the ground down there waiting for him. In a chat with Todd Wilkinson for the Mountain Journal, Chatham said:

“Early on, I was never concerned about having a career, so I didn’t have one. And now nothing could interest me less. But I think we all have a programmed tape running inside us, and most of mine is now stored on the right hand side of the cassette. I finally feel I know enough to paint what I could only dream about in my twenties. People say it’s time to slow down, relax, go fishing. Well, I took the first forty years of my life off and went fishing, and now my tape is telling me to finish what I was put on earth to do. Before, time didn’t matter. Now it does.”

It’s fish-thirty, Russell. Time to wet a line.

Greatest Hits of 2016, Part 2: Brown Dog sleeps

December 28, 2016

• Editor’s note: As the year winds down, I’m taking a page from the mainstream-media playbook and reprinting a handful of this year’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” columns from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. This one was published in the April 15 edition.

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.

Brown Dog sleeps,
and a Mad Dog
tries to wake him

Just start at page one and write like a son of a bitch.—Jim Harrison, asked if he had any advice for younger writers, in a 1986 interview with Jim Fergus for the Paris Review

By Patrick O’Grady

You won’t find many bicycles in the works of Jim Harrison. He had bigger fish to fry.

In his essay “Log of the Earthtoy Drifthumper” Harrison recalled riding “a balloon-tire Schwinn 128 miles in one day in reaction to horses and cars.”

And in his first “Brown Dog” novella he wrote briefly and sardonically of a cyclist named Brad who pulled a bicycle from his van “and dressed up a bit goofy in black, shiny stretch shorts, a helmet, goggles and special shoes.”

Brown Dog observed: “He was a real ox and I asked him what the bike set him back and he said a thousand dollars. I was not inclined to believe the figure and I said for that amount they should throw in a motor. He said, ‘Ha-ha,’ asked directions and rode off at top speed on the dirt road, farting like a bucking horse.”

Brad comes to a bad end, breaking a leg in a collision with some elderly ATV riders. And I suspect both Brown Dog and his creator enjoyed a soupçon of schadenfreude at his undoing.

Harrison was a walker, an outdoorsman, and a bear for paying close attention, often quoting Zen teacher Taisen Deshimaru: “You must concentrate upon and consecrate yourself wholly to each day, as though a fire were raging in your hair.”

This tight focus is particularly useful when you’re thundering along at full tilt, as Brad reminds us.

>> Click here to read the entire column.

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.

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.

Vision quest

August 8, 2014
Mister Boo has the vision of a GOP congresscritter but more brains and a decidedly sweeter temperament.

Mister Boo has the vision of a GOP congresscritter but more brains and a decidedly sweeter temperament.

One of the drawbacks to having eyes that bug out like VW headlights is that one gets cracked from time to time.

Mister Boo, who suffers from a lens luxation in the right eye, from time to time manages to exacerbate the problem by bumping into something. Author-poet Jim Harrison, who is likewise blind on one side, has mentioned having similar navigational issues.

Anyway, the poor little guy (Boo, not Jim) did it again on Wednesday, and his eye specialist has prescribed a fresh round of medications. So until next Wednesday at least he gets:

One drop of dorzolamide in both eyes twice daily.

One capsule of minocycline daily.

A half tab of carprofen twice daily.

One drop of ofloxacin in the right eye thrice daily.

And one drop of NaCl solution in the right eye thrice daily.

Mind you, this is in addition to the walks (administered twice daily); meals (twice daily); and treats (as needed, which is to say every 15 minutes until he’s full, and then every 30 minutes thereafter). Plus, I anticipate that on his next visit to the eyeball doc the Boo will be prescribed a patch, a peg leg and a parrot. Then we’ll have to call him Cap’n Boo. Arrr.

There has to be some way to blame Obama for this.