Posts Tagged ‘Thomas McGuane’

Unhorsed

October 26, 2020

Don’t get wisterical. It’s just a little snow.

We were on something of a weather carousel here this morning, a slowly revolving lazy Susan serving up blue sky, clouds, rain, sleet, and snow. Don’t like what’s set before you? Patience. Another option will be coming around directly.

Eventually, ol’ Suze coasted to a stop … on snow.

Oh, well. It was bound to happen eventually. It’s October, f’chrissakes. Cyclocross season in an ordinary year, which this is not, with the Giro just wrapped and the Vuelta ongoing.

I got my cyclocross in yesterday before the weather went all to shitaree, rolling south on the foothills trails past Copper and back again.

No running, thanks all the same. Not even a hike-a-bike. The weather was cool, but the ground was dry, alarmingly so, and there wasn’t anything I couldn’t ride on my trusty Steelman Eurocross.

Alas, as Thomas McGuane has written, “sometimes a man needs to be afoot to keep from going broke, get down and go to his tasks, instead of posing on the horse. …”

So today, no horsing around. I pulled on some long pants, grabbed the push broom, and herded some snow off my driveway. Yippee-ki-yay, etc.

‘Bigger even than I had feared’

September 30, 2020

Flush twice, it’s a long way to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

The headline is taken from the 1978 Thomas McGuane novel “Panama.”

Chet Pomeroy, a performer on the skids whose act has included, among lesser spectacles, crawling out of the ass of a frozen elephant in his underwear to fight a duel with a baseball batting-practice machine, is stalking his ex-girlfriend Catherine Clay through the aisles of a Key West grocery.

She clocks him, he asks to use the bathroom, and … well, just read the book. It’s a lot more entertaining and informative, and at its most outrageous less grotesque, than last night’s “debate.”

Not even McGuane the essayist could’ve covered that raree-show, assuming he could resurrect his long-dead alter ego of Captain Berserko. Hunter S. Thompson might have managed, even participated, but sadly he is no longer with us.

It may have been the single worst thing I have ever invited into my home, and that is a fierce competition indeed. Miss Mia Sopaipilla blew a hairball. I dreamed of Nazis. Herself told me first thing this morning that CNN’s Dana Bash had called it “a shitshow,” which I thought generous and profoundly understated.

Still, I’m glad to see the mainstream media has finally copped on, albeit a trifle late. McGuane had it figured out back in 1971, when Bash was born, seven years before he would publish “Panama.”

Queried about his politics by comrade Jim Harrison, as part of a faux interview for the literary magazine Sumac, McGuane replied thusly:

“I suppose I am a bit left of Left. America has become a dildo that has turned berserkly on its owner.”

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.

Backdoored by Backcountry.com

November 5, 2019

The only backcountry that Backcountry.com cares about. Photo by Heidi Zumbrun

This week’s private-equity outrage comes to you courtesy of TSG Partners, the vile cock-knockers who own Backcountry.com, among other things.

These soulless fuckbubbles have been knuckling any and all small-business types who dare use the word “backcountry” while doing their little bits of business.

Never mind that the word has been in use since 1746, according to Merriam-Webster, which itself has only been around since 1828. Hell, Thomas McGuane deployed the word in 1969 for a piece in Sports Illustrated, “The Longest Silence,” about fly-fishing for permit in Florida.

It’s a good thing Captain Berserko was just selling a few thousand words about the joys of the sporting life, and never tried to market waders under the Backcountry Anglers label. The shysters at IPLA Legal Advisors would be trying to climb in there with him, bent on cutting off his nuts.

Good luck with that, by the way. The Captain don’t play that shit.

Anyway, here at Mad Dog Backcountry Media we support the little backcountry people in their backcountry attempts to wrest a meager backcountry living from the backcountry crumbs overlooked by private-equity pirates whose love for the “backcountry” is limited to the terrain immediately surrounding other people’s wallets, especially if said people are too small to put up any real fight against a button-down bandit.

And thus we propose that anyone who works for or with TSG Partners be dipped in honey, clad in pork-chop “lifestyle collection” garments, and air-dropped into the actual backcountry, where they may argue their case before a panel of backcountry grizzlies, backcountry wolves, and backcountry buzzards.

They might get some professional courtesy from the latter. But not if the griz gets ’em first.

Bikes and books

April 7, 2018

The Soma Saga, canti’ model, en route to the Embudo Dam trailhead after a leisurely couple hours in the saddle.

Anybody who thinks pseudoephedrine sulfate isn’t a performance-enhancer should gobble a little Claritin-D 12 Hour before the daily bike ride sometime.

I resorted to doping yesterday as mulberry, ash and juniper transformed my mighty two-lane freeway of a snout into a narrow garbage-choked alley, and hijo, madre, what fun it was. I’d still be out there if I hadn’t run out of water and food.

It didn’t hurt that I was riding the Soma Saga. What a La-Z-Boy of a bike that beast is, especially the day after riding trail on the Voodoo Wazoo, with its low end of 38×28; that’s fun, too, but of an entirely different sort.

Si, mijo, ese es un libro real.

If the going gets steep on the Wazoo you just have to suck it up, snowflake. Stand up or get off. On the Saga, with its 24×32 granny, you can sit back and relax. It feels like there’s always another, lower gear.

When the provisions ran out I rolled home and ate a plate of leftover pasta with arugula pesto, some nuts and fruit.

Then I finished reading “The House of Broken Angels,” by Luis Alberto Urrea. He name-dropped Thomas McGuane, Mark Twain and Ray Bradbury in a New York Times Q&A, and acknowledged Jim Harrison and Richard Russo in the book itself, so yeah, goddamn right I was gonna read him, and in actual analog-book form too.

The story reminds me somewhat of “The Milagro Beanfield War,” by John Nichols, in that every Spanish-speaking reader in every border town in Estados Unidos and Mexico alike is going to say of it, as an Alamosa bookseller did to me of “Milagro,” “This book is really about us, you know?”

I got my copy used at Page 1 Books. Go thou forth and do likewise.

Let me forget about today until tomorrow

October 13, 2016
Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’, swingin’ madly across the sun, it’s not aimed at anyone, it’s just escapin’ on the run.

Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’, swingin’ madly across the sun, it’s not aimed at anyone, it’s just escapin’ on the run.

I probably should have been conspiring with my fellow journalists about how best to speed the ongoing decline and fall of Ronald McDonald McTrump, but I felt like riding a bike, so I did that instead.

Anyway, it doesn’t look to me as though this virulent orange ball of flatulence needs my help to sink slowly in the west, into a sewage lagoon of its own making.

When I got back home I cranked up iTunes and worked my way through my admittedly limited Bob Dylan collection (“Blonde On Blonde,” “Blood On the Tracks,” “Bringing It All Back Home,” and “Highway 61 Revisited”).

I’m not sure ol’ Bob merits the Nobel Prize for Literature, but right offhand I can’t think of anyone else who has it coming, either. I know that I like him, and so I’m happy for him, and shall defer in matters literary to Thomas McGuane, whose opinion on Dylan (from “Nothing But Blue Skies”) I have poached before:

No one compares with this guy, thought Frank. I feel sorry for the young people of today with their stupid fucking tuneless horseshit; that may be a generational judgment but I seriously doubt it.

 

 

What’s the ugliest part of your body?

December 14, 2014

Watching a thing called Charli XCX stink up the stage on “Saturday Night Live” I was reminded of one of my favorite Thomas McGuane references, from “Nothing But Blue Skies,” in which another Frank (Copenhaver) muses, “I feel sorry for the young people of today with their stupid fucking tuneless horseshit; that may be a generational judgment but I seriously doubt it.”

Thus today’s Zappadan 2014 selection, from “We’re Only In It For the Money.”

Unsound opinions

June 14, 2013

Listening to tonight’s “Sound Opinions,” ostensibly about the “Best Albums of 2013 … So Far,” I was reminded of Frank Copenhaver, musing on music in Thomas McGuane’s “Nothing But Blue Skies”:

“I feel sorry for the young people of today with their stupid fucking tuneless horseshit; that may be a generational judgment but I seriously doubt it.”

Jim and Greg redeemed themselves ever so slightly by adding Procol Harum’s “A Salty Dog” to their Desert Island Jukebox. That is, until I discovered that they misspelled the band’s name on their website.

Keelhaul the lot of ’em.

BRAIN Farts: I want to be a Lono

March 10, 2013
Palms at the Place of Refuge

Pu’uhonua O Honaunau (“Place of Refuge”) was one of the spots that took a beating from the tsunami. Hunter S. Thompson wrote of it in “The Curse of Lono,” describing another of his “Fear and Loathing” outings.

Editor’s note: In honor of Daylight Saving Time, something that serves no useful purpose, here’s a column that never ran. It wasn’t rejected, exactly; I gave the editor two choices and he picked the other one. Maybe he didn’t get the Klingon gag in the second subhed.

Son of a beach! Why am I not in Hawaii?

I am no day at the beach. — Richard Pryor, “Richard Pryor: Live On the Sunset Strip”

At the first cold snap of autumn 2012 my wife fled to Hawaii, tormenting me with photos of snorkeling, videos of playing bikini-clad footsie with the Pacific, and audio recollections of the freshest of fish, guacamole descended from homegrown avocados, and — oh, the unspeakable agony — free drinks.

Confined to the mainland, packed like a pallid sequence of overstuffed Irish bangers into sweatpants, socks and long-sleeved T-shirt, I passed the chilly days wrangling our critters, burning my brand onto some wandering word count and pushing a passel of pixels in the service of what passes for bicycle journalism along the Front Strange.

Here there were deadlines, dreary weather and other irritants that make sand in your Speedo feel like a quick pat on the pistol pocket from Rosario Dawson. There was little time for splashing about in the deep blue ocean that does not surround Colorado or for the consumption of delicacies that the Centennial State does not produce.

And the only person picking up my bar tabs was me.

I don’t need this … well, you know. This wouldn’t be so much of a much, were it not that whenever my wife gets a hankering for an ocean view, she tends to leave a wake around the dock upon departure.

Last year Herself’s vacations coincided with bowel disorders afflicting two-thirds of the family herd. The first struck down Bouncing Buddy Boo the Spinning Japanese Wonder Chin; the second, Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment). Only Miss Mia Sopaipilla, an unruffled Russian blue, remained blessedly continent.

The Boo is a fragile flower of an alleged dog, yet bore up without complaint under post-poop cleanups. The Turk, on the other hand — well, let’s just say that scrubbing the hind end of an outraged 16-pound male cat, with fangs Nosferatu would have envied and paws like tennis balls studded with surgical implements, is right up there with trying to squeegee buzzard guts off a turbofan jet engine while the sumbitch is running. At 30,000 feet. Over the Big Island.

Qu’vatlh! Dor’sho’gha! Herself’s final holiday excursion of the year provided the occasion for the demise of our 10-year-old audio-video receiver, which snuffed it with a home-theatrical snap, crackle and pop just moments after wheels up.

I dashed out to buy a replacement only to discover that the setup instructions were in the original Klingon, which is not one of my languages (I am fluent only in American and Gutter).

Nevertheless, after spending a maddeningly unproductive day or two staring blankly at the Klingon-English dictionary on my iPad, fists full of HDMI, PC and audio cables like some feeble-minded snake-handler flunking out of Elmer Gantry Elementary, my increasingly profane prayers finally caused this unholy trinity — Sony, Toshiba and Yamaha — to smile beatifically upon me in all its high-definition glory.

It was only then, of course, that I remembered there was nothing I really wanted to watch.

Ain’t nothing to it but a Job. “Why does the Lord want me to serve him in this way?” That’s novelist Thomas McGuane, speaking through a leathery 60-year-old rancher in his novel “Nothing But Blue Skies.”

The answer is, as always: Who knows? The Lord works in mysterious ways, or so I’m told. So do I, although the mystery lies mostly in why any sane person would offer me a position as a cycling journalist—or as a husband, for that matter. Like the late, lamented Richard Pryor, I am no day at the beach, especially when the beach is there and I am here.

There is sand in the immediate vicinity, however. And before I reapply nose to grindstone this morning I will go out and run on it, or ride in it.

You needn’t fear that I’ll be doing this in a Speedo, either. I’m not a triathlete, and this definitely isn’t Hawaii. The only body of water within eyeshot is surrounded by porcelain. It has a seat, a lid and a handle, and I consider it fit only for an extremely limited range of water sports.

Oh, to be a son of a beach instead of the other thing.

Ain’t nothin’ to it but a Job

October 8, 2012
Mister Boo, the office, Oct. 7, 2012

“Is it dinnertime yet?” inquires the persistent Mister Boo. “How about now? Now? NOW? NOW!!!”

My suffering knows no bounds. Herself is tormenting me from Hawaii with still photos of snorkeling, videos of playing bikini-clad footsie with the Pacific, and tantalizing tales of fresh fish, guacamole made from homegrown avocados and free drinks.

Meanwhile, packed like a sequence of overstuffed Irish bangers into pants, socks and long-sleeved shirt I wrangle Elly Mae’s critters, burn my brand onto some wandering word count and push a whole passel of pixels in the service of what passes for bicycle journalism in these parts. There has been little free time for tomfoolery in the ocean Bibleburg does not border or the eating of the avocados it does not grow.

As novelist Thomas McGuane had a leathery 60-year-old rancher put it in “Nothing But Blue Skies,” “Why does the Lord want me to serve him in this way?”

Who knows? The Lord works in mysterious ways, or so I’m told. So do I, although the mystery lies mostly in why anyone would offer me work. Or marriage, for that matter. As Richard Pryor once said of himself in “Live On the Sunset Strip,” I am no day at the beach, especially when the beach is there and I am here.

We do have sand, however. And before I reapply nose to grindstone this morning I believe I will go out and run on it, or ride in it.

And you needn’t fear that I’ll be doing it in a Big Tex-style banana hammock, either. I ain’t no tri-toad, and anyway, it’s 30 degrees, f’chrissakes. Oh, to be a son of a beach instead of the other thing.