Posts Tagged ‘Thomas McGuane’

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.

A hard rain

October 22, 2010
It's a damp fall morning in Bibleburg, and happily for us, all our worldly goods are inside.

It's a damp fall morning in Bibleburg, and happily for us, all our worldly goods are inside.

The gods are bowling. We can hear them up there like so many really big Lebowskis trying to convert a 7-10 split. And somebody up there must’ve spilled his beverage, because we’re getting our first precip’ in the better part of quite some time. Hallelujah. A trail ride these days leaves my bike coated with a fine brown dust and sets me to wheezing.

The boisterous young swine who apparently have been evicted from the crumbling rental across the alley will not welcome a bracing rain, however. A crew of laborers spent the past few days piling their goods in the tiny back yard, and a mighty big pile it was, too.

The owner has a tragic history and according to Rumor Control was no better at picking husbands than she is at picking tenants. We’ve seen quite a parade of folks come and go at her rental property, most of them night-crawling yowlers who remind me very much of me at a certain age, only with more tattoos. Dogs were much in evidence, and once a child, but mostly it was a progression of shaggy young men with no visible means of support.

The cops paid a visit to the place recently, flanked by a fire truck and ambulance, and shortly thereafter the inhabitants vanished, leaving strangers to stack their worldly goods outdoors. A metal bed frame disappeared overnight, as did a bicycle. A battered Hotpoint range, boxes of cassette tapes and magazines, a stained mattress and a scattering of clothes remained when we sneaked a peek this morning.

They weren’t there for long, though. Word spread and a flock of scavengers in pickup trucks spent most of the morning picking through the refuse for objets d’art. Looks like the recession still has its hooks in some folks, no matter what The Wall Street Journal says.

Last but not least came the trash truck for the items nobody else wanted, even for free. There’s something kind of sad about that.

Still, there’s also something to be said for walking away from a fuck-up instead of packing it along with you like luggage. Here’s another bit of Thomas McGuane, from “Something To Be Desired.” Lucien Taylor and his estranged father are indulging in a bit of unauthorized camping, and as many things do in a McGuane novel, it ends badly.

His father circled the tent slowly, digging a finger into his disordered hair, inventorying the camp, the camp that a few days ago had been erected as a gateway to an improved world.

“We’re looking at under a hundred bucks,” said his father, standing at their camp. “Let’s walk away from it.”

And now, a literary moment

October 20, 2010
The latest from Thomas McGuane.

The latest from Thomas McGuane.

The other day when I mentioned ASO’s Tour de France route announcement and Apple’s impending MacBook Air proclamation I neglected to mention the third leg of this consumer trifecta, the release of a new Thomas McGuane novel.

As it was cheaper than a ticket to France to chase dope fiends around in person or a new laptop to chase dope fiends around from home I dashed straight out and bought the sonofabitch. And not from Amazon, either. An actual working stiff from Bibleburg sold me my copy. Thus I support local industry while lashing a few pennies into the city’s dwindling sales-tax coffers.

Over the years I have admired (and shamelessly lifted) many a McGuane line:

“I am on top of the earth and I don’t work for the government.”

“The lady doesn’t marry the carpenter unless he’s got a second home in Santa Monica or a two-foot dick.”

“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.”

That sort of thing. When he’s not cranking out the Great Flyover Country Novel he writes a great essay, too. “Me and My Bike and Why,” about an impulsive motorcycle purchase, is simply one of the best things I’ve ever read, period. You can find it in “An Outside Chance: Essays On Sport.”

While you’re buying that one, pick up a copy of “Ninety-Two In the Shade,” which is said to be an autobiographical account of McGuane’s days as Captain Berserko. And don’t forget “Nothing But Blue Skies,” which is that rare McGuane novel with what appears to be a hint of a whisper of a twitch of a happy ending.

Hell, buy his whole catalog. It’s cheaper than a Cupertino paperweight, and a weak McGuane (and there are a couple) is still better than nine-tenths of The New York Times best-seller list.