As the evidence gathers and the possible conclusions narrow, my heart grows heavy and my soul weary. A local just showed me a photo on her iphone of oil so disgustingly thick on a beach not more than a few miles from here, a beach that has easy access, and a nice road in. This oil was not asphalt thick and heavy, but gooey, emulsified and sticky.
It is now Day 114 of the deepwater horizon oil gusher, BPís catastrophe in the Gulf. TV ads run every five minutes proclaiming the beaches are clean, and government reports and press conferences all concur, the oil has disappeared. BP workers have all but vanished, and I am quite literally the only ďmediaĒ left on Grand Isle today. I am not impartial. BP has committed an act against humanity and our government has backed them at every step of the way. They are choosing the side of a mega corporation after having done all of the math, and letting the people of the Gulf suffer to the fate of decline. Decline of fisheries, of wildlife, and decline of a culture that is intimately tied to the cycles of life that have been severely poisoned and continue to be as BP leaves the oil to the whims of nature, blanketing the beaches and marshes of the coast. It is quite clear now that they never intended to clean their mess up. In the boardroom, statistics were presented, and a course of action determined.
ďSir, studies show that with 96 minutes of advertising per day combined with 61% favorable media coverage the general populace will tend to agree with the tone of the ads. Not to mention the favorable political atmosphere in Louisiana toward the oil industry. What I suggest is a high profile, colorful campaign, at the lowest cost possible. We place brightly uniformed people in visible areas and get our media people to show them day and night. We block access to the really bad stuff, and keep an eye on the statistics and the weather, and when the time is right, flood the TVs with ads, and execute the Irish Goodbye.Ē
ďThe Irish Goodbye? Iím not familiar with that term.Ē
ď Sir, itís when you leave a social situation without saying goodbye, usually after going to the bathroom or something, so people still wonder if you might come back. Our team has determined that this will be the most cost effective way to deal with this setback sir.Ē
Meanwhile, we sweat and labor to pay the interest on our loans and credit cards and past due taxes. We come home tired and stressed and just want a beer to relax. We turn on the news, and the oil is all gone, and we see the ads with the nice BP guys in their soothingly colored pastel shirts. Gosh, those guys are doing such a good job down there. Maybe Iíll start buying their gas again. Honey, can we have shrimp for dinner tomorrow? And it goes on in this manner until rapture, when the joke will be on us, because even those who have behaved according to the tenets of human decency will not get to go to heaven, nor will the demons who have acted in such horrific manner to spread war and hatred to fill their pockets with the spoils of their greed.
The evidence is irrefutable at this point, that BP has never intended to do right by the people and creatures of the Gulf region. Oil has been sitting on beaches for months now that has seen nary a shovel. A mixed flock of Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones buzzes by in the wind, on their way to a contaminated shoreline that could have been cleaned long ago had our government and the tenets of human decency compelled the oil giant to do the right thing. Instead, once again, corporate profits trump the importance of human lives and culture, and when the already high cancer rates increase here in the Gulf, it will be impossible to hold BP accountable. And when the populations of Black Skimmers suddenly crashes, and the Oystercatchers catch no more, BP executives and shareholders will have withdrawn their profits from the bank and from the region, on to the next catastrophe.
8/6/10 That's How Strong My Love Is
At the Blue Moon, a hostel in Lafayette, actually, the best hostal in the world, or top ten, but a great place either way. You know, after a day of witnessing the destruction of miles of coast, and no one working to fix it, a guy has to let off a little steam. The band is slipping in and out of gritty Cajun bayou ballads, and then breaks into ďthatís how strong my love isĒ, by Otis Redding.
For some reason, like a familiar scent that stirs up inherited emotion, this song hit me like a ton of bricks, and I got to thinking about the helpless. The creatures that are suffering in countless numbers all over the Gulf, and those that have already died, and Iím a man that comes to tears easy, itís OK, Iím good with it, but tearing up in the bayou when the saxophone is blaring is just too much. And I got to thinking how fucking sensitive I am, and just how much the earth, and my life, and my existence, and everything on this earth, and every god damned creature means to me, and I was like, ď I guess thatís how strong my love is.Ē Fuck the fucking stereotypes, itís fucking OK to love the earth, and otters, and roses, and stars, and crying in the rain. Thatís OK.
And I was watching the skirts twirling, and the bass thumping, and the feet shuffling over the worn wood of the dance floor, and I asked myself, is this the best part about being human, or the worst? An ecological stoneís throw away, a world is dying, and the party goes on. Smiles and jubilation, and booze and sex, and the saxophone wails, and the bass thumps. The floor shifts, at an angle now, and stoically, the band plays on. The water touches the patent leather of the flashy guitarist plucking apart his baby, and now the bassist is ankle deep, and the drummer ratatats, and the ship gives an inaudible sigh just before the whole thing is engulfed and sinks into darkness.
6/16/10 Safety First
Wow, I am seriously overwhelmed right now. I thought that my days were short before, get on Anderson Cooper and things get a lot more complicated. I hope this new computer will at least facilitate this end of the deal.
Heading to BP headquarters today to demand that they stop using the dispersant, correxit. As an official, safety trained, BP representative I am obliged to stop any job that might have unforeen and bad consequences due to lack of engineering and or testing. As far as I know, this dispersant's effects have never been tested at the depths that they are using it, or in such concentrations. One of the main ingredients in the mix is Propylene Glycol, which to the layperson is anti-freeze, which is very toxic for animals. Wonder why Dolphins are washing up dead, seemingly un-oiled??
6/5/10 The Plan
I don't really have a plan for tomorrow, except to hit the beach early, which is in 3 and half hours. Want to get some footage on Dauphin Island, where I think the first of the heavier oil may be hitting. I then may take the ferry over to Fort Morgan to check out that zone. I'm planning on heading to Moss Point, Mississippi on Monday for a workshop led by biologists to train bird watchers to monitor bird populations all along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It's kind of one of the first pro-active movements of citizens taking on the consequences of this spill on their own.
5/29/10 Louisiana Life
Several factors have combined to make these last couple of weeks pretty difficult. Being broke and living in my truck, and blogging on picnic tables in the middle of the night with skeeters covering my legs and blood droplets on my keyboard. I wake at 0500 every morning, because you never know when the next wave of oil will hit, and, I guess, as a journalist, I have to be on top of my shit. Having never been a journalist before, the learning curve has had to be steep, but not steep enough to get into the President's Press conference yesterday. I thought that tucking in a button up shirt and trading my flip flops for skate shoes would be good enough, but apparently that wasn't the case!
It's difficult to be so passionately political in such a developing and scandalous situation. There are so many things I want to write about, other than the birds and their habitat, but I guess that'll have to wait for the book.
The next few days, I will be spending with LSU researchers, looking at Clapper Rails and Wilson's Plovers, and hopefully finally get out to some of the rookeries toward the east. I haven't seen them yet, and am a little fearful about seeing massively oiled Pelicans, but such is oil.
5/25/10 A Letter to My Senator
Senator Whitehouse, I just read that you were down here in the gulf yesterday. I hope that the imagery you saw was sufficient to light a "proverbial fire under your ass", and that you can push for real, tangible action down here in the gulf. I have been on Grand Isle for the last 8 days, and reporting on the spill for a consortium of environmental organizations. From my point of view the response has been about 30 percent of what it should have been. It has yet to be seen, but this could be the worst environmental catastrophe the world has ever witnessed, and the oil is still lapping on the shores around Grand Isle without ANY effort to reclaim it, and the oil is piling up on all of the islands around, except Elmer's, Fourchon, and Grand Isle. It is being handled as a nine to five situation, and not being taken nearly as seriously as it should be. I did a survey of the wildlife on an adjacent island two days ago, and the carnage was unbelievable, as was the percentage of oiled birds, and a quick perusal this morning is showing an almost doubling of the percentage of birds with oil on their plumage. Please take a second and look at my blog, there are many photos of what I am describing. The time to act is now. Actually, it was two weeks ago. BP has failed us. Please do whatever it takes, even if it means working with Governor Jindal and the republicans. Thank you for your time,
5/21/10/10 Overwhelmed in Louisiana
I've been in Louisiana for six days now, and the situation is deteriorating fast. There is so much to document and see that it's hard to get a second to eat. In fact I had nothing but tea and about ten tortilla chips yesterday until 2100, when I had some chicken and sausage gumbo. I am fueled by the knowledge that no one is really documenting what is going on in the zone that I am in, and the dire importance of the task at hand. I never once felt hungry yesterday.
It has been something else, immersing myself into the world of journalism. Having so little experience, I find it difficult to jockey for position with the seasoned vets, and to get a question in at the press conferences seems a nearly insurmountable task. My equipment and clothing identify me as an amateur right away, though many of the pros have been very open and friendly. In fact everyone down here is down right friendly, maybe it's that nature that is allowing them to be so royally screwed right now by BP.
There is oil all along the beaches, and in coves through out the Caminada pass area right now. I saw at least 7 birds this morning affected by oil. I saw not one person working to clean up the oil, and not one person patrolling for injured wildlife. The residents here are very frustrated with the "response", and nothing seems to be getting done. The booming is not working. The currents are too strong, the oil is not just on the surface, and I saw an entire mile of absorbent boom on the coast that had been pushed up by the high tide ten days ago, and now is no where near the oil, as it is stranded high up in the sand.
These people's culture and way of life is being swept out from under them, and no visible effort is seen on the ground to make a solid show of force. I think that maybe the scope is just too big, and no one knows how to combat it, now that it has hit the shore, and there is 50 miles of oil behind it, on its way. It is so sad, and so frustrating, especially to see BP not taking full ownership of this thing. The writing is on the wall. We cannot expect them to fulfill their obligations, they've had their opportunity to prove to us their goodwill and intentions, and they have failed miserably, and they will fire some lacky, make a show of it, go bankrupt to avoid paying what they owe, and re-brand one of their subsidiaries and continue ruining our planet.
There are so many ways to do things, and we just continually allow people to do a half assed job at the expense of our environment because our elected officials are ALL in the pockets of these corporate giants that run and ruin our world. They cause us little peons to bicker with each other over the price of eggs, meanwhile they're in the warehouse stealing the entire inventory.
This is by far the worst environmental disaster mankind has seen, and before the end of it, we are going to see ramifications throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Our migrant birds have surly been placed in serious peril due to this.
5/15/10 I got this
Mid sized cumulous clouds roam the central Idaho sky like Bison on a plain, and shorthaired sheep graze an isolated patch of vibrantly verdant alfalfa in the middle of a corn stubble desert, and I have a David Byrne moment. I ask myself, ďWell, how did I get here?Ē
Driving like a madman, on two hours of sleep, winging my way toward the worst environmental disaster mankind has seen. Iím certainly not sitting in Pos and Mahalaís living room working on copy for my zine, or building out the content on my new website. The circumstances that have combined for me to be where I am are many, and kind of bizarre, but other than the fact that Iím not a professional journalist, my combined experiences make me the perfect man for the job. Not that Iím even sure what ďthe jobĒ is, but as I understand it, Iím expected to report on the effects of the oil spill on birds and their habitats, and in general to document the impending disaster that is bound to hit the Gulf coast, and likely the entire Caribbean, and the Eastern seaboard of the United States.
Itís really pretty ethereal feeling, and not really very concrete yet, that in 24 hours my time on the bench is over, and Iíve got to get on the field and give it my all. My first stop will be Grand Isle, the tip of a small peninsula just west of where the mainstream media is set up in Venice, LA. Iím very nervous that itís going to be very depressing down there soon. I wonder if being right will be worth it on gloating day. How will it feel to say, Ēwe told you so.Ē?
5/12/10 Offshore Oil
Iím a bit sheltered from the mainstream media, but so far I havenít heard any mention of what I think is the biggest issue pertaining to the oil catastrophe in the gulf, besides the immediate environmental crisis. I havenít heard one word about the obvious fact that there could never have been a contingency plan for failure of this type of deep offshore well. Viewing the haphazard industry response, and fingers crossed technology being applied to this unprecedented situation it becomes glaringly apparent that there has never been a backup plan. No one ever asked ďwhat if?Ē
How does an industry go through a permitting process and not have a proven method for preventing such a potentially devastating occurrence, on such a potentially grand scale? How do the EPA and other governing agencies allow for such a lack of forethought? Itís called lobbying, and spin, campaign contributions and corporate profit. The way that we are living is akin to a 16 year old new driver, on a road coated with fresh, icy cold snow. Instead of acting prudently and cautiously moving forward into an unsteady world, we smile at our best friend who is riding shotgun, flip off the old lady on the sidewalk and step on the gas. VVVVVVVRRRROOOOMMM, into the ditch we go.
5/9/10 International Migratory Bird Day
Well, yesterday was International Migratory Bird Day. A day when we celebrate the arrival of birds back to our northern lands from their wintering grounds in foreign places. The springtime is celebrated even by non-birders for the warmer weather, and some even notice the changes in the physical environment around them, though not as many as you think. Yesterday, I participated in a birdathon with the North olympic chapter of the Audobon Society. To be completely honest, I went surfing, but I counted all of the birds I saw along the way, and stopped in a few spots along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to see what I could see. I ended up with 434 individual birds of 61 species total, I missed a lot of things that I thought I would see in passing, like Evening Grosbeaks, and Siskins. I didnít even see a Mallard!! I did get to see my first of the year Western Tanager though, and Yellow Warblers!! Click here for a full list of species seen.
5/6/10 Going Surfing
Even though I slept in again, an icy nighttime chill still gripped the forest. As my boot hit the muddy trail I could hear the surf exploding on the cobbles of the river mouth, even through the cacophony issuing forth from the forest. The cast is all here, and the performance has begun. In this small, mostly alder play house, there is room for many, though the quarters might not be opulent enough for the more extravagant who ply their trade in the cathedral halls of the virgin forest, or the open air performers content with the short grass prairies, or muddy marsh margins.
It was a short, but brilliant performance today, as the audience had pressing business. Act one begun briskly with three dueling Wilsonís Warblers, battling to stake out their territories. Then came the chorus of the vireos, in which three different species overlapped songs to illustrate their differences, but ending with one vireonid voice. And overlapping, stealing the attention was a tail jingling, and chattery hummingbird protesting the presence of an intruder along his tap line of Red-flowering Currant, and new Salmonberry blossoms.
A Robin announces a marauding mink, and a Bewickís Wren joins in, and then begins the exaltation of the Orange-crowned Warblers whoís lilting trills serve as an essence of all that is spring. The jesters in the canopy, the harlequin painted Black-throated Gray Warblers flit in and out challenging the court to catch a glimpse, and a lingering Ruby-crowned Kinglet gives a chortle too hardy for its small size. I think I hear a Green Heron, but instead itís a raucous Caspian Tern resting on a river bar, likely full of fleeing smolts. Its voice carries through the forest and over the rest of the cast.
Though distracted, I continue down the trail to the theater of my intention. Gulls are swarming, and six or more Eagles ungainly gangling around a pool of fry capture the attention, of even the most refined. A quick perusal of the show confirms that it is in full swing. Everyone is here. No one waited for me. They knew I would sleep in.
4/2610 Nettle Pesto Recipe
Harvest as much fresh nettle tops as you can handle. A plastic grocery bag full will make about a pint of Nettle Pesto. You want to make sure and get the nettle before they go to flower, or they'll be too pithy, fibrous and bitter.
Now, the scary part with Nettle Pesto is that you don't cook it. That means the stinging acid is still present, but when the food processor chops it all up, the mechanism for delivering that sting goes away, and you're safe. I swear!
Other Ingredients: Olive Oil, about 1/4 cup Nuts, (pine nuts are the traditional nuts used in pesto, but I find that Walnuts work well too. I'll sometimes throw them in the frying pan for a second on medium high heat to bring out some of their sweetness) Cheese, or butter,(I'm not a huge dairy guy, so sometimes I skip this all together, and add a little fresh parmesan to the pasta, but if you must have some dairy in your pesto, throw a little parmesan in there, or butter can help give it that extra creaminess. Salt to taste
So, All that stuff gets thrown in a blender and viola, Nettle Pesto! Your food processor might need a little coaxing with a little added olive oil here and there to keep chopping the nettles well. I like to throw some black pepper in there, and sometimes I'll even use a little basil for flavor. I've never cooked with a real recipe, so I hope that this facsimile of a recipe is enough to get you started.
Make as much as you want and freeze it in air tight containers. The nettles like to oxidize a little if open to the air, and the top layer will get a little brown, but it's still good. To avoid discoloration, use ziplock bags and fill them completely with pesto. Have fun!
4/21/10 birthday bull
Well, it's my 35th birthday. My job fell through last Friday, and I just made my fifth car payment on my credit card. Haven't been able to pay rent in ten or so months, out of food, more or less (down to the dry goods), and just wiped my ass with napkins with doodles on them. Life is grand.
Though I am broker than I've ever been in my life, I don't feel so terrible about it. Even though I've never bought a coffee from the cafe next door, the owner Gary still gave me a free one for my birthday. I don't drink coffee much these days, but my Yerba Matte ran out, I can't afford more, so free coffee it is. And I must say that this americano from buono coffee is hittin'!!
But really, being this broke, with few options for climbing out of the hole is a little scary. I've got lots of options that'll maintain my situation, but options that'll earn 3 plus thousand a month, that's not really what I have. I think that I might actually go out on my own, since, Im already there, and try and not get a job and grow my upholstery business and clothing sales(from 0-more than 0). FFFFFFFFF--k! Isn't it supposed to get easier? Remember, your backup plan is really your plan.
4/20/10 dumb shit
Funniest shit I heard in a while was my roomate Q just say, "wonder if the carpet matches the drapes?" in regards to basketball player Ron Artest's retarded tribal headband hair cut.
4/13/10 A 3 Hour Tour
Usually when you show up at someoneís boat, you bring beer. Itís a social courtesy thatís existed though out the ages. With this in mind, I was a little sheepish when I showed up at my friends Quincy and Jessieís ďnewĒ sailboat, the 27 foot S.S. Prytania without beer. A friend of ours, who shall go un-named lives on the dock at Shilshoal Marina in Ballard, and heard about a free sailboat. Through some sort of magic, the title ended up in the hands of Quincy and Jessie, and I was visiting to check the boat out.
Neither Quincy or Jessie has very much experience on the water, but both are really excited to learn how to sail, and get the boat fixed up. The boat itself is in need of a lot of work. The interior is gutted, the electrical is unknown, the lights donít really work, the sail hasnít been looked at, the decks are unsealed, leaking, and in need of major work, the keel is covered with barnacles, the guy lines to the mast are loose, the inboard engine is non-functioning, there is no mounted compass or G.P.S.,, the bilge pumps do not work, and there is no VHF radio. That said, the boat is gorgeous, with just the right touch of class and functionality. Itís just one of those boats that catches your eye, and looks like they did it right when they designed the thing.
I had driven from the Olympic Peninsula, where I had hoped to surf that day, but got skunked due to the early arrival of very heavy winds. I hadnít seen the strait of Juan de Fuca so windy in 3 years of living out there. So, when it was suggested that we take the boat out for a spin, I was reluctant to say the least, but the wind wasnít blowing nearly as hard as in the strait, maybe only 15-20 from the south. Our buddy who lives on the dock, I guess wonít remain nameless anymore. His name is Podge, and heís sailed a bit, and owns his own boat, and has quite a bit of experience working on fishing boats in Alaska. He was pretty gung ho about taking the boat out, as it was a good opportunity for him to show Jessie and Quincy a few things, and break them in to being boat owners. I tried to tell him about the wind, and he did go listen to the weather radio, and I just kind of fell back into beta guy, and let him make the decisions and take the responsibility. Had it been my boat, there wouldíve been no way I would have untied her from the dock, but there I was, untying it, and jumping on. We shared the last beer in celebration of the maiden voyage of the Prytania and her new owners.
Now, I havenít mentioned this yet, but I did say the motor didnít work. What they do have though, is a little 4 horsepower, electric trolling motor. The kind used on small aluminum skiffs for bass fishing. The kind that can push a small sailboat, if there is pretty much no resistance, say from the tide, or wind. What Iím saying is that the motor wasnít worth shit, and we all knew this, and we all got on the boat anyway, and motored out of the harbor. Getting onto a sailboat without other means of power is kind of like the commitment made when one eats L.S.D. There is no way to tell what kind of a trip itís going to be, and little one can do about it to change the coming events.
Motoring out of the harbor went well, and then Podge and Quincy wanted to put the sails up, and thatís what happened. And it went pretty well too, though the lines were a little tough to pull, and we didnít quite get the sail all the way up, so it was dumping wind, unable to harness all of the windís potential.
At this point, the sea was in a beaufort state 3, which means that it was choppy, but only intermittent white caps on the 2 foot seas. The wind was strong and steady, but not crazy, and we were sailing. We went on a southwest tack, into the wind, but gaining headway. We sailed for maybe half a mile, out to a big buoy used by tankers to tie off on, and by large male sea lions for basking in the sun. Then we turned back, on a jibe to the northeast, and the entrance of the marina. We had gotten to the spot where we would take the mainsail down and hope the outboard would push us against the wind, and even had the sail halfway down, when Podge decided he wanted to take another turn, and exclaimed,Ē Weíre sailing!Ē The wind was picking up. The sun was gone. Weíre sailing!!
Maybe, had we tacked for a little longer, we would have made that first attempt to get back to the harbor entrance. Maybe. What happened though, was that the wind was blowing so strong by the time we turned back on our jibe that it just kept pushing us north, as we sailed east. By the time we were near shore, we were near the facilities of Golden Gardens, and with this wind, there was no way that the trolling motor would push us into the wind, and back to the marina.
As we turned back to the west and made for another tack, we were passed by the last boat going into the marina. Had we had a VHF radio, I would have suggested making contact with this last boat on channel 16 to let them know of our situation, in hopes that they would be nice, and lend us a hand, though it was a commercial boat, and probably wouldnít attach a line to ours for liability reasons, it wouldíve been worth a try.
So, we made the tack, and the idea this time was to go much further to the west, and hope to gain a lot more headway, so that on our jibe back, we would end up in the right place, and not too far to the north. The problem was that at this point, the wind was blowing strong enough, that no matter what we did, we kept getting pushed further away from the harbor entrance. It was now dark. We had no lights. It was time for contingency plans to be made, as Podge informed us that the weather report called for increasing winds, up to 35 knots by midnight. Thatís scary type wind in a 27 foot sailboat under the best of circumstances, now, try it at night, with inexperienced sailors, on a boat of unknown worthiness, with no lights, no radio, no motor. It was about now that we decided to make our first calls to people who might be able to assist, and then realized that the 3 functioning cell phones on board were all just about out of juice, and then Podge asked me to tie him to the boat.
The scenario continued, and the state of the sea deteriorated accordingly, and the ends of wits were reached. We hoisted the jib, hoping that might give us the ability to make some headway, but it seemed to just complicate the sailing, and not help at all, and the gusts were such, that we were having to release the bottom line to dump wind with regularity so that we wouldnít be pushed over. Jessie figured out how to get the running lights on, so that was a positive.
I havenít sailed before, so Iím not sure how normal it is for a boat to nearly capsize when itís turned, but thatís pretty much what was happening. We would make a tack for a mile to two miles, and then turn and head back toward land, hoping that somehow, we had made some headway. Every time we turned, we would all brace ourselves, the boat would slowly respond to the command of the tiller, and then wham, the wind would catch, the boom would swing with great force, and the boat would heave way over. All of the crap inside the boat would crash around, we would get tossed, and try and scramble to the upwind side of the boat to shift the weight. From inside the cabin, you could see the portholes submerged as the boat dipped over.
Jokes about calling loved ones were made, but we had no juice on the phones to squander, and it was time to make a decision. The choices were as follows: continue doing what we were doing, and hope for a change in the wind; sail with the wind to the closest port of Edmonds(1-2 hours) without any navigational aid, save the lights of the city; call the coastguard to be rescued; call vessel assist to be rescued; try and sail around the point of Golden Gardens, and hope to find less wind, so that we might anchor. The wind wasnít going to change, other than increasing, and we had no charts or maps. The Coast Guard would likely fine us, send up a helicopter, call the news, make a scene, and maybe cost a lot. Vessel assist would likely cost a lot, but save us a little embarrassment, so thatís what we voted for. At about 10:00 PM, four hours after we set sail, we made the call. Our phones were all almost dead by that time, so we had to give the operator all 3 of our numbers just in case mine died. He had the captain of the rescue boat call me, and he said it would be about half an hour for him to get there, but it was hard to communicate exactly what he was going to do, and we had to hang up to save electrons.
Time went by slowly at this point, and although it was comforting to know that help was, in theory, on its way, we still had to stay afloat long enough for them to get there. After about an hour, Podge and Jessie were really getting antsy, and wanted some word from the rescue company. I didnít want to make my last call to the operator only to be told he was on his way, so I stalled, but after another half hour, with no word I called. The operator said that he would call the captain, and have him call us. Within a couple of minutes, my phone rang and it was the captain. He was in the water, to the south of us, and couldnít see us on his radar. He asked if we could see his flashing amber light, and we convinced ourselves that we could, and told him that we were due north of his position, though there was no working compass on the boat. After about five minutes of running some sort of search grid, he finally saw our running lights, and made toward our sailboat.
As he drew near, Quincy dropped the mainsail and Jessie dealt with lines. Podge steered and I wrapped up the sail as it came down. I could see that there was only one guy on the rescue boat. We tried to yell back and forth with the captain, and with some difficulty worked out what we thought was a plan. I crawled up onto the bow of the boat, and awaited his approach to throw me the line. He made a pass, but didnít come close enough, and went back around. This time, he came from the leeward side and pulled close to the bow, but once he was outside he had drifted away and to the stern and didnít seem to want to throw me the line. He eventually got a line to Jessie, who had to pass it to me on the bow. I had to pass about 30 feet of line around all of the guy lines and rigging, and as I finally got it around everything, we were getting blown into the rescue boat, which rose up on a wave over my head and came crashing down on the rail of our sail boat. We kept crashing together, as I got untangled from everything and finally got a couple of wraps around the cleat just in time for the captain to gun it and pull ahead. The line came taught a little too fast, as a wave caught us simultaneously and the boat and cleat protested the new strain loudly. I made sure that all of the lines were good, and made a couple more wraps around the cleat and two half hitches. I watched the line for a couple of minutes, decided it would hold, and then decided that even if it didnít, it was stupid for me to still be up there where something could go wrong, that I wouldnít be able to help anyway so I crawled back to the stern with the other guys. It only took about thirty minutes for the guy to tow us back to the marina, and nothing went wrong.
I was pretty happy to step off of that boat and onto the dock. It wasnít solid land, but it was close enough. Our bodies were battered and our nerves a little frazzled. I think we all learned some important lessons from the night. One thing that I learned that itís not always bad to show up at a boat without beer, it might just mean being sober enough to deal with some gnarly shit.
4/06/10 Done is Done sneak peak
Here is a little preview of the comic "done is Done" in the 'zine that I'll be publishing later this month. Keep yer eyes peeled.
4/03/10 Idaho Bird Observatory Video
This is an epic video that I just saw for the first time about a place that I know and love, the Idaho Bird Observatory. I worked there as a songbird and owl bander in 1998, and have visited and volunteered on numerous occasions throughout the years since. It is an incredible place, and this video gives a good sense of just how cool and essential the research is that goes on there. Take the time and watch it. Do it!
3/31/10 Snowskate or Die!
Well, I travelled to Port Angeles last friday for the annual snowskate baked slalom at Hurricane Ridge, in the Olympic National Park. This year, the contest was heralded as the un-official snowskate Olympics, and may even morph into the world championships.
Some people might be scratching their heads right now, wondering what the hell snowskating is, and simply put, it's skateboarding on the snow. Not so simply put, it is a new sport sweeping the world, which combines aspects of snowboarding and skateboarding and redefines what anyone thought one could ever do on the snow, and makes rail slides and one foot airs in the snow not lame anymore.
That's right, rail slides on snowboards is now lame. It's like a rollerblader grabbing Indie.
Anyway, the contest went off. This year's 3 events were crammed into one day at the last minute, due to impending hurricane like weather, beginning with the powder downhill, a politically correct version of the chinese downhill, from the top, on a snowskate, won by Clarke Hurlbut. The skate jam was insane, and the limits of the sport were totally and forever elevated, as the competitors pushed each other to new heights in the open jam style competition, which was won by Jake Tomlinson, (photo below). The day was capped off with the baked slalom race won by B Carraro from the O.P.C., holding it down for the locals. Well, actually the day was capped off with a beer or two.
Then, it was on to the Coo Coo's nest, where the Tea Baggin' Bandits serenaded the snowskaters with their driving Misfits covers, and ramped up punk/country songs. At one point, I lost both of my shoes in the mosh pit, and after checking the amount of glass on the floor when the band quit, I can't believe I can walk right now. Mid-song, I looked over and saw hesh re-defined when Jake Tomlinson cracked his tooth on a chicks head, pulled it out, threw it on the floor, and kept dancing. The weekend went off, and that was just the beginning.
3/29/10 More than one way to skin a banana.
While I was in Mexico I was exposed to a new truth. A truth to which I find I must comply and alter my habits accordingly. Often times, we are confronted with truths, or facts about how things work, and how we've done things for all of our lives, and just as often, we ignore them and continue on in our own idiosyncratic ways. Not this time.
While I was birding in Alamos, with my friends Steve, Sally and Adam, I must've been eating a banana. Adam asked me, "did you know that monkeys eat the banana from the bottom?"
Of course, I had seen them in the wild, attacking a ripe banana tree, often peeling them while they are still attached, often removing individual fruits, and indeed they do eat from the bottom, which if you think about it in botanical terms is not the bottom, and if it were say like a dandelion, and those fruits pointed more vertically, then, the bottom would be the top.
Faced with this fact, I find no option but to eat my bananas this way, and the reasons are numerous. First, the bananas that we get these days are bred for their structural integrity, often meaning that the stems are VERY tough. I'd say that about 6 times out of ten, I actually have to use my teeth to make the first break in the skin, before I can peel that stem back and open the whole thing up. Teeth on fruit skin means poop in mouth. When opening from the "bottom", a little pinch suffices to expose enough peel that the banana is splayed open with ease. Perhaps the biggest reason for me is that usually my bananas end up being eaten after getting battered around a bit. The "bottom" is usually a little bruised, and soft, and like a green potato chip often goes uneaten, or down with a displeasing gulp. I hate to end on a bad note, so now, when I start from the bottom I can gobble up that soft brown part knowing that the rest of my bites will be solid, nice, flesh.
I know that monkeys are smarter than me at interacting with their universe, so I am trying to adopt this new style of eating, but it's not easy to unlearn 30 years of doing something, in fact, as I sat down to type this, I noticed that the banana I am eating was opened from the top, and the bottom is mushy.
3/15/10 Aesta The Disasta Sestrap Wins!!!
It was the closest competition yet for the semi-weekly-ish Drewtube Scavnger Hunt. This contest saw many fine photos, but Aesta's shot of hiking in the North cascades was not only gorgeous, but inspirational as well. Get out and do it. Thanks Asta!!!
3/15/10 Ten Years. One Nut
Ten years, a decade, probably more than 10 percent of oneís life. Thatís how long Iíve lived with only one testicle and without cancer. This Saturday, by date anyway, marked my anniversary, the date that I was granted a new lease on life. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty about not being a productive member of society, in societyís terms, but on my ten year anniversary I feel fine about going snowboarding, and surfing, and birdwatching, and putting it all on my credit card.
I donít know. I should probably have some really poignant, pithy witticism about life and not squandering time on earth, but thatís pretty much what I write about all of the time, so maybe Iíll just talk about spring. Spring seems really early this year. A friend of mine found a Northern Spotted Owl nest already, the earliest record for her region. The nettles are waist high in my early nettle patch, which I usually donít harvest for another week or two. Red Currant flowers are in full bloom, but the Rufous Hummingbirds havenít seemed to figure it out yet. Is it global warming? Who cares? We should be the best stewards of the earth that we can be regardless of climatological trends, and rising sea levels. The guilt of doing something wrong should be reason enough not to do it. Right? Maybe not if putting some beads around your hands and mumbling a forgotten language can forgive you. Our father who arenít in heaven. Hollow be thy name. Life would be so much easier if I could just believe, and wait for that lovely heaven up there, floating in the sky.
Aww, nuts! You wouldnít believe how hard it is, when referring to my nether region to not say, ďballsĒ, ďballĒ just doesnít sound right. It seems like just yesterday, god time flies! I can remember the last time I used them both, on a wonderful night in Cusco, Peru, with a wonderful woman. I imagine she has no idea how important that night was for me. 3,652 days ago, we made magic. She didnít quite believe that I had cancer I think, and I was certain of it. I didnít know what lay ahead of me, so I wasnít really celebrating the moment as if it was my last night with two, but there we were. I remember the pain with that last ejaculation as if it were yesterday. Iím glad that didnít remain as ďghost painĒ!
There are no words. No frame of reference. Square life. Round world. I can't begin to explain the insane convergence of swell, tide, bottom and humans that occurred today. Like a birdwatcher discovering a new species of bird in their local patch of woods. Today will only exist in a long lived gleam in the eye of several of my brothers and myself. thank you universe.
3/9/10 Culture Shock
Just last Tuesday morning I was still in Mexico. After spending the night on a luxurious Mexican bus, we crossed the border near Nogales at 0600. The sunrise was burning and vivid, and no one seemed to see it. Caught up in routines played by Cop 1, Cop 2, Bus Driver, Passenger 1 and 2, predictable words about dogs and cold mornings, nary a gaze was cast at a truly incredible and infernal sunrise engulfing the morning.
Crossing the imaginary line in the sand, pricked up ear tip hairs and awakened dormant hungers for Starbucks and electrons in our simple minds. Eager to please, our ace bus driver Joel pulled the rig over at an A.M.P.M. so the gringos could get some coffee. Not only did he do this, but he then guided us through the process, interpreting the various deals so we wound up with 20 oz. coffees for .77 cents and a free doughnut. It was pretty incredible stuff, and I will die a Tufesa Bus Lines man because of it.
A little bit west of Tucson, I said to Steve,Ē Iím starting to feel the weight of the real world pressing in again,Ē and he replied,
ďYou know Drew, some people do nothing, Ē meaning that at least we had gotten out and had some real fun in the midst of a stressful existence. To Steve, my comment must have meant that the stresses of impending bills and life and work were getting me down, and while this is true, thereís more. Maybe it is actually that some people do nothing that weighs me down. I donít know.
Looking out the window at the miles of open trough aquaducts, carrying inappropriate water for inappropriate purposes. The miles of angry goat utility towers transferring high tension across the landscape, or the 15 Mexicans handcuffed in the dirt, tethered like disliked and abused livestock. The seemingly endless assault on our civil liberties, and the constant blindness for the science we invest so much time and effort in, as itís disregarded for profit and the continuation of failing systems. Corporate citizenship and corporate socialism taking from the individual good to grow god knows what for god knows who. People squandering lives in the hopes that these historically evil and vicious religious institutions are pedaling the right afterlife. Hail hale bop. And knowing this, and knowing that nothing can stop this, and knowing that the true sin is not to live life to its fullest makes every move so heavy, and simultaneously so meaningless.
So, Iím sorry that I havenít been writing on my website, or doing much of anything for that matter, other than enjoying the weather and the good company of my roommateís, and trying not to numb myself against the constant flow of anguish. But, I surfed this morning, and Iím much better now. I swear.
3/4/10 Back from Mexico
Well, I'm back from an incredible trip to Mexico. while there I stayed at the Alamos Wildlands Alliance field station in Navopatia in Southern Sonora. At the behest of last month's Scavenger Hunt winner, Brendan McGarry, I presented directors Adam Hannuksela and Sallie Herman with a huge $25.00 check for his poem.
I will be recanting some adventures from the trip in the next few days here on my blog
2/18/10 Headed South
Well, by the time you read this, I'll be winging my way south with Father Wingbeat himself. We are heading to Arizona tomorrow, with about 8 hours to try and find our nemesis bird, the Laconte's Thrasher. It is one of the hardest to detect songbirds around, and neither of us has been able to see it, despite some serious time spent looking. We have directions to a nest site south of Phoenix though, so we might have some luck yet!
On Friday, we'll get on an overnight bus to Navojoa, Mexico. Steve's daughter Sally and her husband Adam run a research station there. We'll be there for about two weeks. It's guaranteed to be a blast, and I'll try and keep you in the loop, though I'll be about 10 miles past the last power pole!
2/17/10 Winning Poop Stories from the Weekly Scavenger Hunt
I guess people didn't really feel like writing to me about that. I only got two entries, and they are equally funny. If you only knew my friend's brother! I'm declaring it a tie. Here are the stories.
When my mom first met my dad they both had dogs. My mom had a male Great Dane named Mr. Holmes and my dad had a female English Sheepdog named Tressa. The two dogs didn't get a long (Tressa was a bitch in more than one sense of the word) so my mom would leave Mr. Holmes home alone when she stayed with my dad. Mr. Holmes did not take to this kindly so every morning when she would return there would be a steaming pile of dog shit as soon as you came through the door.
Not knowing what to do about the situation my mom called the vet. The vet suggested that she feed him only in the morning so there wouldn't be anything left to evacuate at night. Perfect, no more dog shit in the house. The first day after feeding him only in the morning and spending the night away she arrived home to find a steaming pile of vomit where that shats had usually been.
And the second Story
When my brother was a student at School One he felt the inevitable metabolic urge that none of us can avoid at times. He entered the stall, dropped trou, sat and let fly. One problem, he forgot he had tied his sweater around his waist.......Oops! Poops
2/16/10 Flight of the MAMU
This past weekend, I drove to Port Angeles, mostly to pick up an upholstery job, but I also knew that a really good swell was forecast to hit the outer coast that day. For once, my timing was impeccable, and my luck had me surf four waves that Iíve never surfed in my life! I donít know what it is, but there truly is not a more satisfying feeling than lying on a couch after a big meal and surfing all day, putting a movie on, and knowing that you wonít make it through the first half hour.
Waves on the peninsula are always a crap shoot, and fossil fuels are burned in a major way to try and track down the best scenario for the sideways slide. After many phone calls to friends, and hours on the internet, interpreting numbers from bobbing buoys, the surfer must eventually make a plan and place the bet. On Saturday morning, I had bet wrong. I got up before the dawn and snuck out of my friendís house to check some of the more local zones (he had to work). I was not rewarded with waves, but I did get to experience something that most bird people will never see. While checking one of my favorite spots, a river mouth, I was birding in the shady morning light, when out of no where I hear, ďkeerÖÖ.keerĒ. It was the call of a Marbled Murrelet, and it was not flying out over the strait, but in a circle over the mouth of the river at about 140 feet in elevation. To see these guys doing anything but sitting on or flying over the water is a real treat.
I work with Murrelets quite a bit, surveying their populations during the day at sea, and trying to detect them in the ancient forests, in which they nest. I have probably spent over 500 hours staring straight into the sky, hoping that a Marbled Murrelet would fly through my field of view. I have probably logged 8 total seconds of Murrelet action in those hours. Itís kind of like watching an American football game. This was actually the second time that Iíve seen a Marbled Murrelet flying over this particular river.
Marbled Murrelets are very hard to study birds, and little information is known about their breeding ecology when compared with other birds. The first nest was not found until the 1970ís!! It is believed that these birds have a very strong affinity to certain stands of forests, or even the same tree year after year, and inland flights to these areas out of the breeding season have been well documented. Who knows what this bird was doing, flying around, without a distinct purpose of transport. Was it a courtship flight? Had the bird just returned from checking out its nest site, to make sure that itís tree was still standing? It's hard to speculate about behavior of us humans, but to try and interpret the behavior of a bird as damn near foolish. This bird certainly was opening itself up to predation by flying around like it was, as there were a number of eagles around, and most likely a Peregrine somewhere.
I took that experience as enough bounty for the morning, and ran some errands. After that, I placed another bet and came up big. My friend Pete and I shirked all responsibility and embraced the fact that we would likely lose friends over the decision, but what are you going to do? The rest of the weekend was truly amazing, and I will publish some actual writing about it soon, with photosÖ
2/11/10 A blog about Nuts
I havenít heard back from my friend in over a month, and I guess I should get in touch, but itís scary. Heís the fifth person to call me about it, and the second that Iíve had to be honest with about it. As a survivor of testicular cancer, Iím the default expert, so when guys have issues with their nuts, they, or their significant others call me for advice. The last two people to call have had the right (wrong) symptoms, and Iíve had to be honest with them and get them to a doctor as quickly as possible. The diagnosis is not difficult; in fact, I diagnosed myself long before I was able to see a doctor.
Since I havenít heard from my friend I fear the worst. The last person to call about it before him was a friend calling about a friend, so it was much easier to discuss, as the ailing party was not part of the discourse. The fear was not audible in the slight quavering of the voice, or the nervous laughter when bringing up subjects like ejaculation. My friendís friend did have cancer. It was removed, and no further treatment, i.e. chemo or radiation was necessary.
Itís a difficult issue, especially in our society that does all it can to hide our genitals from view, but bombards us with other media that reinforce ideas of sexuality and the perfect body. Sex is at the fore front of everything from tea, to burgers to music, and it all combines to help a guy not want to deal with the fact that his body might not be perfect, and whatís going on in his scrotum might be a serious issue. Usually, the first step is to wait and hope that maybe itíll just go away. Itís not easy to embrace the fact that you might lose one of your testicles. A kidney, thatís one thing, but cutting away one leg of the holy trinity cuts to the core of what a man is. Rather than waiting, like Lance Armstrong, the first step at any sign of abnormality should be to see an expert. Lance hoped that it would just go away, and it did, it went a way up into his whole body and brain. Not cool.
Losing one of the twins is a tough thing to cope with, and believe me, after ten years it hasnít miraculously become a non-issue for me. I donít mind being the go to guy on the phone, so if you have any questions about your nuts, my nuts, a friendís nuts feel free to get in touch, but above all, pay attention to your body. We innately know when something is wrong, but our mind can overcome those base emotions that alert us, and allow us to drag our feet. Our cancer rates are skyrocketing as profiteers hide behind corporate anonymity, and we allow it to happen in the name of comfort and non-confrontation. You know what I say, well not yet, but you will in the next line. I say, ďFuck you, you fucking mother fuckers. You want to make a fucking dollar by making and selling unnecessary poison products and sully our water with your fertilizers and insecticides. I hope you drown in your own bile, and come back as a limbless cancer ridden eunuch unable to crawl out of the poisoned love canal of your making to your Walmart to by some prosthetic hands to spend your ill gotten rotten dollars with.Ē Thatís what I say. Anyway, thatís it for the semi-annual cancer talk, and I canít really speak to women on this issue, but breast cancer has many similarities. Please pay attention to your bodies, and feel free to call me about your breasts too!
2/9/10 Some Video Footie from my big day last Saturday
2/8/10 My Paltry, Somewhat Embarrassing Big Day List
The rest of the story with some video coming tonight. I actually have work today.
Common Loon, Pacific Loon, Horned Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Trumpeter Swan, Tundra Swan, Canada Goose, Cackling ďCanadaĒ Goose, Brant, Mallard, Gadwall,, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Black Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Surf Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Bald Eagle, Red-tail Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Harrier, Peregrine, Ruffed Grouse, Virginia Rail, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Dunlin, Ring-billed Gull, Mew Gull, California Gull, Western Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rock Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Huttonís Vireo, Stellarís Jay, Western Scrub Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Bewickís Wren, Marsh Wren, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet Hermit Thrush, Varied Thrush, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, Townsendís Warbler, Spotted Towhee, Song Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-winged Blackbird, Brewerís Blackbird, European Starling, House Finch, Purple Finch, Red Crossbill
2/7/10 Big Big Day!
Well, as I write this Iím 23 miles up forest service road 22, and a mile up a spur road under a clear, dark winter sky. The reason that Iím here is that Iím participating in what is known as a ďbig dayĒ tomorrow. To birdwatchers, a big day means that you try and see as many bird species in one day. For most birders, this means a well planned out day visiting various habitats and known territories to try and tally the likely birds to be encountered. For some, (the most rabid birders), it means staking out areas for weeks in advance looking for target species, ones that are a little hard to see, to try and nail them down for the actual day of the count.
Tomorrowís big day evolved through a little bit of friendly competition between some friends of mine. They were chiding each other about who could see more species of bird in a day, one of them in Sonora, Mexico, and the other here in Washington. They challenged each other to a big day, and it evolved to include a bunch more people in our circle of friends. The winner is going to be announced at half time of the super bowl. Well, not actually at the super bowl, in between famous nipples.
In typical fashion, I got all fired up about the idea, and decided that if I didnít win the thing, at least I want to see more birds than anyone else in the state. Also in typical fashion, I did absolutely no planning. I knew there was going to be waves today(Friday), so I decided to mix the two and figured a start on the coast would be good. I got pretty good waves in Westport this afternoon, then started to think about how best to go about this whole quest for birds tomorrow.
I decided to drive into the forest to do some pre-dawn owl searching, which means listening and doing some calling in likely habitat. So, I poached some internet in Aberdeen and picked out a road on google maps and drove up it. I wasnít planning on driving so far up the road, but there was a sign that announced the presence of some named grove of trees at the end of the road, and though I know for sure that by the time I pull into a gas station in the morning it will be the lowest that my gas tank has ever been, I kept driving up the road. The light came on, and I kept driving, even though I set my odometer, and know exactly how long I drove, and how long it is to the next gas station, 47 miles, if you want to know, and I think my ownerís manual says you have 30 miles once the light turns on. Fingers crossed.
I kept driving because named groves of trees are usually old growth forests, and I thought that it would be pretty cool to get a Spotted Owl, though itís highly unlikely, as even in appropriate habitat they seem no longer be able to survive the onslaught of their close cousin the Barred Owl under 2000 feet in elevation here on the Olympic Peninsula. Well, it doesnít matter, because I couldnít even find anything that looked like and old growth forest, though I drove through some pretty sweet stuff down lower on the road. Iíll give it a try there but donít have to much hope.
The main road that I drove in on is the lake Wynoochie road. Lake Wynoochie is a hydro-power lake and the road is well maintained, and the feeling of wilderness is lost a little, but as I type this, Iím quite aware that there is no human near me for some distance, and I am excited to crawl into my sleeping bag and sleep amongst the critters. Speaking of which, I saw a really sweet Bobcat on the road in here. I thought that it was a Snowshoe Hare because it just started running up the road when my lights hit it, but when I got close I saw the ears and tail, and it kept running in front of my truck for about 50 yards, maybe 10 feet in front of my car, and off to the side a little. It was cool.
Well, if youíre reading this, I got gas, and Iím probably poaching some internet in Aberdeen again to publish this. Iíll let you know how the big day went in the morning.
2/5/10 Winning Poem from the Scavenger Hunt By Brendan McGarry
Thanks for all the other entries. I'll have them posted soon on the scavenger hunt page
The track was long and dusty
Jostled down the loamy lane
A green gate gaping open
Blue Sky Hotel patrons welcomed
They see you creeping at a distance
The trail of dust a greeting banner
Anticipating a new arrival of old friends
Waiting for all the gang joyously interminable
Iím only a newcomer to this shrub and steppe
But I certainly love it much as the next
I know what waits at that water tower
A Nomadic family that would make Genghis cower
The tiresome crawl finally complete
ďLet me out of this of this blasted fleet!Ē
Necks craning to see whoís here
Delightful fragrant sageland ever clear
The birds always meet you first
Sage Thrashers cavorting perch to perch
The Brewerís churring in habitual obligation
Blackbird, gull, and heron excitations
A crypto crust will green with rain
Sweet swath of natural land in dusty plain
Grease wood, rabbit brush, and big sage reign
Saved from bovine grazing, for the sane
Approach those people waiting
To give you hugs and welcome greeting
Some you havenít seen for years
A reason good as any to open a beer
Dogs kick up the soil in excitement
The ride after all seemed longer to them
Bounding amongst the brush
Laying in the dirt in the sheer thrill of freedom
Almost immediately one with the powder too
You amble your way to that tent
The one whose doors are always open
The canvassed Blue Sky Hotel
There your fellow minds are gathered
Distrustful of wistful, crooked manage
Full of anger over wrongs done to this planet
But striving forward and stubborn, damn it
A particularly commanding fellow
The crowd gathered about him
Gfaws of serious baritone
The glow of the forever young in his eye
We came here because of him
We found friends in his mentorship
Taught you how to think it through
He warmly welcomes you back again
Pressurized beers pop open from coastal travel
We all hoot at the old stories
New ones repeated in gleeful giggles
Gathered round the fire we sing
Hazy heads are scratched too early
Thrashers and sun raise the dead
Never feel bad the next day at MABO
Youíre sure you drank the whole keg
A cup of jo to swab the deck
Breakfast enjoyed with some to spare
Fresh baked goods from solar rays
A magical way to start the day
Explore the hills from morn to noon
Ramble through volcanic loops
Central patrol with ponds a plenty
Raptor alleyís alighted gentry
Then come back to see your friends
Do the devilish downing once again
A weekend spent in selfish revel
Sharing life with naturalist fellows
Soon your time has come and gone
The hotels closed till next season
Goodbyes a plenty, bitter sweet
Next yearíll track in soon with dusty feet
2/4/10 A Story for Lee
I wrote this a few years ago.
Lee. Lee Mercer. The bear guy. They told us all about you that weekend. I got to know you intimately and yet Iíve never met you.
Dave wasnít nearly happy enough to see Steve that afternoon. He looked sallow, overworked, at his wits end. After a few beers, and I think even a few cigarettes on the balcony he told Steve and me all about it, all about you.
He told us how you had walked all over Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. How you knew the bears and the country, their country, better than just about anyone. Filling in the cracks, you seemed to me to be the very essence of a mountain man. Always ready for an adventure, always ready for a good time. I could tell how much everyone loved you.
The next morning, we were supposed to go to breakfast but we had to wait a little while for Dave. He was at your house selling your belongings to raise money for the expenses one incurs after they die. They had to sell the very guidebook with directions to the very trailhead where your heart failed you. I saw pictures there, of you. In one you had sunglasses and gators on, and if I remember right, some mountaineering boots, and a huge smile. You looked happy. You looked healthy. You looked like you had a good heart.
Waiting for Dave I looked at some of your stuff. It was a little morbid, but you had so many good and useful things I was led from pile to pile trying to reconcile wanting some of your things, and knowing that they were yours and that you were dead. It wasnít like you were selling them to get some money to go to Mexico. I thought about it for a while, Dave had a bit to do to wrap up and help everyone out. The outdoorsy people of Boise streamed in and out giving condolences to your friends, but most grabbed some stuff too. Tents, boots, ice axes, guidebooks, clothes, you name it.
Before I knew it I had Gazetteers to three states, a guide to the hot springs of Oregon, and there was Steve. He had a few things too, mostly books. We both hit the clothes area at the same time, and both being big wool wearers we were drawn immediately to two sweaters of perfectly muted colors. It was sort of as if we were grabbing the last two avocados on the shelf. I got the one on the right, a nice medium weight gray Woolrich. The one Steve got was maybe a Woolrich too, but maybe it was a Pendelton. It had some purple or blue edging, and was a little thicker. Iíve seen him wear it often.
That was 3 and a half years ago. I want to thank you for your sweater and say that Iíve tried to do right by you. Every time I do something extra cool, scary, or need a little mojo, I wear your sweater. It happens less and less now as the elbows are blown out, and there are a few holes from snagging on braches but I still wear it for the special occasions; for birthdays and good waves. Sometimes I think about you, wearing your sweater, looking over at the next peak on a couple of bears, or maybe taking it off and laying it by a steaming hot spring in the backcountry. Iím sure you knew of many not yet published in books.
I wore your sweater when I found that incredible patch of Black Morels up above Winthrop, and when I snowboarded down the chute on the East side of Washington pass. I wore it to warm me after surfing that epic Thanksgiving swell at Matunuck, and I was wearing it when I saw the Marbled Murrelet come in and circle over that stand of Old Growth Spruce on the south fork of the Nooksack. That was cool. Your sweater steadied my nerves when I stumbled upon that Coral Snake in Colombia. This weekend at Cape Flattery I saw 48 Tufted Puffins fly by with my friends Daryn and Ry. I was wearing your sweater.
It was crazy. I got to talking about you and your sweater and it turned out that Daryn sort of knew you too, and they both had driven your old truck after your death. It was an incredible coincidence. I thought about all of the places your things have been, and all the thoughts and memories of you that people have had while doing good things. I know that youíre probably nowhere not looking down on this, or even cognizant of its occurrence, youíre dead. But I canít help but hope that it matters, that you still matter, and that, through our shared experiences, you and your spirit still walk the hills with all of your friends.
I checked me mail yesterday, and the letter that I've been waiting for for 5 months finally came, and the news was good!! Probably anyone reading this is aware that I tore my achilles in July. The resulting medical bills totaled over $14,000, and I had no coverage, and was not eligible for ANY aid from the man whatsoever.
One of my largest bills was from Harborview, a hospital in Seattle. It was by far my worst experience of the whole injury, and did not help my situation at all. It has been a nightmare even trying to talk to them, and every month I have gotten 6 color coded invoices warning that I am drastically close to being sent to collections. This sends me into a tizzy, and then I spend an hour on the phone making sure that I am not being sent to collections. This has been the cycle since september, and I have a notebook filled with documentation of every heated phone call with the heartless bastards who work there. Anyway, my non color coded letter yesterday stated that I have been granted charity for the full balance of my "treatment" there, and owe them nothing. Fuck Yeah!!!
An Interview with Matty Lucas Winner of the First Ever DrewTube Scavenger Hunt
Check back here in the next few days to recieve instructions about how you can win THIS WEEK!!! $25.00 could be all yours.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to bed, and the buoys were reading 6.5 feet at 15 seconds, and with the wind forecast to be offshore, the perfect situation for a guy like me to score some manageable overhead surf seemed ripe for the picking. On paper, well, the computer screen, everything was there. The world was ripe with potential. For a guy like me, coming back from a pretty major injury, itís going to take some pretty soft curves and easy demeanor to bring me back into the fold. I woke up long before dawn in my freezing cabin with no heat, and hunkered down in a little ball in my sleeping bag to draw all of the warmth in.
Eventually I got out of bed, still in the darkness and found my way to the coffee place, and headed out on the road. It was important to catch the tide right, so I couldnít lag too much. The drive out to the coast was kind of menacing. The ceiling of the world was down low over Lake Crescent, and the ancient forests on its shores were obscured in morning mists. Blankets of fog still clung to branches and boughs before the new morning wind could whisk them away. I drove through several squalls of rain, and thought about the fact that I had expected kind of nice-ish weather, but should have known that I was driving to the wettest place in the continental U.S., I might expect rain.
Itís best not to have too many expectations these days, it makes for fewer disappointments, but I have to admit that I had given myself over to what the internet had promised. The stats were perfect, and everything seemed to be aligned. I was mind surfing the perfect shapes that I knew were rolling and caressing the coast as I steered my way westward. I was ready, and was prepared to bring all I had to offer to the table. I hoped that my experience and character would make up for my out of shape arms, and my 34 year old, abused self.
I was basically elated as I drove over the bridge about a mile from the beach. I was ready. I stretched my achilles back and forth as I drove, trying to loosen it up a little. I paused to look at two transient Trumpeter Swans in the coastal meadow. They were so beautiful with their stark white plumage contrasting against the soft and dingy marsh grasses. It was all coming together.
I pulled up to the beach, and there she was. She was perfect. Long swell lines approached the shore and as they stood up on the sand bars, the straight offshore wind caressed and molded the surface, holding each wave up as it began to fold over in the shallows. It was all there, the whole package. Contained in each heaving swell was a world of happiness, a reason to be, if only for short time. Maybe I failed to read between the lines on my computer, or maybe there are just some things that donít translate into nano-bytes, but the whole package was just a little too much for me. It wasnít any one thing. Had the size alone been the factor, I could have handled it. It was only overhead and a half. Had the tubes and steepness of the waves alone been the factor, I could have dealt with that. Had the current and wind been the only factor, or the fact that I was by myselfÖ As I stood there on the beach, the offshore wind whipping past me I watched perfect opportunity after perfect opportunity role into the shore, almost mocking me in my decision. Thereís just too much to risk. After such a long time healing, I just couldnít take the chance that such perfection could reduce me to nothing all over again. I guess thereíll always be an internet swell to chase, but there are a lot more factors involved than just a pretty face.
A Video of me and some friends birding in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State from 1/23-1/25/2010
Dylan Hoss wins $25.00 gift certificate to the bowling alley in Forks, WA in the weekly drewtube Scavenger Hunt!!
Yesterday in my blog I asked people to send me photos of birds. The first one would win. I have to admit that really, no one except for Dylan participated. My father tried, but didn't read my blog. My poor friends blew it. Dylan sent in this photo, (sort of), of a Saw Whet Owl oddly enough, being held by me. Congratulations Dylan!!