I was just at a swanky party on the top of the Smith Tower in Seattle and I kept getting the dreaded Spokane eye. You’re having a perfectly swell conversation about politics or literature and the Seattleite asks where you’re from and when you tell them, they pretend not to be horrified, but it’s as if you’ve just casually mentioned that your hobby is collecting other people’s scabs.
“Uh … What do you do in Spokane?” the Seattler asks after a long, uncomfortable pause.
“Well, I used to sell meth but after my cousin and me got divorced and she got custody of the Siamese crack twins, I decided to put my life back together, so I got my GED and now I manage a mobile home park.”
I used to launch into my Spokane-is-Rising and You-Wouldn’t-Recognize-The-Place speech in that situation but, honestly, I’m getting tired of having to do that. I think we’ve reached a place where it’s sort of needy and pathetic, like that mother of your friend you see who insists on telling you that Eric is a stockbroker when you know perfectly well that Eric is a stockboy.
And it doesn’t work in Seattle anyway. It’s plausible in every other city in the world, but in Seattle, the idea that Spokane is becoming cool or prosperous is just plain crazy talk. You may as well tell them that you’re a professional ballet dancer in Omak.
So at this party, I decided to take the opposite tactic and just reinforce their ideas about the ‘Kane. And I have to tell you, it really puts the Seattle person at ease and it’s a lot more fun.
“Isn’t Spokane supposed to be doing pretty well these days?” asked one guy.
“Oh yes. Me and my friend Cokey, we was trying to save money to build a monster truck from scratch, but he got evicted from the school bus where he was living so he got on at the rendering plant and he was saying how it used to be folks just brung their dead animals from Spokane but now they get roadkill from Canada, Clarkston, all over. Shoot, we even get meat from back east, clear to Idaho.”
It was amazing how friendly the Seattle people became when I gave them the Spokane they expected. It put their world in order and made them feel magnanimous-almost as if, by talking to a poor rube from the East Side, they were donating to charity or giving money to that homeless person who sleeps outside their condo in Belltown.
(One woman did ask about the ice-skating championships, which apparently were in Spokane last month. I didn’t see anything in the local media about it. I guess they probably just missed it … or maybe they just made the decision that to endlessly pimp some trash-sport event would make the city seem kind of provincial.)
There was one guy at the party who had just been to Spokane and he kept telling the other Seattleians how great the city was. He was threatening to ruin my whole deal.
“You wouldn’t recognize downtown Spokane,” he said. “It’s gone through quite a revitalization.”
I had to think fast. “Oh, shoot yes. We just got us a Taco Johns.” I leaned in close. “That there’s ethnic food, case you ain’t got one here. And don’t quote me … but they’re maybe gonna reopen the Woolworths.”
Jess Walter’s new novel, The Zero, is available in bookstores
Jess Walters: The Urban Outdoors, Magazine Article |
If you’ve ever cross-country skied at Mt. Spokane, chances are you’ve skied in the tracks of a local legend. She might not get much name recognition around town, but on the mountain’s Langlauf course, Deb Bauer’s name is synonymous with champion.
She has raced nationally, and internationally at the Master’s World Championship in Lake Placid in 1998, “I was on the winning relay team.” She’s also won our local Langlauf race fourteen times in eighteen years. Not bad for a girl from back East who only started in the sport after moving here in her 20s.
Winning Langlauf is a family affair for the Bauers-Deb’s husband took first overall on the men’s side four times, her nephew took that title last year, and her brother- and sister-in-law have each topped the competition in their respective age brackets.
“I’m lucky because I’ve always had faster skiers, just within my family, to help me push myself.”
This year, Bauer is nursing a shoulder injury that might keep her out of Langlauf (at least, out of contention for the overall women’s title), but her love of the sport is undaunted, and her gear collection continues to grow.
SKIS: Any serious racer has a couple pairs of skis, but a family of serious racers? “We have a basement full of skis. Between my husband and me we probably have fifty pairs of skis,” says Bauer. For Langlauf she prefers a pair of Fischer skis. “You want a fairly soft camber ski to make sure you get good kick. At Mt. Spokane, there’s a lot of hills, so you need something that’s gonna get you up there.”
On race day, “we wax two or three pair and then glide test them. Then we pick the ones that are gliding the fastest and put on the kick wax,” says Bauer.
POLES: Infinity. “Our whole family uses them.”
BOOTS: Solomon Combi boot, like the ones used in the Olympic Pursuit event. “It comes a little higher up [on the calf]. I’ve always used an old skate boot for a classic boot because I like the stability on the down hill,” says Bauer.
WAX: Solda. “My husband is a waxing fanatic, always trying new things. We always have very fast skis-it’s something I’ve come to rely on. We spend a lot of time waxing in the basement.”
RACING ATTIRE: A lycra bodysuit with a polypropylene shirt underneath. “For the race itself you want to dress fairly light because you warm up so fast on the hills.” Bauer is excited about her new bodysuit, the CW-X Insulator. “It has criss-cross bands on the thighs to hold your muscles and keep you warmer.”
She’ll wear a warm-up jacket or a Swix warm-up suit while getting ready for the race.
GLASSES: Rudy Projects from Fitness Fanatics, or “Rico makes a nice one.”
GLOVES: Swix-”I like my hands warm, so I’ll usually use a thicker glove.”
HAT: “My husband and I have so many hats, but a race over in Methow gives out a hat every year, made by Swix, and I usually wear that one.”
ACCESSORIES: “In the race, we really tone it down, but for training I’ll usually carry a little extra kick wax and a pork[used for waxing on the go],” says Bauer. She’ll also carry a canteen: “it sits really nice on your back and it’s insulated.” During longer races, she’ll mix Hammer gels with water and drink it on the go. “Sometimes if you stop to take a drink you’ll drop off the pack and never get back in.”
Don’t miss your chance to catch the Bauer family in action at Langlauf this month with Deb probably on the sidelines. “At races where someone in the family isn’t racing, they’ll be stationed out on the course with refreshments,” says Bauer, who likely will have to wait to debut her new racing suit in McCall for the World Master’s races next year.
Magazine Article, What's Your Gear? |
Are you tired of ice skating stories yet?
If you aren’t, you probably haven’t been paying close enough attention. Or you’re just passing through Spokane on your way somewhere less new-retro-figure-skating cool. But if you are from here, and you are tired of skating stories, then I recommend you avert your eyes, because here comes another one.
Or maybe not, because this one isn’t about triple axels or sold-out arenas or multi-million-dollar community influx. It’s about strapping the slats on those tired dogs of yours and hugging the walls at the one and only Spokane Ice Palace.
Hold on a second. There are likely some of you who don’t know (as I didn’t) what on earth I’m talking about when I use the moniker “Ice Palace,” and that’s likely because the last time you visited “that ice skating place at Riverfront Park,” you were concentrating too hard to staying upright to notice much besides exactly how little control a person can have of their own feet when metal blades connect with Zambonied ice. Again, I’m not really describing you. That’s me on the ice, attempting to photograph my children without breaking the camera, but utterly incapable of letting go of the penalty box railing during a particularly appropriate rendition of “Rubber duckie,” as sung by Ernie. (I say appropriate because I’d brought all the kids to this outing, including my nine-month-old boy, who was safely tucked in a friend’s arms as I made my attempt at skating infamy. And yes, I actually had a rubber duckie in my pocket. Not particularly comforting at the moment, but there and mentally noted nonetheless.)
A few thoughts occurred to me as each leg seemed to discover its own independence and set off for friendlier grounds: 1) I could die; 2) I could be at home right now; 3) If I were at home right now, my kids wouldn’t be having the time of their life out on the ice; 4) My children-even the five-year-old-are skating circles around me; 5) If I am ever able to reach the exit gate, I’m going inside immediately and ordering an espresso; 6) Playing with the rubber duckie may actually be more my speed-it really does make bath time lots of fun.
For those of who aren’t familiar with this year’s changes at the Ice Palace, you heard me right. I said “I’m going inside.” You probably think I made a mistake. “The Ice Palace I remember doesn’t even have an inside.” Given that they do have an inside now, you might even think it’s completely chicken of me to go inside when I could be freezing my axel off in the bleachers (especially considering that this is an article for Out There Monthly-I trust my editors will be lenient). But I have a perfectly reasonable excuse. I have a nine-month-old, for crying out loud. He needs me. And thank the god of all things frozen (my fingers, for example), the Ice Palace’s newish inside is a perfectly serviceable place for resting and eating and thawing out, so it’s not just one of the top ten outdoor skating rinks in the country (as noted by a giant banner above the ice), it’s also one of the top ten skating rinks in the country with enough smarts to know that it actually gets cold out there, top ten or not.
As if led by the hand Kimmie Meissner, I was eventually able to make my way onto the mats and into the clubhouse without much more humiliation than I experience on a regular day. (They don’t call it a clubhouse, but they really ought to. It’s actually the Pavilion food court, but it may as well be the Taj Mahal for someone so arse-on-ice averse as myself.)
My kids continued to have the time of their lives. Given that there is now room at the Ice Palace for penguins and chickens alike, I’ve signed them up for weekly skating lessons. While they learn the ins and outs of becoming a human projectile, I might just sit in the clubhouse with my espresso and a paperback. Maybe I’ll finally have time to finish reading Citizen Vince.
See you there.
The Ice Palace is open throughout the month of February and into early March.
For more info visit:
Terry Bain’s new book, We are the Cat is available in bookstores.
Magazine Article |
(1.) HARVESTER RESTAURANT
401 West First Street, Spangle, WA
MOST POPULAR “neighborhood” restaurants feel as if their ambience came packed in a shipping crate marked “kitsch,” their almost-too-perfect arrangement of quirky signs and fake-vintage photographs. The whimsical conglomeration of old signs, newspaper clippings and other bric-a-brac at the Harvester Restaurant in Spangle, however, feels organic, the natural accumulation of years of yard-sale spoils. This is the type of neighbordhood-hangout atmosphere that can’t be faked.
The menu at the Harvester is the real deal, too, a fine-tuned collection of old-school comfort food-and unlike most comfort food, which is so heavy and greasy that it winds up being rather discomforting, here it lives up to its title. All the staples are there: burgers, steaks, chicken, and the by-now Americanized Italian and Mexican basics such as spaghetti and burritos. There are also a few surprises, such as the buffalo burger, which has a lighter yet richer taste than its bovine counterpart (and is part of the Harvester’s two-item calorie-conscious menu). Vegetarians have several options, such as the veggie burger or Widmer Hefeweizen-battered fish and chips, the latter of which accompanied by near-perfect fries and a refreshing coleslaw. Be sure to try the pie, which deserves its reputation as some of the best in the area; the chocolate-peanut butter cream, like the rest of the Harvester’s offerings, is smooth and flavorful without being regrettably rich. AARON THEISSEN
WHEN YOU GO: Head south from Spokane on US-195. Take the Spangle exit. Turn left onto Main Street and follow until Main crosses with First Street. Distance from Spokane: 13.05 Miles. The restaurant and lounge are open 7 days a week, food can be ordered to-go.
(2.) THE SPRAG POLE INN AND MUSEUM
Main Street, Murray, ID
THE TOWN of Murray, an outpost of civilization near the Idaho-Montana border north of Wallace, has served as a resting point and destination for over a century since its founding as a silver-mining town. Today, Murray is little more than a ghost town, with a population of about 25 that doubles in the summer. The Sprag Pole (est. 1885) currently operates almost exclusively as a restaurant and bar, though it also houses an eclectic museum.
The museum is dedicated to the local pioneer spirit characterized by Walt Almquist and Molly B’Damn. Almquist started the museum, including in its attractions his whittled wood chain, the longest in the world at 121 feet. An 85-foot chain, also whittled by Almquist, graces the mantle above the bar.
The Sprag Pole has a menu that will please just about anyone. Except for your brother’s girlfriend, who is a vegetarian, since the hamburgers only come with onions and pickles and nothing on the menu was meat-free, except their milkshakes, which reportedly bring folks up all the way from I-90.
The humongous hamburgers, “made with 100 percent real beef” were delicious and well worth the drive, but if you really want to get a taste of the local lifestyle, perhaps you can join the hand of bridge being played while the regulars wait for the lunch buffet. MIRA COPELAND
WHEN YOU GO: From Spokane, take I-90 East through Coeur d’Alene and Kellogg to Wallace. In Wallace, take 6th Street, which takes you toward Pritchard and will lead you all the way to Murray. Wait until the Highway comes to a T at the Husky gas station, then take a right, and continue on to the antique storefronts of Murray, where you’ll find the Sprag Pole Inn and Museum just before the large totem pole and across the street from the town’s quaint office. Distance from Spokane: 92.85 miles. Open 10 AM to 10 PM.
(3.) LOS HERNANDEZ
3706 Main St., Union Gap, WA
SOUTH OF YAKIMA, in a non-descript white cinderblock building, Felipe Hernandez and his wife are making some of the best tamales you will find in the Northwest. Chicken or Pork Tamales are made fresh daily, with asparagus available from April-July.
A tamal is simple in theory. There is a filling of some sort, often a shredded pork or chicken in a sauce of peppers, garlic and onion, the “masa” which is a corn mush dough and a “hojas,” or cornhusk that holds it all together while it is steamed. When done correctly the cornhusk peels off easily to reveal a tender, spicy steaming tamal.
Making tamales is a long and time consuming process, traditionally done with the entire family pitching in to cook the meat, create the masa, scrape and prepare the husks and finally assembling, wrapping and steaming the batch. As with most foods, they are at their best when eaten fresh, but if that is not an option, the good people at Los Hernandez do ship within the U.S. If you are feeling adventurous and want to do a little cooking, the masa and hojas can be ordered directly from them as well. BILL BLOOM
WHEN YOU GO: From Spokane, head West on Interstate 90. Drive about 169 miles. Take Exit 110 toward Yakima. Head South on U.S. 97/I-82 E. Drive 36 miles. Take the Valley Hall Blvd. Exit 36 toward Untion Gap.Turn Right onto East Valley Mall Blvd. Turn Left on South Rudkin Rd. Turn Slight Right onto Main Street/ South 1st St. South First St. becomes Main Street. Distance from Spokane: 207 miles. Open 11 Am – 11 PM Monday through Friday, 10 AM – 7 PM on Saturday and 11 AM – 6 PM on Sunday.
(4.) FEEDING STATION
205 North Crosby “Main Street,” Tekoa, WA
TUESDAYS AT the Feeding Station is Broasted Chicken day. The all-you-can-eat lunch buffet features “real” mashed potatoes and gravy, six or seven salads, dessert and drinks-all for $7. Known to attract cyclists roaming the Palouse hills during warmer weather, the Feeding Station delivers in quality and quantity.
The small corner restaurant located along the historic “Main Street” in Tekoa has been servicing local farmers for years. Conversations from neighboring booths will likely involve the purchase of new combines or the current condition of the crops. Juanita Paden and her daughter, Shawn Smith, own and run the Feeding Station as well as the beauty salon next door.
While the broasted chicken is a local favorite, Paden and Smith also have a Thursday buffet, that is more of a mixed bag of “whatever we’ve got” says Paden. There are Daily Specials as well. Fish Fridays proudly serves a flaky-but-not-too greasy fish sandwich with homemade clam chowder on the side. Breads and desserts are handmade each day by Paden and you can tell. The Forest Berry Pie is loved for its delicate crust, and not-too-sweet filling. If you can’t make up your mind, Paden will bring over a sampler of three of her favorite desserts to wrap up your meal. JULIET SINISTERRA
WHEN YOU GO: Head south on US-195 from Spokane toward Colfax. Exit at Rosalia/Oakesdale exit. Turn left toward Oakesdale. Right before Oakesdale there will be signs to turn off to Tekoa. This road will bring you into Tekoa, turn left on Crosby and head down 3 or 4 blocks. The Feeding Station is located on your left. Distance from Spokane: 42 miles. Open 6 AM – 7 PM Monday through Thursday, 6 AM – 8 PM Friday, 7 AM – 2 PM Saturday, and 8 AM – 3 PM Sunday.
(5.) TENDRILS RESTAURANT
Cave B Inn at Sagecliffe
344 Silica Road NW, Quincy, WA
(509) 785-CAVE (2283)
TENDRILS RESTAURANT is part of a 500-acre retreat and winery located above the Gorge near George, Washington. The ritziest of the OTM foodtrips, Tendrils overlooks the Columbia River in Quincy, WA. During warmer months, concerts from the popular George venue can be overhead from the outdoor terraces.
Besides the vineyards and main inn (housing the restaurant) the site is dotted with various buildings housing a spa, lodging accommodations, and the winery.
The food, or cuisine rather, at Tendrils aims to be local, natural and organic whenever possible. Menu items consist of standard restaurant fare of salads and sandwiches prepared and presented thoughtfully. Unique is the development of an “Ancient Lakes Cuisine.” Here you will find Penn Cove mussels, Hama Hama oysters and Broken Arrow Ranch antelope. All wines come from Cave B Inn. Chefs Fernando and Marlene Divina also lead a periodic culinary series on regional foods.
As well as fine dining the retreat also offers hiking, nature talks, the aforementioned spa and a driving range. BARBARA SNYDER
WHEN YOU GO: Head West on I-90. Drive for 130 miles. At George, WA take Exit 151. Take a right onto WA-281 SPUR. Take your first left on WA-281-N. Turn slight right onto Beverly Burke Road N, go about 2 miles. Take a right at Baseline Road W. Go 5 miles. Take a right on Silica Road NW. Cave B Inn and Winery is on the left. Distance from Spokane: 138 miles. Open for breakfast and lunch daily. Dinner: 5 PM – 9 PM Sunday – Thurdays and 5 PM – 10 PM Fridays and Saturdays.
(6.) HONEYSUCKLE NATURAL FOODS
310 East Railroad, Plains, MT
ORGANIC SOUPS are their specialty, but you can also get a full-body massage. Honeysuckle Natural Foods in Plains, Montana, is a self-service soup bar, small natural grocer, purveyor of locally-made items, and juice bar-all that with a massage clinic in the back.
For the past 6-1/2 years, Sue Williamson has lovingly crafted one vegetarian and meat soup every Monday through Friday in the small retrofitted residential building. Her soups are diverse and impeccably prepared. Williamson has served everything from borscht, chicken gumbo, and and cioppino to indian potato cuban black bean, zuppa toscana and mulligatawny. She also bakes muffins and biscuits daily and serves either a pasta salad or a green salad at the bar. Communal tables are located past the small store where customers can pick up some organic fruits, vegetables, herbs, and vitamins.
If you aren’t too hungry, Williamson also makes fresh organic smoothies & juice. JULIET SINISTERRA
WHEN YOU GO: Head east on I-90 for about 124 miles. In Montana, take Exit 33 toward St. Regis. Turn left onto MT-135. Drive for 21.5 miles. Turn left onto MT-200, drive for 8.6 miles. MT-200 brings you into the center of Plains and is also called Railroad Avenue. Honeysuckle is just abou 1/4 mile West of the center of town. Distance from Spokane: 157 miles. Open Monday through Friday 11 AM – 6 PM.
(7.) CORONA VILLAGE
1810 Second Street, Cheney, WA
FINDING EXCITING food in Cheney can be tough, especially in the winter. From the outside, Corona Village appears to be stuck between a hardware store and a pet place, but inside this narrowly-nested restaurant, authentic Mexican flare brews between warm saffron-red and yellow walls. Though a small eatery, the chefs behind the counter actively prepare some already famous burritos.
For those on the go, they offer the Andale Rapido lunch menu for fast restaurant dishes, in addition to dinner. With several vegetarian options represented, most other plates are easily transformed with a “hold the meat” request. One of these versatile items is the Corona Andale Burrito, which is packed with fluffy rice, black beans, and smooth guacamole in a tortilla of your choice.
The simply stated 3 Fish Tacos are a major hit, even for the lacto-ovo-vegetarian. The lightly fried tilapia fish are laid on soft corn shells with the staple lettuce plus tomato. Add a squeeze of sweet lime inside and a summer classic is born, begging to be revisited.
While the fish tacos can beat out any others in town, don’t forget the salsa. It is spicy and a perfect consistency that’s not too chunky and won’t liquify the corn chips. Salsa, burrito, tacos and a beverage sharing the establishment’s namesake qualify Corona Village as a new unique favorite. ARGYLE BAUKOL
WHEN YOU GO: Take I-90 to the Four Lakes/Cheney exit to the WA hwy 904. After the first stoplight, the hwy becomes 1st St, after the second stoplight look right to a small shopping center with a yellow pet store on the end. Distance from Spokane: 16 miles. Open 11 AM – 9 PM Daily, except Sundays 12 Noon – 8 PM.
(8.) The Waterfront Restaurant
Blue Diamond Marina
Cavanaugh Bay, Priest Lake, ID
Looking for a romantic Valentine’s roadtrip? The Waterfront, a small restaurant near Coolin, Idaho overlooking Priest Lake, makes for a great getaway. Chef Matt Irvin will be preparing a package meal including chilled shrimp cocktail, spinach, pear and blue cheese salad, roasted prime rib or cornish game hen, side vegetables, bread, drinks and dessert all for $59.95 per couple. Seating starts at 6:30 PM. The restaurant is only open during off-season for special events or holidays. Call for reservations.
Magazine Article |
“WHEN I WAS GROWING UP IN SPOKANE we almost always had 90 days with snow on the ground.” I’ve heard myself say this a thousand times. It often elicits an anecdotal affirmation from longtime residents-but is it true? Are the winters here really milder now than they were during my formative years? Say between 1974 and 1984?
I called Ron Miller at the National Weather Service Spokane office. Mr. Miller emailed me a torrent of raw data on Spokane snowfall dating back to 1893. I wanted to look at snowfall data because temperature data doesn’t correlate to recreation opportunities unless all you do is ice fish. Miller give me four different ways to analyze snowfall during the winter months of November through March: 1) Number of days with snowdepth of one inch or more; 2) Total snowfall; 3) Total snow depth/days (height of each snow depth day added together); and 4) Average snow depth for the winter.
For my less-than-scientific survey I compared winters in the years of 1974-1984 to the recent winters of 1996-2005-and guess what? By each measurement the 1996-2005 winters are milder snow-wise.
The older winters averaged 46.8″ of total snowfall, where the recent winters have averaged 41.1.” The older winters had average snow depth of 2.3″ where the recent winters average only 1.4″ in total snow depth. And the recent winters had over 140 inches less of total snow depth/days, meaning there were fewer days of deep snow.
But the winters of the past ten years have averaged 50 days with one inch or more of snow on the ground, whereas the 70s and 80s winters had an average of 52 days. Only four years that I looked at, ’78, ’84, 96′ and 2000 had winters with 90 days or more of snow on the ground. So much for anecdotes.
“Every decade the average snowfall in Spokane has decreased,” Miller says. “It’s depressing.” The bright side? If you like to bike in winter, like I do, recent winters allow you more cycling and still give you a chance to hit good snow in the mountains. Also, you have less of an excuse NOT to go skiing. If the region gets a bunch of good snow, damn the torpedoes! Grab your gear and go. You don’t know if that powder will be there next week.
Jon B. Snyder, Editor-in-chief
Go to http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/otx/ to check out Ron Miller’s excellent recap of the regions 2006 weather.
Editorial, Magazine Article |
Strange and Dangerous Dreams: The Fine Line Between Adventure and Madness
Mountaineer Books, 2006, 245 pages.
Written by an avid mountaineer, who is also a practicing psychologist, author Geoff Powter delves into the little known, often surprising personal history of nearly a dozen notable explorers. In this exceptional approach to understanding the impulsion that fuels the adventurer, you may find that the psychology of and extraneous influences on these men and women are more interesting than the first-hand accounts of their harrowing journeys. As delineated in several cases it is astonishing to learn that the machismo these explorers are known for is often only a veneer that veils a surprisingly meek persona.
Adventurers are prone to the paradox that, if they are successful in their quest, they’ll be regaled as a new paradigm of inspiration and bravery; yet if they fail to reach their goal, they are often stigmatized as madmen and lunatics. Aside from the deleterious conditions inherent in an adventure, the adventurer is also subject to pressures unrelated to weather, land and sea. It is often these forces that prove most difficult to contend with as they are exerted on the mind, rather than the body. Powter points out that adventures initially envisioned for purposes of discovery, research and challenge, often become a vehicle used by a government to establish their national character. Even successful adventurers, Powter indicates, can suffer from an ominous sense of failure as in the case of Meriwether Lewis. Known for being fearless, stalwart and keen, and blessed with a preternatural intuition, Lewis’ post-expedition life was haunted by his incessant questioning of whether he had truly succeeded in his mission in the eyes of Thomas Jefferson, who was, even though far away, always regarded as the true leader of the adventure. The eleven adventurers in this book are categorized into three groups: the burdened, the bent and the lost. Although at times painfully melodramatic, this book nonetheless proves equally interesting, if not more so, than reading about the conquests and harrowing attempts themselves.
Joel N. Young
Jim Perrin: The Climbing Essays (Best Book: Mountain Literature, 2006 Banff Mountain Book Festival)
Jim Perrin, The In Pinn
Neil Wilson Press, 2006, 320 pages.
Through sixty numbered climbing essays grouped to cover three phases of his career and a dozen more covering his early life and family, Perrin provides us with a unique memoir. Using essays, describing, climbs with his son, Perrin expands the books theme to include two generations of British rock climbing. As much about climbing and his climbing peers as about Perrin himself, the selection of works included tells as much about Perrin’s character From the selection of works, one gets the feeling that Perrin sees himself a rebel of the same ilk, though not quite as good a climber, as Joe Brown or Don Whillans. Nearly every essay contains reference to some extraordinary action or event. Many of the essays contain elements related to drug and alcohol use so common in the 1960s as to make them passé. Is this truly an important part of Perrin’s character or are they included for their shock effect?
As an anthology of essays edited by the author, one would expect this book to have a thematic arrangement designed to reveal the writer’s life and character. While the elements are there, for this reviewer they are not well linked. Individually most of the essays were interesting and entertaining in themselves. The essays did not form a cohesive whole. Additional essays linking the various themes covered in the book would have smoothed the stories’ flow and greatly improved the readers’ understanding of Perrin’s life. As presented, the pieces did not portray the humorous chronicler of climbing I met a year ago in Banff when Perrin was promoting his 2005 award-winning biography of Don Whillans, The Villain. One wonders if this was a work in progress that Perrin decided to rush to press on the heels of his earlier success. Though I have not seen this book in U.S. bookstores, it is available at www.amazon.co.uk and probably other on line sources.
Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community
Thomas Berry & Mary Evelyn Tucker (Editor)
Sierra Club Books, 2006, 173 pages.
Now in his ninety second year, noted Earth scholar and “geologian” Thomas Berry continues to explore the intersection between cultural, spiritual and ecological issues, and to offer a deep spiritual re-vision of the human/Earth story-a re-vision Berry articulates as necessary for recovering a future for all Life on Earth.
Berry devoted the first four decades of his career to cultural history and cross-cultural religious studies-writing, teaching and lecturing as an academic scholar. Over the last two decades, Berry has focused on articulating a collective story of origin sufficiently expansive to span across the world’s great religions while also encompass ing discoveries from science regarding the epic history of the universe. With the publication of Dream of the Earth (1988), The Universe Story (1992), and The Great Work (1999) Berry has become a central spokesperson for an cologically-rooted spiritual consciousness known as the New Story. Evening Thoughts (2006) is a collection of twelve essays and speeches spanning these last several decades of Berry’s work. The book’s first selections describe the magnitude and causes of Earth’s human-derived ecological crisis. Underlying this crisis, Berry says, is a collective deprivation of spiritual consciousness alienating the human from the story of the Earth. The book’s middle essays focus on specific challenges, including global warming, ethnic tension and the growth of nationalism. In the final essays Berry returns to the large-scale perspective of the epic story of cosmic evolution and the contribution of the human to that story. In the Appendix, Berry offers Twelve Principles for Understanding the Universe, and Ten Principles for Jurisprudence Revision.
For followers of Berry already familiar with his work, Evening Thoughts will provide further context and depth around Berry’s classic themes. However, because the selections were not originally intended as a collection, Evening Thoughts, taken as a whole, appears somewhat disjointed and repetitive. A reader new to Berry would be advised to start first with one of Berry’s earlier works (mentioned above) for a more cohesive presentation of his compelling themes.
Book Reveiws, Magazine Article |
7000 Dying Rats
Season in Hell
The Band is 7000 Dying Rats. Their influences include Slayer, Journey, and farts. They have a songs entitled “We had “Dying” in our Name way Before all Those Metalcore C*cksuckers Came Along” and “The Thought Bubble Above My Head is Filled with Golden Rotating Shotguns.” Their website boasts, “Yeah, we’re totally nu-metal, you douche bag…” That was Spinal Tap. This is Richard Pryor for the Death Metal set.
It’s the first song and I’m wishing the piano would go on forever and I’m thinking “I’ve never thought such a thing in my life.” So begins my journey into the latest creation from BARR, the LA-based project from the multi-talented Brendan Fowler, poised to come out of the woodwork. There are still obstacles to overcome (“Complete Consumption of Us Both” is heavy, though the vocals are so familiar they’ll remind you of voices you’ve heard and felt comforted by), but watch what Fowler’s able to do on tracks like “The Song is the Single.” Fowler, with his spoken word simplicity and oft-grating openness, and amidst his various visual and musical art projects, is a real artist, and, fittingly, worthy of some attention.
You have to hand it Spokane’s Coretta Scott for not slowing down. They recorded this EP in town, self-released it, and are currently on the road for a NW tour. All six tracks sound sharp and crisp. The songs shine most when the band’s pop-rock swagger trumps their emo leanings. Bonus points for the title’s nod to the state apple industry.
Wasn’t the disc released by Dimmak in ’05 self-titled too? No matter. Song titles like “The Terror, The Delight, and The Unendurable Pointlessness of Trying” make this instantly worthy of your time. Artwork, much like the music, steeped in nostalgic beauty by way of destruction, loss, intrigue makes this instantly worthy of your time. As does the fact, simply, that this is DAS OATH, that half-New York/half-Netherlands punk group that’s been busy REDEFINING hardcore with their anthemic, nonstop contributions since inception. Check it.
You know that friend of yours who pops up ever so often (read: music critic) and says “…Dude, check this out. Sounds exactly like Led Zeppelin. No question they’re the new Zeppelin!” But, all the while you’re thinking it sounds more like: Budgie, Kings-X, Cheap Trick, Kingdom Come, Mountain, White Stripes, Uriah Heep, Thin Lizzy, Wolfmother, with a super-heavy dose of Montrose. Yep. That’s Earl Greyhound. They might get closer than others, but that’s about it.
Human Like a House
If there’s a city whose music I respect the most (past Portland), it’d likely be San Francisco. Contained within its city limits, San Francisco houses electro-pop (Scissors for Lefty), pop/rock (Birdmonster), and indie rock of my favorite brand (Two Gallants), all with the proficiency and talent to set them apart (that’s the answer to the “Everybody has electro-pop/indie rock!” you were about to interject with). So let’s take now a light-spirited, lulling duo like the Finches. Thoughts provoked, ears pleased and rep intact. Yay, San Francisco!
Cards on the table. You can guess with near 100% accuracy that I’ll be 100% in love with anything that Justin Pearson touches. So it’d seem pretty easy then to figure that this disc, which Pearson not only released on his San Diego-based label, the fabulous three.one.g, but also has a hand in its performance (bass, of course), was ranked high on my most-anticipated 2007 releases. Contained within this clear disc are five tracks that’ll be gone before you can blink, that’ll leave you salivating, nay, lusting, for more. Holy, indeed. Just wait until the debut from Ground Unicorn Horn (which counts amongst its creators both Pearson AND Chuck Rowell) is released…
MAHER SHALAL HASH BAZ
I honestly have no idea what to say about this. Tori Kudo, a Japanese conductor, gets together a team of amateur musicians to play 27 songs, that sound, well, pretty damn amateurish. I’m on week four of a nasty head cold that I’m pretty sure has recently turned into a sinus infection and, well, listening to broken tunes, teetering on complete disaster (albeit maintaining their listen-ability), led by a Japanese frontman-slash-vocalist is just not.gonna.float.
MATT & KIM
“Yea Yeah” from Matt & Kim
Because that monstrosity of a head cold mentioned above is keeping me from not one but TWO Matt & Kim shows this week, here is my whine. I first saw them last fall at the Troubadour and they absolutely delighted me like no band has in a very long time. I forgot all about the opener, What Made Milwaukee Famous, and had no energy left for the oft-somber French Kicks. This Brooklyn duo brings so much crazy energy to the stage, so many smiles, so many goofy grins, it’s hard to keep up with them. Their energy looks to be totally annoying, but it isn’t, it’s completely charming and lovable. Who’dathunk? This, their, perhaps, “signature” song, is perfect in nearly every way-including its accompanying video, where the white clothing-clad duo is pummeled by various food products. MySpace these ones.
Nick Oliveri and Mondo Generator
Dead Planet: Sonicslowmotiontrails
The latest installment in the cooked up saga of Mondo Generator has our hero, Nick Oliveri, once again doing battle with those screwy meth-addled demons. Granted this is well-covered territory (Kyuss, the Dwarves, Queens of the Stoneage, and two prior Mondo Generator albums), but it’s always got an earnest and oddly humble quality. Make no mistake Mondo Generator is the place where drugs and rock meet to rumble, cuss, grunt, and bump. It’s not intended for the infirm, but rather for a whole new generation of those about to rock.
THE MOONEY SUZUKI
If you’re like me, you’ve been hearing buzz about the Mooney Suzuki for what seems an eternity. But you’ve never been curious enough to make the effort to listen. While listening to track one of their new disc, I sent an instant message that read “Oh man, the Mooney Suzuki is not good.” Shortly thereafter another followed: “Sometimes it sounds like Randy Newman singing!” (Sure, I’ve edited in the capital letters and punctuation.) Old time rock ‘n’ roll? Or just tired and boring. Ick. I thought these folks were trendy and cool. I think I almost saw them perform live once. My ears, oh my poor ears…
SunnO))) and Boris
Imagine the infamous Hubble Telescope was able to pick up some useful information like the sound of a star being born, or the shock-waves associated with two planets booming in to one other. Well, I spent $11.99 and got to hear these sounds for myself. NASA spent $1.5 billion and didn’t. Boris is the heaviest element in the periodic table of rock, and SunnO))) hasn’t even been discovered yet. Put together as one is a unique listening experience like no other. Equal parts bang and crush, mixed nicely with drone and thud. This is one of the heaviest, but most peaceful trips you’ll ever take. NASA could have saved themselves a hell of lot of money by calling the good folks at Southernlord Records.
Magazine Article, Music Reviews |