Country Wisdom


Since moving back into the heart of Oregon farm country after a decades absence, I’ve become ever more curious about the cultural islands out there that have survived the onslaught of new inhabitants from California. Driving the backroads of Dayton looking for interesting photo subjects, I was heading for Salem when I spun the car around to go inside Bob’s Grande Island Country Store. There I found this group (pictured) of farmers indulging in conversation over a morning coffee. I’ve learned to look very inconspicuous in such situations, and claimed a table nearby to listen in. The topic of the day: California fires. The group solution? Get a million hungry goats and release them onto the ridges of the mountains above Los Angeles and let them eat the undergrowth to the ground thereby strangling the fires from any further fuel. Oh country wisdom, how I love you so.


The Cathedral Challenge

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You can find a full 18 hole frisbee golf course at Mission Creek State Park just outside Salem on the banks of the Willamette River in Oregon. The 12th hole, the famed “Cathedral,” is pictured above. And you thought you needed a steady hand to cut the Thanksgiving turkey! If you’ve never tried frisbee golf, you can buy discs at just about any sporting goods store. You’ll need a driver and a putter!

Memory Pull


It had been over a year since we’d visited the Alameda Hot Springs Retreat in Montana, but that didn’t stop our dog Barley from digging in like a tractor and pulling me to the room we stayed in previously right after I hooked him up to the leash. I continue to respect our animals abilities for memory and emotion as I move forward in this life and spend more time with them.



I was in a favorite local restaurant recently when the owner pointed out a new item he started carrying that week. It was Ginger Beer, and if you’ve never tried it, the ginger gives the beverage a kick not present in the average soda; so after your introduction, it’s easy to become a ginger beer addict. I wasn’t disappointed by the new line, but found myself trying harder and harder to speed up the flow of the liquid as I drank. I knew something was different so I turned the label around and found it was bottled in Australia. Then it made sense, the small mouth on the bottle was more culturally appropriate for a country that didn’t associate meal time with massive portions, all you can eat buffets, and Double Big Gulps. Just as I’d found in Japan, much of Europe, and Thailand, consumption was more about enjoying flavors and pairings over machine gun eating. It’s good to have these little moments of awareness to understand how much of our lives, even little things, are guided by cultural perception.

Ghostly Visit


One of my spontaneous travels brought me to the old mountain ghost town of Garnet, Montana recently. The former mining town that once held thousands of people is now filled with camera bedecked tourists trying to find memorable selfies amidst the crumbling remnants of former lives. It’s an eerie feeling walking into a room filled with the possessions of interrupted lives (pictured). Perhaps it’s that intrusion that makes one feel ghosts still wander the halls as you momentarily share their space. Walls peel and wood fades, but the atmosphere remains. Such isolation would have been a hard life without television and wifi, but somehow we managed to survive. The experience made me reflect on my own relatives crossing the Oregon Trail, giving me the knowledge that somewhere in there, I must have some pretty tough genes.

Amazing Arizona Comic Con


Like most people in America, I was introduced to the concept of comic con by the lovable geek geniuses from The Big Bang Theory. I certainly loved comic books as a kid (especially Spiderman), but never crossed that line into wearing Spock ears to a convention or painting myself green to emulate the Hulk. Still, when visiting my mother in Phoenix last weekend and a commercial advertising the local comic con aired, I knew I had to go. I had to know what intrigued the writers of Leonard and Sheldon so completely, and also get a possible glimpse of the stars scheduled to speak from The Walking Dead  television show. I twisted the arm of my remodeler/builder brother and put the heavy sell on the watchability of the comic obsessed crowd to get him to go. He only lamented after I included a trip to Alice Cooper’s Cooperstown to indulge in The Big Unit (22 inch hot dog) after the event. When we arrived, we immediately spotted an assortment of superheroes and Star Wars characters crowding the front entry hall as I snapped some photos. Green Arrow, Captain America, and Spiderman posed for one of my cell phone frames, but after we made it inside things started to get interesting. Many of the women at this event are not only incredibly beautiful, but choose to wear such outfits as barbarian fur boots with leather bikinis and two-sided battle axes, or portray heroines in skin tight spandex and colorful capes. My brother noted after an hour of walking around interacting with artists and the crowd that the women were not only beautiful, but nerdy and smart. He leaned in close to me and said, “God damn I should have been a geek.”

Walking Las Vegas

Las Vegas: 1/9/09 – 1/12/09    For three and a half weeks during December of 2008, the cold and snow pummeled my new home of Kalispell, Montana. It was a storm that brought minus 30 degree temperatures and thick ice that the Flathead valley hadn’t experienced in ten years. I was trapped from all but the most essential movements, and paced mindlessly with the debilitating effects of cabin fever.

 For the last several years my brother lived in the heart of Las Vegas just off the strip, and I figured I couldn’t pick a better time to load up and go see him. The forecast was cloud free for the entire week, so I packed light and purchased my $29.00 Allegiant Air tickets on-line ($114 after taxes and fees).

The flight was a bit of a nightmare, very Vegasesque, starting with some poor guy suffering a heart attack or something just as the door was closing on an already uppity, stuffed plane half-filled with gambling addicts. The stewardesses looked like they had just come from a New Orleans whore house, soiled about the edges, taking zero crap off anyone.

            The door couldn’t open too soon, and the beaming flood light on top of the Luxor pyramid lit the way to my brother’s apartment. He lived approximately one and a half blocks from the large, India-inspired waterfall garden on the NE corner of Mandalay Bay. We cracked a beer on his outside balcony which looked west on (from left to right) the Luxor; New York, New York; and MGM. I recognized the buildings of the Manhattan skyline and had to admit the view was pretty cool. A black limo raced by during my second sip, and I asked my brother what was going on. It turned out that the landing strip for all the private jets coming to Vegas was a couple miles behind his complex; so Brittany Spears, Madonna, Paris Hilton, the whole posse regularly passed within thirty feet of him while he slept. He believed that most of them looked on his complex while thinking, oh, those poor people; but he loved it, and I could see why.   

            My plan was to hit Las Vegas Blvd early, taking what was referred to locally as, The Deuce, and spend most of my two full days seeing as much of Vegas on foot as I could manage before collapse. I was up with only a few burned hash browns on toast for fuel before making The Deuce by 9:29am and riding the line all the way to Fremont Street. The secret, I was told, was to occupy the front seat on the upper deck where the large windows gave the only panoramic view on the bus. Two couples, one from Russia and one from South America, already claimed the front seats, so I sat one row back in the middle. The Vegas that passed before us was like a condensed version of the world crammed into boxes by some irresponsible, giant child. All the icons of Venice, Paris, Rome, and New York were there, lining the street in a Disneyland-like presentation that inspired a sense of awe, even if the illusion was constructed from Styrofoam. It occurred to me later that day that Las Vegas was the working mans’ Paris, a place where anyone uncomfortable with travel or short the necessary funds might make the trip anyway, sampling the best of the planet without straying more than a thousand miles from home. It seemed to inspire what my brother had discussed the previous evening as a last hope for many in the country. A last hope to become rich with one push of a button or roll of the dice, a hope for hedonistic luxury and a glimpse at the upper classes or celebrity.

            It was with my arrival at Fremont Street that I viewed the other side of this vacation paradise: desperation. Police appeared on every corner weaving bicycles through sleepy-eyed vendors, old women gambled with shiny black-eyes, a lone man followed me to a blind corner to offer drugs, a prostitute lasted 30 seconds on the street before turning a trick, and homeless men sat on tourist benches – too spent to beg.

            Still, the cheesy neon signs and lightbulb-laden figures were alluring. What in the 50’s and 60’s had represented the creation of fake entertainment had become art somewhere along the line. There was a charm in the tall cowboy and the giant 61 pound gold nugget circling under glass. What seemed the epitome of contrived bullshit captured the imagination and created a unique niche for itself.


More in my upcoming Walking Vegas zine.



Lathering up the sunscreen for a Montana winter    



Mirage dolphins dance in 65 degrees!

Mirage dolphins dance in 65 degrees!


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