Friday, August 26, 2005

10 Things To Do #3

A while back I posted a list of ten things, in no particular order, that I want to accomplish before I die. I thought it would be helpful for me to explain each thing on the list, more as an inspiration for me to keep striving to accomplish them someday. So here is #3 on the list.

Kayak the entire length of the Columbia River

I am not a professional adventurer, getting out these days means sneaking in a good bike ride or maybe a paddle in my kayak while the kids are still asleep. I would love to climb the mountains of Patagonia someday, or raft a forgotten river in China, but my dream of outdoor adventure is a little closer to home for me. What I really want to do is kayak the entire length of the Columbia River, from its headwaters of Columbia Lake in British Columbia, to where the river spills into the Pacific Ocean. From the Rocky Mountains of Canada, through desert plateaus and basalt cliffs, and finally through the Columbia River Gorge to the mouth of the river. 1,243 miles, start to finish.

I grew up in Eastern Washington, fifteen miles from where the Columbia River bends westward towards the Pacific. As a teen I spent summers camping in the Cascade Mountains. In college, I spent almost as much time climbing at Smith Rocks, Oregon and kayaking on the Little Spokane River as I did in class. After college, I moved to Hood River and spent many days skiing on Mt. Hood and hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail. But it was on the Columbia River where I first sought outdoor adventure. It was on the Columbia where I caught my first fish. At eight years old, my father taught me how to paddle a canoe on the Columbia. At sixteen I taught myself to windsurf in the Columbia River Gorge.

My mind returns to the river often, especially now that I live 3000 miles away from it. While in college I paddled a 51 mile long section of the Columbia known as the Hanford Reach with my father, brother, and a friend. The Hanford Reach is the last free-flowing, nontidal stretch of the Columbia. We camped along the banks of the river for two nights, and it was while on that trip that I vowed to return someday to kayak the entire river. My father and I made plans to paddle sections of the river together, but like so many plans in life, it never happened.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of my father's death. My father loved the Columbia, and spent as much time as he could on the river. Two weeks before he died he was fishing on the Columbia. Kayaking the Columbia will help me keep a promise I made to my father fourteen years ago.

Listening to: Hot Tuna- Live at Sweetwater

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A Grand Farewell

It looks like Hunter S. Thompson got his final wish. Early this morning fireworks containing ashes of the late Gonzo journalist were set off on his property near Aspen, Colorado. In attendance were about 250 of his closest family and friends, including his wife Anita, Johnny Depp, Bill Murray, Sean Penn, Lyle Lovett, and members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. One report I read said Bob Dylan was even seen around Woody Creek this past week. I'm sure it was one hell of a party, just the way the good Doc would have wanted.

I was saddened to hear that Thompson took his own life last February, but I am glad he ended his life on his own terms. I first read "Fear and Loathing" in high school and again in college, along with "Hell's Angels", "The Great Shark Hunt", and most recently "Kingdom of Fear". Of all the literature I have read his writing stands out in my mind as some of the best. To this day everytime I eat a grapefruit and can't keep from smiling, thinking of Raoul Duke. If you are ever in Missoula, Montana, stop by Luke's Bar, where Thompson scratched the words "Death to the Weird" on the wall.

Mahalo Hunter.

Listening to: Beth Orton- Central Reservation

Friday, August 19, 2005

Japanese Carpentry and Yestermorrow

The past couple of weeks I have been doing a lot of reading on traditional Japanese architecture and carpentry. I'm not sure why, I haven't really been into Japanese history or culture before, but being a part-time carpenter myself I find this shit pretty cool. The methods and skills used in Japan to construct a traditional building contrast dramatically with those historically used in the United States and Europe.

The construction of monuments in Europe were almost always made of stone and brick, in China and Korea stone was primarily used for temples and shrines, while those in Japan were usually made of wood. This got me thinking, why did the Japanese builders of the time rely so heavily on wood? Being a volcanic archipelago, with an abundance of earthquakes over the centuries, wouldn't stone be a better choice for building temples and such? What I found out was that as new political regimes came into power in medieval Japan, there was an increase in the support of traditional craftsmanship, part of the reason being economic, and part of it was a way for the new rulers to make sure the workers were kept in check. What really fascinates me is the joinery used in their carpentry. Today we use mechanical fasteners (nails and screws) and hardware to join wood, but the Japanese made these incredibly intricate joints using what we would consider crude tools, no tablesaws or routers. I would never have the patience for that, but I think it is beautiful.

The other thing that fascinated me as I read was the sacred element of building. A tree is believed to possess a spirit, and when a carpenter cuts down a tree he is committing a moral sin of sorts. Because of this, the carpenter believes he must build something of beauty from the wood. Now I am also a realist, and I realize this philosophy doesn't carry over to most building done in the Western world today, but the idea is worth pondering. Afterall, if carpentry is a creative art form, and I believe it can be, then the craftsmen are the artists. Historically, in Japan at least, carpenters were often the designers as well, not so today.

A few years ago I came across a school in Vermont that believes that designers should also be able to build. The Yestermorrow Design/Build School believes that the best built homes depend on the cooperation of designers and builders. Some of their courses include not only design and building basics, but also furniture design, timberframing, metalworking, joinery, and my favorite, treehouse design (I am in the process of building a treehouse for my daughter right now). I have yet to take a course from this school, but plan to in the future.

Listening to: J.J. Cale- Troubadour

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Go Sox!

Lastnight my friend Ed and I cheered on the Red Sox as they beat the Texas Rangers 16-5. I've lived in Massachusetts for six years now and this was my first time at Fenway, so I was excited to check out this historic park. After watching the Sox win the World Series last fall I was psyched to see them play on their home turf. We had great seats behind homeplate, thanks to my sister-in-law for hooking us up. I never would have shelled out the $75.00 for a ticket. Below are a few highlights of the night.
  1. Grabbing dinner at El Pelon Taqueria before the game. Best fish tacos I have ever tasted. Nice cabbage and cucumber salad. If there is one thing I've been missing on the East coast, it's good Mexican food. I'll be back. Cheap and tasty. Definitely beats the crap they sell outside the park.
  2. Great seats right behind homeplate. Couldn't have asked for better seats for my first game.
  3. Barbara Bush threw out the first pitch, and George Sr. caught it. When Sr. walked onto the field a few democrats behind us started booing him. At least George and Barbara were wearing Red Sox jerseys.
  4. Watching the two guys in front of us eat multiple Fenway Franks hotdogs, even more beers, and topping it off with some ice cream, all while wearing suits and ties in the 90 degree heat.
  5. Speaking of Fenway Franks, when you order a dog in Fenway Park, all they give you with it is mustard, you have to ask for ketchup. What is up with this? I've noticed folks in New England don't put ketchup on their hotdogs. Where I come from ketchup is standard. The first time my now father-in-law saw me put ketchup on a dog he looked at me like I was from another planet. He still refuses to put ketchup out when we go over to their house for a BBQ, even though he knows I like it. It must be a regional thing here in Massachusetts.
  6. I paid $6.75 for a beer, but I hear beer is even more expensive in other parks.
  7. The highlight of the night for me was watching Manny Ramirez knock one out of the park off of Texas' Kenny Rogers. I'm glad the Sox didn't trade Manny a few weeks back, I really like him and he is a backbone of the team. I must say that with what the Sox are paying him, he should stop whining and deal. If he wants more privacy for his family I would suggest that he move out of the Four Seasons and head to the 'burbs, it worked for Schilling.
  8. Driving home at midnight, it was a warm night, windows down, rocking out to Uncle Tupelo's "Still Feel Gone", great late-night driving album. I wish I had had the chance to see that band when they were together.
All in all it was a great night out sans kids, it has been a long time since I have had a night like that.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

House Carpenter

A couple of years ago I started a home improvement business which I run during the summers when I am not teaching. In the past I have been doing mostly small jobs; trim work, replacing doors, tile, painting, etc. I like getting in and out in 2-3 days and then moving on to something else. I am not a professionally trained carpenter but I enjoy working with wood and I have been taking on more challenging projects lately. Here a couple of pictures of a deck I just completed for a customer. I am pleased with the way it turned out. It is built on a flat roof and made of mahogany, the white hand rails are a composite material so they should be low maintenance and no worries about rot, it was fun to build as I have never had the opportunity to work with this product before.

Listening to: Kelly Joe Phelps- Shine Eyed Mister Zen

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Newport 2005- Next Best Thing to Being There

Back in 2001 I attended the Newport Folk Festival, and let me tell you it was one of the best music festivals I have ever been to. Fort Adams State Park is a great venue, cool people, and the music is unbelievable. I am not really into traditional folk music, but Newport attracts more of the singer songwriter set. The list of musicians who have played Newport is mind boggling, and to witness some of the history is an experience in itself. I will never forget Patty Larkin rocking out or Emmylou Harris singing "Pancho and Lefty" in the rain. Every summer since then I check the lineup and think about getting a ticket, but I have yet to return. This year's roster of music was stellar as usual; Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, The Pixies, Richard Thompson, Patty Larkin, Jim Lauderdale, Kasey Chambers, Thad Cockrell, etc., but I knew it wasn't in the cards to go again this year.

So this morning while drinking my coffee I decided to tune into the local radio station from Martha's Vineyard, they usually play great jazz on Sunday mornings. I was happily surprised to find that they were broadcasting live from Newport. Old Crow Medicine Show was just taking the stage, a band I'm not that familiar with, I would call them an acoustic roots jug band, playing a mix of old school blues and Appalachian fiddle tunes. They did a rendition of "C.C. Rider" that caught my attention, and I will definitely pick up a CD. Now listening to music live on the radio is not the same as being there, but for someone who doesn't get to see much live music anymore, it was still cool background music for a Sunday afternoon. Later in the day I tuned into Kasey Chamber's set, another artist I haven't listened to much, this Aussie can really let go, she and her band sounded great.

I really wanted to hear Emmylou Harris, I have seen her a few times before and her live shows are amazing, though I wish she would hook up with the boys from Spyboy again. I knew she was going to be closing the day with Elvis Costello, so I tuned in again around dinner time. Turns out Emmylou didn't make it to Newport this year because of some family emergency, but taking her place onstage were Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Now if you are not familiar with this pair, go out and buy the CD "Time (The Revelator)" right now, you will not be disappointed. I saw them in Boston last summer, so it was a treat to hear them play again. David Rawlings is one of the best guitar players out there right now, hands down, and Gillian's vocals are haunting. Sorry Emmylou couldn't make it, hope all is well with her, but Gillian and David had the crowd going.

Here is a review of the entire weekend from The Boston Globe.

I have to give props to WMVY for pulling off this live broadcast, it was cool to hear some live music from one of the greatest venues on the East Coast, just wish I could have been there, maybe next year.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Rio Statics?

During the intro. of "Grace, Too", on The Tragically Hip's album, "Live Between Us", Gordon Downie makes reference to the opening band, but I can't make out their name. The CD was recorded live in Detroit in 1996, so it may be a local Michigan band. I've tried The Hip's website and message boards, but no luck. Anyone know?