We can drive it home with one headlight

I closed out my Alaskan hiking with an epic day hike to Donoho Basin. A trip to Donoho is always rewarding, but the fall colors make September particularly brilliant.

Getting to Donoho means hiking across the glacier, which isn’t easy. The glacier rolls up and down, with pools and crevices that require careful footwork as well as patience. The crooked path is the way, the better to navigate around many potential hazards. Most tourists wisely hire a guide.

Hiking to Donoho. This is the smooth side, the “easy” way.

Read more

Taking a leak

McCarthy Alaska is the kind of place where pretty much no matter where you are at a given time, you can find a bush or tree to duck behind and take a leak. I generally don’t piss in town during the summer tourist season, simply for sake of preserving some small shred of professional dignity, what with my role as accountant and all. Even so, after Labor Day we start winding down, eventually bathrooms get closed down (pipes winterized), and I find myself enjoying the simple pleasure of peeing in the wild, even when I’m in town.

I’m not certain if it’s the pleasure of peeing outside or the joy in knowing that I’m remote enough to be able to do so, but either way it strikes me that this ability to pee outdoors may be something of a litmus test, some sort of (strange) criteria for me, in terms of picking a place to live. In short, the best places to be seem to be places where you can pee.

Read more

The views u can use

It always seems to me that it’s about a month, between the time when I start noticing that most of the leaves have started turning bright colors to the time when the trees start shedding their foliage. The leaves are starting to drop, now, and in a week or so I expect the trees to be bare.

Only a week back, I would walk right past this place, with no visibility of what was beyond the trees. Now the view is picturesque:


McCarthy Creek, fall 2017

It’s an alpha male thing: what dominant chimpanzees and Donald Trump have in common | The Guardian

The dominant chimp is a pretty good way to think about how Trump rules, one of the better ways, I’d say. Here’s an excerpt from a very well-written article on Trump, written by Dan P McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University:

“Our expectation that social status can be seized through physical power and threat – that the strongest, biggest and boldest may indeed lord it over the rest of us – is very old, awesomely intuitive, and deeply ingrained. Social psychologists today distinguish between the social dominance form of human leadership, on the one hand, and leadership through prestige on the other. Both are grounded in human evolution, but the prestige form is younger, tracing back a mere million years or so to the time when our hominid ancestors began to form culture…”

Source: It’s an alpha male thing: what dominant chimpanzees and Donald Trump have in common | US news | The Guardian

A Moaning in the Alaskan Woods

“The end is near,” I thought to myself.

I was in my office last week, stressing a little bit about how much work I had to do in order to close out the books for the Lodge. Then I got a call from my friend Kris. She lives in a cabin and also works for the Lodge.

“I heard it again,” she said, the stress in her voice. Read more

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Murakami is a Japanese author and one of the world’s most celebrated novelists. In fact, I’ve just started his magnum opus, 19Q4, and so far I’m hooked. His nonfiction work on running, however, left me wanting more. It’s a shame, too, because I had high expectations.

I love running. After several years off, I ran a half-marathon, and I’m keen to do more in the future. If that weren’t enough, I have a fiction project myself, in the back of my mind, about a runner, which was one reason I wanted to read Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About RunningRead more

Libra by Don DeLillo (1988)

It was the mid-nineties, and I was in high school. I had to choose a book for a book review, so I began roaming the library, scanning the bookshelves, both of them. What can I say? It was a very small library in a very small school. The book that caught my attention was Case Closed by Gerald Posner. The book was new, a bestseller, and it argued the case that there was no conspiracy. Zip, zero, nada. Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

Over the years I keep coming back to the JFK assassination. It seems to be a pivotal moment for America, ushering in the 1960s an era of change, rebellion, and chaos, ending in disillusion.   Read more

More AK nostalgia

As far as I can tell, I’m not coming back up to Alaska next year. Of course, I said the same thing last fall. In any event, I thought I’d post a couple of landscape pics from the last few years, by way of more Alaska nostalgia, amidst the hustle and bustle of closing up the Lodge.

It’s gotta be all shut down and winterized in just about ten days, so it goes fast. You might find yourself peeing in the restroom and hear a knock on the door: “You almost done? We gotta shut it down!” Read more


McCarthy, Alaska, 2017

This bad ass truck has a hellacool license plate: MXY AK. I’m not sure who’s truck this is (though I should probably know) but I’m wondering if I might be able to steal that plate number and put it on a California plate. I can almost guarantee that if I’m driving around Cali with an MXY AK plate, there will be someone, somewhere who will know at least a little something about McCarthy. At the very least a McCarthy license plate would help me deal with Alaska nostalgia.

McCarthy Creek, 2017

The violence on both sides

The kinds of violence that we are seeing in protests, on campuses and in Charlottesville will likely only continue to escalate. I’m surprised that it hasn’t been worse, frankly, but I’m grateful that we’ve been able to hold it together — but the kinds of violence we are seeing are symptoms of a social sickness, and hence the answer is not to condemn the violence itself, despite how affirming it may feel. President Trump does what he always does: heap as much blame for the violence on liberals and the left as is humanly possible (hence “violence on both sides”). The left justifies itself and condemns fascist violence. But condemning violence completely misses the point of what is happening in our society. Read more

Humpday Homily #6 — An itch you don’t scratch

I’ve had some epic spiritual experiences in my life, big Grand Canyon moments that changed the course of my life, but when I look back on my spiritual journey, I’d say that it’s the small things that have really made the deepest, most lasting change. Epic experiences are deeply powerful, and they’ve change the direction of my life, putting into focus what’s important and what’s not, but addressing more and more I think that it’s the little things that have helped me deal with my deep-rooted ego-issues. I’ve shed tears at the rim of the Grand Canyon, on the cusps of a major life change, but I think that there’s been more power in understanding an itch. Read more

Race Day


Tamara handed me my race number.

“Can I have that one?” I ask, pointing to number 8031.

“Uh, sure.”

“Thirty one is kind of my lucky number,” I say, a little embarrassed, feeling the need to explain.

The truth is, I’m anxious, and I feel like I need all the luck I can get because I’m about to begin a half-marathon, a 13.1 mile race, and my prior two half-marathons had ended in major injuries to my back and joints.

For those two races, I’d been training, running distances that at least approached 13.1 miles. Coming into this race, though, my running had been zilch. In fact, I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d “gone for a run.”  Read more

The end of Angry August

I’ve always been interested in all of the nuances of working summers up here in the Great North. The novel that I am working on explores some of these quirks, one of which is referred to as “Angry August.” After working and living together for several months, tensions often build to the boiling point. By the time August rolls around, the shit hits the fan. People fight, they quit, and some say “fuck it!” and head home. Read more

The Dog Days of Summer

A few days ago, I headed out for my daily walk along the McCarthy Creek Trail, and  I heard someone whistle for their dog. I instantly turned toward the whistler, then realized that I had turned before it had registered in my brain.

“I’m a good dog,” I thought to myself, with a measure of pride. “I come when I’m called.”

McCarthy is a town quite devoted to its dogs, and it’s rare to find a dog who isn’t happy, but as I continued my walk it occurred to me that comparing one’s self with a dog is typically an insult, and then I recalled my recent red-eye flight to Anchorage, a flight where the flight attendants and passengers alike were a bit cranky and out of sorts. Read more

When will evangelical leaders dump Trump?

One of the things that has gotten a lot of press lately is how Evangelical leaders who are a part of Trump’s informal faith advisory council have stuck with their man, even after Trump’s Charlottesville fiasco.

Even after Trump wavered on his condemnation of white supremacy in his recent comments on Charlottesville — indicting “both sides,” as though the left shared just as much blame as neo-NAZI’s — evangelical leaders continue to stand by Trump. Even after a wave of prominent CEOs defected from one of Trump’s advisory groups and even after every last soul resigned from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, prominent evangelical leaders continue to ring out their support, which has come most ardently (and most infamously) from Jerry Falwell, Jr. who took to Twitter to praise Trump in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s Charlottesville speech.

The most obvious question: Why?

Given how at-odds Trump is with the basic tenants of morality and spirituality as taught by Jesus, how can evangelicals remain so steadfast in their support for Trump?

Read more