Category Archives: places

Mom and Mondrian

I have described my mother as the most practical woman alive. She has never wasted her time with whining, complaining, or materialistic foolishness.I describe her that way because it is true. But do not get her wrong, despite having married a mountain man, she herself is an artist.
sinkShe does not bring up artist’s names or offer nasally critiques using words like philistine or vulgarian. She doesn’t try to critique anything at all really- that would be silly. She is not silly.
windowkilnWhat she would do is be the valedictorian of her high school but not attend the graduation.While her husband spent time fly fishing on the Provo River she was volunteering as a docent in a museum.

This amuses me because docent is probably the most high-brow word she has ever used.
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Legend has it that the only time she didn’t get an A in college was in pottery. And that was only because the professor refused to give an A to anyone who wasn’t a fine art major. Mom was in education. Because when you start college after having already had six children, going into education is practical.
momandkayBut inside that practical person, that education major about to become an elementary school teacher, is and was my mom. My mom, the 18 year old who hopped on a ship to Europe so she could marry a soldier working as a linguist in Germany. The young woman who spent her honeymoon touring Europe visiting art museums and castle galleries. The young woman who when she chooses a car, picks a yellow convertible MG Roadster.

The woman, who once retired and living in one of the most rural places imaginable, builds a structure that on the outside looks like a one story Lincoln log wood shop, but on the inside, is a studio fashioned to look like you have stepped inside Mondrian’s “Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow”.

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Eat Your Hipster Hearts Out: Dad’s stuff

My father has never been hip. I have not asked him if he was ever cool, but I’m guessing he would happily agree with me. Hip isn’t high on his priority list.

Growing up with him I never saw him doing the cool things, saying cool words, or even paying attention to anyone everyone else said was cool. We lived in a place that we all knew wasn’t cool (Utah) and while in this backwater we didn’t even do the only thing people did there that was considered cool (ski).

rugsrailImagine my surprise when years later I began seeing the cool kids of the coolest place (Brooklyn) doing things I used to see my dad do. I was, and to some extent still am, confounded. To make matters worse, The cool kids were not just doing things my dad did but they were for the most part doing it poorly.

Not everyone (Hollister Hovey does taxidermy right) but I saw dudes buying axes who have never, nor will ever, chop wood. I was confused.

stagmountsI had been away from my Dad’s home for longer than I thought and was struck by the volume and variety of objects in his home that meant something to me, and even more struck that the quality of his collection was even better than I remembered.

throneHis collection of Native American rugs were not purchased but rather they were either inherited or bartered. I remember artisans from New Mexico and Arizona who didn’t speak Spanish or English weaving rugs that would make any Urban Outfitter designers swoon.

kachinaThe antlers on the wall were shot and mounted by either my father or one of his friends. The lattice throne was brought back from Berlin back in the 60’s, kachinas and baskets from off the reservation, and Michelangelo’s Moses from Italy.

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Dad spent hours sitting in the same room as the television completely ignoring whatever was on. He was engraving on tusks of mastodon or walrus, powder horns (either cow or buffalo), and now he even has wild boar tusks. A ship carved into an imitation whale tooth makes sense, but looking at it now, the plains warrior scrimshawed onto a walrus tusk-not so much. It didn’t seem odd to me when he did it back in the 80’s.

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While Dad’s flintlock normally hangs on the wall of his living room, it has also shot an elk.

Recently.

flinthawkhornWandering the loft I touched the objects and experienced tactile nostalgia. I remember the times years ago when those things were part of my environment, and like all things in youth I took them for granted. Now that I am older than Dad was when he created or collected these things, I recognize their value independent of my memories but mostly appreciate them through my appreciation of him.

I look up to him and strangely enough I look up to his things.

His things represent experiences, places, and all the various aspects of him. They are him. They are him so much that as long as he lives he does not collect things as much as he earns them. For instance the the objects from Samoa do not come from my youth but from his old age.

He tells me the staff and fan were gifts. They are symbols or talismans representing speech giving, talking, or pontificating. If you have met my father this makes sense. I don’t need to know anything about Samoa or her traditions to believe my Dad. Not because I trust his expertise in this South Pacific nation, but rather I know for a fact that were he to ever earn anything, it would be for talking.

I appreciate things that are earned. Especially things with a good story. That stick is inherently both.

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Those things are cool. They are real in so many ways. They have not only aesthetic value-which I’m glad people are recently appreciating-but more so they meaning. Not a fad. Not an a crafted image. No irony.

Actual cool.

You can’t have a collection this cool without some it it rubbing off on you. Or maybe its more likely that the objects got some of the cool as it rubbed off from him.

Maybe he was cool all along, just not hip.opafisher

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Home and Place

flagfrontnightThe first major structure  on the property was an outhouse. Less than a week from its completion we founds tufts of hair wedged into the outside corners where a bear had used it for a back scratch. Next we built the little red cabin. There was an idea that they would live in it till the real house was finished and then it would be a barn. I was twelve and my job was to help spread the cement for the foundation as it poured out of a giant spinning drum on an equally giant truck.

At 15 my brother and I ran pipe from the well up the hill for running water.

cabinAfter my parents retired and were living in the little cabin full time, they started on the real house. When most people say they were going to retire and build their own house, they really mean they intend to pay someone else to build a house for them. Not my parents.

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As a newlywed I didn’t use any vacation to go on a honeymoon but I did take time off to drive up to Idaho and help my Dad and uncle put in the floor joists. That was 15 years ago and the house still stands.

They finished the house but never stopped building.marcelwateringWe always called it the property, it has jokingly been called a ranch, but really it is more of an estate. I say estate because “compound” connotes something different than what they have going on up there. The house, a cabin, a gazebo housing a hot tub, a large free standing garage, a wood shed, and most recently both a pottery studio and a wood shop.

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I think they keep building mostly because they cannot stop themselves. Which, in the grander scheme of things is ironic because they key draw of this property in the first place was its lack of development.ericworkingoncar

Luckily, despite my parent’s industriousness, the wildlife still outnumber the humans. At one time my father and uncle had to have a gentleman’s agreement to not shoot anything from the front porch. This means they passed up elk, turkey, deer…hot tub

and grand kids.

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Nez Perce, the Corps of Discovery, and Me: Kamiah

The Nez Perce Tribe of American Indians tell a story about a great monster that devoured all of humanity and then began eating all of the Earth’s animals. Coyote got himself intentionally eaten and once inside the belly of the beast, he produced a set of smuggled knives and cut his way out, thereby killing the creature and freeing the previously consumed animals. Coyote then scattered the monster carcass across the land and the bits of it grew into humans.

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The heart of the monster is in Kamiah Idaho, where it gave birth to the Niimiipu people, whom Lewis and Clark’s translator mistakenly called “Nez Perce”. The translator was mistaken because the Niimiipu did not in fact pierce their noses like the Chinook over towards Oregon, but since that misassociation in 1805, the name has stuck.

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Lewis and Clark camped on the Clearwater River nearby the heart of the monster for a couple of months on their way back east. They called it the long camp in their journals and after last week my wife’s journal would record a similar entry. For her, spending a week nine miles outside Kamiah, a town of 1,200 people, 3 hours from the nearest airport (Spokane), at my parent’s home with all of my siblings, was surely a long camp… despite the fact that we were at a house and not actually camping.

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It is a nice place. Quiet. Small. Picturesque. The town has a main street, a cafe, couple bars, a hardware store, grocery store, a gas station but no stoplights. It once had a thriving lumber mill, which closed, then reopened on a reduced scale. As far as industry or commerce goes, that’s about it.

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The fish and game are abundant and the scenery unspoiled which would make Kamiah a great outdoor tourism destination, were it just a little more accessible. No, were it a LOT more accessible people would likely flock there for hunting trips and other sorts of outdoor recreation.

But for the most part people don’t.grocerystore

Living in Kamiah is a little bit like living in an episode of that old TV show Northern Exposure, just in Idaho not Alaska.

I liked that show.

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The Food is So Much Better Than the Name: Eggslut

Los Angeles is not a shy city, nor am I a shy guy, but something about this place makes me pause just a little when people ask for good places to eat in town. Especially when my 12 year old daughter asks where we are headed for lunch.

While I may pause, not only do I still go, but I encourage you to do the same.

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These folks have been featured everywhere. In Flight Magazine, every style or travel magazine in existence, and every food blogger alive has recommended Eggslut. So trendiness aside, because it is that, they have picked one singular food item, the egg, and just slapped it on everything worth eating, and it works.IMG_2544

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Tearing Up the Front Porch: University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is one of those Rockefeller schools founded in the late 1800’s with a donation from John D. The first classes were held in 1892, not that long ago by some standards, but since then the place has housed 89 Nobel Prize winners, 50 Rhodes Scholars, and 13 billionaires.

More importantly Chicago was a founding member of the  Big Ten conference, won 2 national football championships, and a Chicago player was the recipient of the first ever Heisman trophy. That was 1935.

In 1939, Chicago stopped playing football.IMG_9687

Make no mistake, I love football. I even love college football. But Cancelling football right after winning the Heisman, at a time when college football was becoming America’s true national game, is FABULOUS!IMG_9906

It was fabulous in that more people today know about the Chicago School of Economics and its original rejection of Keynesian ideas than know about the Heisman. Which is appropriate because it is a college. A school. Odds are if one buys a Chicago Maroons sweater at Walmart they are not cheering a running back but more likely an academic.

Most schools are not that brave.IMG_9581

But to go to Chicago you have to be brave. It is a must.

Why? Because it is unbearably cold there. Freezing. Yeah, yeah, yeah, people there chose brains over sports but really, it was probably just way too cold outside. Seriously how do people live in that?IMG_9959 Ranked #4 by US News & World Report

Student body: 15,312

Endowment: $7.5 billion

Mascot…. the Phoenix!

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Bottega Louie

They serve food at Bottega Louie. I have seen it, but I cannot speak of it first hand. But fear not, millions of other people can, and have.IMG_2462Yelp has declared Bottega Louie as their most photographed restaurant ever. My Instagram feed believes that statement.
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While I saw sandwiches, the kind with bread and meaty things, I opted for the kind with sugar almond and chocolate. Upon reflection I have no regrets.
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No, that isn’t true. Given the budget and time I had for the day, I do not regret my decision but on a grander scale I definitely regret my budget and time constraints. I need to go back and eat more. And I need to eat everything. Then I need to go eat more of everything.
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High ceilings, high expectations, high brow; this place is all of those things and it lives up to what you would both hope and demand. I regularly doubt Los Angeles’s place in the pantheon of world cities. It has not completely (or at all) won me over to the idea that it belongs in the company of New York or Paris, but Bottega Louie is LA’s best argument yet.
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