His name was Jean Moreau. He was fifty years old and lived in Becancour, Quebec. I know because I still have the newspaper clipping about him taped into a scrapbook. Below I wrote “Tough day at the office.” Reading the clipping now makes me cringe. Reading my own line helps me deal with it.
I was napping when he died. My shoes lay beside my bed, still muddy and damp from my day’s hike. Katherine burst into our crew bunkroom, yelling about something, someone. Part of the job is search and rescue—we help with a number each summer—so Brian, my brother Malcolm, and I leapt out of bed, still drowsy from our pre-dinner, post-hike naps. Another sprained ankle somewhere down the trail? No, something worse. Katherine wasn’t sure. The two French Canadian women that reported the incident weren’t either. Where? When? We got vague directions and prepared to leave. I grabbed my backpack; Brian got the handheld radio; Malcolm tied his shoes and started sprinting uphill, towards Mount Washington. Continue reading →
Another story from the archive; the mountains can be harsh.
If it’s your turn to cook, the day flies by, but there is little time to enjoy it. Sometimes, the weather is ideal, but you get lost in the mayhem of ten loaves of bread, eight lasagnas, and enough vegetable soup to feed one hundred hungry hikers. Sometimes, your only glimpse of the sun is through steamy kitchen windows. When that happens, all you can do is grit your teeth and think of the idyll just outside the door.
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High in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, there are a series of eight huts, spaced evenly along the Appalachian Trail, that provide lodging and meals for overnight backpackers. Lakes of the Clouds, the flagship hut, is perched on the col between Mount Washington and Mount Monroe, in the heart of the Presidential Range. Washington, at 6,288 feet, once held the record for highest recorded wind-speed at 231 miles per hour and is known for savage weather and grueling hikes. Still, in the summer, the hut fills to capacity each night, and it is the hut crew’s duty to feed them and provide cordial guest service.
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Angela and Heather urge us to explore Halifax more thoroughly before we depart. We listen, but not too closely. We both want to get home, so we bypass the busy downtown, and instead opt for a quick drive along the coast. I picked the route by looking at an imprecise map, so we shortly find ourselves rolling past rundown homes and unimpressive tracts of forest. The brief glimpses of harbors and coves are gorgeous but fleeting. Thirty minutes later we’re back on the highway, flying westward, heading home. Continue reading →
When I think of worms, I think of a robin yanking a fat night crawler up from the mud in my front yard. I think of a bowl of stringy spaghetti and how it would look in my small intestine. I think of that picture in the vet’s office that shows heartworms ravaging a dog’s vital organ. I give my dog a heartworm pill each month. I know spaghetti is just noodles. I don’t eat earthworms. What on earth would these hookworms be like? We had no idea. Continue reading →
The forest is uniform and mundane—endless acres owned by paper companies, pine trees in perfect rows, awaiting their demise in some mill farther south. For a while, we see more ATV’s than cars. The road slowly unspools, and we pass few homes or buildings of any sort. A trailer appears here, then a gas station with old pumps and boy on his four-wheeler refueling. What we’re doing isn’t, in the strictest sense, legal. The United States has banned distribution of the worms. In fact, the man who shipped the worms was forced to flee in the night as the FDA was closing in. He now lives in England, but is hoping to move the business to a tropical climate so that the worms feel more at home. It took a few months to find someone we knew in Canada that was willing to accept such an unusual package, but finally our mom relented and gave up the name of her old friend Angela. Malcolm can convince anyone. It’s a somewhat suspect itinerary though, so as we approach the border, we plan our story.
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A long hiatus deserves a great post. Here is part 1 of a story that I’ve worked and re-worked. I like it quite a bit, hopefully you do too. This one is a tad long; I’ll split it into 6 parts over the next week or so. Happy New Year!
Hooked on Halifax—April 2011
There are plenty of reasons to visit Canada. Maybe you want to ski in British Columbia, soaring through powdery snow on the slopes of Whistler, blue skies overhead. Maybe you want a taste of Europe, so you visit Quebec City and sip coffee in a sidewalk café while men in gray woolen scarves saunter past. Maybe you want to take the ferry to Grand Manan and go for a seaside bike ride—gulls cawing, waves crashing. I went to Halifax to help my older brother infect himself with hookworms. Continue reading →
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. has a unique style. If you’ve read him, you know this. If you haven’t read him, do so. I’ve read the bulk of his books at this point, and I was pretty glad to pick up While Mortals Sleep, a posthumous collection of previously unpublished short stories. I’ll admit, they are fairly similar to his other short stories (my favorite collection being Welcome to the Monkey House), but that’s not meant to be a criticism.
I have sort of a hard time picking out particular stories to comment on (reviewing collections is tricky). My favorite was probably “The Humbugs” in which two very different artists help each other realize their true potential. Sometimes I think about reading like that…maybe one great book will turn me into a great (review) writer. I can hope… Continue reading →
Posted in CBR5
Tagged #10, #CBR5
Forgive me, this review will be quite short. I’ve fallen behind on writing and need to catch up a bit. My ninth book was World War Z by Max Brooks. While I do like good science fiction, I haven’t yet been ensnared by the now prolific zombie apocolypse genre. This book, though not a favorite, does make me wonder what I’ve been missing.
Brooks does a brilliant job framing this book. It is not a straightforward narrative, but a collection of stories that when pieced together paint a picture of the zombie problem around the world and over the years. The overarching narrator is largely absent, though he appears to ask questions and prod along each sections narrator. SImply put, it’s a collection of interviews, but within each chapter the speaker tends to speak pretty freely and it feels more like short stories than a back and forth conversation. Continue reading →
Posted in CBR5
Tagged #9, #CBR5
Aside from the occasional short story, I hadn’t read much Updike before this. The Rabbit novels have been on my list for some time, but you know how that goes. I’ll get to them one of these days. I snagged a paperback copy of The Witches of Eastwick cheap at the used bookstore and decided to dive in.
What I liked most about the book is its oddball, imaginative plot. In Eastwick, a sleepy, seaside Rhode Island village, three close female friends, all divorced, spend their days in mostly mundane ways: gardening, walking the dog, gently neglecting their respective children. Thursday afternoons are reserved for drinking, snacking, and gossiping. Though Updike never truly details the extent of their witchy powers, it becomes evident that these three women are not quite normal (and later, it is revealed that any divorced Eastwick woman has similar powers). They mostly use their powers for silly things: conjuring a thunderstorm to clear an obnoxiously crowded beach, turning tennis balls into toads, or casting a spell on an annoying Eastwick woman so that whatever the witches toss into a ceramic jar falls out of her mouth (feathers, hatpins, dust bunnies, etc.). Continue reading →
It might be obvious by now that lately I’ve been partial to young writers. Karen Russell is a favorite, and Dave Eggers is an obsession (though he’s not that young anymore). I heard about this book a year ago, and put it off for awhile. I’m now kicking myself for that. The Tiger’s Wife is one of the best, most unique, breathtaking books I’ve read in a long time. Téa Obreht brings even more prestige to this seemingly overflowing talent pool of young fiction writers.
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