Saturday, April 09, 2016


From what I've seen, the thing to do here, in leading into any discussion of Colombia, is to open with great big gestures toward magical realism. Whether it’s Anthony Bourdain, or Narcos, or even Colombia’s own Ministry of Tourism, so often, Colombia = magical realism : CO : MR: co : mr : co : mr … (bulletproof generals, yellow butterflies, feral hippos, and so on).

Though these can sometimes be tiresome, reductive, and silly, it’s probably necessary on some level. And it’s a lot more desirable, I think, than other go-to distortions, like Colombia=cocaine for yanqui nostrils, Colombia=guerillas & paramilitaries, etc. It can also make for a delightful pastime on long bus rides, imagining yourself a writer for a middlebrow travel magazine:

Passing slow traffic along precarious highways through Andean cloud forests has its roots in magical realism. Mary full of grace, we truckers and mechanics ask your protection.

Men with tattoo guns, ink kits, and iphones coming to a neighborhood near you are today’s main purveyors of magical realism. Por que te quiero, te pinto.

In the imposition of the four gospels on the New World lies the absolute origin of magical realism. And our Lord did juggle the bread.

A desire to reckon the heartbreaking beauty of life and being with the absurdities and horrors of the violence these entail… (OK, maybe that one does have something to do with magical realism).

Sausages, having absorbed all the green-spectrum particles and waves of the Cordillera Central, now infuse our bodily humours with magical realism.

Alright. I know, that’s enough.

Actually, aside from coming up with fake hooks for the alumni magazine, we were there on other errands too.

More photos here and here.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

aves de Colombia (March 25-April 5)

great kiskadee
yellow warbler
cattle egret
snowy egret
green heron
barefaced ibis
clay colored thrush
great thrush
crested oropendola
colombian chachalaca
white-collared swift
yellow-headed caracara
bicolored wren
black crested jay
green jay
ruddy ground dove
rock pigeon
eared dove
black vulture
turkey vulture
palm tanager
blue-gray tanager
bay-headed tanager
flame-rumped tanager
lemon-rumped tanager
crimson-backed tanager
apical flycatcher
vermillion flycatcher
eastern kingbird
tropical kingbird
variegated flycatcher
riverside tyrant
smooth-billed ani
white-capped dipper
saffron finch
bat falcon
crimson-crested woodpecker
red-crowned woodpecker
southern lapwing
scarlet-fronted parakeet
thick-billed euphonia
black-and-white seedeater
late-throated whitestart
rufus-collared sparrow
emerald toucanet
rufous motmot
blue-and-white swallow

Monday, March 28, 2016

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Baker, NV

I didn’t get any pictures of the Border Inn. But on Highway 50, the whole drive out, we watched the cloudscape over the basin and range roll and fall, climb and reach, flush to a sharp pink and then orange, before finally going dark. It was very dark by the time we pulled in.

The Border Inn is an outpost. On a January night like this, picture a space station, or maybe something like McMurdo with pool tables. You walk through the snack and souvenir shop first into bright jangly slots, arcade, smoke, before coming into the diner—booths and tables—and then through the back, a kind of big meeting room/dance hall with a stage. Out behind are the motel rooms and RV park. Sometimes you arrive to a place and it seems like everything is just right. I guess that’s as good as I can do for a description.

We were there for the Old Sheepherders Gathering. We had been working with some of our students and the Great Basin Heritage Area for the last year or so to transcribe oral history interviews/narratives of local sheepherders (mostly Basque, Peruvian, Navajo, Mexican), and of some sheep growers/owners/bosses. This was a chance to meet some of these folks in person. (Also, I was able to bring Ash along.)

After dinner, part of that first evening was set aside for some of these stories. These are stories of coyotes, lions, and rattlesnakes. Extreme weather. Extreme solitude and loneliness. Getting hurt and getting ripped off. Migration and belonging.

On Francisco’s flight from Peru to Salt Lake, he and his companion had a layover in LA and worried that they’d accidentally ended up somewhere in Africa.

Juan from Basque country had Spanish imposed on his people under Franco, then struggled to learn English. Once he was sent down from the mountain to bring back supplies (a case of tuna and other groceries, etc.). A few days later a trapper was coming through and asked them if they had cats. “No, just the dogs.” “Then why all these cat food cans?”

Another Juan from Basque country was asked to shoot and butcher a large pig. But the bullet grazed the skull and the pig was pissed. He kicked apart a gas stove, knocked over the tank, and blew the little butcher shop 20 feet into the air.

Another story involved dynamite and a septic tank. This and others resulted in some good honest questions from Ash for me. Old timers talked about how “Shit-in-Your-Boots” Olsen got his nickname, and about prohibition days in Sanpete, how the numbers on utility poles around the county became the way to get the customers their bootleg. About how at the turn of the century Fountain Green, Utah was for a moment the world’s wool production capital. About how Peruvian sheepherders are chill, while the Chileans are more bravos. About how shepherds are “quiet & respectful,” while cowboys are “loud & obnoxious.” About knife fights, driving drunk, hitchhiking, about how much the world has changed, and so on.
Sourdough Slim played a couple sets that weekend. (If Tom Waits toured on the pumpkin patch circuit and had a guy with him on stage playing a saw, this would basically be Sourdough Slim.)

There was also this exquisite film from Jared and Carly Jakins:

Susan from the School of the Natural Order put us all up for the night.

shelter and cloudplay over Wheeler Peak

the pond in winter

magpie touch and go

Ash tucks into dessert at the Basque dinner.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 tailings: a year-end offering for data miners

...ranked more or less in order:
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison (again)
  • Running After Antelope, Scott Carrier
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
  • Child of God, Cormac McCarthy
  • House Made of Dawn, N. Scott Momaday
  • Rabbit Boss, Thomas Sanchez
  • The Columbian Exchange, Alfred Crosby
  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
  • Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
  • My Year of Meats, Ruth Ozeki
  • The Iliad, Homer
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro & Other Stories, Ernest Hemingway
  • Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Notes from Underground, Fydor Dostoyevsky
  • The Metamorphosis & Other Stories, Franz Kafka

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Long Shadows

“Long Shadow of Europe’s Big Banks”
“Royal Dutch Shell Posts a Loss”
“Cod Stock Fails to Recover”
Flooding in Baghdad
bodies, drowned and washed up on Lesbos
Chanel, Doir, Tiffany
and a giant Louise Bourgeois spider.

All of this, thirty-six copies of yesterday’s paper
and a stack of others, goes under
emulsion from the fish hatchery
horseshit from the stables
leaves fallen from our willow and ash.

Maybe later this will look like a garden.
But this afternoon the sun comes in low
flat and quiet from the south.

Hanging this final laundry of the season;
jammies and things reach down from the lines
like the hides of small exotic animals.

And the four bows of a trampoline frame unhooped
stacked into the corner of a shed like great whalebones
or a soft drum to be stretched and played again in the spring.

Could this be how it feels,
or even how it is, toward the end?

Each day shorter than the one before,
closer and more intense.
Even brighter into winter.

This instant.


The moon. A woodpecker. Flies. Snow.

.  .  .

+ a short video from Tom:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

apples for: precocious candidacies, edible maps, & things that might (have) be(en)

We might all be excused for losing track of the seasons lately. Between El Niño, climate chaos, ‘tis the season for savings jingles, and election campaigns that begin 500+ days out, you may be looking to lay a hand on some good, ripe (& throwable) fruit. If so, the Falling Fruit Project is a good place to start.

This is a crowdsourced global map of neighborhood fruit trees, gardens, mushroom patches, dumpsters, and other local edibles. They list over 1,000 different species in multiple languages (plus Linnaean nomenclature), from apples (malus domestica) to zulu figs (ficus lutea).

Here’s my neighborhood, where we’ve been looking for the nearest peaches, putting some apples and plums on the map, and carefully leaving others off.

This has all resulted in us bringing home boxes and boxes of apples, mostly from around our own block, drying them into chips, sealing jars of applesauce, pressing them into cider, and baking loads of pies.

Through a lot of this, I’ve been sort of haunted by two songs. One is my friend George singing Patty Griffin’s “Making Pies,” ten years ago on the deck of a yurt in Pigeon Hollow.

The other is Joe Hill’s “Pie in the Sky,” alternatively known as “The Preacher and the Slave.” Here are a couple very good versions.

Earlier this year we went to a Labor Day commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Joe Hill’s execution by firing squad in Sugarhouse. There were folk singers shouting from an outdoor stage, food trucks with fusion noodle bowls and fancy mac & cheese, AFLCIO info booths, plenty of overalls and anarchist t-shirts, dogs and frisbees. Saltgrass Printmakers and Ken Sanders Books were also there. It rained off and on.

After making the rounds, eating, and a couple games of hide-and-seek with the kids, we picked up a little reprint of an old IWW songbook from 1923. Since then, Ash has really taken an interest in these old Wobblies songs, and she pulls the booklet down off the shelf a couple times a week to study the words and try to figure the tunes. Finn sings along and “The Preacher and the Slave” has moved into his top requests at bedtime.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

in situ

three of Tom's latest

Friday, January 02, 2015

rivers & birds, Dec 17-28

Green River, Colorado River, Mancos River, Animas River, Rio Chama, San Juan River, Santa Fe River, Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, Pecos River, Llano River, Brazos River, (other/Texas) Colorado River, Pedernales River, Price River, Spanish Fork River

Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Great Horned Owl
Bald Eagle
Golden Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
American Kestrel
Common Raven
Red-winged Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
American Robin
European Starling
Western Meadowlark
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
White-winged Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Northern Mockingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Red-naped Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
Monk Parakeet
Double-crested Cormorant
Snowy Egret
Spotted Sandpiper
Canada Goose
American Coot
Belted Kingfisher
Mexican Jay
Blue Jay
Northern Cardinal
Dark-eyed Junco
Carolina Wren
Canyon Wren
American Goldfinch
House Finch
House Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Black-Throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Say’s Phoebe
Black Phoebe
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Spotted Towhee
Tufted Titmouse
Vermilion Flycatcher
Greater Roadrunner
Loggerhead Shrike

Wednesday, December 31, 2014