Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tribute to the Old Man

Albert Johnsen loved books and fishing and books about fishing and the sea and flying.

His favorite drink? Coffee. Black. Any time of day.

His signature dish: meatloaf.

Also waffles, served with strawberries and whipped cream.

He loved calliope music, pipe organs, big bands, folk, country, rock'n'roll ...

He played the sousaphone in high school.

He learned to fly at an early age, and once had to crash land in an orchard outside Hood River, where he was born and raised. He was not a religious man, but often told of the presence he felt in the cockpit with him, letting him know everything was going to be alright.

He climbed mountains and weathered storms.

He sat in a wooden tower and watched for forest fires, sold shoes in the family's store, fought fires as a volunteer, was elected port commissioner, drove truck, routed freight, and sold real estate.

He married his college sweetheart, a bathing beauty from Baker, and they had four daughters. He loved them all. (I married one of them and love her to pieces.)

Like his father, he was always on time and expected you to be on time, too.

He always wanted to write but never got far. Instead, he painted, carved, sculpted, and drew faces.

He liked Buster Keaton and Red Skelton and was a bit of a clown himself.

If you asked him an obvious question you got a smart-aleck answer and a goofy look.

His daughters learned not to pull his finger.

All his life he loved vanilla ice cream, and that was his last meal, fed to him in his hospital bed by his oldest daughter. He was 84, often confused but still funny and charming.

I think of him whenever a plane flies overhead.

It's easy to picture him soaring over Mount Hood and Lost Lake—and here, now—along with the mysterious presence that keeps him safe.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Not a Review

"It's a very intriguing and well-crafted novel."

That's not a review, but a note from my publisher, referring to the manuscript I sent to him some time ago.


Here's the best part, though: "We look forward to publishing it."

I'm pleased to report that The Possibility of Snow will be part of Luminis Books' Spring 2015 list.

While that's still a long way off, advance review copies will need to go out in less than a year.

Meanwhile, I'll try to remain calm and carry on as if nothing extraordinarily cool is happening.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Desire Lines

This album is magical. 
It reminds me of how I felt when my heart was new. 
Every track is a gem.
"Troublemaker" and "Do It Again" are especially infectious. 
Check it out. You won't be sorry.

Monday, June 17, 2013

God Is Not Great

I just finished reading Christopher Hitchens' exhaustive catalog of the violence and oppression perpetrated by the great religions from antiquity to the present day, God Is Not Great.

The book's subtitle, How Religion Poisons Everything, would have been a more fitting title.

Hitchens was a well-read atheist, a free-thinker and a good man, I think. In his book, he made the case that morality does not depend on religion—just look at how religion itself has endorsed all manner of evil from genocide to slavery.

Too true.

If only Hitchens were still alive. I would have loved to see him give the same treatment to politics, which is becoming more and more like a religion and is proving to be just a divisive with so many all-or-nothing, no-compromise players in the game. (He was certainly aware of how cynical politicians have always known how to use religion—and the religious—to their advantage.)

Hitchens' book rightly promotes free inquiry and the scientific method. To him, the explanations offered by science were far more satisfying than those offered by religion. To me, science is great with the what and how of life but not so good with its ultimate meaning.

But there, I must admit, the explanations of the great religions aren't very satisfying either.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Unfinished Books

Among the books I've tried to read but couldn't finish ...
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Catch-22
  • On the Road
  • Ulysses
Of course there are many others, but these are supposed to be classics.

What's on your list?