blue hourglass

My take on the elections

Ten years ago, the results of an election left me both furious and depressed. A man I deeply admired was kind enough to provide some much-needed perspective. Now that I’m older, and a bit wiser, I aim to follow in his stead.

So, if you are happy about yesterday’s election, do not to gloat. Congratulations, you won; hopefully the people you empowered will serve the public’s interests.

And if you’re angry about the results, I urge you to handle defeat with grace. Then, get to work. You have two years to share your message and inspire change.

Ballot box

You are powerful

You are powerful.
Your words have weight
and your actions have consequences.

These powers are often ignored
by those with the financial wherewithal
to purchase signs and mailers and TV commercials.

Yet all the dark money
and advertised backstabbing
mean little if you ignore their skewed messages.

You can abstain from the process
and remain silently pessimistic.
Millions will do so, much to their own detriment.

Or, you can fulfill your duty
as a patriotic and responsible citizen
and take a stand for what you believe is right.

The end result may still disappoint.
Fears often overwhelm hope
when the fate of an unknown future is on the line.

But you are powerful.
On Tuesday, you will cast a vote,
and the political world will shift at your might.

(Poem by Jade Walker. Photo by Wendell Franks)

dutch apple pie

Baking: A labor of love

Let’s give it up for the bakers.

In the past, they created a wide variety of delectable desserts, all without the luxury of modern appliances. Often these treats would take days to complete — and only minutes to devour. It reminds me of how an author spends months or years writing a book and then fans read it in just a few days and immediately begin clamoring for more.

If you’ve ever made a loaf of bread, a batch of cinnamon rolls or a fruit pie from scratch, you know that baking is a labor of love. Using the right tools, these treats are fairly simple to create. Yet even with all of our technological conveniences, such desserts still take time. For example, on Saturday night, I baked a dutch apple pie. It took:

  • 30 minutes waiting for the butter and shortening to chill
  • 10 minutes to combine the crust ingredients
  • 1 hour to chill the dough
  • 10 minutes to roll the dough and fit it into a pie plate
  • 30 minutes to freeze the dough
  • 30 minutes to prebake the dough (during which time I peeled/quartered/cored/cooked the apples and sauce)
  • 5 minutes to combine the crumb ingredients
  • 5 minutes to build the pie
  • 10 minutes to bake the pie
  • 1 hour to cool
  • That’s right. More than four hours from start to finish. The end result was marvelous so it was clearly time well spent. But when it came time to eat, I made sure to thoroughly relish every bite.

    (Photo by Marcus Weir.)

    winged skull stamp

    Quote of the week

    “Grief is a sneaky motherfucker and just when you think it’s gone, it turns out it was just napping. And when it pounces, it cuts your heart with razors and then sprays the wounds with gasoline. Grief is a psychopath. And the dead, the person who loved you most and who always protected you, is the person who introduced the two of you. So, a bit of anger is unsurprising.” –Litsa Dremousis


    A heartbreaking story of love, loss … and mountain climbing

    In the basement of The Strand, my favorite used book store in New York City, there is a maze of shelves dedicated to advanced review copies (ARCs). For those unfamiliar with the way the publishing industry works, ARCs are the uncorrected proofs of books that are about to be released. Publishers send these unfinished manuscripts to authors for blurbs and critics for review. Since The Strand is located in the publishing capital of the world, it receives thousands of ARCs. And while most are stamped “Not For Sale,” the store sells them to help build buzz about upcoming tomes.

    Whenever I’m in the city, I always make it a point to visit this section to discover some new writers. Authors and publishers will occasionally send me ARCs as well, in the hopes that I’ll write a review or perhaps share a positive comment on social media. When I have the time and inclination, I’m always happy to do so.

    I mention this because there’s a wonderful book by a brand new author hitting store shelves today.

    altitude sicknessPortland indie press Future Tense Books is launching a line called Instant Future eBooks, and its debut title is “Altitude Sickness” by Litsa Dremousis. The book, which is available on Amazon, tells the story of how the author dealt with the death of her best friend (and on-again-off-again boyfriend of 20 years). More than just a treatise on grieving, “Altitude Sickness” delves into the physical and emotional consequences of mountain climbing, and how society’s attitude toward this activity needs to change.

    M and I read an ARC of the book earlier this month. Reading together is one of my greatest joys. Even though he’s deaf, his hearing aids and my lower-timbered voice work well enough together to allow me to read to him. So on our fifth wedding anniversary, we took a drive and I shared Litsa’s tale of love and loss.

    This might seem like an odd choice of reading material for a romantic night out on the town, but it was actually quite fitting. We’ve been friends with Litsa for many years, and have a boundless adoration for her. Also, we became aware of her best friend’s mountain climbing accident while on our honeymoon, so the pain of his death and the joy at our pairing will always be intertwined.

    I loved this book’s wit and wisdom. While Litsa plumbs the abyss of her grief, she somehow manages to return to the surface to breathe and love and share the knowledge she gained from all that suffering. Her goal is not to memorialize the man she lost, but to remember; not to preach, but to enlighten.

    We laughed while reading numerous chapters — the Courtney Love and Clif bar ones were my particular favorites — then discussed the book’s many scientific revelations. Although neither of us are mountain climbers, M and I came away from this reading with a better understanding of the sport and its participants. I’ll also admit to breaking down in tears at the end. Even though I knew what was coming, it was incredibly difficult to read that last line.

    So, if you’re looking for something fascinating to read, I strongly recommend checking out “Altitude Sickness.” You won’t regret it.