Last October I was lucky enough to get hired to write grants for an amazing organization here in Portland. It’s called The Telling Room, and it’s a writing and literacy center for kids. I think we all know that kids are some of the best storytellers out there, and it turns out that helping them put their experiences and ideas down on paper can sometimes be profound and sometimes be hilarious (and in the best cases, both!).

A few times a year, Telling Room staff get the opportunity to put their money where their mouths are. As “writers” working for a writing organization, can we really walk the walk?

Last winter, my number came up. There was an open slot in SLANT, our quarterly live storytelling event, so I jumped on that grenade. It’s a bit like The Moth, if you’re familiar–12 minutes, no notes, no props. It’s just you and mic on stage, wilting in the bright lights in front of a significant portion of the population of Portland.

How’d it go? You can tell for yourself now that The Telling Room’s new podcast is up. Check out Episode 20: Soundtrack of My Life. I was fourth in a lineup of some seriously accomplished Mainers, a scenario that saw me almost heaving before taking the stage.

The next SLANT is coming up fast! It’ll be sometime this summer, so keep and eye out and come down. Or, if you’re brave enough, contact us at writers@tellingroom.org and sign up to tell a story of your own.

April 15, 2014 Maine, Simple Living


Two and a half years ago, I started writing a book. Or, to be more accurate, I began research that would lead to me writing a book a yeah and half later.

From the start, I knew I wanted to write something about the back-to-the-land movement. What I didn’t know was what form it would take, what I specifically write about it or really what the movement actually was.

a model wearing earthy, back to the land style clothing
I have a knack for picking up on the beginning of trends and social phenomena in their nascent stages, and I could feel something building back in 2010. The global financial meltdown had left everybody shook. I personally had friends who lost six-digit retirement funds, which they had slaved to build up in high stress corporate jobs for years to accumulate. In a flash, it was all gone, and maybe the notion that long hours and hard work in a cubicle day-in and day-out eventually pays off. The carrot at the end of the stick–grad school, a career, homeownership, stability and retirement–increasingly looked like lead weight, weighing us all down rather than coaxing us forward.
a model wearing earthy, back to the land style clothing
So what if you just sidestepped it all? Could you? Drop out, trade the cramped apartment for a place in the country, grow your own food without the trepidation of out ghastly, horrorshow modern food system, kick back around the occasional bonfire at night. Was it possible?

When I moved to Maine almost six years ago, the general idea was to do something like that. Chase tangibility for a bit, learn to love hard work of a different kind where you’re body-tired at the end of the day instead of angsty and mentally drained. Before long, I learned that I wasn’t alone in my aspirations. At the margins of popular culture, things were taking on a decidedly earthy note. Chicks necks dripped crystals, psychedelic music–in tone, not necessarily chemically–made a resurgence, then came the teepee fetish and the heritage workwear fashion craze.
a model wearing earthy, back to the land style clothing
I saw my generation grasp at authenticity, but would it amount to more than just another consumerist rouse? What would happen if we actually rolled our sleeves up, flipped The Man the bird and lit out for the sticks? Could you really get away from it all?
a model wearing earthy, back to the land style clothing
That’s still being sorted out. My book, Get Back Stay Back: 2nd Generation Back-to-the-Landers looks back to the origins of the movement in the 60s and 70s and traces its evolution to today. Fittingly, two weeks before it came out, “back to the land” was all the craze at New York Fashion week. According the New York Times back to the land The Moment feature, “There’s a handcrafted earthiness to urban dressing this season.” The return of aesthetic, at least on some level, was imminent–but what about the actual investment in ideas like getting back to basics, voluntary simplicity, sustainability and self-sufficiency?

Get Back ⇄ Stay Back · 2nd Generation Back-to-the-Landers from Wool Wood and Whiskey on Vimeo.

IT’S HERE. IT’S FINALLY HERE. My book about the back-to-the-land movement here in Maine is now available for purchase HERE.

If you’ve been scratching your head all along, asking yourself, “back-to-the-what?” the trailer above does a pretty good job of summing it up. I can’t really express enough gratitude to my brother-from-another-mother-and-generation Joey Dello Russo. Add extra thanks to the good dudes from PEALS for the music that glues the images together, and you have yourself a heaping serving of “completely blown away by how generous my friends are.”

So listen up day dreamers, aspiring agriculturalists, burgeoning farmers, homesteaders, cooks, outdoors people, hippies and fellow country living enthusiasts — this book is for you. If you’ve ever dreamed of dropping out, getting back to basics and leaving the rat race behind, I literally wrote it just for you (which is to say for me, too). It’s about sustainability, self-sufficiency, counter cultures, communes, voluntary simplicity and figuring out what life looks like lived outside the mainstream. Really it’s about doing things differently and the way that idealism endures over the course of forty years and two generations.

If you read this blog, and enjoy it, do me a solid and take a step outside the “like and move on” box. Order it and I’ll be grateful, but please go the extra mile and spread the word. Share it, talk to me about it, and let people know what you think about this whole thing. At the end of the day, if you’ve ever wondered if it’s still possible to find yourself a place in the sun, out among the grass and the trees, we’re on the same page.

WWW.GETBACKSTAYBACK.COM

February 17, 2014 Simple Living

February 5, 2014 Simple Living

Snails and periwinkles in Maine.

There are always things that you mean to do but don’t. Sometimes it’s the stupid little stuff: picking up paper towels at the grocery store, bringing your lunch to work or remembering to get your laundry out of the dryer.

Foraging for periwinkles and snails in Maine

But sometimes it’s the big things, the “life experience category” stuff that you know you should make happen for big reasons. When you live in an amazing place, the meant-tos and should-haves can pile up pretty deep.

Foraged periwinkles and snails.

Last week I made one happen though, finally. I’ve been meaning to take advantage of the ample supply of periwinkles and other snails on the nearby crooks and bends of Maine’s coastline for at least three years. Somehow, it just never happened.

Foraged periwinkles and snails.

Countless dinners with friends, a few pop-up suppers and more trips to the beach than I can even remember, and I still never did it. I’ve sweat over more than my fair share of stoves at this point, but never while ushering snails plucked from the rocks with my own hand into the after life (in my belly).

Foraging in Maine.

Well, I still haven’t actually done that, because this time around, when I went out to find these little morsels of meat tucked into their swirling bone homes, it was for a friend. “Snacking on mollusks, straight from the shell, is just a very Vietnamese thing to do…” he implored me in the lead up to the dinner he was preparing for 30 of our pals.

So out I went and crossed an item off the list: forage for snails a stones throw from my home on the ocean. Okay, a bit more than a stones throw, but it was on the way to the beach to check the surf. And I brought this guy, who you know loves to get wet. I’m not sure how he feels about mollusks.

Aka, Louis C.K. — on kids and smart phones.

Oh my god. It’s cool, I’ll stop hyperventilating in a sec, it’s just that… OH MY GOD! THIS ULTRA-HEADY POSTER, TOO! I’ll buy Google Glass if I can have this movie playing in front of my eyes at all times of the day.

July 6, 2013 Classics, Simple Living

If you read this thing on the regular side, you know that I am very fond of a certain band called Small Sur. Well, great news! They’re playing New England all this week, so you can become fond of them, too! Then we can bond over our fondness — you know for great music, stuff old men like to wear, and adventures and stuff like that.

Seriously, catch them here:

6/17 : Portsmouth, NH : The Red Door : w/ Peals
6/18 : Portland, ME : Space Gallery : w/ Peals
6/19 : Providence, RI : Machines With Magnets : w/ Peals
6/20 : Boston, MA : Hive : w/ Peals
6/21 : Brooklyn, NY : Death By Audio : w/ Peals, Pure Junk
6/23 : Baltimore, MD : Ottobar : w/ Roomrunner, Pure Junk, Peals

Check them out before you go if you gotta, but don’t not go! That’s it, over and out until I see you at any of the shows in Portsmouth, Portland or Boston.

June 17, 2013 Classics, Simple Living

Raise your kid in a non-conventional way, a non-conventional space, and they’ll thank you. Maybe not right off, but somewhere down the line.

Such was the case for Seattle musician Jherek Bischoff, who grew up on a sailboat with a tiny cabin for a room. After all that, a tour van probably seems like a palace. Serious inspiration here.


If you remember a while back I posted a little photographic journey through a residency program I did last summer. I called it a “Mid-Winterlude,” but the program, now in its second year, is actually called Hewn Oaks.

The big news is that TONIGHT is the application deadline for this summer, so get on it it you haven’t! Writers, visual and performing artists, musicians, filmmakers, craftspeople! If you live in Maine at least 50% of the year, are not in school and are 21+, you too could bask in the glory that is a sweet cabin of your own on Kezar Lake for a week.

Website and additional info here: hewnoaks.org/