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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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/
Wool. Wood. Whiskey. I started this blog a little more than five years ago, mostly as an outlet for my writing and as an expression of my interests — on the internet and out in the world beyond. From there it’s taken on a shape of its own design, fanning out along vast, varied and sometimes random corollaries in directions that sometimes even I can’t predict.
Recently I realized that what it’s really about is the search for a different kind of life. One that’s simple and timeless, rich and true: The Good Life. Greater minds than mine have whiled away days in the pursuit of it, seeking the same kinds of things. It’s a tradition of sorts, the idea that it’s possible to cut away all that’s unnecessary and get back-to-basics while soaking up the best things in life.
Time. Fun. Meaning. Adventure. Dirt under your fingernails. Sea salt on your skin. Freedom. Rope swings, fire pits, good hard work, epic meals, winter surfing, road trips, music in the morning, the wind in the trees.
Call it what you want — I’m convinced it’s out there, and this is my search.
Three winters ago I was riding the train down to Boston and had a happy accident. I was playing around with my new camera and happened to shoot a video just as another train rattled past. The result — completely blown out because I had no idea what I was doing — resembled a stop motion view of a small New England town from behind the curtain.
It just so happened that a few weeks earlier I had come across an album by a band whose name I could really get behind: Small Sur. I really didn’t know anything about the guys who played in it, but I was instantly hooked on the quiet, contemplative mood the music and lyrics captured. Whoever the guy singing was, we both like the ocean, woods and wide open spaces, and that was enough for me.
I ended up playing around with editing the footage I captured on the train that day and set it to a song on that Small Sur album. It wasn’t really meant to be anything, and I figured I’d drop the band a line to say “Hey, love what you’re doing, I made something with one of your songs” at some point or another. Then, without really thinking I just posted it here on WoolWoodandWhiskey, which wasn’t necessarily the coolest move on my part.
Then, out of the blue, Bob, the singer and songwriter behind the band, contacted me to say that he liked “Maine By Train” and that he’d be up here come summer. Fast forward a few months, the snows of winter inverted into hot nights here in Portland, and Small Sur pulled into town.
Live, these guys burnt it down. It was the kind of folk music that feels a little bit punk because it’s so different and so good. I mean, why growl when you can harmonize, right? After their set I stepped outside and Bob and his band mates, Andy and Austin, were playing badminton on a jury rigged net stretched across an alley. Down to earth dudes, to be sure.
We exchanged pleasantries and I was surprised to find Bob to be sort of the opposite from how I expected him to be. Far from the wilting wallflower folkie-type, he was sipping rye straight from the bottle and smiled easily and often through the tangle of beard that stretched almost from his eyes to his shoulders.
I probably fanned out kind of hard, who knows, but we quickly got onto the topic of surfing and he asked if I might not mind taking him out in the morning. Typically, I don’t make a habit of loaning wetsuits or boards to pretty much anyone — especially wetsuits, which are just gross to start out with. Bob seemed to really need a fix though, so the next day I set him up and we waded out to surf some small waves at the local beach together.
Throughout the course of that session I’d learn that it had been six years since he’d surfed, but he got right back into it. In his words, he’d been “over sported” enough in high school to retain some semblance of muscle memory, something to which I could relate. And I’m pleased to say that I think we set the hook good and deep that day, because now, two years later he’s got his own suits and boards again and thinks nothing of driving appalling distances from his home in Baltimore to score the odd little peeler.
The point of all this is to say that I’ve have the pleasure of watching Bob work now as an artist across the span of two summers. He just released a new album, Labor, and I can tell you that that’s an accurate title. Like anyone working to do something they love, flexing their talents — very real ones in Bob’s case — in this day and age, he’s fighting for it. You can hear that on this record, the earnestness with which my friend approaches everything from hammering nails to riding waves.
Score this record now, buy one of the limited edition LPs, the one with my wife’s artwork on the back — you won’t regret it. Then make sure you come out and hear Bob the next time Small Sur comes through, and maybe catch him trimming down the line at one of our state’s lovely beaches this summer. It’ll all make sense then, I promise.
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