Friday, November 19, 2010


My friend Richard is balancing the scales against cynicism at his blog

He and his wife Maria believe in community and have been actively involved in making the place they live a good place to live.

At his blog, Richard reports on the many pleasant encounters he has with the people who share the open space on Signal Hill with him: an engineer who keeps a kite in his car "just in case I come across a breezy hilltop on my lunch hour"; a Long Beach artist out for an early morning walk who describes her work with monoprints as "a fascination with process, how I might push the medium I'm using in new, interesting ways"; a cyclist with whom he exchanges a smile and encouragement as they they puff their way uphill, "Good goin'," "You, too."

I thought of Richard when I was looking at mushrooms along the American River Parkway last week. A man out walking his dogs stopped to admire the mushrooms with me and told me he'd gone on-line and learned there are 136 species of mushrooms, two of which are poisonous.

He described with enthusiasm the restoration project we were in the process of enjoying, how well the willows had grown, and the different methods that were used to keep the beavers from chewing them up when they were tender saplings. He was a wealth of information on the health of the annual salmon run based on first-hand observations of fish swimming upstream to spawn, and their corpses floating downstream afterwards.

Yes, I've had my share of unpleasant encounters along the parkway -- walking into drug deals, dealing with drunks, and I'll never forget the guy who blew up a pile of river rocks with a can of black powder -- but, on balance, I am pleased to report the majority of my encounters are pleasant. The vast majority.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Wednesday, November 3, 2010


When I fish with my nephew he says things like, "Uncle Shawn, we should get a machete." And I say, "I'll bet we can get one at the Army Surplus store."

I say, "Maybe we should go to Alaska when you're sixteen." And he says, "What about the bears?" I say, "We may need to carry shotguns." Two weeks later, he says, "Maybe you should show me how to point a shotgun before we go to Alaska."

Two years later we're emptying a rusty Folgers can of rusty nuts and bolts on the workbench. He tears off a piece of masking tape and wraps it around the can. With a black Sharpie he writes: "Alascan." His idea.

He puts the money he earned mowing our lawn in the can and I add a twenty, to "prime the pump," I say. "Like priming the lawn mower," he says. "Yeah, like that."

(Photo: June Clark)