Tuesday, December 23, 2008

SF cactus chomper strikes again (shocking photos below.)

Here are two extreme close-up shots of the mutilated, bitten cactus that I talked about two blog entries ago. (as you can see, one of the photos includes a hand-drawn plea directed at the culprit.) I've been staking out the apartment area, looking for suspects. Nothing so far. Look closely at the second photo: I think you can see incisor marks.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Darting Hummingbird Over a Waterfall''

Lately, I'm getting a lot of questions about my name, especially over the past few weeks. For the record, I am not related to that other Dan White. (I repeat -- absolutely no relation whatsoever.) A couple of people have asked if I am thinking of changing my name, in light of the publicity surrounding the new movie (nope - it's probably too late for that.) However, if I change my mind at some point and decide to alter my name, it's good to know that I have many options. Over the years, I have met, or learned about, many Bay Area or Central Coast residents who decided to give up their legal names and change them to something else. Here are a few of the actual names.

By the way, I swear that I'm not inventing or embellishing any of them. In fact, all of these are the actual, legal names of past and present Santa Cruz County residents. Imagine having some of these on your drivers' license -- especially when the cops pull you over!!!

*Rose Z
*Moonbeam Moonbeam.
*Darting Hummingbird Over A Waterfall
*Shalom Dreampeace Compost
*B. Modern
* Lord Earthworm II (later legally changed to Lord Nigel Featherston.)
* Chip (No Last Name)
*Climbing Sun.
* Moonwater
* Barbara Riverwoman
* Rainbow
* Sundancer Sweetpea
and, my personal favorite:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Recommended winter reading for outdoor writing fans...

Here are some good books to read by the fire during the holidays.

Poet. Trapper. It's hard to imagine two less lucrative careers. But John Haines was a poet and a trapper for 25 years in the Alaskan outback, in the wild country east of Fairbanks, Alaska. He struggled to survive. At times, he froze his kishkas off, but he lived to tell a beautifully crafted story called The Stars, The Snow, The Fire: Twenty-Five Years in the Alaskan Wilderness. This book is told from the perspective of an outdoorsman who actually knows what he's doing out there. (cough, cough..) Here's a man who can skin a carcass, build a proper fire and make out the tracks of moose, wolf and marten in the snow. Better yet, he can describe all these things with sensory description that makes you feel like you're out there with him in the backcountry. Warning: some of the bone-crunching passages might make you squeamish. When you read about the trapping methods, you might find yourself eating wheat gluten and soy burgers for a couple of weeks.

I also enjoyed Mountains of the Mind by Robert Macfarlane. That touchy-feely sounding title threw me off, but the book is as far from New Age as you can get. Mountains of the Mind is all about the allure of high peaks and "the pursuit of fear.''

Robyn Davidson's Tracks is one of my favorite long-distance hiking narratives. Instead of just shlepping out across the Australian Outback, she ups the ante by dragging four recalcitrant camels with her. The descriptions of searing Outback heat will make you forget about this latest spell of freezing-cold weather.

Also, this year's Best American Essays is terrific. Vulture enthusiasts (I'm one of them) will connect with Lee Zacharias's "Buzzards'' (page 260.) If you have even a passing interest in long-distance running, you will be fascinated and thoroughly freaked out by Sam Shaw's "Run Like Fire Once More.'' (page 204.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Some freak is eating my neighbor's cactus!

Some insensitive and apparently dehydrated person is stealing and possibly devouring my neighbor's outdoor cactus dispay, chunk by chunk, bit by bit, piece by piece. It is painful to watch. Every day, on my way up to my apartment, I examine the cactus, only to find that another hunk of it has been removed. To stop the cactus slaughter, my neighbor has put up a sign telling the thief to stop because he is trying to propogate his own cactus garden right here in San Francisco. Wait until you see the shocking photographs that I will soon upload on this blog. You can see the missing chunks of cactus -- and if you look carefully, you might even be able to see the teeth marks on it. I hope the cactus thief realizes that you can't get a whole lot of water out of a cactus. (Kit Carson figured out how to do it, but he was a skilled survivalist). As I once discovered, you would need to eat an entire acre of these things just to get one quart of water. Also, biting a cactus can be very bad for your health. In fact, one of the people at my most recent reading told me that practical joke product manufacturers make itching powder out of cactus spines. Who knew?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Proselytizing for the Pacific Crest Trail at the SF Library

(try saying that five times fast.) Thank you to the spirited group at yesterday's reading at the SF Library Mission Bay branch. The audience included a seasoned through-hiker named Matt, who completed the trail in one fell swoop, and quite a bit more recently than I did. In fact, he often averaged 26 miles a day. Last night, Matt, who lives right here in SF, actually convinced a fellow audience member to hike the PCT -- or, at the very least, the Oregon/Washington section of it. The convert, who is about 60, was already on the fence --- in fact, he's been dreaming of doing a chunk of the trail for a very long time --- but it is pretty clear that Matt pushed him over the edge on Wednesday. I think he's actually going to do it. How cool is that? This discussion was quite a bit more technical than my usual talk. I asked Matt why someone doesn't build a sturdy bridge over Bear Creek, one of the bigger hazards in the High Sierra, (at least as far as I'm concerned. It damned near drowned the Lois and Clark Expedition.) Matt explained that Bear Creek was probably worse than usual when I hiked it because it was late summer and quite warm, which meant that snowmelt was excessive and creeks were swollen. I should have known better. But then again, I did some pretty dumb things in the desert, too.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

This Wednesday: Cactus reading at San Francisco Library's Mission Bay Branch (with directions)

(Hi everyone. This reading happened back in 2008, in case you're just checking this right now. I would like to read at this library again, but I'll wait until the next thing comes out.)

I'm very excited about this reading. It's from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. this coming Wednesday (December 10) in my adopted hometown of San Francisco.

Location: Mission Bay Branch, San Francisco Public Library.
Address: 960 4th St. (at Berry)

Here’s the link for directions to the branch (it’s right on the T-Line and near the Caltrain stop):

If you've never seen it before, this will also be a good chance for you to tour the brand new, $4 million library facility, five years in the making. It's the first SF branch library to open up in four decades. (I happen to live near the very oldest one, close to Golden Gate Park.) The library is part of a complex that also includes affordable housing, retail and an adult day health center. I've heard it even has views of Mission Creek.

To mark this occasion, I might even bring my trusty, trail-scarred backpack --- Big Mofo --- if I can figure out how to cram this mouse-bitten, trail-dust-coated thing into the trunk of my car (and muster the strength to drag it into the library building.)

A candid conversation with San Jose State University students

Thank you to all the students at the Visiting Authors Seminar for your very thought-provoking questions about nonfiction, Woody Allen, West Coast wildlife, NWA's "Straight Outta Compton,'' "Juno'' and many other issues. Feel free to send any other questions into the blog or to my email address. (One of the students actually brought in that classic NWA album some weeks back because the other students had read my references to it but hadn't heard the record.) I completely forgot to answer your question about my favorite California wildlife. I'd say that it is a tie between the black bear and the marmot. As far as creatures that I despise with all my heart, it's a dead heat between horse flies, skeeters, ticks and giardia.

Friday, December 05, 2008

A big time in Sebastopol

I had a very big time up in Sebastopol, California today. I spoke before a crowd of Rotarians, including a fellow whose son through-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail southbound and ate canola oil mixed with granola to keep his weight up. That may be the most impressively hard-core trail food story I've ever heard. (Apparently, canola oil has the most calories per volume of anything you can eat on the trail. Who knew? I guess the trick is choking it down. Peanut butter still works best for me.) At the end of my presentation, the Rotarians gave me an air-tight stainless steel sports bottle with a set of caribiners to make sure that I don't screw up and run out of water in the desert again. Thank you; I will use it in good health. Aside from meeting the Rotarians, I had a chance to explore this beautiful Sonoma County town, browse the aisles of Copperfield's book store, and eat an enormous amount of sweets at the Village Bakery. I couldn't decide between the pecan sticky bun and the lemon cake so I ate both, which was a bad move. Now I'm ready to keel over from eating all that sugar. But what a way to go.