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Jack London

Jack London

A friend texted me this morning to see if I was safely away from any fire danger. We chatted a bit, he offered up suggestions for a new podcast to listen to and a short story to read, and I invited him to come with me to Alaska.

Eleven years ago this week, somewhere outside of Juneau, a member of Ryan Redington’s kennel staff handed me a sled dog puppy and it promptly bit me. It was a highlight of a week full of highlights.

To celebrate my graduation from college, my mom, two cousins and I went on a cruise to Alaska. This was, of course, back when you could go on a cruise ship without much risk of a deadly disease or a weeks-long quarantine, back when our passports would still allow us to disembark and have a shore excursion in Canadaland.

That week, I ate a lot of chocolate ice cream (likely literal gallons) and managed to find myself with champagne in hand at least once each day.

I rode the White Pass Railroad into Skagway, went sledding with Redington in Juneau, saw totem poles and a lumberjack show in Ketchikan. I stood on the deck of our ship with a mug of cocoa in hand and watched glaciers calve in Glacier Bay.

I took lots of photos of the carpet on the ship.

I wanted to go back as soon as I returned home. And now it’s eleven years later and the world is a mess. Global pandemic, a fight for justice and equity, hundreds of thousands of acres of the west on fire. The places where I would normally take solace, where I would go to recharge, are unavailable to me, unavailable to nearly everyone.

My home is now my workspace. I don’t remember the last time I went into a grocery store. I cannot see my friends without risk. I do not list this Inventory of Awful as though it is an injustice or inconvenience or irrationality that only I suffer. It’s just…how the world is right now.

It all has me plotting an escape. There are many things I love in this world, but I love few more than the time I spend planning a trip somewhere else.

I like train schedules, and airport maps, and spending hours looking for the perfect hotel/lodge/airbnb.

And Alaska is in my head. So now I have a map and a AAA travel guide and a couple of other guide books and a list of websites. I know it takes four days to go from Bellingham to Skagway via the Alaska Marine Highway. I have recommendations for restaurants along the way once I’m back on land, and I have a vehicle I trust to make the trip there and back. And I have a list of gear I need. Because second to my love of trip planning is a love of making lists of things I think I need just in case. (In this case, the list includes an actual spare tire, a tent, and a bear box. Just in case.)

For years after the fancy cruise ship Alaska trip, I dreamed of something that is basically the opposite. In my mind, I made the trip solo or with one or two trusted companions. But now, I imagine a caravan of friends, a dozen of us or more, multiple vehicles, shared dinners around a campfire. Someone should bring a guitar.

I know that this is my escape now, diving into guide books and reading reviews of tents and camping pads. I know this is how I can redirect my mind from all the ills of the world. I know this is a supremely odd coping mechanism.

But I think you should start planning, too. Come with me.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2020 in Alaska

 

In case you came here looking for the “fan fic”

This originally ran on the ProstAmerika website April 8, 2013. It’s been mentioned a couple times recently, so here you go:

 

He sits down next to me at the bar. I don’t notice him at first. It’s late, the game’s
been over for hours and the place has almost cleared out. An unexpected win. My
club has become giant killers.
I’m not really paying attention; I’ve got too many words in my head and no idea how
to put them together in an order that will make sense to anyone but me. Giant.
Killers.
“Aye,” he says. “That Ryan Johnson. He’s a handful.”
That voice. I look over at him. He swirls the amber liquid in his glass before taking a
sip. He closes his eyes.

Then it clicks. “Tastes like home, does it?” I ask.
“Aye.”

I turn back to my own drink. There are a dozen or more things I want to say to him
and I can’t say any of them. I want to ask him what really happened. I want him to
help me understand when it was that things got so far out of his control. I want to
know if he ever really had the control I’d thought he had.

More than anything, I want to thank him. I learned more from him about strategy
and rivalry and, let’s be honest, straight-up shit-talking than I ever would have with
someone else standing where he’d stood.

And I want to tell him how sorry I am for the way things ended.

“It wasn’t supposed to go the way it did,” his voice is soft, barely above a whisper
and I wonder for a second if he’s talking to me or to the whisky in his glass.
But then he looks up at me. And my heart breaks a little more. I know it’s him. The
timbre of his voice is unmistakable, but if I hadn’t first heard him speak, I would
never have recognized him.

Maybe it’s the weird bar lighting but he looks pale to me, almost grey. And he looks
tired. Tired, but content. Like he’s finally reached the end of a very, very long
journey.

He repeats himself, as though he thinks I didn’t hear him the first time and he’s
expecting a response. “It wasn’t supposed to go the way it did.”

“No. I know.“

“This city is phenomenal. This club is a dream club.”

I weigh these words carefully. A dream club.

“These boys, they don’t all understand what they’ve got here. I understood it.”

I nod. “I know you did.”

He sighs. “It was fun, that first season, wasn’t it?” He’s smiling softly at me and I
return the smile.

“It was.”

He drains the whisky from his glass and pulls his cap on. “It should have been more
fun the second season,” he chuckles. “Fookin’ Wynalda.” He winks at me. “This new
guy, he’ll be alright. He’s smart.”

I nod again, not trusting my voice.

“He’s got fight in him,” he tells me. “May as well be a Scot.”

He’s at the door before emotion gets the best of me. “John,” I call to him. “Thank you.
Sincerely. For all of it.”

His hand on the doorknob, he smiles and nods. “Aye.”

And then he slowly fades away. Like he’d never been there at all.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2019 in Timbers 2013

 

Unsettled

Seven months out of the stadium and here we are, just hours from the home openers for both the Timbers and Thorns and everything feels strange and unknown. Unsettled.

I have no ticket in hand, just a bit of technology that I’m hoping does not crash when twenty-some thousand people hit it at the same time. I mean, assuming we can all get anywhere near Providence Park what with the Starlight Parade tying up a significant chunk of downtown for half the day.

The front office is issuing Code of Conduct edicts through the supporters groups that no one’s clear on the details of, but have been controversial enough to spur some of the quietest folks to buy spraypaint and stencil the offending (historically anti-fascist) symbol on all manner of things.

I was pretty excited yesterday about the possibility of a trip to Starfire (I’m one of like six people in Portland that loves Starfire), but that came to a crashing halt.

I dunno, friends. Maybe I’m just a little raw from the significant changes that have happened for me over the last few weeks. Or maybe everything *is* different.

Everything is different, but I still managed to have more than one conversation today that brought me crashing into August 2012 mode. Be aware.

 

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2019 in Timbers 2019

 

I’ll take those odds

The team wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs. And then they weren’t supposed to make it past the play-in. And then the season was supposed to end in Seattle. And then in Kansas City.

And now we’re here in Atlanta. This is all…extra. Everything past October is bonus. One more night out with friends, one more game, one more.

The stadium is imposing. The opponent is strong. The odds are against us.

I feel no fear, any earlier anxiety is gone. Win or lose, this team has given me more than I could have ever imagined when I plunked down my season ticket deposit so many years ago.

I’ve been places I never expected to be, met folks I would have otherwise never met, I’ve lived dreams I long thought lost. And my story isn’t unique. Every member of this tribe has a story, a reason they’re here. I’m grateful for all of them, and for all of you.

There are, at the lowest possible count, 1,700 of us in Atlanta that will stand for the green and Gold. We represent our team, our town, the Timbers Army. We stand in for all those who could not be here. So, celebrate tonight, and be ready to work tomorrow.

Let’s go get that cup.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2018 in Timbers

 

Basilica, part one

The dog stayed tight to her side as she climbed the worn steps and entered the black lacquered doors to the church.

Through the narthex they walked, and up the center aisle, pausing briefly before the altar, then turning left. Her steps echoed through the great hall.

The nun was at the door to greet her. “Child, you know you can’t bring that animal here.”

“Sister, you know I’m not a child.”

The nun said nothing more, but opened the door for Maddie and her familiar.

 

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2018 in October 2018

 

Maddie

It’s been a minute since I tried to sit down and write with any regularity. And it’s been a longer minute since I was able to do so and produce anything readable. So, if you’ve made it this far into October with me, thank you.

I’ve been writing up bits and pieces of Maddie’s story as an excercise to see if I could even remember who she was or who I wanted her to be when I started writing her two decades ago. And yeah, she’s still here, always with me. She and her brother and the dog. And the nuns. And the werewolves. Always here.

I think it might finally be time to get her full story written down. Poor little rich girl, spirited away in the dead of night and into a world that really cannot exist.

If I ever sell her story, I’m absolutely certain it won’t see an Italian printing. If you ever read the full story, you’ll know why.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2018 in October 2018

 

Fog

It drifted in slowly at first, this first fog of the season. Rising from the water of the harbor, slipping silently over the boats in their moorings, across the docks, up the roads into the tiny town.

It formed halos around the few streetlights that were still functional, its tendrils reaching into the shadows they cast.

There was no sound but for that of the water lapping at boats in the harbor and a barking dog in the far distance.

Alone, she walked, down the sloped main street of the deserted town toward the harbor. She was resolute, determined. The dog trotted silently at her side.

But it didn’t feel right. Her stride slowed almost imperceptibly as she braced for something she could not yet see.

The dog cut out to her right, fading into the shadows, nearly invisible now in the dark and fog. She scanned the street, but his was the only movement she saw.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2018 in October 2018

 

Ouija

The ouija board had been on the shelf in the hall closet for as long as anyone could remember, above the vacuum cleaner and the winter coats, next to the old party hats and the phone books no one had used in years.

It sat, box unopened in a generation, waiting.

The oldest of the sisters had reached for it once, curious, but had pulled her hand away quickly when she felt a sudden cold. She never told anyone.

But it called to her. She couldn’t make out the words, but she knew what it wanted.

She read about ouija boards online in her school’s library, nervously looking over her shoulder as though she might be in trouble for reading something taboo. She read about openings into other dimensions, about the veil between worlds. She read about people using the ouija board solely for entertainment, to play pranks on their friends. She read about people who did not find entertainment, but something infinitely darker.

And she decided she wanted to try it.

Her parents were out for the evening, leaving the three girls at home with delivery pizza and Netflix. The car was barely out of the driveway before the oldest sister took th ebox from the shelf in the hallway.

The two younger girls, the twins, were giddy. They hadn’t done the reading and research their older sister had, but they understood the basic premise. “We will speak with a ghost,” one whispered as they gathered around the table in the darkened dining room.

“We will call forth a spirit,” said the other in her best spooky voice, lighting tealights at the corners of the table.

“What will we ask it?”

“We’ll ask it the same things we ask the Magic 8-Ball. We can see if the answers match.”

The older sister sighed. “It might not even work.”

But again, she felt suddenly cold. She took the board form its box, and placed the planchette on top of it in the center of the table.

“Do you feel that?” one of the twins asked.

“I need a sweater,” said the other.

The three stood silently as the planchette began to move.

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2018 in October 2018

 

Coven

Coven. The word made them laugh, but that is what they were, these three women.

These three women with their rosaries and their sensible shoes. A coven of nuns.

These three sisters had decades of experience between them, weaving and casting and binding.

Two had come to their calling early in life, as teenage novitiates. The third arrived much later, after years of experiencing a very, very different life.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2018 in October 2018

 

Water

A heavy mist, the moon rising, the sound of rushing water nearby. Maddie paused in the dark, listening, the dog at her heel.

The dog’s ears flicked forward, and Maddie followed him deeper into the darkness. She knew he’d heard something, but whatever it was hadn’t reached her yet. Go closer, be cautious, she knew both were necessary.

The dog lead her to a small stream and they followed it for several hundred yards, keeping to the tree line.

The stream emptied into a pool surrounded by large boulders, though some of the stones looked to Maddie as though they had been shaped by something other than nature. She crouched next to the dog and scanned the edge of the pool.

A movement on the far side caught her eye, and she tried to focus enough to make out the shape of whatever it was that had moved.

Before she could, everything went black.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2018 in October 2018