Uncle Weed’s Redrock Adventure – a storybook (part 2)

Uncle Weed's Redrock Adventure - part 2

Bob really liked his Uncle Weed. He came around fairly regularly, but not so often that it was too much, or wasn’t a treat when he did. Bob’s dad would tease about Uncle Weed’s visits, “Here comes that long hair looking for a free meal again,” he would say.

His Dad always winked when he said it so Bob would know it was a joke, he enjoyed the visits as much as everyone else.

Uncle Weed brought along curious items to show, and presents to share. Since he was a gardener, he often brought fresh vegetables or fruit.

Sometimes he brought crafts he’d made (like pottery) or objects he’d found on his adventures (like Indian arrowheads from the Anasazi tribe). You could always count on him for a load of stories and a stack of pictures as well.

According to Bob’s Dad, Uncle Weed didn’t have a “real” job. Bob’s Mom said he didn’t need one, and Uncle Weed himself said he didn’t have time for one. During summertime, he took tourists on river trips and mountain bike rides; in the autumn, he sold pumpkins on the side of the road.  Then, when winter came, he sold firewood he cut from old Christmas trees he gathered.

He kept busy helping different people, and donating his time to well-meaning organizations. Bob noticed this is what made Uncle Weed happy and successful.

Uncle Weed’s Redrock Adventure – a storybook (part 1)

Uncle Weed's Redrock Adventure, part 1

Bob was going camping. His Mom’s brother invited him. “Let me take Bob down to the desert for a few days,” Uncle Weed asked.

At first Bob’s Mom pretended to be a bit hesitant, “I don’t know if I want you taking my young, impressionable boy on one of your crazy adventures to never-never land,” she said.

Uncle Weed assured her everything would be juuuuust fine, and after listening to a heavy amount of pleading, Bob’s Mom finally said, “Okay.”

Bob figured his Mom would’ve let him go either way, it was just her way of being goofy.

Uncle Weed’s Redrock Adventure – A Storybook / cover & preface

Uncle Weed’s Redrock Adventure

A story about a boy named Bob,
his Uncle Weed,
and Bob’s friend Otto

Words by
Dave Thorvald Olson

Illustrations by
Brandon G. Kiggins

© 1988~ (Utah)

Foreword by Larry Harper


In the fall of 1988 I taught a creative writing class at Utah Valley Community College (previously Utah Technical College, soon to be Utah Valley State College, later still Utah Valley University).  Years before, both as an undergraduate and a graduate student (at other institutions), I had taken a couple creative writing courses, but this was the first time I would be the instructor. I was excited for the new semester.

The first day of class I looked about the room:  the usual first-day-of-class checking out of each other.  On the surface, nothing terribly telling; on the surface, the standard mix of clothing, styles, respectability, gender, and hair length.

I did most of the talking that first day, going over the course syllabus:  the rules, expectations, the discipline, etc., as well as providing some information about myself, especially my own enthusiasm for teaching this creative writing course, and my desire to generate enthusiasm among the class members:  to—hopefully—have the students and me, together, create a community of curious human beings who could feel comfortable sharing their own quirks, passions, outrageousnesses, and yes, their own enthusiasm with each other. I ended the hour by asking that each student, for the next class period, take a few minutes to share a little of their own personal background, their expectations for the semester, desires, influences, and what-not.

Most of the students were either naïve or pretentiously naïve; some, of course, were just along for the ride, wherever it might take them, but curious nonetheless (and not naïve).  I remember one student telling of his passion for lofty philosophical concepts; another had deep theological concerns; and yet another expressed his goal to write two novels during the course of the semester—and cautioning anyone even thinking of stealing his work and claiming it as their own that they had better watch out:  at the end of each day he copyrighted everything he’d written that day.

I was more than a little overwhelmed!

Dave-O, the author of record here, had been sitting, quietly patient (patiently quiet?), during the introductions, looking about the room, seemingly bored with his classmates’ shenanigans. . . .

[Insertion:  I’d met Dave the year before in an Introduction to Literature class.  Apparently (I later learned), he’d dropped out of high school and was taking a few alternative classes at the college—photography, ceramics, mountaineering—and somehow landed in an English class.  I remember him sitting in the back row and enjoying the class in his own way, from a distance. But aside from his casual attitude, I remember two other things about him: he’d written an excellent, insightful, probing paper on The Grapes of Wrath; and he’d gotten a kick out of Donald Barthelme’s short story, “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby.”  One day near the end of the semester I talked with Dave after class, told him about a new creative writing course being offered the next year, thought he might add something to it, and invited him to consider registering.  End of insertion.]

. . . When his turn came round to introduce himself, Dave paused before speaking, not necessarily to choose his words carefully (I think he already knew what he wanted to say), but rather to make sure that he had everyone’s attention before stating clearly, with no nonsense, exactly what was on his mind.  He uttered just one sentence: “I want to write children stories and corrupt the minds of the youth.” He said it all with a wide, toothy smile that lingered for the remainder of the semester.

And that is precisely what he did.

As the semester moved along, he kept his focus, kept his cool, continued good naturedly with the other concerns of his life; in other words, he did not let a college class interfere with his Living.  Before long, he teamed up with a classmate, an illustrator and aspiring film maker, Brandon Kiggins, and together they worked and played, played and looked, and then looked the other way, never taking themselves or their work too seriously—just seriously enough—and kept me and the other students current as their project took shape.  The sketches and the narrative text grew into that “organic whole” they weren’t necessarily even searching for, but found anyway. And when they presented their finished work to the class at the end of the term, we were all stunned in joy and celebration over their achievement.

Beautiful.  Outrageous. Fun.  Happy. Activiating.  Fresh. Free. Focused.  Good.

Angry and joyful.  Comic and tragic. Animal and plant.  Survey stake and cream sickle.

It’s been a long—or perhaps quick (Laurie Anderson might even call it “wide”)—thirty years.   But here it is, in its latest rendition, most recent incantation, joyfullest joy: Uncle Weed First!

Larry Harper, Utah, 2018

Preface (by Author, natch)

So there i was, 18 and seeking *something* weird, rebellious and interesting. As it goes, after being transplanted from multi-cultural Vancouver, Canada to rather-different Utah, the southern desert areas quickly became my refuge with so many weekends and weeks, exploring Canyonlands, the (old) Burr Trail, Capitol Reef, San Rafael Swell, and various hidden hot springs… by foot or old-school mountain bike. Besides the seemingly endless trails and canyons, hanging out in (then small) towns at diners (and sneaking into bars with my fake ID) meeting characters – from uranium miners to Hare Krishnas – all with strong opinions and war-stories as it were, all of which shaped in some way my own mental dossier about conundrums of ecology vs development.

During this time I was introduced to two particularly important characters: the noted writer Edward Abbey, with whom I chatted after a talk which blew/expanded my eager mind (afterwhich I dove headlong into his works), and Larry Harper, a professor at the aforementioned college who invited me into his brand-new honours creative writing class and became a life-long friend and mentor. I dedicate this release to these mighty gentlefolk.

I envisioned the project as a mixture of “Adventures of Tintin,” Abbey’s “Monkeywrench Gang”, with a little HD Thoreau and Walt Whitman thrown in. Hand-written at first and created with the illustrative assistance of my frequent collaborator Brandon Kiggins who made the incredible drawings while I wrote a script/screenplay for his film class documentary project about flag burning (back when we could work without sleep). I had hoped to share the piece with Cactus Ed but he died shortly after this piece was finished, so I stashed it in my VW bus waiting for a chance to “finish it”.

30 years with numerous trips followed – to the desert yes (fear and loathing in Arches), but also circumnavigating the world where I realized *everywhere* needs protecting/saving/preserving: oceans, forests, jungles,ice caps, atolls… all of it and quickly too. Seems obvious to say. ‘Everywhere is special to someone’ and indeed everywhere faces similar challenges of thwarting exploitation.

Indeed, the Utah/4 Corners regions which shaped this story have well,… “changed” in ways too numerous to mention. Surely, all manner of “big problems” face the world, and against desperate odds too as environmental activist groups have “gone corporate” or been infiltrated and compromised by law-enforcement charlatans. I’d mention politicians  and industrial complexes but there’s plenty of others doing so, so I’ll spare us both.

This story won’t solve any problems per se, my hope in pulling the battered pages from the confinement of various storage lockers and VW busses is to inspire and educate yes, and most importantly remind us of the simple eye-opening joy of going to a place for the first time and wondering how nature can be this “perfect”? and why would anyone want to change this condition of sublime beauty for the sake of profit? This is enough.

Fondly, daveo, 2018 (at a goat farm in Okayama, Japan)

Disclaimer: This is not a guide for parenting or child guardianship, govern yourself accordingly.

Scrapbook: Western Tour + Hitch-hiking / Fck Stats, Make Art workbook, 2015

Scrapbook: Fck Stats, Make Art workbook, 2015 (Wester Tour Book, front cover v.2)
Scrapbook: Fck Stats, Make Art workbook, 2015 / Wester Tour Book, front cover v.2

This is another over-sized construction with a vintage tour book for front cover as well as decorated a sort of flyleaf. Such interesting material I couldn’t help but include. A fantastic hitch-hiking board game makes the back cover (and pairs well with the other maps I think). Dear Audrey Hepburn (cut from a calendar) covers up the binding and a cider sticker from my pal David White’s cidery adds more old-times flair.

I put this mighty tome to use for a personally important project of assembling a draft of sorts for my “Fck Stats, Make Art” project while sequestered in Indonesia and Thailand in 2015. In brief: I took printed metaphorical photos, as well as transcripts from various talks, chopped all the raw material up and re-contextualized into a semi-content narrative, interspersed with a few handwritten pages – all of this required several glue sticks and generated significant pile of paper trimmings.

I then began editing by sticking in dozens of little notes and thoughts. So much in fact the book was bulging and, well a bit overwhelming. As such, it lives in an appropriately old-timey suitcase awaiting another chance for editing and to evolve into a final, more cogent, form.

Note: the pages *are* photographed and while don’t make a lot of sense at this point, perhaps I’ll scrounge a few up to include for reference.

Scrapbook: Fck Stats, Make Art workbook, 2015 / Beer in Santiago the day Pope JP2 died (watercolour pencil and marker)
Scrapbook: Fck Stats, Make Art workbook, 2015 / Beer in Santiago the day Pope JP2 died (watercolour pencil and marker)

Continue reading Scrapbook: Western Tour + Hitch-hiking / Fck Stats, Make Art workbook, 2015

Collection: Typewriters – variety, international

What follows is a round-up/collection of typewriters I either purchased, used, or simply observed along the way on various wanders.

Assembled for historical reference and personal interest, with annotations and examples where possible.

Typewriter: In Karapitiya Sri Lanka (Dave's personal)
Typewriter: (unknown brand) in Karapitiya, Sri Lanka (Dave’s personal)

This machine (brandname obscured by grunge) was purchased in Fort Galle, Sri Lanka in rather rough shape. Cleaned the keys with a toothbrush and solvent, added a new ribbon, attempted to repair the ribbon uptake (with limited success). The machine’s key produced a rather small typeface size making the cleaning of the worn down keys especially important. Banged out journals, letters and poems for a few months before moving on and leaving it behind.

Here’s a sample of the type produced by this machine – as evidenced, a little rough going but the keystrokes felt great and machine size was just right:

Intentions for 2018
Intentions for 2018 (typed)

Other examples are at: Night lake Diving and a Letter to Ayurvedic Clinic in Galle

Typewriter: Underwood Typemaster at Zed Hotel, Victoria, Canada
Typewriter: Underwood Typemaster at Zed Hotel, Victoria, Canada

Continue reading Collection: Typewriters – variety, international

Scenes of Life in Tripunitura & Kochi, Kerala (2016) – Lomo photos, colour

Scenes of Life in Tripunitura & Kochi: coconuts make a fine beverage and snack
Scenes of Life in Tripunitura & Kochi: coconuts make a fine beverage and snack

Arriving in India via Cochin (Kochi), Kerala, bound for an extended stay in an Ayurvedic clinic in Tripunitura, i snapped impressions along the way, capturing the washes of colours and shapes of everyday life. Also a trek into Fort Kochi on Remembrance Day to pay respects at a cenotaph (documented in a B&W photo essay and a Remembrance day podcast and a peace ramble video)

Snapped with a Lomo La Sardina (sardine can) camera with expired 35mm film, presented “as-is” with no edits and limited context, for your amusement and my memory.

Scenes of Life in Tripunitura & Kochi: the church was built by Portuguese, renovated by Dutch, utilized by Brits and now... mostly a museum (Vasco da Gama's bones were interred there for period)
Scenes of Life in Tripunitura & Kochi: the church was built by Portuguese, renovated by Dutch, utilized by Brits and now… mostly a museum (Vasco da Gama’s bones were interred there for period)

Continue reading Scenes of Life in Tripunitura & Kochi, Kerala (2016) – Lomo photos, colour

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