A Lunch with the Future, Contextualized

Marshall McLuhan in San Francisco 1965

Re: academic soothsayer Marshall McLuhan… in this case, a lunch in San Francisco 1965, introduced thusly (note recently deceased Tom Wolfe namecheck):

“Hot on the trail of this titan, I thought to myself, “Where is the last place in town you’d expect to see Marshall McLuhan?” and that’s where we I found him–at Off-Broadway in North Beach, lunching amid the topless waitresses with Writer Tom Wolfe, Adman Howard Gossage and Dr. Gerald Feigen.”



Support Wandering Artists, who wander well

A reminder to support the pursuits of your local wandering artists. Oft quoted, “Not all who wander are lost…” {but some of us are, intentionally}.

Ergo: Not running away from something but strolling towards something, maybe noted upon finding. Maybe not. Wander on, document, create, share. Good shoes are a bonus, but don’t let them fool you into stopping. Beware imposters, the self-proclaimed et al. #drifton

Looking for a Direction

Vincent at the age of nineteen

Schoolboy, junior clerk at an art firm, teacher, bookseller, student and preacher: Vincent van Gogh was all of these before he decided at the age of 27 to become an artist. That decision would change the history of art forever.

‘I heard from Pa that you’ve already been sending me money without my knowing it, and in doing so are effectively helping me to get along. For this accept my heartfelt thanks.’

Vincent to Theo, Brussels, 2 April 1881

Collection: Payphones (vol. 4) – assorted / international

Hello to the people in the future,

What follows are public telephones created in a time when phones did not roam freely and in pockets.

To make a call, one would either enter a specially-created booth (or box), or simply stand close by as the receivers were tethered to the phone unit by a short cord, then insert a variety of coins depending on the location called (local, domestic or international) or in some cases, use a purpose-made phone card, or even a credit card (though doing so often exposed one to fraudulent actors).

Perhaps you have already imagined the unsanitary nature of sharing a phone handset (placed next/close to ear and mouth of course) with strangers – though perhaps this increased “herd immunity” despite being rather unpleasant. Note that oftentimes the coin return slots were checked for forgotten change but the miner was surprised to find discarded chewing gum, or even-less-savoury items, instead.

This gallery is simply random examples, captured “in the wild” in various locations globally. Additional volumes of similar collections provide additional examples – both international and domestic (to Canada / USA), as well as hotel house phones.

Continue reading Collection: Payphones (vol. 4) – assorted / international

Uncle Weed’s Redrock Adventure – a storybook (part 3)

Uncle Weed's Redrock Adventure - part 3

And so, Bob and Uncle Weed were going camping. Not only them, but Bob’s friend, Otto. Bob had told Otto all about his Uncle, so he thought he’d ask if Otto could come along. They were, after all, best friends.

Uncle Weed said, “Alright, but under two conditions: If Otto likes wedgies, and will laugh at my dumb jokes.” The conditions were agreed, so Otto joined the expedition.

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.

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