Story: Sometime around 1994, I ended up working as a mushroom farmhand (enokitake and shiitake) in a small mountain village called Saji in Tottori-ken (prefecture), Yazu-gun (county) .
A sorta friend of friend of my brother was seeking a foreign worker (at the time, Japan’s economy was in a “bubble” with abundant wealth and no one wanted to do the crappy jobs it turns out). They would pay my airfare and so on, I had just finished a stint hitching and drifting around Europe and before the Grateful Dead tour and thought this would be an interesting adventure.
Note: this very freeform (and rather intentionally self-indulgent) flow was written as an assignment for a class at The Evergreen State College. Wasn’t what the professor was expecting but whatever, this is how it came out. Who i am to defy the muse #ha!
Anyhow, read if you want, whatever. Added notes from brother Bob at the end. Not meant to be exhaustive or comprehensive (or comprehendible for that matter).
Brushstrokes and Backpacks, a brief autobiography
By Dave Olson, 2002
My life and myself are defined by the exceptional moments, the flashes of clarity that may last a second or a day. A pleasant day of contentment or perilous adventure, overcoming fear or doing nothing but sitting/thinking/breathing in a place of beauty. Could even be a place of turmoil or even somewhere where I’m not quite sure where I am but are enjoying the ride nonetheless. Moments when the conscious, subconscious, the universe, the tangible surroundings and even any humans entering the scene (or not) seem to be washed into a harmonious watercolor.
These events, sounds, nonevents, glances, coincidences
and snapshots of sorts that stick in the mind, sometimes recalling a story, or more often just a thought when you remember the best of someone or something that seems to make the wind stop for a second.
Was it a lesson? A badge earned? Just a happy memory with no long-term importance beyond an anecdotal tale saved to tell youngsters in later years? Did I see that in a movie? Was that really my life? How long ago was that now? Was that after the fall of the Soviet Union? Where was I then? What else was I doing and how did it happen? Where did the time go and how come I still feel as though I’ve hardly started?
A high school i attended for 1-1/2 year-ish in Utah held a 20 anniversary for my graduating class in summer 2018 – while i wasn’t technically a graduate (nor did i attend the event), i added my dispatch for the record. Shared here for the posterity etc.
A few flashbacks… (PS i was Dave Elliott in those years)
I was a sorta “walk-on character” in the Orem High sitcom – arriving from Canada for the last couple months of 10th grade and then dropping out 2 weeks into 12th grade but dang,… made 11th grade count.
* Running Paul Moody’s “campaign” for Student body president including the “fascist takeover” at the assembly and screening of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” in lounge for a campaign promotion – and the acknowledgement speech at assembly in which someone temporarily declined to announce the winner because of the number of “refused” ballots
* The (notorious) Martin Luther King day protest including long banners on newspaper roll ends covering the lockers with rather controversial slogans
* Making a “Stop Aids” balloon/flag/kite and running it up the flag pole with Cory DeMille and my brother Bob Olson (now the US military’s 2 finest examples)
* Thought i wasn’t enrolled in Unified Studies, my attendance was almost perfect
* KOHS, possibly the best invention in the history of highschool (until my FCC license was revoked)
* Ace-ing AP US History with a 98% on the test but failing because of the tardy/absence policy (drop a grade each time or something) – it *was* the first class in the morning
* Being amazed at seminary – meaning you could sign up and have basically a period off (before moving to Utah, i had attended early morning seminary (imagine the horror of riding to church house on cold Canadian mornings at 5AM!)
* Swim team – i wasn’t cut out for football, basketball etc so signed up for swim team which basically meant roadtrips to other schools, hanging out in a Speedo waiting to lose to “whichever school we were competing against” – our girl’s team won all the time though
* Having no idea was the heck a Sadie Hawkins dance was until getting invited by a card written in Alpha-bits cereal – was completely baffled (later Napoleon Dynamite made this clear)
* Umm… after growing up in a very multi-cultural part of Vancouver (little Punjab), arriving to a ummm… sorta non-diverse school
* Feeling like a total outsider but quickly making friends by virtue of driving a limo to school – which was later replaced by an even more fun VW bus (Spicoli had nothing on me)
* Wearing shorts every single day of the school year – usually with wool socks and duck boots and flannel shirts – i didn’t exactly invent “grunge style” but do deserve an honourable mention
* Frequently teased for using Canadian spellings / we like to put in extra an “u” and switch around “re” instead of “er” and saying “zed” instead of “zee” #sigh
* Requiring a note to read Catcher in The Rye in 11th grade AP English > also realizing the teacher had absolutely no idea why the book was “banned” in some alien circles
* Amazed that so many girls looked like straight out of a magazine or movie #outofmyleague – i was more accustomed to punk rock girls
* Never attending a single football game (now if there was a hockey team…)
* Coming “back” for 12th grade homecoming dance and bringing non-Orem high pals and taking photo with the reggae band (Irie Heights)
By the way, when i bailed on Grade 12 (12th Grade), i went to Utah Technical College (later Utah Valley Community College, Utah Valley College, Utah Valley University, Harvard of the West…) and “earned” an Alpine School District Adult High School diploma after rigorous schedule of ceramics, mountaineering, photography and “independent study” – also creative writing (which turned out handy). I did attend class of 88 grad as a spectator.
Later? after a run of a few more higher-ed institutions (University of Utah, University of Guam) i graduated from Evergreen State College, just took me a few decades. Since, travelled 40+ countries, 100 weird jobs (most recently VP at Hootsuite (social media company), gave TEDx talk (not near as popular as Jani Radebaugh‘s) and now live on various remote small islands making poetry, podcasts and paintings (also deal with a weird complex illness #boring).
Dave OlsonFunny how in those impressionable days of high school, we get defined, &/or define ourselves… I guess I was a little naïve about the different cliques and hierarchies of high school in the US… I had gone to four different schools in 10th grade and just desperately wanted to find a tribe to hang out with so tried to be friendly to everyone. Of course most people had known each other for years through junior high or the same church groups or whatever but I came in with none of those preconceive notions.
I’m sure I overcompensated for my nervousness with too much chatter and goofballery –
As it goes, no matter how “popular” one was in high school, we all had to go out in the world and find someway to make a living and make ourselves happy. It turns out there’s a little benefit to “peaking early” And being “cool” in high school doesn’t predict a future of life success/happiness.
Rick HerleviI was telling my kids the other day about the one and only time in my life that I hiked the Y. I skipped class and went with Kraig Kiggins, I think Cory was there and the two Canadian brothers that drove a limo and hiked they Y. Why would I ever want to do it again after that pinnacle experience.
Kelli Robison HerleviThis convo definitely did take place very recently. It was probably our FHE lesson. I thought Rick was making up the story so he didn’t have to commit to a “Y” hike. But it looks like there’s truth to his story. I won’t make him hike the “Y” again. I can’t compete.
Dave OlsonNext time, we will just drive the limo up to the Y with a catered picnic – It’s all true, even the parts that aren’t 🙂
Cory DeMilleMany great memories in this bus! Remember our Good the Bad and the Ugly video Party and camping in the bus in full cowboy regalia on OHS campus? Now that would be considered a terrorist incident!
Dave OlsonCory DeMille Oh great memory! Just the sound of popping popcorn on the bus’s stove would’ve created phone calls to the police about suspected gunshots
Dave OlsonAlso remember driving around and shooting Roman candle bottle rockets out the back of the bus, and later water balloons (filled from the bus’s sink) and big gulp cups through the “accidental” sunroof – would soak BYU students and act all nonchalant like “it wasn’t us”… Sometimes when chased, the only reasonable strategy was to drive really slow rather than trying to out run them. Those activities did produce some actual police incidents however￼
A humble offering of Musings and Intentions for a Fresh Year, 2019.
‘Tis 2 mins of art and peace with music by Nikos Paraskevas.
Also, Free Art!
1st 3 people to Messenger or email (gravellybeach (at) gmail (dot) com or (@)uncleweed or whatever… with the precise name of the instrument Nikos is playing, will (maybe) receive one of these original art pieces via postal mail.
Class photos from Prince Charles Elementary School in Surrey (Whalley), BC, Canada. I moved to this school from Harold Bishop in the middle of Grade 4 (where i attended Mr. Chandler’s class).
Annotation: i remember this being a fun year and i recall a load of these folks. And whoa, a lot of “middle part” hair.
I lived at 12310 95th ave which was a dead-end and featured a great area for street hockey games). Cedar Hills and Senator Reid schools were both closer but i attended Prince Charles Elementary as it (apparently) featured more extra-circulars and advanced programs and walked to school about 40 minutes.
Annotation: scant recollection of this year aside from Mr. Reimer being a serious and thoughtful teacher, primarily for science topics.
Note: Grade 7 is missing, this was Mr. Tiffenbach’s class and the year i won *every* award possible including the Citizenship Award, Run for Fun, and the Science Fair (Rushmore/Tenenbaum-esque :)).
Class photos from Harold Bishop Elementary School in Surrey (Guildford), BC, Canada. Note: i’m the one in specs (the *only* one) and styling outfits, often sitting with girls or in the “goalie position”.
My best pal Chris Goodman is the one with the blonde bowl haircut, buddy Gordie is in the K & 3/4 photos too. A few other faces i recognize including Anita, Erica, Sandy, Cliff… I lived at 10545 154th street (which was unpaved then) and walked to school about 20 minutes.
Note: Grade 3 seems missing… Mrs. Johnson was also the teacher if i recall correctly.
The world is on fire (and somehow i’m still in the dark)
Info and Call for Help for Kerala, India Flooding (Aug. 2018)
Indeed, the world is in a delicate and dareisay angry condition of late – whales are sending messages, my home province of BC is literally on fire, Indonesia is quaking over and over, California is also aflame, Japan is melting and typhooning, Hawaii bracing, and so on and on and on and on…
While *everywhere* is suffering it seems, i call your attention of the plight of another special place for me: Kerala, India. This lovely state is where my life started again – sequestered in an Ayurvedic clinic under the care of lovely and smart Dr. Veena Hemesh, my brain and body started sparking again.
Now this region of creamsicles-coloured homes, endless moustaches, earnest engineers and intrepid houseboats finds itself flooded with thousands displaced and seeking food, water, safety.
As such, if you are able, consider making a donation by the official channels detailed below to help these decent folks recover from this calamity (i did).
I’ll share a few bits of creativity crafted in Cochin (Kochi) and area… the area is one of historical tolerance with long-standing Jewish, Chinese communities and a noted religious tolerance. Occupied in different eras by Portuguese, Dutch and British, the area provided soldiers to fight WW1 (despite not having a horse in the race as it were) and now produces more engineers and doctors than any other region in India (which keep in mind was an assortment of “Princely states” before British-exit/partition.
Tourists come here for houseboat adventures through backwaters and others (like me) come for Ayurveda treatment (Kerala is the heartland for this ancient medical tradition).
Either way, people are struggling and you might be able to help. Easiest way is via Tranferwise who even waive their fee if donation is of a certain amount.
If you do donate, please let me know and i’ll send you a postcard of personal thanks. Otherwise consider a share, a kind word, poems or annotations.
Gallery of creamsicle coloured houses near Kerala, Kochi
DETAILS for DONATIONS
Chief Ministers Distress Relief Fund, (CMDRF) accepts voluntary contributions from Individuals, Organizations, Trusts, Companies and Institutions etc. All contributions towards CMDRF are exempt from Income Tax under section 80(G).
Donations now accepted through UPI mobile app like BHIM, paytm, Tez, Phonepe also.
(VPA : keralacmdrf@sbi) / Scan the QR Code to donate
For Bank Counter Payment
Beneficiary Name : Principal Secretary (Fin), Treasurer CMDRF
Bank Name : State Bank of India (SBI)
Account Number : 67319948232
Branch : City Branch, Thiruvananthapuram
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For offline Contribution: Cheque/Demand Draft can be drawn in the favour of Principal Secretary (Finance), Treasurer CMDRF, payable at Thiruvananthapuram. The same may be posted/mailed to the following address:
Principal Secretary (Finance)
Thiruvananthapuram – 695 001
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My good buddy Mac Kobayashi runs a small farm in Okayama, Japan (really my fave all around place in the country as nice mix of city/country, beach/mountains, trad/modern culture) making goat cheese/milk and serving delightful craft bevvies and meals.
He also has a truly epic music collection, especially Grateful Dead related, but also Allmans, Phish, String Cheese… as well as Americana galore including Wilco, Ry Cooder, Townes Van Zandt, and poets Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Elliott Smith and Courtney Barnett, and more and more and more (!).
I (not shockingly) especially enjoy the GD box sets and books as i see them advertised but never had chance to look/listen/touch myself… until his farm. Such elegant collections in wooden boxes, suitcases and curious box sets. Plus dang near every book ever about GD.
I rounded-up a few snap selection (but not all by any stretch) for my amusement and by-association-collection and invite you to look along. Includes the Europe 72 suitcase pack, the set with a show from each year + 7″ single from 65/95, a stack of books, a set from Fare Thee Well, some backstage passes stuck on coffee cans, and also a photo of the charming farmer himself and some of his happy animals.
In 1993-4, I worked as a mushroom farmhand in Tottori-ken (prefecture), a rather remote area of Japan (southwestern-ish Honshu). The work was long and arduous and the boss was a jerk so, I eventually split unannounced one day.
Determined to explore some of the country before my visa ran out, I stuck my thumb-out seeking a “bouken” (adventure) after making destination signs by copying place name kanji characters onto 100 yes store notebooks with crayon and decorating with some lucky words and stamps (not sure if this helped).
Hitch-hiking isn’t very common in Japan but by sticking to rural areas – including the traditional “o henrosan dori” (the pilgrim’s path) on Shikoku (the smallest of the 4 main islands of the Japanese archipelago) which has seen many wandering poets, seekers and prayers over centuries – I skidded along alright.
Getting rides in the country areas was usually rather quick but often times, the ride would insist of showing “hospitality” in form of taking to their hometown to show off “the thing their town is famous for” (of which every town has one thing). Not ideal for fast moving but well… the take the ride, you go where it goes. Getting between big cities along the expressways was much less enjoyable and relied on waiting around rest/service areas in these cases.
I pitched my small tent most anywhere (beaches, shrines, parks etc) much the chagrin of caretakers and so on who would scold aloud in the early hours. In these situations, I poked my shaggy head out of the tent flap and yammered confused apologies in my farmer Japanese – this tactic would usually confuse the situation into submission.
Some of the time I was accompanied by a mysterious and intrepid Japanese surfer girl who thought my ridiculous plan was worth trying. I liked this part.
What follows are a few pieces of photographic evidence from these journeys, snapped with an early generation panorama camera – but developed “normal aspect” hence black framing bars on some shots.