Car-free float

The three of us were sitting on the couch. It was Father's Day. Emily asked me what I wanted to do -- it could be anything at all. I thought for a second, and realized this might be the day to figure out an idea that had been bouncing around my thoughts recently: the Car Free Float. I hadn't totally worked it out logistically, and my wife EXCELS at logistics. I proposed it and she said Great. Then we had an hour-long semi-heated discussion about how to make it go.

It was easy to decide on craft -- our tandem inflatable kayak. But then the shuttle had to be worked out. We each have a bike, as well as a bad-ass utility bike, and a bike trailer. We went through various configurations of all of them. We eventually decided upon Emily's bike (which has cool side baskets) and the utility bike. We would drop Emily's bike off at the takeout (the Moab Dock (near Hwy 191 bridge)), all three pile on the utility bike, float down, then Emily would go fetch the utility bike. We discussed riding her bike and strapping it to the utility bike, which seemed a little junky. She mentioned jogging, which I thought was funny. Then, we started getting somewhere. I said, "what about a skateboard or something?" Emily said, what about...roller skates?" We had neither of these. So she walked down to WabiSabi thrift store, which is very close to our home, and soon returned with a BEAUTIFUL pair of properly-functioning and nicely-fitting roller skates. Yes!

Emily's tight rig. That cute little cooler may have found its forever home.

Emily's tight rig. That cute little cooler may have found its forever home.

Emily and I have a long-standing agreement about river running. She rigs, I row. Seems strange to a lot of people, but we love it. So we approached this trip the same way. Emily worked magic on rigging the bike, including finding the perfect spot for our little 6-pack cooler. We were off, and made our way on the Moab city streets, slowly but surely. Oscar fell asleep in the utility bike fairly early on our ride. That was fine. Emily had made him a nice little nest that prevented him from slipping out (which would have sucked).

The put-in. Oscar enjoys a few more moments of Nap Land.

The put-in. Oscar enjoys a few more moments of Nap Land.

We dropped off Emily's bike as planned and headed upstream, Oscar still sleeping soundly. We inflated the kayak, woke up Grumpy Oscar, and did the easy part -- drifted downstream at a nice clip on the more-than-adequate 22,000 cfs. We ate Peanut Butter and just-canned-yesterday-by-Oscar-and-I Cherry Jam sandwiches. We stopped off at a nice little spot and did some exploring.

Father and son making wise cracks about Gluten-Free Bread.

Father and son making wise cracks about Gluten-Free Bread.

Then we made it to the takeout. Time for the real test. Emily slipped into her jean shorts and laced up her new-to-her roller skates.

Oh, yeah!

Oh, yeah!

Oscar and I (and a friend) made sand sculptures at the river's edge. I worried a few times about Emily getting a little too excited on the skates and eating shit hard, but soon enough here she came on the utility bike over the pedestrian bridge. We loaded everything back up and headed back to the house.

Oscar returns to The Throne, while Mom straps in the cooler.

Oscar returns to The Throne, while Mom straps in the cooler.

Riding over the river after a nice float on it.

Riding over the river after a nice float on it.

The Car Free Float was great. We look forward to doing it again.   

Food as Cue (or, Cabbage Patch Dreams)

The three of us determined that our first cabbage was ready for the picking. A certain pressure developed to do something cool (and delicious) to honor the process of growing this particular edible in our home garden [starting the plant indoors from a teeny tiny seed under a light in my wife and I's bedroom, transplanting it to the warm part of the garden while also sewing spinach, lettuce, arugula, beets, radishes, turnips, and green onions), hand-watering, installing irrigation after the last freeze, removing cabbage worms, watching the Small White butterflies fluttering about that hatched from the cabbage plants, monitoring the firmness of the cabbage head, marveling at the big beautiful leaves, and finally, cutting the cabbage from the plant and comparing it in size to my son's head that he's been growing for five years].

That's the one!

Emily began the search for the right recipe. She was close to a decision (some sort of cabbage leaf wrap thing), but then a song filled the house: Villians Three from the 1984 Cabbage Patch Kids album, Cabbage Patch Dreams. And then my wife joined the vocalist and bellowed, with precision, each and every word of that song. Once the song ended , she explained how she and her sister would listen to the album on vinyl (or, the hard plastic vinyl-substitute kids' records were made of in the 80's) A LOT. My son came in from telling stories in the backyard and asked about the music coming through the open window. My wife played more selections, sang along with all of them, and taught our son all about the adventures of Xavier Roberts, Lavender McDade, and good ol' Cabbage Jack.

Good stuff...

Good stuff...

As my wife was singing (and smiling, laughing, and crying), I reflected upon the time when my mom and I waited in line for the chance to buy a Cabbage Patch Kid (the doll). That was a thing when I was a kid -- certain toys generated so much interest and demand that people would wait for hours to snatch one (or a dozen) up. My mom was able to buy a Kid that day, and his name was Chadwick (as documented on the funny little birth certificate that came with each doll). Chadwick, as it turns out, is my mom's maiden name and the source of my first name. Little Chadwick remained in his unopened box for years in my mom's closet. I'm not sure where the little guy ended up. I think he eventually transitioned through a thrift store.

The prospect of preparing a home-grown cabbage took my wife and I back to the Cabbage Patch of our youth. We gave a brief tour of the weird and wonderful place to our son. My wife thought about her sister and I thought about my mom, my late Grandpa Harold Chadwick, and how some memories require a very particular cue to be teased out from the ether.

 [update] We made the cabbage leaf wrap thing, and it was cool. And delicious. 


A Matter of Life and...Eggs

Raising a small flock of chickens for the last three years has brought with it some unexpected moments. Like hearing my father describe his regular chore of slaughtering and preparing meat birds growing up in the 1950's in Grass Valley, California. Like getting super attached to a surprise bantam bird that went off the deep end and eventually committed dog-assisted suicide. Or like how pathetic chickens look when they molt. But the biggest surprise has been the gift of a nuanced relationship with death. 

Floppy strikes an early-morning pose  

Floppy strikes an early-morning pose  

Seven chickens have died on my watch. The first one I killed (with help from my experienced father) because she was gravely ill. The second and third died on their own. The fourth and fifth died during a horrific skunk attack. The sixth was critically injured by a friend's dog and finished off by my friend and I. The seventh died on her own. That's quite a lot of death in three years, but each event has come and gone in my consciousness pretty quickly. Which, I've concluded is perfectly fine and, in fact, helpful. 

I treat our chickens quite differently than I treat the other animal in our lives. I am very attached to Gus the dog. I talk to him about government shut-downs and marriage equality while he lays around and watches me work. I take him on long walks in the desert and sneak him food treats when no one is looking. I have five nicknames for Gus at the moment: Gush, Goose, Gustavus, Turkey and Goofball. I will be very sad indeed when Gus dies.

We give the chickens names, but the names are descriptive and mostly for organizational purposes. For example, we might call a white chicken Whitey and occasionally ask each other, "Has anyone seen Whitey?" Or, "bad news, gang -- Red's dead."

I can't really wrap my head around the concept of my wife or son dying, but I don't have too many concerns or abstractions about my own death. I've seen dead people here and there over the years -- a few open casket funerals, a drowned BASE jumper in the Snake river, a thief who crashed an airplane on Washington's Interstate 5. Those experiences and some thinking about my finite time on the planet have made  it difficult to live in denial about death. I've found that keeping the thought of death nearby helps me appreciate what I have. Each moment in life is unique and fleeting. Realizing this keeps me focused on the here and now. 

But death can be tricky to explain to a four-year-old. My biggest worry is giving him too much information and freaking him out. However, as with other aspects of parenting, I usually just tell it like it is and trust that he can handle it. He knows that everyone and everything living will die, including me, his mom, and himself. His stated preference is for all of us to die when we're old.

He has had a fair bit of direct experience with death thanks to our backyard chicken flock, and I'm banking on the fact that this will help him develop a healthy relationship with it. He carried our most recently departed chicken to our burial spot and commented on how her body was stiff and cold. He helped me dig the hole. He set her down in the hole and and watched as I filled it with dirt. And now he occasionally quizzes me on her current state. He's fascinated by skeletons and really wants to know when our chicken becomes one. 

A lot of us go to great lengths to avoid the subject of mortality. It's not productive to dwell on death, but it's worse to deny it occurs. Within reason, having an ongoing relationship with death prepares you a little for the really bad deaths that will come (whether you've accepted it or not): like your parents, siblings, friends. Death is the ultimate motivator to live a full life without regrets. Our chickens (bless their little souls) remind us of this lesson, and for that I am grateful. 

Man vs. Machine

Idiosyncrasy, Illustrated

I occassionally give demonstrations of my printing process. The demo usually goes something like this:

(1) I tie my apron strings.

(2) I roll ink onto one of my hand-carved linoleum blocks after giving it a scrub with a retired toothbrush.

(3) I sit down in my beat-up chair to change my flip flops or winter boots or bare feet for my Very Special Clogs that my mother purchased for me in 1992 (a great year for clogs).

(4) I take a blank prayer flag from my stack and place it on a catalog on a newspaper on a piece of cardboard on a hand-knotted Nepalese rug on the blue-painted plywood that is my studio floor (a lucky configuration).

(5) Using my trademark Pinkie Anchors, I carefully center the inked block face-down on the flag.

(6) I exchange a glance with my guest as I set foot onto the block and begin a mostly coordinated dance with myself. I pump my weight up and down in key spots. I probably grunt and sigh. I place my trademark Booster Block on the main block in a few choice places and pump some more. My guest may be viewing the demo through his hand at this point.


(7) I remove the linoleum block to reveal a bold and glistening print of something subversive like a plate of chocolate chip cookies.

After an awkward silence, my guest says a variation of, "Dude. I think you need a printing press or something."


Sunday Roast Still Life

We went to our friends' house for dinner recently. As we were hanging out after the meal my friend asked me if we wanted any elk meat from his successful hunt in the backyard mountain range. I said yes and asked if he wanted some salmon from a summer sailing trip in return. He said yes.

I did a little research and found a resource for preparing our gifted elk roast in the slow cooker. I sprinkled on the spices and chopped the onions, potatoes and carrots, and went about the day. We went out for a while and were welcomed home by an intoxicating aroma. I was impressed that our prone-to-counter-surfing dog hadn't pulled the whole business down and devoured it, crockery shards and all.

As dinner time approached, I told my son we would soon be eating part of an elk (an animal he recently discovered thanks to pre-school) that was shot by his friend's dad with a bow and arrow. His jaw dropped. My son thinks weapons are wonderful, but has me for a dad (I know nothing about weaponry and am mostly terrified by it). He made some intense shooting sounds, then quickly shifted into talking about how much he likes sharing. He's complicated like that.

I made some elk broth gravy to drip over the smashed potatoes, carrots and wonderfully tender meat. We ate with oohs and ahhs and tales of hunting and bravery and more sound effects. I did my best to sound like I knew what I was making noise about, and was grateful for our friend who made the moment possible. 

Strange Birds

Check out them legs!Last Easter, three-year-old Oscar picked out two baby chicks to add to our small backyard flock of laying hens. One was Peeps yellow and fuzzy, while the other was a darkish mottled little animal. We set them up in a metal basin in my studio. Within a short time, the yellow bird ballooned in size and turned stark white. I could almost hear her growing. Not much grew on the little brown bird, except for her legs. I assumed something was wrong with Little Brown.

Two months later, the new girls were introduced to the old girls. The resident birds were ruthless toward Big White. She was slow and apparently stupid. Little Brown, on the other hand, was fast, crafty, and could even fly a bit when she needed to. She had to watch her back pretty regularly, but she integrated fairly well.

Big White soon weighed roughly double what our two-year-old laying hens did. She tripped on herself and was regularly filthy. I did some research and quickly determined that Big White was a genetically engineered animal designed to grow gigantic breasts. Once the intial ickiness wore off, my research topic shifted, with unease, to butchery.

The next day, I went out to check on the chickens and found Big White dead in the nesting box. I put her in a five gallon bucket, loaded her in the truck, and drove her out to the desert. I hiked out a ways and nestled her under a large juniper. It wasn't a perfect solution, but it felt better than burying her or throwing her away. Eating a sick chicken didn't feel safe (although a vegan friend accutely observed that I have likely eaten a great number of sick (supermarket) chickens before without protest).

The first (and only?) eggBut Little Brown endured, and eventually thrived. We waited for her to be a rooster or a road runner or god knows what because her body shape and legs and tail feathers are all strange. She developed an outsider kind of energy, which made me increasingly attached to her. Then she laid an egg! It was a touch bigger than a cherry tomato. Then some time passed without eggs and I wondered if her egg-laying career was over. But now...she is our most reliable layer. I never thought I'd be proud of a chicken (or whatever she is), but it seems that's exactly how I feel. 

Making Music

The Axe Among T's

My original idea for the 'make music' Subvert image was to encourage participation in life over spectatorship. I've never gotten into spectator sports very much and I cringe when I hear people talk about the paintings they would create, vegetables they would grow, poems they would write, or songs they would play if only they had the time, talent, or energy.

I think a lot of us underestimate how much time we spend doing joyless, unnecessary things (e.g., television viewing, Facebooking, talking about how little time we have). Converting just a bit of the time we spend doing these things into 'do the thing time' can go a long way in developing an enjoyable means of self-expression.

After printing lots of guitars proclaiming MAKE MUSIC, I decided I'd finally spend a little energy learning how to make some music myself. My wife owns a guitar, mandolin, flute, cello, and keyboard, which are scattered throughout our house. I began sneaking the guitar back to my studio during the workday and have been figuring out basic chords and such whenever I have down time or need a quick break.

I had a breakthrough moment the other night when Emily and I spontaneously erupted into a raucous rendition of Rainbow Connection for our son - me on guitar and she on mandolin. Sure, I had a hard time keeping up with her and several of the chords were pretty wonky, but it was a shit ton of fun. Me dinking around on the guitar whenever the hourglass icon appears on my 2006 Dell Inspiron made that moment possible.

Working in the creative arts provides lots of opportunities for expression. But there's something uniquely rewarding about doing something expressive and not getting paid for it. I'm pretty sure I'll never receive a dime for my guitar skills, and I'm actually pretty excited about that.


Custom printing on clothing you already like (or at least wear)

Looking to give some of your favorite clothing a little attitude? Send it to me and I'll print whatever image(s) you'd like in whatever configuration you want. True custom! And you know everything will fit like a dream when you open the package! The cost for this option is typically $10 per clothing article.

A stack of shirts ready to be shipped back to its owner in Portland, OR

Business cards

I ran out of business cards and was getting ready to place an order with one of the big printers one can easily find online. I figured I would go with something Not Completely Evil, like maybe recycled paper or soy-based ink. Then I stumbled on a site where someone stamped their own business cards. This took me to a custom stamp supplier, which I almost went with. As I was assembling my order, though, I realized that most of what I do is create stamps. Right.

So I took an existing Subvert image, "Grow Your Own," and shrunk it to fit the standard 2x3.5" business card size.

Adapted "Grow Your Own" image carved into 2x3.5" linoleum block

As for paper, I've been looking for a good use for the paper board (e.g., beer or cereal boxes) that is tricky to recycle here in Moab, Utah. This stuff is roughly the thickness of stout card stock, so I figured it was a good fit.

A stack of paperboard ready to be cut into business card size

They printed quite well, and I now have a way to showcase my imagery with the same process that I use for my products. It's great to be in control of the entire business card process, and to extend the life of packaging waste.

Hand-printed business card with contact information

The back of the business card, highlighting the reuse of materials