I didn't do shit tonight. But I did it like a champion.

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I've got a free pass tonight. My wife is out of town. The boys are busy (thanks Fortnite!). The dog is fed.

I rolled out of the house on a mission: notebook in hand. I planned to Write Great Things. Writing has always been a good outlet for me (and a good inlet too). I've been away from it for a while.

I've been thinking lately about the downside of optimism. Or conversely, the upside of pessimism. Maybe I'd scribble up some kind of positive/negative duality thing. I'm sometimes a little to clever for my own good, and I knew this was probably that. But what the hell, I'll start there and see where it goes.

I headed to The Weary Traveler Freehouse. I've scrawled the better part of four screenplays there, along with endless gibberish for Bring Limes. When it comes to writing, I'm a little superstitious. The Weary has always come through for me: A small table two or three back along the side wall. A Hopalicious please. Notebook. Sharpie pen. Trust the process, as they say. 

And then. And then! Nothing happened. The blank page stayed blank. The insights stayed unsighted. Writing's like that sometimes/most of the time. Kind of how fishing and catching only occasionally overlap. 

So instead, I just looked around. Occasionally I'd tap my pen and furl my brow to create the illusion that I was thinking. But I wasn't thinking. I was just taking things in. There was a loud and awkward breakup happening somewhere behind me. And at the table right in front of me, what I'm pretty sure was a first kiss. They weren't teenyboppers, these two. They were an older couple, a bit out of their element, who spent the first part of the evening looking for conversational common ground. Eventually they found it. After they left, I had one more beer and then I did the same. Smiling like a goof as I stepped out into a light rain.

The notebook went entirely unused. I didn't accomplish what I wanted. But still. I want what I accomplished.



The Books of John

I'm not a scrapbooker. Those big-ass ziq-zag scissors always intimidated me. I'm not a diarist either, nor do I capture every detail of my day on social media. As for my biographers, sadly, they'll find that over the years I've archived zero correspondence for them to work with.

My occasional scribblings on this site notwithstanding, I've come to believe that experiencing life is much more important than recording it. A photo of a long toeside turn on a snow/surf/skate board simply can't compare to the feeling of an actual long toeside turn on a snow/surf/skate board.

But wait! However! Nonetheless!

Trips are different. Every major trip I've taken in recent years has included a journal. I've never come close to filling a journal on a single trip, but I start with a fresh one each time anyway. That way, one or five or 10 years down the line, I can pull that book off the shelf and revisit a time and a place that, otherwise, would be limited to hazy generalities. 

The things I document when I'm on a trip, and how I choose to document them, are random at best. I've found, to my taste anyway, that the highest quality journals are the ones where quality was never a consideration. If quality was the goal I'd cut my word count by half, my rum intake by a quarter, and my "illustrations" entirely. But no. Fuck that. Instead I've decided to go all in on doodles and gibberish – as conceived and executed by a remedial first grader.

This past weekend I desperately needed a getaway. I pulled a few journals off the shelf and added some coffee and Wailers to the mix. I slowly settled in. As it turns out, a return to St. Elsewhere was exactly what I needed. 

Fish + Words + Other Slippery Things


You can learn a lot from a fish. 

I strongly considered following that line up with "because they spend so much time in schools." One more Dark & Stormy and I might have pulled the trigger.

But for real. Fish. They're like geniuses! Because whatever it is that I need the most on any given day? They seem to understand it better than I do. Sometimes they let me catch them at will, just like that, and hold them up for the world to see. Other times, they'll leave me casting for days on end without even a fin-flash of hope. 

The fact that they let me catch them at all is a huge leap of faith on their part. But not letting me catch them is, by far, the greater gift. Life's greatest lessons so often follow extended periods of desperately flailing about. Of blindly waving sticks over dark water.

When everything is working, the living's easy like George and Weezy. (Jeffersons reference? George Clinton/Lil' Wayne reference? Your choice!)

I spent last week fishing in northwestern Ontario. Everything was working. Despite rain and temps in the 40s, the fish proved to be very generous with their time. We caught one after another. "We figured 'em out," as the saying goes. Times like those feel like the catching is a permanent situation. Like fishing will be this easy always and forever. Now that you've figured 'em out.


Writing is the same way. Sometimes the words rise up from the depths and just jump right into your damn boat. Everything works and the words pile up all around you, into sentences and paragraphs so many you can't even count. You figured 'em out, these words, and there's a sense that they're going to stay figured out, for always and forever. 

The main challenge on those days is deciding which specimens to hold up for the world to see and which to toss back over the side. The implication of the toss-back, of course, is that there are more ideas where those came from. The clear thinking, the concise articulation, the natural rhythm of writing well... you've got all that figured out. Tomorrow will bring another easy boatload. No need to push hard today. Easy come, easy go.

The no-big-deal toss-back is definitely a form of hubris. But on those days where everything is clicking, it's maybe an understandable one. 

Holding your ideas up for the world to see is another level of hubris all together. Look at me! I figured it out! Read it! And weep! I alone was able to catch the uncatchable!

Of course in reality all ideas are catchable. Not only that, all the best ideas have already been caught. Look at any piece of writing and you'll see the telltale hook marks from prior writers, prior people who figured out the same things you did; only long before you and better conveyed.


To be honest, I'm not sure where I'm headed here. I noticed some similarities between fishing and writing. That's how it started. I thought I'd be able to shape those similarities into a finely crafted treatise on the feast/famine dualities of fishing and writing and life.

Clearly I was wrong about that. Upon review of the previous 548 words, I see I've been fishing, but not catching. Typing, but not writing. Time to stop casting for the day. Hopefully they'll be biting better tomorrow.

Blue Highways + Last Exit To Elsewhere

I haven't read Blue Highways: A Journey Into America. Clearly though, I better. It's a book written by William Least Heat-Moon in 1982 which chronicles his late '70s roadtrip across America.

For a taste of it, we've got this damn fine video called Last Exit To Elsewhere. It features VO taken from the book, paired with footage filmmaker Dan Sadgrove shot while on a recent 5,000 mile road trip of his own. 

The tone, of both the VO and the visuals, are entirely different than your typical roadtrip video. The piece doesn't culminate with tight tan bodies leaping from cliffs into the sea. There's no final call to action. There's no Go For It Bro! There's just this tone, throughout. Of searching and sadness too. 

The video culminates with a realization: "I still dream... but I'm not restless anymore." Is it wisdom? Surrender? A bit of both I suppose. I've come to the same understanding myself after extended time on the road.

I imagine one of these times the feeling might stick for me. But not quite yet.

Island Silence

Island Silence

I spent last week on Sanibel Island in Florida.

Although it was a full-on family vacation of the time-share variety, and Sanibel isn't necessarily the islandiest of islands, the rum mixed well with the ocean air and the wind laid down enough for a few fantastic trips onto the gulf for some fishing and diving. 

Finally! Fresh fodder for Bring Limes!


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The S is for Simple

The S is for Simple

When I'm headed to points south, I always bring a journal. On those trips, with all the unplugged time available, it seems profound wisdom should be washing up onto every shore like sea shells after a storm.

Regardless of exactly where I'm headed, or exactly why, when I'm around the sea it just feels like I'm going to get some serious stuff figured out. And every time I'm on my way home? It feels like I did get some serious stuff figured out.

Well, this past weekend I flipped through a few of my old trip journals, looking for some of that wisdom. Perhaps a profound passage on What It All Means. Or at least an insightful bon mot that I could photograph and post on instagram in my brazen attempt to increase the Bring Limes Instagram following.


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Mary Oliver is a badass

Here's a confession. I had never heard of Mary Oliver. It wasn't until just a few years ago that a friend pointed her out, bringing me into the fold.

Here's another confession. I think if you combined Thoreau and Whitman into one transcendentally inspired, massively bearded crafter of words, he would still fall short of Mary Oliver. She's that good. 

I'm not revealing any secrets here, of course. She won the damn Pulitzer Prize. But the amount of wonder and wisdom she fits into every passage, into every word, is truly inspiring. Her power-to-weight ratio is off the charts.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary turned 80 last month. She's tended to avoid interviews, preferring to let her words do the talking. But here is one she did with NPR not too long ago:

Edward Abbey and the sweet and lucid air

I spent today on the water with family. And friends. And a splash or three of tequila. 

This evening I spent reading Edward Abbey. And now, for whatever reason, I decided it would be a good idea to share. I have a strong suspicion that "whatever reason" = "a splash or three of tequila." But so it goes.

Hat tip to mi amigo Señor West for originally steering me to this quote.