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. 

Try something new this weekend! Yeah buddy, you!

Sanibel Island, Florida, 2009

Sanibel Island, Florida, 2009

You know what's almost gone? August! And it's taking summer with it!

A few months ago there was something new you were thinking about trying this summer. Stand up paddle boarding perhaps? Chess? That green stuff in jars that yoga people seem to enjoy drinking or eating or whatever they do with it?

Well, it's now late August. Did you do take on something new? Summer isn't over, friend, but you can see the end of it from here. You better get cracking. 

For what it's worth, I'd suggest something that's completely new and an entirely different than anything you've tried before. Sure, trying tenor saxophone when you already play alto saxophone puts you ahead on the learning curve. But do you really need two goddamn saxophones? When you could have a saxophone and a unicycle instead?

Of course, this isn't about "having." It's about "doing." And for me at least, doing something completely new puts me onto the fastest funnest part of the learning curve.

The part where every single thing you do is learning something new.

The part where you have zero ego attached to the activity.

The part where you can revel in your ineptitude and be a child again.

Last summer, when I was learning to play the ukulele, I came across this Ted Talk videoIt's about how to learn anything in 20 hours. The rumored 10,000 hours it takes to be an expert at something? You probably don't have that kind of time this weekend. But 20 hours? You could get a good jump on that.


Hey ho rock and roll! J Roddy Walston!

Last Friday found me bouncing through a variety of airports, making my way home from a Craft Brewers Conference. The departure from Philadelphia was early. It was raining. And I was wrapping up a week where the ale flowed fast – America's finest beers officially sanctioned and entirely free. 

It’s mornings like that where no one would blame you for listening to an Ambient Chill mix. Just close your eyes and zone out to the sound of gently cascading synth pads buttered over the shimmery cooing of angels. But no. Not me. Not last Friday. And not this Friday either. Maybe never again.

Because last week I saw J Roddy Walston And The Business play live. And holy shit.

For the record, I love music. All kinds of music. Hip hop, classic country, EDM, reggae, pop, whatever ya got. I go through crazy phases, weeks or even months at a time, where I'll obsess over, say, Pretty Lights' second album. Eventually though, life always seems to lead me back to the front of a small stage, looking up at four men with amps and hair and disorderly intent.

All music has the potential to steal your heart. But the right rock and roll band? On the right night? They'll do more than steal your heart. They'll rip it from your chest and hold it out in front of you so you can watch it. Beating and glistening and alive.

That was J Roddy Walston And The Business last week. They're a phenomenal live band – proof of how powerful live music can be. I strongly suggest you catch them the next time they roll through your town. They'll remind you of stuff you maybe forgot: That pianos are better than keyboards. That drums aren't necessarily machines. And that neither are we. 

Here's a little taste, toned down a bit since they're playing inside a van. 

And here's their most recent album called Essential Tremors


Morgan Maassen made a fine to-do list for you

Don't have your summer plans ironed out yet? Nothing nailed down for this weekend?

Fear not my indecisive one, photographer and filmmaker Morgan Maassen has about 4,000 ideas for you and he's compiled them all into one absolutely gorgeous video called "Motion."

I suppose "Things You Can Do If You're Bored" wasn't his intention when he put this together. But if watching it doesn't make you want to get out and do something (like right now!) I don't even know what to say to you.

Anyway, check it. The footage and the edit are fire and the music track by Kelpe drives it all perfectly. This kid is really really good. At 25, he's already shot for some of the biggest companies in the world. His work doesn't feel that way though which is about the highest compliment I can give.  

He's a good follow on Instagram too: here.

Me and Pac and that guy from Loverboy

So let's see here. It's Sunday morning. What should I write about?

Maybe something about the first day of Day Light Saving time? Or the freakishly warm weather? How about some thoughts on my country's vulgar decent into the meanest, basest aberrations of human instinct? 

No wait! Bandanas! 


I really like bandanas, you see. While I've never "collected" them, I realized the other day that I ended up with a stack of 'em anyway. Most of them I've acquired randomly over the years, going back to high school. Others have a very distinctly remembered provenance: the shop in Hillsborough, Carriacou, for example, stacked to the rafters with boxes of cheap electronics and sarongs... the lilt of the shopkeeper's voice as he took my $4 EC... the stiffness of the new brown fabric as I rolled it and tied it around my head... wearing it fishing the next day...

I've been tying on a lot of bandanas lately due to my burgeoning yoga habit. Per tradition, the yoga room is kept at a comfortable 247 degrees. Since I misplaced my prized 1977 Harlem Globetrotters headband, I've taken to the bandana instead. I tie it on every morning, nervously, like Christopher Walken in the russian roulette scene from The Deer Hunter

But there are lots of reasons for owning an unreasonable number of bandanas. A few for consideration:

  1. Looking awesome. Tupac and the dude from Loverboy can't be wrong! Axl is also a noted bandana enthusiast. But Axl can be wrong.
  2. Sun protection. Over the head, do-rag style. Over your face Buff/cowboy style. Or hanging out the back of a hat – all the protection of one of those sun-flap hats without the embarrassment of wearing one of those sun-flap hats.
  3. Bug protection. I'd much rather spray down a bandana with bug spray and tie it around my neck than spray down my neck. Especially if I'm going to be in a sleeping bag later.
  4. Water filter protection. A bandana won't make unsafe water safe. But it'll let you filter out the bigger crud before you run it through a proper filter.
  5. Tied to a cord with a rock inside, to throw the cord up over a limb (when hanging tarps, bear bags, convivial piñatas)
  6. As a makeshift tie down, strap, guy line.
  7. As a "container" when collecting berries and nuts (or whimsical pebbles and twigs for your new etsy craft shop). 
  8. For first aid: tourniquet, wound coverage, eyepatch, other gnarly shit.
  9. Tied to a stick to carry all your possessions when you finally say "screw this" and change your name to Utah Bindle Bill and live out the rest of your life happily riding the rails.

And don't worry, I didn't leave you hanging. I know you want some Loverboy right now. You can check out the video here. They did it with a silly skit in front. The cowbell (and the rawk!) kicks off at 2:22. 

Dreams are needs

What a great line that is: "Dreams are needs." It's the culmination of this video by Duct Tape Then Beer. As you may have noticed by now, I'm a huge sucker for "reminder videos." The ones that remind me to get out there and be the person I aspire to be. 

It's officially March. In 11 days, the clocks change. Now is the time for the planning of trips and the prepping of gear. Now is the time to get excited.

Start with this video right here. And if you're so inclined, I included links to a few more below.

The Art of Lunch Hour

Lemme start by saying I don't draw.

While my travel journals include the occasional "illustration," I only do it so I look more artistic to others from afar. Up close, my "charmingly naive outsider depictions of everyday life" are quickly seen for what they are: "pretty shitty dude."

So as a rule, the only things I draw are the wrong conclusions. (Ba dum dum!)

But today at lunch I saw something on the information superhighway that caught my eye. A piece called "How To Draw A Wave." Holy moly!!!

Long story short, I spent 20 minutes eating a sandwich and drawing a horribly wonky wave. Clearly I wasn't the top student in my one man class.

But it got me thinking about what other stuff I could get done over a lunch hour. It turns out, lots!

Whatcha doing right now? I bet there's time for something extraneous.

Hey! Use your noodle!

Not that noodle you big silly...

I'm talking about using your brain. Your sense of imagination. Your sense of playfulness and resourcefulness and fun.

That's what Londoner Rich McCor does on Instagram. Smile-for-smile his account might be my favorite right now. It's the perfect testament to what skewing your perspective can do for you (also helpful: crazy scissor skills). 

He and his work (his play?) are no secret since he's been featured on CNN, among other places. His Instagram following is currently at 117,000. The Kardashian/Jenner family is over 180 million.  Help right the world by following Rich McCor instead. He'll make you happy. You'll see.

This is why

I started Bring Limes four months ago.

I'm glad I'm doing it, this I know. I'll be honest though, I'm still not sure why I'm doing it. 

I'm hoping to get that figured out in 2016. I'm hoping to get a lot of things figured out in 2016 actually: the appeal of kombucha, the proper use of semi-colons, ukulele chords that require more than two fingers, etc.

But back to why. Why Bring Limes? I wonder sometimes. And then I discover something like "The Important Places" by Forest Woodward and Gnarly Bay. It all becomes clear.

I didn't make this video. But I feel it. I don't know these dudes, the father nor the son. But I know their story. Deeply. And I want to share it. And I want to add my own chapters. This is why.

Finding chaney in St. Croix

Chaney: Cane Bay, St. Croix

Chaney: Cane Bay, St. Croix

When doing nothing, it's nice to have something to do. 

For example...

Collecting sea glass while poking along a desolate shoreline...

Keeping an eye open for morels while wandering a springtime forest...

Playing cornhole while standing around in a parking lot getting hammered on Busch Light...

While I was in St. Croix, I learned about looking for chaney. Even though I had already been on the island a week, I was oblivious to chaney. Once it was pointed out though, and especially after it was explained to me, I was hooked on finding it.

Chaney is broken pieces of (mostly) colonial era china. The name originated when local children would smooth down the edges and use it as play money (china + money = chaney, or china + change = chaney, or... or... or...). 

You find chaney in the dirt, in the woods, and alongside trails, especially after a good rain to expose new pieces. If you're in the right place, and have time to look, you'll come across quite a bit.

Most chaney, like most china I suppose, is plain white. Not especially interesting. But the best stuff has bits of abstracted design. It can be incredibly beautiful.

Where does it come from though? I know! I asked the same question!

Much it dates back to the 1700s. Depending on which version of the story you prefer, chaney either:

  1. Was broken by the caseload while being shipped from Europe during rough seas, and then dumped.
  2. Was broken one dish at a time during regular use, and then tossed out the nearest window.
  3. Was broken one kitchen's-worth at a time during hurricanes and then strewn all over the island.

I'm guessing some combination of all three. But however it got there, it's there.

With or without chaney laying about, I would have been poking around in the bush either way. Because that's what I do. It was great having some sort of a mission, though, as arbitrary as it might seem. An open ended treasure hunt.

It turns out looking for chaney is the perfect thing to do when you're looking to do nothing much at all.

And I'm always looking to do nothing much at all.

I've seen chaney made into jewelry, which is pretty awesome.

You can learn a bit more about chaney here.

Tipsy Tips: How to make grilled pineapple + nutmeg infused rum

It seems more and more people are getting into high-falutin' infused liquors these days. Myself included. However, over the past year or so I've come to realize that I might actually prefer my infused liquors low-falutin'.

As such, I'm not removing the fruit after a week or two, quadruple-straining the liquor, and serving neat. Instead, I'm leaving everything in the jar indefinitely, including other ingredients (bitters, multiple liquors, whatever feels right), and serving sloppy. Straight from the jar around a campfire, fruit and all.

It's easy to do, gives me a compelling reason to go to farmers' markets, and increases the likelihood of getting invited to bonfires. Here's how, in handy video form:

Go camping! You! Go camping now!

With Labor Day behind us, my head shifts to camping (car camping, backpacking, float trips, whatever ya got). That's because camping, while an entirely reasonable summer activity, is an entirely kick ass fall activity.

If this video doesn't make you wanna get out there, I don't know what will. Just the sights, sounds and sweetness of camping with no extra filler added nor required.

It's from Hipcamp which is an Airbnb-style concept for finding and reserving campsites. Although I haven't used it yet, the site looks solid. And this video, to me anyway, is damn near perfect. 

You should totally do this: ukulele edition

Cheap, fun, and easy. I'm all about all three of those. If you are too, and I know you are, then have I got the thing for you! Sketchy details here:

And then, after you've followed my sage advice and got a ukulele, hit this link to hear from a guy with actual knowledge and ability and such. He addresses everything from tuning to playing. By the way, he calls it an ooo-kulele. This is the correct pronunciation. I'm just not comfortable saying it yet. Much like SOW-na, and Regina, Saskatchewan. Also note: his hat choice adds whimsy to an already whimsical undertaking. You'll have to define your own boundaries in that regard.