30 July 2008


Yep, that's right, I survived the trip to Montana. I haven't, however, been able to find any updates on the fate of the besieged Russian scientists. Perhaps they have all been eaten and word has yet to get out. I hope not. Much as I think bears should be entitled to eat those people who encroach upon their territory - the food chain should not be tinkered with - I think the people who are being threatened with being consumed, should be able to fight back.

In Montana, while driving from my father's house to the west entrance of Glacier National Park, I did pass this place. "Your Car is Your Cage" is one of the very best slogans I have ever encountered. So good that I've had moments of thinking I should have it tattooed upon my body. I would have to personalize it: "My Car is My Cage." It says so much about life in Los Angeles. I suppose it also says a lot about me that I can write that, believe it, and yet I love living here. I guess that, much like a long term zoo animal, I have become habituated to my environment.

I could never live in Montana. There's just not enough variety, not enough noise, not enough people, not enough of everything. While I was there I had occasion to think about California. It is arguably the single most varied, diverse - geographically, geologically, culturally, socially, economically, in every which way - place on the planet.

Still, I'm happy to visit other places and Montana certainly was beautiful: The "Going to the Sun" highway in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park. McDonald Creek, Glacier National Park. My father, Martin Stone on the trail. The guy is astounding. The reason that I, and the rest of the family, were there was his 80th birthday. He led us all on a four mile hike. He was a bit disappointed with that. He had a much more strenuous 12-mile hike in mind that he could normally easily do. But, due to a recent problem with one of his legs he had to settle for the lesser march. Good thing. By the last third of a 12-mile hike he'd have had to carry me on his back. The thing is, he probably could. Plus, if that had been the case it would have made it far too easy for the bears to eat the both of us.

My upcoming book, FLIGHT OF THE HORNBILL, is dedicated to my father. If you like my books, if you find some of what I write in this blog of interest, if there are things you like or find interesting about the way I look at the world and write about what I see, you can thank, or blame, my father for a lot of that. I, for one, thank and love him for it.

24 July 2008


They tell you that when you encounter a bear in the wild you're supposed to make yourself look big, make noise, stand your ground. If one actually charges you, fight back with all you've got, or play dead. There seems to be some disagreement on the matter.

Here's what I think. You're not going to win a fight with a bear. The bear is going to kill you and eat you. If you fight back, at least that will get your adrenalin pumping overtime. That will help your endorphins to kick in. And then it won't hurt as much when you are being eaten.

Or, if you are really lucky, your feeble attempts at fighting the bear will result in the bear killing you quick, rather than toying with you. And that's gotta be better than being eaten alive.

This is on my mind because tomorrow I am going to Montana. To a place where they have grizzly bears. Oh yeah, and I came across this article (click on the headline to read the whole, horrifying story): MAN EATING BEARS KILL TWO SCIENTISTS AND LAY SIEGE TO SURVIVORS TRAPPED IN REMOTE FOREST BASE.

Civilization has been a long, arduous march away from the woods. And I like to think of myself as a civilized man.

I once flew for three-and-a-half hours in a single-engined plane, not too far over unbroken forest canopy to a mud landing strip in the highlands of Central Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. At one point we flew over the wreckage of an identical plane that had crash-landed onto the tops of the hundred or more foot tall trees.

None of that made me nervous. The two day trek along a well-kept path in the jungle to a remote longhouse of the Kenyah tribe, was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

I nearly died of fright when a snake flew overhead.

That's right, flew. It was a bright blue snake, poisonous of course. It actually glides from tree to tree by flattening out its body and catching air. The other people in my party were delighted to catch a glimpse of this wonder of nature. I just felt inadequately armed and armored.

The last time I went camping was around 1977 or '78. My then girlfriend Chris, and I, went to the Stanley Basin in Idaho. Even I will admit that it is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We spent the day fly-fishing. Well, she did, I'm incompetent at that sort of thing. She caught dinner and I cleaned it and cooked it. I'm good at that sort of thing. (But I must confess that I don't like trout, no matter how fresh. I prefer saltwater fish.) We went to sleep in our bags under the trees - no tent, but we were near the car.

In the morning I was woken up by a terrible chattering. I looked straight up into the gaping maws of doom. I shrieked, rolled away from the tree, broke from my sleeping bag and made a mad dash for the safety of the car. Chris, terrified by my reaction, quickly followed.

It was a squirrel. Clinging upside down to the tree, staring into my face and nattering on about something or another. Hey, maybe it was a rabid squirrel.

I don't like the woods. They scare me. I realize it's illogical, but drop me off in the middle of the most violence-prone, crime-ridden urban neighborhood in the world and I might be wary, but I'm comfortable.

I know full well that bears and squirrels and flying snakes don't carry guns; and that I'm about a thousand times (or more) more likely to be shot to death by a fellow human than I am to be eaten, poisoned or scratched to death by any other animal. But that's just the way it is.

Those of you who like the woods should be glad. You don't have me around to mess them up for you.