About wranglerdani

I love: Kayaking, sunsets, Hudson jeans, horses, long car rides, grammatically correct e-mails, Heineken, good cigars, quad-shot lattes, engaging story-tellers, Diet Coke, sunflowers, the color green, mountain mornings and long walks.

An Open Letter of Apology to the Booth

Dear Corner Booth,

Tuesday is my day to sit and chat with you, and I haven’t been here in a week of Tuesdays. I’m sorry. I really miss how we used to have milkshakes and critique movie critics together, or talk about alcohol or bromances or favorite things.

These are the kinds of conversations that give me hope. See, Booth, we’re in election season out there, and I’m a little hot and bothered about it. I think there are so many people who are ignorant or ill-informed or irritating and I want to tell them what’s up, because another loudmouth’s opinion always helps, you know.

But today I was scrolling through our old conversations and I realized that sometimes a discussion about compassion or work or mowing the lawn or watching a movie is even more important than a political one. Because we make our political decisions based on our core values, the things we care about, think about, write about, work through, cry over.

And I’ve neglected that lately because I forgot that working is worship, that friendship is worth more than being right, and that giving people pieces of ourselves is true love.

So… Booth…. I’ve got a cup of truly strong diner-like coffee and a hankering for your opinions. What would you like to chat about this week?


Book (and Bromance) Review: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

It’s been unusually hot in SoCal this summer, so I was feeling the need for a bit of London fog and walking-sticks to cool me down and cheer me up and so delved into The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Since we’ve been on the topic of bromances this week in the Booth, I thought I’d recommend Holmes and Watson for your reading pleasure as well.

Sherlock Holmes is Encyclopedia Brown, All Grown-Up and with a Better Vocabulary. He’s attractive in a maniacal, crazy-chemist way, intriguing and complicated and intelligent and not always aware of the people around him, which is why he needs Watson.

Doctor Watson is his opposite. He’s practical and compassionate and in awe of his friend almost as often as he is irritated by him. Holmes and Watson have the ultimate Victorian bromance: because their language skills are downright astounding and their culture is so refined, they often say casually kind things to each other that are unthinkable to men of today, but it’s endearing rather than strange.

Holmes’ cases are usually bizarre, but Watson rolls with his every whim and has his back in every tight space. Since Watson is the narrator of the book, the reader gets to experience the cases as he does – as a gentle, often disbelieving but generally warm-hearted compatriot would. We feel lucky to be included in their friendship and we want Holmes to share his side of ham with us in the same genial way he does with Watson.

The methods Holmes uses to solve his cases are typically unbelievable and rely heavily on the myth of Sherlock Holmes, Master Sleuth, but that’s part of the fun. Every chapter in the book is a new case and every new case is quirky and unique, so the reader becomes more and more attached to the characters and the unusual traits that make Sherlock Holmes a beloved friend and not simply a joke or stereotype.

Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law have made the best Holmes and Watson yet for the big screen, and much of their dialogue was lifted directly from the books, which made the movies extra fun for anglophiles like me.

Treat me like a Bantha and I feel so rough…

This song will now be in your head for the rest of the day, but it is so worth it. Watch all three and marvel at all the ways we can make our opinions known.




And now, a question for you my friends, what angsty version of this song do you want to write? I think my ode will be to summertime that I used to know – full of popsicles and pools and flip-flops and none of this pesky “work to eat” business.

Good Music: Into the Wild Soundtrack

“It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough , it is your God-given right to have it…I was a raw youth who mistook passion for insight and acted according to an obscure, gap-ridden logic. I thought climbing the Devils Thumb would fix all that was wrong with my life. In the end, of course, it changed almost nothing. But I came to appreciate that mountains make poor receptacles for dreams. And I lived to tell my tale.” ― Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

Adam and I listened to Into the Wild on tape a couple of years ago – we had a long drive up to Yosemite in the middle of winter and needed something to distract us. I thought it was going to be the kind of adventure tale that my husband so cherishes – some guy going all Bear-Grylls-in-High-Def on the wilderness. What I didn’t expect was a story that was compelling, sad and filled with yearning, written so well that I frequently rewound the recording to hear a perfect paragraph again.

Into the Wild is the story of a driven, slightly dysfunctional kid who goes on a journey across the country and finally, into the wilds of Alaska. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t go well. However, in the haunting story of Chris McCandless is a broader commentary on what adventure is, how often the search for meaning becomes a foolish run into oblivion and when justice needs to allow for love. Eddie Vedder captures those deep, dark, powerful, wild themes in the soundtrack perfectly.

The movie was nothing fantastic – interesting for readers of the book, and worthy because it used actual locations from the true story – but the soundtrack is absolutely incredible. While Eddie Vedder in Pearl Jam is a legendary rock star, Eddie Vedder in Into the Wild is a seeker, a wild spirit, and a yearning heart.

The soundtrack makes me want to take off for a mysterious desert or a massive ancient forest, to test my limits and remember how small I really am. It’s roll-down-the-windows music, gallop-until-tears-stream music, sit-in-silence music. It’s good for long drives, for writing, for wishing and yearning and wondering if you’re ready for the next adventure.

“He read a lot. He used a lot of big words. I think maybe part of what got him into trouble was that he did too much thinking. Sometimes he tried too hard to make sense of the world, to figure out why people were bad to each other so often. A couple of times I tried to tell him it was a mistake to get too deep into that kind of stuff, but Alex got stuck on things. He always had to know the absolute right answer before he could go on to the next thing.” ― Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

My Hometown: Flower Street

My grandmother passed away last Sunday, and so I’m writing about her home on Flower Street in Costa Mesa, California, this week, which has always been a hometown of sorts for me. I missed hometown week because of her passing and a broken computer and other drama we really don’t need to discuss, but I’m back and I’m going to talk about hometowns, dammit.

My bike had streamers on the handles, flowers on the plastic, wicker-like basket, and a banana-seat, complete with purple daises. My brother and I rode up the big hill and through quiet neighborhood streets regularly to get to her house, the small, unanssuming one-story, which, when it was built, was in a normal lower-middle-class neighborhood of entrepreneurs, families and farmers, and is now disappearing next to McMansions and other vast signs of affluence.

We were careful to walk our bikes through the gate into the backyard, remembering our uncle’s warnings about our Grandfather’s booming yell when an errant bike was left in the driveway. By the time we came along, though, Grandpa had mellowed out, humming gently to hiumself as he and Grandma went about their daily tasks, calling me “darlin'” with his big, charming smile.

Their house has wide doors to navigate wheelcchairs through, something Grandpa had written into the plans himself – a special customization for him and Grandma’s needs in an age when ramps into businesses were rare and the ADA was a newly-conceived novelty.

Everything about their home reflects their life – the vases and cuckoo clocks that Grandma cherished, the flat, hard carpeting and low cupboards that spoke to their resilience and unwillingness to let decades of wheelchairs and crutches determine their lives, the avocado tree in the backyard that we loved to climb.

Grandpa taught me how to water plants and Grandma showed me how to wrap china. We went on grocery-shopping trips in order to help with reaching high shelves (sometimes we got to stand on the seat of a wheelchair, to our delight) and we heard stories of Ohio ice-skating ponds, Huntington Beach skinny-dipping, of a childhood shattered by polio, but built back up with love, hard work and family.

We laid on the hard carpeting on our bellies with coloring books and crayons, slept on the curved, seldom-used couch, watched The Wizard of Oz on an ancient wood-paneled  television, learned to appreciate jazz music and spent hours perfecting somersaults and cartwheels on the front lawn. In the concrete outside the garage is carved the names of my grandparents and their kids: “Marv and Lucy – Lynn, Kathy, Diane, Dud”

Diane is my mom, and I always remember seeing those names and running my fingers over them before we raced down the sideyard to put away our bikes or clanged through the garage in search of buried treasure. It grounded my childhood, making me feel like part of a legacy, as though my little life mattered because it was built on the courage and generosity of the people who had carved that concrete before I was even dreamed of. I’ll always cherish that house – I don’t know what will become of it now that my grandparents are both gone – but I do know that I’ll never see an extra-wide door without thinking of them, or pick up an avocado without remembering climbing that tree on Flower Street.

Most Frequented Film: The Man from Snowy River

Like Brett, I’m captured from the opening moments of my most frequented film, The Man from Snowy River. It begins with the pounding of hooves in twilight, dark forms shaking the earth as a hundred horses gallop by in obscurity.

Then we meet father and son, Henry and Jim Craig, as mountain men with debts to pay and nothing but their wits and their hands to pay them. They decide to round up the wild horses and use them as a herd of broodmares, and this sets the stage for the struggle between man and beast, wild and domestic. Henry dies tragically in their effort to build a holding pen for the wild horses, and, now alone, Jim is left with no choice but to go to the valley and hire himself out as a ranch hand.

As movie magic would have it, the rancher with whom Jim finds a job has a beautiful, headstrong daughter (Jessica) and a grudge against mountain men, so Jim is not a favorite employee. Jim and Jessica break (horsespeak for train) her father’s prized colt in secret, and the colt and Jessica both run away, so it’s naturally up to Jim to save them. Amazing stunt-riding and beautiful scenery ensue.

man from snowy river

This picture is more than enough of a reason to see this movie.

I watched The Man from Snowy River as a horse-crazy kid, and I remember watching it again as a teenager, fresh off of a move to the backwoods of Oregon. It spoke to me then and it speaks to me now: although Henry Craig dies early in the story, the working partnership that he and Jim had and their grit-under-the-fingernails day-to-day spoke to me at a time when I, also, was working with my dad and my hands, carving a life out of an unforgiving woodlands. Henry lives on through Jim, as he ignores what’s accepted and strives instead for something more valuable, something his father taught him as a boy and he still lives by, although his dad is now gone.

I also appreciate it because it treats horses with respect but not with worship. It acknowledges their power and even stands in awe of their abilities, but still puts them in their rightful place as unique and beloved partners to human enterprise. Working with horses is a unique thing: they require dominance and love, direction and freedom, grace and firm control all at once, and The Man from Snowy River captures that tension perfectly through Jim’s horsemanship.

The film is based on cowboy poet A.B. “Banjo” Paterson’s 1890 poem by the same name. Read this with a cup of black coffee and see if it doesn’t make you want to saddle up and head for the mountains:

But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.

He sent the flint stones flying, but the pony kept his feet,
He cleared the fallen timbers in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat –
It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.
Through the stringybarks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound,
At the bottom of that terrible descent.

…where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around The Overflow the reed beds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The man from Snowy River is a household word today,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.