Jess Walter: The Urban Outdoors

I’VE BEEN WRITING THIS urban outdoors column for about a year now and it is with a heavy heart and a blood alcohol level of .024 that I write this, my last columnfor a while.

GROWING UP IN DENMARK, I never dreamed I could be an outdoors writer. When the editors of Out There Monthly fronted my bail money and asked that I write for their publication, I agreed to do it for a year. Since then, however, I have come to the realization that I have no idea when that year started. Also, it turns out that I don’t actually go outdoors much.

I hope that maybe I can return sometime in the future, or that I can write an occasional guest column, but for the foreseeable future, outdoor readers are just going to have to make do with writers who share their interests and don’t go out of their way to mock them.

Sadly, there are some topics I never got around to writing about:

Jarts, for instance. Those were the big lawn darts my parents had when I was a kid-flying projectiles which were the second-leading cause of death in the 1970s (behind the music of Toto) and which were finally made illegal in 1988. Jarts were long sharp metal darts with plastic fins that the adults in my neighborhood threw toward plastic rings in their tiny suburban backyards at the same time they barbequed London Broil on smoking briquettes and staggered around with giant tumblers of booze while my brother Ralph and I toddled between our rusted swingset and the sotted adults throwing these bloody spears. I guess I never wrote about Jarts because I really had nothing to say about them except that by 1972 standards, I am an outstanding parent.

Also, I had hoped to finally outline my proposal for Spokane’s first Urban Fishing Derby. The rules were simple: all fish had to be taken out of the Spokane River. Corn the only allowable bait. Extra points for PCBs, deformities and mining tailings. (Only in the Spokane Urban Fishing Derby could you have a four-inch fish that, because of the heavy metal content, weighs forty-one pounds.)

I had also hoped to improve on the vague horoscopes that I see in so many publications, horoscopes that never are very specific and usually are filled with new-agey nonsense and fortune-cookie wisdom. My friend Dan and I had planned to come up with a horoscope that was more to the point, more specific and more helpful:

Aries: You left a burner on.

Taurus: Those new pants make your ass look like two marmots fighting over a ham in a gunny sack.

Gemini: You will be dead by Easter.

Cancer: Your left front tire is a few pounds low.

Leo: No one likes you.

Virgo: The moon is in the second house and so don’t be surprised if your energies flag but Saturn will return and you will once again rise to the occasion and surprise those around you. Pisces may play a role in your triumph. Also, your breath smells like bus exhaust.

Libra: You’re getting a parking ticket. Now! Go!

Scorpio: He’s lying.

Sagittarius: You dropped a quarter.

Capricorn: Your phone is going to ring in the next twelve minutes.

Aquarius: Maybe mix in a salad.

Pisces: Take two steps to the left. Duck!

Well, I suppose that’s it for now. I’ve enjoyed this brief burst of employment, and I’d especially like to thank those readers who wrote in every week demanding that I be fired. Looks like you get the last laugh.

Jess Walter’s new novel, The Zero, is available in bookstores

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