Consider the Christmas Tree

This is a good time of year. Fights break out on the streets over whether its “happy holiday” or “merry christmas.” people fight over whether the birth of their son of god person is fact or fiction, other people fight over tv sales and whether the 3 yr warranty is fact or fiction. jews go to chinese restaurants and have a far merrier time than the rest of us. christmas music assaults us. It’s 86 degrees outside.

but as we southern californians have christmas around the pool in our board shorts and wife beaters, wishing each other merry christmas (secret jesus club) or happy holiday (secret athiest club) or my personal favorite, “have a good one” (good 365 days of the year, broseph), may we all turn our pathetically short little retarded attention spans to something near and dear to my heart for a few moments – the humble Douglas Fir.

Consider the Douglas Fir. Named after David Douglas, an explorer botanist that roamed these western parts before the rest of us. (David was also the namesake of the Douglas Squirrel, so important – as you all no doubt know – in the caching of conifer seeds throughout California mountains.) David Douglas – no drama queen like John Muir – tops the list of our Heroes of Botany. He once faced down a pack of armed California aboriginals over a sugar pine cone because – and we salute this – it was delicious.

The douglas fir - cute little mustaches called "bracts" on the cones

The Douglas Fir will find its way into many of our homes this Christmas for reasons unbeknownst to anyone. But if you’re lucky enough to have a pine cone on yours, why THERES the real gift. Check that sucker out. Notice the curious third bract that only one other conifer in the world has (more on that in a minute), and rub your hand downward, with the grain, and feel the smooth velvety softness. I have a book on my shelf – and this is no joke – that has an entire chapter devoted to the joy of wiping your butt in the woods with a douglas fir pine cone.

In real life – ie, nowhere – the douglas fir is a companion tree to that indomitable force that is the (drumroll) coastal redwood. But here in Southern California we have neither, rather we have something called the Bigcone Douglas Fir, which is an entirely different species, and isn’t a fir at all, it’s a spruce. But it’s got big cones. And – this is the cool part- – it occurs nowhere else on our big green earth but right here. Not even in the Sierra Nevada. Our very own San Gabriels are covered in them, and you can’t miss them. Branches that stick straight out, the aforementioned giant cones, etc. And it’s got that wonderful third bract on its cones that looks like a moustache. Can’t miss ‘em.

So while your fussing over various religious themes this year and draining your johnny’s college tuition buying widgets and racking up heaven only knows how much credit card debt buying tomorrow’s garbage, ducking the panhandlers ringing bells wearing furry red hats and wishing you could get to new years already so you can get good and drunk god blast it (btw we don’t drink here at launchday inc), consider this – the humble douglas fir.

Conifer of champions.

(Sources – California Forests and Woodlands: A Natural History, Verna Johnston; Silvical Characteristics of Bigcone Douglas Fir, Gerald Gause)

A new sport I invented

Everyone, I invented a new sport. I’m calling it – ‘walking’.

You put on shoes and then you go out your front door and you go somewhere.

I’m inventing it as part of my grass roots campaign to help us find the cause of obesity.

Unfortunately it requires a lot of fancy new equipment, like feet.

Compare this to kayaking – or better, cycling: which requires a relatively easy to obtain wardrobe – specialty shoes, specialty shorts (called a ‘bib’ and boy did I feel embarrassed at the group ride when i learned it didn’t mean my baby’s meal bib), specialty shirt (called ‘kit’), specialty hat (called ‘helmet’), swerving in and out of 3,000 pound metal bombs travelling at 50 mph a foot off your shoulder (called ‘cars’). Estimated cost of entry: $12,000. And that’s before you buy the bike. And do it long enough, and you’ll start to notice that everyone knows at least one person that has died a sudden and unexpected death doing it. (And btw we at launchday inc love cycling.)

But compare this to my new invented sport, ‘walking’. Like I said, unfortunately it requires feet. And then when you walk out your door it requires miles of this specialty roadway called a ‘sidewalk’. Fortunately they’re everywhere. And if you do it long enough, you’ll notice lots of others doing it too (sort of), and noone – noone – knows anyone that has ever died doing it.

I think it’s big elsewhere in the world but hasn’t quite caught on here. Just you wait.

Maybe while I”m at it I’ll invent, in contrast to a ‘bike shop,’ a ‘walk shop’. Here you can buy everything needed for this exciting new sport. It will sell – nothing. I’m still working on the business plan.

While you’re outside, there may be distractions. You may encounter the sound of leaves crunching underfoot. You may wish to venture down a dirt trail. Strangely this will not require a tire or bike change.

You may wish to view a few trees. Or perhaps take the children. That, too will cost – nothing. Strange, I know.

Evolutionary development is a funny thing. We’ve evolved, as bipedal locomoting humans, a breathtaking efficiency for this thing called ‘walking.’ It’s staggering as well at how young an age we seem to grasp its mechanics. Plus it seems to serve us throughout our lives.

I realize it’s far more engaging to buy kayaks, road bikes, mountain bikes, water boards, surf boards, flippers, racks, motorcycles, and helmets, and that those things sell far more magazine subscriptions, documenataries, industry trade shows, REI stores and professional practitioners.

But before you shell out johnny’s college tuition on the outdoor industry’s latest whatever, consider – just consider – going for a walk first.

It’s an exciting new sport. And it’s gonna be huge.