Archives for category: Interview


A few years ago on a cross country road trip we completely lost track of time in southern Utah (trust me, it’s easy to do).  Over breakfast at a cafe in Moab I realized that we still had more than 1000 miles to drive and less than 24 hours to be back at work.  We paid the bill, hit the road and made it to back to Portland with a few hours to spare.

Afterwards it blew my mind that we could traverse so quickly across several rugged western states.  What took us less than a day would have taken early American pioneers many difficult months.  And while we had to put up with bad gas station coffee and greasy fast food, they had to endure horrendous weather, attacks from Native American tribes and the constant threat of starvation.   One of my favorite books of 2014, Astoria by Peter Stark, tells the story of just such a journey.


In 1810 John Jacob Astor financed an expedition to establish the first commercial settlement on the west coast.  His plan was to funnel all the western fur trade down the Columbia River to where it meets the Pacific Ocean in present-day Astoria.  He would collect these furs, transport them across the Pacific and sell them at a huge markup in Hong Kong.

He would then purchase porcelain, tea and other Chinese luxury goods that he would send to London and sell for a substantial profit.  That money would be used to buy manufactured trade goods that he would ship across the Atlantic and sell at, you guessed it, another enormous markup.  The plan was ingenious and incredibly ambitious.  It was also an epic failure.  And failure, I’m sure you’ll agree, makes for a much more compelling read than success.

Peter Stark is a long-time correspondent for Outside Magazine and his book, Astoria, has the flow of a well-written and well-researched magazine piece.  Like many of my favorite non-fiction titles, it contains elements of several genre:  science, history, exploration, adventure and survival.  After finishing the book in a single weekend I was left with a desire to talk to Peter and hear more about this incredible story.

Recently he was in Portland on a book tour and we got together for a chat.  He was a super nice guy and had the look of someone who’s spent much of his life playing in the outdoors.  We had a lot in common and immediately hit it off.  He even invited me to stay at his home in Montana.  I’ll have to remember to put aside a little extra time at the end of my next road trip.

Here’s a link to my interview with Peter…enjoy!



boys in the boat

Recently the following question was posed on the website, irunfar, “Are runners better people on average than non-runners?”

Now this question may seem odd and even a bit presumptuous, but I would imagine that many of you have asked yourselves similar questions about the practitioners of your passions and professions.  If you are a musician, an artist, a teacher, a cyclist, a writer, or a traveler, I bet there were times when you felt that your fellow enthusiasts were better than the average folk.

Geoff Roes, a former ultrarunning champion, had an interesting take on this question.  He said, “I think that all people are inherently good people, but running does a huge part to help people to be closer to this reality.  People who have a daily practice like running tend to be healthier, more grounded, and happier.  It’s not that better people are attracted to running, it’s that running generally does a really good job of nurturing the goodness in people.”

I feel that the same could be said for any activity that is pursued on a daily basis and in a deliberate manner.  When you do something consistently, with a goal of progressive improvement, you will most likely be a healthier and happier person.  It doesn’t matter what that passion is, the key is to find one and pursue it wholeheartedly.

A few weeks ago I interviewed the author of The Boys in the Boat, a book about the 1936 University of Washington rowing team.  The team was made up of working class kids struggling through the worst of the Great Depression.  These nine guys discovered rowing and each other at a time when they most needed something to latch on to.  They were total underdogs that competed against the elite crews of Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge and eventually Hitler’s own German team at the Berlin Olympics.

It was a shared passion for rowing that gave these guys a sense of purpose and a common goal.  The end result of which was that they not only became better rowers, but better individuals as well.

Like many great works of nonfiction The Boys in the Boat contains elements of several genre:  sports, history, science and psychology.  It also has a great sense of time and place.  Before reading the book I hardly knew anything about collegiate rowing or the Great Depression or the fine art of boat building or the use of Nazi propaganda at the 1936 Olympics, but I loved learning about each of these interesting subcultures and specific points in history.

Here’s a link to the interview…Enjoy.

Sports serve many purposes in our lives.  They teach us about teamwork and discipline, about the importance of working hard and the joy of being physically fit.  For many, sports serve as a competitive outlet and a social outlet as well.  Yet, one purpose not often discussed is the use of sports as a way to escape from a difficult life.

In Runner’s World magazine last month, there was an excellent article in which running icon Frank Shorter discusses his abusive childhood and how he used running as an outlet for his fear and anger.  Incredibly, Frank was able to use these traumatic experiences as a way to better internalize the pain he had to endure as a competitive runner.

Another sports legend who used athletics to escape from a difficult childhood is longtime Laker, Jerry West.  He chose basketball as a way to deal with an abusive father and the loss of a beloved older brother.  Like Frank, Jerry won an Olympic gold medal and then went on to become an NBA All-Star and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.  The NBA even uses a silhouette of Jerry on its logo.

A few weeks ago I interviewed Jerry about his soon to be released autobiography, “West By West–My Charmed, Tormented Life.”  We discussed many subjects that I feel would be of interest not just to basketball fans, but to lovers of all competitive sports.  Here it is…enjoy.



From as far back as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with books.  As a kid I’d stay up late at night reading and rereading all of my favorites.  When I inevitably grew bored with my personal stash, I’d then raid my parent’s collection.  Their bookshelves were stuffed with many of the bestsellers of the 1970’s:  Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Rich Man Poor Man, Your Erroneous Zones, The Thorn Birds, and Looking for Mr. Goodbar.  The one book, however, that is most deeply seared into my memory is The Complete Book of Running by Jim Fixx.  Its bright red iconic cover of a runner in mid-stride with calf muscles like twisted cables is an incredibly striking image.  The author himself actually posed as the cover model.  The book went on to sell millions and along with Frank Shorter’s Olympic gold medal in the marathon is generally regarded as the fuel that started the running boom of the 1970’s.

Jim Fixx wrote the book as a way to inspire others to take up a sport that had helped him to quit smoking and to lose 60 pounds.  He had no idea that his book would be responsible for starting a cultural phenomenon.  It’s been more than 30 years since the publication of The Complete Book of Running and now another best-selling running book has come along that’s inspiring a whole new generation.  The book is Born To Run by Christopher McDougall.  If you’re reading this blog, I’d be very surprised if you haven’t already read it.  I’ve probably recommended it to dozens of friends and family members in the last couple of years and was shocked by how many of the non-runners have taken up the sport after reading the book.  A few months ago I convinced my employer, Powell’s Books, to do an interview with Christopher McDougall for our website.  I also suggested someone who would be absolutely thrilled to conduct the interview…ME.  I must admit that I was a bit nervous beforehand, but Chris (he told me to call him Chris) couldn’t have been nicer.  So without further ado, here’s the interview.