My stepson Jackson Frishman, a formidably literate outdoorsman, dedicated conservationist, and life- long explorer of The Big Empty, has a new column in Mountain Journal: here He is already known for his wonderful photos; now perhaps his writing will get the attention it deserves too

He also says some embarrassingly nice things about me.
“My stepfather, the nature writer Stephen Bodio who was based in Bozeman for years, taught me to see beauty in less obviously spectacular landscapes, to look beyond superlatives like highest and deepest and steepest, and focus instead on a place’s ecology, seasonal rhythms, historical connections.”

Domenic “Doc” Conca, DDS- 1925- 2016, R.I.P.: on Conca’s Lawn.

 One of my unmentioned mentors died at 91 a couple of days ago: Dr Domenic Conca of Randolph, Massachusetts.

 “Doc” was the father of my oldest friend, Michael Conca, who was my schoolmate from first grade through my first year in college (BC: I dropped out), as well as my housemate and partner in a firewood business in the wintry January Hills west of the Quabbin Reservoir an east of the Connecticut valley, one of the wildest parts of Massachusetts, for several years, during my second attempt at higher education; he lives there still, with his wife Mary Lou; more of his story later…

Mike at Rick Rozen’s in Golfito, Costa Rica; Mike and Mary Lou a couple of years ago at Karen and George’s.

Scenes from George’s Funeral

With sharks:

A few of the family: My Georgia brother Mike, self described redneck, horticulturalist and small- time farmer, birder, and maker of the finest preserves know to man, with the twins, Judi and Janine, up from PA:

Sister Anita St John with her husband Matt, old time rocker, and daughter Stella. She is the one who runs the clinic and diagnosed my heterozygote gene for CF by licking my arm.

More sibs- all the ones that count but Alicia and me (;-)) Judi, Wendy, ‘Nita, Karen (George’s widow, and our usual host in Boston), Mike, and Janine (the serious iron woman, marathoner, and athlete, who weighs about 95 and can bench press as much as I can)… a lot, incidentally…

Drone shot of the ceremony for George’s ashes this week:

George’s dog, Hal, is in mourning…

George Graham RIP

My brother in law and dear friend, George Graham, died early today after a struggle with esophageal cancer. He was not quite 54, and I can’t get my head around it yet. Until a month or so ago he and Karen were pretty optimistic, and I always thought he would outlive me.

We were utterly different people who shared a surprising number of interests: our deep love for Karen; a fascination for New England nature, especially in its maritime aspects, and all its inhabitants; great enjoyment in telling stories and drinking until all hours of the night; local lore and language; eating an enormous amount of delicacies unknown to westerners, like bluefish and fried clams with bellies– who is going to find me the good clam shacks now?

Though he didn’t know it, he had already inspired me to write about the returning alewife run he showed me last year. I always hoped he’d come out here again — he enjoyed shooting Winchester level action rifles, and patronizing the Golden Spur Bar, where the locals loved to make him talk to hear his accent: “Say your name, George”. He taught me that for all my airs I am “OFD” “Officially F****n”‘ Dawchesta”, born on Templeton Street just off “Dot (Dorchester) Ave”, on a site now obliterated by New Ashmont station. I left at four, but my private schools from five up and my pronunciation of the letter “r” notwithstanding, he made me say the one “r”- less thing he knew I would:

“What parish were you born in- don’t think about it, just SAY it!”

(ME) “Saint Maahk’s!”.Learned before four and never forgotten.

George: “SEE? Only people from New Orleans and Dawchesta know the answer to that question! You’re from Saint Maahk’s off Dot Ave– your as OFD as Maahk Wahlberg!”

I’ll have a lot more to say later. For now it is enough to say: he was a wonderful man, a great father, and the best husband my sister Karen could have had. We will all miss him.

Thank you, George, for being the friend that you were to a talkative cranky old man in the desert. We love you, and will miss you.

Alewife run

With Tom Russell and co at Passim in Harvard Square

It seems like just a week ago- celebrating my new book, which they got before I did (and notice they have the Gorbatov cover image on their wall)


Tomorrow my favorite brother-in-law George goes under the knife for his cancer. He has responded very well to the chemo and radiation; one of his tumors has disappeared, and the other has shrunk. He’s done so well that they made the operation earlier rather than later, and they give him very good prospects for total remission. That said, it’s always a scary time.  I know that only too well. Here are a couple of funny pictures. He’s wearing a Mohawk because his hair was falling out, and his sons thought it would be funny. In the first, kissing my 92 year old mother, who last year thought she was 84, and this year thinks she is 91 because “91 is 16 turned upside-down”. May I never be that mad. The other two are self-explanatory.

George’s Battle

My brother in law and great friend, George Graham of South Weymouth, Massachusetts, married to my sister Karen, faces the battle of a lifetime. Tomorrow he begins five weeks of targeted radiation and chemo, after that four more for recuperation. Then they cut. Esophageal cancer is a tough one, and it took down Hitch, but Hitch was a lifelong smoker and it was all through him.  They never even gave him the option of surgery.

George, on the other hand,  is a big healthy non- smoker, an outdoorsman and naturalist, who shares my interests in birds and guns among other things; but for their love of the ocean, I have privately hoped they might move here when they retired. He has the best attitude I can imagine, as does Karen: healthy skepticism, black humor, and a determination to avail themselves of all of the wonders of modern medicine, with which my family is amply connected, in a great medical town. All concerned will do their blessed damndest to fight this thing…

So, say a prayer or just light a candle to modern science, but let Karen and George, and their sons,  know they have any support they need. I will.

He and Karen with Tom and Nadine Russell, Passim coffeehouse, Cambridge MA

 He and Karen at official Mass trapping class earlier his year, learning how to catch problem creatures dead or alive– not a common suburban skill!

 With me at the Magdalena shooting range, and with us at the Spur- his accent, without the consonantal “r”, delighting the cowboys: “Say ‘Jawj,’ George!”

“Ahh, you guys…”

 Telling cancer what to do:


Eli overlooks his world… Eureka Valley

Mining equipment

Eli says:
“We’re Scots, so we can toss big trees like the Scots do!”
“[Optimistically] We could have centipedes for dinner!”
“Special Padda [ ie Father] juice means beer!”

Coming Attractions

Back from almost a week in Boston, where I went to see and hear Tom Russell’s debut of his new Ballad of the West, The Rose of Roscrae; also to see my 90 year- old mother, whose birthday I had missed, my siblings– 4 of out of 8 of them still live there, as well as any number of splendid nephews and nieces: and to eat sea creatures, as well as have any other adventures possible for an impoverished 65 year old writer badly in need of brain surgery.

It was a success, from music to family encounters to food, and paid what may well be an unexpected dividend; my brother in law George Graham, avocational naturalist- localist and photographer,introduced me to his town’s restored herring (alewife) run, and our mutual fascination with it became my unexpected second theme for the visit- who knows what may come?

Tonight, a preview and glimpses; I have an assignment to write on Tom, and many herring photos too, all to come.

 Coffee house nostalgia– I went to the predecessor of Passim, Club 47, (47 Palmer Street in Harvard Square) from about 1966 or 7 on. I saw Ian Tyson, who is now 82 and who I met when he played with Tom in Santa Fe, with his then wife Sylvia there, before 1970 anyway…

On the subway with K:

Sideman Thad Beckman; later, local singer Barrence Whitfield, who recorded more than a few songs with Tom back when… Cuban Sandwich!

My mother: “You look OLD”, she said to me. “And I am NOT convinced I’m 90, either!”

Sisters Alicia, Anita, Karen…

The blurred one below is, I believe, my sisters (and niece Stella) expressing solidarity with their geographically wayward brother, or something equally hilarious. Beware the Sister Posse…. (sorry for blur), and me with Wendy, closest in age to me.

The run- got an article’s worth, but some highlights– restored urban anadromous fish spawning, with predators! (Comorant by Lisa Erwin, Weymouth MA)