If there is anyone who knows how to detach a tongue from a frozen pole, it is Eric Utne magazine founder, father of four boys and author of the new and wonderful "Cosmo...
If there is anyone who knows how to detach a tongue from a frozen pole, it is Eric Utne magazine founder, father of four boys and author of the new and wonderful “Cosmo Doogood’s Urban Almanac.”
“First, do not panic,” Utne began over the phone from his home office in Minnesota. “Do not yank it off. Get as close as possible without letting more tongue touch the pole.
“Warm the pole with your hands,” he continued. “And breathe heavily until your tongue loosens.”
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Got it. Get close, breathe heavily, let your tongue loosen and don’t panic.
“Sort of a metaphor for life, isn’t it?” Utne said.
Sounds like the sort of ribald crack that would be made by Benjamin Franklin, whose spirit guided Utne through the creation of the self-published manual.
Utne, who will read at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at The Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, said he had long wanted to publish a field guide to life. Even printed business cards.
Instead, in 1984, he founded the Utne Reader, which he described as “a Reader’s Digest for the next generation.”
He handed the magazine over to his wife five years ago and began teaching middle school.
Among his subjects: Ben Franklin, who helped colonists negotiate the sun, moon, stars and soil with his “Poor Richard’s Almanack.”
Utne decided it was high time to update Franklin’s idea for 21st Century city dwellers like him, who are “completely clueless about nature” but also have urban needs.
So along with weather charts and guides to flora and fauna, the almanac includes instructions for how to sneak good seats at ballgames, how to buy firewood and how to eat a tomato. It also features “essential places,” such as The Fremont Troll in Seattle, which Utne called “the best place to be on Halloween.”
“I wanted to jam as much life in it as I possibly could,” he said. “And I think it’s bursting with life.”
There is a sense of life’s rhythm in the book’s design.
A section on the month of July features an explanation of “Dog Days,” (July 3- Aug. 11), a 13-item exercise in futility called “On Being Firm with Dogs,” and a poem by Rumi called “Love Dogs.”
The information was gathered by writers all over the country and will be updated every year.
Utne, 58, is confident that Seattleites will embrace the almanac, since our city along with Boston is one of the Utne Reader’s best markets. He attributes that to a “latitudinal attitude.”
“There’s a pipeline between Minneapolis, Seattle and Boston,” he said. “We’re all about halfway between the North Pole and the equator.”
Speaking of poles, has he ever become attached to one, and had to pant himself apart?
“As a child, I did,” he said. “And I cried, which essentially accomplished the same thing.”
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bring winter solstice poems.