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Monday, September 26, 2022

Nick Offerman Endorses Lumberjack Boots and ’80s Funk

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Nick Offerman logged onto a recent video call with the screen name Megan Mullally. “It’s my humble brag,” he explained. “My wife is a goddess.”

Offerman (“Parks and Recreation,” “Making It”), a paragon of masculine élan and an absolute wife guy, was speaking from a guest bedroom of the Los Angeles home he shares with Mullally. Behind him was a four-poster bed, built in his wood shop. At his feet, a walnut milking stool, which he had built himself. A craftsman, musician, actor, author and amateur naturalist, Offerman has recently added advice columnist to his repertoire. Even as he made the publicity rounds for the new Hulu limited series “Pam & Tommy,” in which he plays a low-level porn tycoon, he was launching “Donkey Thoughts,” a Substack newsletter in which he answers reader questions.

“I identify with the mule or the donkey,” he said. “I liken myself much more to a hard-working pack animal than a creature with more elegance or sophistication. I’m not a racehorse. Or any other beautiful quadruped. I’m more the person who hauls the feed to the racehorses. But it seems to be working for me.”

Offerman envisions the newsletter as addressing questions of woodworking, relationships, masculinity and food. He offered a sample: Question: What’s the best thing to do with bacon? Answer: Put it in your mouth.

As he readied the first issue — with questions solicited from friends like George Saunders, Jeff Tweedy and Laurie Anderson — he took an hour to share his cultural, sartorial and culinary enthusiasms. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

1. The Scotch Egg That assembly of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in pork sausage, breaded and deep fried is simply the most magnificently conceived and constructed food item. You can take it in your pocket and eat it at the top of a hike. It also is utterly brilliant at a pub.

2. The Sycamore It’s the biggest of the deciduous trees. If you love a big leafy maple or London plane tree, the sycamore is the champion. Its bark has this gorgeous, highly fashionable camouflage mottling to it. And the leaves themselves, you could sew three of them together and create a clever throw that will see you right through the spring to your summer linens. Finally, the wood itself — when it’s milled and used in cabinet making, sycamore is just breathtakingly gorgeous.

3. Laurie Anderson Her works are as perfect as those of Rembrandt, but the blood of anarchy flows through her veins. She, more than anyone in my lifetime, has been giving me permission to misbehave in my pursuit of a life creating things. Laurie Anderson’s spoken word pieces and songs are so wonderfully strange. I was like, How can I take my toolbox and communicate that?

4. WoodenBoat Magazine I was just becoming a fine woodworker when I discovered it, and I realized that if I got good enough at dining tables and chests of drawers, then I could graduate to a sailboat or a canoe, a watercraft made of wood. That just exploded my brain in a way that I have not recovered from. In fact, at the moment, I’m poring over plans, deciding if I’m going to build a stand-up paddleboard or an ocean kayak, because Los Angeles is not a great canoe town.

5. Belted Galloway Cattle I became besotted with a shepherd named James Rebanks. I went to visit him on his farm. We went cow shopping in Scotland. I was just bowled over by this breed. So much so that I now own a couple of cows in his herd. The beef that they pack on to their frames is unparalleled. I’m actually going in April to meet my cows for the first time. It’s all part of my efforts to return to a firsthand knowledge of where my food comes from and how I can harvest it sustainably and responsibly so that Mother Nature will still like me.

6. White’s Boots of Spokane I discovered this company about 18 years ago. Any American company with that old-fashioned sensibility that’s making items of value to last rather than making them disposable, I really admire. They make the most incredible, lumberjack-based work boots. I still am wearing the same pair that I bought 18 years ago. They’re not cheap, because they last. Your grandkids can wear these boots. I wear them with jeans when I tour and I can dance in them. I’ve never had to run from the authorities in them, but if I needed to, I could.

7. Gaia Our ancestral mother, Gaia is all of creation represented in the form of a benevolent female. The older I get, the less I want to go to the mall and the more I want to go to the woods and hang out with her. How can I try and be part of the movement of good people trying to return our civilization back to some semblance of sustainability? The good news is the answers to our global problems are often delightful. And quite tasty.

8. Hasty Bake Charcoal Grills Megan is the curator in our house. I’m very happy about that. But the grill situation is one place where I call the shots. The Hasty Bake is just gorgeous. It’s a double-wide rectangular grill with a venting system. The fire lives in two separate charcoal boxes that you’re able to raise and lower to fine-tune your temperature. I can feed up to 40 people with this thing. I can grill anything you can imagine. And then I can also use it to smoke meat. During the pandemic, Megan got really obsessed with cooking and baking, and I got obsessed with smoking pork shoulders.

9. The Gap Band My cousin and I really wanted to be a famous break-dancing duo in the mid ’80s. In Central Illinois. We were somewhat known at the Shanahan skating rink. It was really hard to find appropriate music at the time. All we could get on the radio was Top 40 stuff. But the Gap Band somehow made it through. It really fueled my development as a teenager. I probably play the Gap Band in my wood shop more than any other funk band.

10. Robin Wall Kimmerer She’s an elder thinker of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She beautifully and generously brings their oral tradition of their healthy relationship with nature, which she refers to as an economy of reciprocity. She is also a massively accredited botanist. Her writing is the gentle medicine we dumb humans need if we’re to have any hope of salvaging our relationship with Mother Nature. Start with “Gathering Moss” or “Braiding Sweetgrass.”

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