Fathers Do Their Best
Local dads making the world better
Method's reusable market tote
For Marin dads Eric Ryan, Alastair Dorward, George Shumny and Josh Handy–among others who work at eco-household-product maker Method in San Francisco—clean equals green. One of Method’s new offerings is the reusable market tote, designed by green living expert and author Danny Seo. The bag is made with nontoxic inks and is responsibly produced. Want one? Go to methodhome.com.
A 20-year veteran at the quintessentially eco-minded retailer Patagonia, Mill Nash was interested in environmental issues long before most of us. Now that he has a one-year-old daughter, he is even more committed to doing anything he can to ensure the world she grows up in is beautiful, safe and healthy. Hence he has brought Clean Air Lawn Care to Marin (and all of the Bay Area). This green gardening company uses only electric lawn mowers and equipment, powered by solar and wind energy, to maintain both residential and commercial properties. “Our services are safer for children and pets and better for the Marin environment than traditional, polluting methods,” says Nash. “The lawn equipment is charged daily by a unique system of solar panels mounted on top of our trucks. In addition, all fertilizers used are 100 percent organic and our weed killers are nontoxic and pesticide free.” In an attempt to be fully carbon neutral, the company also buys carbon credits in the form of wind energy, to offset energy used in the company’s offices and trucks. Visit cleanairlawncare.com to find out more.
Bedtime stories at the McVickar home often included the classic book Miss Rumphius. “The story is about a young girl who wanted to grow up to be just like her grandfather,” recalls Douglas McVickar, father of Sophie, age 14, and Rosemary, 12. “As the little girl told him this the grandfather said, ‘But there is one more thing you must do; you must do something to make the world a more beautiful place.’” When McVickar learned of a fuel additive called BlueSky Fuel Conditioner that would reduce emissions and increase gas mileage, he thought of this story. “I had to do that ‘one more thing’ to make the world a more beautiful place for my girls and future generations. The government and the EPA want to reduce vehicular pollution by 25 percent in 20 years. BlueSky can do that right now.” Does it work? In a 1,500-mile test conducted by California Environmental Engineering, the EPA-registered substance increased fuel economy of a 1991 Ford Thunderbird by 7 percent and lowered oxides of nitrogen emissions by 96 percent, McVickar says. Dave Buchholz at B&B Auto Parts in Corte Madera is a fan. He uses it in his truck and claims it cleans the fuel injection, saving him cash at the pump. To learn more, check out blueskycleanair.com.
How does an award-winning writer and editor better our world? If you’re David Sheff, you can write truthfully about your life as the father of an addict, and in so doing help families in a similar situation know they are not alone. In Beautiful Boy, published by Houghton Mifflin, that’s exactly what the Inverness-based journalist and author did. Sheff was inspired to write this book, about the methamphetamine addiction struggles of his son Nic and the effects on the family, after an overwhelming response to his New York Times Magazine article “My Addicted Son.”
“I was not naive about drugs,” Sheff told an Oprah audience this spring. “I used drugs when I was a kid . . . but I still thought, like most of us, ‘This could never happen to our family.’ When it did, we were blindsided and devastated. I realized that this is something we have to talk about.” The Oprah show marked the end of a book tour that included the Today show and Starbucks locations (a distribution point) nationwide. Once the tour was over, Nic went back to his home in Savannah to work on a follow-up to his own memoir about his struggle, Tweak, and is now making plans to move to L.A. with his girlfriend, two cats and a rescued hound dog.
We caught up with David Sheff at his home in West Marin to learn more about him and this experience.
Is that Nic on the book jacket? The boy jumping is indeed Nic. When he attended grade school in San Francisco, a photographer-dad named Tom McAfee took these gorgeous pictures in the place of traditional school photos. Daisy, his younger sister, is the one who suggested that the inner jacket include the rest of the picture.
What brought you to Inverness? We lived in the Mission District of San Francisco before moving to Inverness. Our family would visit Inverness and Point Reyes and fell in love with it. We met some of our best friends there. A friend, the Sausalito-based architect John Marsh Davis, was selling a piece of property on which he had built a small cabin and garden. He helped us finance it and we went for it though still without plans of moving out [there] full time. But the draw of the Point Reyes Peninsula was irresistible. Soon we left the city for Inverness.
Do you think all of this attention is good for your and other families dealing with addiction? Initially I was unsure about exposing our family to this kind of scrutiny, but the result of the attention to the books has been remarkable. It has been like ongoing rehab for Nic and me—continuing the healing dialogue about addiction and the related issues among ourselves and so many, many others who have been affected by addiction. It has been humbling, of course—often overwhelming—but also useful as ongoing therapy, for us and hopefully others as well. When early on my editor asked [psychologist and author] Mary Pipher to consider reading Beautiful Boy, she provided a quote that the publisher put on the jacket: “When one of us tells the truth, he makes it easier for all of us to open our hearts to our own pain and to that of others.” Opening up in this way has prompted a flood of dialogue with many people—some of whom say that they’ve never talked with anyone before about whatever it is they’re going through—that feels so useful. In the 12 steps, they say, “You’re as sick as your secrets.” On the other hand, openness is the first step toward healing.
Was Nic OK with you writing the book? I never would have written the New York Times story that led to the book or the book itself if Nic wasn’t OK with it. On the contrary, he encouraged me to write it. He understood that there was value in telling our family’s story. He thought it might help people who were going through some version of what we went through. In addition, a book editor approached him to see if he was interested in writing a memoir, which resulted in Tweak, his extraordinary book about the same period of time covered from my perspective in Beautiful Boy.
Starbucks is distributing Beautiful Boy. Did you spend time writing there? In truth I got my caffeine at Toby’s Coffee Barn in Point Reyes, but also at Starbucks in Corte Madera when I was in central Marin. Actually, I wrote some of the book at the Corte Madera public library and elsewhere, but mostly I wrote at home in Inverness. Which is not to say that I didn’t (and don’t) often search out Starbucks when I want good coffee and I’m on the road. Also, Nic and I had readings at Starbucks throughout the country and it was extraordinary having these intense, powerful conversations about addiction and parenting and much more in the intimate coffeehouse settings. So many Starbucks employees opened up and told us their extraordinary stories. For a while it felt as if Nic and I had been invited in to be part of a very close-knit, supportive family.
In a perfect world, what is the title of your next book? I don’t have a title yet, but I do have a subject. I learned about the horrors of addiction and told a personal story about it in Beautiful Boy. Now I’m going to wrestle with the broader issues around addiction in America—public policy, the real cost to society (everything from health care costs to crime and prisons), the disaster that passes for a mental health care system in America, the disaster that’s the war on drugs, and what needs to be done.