bill heavey has a website.
Okay, show's over, folks. Move along.
No, seriously. At Grove, my publisher, the folks in Marketing, Media Relations and Disaster Preparedness have all told me - singly, in group memos and once in an intervention involving my shrink, physical therapist and gastroenterologist - that I need my own website. So here it is.
Here (ever so slightly to the left) is my new book. It is available wherever filth is sold: Amazon, Booksamillion, Powell's. Also physical book stores, if there are still any left (I'm writing this on Tuesday).
Buy it. You'll be glad you did. But don't take my word for it. Read this review in last Sunday's Wall Street Journal by longtime Washington Post outdoor reporter Angus Phillips. He liked the humor, my willingness to poke fun at myself as well as others, and - well, you'll just have to read for yourself.
BOOKSHELF: Wildlife Along the Potomac
An ambivalent locavore gathers wineberries and fishes for shad and perch in the Washington suburbs.
By ANGUS PHILLIPS
Locavores can be tiresome with their insistence on sourcing (and discussing) everything they put in their precious little mouths. Bill Heavey ran the risk of being a bore in his account of attempting to hunt, fish, grow or forage as much of his food as possible, "It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It," but escaped thanks to good humor, poking fun at hard-core foodies and himself while still finding merit in the movement.
He won me over deep into the exercise by introducing a nutcase named Kirk Lombard, or "Lombard of the Intertidal," who specializes in foraging fish and shellfish around San Francisco Bay. Mr. Lombard preaches the gospel of little fish, arguing that man survived and thrived for millennia by catching seafood that was easy to get and close to home—perch and herring and smelt, eels, clams, crabs, mussels and the like.
The advent of fast ships and refrigeration brought tuna and swordfish, Chilean sea bass, king crab and halibut to supermarket shelves, restaurants and the kitchen tables of us all. But "the Indians who lived here and our own ancestors for hundreds of thousands of years sure as hell didn't eat many of those fish," thunders Mr. Lombard. "We all fed much further down the food chain." Somehow over the years, the benefits of the little fish—their abundance, low cost, proximity, seeming inexhaustibility—along with the benefits of a lot of other little stuff got swallowed up.
Mr. Heavey takes us back to the joys—and occasional pitfalls—of the humble edibles around us, and his conclusions ring true. The finest things I ever ate, wandering the East Coast with rod and gun for 30 years, were the most local: fresh little white perch from the Potomac River; yellow perch, blue crabs and oysters from the Chesapeake; Boston mackerel in Maine; Rhode Island porgies; Newfoundland cod; mangrove snappers in the Florida Keys; doves shot over Virginia cornfields; venison from little patches of woods outside Baltimore; rabbits and ducks from the Delmarva Peninsula. Nothing exotic, big or fancy, but all as fresh, wild and local as the new dew, and each memorable. Mr. Heavey reaffirms the value of things small and common that were once treasured but that we now walk by without a passing glance: persimmons, cattails, giant mushrooms, squirrels, morels, dandelions, wild cherries, frogs, crawfish and the whitetail deer that occasionally wander through backyards—at their peril, if it's Mr. Heavey's lawn.
A regular contributor to Field & Stream magazine, where for years he has written amusing columns about his pratfalls and missteps as an outdoorsman, Mr. Heavey takes us in the book to a few exotic places in search of the wild food experience. He journeys to the Louisiana bayou to hunt for crawfish and frogs, to San Francisco to forage with Lombard of the Intertidal and other West Coast space-cases, and to Alaska for a searing, depressing look at the lives of some of the last subsistence hunters on earth.
But the heart of his story is back home in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, where he coddles his young daughter, Emma; struggles through a tough divorce; and finds a new love, all while chronicling laughable and often ill-fated efforts to steal goose eggs from the nest, shuck found walnuts, pick through weeds in his yard for the makings of a salad, and gather wineberries for ice cream and pies. He walks many of the same paths I took in my decades as the outdoors editor of the Washington Post and arrives at the same bottom line: The nation's capital is a much wilder and more wonderful place than anyone would imagine. Logic suggests that every city has its wildernesses to offer, if folks would slow down long enough to check it out.
Mr. Heavey's partner and mentor for most of his D.C. exploits is a curious and amazing woman who dresses like a man, swears like a sailor and works from time to time swabbing boats at Fletcher's Boathouse, a 150-year-old fisherman's hangout on the Potomac. Paula Smith knows more about the outdoors around Washington than at least two guys who made a pretty good living writing about it (Bill Heavey and me).
He follows Ms. Smith through urban and suburban woods, which are surprisingly dark and deep, searching for deer antlers, berries, cherries and paw paws; he joins her in a rental rowboat fishing for perch and shad and seeks her counsel on all manner of worldly matters. I happen to know Paula Smith, and how she talks, and can attest that Mr. Heavey captures her to perfection, right down to her effusive use of the F-bomb in every possible syntactic permutation, as noun, verb, adjective, adverb, whatever.
He also finds comfort at Fletcher's, Washington's window on the Potomac, a cultural mixing bowl where folks from every walk of life, from lobbyists in snakeskin boots to immigrants in muddy sneakers, convene to enjoy the capital's unheralded secret—a big, brawling tidal river teeming with life, particularly in spring, when perch, shad, herring and striped bass make their spawning runs.
Mr. Heavey, like everyone who takes up fishing, spent many a fruitless, head-scratching day learning the trade. Then one day, while in the company of Paula Smith and the dean of Potomac perch fishermen, Dicky Tehaan, it came together. "Within three pumps of the rod, I felt the electric pulse of a fish, set the hook, and reeled up a good-sized white perch. 'Yeah, baby!' crowed Paula. 'That'll work! Throw him in the basket.' " Within seconds, everyone had fish on, and the spring bonanza was under way.
Like most cities, Washington can be a cold and bloodless place, but life is all around if you just scratch the surface, poke around and keep your sense of humor. Mr. Heavey does a good job of that, and like Ol' Man River, his book just keeps rolling along.
—Mr. Phillips was the outdoors editor of the Washington Post for 30 years.
A version of this article appeared June 22, 2013, on page C8 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Wildlife Along the Potomac.