My lo-fi “reference” system

As recently as a few months ago I had pretty much decided to give the final ax to my audio system. It had been a few years since I formally reviewed anything and decades since I worked in the high end, with the exception of my ongoing distribution of Harmony Design. Then I hedged a bit and considered dumping everything except for my beloved REGA P3, which I hope to keep and enjoy forever, and a yet-to-be purchased phono pre and headphone amp. For speakers, I had intended to go pro with something like a pair of outstanding Adam A7X. Pure simplicity.

But then, there’s always a then, have you noticed, I began to wonder if I could go forward by going backward, at least for now? Backward meant old. The REGA is old, the Rotel RA-1062 is old and I’m old. I’m on a streak. My first step towards old was a pair of passive speakers. Sure, the fantastic Role Audio Enterprise were taking a nap in my closet but are too big for the tiny room and the Rotel could never quite excite the Role’s bottom end. I started scouring Craigslist and you all know how that can be. One ad kept calling out to me, but I did my best to ignore it. It was for a pair of truly ancient Canton Karat 930 DC. Canton is a German company. They had tried to follow ADS into the US but they could never quite pull it off. The Karat has lot of what I need, especially a front port and not too much bass. These guys had to be able to make nice with a wall pretty much right behind them.

Charmingly enough, the pair on CL had a very fine hairline split that I wanted to see before I parted with my hard-earned $65. Yup, $65 for the pair. The guy who was selling them was a good guy, getting ready to take a new job in North Carolina. He said he was into ADS and had dreams of restoring the Karats Seen but unheard, I handed over my $65 and took them home.

The ECC/EU requires that binding posts not be spaced at .75″ so those silly Euros don’t plug and ungrounded AC cord into the inputs of their old Rogers LS3/5a. This leads them to use some non-standard (read: dicey) speaker terminals. The ones on the Karats secure enough but still I resolved not to test their integrity with spade lugs. Bananas! Old speakers love bananas.

Problem is that neither of the speaker cables I had on hand (both of which cost between seven and ten times what the Karats cost) used the lowly banana. As is so often is the case, the answer lay with thinking with the brain I used so in 7th grade. So, I ambled over to Home Depot and picked up a 12 foot, 16 AWG extension cord and got out the scissors. Voila! Two 6′ speaker cables.

To match the low-fi street cred of the rest of the system I also had the REGA downgraded. Not downgraded exactly, but I did send my Sumiko Blue Point Special EVO III to be restored which meant I needed a new and cheaper cartridge in the meantime. Since the REGA had been shimmed for the BPS I decided to go with another Sumiko, the MM Rainer. All of you MC guys can sneer but this little guy sounds great and tracks well. Installation was a snap but my hands are not as steady as they used to be.

The Karats are perched upon some no-name, MDF stands I also found on CL. Hey, they only wanted $22 for the pair but being the kind of guy I am I gave the seller $25 and told her to go out and have a party. That’s the kinda guy I am. I’ll admit that I intend to buy some carpet-piercing spikes for the stands. Until then, I just have to hope that the cat doesn’t think about how fun it would be to leap onto one of the Karats and send the whole thing, cat and all, toppling into the REGA. That’s not if but when. See Murphy’s Law.

Does the whole shebang look better in B&W? I didn’t think so. The headphones are my Beyer-Dynamic DT-990 Edition and my ancient but well-preserved Sennheiser HD-600. The HD-600s have done more international than I have, although that’s not saying much. They’ve been to Sweden, to help voice the Harmony Design, and Singapore when I tried to get an old friend of mine to distribute Harmony Design.

He didn’t go for it, but that’s Ok.

Have I owned my last high end system? I really don’t know. I do know that my lo-fi reference is fun and musical. Still, I am having some proper speaker cables made. I just know the extension cord is choking the Karats.

Golden ears never rest.

My lo-fi “reference” system

Records / LPs / Vinyl & Wet-Cleaning Brushes

For the last year or so I’ve been reconfiguring the way I listen to music. It’s been a gradual process but like a number of other things in my life it’s accelerated toward the end of this year. I’m doing what I can to make my collection portable. The Great LP Rip of 2022 has been a big part of that. While I have no intention of selling or giving up my LPs I also don’t have a great interest in significantly increasing the size of my collection. Those days are gone and even though I do buy an occasional LP my purchase of digital music either in CD or iTunes or Bandcamp exceeds those by at a ratio of at least 10 to 1.

Of course I own a record cleaning machine! I mean, who doesn’t? Very few people keep their records as they should and since nearly all of my newly-acquired LPs are used, proper cleaning is a necessity. I’ve owned my humble black Nitty Gritty Model 1.0 for a long time. It’s the very essence of simplicity, which I like. NG makes much larger and more elaborate models but all of them share the same vacuum. Am I really so lazy that I need something to spin the LP while I clean it? Almost, but not quite.

I was cleaning a record yesterday when I realized that I was missing my genuine NG cleaning brushes. They’ve been MIA for a minute now and I’ve been using folded microfiber cloths as a cleaning applicator. But, the LP I was cleaning was actually dirty, as in I could see dirt on it when I was at the record store. If I had not also seen the alluring sheen of what I call Inky Black vinyl underneath I would never have taken the chance on it. Come on, this is David Lindley…the only David Lindley LP I don’t own! The only question involved what to use to actually clean the grooves? I’d been reading about various new and old products, all of which promise to safely plumb the depths of the fragile grooves while removing harmful detritus. One had a crowd-funding effort that caught my eye. I’m not going to plug it here since the guy who developed it isn’t smart enough to set up a website to sell it or even to reply to an Instagram message. But, he made a good point about the diameter of bristles on most wet-cleaning brushes. He pointed out that the most popular material, goat hair (go figure) has a typical diameter that exceeds the diameter of a typical groove. Now that got my attention. He also made points of the facts that typical velvet cleaning pads lack the necessary groove-reaching length and that velvet inevitably compresses over time. Points taken. Too bad the guy won’t sell me one.

Everyone has heard of and some even do the unthinkable. They clean LPs with a combination of diluted Dawn and a toothbrush. Beyond the fact that Dawn is a detergent the surfactants of which can easily break down the PVC of an LP. Bad idea. And, a typical toothbrush would probably bring all of the disadvantages of a goat hair along with enough stiffness to create its own scratches. But, what about those super-soft, ultra-fine toothbrushes I’ve been using for the past decade or so, the ones people think are for little kids? I say sheer perfection if used carefully. The results on the LP at hand were amazing. Do I recommend their use? No way. Like I said, very few people take proper care of their records and I’m not going to be the guy to tell the careless to use something that could damage their LPs when employed by the careless. I’m still researching brands. In the end, I may buy 5 toothbrushes, cut off the heads and glue them onto a piece of wood. It’s yet another work in progress. By the way, I only use NG Pure 2 cleaning fluid. Accept no substitutes.

While I was researching brushes I came across a really entertaining blog. The guy’s in the UK and he reviewed not only a goat hair cleaning brush but also his Moth MkII cleaning machine. Even if I don’t agree with the ethos of his overly complex cleaning machine the guy wrote some great stuff about the joys of buying used records in the UK. It’s too bad that he hasn’t posted since 2017. Maybe the muse will strike him again someday.

I’d like to share an email I sent him the other day:

Dear Shelf-Stacker

I’ve been enjoying your blog for the last few days now. Some great stuff there. I’ve only returned my limited attention span to my vinyl of late. I’ve been wanting to rip them for a while but I kept stumbling on the method I would use. I finally decided on one over the summer and it’s coming along Ok. I’ve no intention of selling or disposing of my vinyl, I enjoy playing it too much. But, it’s very cool to be at my girlfriend’s house, and mention some obscure LP, and be able to play it for her using pCloud (which I highly recommend, aside from the annoying name). I don’t anticipate growing my collection much anymore. A few have survived, enough to fill my beloved Per Madsen rack. About 1,500 were lost in a flood (read: plumbing debacle) a decade and a half ago. They didn’t just get wet. I could have dealt with that. No, the flood was caused by a burst hot water line from old galvanized plumbing. So, rusty water climbed onto the records and then particles dried into the grooves. While it was possible to remove individual specks of rust it always left a scratch. Truly, each affected LP was a total loss. The idiot from the insurance company tried to offer $500 which was quickly increased to a dollar a record. I finally settled for $4.50 a record which in those days (LPs were not worth then what they are now) was not a terrible deal. Still, what a mess. Pisses me off to this day.


The first piece of yours that caught my eye was about the Tonar Goat Wet Cleaner brush. I have a beloved Nitty Gritty record cleaner but somehow all of my NG brushes have gone missing. In their absence, I have used very good quality microfiber cloths as cleaners and the NG to dry. I thought to myself that surely someone has come up with a better brush by now. The goat hair deal does not get me going, however. I had an intuitive sense that the diameter of the goat hairs themselves were unlikely to plumb the depths of the LP’s grooves, and I think I am correct about that.


I woke up with an idea. I’ve used these super soft toothbrushes for years. I mean they are SOFT. Most people who see them assume they’re for little kids but au contraire. Best of all, the actual bristles are exceptionally small, around .08mm in diameter, that’s what makes them so soft. Anyway, I bought a fairly old LP today that was genuinely dirty (as opposed to typically dusty). Even though it was dirty it had a really nice inky blackness that I always associate with good pressings (this example was from New Zealand) and then used the NG fluid and a new super-fine, super-soft toothbrush

The results were really good. I mean, I’ve always gotten good results from the NG but this was significantly better and this record was dirty.

So, not so much a recommendation as a thought. It’s amazing that there are still Parastat brushes floating around on Ebay…used, no less. No thanks. I have uncontrollable images of someone using them on their toilet or dentures. I’m not sure which possibility is more distasteful. So, I’m a toothbrush man from here on in. My plan is to buy a 5-pack, cut the heads off, and glue them to a piece of wood or plastic and voila!

I also love your stuff on used records. It seems there is little difference from the UK to the US in this regard. However, there are even more of what I disparagingly refer to as tweak shops here in the US. Shops that put on those silly outer sleeves and charge triple what an LP is worth. 

I divide my LP buying among a triad of local shops. One (Deadly Wax) is very local to me and owned by a really nice fellow. Aside from his reticence to create a Folk section his store is hard to complain about until you see his prices. They usually make me wince a little but occasionally I’ll find something and I’m glad to part with my dough since he’s such a good guy.

The second place (Canterbury Records) is in Pasadena, where my girlfriend lives. It has scads of potential but is really a disaster when it comes to browsing. The owner has literally tons of records. But, many are hidden away on mysterious shelves below the shelves. 

No, you may not look through those records. 

And, no, you may not buy those records under any circumstances. 

You see, the genius owner has yet to evaluate those records, nor will he ever, most likely. The available stock is still huge but I seldom find anything there and usually leave muttering about pretty much every aspect of the store.

My favorite is CD Trader (unfortunate name, I know) in nearby Tarzana. Yes, that part of Los Angeles is really named after Tarzan. Hey, it was Hollywood! Anyway, it’s big but well organized and has a nice blend of the costly and the not-quite-so-costly. Plus, the guys at the counter are always kind and know their shit. When one of them saw the LP I had he called out, “Cool! Only pressed in New Zealand, right?” “Right,” said I, impressed with the latest example of the legend of record store clerk wisdom. 

They do, also, have a lot of new vinyl and I’m sad the young little dipshits who buy them think the prices are acceptable. On the other hand, perhaps they are. The first LPs I bought back in the 1970s cost $3.99 and I was making a little less than $3.00 an hour at the time. Now, I see new LPs starting at around $18.99 with some inexplicably priced at $24.99 and above. Minimum wage in California is right around $15-16 today so I guess the inflation is not totally insane, but it seems like it is.

Finally and most importantly I am wondering what caused you to stop posting, if in fact you have? This vinyl resurgence can’t (or at least I don’t think it can) last forever. It’s a great time for guys like you to shepherd the clueless to happiness or at least away from the kind of confused foolishness they will suffer in other corners or the internet, especially as regards vinyl. None of my business. I’m just asking blogger to blogger. While I still blog I know the self-imposed pressure to post and I, like perhaps you do, chafe against it.

Anyway, I think you bring a wise and entertaining voice to something near and dear to my heart. Thanks for making the effort!

Cheers.

Paul

Records / LPs / Vinyl & Wet-Cleaning Brushes

Interview with Golf Historian, Kevin Kenny

Like so many things, the internet is both a curse and a blessing. One way that it’s been a blessing to me has been through its power to introduce me to colleagues and associates I would never have met without this virtual world. Kevin Kenny is one of these. He is a writer, a historian and a kindred spirit.

We both love golf enough to write about it, and that’s saying something. I’m grateful he’s been willing to answer some of my questions about his work.

Paul Cervantes

What was your life’s work before you started to write about golf?

Kevin Kenny

I was involved in a family retail shoe business in Dublin for 28 years. After that, I became a mature student and did three degrees in Scotland (where we lived for a time) in history and politics. Then when we came back to Dublin I taught Social Science with The Open University (a UK based distance-learning institution) for 14 years. 

Paul Cervantes:

What was your first golf book and what about the subject motivated you to devote an entire book to the subject? Also, how long did your first book take to write?

Kevin Kenny

My first book was American Golf in the Great Depression: The Pros Take to the Grapefruit Circuit. I think I got my interest in this area from studying American history when I was a mature student. It took me about a year to write it.

Paul Cervantes:

Did you find that writing your golf during the Great Depression book motivated you to write more about American golf as opposed to golf in general? What was it about American golf, or American golfers, that caught your interest and sustained it?

Kevin Kenny

Yes, writing about golf in the 1930s started a chain. So, that led me to write a book on Ralph Guldahl whose career I felt had not been properly recognised. And in both of the first two books, I came across Fred Corcoran who was one of the instigators of the LPGA tour and that led me to write about Patty Berg. As to why American golf history and not golf in general- I always felt that there were so many stories in US golf- so many characters- so many wonderful players- it seemed natural to research American golf history.

A further point about my interest in US golf history. In the early 1960s, when I had started golf, my father began to receive golf journals from his sister in America and here I first came across the wonderful writings of Herbert Warren Wind. And we received a copy of Bobby Jones’ Golf Is My Game- for me the best golf book ever. All of these whetted my appetite for American golf history.

Paul Cervantes

I read Golf is My Game long ago. I like to tell people who’ve never heard of Jones about his life even more so than his golf. There’s a kind of magic to his life and education, as it blended with the greatness of his play, I doubt we’ll be lucky enough to see again. He was, of course, a different kind of amateur than those we have today. What parts of Golf Is My Game resonated most for you when you first read it? What are its most enduring messages for you today?

Kevin Kenny

I think Jones conveys an awful lot of common sense about the golf swing and he had an interesting take on putting which he suggested should be a slight slicing action. Not sure too many of today’s gurus would agree with that. But, what resonated with me most were his recollections of his career which his great friend O.B. Keeler divided into the seven lean years and then, gloriously, the seven fat years. His descriptions of his many great rounds, especially playing golf under pressure, were wonderful. And he wrote a short love story to St. Andrews and what it meant to him. Just a wonderful and moving book…

Paul Cervantes

Another player from the mid-1930s you’ve written about is Ralph Guldahl. What made him the greatest player of his era and why was his reign so painfully short?

Ralph Guldahl circa 1937

Kevin Kenny

For about three to four years, Ralph Guldahl was as good as any player in the world and maybe better. He won successive U.S. Opens in 1937 and 1938 and he won the Masters in 1939. In addition, he won three successive Western Opens, which was as prestigious as the Masters at this time. For this brief period, no other player could match him. Why he lost his game in the 1940s is one of golf’s mysteries and I try to tackle this in my book. Theories range from him writing an instructional book which caused him to think too much about his game — to his wife being tired of the travel involved. Remember, one of the perks of being a U.S. Open champion is that you got to play numerous exhibitions for $300-400 a time. But this took its toll and often he would be on the road for a few weeks at a time. Or maybe he just lost his desire. I became interested in him when writing about the Great Depression. I wondered why we did not know more about him, considering his outstanding record.

Paul Cervantes

That brings me to John J. McDermott, an American golfer we’ve both written about, me in a fact-driven fictionalization and you in biography. What about McDermott got you interested enough to write a book about him? Also, what surprised you most during your research? Finally, are you considering any new projects?

Kevin Kenny

I have a friend in Florida called Marty Kavanaugh- a retired pro and PGA Hall of Famer. He spoke to me a few times about John J. McDermott and suggested it was a subject worth researching and that is how I got started. What surprised me most? Perhaps how young he was to achieve what he did. To become one of the best, if not the best at 19, 20, 21, 22 years of age shows an incredibly strong mind. Hogan’s best period was when he was around the 40 mark. No- I have no plans for any other books- four is enough, but I look forward to reading your next one. Thank you Paul, I have enjoyed this.

Interview with Golf Historian, Kevin Kenny

Please, go ahead & judge this book by its cover!

The sequel to my 2019 novel, John J. McDermott & the 1971 U.S. Open, is finally for sale at Amazon.

I think I bettered the six months it took John J. McDermott & the 1971 U.S. Open to make it from finished manuscript to published but not by much. It’s a great feeling to be finished writing but a lousy one to anticipate all of the annoying steps that have to be taken before anyone can read your book.

Right now, it’s eBook only. An issue with the cover formatting undermined me at the last minute. Hopefully, you lovers of paper books will be able to grab a copy later in the week.

In the meantime, Cottonwood the eBook is waiting to be read.

Please, go ahead & judge this book by its cover!

February 18: Another clear day

Today was another exceptionally clear day. It was also an uneventful day save for the lunch get-together with my siblings. That started the day off nicely. I got to hear about what they were reading and about how their book clubs worked, in terms of what kinds of things they talked about.

There was also some chat about our upcoming family reunion in July. Eureka! continues to have Lady Face Blind Ambition for $4 so I couldn’t resist having one (and then another one). These kinds of family outings don’t last too long, no one’s prone to linger or talk about anything too amusing, so I was on my way home by 1:30, just in time for a quick hike.

Like I said, it was very clear day. Lots of folks were heading out at once so I decided to take a connector trail towards El Escorpion. Once there, I picked up a trail that I was pretty sure would link back to the Victory side. I was right, but the last third of the trail was brutally steep. Had it not been for the light, cooling breeze it may have been too much. But I made it and then found my way to Bible Rock before heading back to the main trail and my car.

Those two beers were not my friend on this hike, but I was happy to have made it out for a couple hours.

I’m getting a little antsy about the book. It’s feeling ripe and ready to publish. I’m ready to move on but circumstances won’t let me quite yet. It’s also a time of anticipation. There are always technical issues, most commonly with the EPUB or MOBI files used for the the Amazon Kindle Version.

It’s rather like the feeling of dreading impending traffic that you know you’ll hit, simply because you’re in a hurry. It makes you wonder why you’re in a hurry and then you remember.

There’s time enough but none to waste.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is another LP. This time it’s an oldie and a scratchy one at that. It’s Paul Desmond’s That’s Jazz. It’s from 1961 and it’s pretty much the epitome of California Cool. Desmond’s playing is impeccable as always. There’s never been anyone better at this kind of stuff. His tone and articulation were effortless and he was rhythmically faultless and nimble to boot. Still, in some strange kind of way this LP reminds me that I really don’t much care for jazz anymore. The best jazz was universally played in the past and if you can’t find a reason to look ahead toward even the possibility of new and better days, a genre can really become mundane. It’s always amazing to me that these straight-laced looking guys like Desmond and Bill Evan were relentless self-abusers, Desmond with booze while Evans favored heroin and later cocaine. It makes their music perfect time capsules of another era when jazz was perfected and before its inevitable entropic decline.

Thanks for reading.

That was Jazz
February 18: Another clear day

February 17: Busy, like the old days

Today was busy like the old days. Things rapidly came together with a new client and I had to do a phone interview and write a follow-up memo. It doesn’t sound very time consuming (it is). It also doesn’t sound especially interesting but, again, it is. Many of our clients are desperately ill. I describe myself as the tip of the arrow since I’m often the first one to really get to know a new client and their history, as well as their family.

Much of what I do is about sizing up the client in a lot of different ways. Sometimes, as it was today, it’s about getting a sense of the client’s vitality, especially his memory and mental sharpness. The client has faced a terminal diagnosis and has undergone a very risky surgical procedure with chemotherapy to follow. It is not an easy time in the life of the client or the family. The first time I spoke to this client (after his diagnosis but before his surgery) he sounded fantastic. Rather than sounding anything like a typical 80 year old he sounded 60…maybe even younger. I knew that 4 weeks after his surgery he would sound like a completely different person, and he did. But, he’s a tough guy and shows no inclination to going gentle in to this or any good night. He’s an easy guy to root for.

Recapitulating a long phone call like that is tricky. It’s a memo that’s likely to be read in haste even though it was written with great care. That’s just the way things work in this business; the best of efforts are not always appreciated for what they are, yet it’s still critical that one’s best effort is put forward. This being anything but my first rodeo, I am Ok with all of that. I sleep well knowing we’re on the right side of the cases we pursue and that there’s not a long line of people who can do what I do in quite the way I do it. All of my work today was done in no more than 3 hours but it felt much longer and took a good deal of starch out of me. There’s no getting used to speaking to the very ill shortly after a diagnosis. Feeling like an interloper or an opportunist is easy. Finding a way to always be regarded as a positive force during a very negative time for both the client and the family is an art. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m better than most, or at least I think I am.

I’ve been warned about leaving out the writing soundtrack in my posts. Sometimes I need a soundtrack but occasionally all I can stand are the clicking sound of my laptop’s keys. There’s no real formula to it though I have to say I have a much lower tolerance to audible distractions than I used to. Anyway, tonight’s soundtrack is drowning out the keyboard clicks and that’s a good thing. I’m listening to Empty Hearted Town from Warren Zevon’s posthumous (2007) record, Preludes: Rare and Unreleased Recordings. There are 16 tracks here. Some are a marginal versions of marginal songs but the track I mentioned and Tule’s Blues and Studebaker, among a handful of others, make the collection more than worthwhile. Anyway, thanks for listening.

February 17: Busy, like the old days

February 16: Kinda not so good

Long story short, I did not come up with a workable idea for the ending to the story I’m considering. The fact is I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it today. So, I suppose my progress on the idea is directly proportional to the time expended on the task. I was busy today, at least off and on. The day didn’t feel totally wasted but except for going to the post office I was at home and working in my office from around 9 until 3. At 3 a friend of mine called and we met for a while.

That was a relief; it’s hard to spend much more time than that indoors.

Then came dinner and then came the last episode of the first part of season 4 of Ozark. It’s not my favorite show but I would say that the fourth season is the best so far. My sense is that they divided the fourth season into two parts to finish out the series this year but what the heck do I know?

I don’t have any great ambitions for tomorrow but I am hoping to be outside more. The weather is supposed to be good, if good is defined as clear and mild. There’s wind forecast for Friday. Here’s hoping they missed on that one.

Today I finished my various Crosby-Nash, CS&N, CSN&Y and Stills-Young Band LPs (Buffalo Springfield was last week). That was a relief. The three-LP CS&N Carry On present particular trouble, though I’m not sure why. I was just scattered enough mentally that I keep losing track of what I had uploaded and what I hadn’t. The cherry on the sundae was me forgetting about one side entirely and letting the record spin for hours after it was done. Nice.

Great for the record and for the stylus of the EVO 3…not.

Anyway, tomorrow’s another day. In the meantime, tonight’s writing soundtrack is another LP, Deep Sea Diver’s Impossible Weight. I really like Jessica Dobson’s voice and playing. Not every song on this record is as raw, elemental and powerful as the last one, Run Away With Me, but they’re all good enough for me to enjoy. Anyway, check out that orange vinyl and Jessica’s signature!

How the heck do you beat that?

Answer…you don’t.

Thanks for reading.

February 16: Kinda not so good

February 15: For me, today was Valentine’s Day

I had a wonderful Valentine’s Day (yes, I know it was actually yesterday) for a very simple reason. I was lucky enough to spend some of it with my valentine, at least a few hours of it. She took the whole day off, so from 10 until 3:30 we hiked and talked and enjoyed a gorgeous day. We don’t get many chances to share even part of a weekday so it was an especially rare treat.

The only problem was that our time together was all too short, as it always is.

Our time on the trail gave me a chance to think about the book idea I that occurred to me yesterday. I can see the span of time. I can see some of the interesting events but I can’t really see the story, let alone the all-important ending. My concern is that there might not be a complete story to see. The last thing I want to do is jump into a story without even knowing the ending.

No good can come from that.

So, I’m going to do a little brainstorming about how my new story might end. Since there are biographical elements it’s all too easy to imagine that the story just goes on but that won’t work with a book. If I come up with some ideas between now and tomorrow I am thinking about writing the beginning of the story as tomorrow’s post. If I don’t, I’m not going to start writing. It’s not important for my idea about the ending to be the one I end up using. It’s only important for me to have an idea, even if I eventually change the ending, before I get started.

Ideas come along when they want so this may take a while.

Thanks for reading.

February 15: For me, today was Valentine’s Day

February 14: Finally, an idea

Reliably, my endless babbling typically goes nowhere. But today I was telling stories of another era of my life, probably for the 10th time. When I finished I found myself thinking that there could be a book in the stories I told. It would be set in the 1980s. It would be somewhat biographical and somewhat of a period piece. As an aside, I am continually disappointed by the way stories from the 70s and 80s are told in today’s television and movies.

I have no doubt that it is ever thus, but it’s still distressing. Most efforts seems so enamored with the styles of hair and clothes as to ignore entirely the differences and similarities that the era portrayed has to today. As another aside, I would cite an exception with Mad Men. Any series that could actually make a teenage girl quit watching because the relentless sexism of the series was so distressing was definitely doing a lot of things right.

Let’s just say I’m not lining up to see Licorice Pizza.

Like a lot of other folks my age are thinking (and saying), fuck that…I lived it and it was a hell of a lot more entertaining, believe me.

Anyway, my idea would go from the mid-1980s to the mid-90s, ending in the genuine purgatory I endured living in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Without realizing it, I relive that decade a lot. To paraphrase Jackson Browne, you don’t know the big reasons of your life until after they’re gone.

Wait. I also got the second concept for the cover of Cottonwood tonight. Like the first, it’s not quite in line with what I wanted, but I love it. I called a bit of a timeout since we don’t yet know the thickness of the spine. That dimension will affect how much of the cover image has to wrap around to the left. It will be give me time to choose between wonderful and wonderful.

Finally, tonight’s writing soundtrack is Poor Ellen Smith by Gillian Welch & David Rawlings from their 2020 record, All The Good Times (Are Past & Gone). Finally, tonight’s writing soundtrack is Poor Ellen Smith by Gillian Welch & David Rawlings from their 2020 record, All The Good Times (Are Past & Gone).

No, it’s not exactly cheery but it’s perfect.

Thanks for reading.

February 14: Finally, an idea

February 13: Sharing an email about history

Today I got an email from a would-be client of mine.

I gave her an assignment a few weeks back with a two-week deadline.

Here’s her email:

Paul

I am so sorry that I have neither followed up (yet) on your wonderful suggestions not let you know. As soon as we’d spoken I did some research into the subject then got stuck with a project I need to finish ASAP. I have to make (within the next few weeks!!) enough content for one quarter from 3 or more text books on the infinite topic of History of Golf.

So, that’s what I’m killing myself doing, especially on weekends. During my work, I was so happy to come across a couple of paragraphs dedicated to your friend (thought to myself – hey I know this guy!!), and excited that it will go into my powerpoints:

In 1911, Johnny McDermott, a brash young pro from Philadelphia was addicted to gambling at golf, ended the foreign and foreign-born dominance of the U.S. Open by becoming the first American-born winner of the event. At age 19 years, 10 months, and 14 days, he is still the youngest player ever to win the U.S. Open and the second-youngest ever to win any of the four modern majors. Only Young Tom Morris, who won the British Open in 1868 at age 17, was younger. As if to prove that his victory in 1911 was no fluke, McDermott won the US Open again in 1912 at the Country Club of Buffalo, where he became the first player to shoot a sub-par score in the US Open. Unfortunately he disappeared from the golfing scene as quickly as he had appeared. In 1914, at age 23, he collapsed and suffered a nervous breakdown in the clubhouse of the Atlantic City Country Club where he was the club pro. He never recovered from the incident and spent the rest of his life in mental hospitals, rest homes, and living with family members in Philadelphia, suffering from a mental illness.

Will follow-up on your ideas soon as this job is done.

Do you go to the Genesis Invitational?

Signed, Would-Be Client

And my reply:

Dear Client

You’re lucky. 

I was about to send you a friendly-reminder email.

Glad you’re busy, hoping you’re not too busy.

Yeah, I got some JJM bio stuff from the USGA’s head historian. Nice guy, tho I cannot recall his name. Oh, yeah, it’s Mike Trostel! Not all of my memory is gone, thank goodness.

What is most interesting about JJM is that there are  NO authoritative contemporaneous accounts of his decline. Some sources include what you have mentioned, others say bad financial decisions preceded his illness and still others point to the trauma of surviving a near-catastrophe at sea while sailing home  to the United States.

I guess this kind of vagueness is an omnipresent feature of most lives, even of some noteworthy folks like JJM. My mother was dead less than a week before her own daughter inadvertently misstated some well-known facts about my mother’s life during a eulogy.

In the back of the church I muttered to myself, “And we wonder why there are so many biographies of the same person.”

Anyway, it’s great to hear from you. 

Please keep in touch and be well!

Cheers.

Paul

The italicized paragraph is about John J. McDermott, a main character in my first novel. I was especially taken that my client presented what she did as authoritative. It may have been, but I doubt it. Whether it was JJM’s life or the life of my mother, people come and go and then we set about to say what happened in their lives. Sometimes we’re right. Other times, not so much. So, the word for the day is humble, as in be humble when citing facts about the lives of others, living or not.

John J. McDermott and one of his two U.S. Open trophies

Another LP is spinning for this evening’s writing soundtrack. It’s my single favorite solo guitar record ever. It’s by one or two-off virtuoso, George Cromarty and it’s called Wind In The Heather. It is a superb pressing with some of the best and best recorded acoustic guitar I have ever heard. I need to add Cromarty to my list of missing musicians.

This is also a rare flood survivor as the stained and damaged cover show. Happily, and I mean very happily, the record itself was spared. I never even had to clean it with the Nitty Gritty. I tried to get a little too arty with the processing on this, but what can you do other than try?

Anyway, thanks for reading.

February 13: Sharing an email about history