February 12: Tower 45

The valley to valley idea is predicated on being able find a way to hike from one valley to the other. One emphasis is on the word hike but the second is find. I knew that fire roads are everywhere in the foothills of Los Angeles County. I’m glad they’re there but hiking on them is more like walking than it is like hiking. And, since they all go somewhere there’s very little duty for navigation. The only question is how far do you want to do in any one direction?

If the challenge is only the hike it loses some appeal. It’s not that far and it’s not that hard. Surely others have done what I propose but I don’t really want to know how they did it since I assume there are a number of different routes, starting points and ending points. But worse, it would shatter the possibility of discovery…maybe the discovery of an error and maybe the discovery of something that works better than what others have done. In this case, crowd sourcing is the last thing I want to benefit from.

So, I am trying to minimize the use and influence of the experiences of others and of maps. A too map and a fire road map would tell the whole story. But as is so often the case it’s not the story that matters it’s the way that it’s told or in the case of the valley to valley hike how it a route is found and how it’s hiked.

The last time I was hiking west from the Victory Trailhead I saw a single tower in the distance. When I got home, I succumbed to temptation and found it on Google Maps. It’s called Tower 45 and it’s said to be a 3.5 hour hike from Woodland Hills and a 3.5 hour hike from the Conejo Valley. That’s useful, but it’s also more than I wanted to know. What I didn’t have to read was the obvious conclusion that Tower 45 was connected on both east and west by a big, wide fire road.

So, I took a little trip today to an area that I suspected was not far west of the tower, east of Westlake Blvd. I took a trail through a local park and caught up with an eastbound fire road. After about a mile and a half it looked like this:

By my reckoning I should have been close enough to see Tower 45, but it was nowhere in sight. The trail toward the right center rose steeply and on another day I might continue on this trail to see if Tower 45 lays beyond. The foothills were plenty tall enough to obscure a tower, even a tall one so I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Surprise. That’s part of what I’m trying to preserve. I am hoping to be surprised by. something in the planning of the hike but it’s beginning to seem more and more like all trails will lead to the common. The game’s not done yet. There’s more to discover and more to my study but I can sense surprise slipping away bit by bit.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is Cowboy Junkies’ The Trinity Session from way back in 1988. And, since I’m listening to this superb record on vinyl it merits a snap of the LP rather than another cover photo.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

February 12: Tower 45

February 11: Am I stuck or?

The year is streaking by and most of my time today has been spent on the LP project and working on my valley-to-valley hiking project. So, I’m wondering if I’m stuck or if things are going exactly as they should? The wind stayed around far longer than usual for this time of year, and then it retreated. Today, by the time I hit the trail, it had to be close to 90 degrees. I shied away from my hill climb. It just didn’t seem like a great idea to throttle my legs on such a hot day. The green of the seasonal grasses are already starting to pale from their original bright green. The oaks that survived the last round of fires are already leafing out. As I’m sure I’ve said before, I am hoping for a least another round or two of rain. Absent that, this will be one of the shortest winters in memory.

On the subject of Cottonwood, my formatter has acknowledged receipt of my manuscript and front matter. It’s all happening now, ready or not. The cover art is still baking in the oven. I’m not worried. I know it will be wonderful but there’s a certain amount of angst about the logistical issues on the horizon. My recollection is that the ebook version of the my first novel was actually more tricky than the print version. Back then, Amazon required a file in their own MOBI format whereas now they use EPUB. Hopefully, this change makes no difference to the formatter. For the print version, all you need is a PDF of the book itself and a precisely-dimensioned JPEG for the cover art. Amazon really has this self-publishing deal down.

We got another chance to share a drink at 1894 this evening. It’s a delightful little spot with a good wine list and a small but well-chosen tap list. Today I had another French Pilsner from Bram’s in nearby Monrovia. I think they must share space with Wingwalker Brewing since they have the same street address. This pils may be the best thing to come out of France since, well, maybe forever. It is crisp and clean yet possessed of a deep, interesting pallet of flavors. Damned if it wouldn’t go perfectly with chips & salsa. What more can you say about a good beer?

Anyway, that’s it for tonight. I hope more happens tomorrow at least between my ears. Tonight’s writing soundtrack is an interesting duet by Andrew Bird and Fiona Apple called Left Handed Kisses from his 2016 record, Are You Serious. It’s an interesting counterpoint to the song that introduced me to Bird, Giant of Illinois. The man is nothing if not varied and versatile in his style and presentation. I’m looking forward to hearing more from him.

Thanks for reading.

Are You Serious
February 11: Am I stuck or?

February 10: Who knew…Roger Miller?

I didn’t get a heck of a lot done today beyond uploading a good number of LPs. The process is time consuming. Also, it requires a kind of sustained low-level concentration to lead the lead in and lead out each side, nice and clean. At first I thought it would be entertaining to listen to all of my LPs but I end up doing other things, I even listen to other music while I’m doing it. It’s not that I don’t want to listen to the LPs it’s that I have to monitor the recording through my wired headphones since I’m using the only line-level out from my phono preamp to feed the A/D converter. My beloved Sennheisers have a nice, long cable but it’s not enough to let me move around as I’d like while monitoring the LP.

Oh well. You can’t have everything.

The downside of all the uploading was that I mismanaged my eating schedule and ended up losing most of my daily hiking time through my need to eat dinner. Muy malo. I’ve got to be better about that.

But wait, who knew…Roger Miller?

I’m sure I’m the last to know that Not in Nottingham was first sung by Roger Miller, way back in 1973, as part of the Disney’s animated version of Robin Hood.

It’s a very clean, melodic song and Miller hits it out of the park with his clean, melodic style.

But the lyrics; hmmm…

Every town
Has its ups and downs
Sometime ups
Outnumber the downs
But not in Nottingham
I’m inclined to believe
If we were so down
We’d up and leave
We’d up and fly if we had wings for flyin’
Can’t you see the tears we’re cryin’?
Can’t there be some happiness for me?
Not in Nottingham

Man, that’s pretty much of a downer for Disney and vague to boot. Perhaps it’s a classic example of something that’s great without being good. The great without good effect is hard to grasp at first but if you think about it I’ll bet you can come up with examples of your own.

Anyway, I have not purchased the song, even though I wanted it to round out my collection of the different versions. It turns out you have to buy the entire soundtrack ($15!) just to get the song. Sorry, but no. I will say that Miller’s version is both first and best. David Hidalgo and Sean Watkins both do a admirable job but there’s simply no improving on the simple beauty, earnestness and tonality that Miller brought to the song. Apparently, I can listen to the whole dang record on Amazon music so that’s going to be good enough to for now. You can also hear the entire song on YouTube so, as is usually the case, where there’s a will there’s a way to enjoy a very unusual song that’s sung unusually well.

Thanks for reading.

February 10: Who knew…Roger Miller?

February 9: Hiking in June gloom?

My planned valley to valley hike grows more complicated by the day. My current concern is about speed, specifically my walking speed. My original assumption was that the hike will be about 20 miles each way. Sure, it could be less but I think all in 20 miles is a good bet. So, for the last week I’ve used my iPhone to track my hiking (as opposed to walking on the street) speed.

And, it turns out that I hike slowly, right around 2.5 MPH versus the brisk 3.5 MPH I can do on a street or sidewalk. Damn those uphill sections of the trail! The problem is that depending on when I do the hike I could run out of daylight hours and that would be bad; I could even miss the cocktail hour, and we can’t have that.

The solution might be June Gloom, those days before the 4th of July when morning hours see a dense onshore overcast spread from the Pacific to the valleys and well after the start of daylight savings time in mid-June. I would have to leave the specific dates of the hike flexible to be assured of hiking on a day with good, deep onshore flow. Even still there’s a good chance the second half of the homeward trek would be pretty warm, since the west San Fernando Valley is typically around 8 degrees warmer than the eastern Conejo. And, the cherry on the sundae is that the whole hike will be into the sun.

No matter, as of this moment June is looking better than March. All those hours of daylight and the chance of overcast until well afternoon is making the hike feel a little more doable than my depressing walking speed made a feel a day ago.

The study continues.

Oh yeah, my writing soundtrack tonight are two versions of Not in Nottingham. The first sung by Sean Watkins on 2015’s The Watkins Family Hour and the second done by Los Lobos from their 2009 record, Los Lobos Goes Disney.

How out of the Disney songs loop am I? I had no idea Not in Nottingham was even a Disney song. It’s pretty damn good song so I bought both.

Thanks for reading.

February 9: Hiking in June gloom?

February 8: A bit more on yesterday’s missing musicians

The trauma of having to write all of yesterday’s post on my phone made me leave a few thoughts out. I was thinking about why John Danley & Brendan Campbell may have dropped out of the music business. At first, I thought that something bad must have happened to each of them, something like a chronic illness. The more I thought about it the more I realized the possibility that both had experienced some bizarre version of what happened to golf professional, Ty Tryon.

Tryon burst onto the PGA Tour back in the early days of the Tiger Woods era. He was only in high school when Callaway paid him a huge pile of money, nothing like the kind of cash Nike dumped on Woods, but we’re still talking about millions of dollars.

Ty Tryon, back in the early 2000s

Problem was that Tyron’s game soon collapsed, completely. Now, decades later, Tryon has become a walking monument to persistence. He’s been reduced to an annual quest just to find professional tournaments where he can tee it up in a so-far fruitless effort to find his long-gone game. Tryon was only 16 years old when he had that brief though profitable look at what the upper echelons of professional golf were like and thought he belonged. And, he has spent many years trying to get back there.

Campbell & Danley never had that look at the top. Oh sure, they made videos, played some live gigs and Campbell even composed and performed some music for a movie. Still, maybe what they saw of the music business simply didn’t make it seem like the kind of place they wanted to devote themselves to, possibly for years, with no guarantee for the kind of success they imagined.

And there’s another possibility I can think of; that one or both of them loved music, but didn’t love music as a profession. That’s how I like to imagine Campbell & Danley. I hope that wherever they are, and whatever they’re doing for a living, both continue to enjoy their rare musical gifts. And, should one or both of them decide they’d like to have another crack at the music business, I’ll be ready to enjoy their work once again.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

February 8: A bit more on yesterday’s missing musicians

February 7: Musicians who are missing in action

Brendan Campbell

The internet is an endlessly fascinating place. It has made finding new wonderful musicians easy and immensely satisfying. I could not begin to name all of the musicians who have crossed my path, quite by accident, over the last decade or so.

The odd thing is that occasionally one of them (or two in this case) will go missing, leaving only the music that led me to them in the first place.

The first is Brendan Campbell. He may have had another record at some point, but the only one I know of is Burgers & Murders. I’m listening to Pleiades right now. This guy is so gone that he doesn’t even have a licensing deal with iTunes anymore. I found that out when I realized that none of his songs were on my iPhone. Had they not been downloaded to my MacMini years back that music would have been gone, maybe forever.

The other musician is even more obscure. All John Danley left behind are a handful of videos. He was (is?) a wonderful finger-style player. From what I’ve been able to find he’s totally done with the whole music deal. The last reference I saw about him mentioned that he’d turned to a career in psychotherapy.

John Danley

A handful of years ago, he had a working website. What must have happened for him to let both his website’s eponymous domain and the site itself slip below the electrons of the internet? I just don’t get it. It’s just too easy and inexpensive to keep a website online to let one slip away. I actually mentioned Danley’s name to Will Ackerman a couple years back, along with a link to one of his videos. I had a kind of fantasy that Will might have recognized Danley’s talent and would want to set about using his industry connections to get him discovered, but Danley’s anonymity remains frustratingly intact.

How many more wonderful musicians am I doomed to find and lose? To put a tiny spin of optimism I could say I’m fortunate to have found Danley & Campbell at all, and that’s true. It’s always hard to keep from wanting more, I suppose.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Had I been willing to let this post wait until tomorrow I would have done a better job. For some reason tonight the WordPress desktop app will let me do everything but write a post.

The optimist would say how lucky I am to be able write what I have on my phone.

February 7: Musicians who are missing in action

February 6: A quiet weekend

It was a quiet weekend, which was good. I had time to think about Cottonwood and my valley to valley idea without putting a lot of pressure on myself. I have to say that I would like to be looking forward to something positive but I’m getting the stuck-in-neutral feeling again. Who knows? Maybe it’s the weather. Or, maybe this transition year is already moving along a bit more rapidly than I hoped it would.

On the other hand, maybe I’m simply not taking on enough in the way of challenges. It’s hard to be satisfied with yourself when you don’t feel like you’re accomplishing enough.

Cottonwood was an immense undertaking but now it’s done and there’s nothing on the immediate horizon to get my attention, creatively anyway. The valley to valley project is something I could place my own horizon. It maximizes planning and brings a little of the unknown, but not so many unknowns that it feels unsolvable.

Still, it’s not quite enough to occupy my thoughts in a constructive way. I think this daily blog is a good thing. It helps to bring some structure and intensity to what I’m thinking about and how. But it’s not been easy and I cannot imagine it getting easier, but we’ll see how long I can keep it up.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is Paul Brady singing Arthur McBride and the Sergeant. It’s a 7-minute Irish protest song and Brady has the perfect voice to sing the heck out of it.

Thanks for reading.

February 6: A quiet weekend

February 5: Hill climb & pano

The winds have been blowing off & mostly on for more than a week. When we had measurable rain a while back I allowed myself a bit too much optimism, at least as regards the drought.

Now that optimism is being blown away and that’s a lousy feeling. The only benefit of Santa Anas this time of year are cloudless, scrubbed-blue skies and fantastic visibility. Even though the winds were less intense today, the skies were still quite clear.

My valley to valley hike is front of mind. I’ve been looking for a map that shows all of the fire roads in Los Angeles and Ventura counties but I haven’t found one so far. I made a trip to REI today since they have a good selection of maps and guides on hand but they didn’t have what I needed. There was an interesting trail map of Conejo to the ocean that should have easily covered the entire relevant area except that the folks at NatGeo decided to plop the map’s legend right over the west end of the valley, where it meets up with Palo Comado. Oh well. What do those folks know?

This is iPhone pano looking northish (those are homes in Bell Canyon on the left).

This is a nastyish hil climb I use to inaugurate my legs and lungs every time I use the Victory Trailhead. From the middle to the top you actually ascend on toes. It’s possible to descend it but if it happens to rain again this hill will be impassable both up and down. The photo doesn’t do it justice; it’s damn steep.

No hike is complete without a refreshment and today I promised myself a blood orange IPA from the pizza and beer tavern at the intersection of Victory & Valley Circle. Somehow I’ve managed to miss the name of the brewery both times I’ve enjoyed it there. That fact gives me a good excuse to drop in for another pint someday soon.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is He’s Fine from The Secret Sisters 2017 record You Don’t Own Me Anymore. It’s far and away the best song on the record; clean, simple and bound to no genre or time. It’s fantastic.

Thanks for reading.

February 5: Hill climb & pano

February 4: Not quite as big as I hoped

The week I mean…

I should have known better than to look forward to a week that felt big, let alone was big. There aren’t many of those and this certainly wasn’t one. I didn’t get Cottonwood to the formatter. Instead I spent too much time noodling on the question of whether it needed a preface or some kind of introduction. I imagined something that linked Cottonwood gracefully back to John J. McDermott & the 1971 U.S. Open but in the end I just didn’t want to. I suppose I can rationalize the decision by my thought that even though both books are connected, they are intended to be capable of standing on their own, and I hope they do.

The whole deal found me learning about a mistake I made in JJM. I wrote the foreword. By convention a foreword should be written by someone other than the author.

That error, unsurprisingly, got me thinking about other introductory elements of a book’s front matter.

Beyond foreword there could be a preface, a prologue and an introduction. I suppose a writer could aspire to have all of them in one book but somehow for Cottonwood it feels to me like none of them fit, or are needed, so I have elected to leave them all out. Plus, it will keep me from writing another foreword that should really have been a preface or an introduction.

I should have known better than to expect a lot from a week because I felt like I needed a lot. That’s never worked, at least not in my experience. I had a zoom with one of my clients in Japan tonight. He seemed a little bit at odds as if he too was looking for something to happen, because he needed it to happen. I saw his situation totally differently than he did. I saw only his energy and dedication while all he could sense was a need for progress he couldn’t quite define.

I wanted a big week and he wanted a big whatever and neither of us got our wish.

Big week or not, I should have accomplished more this week than I did. I know that’s true but I can’t do anything about it. All I can do is follow my advice to my young client in Japan; just keep at it and don’t let up. You cannot control events, you can only control your efforts and choose where and how to apply them.

Maybe someday I’ll learn the lessons I try so hard to convey to my clients.

I know I’ve neglected my writing soundtrack the last couple days. The truth is that I’ve not been listening to much music the last couple days, other than the LPs I’ve managed to upload. Tonight’s different and so I have a different kind of writer’s soundtrack that anyone can enjoy. It’s The Shins Live at Hurricane from way back in 2012. You can easily find it at YouTube and it’s worth the search.

They were really a band in full back in 2012 to borrow a phrase from Tom Wolfe. Deep Sea Diver’s Jessica Dobson was still serving as James Mercer’s guitar hero back then (there’s yet another longish blog post I need to write) and the band effortlessly flowed and ripped and glided their way through a rainy outdoor set in Germany. I’m not sure who owns the rights to that video but I hope it stays on YouTube forever because I really need it from time to time…like tonight.

Thanks for reading.

February 4: Not quite as big as I hoped

February 3: Century City

It’s a been a good long while since I’ve been to the Century City mall.

How long? I am guessing it was right around 1990. Our office was at the then Fox Plaza, 2121 Avenue of the Stars. Ronald Reagan was a floor above us on 32 while Marvin Davis occupied the 33rd floor. Another Davis was the reason that we were in that building but that’s a story for another days. Three of us from the old firm had lunch today and reminisced about the times when each of us got to share an elevator with Reagan. He must have been about 78 at the time and while he still looked great in a blue suit you could sense the most subtle hints of cognitive decline. Has anyone even written more eloquently than the man himself?

“I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.”

Sunsets seem to be everywhere these days. So many of the people I know and love are holding them off, doing all they can to stay in the day’s light, whether the challenges they face affect themselves or their own loved ones. Both of my dining partners have dealt with it, through the illness of an adult child and the death of a spouse. I know it is hard to each of them to find a way to look ahead toward something good when they have seen the challenges of today and the near past.

Still, we ate, we remembered back to working at 2121, and we drank an excellent red blend called, La Croce.

Too bad there was only one bottle.

The weather was perfect. Only one day before and we would not have been able to dine outside without a good deal of shivering and cold Italian food that’s meant to be served hot. Our mood was lightish and plans were made for another lunch, a happy hour this time, were made. I’ll be really happy if we manage to pull that off soon.

Back to the last time I was at that mall and I’m guessing it was also in 1990. Wait, first I have to say that the mall is not the mall I visited all those many years ago. It was closed for years while undergoing a massive renovation. Going there today was like going back to a place I have never seen before, even though everything, the Hollywood Hills and the many towers of Century City were right where I left them.

Back in 1990, I shared lunch with the great love of my life, the woman who is still the love of my life. We ate at a little Japanese place that served excellent teriyaki. That’s a day I will never forget. I’ll never forget the food, I’ll never forget where it was (I’m sure I could walk to the point where our table stood, even though there’s no restaurant there anymore) and most importantly I will never forget what it felt like to be there sharing it all with the person whom I was lucky enough to be with. It’s been thirty years and I still feel lucky every time I share a table with her, or a kiss, or a touch, or a smile.

Sunsets come to each day and every person’s life. There’s nothing to be done about that. All we can do is share the daylight of our love and fondness for the people in our lives as often as we can, and always savor the sweetness of the wine and the warmth of the sun.

The three of us did a little of that today and I’m glad we all made the trip.

February 3: Century City