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

January 6: Recovering from Angst Day #1 of 2022

My recovery from angst day #1 of 2022 is complete and I’m relieved there appears to have been no obvious follow-up to the attempted insurrection of 2021. Thank God for small and large favors. Things were better today. I took delivery of a new-to-me watch and I also took a hike and I also took a slice of pizza and an excellent blood orange IPA.

How can you go wrong with any, let alone all, of those?

The weather was doing an excellent impression of summer and the trails were empty save for a few hikers and even fewer mountain bike guys. Anyway, part of what made today better was the self-reminder that changes and transitions are inevitable whether or not they are known or anticipated. Come 2023, I will be doing something different than what I’m doing today. But, really, that has been true of every year of my life since I’ve been a substantively different person each new year, even though my finger prints have stayed the same. What is really at issue is the question of one’s response to the unknown.

Mine is Ok so far. I see a lot of ways for things to be just fine a year from now even though all of the typical existential question marks are right where they always are. In the end, I have just enough ego to like my odds and just enough appreciation for the world around me to enjoy the ride, whether it’s smooth or bumpy. I’ve done some bumpy before as I may or may not write about in a future installment.

A quick story. Right before I learned that our firm was moving toward closing I was busy surfing used watches on the web. My finger was poised over a message making a solid offer on a Sinn UX, one of the only quartz watches I’ve ever lusted after (the other is the Omega X-33 Skywalker).

So I’m sitting there, ready to make my deal when one of my bosses comes into my office and asks me to join him and my other boss for a closed-door chat. The mood in the room was heavy. I knew they’d both been taking at length but I didn’t know what was up. That was when I found out one of my bosses had a nasty case of prostate cancer. At that point, no one new how well he would respond to treatment or how soon, if ever, he would be able to come back to work. The decision was made to let our lease expire and gradually close things out. I was pretty damn surprised. I knew something was up but it’s rare news that combines someone’s health with the cessation of a business that provides your employment. It was a lot to take in. The three of us talked for about an hour before I was back in my office, the message about the UX still staring me in the face. I closed the window without sending it. It was a hard time to think about a watch, no matter how desirable it was. That was way back in the summer of 2015.

And another thing: Don’t read any Charles Dickens while you’re getting ready to publish your own book. It’s not good for the writer’s psyche and ego, I can assure you. For some reason, I’ve been reading A Christmas Carol. It’s a very conventional story and the sequences are readily imagined, nearly predictable. But, the descriptions are so rich and creative that it’s a continual amazement. I cannot imagine creating anything like it. I would have to spend an unimaginable amount of time on a myriad of simple descriptions of routine things and places and people. And, even if I did I don’t think I could match Dickens’ mastery any more than about 5% of the time. It would take me decades to write what I’ve done in a couple years. Talk about sobering. Then again, maybe the experience should be telling me something I can’t yet grasp. I can read contemporary novels, even ones that sell well and have attained a degree of critical acceptance, and not be so taken with the fundamental art of what’s been accomplished.

Geez, this got more than a little long and meandering.

Sorry about that but be sure to check back tomorrow for more of the same.

Thanks for reading.

January 6: Recovering from Angst Day #1 of 2022

Social Isolation Part 2

Why have I always found it so pleasant to drink while I sit in the sun?


I’m sure I can’t explain it. But, in these days of Social Isolation it still has its pleasures even though for now outside is a front yard rather than one of my local bars or brew pubs.

Plus, I’m dodging some clouds. Still, you know what they say about beggars and their lack of choices.

Now, the thing is I find outside & alcohol mentally provocative. Many times I will find myself enjoying a good IPA (like this one: Santa Monica Brewing Inclined IPA) and about halfway through I’ll get an idea and have to mosey on home to put it down. It’s not true every time but the reaction, or effect, always surprises me when it happens.

And, I do wonder why.

Is it the sun or the IPA or more likely a symbiotic combination? I vote for a symbiotic combination that flows from the sun’s gathering warmth and the mental softening effect of the IPA.

But, there’s something else and again it works in concert with both solar radiation and a good IPA; the lack of hurry, the feeling of easy contemplation, the sense that one is where one should be for that moment.

It’s often hard to create a lack of hurry sense, but that’s what I need.

Anyway, it’s a hard balance to strike and it’s all to easy to take it too far (IPA wise) and to become insensitive (idea wise). The key is to create a combination of balance & opportunity. If I can achieve that balance perhaps I can make some inroads on my book while staying safe. I’m well over halfway through but it’s still a little hard to see the end of tunnel.

I encourage all of you to do the same while being safe.


Social Isolation Part 2

Best writing advice ever!

I’m in deep into the sequel to my first novel,  John J. McDermott & the 1971 U.S. Open.

The working title (and my bet the final title) of the sequel is Cottonwood.

I am dedicated to moving the narrative along at a rapid clip. I hike fast. I play golf fast. I speak fast and I write fast, until I take a break, which I did too often with JJM.

That’s a mistake I will not make again. In fact, I’ve put a serious time limit on writing the narrative to the sequel. I want to finish the narrative by the end of 2019. It’ll take another three to five months to edit and format the dang thing, so it’s really not all that fast compared to other writers.

Anyway, I wanted to pass along the best writing advice I ever heard. The advice is in Doug Nichol’s 2016 film, California Typewriter and it came from the late Sam Shepard.

I’ll paraphrase the advice:

Never quit when you’re stuck. When you start up again you’ll still be stuck.

Now the funny thing is that I rarely consider myself to be struck. If I fail to work on my book it’s nearly always because I’ve been distracted by lesser things like work. But, there’s still a lot of wisdom and usefulness to what Shepard said. Since I heard his admonition I try to quit when I’m on a roll I know I can keep it going later. In fact, a lot of times the momentum of the roll is actually enhanced by the renewed energy that comes from taking a break to go on a hike or drink a fine IPA.

When I do nudge up against stuckness (to borrow a word made up by Robert Pirsig) I dedicate myself to the kind of written thrashing about that, if I’m lucky,  gets a few more words and hopefully good ideas onto the page. The small success of getting those kinds of difficult words down blunts the sharpness of feeling a little stuck and replaces it with the confidence that a way forward can be found with a bit more effort.

Anyway, think about what Sam said the next time you find yourself stuck.



Best writing advice ever!