From Ojai to The Onion: Area Man tangles with Miley Cyrus

Here’s a story I wrote worth mentioning, for the hard-to-link Ojai Quarterly about thirty-one year-old Dan Mirk, who went from starring in local school musicals in little Ojai to writing for The Onion in New York City. So! Here you go: In 2008, Mirk and his colleagues at Onion News Tonight – the video broadcastContinue reading “From Ojai to The Onion: Area Man tangles with Miley Cyrus”

People of the PCT: Floyd Wick

I met Floyd Wick right about mile 1000. He was hiking south, heading towards Tuolumne Meadows, where his wife would meet him for a time on his way, from Burney Falls to Whitney, if memory serves. He said he had served twenty-six years in the military and his wife had served for twenty years inContinue reading “People of the PCT: Floyd Wick”

Homeless man saves a CA beach: The Week

Today the popular news magazine The Week republished the story I wrote for Latterly on Walter Fuller and Ormond Beach that, may I say, changed Walter Fuller’s life. He’s famous now, and his work is better supported than ever before. So for the record, let me post it again, and this time as a tweetContinue reading “Homeless man saves a CA beach: The Week”

Visiting Larry McMurtry at Booked Up

A few years ago, back in the days when the LATimes had a stand-alone Sunday magazine, Scott Kraft wrote a tremendous story about visiting Larry McMurtry, the writer, author of "The Last Picture Show," "Lonesome Dove," and "Terms of Endearment," among many other great stories, at his bookstore in tiny Archer City Texas. It's called The Loner.

A couple of noteworthy lines:

McMurtry lives in a majestic three-story home a few doors down from the single-story house where he grew up and not far from the high school where he graduated in 1954 among a senior class of 19. He moved back to Archer City, population 1,848, just five years ago.

He keeps mostly to himself, and locals know better than to try to engage him in chitchat. "He's a very conservative-type feller," says Max Wood, the town's 68-year-old mayor. Wood has known McMurtry since high school but doesn't consider himself a close friend. "Larry was always the type of person who was more of a loner."

Here's a picture of McMurtry, from a photo posted in one of his bookstores in Booked Up:


Well, to put it simply, to learn that one of this nation's greatest writers has a bookstore — a monster bookstore — in a famous (from "The Last Picture Show") little town in Texas, and what's more hangs out at his store, and can be talked to — well, I had to visit. So yesterday, after attending a reporting workshop that gave me the chance to visit Dallas, two hours away, I did.

More below…

Two California greats report on the drought: public yawns

On the front page of the LATimes today, news that Californians are not rising to the challenge of the drought. Cumulative water savings since last summer totaled only 8.6% compared with the same 10-month period in 2013, the baseline year for savings calculations. And in March, California residents and businesses used 3.6% less water thanContinue reading “Two California greats report on the drought: public yawns”

James Baldwin on climate science

  Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.   James Baldwin wasn't thinking of climate when he wrote that, but if you think about it, isn't that the logic of climate policy efforts today? Isn't that the hope, the idea that drives our science – to win the publicContinue reading “James Baldwin on climate science”

Understanding Tennessee: how he projected his “wound”

Writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Greg Barrios (who has written two plays about Tennessee Williams and Williams' two great loves, Frank Merlo and Pancho Rodriguez) interviews John Lahr, who just published last year an award-winning biography of Tennessee Williams called Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh. It's absolutely fascinating, "literary detection" as The Guardian says. What I likeContinue reading “Understanding Tennessee: how he projected his “wound””

Visiting with Emily Dickinson in a D.C. Museum

From Claudia Emerson, a poem about visiting with Emily Dickinson in a Washington D.C. museum. First Emerson describes a talk given about the reclusive Dickinson, and why that might be, and then: On display: one of her beloved nephew Gilbert's boyhood suits, velveteen, and beside it the contents of his morning's pocket—a bullet's spent casing,Continue reading “Visiting with Emily Dickinson in a D.C. Museum”

Listen (a poem about a dog, by Miller Williams)

Listen  I threw a snowball across the backyard. My dog ran after it to bring it back. It broke as it fell, scattering snow over snow. She stood confused, seeing and smelling nothing. She searched in widening circles until I called her.  She looked at me and said as clearly in silenceas if she had spoken, I know it's here,Continue reading “Listen (a poem about a dog, by Miller Williams)”