Observations in Capitol Park

Sitting here in the center of Capitol Park in downtown Sacramento, sound envelopes me. The sound of the overweight grounds keeper droning by on his riding mower, gut bulging to capacity nearly to the steering push bars above his heavily concealed lap.

The song-like laughter and chirping dialogue of a pair of fragile-looking young women stroll by, interjecting the word “like” between every fourth of fifth word as if speaking in code to ensure the true meaning of their conversation is obscured from the bended ears of interlopers, rendering it unintelligible to anyone other than themselves.

The incessant barking of a squirrel over my right shoulder gnaws on my last nerve, perhaps agitated by one of the approaching “like” girls venturing in his direction, or the dust kicked up by our resident pear-shaped gardener.

A bearded millennial adorned in a red Sandford tee-shirt and matching sneakers sounds perturbed as he loudly consults “hey Siri” for directions to the nearest falafel house, all the while trekking in the opposite direction of the only one in the downtown area.

An unpleasant yet all familiar smell wafts into my area, assaulting my senses, as one the countless homeless who inhabit the downtown area, murmurs softly her doctrine of the true intentions of men as she passes: “they’s all goats and devils” she proclaims, sneering in my direction, her curled lip exposing a non-friendly gap-toothed grin.

Reeking of newly legalized, but not yet widely accepted herb, thug life dude with a hand full of his women’s ass smiles as they pass the overly observant silver-haired old dude hammering away on his laptop composing these very words. The young lady of similar persuasion grabs the opposing cheek of her mate (or acquaintance) in return. Glancing at me over their shoulders with a smile, the soon to be arrested for one thing or another pair continue their walk toward the rose garden.

An inadvertent brush of my hand against something, the texture of which has rendered me quite repulsed, brings the seldom used but habitually carried handkerchief from its permanently pressed back pocket home, only to become soiled beyond recognition from the still unrecognized gelatinous substance I nearly set my backpack upon as I set up my temporary writing spot on this overly painted and heavily used park bench, a bench that has likely felt the weight of decades of administrations’ hind quarters dating back beyond the original Papa-Pat Brown of the 1960’s.

It was pure chance that I stopped in the park today during my lunch break. I typically patronize the Starbucks on 9th & L. But today was different. Stimulated by the sweet smell of fall in the air and familiar downtown hustle and bustle in my ear, my lunch break held such promise of auditory and sensory beauty, I just didn’t perceive the value in spending another hour surrounded by the yammering of caffeine overdosed patrons going on and on about their lives and loves, or the lack there of. The overly feminine male voice from the narrow man-bun adorned barista constantly barking caffeinated drink orders into a crowd of people eagerly awaiting their next dose, but ignoring him just the same.

Yeah. I could do without that.

Working Late

Working late has its advantages and disadvantages. The obvious advantage of working late is that by putting in extra hours at the job–whatever the job may be–additional time and effort put toward work of which you are tasked with doing.

I work in Downtown Sacramento, about a nine mile commute each way via Highway 50. A disadvantage of working late directly correlates with my commute. Leaving work at 4:30, as I typically do, gets me home in about 30 minutes. When my departure time is pushed back–even by a mere 30 minutes, adversely affects my commute by as much as adding an additional 30 minutes.

Today I made up some time lost to a medical appointment which would have put me on the highway at about 6:00, a time that would have surely added 45 minutes to my drive home, as it is between 5:00 and 6:00 that rank and file working class and management converge on the roads out of downtown to hurry home to their husbands, their wives, their little ones and pets.

Another advantage to working downtown Sacramento is the proximity to scenic areas like river walks where one can go for a run, if one has the propensity to do so. I have this propensity and take advantage of any opportunity to maximize my spare time by getting outdoors to run. Working late today gave me just that opportunity. An opportunity to get in some quality vigorous physical activity and shorten my commute from 46 minutes to about 20 minutes. A win–win scenario if you ask me.

1) I made up 2 hours of time lost while stuffed into an obnoxiously noisy and small MRI machine.

2) I got in some very valuable vigorous exercise in a scenic outdoor setting

3) I reduced my commute time by 60% by running for an hour or so and driving home when most of those whom I would have ordinarily sat in rush hour traffic with were settled down with a cocktail after a hearty dinner.

Working late. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Just Blame the Dog

A couple of days after Christmas, Dexter (our resident eight-month-old Frenchie) grew weary of his new toys and was whimpering and trying to get his leash of the top of his kennel. I told my future step daughter I would take him for a walk in the park that evening, but I promptly forgot, leaving the dog with an even sadder look on his face than the perpetual frown that God already blessed him with. So, wanting to continue to earn much needed points with the kid, on December 28, 2017 I strapped Dexter into his fancy harness and off to the park we went, leash in left hand, cell phone video to show the kid, rolling in the right.
This was the dog’s first trip to the park and he was pulling on the leash with enthusiastic fervor as we walked the few houses down to the park, crossing the street to the elementary school so he could get quick access to some grass, thwarting the potential for an adrenaline induced urge to poop on one of my neighbor’s lawns.

As we entered the park, we crossed the small parking lot onto the grass. Dexter, seeing the size of the grassy area, began walking faster then broke into a little gallop. I picked up the pace behind him, cell phone video still rolling, thinking to myself “oh, this is so cute. The kid’s going to love seeing that I took Dexter for a little run in the park, this is cool.” Then, as puppies do, he became distracted by the colored border line of the soccer field that we were about to run onto. This dark band of colored grass fascinated Dexter and was quickly deemed worthy of further investigation, so he slammed on the brakes and this happened:

Dexter, being the loyal and overly affectionate pup, returned to me, licked my face a couple times to make sure I was OK, then promptly took off again, still attached to my broken wrist. Needless to say, this hurt like hell, so I scrambled to my feet, stepped on the leash and got it off of my wrist, which was obviously bent where it hadn’t been previously. Thankfully my house is just down the street from the park, and my cell phone was already out so I could call for a ride to the ER. After arranging a ride to Kaiser Morse Ave., I took Dexter home and waited for my ride.

The ER waiting room was jammed with people. It was a Thursday evening, but I guess being the only Kaiser ER for 10 miles or so attributed to that. The guy at the admission window took one look at my arm, getting me a ticket to the head of the line. Once behind the door and away from the screaming child two seats over, a child that we learned wasn’t hurt or sick, but just wanted his mamma to be with him and not trying to calm him via Skype on his aunts cell phone, the nurse looked down at my oddly bent arm and said, “hey, we have a full deformation here,” and ushered me deeper into the treatment area to a row of seats for patients that need to be treated right away. The ER doctor was nice enough to bring me a Percocet as he ushered me off to x-ray. Fortunately, while the break was a bad one, the ER doctor was able to set it well enough that I did not need surgery. With that said, it took four nurses an hour of trying to locate a vein in which to start an IV for much needed pain medication, only to each of them give up and bring the doctor back in with a portable ultrasound machine to get this done. Even with three shots of Novocain type stuff to numb my wrist and morphine via IV, setting that bone was the most painful thing I have experienced in a long time. My fingers were attached to this medieval looking torture contraption with five metal webbed Chinese finger trap looking gismos, and a ten-pound weight was hung on my arm, and left there for 15 minutes. This was supposed to slowly pull the bones into position before further manipulation was required. When the doctor came back in to release my fingers from this medical iron maiden, I was relieved. This relief was short lived when the doctor, devoid of any emotion, companionate or otherwise during this whole ordeal, then grabbed my arm and said “this is going to hurt a bit” and began pulling on it with all his strength in effort to get the bottom segment of my left radius bone realigned with its detached counterpart.

If you know me personally, or read my blog before, you know that I am a relatively active guy, running being my main physical fitness outlet. The day before this happened, I logged a 6.5 mile run on the American River, which runs right behind my house. This injury threw a serious wrench in my fitness regimen, even causing me to miss the first of three races that I signed up for this year. No refunds are the norm in road racing, so I had to just suck it up, pick up my shirt and bib and sit this one out.

I made my way downtown to Fleet Feet fitness store to pick up my shirt and bib. I already paid my entrance fee, so I figured that I might as well at least get a usable running shirt out of this whole fiasco. I stepped up to the counter, gave them my name and picked up my bib. I was directed to the patio area at the back of the store to pick up my shirt. The woman behind the couther gave me my shirt, and as another runner walked up beside me to get his, one of the employees gestured toward me and told him, “don’t run next to this guy, he’ll knock you out with that thing.”
“Niiice… OK, funny man,” I told him. “Don’t worry. I’m going to sit this one out,” I grabbed my shirt and bib and promptly left the store and went home.

The Cast came off on Tuesday February 13th., and Yesterday, seven weeks to the day after this injury occurred, I suited up, drove to the American River Parkway Foundation office in at William B. Pond Recreational Area, renewed my annual Sacramento Regional Park entry pass and went for my first post injury run.

My Garmin was a little snug on my still swollen wrist, but Man, I cannot convey how good it felt to get back out there running on the river again after being down for so long. If you are a runner, then you know.


I set a reasonable goal of five miles, and achieved it.

Just blame the dog, people have told me. Well, I can’t. As much as I would like to divert responsibly of this injury and all of its related frustrations and lost productivity, my root cause analysis simply does not support that conclusion. Truth be told, if I had not been so focused on capturing the cell phone video of my walk in the park with Dexter, this never would have happened.
Chalk it up along with all of the other reported cases of people walking into light poles, fountains, and automobile traffic, as just another case of distracted cell phone use.

Besides, even if it was his fault, who could hold a grudge against this?

Oh, sweet perpetual motion I’ve missed you so. May we never part ways again…

J. Johnston

Mind Games Update

Hey, loyal followers.  I was informed recently that my short story, Mind Games, that was accepted for web publication by Dime Show Review last February has also been selected to be included in the literary journal’s print edition, volume 2, issue 2.  The print edition was published on July 30, 2017 and is available for purchase on Amazon.com  Here is a link if you care to own a copy of the print edition.  Thank you for your consideration and continued support of my craft and my passion.  Now, back to the keyboard with me to breathe life into those that dwell within the realm of my somewhat eclectic imagination…

Dime Show Review, Volume. 2, Issue 2 2017

Dime Show Review, Volume 2, Issue 2

Featuring the short story

Mind Games

by Jeffrey L. Johnston

available NOW on Amazon.com


Writing Again

I Picked up my novel in progress the other day after setting it aside two years ago. I read through the 22,000+ words I’ve thus far laid down on this piece, keeping the temptation to revise the unfinished work along the way at bay while plotting how to re-establish a connection with my words and pick up where I left off so long ago. I’ve located the extensive notes I compiled and, realizing the need to reduce the number of supporting characters in the story, I now feel I can get some forward momentum going on it.

Stay tuned, friends. I should have an excerpt for you next we visit this topic…

Mind Games by Jeffrey Johnston

Good evening, loyal followers!  Wow, has it really been nearly two years since I have posted anything for all of you to ponder on, laugh at, or simply throw your hands up in disgust upon reading?  That’s terrible!  Unforgivable, even!  Well, I’ve been quite busy between April 2015 and now.  I bought a little house by the river where I have been making a place for me and my family to put down roots and stay put for a spell.

There is still lots to do, but its high time I set the aspirations of home improvements (further improvements) aside for a while and devote more time to creative outlets I have been neglecting; things that make me tick-that make me, me.  This includes my writing.  Not only writing for all of you in my blog, but also revisiting my personal essays and many works of fiction in process.

With that said, I just wanted to pass on the news.  A short story that I wrote, Mind Games, has been accepted for publication by Dime Show Review, a California-based literary journal.

Mind Games is a first person narrative from the perspective of a teenage boy in a coma.  The link to the story is provided here:

Mind Games by Jeffrey Johnston

Thank you all again, for your patience and your steadfast loyalty…

J.L. Johnston


GPS Running App Error 2.0

You ever have that déjà vu feeling? You know, like a particular event has happened in the same way, or a moment in time seems so familiar that you would swear that you were reliving it again? Like the movie Groundhog day, when Dan Aykroyd keeps reliving the same nightmare of a day over and over again; awakened by the same Carpenters song and then being denied breakfast at the local fast-food restaurant because he was one minute past the end of the breakfast menu serving time?

This is similar, just not quite as entertaining. I’m referring to the inaccuracy of my GPS running app; namely MapMyRun. We’ve had this discussion before, have we not? Don’t answer that, because I KNOW we have, in fact, it was on a blog post of mine dated October 3, 2014 in which my app had me running some ridiculously insane 2 minute mile pace, and teleporting me several city blocks in the matter of seconds. Yeah, you remember, this one.

9-23 7.01 mile error map

Well, it’s happened again, only this time my autonomously thinking unit of twentieth century technological advancement had me not only instantaneously moving several hundred yards like some iconic comic book hero (Flash!—Ahhhh!), but also running right across the Sacramento River, like, on the top of the water. Quite a feat, I must say. However, while I may be loved my many and revered by fewer yet, I am not Him.

OK, I probably dated myself with the Flash Gordon reference, but you get the point. It is what it is, and I am what I am… a middle-aged man, but alas, merely a mortal man. I cannot leap from city block to city block, nor can I walk on water, so either GPS technology needs to catch up with the times, or I need to live up to the unreasonable physiological standards set by GPS cell phone running apps and the notoriously misguided “pinging” of their allied cellular towers. Ok, people. If we can disguise a cellular transmission tower to look like redwood tree, we can surely develop technology worthy of its camouflaging as one of God’s miraculous creations.

4-16-15 Map1

Remember the pager? You know, back before everyone had a cell phone clipped to their belt, or stashed sleekly into their hip pocket? It beeped when someone called you and displayed their telephone number on a tiny LCD screen so you could call them back to find out why they were calling you.  Yeah, OK, I had one too back in the day. The one I had was one of those early big square gray models with one big white button on the top. Only paid $10 for it. The “pager store” (yes, before cell phone stores, there were pager stores) I bought it from sold it to me for cheap because they were doing away with that particularly obnoxious design and were about to chuck the lot of what remained of their stock. The thing was a beast, the size of a TV remote and only had two settings; a succession of four LOUD dual beeps, and a vibrate mode powerful enough to keep a lonely person entertained for hours calling themselves.

I only bought it to communicate with a young woman that I met on the city bus a few days earlier so that we could coordinate the occasional rendezvous. Anyway, as the dinosaur giant pager contraption went away in the ‘90’s, so will this GPS thingy at some point, replaced with a hologram of a 3D virtual environment hovering over our head while we run, like the rings of Saturn encircling our cranium with a constant stream of data (current pace—average pace—time—miles—calories burned, etc.) like the perpetually rotating ticker on the New York Times building in Times Square. But, until that happens, c’mon techies! Let’s pick up the technological pace here with these inaccurate and increasingly frustrating gadgets once and for all. Some IT tweeker out there needs to put down the pipe and come up with a GPS app that actually works in a manner for which it is designed, before I’m too old to run anymore and all I’ll need it for is to guide my wheelchair to and from the bathroom.

May your motion be perpetual and your integrity held high, my friends.

Breaking the Nocturnal Running Cycle

MapMyRun 3-28-15, 8.1 Miles
My apologies, I say in advance to some of you. To those of you who thought that, after a burst of three or four running themed blog posts in short succession, you had finally escaped the sometimes excessively descriptive glimpses into this aspect of my life—my addiction to this particular fitness regimen… your assumed reprieve at best.
100101 102 103
I typically run this loop at night. During the week I make an effort to run three days (nights) per week with the goal of simply maintaining a relatively consistent distance level and pace. This practice is the most feasible way for me to put in mileage with my work schedule, and it has been working for me quite well for the past three years. The cover of darkness has its advantages. There is less auto traffic to deal with when crossing heavily traveled downtown intersections. Fewer gawking onlookers staring, mouths agape with bright-eyed wonderment at this gray-haired old man—pores wide open like the air intake valves protruding from the hood of a top fuel dragster as it leaves the starting line—sweating out the four cups of coffee that he consumed during the work day, and his less than sufficient H2O intake glaring from his white, but mostly red face.
001 003  005While maintaining this regimental nocturnal running cycle for all those nights—for weeks, months, years, under the intermittent glow of the moon and the dim radiance of the sparsely lit Sacramento skyline, does have its rewards, look what I’ve been missing!

On this particular occasion, mysteriously, I woke up early. Seeking to not let this beautiful new spring morning go to waste, I threw on my running gear and bolted out the door and into the Downtown Sacramento radiance. No breakfast. No shower. No running music pumping through my Bose ear-buds. Just a double shot of C4 and out the door. My pace suffered (evident in the reported pace) as I had to slow down to take each of these photos, but I think it was well worth it.
004 012 You can take the runner out of the photographer, but, taking the photographer out of the runner… well, that’s a little more challenging. Perhaps this is why—subconsciously—I run at night. At least at night, I do less sightseeing and actually put in work.


May your momentum be perpetual, and your integrity held high, my friends!

J. L. Johnston

A Prayer for Jessica

cathedral sepia_8x12_grunge

I saw her on my way to work this morning. Jessica was her name… Jessica is her name. Walking past the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, as I have each morning for nearly eight years, I saw her. A petite young woman—tomboyish presence and a somewhat gruff demeanor—she was likely in her late teens or early twenties. She was crying. I walked a few more steps past as I processed the scene, and then I turned back. She was standing before one of the three heavy doors that front the Cathedral, her upturned face gazing skyward with tears running freely down her soiled face, creating narrow rivulets of lighter colored flesh as her tears progressed down her cheeks.

thre doors

I ascended the Cathedral steps and cautiously approached. She wore dirty tennis shoes, thin cotton pants and a grimy sweatshirt. A large duffel bag and a paper coffee cup lay at her feet. “Hey, are you OK?” I asked, knowing that I would probably not get an honest answer. It was apparent that something was going terribly wrong in her young life at that moment, but I had to ask.

“I’m OK… really.”

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“I’m Jessica,” she said, wiping away tears with the heel of her hand, and offering me the other.

“Jeff,” I replied, gently shaking her hand.   “I’ve been where you are, Jessica. It’s scary, I know.

“You have?  Really? I’m OK. I just need to quit drinking, that’s all.” She said.

It was rather presumptuous of me to assume that I had in fact been where she was at that moment, in her moment of utter despair. I couldn’t possibly have known what was going on in this girl’s life, what had brought her to tears on the steps of the church with a duffel bag and soiled clothing—not really anyway. But this sad, troubled scene somehow looked very familiar. Felt familiar.  I saw myself in this distraught soul.

I offered to buy her breakfast, but she emphatically declined.

Cross Reflection5

“I have money. I’ll be going home soon. Thank you, though,” she said, wiping away a fresh flow of tears from her cheek with the sleeve of her soiled sweatshirt. “It’s just so fucked up, ya know?” she said, and started to cry again.

“Please believe me when I tell you, Jessica that it will get better.   You’re in the right place.” I told her. “This door will be opening soon. Never lose faith that things will get better for you.” She thanked me and I went on to work.  I had to.  I was already late.


While hanging up my coat at work, I glanced across the entryway to my cubicle where, several months earlier I had pinned up a business card given to me by a man who runs a residential recovery center in the area. Koinonia Homes for Teens, it’s called. They did a presentation at our office for the United Way charitable campaign last year, and for some reason, Instead of shoving it into a drawer, or tossing it, I pinned it up, along with their facilities brochure at eye level on my cubicle wall. I’m still not sure why I felt compelled to do that at the time, but that’s what I did.

I took the business card down and went back to the Cathedral in hope that Jessica would still be there… She was.

I ascended the steps again. She greeted me with a smile and took a few steps toward me. I handed her the card.

“When this door opens later this morning, ask someone inside if you can use the phone in the rectory. Call these people. They do wonderful work with kids and young adults in your same situation. I’ve met and heard the testimony from of a pair of young people who were once where you are now, whose lives were spared. Through this organization they were led from the pathway of despair that they were on. They can help you. Keep the faith, Jessica. Keep praying,” I told her, and went back to my office.


Once back in the office and in the privacy of the gray fabric walls that make up my 8-5 existence, I took a moment and said a prayer for this young woman… a prayer for Jessica.

I know now why I didn’t stuff the United Way and Koinonia Homes information into a drawer several months earlier, to be forgotten… Jessica needed it today.

8x10 Mary's Hands

Memoir excerpt

This is a small excerpt of a memoir piece that I have been working on, literally for decades.  My bravery in submitting the entire work for publication falters at times, as it is rather revealing of a tumultuous time in my rather dysfunctional adolescence.  I am well into revision #3 of the final product which is a little over 27,000 words.  The tentative tittle is Valentines Day.   While there is a teenage love story involved, the title is more representative of the date in 1982 that the event of which the piece is based took place.

Will there be more to come?  Perhaps…


J. L. Johnston


Settling into the cramped quarters of my mother’s 1972 Ford Pinto, the smell of stale cigarettes and motor oil enveloped our senses as me and my friend John primed ourselves to embark on an adventure; the climax of which neither of us could have possibly foreseen nor could have ever been fully prepared for. With the turn of the ignition key the tiny ten year old four-banger sputtered to life, belching a cloud of black smoke into the frigid night air. “We got away with it,” I said with an eager nervousness in my voice.

“Yeah, we did, huh,” John said, lighting a cigarette and sending a smoke ring sailing through the cab of the car before disappearing upon impact with the rear-view mirror. The car was dirty, the ashtray spilling over with crushed out Moore 120 menthol cigarette butts.   Mom said that she liked them because they lasted longer than the 100’s. The floor of the passenger side was littered with empty Styrofoam cups, fast food wrappers and a couple of old Tabloid magazines.

Thankfully the car was parked in the street. The only driving experience between the two of us was my recently completed 10th grade drivers training class, and backing out of a driveway was uncharted territory for both of us. I was 17 years old but I had yet to get my driver’s license or any actual driving experience outside of a joy-ride in a V12 Jaguar that we kind of borrowed from the parent of another buddy of ours one night.  There was also the occasional pilfering of my father’s ’78 Pontiac Firebird. John was 15 years old, still two years away from being able to even take the written driving test. Nevertheless, we were off and running. The plan was to swing by John’s house, drop him off and then I would proceed to drive around the neighborhood for a while with hopes of being recognized behind the wheel by a friend or two before eventually returning the car to my mother.

Putting the car into drive, I made a U turn on the small dimly lit dead-end street and pulled up to the traffic signal at the corner. Pulses racing with anticipation of our forbidden escapade, we gave each other another glance and nervously chuckled. The light changed and we headed toward the neighborhood where John and I both lived.

That traffic light at the corner of my mom’s street turning green would be the last thing I remember of that cold rainy February night. Unbeknownst to either of us, something terrible was about to happen; something so sudden and so violent it would change our young lives forever.