Category Archives: Writing

Image

Forty Miles on the American River

IMAG0302

Today I changed up the routine a bit, took advantage of the beautiful weather and hit the river trail on my bike. Ahh, yes, fresh air, sunshine and solitude. Just what an ailing psyche needs after weeks of putting the needs of others before one’s own. My goal was to surpass the mileage of my previous ride, a milestone attained with far less effort than it had the last time I rode this trail.

Stopping to take a couple of photos on the river, I turned back at the twenty-mile mark and headed home to resume my supportive role of friendship. Then, it happened. Thirty miles into my forty miles on the American River, and still ten miles from home, the hypnotic drone of my dirt tires on the hot asphalt suddenly changed its tone… this could mean only one thing… I had a flat. This likely occurred during one of the three times I launched my mountain bike off the paved trail and onto a single track dirt path for a little off-roading.

In my haste to embark on this journey of self rejuvenation, I neglected to take a spare tube, my multi tool and enough water to sustain me had this unforeseen event occurred. Thankfully, my tire pump was mounted to the frame and after airing up each mile or so, I was able to ride another four miles before the tire would no longer take air.

My forty mile ride ended as a thirty-four mile ride and a six-mile walk… Still, this was a good day.

Image

Live. Love. Write.

Live.  Love.  Write.

Ah, yes… finally, the twisting, turning road of my scholastic endeavors that I have been meandering down has at long last delivered me to a mile stone in life, a point from which I must map my next journey, navigating once again to new and exciting destinations.

Live.

Love.

Write.

This is my mantra. A saying first seen on a decal somewhere… out there. An adage that now adorns the lid of my circa 2010 laptop, displayed proudly for all to see each time the mood strikes me, lifting her top in one public space or another to caress her keys, breathing life into the minion that inhabit my fictional stories, my beloved characters, living breathing things with lives that I create in the theatrical productions of my mind.

Imaginary worlds with illusory lives born of a distorted observation made through a raindrop streaked café window nestled in a tiny mountain town somewhere… out there.

Story lines imagined from scenes casually witnessed strolling along downtown streets, thwarting the unvarying, yet humble requests “can you spare some change.”

Requests made from soiled, weathered faces… familiar faces that have regularly infiltrated my peripheral vision over the years, only diversity being the depth of their creases—lines etched of years of hopelessness and despair.

Each day I escape. I must. I have for years; a compulsory break, if you will, from the monotony of the gray fabric walls that desire to restrain me, to hold me captive eight hours a day—five days a week. My escape is not so much an escape from as it is an escape to. A quest for the solitude of my own creative mind and to, if only momentarily satisfy my insatiable desire to rendezvous, to quench my thirst for the very intimate relationship I have with my laptop, her keys worn shiny and smooth from our incessant love-making…

Ah, yes, The Writing Life… Infinitely solitary… Intimately gratifying… If I do nothing else on this earth, I will continue my pursuit of my passions and…

Live.

Love.

  Write.

Image

Grandma’s Persimmon Tree

Going to see Grandma's Persimmon Tree

I sold a print of one of my photos the other day. The same one that I have sold a dozen times before, and is a piece that remains my best seller. It’s called Grandma’s Persimmon Tree. I sold it to a woman who worked in the same building as I had for the past several years. One day in passing our conversation fell upon photography and our mutual interest in the artistic medium, so I gave her my card. That in and of itself is not unique, but what sets this sale of one of my cherished photographic art prints apart from its predecessors, is the emotional impact it had on my customer. She called me a few days later and said that she fell in love with a black and white image on my Web site and she simply had to have it. When she took delivery of the print, she became emotional and a tear ran down her cheek. The image signified something in her life and until she saw the photo in person, held it in her hand, she didn’t realize the impact that it had on her.

A few days later, she called me again and said that she was so moved by the photograph of my grandmother’s persimmon tree that she wrote a poem about it and shared it with me. OK, I am no poet, nor do I “get” most poetry, but her words struck a chord with me. Her poem seemed to epitomize what that tree, a tree that has been standing in that same spot on my grandparents farm for as long as I can remember has always meant to me.

I was really quite moved by her poem and casually said to her on the phone that upon reading it I was compelled to jump in the car and go see it, and half-joking, I asked her if she wanted to go. She enthusiastically said yes, she would love to go see the tree that she was so moved by. So, not having been to the property that my great-grandfather built a home on and where my grandparents lived their entire lives before passing in 2002 and 2006, and not knowing if the beloved tree would even still be standing, we hopped in the car last Saturday and took a road trip… a quest to see Grandma’s persimmon Tree.

I am happy to report that while the house has fallen in disrepair with its screen door hanging by one hinge; the barn leaning precariously to one side, its Douglas fir walls bowing with age, Grandma’s Persimmon Tree is still standing tall. Her overripe November fruit that was out of reach for picking, dripping off of her branches like giant decaying blood drops, but the old girl is still there… She is still and will always be, Grandma’s Persimmon Tree. A&V Johnston Headstone_acidburn12<

What is appropriate in the eyes of God?

Image
OK, far be it for me to judge, and especially about such topics as church or that which is deemed appropriate as it relates to the faithful, but I could not let this go without posing the question: what is appropriate attire for church? I’m sitting in a cafe’ on the corner of 11th & K Streets in Downtown Sacramento on a Sunday morning working on a paper for school.  I’m in full view of the magnificent Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament when the clock in the tower strikes noon and out come the masses form the earlier Sunday Mass.  Now, again, being one who first of all, does not attend church regularly, and secondly one who will wear jeans to work on occasion when the capacity of my laundry hamper has reached its limit and has gone unnoticed, or more likely ignored, I am hardly the one to set a precedence for attire appropriate etiquette.  However, as the grand doors to the Cathedral opened, out stepped the faithful, smiling with rejuvenated newfound faith that the world in which they live is still a good and God-fearing place to raise their families.  Among the flock are several young women, mid to late teens, or perhaps twenties (hard to tell by the way they were dressed) carefully descending the nine granite steps to the courtyard below, balanced precariously high upon six-inch stiletto’s and struggling to bend joints confined within excruciatingly tight-fitting jeans.  Another young woman, similar in assumption of age group as the previously observed, traversed the Cathedral steps effortlessly in her, what appeared to be seven-inch platform shoes, straps crisscrossing up her calves, that effectively accented her wonderfully voluminous dress that barely came to the top of her knee.

The jeans wearing youngsters found their prospective familial units and made their way to whatever the next stop on their fashion tour was under the guise of dressing up for church, disappearing into the warm noontime sun of this early fall day.  The billowing dress adorned young woman, crossed the light rail tracks and walked in my direction.  Holding my gaze as she approached, she cast a warm smile as she passed the window behind which I was perched whaling away on my laptop.  I returned the gesture, of course.  It was only appropriate…

I broke a Cardinal rule today

 I broke a cardinal rule today.  I gave a homeless man a dollar.  OK, I know, that sounds a bit insensitive, but there is a good reason why I don’t give homeless people money.  Well, actually, there are several reasons, good ones as far as I am concerned, not by some people’s standards perhaps, but my reasons none-the-less.  I work in the heart of downtown Sacramento.  One doesn’t have to dig too far back in news story archives to discover that Sacramento has a homeless problem and its a biggie.  The population of homeless nearly doubled with the mortgage meltdown started a chain reaction that sent property values plummeting close to 33% forcing countless families out on the street.  The point that I am trying to make is that I have seen the same homeless people every day for the past four years when I go to lunch, take a break and walk to the State Capitol to stroll in the park.  If I were to succumb to each and every request for money I would be right there next to them in just a few months time.  So, my cardinal rule is to not honor 3 to 5 requests for cash that I get five days a week.

I would just as soon take them into a deli and buy them a meal, and I have done just that on occasion.

Today, while leaving my office to catch my bus, I spied a guy whom I have never seen before sitting on a large duffel bag with various personal belongings scattered around his immediate vicinity.  As I passed he said “excuse me, but could you possibly spare some change?”  I went into automatic mode and gave my customary response: “Sorry, I have no cash” and continued walking.  I got a few feet away and, as I have been known to do on very few occasions if I feel that the person has a genuine need and won’t make a bee-line for the liquor store before the coinage has settled into his palm, I turned around, pulled out my wallet and handed him a dollar.  I thought, hey, I have never seen this guy before and he looks to be really down on his luck.  Just as he closed his fingers around the bill, he said in a sarcastic tone: “wow, a dollar.  Thanks man.” and turned his head away from me as I stood before him.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  That ungrateful bastard  I thought to myself as I walked away, feeling like my compassion had just been stomped on.  “That settles it, that’s the last time I do that.” I said out-loud as I continued my journey to my bus stop, hoping that my audible proclamations were not misinterpreted as the mindless ranting babble of the street population that had just lowered my compassion level.
Don’t get me wrong.  I am very compassionate for the homeless population in Sacramento and everywhere in this country.  No one, I mean NO ONE should be without a safe place to sleep and have enough food to eat.  But if you’re putting yourself in the position to ask people to help you out with a donation of cash, food, clothing, or whatever, be genuinely grateful, because when you’re not, you’re taking food out of the mouths of those who are truly appreciative of any help that they can get.   
 
Which reminds me of another similar instance in which a few people in my office commented one day about a homeless man who they have seen rummaging in trash cans near the office looking for recyclable.  He asked the same thing as he passed: “can you spare a quarter?”  I don’t know what he thought he could get for a quarter, but he was probably trying to sound as though he wasn’t asking for much, prompting compassionate folks on the street to give him more.  After all, all he’s asking for is a quarter, right.  why not give him a  buck, or even five?  
So, these few employees also commented that this guy was walking around in a pair of corduroy pants that were torn from his feet all the way up the back of each thigh, the rip disappearing underneath the back of a ragged flannel shirt that he always wore.  Taking note of this, the three of us gathered up some clothing to give to him the next time that we saw him so that he could at least have some real pants to wear and some shoes on his feet as it was winter time when the topic of him came up.  When all was said and done we had gathered up socks, pants, shoes, and a nice warm jacket.  We stored some of this stuff under a chair in my cubicle and the larger items in my car with the plan to pull him aside and give him this gift of compassion the next time we saw him  
A few weeks went by and while on a break I finally saw him again.  He was going through a trash can in front of the Cathedral, pants ripped even ruther up his legs, bare feet black from walking for months without shoes.  I approached him and he gave his customary spiel:  “Can you help me out with a quarter?” he said.  I returned with my automatic response: “sorry, I have no cash, but some co-workers put in a collection of some clothes for you.  we have pants, shoes, socks and a nice warm coat.” I said.  His response was brief, and to the point.  “No, that’s OK. I’m alright.”  He then turned and walked to K street to the next trash can, raising his head briefly to mouth his perpetual query to the next person who would listen: “can you help me out with a quarter?” 
On my way home from work that day I stopped at the local Goodwill store and donated all of the clothing that I had gathered up specifically for this man.  A donation of shoes and socks still sit in a bag under a side chair in my cubicle.