Ghost Writers

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Ghost Writers

I needn’t come to terms with why I do the things that I do.  I know what I’m doing.  I am comfortable with it.  What is intuitive to one may seem a compulsory act by another.  Who is to say what makes up the intellectual interests of one mind over another, what fills the heart of one than another… to another?  This is not for me to say of others nor should it be the mission of others to say of me.  At this moment I am sitting in a cafe in the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento hunched over my computer, double mocha half reach to my right, doing what I love… I am writing.  Surrounded by like-minded souls in a cafe of an eerily similar name we gather each week for the same purpose.  Seeking, striving to attain the same goal which is not really a goal at all, per se… more a need.  For some of us, perhaps an obsession.  An obsession to write.  The product of my efforts, or hers; his; theirs, are unimportant to you.  They are all important to me… to us.  I write for the pure joy that the creation of life on the page gives me.  I write for the sake of dropping a dime on that little voice in my head that tells me that I have no time.  I have no desire.  I have no-thing to write.  To this voice I say nothing.  I pay it no heed, give it no power whatsoever as it has no power unless I empower it.

This is what we do.  This is who we are.  We are writers.  Ghostly images reflecting in a cafe window, the diminished opacity of our true selves seemingly negating our very existence… still… we write. – JLJ


Life Is Short

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Life is short. Regret is worthless unless you can take immediate corrective action and thus eliminate it somehow. I try to make good decisions and avoid it all together, but I’m only human. Time spent helping others and following our … Continue reading


SuperMoon 2013

This gallery contains 6 photos.

When I learned of the Supermoon celestial event this year, I had to try to capture it. I decided to find something iconic for the foreground and took a short trip to the Rancho Secco Nuclear Plant in the nearby … Continue reading


Forty Miles on the American River


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.


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.




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…





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<


GoPro Hero3 Maiden Voyage in Auburn, CA

I took out my new GoPro Hero3 for its maiden voyage today. I loaded up my bike and headed up to Auburn State Recreational Area, one of the best places in the Sacramento region to hike and tear around on a mountain bike. I discovered a few things during this expedition. First and foremost, I am in a lot better shape than I was the last time I ventured out this way for a day of fresh air and insane dirt downhill adrenaline rushing. A lot can be said for running four days a week and a semi regular yoga regimen, I guess. I also learned that It now costs $10 to park my car and ride around for the day. I don’t mind the fee, state parks need to survive and this one ranks among the best in my opinion, I just don’t remember having to pay there before and I wasn’t prepared for the fee. I hope that they don’t mind all of the quarters loaded into their little brown envelope, kept in the car for the intermittent feeding of downtown Sac. parking meters.

So, with that said, I am posting one of the videos I took of one of my downhill runs. Don’t expect a bunch of fancy stunts, and shit people. Lest you forget, I’m 48 years old, my friends. Those days are behind me, but I Will tackle a first gear pulse quickening climb or an adrenaline pumping high-speed descent any day of the week. I did reach some pretty hairy speeds and buried my shocks a few times on some huge rocks and deep ruts on this trip and that’s what I’m talking about! This was a Kick-Ass day trip!

Adrenaline… It’s all I have left, ya know?



Unmata, belly dance gone STRONG

When a friend of mine asked me if I would like to go check out some belly dancing in Midtown on Second Saturday, I thought to myself, sure that might be fun. I mean, I’ve seen belly dancing before and it was kind of cool, I guess. If nothing else, it would be nice to get out of the house on a warm summer night and see what’s happening in Midtown. She said that her daughter was one of the dancers performing and that I should meet her in front of their dance studio on 17th & K Street.

I jumped in my car and drove as close as I could get while still being able to find parking which is typically nonexistent on Second Saturday and even more elusive on a warm summer night as this was.

I wound up walking several blocks before reaching the studio where I expected to be mildly entertained with a traditional show as I had seen before. Rounding the corner, however, I was ill prepared for what I saw. This was no ordinary belly dancing troupe. There was fire, and swords, and tattoos, and hip-hop music, and flaming whips! I stood next to my friend in awe, mesmerized by the hypnotic motion and addictive energy of this beautiful spectacle of artistic originality.

Incorporating traditional belly dance with hula, hip-hop and other modern dance disciplines, Unmata lives up to their name and their own unique style which they appropriately describe as “belly dance gone STRONG.”

Take a look at this video and you’ll see what I mean.

oops I did it again…

Oops, I did it again. OK, I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m kinda a softy when it comes to some things. Homeless families with young children rank pretty high on this list. If you recall, I posted a bit of a rant a year or so ago about a bad experience when trying to help out a homeless man who asked me for money on my way to the bus stop after work one day. Unlike the masses of homeless people that I encounter day in and day out over the past six years, I had never seen him before and gauging by the look in his eyes, he appeared to be sincerely in need. So, after some trepidation, I turned around and gave him a dollar, only to hear out of his formerly need stricken countenance in a sarcastic tone, “Wow, a dollar… Thanks.”

That was the basis for that posting of long ago, and the experience left such a bad taste in my mouth, that I swore that I would never again fall victim to the deceptive Chameleon like transformations of con artist posing as a member of the downtrodden, needy populous in this city, and in the process, I would likely miss an opportunity to help someone that really needed it and miss making a difference in someone’s life. Well, I’ve done it again. Not the falling victim part of that charitable endeavor but I did, after some apprehension and after declining the donation request by the same pair of young people twice earlier, I lent financial assistance to the needy. This time it was different. I saw this young couple with a sleeping infant child in a stroller for the first time on Tuesday. They were not among the population that frequents the area asking for hand outs. They appeared to be genuinely in need, the young man’s expression on his face was all-telling. He was truely ashamed to be asking for help for his family, but he did it none-the-less.

I passed them for the third time on my afternoon break, and seeing that they would likely be there when I returned, I went to the ATM and withdrew some cash. On my way back I stood nearby, reading my Kindle and casually watched them as they approached the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament’s rectory door in an effort to gain some assistance with their current situation. When the woman returned to her mate and child after another failed attempt at raising anyone at the rectory, I approached them and asked about their situation. I could see, and hear from their story that they were sincerely down and out and were taking action to get them a place to stay before the rain came. The pair had already accumulated some funding for a room for the night, and the woman had recently qualified for section 8 housing and had been added to the housing list with a tentative placement date of next Tuesday.

I apologized to them both for my two previous denials of their request to help them explaining that working in the downtown area, I get asked for money every day and typically by people whose motivation is not as pure as theirs. I went on to share with them of my own experience with homelessness twenty years earlier, recalling to them how scary it was for me as a single man to be living on the street, let alone a young couple with a child. I handed the woman $60 and encouraged them both to surround themselves with the right people, keep knocking on the door of the rectory and to never lose hope. “Keep faith, things will get better for you,” I told them. They thanked me enthusiastically and I went back to work. When I left at the end of the day, they were still in front of the Cathedral. I gave them each a bag of caramel corn that I purchased from our office fund raiser snack selection and reiterated my message of keeping hope that things will get better for them.

Sometimes a little kindness is all it takes to bring hope back to a seemingly hopeless situation. I hope that I made a difference in the lives of this young trio. Kind people helped me when I was in a similar situation so many years ago. I take comfort in knowing that, if even only on a small scale, I am able to pay it forward. This young family will be in my prayers tonight. Please put them in yours if you are so inclined.

What is appropriate in the eyes of God?

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…