Late April Dick Dale Riffage

(Written while listening to Dick Dale and his Del-Tones. Loud.)

How does one get started with a writing idea? I am often asked at events or workshops. Or used to be asked.

There are no rules or guidelines or oracles. Put all creeds in abeyance. (I ripped that off from Whitman.) Every writer finds his or her subject by any means necessary. Sometimes it lands on you like a tank falling 10,000 feet from hell. Sometimes it bumbles in like bumblebees drinking nectar from dandelions when a homeowner neglects to mow the lawn and his husky chases the bumblebees in a loping dance and never catches a single one.

I often suggest to writers that they sit down at the computer, or better yet, with a trusty Alphasmart in a dive bar, or a legal pad and golf pencil in jail, or a driftwood beaver stick in the sand, and just start riffing on whatever comes to mind, whatever is stimulated by the ambiance. Could be the ocean. Could be the Crown and coke tinkling at a nearby table. Could be your dog dying. Could be Dick Dale shredding.

Here’s what’s coming to me right now for story ideas:

George McGovern won Coos County over Richard Nixon in the 1972 Presidential election.

Herman Melville wrote the first Oregon Tavern Age story in Moby Dick 15 years before Oregon became a state. It took place in chapter three in the Spouter Inn and the OTAs drank gin and molasses.

My time in Brazil as a missionary kid from 1968-70. Our mission was called Operation 68’.

Something about a certain someone wearing macramé.

An idea for a detective show called The Watershed.

Tennis, tennis, tennis in Oregon City in the 70s and 80s. Wood rackets and concrete courts. We were the loosest of loose in that era. I see an HBO series with my high school team.

My little league baseball coach, Jim Ritacco. His kindness still inspires me. We weren’t very good and he didn’t care. He had something better to teach us than winning and he taught me well.

The pet psychic who reached out and said Sonny was worried about me.

My unique history with calligraphy and Steve Jobs.

The late Father Andy Duffner, the only man I have ever met who attained Nirvana. He was a wonder to behold and I feel his presence from the river of beyond. I can still smell his pipe smoke on the wildlife refuge where we met and healed that good ground together.

An essay exploring why Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions isn’t considered the best concept record of all time. It blows away Sgt. Pepper. Innervisions feels more relevant today than when it was released in 1973. Pepper is nostalgia now, at least to me, gimmickry and acid in the studio. It has no street value. Innervisions does. Listen to “Living for the City.”

How I can’t get a job but I keep applying because I want to push the boundaries of my marginalization.


All the incredible people who have reached out to me, unsolicited, offering help and encouragement. I will honor their faith in me, but not sure how to at this point.

The power of letting go. To quote James Brown, “It feels good.”