I took a couple days off from caring for my father and made a trip to the coast. There, I did little else except play on the beach with a kooky dog, drink high end whiskey, and read, read, read.

I read three issues of a World War II magazines and learned many new interesting facts about a subject I know a lot about. My memory was also refreshed about the existence of the isolationist America First, led by Charles Lindbergh. This popular organization lobbied to keep America out of World War II and was distinctly pro Nazi, not so subtlety anti-Semitic, and included many members of Congress. They held rallies all over the country and could put 20,000 people inside an arena. They pretty much disappeared after Pearl Harbor, but represented a significant presence of fascism that occasionally talked of open revolt against FDR’s “socialism.” Sound familiar?

I read a magazine called Noir City.

I read three issues of the Economist and relished their takes on American politics from a foreign viewpoint. Their obituary column is one of the best reads in the English language.

I read five chapters of a crime thriller called Choke Hold, narrated by a female protagonist that started off with a gun battle in a diner, an exploding propane tank, and car chase. Nothing like getting right into it, which is a good way to write anything, I think, or solve a problem.

I read a collection of interviews with Ernest Hemingway late in his career and learned he wrote standing up, both in long hand (first draft) and typing (second draft). Hemingway was a morning writer, as I am, and began at dawn. He also believed a writer can talk a story out of him, meaning he discusses it too much with friends or colleagues and then can’t write it. I think exactly the opposite. I think the more the person talks about a project, the more excited they become. It’s a fun part of the process to share an original idea and very important, at least in my working with aspiring authors.

I read Ursula Le Guin’s short book about writing, Steering the Craft. It feels a bit dated to me even thought it was updated back in 2015. She rails against what she felt was a glaring lack of teaching grammar in schools. It’s a familiar rant with many older people. I have found the argument overblown. Yes, I diagrammed sentences in high school and there was no way I was teaching that to my English students. That doesn’t make you a better writer. It makes you never want to write! Just like filling out multiple choice questions about The Color Purple kills all interest in reading the novel, or any other novels. And yet English teachers keep requiring it.

I did like the one section where Le Guin derided the language of academics and bureaucracies. It is so true. When I read the various op ed and mission statements from the organizations and advocates tasked with solving the homeless crisis or addressing racial injustices, the writing is mostly gobbledygook and entirely absent of voice or passion. Words matter in causes. Words that connect to people, for good or ill, motivate people. The Republican propaganda machines have always known this better than their Democratic counterparts. That has to change. I hope the language I employ writing about the homeless issue reflects that necessity, although as of yet I have no idea what my writing hopes to accomplish. There is no conscious style, only curiosity. observation and caring.