I apologize for my tardiness, but I have an excuse: Other Things, primarily of the freelance nature, anything to keep me rolling in peanut butter and apple juice through Christmas.
Fun stuff, this outside work: for two weeks I’ve reveled in such figures as Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson for an old friend’s book project. If you aren’t familiar with those names, I suggest you ram yer proboscis into Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls or Sam Wasson’s The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood. One of my favorite habits as a SoCal resident (don’t tell anyone, but I’m not a natural Oregonian; in Albany that means possible jail time) was to wander past Raybert Productions’ former address and bask momentarily in the phantom excess of a calamitous generation.
This month marks a milestone. I’m eight months removed from the hospital, still in recuperation from a hemorrhagic stroke, and therefore super-reflective on my time apart from daily journalism. Do I miss it? Not entirely. Thanks to this site, that high’s still fed, though I long for more structure. These last two weeks have been especially interesting as other commitments have called me away, yet this beast lingers, forever demanding satisfaction. Have the issues been great? They’ve certainly been slimmer. All I know is that I still love writing, still love the endless piles of ideas begging for release.
I think I’m finally ready to return to an old passion from the pre-hospital days: long-form. About a year ago, while still at the Democrat-Herald, I sprawled on Rajneeshpuram and Netflix’s Wild, Wild Country documentary of same. I spent three months in absolute heaven: interviews and research, spinning a 20,000-plus-word yarn. We ran it in three parts on three consecutive Sundays, using archival photos through an Oregonian partnership. I felt accomplished, important. But after my stroke in March, I wondered if I’d ever have the wherewithal for such undertakings. I didn’t even know if I wanted to write anymore, or even could. How much of me had the stroke burned away?
Those self-restrictions finally unraveled in July after I spent an afternoon in Dave Trenkel’s Corvallis recording space and felt an eventual piece slide into place, just as it had always done. Maybe not beautifully, but fuck, it never was pretty. Now the old ambition is back and sadly, I must obey. I will soon embark on a larger-scale project that will involve hours of exchanges, days of plumbed memories, and I hope to publish it here early next year. I’d like to publish more such work as well, digging beyond features for something grand. Have any ideas? Hit me up.
This week I revisit John Belushi, an old hero who helped form the waste I’ve become. I didn’t have to do much independent research because I know his story well, like the single he released in 1965: “Listen to Me Now” by his high school rock band, The Ravens. All I have to do is pluck it from the dogmeat; the factoid sits there always, ready for use. As a kid, I worshipped him, long before I knew about the addictions that ended his life. It was an idolatry only an impressionable young boy can feel. He was another father figure. My own dad used to wander around our house in the ’70s calling out: “Cheeburga, cheeburga, cheeburga, cheeburga! No fries, cheeps! No Coke, Pepsi!” (We had him committed for a while, but he forgave us.) When Belushi died in 1982, it felt wholly unexpected, like losing a favorite uncle you’d seen just days earlier. I felt those reverberations for years, even using the date of his death as a phone password at two different jobs. He even made me like the Grateful Dead, if only for one song. That I even remember a world with him in it — redolent in browns, violets, and digital reds — makes me feel terribly old.
The second piece was a lot more fun. I found Ace Stardust through one of their many pandemic-era live feeds and they looked like a smarty party. (I can call them “kids” 'cause I remember John Belushi.) When I dove into their work and realized Ace Stardust was an ongoing character in an ever-expansive world, I knew they were a story. The members did not disappoint. We talked books, plots, and concept albums as well as rock ’n’ roll. Any time I get to talk shop with fellow writers is a bonus, even if I’m not that versed in sci-fi or fantasy and my preferred comic-book series is Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck, which rendered me an outcast from 1986 to 2014. However, writing is (or should be) a passion that transcends preference. Anyone with the compunction to create an entire universe is worthy of respect. Ace Stardust is worthy.
Anything else for the good of the team? If not, I’m out. Drop a line.