Monday, March 30, 2009

Writings and video clips for "Zooknoone"

I am putting together some of David's video clips and writings as a tribute to him. (I should have pointed out to his various fans that David is perhaps best known for his performing and songwriting nicknames, "Zook'' or "Zooknoone,'' which date back to his college years at UC San Diego. For the life of me, I can't remember how he picked up those monikers. If you knew him from UCSD, you can set me straight on that.) If you send me an email in a couple of weeks or so, I will try to send you links to these things so you can enjoy them and share them. For various reasons, I don't feel comfortable posting all of these materials directly on the blog. I want to thank everyone for your words of encouragement and support. That's all for now.

(P.S. -- friends and family will probably recognize this particular tree -- and its signficance)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

In loving memory of David Gordon White, September 19, 1965-March 27, 2009

I am planning an online celebration of my big brother, David, a humorist, excellent writer, folksinger and family man who died on Friday after open heart surgery. He was only 43. My family and I raced up Highway 50 toward Carson City to be by his side, but it was already too late by the time we got there. On Thursday, dozens of his friends and colleagues will be joining my family to celebrate the life of David. Many of you who check this blog on a regular basis already know about his hilarious YouTube and MySpace videos --- and the stunning final video that he shot just before his surgery. All of us miss him terribly. There is so much more to say about him, but for now, I just want to send my prayers for David and good wishes to his family.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Last call!! (UPDATED)

Wow. After asking the 'lookie-loos' to send in their bios to my "Cactuseaters readers in the news digest,'' I received an absolute inundation of emailed submissions -- so many of them that I am wondering how I'm going to squeeze them all into the next column. Thanks for stepping up, everyone. I've got at least enough material for two digest columns. I'll start putting them together next week.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

First wilderness excursion!

Yesterday, in the middle of my spring break, I revisited the Forest of Nisene Marks outside Santa Cruz with J., the newest family member. We saw three unicyclists, thousands of ferns, a dead star-nosed mole, dozens of dogs on leashes, and second-growth redwoods reaching to the sky. J. slept through about 90 percent of the outing, but she had her eyes wide open for about five minutes, taking it all in.

(I am still technically hibernating. This entry doesn't count.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

The blog is in a brief hibernation (but not the author!!)

Cactuseaters blog will be asleep for a very brief spell, but feel free to keep leaving emails etc. I will still check every couple of days or so. Thanks, by the way, for the great submissions to the "Cactuseaters readers in the news'' digest. I need two more to achieve a critical mass so don't be bashful.

In other news, I saw this article about the fate of a Chappaqua, New York neighborhood bookstore in the Sunday Times. It's a sad story -- but I was inspired by that paragraph about a group of local residents in New Canaan, Conn., who put up money to extend the life of Elm Street Books, "more as a civic gesture than an entrepreneurial one.''

(By the way, I wanted to include a photo credit and copywrite info on this photo but couldn't find it in the web. If you took this picture, let me know.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Commiserate with nature!

One of my students once wrote that every American needs to take more time out of his busy schedule "to commiserate with nature.'' I couldn't agree more! Here are sketches from two recent adventures, at Muir Woods in Marin County, and Wilder Ranch in Santa Cruz.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Desert still life with vulture

Lately I've been spending some of my time outside doing nature sketches to train my "eye'' for future projects that involve landscape description and nature writing. Here is one of them, although it's not "from life.'' We'll definitely talk about some of this stuff during the walk/hike in Santa Cruz on April 18th. (see earlier blurb below.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Coming soon: The ultimate list of disgusting backcountry camping "treats"

All of us have fond memories of those backcountry delicacies we love to hate the most: space-age freeze dried ice cream in a bag, sulfurous logs of "summer sausage,'' Squeeze Cheez and boiling cauldrons of Hot Tang. Very soon, I will give you the ultimate list of backcountry camping "treats" from today and yesteryear. If any of you have suggestions for this list, please send them to as soon as you can.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cheap Thrills in Neighborhood Bookstores, Part One: "A Swinger's Club For Books'' at the Booksmith!

I have several close friends who have joined the Witness Protection Program just to escape their awful book groups. That's why the Booksmith's new "Found in Translation'' reading group is such a welcome new development. "It's like a book club but without the commitment,'' says Constance of the Booksmith. "Think of it as a swinger's club for books.''
But that's not the only reason why the Booksmith's reading group -- which kicks off tomorrow with Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya -- is a nice change of pace. The reading group is also unusual in the sense that it features contemporary translated literature. Christin Evans, co-owner of the Booksmith, explains that the group emphasizes "a certain category of books that get overshadowed, amazing writers who are published in translation and don't get a lot of publicity from American publishers.''
Moya -- the first featured author -- was born in Honduras, grew up in El Salvador, and has lived in Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico. His book was hailed by Russell Banks as a "brilliantly crafted moral fable, as if Kafka had gone to Latin America for his source materials.''
The Found in Translation Reading Group meeting takes place this coming Thursday, March 19th at 630 p.m. at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight Street, San Francisco, Ca. (415-863-8688.) And there's still time to read the book if you haven't done so already. It's really skinny.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cheap thrills at neighborhood bookstores!

I'm starting a new feature, profiling neighborhood bookstores and some of the interesting, unusual book discussion groups and events that they are organizing this year. The idea is to emphasize the fact that bookstores -- and books --- are cheap, sustainable forms of entertainment and enrichment in these utterly wretched economic times. The first featured bookstore in the series will be The Booksmith in San Francisco. Stay tuned. And if you are the owner -- or an employee of -- a neighborhood bookstore that is putting on an interesting, unusual event, anywhere in America or in the world at large, shoot me an email at some point and I'll try to get you into the 'cheap thrills' column at some point.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Recession hits Haight-Ashbury drug dealers

Things are tough all over. Everyone is downscaling, even drug-dealing scalawags. Today, while walking towards my watercolor class, I saw a desperate Haight Ashbury pusher, frantically attempting to sell a single pill!! He was standing there, fidgeting, near Golden Gate Park, failing to stir up any interest from passersby. "Pill for sale!'' he exclaimed. "Pill! Pill! Pill!''

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cactuseaters blog readers in the news

I get tons of messages into this blog from readers doing all kinds of interesting things: writing and publishing books, working on farms, starting their own businesses, traveling all over the world, etc. I'm hoping to (eventually) put together a quick little "digest column'' in which I will put the spotlight on you, the readers. If you want to take part in this, send me a little bio and a brief, colorful description of what you are up to. If I get a sufficient number of participants, I will put this column together at some point next month.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Thanks for the good wishes

Many thanks for yesterday's email avalanche. Will make sure to get back to all of you as soon as I can!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Very Big News!!

Family and friends: (I know you check this blog pretty regularly.) send me an email and call me when you see this. We have great news. (I'm sure you all know what it is by now, but the Big Day has arrived!)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Cactus Eaters/Bookshop Santa Cruz hike and write in the woods

It's official; On April 18th, I will lead a hike through Santa Cruz's beautiful Pogonip meadow, with stops for memoir and nature-writing exercises, in a special "Hike and Write" event sponsored by Bookshop Santa Cruz.A bunch of you contacted me in advance about this. If you would like to join me, make sure to register in advance through Bookshop Santa Cruz. There are a limited number of spaces. When you are registering, Bookshop will give you all the additional information you need, including the specific time and directions to the meeting place. Looking forward to meeting and walking with you (and, of course, seeing and hearing your writing)

Advice for travel writers, part four: "O Grunge Queen, Why Won't You Tidy Up?''

A few months back, we talked about the importance of bringing a high-quality leak-proof pen with smear-proof, water-resistant ink and a good journal with thick, absorbent paper for travel writers. In fact, you might even consider bringing a pencil instead of a pen because pencil lead won't run, and you can even write in pouring rain. Well, here's my latest piece of advice: make sure to store all your travel notes in a very safe place, even if you won't be using them for a long while. I learned this lesson the hard way when I stored two notebooks containing Pacific Crest Trail notes about Oregon and Washington. Absentmindedly, I decided to store them in a leaky shed out in Santa Cruz during the El Nino storm year -- and the water dripped all over them!!! Now, dozens of pages of trail notes about Oregon and Washington are covered with horrible, absolutely unreadable smears. On certain pages, only a few words survive, and now I have no idea what they mean. For example, one page has only one readable line of text, which says: "O Grunge Queen, Why Won't You Tidy Up?'' Now I have no idea what I meant by this. Who is this mysterious 'grunge queen' I was talking about? Where did this grunge-queen incident happen? Anyhow, don't make this silly mistake. Store those journals somewhere dry and safe. You never know when you'll need to use them for reference-- now or 15 years from now.