The grain of sand in this shell (not all pearls are perfect) was the need to have a place where people could buy my book, Going Up: Tales Told Along the Road to El Capitan (described on its own page). My kids said, “You gotta blog, Dad.” It’s a bit like the old days when the huckster would set up shop in the town square. “Step right up, ladies and gentlemen. Come one, come all. Friends and neighbors, I have here a most wonderful elixir, a potent potion that will cure sciatica, grow head on your hair, make the little woman think that you are a big man (chuckle, chuckle), and ease your troubled mind.” In truth, Going Up will do none of those things, although it aims to inform and entertain.
When I was in my early twenties (the late 1950’s), you could make local phone calls for free, but long distance, which wasn’t all that long, cost more money than I could usually afford. When Royal Robbins, who features largely in Going Up, and I were in the Army, he at Fort Hood, El Paso, Texas and me at Fort Mason, San Francisco, we would play chess by sending moves on postcards. A game could take several months. Now, not too surprisingly, my son-in-law plays real-time Scrabble with his parents in New Zealand via the internet.
But I don’t see this blog as being an exercise in nostalgia. Many blogs focus on a special theme or topic: antimacassars, 14th century Persian erotic art, Democrats and Satanism. In both my life and teaching career I have been more of a generalist. I imagine, therefore, that I will write about a variety of subjects. When I taught writing in a California community college, I had my students keep a journal, not a record of their daily activities like a diary, but a place to explore and develop ideas and insights and to collect observations. I envision my blog entries as occupying a territory somewhere between journal entries and full-blown essays. And there will be the occasional satiric piece and sometimes a poem.
Does the first blog entry ever find an audience? I feel like Walt Whitman’s spider.
A noiseless patient spider,
I marked where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Marked how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launched forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever reeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
I launch because I am. Anyway, I imagine I will write about rock climbing, music and other arts, non-academic philosophy, and why the Democrats are Satanists, among other topics. One of my literary idols is John McPhee who writes well enough to make you interested in a topics you never thought would be of interest to you. Coal trains was one of his more recent launches.
This ought to be enough to get me started. In the meantime, buy my book where I was able to stretch out at some length.