Journal: January 11, 2021

8:34 am Last Homely House

Brief moment of light behind clouds—rose-orange blue. Gone now. Oregon clouds. The garbage trucks are roaming. My coffee is strong, hot, and sweet. I have another day. I get to do the things I love to do—except for travel—but that’s a minor problem. I’m thinking about just driving around town today just to look and see the world. But first—time in the studio.

9:07 am Last Homely House

As life is interrelated, the effort to cut oneself off from the other has the impact of cutting oneself off from oneself and life itself. We deny part of ourselves when we deny the other, as the other is indeed a part of us.

John A. Powell

1:14 pm Last Homely House

At about 11:30 I felt the need to get out of the house and drove to the Willamette National Cemetery. I’d been meaning to explore it for some time. It was an emotional journey.

The place is enormous. Hundreds of acres. It was dedicated in 1950. Over 164,000 internments.

I went to the highest point. There is an amphitheater there. A tall flagpole that is lit by floodlights 24 hours a day. When I got out of the car, I saw four placards and read them—all eulogizing 4 Medal of Honor recipients. My emotions got going. The flag was at half-staff. I’m not sure if it always is or whether it was set that way because of the Capitol Police that died in the riot.

I started to grieve, something that is always close to the surface of my emotional life. I kept thinking about the insurrectionists who attacked the Capitol on January 6. Some of them were vets. How could they do that?

All those graves—many of them markers for people who gave their lives to defend a democracy. I don’t often think in those terms. I thought of my son-in-law, an Iraq war veteran, now a historian. I thought of my father, who didn’t fight but had a short stint in the Navy towards the end of WW2. I thought of my Uncle Lawrence, a tailgunner in a B-29 that was lost somewhere in the South Pacific just a few weeks before that war ended. The plane and the crew were never located.

It is sacred ground. Liminal space. There is no doubt about the authenticity of that feeling. The view, which was impaired by cloudy weather, was tremendous. I could see the base of Mt. Hood, covered in fresh snow, the peak occluded by clouds. Silence blanketed the vista and the grounds on which I walked.

Bare trees. Christmas wreaths on many graves—hundreds? A panorama of glistening green rings and robust red ribbons.

I don’t know what a patriot really is—it’s a word that is misused often and is soaked in sentimentality. I do know that I have never felt my identity of an American citizen as I did so strongly during my short visit.

I did not go there expecting any of that. I just wanted to visit the cemetery since it is close to my home. I had no intention of making a connection with the events of the last few days, and the last four years.

1:47 pm Last Homely House

Then there is this, which puts it all into a different perspective.

Getting Back

So what about that new project I hinted at way back on December 9? I can tell you a few things about it in the hopes of piquing your interest. It’s called Getting Back and it’s a memoir of my life as a Beatles fan. I realize that sounds nebulous but I can’t say anything more specific about it at this time, even though more specifics are available. This post is a bit of a teaser as to what kind of a book will be produced.

The project has been in gestation since Thanksgiving, a little over a month ago. During the recent weeks I wrote a 10000 word draft and realized that I was writing the way I had composed Winterland Nights, and it wasn’t working for my new subject. I didn’t want to write in the manner I had used before. I took some time to think about it, and gave myself permission to do something radical, which I also can’t be specific about because I don’t want to create expectations or spoil the surprises. All I will say is that it is a memoir and it is anything but a traditional narrative, yet it’s not quite metafiction. It’s a hybrid of some kind. (A meta-memoir?) It’s also hilarious (at least it makes me laugh), light-hearted, and bright, but is not mesmerized by its own cleverness (something that I hate and try to avoid at all costs). I hope it will be an atypically refreshing tale, unlike any other book that has been written in which the Beatles are a major topic. Certainly it’s not like anything I’ve ever attempted before.

As I have worked on it these last few weeks I’ve realized it will be more complex than I originally considered when I said to myself that I wanted to “write about” the Beatles while watching Get Back. That’s a daunting idea—there have been hundreds, maybe thousands, of books written about the Fab Four over the last fifty years, but I’m perfectly sure that there’s nothing out there like this project. I’m not trying to hype it here. I have read many Beatle-related books over the years and I am catching up with many more as I research this project. Many of them go over the same old stuff, sometimes from different angles, or explore minutiae, or express critical opinions (yes I said opinions) most of which are uninteresting, to me at least. I just finished reading two books, one which said that “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” was one of the most creative tunes the Beatles ever produced (which it is), and another which called it a hackneyed waste of time (which it is not). I can assure you that Getting Back will have no such nonsense in it. 

Without giving the whole store away I can say this: one of the themes of the project is creatives working together as a group. The Beatles were a pop group that became a rock group, perhaps the most archetypal pop/rock group of all, not only because of their success, but because of the way they worked together. The Get Back film makes this clear. I would go so far as to say that Peter Jackson’s film requires a complete reassessment of not only the sessions that led to Let It Be but the incidents that led to the group’s dissolution, and everything that happened afterwards. Getting Back is my version of that much needed historical revision, from the perspective of an elder looking wistfully and imaginatively at how his life was changed the moment he heard “She Loves You” as a ten year old boy in 1963.

The Beatles set the basic pattern. Most popular music groups form this way: several friends form a band and make some songs, they rehearse, and then they play them for people. They get popular locally and work their asses off, then they get picked up by a manager, a producer, a record contract. Then, if luck is there and there is a resonance with the social culture, they sell tons of records. If not they find other jobs. If successful they make more records and tour. Along the way they get ripped off which, if they become monstrously popular, they are not aware of, not right away anyway, and legal follies begin. Then they break up because of stress, drugs, disinterest, or death and reform with other musicians perhaps with similar success—or they lose their musical chops, fade to irrelevancy, or spend their time doing reunion tours. That’s it roughly. The whole process is based on people working together. That’s why they call it a band or a group.

However, creatives like myself who write words are loners. Writers never write as a group. In rare cases there may be a collaboration of some kind (or an editor) but 99.9999% of the time we write alone in our offices or studios. We might participate in ad hoc creative writing groups with other writers, or attend graduate school and labor on an MFA (in which case they are in groups/classes with other writers). Even then the actual writing of the words is a solo task. Alone, with pen and paper, or a computer, or whatever, wherever.

The writer’s audience, for the most part, doesn’t experience the writer’s creation until after it’s complete. There’s a big difference between “I wrote a song last night—would you like to hear me play it for you?” and “I wrote a 150,000 word novel over the last year—would you like to read my semi-edited draft?”

Speaking only for myself as a writer, I start with an idea. Who knows where the idea comes from? In the current case it was because I watched the Get Back film and realized that it had been decades since I had thought about the Beatles and how they affected me when I was a young man. Jumping from “hey, that’s what I want to write about” to how do I do it? is a whole phase of the process, the first stage, which I call Rehearsal.

That label is not mine, by the way. It comes from Roy Peter Clark in his book Writing Tools, specifically Tool #41: Turn procrastination into rehearsal. Simply put, in a large writing project (maybe any writing project) you have to have some kind of plan. How that’s done is up to the writer, maybe an outline or a mission statement of some kind. For me it’s useful to not start the daily grind of writing until I have a surfeit of information roiling around in my imagination, and after I’ve organized all that stuff so that I know where I’m going, like following a map. The writing can change the map, often for the better, so I also throw a lot of words away during the second phase, which I call Creation. (The last phase is Consideration, but I’ll describe that in a later post.)

So to answer my own question (what about that new project?) I’m getting close to the end of the Rehearsal Phase, and thus my outline/map/plan is almost complete. Eventually I’ll have more information (or hype) for you.

All that being said I also want to mention that from here out the blog content will broaden into other areas. I certainly can’t post here regularly about a book that doesn’t exist yet (or post from the draft) but I will be writing short pieces about what I am discovering in the Rehearsal phase, and some photographic related things as well.

Happy New Year to all. Sign up below to get notifications in your email when I post and email me if you have any thoughts on this new project (or anything else). 

What Have You Been Doing All This Time?

Yes, I know, I know. It’s been three months since I last posted anything here. The lack of words does not mean I’ve not been occupied with creative projects! Here’s a quick summing up.

I was distracted by baseball all the way from the All-Star break to the dismal ending of the San Francisco Giants postseason, when I wrote in my journal on October 14, 2021:

Tonight I witnessed one of the worst travesties I’ve ever seen in baseball. Once again the state of refereeing was revealed in all its ugliness. This five-game series, a tight and highly wrought matrix of struggle and courage (on the part of both teams) was tarnished on the very last out of Game 5 when Wilmer Flores was called out on strike three on a check swing. A check swing! The most subjective call in baseball. Sounds like an easy call to get right considering everyone can see it. Did the bat go past the plane of the plate? Yes? Then it’s a strike.

As I said to Charles and Julia and JS, I don’t mind being beat by a team, but being beaten by a blind joker in a blue suit is ignoble. Its long past time for balls and strikes and check swings to be monitored by the same processes that are monitoring just about everything else in the game. To have something like that be the final play in a season like this, well that’s spitting in the face of baseball, the players, and the fans. Just terrible. Especially since a check swing call cannot be reviewed.

But in this case the bat did not break the plane of the plate. Gabe Morales, the umpire at first base, who has blown many of the check swing calls I’ve seen this year (no one get it right more than 50% of the time in my view—I saw scores of them missed as I watched more baseball than I have watched in years), yes Gabe Morales blew the call. Big time. Clearly shown on TV there was not a doubt. Right now it’s circulating as a gif all over the Internet.

As my brother wisely points out, every other major sport in the country has more or less corrected their abysmal refereeing, except for baseball. It’s long past due and I’ll think twice about shelling out a monthly subscription to MLB-TV simply to have my hopes ground into the dirt by incompetence.

Needless to say I’m terribly disappointed. I know it doesn’t matter in the larger perspective, but can’t I find one thing that isn’t ruined by idiots?

My regular readers who are San Francisco Giants fans will know exactly what I meant.

At the same time my creative pursuits rolled back to photography, and I started two projects. First, to get the bitter taste of that reckless check swing call out of my mouth I created a gallery of photos that I made at AT&T/Oracle Park from 2008 to 2021. Most of these were games I attended, but some of the images were made back when I worked for Advent Software (when it was a great place to work, before it was ruined and destroyed by…wait…stop, Richard—no point in going on about that—take a deep breath) and the stadium was used for offsite meetings for the entire company. The photos were taken from many viewpoints, behind home plate, up in the corporate boxes, way up in the upper deck from left field, and a few from the bleachers. There’s even one taken from a cruise boat trolling through McCovey Cove.

That gallery can be perused at this link. Leave a comment if you’d like. Eventually I’ll get them over to my SmugMug site which is in urgent need of a refresh, where I’ll put them on sale. If you’re interested in prints in the meantime (fine art made by yours truly) contact me at

The second project developed (yes the pun is intended, why do I feel I need to point it out?) as a result of my eldest daughter helping me organize hundreds of snapshot prints created during from 1985 to 2006, all of them of family and friends. Back in those days I would run rolls of Kodacolor through my Nikon FE and FM, have them processed at Long’s Pharmacy (remember them?), and shove the prints and negatives back into the envelopes after viewing them for a while. (A small selection made it into albums.) I hadn’t looked at them in many years and decided that it was long past time to scan them into my archives.

I was unimpressed with the results from the print scans, even though I have a high-quality flatbed scanner in my studio, so I switched to scanning negatives with Silverfast, and the results are outstanding. As the artistic passion (or obsession) kicked in I dropped all my writing projects (except for my journal which is a daily practice) and since early October I have scanned over 4000 images. Serendipitously, Adobe released new code in Photoshop and Lightroom that makes creating masks a painless, quick procedure and now all that film is a source for new images. It’s like having a darkroom again, without the chemicals—a hybrid process that combines both the analog experience of film with the digital experience of post processing images in ways I could only imagine thirty years ago.

You can view the color results here. The black and white images are here. The latter galleries date all the way back to 1978. These are not fine art shots. They are pictures of my life on earth, but they are renewed and recovered from my own storage vault. (Well, maybe that’s fine art after all.) They may not resonate with most of my readers, but if you were an old friend of mine way back when you’ll get a kick out of them.

During eight weeks of scanning I knew that I was not posting anything to the blog. But—there is news on that front. I’m working on a little something that was inspired by the Get Back documentary directed by Peter Jackson that began streaming on Disney Plus on Thanksgiving. Actually it may be more than a little something, I’m not sure yet. I can tell you it is in the vein of Winterland Nights, so if you read that memoir and enjoyed it you might want to check back and see what this new project is all about, once I start posting it that is.

If you sign up to receive notifications when I post on this blog you’ll be in the loop for that project. There’s a subscription link at the bottom of every page so have at it. I do appreciate the fact that you take the time to read my work. Enjoy the photos and I’ll be back very soon!


Notes on the post

  • Photographs of AT&T Park copyright 2021 by Richard Gylgayton
  • Beatles record bin photo by Mike on (thank you!)