Friday, February 25, 2011

Something weird is going on with this blog

Having technical difficulties. Back soon.

(I found this busted robot photo on

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Borders is bankrupt: "No worries!"

The other day, I made my way through the crowds of people picking over the remains of the local downtown Borders book store. I saw a floor manager standing near the entrance, and told him I was sad to hear the store was closing.

As I spoke to him, I remembered the huge to-do about this store when it opened: protests, recriminations, nervousness. There was a lot of worry that Borders would become an overwhelming force driving out all indie bookshops. Now it turns out that Borders itself is a casualty of more overwhelming market forces.

Monday, February 21, 2011

She'll be mad when she finds out about this

If you're heading downtown, there's a guy standing on the corner of Cooper and Pacific, singing folk songs at the top of his lungs and looking forlorn. His guitar case is open for spare change, and he's got a sign asking people to give him whatever they can spare. "Expensive girlfriend," the sign says. "Anything helps."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Passion on the dance floor: Hard science, math students cut loose with tango

On a rainy night in downtown Santa Cruz, a dozen UCSC students, most of them math and hard-sciences majors, gathered in a church meeting room.

No one wore nerdy bifocals or carried slide rulers in their pockets. No one talked about proofs, conjunctions, flash points, or continuously differentiable functions.

They were too busy staring into each other's eyes with expressions of longing as they performed tango, the sultry dance that began in the working class districts of Argentina more than a century ago.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Sunburned, dirty, smelly"

The other day I was minding my own business and heading towards my local bank to deposit a check. (That alone is remarkable; usually, I'm giving checks to somebody else.) On the way there, I walked past a tattoo parlor with a sign in the front spelling out the kind of people they don't want in their store. The sign was remarkably inclusive. Here it is, for your reading pleasure:

"NO CHILDREN. (Ningunas ninos.) IF YOU ARE drunk, on drugs, sick, pregnant, sunburned, dirty, smelly, eating, drinking, broke, trying to sell us something, looking for a deal, or otherwise obnoxious, please come back when you're not!!"

Near the sign, someone has put up a sticker: "People love us on Yelp!"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cactus Eaters and "Reading in Good Company" in Atherton (new and improved posting)

Thank you, everyone, for a great event. There is always that scary moment -- just before starting -- where you wonder: "Are people going to show up??" That's how I felt right around the starting time. "Where is everybody?" Then, right at 1 p.m., a good crowd came in all at once, bearing platters of cheeses, breads, tortilla chips, salsa and a home-made torte with almond flour, orange peel and chocolate. I met people from throughout the Peninsula including a ranger who patrols a nearby park (I was glad to see he was in the middle of reading David Wicinas's Sagebrush and Cappucinno, which he saw on my list of reading recommendations at the back of The Cactus Eaters.) and a Palo Alto resident who is just about to through-hike the Pacific Crest Trail with her college-age daughter. She is a veteran of the Camino de Santiago -- in fact we were both talking about Jack Hitt's excellent book about his own camino journey, which she read in her tent during that European trek.

It was a really good, candid conversation. In fact, we talked about quite a few things that I would hesitate to post online. We discussed place writing, creating a voice in a nonfiction work, the weird history of this project and more.

Anyhow, thanks to everyone for showing up and to Annie Pena for setting this up. I also want to encourage everyone to stick with Atherton's brand new book group. Lately, we're seeing a sad decline in the number of places where people can meet, talk books and have a bit of orange-almond cake together. (Too many community centers, libraries and post offices are closing down or being consolidated, especially the smaller branches.) Anyhow, here's a list of their upcoming book choices:

March: Sex with the Queen: 900 years of vile kings, virile lovers and passionate politics by Eleanor Herman
April: The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner.
May: Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How small differences grow into troublesome gaps by Lise Eliot
June: Reader's Choice
July: Shake off the Devil: A true story of the murder that rocked New Orleans by Ethan Brown
August: The Forger's Spell by Edward Dolnick
September: The Lost City of Z by David Grann
October: The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

Check here for more information about the book club and contact information

Monday, February 07, 2011

Book Club

See you at the book group Saturday (see Jan. 25th's blog entry below).

Photo courtesy of Jen.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Santa Cruz UFO incursion?

Around 10 p.m. WST I saw a slow-moving orb of light traveling over the Seabright area.

I thought it was a star at first but it kept shifting position in and out of the clouds and making a long, slow arc.

Bands of light came out of it on all sides (it looked like a badly drawn hydra) -- and I thought at first that the bands were retinal flashes -- but the shape of the bands remained the same even after I blinked my eyes several times.

It took a total of five minutes for whatever-it-was to make its way from one horizon line to the next.

Peculiar, to say the least. A satellite or an experimental aircraft, I would guess? It's probably not aliens, but I'll bake muffins just in case.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

About me (a brief bio)

My name is Dan White. I am an author, lecturer, freelance writer and web editor. My first book, The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind and Almost Found Myself on the Pacific Crest Trail, was published by HarperCollins and was a San Francisco Chronicle and West Coast indie bookstore bestseller.

I have taught poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction and a required essay-writing class at San Jose State University, and a freshman essay writing class at Columbia University. I also led the inaugural Bookshop Santa Cruz Outdoors writing and hiking event, guiding a group of Cactus Eaters readers into the woods for reading, poetry and nonfiction writing. My travel writing appears in the New York Times and other venues.

Between 2007-8, I was a Steinbeck Fellow at SJSU.

The desert and fatality: Edmund White on learning from Paul Bowles

This was a great event; at some point I will post some thoughts on this (linked to another page so it doesn't take up too much space.)

The desert winds blow through the work of Paul Bowles.

"Why go?" Bowles once wrote. "The answer is that when a man has been there and undergone the baptism of solitude he can't help himself. Once he has been under the spell of the vast, luminous, silent country, no other place is quite strong enough for him ...''

This Saturday, Edmund White, celebrated author and creative writing professor at Princeton University, will reflect on the dry country's beauty and dangerous magnetism during his keynote address, "The Desert and Fatality: Learning from Paul Bowles." The talk begins at 3:30 p.m. at UC Santa Cruz's Humanities Lecture Hall. Here is a complete itinerary of the weekend's scheduled events. I'll be there, taking lots of notes.

And, speaking of upcoming lit events, don't miss Jasmin Darznik, who appears Monday, February 28 at the Capitola Book Cafe at 7:30 p.m. She will read from The Good Daughter, her memoir about three generations of Iranian women. Here is an article by Jasmin in the New York Times. And this just in: TC Boyle will read at the cafe on Monday, March 7, at 7:30 p.m. I would get there early if I were you. Try to get a seat near the silver elephant that hangs above the magazines. (my favorite spot.)

Slob driver alert -- now updated and fully illustrated

Out on Beach Street, I saw a young woman steering an SUV with her elbows. She was holding a breakfast burrito in one hand and what appeared to be a new-model iPhone in the other hand. Pedestrians scrambled (so to speak) to get out of the way. Not only that but she was talking with her mouth full. Illustration at left.