“Caution: Trail In Poor Condition” — vintage grimy photo from my Pacific Crest Trail days

I just found this vintage, water and sun-damaged picture taken of me on the Pacific Crest Trail. The lettering on the sign is almost illegible, but it says CAUTION: TRAIL IN POOR CONDITION. You can’t tell from the photo but the sign itself is in horrible condition. Though it looks like I am posing with my arms around the warning sign, I’m actually holding it up. When I came across it, the thing was lying on the ground. Anyway, I thought this was worth posting because I just realized that my first effort, The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind And Almost Found Myself on The Pacific Crest Trail, came out 10 years ago. Unless my memory is letting me down, I believe this photo was taken on the trail a few miles north of Tehachapi, on the same stretch of the trail where I stupidly dumped out my water…


Binging on books. Currently reading lots of them in tandem because I am indecisive. I keep adding to the list — New American Stories, and Gork The Teenage Dragon (hilarious; there is some loose-synapse creativity that almost made me drive off the I-5) Eat The Document by Dana Spiotta, for starters. Just got through a good, creepy oldie by Graham Greene called This Gun For Hire. Working on new things but it’s taking forever. Thanks for your messages to me, sent to my email account. I appreciate your measured encouragement. Meanwhile, I’ve put together a brief compendium of some recent freelance pieces.  I almost forgot to mention that I’ve been invited to be a panelist at an AWP panel up in Portland, focusing on travel writing, so please stop by and say hello if you are going. My only other news — I am working on a homemade costume. I am sick of…

Beer crawling for the San Francisco Chronicle

Helping my wife ‘research’ her acclaimed ice-cream history book Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America, forced me to consume a dozen gallons of straight-up butterfat and almost turned me into a blob in the process. Researching this piece for the San Francisco Chronicle finished the job.  Now, my blobdom is complete. As you’ll see, I’ve included some recommendations in this new story.  Strange — I’ve pretty much stopped drinking beer (and every other kind of alcoholic drink) since this story came out. I’ve just lost a taste for it, at least for the time being. Maybe familiarity really does breed contempt. Anyway, I hope you like this.

Remembering Sheila Ettinger (1938-2018): an appreciation

“Cupertino is the world headquarters of Apple Computer. For a few years, Sheila Ettinger lived directly across the street from the main headquarters of Apple, which, as you know, designed the iPhone. If she had wanted to do so, and if she could have gotten past security, Sheila could have stepped out of her apartment and arrived at Steve Jobs’s office in about ten minutes. But Sheila was no fan of the iPhone. She could not have cared less about gadgets. In spite of the fact that she lived so close to Apple, she had this little flip-phone, and, to be honest, I could never figure out how to use it. Her phone was a little bit awkward.  In the Stanford hospital, when people would call her up, and that old phone would ring and ring, she would tell me, “Please, Dan, get that for me,” but I couldn’t even…

A fond appreciation of Sheila

I just wanted to send my love and prayers out to Sheila Ettinger, who is the biggest (or perhaps the only)  fan of this website. She checks it religiously every morning, and looks at the Twitter feed at the bottom of the page. Sheila has given so much in her life, so it pains me to report that she has been facing some very serious health troubles lately. I want to take the time to thank Sheila for her love and support, her hilarity and brilliance, her storytelling prowess and her friendship. Who will leave comments on my website except for spammers, trolls, and bots??? Sheila, my family and I wish there were millions more like you. It is very sad for all of us that you are a one-off.