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An Open Memo To My Muse

(footnotes at bottom)

To: My Muse
From: Paul Schindler
Re: Where’d You Go and Why’d You Return?

From age 6 to age 19, I was a prolific producer of fiction. I now understand it was your output pouring through me. Short stories and radio scripts, mostly, but it also included my lost literary work, Vernon Jones, Super-Scientific Detective,  a 240-page novel I wrote when I was 14,  (1) my Lost Literary Work (2). I know it spent years in my father’s filing cabinet, but by the time I went looking for it 20 years later, it was gone. I was never at a loss for a plot, dialog, or a quip in my youth.

While we’re at it, couldn’t you have forced me to write an essay, Why a Writer Needs To Learn To Type, or one entitled “Why A Writer Should Go To A General High School And A Liberal Arts College Instead Of A Technical High School And A Technical College. And, while we’re at it, did you have to push me to polish that last joke for the senior radio play? Perhaps I could have spent that time polishing my unsuccessful Stanford application essay…

The outpouring continued through my first year in college, when I wrote the book for a 90-minute musical tragedy, Sam Patch,, The Greatest Story Ever Told So Far, then spent the summer writing scripts for the New Eugene Oregon Show. That fall, I began my first love affair, and you checked out. Why?

Between September 1971 and January 2020: 10 million words of non-fiction. Nary a word of fiction. (3). No ideas, no plots, no short stories or scripts. I noticed your departure as early as that fall, and suggested my first theory to my first lover. “Maybe all that writing was sublimation of my sex drive?”

She joined the long line of women who have talked sense to me in my life, including the several MIT women who applied clear logic to their helpful commentary. “That’s possible. But it may also be true that you just don’t have as much free time. There’s me. There’s your work at MIT.”

True, I had never before had a woman in my life to whom I devoted so much time. And after 12 years of cruising through school on auto-pilot, MIT offered me my first nearly insurmountable academic requirements.

So, whether it was sex or a lack of free time, you were either gone or I was deaf to your entreaties.

Then, despite still having a woman to devote my time to, in 2020 I found myself with free time on my hands, and you came roaring back in, not with a whimper but a bang.

I still don’t know why you left, or why you came back (those dear readers with theories are welcome to weigh in). Probably just free time, but that explanation seems prosaic.


(1) I wrote it on my mother’s portable Olympia typewriter, using hunt and peck because I never learned touch typing. I worked so many uninterrupted hours, and had to strike the keys so hard to make a carbon that I gave myself what we now know to be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Thank God a minor case, cured with the only known therapy at that time: a summer with my right arm in a sling. I still hit more keys with my right (dominant) hand.

(2) Not burned or destroyed, just lost like Garrison Keillor’s manuscript in the Portland train station, or the suitcase in Joe Haldeman's science fiction novel The Hemingway Hoax, which centers on a suitcase with writings by Ernest Hemingway which was stolen in 1922 at the Gare de Lyon in Paris.

(3) One could quibble that most of my poetry this year has been non-fiction as well, but let’s not quibble.

Follow Your Heart

The Daily Calm got me to thinking when the instructor mentioned this quotation from the author of Karma - Happiness in Your Life, Doe Zantamata:

“Decisions. We can think about things, turn them over in our minds a million times, play out possible scenarios, but really when it comes down to it, you have to go with your heart and move forward. Maybe things will go well. Maybe they'll turn out poorly. Every decision brings with it some good, some bad, some lessons, and some luck. The only thing that's for sure is that indecision steals many years from many people who wind up wishing they'd just had the courage to leap.”

There are times in life when you have to decide whether to follow your head or your heart. I have experienced three of them: my decision to go to MIT, my decision to move to San Francisco the first time, and my decision to move back to San Francisco. In all three cases, my head clearly knew the best decision was to go to CalTech (it would have been free), to stay in Hartford, to stay in Portland.

Despite living in my head most of my life, I could still hear my heart, and in all three cases my heart was clear. How I heard it, I’ll never know. Nor have I ever regretted following my heart.


While we’re on the subject of love (sort of), I’ve never said, “You belong to me,” nor “I belong to you.” I simply wasn’t taught to think that way, nor did my parents set that example.

I may have once said, “You complete me,” but I have since come to understand that in a healthy relationship, “you complement me.”

Nuance and the Great Awokening

This from my friend Robert Malchman:

“People are gray. As a teenager, I had all the certainty that life was full of heroes and villains, and never the twain would overlap. [Our mutual acquaintance] was a great teacher and mentor, but was also a deeply flawed man. Understanding that a heart of gold and feet of clay can exist in the same person was a leap of maturity for me.

And I keep seeing the phenomenon that so many have trouble with. For example, Woodrow Wilson: First he's the visionary of the 14 Points, the League of Nations, Savior of Democracy in Europe. Now he's the racist scumbag who segregated the federal government. But he's also the guy who put Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish Justice, on the Supreme Court. But he also put James McReynolds (racist, anti-Semitic, reactionary, more obnoxious that even Donald Trump) on the Court -- but admitted later it was a mistake (Wilson had thought McReynolds was a progressive trust-buster). So do we now take Wilson's name off everything? I think, on balance, yes; he should not be lionized, and his racism should be disqualifying. But it's a nuanced question, and most people don't do nuance.”

To which I can only say Amen. This is the single most succinct summary of a more nuanced way to react to the great awokening that I have read so far.

This and That

ABCs the hard way
Another editing hack; an alphabet song made up of single syllables from popular songs and radio station jingles (WXYZ Detroit saved me a lot of time).

Another City Song
Who knew Nampa, Idaho has a city song? My friend David Ferdinand, that’s who.

Bruce Willis
Daniel Dern Discovery: Diehard Is Back (2-minute battery commercial, starring Bruce Willis)

Password Reset Blues
…If you are over 60 and have had to reset a password recently, you should enjoy Friday Funny—Senior Citizen Trying to Set Password

Follow The Best Electoral Vote Prediction
A friend reminds me of this great site:  They do a poll of polls to try to damp down the noise in any given one. Plus, they give snarky commentaries on events.

"You're Ready To Return To Work When... By Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe

Another amusing column by a PSACOT regular contributor.

Some Thoughts on Love

Two great ideas about Love from the Daily Calm meditation app recently. First, a quotation:

“I do not want to have you to fill the empty parts of me. I want to be full on my own. I want to fill so complete I could light a whole city and then I want to have you cause the two of us combined could set it on fire”
― Rupi Kaur

Meditation leader Tamara Levitt also recommended The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein. A triangle is looking for the perfect love; she meets a Pac-Man (which, as you’ll recall, has a triangle shaped cutout for a mouth). Together, they could make a perfect circle. Instead, they decide to roll next to each other. That is difficult for a triangle, but eventually her edges get worn off and they roll together.

At a tumultuous time in my life, when I was a triangle looking for a Pac-man, a good friend told me, “Learn to love yourself and live with yourself first, then you’ll have something to give to a relationship.” He was right. I found my circle, and have spent 40 years wearing off my sharp points until I am a circle rolling along next to her. Of course, sometimes she had to shave them off…

On careful consideration, it seems to me a better analogy is jigsaw pieces. In my first three relationships, there were many matching loops and sockets, but there also some tabs that didn’t fit in slots. Then, with Vicki, I discovered that, together, we fit together completely and made a perfect cornerpiece for stable life together.

I have long wondered what I said or how I presented to Vicki the night we met that impressed her. I have never been handsome or athletic or suave, but somehow, she saw past all that. Yes, it was our minds, but it was more than that.

She says it wasn’t anything I said, it was my vibe. “You seemed to be stable and ready for a relationship.”

 I now choose to interpret that impression as being cast by my aura or my life force. I also believe we fell for each other so quickly because we were just picking up where we left off in a previous life. In any case, yes, I realize (as Vicki has pointed out) that there’s no longer any point in trying to figure out what it was. Whatever it was worked. Well, yes.

When Radio Stations had City Songs

This was a “this and that’ item last week, but I’ve promoted it because I have new information, obtained after obsessive searching, and some leads I hope someone else can help with. Check out my CitySongs page. One thing’s for sure, Portland is better than Seattle in so many ways, including its Golden West Broadcasting City Song. Check out the Washington City Song from WMAL and the better version of Call of the Northwest, plus whatever new cool stuff I have found in the meantime.

Things you Never Knew About Radio Station Jingles

I hope you’ll forgive my obsessive interest in this topic, but as some of you know I wanted to be a disc jockey when I was young. I scored a six-week gig at KVAN, Vancouver, playing underground rock in AM mono in the summer of 1969, but that was the beginning, middle and end of my career spinning records. The station was too small and cheap to afford sung jingles, so I never knew the thrill of hearing the Johnny Mann Singers singing my name (or even my air name, Gene Paul).

I don’t think young people listen to radio much anymore, but oldsters will surely remember the jingles burned into their memories. “More music, 62 KGW,” and “KISN radio, 91-derful” will be playing in my head on my death bed.

Years ago, a long-time friend of mine, Bruce Murdock, whose DJ dreams came true, walked me through the KGW Drake-Chenault jingle package, which is how I learned about “transition jingles.” As a civilian, you may never have noticed, but some jingle tempos were varied to create smoother transitions. As Murdock recently wrote:

“We had slow to fast, fast to fast and fast to slow. I asked where the slow to slow was and was told it was not format to play two slow songs back to back. Also in the package were logo jingles to shoot you out of commercials into music. The latest Drake package (known as double A) had four of those to match the song tempo. Slow, Medium, Fast, and VERY Fast.”

Think back. Can you remember that the jingles did this tempo shift? I’ll wager the musicians among you noticed the tempo change, but I wasn’t a musician then and I assure you I didn’t notice until it was pointed out to me.

And while we’re on the subject, this page of jingles from the days when KMPC played music is one of the most impressive such sets I have ever heard. Makes me wish I’d achieved my dream of becoming a disc jockey. For those of you who can remember him, Gary Owens of Laugh-In was a KMPC disc jockey.

Great Epictetus Quote

A friend of long standing shared this quote, which she sweetly assumed I already knew, since I am a quote hound. It was news to me, and I am happy to share it:

“People are not bothered by events, but by the views they take of events.”

To which she added his original (and very important and useful) coda:

"It is the action of an uninstructed person to reproach others for his own misfortunes; of one entering upon instruction, to reproach himself; and of one perfectly instructed, to reproach neither others or himself.”

Epictetus was a Greek stoic philosopher born shortly after Jesus’s death; his works were beloved by early Christians.

Or, as Arianna Huffington put it, “We have little power to choose what happens, but we have complete power over how we respond.”

This and That

Rather then dribbling out the information in drabs, there is now a special page for up-to-date information on the urgent effort to protect the election, including an upcoming briefing on Oct. 21. The Election Software Project Page is a must read.

End Our National Crisis
The New York Times' special section on why we need to get rid of Trump.
Free Copy of Day For Night
I just bought a used copy of Truffaut’s Day for Night, which I hadn’t seen since college. It’s in pretty good shape, and if you’re a regular reader of this column (and you still own a DVD player), I will mail it to you free of charge.

Flower Names
Although girls are still sometimes named after flowers, that source of names is not as popular as it once was. One of my daughters ran across a woman named Oleander—a special flower in our family, as it almost became the basis of a children’s book, Oh Oleander. I think I will know we have achieved gender equality when I meet a man named Rose.

Audio Editing Hacks
Fun with electronic editing. At WTBS, these were called hacks. Back in the 70s they were done with spliced magnetic tape. Now they can be done with electrons.

Alphabet Medley

Frank Sinatra/Ella Fitzgerald Duet: I’ve Got a Crush on You

Alphabet Song from single sung syllables