In Search of Beauty


In Chapter 15 of Ticket to Ride, Morgan finds himself in the town of Lagos, Portugal; frustrated in his search for beauty and truth:

“Once, I wandered around the entire diameter of the town trying to picture it when all that existed was the part of it contained within the old walls; very insular and very much counter to modern sprawl. The new architecture outside of the center was some bastardized, watered down, low-budget version of true workmanship.”

“You just shouldn’t f___ with perfection,” I said to a couple of tourists, snapping away with their camera, she, in a flowery summer dress and a floppy hat and he, in loose trousers, a sport shirt and loafers.

They looked startled, as if I’d woken them up.

“What d’ya mean then?” the guy replied, with an English accent.

“Within the walls there was a plan. Outside it’s just sprawl… f___ing sprawl… should’ve just left it alone.”

The guy furrowed his brow, “Been to Mulligan’s Pub then?,” changing the subject.

“I know, accentuate the positive… when life hands you lemons…“

“Make lemonade,” the girl finished, sneaking a smile, “have you been to Mulligan’s?”

“… pucker and frown first, it makes your sugar-driven smile so much the sweeter…” I said to the girl.

“But about Mulligan’s,” said the guy, getting impatient.

“… and when you laugh,” I said, looking now at the guy, “try not to feel like a jackass or a mindless hyena.”

“Look mate, I just asked about Mulligan’s.”

“Place is like flypaper.”

“Right then, cheers.”

“See ya ‘round.” I said smiling.

They walked away, looked at each other incredulously, exchanged a few words, looked back at me, and quickened their pace.

I turned away and walked along the main street which lead out of town and into the orange groves. There were workmen there, tapping stones into the dirt, one by one, making a sidewalk in the old manner. The sun was hot on their backs and the care they took in placing each stone seemed to me to be somehow honorable and charming but very tedious and tiring at the same time. They were dressed in heavy canvas work clothes and were sweating heavily. The whole thing led to what would be some big resort. If the charm of the town wasn’t dead already, it would be soon. These guys would never stay there. Lucky if they could afford a drink there. [end of excerpt]


Something of an antiquarian, Morgan sees very little in the modern world that appeals to his aesthetic sensibility. It was in this vein that I wrote the following short piece for a local newspaper a while back. And it is because I share this sentiment with Morgan that I enjoy visiting the nearby city of Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara has managed to fuse the old with the new in a manner that celebrates the old while gently incorporating the new. It has a center at State Street, and from there, continues in all directions like reflective ripples from a fountain.

A Retreat from the Desolation of Urban America

by philip scott wikel

In days of old, architecture was considered one of the fine arts. One’s home, one’s church and even one’s place of employ could be looked at with a sense of pride and appreciation of the human ability to create beauty out of lumber, stone, concrete or brick. One’s eyes would first be drawn to the foundation and then up along its facade, then still higher to it’s roof line. People would stand in awe and reverence because buildings could be seen as the tangible equivalent of poetry. And then came the utlitarianism of the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. And now, when one drives down a street like Thompson Boulevard in mid-town Ventura, the stark, square, stuccoed ugliness repels the eye and the soul and one is inclined to push harder on the gas pedal in a retreat from the desolation of urban America.

Note: I wrote this about 7 or 8 years ago and have since seen, what I feel, is something of  a general improvement in community architectural projects. Even so, I believe there’s still a great deal of room for the improvement of our public places. Much like us, our towns and cities need a center. And out from there a homogenous whole. Homogeneity often creates harmony, and we could use a little harmony now and then.

los-lugares-abandonados-mas-bellos-del-mundo-7A Final note:

While I loved Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and the celebration of the independent spirit embodied in her protagonist Howard Roark, it might be time to try to get back to a collective vision of beauty. That, of course, is only possible if we haven’t already strayed so far from traditional beauty as to be able to agree on what form it may take. Nature and Natural Forms might be a good start. Nature doesn’t try to be beautiful, it just is. We could use something we can all agree upon nowadays.

What do you think? I’d love to hear it.

Illiteracy: An Incurable Disease or Education Malpractice?

Illiteracy: An Incurable Disease or Education Malpractice?
by Robert W. Sweet, Jr.
President and Co-Founder
The National Right to Read Foundation

Illiteracy in America is still growing at an alarming rate and that fact has not changed much since Rudolf Flesch wrote his best-selling expose of reading instruction in 1955. Illiteracy continues to be a critical problem, demanding enormous resources from local, state, and federal taxes, while arguments about how to teach children to read continue to rage within the education research community, on Capitol Hill, in business, and in the classroom.

The International Reading Association estimates that more than one thousand research papers are prepared each year on the subject of literacy, and that is very likely a low figure. For the past 50 years, America’s classrooms have been used by psychologists, sociologists, educationists, and politicians as a giant laboratory for unproven, untried theories of learning, resulting in a near collapse of public education. It is time we begin to move away from “what’s new” and move toward “what works.”

The grim statistics

Continue reading “Illiteracy: An Incurable Disease or Education Malpractice?”

Good News from

Big News? Ticket to Ride was requested by a combined total of 1200 readers from 2 book giveaway contests on I had a minor ego boost until I realized the catch on this one was that they all wanted it for free. Ouch.

It’s funny really. I’ll have to ask some of my writer friends what their experience has been, but it seems most everyone (my thanks of course go to all who have taken a risk on this new author and plunked down that $12.95) I talk to about Ticket to Ride is hoping to get it for free.

What is a starving writer to do? Keep starving right? Or maybe get a job at Goldman Sachs?

It’s only 2 months since the book came out and I’ve already become an anomaly, or, maybe I’ve always been one. I suppose I’m in good company. Moby Dick didn’t sell well until after Melville died (there he goes thinking he wrote Moby Dick again, right?). Maybe I should fake my death. Oops, I guess I just said that out loud. Pretend you didn’t read that. I’m really dead. There’s that light everyone is always talking about. Yeah, and there’s St. Peter. Or is it Paul? It might even be Mary. That would make KD Lang happy. Yup, it’s Mary. RIP Mr. Wikel.

Free Book Question 4/23/10

Which book do you consider to be the best you’ve read in the past 6 months and why? The most thoughtful and insightful answer will win a free copy of Ticket to Ride. Post your comment below or email me at:

My most recent favorite is to the left. I enjoyed immensely Michener’s exploration of the world of book publishing and, having read most of what he’s written, The Novel was yet another pleasant walk with an old friend who I’ve come to love.

To me, Michener is second to none in the genre of historical fiction. Because of his thorough historical erudition, I also believe most of Michener’s books should be required reading in high schools.

Suggestion Box

I’ve now been blogging for about a month and I have to say I’m not sure what sort of thing my visitors would like to see here. The number of  readers varies considerably from day to day. Some posts that I wouldn’t expect to get much attention are surprisingly popular, and others that I thought would be popular, aren’t.

I enjoy working on this little page a great deal and would like to keep some sort of dialogue going with you all so, if you wouldn’t mind, and if you have a minute, please post a comment. You can also email me at:

If you’d like to hear more about Ticket to Ride, I’d be happy to dig into that. If there’s something in the book that perhaps isn’t clear, I’d love to clear it up. If you’d like to hear about the writing process or why I write, again I’d be happy to share my experiences with you. Whatever it is in the world of literature that’s on your mind, I’d like to hear it.

Thanks for stopping by.


Jack Johnson, Sea-borne Denizen

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
– Isaac Newton, letter to Robert Hooke, 1676

The following articles are about the people who inspired me to press on when I found the world ill-defined. While I idolized Hemingway and Kerouac, J.D. Salinger and Keri Hulme, Dylan Thomas and Robert Frost, the people in my Standing on the Shoulders of Giants series were, and are, the tangible, and the most immediate, examples I have of people living lives immersed in, and in pursuit of, their respective passions. I feel very fortunate, and am thankful for, the circumstances which caused our lives to intersect. It is from their shoulders that I could see what might be instead of just what was.


Jack backstage, (photo: wikel)

Jack Johnson, Sea-borne denizen

by philip scott wikel (originally published in Blue Edge Magazine)

If you take all the colors of all of the cultures whose borders touch the sea, then filter them through the hometown and surf-stoked sensibility of a lightly salted acoustic guitar, you’ll begin to gain an impression of the resplendent, sea-borne denizen that is Jack Johnson; surfer, film-maker, musician. His music might be labeled something like salty acoustic alchemy. From the subtle beat of steel-drum calypso on his song “Flake” to the childhood reveries of “Mud Football,” Jack pulls you into a seamless blending of eclectic sounds and experiences from his travels around the world, stirred, not shaken. He writes songs about living, loving, learning, and letting go; as he says, “You just go with the flow, you don’t stop.”

On September 13th at Arroyo Verde Park in Ventura, California Jack, along with Jackson Browne, the country-rock duo Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, and blues artist Keb’ Mo’ took to the stage in front of a capacity crowd of 3300 to support the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy and to raise funds for, and create awareness of, their efforts to preserve open space. “Venturans have demonstrated at the ballot box that we want our hillsides preserved,” says Brooke Ashworth, the Conservancy President, “the Conservancy provides a vehicle to implement this goal in a way that deals with property owners fairly and equitably.”

Phil Sedillos, a Chirikawa Apache, shared that he’s “proud of Ventura’s reaction to saving the hillside. It’s nice to see Jackson Browne come out here in support of this.” Next to him is Rosalyn Schuerman with “Dennis Kucinich for President” says “I just called my daughter to let her know I now know who Jack Johnson is.” And Rob Woods, an employee of Patagonia, chimes in with “We’re here showing our love for this place and that we don’t have to build. Check it out, we got the espresso to get us through the long day and some Ben and Jerry’s to wash it down. This is a cool scene.”

Continue reading “Jack Johnson, Sea-borne Denizen”

Baja 1979, from Ticket to Ride

Intro to an excerpt from Chapter 14 of Ticket to Ride

It’s now the spring of 1979 and Livy’s editor has sent her to San Diego to meet with a bunch of surfers for a trip to Cabo San Lucas. Livy has never gone surfing and knows next to nothing about the sport or it’s culture. While on this trip Livy falls in love with the sport and gives us a unique view of the surfing lifestyle and its devotees.

What I’ve tried to do here is to present the world of surfing as realistically and as truthfully as possible. Livy’s experience is informed by the exuberance of Jack London’s introduction to surfing at Waikiki in the early 20th century and is tempered by what I like to think of as Duke Kahanamoku’s vision of the ideal surfer and waterman. Duke was born just outside of Waikiki and, as part of the US Olympic swimming team, won gold in the 1912 and 1920 Olympics, and silver in 1924. He is considered the greatest of the godfathers of surfing and was responsible for introducing the sport to the US and Australia. His integrity and kindness made him a friend to many.

From Chapter 14, Ticket to Ride

In her journal Livy writes:

Baja is a place

by Livy Tinsley

(3,000 words)

Baja, deep baja. Mestizos, indios, cactus, joshua trees, riverbeds trickling, Catholic shrines.

Before Europeans there were three tribes, the Cochimi in the north down to Loreto, the Guaycura from Loreto to La Paz and the Pericu in the Los Cabos area. They were mostly fishermen who ate the fruit of the cactus and hunted game and gathered the root of the agave or mescal. It was noted by Hernan Cortes that there were “abundant pearls” in this land that, at that time, they believed was an island. The Jesuits came in the 17th century and established seventeen missions and introduced Christianity. The effort to subdue the natives failed largely due to the harsh weather conditions. Hurricanes, torrential rains and overdressing made life for the Spanish uncomfortable and the local population was decimated by the introduction of European diseases.

In 1823 a successful rebellion resulted in the creation of Mexico. Native rock art is the only evidence of the existence of the indigenous people. Baja is a wild place that only six years ago was almost impossible to travel in the average passenger car. Mexican One, the transpeninsular highway is now paved, but solitude is still Baja’s greatest commodity.




the day marches,

we march behind, along with, and sometimes ahead

of the day.

Mexico will even things out.


green, even, cool this time of year,

purple soon,


but green now, moist,

hard to conjure the drymouthed days of


Sweet August,

dust-dry days and salt-dry skin,

cool cerveza to slake the thirst.




the world’s rolled outa bed to lay in the sun,

to shed the Afghan winter.


cold, cool, warm, fog, hot then dry



sounds like I’m longing for summer,



Mexican One…

Day 1

Not sure of the day. So far we’ve traveled 700 miles. 4 days into it and first day with waves. The guys’ve been crazy for surf. They’re glowing today. Eyes alight with the ocean. Strange journey. All this way to ride a wave like others they know at home. It’s the emptiness they say, the quiet, the being away and the elemental purity of a nearly untouched land.

After a long overnight drive to a small Ejido south of Ensenada there was a day of rest. Trent and Jay struck up a game of football (soccer) with some of the local kids. The villagers went mad for ‘em. Loved the gringos and laughed at their awkwardness on the field. A couple of the kids showed up later and we traded them T-shirts for fish and in the morning we headed south for a place we’re calling Rattlesnake Gorge. It’s a beautiful setup with cliffs to either side and a sandy spot in the middle of a fifteen-year flood plain. The occasional rain has created a triple reef/sandbar break and the guys went mad for it, and having discovered a cheap outlet for Corona, we all celebrated our good fortune of surf (I surfed for the first time today) with a middle-of-nowhere no one-to-worry-about party in the wilderness. They’ve shown themselves to be gentleman and I’ve told’em about the guy in Europe. Good lads, a respectable, earthy sort. Live by a code of chivalry and sharing.

Just beyond Rattlesnake Gorge we found a rusted old school bus sinking in the sand. The wheels are gone and we’re all guessing maybe some hippies got lost on the way to Woodstock. “Summer of Love” run out of gas. Inside I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake. Remnants of parties all over; a bong inscribed with “FURTHUR” after Kesey and the gang. Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test bubbled over, desiccated in the sun. We’ve dubbed it the “Magic Bus” after the Who song.

Third day was an all-out beeline through the desert with burritos for breakfast in El Rosario. The trip seemed to start then. Remote, gone, last outpost on the Pacific behind us and nothing but pot-holed road in front of us. Huge cactus and white stones everywhere, drinking. We stopped a lot in the desert to wee in the brush. Had a margarita somewhere near Guerrero Negro and a guy gave us a tip on some camping on the Gulf side. Long road off the highway, dirt, like washboard, shook the bloody hell out of the bus, but with a beautiful sunset going on around a triple-peeked set of hills we came over a rise in the road and Tristan began to wail. In front of us, a mile or so off, was a spit of land with large swells rolling like caterpillars. I got “stoked” with all of ‘em and am feeling like I’m getting a peek at the draw of the sea. Then we got stuck in the sand. Slowed down to get a better look at the surf and sunk.

This morning we’re situated just below a sort of airfield and adjacent to a rudimentary lighthouse. The Aussies next to us were calling it 10-15 feet and said the place wasn’t holding the swell the day before. Today it’s dropped off a bit and the guys are calling it clean, better with the tide, and the word is the wind turns offshore in the afternoon and adds a crispness to the surf. This spot’s too dangerous for beginners but there are lots of beautiful shells on the beach. Tristan, Trent, and Jay came in saying the rock reef shelf is like a racetrack and “gnarly.” I saw them all get tuberides and wonder what that must be like.

A man who calls himself Ismael came by this morning to check on all of the campers. Nice sort, salt of the earth, or the sea in this case. Says he’ll have lobster later, a dozen for $10.00. There’s a mellow break further up to the point and Jay took me up there for a surf. I stood up on nearly every wave and Jay was hooting. Feel like I’m a natural to this.

I am possessed by a primal energy,

a tribal tension,

the residue of millenia






elemental simplicity fueled by

an adrenal stream and

pumped by an infant heart

Woke up with “The Ballad of John and Yoko” in my head this morning. Thinking of the guy in Portugal, dreamed about him, maybe someday we’ll do that. I’m different now and so to must he be. Success as a writer can only go so far to carry one on. Someone to share it with seems a better place. I know someday I’ll see him.

Three flat tires, a busted gas tank, and three days later we’re sitting at a long left-hand point a couple of hundred miles north of Cabo San Lucas. A steel-framed lighthouse and a plywood shack are the only “Civilization.” Should’ve been to Cabo by now but the ocean gave us another incredible swell. I’m what they call a “goofy-foot” which means I surf with my right foot forward. Here I can ride with my body facing the wave. Nice little waves on the inside cove here and I’m riding a 9’6″ longboard and’ve begun being able to turn and ride down the line.

Note: The people here are extremely friendly and accommodating. Two fisherman drove all the way out into the middle of the desert, pulled our gas tank off and patched it with marine tar. Charged us five dollars then bought us beers with the money they made. One of their wives made us a drink called horchata from condensed milk with cinnamon and sugar added. They say it keeps you cool. I’d drink gallons of it in the summer.

Fish for dinner tonight. We traded a couple of beers for fish the size of small white sharks. Should mention the wonderful snorkeling on the gulf side. Stopped there a couple of days ago and paddled into the Bahia Concepcion (Bay of Conception). The water there is quite warm and the contrast between the watery world of the gulf and the outlying land seems an optical illusion. Jagged, dry and rocky peaks sweeping into a calm sea. Sand fleas are a nightmare there but Trent filled an empty can with stove fuel, lit it, and they all started to jump in and away from us.

Discord among the ranks. Went something like this:

“Livy’s mine man,” said Trent.

“Yours,” said Tristan.

“I mean my responsibility.”

“I was just trying to help her.”

“Look there’s a brother out there who’s waiting for her.”

“She’s not you’re goddamn fire hydrant man.”

“Just keeping an eye on her.”

“Well ease up. No one’s trying to move in.”

Chivalry, knights, none shining here, but desperate to help a damsel. Got pretty heated and Trent just about split. A few cervezas involved, good thing the Tequila’s gone, firewater.

They want to know what I know about the way women are. I told them all I know is what I know of myself really and that it was understandable to me why women would confuse them. Most women don’t know what they want. The fuzzy line between being the woman that my mother was and what it is to be a woman now plays a part in it. I think most women still want, or still think they want, to be taken care of. Part of the problem is that with modern medicine and health we’re living an awfully long life compared with our ancestors and the prospect of a marriage lasting fifty or more years seems a bit daunting to most of us. When we weren’t expected to live past forty there must’ve been an intensity and imminence to procreation and child rearing. People had children and died a short while after their children were old enough to have children. All this living has confused the issue and the rhythm. I told them to just hang out with women who were fun and didn’t expect much.

The guys keep saying “classic.” Has special meaning for them. If you look through early surf publications, California Surfriders 1946, early Surfer Magazine and they had me watch “Endless Summer” before the trip, you’ll start to get the idea. There’s a thread of simplicity that runs through all of them. Good surf, sun, a few friends and later, some good food and beer. Windansea and San Onofre were a couple of the early meccas. Thatched huts in the Hawaiian style, cars pulled right up on the beach, fish caught from the sea and maybe a lobster from a submerged reef, guitars and ukuleles. And more good surf, clean water, purity.

It’s still here in the Mexico of 1979. Gone by the wayside for the most part in California since the 60s. Pockets of it here and there. But it’s everywhere in Mexico, a brotherhood and sisterhood of pura vida.

I envy the red ant of Baja,

though it cannot surf,

it doesn’t get stepped on

as much as I do,

in the city.

Trent’s poem. He’s a bit of a soft touch really. Needs a girlfriend but they’re all on the road so much, just got back from Australia by way of Hawaii. Surf contests and spreading the ambassadorial goodwill of their sponsors. If it weren’t for that guy in Portugal and my knowing, he’d make a good partner, terrible poet, but that could be helped.

Rob the photographer has a way of making things sour, bad attitude, sort of snobbish. Otherwise, the crew is good, the surfers. Traveled 1400 miles with them now, 150 to go for Cabo, then back again. Too much here that can’t be written, only experienced. Baja is a place.

Woke up around two this morning, killer headache, dehydrated. Unseasonably hot, close to 100 degrees. First time out in the water I dry-docked my board. We’re in tropical waters now, urchins everywhere. I didn’t want to get off my board so when the waves receded I stayed on. Guys were good about it and they have resin and stuff for patching. After that I cooked up two gnarly batches of fried potatoes and everyone was pretty stoked. Cooked some killer fish on the grill last night as well, bloody radical.

Second paddle out was good and I won’t tell where we are, you’ll just have to find it for yourself. Trent and I were on the inside cove. Five-foot lefts, nice water color. Then we packed up and headed for La Paz. Picked up another tire on the way. Homemade tires can be a bit iffy. La Paz is a strange mix of the new and old. Sometimes it seems that Mexican architects took a bullet train through California and got a blurry view of the place. Shopped there and hung out in a bar. Signage around town was a bit dodgy so we had a hard time getting back on the main highway, Mexican One, a grey pearl snaking its way like a sidewinder.

“with a little luck… we can make this whole damn thing work out.” – Wings

Sitting now just outside of Todos Santos. It’s about 10 p.m. The bus has broken down again, tie rod or something. Sitting on a dirt road without the means to get it off the ground. Trent’s pulled out the cooler for refreshments.

Three days later:

Past three days’ve been quite involved. Slept in the dirt road the night of the great tie rod. After a couple of beers I figured out how to fix it. How’s that then? The next morning we split for the tip and hit Cabo around 9 a.m. Surf was flat so we shopped in a touristy section of town. All the trinkets and bobbles, kind of stuff grandma would send you if she were here. Sent postcards home then decided to head for San Jose Del Cabo. No potential for surf there either, at least not that day. Found a cheap motel room ($5) and took our first hot shower in nine or ten days. Ate tacos and drank beer like it was the last supper or maybe the first.

San Jose Del Cabo is a beautiful town and it makes me wonder why it doesn’t get the same press as Cabo San Lucas. They are complete opposites. Cabo is run down and funky, nostalgic for some maybe but San Jose has all the romance of the Age of Exploration and “Western” films combined. The architecture in the square was designed with great care and attention to detail. One feels a part of something next to spiritual. We ate a pizza there.

There are some low-lifes in the next room to us. They come from Santa Cruz and are apparently running from the law. Tried to sell us drugs and told us of how their baby ate a peyote button off the dashboard. They laughed as they told it and Tristan was the only who managed to express our collective repulsion. The pair showed up the next morning to look at a board of ours but we decided against selling it to them, bad karma.

There’s a dirt road alongside town that leads to surf spots and a place called Shipwrecks. Here we’ve come across the Australians again, Timbo, Twiggy and Taj. Stopped for a big party in the middle of the desert. Still close to ninety-five degrees. When we couldn’t drink anymore we headed back to town for supplies and ordered twenty-one tacos and at least as many beers. Exchanged cash at the El Presidente Hotel and got back to “Shipwrecks,” (there really isn’t one), around 6 p.m. and lucked into some small but fun surf. Another sort of rock reef/point break, this place has great potential, probably much better in the summer. 4 cases of beer and 2 bottles of Tequila later, Twiggy was dancing around with a box of “Zucaritas” (Fruit Loops) on his head and was dubbed King Zucarita. He then fell down the cliffside and rolled down to the beach.

It’s amazing how quickly you come to know people on the road. The Aussies are three of the coolest people any of us have ever met. Even Rob has warmed to them. They have an uncanny ability to stay in the moment. All of them left their jobs before coming here and haven’t a worry about what lies ahead. They’re here for two months and reside within each minute of the day as if it were made for them. Next to them we, Americans and Britons, seem like worrisome old ladies.

This morning a tram showed up with pampered surf enthusiasts from the El Presidente Hotel. Mind you I haven’t called them surfers as I’ve come to understand that you can surf but there’s more than that to being a surfer. Surfers know tides and wind direction, swell direction and seasons; they feel these things instinctively and are much like captains of the old sailing ships. They have saltwater in their veins and grow uncomfortable with the smell of the land. Brine and a seawind is their morning coffee. These folks from the El Presidente are and have, well, none of this. At the risk of sounding elitist, it would be nice if neophytes, or better, wannabes knew their place in the hierarchy. Deckhands don’t expect the comforts the First Mate enjoys. While it’s not, perhaps, entirely democratic, there’s an understanding within the greater surf tribe that newcomers are expected to show respect for the elders and allow themselves time to advance to a point to where they’re not a hazard to others around them. Most surfing areas have unspoken boundaries within which it is understood that you do not move on to the advanced section of a surf break until you can do it with grace, style and a proper command of your surfboard.

Days End At Land’s End

Went down on the beach after the tram left and hung with Twiggy for a bit. He gave me a “Coronita.” Coronitas are miniature bottles of Corona and Twiggy said to hang on to it, souvenir from a good time. Jay came up and told us it was time to do the wine thing. We decided the night before to bury a bottle of wine in the sand and promise we’d all come back some time and dig it up. So with very little ceremony we walked about fifty feet off the trail, dug a hole, and buried it. Someday we’ll go back.

We headed back toward San Jose and on a particular rise in the road we could see Lands End.


Roll Film, Surf Photographer Scott Aichner

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
– Isaac Newton, letter to Robert Hooke, 1676

The following articles are about the people who inspired me to press on when I found the world ill-defined. While I idolized Hemingway and Kerouac, J.D. Salinger and Keri Hulme, Dylan Thomas and Robert Frost, the people in my Standing on the Shoulders of Giants series were, and are, the tangible, and the most immediate, examples I have of people living lives immersed in, and in pursuit of, their respective passions. I feel very fortunate, and am thankful for, the circumstances which caused our lives to intersect. It is from their shoulders that I could see what might be instead of just what was.

Kerby Brown NorthWest OZ

Local Hero
by philip scott wikel

(originally published in the VC Reporter)

He’s now one of the most sought after surf photographers in the world, but first things first…

When I first met Scott Aichner he was an awkward bodyboard rat just out of high school. We lived next door to each other in a duplex on Bath Lane in the Pierpont section of Ventura. My girlfriend and I would have him over for cups of tea on a regular basis and we’d talk about the ocean and surfing and other things. Scott had a girlfriend named Sandy from East Ventura and, with all that was going on his life at the time, he was trying to figure how to fit it all together.

That winter in 1990 Scott had some time off from his job as a bellman at the Ojai Valley Inn and I was on break from Ventura College. We decided to head down to Mexico to shop for Christmas presents for our friends and family. It was on that trip that I learned that this awkward kid was really a deeply spiritual character. I assumed the role of big brother as we talked of relationships and the logistics of balancing the professional with the personal and the prospect of living together with a woman you care for. I gave him what I could, which at the age of twenty-three, wasn’t a whole lot.

Continue reading “Roll Film, Surf Photographer Scott Aichner”

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
– Isaac Newton, letter to Robert Hooke, 1676

How does this relate to Ticket to Ride? The following articles are about the people who inspired me to press on when I found the world ill-defined. While I idolized Hemingway and Kerouac, J.D. Salinger and Keri Hulme, Dylan Thomas and Robert Frost, the people in my next three articles were, and are, the tangible, and the most immediate, examples I have of people living lives immersed in, and in pursuit of, their respective passions. I feel very fortunate, and am thankful for, the circumstances which caused our lives to intersect. It is from their shoulders that I could see what might be instead of just what was.

Intro to “Happiness is the Warm Guns”

With it’s many quotes of, and allusions to, bands (including a cameo appearance by U2) and lyrics of the 70s, my novel, Ticket to Ride, is as much a celebration of music and musicians as it is a celebration of writers and writing. The Warm Guns are, to me, like the second coming (or third if you factor in Oasis) of the Beatles. Because of this, I feel they fit with the spirit of the book. Livy Tinsley, my female protagonist and devotee to Paul McCartney and the Beatles, would have loved these guys.

Happiness is the Warm Guns

by philip scott wikel (originally published in the Ojai Valley News)

Coming down from Ojai with a warm Santa Ana blowing at my back, I felt I was headed toward something good. In my mind I could hear the Beatles “Revolution” and as I pulled off Hwy. 33 at Main St. I found downtown Ventura flooded with the clean streetlight glow of an after-rain autumn evening and the friendly echoes of the Warm Guns streaming out from Zoey’s coffee loft.

Continue reading “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”

Mother Nature’s Son: Balanced with a Connection to the Natural World


Vosberg Original Canvas Oil Painting Paia Bay Palm Trees Maui Hawaii
Vosberg Original Canvas Oil Painting Paia Bay Palm Trees Maui Hawaii

In the following excerpt (from Chapter 9 of Ticket to Ride), having earlier described Morgan Blake, my male protagonist, as something of a philosopher and intellectual, I wanted to show a completely different side of him; the side connected to the ocean and the natural world. It’s important to me that he have this connection because a “life of the mind,” as it’s known in intellectual circles, must be balanced with a connection to the natural world. Otherwise we are all mind and no heart.

After Chapter 9, Morgan slips into a solitary life of the mind and spends the rest of the book in search of his heart. I hope you will enjoy this bit and I welcome any commentary you might have.

The Ticket to Ride Giveaway question of the week is:

At what bus stop did Paul McCartney and John Lennon meet for band practice in the early days of the Beatles? The person with the winning answer (posted on my blog as a comment) will receive a free book.

[From Chapter 9 of Ticket to Ride]

By the time an approaching squall had moved as close as the outer reefs Morgan had caught several waves and then decided that it was best to go in before the storm hit. Beyond the outer reefs the ocean had become a choppy white froth. However, close to shore there was a lull in the, until now, consistent sets of waves. Morgan waited patiently, feeling warm, clean, and clear. Then came another set of waves. He paddled over the first two and caught the third, knowing it would be the best of the set. It rose about two feet overhead as he dropped in. He stalled at the bottom, shifting his weight to the rear of his surfboard, and slipped slowly into the curl. He then stepped slightly forward and found perfect trim on the bending face of the wave. It folded over his head as he crouched, and he could hear the internal echo, sounding like the gushing of the primordial soup. From the beach it looked as if he had disappeared, and for a moment, the ocean seemed to embrace him.
It began to rain as he walked up the beach, past the old bunker, and toward town. By the time he reached the main street he could taste the salt as it dripped from his hair and down his face. The streets were wet and empty. Darkness was coming quickly as the declining sun had been smothered by the squall. I’ll check on Psalm he thought and when he reached the store he walked around to the back, stashed his surfboard underneath some week-old palm fronds, and as he turned toward the white house he noticed that the door to Psalm’s room was wide open.
The light of a candle flickered against the door and Morgan felt himself grow tense as he walked slowly toward it. Stopkeepmoving. Crossing the threshold he felt the tension grow stronger, resting on his chest, as if he was walking between two fence-posts on a moonless night, expecting to be caught by barbed wire. He entered the room. The air was infused with the pungent smell of raw sweat– Fearsweat, and when he turned to his right…