Staying The Same

My birthday today, and I sorta just like the same things as always: My family, books, teaching, rivers, camping, poetry, great stories, and this place – The Columns, Eugene, Oregon (@jskorty pic):

climbing poster Columns


Happy Birthday, Toni Morrison

It is Toni Morrison’s 88th birthday today, February 18th. Hard to believe that she’s 88, but we all march toward death – the unavoidable – and hopefully she won’t go soon.

My favorite Toni Morrison novels in order:

  1. A Mercy (I know this is a controversial choice, but I’ve read it four times and I know what I know)
  2. Beloved (Pulitzer Prize, 1988)
  3. Song Of Solomon (National Book Critics Circle Award, 1977)

On writing novels, Morrison once famously said, “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Thank goodness that she chose to write rather than continuing as a book editor. Her work on other writers’ novels would never have equaled her ability as a writer.


Dear Ms. Morrison,

If you would like to get together and talk about writing, I would love to drink coffee or tea with you.

Please contact me through my agent (or directly here at this website).

Thank you.


Don Pedro

Watching Scary Movies – One Of The Things I’m Not Good At


When I was 15, I went over to a friend’s house where a group of us were gathering to watch a scary movie on his big-screen TV. The group consisted of girls and boys. There was a lot of junk food in the house. We’d have fun, watch something slightly horrifying, maybe even cuddle with someone we liked?

It was gonna be a great night.

The only problem was the movie: The Silence Of The Lambs (Tomatometer of 96% and Audience Score of 95%). It SHOULD have been a great movie. Everyone said it was a great movie. People even said it might win an Oscar. But to be honest, I hated it. And to be completely honest, I didn’t finish it.

Halfway through the movie – when I was scared out of my mind – I took a break and went into the kitchen. I ate a few chips out of a bowl. Then I ate some Red Vines. Then I walked to the bathroom and washed my face. After that, I stared into the mirror for about five minutes.

Then I slid back into the kitchen and snuck out of the house, down the driveway, and walked all the way home.

I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving and I didn’t call my parents for a ride. I needed some fresh air and some alone time. I needed to NOT watch a scary-as-fuck movie with some concepts that I didn’t want to visualize ever again.

So I walked home, went out onto my back deck and lay there, staring at the sky. The stars calmed me down after an hour or so, and I felt a little bit better about the world.

Then I was able to go to sleep…sort of…with nightmares all night long.

And the thing is, I didn’t learn to like scary movies later. In fact, I’ve never learned to like them, and I probably never will.

To add insult to injury, everyone always tells me that “The Silence Of The Lambs” isn’t even a horror movie. They always say, “Dude, that’s a thriller. That’s not a horror movie. Have you ever watched an actual horror movie?”

But to me, “The Silence Of The Lambs” was horrifying. Therefore that movie counts as ‘horror’ in my book.

So I’ve never watched an actual horror movie. Never watched something technically categorized as ‘Horror’ (by peopled who like to categorize such things). And the idea of watching something like “Saw” or “The Ring”? Uh, no thanks.

I’ve watched a few thrillers, and those were definitely movies at my threshold. They were as scary as I could handle, and sometimes I can’t even handle movies in that category.

A couple of years ago my older daughter, Rain – who, like most teens, enjoys scary movies – showed me an Australian thriller that she thought was pretty good. Well, to be honest, she showed me half of an Australian thriller that she thought was pretty good. Because halfway through – in the midst of some humans doing HORRIBLE things to other humans – I got up and went to the bathroom.

But Rain knows me well enough to read my face, so she followed me, knocked on the bathroom door, and said, “Hey, Dad, are you okay?”

I opened the door and said, “Uh…the thing is, my stomach hurts a little bit?”

“Do you want us to turn this movie off?” She patted my back.

“No, no, I’m fine,” I said. “It’s really good.”

“Dad,” she said, “I’ve already seen it. Do you want to stop watching it?”

“Would that be okay?” I said.

“Yes,” she said, “that’s fine.”

So we stopped watching the Australian thriller. And I never actually gone back to it.

I’ve continued to not watch scary movies. In fact, I’m getting really, really good at not watching scary movies.


Driving Fast – One Of The Things I’m Not Good At

I know I’m supposed to be good at driving fast. I mean, I’m a man, right?

But the thing is…

I don’t like to drive fast. I don’t enjoy it in the city. I don’t enjoy it on a rural highway. And – to be completely honest – I don’t even like driving fast on the interstate (for example, on I-5, where everyone is supposed to drive like a homicidal maniac).

When my friend Ben Temple drives with me, I can feel it killing him. I can sense his sideways glances, his not-so-subtle checks of my speedometer. Or when I’m driving my daughter Rain somewhere, she often says, “Uh, dad, you’re going 28 in a 35.”

That’s right. I’m that guy.

So I try to drive a little faster, to make people happy. I try driving ALL THE WAY UP TO THE SPEED LIMIT sometimes. And on freeways, I sometimes go over. But I don’t enjoy the experience at all.

Honestly, I’d prefer to drive 25 or 30 almost everywhere. I mean – when you think about it – that’s still pretty fast, right? It’s faster than I can sprint. Faster than most humans can bike. And I looked it up, that’s as fast as a horse runs. So going 30 miles per hour is like being on a horse going FULL SPEED, but for longer than a horse could ever go full speed!

Also, I kind of like looking around and relaxing while I drive. I like to notice the types of trees I’m passing, the water level of the river passing under the bridge, how many crows are in a field, and if there are any red-tail hawks on any of the fence-posts.

I realize that my style of driving is not popular. People complain about it. People honk at me. They ride my bumper. They flip me off. Often, people do all three of those things even if I’m driving the speed limit – say, 25 in a 25.

When my wife asked me what I was typing right now, I said, “I decided to write about some things that I’m not good at.”

She said, “Like what?”

“Well,” I said, “like driving fast.”

“Oh yeah,” she said, “you’re not good at that. You’re really not good at that.”

My New Book Of (Not Too Serious) Essays Is Out!


This week, my new book came out. I would say that this is an important moment, except essays like “How To Make Out With A Raccoon” and “Why Carrots Should Be Afraid Of Me” don’t sound very important.

But if you like to laugh: Click here for the paperback.

If you have a Kindle, click here (Note: the book is free through Kindle Unlimited).

Junk In And Junk Out

As a teacher and writer, I’m constantly thinking about the trap of social media, how much time it takes, the emotional trade off, and how little I learn, all of this balanced by the relationships I make online (which I do value). So is it worth it?

I also think a lot about how much we consume in our culture – entertainment-wise – rather than create, the scales not being balanced in the least. I worry about each time I zone out watching a screen for more than a few minutes. If I want to create, and to create quality work, I have to consume less and create more. And when I do consume, it has to be high-quality art (great books, poetry, lyrical rappers, paintings, sculpture, essays, etc.).

But that’s me – how I would say it. Here’s someone else’s voice…

Quoting Benjamin P. Hardy (from Medium):

“Invest At Least 80% Of Your “Off” Time Into Learning

Most people are consumers rather than creators.

They are at work to get their paycheck, not to make a difference.

When left to their own devices, most people consume their time as well. It is only by investing your time that you get a return on that time.

Nearly every second spent on social media is consumed time. You can’t have that time back. Rather than making your future better, it actually made your future worse. Just like eating bad food, every consumed moment leaves you worse off. Every invested moment leaves you better off.

Entertainment is all well and good. But only when that entertainment is an investment in your relationships or yourself. You’ll know if it was an investment if that entertainment continues to yield returns over and over in your future. That may include positive memories, transformational learning, or deepened relationships.

Even still, life isn’t purely about being entertained. Education and learning is also key. And although both are essential, education will provide far greater returns in your future.

The world’s most successful people are intense learners. They are hard readers. They know that what they know determines how well they see the world. They know that what they know determines the quality of relationships they can have and the quality of work they can do.

If you are constantly consuming junk media, how can you possibly expect to create high value work? Your input directly translates to your output. Garbage in, garbage out.”

Pretty good, right? Blunt and to the point, but accurate.

On the topic of high-quality art, here are three novels I’ve read this year that were incredible:

1. Zadie Smith’s NW (Note: the structure of this book is so mind-blowing, it could never be made into a movie.)

2. James Welch’s Fools Crow (US and native history collide with fiction – I’ve thought about the perspective in this book every day for two months, since I finished it).

3. Kent Haruf’s Our Souls At Night (I don’t know if I’ve ever read protagonists as real as the ones in this book).