Excising the Words

05/22/2016 at 9:17 pm (Author Updates, Novel Excerpts, Telegraph Ave.)

This past week I’ve spent most of my creative-life time finishing a final edit of Bear before I send it out to a professional editor for copy/line editing and proofreading. I have a list of strong editors, and I am in the process of winnowing them down to one I’d like to send a sample five pages to in the next month or so. At this stage, and given the fact that I will not have the guidance of a big publisher’s editor prior to the book being released out into the world, I think it’s vitally important that I get a professional set of eyes on my current draft before I consider it my “final” draft. This will be my only “first published novel” and it’s up to me – and only me – to make sure it’s the very best it can possibly be; I don’t want to skip any steps that I might later regret.

As I do my best to post Bear-related topics each and every week until the release of the novel, I will be sharing reviews of books from the 60’s and early 70’s that my main character Stephen’s mother Rose and her boyfriend Ken would most likely have read prior to 1976. Look for my short reviews from Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan, Charles Bukowski‘s Post Office, The Merry Christian by Terry Southern, and other counter-culture underground classics, as well as various odds and ends (including books that inspired me during the many years of writing my own book). There will also be more small character studies; edited scenes or snippets that won’t appear in the finished version; photos of Berkeley and Oakland; bits of history about the Bay Area; and details of historic events that occurred during the summer of Bear.

This week, in the spirit of all the editing and excising I’ve been doing, I’d like to share a short scene that I cut a few drafts ago. It’s part of a larger scene, where Stephen travels up to Telegraph with his buddy Trevor and Trevor’s teenage brother Art. There, they experience a very “Berkeley” moment.


At the corner of Telegraph at Dwight Way, cars traveled fast up the one-way street, so we waited for the green light to cross. A guy in flowy pants and a t-shirt that exposed his belly swept through behind us and into the crosswalk. As he slowed his gait, the cars suddenly slowed and braked to avoid crashing right into him. Halfway through the street, the light still bright red and unwavering, he slowed his pace even more.

“Defiant asshole,” Art said, “gonna get nailed out there.”

While the other cars had stopped for the jaywalking guy with the head full of unkempt blond curls, a gray van approached him and the crosswalk with nothing but speed. Oblivious, he continued walking at his inchworm pace, still a good five feet from the sidewalk in front of him. The van’s driver blew his horn, but didn’t ease up on his speed, and I was both horrified and mesmerized at what was going to happen next.

The van barrelled through, and the guy disappeared. My body stiffened in the same way it did when I was getting a shot at the doctor’s office. I didn’t hear a sickly crunch like I thought I would, and my hands unclenched. When the back of the van passed through the crosswalk, the guy had reached the curb and was yelling up the street.

“I’m walking here,” he shouted through cupped hands. “I’ve got the right of way.”

The light finally turned green for the three of us, and we crossed together.

“Guy’s seen Midnight Cowboy ten too many times,” Art laughed, speaking loud enough for the guy in front of us to hear him. I hadn’t seen it, but I thought maybe the movie had something to do with a person who jaywalks a lot.

photo by Justin McFarr

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