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The Hope He Had

30 Sep

Winner of the 2014 Oregon Writer’s Colony writing contest. 

Finalist in the 2015 Pacific Northwest Writers Association writing contest.


Sometimes a walk with your dog is not always just a walk with your dog…

That’s what the detective told me when the case was closed.

It started when I took my dog to a river. Gnarled tree stumps carried from headwater streams shared the shoreline with plastic bottles, candy wrappers, and the occasional hypodermic needle. Cranes dotted the Williamette River’s banks, perched over the water like herons waiting for prey. The metal reverb of shipping containers echoed across the water. Ospreys and gulls traded calls. Vessels of all sizes sliced the surface of the river. Cormorants bobbed in their wakes, diving for long minutes in search of food. Cars raced east and west on the bridges, salmon charged upstream, and century-old sturgeon sifted through silt in the depths.

I roamed the river’s edge, pocketed pebbles, and wrestled large pieces of driftwood back to my van for my garden. My footprints were crisscrossed with the drag marks of my latest finds. Big Head, my yellow lab, pawed and chewed at the logs as we moved along, steady but unhurried, like the currents at our side.  

I noticed the black briefcase first. Zippers open, sand sticking to the cloth areas. With warning thoughts about heroin needles, I searched the main compartment and pockets, never plunging my hand in blindly. No identification. Empty. Then I noticed the shoes, the shirts, and the pants nearby. I wondered if the contents had spilled out naturally, or if someone had dumped them looking for bounty. I knelt, reached for the nearest pants pocket and felt the unmistakable shape of a wad of money, rolled and bending slightly with each squeeze of my hand. Continue reading


Mena Kore E heke mai te ua, Ehara te Kopere (Maori Proverb)

6 Feb


Mena Kore E heke mai te ua, Ehara te Kopere

Without Rain There Can Be No Rainbows

Rainbow NFN

Oregon Coast February 2014

Moment: An exact point in time. (Oxford Dictionary)

Rainbow:  A moment created by billions of moments working collectively. 

* * *

It takes billions of raindrops to form a rainbow and the work of each drop lasts only a fraction of second, for while the bow hangs in the sky the drops themselves are falling… a perfect example of collective action in nature.  “Weather” By T. HOKE)

* * *

I’ve always appreciated rainbows but after living in New Zealand, I came to embrace them. I arrived in NZ during springtime mourning the loss of my dog and my brother. Sometimes I’d see the sun come and go dozens of times during a single day as I searched for a teaching job. I lost count of the number of times gray clouds of despair yielded to double rainbows of teary-eyed jubilation. I eventually landed a job in the countryside and met the rainbow pictured below; it ended up gracing the cover of my multimedia book, Without Rain There Can Be No Rainbows.


Ryan Chin Book Cover

“I notice a wall of rain in the eastern sky and the sun striving to find a hole in the clouds…Seizing the moment and catching it just right consumes me in many different ways…I’ve started trying to catch rainbows.

After studying the clouds’ movements, the location of the sun, and the size of the raindrops, I try to position myself in the right place to watch a rainbow materialize. When I hit it just right, the clouds part, a rainbow pastes itself to the center of my vision, and I’m reminded all over again of the brevity of beauty. It’s not quite as exhilarating as tucking myself inside the tube of a wave, but I’ll take it…”

Excerpt from “Without Rain There Can Be No Rainbows.”

* * *

The size and number of rain drops, the angle and intensity of the sun, and your position must be perfect in order to meet a rainbowEven when the rainbow seems close, you can never actually stand under one and see it at the same time because as the diagram below shows, your position matters. Continue reading

Forget It

11 Feb
Two Forgets equals a Remember…

I’ve enriched my life in many ways by remembering things, but forgetting has its benefits too. It’s a known fact that forgetting is a necessary part of human function. As a National Geographic article on memory put it, “If everything we looked at, smelled, heard, or thought was immediately filed away in our long term memory, we’d be drowning in irrelevant information.”  While it’s good to know that forgetfulness keeps our heads from exploding, there’s more to it than that: forgetting can lead to more surprises–and thus a more joy-filled life; two “forgets equals a remember” (I’ll explain later); and forgetful mistakes can actually create some wonderful memories. Continue reading

Keep Going

11 Feb

A video dedicated to all creative warriors…

Shack Attack

The stories behind the video

A pile of mulch has sat in front of my house for four months now.  A long sinuous line of the stuff stretches down the street starting with the largest pieces and tapering down to the finest particles. If my son was older, I’d use it as an example of erosion and how fluvial deposits form, but he’s not. He’s only a couple pounds and still inside Lori’s womb.  I feel a little bad neglecting that pile of mulch but I’ve other work to do.

As I load my twenty dollar bike into the van and hang my grandpa’s old suit off a bungee cord, the ‘I shoulds’ shoot at me from all directions. I should shovel that pile of mulch. I should work on the baby’s room. I should work on that kitchen remodel bid.  I should work on a business newsletter. My remodeling business after all is “real work” that pays.  I chuckle and check my gear: Video camera-check, tripod-check, notes and storyboard-check, guitar-check, beer, food and firewood-check.

“Where are you going again?” asks Lori.
“Brett and I are going to the shack.  I saw this old shack when I was out fly fishing and thought it’d be a cool place to shoot video, “ I reply.
“Oh…a shack,” she says with her eyes rolling towards the mulch pile.
I kiss her goodbye and rub her belly, “The shack!”

She gives me the look. The look can go both ways: I married this guy? Or I love this guy!  Today, it’s a little of both. I take pride in soliciting the look; it’s a sign of a healthy marriage. Actually if it weren’t for Brett, an old buddy whom she loves, I’m positive this mission would be vetoed. Brett is visiting from Chicago and she knows how little we get to hang out.  We zoom off before more mulch piles can erode our resolve.  Two hours later we pull the van off the road.  Forty mile an hour wind gusts rock the van and speeding trucks and cars add to the maelstrom.  We start gathering our gear for the steep walk in.

“You see it!” I scream.
Brett zips up his coat and pulls on his hat, “The shack man!”
“Definitely private range land!“ I shout, “All good though. It’s too shitty out. No one will know we’re down there!”

Having been exposed to Chin-antics for almost twenty years now, Brett simply shrugs and grabs the camera and tripod; everyone needs a friend like Brett. He’s been putting the ‘I shoulds’ aside for much longer than I, transforming silly-little ideas into reality for decades. He’s a black belt creative warrior who taught me to think decrepit shacks in the middle of nowhere are the best things in the world. I change into my grandpa’s old suit and we’re ready.

We stumble into a high desert valley in Eastern Oregon with dust biting our faces.  Sage bushes bend and sway almost as if they are yawning: High winds, dust and cold. What’s new?  We stop occasionally to marvel at the power and landscape. I stare at the leaning structure in the distance and joke about the rifle shots we’d feel but never hear.

Brett thrusts the tripod towards the gray sky and marches on.

Read on for Extras

I know son…books are pretty cool.

Continue reading


4 Dec

Dedicated to all the sweat stained packs.


My Pack and I on a trout hunt in New Zealand

It’s been to Mexico four times, Portugal twice, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada, Nepal and China. In China, I stuffed it into a plaid plastic bag, the kind of bag locals used for laundry or to keep their groceries dry on a rainy day. Hiding it was a futile attempt to blend in with the local population. Maybe it was the way I peddled my bike, maybe it was my smile, or maybe it was the Jack Johnson blaring out the basket on the handlebars. Whatever the reason, hiding my backpack in the zippered bag had done little to mask my “not from here” status. Real Chinese people strained their necks wondering, “What’s that guys story?” Continue reading

Mom is Right Again (Turning my back on Black Friday)

20 Nov

The Consumerism/Materialism Cut from my film, Herded.

Shot along Michigan Ave in Chicago and mixed in with New Zealand footage.

Herded screened at the 2005 Oakland International Film Festival, 2005 Brainwash Film Festival and is featured on the Best of Brainwash DVD.

* * *

I loved toys as much the next kid, but I remember building a remote control car with my Dad more than the joy of actually playing with it.  I remember the heavy closing of our car’s trunk when Dad said it’s time to go fishing.  I remember Mom driving me to the next town to buy skateboarding gear just as much as the many hours of thrashing the boards she bought me.

As I look forward to fatherhood, I don’t see myself buying the latest and greatest shoes for my future son.  I do, however, see leaves kicking up behind him as I give chase through a Northwest forest; damp ferns whip his face and my outstretched arms are about to tag him.

Later, as we drive home, I will answer his many questions.

“I’m not sure if trees talk to each other the same we can talk, but I bet they have friends like we do….”

As I go on about the value of friendship, I notice his eyes close and a long stream of viscous drool making its way to the tip of his chin.  I continue with my lecture anyways and quote my mom.

Time is the best gift….you know that’s what your grandma always says..

His lips quiver into a smile and his legs twitch; he’s still running through the forest. We zoom along, father and son. Our car has no logos and come to think of it, I don’t even know what color it is.

2010 Update…Kiddo is doing well!

Son, is that a Ralph Laren Hat and a Oh My Gosh!–how much did you fricken pay–Onesie?

No Dad, I don’t need those things to be cool because I am cool!