Distilling his wisdom of 40 years on the street, noted Ashland character and occasional activist Randy Dolinger has published his book, "Epilogue: A Homeless Diary."
The 685-page tome embodies Dolinger's day-to-day musings, insights and philosophies, often with an admittedly "curmudgeonly" spin. It also details the many conversations with people in the Ashland community in cafes where he writes and sips his daily latte — as well as interactions on his year-long blog, from which the diary was taken.
"Anyone who reads it will come away happy, feeling the sense of realness and genuineness," he says. "That's what makes it worth reading — the reflection, the nature of the speech, the depth of the thought. It's controversial. I tell it like it is or how I see it."
The book just became available as an e-book on Kindle for $9, as a hard copy on Amazon for $19 and as a downloadable pdf for $12 on Dolinger's www.epiloguethebook.com, says its editor Jack Scull, a friend of Dolinger's and admirer of his style.
"It's beautiful prose," says Scull. "It struck me with its soulfulness and existential immediacy. It's raw, authentic. It's rare I encounter writing with that. ... It makes you stop and feel the connection with life and the presence of soul. I especially like it when he writes in nature and taps into the meaning of existence."
A philosophical tract in the book reads: "Why am I homeless? I don't know, really. Maybe the car wreck, the coma, the LSD — but who knows. Maybe the stint behind bars, or walking away from college (University of North Carolina). But that was more than 40 years ago. Why do I live like a beast in the woods after all these years. When I might have somehow gotten it together? If I think about it, I wonder if I ever had a chance be anything different and usually figure I didn't. I was meant to be right here, right now, sitting in this big chair and typing away on this keyboard. Meant to have nothing but what I got. This day, this chance to just move about and look at things. This freedom."
Dolinger in 2005 launched and edited a magazine, Express, conveying stories of townfolk. He often has worked to create a homeless village in Ashland and in 2006 ran for city council, garnering about a fifth of the vote. All these, and his blog, are now off his screen, he says, and he focuses on his writing and teaching chess, of which he is a master.
"People give me money to play chess with them. Someone gifted me with this PC laptop," says Dolinger. "Twenty years ago, I might have asked for some spare change, but now, everyone knows me and they come up come up to me and give me money. So, I'm able to buy food at the Ashland Co-op."
Dolinger camped in his tent in the woods of the Ashland watershed for many years but now reports bears have become too aggressive and have destroyed a tent of his three times in the past six weeks. Now he camps in the backyard of a friend.
In his rambling, shifting narrative, popping from present conversations in town, then back to the 1970s, Dolinger tells the touching tale of himself as a young man, deciding to walk deep into Death Valley with no food and water, only a bedroll and living off the good will of strangers. It makes you feel deeply for Dolinger as you try to plumb his orientation and motives that led to life in the streets of Ashland, a town he clearly loves.
When he finds things he doesn't love, such as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, he spells out his reasons. He is talking with a black man and deduces he must work for OSF, as "most all the black people in Ashland do ... I told him I was the guy who stands on the corner holding a sign saying Shakespeare is a monster devouring Ashland."
If the book takes off and the royalties start coming in, Dolinger says he'd like to give up the street life.