Don Lenik

Inlandia Creative Writers Workshops Feature – Idyllwild  Nominated by workshop leader Jean Waggoner


ME:        Hey, hair? Yeah, you, on top of my head, why don’t you keep on growing the way

you did when we were younger? Listen, I want to sing that old radio jingle again:


Brylcream, you look so debonair.

Brylcream, the gals’ll all pursue ya;

They love to run their fingers through your hair!


HAIR:      Aw, shut up, you fool; I’m dying, most of my companions are dead, brushed off.

Leave us be.


ME:         Whatta ya mean, “Leave us be”? You’re supposed to go on doin’ your thing, keep

puttin’ out, the way the rest of my body is (well, almost…I wish).


HAIR:      Look, we, the few, the brave, we’ve got some distant wild cousins on your neck,

on your chest. That’s the best we can do. They’re weak, but they’re willing. So you’re

shiny above. Be happy! STOP COMPLAINING.


ME:         Yeah, but try to understand. It costs ten bucks a haircut – they call it – but all I

ever get is a trim. I’m being cheated. Also, people are blinded by the glare from my



HAIR:      Forehead, shmorehead, you sorehead. Be thankful the rest of you is still

around; most of us aren’t. Ah, vanity, thy name is man. Wehhll…get a rug, you know,

a toupee. Or get a transplant. Go ahead. Hurt yourself. Spend the money. Cover your

ugly skull. Plastered on, whatever, we won’t mind the new neighbors. Comb us silly,

see if we care. Big deal, a little fuzz on the pate, HUHH.


* * *


Like Walt Whitman, Don Lenik worked as a journeyman pressman in the printing business. He tells an amusing story of when his first son came home from school after share-and-tell about what their dads did for work. The son complained that the kids had  heard “presser” instead of “pressman” and thought Don worked pressing clothes. Don and his wife Sheila (now deceased) moved to Idyllwild when he retired from his career in Los Angeles in 1994. That’s when Don began to share his life’s trove of story notes in various writing groups. He joined the first Idyllwild Inlandia Workshop in the summer of 2010. Don is the group’s most stalwart member and has kept many of the younger members [we’re all younger] amused with his zingers of homespun wit. His workshop leader especially likes his natural-sounding dialog.

About his writing, Don says, “I like a grabber for a title.” Sometimes he starts with a catchy title and builds a story he’s been thinking about around it. Putting something on paper is “a way of getting it out of my system,” he says. What he gets out may be meditation, diatribe, short sketch or completed story. Sometimes he writes in the voice of another – of someone with a body-piercing obsession or of the hair on his head. He says that what he writes first “doesn’t always make sense” and bemoans, “I have to revise drastically.”  Workshop writing, notes Don, “doesn’t come automatically,” as it seems for those “who write two pages while I have trouble with a half page.” Still, he says, he doesn’t bleed on the page, though he may sweat or cry, especially when he’s writing by himself and sad memories come back. “It’s a lonely business,” he insists.

Besides sharing his writing in workshops, Don keeps loneliness at bay by volunteering and participating in a number of other community groups, most notably the Garden Club, the Idyllwild Chorale and the Associates of Idyllwild Arts Foundation. He is a familiar face about town in Idyllwild. During the recent long drought, for example, Don could often be seen driving around with buckets and barrels doing “compassionate watering” of the flora in public spaces, like the ornamental cypresses at the Idyllwild Public Library. More recently, he served as a booster for the hill’s [Mt. San Jacinto’s] Lemon Lily Festival.