A First Time for Everyone, A First Time for Me

With this I am adding myself to those who launch their thoughts in a universe that no one will ever know fully.

I remember seeing on a bookstore shelf a large paperback volume about the size of a telephone book (which, in itself, has nearly vanished from our lives) that listed all the websites on the Internet and had small, capsule summaries of each sites content and purpose. I don’t know how many editions of this book were printed. It was certainly obsolete within a few years. The Internet had grown so fast and so widely that no one and no thing, not even the search engine with the funny name, would ever comprehend it.

Oh, we can approach it. We can design algorithms that give us some information. But, like the 20th Century quantum physicists gazing into the innards of an atom, we are getting, at best, a probability: a likely story.

And, as is the case with most likely stories, the truth of the tale isn’t as important as its ability to make someone pay attention.

So, to those who have read so far, permit me to introduce myself.

I am a writer who, growing up, envied those who were older, because I assumed that they either solved the problems that were flustering me, or had developed that thick skin, suave attitude and blithe certainty that made living in a modern (now post-modern) world easier.

Many of my novels have characters who are older and wiser than the hero, who is naive, trusting, occasionally shy and stubbornly persevering in ways these older folks are not. Sometimes the older character, a parental figure, cannot communicate easily what the hero may need to solve the problem of the book. In one novel, Street Money, the hero’s father was dead, and the hero (or heroine) came to terms with his passing by understanding, accepting and reenacting her father’s profession. She also has the help of an older, mentor figure, a marginalized character cursed by a problem that can’t be solved.

I wrote that book when I was a bit older than my heroine. Now I’m close to the age of Shepherd Ladderback, the obituary writer who was so easily and eagerly ignored by almost all the staff of the fictional tabloid newpaper in Street Money and the subsequent books in that series.

In many ways, I have become the person I used to envy. My work has been published in ways that have brought me a small income, some attention, mostly good reviews and many adventures. I am married to my high school sweetheart, whom I dearly love. I am at a point in my life when I may write only what should be written, or what must be written.

Must blogs be written? I’m not sure about that. I’ve been told by people who write and read blogs that these  are vital for achieving an audience or community of readers.

As a reader, I never wanted to be part of a community. When I was a teenager, I had the chutzpah to call up some writers I admired on the telephone. Harlan Ellison. Isaac Asimov and Frederick Pohl talked to me for a while. My girlfriend (now my wife) and I met a young Dean Koontz at a science fiction convention. Lester Del Rey and Keith Laumer let me visit them. Keith, who became ill, let me “apprentice” myself to him, in exchange for helping him keep house and run errands.

I was hoping that some of their olderness would help me become the writer I wanted to be. Of all the writers I met then, and later as both an author, a journalist and teacher, I wanted to be like Keith, who lived alone in a beautiful house that he designed, on a Florida lake. He wrote about two to three hours every day. He read history voraciously and ate well. He didn’t care about how much money he spent–he flew first class when traveled, always bought brand name groceries and impulsively bought a convertible Cadillac that ended up in his lake (a story I will tell later).

Keith’s greatest difficult was his illness, a stroke that rendered most of his left side useless. He could walk with a brace and drive one handed. The stroke also blew out the part of his brain that dampened his anger. He would become quickly enraged at so many things: people who didn’t respond to him immediately, myself (when I didn’t do exactly as he wished) and, lastly, book editors, magazine editors and literary agents.

I learned eventually that there was a troublesome, problematic side to Keith’s seemingly idyllic lifestyle. He was divorced from his wife, and somewhat estranged from his son and daughters. But I always thought that, if I ever “made it,” I’d want to make it as he did.

I live in a house in a suburban sprawl that has a nice view of trees, and a deck where I can sit and, on some days, not hear the sounds of the machines that cool houses, mow lawns, blow leaves, sell ice cream in the summer (I wish the truck would play a different tune)  and fly people to far-off lands from the nearby airport.

I walk the dog to a pond that, as with most bodies of water around here, has a found in its center that pushes up a floodlit fan of water. The neighborhood is good, safe and friendly.

Unlike Keith, I don’t live alone. My wife and I are very much in love. We help each other and trust each other.

I don’t spend money as lavishly as Keith did, but I have enough to take care of small things, buy roses every week for my wife), travel (“economy” only!) a little and pay for birthday and holiday gifts for sons Brandon and Stephen. Having taught writing and history for many years as an adjunct, I moderate a thriving writers group whose members have gone on to win awards and have books published.

I haven’t had as many books published as Keith. Nor do I have the fame and admiration he achieved, within the science fiction community. I have moments when I wonder how things may have turned out if…things turned out differently.

I’m wise enough to know you can’t “be” another person. At best you can appreciate what you have, not as a thing achieved, but as a temporary place that will never be the same. Kindness and civility matter more than style and display. It’s nice to share your life with someone you love. The view from you window is ALWAYS good, even if you have days that are so dark you can barely see, or times when you don’t notice.

If I never wrote another word after this blog, I would want my last one to be “gratitude.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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