Archive | February, 2018

And the Message Is . . . ?

27 Feb

childhood homeYou get to be my age, you spend a lot of time thinking about the “good old days.”

Truth be told, I’m not sure they were any better days than today’s days, but I think we always want to think things were “better” at one time or another, right?

I was thinking about the house I grew up in on North 18th Street in Tacoma, Washington.  We moved there when I was five.  I lived there until my mother remarried when I was twenty-four.  Almost twenty years in that home and yes, there are some great memories associated with it and yes, there are some painful memories as well.

I think when I was about eight or nine my dad put a basketball hoop in the back yard.  The hoop was attached to a sheet of plywood, and he attached the whole thing to the back porch.

Allow me to set the scene for you:  the basketball hoop attached to the back porch overhang, above the cement patio.  At each corner of that patio was a fruit tree.  I remember we had an apple tree, a plum, a peach, and a pear, and when that basketball hoop was originally hung those trees were maybe five years old and not an obstruction at all.

That changed with each ensuing year.  Each year saw more and more branches stretching skyward, sometimes at odd angles, so eventually it became necessary to either cut off some branches or learn to shoot the basketball around or over them.  I chose the latter.  I learned to shoot at odd angles.  I learned to shoot with a higher arc. And I learned trick shots which came in very handy when friends of mine would come over and we inevitably played competitive games like “Horse.”

I was practically unbeatable at home, the ultimate home court advantage, thanks to those four trees.

Yes, that all happened, but it could also be used as a metaphor for those of us who are writers and/or creative types.  The interesting thing about metaphors is they quite often mean different things to different people.

Think about it!  There’s no need for me to state the obvious to you very smart people.

Have a great week unless you’ve made other plans.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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Choose Wisely

20 Feb

No talent there . . . or is there?

Let me take you back to 1957, the summer of my eighth year on this planet.  Our family took a road trip back to Charles City, Iowa, to see my dad’s family, a family he hadn’t seen in nine years since he and my mother had moved out west to Tacoma, Washington.

No freeways back then, just highway driving through small towns, across the Great Plains, over mountains, seeing the backroads of America in a Mercury, exciting stuff for me.

Charles City was magic for me in 1957.  My grandparents had a corn farm, shrunk since losing most of it in the Great Depression, but a farm nonetheless, and it was my first experience on a farm and I loved every minute of it.  Meeting all the relatives, marveling at the small town and how everyone knew everyone else, the majestic oaks and elms and lightning bugs at night, bullfrogs croaking, tractors and chickens and lemonade on the front porch . . . yes, magical indeed.

One of my uncles, Uncle Ike, was fairly famous in town for owning the only Vespa Motor Scooter.  He had it shipped from Europe following World War 2, and he was quite the sight in that farming community, puttering around town on that scooter, weaving in and out of pickup trucks, dodging tractors, a wiry man on a tiny purple scooter, and that wiry man would come to the farm each day and take me for a ride on that scooter, and I thought that was probably the coolest thing I had ever done.

Our rides would always end up at A & W where we would have either a root beer float or an ice cream cone, either one, every single day, Nirvana in Iowa, and I remember each visit to the A & W involving that one tough decision, float or ice cream cone, and Uncle Ike telling me I could only have one, so choose wisely.

It’s funny the things we remember, isn’t it?  Sixty years have passed and I still remember those words “choose wisely.”

And I remembered those words about four months ago when a very rich customer, a real estate entrepreneur in Fort Worth, Texas, asked me to fly down to Fort Worth to work on his next “inspirational business book,” as he put it.  He would pay for the airfare, of course, put me up in a hotel, and pay for my time down there while I interviewed people and discussed the parameters of the book with him.  All told it was probably going to be about a $10,000 windfall for me.

I turned him down.  It really came down to two choices: extra money or staying home with Bev and the animals.

“Choose wisely, Bill!”

I don’t need the money.  I do need Bev and the animals.

It turned out to be an easy choice.

Being in business involves choices and decisions.

Choose wisely!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

 

 

Being Human

13 Feb

No talent there . . . or is there?

“Mom, how come Uncle Mike drinks so much?”

She looked at me for the longest time, probably deciding on how much a twelve-year old needed to know.  Skeletons, it seems, are usually retrieved from the closet one bone at a time.

“It’s because of the war, Bill.  Uncle Mike drinks too much because of the things he saw in World War 2.”

The initials PTSD were not spoken back in 1960.  Words like “shell-shocked” were more common, an ineffectual way to describe someone who has seen more than he was prepared to see . . . more than any human should ever see.

Uncle Mike eventually sobered up and lived the last twenty years of his life sober, the father of fifteen kids, a new car salesman in Torrance, California.  He had a great sense of humor, Uncle Mike did, and he was a gentle soul . . . I remember that clearly . . . and I also remember that years and years after that war ended, on occasion, Uncle Mike would hear a car backfire, or hear the loud clang of a garbage can lid, and he would get this blank look on his face, and just like that he was back in the countryside of France in full gear, wondering when a bullet with his name on it would finally relieve him of his fear.

I mention all this because I find human beings fascinating, each and every one of them, complex beings with the capacity to amaze, and as a writer I would be ignoring one of the great resources we all have at our disposal every day . . . our fellow travelers on this planet.

I think about Uncle Mike from time to time.  I wonder how many people asked that same question about me:  “Mom, how come Bill drinks so much?”  And the answer, really, is as complex and as simple as this:  Because I am, because we all are, human!

Have a great week of writing!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Construction, Baseball, and The Point

6 Feb

I learned what few carpentry skills I have by observation.

I literally stopped by a construction site (several as a matter of fact) and watched as a house was built from the ground up.

Foundation . . . framing . . . electrical and plumbing . . . walls and roof . . . finish work . . . finished product.

That’s how it’s done in construction.  You don’t begin with the finish work.   You don’t put a roof on without framing.  You don’t frame without a strong foundation.  You follow the order as it is listed above, and when you are done you have a solid building which will stand for years.

And that, too, is how it is done in the Arts!

A story with a similar message . . .

When I was about ten, I saw an advertisement for a Willie Mays baseball glove.  It was made of the finest leather, great product I’m sure, and the ad promised that you could play like Willie Mays with that glove.  So I waited for my dad to come home from work, and I told him I absolutely had to have a Willie Mays glove because it was going to make me a great baseball player.

No, Dad said, it’s not the glove that makes a great baseball player . . . it’s the player’s dedication and hard-work, plus some God-given talent.  The glove has nothing at all to do with it, he said.  Learn to play the game properly, practice hard, and then keep practicing.  If you do that, he said, it won’t make any difference what glove you have on your hand.  He told me when he was a kid, some pro ballplayers were barnstorming through the Midwest during the Great Depression, and several of them didn’t even have gloves, and they fielded balls like the pros they were.

Here’s the point . . .

Well, I have faith that you are smart enough to figure out the point.

Right?

Anyone remember an animated short movie by Harry Nielsen called “The Point” from mid-Eighties?

Anyway, have a great week!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”