October 2006


Reading Stephen King’s book, “On Writing.” It’s great, whether or not you’re a writer. I love to read what other writers are thinking about, in terms of the craft, but even more fun here, are his reflections on the moments that shaped him. In his school years he wrote and printed up stories to sell to his fellow schoolmates. At one point, he gets in trouble for it and has to return the $9. he made. Worse, he’s made to feel ashamed for his writing. Man, the damage that gets done to us along the way. Having a son in school right now, it hurts to see the aggressive misinformation, all across the board, that gets inflicted on kids- the kids we all once were, and in some part of us, still are.
Here’s a quote:
‘I was ashamed. I have spent a good many years since- too many, I think- being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God- given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all. I’m not editorializing, just trying to give you the facts as I see them.’

The biographical aspects of the book are what really hit home for me. The house I grew up in is down the street, turn left, from his. Actually ‘his’ house is still Eddie Albert’s house, in my mind; the kid who lived there when I was growing up. It’s one of the streets in my hometown where the ‘rich’ people lived. The doctors and lawyers and such. I never thought that much about it at the time. In my family we made $200. and spent $200. On that street I’m assuming the numbers were higher and probably some of those numbers were out there somewhere increasing in some fashion. That fashion would have been helpful information to have learned, but listen, I’m grateful for the love and care that my parents sent me into the world with. They watched over me, and now I watch over mine.
Next door to what is now the Stephen King house was Doug Irwin’s house. His Dad was a doctor. He later married one of my high school girlfriends. She was ‘hot’. I don’t blame him. Man, there are a million digressions I could make here. In between Doug’s and Eddie’s house was a shortcut home from school. A path through ‘the woods.’ I think that there’s a baseball field there now that Stephen King donated to the city.
At one point Stephen worked a mill job. So did I. So did Ray LaMontagne (great singer/songwriter from Maine you should know about). Why does every blue collar kid in Maine end up working at the mill. Too bad I don’t write horror stories, as the mill jobs were a living hell every single day. For those who didn’t have the option of getting out, as I did, that living hell equaled their whole life. Ah, well, ‘get out’ is what I did. At least, so far, so good. I got the jones for big cities. Moving to New York, I found ‘home.’ The funny thing is that New York actually reminds me of Maine, especially, compared to Los Angeles. New York has the same weather, the same red brick buildings, the same earthiness and hardscrabble attitudes. Of course, New York has many layers of sophistcation and big money, far and above what Maine has to offer, but really it’s just a multiplication of the street that Stephen King lives on. From West Broadway in Bangor, Maine, to West Broadway in Soho, Manahttan. I’ll write more about Stephen’s book as I make my way through it.

I’ve been reading the poetry of Debora Greger. She writes a lot about Florida, where she teaches, I guess. I’ve been there a few times but it never clicked in, as a place of importance on my personal richter scale. I was in Key West once with my first love. I recall a brief moment of paradisical bliss there- a beautiful beach and lush surroundings. Later I had a girlfriend who had a place in/on Sanibel Island. I’m not even sure if it is, in fact, an island. I pictured a strip mall surrounded by an empty beach, and maybe a gated community of stucco houses that all looked the same. I’m not sure what she did on Sanibel Island, but it may have been illegal. Real estate was probably part of it. Isn’t real estate in the category of criminal activity? I digress. Here’s a cool poem from Debora Greger;

Too Close

I haven’t met you yet, I’m out the door,
late for a bus, suitcase spilling open,
disgorging my life so far.

I won’t be needing it, but don’t know that yet.
Bus driver, go slowly around the bends
of dream so as not to wake me.

But don’t fall asleep yourself, no matter how empty
the landscape of childhood seems.
There is dust on the dust

of the past. Through my reflection, I look
out the window onto nothing:
a fence full of tumbleweeds

trying to keep a vast emptiness off empty highway.
The past takes forever to cross. Bus driver,
don’t drive so near the river-

or is that an irrigation ditch? Is that thunder
I hear, or engine trouble?
It never rained in the past.

Love, am I on my way to you? It will take years
of nights like this for me to arrive.