Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

To Be A Man Of Letters

I'm not a purist. Not by any stretch of the imagination. There are those who prefer longhand, sketching stories in pencil or pen on legal pads. Not me. 

No, I can barely read my own printing today. It's progressively gotten worse over the years, especially since I predominated type everything I write and have for decades.

The irony here is the fact that, throughout most of high school, I wanted to be an architect, and my printing was impeccable due to all the drafting courses I took.

But thanks to one typing class my freshman year in high school on an IBM Selectric III, my printing went to hell in a handbasket from then on. 

That's when my grandfather gave me his typewriter, a Remington Noiseless from the 1930's (hence my using the Courier font in this piece). The ribbon was a pain in the butt to manage, but mercy me I loved that typewriter. I typed many a poem, story and class paper on that old machine, and it was the only "word processor" I had my first year in college. Yes, white out was my best friend that year during all my late night typing fests. 

I dug up an interview I did with my grandfather the year after I learned how to type, one that I typed up on the very typewriter he gave me. We talked about the Great Depression and it's fascinating to me now since I've become a self-taught student of economics.

"Well, I [my grandfather speaking here] was 21 years old when the depression began, and my wife was 20. We lived in Bloomington, Indiana. We had gotten married just 6 months before the stock market crashed in 1929. The thing I noticed the most was that banks started closing and closing fast. People were losing money everywhere. People were also losing their homes.

Oh, yes, I remember the stock market crash! Besides losing money and banks closing, I was hearing of people killing themselves. Also, I had a friend that had lost all of his hair besides his money. He ended up separating from his wife and heading for the hills to pan for gold.

Most of the people I knew had lost their jobs. I was lucky. We lived on a farm. But the farm wasn't that good of an income then. I also chopped wood for making railroad ties at $0.10 an hour, 10 hours a day. I know it doesn't sound like much, but it helped a lot."

Ten cents an hour. Wow. Well, the writing for me continued and the typing went from the Remington to a Magnavox Videowriter (remember those?) to an early Apple home computer to a variety of PCs to my MacBook and iPad of today.

A big part of being a writer is reading and I've been fortunate to have such rich access to both. I grew up buried in books, tunneling through character and plot. Words were sustenance for heart and mind. I've always thanked my mother for feeding my primal critical thinking mind by reading to me and encouraging me to read and write. My wife grew up with a voracious appetite for reading as well.

So when the Mama and I had children, of course we planned to ignite our same love of books and story in them, which we've done successfully. The imagination fire in their bellies burns bright and we read every day and every night. 

The Mama takes both girls to the library every week and they bring a big bag of books home each and every time. This summer they've been in the Read to Rhythm program sponsored by the Santa Cruz Friends of the Santa Cruz Libraries. And speaking of economics, they're incentivized to read -- the more they read the more "book bucks" they get to spend on yummy treats around town.

Both Beatrice and Bryce are rich storytellers and have been telling them visually through drawing and play-acting (just as we did at a very early age as well). And now that Bea is learning to read and write, her heart lights up with story, which in turn lights up ours. Bryce isn't far behind either, already writing her name and other letters relaying animated visions as if the world were her stage.

I've been fortunate to write regularly with modest success and visibility, to publish a weekly column about empowering a better workplace, and to have published a children's book and a career management business book. My girls and the Mama also inspire me to one day write that great American novel as well, to be a man of letters I've always aspired to be.

Maybe someday...

Just don't ask me to handwrite anything. It would be like trying to read Tolkien Dwarvish runes. Trust me. 

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