Saturday, June 02, 2018

A Child of the 60s.

One morning when I was a kid--maybe nine years old--I was in our back yard with a pal of mine when another kid we knew came walking toward us from the property line at the very rear of my parents' yard. It was actually misty that morning and he appeared from the fog like a figure from a spy movie. The kid was wearing a trench coat tied at the waist. No one I knew had a fucking trench coat and it looked cool as shit. And he had that goddamned fog--like it was tailor-fucking-made. My pal, Britt and I just gawked. The

other kid walked right up to us. He had a briefcase in his hand to go along with that damned trench coat. He even had a hat.

"Look what I got for Christmas," he told us.

He held out the briefcase. A Man From U.N.C.L.E. briefcase.

He opened it up. It was packed with cool-ass secret agent shit. It had a gun with a silencer. A snub-nosed revolver. A goddamned grenade. Walkie-talkie. An U.N.C.L.E. badge...other cool-ass shit.

"Damn,' we said.

After letting us stare at that shit for a while the kid closed the briefcase.

"Let me borrow it," I said.

"Yeah, let us borrow it," Britt added. "We'll just play with it and give it back to you."

The truth was we barely knew the other kid. He lived one street over and we rarely even saw the guy. He was just trolling the neighborhood to rub in what a cool-ass score he'd gotten for Christmas.

"No," he said.

"Aw, Come ON! Loan it to us!"

"Yeah," said Britt.

The other kid eyed us nervously and backed away with his hat and trench coat and briefcase. Several steps and he turned on his heel and made his way back the same route he'd walked in on. The London fog had burned off--it was just Atlanta January mist baked into a figment of our imagination by the sun.

I considered tackling him from behind and taking that goddamned briefcase. Maybe even the fucking trench coat, too. But I didn't.

To my memory, neither I nor Britt ever saw that lucky bastard again. He doesn't know how close he came to losing it all. Or maybe he did.

Damn, it was a sweet score.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I Went Hiking

I went hiking today in a part of South Carolina where I haven't been in a long time. I logged six hours driving (round trip) and eight hours hiking. I hit a number of waterfalls I wanted to see, but to me the most impressive thing were the forests I hiked through. I had forgotten that this area of Sumter National Forest has some amazing stands of hardwoods.

At first I thought this was a buckeye tree when I spotted it from the trail. But when I got down to the base of the trunk and looked up I could see that it's a Tulip tree.

I stitched this shot from four photos of the tree's trunk. One thing about Tulip trees is their tendency not to taper as much as other hardwoods.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Mad Ones.

My new book BEAUTIFUL BOY is coming out some time this year. I'm not sure of the exact release date, but the principal edits are done.

Working on the edits made me start thinking of my writing career. When I was a young man all I wanted to do was write. Almost everything else took a back seat to my desire and need to write. If there were other things to do, the act of creating a short story or a novel took precedence and so that is what I would do instead of anything else.

These days, though, this is not the case. I am an outdoorsman and enjoy kayaking, hiking, camping, and (especially) backpacking. Now when faced with a choice of working on a new novel or plotting a short story, or planning and executing a backpacking trip or a jaunt to go kayaking on a lake, I will choose to be outdoors, out in the sun, or climbing a forested mountain, or taking photos of waterfalls and wildlife.

When I was a kid I would look at the careers of many of the authors I admired in those days. And one thing generally struck me: their careers seemed to end well before they got old and died. I began to wonder if there was a burst of creative energy that lasted only so long and no longer. Yes, there were exceptions--folk who wrote for many decades. But most writers seemed to be active for only ten to fifteen years and then...nothin'.

I haven't, by any means, stopped writing. But I sure as Hell don't write obsessively as I did as a young man. When I do write I take my time and budget the hours and work with all due consideration. I used to think of myself as one of those "mad" folk that Jack Kerouac talked about:

“[...]the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

― Jack KerouacOn the Road

That's the way I was when I was writing. Mad and burning and obsessed by the world around me and focused on the fantasy of characters and situations whirling around in me ol' brain.

Maybe that fire is burning out. I don't know. All I can say is that often I would much rather be standing on the summit of a mountain that I labored to climb instead of sitting in front of the white screen putting down the words that once drove me crazy with desire to transfer to paper.

I think that I'm still one of the mad ones. But in a different space.

Yeah...I know where I'd rather be.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Fort Frederica

The USA has never done anything of more value than the establishment of National Parks and Forests and their accompanying wilderness areas, monuments, refuges, and associated sites. I have spent my life wandering around and exploring these places. There is actually nothing I like more than visiting what we have preserved and restored for everyone to enjoy.

Among these places are National Historical Monuments. My family and I rarely miss an opportunity to visit one when we find them. One that I have been visiting since I was a child is the Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island along the coast of Georgia.

In fact, some of my earliest memories are of walking around this well-preserved and protected historical site that was once a thriving military town of over 1500 people. It was established by the British to protect this part of the southeast from incursions from the Spanish who were, at that time, still competing for territory in what is now the USA.

The British, though, finally defeated the Spanish in the well-named Battle of Bloody Marsh and their foes retreated, never again to threaten the British colonies with invasion. After that, the military town began to lose its funding from the Crown and since it basically had only one reason for existing, the village population dwindled until no one was left and the maritime forests of pines and oak and palmetto covered it all and hid it from us.

Today the former town and fort have been carefully excavated and partially restored. The grounds are now immaculately kept and adorned with information signs with an excellent modern visitors center and museum attached.

My parents thought the monument was so beautiful that they requested that their combined ashes be scattered there, at the verge of the marsh. And so they were. This is one more reason I try to stop to visit the place whenever we travel near it.

Part of the fort with old cannon at the edge of the marsh.

Carole took this photo of me with this gigantic Live oak.

These old foundations have been excavated along the various streets of the almost vanished military village.

The grounds are beautiful and well maintained.

Bits of the old village cemetery.

Vines and Spanish moss adorn the big oaks.

A short video of part of our exploration of the Monument.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Life

I've lost close friends in the past, but no friend as close and as decent a man as my pal, Bill Gronroos. This past weekend I drove down to my hometown of Brunswick, Georgia to deliver the eulogy for him at his memorial service at the Palmetto Cemetery.

I cannot imagine ever having a more depressing thing to do. It was very hard and the entire time I was traveling to and from my hometown a cloud hung over me which has yet to dissipate.

Here, then, is the eulogy that I delivered, and some photos from the service and from a series of displays that were set up by his cousin, Mauri, to celebrate his life.

Bill as a radio DJ and from about the time he was the Voice of Woolworth's.

Bill's favorite Superman actor was George Reeves, but his cousins found this pen sketch he tossed off from memory of Kirk Alyn as Superman.

Me, delivering the eulogy.

One of the many displays of photos and memories of Bill's life. Created by his cousin, Mauri Lazaro.

One of Bill's Superman collectibles.

“Never Ending”
A Eulogy for Edward William Gronroos, Jr.

I knew Bill for most of my life. Since I met him when I was 18 and I’m now almost 61—that’s over 42 years--it is easy to say that he was the closest friend that I’ve had for the longest time. We knew one another well.

One thing that I want to mention today is the fact that Bill and I occasionally talked about sensitive subjects that lots of friends avoid because they want to stay friends. I think that says a lot for our friendship. You know the two subjects—religion and politics. Specifically, though, I think of what Bill had to say about the human soul.

Because Bill did believe in the soul and that it was ever-lasting. He thought that it was created, that it was here for the duration of his time on Earth, and that when he died it would continue on. Ever-lasting, as he insisted.

Another thing about Bill came from almost the first day I met him--he sincerely took to heart something that we both had heard and read as children and it went straight to the core of who he was.

You’ll recognize it if you ever spent much time around him. It originated with his favorite bit of pop literature—Superman, and it meant as much to Bill as anything can mean to anyone.

He believed in the never-ending battle.

He felt that a person was in for a never-ending battle as long as they were alive. And I saw it every day that I spent in Bill’s company. People gave him a hard time. Even his friends sometimes were less than charitable to him. But Bill persevered. It was all part of his eternal struggle. Not for truth and justice, maybe. But for as much of dignity as he could find and grasp while he was with us.

I knew that Bill suffered from depression. He told me about it from time to time, and what a burden it was for him. It was especially hard in the face of cruelty, and in the wake of all manner of personal disappointments and broken plans and dreams. But Bill was true to the creed that he’d first heard as a kid. It was important for him to keep up that never-ending battle because only a coward would do otherwise. More than anything, it was Bill’s job to be as strong as possible against whatever adversary the world chose to throw his way.

And now Bill is gone. Now he doesn’t have to struggle against the cruelty and harshness that sometimes found him. I often saw Bill create a solid wall of stoicism through things that would have reduced me to tears or rage or even violence. I watched Bill deflect hardship and callousness with humor, humility, and compassion. Bill was far and away a better man than I am.

This was because he displayed a kind of courage that I know I could never match. I could try for another forty years to do it and I’d never measure up.

And I know that Bill was right, that his soul is ever-lasting because of everyone who is here. If you knew Bill then a little of his personality is present in your hearts. When you hear music you will hear Bill’s voice. If a person is being bullied and responds with a smile you will see Bill. Someday when you are passing a bookshelf and spot a kid reading a superhero comic, you’ll know that Bill just gave you a wink. And if you are sometimes lonely you can think of Bill’s voice and his tendency for reason and his cool response with love in the face of difficulty, and you will be better for it.

Bill Gronroos fought that never-ending battle to the last beat of his heart, and his kind soul is certainly ever-lasting because I have felt it and heard it almost every day since he left this place where the rest of us still reside.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Bruce Campbell, Our Hero.

One thing my son and I agree on--well, there are actually shitloads of things we agree on--but one of them is that we freaking love Bruce Campbell. He makes us laugh. He always has.

Years and years ago we were in a big bookstore (remember those things...BOOKSTORES? Man, those were the days!). Anyway we descended the stairs from the top floor to the lower level (Yeah, I know, right?!! Two-story bookstores were actually a THING, man!) On a big table at the bottom of the stairs they had an entire display devoted to this book called MAKE LOVE THE BRUCE CAMPBELL WAY. We were just laughing at the title and cover. That alone had us going. So we picked one up and I started reading it out loud and after a few lines I was laughing so hard it was difficult to continue. But we kept reading it and it only got funnier.

After a while we put it down and left because clerks and customers were staring at us, plus I couldn't afford that damn book!

But it sure was funny.

Bruce Campbell--a man who carved a career out of corn. What a brilliant fucker.

Just the cover had us laughing.

PS: Sean Penn should have read this to learn how it's done.