But Sir, Are You Real?

Youthful Passions

As a child my first real passion was baseball. I loved to be outside and in the summer we played ball every morning, then we would hang out at the community center for hours after practice. For a break from the heat, we would go inside the youth building, where an endless tournament of ping pong happened . . . the winner keeps playing, so it all worked out more or less equal.

There was a drink machine, either coke or 7-up, and at the age of 11 or 12, we tended to lean toward the 7-up . . . after all, that’s what was on our team uniforms, so it made sense. For lunch we had two choices, but this was before the revolution began. We had a choice between plain potato chips and barbecue, and both came in only one size. The revolution came with the introduction of salt & vinegar, but by memory it seems we were unscathed by this – the youth center seemed to be sheltered from the onslaught.

In looking back, everything seemed so innocent then, and perhaps that’s something I’m most thankful for – everything was for fun, with no intent beyond that. That innocence carried through in more intellectual pursuits. At that early age, it was a pleasure to drift off to the library, which was half town away from the ball park, perhaps a mile away. It was a place to go to find some shade, pick up a book or two and sit in the grass, under a tree, and read awhile.

Eclectic, just because

This was all independent learning. My parents didn’t tell me what to read, nor my teachers . . . it was summer and I was free. So for the fun of it I would pick out a big book about some ancient guy named Leonardo da Vinci. The only part that wasn’t fun was lugging this monster home – bike or no bike! It was a mixed bag, a little Leonardo, some Archie comics, detective books, logic puzzles, The Iliad, and those pin-up magazines stashed in a friend’s garage, the ones that belonged to his father. That garage was a library unto itself, and every boy in town knew about it, much more so than the place where I discovered the ancient guy that liked to invent as much as to draw.

This “pattern” of seemingly random interests continued most of my life, though there were periods of interruption, such as 7 years of college and university, and then something called becoming an adult. Eventually I grew out of all that. One piece of randomness really hit home. I can’t remember when I first came across Salvador Dali – it’s so long ago – it seems I found the big books most intriguing, probably because of the pictures. Yes, I’m guilty of not reading about him, of only studying the pictures, or rather of losing myself in them, and again, just for the fun of it.

Along the way I’d do a little writing, often adding some sketches and doodle to the scribbles, though I can no longer remember the details, only the innocent pleasure of the doing of it. The process never became wearisome, and there are limits to all the running around, the sports and stuff, such as the raiding of gardens and orchards.

A Return or an awakening?

About eight years ago, I left behind a lifestyle that is beyond description now. I took a leap of faith of sorts by returning to my innocence . . . my creativity. I didn’t do it haphazardly, though at the time many may have saw my decision that way. It’s a different kind of heartbreak to be ridiculed for such a decision, something I’ll never really understand, and something I really wasn’t prepared for, and I’m thankful for that as well – the lack of preparation. After all, if I had been able to foresee that kind of criticism, I’m not 100% sure that I would have been brave enough to change direction.

At first I thought I’d do some writing, but then the art took hold of me, and that has been a great surprise. In the past number of years I’ve actually done plenty of both, though the only “official” writing is in the form of a book, the novel I’ve been blogging about lately.

It bothers me somewhat, this moving between the art and the writing, even though I know than many creative people have done both, but then I see no valid reason to specialize. Perhaps it is only in this deep jungle of self-promotion where the only trouble lies . . . my self-induced brand confusion?

It does get frustrating at times – frustrating as hell, to be honest – staying positive is more of a challenge than I’d ever want to share with anyone. By that I mean much more than becoming successful, which for me is no more than paying the bills, attaining enough “security” to do what I do, and helping my children financially as much as I can. Yes, these necessities are trouble enough, but it is the bigger set of questions and observations that trouble me so much more – the stuff that is much bigger than me – the kind of stuff that gnaws at our very existence.

My favored combat for these bigger troubles is humor, though I can lose days on end in a personal despair, and hiding that has become kind of skill on its own. I say all this because this morning I came across a wonderful video about a man who seems so little understood – one of my childhood heroes – and the warmth and charm, and perhaps a touch of innocence, is all encapsulated in this clip – and yes, there is plenty of humor!

A leading man . . . undoubtedly, but not necessarily followed

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