Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Short History of a Middle Aged Neophyte Scribbler/Writer

    I may have or may not have written a story in the sixth grade and if I did that would have been after finally learning to read and that was during my sixth year of school. My mother, the school-teacher, bought me a condensed version of Kidnapped by Robert Louse Stevenson published by Walt Disney. Why I could not read until sixth grade was a major lack of interest of what was going on around my space. Grade school reading material such as Dick and Jane, and I guess Spot was in there somewhere, did not find any interest in my space where life was a lot more interesting. Years later I finally learned why Jane had more money to jiggle in her pocket than Dick did or maybe that was the couple that went to fetch water... Most my grade school time was spent acting up or staring out the window past the playground and beyond, dreaming about rescuing women in distress. Women who had little interest in me, a mere boy. The truth; they were some years older than I was. The experts tell us to read to our children to install an interest in reading but my reality was that I was pushed to learn by the system to read; I failed. I did not relate to the adventures of Dick and Jane.

 The script is much worse in the original and it is not much better now, it reads,
"I read this book"
Michael Edmondson Oct 24, 1960
312 Belmont ct
   My mother, the school-teacher did read to us kids and the one book I do remember is titled The Little Peppers and the book must have been a series; I do not remember really what they were about except that they were about the doings of the Pepper children. The disconnect was between Dick and Jane and what my mother read to us and what I thought reading was supposed to be about. The fault was certainly Dick and the gang! Boring.
   Most people would think a grade school teacher who graduated from high school by the time she was sixteen as valedictorian and then earned a teachers certificate and started teaching at eighteen years of age would have some idea as to how to help this kid out. Then thinking about that period of time in my life I was more of a handful at home than I was in school. What with her work and raising three kids there was not much time to worry too much about kids. Feed them, shelter them and hope they are not skipping and hope her oldest sun was adult enough to was or thought I was an adult and did my best to take some care of my brother and sister between torturing them. I had the habit of hanging around adults who wanted me to be seen and not heard and preferably out of sight too. I wanted to be there equal. 
   I was allowed to continue my ways in school; the teachers found it was better to leave the boy alone and concentrate on the kids that had a little more interest in the subject matter than I did and I liked it just fine. After repeating second grade plus behavior problems I figure the school system let me slide out of their way to better things.
    I liked to draw. I generally drew images from art books and if there was a racy image, that was even better! See I knew what adults liked. I did not attempt to read these books I had a reputation to uphold. I also missed the notion that images were a type of reading.
   Moving on into my teens I was reading mostly short stories. The idea that I could handle any more than a book of short stories was beyond my concept. I must have thought that reading more than a short story may lead me back to Dick and Jane and a long day of boredom just like it was in school. Later in high school I did read a few novels; at twenty-four I read The Hobbit, wow. I had to tackle The Lord of The Rings. I was growing up when it came to literature. The growth began with Kidnapped.
 Two or three times through my schooling I was discouraged in my interest in art. The first instance was in grade school when a teacher insisted that us children snap our brand new yellow and green box of Crayons in half, the fat ones with the flat bottom or is it side? Insult met insult when we had to peel off the paper, which was too much. The second instance was in seventh grade when I was, along with the class, assigned a project involving sewing up a round stuffed pillow, in my anger I created an over-stuffed pillow, with diamond-shaped pleats. The event discouraged me from any real pursuit of art. I had ideas as to what is art and not art. For many years the pillow had a prominent place on whatever couch I possessed until it rolled up against a heater and caught fire.
 I recovered my balance when I entered high school. The art class was more than a place for students that wanted an easy course. The teacher actually taught art and I paid attention to what she said. My horizons were broadening. Plus the A's in art class balanced my D- in all the other classes.
 My interest in art came to the fore. I was drawing again and dabbling in poems and prose and I will add that the poetry and prose was horrifyingly bad; there was no pill that could hide the facts.
 I wrote my one and only paper in High school. I cannot remember what the class was about. I never enjoyed most of my schooling, school was quite boring and forgettable with the low points being the memorable moments.
 The paper was memorable despite my general lack of interest in school, it was about why people seemed to have a need for some form of deity going way back into the mists of time. Evidence goes back to cave dwellers, half of whom were thugs carrying clubs trying to romance the babe down the street.
 The teacher asked if he could keep the paper and I said yes with no notion of asking for a copy; I did not care and I believe I was only trying to avoid an F in his class. The art teacher generally kept my work too with the thought that I may acquire some amount of recognition. I fooled her.
 High school was the first place where I had something published. I submitted a gag cartoon to the schools newspaper, the Trojan. I have a notion, but no evidence, that it was about school sports. The short story I submitted was rejected and lacking a proper rejection slip! The story was science fiction about an elevator.
 At home I would be down in the basement in my bedroom with sound proof walls made from bed sheets, writing lines for my gag cartoons then drawing a picture to see if I could combine the text with the drawing in an effort to create a coherent gag.
 Unlike established cartoonist who could submit a draft I would draw the panel as a finished piece and then submit it to my favorite magazines. Where would I start, hum, it may as well start at the top with my favorite magazines being Playboy, The New Yorker, Life and Hustler; at the age of nineteen; Hustler was especially interesting; I possessed a well honed curiosity. Despite my continuing notion that I was an adult I was not much more than a kid at heart.
 Looking back I believe that the reasons I continued to send the cartoons off to the top magazines was to see how many rejection slips I could collect. Collecting rejections was easy the hard part was postage. I had to panhandle money from my mother for manila envelops and stamps, not just for the mailing; there was the second smaller envelope so that the panels could be returned. Today a lot of people would be happy to buy stamps at the same prices I/mother paid for them.

This is a copy of the original. This is the only one I have left. I am the sort of mad artist who throws stuff away now and then.
 One day a batch of cartoons arrived late. I hauled the batch of cartoons from the mailbox in anticipation to see the latest Playboy rejection slip and to figure out why they were so late. Among the returned panels was one that had a small red x in the lower right hand corner on the back of the sheet. Since the returned batch of gags was unusually late, I imagined that the panel was held up in case the art editor decided to use it. OH well.
 I finally graduated from east high in a class of three hundred plus students. Thank goodness the system called you up to receive your diploma alphabetically, mine being E, instead of by your grades or I would have been one of the very last ones to be handed a diploma along with the congratulation and handshake. The reason I went to the affair was that my girlfriend was a few chairs down from me. When I got home the diploma went into the trash, I then felt I had completed a full education.
 I used to think that a writer had to have a childhood of suffering to be a good writer. Also the said writer would write in a drafty cold garret, chain-smoking non-filtered Camels. The place would have cheap booze on a convenient shelf and some drug/s of choice would complete the picture. 
 In the last few years I started composing haiku. I know that nature is supposed to be the main subject and many contemporary haiku are nontraditional. The few I have written are not about nature except this one.
 Deep in the spring loom
Tendrils of life reach skyward
Roots entwine my soul
The following haiku is a non-traditional type.
Trick of a good life
 Death a minor distraction
Waste none of the time
 Writing haiku feels, to me, like plagiarism. I believe forty monkeys could leisurely type out a good haiku in a few hours stopping now and then for a snack of bananas and other fooling around such as mimicking humans.
 The reasonably successful haiku was inspiring. Since I liked my haiku's I decided to try my hand at something a little longer; first lines. I was googling first lines one day when I ran across “It was a dark and stormy night so I set out to see if I could out do this classic first line with no particular interest in expanding them into anything else such as a short story. As it worked out I liked some of the lines and a few of them suggested possible plot lines. So here I am scribbling short stories.
 Some months back while listening to NPR on Talk of the Nation an author was being interviewed by Neil, the author talked about how successful people came to be where they are. The people included anyone who learned a skill. These people included artists, plumbers, and bakers to CEO's. According to the author it took these people and others ten thousand hours to get to where they are. I wonder if I still have time. 
 I have a fear of grammar checkers. The fear is that the checker will strip the style from my work and bring ruin to my thoughts that were laboriously brought to the page.



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