Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Chasing the White Rabbit

It would seem I’ve always been a bit slow on the uptake. Back in the day, I was lucky enough to get into Cretin High School, slipping ahead of 370 other young men, to form the rear guard of my class. I started St. Thomas College then dropped out. I flunked out of the University of Minnesota after two quarters. I survived the US Army, living in Europe and several false starts before finding my footing in public television and video marketing.

Nevertheless, all during that formidable baking/brewing period of my life, it was the White Rabbit that remained ever elusive. I guess both Alice and I saw it as a metaphor for some vapid mirror image of what I could or should or might become. I saw myself as different from others. Yet I couldn’t name or pin down that lower third title of who I was or what I could become. I instinctively knew there was a life out there for me. I just hadn’t found it yet. The White Rabbit remained a mysterious myopic vision bounding over the next horizon.

It took me a lifetime to get where I am today. I was never into sports, games or social events. I was content to be by myself as I was a lot of the time growing up. I had few friends and fewer intimates. As a kid with no male role models to follow, it was hard to throw off the inhibitions, constrictions, and limitations of a sterile single parent household.

Adventurous I never was, unless you take into account a few strange benchmarks like raising a wild cottontail rabbit in grade school, cheerleading at an all-male high school, getting a library card in Denmark, and skinny-dipping in Costa Rica.

One redeeming factor is that I’ve always had a vivid imagination born out of either desperation or boredom; I’m not sure which.

I was deeply affected by the manufactured silliness of movies and television. Rhonda Fleming was my first love and I had a crush on her for years.

Mick Hawkins and me (photo courtesy of Jerry Hoffman)

Mickey, my grade school buddy, introduced me to this radical idea that you could actually get and read a book without having to pay for it. It was called a library, and in fourth grade, Mickey let me follow him to a local library to get my very own library card. I was in seventh heaven. The first book I read was ‘The Enemy below;’ about World War Two mine-sweepers. That was quickly followed by serial books on Tarzan, The Hardy Boys, etc.

I sketched a lot of pictures of characters I’d seen in the movies and tried to re-create scenes from them. Maybe, I thought maybe I could become an artist or an illustrator. It was not to be.

Sir Lancelot, John Wayne, and Tarzan were some of my favorite subjects. I made sure there was always a comic book to accompany each character.

I was fascinated with the western character called Paladin from the television series: ‘Have Gun, Will Travel.’ My intention was to write a screenplay for the series but I never did.

During my ‘lost years,’ I got into poetry (three binders worth) and tried to picture-paint with words some of the events, stages and emotions I was going through at the time. Public television gave me some wonderful opportunities to be creative in my directing skills. Along the way, a few failed relationships gave me plenty of fodder to plant into words and thoughts, sentences and phrases.

I tried my hand at photography when we lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

After we moved to Maryland, I used my trusty L.C. Smith typewriter to write two westerns in 1973 and 1974. Then I casually put them aside and waited another forty years before rewriting and self- publishing both of them.

Finally, in 2007, after a lifetime of skirting the writing world, I began to write full time in lieu of retirement. Numerous books, plays, screenplays and blogs later, I am now fully engaged as a student in the craft of writing.

I haven’t caught the White Rabbit yet and doubt I ever will. It’s an ongoing journey of self-discovery with new horizons constantly popping up in front of me. But that’s a good thing.

It gives me something to do.

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