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Born to Be Wild

Posted by CW64 on October 27, 2009

My writing influences go back as far as I remember. As a matter of fact, they go back to the day I was born—even before.

In reflection of my life, I realize that everything—everything—has a potential for a story or a part of a story, some element or accent of detail that would add flare or color to make the characters and their world interesting. This is because my life has been interesting. The nuances that have been interwoven into my life come out and onto the page in sharp, vivid and quite often incredulous forms. So imaginative, yet lifelike!

Why is this?

One reason: I have actually endured these experiences, and so I know they are real.

The thing about my personal experiences, however, is that they aren’t restricted to a particular event; they open me up to a realm of reality. This is what I am, and so I write that.

This is how I write–I draw from myself and let it pull me in.

My father died four months before I was born, and in the most peculiar way: he fell down an elevator shaft, riding a forklift at the time. The train depot in which he used to work has been abandoned for years, but it is still standing in downtown Detroit. Stories have persisted that the place is haunted. Regarding this, I have no doubt. This serves as the possibility for several ghost stories, not to mention a poor-life story of a man who struggles to raise his family, or still another fictional [and not so fictional] account where a young pregnant mother raises her child alone while dealing with her depression brought on by her husband’s sudden and unexpected death . . . just three possible scenarios regarding occurrences before I was born. Still, these have affected me as a person and who I am. My experiences, then, have gone beyond my own life into the further reaches of my family and its history. I strangely, and still not-so-strangely, can relate to my father’s death and certainly my family’s struggles, as I have eked out a living from month to endless month working a dead-end retail job while simultaneously going to college. The more I experience, the wider that world of reality expands to allow me more flexibility to write.

Even the fact that I had a teenaged sister who was a bonafide hippie opened new doors for me, and at such an extremely young age. When I was two or three (yes, you heard right), I was absorbed into this, or it into me, and it shaped me for years to come.

Born to Be Wild is a short story revolving around my experiences as a little hippie among big hippies. My sister’s many friends (male and female) camped in our basement and attic during the late-1960s and early-1970s. Motorcycles revving in the driveway by beards in fringe jackets, or my sitting Indian-style in a smoked-filled room with pot-smokers, burning incense, mesmerizing lava lamps, watching some frizzy-haired, side-burned stoner scrawling faces on the walls and ceiling in living color with psychedelic music waving through me wasn’t unusual at all (although some people at our straight-laced Catholic grade school thought it was weird).  The story deals precisely with this, and with other outlandish themes as well. I pulled certain features from many areas of my childhood—some from earlier, some from later—to form a condensed, coherent, yet loosely flowing plot that shows what it was like to grow up in hippie-dom.

Peace, love and freedom to all!

See full size image 

For this reason, sixties Pop culture has become a subject lingering close to me, a rising sun that never sets; I can relate to it even though I wouldn’t graduate high school for another ten-to-twelve years (1982), long after the sixties were gone. Such an era, with music, language, philosophy, has made me who I am today at forty-five. Where others see the stiff bland black-and-white of conservatism, I see bold stripes, flashing dots and swirling shapes that are constantly morphing, changing (no, ironically enough, I’m not on drugs). When it comes to social issues, my sister (now fifty-five) and I share out-of-the-box, politically incorrect attitudes that most find controversial, such as regarding gay marriage and the liberalism of religion (we both believe in God and are Christian, but we don’t agree with everything the Catholic church teaches; we feel we can interpret the teachings for ourselves without blindly following, and pray and communicate with God anywhere; ours is a personal relationship with God, filled with respect and faith, and we don’t need that moderated by some institution). Such beliefs—which many would find questionable—are certainly rooted in the sixties and the social issues that prevailed at that time. To us, though, such attitudes are timeless because they mean so much to us, are a part of us. This is one reason why she and I, though ten years apart in age, are so close and, in many ways, on the same wavelength.

As for my writing, I will continue to draw on my past, present and future; my life, my very being, is a vast region, some areas explored, others unexplored, and yet worth every inch and moment the adventure. Yes, the possibilities are endless  . . .

Next: My awkward adolescence . . . .



5 Responses to “Born to Be Wild”

  1. I think it’s important for all of us to use our past as a basis for our writing–at least some of it. Those who have more colorful experiences in life will of course draw from them more so than than those who have been boring and mundane. My life hasn’t been very much on the exciting side except for those days when my mother worked as a waitress in Pittsburgh and met the Three Stooges, Jay North, Liberace’s brother and saw Vince Edwards crawling in the hotel drunk. I could write about them or I could develop them into fictional stories.

    • CW64 said

      Even the boring accounts can serve as unique fodder for fiction; if you can style them well enough, even these experiences can read entertaining.

      Your mother’s experiences sounds like they would produce some interesting stories. See? Being a simple waitress cannot be underestimated in terms of valuable fiction writing, either.

      She met the Three Stooges? I am a fan. When was this? What were they like? What was her particular experience with them? Her impression?


  2. Yes, she did meet the three Stooges and at one time I had an autographed picture of them–don’t know what happened over the years. I think she told me her impression at the time though years have escaped me, and she is no longer here to refresh my memory. I do remember her saying that Jay North’s mother said he was just as ornery at home as he portrayed as Dennis the Menace.

    • CW64 said

      Do you remember whether or not she said they were personable? I can imagine that they’d be fun company, although I have also heard that they could be serious. One project I have in mind revolves around their early work and some of the people with whom they worked, but I will not get into that now, as certain things must remain private. Any insight that you might recall would certainly be helpful.

  3. julz brown said

    Your hippie-era memories are quite accurate. However, I believe you have an advantage over me. My memory is clouded. My teen years were drug-filled. I do remember though,much of what took place back then.
    Our home was a flop-house for my friends. Guys with hair longer than the girls. Music was always playing and the sounds of motorcycles and muscle cars surrounded us. I have some fond memories of those days, but some . . . disturbing . . . I look back on those days with remorse . . .
    I had no idea where my life was going . . . My friends were completely wrapped up in the free-love attitude. There was always an abundance of drugs . . . pot, LSD, hashish, heroin, etc. . . . By the time I turned 17 years old, I’d had enough.I told mom that I’d be moving out when I turned 18 . . . and I did just that.
    My teen years were confusing. Some of my friends from those days passed away from drug overdoses. As I look back now,I thank God he spared me. I thank God he gave me the will to choose sobriety. Life in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s,for me, was disturbing . . . to say the least.

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