Monday, April 23, 2012

The Narrator

The Narrator tells the story and it is fixed in time and confined to a certain space, a location, the "setting".  Or it doesn't happen that way at all.  Maybe there are main characters and the story is about unraveling them, discovering what they are about, totally undressed until a motive is found.  Maybe there is no hero, an anti-hero could tell a story and it could be about nothing at all.  I have read storys that I didn't like but I liked the telling of them.  Words can become music and we turn the pages simply because we like the sound, the literation, the poetry, the language, the whole orchestra of what is being said.  The story becomes the description and what is actually happening isn't so important.  It is the journey after all.
   This will be a true story and it will be the end of the Earth.  That happens every day for some creatures.  We put "Round Up" on our gardens and neuro-toxins at the entrance to our homes in an effort to keep the spiders out.  We genetically modify what we eat and kill things we do not like.
Death is always "the end of the Earth" for those who die.  Just this week 857 Porpoises were washed upon the shores of Peru.  All dead.  All running from something.  I wonder about the ocean currents.  I wonder about what monsters lurk in the deep blue darkness in the ocean's depths?  What happens when you add a mixture to this soup?
   Can you write a story without a point of view?  Even diagrams are prejudice and statistics lie.  Numbers are easy to manipulate and what seems to be so certain and without judgement are really with persuasion simply by what is omitted.  I will omit nothing and tell you every single detail as I remember it.   That is the problem with any story telling, the remembrance of what happened.  It may not be so much that we see things differently, we put different significance into what we saw.  Sometimes we miss little details and didn't give them much weight at the time.  The Devil is in the details.
   Even in these difficult economic times the USA is a wealthy country.  People could make a living scrounging our land fills, finding useful stuff from what we throw away. We spend more money on our military than the rest of the world combined.  Apple Computer has more money than the United States Government.  It doesn't take much imagination to find a story there.  Until the tsunami hit Japan and destroyed their nuclear plants dumping radiation into the sea, Toyota was the largest auto manufacturer in the world.  We are talking about hundreds of Billions of dollars.  The bailout of the auto industry, a government program beginning with a Republican Administration and completed by the Democratic Administration, worked well, probably saved a million jobs and certainly saved a lifestyle, saved American Industry and put American Auto makers back in the number one position.  I wonder what Toyota would do to get it back?
   What could huge multi-national corporations do if they wanted to do something?  Our Supreme Court considers them "individuals" paving the route of the "super pacs" and contributions of millions of dollars for their political agendas.  We see very slick ads on television and don't even know who is paying for them.  Billions of dollars and they remain anonymous!  Our privacy is diminished every day.  Every keystroke is recorded.  There are things they want us to know.  They want to manipulate our emotions, control us in every conceivable way, who we vote for and what we buy.
   I suppose also, there are things they do not want us to know.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


What is the strangest thing you have ever found?  This could be a simple and straight forward way to begin a book.  Innocence and mystery, a ruby bracelet and you want to know more about it or maybe a coin found on the beach and you know with some exploration there will be others, a whole treasure chest to be discovered.
Find a painting and there will be mystery there in spades.  Who painted it? What is the subject? Where was it painted?  How was it all accumulated? The canvas, the frame, is there a mystery in the paint itself?  Could be a painting under the painting?  There are stories everywhere.
   When I first decided to play at writing a book ideas were coming at me faster than I could control them.  I remember writing stories in college and my professor telling me I should stick to what I knew something about.
My descriptions should be from experience and not totally made up from fantasy, difficult to do when you are only nineteen and hadn't really been exposed to much in life.  So I began this process by taking notes about myself in order to discover what I would be comfortable actually writing about.  What did I know enough about to be comfortable in describing it?  How do you start a story?  Where do you find the mystery and intrigue, the willingness to continue?  It is a bit like discovering an old canvas oil painting and little by little you chip at the paint peeling layers off until you discover the original, until you discover the intention of the artist.
  So, I began with the "now", where I am today and began to go backwards.  This was an assignment I gave myself when I discovered that I had cancer.  If I was going to die I sure as hell wanted to know what was killing me and more important who was the me that had to fight this battle?  Where could I find strength when every two weeks I was being given ABVD chemical cocktails administered by pretty nurses dressed in haz-mat suits?  This became a journey that took me all the way back to grade school and when I was so tired of the cure and had battle fatigue from the experience of killing cancer I would just sleep and think.  Maybe the strangest thing I ever found was cancer?
   I wanted to write though, some kind of story, like something in me wanted to get out.  In reliving my youth I remembered I knew a little bit about a lot of things.  I knew about boats and ships and traveling.  I knew about running away,  commercial fishing in Alaska or picking pineapples in Hawaii or travelling to Europe by ship on the SS Ryndam before cruise ships were even invented.  I knew about school, university life, even teaching.
I taught in a Junior High School for three years before a massive layoff ended that career.  So I knew about goals and disappointments, things changing in life.  Obstacles and hurdles. I knew the construction industry and many of the problems and promises of self-employment and making it on your own.  I knew a bit about art and the business of art, the making and creating of stuff from nothing and then trying to peddle it.  I discovered steel and welding, the art of metal when I was 48 and it was my ticket out of the construction industry.  For almost twenty years I have made a living from art.
   I like to read and investigate things.  I read historical books, art books and cheap dime store novels.  I read the newspaper every day.  I like the sound as I snap the folds of the paper opening the pages.  I always read the editorials even when I am suspicious.  I like to know what other people think. I am pretty convinced we do not get our ideas in a vacuum.  I am pretty convinced we do not know what we really want.  That is really the mystery in life.  Why we destroy everything we value.  Maybe that is the strangest thing I have ever found?
   It is not difficult to gain ideas for a story.  The newspaper is full of them. I am reminded of Paul Harvey and his "rest of the story" that I used to listen to on the radio.  Why was there a theft in a warehouse in Eugene, Oregon, a complicated affair where the thieves rappelled by ropes through a skylight and went to a great deal of effort to steal a single item, a metal sculpture valued at less than $400?  They ignored tools worth much more to steal this single art piece. It was made from "found" objects, a scrap production.
Why was art, painted canvasses, stolen from a beach cabin?  The artist wasn't that good.  The only significant factor was that she made her own paints from herbs and flowers and beetle shells and whatever interesting thing she could find to put into her soup mixture that became her paint. And then a friend of mine made a boat.  A steel hulled fifty foot yacht trimmed out in myrtle wood with bright blue sails kept moored on the Siuslaw River in Florence, Oregon.   Edwin and his wife, Ruby were retired and had plans to scavenge the sea, hunting for the flotsam and jetsam brought over the Pacific, the gift from Japan as a result of the tsunami that destroyed their nuclear reactors.  This all happens in Oregon and is on my list of something I know about.
   Stories are always about discovering something that somebody doesn't want you to know.  They are about strange things made familiar, something we can all recognize, something believable because they are based on truth.  Long ago someone decided that a little radiation was good for us.  It can be a cure for cancer and it is used as a food preservative.  It is used in DNA manipulation and alters our corn we eat, soy crops, rice, just about everything.  The steel yard in my town has installed radiation detectors at their front gates to prevent too much radiation from entering  their scrap yards.  I wonder what is too much?
Maybe this will be the strangest thing that I have ever found?
    The story wants to be told because it is a true story, well,  based on certain truths anyway and things I read in the newspaper.  You know the beginning;  it began as a simple request from a long ago friend.  She is out of the country because her husband is on his death bed from cancer.  They have no insurance so they went back to his country where they have national health insurance and he can die in peace knowing the bills won't pile up and be a burden to his wife.  Would I please check up on their cabin at the coast while she is gone?   It is a strange story indeed and it turned out to be very dangerous.