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.


  1. I've been waiting for the next chapter, Jer.

    1. Thanks so much my loyal friend and maybe only reader! I am attempting a different approach to the same story, maybe, we shall see?

  2. Did you really want to know what the strangest thing we found was? OK - When I was about 17 I was riding my horse way out in the desert .. I mean way out. I'm riding along and I found a purse with everything in it wallet, money, makeup... some was strewn about mostly change so I gather it all up. It really bothered me cuz I thought maybe I would stumble upon a dead woman or something horrible - it really freaked me out. I got home - went thru the wallet looking for a number or something and called. I was really afraid to call thinking something terrible may have happened to this person and I'd have a clue. Thankfully, all was ok - but I wished I could of been a fly on the wall when the young girl was trying to explain how she lost her purse out in the middle of the desert - must of been a snipe hunt! If you know what that is...:0

    1. Wow, Soozee, what a great Movie that would make! I can see the Panorama, the huge open desert and the hanging blue sky, the young girl on horse back. Great opening scene! Yes, I can imagine what a snipe hunt would be, although maybe a little uncomfortable on the rocky desert floor!

  3. No No No Jer that is not what a snipe hunt is..... It's an imaginary hunt of an imaginary animal in the desert. You load lots of friends in cars, head to the desert for loud music, cold beer and there is always someone that has no idea what a snipe hunt is so you build it up for hunting this imaginary creature that the newcomer hopes he finds. Of course others in the group chase them, but never quite catch one and the newcomer finally after trying for hours is let in on the joke and we all have a good laugh and drink more beers which makes it even funnier. I've just given you your first chapter... I know it's here somewhere with your writing skills it just has to be written.

    1. Ha ha ha, that is so funny! I prefer my version!