On Blogging, On Writing

A Purposeful Post

The young me and the noisiest typewriter on earth. Lordy, did I love it.
The young me and the noisiest typewriter on earth. Lordy, did I love that thing.

A couple weeks back, my blog pal, Harula, posted a writing exercise. The theme was “Purpose” and the idea was to complete the following four sentences with whatever spontaneous thoughts sprung to mind.

* When I was a child, I believed I was here to…

* As a teenager, I believed I was here to…

* As an adult, I believe I am here to…

* The most important thing life has taught me about why I’m here is…

I decided to give it a go. The answer to the first two prompts are below. I’ll post the next two soon:

***

When I was a child, I believed I was here to…

…become a “dinosaur expert.” I was fascinated by Stegosaurus and was rooting for the  poor devil in his Fantasia fight with Tyrannosaurs Rex. I loved Stegosaurus so much that at times I wanted to be a Stegosaurus. Is that odd?

I also was fascinated by the sheer size of Brontosaurus. He was as long as three city buses laid end to end! Dang! Who wouldn’t want to be a dinosaur expert?

Many years later that I learned that Stegosaurus was extinct by the time T-Rex appeared on the scene, making Fantasia scientifically inaccurate — despite what that egghead Deems Taylor would have you believe. Then I learned that Brontosauruses never existed at all. So The Flintstones? Lies. All lies.

I am still fascinated by dinosaurs today but now possess the self-awareness to understand that I am way too impatient to be a paleontologist.

By the way, my favorite dinosaur has since changed. I am now a fan of Triceratops. Especially the adorable and slightly derpy looking stuffed triceratops who sits on my son’s bed. This fellow has gone by many names over the years. When Alex was three, he called him Oscar Lotion. I have no idea why. Later the name changed to Susie, then Harold Lloyd, and now, simply Triceratops. I call him Oscar Lotion Susie Harold Lloyd Triceratops and pretend he is a prehistoric accountant.

No, Mr. Allegra. I'm afraid stuffed animal purchases are not deductible.
“Sorry, Mr. Allegra. I’m afraid stuffed animal purchases are not tax deductible.”

As a teenager, I believed I was here to…

…be an actor. At an early age I noticed that I had a sort of fearlessness in front of crowds and could quickly remember lines. I didn’t do much acting growing up, but what I did was intoxicating. My big high school break was when I played the voice of Audrey Two in our school’s presentation of Little Shop of Horrors. I wanted to be the sadistic dentist, Orin, but I was the only one in the school who could pull off that deep, Ron Taylor voice. In other words, my high school had way too many white people.

I was this guy.
I was this guy. It was awesome.

In college I lied my way into acting classes (Ha! Acting!). I soon recognized that I liked acting students much, much more than graphic design students. This was kind of a problem because graphic design was my major. Horrified by the idea of actually using this graphic design degree, I contemplated going to acting school. I auditioned for and got accepted into the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in New York before deciding that I have already accrued enough debt, thank you. Besides, I knew that deep down, acting was too uncertain and unstable a career for my personality.

This turned out to be a wise decision, for in tandem with my passion for acting, I had developed a passion for writing. A person can write and hold a steady day job. Four short years after I graduated from college, my day job switched from graphic design to writing. I got my start as a newspaper man and found the experience to be amazing. I wrote during the day for a salary and then wrote at night and on the weekends to draw a supplementary income. In other words, I became a very happy person.

***

And there you have it! Part two is coming soon.

When you were a kid what did you believe you were meant to do? Tell me in the comments below! C’mon, be a sport!

Essays/Book Reviews

Another Repost? Now That’s Just Lazy: Jurassic Pick

Slightly moldy and warped, but otherwise perfect.
Slightly moldy and warped, but otherwise perfect.

It might be a tad lazy, but this oldie is one of my favorites.

And don’t worry; you’ve probably never read it before. Nobody was reading my blog when I first posted this. 

Enjoy! 

***

Bookshelf space was always at a premium in my childhood home. So when I outgrew my picture books, my mom wasted little time in packing them up into a giant cardboard box and depositing them in a dark, forgotten corner of the basement. Her plan was to parcel them out after I had children of my own. The unveiling of each book would be accompanied by the grandma bon mot: “Your daddy read this when he was your age!”

A vicious rainstorm during my middle school years almost put an end to that plan. Most of the collection remained above the waterline, but others were in sad and sorry shape.

But Mom and I ran hairdryers, Lysol-ed any pages that showed traces of mold and pressed the sorry specimens between dictionaries. Fortunately, most of the books that were beyond the pale were ones that could be easily replaced after my son was born. (The Diggingest Dog, for example.) Other books were no great loss. (Sure, I could buy a new copy of the unsettling Are You My Mother?, but will I? No, sir.)

I was thinking about this 20-odd-year-old event recently because it brought something into sharp focus: a basement flood is an excellent way to determine a book’s value. Most of the books in that wet box entertained me in one way or another, but only a couple of them really mattered.

I would guess that about three or four dozen books were waterlogged in that flood. Some were beyond saving. But even among the salvageable books, decisions needed to be made. There was only so much Lysol and so many heavy dictionaries to go around. Where should I devote the bulk of my rescue efforts? To put it another way, which book would just be too painful to throw away? Amazon.com was still decades away, so a lost book was really lost. Maybe forever.

I found my decisions to be surprisingly swift and easy. Are You My Mother? never got a backward glance. Danger in Dinosaur Valley by Joan Lowery Nixon, however, was a different story entirely.

Danger in Dinosaur Valley was the quintessential children’s book for boys – beautifully bringing together dinosaurs, baseball and time travel in a fast-paced, funny tale of prehistoric survival. The entire story is seen through the eyes of a curious young Diplodocus and ends with a stirring and violent confrontation with a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Ah. Remember the days when it was okay to have violence in a picture book?

So… Get me some Lysol and a Merriam Webster, STAT! This book ain’t gonna die on my watch!

The dust jacket never made it, the spine is shot and dots of mold speckle the end pages but my efforts were not in vain. Grandma delivered her line to Alex on cue: “Your daddy read this when he was your age!” True enough, but I also read it at this age, even when my little guy isn’t around. That is a true test of a great picture book.

Danger in Dinosaur Valley has been out of print since the 1970s, but thank heavens we now live in the age of Amazon. Get it. I’ll bet you’ll keep it.

Just promise me you’ll store it on a high shelf.

Which books from your childhood would you rescue from floodwaters?