I've always written for myself, kept journals and notebooks and diaries and such. I always got As in English and Creative Writing in school. It came naturally. I never took it seriously as a profession until two things happened to me within a year of each other.
The Ties That Bind
Cliché as it sounds, I had a summer that changed my life. Really. It was literally one of those special times you never forget, where you stop and look around and realize how fun and special and exciting your life is and how much you want to continue enjoying each and every day. When you see your friends and the girls and the cars and the booze and the sex and the laughter (and the comics!), and you just know that all these experiences are all combining to form the whole of the real person that you’re slowly becoming. That it’s all becoming a part of who you are. The circumstances that surrounded me that summer were just too unreal to be believed and too amazing not to be shared. The cast of characters that came in and out of my life during that three month period was the most unique and interesting collection of people ever gathered in close proximity to each other. I knew it had to be written down and remembered, and I vowed that someday my summer of 1990 would be immortalized in print.
The Man From Medford
I worked at a comic book store to help support myself through college. Five dollars cash/ five dollars credit an hour. It was a great job for someone like me whose only expenses were mainly comics and beer anyway. Twenty hours a week and I had $100 for funny books and $100 for brew. Life was good.
It was also though the shop, the Magic Dragon, that I started hanging out with “townies”. Most of the kids at my school hung out with the other “who’s dad’s got more money, wish they had gotten into an Ivy League school” pricks that infested the campus. They didn’t like to associate with the actual people who lived and worked in the town. Didn’t bother me though. Way I looked it, I was a kind of a townie back home in Fairfield where I hung out anyway, so we got a long just fine.
Two of my best friends at the time were a pair of local brothers whose dad was a hard-living, hard-drinking Irishman from Southie in Boston. Think Good Will Hunting. He was older, retired and settled down at this point, but he was still a no bullshit kind of guy. To this day I still have nothing but respect for the man. Anyway, we used to hang at their house, drink beer and play cards and whatnot, and the dad, Mr. M, would always join us. He’d sit around and tell stories and we’d all laugh and enjoy hearing the tales of his youth. We’d then always try to one up him by regaling him with wild tales of our “misspent youths”, trying to prove things were just as “hardcore” now as they were back in the day. Naturally, most of my stories were about the past summer I’d just lived through. Mr. M would laugh and swig his beer and deal another hand and I always assumed my stories went in one ear and out the other. Until one memorable afternoon, that is…
We were all in their living room, just talking and drinking and bullshitting one weekend . There was a brief pause in conversation and that’s when Mr. M just stood up, pointed his cane at me and said, “I want to talk to you.” After a few confused looks between me and my friends, he went and grabbed two fresh Buds from the fridge and I followed him out to the back porch. We sat there in silence for a bit as he opened the beers, handed me one, and took a long drag off his. He put the beer down, pointed his cane at me again and said, “Do you know what you’re gonna do with yer life?”. And before it even hit me he was asking a rhetorical question, he followed up with, “Well, I’m gonna tell you what you should do.” Then he told me the following, which I still remember clear as day:
“You should write a book. That’s what you gotta do. You’ve gotta write down all those stories you tell. You remind me of me, you’re still young but you’ve seen and done more than most in your life already. Don’t waste it. It’d be a shame if everything you’ve told us is never told to anyone else. Do something with it. And I want the first copy.”
So that’s what I did. That was the kick in the ass I needed. I wrote it all down. And now all 648 pages sit somewhere in my parents basement, untouched for over ten years, just waiting to be dusted off. The story remains unfinished, you see, as the final piece needed to complete it, a eulogy I wrote for a friend's funeral that ended that summer, remains missing to this day. That search continues...
Hopefully Mr. M will have his copy soon.