Thirty-Four Years

I’ve told the story of our meeting so many times in the last thirty-six years. Kismet. Luck. Crazy. But it never seems to get old. A friend of a friend. More than one. Baltimore, Maryland. She West Coast. Me East Coast. A simple hello in a hotel lobby. A bet in front of a hotel’s elevator bank. A fateful ride back to Washington, D.C. A life crisis that would throw me three-thousand miles away to Los Angeles, California, into the love of Sumire Gant that would save my ass.

This gallery of photos is a love medley of our greatest hits as we celebrate thirty-six years together and thirty-four years of marriage (September 3, 1987).

My First Week of School

English 380 (Approaches to English Studies), English 250 B (Survey of English Literature), English 405 (Creative Writing- Short Story). Yes, there’s a lot of English going on in my life these days. On my way to Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Arts degree, I must pass through the English Department, and that’s where the story gets interesting. English 380 is a class called Approaches to English Studies. No, I won’t bore you with the details, but it is a spirited discussion about the History of English Studies and what comprises it. This discussion is critical because I just want to read and write, but it is more complicated and controversial than you think.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

What do I want from English Studies? English studies as Humanities that make us feel better. English studies as “How does that help me get a job and a career?” English studies as “Wait, you want me to study a bunch of dead white men?” English Studies as “To appreciate American Literature, you must first understand English Literature.” (Yeah, I had a few words about that).

I will be frank. I have had a lifetime of careers that involved writing, whether journalism or technical writing or opinion writing, proposals, research papers, or essays. And I want to continue to write. Essays, short stories, plays, poems, short and long-form videos are just some of what I want to practice during the next three years in school. To practice my art, I am willing to take the time to learn and understand the underlying theories of the art forms to raise both the quality and quantity of my output. However, I am not prepared to sheepishly accept certain orthodoxies at my age. Theories can be essential foundations, but theories should be ready to adjust themselves as facts and realities change, or entirely new theories should flow out of them. I’m speaking specifically about being told there is a sure way to read, talk, and write.

I was born in the Bronx, New York, in this here United States of America. I lost my Spanish language but not its soul. I spoke Bronx English. American English. Not the Queen’s English. I am the product of the American culture that is a little bit of this and that. That American stew. Bouillabaisse. Gumbo. Sancocho. Mondongo. I was shaped by living in a neighborhood full of Latinos, African-Americans, Irish, Italian, Jewish. Print, radio, and television had a significant impact even when I didn’t hear or see people who looked like me or some of my neighbors.

Since I was young, teachers taught me that we live in America, and in America, we speak and write English. Proper English. Well, I don’t know about the nun who told my Spanish-speaking parents that pile of elitism. As a result, I lost my Spanish. (They just wanted us all to be good Americans.)

  • Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
  • I love a good story. I don’t care whether it comes from England, France, Spain, Italy. And Africa, the Middle East, India, China, Japan, anywhere in this Hemisphere: from the North Pole to the South Pole through the Caribbean and Philly and East LA and the Rio Grande and Argentina. America has always had a mix of languages and cultures. There are the First People and the latest immigrants from the other side of the world. Those stories may not have all been published by the great Publishing Houses in New York, but they are here. Some find their roots back in Europe but indeed, not all of them. Other stories are born from other nations and sometimes on a plain in the Midwest or Arizona plateau. Others are told on a long march of tears through the southeast. Some stories are born in the minds of people of color who only own a history of colonization and oppression to those European nations whose literature someone tells us to revere while claiming that we are who we are because of them. (We can discuss that some other time.)

    In the meantime, I will complete my Survey of English Literature 250B and learn from it. It will go through my mind filters, taking what I want and need and maybe storing some of it for another day and then the rest, well, it will go where all the knowledge you learned in school went when you couldn’t remember it anymore. Yes, that place.

    I live in an America where language is adaptable and flexible depending on where you grew up and how and with whom you grew up. The practice of the American language has gotten even more complicated in the year 2021. How we communicate in the real practical world doesn’t always match what we learn and do in academia. From podcasts to video to text messages, the American language is constantly being re-defined and refined for better or worse. Go to Beverly Hills, then travel to East LA or the valley; you might be surprised at what you read and hear.

    That’s what I want to do. Take those theories that we are so comfortable with, challenge them, and see what comes out the other end. I’d welcome those surprises.

    Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay 

    I plan to graduate in June of 2024, so I have some time to make my way through English Studies, focusing on Creative Writing, fiction, and non-fiction. I even have an itch for Playwriting. Maybe. In the end, I would like to read and write as much as I can. At seventy-two, I know there’s more life behind me than in front of me. Even if I’m fortunate and live twenty or thirty more years, that will not be enough to fulfill all my dreams. My first week at California State University, Long Beach, was a great beginning.

    Time Flies

    I have several anniversaries and special dates coming up in the third and fourth quarters of this year. I begin my final journey toward a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing at California State University, Long Beach, on August 23. My partner, Sumire Gant, and I will celebrate 34 years of marriage on September 3. September is also the month we met (long story) in 1983.

    September is an exceptional month for me. I was arrested on September 13, 1968 (another long story). I moved to Washington, D.C., from New York in September 1971. I started my broadcast television reporting career in September 1974 and left in September 1978 (at least that’s what I remember). September 11, 2011, I stopped drinking and doing drugs (what a strange date). Dead stopped. I woke up that morning and said to myself, “Enough is enough.” What began in 1966 with smoking a little weed and ran through my life in many different forms of drugs and alcohol came to an end forty-five years later. This is a more lengthy discussion.

    December 8, 2021 will mark my seventy-third birthday. I can’t help but wonder where all the years went. It’s like I woke up this morning and wondered, What the Fuck? I remember so much and other times wonder about details, dates, names, places. For better or worse, I’ve been around the block more than a few times. I once calculated that I have lived in more than 28-30 different addresses spread out over eight other cities, sometimes twice during my life. Often, those moves involved starting all over. Like the time I moved to Washington, D.C., the first time. I did have a job. It’s the reason I went there, but that lasted maybe 2-3 months.

    I was fired and suddenly found myself in a different city with no friends and separated from my first wife (another long story). She wasn’t taking me back, so New York shrank from being an option to go back to, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to move back in with my parents in the Bronx. Funny how life is. Staying in D.C. led to my life of radio and television. Over the next three years, I hosted and produced two radio shows and was chosen to be paid intern at a Post-Newsweek radio and television station in Washington to learn to be a reporter. Then, I was a reporter for one of their television stations in Hartford, CT, where, for the next four years, I decided it might be a good idea to live with and eventually marry my second wife. That didn’t last long.

    Time flies when you’re racing through life, running from one experience to another because you’re lonely or ambitious or confused, or you don’t care that there’s no safety net and what else do you have to do except stand still. Take, for instance, the move to California. In April of 1984, my life was in shambles in Washington, D.C. (that’s going to be a helluva blog when I write it). I had met Sumire earlier in September of 1983, and well, she lived in southern California. She invited me to come and use the opportunity to get my head together in the beauty and dreamscape of LA LA Land. And I said, what the hell, what else am I going to do? So, I came, and it has been a helluva ride.

    As I begin the next act in my life as an upper-division college student, I think about the illusion of Time Flying By. It really doesn’t. There’s still sixty seconds in a minute and sixty minutes in an hour and twenty-four hours in a day, and you know the rest. All that time, you breathe and live and do stuff, sometimes great stuff, other times stupid stuff, and then there’s the forgettable stuff that you will never remember because it has fallen in between the crevices of your brain, and it’s not worth occupying any of the time you have. I want to use this site to remember all those seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years that matter to me because maybe it will explain a lot of things about why and what I am today.

    I’m not exaggerating that I have lived a fully packed life. The one that I inhabit now is the life that I have and the one that I want to examine while I‘m still living it and putting more living onto the examination table while trying not to clutter up my brain with too much information. That’s why I’m writing this: to sort this out. To place everything in its special place so I can take the time to throw it under the light, view it from every possible position, and determine what I am looking at and how the hell it became a building block of who I am.

    Sometimes, it will be nonfiction remembrances that I will try to keep as honest as possible without hurting anyone else. If I hurt, it’s okay. I need to flush out some bad vibes and memories. Other times, I will post fiction and poetry as a way of digging below the reality to examine the symbolism of a life lived to the fullest and what it should mean for other people in my life and me. There will be opinions, observation of other human beings, and the crazy shit that we all do and wonder, what the fuck are you doing?

    A good question to ask as I start this blog written by an ex-seminarian, ex-addict and alcoholic, wannabe revolutionary and peace activist, radio and television on-air personality, journalist, and producer and executive producer (I dreamed of working in Hollywood, and I did), ex-member of the “Sex, Drugs, and Rock N Roll Club,” lousy parent and father to two sons who I can’t believe still talk to me, married three times (thirds the charm) and lived with two other women at different times in my life (yes, I was a whore and eventually not a nice guy. No, not proud.) and holder of every odd job in between the big ones, and I’m not finished living. I got things to do and places to be, and I’m going to live every second of it before it eventually flies away.

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