A couple of weeks ago I saw a movie called Second Hand Lions that may have had a profound and lasting affect on me. The premise of the thing is that a shady woman leaves her son in West Texas with two great Uncles while she goes to "school" in Las Vegas with her boyfriend. These two uncles have somehow come across a tremendous amount of money, and some say it is through their wild lifestyle that they acquired all this wealth, while most have no idea how it came to pass and just made up stories about how they got it. Either way, this mother, upon learning of this massive soon-to-be inheritance, decides to leave her teenage son with them for an extended time.
The moral reason for leaving him there was so he could have a positive male influence on his life; of course, as she drives away leaving the young lad with two strange men, she whispers, "See if you can find out where that money is" and takes off.
What the young man initially finds is two hardheaded old bastards (Robert Duvall and Michael Caine) who come off as horrifically callous and unbelievably crude. What he eventually realizes is that these two guys, especially Duvall's character, have lived more than anyone he will ever meet. Leaving Texas in 1914, they arrived in Europe shortly before World War I erupted. Instead of leaving the continent, as more sensible men might, they decide to try and stay a step ahead of the Kaiser, staying away from the wavering fronts at all times in their tour, but still enjoying Europe's elegant atmostphere. After a night of drunken revelries, they somehow become signed up with the French Foreign Legion and spend a good deal of time in the Middle East as brawling, wild Americans in a foreign land. As the movie continues, more and more is learned about the adventures that these two guys had back in the early days of the American century.
Immediately after watching it, my mind drifted to the life that I am bound to lead. I realized that I have written so little in the past month because I have had nothing to write about. I read six or eight different books during the summer, and even they couldn't move me to any thoughts that I hadn't had before. What I need are the experiences, and the actually sights and sounds of these places.
I love the epic tales crossing continents, dimly lit bars in foreign lands where palm trees line the open windows and History weighs down heavily on those that tread there; conspiracies and money and lies and cigarette smoke and life, hard shots of odd whiskey that can take the stain off a table. If I am to write anything that will be remotely interesting and different, than I must lead a life that is interesting and different. That, unfortunately, does not mean moving out of Wayne, only so I can work for thirty years just to be able to afford moving back to Wayne; I'd rather burn that house with the picket fence down sooner than live in it.
As I walked through Barnes and Nobles today, I realized what all of the books I read have in common- one man traveling across the country or the world, writing from a nonfiction perspective, about the people and places that they come across. One book was David Horowitz's Confederates in the Attic, where he delves into the odd world of those who are still obsessed with the Civil War by touring battlefields in the South with "hardcore" reenactors (a strange brood they are). Another was a book (which I already forgot the name of) about two college dropouts, one of which played poker, the other sold T-Shirts outside Fenway Park. They were so heartbroken by the Red Sox loss in the 2003 ALCS that they decided they were, in fact, losers, and that they had to get out in the world...so they took the first flight to Baghdad. You Shall Know Our Velocity is another about two men in the streets of a far away African country; On The Road is a classic story of hitchhikers in the uptight American 1950's. A Star Called Henry and its sequel, Oh, Play That Thing, about an IRA hitman who must take to the sea for America after the Republicans turn on him...
I am seeing the trend my life is taking, and I don't like it. It seems like it may be too easy to get caught up in a regular job, getting benefits, getting paid well, and then end up never leaving New Jersey for the life I'm looking to lead, namely, that of a writer.
My world will be a world where I actually have something to write about that other people haven't often experienced. This blog may in fact be a vehicle to stay connected when I embark on this journey. What I can say is that I think it will happen at the end of next year sometime.
If anyone has any ideas for any interesting places to go, drop me a line.