Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pouring out the Dandelion Wine: Farewell Summer 2013

Ray Bradbury would have been 93 years old today. Despite the Voice of Unassailable (but too easily ignored) Reason shouting at my moping ego:

For God’s sake Bradbury’s best work was behind him before you were born!

He was old! Wheelchair-bound! His doctor told him he couldn’t drink anymore! Who wants to live like that?

I still feel sad.

The author with Uncle Ray, 19 October 1991, San Diego.
Summer’s gone. My son started his junior year of high school three days ago already. I hope he had a good summer. We managed to make it out to South Carolina to see his uncles James and David. He lifted weights, he did football camp. As a result of his bodywork and training over the summer he might even start varsity. He’s been learning to drive my Jeep.

I should be jumping up and down declaring this the Best Summer Ever. After all, I started it by turning in the manuscript of my first book for publication. 

The sales ain’t happenin’ though. Bad timing. There’s a glut of fiction you can read for free on Kindle. And most of that stuff isn’t worth stealing, so good luck convincing everyone your book is Different, and worth spending money for.

This was my last hope. There’s no work available for my middle-aged surplus self. Our savings are bleeding away, and this week the radiator in the Jeep sprung a leak. I’ve yet to take it into shop.

I’m well aware that my attitude has a lot to do with my success, and unless I’m actively planning my Smith and Wesson Retirement Plan (not yet), I should be taking some smart pills and getting my marketing on. (And just suck it up and put the Jeep repair on the credit card with everything else.)

I still get a kick from it. The book, that is. So many years, decades of proclaiming how I’m going to write That Book when I wrote this book instead. And, whaddya know, it’s actually a fast, fun read. Total strangers have told me so, which makes me feel better for laughing at my own prose when I look at my author’s copy. I love how easily I can forget how much work I put into my writing when I read the finished product. It’s good to know I can do something right. 

It just doesn’t make money.

So I’m still banging away at Book Two, and I’m happy how it’s coming along. It would be a lot easier to do if I wasn’t weighed down by dread. Suck it up, champ, I tell myself. It’s all I can do. Unless I’m planning on painting the rocks up on Eagle Pass with the contents of my skull. No. Not yet....

Summer’s gone. So is my son’s childhood. He’s not even 17 and he already has to look at what flavor of engineering he will take up in college (which he’ll have to get into on scholarship, or not at all) that will guarantee him work. I wish I’d been that prescient at his age, taken school a little more seriously, taken advantages of the programs available.

Then again, I grew up in a time when, if you needed money, you just went out and got a job. It was that easy. Graduate high school and you’re already towards the head of the line. Get another job if you don’t like the one you have. My son, not even 17, knows he doesn’t have that luxury. He’s aware he has to play his cards just so: make all the right grades, talk to all the right people, play all the right sports, and stay out of trouble for the mere chance to get into a good school and a high-paying professional job. 

Summer’s gone.

I’d have no problem with this is there was something to look forward to other than more fear and struggle. A colorless autumn, a bitter, mirthless winter. If I’m still around for more, rinse and repeat.

To quote the late, great Harvey Pekar, who understood this state of mind better than anyone, “Lord I’m tryin’ to be the best I can be, but I dunno, I dunno.”

Pour out the dandelion wine. The stuff was overrated. Besides, our tree-climbing, ravine-crawling, days of laughter and adventure are long over. Who needs that greasy kid’s stuff, right?

I could use a hit of something right now.