The Genius on Campus

The King 1

We’ve all met that one kid who was smarter than everyone else. They were better at math, science, spelling bees….you name it.

My first encounter with this type of kid was from a boy named Jeff. We were in the 8th grade and Jeff wanted to be a physicist. Not only could I not spell it I hadn’t a clue what the thing was.

But in college there was a different kind of beast and he went by the name of Rich.

 

Allow me to introduce The King

Rich was a chemistry major. He lived quietly in my dorm directly across from my room. He was polite, he was private and you’d never see him out much unless a rerun of MASH or Star Trek was playing in the TV lounge.

Rich was a legend in the chemistry world. Not only did chemistry majors come to him with questions but teachers as well. I once heard a rumor he presented a new discovery to the science board.

Yes, Rich was the King.

But one day things changed and for a little while it was me who became the King….well, kind of.

Allow me to explain.

 

A Frightful Beginning

One day I saw Rich sitting on the front steps outside our dorm. It was an unusual site given how private he was.

His face was white, his eyes staring off into space. It was clear he was sweating. Did I mention it was January?

 Fearing the worst I joined him and asked if he was okay.

“No,” he answered.

He held a sheet of paper in his hand. His eyes watery. It was clear he was in full panic mode.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said.

To meet his academic requirements Rich had to take an English class. What he thought was something minor turned into his own personal hell.

 

The King is ill

Rich had accidently signed up for a creative writing class. The assignment: 20 page minimum fictional shorty story. To add to the horror he waited too long to change it. 

The man who many called a genius had no idea what to do. How do you make things up? How do you create people who aren’t real?

To add to his nightmare his perfect A from grade school to college was in serious danger. Something unheard of in his world.

 

I had an idea

I could have wished him luck and walked away but instead I asked if I could help. I explained to him one of my hobbies was writing stories. Not the real kind, I explained, but the made up kind like the one your teacher wants you to do.

For a brief second, or maybe an entire minute, I was pretty sure he thought I was crazy but once he understood I was his knight in shining armor Rich happily accepted my offer.

Rich was no dummy.

 

Hawkeye and Captain Kirk

Every week for the entire semester Rich and I went to work. Not surprisingly he chose a Star Trek theme with just a sprinkle of MASH.

He wrote a page. Soon two and on the day he completed ten pages you would have thought he cured the world’s ugliest disease.

His strength was plot. His weakness was people but with just the right amount of push he slowly improved.

With the final draft complete we celebrated with his first trip to the campus bar. I saw him unwind a little. His collar not so tight, an actual beer buzz taking hold.

He knew his story was not A material but I convinced him all the teacher wanted was effort and it was clear his story had it.

Back then we got our grades in the mail. I left him my number and told him to call. While enjoying spring break I received a call from a soft happy voice. He passed with an A just like I promised.

When school began Rich went back to his quiet studious self but every now and then I’d catch him with a smile and a sense of ease.

Rich was the smartest person I ever met but for a little while I was able to help the genius on campus.   

Chemistry

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

You get me

I have always been draw to things I can relate to. This includes things that are alive and things that have never been alive.

I once related to a plastic ballerina doll. Long story, don’t ask.

But when it comes to movies and books those are the ones that take center stage. They understand me. They pull me in and sometimes they become the perfect reflection of who I am or once was.

Movies

 

Seeing Me

When it comes to movies we all love to escape. Not every movie has to remind us of ourselves. Who doesn’t love a good action yarn?

Can you say Diehard?

Speaking of Diehard: Yes, it is the greatest holiday movie ever. Let’s move on.

But if I had to pick a favorite, a movie that perfectly reflected my past, it wouldn’t be one movie. It would be two.

 

Was I really that young?

Movies 1

A few posts back I mentioned a movie in passing. It was a 1985 flick called The Sure Thing and it got me thinking. The movie came along when I was young and free and open to anything. Looking at it now the main character pretty much mirrored who I was.

It was directed by Rob Reiner. A man who directed a handful of classics during his time and a director who I always felt was underrated.

Four year later in an odd sort of coincidence, another Rob Reiner film came along that had the same effect.

A little older but not exactly wiser

When I first saw When Harry met Sally I was pretty sure some of the lines were stolen from the world I was living in. The characters were a little older and set in their ways.

Had it come out a few years earlier I would have rolled my eyes but the timing was perfect. The lead character was struggling, he was kind of happy but mostly confused all at the same time.

As with The Sure Thing, When Harry met Sally was another movie that perfectly captured me at the time. It was fun but a little scary. I saw my faults on the big screen and knew it was time for a change.

 

A Measuring Stick

So I wonder, is this why a book or a move succeeds in our eyes? Does it all come down to timing? Does their message reflect the life we’re living or does it capture the emotion we’re celebrating or suffering?

Those two movies became a diary of my past but most of all they served as a reminder of who I am today and how much I have learned.

If any of you have a book or a movie that mirrors your past hang on to it. Go back from time to time and use it as reminder of how much you have grown. These measuring sticks are gold and they’re meant only for us.

Movie 2

 

Happy Friday Everyone!!!

The Great Idea

Idea

We were vacationing in San Diego when the great idea hit. As you know, when the great idea appears you grab something, anything, and write it down.

The great idea is kind of like the early stages of dating. The future is bright. Life is a musical and everybody is dancing in the rain.

This is the part where your favorite happy love song suddenly appears. Trust me on this.

But like all relationships the music slows, the honeymoon ends and she cannot understand why I want to sit on the couch all day watching football.

I’ll never understand her.

 

The Fizzling Romance

When I came up with the great idea I had no idea it would begin and end there. Sadly it resembled a fun summer romance full of thrills and spills that somehow fizzed by fall.

Damn you October!

I wrote a fast first draft. I ignored the plot holes, the story arc and anything resembling an ending. But most of all I ignored the characters.

 

You Will Listen to Me!

It was one mistake, but a mistake I have learned to never make again. Not once did I ask what the characters wanted. Thinking back it was me who told them what to do.

I didn’t worry about chemistry, character growth or the protagonist being someone to root for. Who needs that kind of nonsense, right?

The result was a flat, boring, rambling mess sitting on top of the great idea. Soon it was forgotten and lost.

 

Time Heals the Deepest of Wounds

idea 1

Fast forward a handful of years later, the characters returned to me. It was as if someone gave them directions to my house and now they won’t leave me alone.

But this time I listened. The great idea was set. The house was built but now they would be the ones decorating instead of me.

Now I have the chemistry. Now they are real but most of all they are taking me along for the ride which is far better than placing me behind the wheel.

We all know what happens when I drive.

Are there plot holes? Are there bumps in the road and do I complain to my writing friends about it? Of course I do. A first draft would be useless without such a thing.

But now I have real people trying to do real things.

A great idea is a relationship but unlike my first go-around this one works and I will do whatever it takes to keep it that way.

Now I know what it means to have a great idea.

idea 2

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

Lost

For most of my life I have sucked when it comes to following directions. Even during my time in a small town I still had a hard time.

Allow me to give you an example:

You’re having a party? Great! You’re giving me directions? I can do that.

Actually that was a lie. I can’t do that. Imagine telling me to turn left on Harlow and to take a right at the first stop sign. From there you tell me to drive straight until I see a brown house on the corner of Barney Street. I guarantee you I will find myself lost on the highest of mountain tops.

Lost 1

Trust me. It happened. Long story. We’re not going there.

I recognized my following direction issue early in life and realized quickly for survival purposes that the only way to deal with this nightmare was land marks.

Forget the street names and stop signs. Tell me to hang a right at Billy’s blue house with the rusted Chevy parked out front and quickly turn left at Sammy’s barn.

That I can do.

For the longest time I was use to all this. It was something I was bad at. Let’s face it, we can’t be good at everything. Imagine how boring that would be. Even super heroes fail at something.

But on the day I found myself lost in an IKEA kitchen display I begin to wonder. Do I have something that could actually be found in a medical dictionary?

I’m a person of repetition. After a hundred times on the same road I kind of have it down. Give me a week around the neighborhood and I start to get a good feel. But why can’t I be like most people?

One time. One shot. Perfection.

Enter: Dromosagnosia

Of all the things I looked up this comes pretty close. Turn left when right is the obvious choice. A panic. A new place. How did I get here? No sense of east or west of anything else.

Call 911!!!

Maybe, just maybe this is why I get a little messed up.

I’m not sure what exactly to do with this new bit of info. On the other hand it’s nice to know I may have some company. There might be an entire town full of people just like me. All of us wondering how to get from point A to point B no matter how many times we’ve been there.

So if I every pay a visit to any of you keep in mind I have no problem renting a car once I reach your town. I have no problem driving to your home or favorite place to say hi. Just don’t expect to see for a while or ever again.

Oh, and one more thing: When it comes to a GPS. I’m pretty sure it has me figured out. It also has one sick sense of humor.

Lost 2

Happy Friday Everyone!!!!

How I accidentally wrote a horror novel

Haunted 1

A daydream carried a bit too far

A long time ago I was introduced to Stephen King. It was a giant book full of short stories. Soon after reading his amazing work I graduated to his novels.

Before I knew it I was reading other horror novels. Some were good and some were okay but one thing was certain:

I too would be a horror novelist.

Not having a full understanding that the genre picks me I decided that it would be I who chose the genre. It was a rookie mistake on my part but since I was young and a bit ill-informed you’ll have to forgive me.

So on that day after reading multiple horror short stories and novels a horror writer was born.

Well….not really.

 

You’ll have to forgive me

Scary Books

Clearly I couldn’t write like King or Koontz or any of the other writers I read but most of all I could not write a scary novel to save my life.

But unintentionally….well, that’s another story.

I can’t remember when I wrote it but I do remember when I shared it. It was sometime last year. My turn had come up in my writer’s group to submit. I remember working on a long piece but it just wasn’t ready to be seen.

Luckily, deep in the forgotten file a little story written years ago was found. I wasn’t sure what to make of it but I shared it anyway. When I finished I was informed by my group it was on the scariest stories they ever read.

 

Just a little surprised

At first I felt guilty. I’m not the type to scare anyone but the guilt quickly wore off and replaced by a sense of accomplishment.

Yes, I scared someone! How cool is that! King, Koontz, are you listening!!??

Some members suggested I submit it. The story ran about 4000 words. There would be contests that would accept it, they exclaimed.

But something held me back.

For the longest time my guess was guilt. I write comedy/romance. I make people laugh and feel good and all that stuff. I want them to forget about the craziness of life. At least for a little while. But scaring them?

Why would I do such a thing?

 

They want more

So I thought a little deeper. I studied the characters, looked at the setting and realized there was more to tell. It wasn’t a short story but a novel. All I did was touch the surface on something much darker.

So now I’m tempted to travel down the rabbit hole. A horror rabbit hole mind you. I will admit I am hesitant and a little nervous at what I will find.

I will always be amazed with the ideas we come up with. Sometimes our ideas embrace the light but something it’s the darkness that our ideas crave.

I know my hesitation will turn to curiosity. I will encourage it to grow and for a little while allow it to take control.

Maybe it’s a good thing to travel to places we’ve never been. I say maybe because I’m still hesitant but who knows how long that will last.

Now if you’ll forgive me, I have a rabbit hole that’s calling.

rabbit hole

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

Catcher

My so-called hero

When I was 14 years old I read The Catcher in the Rye. To say I was blown away is an understatement.

Holden Caulfield was my hero. We understood each other and when I finished I hoped and predicted I would be that type of person someday.

 

Who was I kidding?

Fast forward five years later I read it again. This time things had changed. I could not believe how annoying that kid was. I grew tired of him. So much so I couldn’t finish the book.

Movies followed the same path as The Catcher in the Rye. For some that I found amazing and charming quickly found their way in the crash and burn category years later.

Not every movie or book is that way for me. Some will always be my favorite. It’s as if they grow with me. But why do others fail? Why can’t they keep up like the others?

 

Questions and Answers

I did some thinking on this and I figured it all comes down to timing.

So many of our past favorites are a snap shot of who we once were. A sarcastic mean spirited flic we just couldn’t get enough of may not work with our views of today. Or a plot involving a child disappearing forever in the woods would now be a turnoff in this parents eyes. 

Every now and then I do go back to my old favorites to test my reactions. I’m curious how much I’ve grown or if I’ve regressed a bit.

 

Which brings me to the point of all this:

Years ago I gave away my only copy of Catcher in the Rye and now I want to read it again. I am a parent of two teenagers so I’m curious how I will view him. With a father’s eye what instincts of mine will rise to the surface?

I can’t answer those questions yet but when I find out I promise I’ll share them with you.

Our priorities and opinions change as we grow, but for me my curiosity is still there and I’m wondering where it will take me when I enter Holden’s world.

catcher 1

Happy Friday Everyone!!!

Little Eyes

sitting under a tree

In the summer of 2006 my wife’s IT position was being phased out. The Army Corp had made a decision to contract the position instead of having a full time employee.

For a while we were a tad worried. Luckily another job opened. It was a different position but for her just as rewarding.

The job involved a transfer and by fall we had moved away to the tiny town of North Bonneville, Washington.

The area was beautiful. Mountains, rivers and lots of snow and wildlife. It was common to see deer walking through the center of town.

The following summer my oldest turned five and my youngest three. My oldest was developing a ‘me first’ attitude at the time and doing a really good job of it.

But my youngest was a little different. Unlike her sister she was an observer with a strong gift of recognizing the people around her. In a way she’s me but in a much better way.

stevenson

We were in the neighboring town of Stevenson. It was the tourist town of the area where ice cream, fancy restaurants and souvenirs could be found on every corner. We made our way to the town center in hopes of burning off some energy.

My oldest was taking full advantage of the situation while my youngest had other ideas.

We came across an artist displaying her paintings and a flower vender sharing her beautiful collection. My attention was drawn to my oldest who was on the verge of climbing the town’s tallest tree when suddenly my youngest tugged at my hand.

 She has always been a soft spoken person and back then her voice was a lot softer. We found a bench where I sat and listened. She whispered in my ear and pointed.

A teenage girl hid under a shaded tree. Her knees curled up to her chin. Her eyes sad and far away. People walked past as if she were invisible and I wondered if that was what she wanted.

My youngest pulled me to the flower vender and asked if she could have one. She picked out her favorite and told me to stay. I did as asked and watched.

She patted the girl on the knee and patiently waited for her to look up. When their eyes met my youngest smiled and held the flower to her.

With the flower resting in the girls hand my youngest reached out for a hug. After they embraced my youngest said something that made the sad girl smile.

With a wave goodbye my youngest ran back to me. The teenage girl held the flower close, her eyes a little brighter. I never asked what she said. It was none of my business.

Minutes later my youngest spotted her sister and ran after her. Turns out the tree wasn’t worth the effort.

What does this have to do with the craft of writing? I don’t know but sometimes a memory is good enough.

Daughter 2