Authors Life, Blog, life, moving

If I Ever Go Back Home Again

Historic Shops along Chillicothe Street

I don’t know when it happened that most people in American lived in or around cities. When I grew up on a farm in the 1960’s and early 1970’s it didn’t feel that way. In the part of Ohio where I lived, I think roughly half the people at that time lived in small towns, on farms, or in the countryside. After visiting my old hometown, I get the feeling that things haven’t changed all that much in the past 50 or so years.

A few months ago, I wrote a piece about going home to South Charleston, Ohio. The visit was rushed because of the schedule my publicist and I were on. We had less than a week to cover scheduled and unscheduled visits in three states. It was interesting seeing some of the places I used to live, though. Noting what had changed and what had not (most things hadn’t changed all that much) fascinated me.

I had a crazy idea about visiting my old library, the place I learned to love books. I thought I’d donate my most recent books, the ones of which I’m proudest and a few others titles from my publisher, the great and underappreciated works of some of my dearest colleagues. Disappointingly, the librarians at the Houston Library of South Charleston were at best cool to the idea. To them, I was just another author (maybe they thought I was self-published) who wanted to get my opus onto the shelves of their hallowed halls. Really, what I expected was a brief conversation about my connection to the town and perhaps sharing a few anecdotes from the past – things that only someone my age might remember about the curious little town. That part of the conversation never happened.

It is a rite of passage for an author to have a book on the shelves of a library. It’s not as easily accomplished as you might think. Space in a library is at a premium. Although they may want to support authors, especially local ones, they also have to answer to superiors about their borrowing rates.

When I lived in Melbourne, FL, the local library was more receptive to my first two publications. I recall the feeling of accomplishment I had when later on I visited the library with my daughters and together we perused the stacks until we found my books, alphabetical by author. No, it didn’t appear that anyone had checked either of them out. But still, that ranked high on the cool factor for all concerned.

I was speechless after the reception I received in my hometown, which is something for me to say. My publicist commented that the ladies were rather rude. As I said in the previous blog post, they weren’t expecting me.

Houston Library of South Charleston

Since then, a lot of things have changed. I moved to Southern California, meaning I’m farther away from my roots. Although I have visited Ohio several times in the past few years, always before I stayed around Cleveland. The visits were intended to have a more local base of operation for other excursions. One year Christine and I went to Chicago, for example. As my publicist lives less than a hour to the west of the Cleveland, it made some sense going there and driving to various places across the Midwest.

Since I’m now three time zones distant, I’m not sure when I’ll next be able to swing a trip to the Ohio. I know that if I do return I want to have something scheduled for South Charleston, perhaps at the library of maybe Miami View Elementary. I’d also like to visit Shawnee High School in Springfield. That is where I graduated in ’74. Actually, I’d like to spend a few days in the general area, connecting with some old friends and relatives. On the past trip I was able to meet up with two of my cousins, Randy and Lanelle, but the schedule was so tight that even that almost didn’t happen.

I realize that everything in the world has grown older around me. I refuse to admit that I’ve changed too. I’m stubborn like that. There is a scene in one of my books where a guy who is my age is talking to a slightly older man who says, “When you get old everything starts falling apart, not just your body but the world around you, too.” To which the slightly younger character responds, “I’ll try to keep that in mind.”

Truth is that the potential I had at eighteen years of age when I went off to college has greatly diminished. I had lots of dreams, and some were pretty big. Forty-four years later, I’ve accomplished some things I set out to do, but certainly not everything. I have seen a lot of the world, places the average person from South Charleston, Ohio never has. I’ve lived here and there throughout the US. And I have friends from all over the country and many around the world.

I guess I’d like to go back home to tell the people who live there, people I have never met (or the sons and daughters of people I grew up with), that as scary as the big bad world may seem when you’re a teenager in a small town, there are enchanting places to see and wonderful people to meet everywhere you go. Most people are wonderful, you know – once you get to know them, once you get past the artificial barriers that separate us. Also, I’d tell them not to sell themselves short of the opportunity of stepping out and making a lasting mark. And, by all means, NEVER stop dreaming.

Authors Life, life, moving

Settling In

It’s been a week since I flew into LAX to begin a new chapter of my life in Southern California. For the most part I’m settled in, now. It’s great being with my son again and helping he and his wife, Laia, with the newborn, my grandson, Jackson Legend Williams. But settling has required some adjustment.

The weather is considerably different here from Florida. Although the climate in Orlando is considered semi-arid, it always feels like it’s about to rain because of the humidity. And though it doesn’t rain everyday (and can go for long spans without any precipitation) it certainly rains more than it does in Irvine, CA. Here, the humidity is generally lower at midday. This time of year, it tends to be foggy in the early morning, though.

Another adjustment I’ve had to make is the time. It’s 3 hours earlier here. That means stuff I used to get up to do at 3 AM I can do at midnight before going to bed. Also, if watching a night game on TV, it usually starts before sunset and ends around 9 PM. I’m not sure my body has completely adapted to new scheduling requirements, but I am better off than I was the first day here. I’m told that adjusting is worse going from west to east. I don’t doubt that. I recall how painful it was getting used to being back in the States after spending two years in Asia.

This is not my first time living in California, either. While I served in the Air Force, I attended the Defense Language Institute at Presidio of Monterrey, where I spent about a year studying Chinese Mandarin. I’d like to drive up the coast to revisit some memories I have of the place, but I’m not sure when or if that will happen. Even though Monterrey is in the same state, it is about as far away from Irvine as, say Orlando is to Charleston, SC. Also, this is not my first time in the LA area. One of my fellow DLI students and I took a trip down here during 4th of July weekend in 1983. We stayed at his cousin’s apartment in Newport Beach, which is roughly 5 miles or so from where I’m living now.

I have some friends who live in California. One lives upstate a bit. A couple of others live in LA. A fellow Pandamoon Publishing Author, Katie Masters, lives in the next town – maybe three or four miles from here. I’ve already contacted one of the LA people, a former model, actress and author. We’re meeting soon for lunch. My friend from upstate will be driving down here around mid-month. Since her birthday is around then, I’m thinking of taking her to a movie and dinner. A couple of editors I know live here, too, as well as two of the voice actors who have done Audible books for Pandamoon authors.

My immediate plans are to finish a revision of a book that is set in this area. It’s funny, because when I wrote it I had not been in So Cal for years. There are things I need to correct.

Concurrently I’ll be looking for a job, something to help with expenses while I’m here. Yes, a lot of things in California are higher, but so far what I’m seeing is that housing, fuel and taxes are the big difference. Everything else seems to be priced around the same as it was in FL, with some variation for food depending on where it is produced. A lot of fruits and veggies are cheaper here, for example, because they are grown in state.

Authors Life, Blog, life, moving, Uncategorized

My Life Reduced Four Boxes, a Suitcase and Two Carry-Ons

3173042245_20181023_191943Have I told you I’m moving in a few weeks? I think I did. California here I come!

My son and daughter-in-law are having a baby, my first grandson, and I’m going out to help with things, at least for a few years.  So, no, I’m not going out there to try my hand at acting or anything like that. However, I know a couple of actors, some artists, a few writers, several models and such. Being out there, where they live and work, will allow some time to catch up on things with them.  I’m looking forward to all of that. What I’m not looking forward to is moving.

Does anyone hate moving as much as I do? Maybe it’s because I’ve done so much of it over the course of my life, most of it recently, but I suppose I’ve gotten better at prepping it with each go-round. You might think that after sixty-two years and five months I’d have accumulated a lot of stuff. And you wouldn’t be wrong…at least about the me of a few years ago. When I was still married, and all my kids were still at home, we had a lot of stuff. When we moved it filled a moving van. But since the kids ventured off in their separate directions, and my wife became “the ex”, things have changed for Dad. I began renting furnished rooms, for one thing. And with each successive move I’ve made from there to here, the pile of my necessary stuff has diminished and been refined to a few essentials.

One thing I’ve learned is to get rid of stuff each time I move. I set a goal and reach it. Also, I start a month or two early with packing and preparation. That way I spend a little time on it each day or every weekend. It’s hard to gather up the motivation but sorting through my stuff is kind of like taking a trip in a time machine, revisiting memories and old friends. Everything I pick up represents another period of the past. Some things really are trash, though. If I’m honest I know I’ll never use it again. But in some cases, I might be wrong. It’s a challenge to throw something away that I’ve kept for thirty years, something I’ve decided many times over not to throw away. But it comes down to weighing sentimental value against utility.

I have digitized photographs and uploaded them to “the cloud” for safe-keeping. That made me feel much better about ditching the originals. Keeping in mind that, over time, photographs fade makes that choice easier. I’m preserving the memory in a better, much more portable way that can be easily shared with my tech savvy kids. Also, I’ve got to ask myself if I really need anything I’ve kept in a closet, the basement or the attic for much of my adult life? The answer, of course, is probably not. Asking when the last time was that I looked at whatever it is I now hold in my hands works. Some things I have not looked at since the prior move. Those are immediate candidates for the trash. Other things have some historical value. They are personal items I’m keeping as mementos to pass on or things needed for legal reasons like government documents and such. I have about three boxes full of the essentials.

Also, I go through my clothes. If it doesn’t fit, I donate it. Do I really believe I’ll ever wear something I’ve kept since high school or college? Sure, maybe it will come back into vogue…some time before the turn of the next century, but will I be around? More relevantly, will I be able to squeeze into it? It’s better to let someone who really needs it get some use of it. Donate it.

As for all the electronic devices accumulated over the years, the ones that are outdated or broken, whatever can be sold, I sell. For all the other things that won’t sell, I wonder why I kept them in a drawer, or the closet in the first place? There is a reason stuff is called junk and that semi-permanent catch-all storage place to which all things retire before disposal is called the “black hole”. No one’s gonna want a ten-year old cellphone or a five-year-old computer accessory. Remembering that I replaced those things for a reason helps. If it still works, though, donating it makes the parting easier. If I want to keep it, weighing the cost of shipping (or having it moved) against the retained value of the item settles things quickly. It’s not worth it. Future utility against the cost to replace it with something newer, better, faster is also a fair way of assessing value. Lastly, I decide whether it can be recycled before adding it to the trash.

Once I have reduced life to the essentials, I can rest assured that I can travel light (or at least lighter). And the next time I move my effort will be easier, if not less painful.