Second Chances

Doug Kerr_Spruce Tree HouseMore than six months past my 50th birthday,,  I’m asking, “Am I satisfied?” If I’m outside, looking at what I’ve done, I would say to myself, “Who wouldn’t be?” It’s been a stellar life, full of things and mini-accomplishments. To say I would do it over again, I would be sacking incredible and lasting friendships. However, did I do something that I’m really happy about or did I just take, never giving back? I think that’s why art transcends boundaries. It’s like giving birth and nurturing something personal with in the artist. Besides, I missed the gene to create little versions of me for whatever reason.

Since the car accident that almost took my life eight years ago this October –  11 car-pile in a dust storm along California’s Interstate 5 – I feel I’ve had a second chance. I joke, at times, it’s more like my fifth chance, kind of like a cat with nine. It’s amazing that I’m still here after some of the stupid ass things I’ve done, but I think we can all say that. For more than a decade, though, I’ve been working on a series of memoir essays that detail my relationships with women. As a gay man, I’ve had fairly significant friendships with the gender and not sexually, although there was that too. For me, they have been my saviors. My rocks. My friends. My mothers. My confidantes. Matter of fact, being an only child raised by a divorced woman, gives me a different take considering that my father was of a different ethnic background.  Before Halle Berry, Dean Cain, Chrissy Teigen, and Keanu Reeves, I thought I was the only one from two backgrounds. Now, we are as common as a tortilla chip with salsa.

I’ve also been a fan of the genre since I’ve read Paul Monette, Bernard Cooper and my latest fixation, Abigail Thomas. The words of each writer leave indelible impressions on me because, in my opinion, they are masters of the craft and the art form. There is something that resonants in their respective stories. Bernard Cooper’s “Maps to Anywhere” is a masterful telling of growing up in Southern California. Monette chronicled the devasting effects of AIDS burying two partners before succumbing to the complications of the disease at the age of 49 — a year younger than I am now. His “Becoming a Man: Half a Life” deserves a revival as a  feature length movie and a one-person show for the right person. Lastly Abigail Thomas’ collection of work, especially her “ A Three Dog Life,” which tells a remarkable love story. She details her life with her husband after he suffers a severe brain injury resulting from being hit by a rampaging car on Manhattan’s Upper Westside.

Of course, there are many other writers who have used the essay as an artistic expression, Augusten Burroughs, Ruth Reichl, and of course, Henry David Thoreau.

I’ve workshopped them a couple of times. The one thing that always comes out is why don’t I talk about myself more in the stories and about my feelings towards them. I’m still working at that. It’s very difficult to bring some of the memories back. I talk to Julie and Rita whom I’ve known since the 7th grade about how we made it out alive. And, we shake our heads together and marvel.

Also, I’m starting school, planning for a masters degree. As much as I would like it to be in creative writing, I need to be practical and help pay for the house in the desert that my man in life, Nick, wanted us to have. As I sally forth with my multitude of second chances, I’m going to be one busy bee.

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