Newsletter 041 – June 23, 2023
Disclaimer: This newsletter and the eight that will follow it were written in advance. This was done to allow me to focus on tasks I have to complete before I can publish my next books (Flood and Fire and Jagged Man).
Update (6-22-2023): I have been adding to my novella and learning a great deal of new software, but we did have a major interruption last night. A major storm blew through the Houston area. It hit especially hard in Spring (supposedly gusts of up to 100 mph — it certainly felt like it). It knocked down part of our back fence (along with a bunch of other fences in the neighborhood), so I may have to add another chore to my roster. Hopefully it won’t delay my work on the books too much. Such is life.
On to the promised job descriptions.
My very first job lasted just one day, but my teaching career lasted for 23 years; or 30 years if you add my educational job at Rice University to it. I’ll try to do this somewhat chronologically (and maybe mention where those occupations informed my writing). Let’s start with my first two jobs. Aside from chores for my parents, and the occasional lawn mowing for neighbors (with a hand-powered reel mower, not fun), these are some of the first jobs I had (either hoping to earn a substantial chunk of change — not just a few dollars here and there — or to make a living). It didn’t always work out that way.
Late-1960’s — As a summer job before my senior year in high school, I worked as a dishwasher (and potato scrubber/peeler) in a diner for one day. At the end of that day my hands were raw from the boiling hot water, so I spent three dollars on some rubber gloves on my way home. The next morning I arrived bright and early to have the owner tell me they had hired someone else who “needs the job more because he has a family.” He paid me six dollars for the previous day (less than a dollar an hour), half of which I had already spent for gloves I never wore. My next job was working for a pest exterminator. I lasted about a month there before I started having coughing fits from the chemicals. Did I use either of those experiences in my writing? Yes, I did. Both of those jobs show up as scenes in The Lives of Franklin Roosevelt Jones (which looks like it will remain an exceedingly-unfinished work in progress for some time, see Newsletter 015).
Near the end of my senior year in high school I got an acting scholarship at the local Central Texas college, Stockman University. Note: For reasons I’ve explained elsewhere I’m not ready to name the town or anyone or anything in it just yet, so let’s continue to call the school Stockman and the town Deep Springs. Stockman University apparently had a shortage of male actors at that time, and I had already been acting for a few years at Deep Springs High when the head of Stockman’s Drama Department saw me play Captain Keller in The Miracle Worker, our senior play that year. He recruited me to play Mr. Snake at the college in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play, School for Scandal before my senior year was over. Apparently I did all right because he offered me a full-tuition acting scholarship to go to Stockman. College wasn’t even on my radar then, so my life took quite a turn there.
Having my tuition covered was great, but I soon discovered I still needed money for books, food, living quarters, etc., so for a couple of years I also worked at the school’s Business Office, keeping rental records and collecting rents; then I slung fresh hides at a slaughterhouse (one of the least pleasant things I’ve ever done); and did all sorts of manual labor at a local feed mill (sometimes I would come out of an alfalfa boxcar dusted deep green from head to toe after shoveling the ground-up alfalfa into a chute located under the railroad track). One summer I moved to Dallas and coated wrought iron patio chairs with rustproofing chemicals (just a step up from the exterminating job in terms of strong odors). In Dallas I also had my first movie role, playing a hippie sitting outside a restaurant where a gunman was holding customers hostage (the movie was called A Falling of Bells, and, as far as I’ve been able to find out, it was never released); back in Deep Springs I was an occasional drummer in local bands, learned to play tablas to accompany a friend on his sitar, did gigs with other friends at local clubs, and was a radio deejay at two local stations for a few years. Some of those jobs will likely end up in Franklin Roosevelt Jones, and I did use being an actor and a radio deejay and my love of music in both of the If a Butterfly books.
During this time, I wasn’t just attending classes or working or acting or drumming, I was also writing. Actually, beginning as early as third grade and continuing through college, I dabbled in short stories and poetry, or wrote the occasional short play, haphazardly sometimes. I tried to market some of it, mostly the poetry, without really understanding the publishing business. Truthfully, though, I channeled most of my energy into acting and my studies. Everything else during that time period was either just a sideline or a survival mechanism.
That largely takes us to the end of the 1960’s. I’ll start with the 1970’s in the next newsletter.
See you then,
[“A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor.”
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables, Cosette, 1862.]
Standard Disclaimer: Please post a comment below if you would like to. All comments are personally moderated by a grouchy old guy, though, so posts by self-promotional schemers, spammers, and lunatic ranters won’t make it through. Everyone else, whether your thoughts are positive or negative, please feel free to speak your mind. Thanks.