Too Damn Lucky

When a young person’s fate is to be a writer, the aspirant should set out in life to experience a great variety of social levels. If a person has the fragile filament that is the spirit of the writer, it matters not if is a woman or a man, that person will have to take in much adventure and knowledge.

It’s undeniable that higher education, university credentials and so on, contribute a great deal to the ambitious author. But it certainly is not necessary. The self-education one gains by living a life of variety can be as valuable as a PhD. Tasting the exotic, the dangerous, and the mundane levels of life that are available to us makes life rich.

I’m writing of a young man in his teens that thought it must be great to be a writer. He never actually pursued the dream, however, because he believed he did not have the stuff to do it. He hated school, and was happy to quit at eighteen to take a job as a scrap truck helper. It was smelly, dangerous, dirty work, and he loved it, because it wasn’t school. It was exciting, like an adventure, not just a way to earn groceries.

There were many experiences for the young man, and he was enjoying them, in spite of the objectionable aspects of the work. Even the truck driver was interesting to him. He was a chubby, jovial Italian person who was called Jimmy Palermo. It might not have been his real name, because ‘Jimmy’ isn’t Italian, and he was from Palermo, Sicily. When they were on the road somewhere and it was time for lunch, he’d pull over the huge truck and take out his lunch bag. The boy never had anything with him, so Jimmy always shared his. The thick slices of Italian bread, spread with something like chicken fat or lard, were not the boy’s first choice, but he had no choice.

One day they had to pick up hundreds of slimy and smelly one-gallon buckets from a glue factory. The buckets were in the rail yard beside the plant. The boy and Jimmy were sweating in the ninety-degree summer heat beside a railway siding. Open railcars were loaded with the rotting skeletons of farm animals. Across the road was a large distillery, with its peculiar, humid summer smell. The combination of fermenting booze and rotting cadavers is an unforgettable stink.

The boy’s experience grew in this way. He moved to a job in a lumberyard, unloading large, long planks from boxcars and stacking the planks in neat, even stacks. He learned how to do it in short order, and built his body up considerably on the job. He also acquired a deep, dark tan. He worked with two older French Canadian guys called Meo and Baleau. Friday afternoons were payday, and the French guys took off for a weekend of drunken trouble. One Friday, they took the boy with them.

First, they hopped a slow-moving freight train heading east, riding in a dusty boxcar. They had beer, and the weekend began. When the train chugged slowly through the next town, they jumped from the boxcar before it got to the train yard. They knew that guards could come after them in there.

They took the boy with them into a rail side bar and ordered beer for the three of them. The barmaid said the boy’s too young. Baleau put a handful of his pay cash on the bar and the girl decided the boy was old enough

The boy’s life grew in that way. He absorbed images and characters, situations and scenes in every waking moment. The good luck that he enjoyed was that he was privileged to have come from a wealthy family. He’d had the experiences of having servants, travel, country homes, country clubs and yacht clubs. But he recognized this as being a rather two dimensional existence. He left behind the world of cars and clubs and set out to gain the real experiences of life.

With a spirit filled with adventures, experiences and problems, he became a writer later in his life. He overcame the stigma of not doing well in school, and he overcame his parents’ criticism. When they saw his name on television as the creator and writer of a successful show, they realized that they’d never known who he was.

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