Monday, September 29, 2014

In the Game

Years ago, when I was still in my mid-twenties, I wanted to die.
The train from Innsbruck to Venice

I was working at a job I hated, but it was worse than that. It was a job I'd been groomed for by my dad who, along with my mother, wanted nothing more than to see me take over their family construction business.

When I say I had been groomed for the business, I mean, I was five years old when my dad brought me on to my first construction site and had me hold the end of a tape measure while he calculated the dimensions of a building foundation he and his crew would be pouring the following day. By the time I was fourteen, I'd already been working as a laborer and even experienced my first serious accident when I stepped on a nail that was sticking up out of floor-board and I, being the newly crucified, was sent to the hospital for nail extraction and a series of tetanus shots (I would later fictionalize this incident in THE CONCRETE PEARL).

When my early twenties rolled around, and I'd graduated college, I knew I wanted to be a writer, but instead I did "the right thing," and entered into my dad's business.

I hated it.

By then, I'd graduated to project manager status which meant my job was putting out fires all day inside a four-walled office, day in and day out. I used to sit at my desk and make notes about the stories I wanted to write, and the exotic places I wanted to visit, and the people I would meet along the way. I wanted adventure, not an office job and a home in the burbs.

In Moscow working for RT...a far cry from the construction business
My reading stand was full of novels by Hemingway and when I'd read all the novels, I started on all the biographies that detailed his prodigious life, and how he managed to become the best of the best.
He did it by entering into the game in the most humble way possible. He worked on the Kansas City Star as a cub reporter.

I remember the first time I read about how Papa began his career. I sat back in my chair at the construction company, and I thought, Damnit, that's what I'm going to do, since obviously no one is going to do it for me. So I went to work for the local Times Union Newspaper on the weekends, writing sports stories as a stringer. I also started freelancing pieces for them. Pieces on fly fishing and bird hunting, and other human interest stories. I saw my first byline and I nearly wept. When the fifty dollars per story checks began arriving in the mail, I felt even more exhilarated because I was no longer a wanna-be. I was a professional. It was a magical time, but also one of great tension.

I was still very young, and still tied to my family job, and even newly married. My dad wasn't too happy about my new passion, and even seemed confused if not hurt by it. After all, he'd invested an awful lot in me over the years and now here I was spending my time and energy in a field entirely unrelated to the commercial construction business.

Cairo, tail end of Arab Spring, researching The Shroud Key
But I was happy. I was a young man who no longer wanted to die. Quite the opposite in fact. I had begun the inevitable process of springing myself from a trap I'd willingly set for myself...the same sort of trap many men and women never free themselves from until it's far too late.   

I was a real writer now, and I was in the game.



1 comment:

  1. hey vince,

    this may be one of my very favorite posts on the vox. it immediately brings to mind the first time i was published. i still remember exactly how i felt when i saw my work in print for the first time and i still remember exactly how i spent that first check (i even saved the stub).

    actors are always saying that they don't choose to act, it chooses them. writing is the same.

    here's to listening to your gut and making things happen.