July 6, 2013
Iíve always called them clumps, the segments of times and place that seem to reflect different worlds. Some of these formed around places, and I can map them out as easily as I might a road trip, each place containing a cast of characters and plots out of which I write many of my novels.
The old house in Clifton served as a platform for a series of short stories and novellas. Even when some of these took place outside the house itself, they seemed tied to that place in my mind.
Some clumps are time periods such as the events in high school, or when I worked for the messenger service in New York.
Sometimes, more than one clump occupied the same period of time, such as when I went to college during the day, and worked for rock bands at night.
The old rooming house can be broken into several clumps, such as the first period when I lived in it, and later when I moved back. Willowbrook Dunkin has a similar number of clumps from various stages when I worked there, though my summer working for Two Guys from Garfield in a continuous clump just as is my time working as an usher in the Paterson Theater.
Sometimes, clumps form around an individual person, such as the people Iíve worked with or associated with, such as the various events associated with my ex-wife Ė with whom I lived through a number of clumps from the porno days of LA to the days of our reunion in the early 1980s.
My best friend also had a number of clumps associated with him, though most of these came in our teens and our twenties, after which we drifted apart, and I learned second hand about some of the things he did before his death in 1995.
Some people simply jump out at me Ė Iíve written three books about Peggy, the striper, not because we spent a long time together, but because she had such a powerful impact in my life. Before her suicide in 1999, most of what I wrote about her was either in handwritten journals or in a fictional novel. After I learned about her death, I put together some of those journal entries into a book, and then rewrote that into a more or less straight narrative with the help of research that allowed me to trace her life, and in that way, get to know her better than I had.
I am an extensive journalist in that I document everything almost every day, although much of it canít ever see the light of day until the subjects pass off this mortal coil as with Hank and Peggy, or I do. I tend to be honest in my attempt to make sense of these clumps, and donít always come off as a hero even in the fictional accounts.
Many writers I know try to reshape the past to make themselves look better than we are, or to make a situation come out as we might have wanted it. I just want to document the passing in and out of my life of people who are either vastly influential to me or are fascinating, or as is often the case, both.
Many of the clumps I write about are about people who have inspired me at a particular point in time, and have come part of a memory I need to preserve.
A few people have held on through decades, such as one I first met in Kindergarten, and of course, my ex-wife, and a handful of other close friends, but in my cases, people who have passed on or I have not seen, remain alive because I keep them alive in my writing, bringing them back into my life by recreating the clumps in which I first new them.
I have lived hundreds of lives, and all of them are filled with richness I do not regret regardless of how painful they might have been to me.