Thank you Stephen Fry – http://www.stephenfry.com/2015/01/10/you-must-mock/
As I Was Saying
Bill Lansford came into my life as gently as an ocean breeze off the Pacific.
As I waited that day on the second story landing facing his front door, l looked to my right and the Pacific winked there, in the sun, sending it’s delicious salt breath to me. I saw how it seduced all the women out of their clothes and into bikinis.
The salt-rusted screen door in front of me began to rumble with the movements inside the house and the white interior door opened to show me Bill, with his tousled black hair and white/grey moustache, t-shirt and shorts. “Hi ya, C’mon in!”
That first day, as I walked into his sun sparkling living room of white sofa, soft and bright as a cloud and glass coffee table, thick white carpet – a quiet heaven warmed by the light from the sea – I was tensed for an attack. I was there to interview him for my book about John Basilone, a war hero he had served with, and I was not a military person. I had even given him my first chapters to read. I expected to hear at some point, in so many words, where did I get the nerve to write about some one I never met, and in that person’s own voice?!
But the attack never came, not from Bill anyways. Other veterans took issue with me writing the life story of an American hero, but not Bill. He liked what I wrote and accepted my attempt to get to the heart of his friend, even as an outsider who had not been there. He told me straight out and unpolished, what it was like to be there – in the bottomless horror of the war they had fought in the Pacific.
He spoke without bitterness of the misery and terror they endured but couldn’t resist from turning to a smile when he spoke of his friends including Basilone, and at one point even saying of his military service, “It was fun.” I was speechless for a moment, and then the wave of joy that was Bill himself gently washed over me.
It was a signal of my acceptance. I was accepted, a fellow writer and human being. He knew I was afraid and embarrassed by my own ambition to speak for a national hero, now suddenly I was a friend of his…
Here is his page – http://www.williamdouglaslansford.com/index.htm
So long, pal, my best friend. Maybe we’ll meet again.
I’ll be the keynote speaker at the Coeur D’Alene Charter Academy in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho on April 12th.
I’ll be speaking on The Writer’s Life and Work to the students and faculty of this “Top 100” high school in the US. My brother, Dr. Bill Proser, is now the renowned educator behind the academy but I remember him as the doting older brother who recited “Call me Ishmael.” and “T’was brillig in the slithy toves…” to my younger brother Timmy and me.
We thought he was jabbering nonsense to confuse and torment us, but soon came to realize he was just delighting in the sensation of genius on his own tongue. Not only were we safe during his reveries, we were soon enchanted as he rolled snippets and soliloquies out in front of us with obvious delight.
Sonnets of love “..how shall I compare thee to a summer’s day…” came soon after and soon he was himself in love with a young girl of summer, his now wife, Dee.
Timmy immediately caught the emotion of ecstasy and developed a running and flapping bird dance while shouting, “Blue JAY! Blue JAY!” He was 9 and enthralled with his first love of words. He lifted us all into childhood ecstasy with him as he ran in circles, twirled and sang his heart out, in his little boy’s sonnet to the birds.
All my life I’ve only had one ambition and that was to be a great writer like Hemingway or Philip Roth or Vonnegut. I’ve been distracted a lot, by sex, by friends, by sex with friends, by movies, by deaths of loved ones. These all took time – years.
Now I see how I’ve lost focus and how I’ve been discouraged. These too, took time. So I’ve paired my life down to one woman, one business and fewer friends. I look at my few achievements and I am gratified that I’ve accomplished even the little I have but the past “hangs on me like chains” as Orson Welles once said after his second personal bottle of wine at lunch.
I have stories, so many more than I could ever tell and now a bit more time to tell them. If I can just lift these chains a bit to free my hands.