The summer before my freshman year in high school, a reporter in Arizona named Don Bolles was murdered by a car bomb. I was not aware of any such murders of reporters before and none during my years in high school. Somehow, while planning to go into journalism, this one instance weighed on my mind. There was absolutely no viable reason to doubt the profession at all. Perhaps it was a sense of paranoia or just not being worldly enough to disregard it. I looked for something else to study.
And there it was: the University of Miami. They had a Creative Writing program. They had a Film program. And, well, gee whiz, it was MIAMI. I’m this relatively sheltered shy kid from the suburbs of Boston. What better way to become worldly?
I took Screen Writing courses. During my time there, I worked on two screenplays. One was an attempt to convert the Trojan War into the world of advertising on a bicoastal story. Rather pretentious, extremely out of reach. The other was a coming-of-age comedy about (get this!) two film students based on, well, a friend and myself. Even included the last line from “Casablanca” for just another film reference. How cheeky!
A lot of this stuff was wild fantasies, ideas out of the blue, but at the very least with the structure of classes behind me. The thing was that once you wrote a screenplay you didn’t try to get it published like a novel or a poem. You had to get it produced. Like, go to California. Hollywood. Live in abject poverty. Work as a waiter. Or a bus boy. Perhaps meet someone important. If you were lucky. These weren’t the days of internet and cell phones. I realized I had become mildly worldly but lacked the kind of confidence necessary to continue.
So, I started writing poetry. Mostly rhymed stuff. Nothing too deep. I wasn’t a Beat, a Surrealist, a Dadaist, or any other kind of -ist. I read and wished I could write better. So, I did. I continued to work on screenplays because, up until that time, it was the most training I had.
I had become a bit of a Bohemian. I did work as a waiter. I had a lot of cash on hand. I experienced people from all walks of life. I developed a personality that was all mine. But there was no direction, no thought about the future. No one in those days discussed 401k plans or life insurance or even buying a house. Had that continued I likely would have eventually broken off from the group I was hanging around with, gotten a job in which conformity would have ruled my life, and given up any artistic or literary notions.
It was then I got married.
NEXT: Trying to live a normal life