Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Finding Peace-A Tribute to My Friend

By Keith N Fisher
I don’t exactly remember the day I met my friend, Jerry Hair, but I remember many of the experiences we had together. I remember sleeping on his bedroom floor. I hated it, but that’s okay. He slept on my floor when he stayed at my house. We literally helped each other get through the madness of junior high in nineteen-seventy.

Jerry wasn’t my oldest friend. That honor goes to others, but during a difficult time in my life, he was one of the most important friends I had.

Over the course of my teenage years, I began to notice connections being made. I belonged to several circles of friends, from different backgrounds and I realized that I was the one thing they all had in common. Not that I had anything to do with it, I just introduced them to each other.

Seriously though, the old gang as I call them now, could’ve and probably would’ve met each other without me, but I noticed my circles kept linking. There were marriages entered into, life long friendships developed. Not everyone got along though, and some of those marriages broke up. Jerry was in one of those circles and he became a major part of the others.

When I heard of Jerry’s passing, I couldn’t believe it. Life has a way of closing doors before dawdlers like me can fully cross the threshold. I regret the things left undone & unsaid, although I believe he was ready to go.

Jerry called me about a year ago. He wanted me to visit, and talked of an incident, from our past. His sorrow was great, and he wanted me to know. To be honest I had forgotten the incident, but I accepted his apology, and told him to forget it.

What was the incident? Nothing much, in 1976, the girl I later married, and I, became the butt of a series of stupid and cruel jokes. Although I never heard the actual words, it hurt to find out what my friends had done. Not too long after, because of different directions and goals, Jerry, my other friends, and I, drifted apart. I became part of another link of circles.

After Jerry called, I planned to go see him, but never did. When he died, I waited to hear about funeral plans. I needed to say goodbye to the friend who was once, the most important friend in my life.

Jerry’s sister, Julie told me she would be giving the life sketch at the funeral, and wanted help. She asked if I could tell her stories about Jerry. I came up empty. How do you sum up a million stories when you haven’t thought about those things for years? My mind went blank, and even now, most of our experiences together have gone the way of an old man’s memory.

Then, while talking to one of our old friends, I began to remember something, but I expressed my regret that I couldn’t remember more. I also, expressed my regrets about missing the opportunity to see Jerry before he died. That’s when I learned the truth about Jerry’s later years.

As many of you know, Jerry was a carpet layer. He often had to use toxic chemicals in his job. From what I was told, it was on one of those jobs, when Jerry’s fate was sealed.

He had to use contact cement in a hospital, and as anyone knows, you must have ventilation while using the stuff. From what I gathered, the person in charge told him he had to close the doors because the smell was bothering the patients.

Jerry tried to explain that the chemical should not be used in a closed area. The container said so. It warned of health risks, but they forced him to close the doors. The job lasted a long time and Jerry was pretty much high on fumes all day, everyday.

The fumes killed brain cells and Jerry lost himself. At the funeral, Jerry’s daughter talked about the time when Jerry forgot who he, and they were. I don’t know the facts, but apparently Jerry went undiagnosed, and alienated people. After the hospital and the chemical company rejected his claims, Jerry found a little help through medication.

When I heard that Jerry still had trouble remembering, I thought of our phone call and how sorry he was about the incident. I realized that Jerry was getting his affairs in order. In our lives we, humans accumulate excess baggage. We make mistakes and hurt people.

Jerry spent his last years building relationships with his children and grandchildren. He found peace in knowing they would remember him. He will go on through them. I don’t know what other wrongs he might’ve made amends for, but I’m thrilled he was able to put the incident behind him.

The lesson there, in case you missed it, is make amends. Get rid of the excess baggage, sooth the heart of another. Express your love. Find peace in your life sooner than later, because we never know when our time will be over.

Since the funeral, I’ve been remembering. I remember us smoking cedar bark in the orchard. It was harsh, but it was a rite of passage, and it was his idea. (Grin), well, maybe my old man’s memory has become convenient.

I thought about our camping trip on the Green River in Wyoming. It was just the two of us and Jerry shot a beaver in the water. It was a pretty good shot, too.

There were a few camping trips on the family property in Mona, Utah. One trip found a group of us hunting rabbits to put into the stew. Speaking of rabbits, when Citizens band radios become popular we all developed a handle (name on the radio). Because of their last name, Joe became Tricky Rabbit. Jay was Rapid Rabbit because of his need for speed. Jerry was Porky Rabbit, I don’t know why.

When I think about Jerry, I think about listening to Jethro Tull on his stereo and trading albums with him. I still have the Beatles albums he traded to me. Of course, like everybody else, I remember trips to the sand dunes, but I remember back before the fascination of three, and four-wheelers. I was welcomed into Jerry’s family.

Jerry’s brother, Jay had built a sandrail for racing out at Sand Mountain, and I went with them. I remember the huge (6 inches long, at least) scorpion on the seat of Joe’s four-wheel drive dune buggy. As it crawled closer to sting Jerry’s younger sister, Janet, on the hand, Jerry flicked it off and saved her.

I don’t remember much about Jodie, the oldest, She was married and gone before I came along. But Jerry and I used to hang out with Doug & Kathy. Especially when we wanted to sluff school.

Julie talked about Jerry’s dancing years, she made a joke about him getting too old for tights, but I know the reason he kept dancing so long. He had a crush on the teacher’s daughter.

Jerry was very loyal to his father, Joe. Jerry made a promise to Joe that he wouldn’t drink. I think Joe had been around an alcoholic and he wanted to save Jerry from all that. Anyway, Jerry’s promise was good for us, because he became our designated driver before the term became popular. There were many nights when Jerry took care of us and got us home, drunk and stupid.

I’m not sure how long it bothered him, but Jerry had a blood circulation problem. His arms went numb when he slept on his side. When it become painful, the doctor’s solution was to operate and remove his ribs. The joke was, since God made Eve from one of Adam’s ribs, Jerry should’ve gone home with a wife.

Jerry had crushes on many girls in our teenage years, but I doubt any of them ever knew. He was shy, we both were, but it pleased me to hear that Jerry finally found a girl who would love and take care of him. I don’t think I ever met his wife, even at the funeral, but if Jerry cared about her I know she must’ve been a good lady.

I visited Jerry the night I came home from my mission. That’s when Jerry told me he would’ve bet that he would be the last one of our gang to take that step. Sorry Jerry, I won that honor. I married the girl my friends joked about.

These are only a few of the memories locked away in an old man’s brain. I wish I could dredge more up, but as Neil young sang, Time Fades Away. Jerry was a thinker. I used to watch him sitting on the sidelines evaluating people. We shared a love for the game of chess, and we used to play it for hours.

Jerry, you left a legacy, my friend. Some of us will never forget. I wish I’d gone to see you before you passed, but I’m glad for this chance to say goodbye.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Star Struck at LTUE

By Keith N Fisher

The symposium this year was better than ever. With the exception of a few things said in panels, the information was helpful and inspiring. I’ve been attending LTUE for years and I must say it’s getting better.

With that said, I want to talk about something I’ve seen before, but never in a conference in Utah. Several years ago, in an effort to become a better writer, I attended my first writer’s conference. One of the things I loved about it, was the human qualities exhibited by the major talent. Those who’d made a name for themselves, were just the same as me.

I experienced a sense of community that made me feel like a family member. I made friends who are national market superstars today. I walk down the hall at a conference, and they call me by name and ask how my writing is going.

The bottom line is they are human. They are normal people with some of the same problems we have. Some time ago, one of the superstars, a science fiction author, was the keynote speaker at an LDStorymakers conference. I didn’t know who he was because I don’t write science fiction, but he’d just signed a book contract that would net several figures.

That author was treated like any other author. I felt comfortable being around him. He makes a lot more than that now, and he was at LTUE this year. To say, I was shocked by the way he was treated this year, would be an understatement. The behavior didn’t come from by those who usually attend, but the people I’ve never seen before. The superstars are just people, writers who feel sad when they can’t spend time with each attendee.

I never realized how bad the problem was, until I tried to leave a conference room at the end of a presentation. The next panel would have some of the superstars in it and there was a solid mass of people trying to get in while many of us were trying to get out. It was like trying to continually fill an elevator. Eventually, the cable will snap, and it will fall to the first floor.

I waited for a second, asking to be let out before they rushed into the room. Finally, I realized those crazed fans were fighting for a place inside. The blank stares said it all. Being a large man, I was able to push my way through the crowd. Like moving through a heard of cattle, They moved aside. I was able to get to the next panel.

Please know, that although, I am jealous of my friend’s contracts, I have no axe to grind. I am reminded of when a famous entertainer moved into my LDS ward. In my neighborhood, there are many famous and successful people. They are people who I admire and look up to. I want to grow up and be like many of them. I saw many of those successful people grovel and kiss up to the entertainer.

I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. They eventually got over it, but just like the aspiring writers I saw at LTUE, they were star struck. I hope my superstar friends find the peace and quiet they deserve. Now, that the conference is over.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Flaking Out and LTUE (Life The Universe & Everything)

By Keith N Fisher

Okay, I’m ready to admit I’m a procrastinator. I didn’t use to be. I used to plan ahead, thinking about up coming projects. I used to promote my writing career. What happened? I’m not sure. Middle age, maybe. Sudden life changes are a major factor, but I suspect a PTSD condition of sorts.

I planned to write an LTUE (Life The Universe and Everything) preview for today, but as you can see, I’m late posting. Webster’s second definition says this about flaking out. 2 slang: to be overcome especially by exhaustion. Yep, a condition of sorts.

I missed the early registration deadline for LTUE, but I evaluated my finances. I’m going to be there. I won’t be wearing any bells, but I needed the networking time. I made a comment on Author’s Incognito recently and somebody asked who I was. I’m the middle aged big guy with a beard that runs around acting like he’s a writer.

If you see me at LTUE, please say hello. Be advised, however, I shaved my beard. I assure you it’s me. I still feel naked, but some people say it makes me look younger.

I started this post talking about flaking out. Please be patient with me. I’m trying to rebuild a life. If it goes well, I should be back soon.

Good luck with your writing--see you next week.   

Saturday, February 1, 2014


By Keith N Fisher

While writing the other day, I tripped over my story line. I fell into a place where I had to explain why the character came home early from her trip. My character isn’t pretty, like her sister. She’s not promiscuous, like her friend. She chose to get recognition by being smart.

She grabbed valedictorian honors at her graduation and received several academic scholarship offers.

I know, it’s too late to make this short, but basically, she goes on a trip to tour the universities and meets a famous astrophysicist at MIT, although I can’t specifically name the university in my story.

Because the scene in question isn’t really vital to the plot, spending a lot of time on research seemed counterproductive. Nevertheless, it is necessary for the story, so I did. The astrophysicist, a professor, is a fictitious person. The scene is at MIT although I won’t say that, because I hate making mistakes with facts. (Those mistakes can come back to haunt you.)

So, let’s go back to the story line, and my character. She manages to impress the professor by naming the formation in the center of the picture. It is the Horsehead Nebula. Since the dark nebula is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, most of his students miss the subject in the photo. When the professor points at the center of the picture and asks, "What is this?" They answer, "The Orion Nebula."

That’s a lot of research for one scene, don’t you think? Like I said, I hate getting the facts wrong, and to be truthful, I am conceptualizing a little.

The professor takes my character under his wing, and convinces her to attend his school. Having made that decision, she cuts her trip short and goes home to share the news. That’s when crap hits the fan.

I once overheard a conversation at a writer’s conference that gave me pause. It still does. The statement went, "I hate doing research, I love to just write what’s in my head." In answer to this I would say, even high fantasy writers need to research the possibilities. Have you ever observed a writer, who is in the zone? Have you seen them twist their hands, move their bodies, and make gestures? They’re trying to describe actions and they are doing research. Sometimes I use people as dummies to see if my visualization is physically possible.

See the picture I attached? Look at the beauty of the colors. I made it my desktop background. I learned a lot in my research. I learned the Horsehead Nebula was discovered at the very observatory where I drafted the scene. Coincidence? I discovered the horsehead by googleing nebulas and picking the first one I saw.

My character spends a few days at MIT. She never thinks about nebulas again. The professor is not in the rest of the story. Is it worth it? What do you think? In my life I’ve been a carpenter, milwright, typesetter, document preserver, and truck Driver. I studied to be an Architect, and even managed a bar. I also pumped gas, hauled hay, and designed houses. I schmoozed customers as an inside salesman for many years. As a writer, I use all these experiences in my fiction.

Our minds are like a super computer. We start adding data when we are born, and I believe that data goes with us into the next life. Which data we collect is up to us, but as writers, we have a whole lifetime of data to draw from. I might never write about nebulas again, but it’s nice to know I don’t need to conceptualize those facts next time.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.