Now that I’ve reached the age of 80, a milestone year if ever there was one, I thought it’d be a fitting time to revisit some moments from my life as a writer—for better or for worse.
Let’s bypass the rave reviews I received from my parents for a play I wrote and starred in at nine, Detective Dick, and skip along to 1964. I’d just graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in Humanities and was living with a friend in Berkeley, California.
I decided to launch my freelance career by writing poems and greeting card ideas—two surefire money makers. Some poems got published, most suffered a less happy fate. As in: “Sorry we won’t be able to use your poem, but we did like parts and particles of it.” The word “the” in the second line of the third stanza, I surmised, the third syllable of the eighth word in the fifth line of the second stanza, the… (More…)
In 1979 I was hired as a writer by a well-known and flamboyant marketing-and-sales-management consultant named Stanley Arnold, who over a long career had created many a successful promotional campaign for various blue-chip companies, such as: “Win Your Height in Dollar Bills” for Lever Brothers, “Win a Bathtub Full of Cash” for Dove Soap, and “Win a Mattress Full of Money” for Simmons.
One of Arnold’s more memorable promotions helped introduce a new line of specialty foods from General Foods, and the unveiling of the “horse-of-a-different-color” theme to marketing executives featured just that—a white horse dyed a bright blue. Another client of his—a man seeking a high-paid position at an advertising agency—brought a belly dancer along to the job interview…his resume written on her undulating abdomen. The list goes on and on. (More…)
Socrates is alleged to have said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Was he talking to the elite of ancient Greece? Or are his words still applicable to us, even though we are separated by thousands of years?
Bruce Feiler, in his most recent book, Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age, would appear to agree wholeheartedly with Socrates’ idea that we benefit from examining our own lives. After interviewing 225 people who had experienced horrific and some more common life-altering events in their lives, Mr. Feiler states: “Life is the story you tell yourself.”
Feiler says that our life transitions, which he calls “life disrupters,” and for the very largest of these events, “lifequakes,” require us to rewrite our life story. I had one of these “lifequakes” myself; it was my heart attack on the eve of my 49th birthday. To compound the difficulty of this medical event, it also led to the subsequent loss of my first career. (More…)
I was fascinated with school during my childhood in the Chicago suburbs. I idolized teachers, offered to grade tests for them, and played school with younger neighbors in our basement.
In September, 1970, I headed to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, to start my major in elementary education. I loved my classes until my view of teaching elementary school became more realistic during my second semester of sophomore year. I observed a fourth-grade class of misbehaving lower-income students in Urbana. During spring break, I observed my fourth-grade sister’s class in suburban Chicago, only to discover that my sister’s teacher faced the same behavior problems. I sadly decided that I did not want a career disciplining students who did not want to learn. (More…)