Once upon a time, I read a book. And once upon a time, I was a young boy.
Those sentences bookend my life choices.
As a child, I watched television and discovered a show called "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." They were spies, fighting evil and righting wrongs while flying around the world meeting beautiful women. Therefter, I adopted Ilya K's mod hair style and turtle neck sweaters and fancied myself a spy in training.
Later, I watched "The Persuaders". Tony Curtis and Roger Moore played an American and Englishman. International playboys, they jetted and drove about investigating and resolving mysteries and helping people. Moore - the Englishman, Lord Brett Sinclair - drove an Aston Martin. The wild American, Danny Wilde, drove a Dino Ferrari.
I'd discovered cars about a dozen years before. I was drawn to Porsches and Jaguars. Cars weren't a large part of the U.N.C.L.E. guys. I decided that I would drive a Ferrari like Tony Curtis. The 246 GT remains a favorite to this day.
Along that time, the Marlboro Man came on the scene. I admired his ruggedness and his mustache. He looked like my uncle, too, so much so that Uncle V adopted it as part of his persona, hand to God. Uncle V was a divorced, womanizing, articulate, literate party animal. I decided to be like him, too.
Rock music was making heavy impressions on my youthful mind. I started as a Beatle, became a Monkee, and then moved toward the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Pink Floyd. Yes, I would become a guitarist. I was learning trombone, a desire created from a love affair with "76 Trombones". I begged a guitar for a birthday present and began learning, you know, as a fall back in case the spy business went under.
My new career direction required a new wardrobe. I bought second hand bell bottom jeans with a hole in the rear and a tee shirt with a marijuan leaf on its center. Lettering around the leaf said, "Keep America Green. Grow Grass." I began wearing one of my father's military fatigue shirts and carried around a magic marker, inviting girls to sign it and asking them to add their phone numbers. My black leather weave belt was twelve inches too long and flopped like a tired dog's lolling tongue as I walked. White high tops painted flourescent orange finished my ensemble. My brown hair hung around my shoulders in thick curls. By happenstance, by fourteen, a mustache and goatee were thickening and darkening around my mouth.
People didn't know what to think.
I discovered literature, though, and started reading. My friends nicknamed me The Professor. While I was still active in sports, I no longer had classes with my friends and neighbors as I was shifted into advanced classes. I was painting and drawing, learning different styles. I was reading more. Discovering Frank Lloyd Wright, I now wanted to be an architect. But the space program was happening. I would be an astrophysicist and astronaut! My curriculum was adjusted. I saw a prototype F16. I would be a fighter pilot.
A pattern had emerged. I was easily impressed and dreamed of being someone. Notice none of those professions included writer or novelist.
When it came time to actually be something, I went an easy route and joined the military. No, it wasn't glamorous. It was rewarding. I'd already met a young girl and was in love. I wanted to be married. To be married, I needed an income. The military provided it. Best of all, she was a Charley girl.
Remember them? Charley was a perfume. Still might be, for all I know. Urban, smiling and knowing, energetic, Charley girls skipped through life, drawing men's attention and driving them wild.
It's depressing how much advertising, marketing and television sculpted my choices. I wonder how many other young people were similarly blown around by these changing currents?
Eventually I came to realize that being in the military, while offering some challenges, was mostly pretty boring. I also realized I could not stay in the military forever.
One day, I read a fantasy book. After reading it, I denounced it, a moment affixed in my mind's amber: "What crap. I could write better than that."
My quest began.
The thing about writing books and stories is that it was supposed to be easy. How hard can it be? We're all taught to write. It's English, for crying out loud. Sentences, you know, verb and noun, periods and commas. Just tell a story. Instead of speaking, type it up.
Now, decades later, I'm a little closer to realizing the closest thing I ever had as a real dream. I've worked on it for a long time, teaching myself, slowly drawing closer. Along the way, I've learned to love words and writing. Maybe I loved them all along and didn't take the time to investigate them and myself back then. After all, writing isn't glamorous and as an adult, I've become a person who prefers solitude, someone who ducks attention. Let me sit in the front of the back. I'll participate but I want to be anonymous.
So if I could ever go back to that young boy, I would tell him, have fun. But you know what? I think you're meant to be a writer.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com