Saturday, July 4, 2015

Starting into the sixties with my Lettera-22

My first paid magazine item was a short op-ed in the November 1955 Air Force magazine.

I had other stuff published before my first full-length story, "The Night Intruders," which ran 5,000 words.

From an early age, I wanted to fly and fight. I was an airman from 1957 to 1960, in Korea.

I moved to San Francisco to become the great American writer. My literary prose looks laughable now, my poetry worse. I studied Ernest Hemingway and pretended to care about Andre Gide.

I loved a fiction account of a B-26 Invader bombing mission in a small literary magazine in San Francisco in 1960. I met Robert C. Mikesh who'd flown B-26s in the Korean War and was later a museum curator and author.

In 1960 in San Francisco, I was a file clerk for Bethlehem Steel. In 1961, I worked for Sherwin Williams Paint near my parents' home in a Washington, D.C. suburb. Photo shows me banging on my Olivetti Lettera-22 in my parents' back yard, age twenty-one.

Larry Harry, who'd been in Korea with me, blew into town. He suggested we hitchhike across the country to position ourselves to find work in the Far East. I'd submitted "The Night Intruders" to ARGOSY and SAGA and had it rejected. I sent it to REAL. Larry and I hitched across the country, getting 52 rides ranging in length from 800 feet to 1,200 miles.

Two strong but odd memories persist from crossing America that hectic, hot summer of 1961.
An Ivy League kid who reeked of Eastern Money (older than us, but still a kid) gave us a lift in his shiny new car and proclaimed, with some arrogance, "I'm a New Frontier Democrat!" The other memory: Gherman Stepanovich Titov.

Don't remember him? It's okay. "I am eagle!" cosmonaut Titov proclaimed on car radios of people who gave us rides, asserting Soviet supremacy. Until I looked him up just now to refresh my memory, I didn't know Titov shared my September 11 birth date (in a different year).

Returning to San Francisco where I'd lived months earlier, neither Larry nor I found a way to get to Asia. Larry went back into the Air Force, retired a colonel, survived cancer, and died of a heart attack on a cruise ship near Noumea, New Caledonia. Larry Harry (1938-2011) was one of my half dozen best friends throughout life.

I became a file clerk with the Western Pacific Railroad (a hefty, union-negotiated $16.96 per day). The boss would answer the phone by saying, "Hello, Miscellaneous," the name of our department.
My father telephoned person-to-person from the other coast to tell me something had come in the mail from REAL about my story. "They want to pay you a hundred dollars for it," Dad said.


Soon, I was living in a San Francisco boarding house called Baker Acres where I met Pierre M. and Jerome B. Curtis, two more lifelong best friends. I'm including surnames in these recollections only for those no longer with us. Oh, and I met Charlotte, too, but never mind about that.

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