I was watching a small child play indoor soccer and honestly it had its moments but I was feeling that inevitable weight, boredom. I mean the kid was falling down, sort of tumbling, and I just wasn’t feeling that, so I walked about a block in a type of cold, hard rain (like smoke on the sidewalks) and across two streets and into the library. I selected a novel by James Salter. It was one of those old yellowing hardbacks that smell like my grandmother’s hallway where she used to keep a bottom drawer of ‘toys’ for when the kids dropped by. (The toys were a wooden block, a rock, an ancient, battered lunchbox, and one leather shoe.) I love those types of books. And it was about rock climbing and lyrical and plot-driven, as is often the way with Salter and, you know, reading is odd, some odd, inevitable chain—this book leads to this book leads to—and I started thinking about fighter pilots (Salter was one) and way leads to way and I finished Salter’s wonderful little novel and got online and bought Once a Fighter Pilot…by Jerry W. Cook. This was a mistake.
You ever been in a conversation where the person finds out you write (Oh Jesus, here we go…) and they cough up some variation of, “Yeh I’m going to write a book when I get the time.” Hmmm…that sort of gives me mixed feelings. I first think, Fuck off. But that’s just a harsh thing that kicks in. I relax and think, “Go right ahead” in this sort of drawl-type thinking, still a tinge of acid. One time over beers my recently retired dad, a dedicated and experienced organic gardener, said “I should write a book about my life as an organic gardener.” I answered, “Good idea. Bring me the first three pages tomorrow.” He did not. Another response I feel is, “Just because you have material doesn’t mean you have a book.” Or I might think, “When you get the time, why not try brain surgery, too?” I have other responses but I’m rambling and I wanted to get to my point: not everyone should write a book.
I should have known. There were warning signs: