A Song of Mine – The Gulf of Mexico

Gulf of Mexico -- Sperry Hunt

This is a true story from my high school days.

The Gulf of Mexico
©2015 Sperry Hunt
1. The sun was in our eyes.
We couldn’t see the end.
You were my girl.
He was my friend.
I glanced away,
Dreamers do.
You waited for me.
He waited for you.

Chorus. Some dreams take you over.
Some dreams take you under.
Some just drag you where they go.
Some live in the heart forever.
Some change like the weather.
This dream drowned in the Gulf of Mexico

2. You called to me.
I did not come.
I didn’t even know.
What I had done.
I broke your heart,
Like dreamers do.
I didn’t even care,
I broke it in two.

Chorus

3. You turned to him.
He said let’s wait.
You were my girl.
He was my mate.
He left you there.
Said he really should go,
But he would return from
The Gulf of Mexico.

Chorus

 

 

A short story of mine

Arcola.jpg

Life from a Distance

Life from a Distance

© Sperry Hunt 2011

As with most men, Luther and I spent nearly an hour talking about half a dozen things that didn’t matter just to avoid the one thing that did.

It was a sunny morning last July. We sat in our rockers on the deck outside the Menagerie with our feet on the rails. The Menagerie was the rickety lodge he and I built on top of the White Cliffs. The grain silos, the schools and the houses of Beeville spilled out across the prairie a thousand feet below. The old drive-in movie screen listed toward the rim of the world where nearly every evening the sun sets into a pot of gold.

During the first half-hour of our conversation, we peeped around town through Luther’s telescope speculating on what we observed: Sam Black was late to work for the third day in a row. Coach Jacobs and Father Dupree drove out under the willow grove where the river bends. And, judging from the consistent vacancy in her driveway, Lucy Malloy hadn’t taken up with anyone a year after Roy ran off on her.

When Luther was too sore to put his eye to the telescope, he leaned back and spoke in short breaths for a while about the virtues of tying flies and coffee can stew. In the middle of his stew story, he turned away and said something I didn’t catch. When I asked him to repeat it, he wiped his eyes with the crook of his arm and turned toward a silver drape of rain sweeping across the highway to the east. “Back when this state was a territory, know what its motto was?” he said.

“Can’t say I do,” I said even though he’d often told me.

“I long to see what is beyond.”

“Is that so?”

“Yep, and that’s just the way I feel today.”

I squeezed his shoulder. The bones slid around like they were in one of those over-roasted chickens you sometimes get at the market.

Luther snatched up the shot glass of smoky, green juice he’d set beside himself earlier. He raised the glass once toward me and again toward the horizon before downing the contents.

A shiver of disgust roiled through him. Then he grabbed my hand, hauled himself to his feet and threw the jigger with all he had into a long arc. The glass sparkled past a wheeling hawk then tumbled down into the hay field waving like the ocean on Karl Schuster’s back forty.

Luther fell back into the rocker and winked at me.

“See you, Jake.”

I stared at him feeling that low-voltage, bilious sensation you get when your car spins on the ice.

“See you, Luther,” I said into his eyes.

He groaned once then slumped back against the slats peacefully, like he’d done a hundred times listening to a ball game.

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The Trunk in the Attic

The Trunk in the Attic

I struggle with the complexity of the stories and the accessibility of language in my two novels. Will a young reader stumble on a word more common in the books of my own childhood than in hers? Will she finish a book with so many characters and twists?

The point I’ve come to is that while I certainly do not wish to confuse, bore or frustrate readers, I do hope to pass on some of the richness of detail I was fortunate enough to be exposed to not only in my early readings, but in my own childhood. My father, a character himself, devoured sea stories, and could quote Shakespeare and Walter Scott at the drop of the hat. My mother, a painter and poet, quoted the Romantic poets almost daily. My big sister Lalu is a marvelous storyteller herself and read me Thurber with a wicked giggle. My late sister Robin McCorquodale published several acclaimed books and sang mezzo soprano in New York. My brother Grainger Hunt sang rock-and-roll and played Henry IV on stage. My own literary influences were Shakespeare, Homer, Twain, Verne, Stevenson, Doyle, Wells, Hammett, Hellman, O’Brian, Chandler and McMurtry. I read them still.

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Good Stories

Ginevra de' Benci c. 1474

Everybody has an interesting story, but it’s generally not the one they’ll tell you first. How Bob kicked the winning field goal in the last high school game is interesting to Bob. It’s the story that makes Bob feel giddy as he anticipates excitement rising in your expression. To get a grand sense of this, read William Shatner’s or Donald Trump’s autobiographies. They’re stuffed with vignettes that portray them as brave, smart and very cool. (I actually enjoyed Shatner’s.) They’re the same stories you’ve been button-holed in the corner at a cocktail party to hear. There are one or two in this blog to be honest.

The good stories are the ones you pull out of yourself like arrowheads. They make you squirm. They’re embarrassing or shameful – so much so they’re likely to be embedded in fiction, or told as though they happened to someone else.

Those are the ones I want to hear, and write. Most of us, I suspect, have several. But, like I say, they’re hard to tell.

*The painting is Leonardo DaVinci’s Ginevra de’ Benci, c. 1474.

Editors

Maurice de Vlaminck Painting

I’m at the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, OR this weekend pitching my new book. I must say the more editors I know, the more I like them. Publishers, bless them all, love numbers. Editors love words. They are the gardeners of books.

*Painting by Maurice de Vlaminck.

Cynics

Nay Sayer

Pity the crank. The nay sayer. The lone member of the opposition in all things.

Or rather don’t.

Pity doesn’t work. I tried. A cynic will try to entangle you in his nets, and drag you down saying, “See? I told you so.”

Remember the words of Oscar Wilde: “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”

Follow the wisdom of George Carlin who said, “Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.”

I urge you, don’t be tempted to aid a cynic. He’ll turn you into a symbol of the success of his own failure, or the failure of success itself.

Stealing Apollo – The Story Behind the Story

Frogronaut 1

Some years ago I wrote a film script that follows the shenanigans of a gang of men who steal an Apollo spacecraft from a display in a Vegas casino in broad daylight. Here’s a memory from my boyhood that says something about a guy who would write such a story three decades later.

As thirteen-years old Houstonians, my next door neighbor Ned and I built a piloted rocket ship. I use the word piloted loosely. Our astronaut had no control over his spacecraft, but then neither did Yuri Gagarin, who earlier that year became the first man to orbit Earth. Not being funded by a national space budget, we constructed our capsule from a shoe polishing kit and a three-foot mailing tube we filled with homemade gunpowder.

Yes, homemade gunpowder.

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Backstories of Backstories

Every story has a backstory. Every time machine story has two.

The backstory of the Pirates of Time, my current effort, is the love between pseudo-pirate Captain Swiftfoot Darkrunner and Blue Leaf, princess of the Nighthawk People.  This love is vital to my main character Erin Isabelle Spotsworth three-hundred years later.  Though only obliquely related to my tale, Pirates of Time could not have been written were it not for a number of fiction and non-fiction books I read as a child. This post is an attempt to honor these stories in enriching my story and indeed, my life.

Pocahontas and John Smith

The history of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith

Wendy

Peter Pan and other related works of J.M. Barrie

TinWoodmanofOz

The novels of L. Frank Baum

ForgetfulProfessor

The rich literary history of forgetful professors such as Per Lindroth’s book.

From the new time travel manuscript

Sea Battle

With Sophie sleeping comfortably, Erin decided to venture above for the first time since the battle. The deck was bathed in bright, tropical sunlight. The Mansions of Night was on a port tack heading west south-west several hundred yards behind Velocity.

Erin found Mera at the stern rail watching a lone British frigate following from halfway to the horizon.

“That’s Insuperable,” Mera said solemnly. “She was on our heels when we left Sugar Bowl Bay. We’ve put three miles on her since.”

“I’m surprised your mom doesn’t join with Velocity and attack. It’s two to one.”

“Mother thinks Triumph and Lucy B are just over the rim, or they wouldn’t risk stalking us. Lucy B has jib damage and Triumph is holed below the water line. When they’ve made repairs, they’ll likely start closing on us. They’ve more sail than our ships.”

Erin stared across the heaving sea imagining the three frigates drawing closer every day until their twenty-four pound “bruisers”, as Jennie called the British cannons, could “punch us through at thousand yards.” Nell and Darkrunner would certainly turn and attack, as they had before. But there would be no surprise this time. Just smashing long shots followed by a broadside brawl which Jenny didn’t believe the pirate ships could long stand.

“Don’t fret too much,” Mera said watching Erin’s face. “We’ve still got the best captains on the Deep Blue Sea.”

Erin tried her best to smile, but couldn’t help but worry at the odds.

[Thanks to Chris Hunt for providing reference to image:  Battle of Quiberon Bay: the Day After (Richard Wright 1760)]

research on the action sequence of firing a cannon

Gun Drill aboard USS Constitution

I am at the scene in my pirate novel where my heroines, who have just been made midshipmen (yes, midshipmen), need to be trained in how to fire cannons called 12-pounders.

As I mentioned before I’ve read several of the Master and Commander book series by Patrick O’Brian. There is a detailed description in the fourth chapter of the book by that title. But even after having read it several times, I still found it difficult to visualize what the mechanisms looked like and exactly how the crew performed their tasks. The best representation I found was a youtube video of the crew of the USS Constitution running through the identical drill. The ship is of a later date than my Velocity, and the cannon is a 24-pounder, but the process is exactly as O’Brian describes it. Cannon technology didn’t significantly change until the advent of the breech loaders in the mid-nineteenth century. Click on the image below to see the video.

Edges

Climbing Pitons

I attended the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland last week. For those of you who don’t know of it, it’s my favorite.  The three-day conference has excellent speakers and is very well-managed. What it offers that is of special benefit to me is direct access to industry people willing to listen to one-on-one and group pitches.

One of the seminars I attended was a talk on writing memoirs by Jennifer Lauck. I plan to begin a memoir in about eighteen months, so I was keen to learn something about a subject which has puzzled me for a long time.  How does one write truthfully about what happened long ago? I have my memories of course, and plan to talk to people I knew at that time. But how does one construct something real from the muddle and mist that momories oft are?

I don’t want to give away too much of what Jennifer had to say. (I did that at a conference once and the lecturer let me know he didn’t appreciate it. It was, as he said, his “bread and butter.”) I’ll just leave you, however, with a helpful quote she gave us from Bernard Cooper, the American novelist. The quote states, “Only when the infinite has edges am I capable of making art.”

With that in mind, I plan to find those edges in my story that I know are the most real.  I do have some records of these edges, namely half a dozen songs I wrote during that period, photographs my wife took and, most importantly, eight hours of audio with one of the principles in the story. My idea is to drive these certainties into my tale like the pitons climbers use to secure their ropes to, as they ascend.  Climbers, I would imagine, don’t view a distant and unfamiliar mountain face and know how exactly they will climb it. It is only as they approach the rock and study its gross formations, that they rough out their possible routes. And it is not until they are literally face to face with the mountain, that really decide which paths are to be trusted, and which not.  Surrounded by the infinite, they feel their way to the summit along these edges using little more than their intuition, fingertips and shoe leather.

A piece of art that to me embodies this of an infinite with edges is John Lennon’s “Across the Universe.”

Words are flowing out like
Endless rain into a paper cup
They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe.
Pools of sorrow waves of joy
Are drifting through my opened mind
Possessing and caressing me.

Jai Guru Deva. Om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Images of broken light, which
Dance before me like a million eyes,
They call me on and on across the universe.
Thoughts meander like a
Restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe.

Jai Guru Deva. Om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Sounds of laughter, shades of life
Are ringing through my opened ears
Inciting and inviting me.
Limitless undying love, which
Shines around me like a million suns,
It calls me on and on across the universe

Jai Guru Deva.
Jai Guru Deva.
Jai Guru Deva.
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Here are a few links that relate to this post.

Jennifer Lauck:  http://www.jenniferlauck.com/
Bernard Cooper quote: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/bernard_cooper
If you’re considering going to a conference next year, I urge you to get on their mailing list: http://www.willamettewriters.com/1/join.php .

The new chair

The Chair

I can’t recall the last piece of furniture I bought for myself, but this chair spoke to me.

The chair was sitting in the store, its seat under the weight of a candelabra that had been left on it, as a matter of someone’s convince. The steel frame was elegant, yet sturdy and wrapped in leather that glowed like fresh caramel.  As I lifted the candelabra, I could see the stitching done by a strong and steady hand. The back had straps like suitcases that people carried in the Age of Steam.  With the leather, the straps and the stitching, the piece seems half-chair and half-journal. It occurs to me that furniture makers are, in their own tongue, storytellers. I liked this story, and I’m glad to have a copy in my home.

BTW, Steampunk enthusiasts may appreciate aspects of the chair as well as the steel and glass table in the background.

Seattle Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night

I had a wonderful time at Seattle Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night last evening.  There’s little else that can better remind me of the truths in life than Shakespeare’s comedies.  I had forgotten what a wonderful play this is.  There is no fool like a wise fool, and none is wiser than Feast very ably played by Chris Ensweiler, who pokes great fun at the Puritans who, in Shakespeare’s time, waited in the wings with their sharp knives to fall on the bard’s ideals.  Ensweiler, Carter Rodriquez and Sean Patrick Taylor made wonderful music on stage with dueling Spanish guitars and a lyrical mandolin. Ray Gonzales was terrific as Sir Toby Belch.  He reminds me a bit of the able Powers Boothe, who could not possibly have done a better job.  Gonzales captured Belch perfectly by affording him all the dignity the sod imagines he possesses.   Everyone was wonderful, but most especially Susannah Millonzi whose heartbreaking earnestness brought my entire front-and-center row to tears in the last act.  An uproarious comedy that can make the audience cry is a comedy indeed.  Thanks once again, Seattle Shakespeare.