Not Holy Faith #longreads

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Intro to Not Holy Faith

Here’s another from my childhood. It’s about letting go and growing up; growing up in the best sense of the phrase (not the growing up that makes you hard and cold), but the growing up that embraces change and looks forward to the freedom found therein.

As always, your comments are welcome.

not holy faith

by philip scott wikel

Life is happening to everyone.
The connotation of this statement might be that we are somehow victims.
How to take hold of it?

How many times have you tried or thought you were trying only to come full circle. Life is happening to everyone. But like the little girl who knows the right time to move into the circle of the turning rope, there seems to be a process wherein you can join in and jump.

I was once a little boy with a blue Schwinn “Stingray.” It had training wheels and I had wavy, dirty-blonde hair smoothed back with Vitalis. It was spring 1970, Goshen, New York. I was four and, down the street, Miss Summer’s garden, which seemed to encompass the known world, was in full bloom; wildflowers and bees, pollen and posies.

That Christmas my brother would show my sister and I the hiding place for presents. And I would, for the first time, feel a certain sense of unease about the world; how what was, may not be. This bit of uncovering wouldn’t be fully realized until nearly seven years later when, on Christmas Eve and needing to pee, I caught my father stuffing Christmas stockings with candy. It seemed we both felt the loss at the same moment; he mine, I his, me mine, he his. I don’t recall either of us saying anything. Just eyes meeting, his mouth slightly open, neither of us breathing, the fantasy dimmed. The holiday became something else. Belief became dependent on faith, not holy faith, but the faith that warms the motions we go through in ritual. When the veil’s lifted you can either smile or deny. I turned away for a while.

At age seven we took the training wheels off of my bike. My father held the seat and ran behind me. I could feel how his hand steadied the bike. My hands sweated against the blue plastic handle-grips. My eyes didn’t want to look beyond the handlebars but I was aware of the old maples that lined the street and all of the houses of all of my neighbors moving by me. And my sister, having already learned this, sat comfortably on her banana seat leaning against the curb.

“I’m going to let go,” my father said.

“No,” I replied in a voice that seemed small to me and probably even smaller to my father.

“You’ve got it,” he said as he let go.

I could feel myself pedaling wildly now. The handlebars struggling back and forth.

Leaning. Gravity. Crash.

My father caught up with me and reached down to help me up.

“You OK little man?”

“I guess.”

“You did well kid. C’mon let’s try again.”

That Sonoma Autumn #longreads

sonomaIntro to That Sonoma Autumn:

This is a true story from my youth. My family and I had just moved to Northern California from New York. We lived for a few months on a horse ranch in Sonoma County, 18 miles from Cazadero, and more than an hour from the nearest hospital. Uncle Rex, the local sheriff, had just lost his best friend in a bank robbery/gun shootout and was hitting the sauce pretty hard.

I re-wrote this piece for Ticket to Ride and it is now part of Morgan Blake’s childhood. He relates this story to his therapist in the latter part of the book.

As always, your comments are welcome.

that sonoma autumn

by philip scott wikel

The heat of the small cab of the truck mixed with the smell of old socks and souring buttermilk made me want to throw up. My father sensed my unease and opened the wing window. The churning lessened, but as it did, the pain in my head came back tenfold; the same way the buttermilk at first eased Uncle Rex’s ulcer, then turned on him.

I was a little more than nine and the night before, my brother, four years my senior, had let me have the top position in our bunk beds. It was one of those early triumphs, an epiphany, the sort of thing that would only be eclipsed later in my life by events like getting my driver’s license, falling in love, and turning twenty-one and having my first legal drink.

I had climbed the ladder slowly, savoring my ascent to glory, like one of my childhood heroes who had summitted the Citadel, then slipped into the sweet sleep of the conqueror. But by 3:00 am I had managed to roll off the edge. Those three feet or so of sleepy weightlessness must have been blissful to my subconscious. Wham! A formica desk broke my path downward. A couple of inches to the north and I would have cleared it and landed, however abruptly, much more comfortably onto some of that “thick pile” shaggy seventies carpeting.

Rex finished his buttermilk and threw the empty carton on the floor of the truck. His stomach had cooled a bit but then his stomach acid went into overdrive. His stomach burned.

“Damn stomach!” he said angrily, and startled, I couldn’t help but shit in my pants. And this movement on the far end of my digestive tract prompted a surge from my stomach.

“I’m gonna throw up.”

Rex pulled over in time for my father to carry me clear of the truck. I bent over and puked in the tall, dry Northern California grass, caught a glimpse of the ocean in the distance, then felt a sudden sense of well-being.

“You all right?” my father asked.

“Better dad,” I replied.

Rex threw out an old towel which from there to the hospital served as a makeshift pair of pants, an outfit I wouldn’t have to duplicate until almost ten years later when, on a late night surf trip to Huntington Beach, a few wiseasses thought it would be cute to separate my friends and I from our pants while we were out surfing.

“Is that a deer dad,” I asked as we started back down the road.

“Sure is,” he replied, sounding relieved, ” I didn’t think you could see… thank God.” He looked over at Rex, then pulled me a little closer. He’d awoken to a screaming child, his bloodied son reaching around in a dark room trying to find the door.

For the first time since the fall, he was assured I hadn’t lost my sight. And for the first time in that long hour, I felt like everything was going to be okay.
I’m the second son and the third child. And now that I’m a father of two myself, I’ve come to understand how it might be that each successive child will get a little less of his parents undivided attention. But that morning, in that sour-smelling truck, on that little mountain road from the horse ranch to Sebastapol, my father and I had nothing of greater importance in our lives than one another.

From then on, the bottom bunk was just fine.

The Jungle

Intro to The Jungle:

My best explanation for this piece is that Ventura, CA has it’s own version of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row just to the north of town. Few know the reality of it, and even fewer want to. In this piece I was looking to acquaint readers with the sad reality of being one of the jungle’s denizens. The environment and politics of the place are of equal importance.

Continue reading “The Jungle”

Dylan knows the Truth

by philip scott wikel

After church on Sunday I decided to surprise my son with a trip to some tidepools up around Carpinteria. I was a little wary of telling him where we were going because I had agreed with him the day before that we would go to Target to get a new game for his Playstation. I was worried that once he got his new game there would be nothing else in the world to him and that a trip to the beach to look at crabs and starfish would pale, profoundly, by comparison.

Continue reading “Dylan knows the Truth”

From Pillow of Grass by Natsume Soseki , 1925

From Pillow of Grass by Natsume Soseki

Going up a mountain track I fell to thinking. Approach everything rationally, and you become harsh. Pole along in the stream of emotions, and you will be swept away by the current. Give free rein to your desires, and you become uncomfortable confined.

Continue reading “From Pillow of Grass by Natsume Soseki , 1925”

Famous vs. Successful Novelist

Discussion of Fame vs. Successful Novelist

Philip Scott Wikel:
I’m sorry if I gave anyone the impression that I would be giving away free copies of Ticket to Ride to the members of the “Ticket” Facebook group.

As much as I would like to, it’s just not feasible.

In a recent post, Carrie Williams said:
“By the way, congratulations! You’re famous!”

In response to that I have to say, honestly, thank you but I’m not interested in fame. Fame and $1.50 will get me a cup of coffee (In other words, fame is useless unless it brings readers).

My dream is to make a living as a novelist. It would be fantastic to be able to spend my day creating stories for your entertainment. For that to happen, I need readers, not fans; kindred spirits, not adoration.

Thank you to all of the readers who have thus far purchased Ticket to Ride. I hope you’ve enjoyed my book.

Patti Persons:
Yeah Yeah, we adore you because WE watched you grow up from a pip-squeak to a successful gentleman! WE are proud of you!

Philip Scott Wikel:
Thanks again. But you used one of those uncomfortable words again, “successful.” If only 10% of the members of the Ticket to Ride Facebook fan club actually purchase the book, is it a success? So far I have only succeeded in getting a book published. Granted, that’s something, however, sales are what make it a success. In my mind a writer becomes successful when he can quit his day job and do what he truly loves.

The really funny part about this is that my fans on facebook don’t even know what their proud of because they haven’t read my book. For all they know it could be a piece of ____.

Another thing they don’t know is that right now I’m only making $9.40 per hour as a cashier. And another thing: I eat mostly peanut butter sandwiches so my son can eat like a normal person. And finally, I was laid off from a very good job a year-and-a-half ago and the economy is getting worse.

So please excuse me if I don’t understand or see the significance of words like “success” and “famous.” I’m living the life of the starving artist and it’s not as glamorous as they told me it would be. And I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m just asking for people to take a look at what they see as “success” cuz it seems like people around me are just starstruck, and for no good reason.