Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Disclaimer time: I haven’t read The Martian, the book that made Andy Weir famous. I’ve seen the movie a few times, though, and that will have to suffice to allow me to make comparisons between that story and this, because comparisons are inevitable. The Martian is an amazing story about a man’s struggle to survive when he is left alone in a place where he should not have been able to survive, and about the myriad people who went all out to help him. It stirs the heartstrings. You really want to see this person succeed.

Artemis is set on the Moon instead of Mars, and the technology involved in surviving in the Moon’s harsh environment plays a large part in the plot. The difference here is in the universality and appeal of the characters and circumstances. Don’t get me wrong. Artemis is a very entertaining read, but it’s by no means as significant a work as The Martin. The reason lies in the characters and their motivations. In The Martian, we have interplanetary explorers studying a new planet, and we have a noble hero fighting for survival. On the other hand, the hero of Artemis is a petty smuggler turned industrial saboteur. A rich criminal wants to take over the Moon’s most lucrative industry, and he recruits Jasmine, nicknamed Jazz, a young Saudi Arabian woman in her mid-twenties with a penchant for profanity, to destroy the expensive equipment that helps the industry run in return for the Moon equivalent of a million bucks. Jazz agrees, not because she needs the money for some noble cause, but so she can move into a better apartment. This is before it comes out that the industry is run by bad guy mobsters. I can’t buy that in a hero, and I almost stopped reading at that point because I felt no sympathy for the main character.

I persevered because despite its flaws, the story is interesting. Weir’s strength as a writer is not in his prose, which is rudimentary, or his characters, which are quite shallow. What he does well is imagine the technology needed to sustain an environment suitable for human life and use it to play a key role in the plot development, just as he did in The Martian. All the little details of what it takes to survive in a city on the Moon are the unique aspects of this tale. It’s a quick, fast-paced read, and I could almost see the movie cameras setting up as I went along. After the success of the film of The Martian, it’s almost certain that some company will make a movie of Artemis. And that’s fine. It will probably be fun to watch. All the intricacies resolve themselves at the end in a very clever way. It will probably be a hit film.

Would I recommend this book? As light entertainment, sure, why not? It’s fun to read. It’s a relaxing diversion. I kind of wish Weir had gone deeper into all the issues he brings up, like homelessness, alienation from parents, predatory large corporations, amoral criminals, and the sociological and psychological implications of spending one’s whole life in a tiny confined space in the midst of a hostile environment. But then again, that’s obviously not what he’s after. He wants to tell a fun, light, action-packed, tech-based science fiction story. And in that he succeeds.

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Book Review: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

I have wanted to read this book for some time, so I put in a reservation at the library and I was about two hundredth in line. It would have taken many months. Then it became available as part of the library’s Peak Picks program, in which bestsellers are shelved in a special place and can be taken out on a first-come first-served basis with no reservations, two weeks borrowing time, and no extensions. Fair enough. I could have read it in less than two weeks, and when I finally got it, I did. However, I delayed initiating this particular reading project. Why? Because the subject matter hit too close to home. Let me explain.

Ever since I moved back to the States after living in Greece for over fifteen years, I have had a terrific struggle bringing in income. In Greece, I taught English as a second language for a long time and got very good at it. I assumed I would easily get a job teaching English here with my experience and recommendations. I was wrong. No school would even consider my application because I lacked a college degree. I could have been a great asset to their teaching staff. Their loss. But mine too, because I found that I had great difficulty finding any kind of job. And I applied for a lot of them at all sorts of places. You can read about my struggle in my memoir America Redux: Impressions of the United States After Thirty-Five Years Abroad. In desperation, I sought freelance writing work, and that’s what I have been doing to pay the rent and bills since then.

Recently, one of my adult sons who had been helping to pay the rent moved out, leaving me to foot the bill by myself. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad he moved; it’s the best thing for him at this time. But I have not been making enough money to cover the rent by myself, and I wondered what I would do. At the same time, my current lease was coming to an end, and I received notice that the company that owns this housing complex was raising the rent for the new lease. Again. Seattle housing is expensive. Even with a roommate, I have been spending about ninety percent of my income on rent and bills.

A seemingly bottomless pit of despair opened up before me. I didn’t want to lose the apartment; I knew I couldn’t find anything better in a decent neighborhood. Okay, well, now I am writing this from a position of relative advantage, because I managed to find some writing work that should help – at least on a temporary basis. But as I said, my first reaction was despair, and then my second reaction was to go on the attack and fix the problem. At the same time, the book Evicted became available. However, until I got my own situation – especially my attitude situation – under some sort of control, I didn’t want to compound my negativity by reading about other people’s similar experiences.

Actually, the people in this book have it much, much worse. Desmond chronicles the lives of about a dozen residents of Milwaukee who are living in deep poverty. He alternates between the poor black north section of town and the poor white south section of town. He follows the residents of crappy slum apartments and house trailers as they struggle to cope with eviction notices, landlord negligence, and the raising of their children. He follows the lives of the landlords too, who are getting rich off the misery of their fellow citizens.

It’s a traumatic but eye-opening read. An essential read, I would say. At the end, he proposes possible solutions. Each viable way to help dig these struggling people out of poverty involves sharing and sacrifice – commodities in short supply in the present political environment. In a postscript essay, the author explains how he researched the project. The amount of interviews he conducted, surveys he commissioned, and data he compiled and consolidated is truly impressive. Even more impressive, though, is the fact that he dove into the lifestyle himself. He lived in the trailer park and inner city slum he writes about. He experienced the filth and degradation first-hand. He got to know the landlords personally. There is no doubt as to the veracity of his story.

So yes, this is a significant and important and essential book. As the author points out, everyone has the right to a decent, safe place to live. The terrible housing crisis in the United States needs to be addressed. This book is a step in the right direction. Read it. I just hope that you never have to realize its truths on such a visceral level as I have

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What a Long Strange Year It’s Been: A Personal Look at 2017

Like many of you, I have been aghast at America’s convoluted, complex, and dysfunctional political situation this past year, but I’m not going to comment on that. Early on in this blog’s history, I decided to stay far away from politics, religion, and other hot topics in favor of a more literary outlook. There are other blogs that argue contemporary issues, but this is not one of them.

Contemplating the vicissitudes of my life since January 1st, 2017, I wonder what I should focus on. I had an important operation early in the year, spent the night at the hospital, and then spent another month or so recovering. The operation was successful and enabled me to get off some medications that were leaving me constantly dizzy and exhausted. But I don’t really want to talk about my health. I’m almost sixty-five years old, and I’m bound to have health issues from time to time.

I suppose I could delve into my financial situation. That certainly occupied a lot of my thoughts over the past year. It’s been a struggle to survive sometimes, and when I came close to the edge of poverty from time to time during the year, I became anxious and depressed. But I don’t really want to write about my finances either. I actually did write a blog post called “Sometimes We Just Have a Bad Day” when I was going through some of the worst of my financial struggles. And do you know what happened? I never published it. I decided that it was too negative and I didn’t want to bring you down. Anyway, I’ve been poor most of my life, and I’ve written extensively of my poverty before, especially in the memoirs World Without Pain: The Story of a Search, America Redux: Impressions of the United States After Thirty-Five Years Abroad, and Writing as a Metaphysical Experience. No use going over old ground. Suffice it to say that over the past year I have had considerable difficulties with finances.

What I would like to talk about instead is my writing, and in that I have made considerable progress. I published my twenty-second book, a short story collection called Heroes and Other Illusions: Stories. Some stories of mine were published in anthologies. Among these was my first hardcover anthology sale, my story “The Lady of the Lost Valley” in the anthology Gothic Fantasy: Lost Worlds, in which I was sandwiched in between two writers you may have heard of called Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.

In 2017, I focused on writing short stories and novelettes rather than longer works, and so I also focused on marketing short stories. For most of the year, I have had from twenty-five to forty short stories making the rounds of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and literary magazine and anthology markets. Persistence has paid off, as I have several stories sold and due to be published in the spring.

One of my most important accomplishments this year was finally selling enough stories to professional markets to qualify as an active member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I have been an associate member for years, but those final qualifying professional sales were elusive until recently. As I wrote in an earlier blog post called “Three Out of Five”:

The goals that I formulated shortly after I began writing again a little over three decades ago were these:

 First, to sell a story to a magazine or an anthology. Self-publishing was not an option at that time, and to count the story had to be sold and not given away for free.

 Second, to get at least one professional sale so I could join Science Fiction Writers of America as an associate member. I understand that some writers value membership in writers’ organizations more than others, but to me this held great significance ever since I attended Clarion West Science Fiction Writing Workshop when I had just turned twenty in 1973.

 Third, to get at least three professional sales so I could upgrade my membership in SFWA to active, which is the highest class of membership.

 Fourth, to sell enough fiction and other writing professionally so I could make my fulltime living as a writer.

 The fifth goal, I admit, is the most arbitrary and the one I have the least control over. I’m not going to tell you that one right now; it stays under my proverbial hat.

 I sold my first story in 1999: “Clear Shining After Rain” to the Australian SF magazine Altair. I don’t count my first publication, which was “The Ghost of Halkidiki Past” to an English-language Greek magazine, because they never paid me for it – I had to wait to get paid for that story until it was reprinted in the US literary magazine Lynx Eye in 2001.

 It turns out that my first sale was also my first professional sale, as Altair paid pro rates, but SFWA didn’t list it as a qualifying market for membership until 2007, which is when I joined as an associate member. So that was that.

 In the next ten years, I sold quite a few stories and self-published many more, but I didn’t get the credentials to upgrade my SFWA membership to active until recently.

 So there it is: three out of five. It’s taken a long time and a lot of work.

 As far as goal four, I am in fact a fulltime writer, but many of the pieces I get paid to write are articles about which I have no personal interest. While I am researching and writing these articles, I often wonder how much more productive my fiction writing would be if I could pour all that energy and effort into that instead of those articles for which I get a one-time payment and then they are afterwards relegated to oblivion. So I won’t feel I have reached goal four until I am supported by my fiction and memoir work, not by that work for hire crap.

 As for goal five, that one goes on the back burner. It’s not in my hands.

 What’s upcoming in 2018? As I said, several stories are coming out in the spring, all of them in prestigious professional venues, so I hope that they create a stir. I have suddenly found myself in the midst of writing a novel that I thought was going to be a novelette. This will be novel number seven, so there’s that. Additionally, I still have a lot of stories out to market. Although I am busy with article writing to raise funds for the rent and bills, I always try to write a minimum of five hundred words of fiction or personal essays daily, even if I have to do it late at night, and I intend to continue that practice. Persistence is the key. I hope to progress much farther along the path of my own personal writer’s journey in 2018.

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A Second Look: Love Children: A Novel

LoveChildren_WebCover (2)BigIt is the mid-1970s.  The Summer of Love and the Woodstock Music Festival have come and gone.  Into the atmosphere of cynicism and doubt following the wild optimism of the youth revolution the Love Children, raised from birth by benevolent aliens, come home to Earth.  Sexually free, telepathic, and honest to the extreme, they are appalled to find that the world they left behind is full of darkness and deceit. As they set about using their extraordinary powers to bring light and unity back to their world, they run up against a sinister alien force intending to keep it in darkness.

 This is my first novel, a science fiction tale that contrasts the telepathically advanced and pacifistic alien culture human orphans are brought up in with the selfish and violent societies on Earth to which they return to search for their parents. It’s a fast-paced science fiction adventure set in exotic locales such as Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Thailand, Greece, the San Francisco Bay area, and a spacecraft orbiting Earth.

Click to buy from these distributors:

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Book Review: Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

I have to blurt out right from the start that this is the best novel I have read in a long time. How I came to read it was unusual. I had started another novel, a highly acclaimed novel in fact, and it just didn’t hold my interest. The premise was fascinating, but the prose was pedestrian, mundane, boring, uninspired – I might even say pulpish. There’s nothing wrong with pulp fiction – it has its place – but this particular story and subject deserved much better. I got about one hundred pages in and it was a real slog. I kept thinking that I was supposed to like it. I kept wondering when it would all fall together and start to hum with life. Alas, it never did. So I finally found this book by Erdrich at the library and dropped the other one. Unusual move for me, to leave a book before finishing it. But whatever.

As soon as I started reading Future Home of the Living God I knew I’d found the real deal. Erdrich has a wonderful fluid writing style, and her characters come off as real people. Within a few sentences I was hooked, and the fascination and suspense didn’t let up at any point in the narrative.

Native American Erdrich is renowned as a literary writer, and this science fictional near future dystopia is a departure for her. In the story, evolution has stalled or reversed itself. Few women become pregnant, and of those who do, even fewer give birth to live, normal babies. The narrator is a Native American woman who was adopted by white middle class parents. Early on in her pregnancy, she learns about and visits her Native American mother and her family, so she has two sets of parents looking out for her in the crisis that follows. In the wake of this disaster, pregnant women are rounded up and imprisoned, and other women of childbearing age are drafted and sent to special facilities to attempt to conceive and bear children. The government has mutated and become some sort of evil Big Brother whose minions put on sickening smiling faces to hide their evil deeds. The narrator attempts to evade capture while her pregnancy becomes more and more noticeable.

The idea is not new. One treatment of a similar theme that comes to mind is in the acclaimed movie Children of Men. What makes this story special is the talent that Erdrich brings to the narration. She is an amazing writer. Not a word is misplaced. She has the ability to hold your attention and your heartstrings in a firm grip and not let go. It was such a pleasant surprise to dive into this novel after being so disappointed in the previous one, to come to the realization that this is how it is supposed to be done. This is a wonderful book; I can’t praise it enough and I highly recommend it.

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Book Review: Chief Seattle and the Town That Took His Name: The Change of Worlds for the Native People and Settlers on Puget Sound by David M. Buerge

When I take my daily walks in my neighborhood in north Seattle, I marvel that so much of the indigenous foliage has survived the carpeting-over by houses, shops, streets, and sidewalks. Majestic evergreens tower high over the tallest buildings, and the area is otherwise replete with many other types of trees, bushes, shrubbery, flowers, and grass. After spending hours in front of a computer, my eyes drink in the deep natural colors and my nose the sweet sharp scent of pine and spruce resin like spiritual nourishment. I often imagine, as I stroll along, what the landscape would have been like without all the aforementioned shops, houses, streets, and so on. I attempt to picture the primal forest and its stark beauty.

There are too few books about the history of Seattle, so this new volume is essential. It comes across as being very well researched, and the stories it tells are fascinating. Having said that, I have to admit, for me at least, it is not an easy read. Much of it has to do with how the material is presented, which takes some getting used to. Instead of presenting the material with the simple English alphabet, the author has chosen to use phonetic symbols for many Native American names of people and places. After a time, when these words written in symbols multiply, it becomes very confusing to try to keep them straight. Additionally, although there are numerous pages of maps in the front of the book, so many places are mentioned so often that it dragged down the narrative as I had to continually search for the right map to consult and then locate the place being discussed. The author also comes across as more of a historian than a storyteller, and a smoother style would have eased absorption into the events on the page.

On the plus side, it’s a fascinating story. Buerge focuses on Chief Seattle and his influence in creating and nurturing the city of Seattle, beginning with the era on Puget Sound before pioneer settlers came and initiated the disruption of their way of life, through the years of early city growth, and on into the statehood of Washington and the primacy of Seattle in regional commerce and politics.

It’s a bloody tale. There’s little in it of peaceful, noble Native Americans or settlers. In the early days, Native Americans made savage, violent raids upon one another. When white people came, they warred with the Native Americans. When the Chinese came, both whites and Native Americans resented and fought them. Overall, Puget Sound in the early days comes across as a terrifying place to try to live and raise a family, but many settlers came and gave it their best.

As the book makes clear, in his early years, Seattle was quite a savage warrior himself, but as more and more white men settled in the area around Elliot Bay that eventually became a city that appropriated his name, he became a man of peace and reconciliation, attempting to blend the cultures of white men and Native Americans to mutual advantage. In his old age he converted to the Catholic faith, setting an example of integration that he hoped his people would follow to ensure their survival. His was a unique and interesting life that straddled great societal changes in the Pacific Northwest region.

Overall, I would recommend the book for its value as a historical document, although it’s a bit too effortful a read to qualify as relaxing entertainment.

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A Second Look: The Dragon Ticket and Other Stories

DragonTicketWEBBigHigh in the Himalayas a young woman receives an extraordinary gift.  Beneath the streets of Calcutta a man discovers a terrifying presence.  In a palace full of sybaritic pleasures a demigod incurs terrible retribution.  On a far desert planet teeming with venomous creatures a woman searches for ultimate truth. 

 In these and other strange and wondrous tales John Walters explores the ramifications of human/alien encounter. 

This is my first short story collection and first book. Since I had been publishing novelettes and short stories in magazines and anthologies for several years before it came out, all but one of the stories are previously published reprints. In later collections, there is more of an even mix of new and previously published material. Notice the beautiful cover crafted by one of my brothers-in-law, an accomplished and imaginative illustrator. As the image implies, most of the stories are set in India.

Click to buy from these distributors:

Trade Paperback

Amazon Kindle

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Book Review: Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

In my search for new nonfiction books to read, I perused recent awards lists and came across this title. It surprised me that a book on surfing should have won a Pulitzer Prize, but as I read brief descriptions of the book I realized that there must be much more to it. I’m not really interested in surfing, either to participate in or to watch, but Finnegan is about my age, grew up in the same generation, experimented with drugs, including LSD, and traveled the world on the bum. All of this intrigued me so I decided to give the book a try.

It quickly drew me in. Finnegan is an accomplished writer. What he does in this book is tell the story of his life in relation to surfing, and use his fascination with surfing as a focal point. The settings range from his early years in California, his middle and high school years in Hawaii, an extended journey roaming the South Pacific and Australia looking for waves, a school teaching era in South Africa, and other years surfing and living in the San Francisco Bay area, the island of Madeira in Portugal, and recent surfing on the coasts of Long Island and New Jersey.

Surfing is obviously much more than a sport to Finnegan; it takes on a metaphysical aspect – something that directs and transforms his life, gives him comfort and serenity, and serves as a stabilizer and I might even say a spiritual practice. The respect that he accords surfing and the guidance he derives from it as well as a vision of its metaphorical value sort of rubbed off on me; I found myself thinking of my efforts, failures, and renewed efforts, while I was reading the book at least, in terms of riding waves: you paddle out, try, succeed or fail, paddle out again, and try again and again and again. Some rides are sweet and some rides are dangerous, but it’s just what you do. You live for the sweet rides. I thought of my life as a writer of stories and articles. The rejections are when you fall off the board, when the wave gets the better of you, but you pick yourself up and keep going because of that amazing feeling when you’re on a good ride and you lose, at least temporarily, the otherwise ever-present sense of your own mortality.

And Finnegan’s long odyssey around the world looking for waves – well, I could so empathize with that. I did something similar. When I was young I took off on the road not really knowing where I was going. What I was looking for was my voice as a writer. I knew I wanted to be a writer but I didn’t know what to say. I carried notebooks with me but for a long time they remained empty. It was only when I got far, far afield that the words began to spurt out: first on a beach in Goa, India, and then on a hillside at the edge of Katmandu, and then while walking along without map or guide on small paths in the Himalayas, and in other places. It took me awhile to realize that I had accomplished my goal: I had found my voice, and now all I had to do was use it.

So yes, this book goes far beyond being a memoir on surfing. It is a deeply nuanced book on countercultural changes in the early seventies, on the loneliness and uncertainty of travel, of racial inequalities in South Africa under Apartheid, and about coming to grips with something that is important to you spiritually and that drives the decisions you make in life.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this book. It turned out to be much more than I thought it would be. I found a kinship with Finnegan in so many ways. And trust me: you can get off on this book even if surfing means nothing to you one way or the other. Just hop on board and enjoy the ride.

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Book Review: The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen

I’m a graduate of the Clarion West science fiction writing workshop, and I am on their mailing list. I recently received notice of a one-day special workshop by the award-winning writer Kij Johnson taking place in November 2017. The workshop is called “Working With Other Works: Inspiration, Homage, Fanfic, and Plagiarism.” Before I received this news, I had attended her reading in July 2017 during which she read from her upcoming novel, which is a sequel to the famous children’s classic The Wind in the Willows. The long and the short of it is, if you draw from a work that is still under copyright, it’s plagiarism. Otherwise, it’s one of those other things.

This is an entertaining collection of stories by Jane Yolen, and almost all of them would come under the heading of fanfic, homage, or inspiration from other stories or legends. Yolen draws from characters and materials from Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, The Legend of Robin Hood, and The Legend of King Arthur, as well as poems by Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson. This is not to disparage the stories in any way. Yolen demonstrates how to do it the right way. In fact, two of the stories, “Lost Girls,” a unique take on the Peter Pan story, and “Sister Emily’s Lightship,” about a hypothetical source of Emily Dickinson’s inspiration, have won major awards.

Two of my favorites in this collection draw on historic or mythological characters for their storylines. “Evian Steel” is a novella that tells of a legendary island in the midst of a river where women forged sword blades, and how Guinevere made the sword Excalibur and Merlin found her to present it and her to King Arthur. Another, called “The Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown,” deals with the relationship between Benjamin Disraeli and Queen Victoria. A number of other stories are witty, clever, original interpretations of beloved classics that add relevancy and insight.

One other aspect of this collection that I greatly appreciate is the afterword in which Yolen comments on each story. I love introductions or afterwords in which authors explain how they came to write stories, their inspirations, any difficulties they encountered, and so on. For me it ties the stories in with the writer’s life. The first author I read who did this to great effect was Harlan Ellison. He always wrote long introductions to the overall books and to each story. Another is Robert Silverberg. When I started publishing story collections I made sure that I wrote extensive afterwords to each one, with a section for each story, as I wanted to link the stories with the rest of my work, especially my memoirs. I have always felt that the lack of some sort of comment by the writers in short story anthologies or collections diminishes their impact. So I am pleased that Yolen makes the effort to confide in her readers by letting them in on various aspects of her personal and professional life.

All in all, this collection is a light, entertaining read, just perfect for when you want to relax and lose yourself in the fantasies you enjoyed when you were young.

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I’m Not Home Here Either

Where is home really? Listening to a Bob Dylan song recently somehow made me think of another Bob Dylan song, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” In it, the singer leaves a woman and heads back out on the road because things didn’t work out between them. That happened to me several times in my younger traveling days. I would meet someone, spend some time with them, perhaps we would even fall in love, but then I would feel compelled to leave, or she would have to go off and do whatever she had to do, and we would separate and be left with nothing but memories. I recount some of these instances in my memoir World Without Pain: The Story of a Search. During my travels I was relentless in my search for meaning, truth, metaphysical reality, and most of all my unique voice as a writer. Later, in lonely places and circumstances, I would look back and wonder if some of the relationships I left might have worked out. I deal with this in my short story “Katabasis” in the collection Heroes and Other Illusions.

Near the end of World Without Pain I write: “And home? I couldn’t go home again. Home was an abstraction from which one commenced a particular phase of the journey, not an absolute.” Of course I felt that way during my many years on the road. I still believe that in a sense. I felt isolated during the over fifteen years I lived and worked in Greece because I was a foreigner, a stranger in a strange land, and also I had no one with whom to share the wonderful experience of my budding writing career. On the other hand, as I look back, if there was any time I felt most at home as an adult, it was the period when we were raising our young family in Greece, first in Athens and then in various locations around Thessaloniki. But that’s the point. Home was not a physical place, because we moved often. Home was our family unit.

Children and adults have a different concept of what constitutes home. For children, ideally at least, it’s a place of safety and security where they can grow. For adults, well, I suppose I can’t really speak for all adults. I’m an anomaly in a sense. Most people I know life almost all their lives in one location and raise their families fairly close to where they grew up. I’ve lived in so many places for extended periods of time that I might not even be able to remember them all. Let’s see if I can recall at least a few of them: Seattle, Yakima, Los Angeles, San Diego, Assen, Rome, Naples, Palermo, Athens, Thessaloniki, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Katmandu, Bangkok, Jakarta, Auckland… Well, okay, I may have pegged at least the major ones where I’ve lived for a month or more at a time. If I list the places I’ve lived in for at least a few weeks there’ll be no end to it.

And what’s my own definition of home? It’s not a place at all. It has more to do with people. Sure, the place where I live now with some of my sons is home. But it’s temporary. We rent this apartment. It’s transient. It will pass. I don’t feel I have arrived here; I feel I am at another stage in the journey. Every day I take a walk through the neighborhood for exercise, and I wonder about the people whose houses I pass, and I wonder what it would be like to own a house. I’m not unfamiliar with the experience. We owned a house in Greece. It was during that wonderful stage when I felt that we really had a home. But it wasn’t the house that did it.

I realize I’m rambling, and I apologize. I came into this to put down some thoughts. I don’t know if I can come to any conclusions. I think about my time on the road and I marvel at what I did back then. I couldn’t do it now, at least not the same way. I’m not as strong, and I am much older. But those experiences shaped who I am, shaped my reactions to things, shaped my writing. Although there was a hint of melancholy as I recalled past adventures on my long walk today, there was also a sense of accomplishment, of fulfillment, and of satisfaction. I did what I had to do. I stayed on the road because I had a goal, and that goal was all-consuming and all-important. Come to think of it, I’m still on the road, and still in pursuit of my goal or goals. That’s what life is: a journey. Especially the life of a writer. There is no end point. There are always more stories to tell. There are always more worlds to explore.

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