As children some of us played pirate, fearless buccaneers sailing the high seas in search of treasure. The lure of the treasure map and ‘X marks the spot’ can be irresistible. Fortunately we grow up when we realize where pirates get their treasure and how. Sometimes, though, even as adults we find something of value buried in the sand of a beach or lost in the soil of a building plot. Sometimes it’s hidden in plain sight and one only needs to look to find it. Today’s guest tells us what treasures he’s buried. Nathan Lowell presents…
Like a lot of writers, I like to draw on my past experiences and childhood. This is all well and good. It’s one of those win win situations. You have a huge supply of stories waiting to be told. Each little incident from your past can form the foundation for an epic tale. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you could even write your memoirs.
Here’s the thing. I had a very screwed up childhood. No, no. I wasn’t beaten or abused. I had a very loving and supportive home environment, but it was far from normal. The closest parallel I can come up with is that it was like being a male growing up on Themyscira. There were no father figures to look up to. The men didn’t last long. They had probably run in fear when faced with the grim reality of dealing with my grandmother, my mom and two aunts.
In this environment, I learned all sorts of things that probably wouldn’t have been taught in another household or taught differently. It had to be that way. The part of the Bronx where I grew up wasn’t a place of white picket fences. New York in the sixties and seventies could be a pretty rough place.
The first lesson was that the matriarchs of my family wouldn’t and couldn’t fight my battles for me. There was only so much they could do. They had to work long hours to provide for us. I’m amazed things turned out so well considering some of the incidents that would make Manchild in the Promised Land seem like a comedy. I learned early to stand up for myself and to look out for my younger brother and cousins.
The second thing I learned was to pick my fights carefully. There were people you really didn’t want to mess with. There were situations best avoided. This helped me avoid a lot of trouble of which there was no shortage. If I had to pick a fight, it was in the time and place of my choosing. And before you can ask, I can move pretty fast when I need to.
The last thing I learned was to fight dirty and to win. My grandmother had never lost a fight. To my knowledge, she had also never been in a fair one. A woman her age couldn’t be expected to deal with a six foot tall mugger that outweighed her by a hundred pounds on even footing. She came out of that fight about a hundred dollars richer and quite pleased with herself.
Yes, there is a story there that I’ll share at a later date. I’m just waiting for the right time and place. Anyway, I took all of these lessons to heart. Now some of you are probably thinking I’m some kind of violent maladjusted psychopath. I’m not. The voices I usually listen to encourage me to write and tell stories. All of these things I was taught actually had very little to do with violence. It was more about standing up for your rights and not being afraid to fight for what you believe in. It was also about being smart about the causes and people you supported. Those lessons carried over to school, work, romance and even parenting. They’ve helped me in more ways than I can imagine and for that, I’m very grateful and damn lucky.
So why am I mentioning all this? With the holidays approaching, I felt like getting this off my chest. My family is now a lot smaller but their memories and lessons remain. A few things I could have done better or differently but there are far more I could have done worse. When you read my books and stories, there are bits and pieces of my childhood tucked away in my writing. You might get a glimpse into the twisted way my mind works sometimes. More often, I’ll actually include an incident or two from the good ole days to let you know where I’m coming from. Sometimes these little gems will be hard to find but that’s one of the things I enjoy about reading. I like finding those little treasures buried by the writer.
Richard Jackson was born in New York City and raised in the Bronx. He has been writing off and on since high school. His interests include the martial arts, costuming, travel, gaming and just having fun. Find his book, Fall From Grace, along with his other titles online at Amazon, B&N, and other find online establishments. You can learn more about Richard and his work at his blog, Kyrin’s Insight.