SHE: Happy Fathers’ Day! And I see your new book is on a free promotion–for five days. On Kindle.
ME: A chance to save $2.99. People should be beating down Amazon’s door! Here I am, hoping people take the bait, read it, then give it a good review. But, myself, I wouldn’t buy it!
SHE: What do you mean? I liked it! And it got two First in Category awards from Chanticleer Reviews. And a 5-star review from Readers’ Favorite. You know what, Dad? You suck at self-promotion!
ME: Guilty as charged! But…I wouldn’t buy it in Kindle form, because I don’t read e-books. Now if people want to spend $14.99 for the “real book” version, something you can curl up with by a fire on a rainy evening, flip the pages, insert a bookmark…
SHE: I know you don’t read e-books. And you’re a Luddite at heart. You hate Social Media. And smart phones. You refuse to text. Not only that, but…
ME: I know what’s coming. That I don’t even like talking on a regular telephone–an 1870’s invention, at that! But I’m not completely hopeless. I have a flip-phone. And I write on a laptop. Oh, and I use email.
SHE: Dad, e-mail is old hat! But I look forward to yours. They’re more like letters than what people send today.
ME: And that explains why you’re one of the select group of people who actually responds to them. E-mail started out as a good thing. Then came so-called smart phones and free texting. Texting is the ruination of written language! The proliferation of I-phones have destroyed the beauty and benefits of solitude! Shoot, now I’m off on a rant. I know you’ve heard all this before.
SHE: And I’ll hear it again–and more! That smart phones have altered the brains of us Gen Y’s and Millennials. Just as TV did for yours. You told me that!
ME: And I stand by it. Digitalization is sending the written word down the tube, just as TV has ruined spoken conversation–and human interaction in general! That’s why we raised you and your sister without television. And always had lots of books around.
SHE: And raised us on a small farm. And we always had plenty of healthy food. And you had a working team of horses. You once told me that Mom was being Adele Davis and you were aping Wendell Berry.
ME: Ah yes, the 70s and 80s! Hippies reconstructing themselves as “back to the landers.” But I always wanted to live on a farm, since I was a kid. Why does everything these days have to turn into a cliche? And I’ve always liked old technology.
SHE: Yeah, I know! Like steam engines.
ME: There were still working steam engines in my boyhood. They were awesome! Especially to a little kid. We’ve lost something along the way in our pursuit of efficiency and convenience. Kids today…they wouldn’t know a diesel horn from a steam locomotive whistle–not that it’s their fault.
SHE: Yes Dad. And the old engines burned coal. How would that stand up to climate change?
ME: It wouldn’t. It just goes to show how irrelevant one can be as a white man in his 70s. And a not fully-reconstructed hippie at that. And a socialist at heart. With a spotty work history. Spurned by the rednecks and the cultural elite alike.
SHE: “Fitting in nowhere.” I’ve heard that too. But at least you’re not boring!
ME: Boring can be a good trait.. both in presidents and fathers.
SHE: I’ve suggested before, you should write your autobiograpfy. You’ve told me you thought This House of Sky was Ivan Doig’s best work. And it was a memoir…not fiction.
ME: Ivan Doig came of age sheep ranching with his father in central Montana. I grew up as a hung-up Catholic boy in Rahway, New Jersey. In a mostly-stable home. True, my father lost his position of 30 years in 1955, and went into a deep depression. And I had an outsized fear of atom bombs. And went into my own depression in my early teens. I broke out in acne and feared I was botching my confessions. Which could lead one to Hell. And I was lousy at sports–chosen last for playground baseball teams, and all that.
SHE: Doesn’t sound all that boring!
ME: I always mentally lived in a different reality. Which is why I like writing fiction. Joel Emmanuel is about a boy growing up in the late 1970s, with an absent father and a hippie mother. And no actual religion. In a rural area north of Seattle. He was homeschooled, and was familiar with neighboring farmers, and Indians from the nearby reservation; and commercial fishermen. This was a world I experienced as a transplanted adult in my late 20’s. And I often wondered how it would’ve felt to’ve grown up in that world.
SHE: And by the late 70s, you and Mom had given up fishing, and were trying to settle down in Skagit County. And you had a regular job on the State Ferries. Then you lost Baby Joey. And quit the ferries. And Ellen and I came along and there we were on a little farm in the South Fork Valley. I sometimes wonder about…I mean, if Joey had lived? How different things would’ve been. Would Ellen and I even have been born? I think about things like that.
ME: So do I. And it can take one down a mental rabbit hole.
SHE: Real life…like it can be, a chaotic mix…of the boring and the tragic. Both of which can sap the joy out of life…You know, I can see why you might write fiction. And, by the way, Dad. Happy Summer Solstice! And Juneteenth! Along with Father’s Day. And, by the way, I know you think a certain word these days is much over-used. That back in the 50s, it really meant something. But, I’ll say it anyway. I love you.
ME: Perhaps we should’ve used it more when I was growing up. And hugged more. But people mostly did the best they knew how. And, I think, still do. And…I love you too.