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Dysfunction runs in the family

Dysfunction.jpgI just finished Reservation Blues. Sherman Alexie, does indeed, rock. His writing shimmers with bittersweet touches of reality–– because he writes fiction based on personal experiences.

With that in mind, what are the stories in your life that you want told? I think every family has character-driven dramas and mysteries worth exploring.

Here are a few skeletons from my familial closet:

1) My biological grandfather was born in China and adopted by Western missionaries. He was given the name George William Ford when he arrived in America. He married my Grandmother (Yin Yin), had one son, and died shortly after. Yin Yin remarried and would never speak of him. And nobody else did either. I don’t know his real name or how he died. I sense that he was a pretty bad guy. It makes for awkward Thanksgiving dinner conversations.

2) I have a cousin in Mainland China that became pregnant for a third time. A big no-no. The penalty was twice her annual salary and an abortion injection. Instead, she had the baby in secret with a midwife––then left the baby girl on the steps of an orphanage. An auntie, who lives in Seattle, arranged to adopt the baby. She paid $20k in adoption fees (and bribes) only to arrive in China for the final pick-up and find the baby missing. She’d been given to another family a week before.

3) My Great Uncle Tommy was sold to another family in China. Not adopted out. Sold. Cha-ching. His family was indescribably poor. His mother later immigrated to the U.S. where she had six other children. Her youngest son, Francis joined the U.S. army before WWII and was a clerk assigned to an air unit in China. It was there that he met a Chinese air force colonel––his older brother. The one sold decades earlier. It took 30 years and a mountain of paperwork, but that retired colonel was finally allowed to travel to the U.S.––to see the rest of his family. I met him in 1979, when I was twelve.

Stories like these are why I love the gritty power of non-fiction. After all, who can’t relate to a dysfunctional family?


Admit it, you've read The Da Vinci Code too


I’ve heard The Da Vinci Code described as the "Giant Vortex of Suck". And that comment is edited. Yes, I read it. I enjoyed it. In the same way I enjoy Three’s Company reruns. But that’s another story.

Today author Dan Brown appeared in court to face his literary accusers. This is old news. Other authors have claimed Dan Brown stole their ideas. Or at least left them uncredited for their concepts. I guess when you sell 40 million books you become a pretty big target. From the critics. From other authors. Heck, even from the Catholic Church. (Imagine that guilt).

But will it hurt his book sales? Even if he settled? Probably not I'm afraid. We're about to be carpet-bombed with paperbacks of TDC. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. The only thing that can stop this juggernaut is that faux mullet-thing Tom Hanks is sporting in the film version. What’s up with that?


Kleenex sales went up last week

Wanna be inspired? If this news story of an autistic basketball player doesn't do it, seek immediate professional help. Can the screenplay be far behind?

John Mellencamp was right

americangothic.jpgI live in a small town. The population is around 50,000 but I swear they’re counting cows and sheep. Great Falls, Montana is basically a big farm town that feels like a much smaller place. And I like that. I’ve lived all over the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii, but I enjoy being off the radar. Here’s why:

1) We have one homeless man in Great Falls. His name is Larry. He lives on the street by choice, although he worked as an aircraft mechanic before he stopped taking his meds. Now he pushes a shopping cart around that looks like a helicopter. Every winter the downtown merchants get together to buy him a new sleeping bag and a snowmobile suit. And when it’s really cold, an anonymous donor pays for a motel for Larry.

2) My kids walk to school. They meet their friends on the corner and walk en masse. I’m sure a child molester could approach them. But twelve nine-year olds would savagely stab him to death with mechanical pencils.

3) People here are interesting to me. I think it’s because they have lives. A neighbor’s idea of a vacation was a weeklong horseback/camping trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness with her hubby. This was an 80-mile trek where you hang your food in the trees to avoid grizzly bears. Did I mention that my neighbor is 68?

4) I can be on the Missouri River with my fly rod in fifteen minutes. I can be in Glacier National Park in less time than my commute was in Seattle. Or head down to Yellowstone. It’s a different world in the wintertime.

5) I have time to read. Time to write. And time to blog.

The only downside is that it’s hard to find good sushi. Steak, we got. Tako poke? Nada.

Where do you live? Why do you live there? What do you like best about it? And is it reflected in your work?