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I was born on a gritty, sweltering, San Bernardino summer morning in the year of 1955.I’m told the Santa Anas were blowing that day with gusts up to sixty miles per hour.The filthy, rat-infested palm trees were bending over in the winds, and birds were holding on to tree branches for their dear lives.The sun overhead was choking and coughing from all the dust, and I emerged.I was soaked from head to toe in blood and gooey mucus, and shaking my little fist at my mom’s doctor for having brought my prenatal peace and tranquility to such a windy and abrupt end.I knew then, without having any words to think, that life would never be the same again.Goodbye warm and soothing womb.Hello world!I guess I had my mom and dad to thank for this
Ah, Mom and Dad.I am because of them, of them, and sometimes for them.When I was born, my mom was a naïve and energetic first grade elementary school teacher who couldn’t wait to have a living and breathing child of her own, and my dad was a brilliant, young medical doctor.The year they brought me into the big, wide world was notable for a number of historic events, not the least of which was that it was the same year Disneyland opened its doors to the state as the “Happiest Place on Earth.”Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to share a birthday year with Walt’s magnificent dream?Sadly, this was also the same sad year that Shemp Howard passed away.I say rest in peace, and thanks for all the laughs.God bless the oily-haired man and his shot glass-cleaning, drink-pouring, Black Pussycat bartender’s heart.Shemp and WC Fields – what a pair!Oh, and I think a man named Albert Einstein passed away that year too.
When I was a kid, the world was a much different place.It was touted to be so steel-and-glass modern, yet it was stone-age ancient if you compared it to today.There were no personal computers, or cellphones, or calculators, or e-books, or cable TV stations, or anything even resembling our Internet.Everyone puffed on cigarettes everywhere you went; they smoked them on airplanes, in movie theaters and doctors’ offices.Rock ‘n’ roll was in its infancy, and Elvis Presley was only in his twenties.And no one wore seatbelts in cars, and yes, all cars came with built-in ashtrays.Engineers used slide rules to make calculations, and students did their research in libraries.I can remember some sillier things with great clarity, like my dad’s hi-fi.It had mysterious dials and buttons, and it pumped electricity into a single large speaker box that sat on our family room floor like a little 2001 obelisk.It was god-like.The hi-fi was not to be molested by anyone except my dad.Touch any part of it – the amplifier, the receiver, the woofer, or the tweeter – and Dad would chop your arm off, like an Arab.
We didn’t live in San Bernardino long.Instead, we moved around to several different cities and states.Eventually we wound up living San Jose, California.People still smoked cigarettes everywhere, even though they all knew smoking was bad for one’s health.Rock ‘n’ roll became more popular than ever, and kids were doing the twist and the Watusi.Dad now had a stereophonic set up.I was older, but I still wasn’t allowed to touch it.A lot of things happened during those years we lived in San Jose.JFK promised the country that we would send men to the moon, and then he was shot.I remember the sixties quite well.Bobby Kennedy was shot, and King was shot.People protested everywhere.There were some riots.There were a lot of drugs.This was a powerful decade, and it had a lot of influence on me, no doubt about it.
I began writing in grade school, and then I wrote again in high school.Then I wrote even more in college, and I was encouraged by a couple of my professors to become a writer.And I did consider it, this idea of being a writer.But I quickly discovered there was a major and insurmountable problem.I’ll say it bluntly and honestly – I didn’t know shit.That was the long and short of it, and no matter how hard I tried, or what subject I attempted to write about, or whose lives I worked to explain, or what setting I wished to describe, I realized that I had no experiences to make my writing either interesting or meaningful.No, at that age I didn’t need to write.That was the last thing I needed to do.I needed to love, work, lie, build, destroy, manipulate, kick, push, bet, fold, devour, and even excrete.Yes, I needed it all.I needed to live!
So, what did I do?I chose a line of work.I’m not going to tell you what I chose to do for a living, and this is for a good reason.We all make assumptions about people when we discover how they’re employed, and I’d like to avoid these assumptions being made about me.I don’t want to be seen as a scientist, butcher, baker, doctor, attorney, businessman, violinist, clerk, journalist, golfer, or even a sex toy shop proprietor.I simply want people to see me as a writer, and I want to be judged by what I write.If you need to picture me as something, then picture this.I am six feet tall, and weight 190 pounds.My hair is thin and semi-gray.I smoke a lot of cigarettes and drink a lot of coffee.I often wear shorts, T-shirts, and athletic shoes.I wear an expensive Rolex watch.And I am not ugly.No, I wouldn’t say I’m pretty, but I’m not ugly.
I guess there are some more things I’m willing to tell you about myself.First, I’m very smart.I mean, I have a high IQ compared to most people you’ll meet.As far as politics go, I’m a little of everything, and a whole lot of nothing.I’m a vacillating hodgepodge.I like to get along with people, and I feel just as comfortable dining on chicken a la king at a Republican fund raiser as I do eating a taco at a Mexican immigration rally.I truly hate the idea of having a firm opinion on anything, and I don’t trust people who think they’re always right.Experience tells me that there are just too many legitimate ways of seeing the world.This is why I like to write.It’s because writing gives me the chance to put on many hats while still being me.If that makes sense to you, then you’ll understand a lot of what I have to say.
As to my life experiences, if you read the things I’ve written, you’ll begin to get a good feel for the nature and breadth of them.I am now in my sixties.I have lived a few years on earth.I know exactly what it’s like to sleep on the floor of a Tijuana jail cell, and I know what it’s like to wake up in a luxurious feather bed in a room overlooking Snoqualmie Falls.I also know what it’s like to sit in a mental hospital, waiting to see a doctor, just as I know what it’s like to sit in a new Rolls Royce while waiting for a light to change.I’ve been told what to do by others, and I’ve told others what to do.I’ve tasted sour milk, and I’ve dropped acid.I’ve been ripped off, and I’ve ripped off others.I have had many experiences in my life that seemed too large to be true, and others that seem insignificant.And I’ve learned something you may or may not agree with, that a lot of our smallest experiences are actually the most educational.
As for the geographic details of my life, it’s like I said.I was raised near San Jose, California.That’s where I cut my teeth.I got married there at a young age, and my wife and I moved to Southern California in 1981.We lived there for forty years, but recently we decided to move.We moved to South Carolina, and moving to the south was one of the best decisions we ever made.I’ll tell you why.California is a great place to live if you love paying a ton of money for a mediocre quality of life.It’s a great place to live if you love to honk your car horn at others.It’s a fantastic place to be if you love plastic surgery, liberal movie stars, pseudo wine experts, BMWs, inane regulations, expensive shopping malls, and freezing cold ocean water.I was born in the Golden State, so was a true native Californian through and through, but I guess I decided I didn’t really like living there after all.Here in South Carolina they call me sir, and they call my wife ma’am.Here, no one cares if I gain five pounds or lose any more of my hair.Here, we have some actual weather.And here in the south, I wake up early each morning and smile like the cat that just ate the canary.
I realize I’ve been a little vague in parts of this self-description, and perhaps a little too honest in others.But you get the basic idea.The point of all this was to introduce you to me, and I think I’ve done that.So, what do you get when you read one of my stories?I’ll tell you what you don’t get.At least, I hope you don’t get this.What you don’t get is the same old dusty novel, the same old formulas, and the same old characters and subject matter.I do try to be different, not just for the sake of being different, but in search of some new and compelling ways to see the world.I try to do this and be entertaining at the same time.I want my readers to enjoy reading my works.I don’t want them to finish reading one of my books and say, “Wow, that’s the best thing I’ve ever read.”Instead, I’d like them to say something like, “That was a fun read, and it really made me think.”That would be the ultimate compliment.That would make my life mean something, and it would make my efforts worthwhile.
Favorite Authors: Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, Hunter S Thompson
Favorite Books: Don Quixote, Uncle Tom’s Cabin,
Favorite Artists: Salvador Dali, Norman Rockwell, MC Escher
Favorite Movies: Wizard of Oz, Goodfellas, Vanishing Point
Favorite Musical Artists: Modern Jazz Quartet, The Clash, Claude Debussy
Favorite Places: Costa Rica, New York, My Home Office
Favorite Politicians: None that I can think of
Favorite Pastimes: Reading, watching old movies on TV
Favorite Sport: Hockey, although I’ve never played it
Favorite Comedians: WC Fields, Groucho Marx, Rodney Dangerfield
Favorite Words: Idiot, Cockeyed, Desultory
Favorite Color: It’s always been blue, but purple isn’t bad
Favorite TV Show: The Honeymooners
Favorite Website: Well, it has to be www.marklages.com