As people get to know me they often say I must write a book about my life…and I reply “I wouldn’t know where to start.” How do you write of the remarkable and ordinary?
As I meditated on this I heard “begin with the soundtrack.” I have always been a shadow musician and artist…and have written stories since Carol Ruth Owens and I made books of scrap paper in our front yards on Sandra Lane and filled them with adventurous mysteries like our heroines, Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew…but with horses, of course…we were obsessed. We volunteered at Dick Trotman’s (yes, his real name…) stable so we could ride. I rode a gentle giant warmblood named Duchess. Even then in grade school I was tall and ugly skinny and the only bony child she would tolerate.
A junior high teacher told my Mother I was a talented writer…if only she could get me to finish something. I was not interested in writing. A sixth grade art teacher had entered me in the Detroit News Scholastic Art Awards unbeknownst to me, and I had won – with a watercolor homage to Rembrant’s Young Girl At an Open Half Door…all my waking hours I wanted only to paint. Little did I know I would win again, with an abstract oil my senior year of high school. I haven’t painted since.
Beginning college brought “two-fers” – creative writing instructors would have me complete two semesters worth of assignments in one. But I haven’t written since.
Let’s just say I lost my mojo. Has anyone out there seen it?
The last forty-five years or so have been about survival mostly. Learning how not to BE my emotions…how to navigate and balance the depression of addiction and medication and it’s insidious clusterfuck of side effects…the sins of my fathers…it’ll suck the mojo right out of a person.
Both my parents were “hobby” musicians, as were their parents. My mother’s father was a direct descendant of Franklin Pierce. He purportedly had some African American blood in his genes as well, and carried many of the physical attributes. But he passed for white, and made his quick and short lived fortune as a contractor building railroads, first for the booming automobile industry in Detroit, then across the continent, and eventually as far away as Japan. I ADORED him…especially on the weekends.
Amos Pierce lost his Golden Gloves to a young boxer named Joe Louis, and he and Joe became fast friends. In their twenties and suddenly well off, they hung around with their mutual friend, Chubby Checker…and many other young Detroit musicians, some who would soon have contracts with a new label called Motown…but first, they needed a big empty space to practice and relax in. So Amos built a rambling old Tudor mansion near downtown and finished the basement like a ballroom with a bar, a stage, and a big dance floor. Some of my earliest memories were negotiating the wide stairway, sister Sherry hanging on, carrying a heavy bag of cornmeal down to sprinkle all over the fancy new invention called linoleum so that the dance floor was slippery slidey…I’ve wondered if the Twist were born here. But mainly, I was just mesmerized by my six – foot – four grandfather with the head of curly black hair shaking to the beat. Late at night, perhaps early in the morning, I would flat out refuse to take off my new patent leather shoes. I remember those arguments; my grandmother coming to my rescue by making a pallet of blankets on the floor where I would eventually fall asleep. Somehow my sweet little self knew I didn’t want to miss a minute of this…