KingMidget's Ramblings

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A Moment

Dreaming Dreams

Regular readers might recall that I rarely remember my dreams.  So when I have a night when I remember two dreams, that’s newsworthy.  Right?

First dream:  I stepped into to use a toilet.  It was clogged.  You DO NOT want to know the details of what followed.

I’m currently staying in Seascape, California, in a room we got via Airbnb.  We’re basically a block and a half from the ocean.  Our host’s name is Michael XXXX.  Never met him before.  Don’t know a thing about him.

Second dream:  As I’m walking through the house we’re staying in, I see a magazine cover, the headline on the cover and the picture makes clear that my host’s last name is not actually XXXX, but Tillerson.  And he is the son of Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State.  I confront him with this information.  End of dream.

I’m thinking these two dreams are very connected.

A Moment

Descent by Tim Johnston

Book four in my reading journey through Spring Training reading is Descent by Tim Johnston. Completely unintentionally, Descent is very much the fictionalized version of the last book I read, Alligator Candy by David Kushner.

Where Alligator Candy tells the true story of Kushner’s brother disappearing back in 1973, Descent tells the story of Caitlin’s disappearance in the mountains of Colorado. Where Alligator Candy shows a family that sticks together in the face of such tragedy, Descent tells the story of a family that is pretty much ripped apart by the tragedy of a child who disappears.

I’ll go back to my review of The Wolf Road and ask the question again. With The Wolf Road, I asked the question of why post-apocalyptic tales always seem to display the absolute worst aspects of human nature. Why isn’t it possible that after the apocalypse humans might actually learn something from it and end the brutality and inhumanity? Similarly, the true story version of a disappeared child shows a family staying together, keeping their bond and growing stronger over the years. And the fictionalized version shows the worst of humanity — a family ripped apart and stumbling blindly through the tragedy as they descend into the darkness. I’m sure the Descent version of the results of such a tragedy is not far from the truth, but it does make me wonder. We need … well wait a sec.

In my writing, there is always death and sadness and despair. Or at least some of my readers think that. They ask me why and I tell them that there is no drama in happy. Okay, I answered my own question.

Moving on to the nuts and bolts of  Descent, it’s another one of those stories that I struggled to start. The opening chapter or two covering Caitlin’s disappearance were good and compelling. But then the book went through this incredibly muddled group of chapters, flipping back and forth between the narrative of a handful of characters in an almost completely baffling way. For several chapters I could make no sense of the who or the what or the why.

Fortunately, by about a third of the way through the book, the narrative improved, it became clearer, compelling, must read.

Much like with Alligator Candy, if you can handle the subject matter, I encourage you to give Descent a try. I will say there was one small disappointment for me in the story, but it is a disappointment of my own making. About two thirds of the way through the book, as the narrative improved and my eagerness for the story grew, I began to feel like this would be one of those stories that would shake me at the end. That there would be a moment of emotional release and a sense that THIS IS A STORY. That ended up not happening, but the story is still compelling, a good read, and worth the time.

Two more books to go in my Spring Training reading journey.

Alligator Candy by David Kushner

I went to Spring Training a few weeks ago.  Like any good reader, I bought a few books to make sure I had sufficient reading material.  Yes, that’s right.  Six books, for what amounted to a 2 1/2 day trip that was filled with baseball games, bars, and time with friends. I got through one book that weekend — Into the North Wind, the true story of one woman’s attempt to complete a 1,000 mile mountain bike race across Alaska.  In winter.

I started a second book as the weekend ended — The Wolf Road, a post-apocalyptic tale of a young woman’s efforts to survive human evil.

Now comes the third book, another recommendation from the fabulous Cinthia Ritchie. Alligator Candy by David Kushner. In 1973, when Kushner was four years old, his eleven-year-old brother disappeared. A week or so later, his body was found and two men were arrested for his kidnapping and murder. Alligator Candy is Kushner’s memoir — of the event and its aftermath. It spans decades of how his family dealt with the loss of a loved member and Kushner’s own struggle to find out the truth of the event. Whether his childhood memories of it were really accurate.

There’s a theme that runs through this memoir that hits particularly close to home for me. It is the fear we as parents have allowed to take over the need for freedom our children need. In 1973, I was nine years old. I had the run of our neighborhood. I walked to and from school. I roamed the neighborhood on my bike alone and with friends. After school, we’d meet up and play pickup games of baseball and football. We’d bicycle around and to and from different friends’ houses. We were free of our parents and adult supervision pretty much every day for hours at a time.

Thirty years later, when my older son was nine years old, there was no chance in hell he would be allowed to do any of that. My kids never got to the point where they could go to and from school on their own until they were sixteen and could drive. They didn’t have hours of freedom hardly ever, let alone every day, where they could act and make decisions without parental supervision. Pickup baseball games down at the nearby school or park?  Hardly, how can you do that if there aren’t any kids outside to pickup along the way?

Kushner’s brother died just before the onslaught of news of child disappearances and abductions became nightly fodder for the newscasts. Kushner wonders, as do I, whether this loss of freedom is in the best interests of our children. The ability to make mistakes when you’re out there on our own and then learn from those mistakes, instead of having every single activity planned and supervised by adults may be a thing we need to ensure our children have. I wonder that in particular now as my sons, aged 19 and 22, demonstrate a basic inability to make the right decisions as they try to live more or less on their own.

There’s a lot more to Kushner’s book than this, of course. It is the story of a family that suffers the most brutal kind of loss. And sticks together. There are a lot of layers to the story. Kushner’s own struggle. How his thoughts change as he goes from a four-year-old who didn’t really know what happened to a teenager who started to peel away the layers of the onion and learned more about both the tragedy and his own parents and surviving brother, and then on into adulthood and greater awareness of all of it.

If the subject matter would bother you, Alligator Candy would be a tough book to get through. But it is a pretty remarkable story. A true one, a heartbreaking one, but also one that shows how people can survive such incredible tragedies.



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