The Final Curtain1

The Final Curtain1

        I’ve always been a Frank Sinatra guy and “My Way” has accompanied me on many romantic adventures. “My Way” has been one of those ‘etchings’ to enjoy with someone special at the end of a candlelight and wine dinner, a song that can be parsed and qualified in so many ways…guess that’s my best reason for the blog title.
 
      It isn’t so much that those lines in the song, “The Final Curtain,” need to conjure up morbid thoughts and ‘let’s all be sentimental’ thoughts. In fact,”The Final Curtain” can conjure up joyful thoughts, those that lift the spirit and put an extra swagger in our strides.
 
          I’m pretty much a ‘romantic’ with some life dreams realized and some that still wish to be. Mostly, these days, my writing speaks to me in so many ways, telling me so many truths about myself. Through the characters pecked out on the laptop, in their actions, reactions, interactions, there are glimpses of me, mini-portraits never seen before. Some are scary. Some are strangely uplifting and gratifying. Some glimpses make me sad. Some make me happy. Some make me confident. Some make me doubt myself.
 
         There is this ‘thing’ that always keeps me rooted to some true genetic spot: we can be no more in life than what we are intended to be. So, what’s with all the gibberish about “The Final Curtain1” and the writing and the glimpses? Truth is, I’m aging with a great deal of reluctance, going through the ‘pages’ past, present, and future, still searching for the elusive and the unattainable, trying very hard to make up for some wasted moments in this passage.
        I’m here in the ‘wings’ and the curtain has not closed. I’m wanting to come out ‘center stage’ and ‘sing’ like ‘ole blue eyes’ my thoughts with wide-ranging themes, present the 17 books I’ve written and tell you a bit about them, perhaps share why I feel that in the fictional stories and memoirs I pen, there is that kid who was I somewhere on and between the lines. 
 
         One of my favorite poet/writers is an ex-priest named James Kavanaugh. Among all his work, he has written two beautiful books of poetry: “There Are Men Too Gentle To Walk Among Wolves” and “Will You Be My Friend?” There is so much of his verse with which I identify. His words speak to me with the most marvelous clarity. With my Appalachian bible-belt roots, there is little wonder. James Kavanaugh is gone now, this gentle man who ultimately quit the Priesthood, got in his little yellow volkswagon, drove to California and beyond, took his voice to the people in the streets, in the pubs, in those places where men and women congregate and among themselves seek reasons for their lives.
 
       Sinatra and Kavanaugh are my two favorite ‘etchings’ with some Kahlil Gibran thrown in, each of them fodder for the romantic and soulful parts of me. There is of course nothing wrong with our different tastes in music. There are those who like the brassy groups, the rappers, and the new gents and ladies of song — most of my soul dances favor the ballads. We can’t all like the same music. And, yes, of course, age, time, and place carry our predictable favorites.
 
         Now, ‘will you be my friend?’ Are you a ‘romantic’ – dreamer – pragmatist – young adult – baby boomer – timid – out-going… How do you approach the page on which you are about to spill your guts — or, your character’s guts? How much of you do you leave on the written pages of your books? You tell me, and I’ll tell you.
 
      I’m going off stage now but I’ll be lurking around the ‘curtain’ to see if someone shows up on stage. I’ll keep hoping you will read synopses of my books at the website address, pick one or two to read. You will find me on and between the lines of those books.
     There’s a lot of time before the final curtain.
 
Billy Ray Chitwood

https://brchitwood.comBLOGSITE

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A Private Session At “The Way Station”

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A Private Session At ‘The Way Station’

Guess I write quite a bit about my feelings, about my life and times. Thought I would allow a small portion from one of my books, a fictional memoir, to do the ‘talking’ in this post…

The following is a section from ‘The Way Station’ (a euphemism for a Care Facility) in my book, The Cracked Mirror – Reflections From An Appalachian Son. Prentice Paul Hiller is recovering from a complicated hip surgery, meets and bonds with a former Clinical Psychologist, Greta Fogel. Over the weeks of teasing and mental jousting, Greta has encouraged Prentice to write about his life and times, suggesting that it might be not only good therapy for him but that the end product should be a great read…

EXCERPT – from“The Cracked Mirror – Reflections Of An Appalachian Son” – by Billy Ray Chitwood:

Having just settled in with my laptop, Greta came into the sun room. Without too much preamble, I moved the laptop to her lap, with the cursor set to start on the last two sections. “See what you think of these two sections,” I said with a doubtful expression, “I’m ambivalent! Don’t know if I went too overboard.”

It took some time for her to read the sections. She paused time and again in very thoughtful poses.

When she was finished, she asked: “You want to talk now or later? Want me to leave you so you can write?”

“No, let’s talk! First, Dorie seems really nice,” I said.

“She’s a really good lady. I’m very impressed. You’re going to like her.” She sat on the wicker chair near the window. Greta was wearing a lovely lavender sweater and beige pants outfit plus a new hairdo. Her eyes glowed with the combination.

“I already do. We had a chance to visit when she got here. She’s a version of you, really!”

Don’t know about that, but I like her and I’m glad you do…” She paused for a second. “Shall we talk about these last two sections?”

“Really! You want to talk about the last two sections? Why do you think I shoved the laptop on your lap? Of course, sweet lady, let’s talk about these sections…you read it and acted like you wanted to leave. You don’t like the sections, do you?”

“Of course, I like the sections! You know I like your writing. You raised my eyebrows a bit, that’s all. You surprised me!” She said with a slight nod and a wry smile.

“Bet I know why!” with a nod and smile of my own. “The ‘Vickie’ sex snapshot?”

“Well, certainly, that raised my eyebrows! And we won’t dwell too long on that bit of memorabilia! However, it might surprise you to know that that kind of experience is not so uncommon, particularly when you consider the environment in which you lived, notwithstanding the criminal implications of Vickie’s complicity in the seduction. No, it is not a pretty snapshot, and  it does surprise me somewhat that you would make it part of your ‘reflections,’ although your penchant for honesty and ridiculing yourself would preclude your leaving it out.” She was about to say more when I interrupted.

“It was such a vivid recall, Greta, like the earlier sex encounter with my pre-puberty aunt. It was somehow important for me to put it in, even knowing that is was highlighting depraved behavior…”

“I understand, Prentice. You need not justify it to me. You want the writing to portray the ultimate true picture of who you were then. It couldn’t be any other way for you.” She paused again, then went on.

“The ‘Vickie snapshot’ is not necessarily what I meant by ‘raising’ my eyebrows.”

“Of what then do you speak, dear lady?” using my chivalrous tongue.

“I speak of your ‘isms’ section, EST and ‘Tao Te Ching,’ and your ‘political views’ section to the larger extent. What raised my brows and surprised me a bit was the length to which you’ve gone to find yourself, your belief system as it relates to your political morality. In other words, you’re a man who strives so hard to find integrity in yourself and in others. You fight in your mind the battles of our times, wanting desperately to find a Utopia which you know does not exist. In some ways, you are an incurable romantic, a Don Quixote chasing ‘windmills’ you think are giants to be slain. You know your sins, Prentice! You know your faults, your errant ways! Your missed opportunities! And you’re trying to make up for it all with the pages of your book.” She paused, eyed me carefully with a fondness she would not hide. “And, you’re doing a damned good job!”

“Whoa, wait a minute! There’s something else you want to say. ‘A damned good job’ doesn’t quite say it all, Greta. Come on, I can take it. It might hurt, a lot, but I can take it. I might never speak to you again, but take it, I shall!” She could see the last bit as mock and tease.

“Yes, a damned good job! I say what I mean, Mr. Hiller. And, yes, Mr. Hiller, there is something else to say…” Again, she paused, looked out the window at the lovely blue sky day. “What you put down is well written. You would be aware that some of your reading audience might not share your views. That, I know you know! Incidentally, I’m not one of those ‘really smart people’ to whom you refer, but I am non-partisan. What you want, I believe most people want. You write about it passionately and sincerely. How could I fault you? The chivalrous battles you fight with your writing are noble, patriotic, and good…” She paused yet again, then wistfully continued.

“Why, I’m not completely sure, but I’m thinking of those two great volumes of Spanish literature.” She waited, pursed her lips in that cute little habitual way she had, and went on. “His neighbors thought him mad for all his dedicated reading of chivalry, but Alonso Quixano gave himself a new name, ‘Don Quixote,’ put on a suit of old armor and went off on his chivalrous quests with wild imaginings. He was at times beaten, ridiculed, and ultimately unintentionally betrayed by his dull-witted squire and neighbor, Sancho Panza. His quests, his imaginings, ended in a great melancholy. Alonso would put away his armor. The melancholy worsened with his age, and Sancho in the end tried to restore his faith. But Alonso Quixano died a broken man, and, with him, his alter ego, ‘Don Quixote.’

“What does ‘Don Quixote’ have to do with what you’re writing? The chivalry part, mostly. Though, at times, you do seem daft and wildlyimaginative!” A pause for chuckles. “You write about many differnet things in yur life. You bemoan at times the sad states of your existence, your life style, your ‘images’ of the good life, your moods, your legacy. And, to repeat myself, you do a damned good job of it. If I have any concern, it comes from my fondness for you. I don’t wish you to become ‘melancholy and broken,’ Prentice.

“Don’t try so hard to make up for your life! This writing business, the process, is good for you. Use it for all the right reasons: the legacy thing, the self-ablution, as it were, the process itself. You are who you are. You will try too hard. You will continue to beat yourself. It’s too late for the couch, not that you really ever needed it, but, if I could push but one button for you, it would be the button that makes you believe in yourself and makes you have more faith in the God who made you and accept whatever it is He intends for you. You are really a dear, dear man, and I don’t wish to see you hurt so much.”

She stopped talking and looked again out the big window, her face creased with a sadness beyond the mere interpretations she had rendered on the sections of my book. That sadness held me for a moment. Then, I decided to revert to my easy tactic of light patter. 

“Well, Greta, you’ve totally blind-sided me! What the hell am I supposed to do with Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, and you?” smiling, with raised eyebrows. “Okay, methinks I get it. You’re a sweetheart!” I closed the laptop and got up. “Come on, let’s break out of this joint and find a Big Mac, fries, and coke.”

Actually, ‘Don Quixote’ and I likely had a lot more in common than I might be willing to admit. Then, again, there might be more Sancho Panza in me than I might be willing to admit.

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Flowers and Stone

Watch Nonnie Write!

Flowers and Stone

Thank you all for dropping by today.  I hope it was the title of this post that enticed you to do so.

Many of you may be aware that early last year I took my debut novel, “DAYDREAM’S DAUGHTER, NIGHTMARE’S FRIEND” down from Amazon.  (I’ve recently discovered that in my haste to do so, I only removed the e-book format and it is still there in paperback format, but hopefully, no one’s buying it).  I did this, because although it received many positive reviews, I just happened to open a paperback copy one day to find some very glaring “hiccups.”  I was so blown away (that they were glaring…at least to me) that I rushed to Amazon and yanked it down with such force, I think I hurt my arm. (I’m sorry, poor arm).

Anyway, with running the hugely busy and successful communities known as RRBC & RWISA, I…

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Autumn and The Muse

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Autumn And The Muse

 

It was all so different these many years later…

 

The clapboard houses were all gone, replaced by small brick and hardwood homes with indoor plumbing. The dirt and gravel lanes were now paved although still isolated and rural. The old white church with its high steeple, now freshly painted, was the marker that let me know I was really home again.

 

It was like time had abbreviated everything I looked upon. The distance from church to Mama’s and Papa’s old house was hardly a quarter mile. The lanes that branched off the short stretch of road to the old sawmill and the railroad tracks were now unrecognizable, overgrown with brush, trees, and weeds… I could not even determine where the old sawmill and train tracks had been. Where so many years ago there had been Papa’s rows of corn, potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, and scallions was now tall green grass for a few grazing cows.

 

I smiled and pointed out to my wife Julie and son Scott where the old out-house had once stood, where Papa had once castrated the squealing hogs. I pointed out where old ‘Fred’ the mule used to lead the plow through the fields with a few ‘gees and haws’ from Papa. The little hamlet of Wooldridge was now all condensed for my memory but the thoughts, good and bad, raced through my aging brain…

 

It was here where some of the first memories were built of my displaced youth, where fear of the unknown and new experiences collided to make me a docile and disturbed little boy. It was here where my microcosmic world was filled with dreams and dark ugly shadows. Here was the nexus that was the foundation for all that I would become – the nomadic drifter in search of illusive dreams, the uncertain master of a fate always to be determined.

 

The tears were not seen through the smiles as I passed on to my son and wife the wisps of yesterday, but they were there…tears for Mama and Papa, their hard lives, yet their devotion to me…tears for the parents who fought, who loved and tried, but were unable to make things right for their family…tears for a life that could have been better in some ways but did, through all the wanderlust, bring me to wife Julie who personifies family, love and patience…tears for my beautiful children of whom I am so proud and love so deeply.

 

This day trip from my middle Tennessee home to the east Tennessee hamlet of my youth inspires this post. While there has to be some sadness – that’s the way I’m put together – it is likely one of the best days to go into my still active memory pages. The day serves to point out for me that, indeed, ‘everyone has to be from somewhere.’

Billy Ray Chitwood – February, 2018 (REV)

 

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