13 January 2018

Convergence

I’ve long been a fan of genetics. I studied it in my high-school’s gifted program for four years and then in college. For obvious reasons, evolution (the poor cousin of genetics) also holds a fascination for me.

One element of evolution I find most fascinating is a thing called convergence. This is where two very different life forms come to the same solution for the same problem without there being any direct link between them. For example, flight: pterodactyls flew and archeopteryx flew. Same solution, but these species are not related. They came to the solution from different paths.

Convergence was an important element to me and my journalism career. It’s essentially the “two sides to every story” thing. For example: you find a body on the ground at the base of a tall building. How did it get there? Did the person fall from a window? Was he shot and fell? Did he just finish lunch down the street and have a heart attack at this spot?

I was surprised to realize that convergence remains important to me now that I write novels. As the author, I can create any solution to a mystery that I want. The fun part for me is sending clues to the reader to make him think the solution is coming along one path even though those same clues can be read to come to the solution through a different path. A surprise plot twist, as it were. I never started out any of my novels with this in mind, yet they nearly all have this element. It’s not a twist for the sake of a twist; rather, a twist that has been slowly crafted from the first page for the reader’s ultimate enjoyment .

23 November 2017

My Favorite Thanksgiving Day Story

I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area and decided to fly home for Thanksgiving. I didn’t want to drive to the airport and none of my friends was available to take me, so I decided to take the bus.

I called the bus scheduling number and got all the information I needed to take the express bus on Wednesday to the airport. I figured out what time I would need to catch the bus to arrive an hour before the flight.

So, I get to the bus stop on time with my single carry-on bag, check to make sure the bus number is correct and confirm with the driver that he is going to airport. Check, check and check.

You probably know an express bus goes from here to there with no or minimal stops. So, we’re cruising along and stopping at EVERY SINGLE BUS STOP between here and there. I’m kinda panicking. I’m looking at my watch. Time is ticking away.

I finally say to the driver: “I thought this was the express to the airport, but you’re stopping at all the stops.”

His reply: “This is only the express on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

Of course, I have visions of the plane leaving without me, that teary-eyed phone call home explaining that I missed my flight, my teary-eyes parents sad that I’m not coming in, etc.

We pull up to the airport -- less than five minutes until my flight. I dart off the bus and, yelling “excuse me, excuse me,” pull an O.J. Simpson and make a mad dash through the airport, up the escalator, from the front of the airport to literally the very last gate at the farthest point away from where I started. They were just starting to close the door to the gangway when I ran up.

I apologized for being late and got on the plane, everyone looking at me, wondering WTF?

14 November 2017

I Was a Disappointment to My Father

No, really. I know it for a fact.

Here’s the background: my mother and father had relationships and children before they met, married and had me. I’m an only child -- with a handful of half-siblings. My father was probably pinning on me all of his hopes for the perfect son. Well, sorry.

I was a late baby (ten months, my mother always said), then sickly from the start (allergies and asthma). I couldn’t breast feed (milk allergy) so she fed me Jell-O water. I had a lot of food restrictions even back then -- many of which I carry with me today.

So, I was sickly, I missed a lot of school, I couldn’t play outside or in the grass. Do you sense where this is going? I was not athletically inclined -- at all. I preferred to stay inside and read.

You wanna know what’s worse? As I grew older, I got into theater and then when I was 20 and living in San Francisco, I -- horror -- realized I was gay. I think that was probably the final straw.

To his credit, my father never rode me for not being into sports or girls, for being the smartest kid in my class, for being a theater nerd. But he did drink -- to excess. I’ve always wondered whether those things were related.

As I grew older, I moved into a career in journalism -- both print and broadcast. I was published around the country, I started winning awards, my dad could pick up the afternoon paper and read something I wrote. But he was never noticeably proud of those achievements. No matter how successful I became, I think he would have been most happy if I could have just learned to throw a ball.

31 October 2017

Constructing A Revelation

The following is not going to matter to any other person in the world but me.

Walt Disney Concert Hall. Ick!
For a long time, I’ve disliked the work of architect Frank Gehry -- he of Walt Disney Concert Hall fame (pictured), among others. His curves and sweeps and angles always made me uncomfortable. It bothered me that I hated his work so much while everyone called his designs the greatest things since the invention of pop-up toasters.

This morning, lying awake in bed, it finally occurred to me why I don’t like his work: his designs are not symmetrical.

I love symmetry. I love the International and Streamline Moderne styles of buildings that became big in the middle of the last century. Floors in buildings were even, buildings had 90-degree angles, these buildings were -- in short -- gorgeous. So, now I know.

Below are some of my favorite buildings.