Thursday, December 1, 2011

Songs, movies, book-writers and college professors!

As I get older and try to write on occasion, I look back on possible influences. As a teenager which was a blue moon ago, my brothers and I would listen to Bob Dylan and Creedance Clearwater Revival in the 60s, but I don’t remember any good music happening in the following decades. I think Dylan and John Fogerty of the CC Revival were excellent writers and their work will stand out for a long time. They could put the words together in a beautiful fashion and tell a story of a torn generation, where revolution was the catch-word. People were against this and that, kinda like today.  For example, in the song “Fortunate Son” Fogerty sang:

“It aint’ me. I ain’t no Senators son. I’m no fortunate son. I ain’t no millionaires son. It ain’t me.”

He referred to how the rich folk didn’t go to war (Vietnam at the time), but all the poor people did – kinda like a bunch of young Potawatomi’s did back then. And Dylan had a message in all his songs. I always thought, damn these guys had such a gift of telling a story.  Can you imagine writing one hit song and living off the royalties?

I’m not much of a movie buff, but I couldn’t help admire the writing in the movie Forrest Gump. It was funny at times, serious at times and showed how Gump fell into the accidental fame category. One day, he was showing Elvis how he would dance to a song and pretty soon Elvis was on tv doing Forrest Gump’s dance. He was always in the background of some event such as the day they let blacks attend white schools. And since he could run so fast, “run Forrest run,” he parlayed that into a football scholarship at Alabama playing for the Bear. From there he went to Vietnam to become a war hero, a champion ping-pong player, a lucky fisherman and savvy investor to become a rich guy. His memorable quote on this:

"Lieutenant Dan got invested in some kind of fruit company.  So then I get a call from him, saying we don't have to worry about money no more.  And I said, that's good!  One less thing."

During the whole process, he was to meet several Presidents. “I’m going to meet the President, again,” in a voice only Forrest Gump could say – the emphasis was on “again.” But the point was that each story-line was so imaginative and believable and I was so amazed somebody could think of putting all these stories together in one movie. Never in another hundred years, in my opinion, will somebody come up with a movie like that again. In fact, somebody said recently all the good stories have already been told. It would be nice to be surprised though!

I thought Hunter Thompson could tell a story well and I read most of his books. They were descriptive pieces of work and I liked the way he told the story. Recently, I read a Simon Winchester book about China and he did a great job of educating the reader about this country and at the same time to tell a story, also very descriptive. A singer named Steve Earle wrote a novel called “I won’t be leaving this world alive,” and I don’t know that I’m going to read the book anytime soon. I might if I saw it on the bargain book rack, but I liked the title and who would have ever thought of a naming it that?

I covered possible influences in song-writing, movies and book-writers, but I can’t leave out college professors. I graduated from Washburn University in Topeka. I think they got tired of seeing an old Indian guy walking around their campus. The higher-ups got together on a cold winter night in the administrative offices and said "give that Indian his degree and get him out of here", so I moved on in the Spring of 1993.

Before I took that step into college life, I had worked construction and in packing houses, but a knee injury made me think about changing course. I had some help before I went to college. I always read during those early years, the early wild years but my time wasn't always an alcohol-fogged life. I read many books, newspapers and as many magazines as I could get my hands on especially those from the local laundry mat. So that made my classes fairly easy and the reading wasn't a problem for me, but I did struggle with the writing, at least in the beginning.  I worked hard at it, though. I went out and bought several books on the subject and read them extensively. I never developed into a professional, but learned enough to tell a story or something close to that.

I majored in Political Science and I took a large number of history classes (I lacked 6 hours from having a double major). Political Science was a hard subject but it was a helluva lot easier than the history classes I took at Washburn. Both subjects had some excellent teachers like Cecil-Fronsman, Freeman, and Wagner, to name a few. They made me work on the writing and of course the subject itself. It seemed like the 15 page papers never stopped but that helped me later when I wrote about our tribe and other stories.

All of this intangibles of life combined may help explain some influences that made my writing a bit easier. That's all I got to say about that!

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