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  • From the time I began to write, in1972, until 1983, I did a ton of writing. I wrote about characters I met on the road, and I spent a good deal of time on the road in those years. My favorite mode of transportation was hitchhiking, and I’d been all over this country and Canada on the "heel-toe-and-thumb express". I kept regular journals, I wrote about my worldwide travels on a ship in the Navy, I wrote a lot of poetry, and I was always on the verge of writing the next great rock opera, and/or the next great American novel (in my mind). I always felt like I was this close to nailing it down and putting it all together.

    I saved every single scrap, notebook, journal, and scrawled idea on a napkin. I was a real pack-rat. I just kept writing, and obsessively saving every thing I wrote. As I wrote and filled up notebooks and scraps of paper, I’d shove them into a box that I usually kept under my bed. When that box filled up, I started another. By 1983, I had about 5 large moving-sized boxes filled with my writings from the previous 12 years. They were literally filled to overflowing with stuff I’d written. If you ever saw the move “Wonder Boys”, where the Michael Douglas character just kept writing, until he had thousands of pages of his great novel, that was me. Like him, I had this little problem with making choices in my writing. I just wrote, completely unfettered and undisciplined. I kept thinking that one day, it was just going to magically all come together in a fit of greatness, and all make sense.

    Early in 1983, when I was living in a house full of recovering addicts on a farm in Ivyland, Pennsylvania, my friend Billy talked me into moving down to Maryland, just outside of DC, with him. I needed a change of scenery and was mad at one of my housemates for stealing a girlfriend from me, so I moved down to Maryland and into Billy's basement. It was unfinished, but I was able to make one corner quite livable with my nice, old antique bedroom set. I actually thought it was kind of romantic, in a poor-writer-living-in-the-unfinished-basement-bedroom kind of way. Of course, my many boxes of writings made their way under the bed there, where I continued to add to them with my wild, almost-ready-for-primetime ramblings.

    Then havoc struck! When it happened, it was like the scene in that same movie when Michael Douglas’ character watches the only copy of his life’s work of writing go flying away in the winds and into the Monongahela River (see Picture of the scene above, which shows his publisher, played by Robert Downey, Jr., trying to chase the wayward script down as it flies away in the wind. It's no wonder this movie struck such a chord with me when I first saw it.

    As I awoke one morning, and as I stepped out of the bed, my foot plopped down into a mini-lake! The water rose up to nearly the bottom of the bed. It had deluged overnight, and the basement had flooded! My writings! Holy crap! Papers were just floating all around the basement, and all of the boxes were completely covered by water.

    It took hours to bale all of the water out. What was left of my writings was not worth salvaging – I wound up pitching every single box - it was all ruined. The only thing I salvaged was my condensed book of poetry, as I had been writing in it the night before, and it was on top of the dresser. (See my story “Thanks, but Keep the Smokes!” for more on that).

    It’s funny, but I felt strangely free, once I got over a suitable mourning period for my lost writings. I decided that it was a message from the universe, telling me that it was time to start over.

    And, so I did.
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