Crossroads—we’ve all had them in real life. Yet they’re the reasons we have short stories, novels, movies and TV. Crossroads are those moments in life when we change paths. In the creative world, we call them plot; in the authentic world a crossroad is a point in our lives when fantasy gives way to reality. Rarely do we make these changes ourselves; fate generally makes them for us via serendipity or tough times.
Of course I will now give some examples but I find that I must use myself rather exclusively. You see, the reason I talk about myself so much in these blogs is because if I use others, I could get into trouble. I can’t sue myself. Hence, I’m my own example in so many of my philosophies.
So, in fiction or real life what would be a crossroad? It could be when a young lady who doesn’t have two dimes to rub together meets and marries a prosperous doctor—and all of a sudden finds all her financial cares have disappeared. This of course is why we have Hollywood—to manufacture such stories for us to daydream about. See, that’s the fictitious part of the crossroads philosophy—a dream comes true. For an example, watch any Hollywood movie.
Now for the real world and that’s where I’ll use myself naturally. When I was growing up in Okolona, Mississippi, I did a great deal of daydreaming. I wanted someday to be an actor, a writer or a manufacturer of some kind—all of course working on the premise that as a result I would be rich and famous.
In the first through the third grades, I was just a child who did mainly what society told him to do. I didn’t daydream because I hadn’t reached the level of worldliness that caused daydreams. However, by the time I was in the fourth grade I began daydreaming.
My Aunt Ripple (as I mentioned in an earlier blog) took me to Miami Beach, Florida, to live with her for the summer between my third and fourth years of school. She introduced me to a world where people were accomplishing things and living a flashy life style. Wow, I thought. My kind of life and people.
Then in the fourth grade, I looked at all the photos in my geography textbook and dreamed of not just studying these places but actually going there. I wanted to see the Matterhorn in Switzerland, the Coliseum in Rome, the Eifel Tower in Paris and the perilous Amazon River in South America.
I then became totally hooked on films. I saw as many as I could in our little local movie theater run by Dwight Blizzard. I believed in all the stories, plots and Hollywood make-believe I got there about three times a week.
Mix all those items together and I was just one big daydreamer. My grades suffered. I was not interested in making the honor roll and being known as one of the smart kids in school like my brother. I settled for living in a fantasy world.
This continued until I graduated from high school. I immediately wanted to go out into the world and try to turn all that daydreaming into reality. I went to Mexico as I mentioned in an earlier blog. After two quarters of school there at the University of Mexico, I had run out of money. My parents weren’t able to support any of my fantasies. The only thing they could promise me was to come back and put my nose to the grindstone at Mississippi State University. That seemed like failure to me.
Ah, there was a crossroads: Back to Mississippi or Fantasyland. I chose the latter. I took a cheap bus from Mexico City to the border at El Paso and hitchhiked to Los Angeles where I wanted to try and storm the gates of Hollywood.
This fantasy was slowed down by my getting a ride in El Paso with some guys going to Los Angeles. It turned out they were AWOL from the army and had stolen the vehicle in which we were traveling. The police nabbed us in Gila Bend, Arizona. The guys were sent off to the poky and I was let go several days later to continue my hitch-hiking. I had five dollars in my pocket.
I hit unfriendly L. A. and by hocking my class ring for two dollars and selling some blood for four dollars managed to hold on until I could get a job at Junior’s Drive Inn in Glendale as a dishwasher. Those gates of Hollywood I was trying to scale just kept getting higher and higher and my life just kept getting tougher and tougher. I was slowly but surely coming to a major crossroad in my life.
The Korean War was on and the Draft Board had an eye on me. Fantasy finally gave in to reality and I joined the U. S. Army. I volunteered so I would get a choice of what job I could perform as opposed to being just a target for North Korean riflemen.
That was really a crossroad. I remember crying all alone in my shabby room in North Hollywood after all of my fantasies finally deserted me. I had to join the army so I would have a roof over my head and three meals a day. It was tough volunteering for three years instead of being drafted for two. I ended up being put into the Army Security Agency (offshoot of CIA) and instead of going to Korea went to Okinawa, which I have talked about in recent blogs.
After the army, I had the GI Bill. I used it to get a Masters Degree and eventually ended up in Paris where I met my writing muse. My reality crossroad delivered me into the actual (not the fantasy) world of show business. Here I am right now still going strong with a new book MURDER IMPOSSIBLE due off the press shortly—and writing this blog. (Feature Photo: Barnes & Noble for a book signing. )
We many times cry when we reach a major crossroad in life. It’s painful when our fantasies desert us and all we’re left with is reality. Such an experience can be useful if you’re a writer to make a good movie, TV show, play or blog. A real world crossroad can many times lead to happiness—thank goodness.
Cheers and may your crossroads be a source of new-found strength.