When thinking of what to write about in this week’s blog, I thought about my travels last year about this time. I went to Paris to visit my friends Ken and Christian for a little over two weeks.
I left Paris and returned to the USA in 1980 and since that time have annually returned for a visit every year for 36 years. Last year though in addition to my visit in Paris, I flew to Istanbul to meet up with my friend Rod. We were going to take a 16-day bus trip throughout Turkey. What a wonderful adventure that turned out to be.
I so well remember the night we met with the tour guide and our fellow travelers for a kick-off dinner. I am always a bit nervous being around a group of brand-new people in my life. The guide made the remark that at the moment we were strangers but after our 16 days together, we would all end up very close friends. That certainly did become the case.
Our group consisted of two Americans, my friend and I, and eighteen Australians. Over the course of the ensuing 16 days, we indeed did become fast friends. I must say right here that I have not kept up my end of the bargain because I have not written them in the year that has elapsed since we said goodbye. I can safely say they were all wonderful people and visiting Turkey together did create a close bond among us. Thinking about our good times together makes my mind wander to another time period in my past.
When I was 11 years old and growing up in Okolona, Mississippi, I was pretty much the same inquisitive and adventurous person you see before you today. Like most kids, I took the good and bad in life with about equal attention. Children generally only think of the good days like birthdays and Christmas and shrug their shoulders at the bad days. Adults are more sensitive to the ups and downs of life because they have to deal with the conditions known as stress and paying your way in life.
At 11 I was very curious about any and everything that went on around me. Some days after school, I would go visit two black women who lived near us. They had been slaves when they were children. I simply couldn’t believe that one person could own another and so I went to visit them with the intent of finding out more information on the subject.
Old black ladies of that time were called Aunt. So I visited Aunt Sally and her sister who lived next door, Aunt Liza. Also included in some of the visits was Aunt Sally’s husband, Uncle Grady. He too had been a slave. We talked about everything. I told them about what had happened at school that day and they told me about their early lives.
One day I appeared with my arm in a sling and told them I had broken my arm. Aunt Sally wanted to know all the details. I let her know that it happened due to a skating accident. When I finished, she shook her head and said, “Oh Child, up jumped the devil.” I thought it was a good expression but I asked her what it meant.
She said that things in life can go along just fine and you’re happy and think life couldn’t get any better. Then up jumps the devil. She said I had probably been having a real good time of it when all of a sudden I broke my arm. She further explained that it happens all the time. When we get to thinking we got the world by its tail, the ole devil will jump right in and lets you know you what’s what.
This saying has stuck with me over the years and I’ve repeated it at times to my friends when things took an unexpected turn. The connection with my trip to Turkey is as follows. We had a marvelous time in Turkey. We were surprised how clean it was, how friendly the people were, how much fun we were having and most of all how safe we felt there. My friend and I in Ankara, the Turkish capital, one night went to a downtown area like Paris of the thirties. We ate at an outdoor café where the food was good and the service friendly. Music was everywhere and the people were laughing and happily talking.
Our bus trip ended back in Istanbul where it had begun. We all said our good-byes and went our separate ways , telling one another we would write and keep in contact.. My friend and I went from Istanbul to Venice, Italy, for a few days. From there we returned to our homes in Southern California.
Several weeks later UP JUMPED THE DEVIL. The wonderful little café in Ankara where we had had dinner was the site of a suicide bomber, which resulted in quite a few people being killed and wounded. Then a bit later a bus like ours with 20 passengers was attacked and ten of the twenty were murdered by terrorists. Later some more bombings, then the Istanbul airport suffered a terrorist attack–and just recently a military revolution shook the nation. Things were so nice and peaceful when we were there last year and then up jumped the devil.
I remember when I left Paris to return to the States to work on a screenplay in Los Angeles, I thought I had it made. I was on my way. Things were going so well. Then UP JUMPED THE DEVIL. In one day, the bottom fell out of the screenplay project I was working on and it was abandoned. The next thing I knew, I was teaching English at a Korean language school for $7 an hour in order to keep a roof over my head. Up jumped the devil!
In the fields of writing a novel, screenplay, stage play or short story “Up Jumped The Devil” is the heart of any creative venture. Instead of calling it by Aunt Sally’s expression, it is called CONFLICT. This you must have in any creative endeavor. You will also have it in your real life but we call it EXPERIENCE.
So, when things are going along too nicely, you can bet the devil will jump up one way or another. Look on the bright side though. It gives you something to write about.
UP JUMPED THE DEVIL UPDATE: By all rights I should be writing this blog to you from Paris. I was supposed to leave this past Thursday for my annual trip to Paris. I got to the airport, handed my passport and E-ticket to the agent and waited for my boarding pass. UP JUMPED THE DEVIL! My passport had expired a week earlier. I felt very stupid that I had not attended to this way ahead of time. Anyway I couldn’t board the plane and had to return home. Have since ordered a new passport and will now go to Paris in mid-September for my two weeks. See what I am talking about?
The next blog will appear September 1, 2016.