About Ron ~
Born Irish and Russian and raised mostly by nuns, it took 60 years to discover I was Jewish and not Catholic. Didn’t really matter since the Pope and me don’t chum around much anymore. Besides, a morning alone with one of the Sisters, pants around my ankles, and I kinda’ lost my faith somewhere close to my shoe laces.
Moving on, I became the quarterback on the high school varsity and married the head cheerleader, an All-American story. A college education included a spell in law school. Two wonderful children later and I used my education to assemble car antennas, pack sheetrock, and plant trees, all the time dreaming of crafting the next great novel. Those years were driven by weed, reds, beer, and hours with Hunter S. Thompson, Ken Kesey, Jack Kerouac, Lenin, and Tom Wolfe. Purple Haze was provided by Jimi Hendrix.
Having escaped the tentacles of the Vatican and the Sisters of Providence, I made it through the 60’s, a penniless working class American, with two kids, a wife, and a vague unfulfilled future. I turned my aggression against the military-industrial complex, a greedy faction I had studied closely during my anti-war flower power years. Still with the beard and hair to my shoulders, I continued to battle the police action that killed millions of Vietnamese and over 54,000 Americans for Wall Street profits. In the meantime, I was developing my talent as a born again capitalist.
For recreation, I played rugby and wrestled with the kids. Rugby teammates called me either “Hippie” or “Porky,” depending on the amount of organic mac and cheese I’d eaten that week. My first presidential election had found me in the booth pulling the handle for Eldridge Cleaver, head of the Peace and Freedom Party and Black Panther. Cleaver was later to morph into a Reagan republican and designer of leather codpieces. Now, I marched for Eugene McCarthy and contributed to the Communist Party of America.
The highlight of my initial forays into the entrepreneurship was planting over five million trees in the blast zone encircling Mt. St. Helens after the eruption. Of course, I didn’t do the real work. That was left to the proletariat and undocumented laborers.
During the reforestation period, a son had arrived squalling on my parent’s bed, while the family dachshund licked at the afterbirth. He was destined to become a local legend youth soccer player recruited by several professional English teams. I put lots of miles on logging roads in 4 x 4s, but my hand was never far from a book.
Tree planting was seasonal, and the hot weather found me trying to squander all the profit on some scheme to make millions. Only happened a few times. Eventually, I ended up in a paternity testing lab, helping design a software program to accept and track specimens. HIV/AIDS was just surfacing. The condition was called “gay cancer” and the lab was attempting to expand their services by introducing the newly developed mechanized HIV antibody test. In my entrepreneurial way, I began to think of a screening method that would be more valuable to everyone and lucrative to me. By exploiting the minds of numerous research scientists, the result was invention of a rapid home test utilizing both blood and saliva for the detection of HIV antibodies. The company went public in 1992 and I became the CEO, fired in a corporate coup and theft in 1996. Since then, the medical diagnostic field has held its allure and several faltering companies resulted. The dream didn't end until old age, near bankruptcy, and the resulting lack of energy prompted retirement from the daignostic battlefield.
While the 90’s were dominated by introduction of HIV tests to the world, the personal cost was a divorce after 30 years of marriage and subsequent dating of a series of wacked-out psycho-therapists, including one who left a dead cat on my doorstep after a nasty breakup. During those years, while attempting to promote the HIV tests, I visited 76 countries. When a granddaughter was born, the ex happily re-married and her focus turned to a different poor soul.
The late 1990’s and early 21st century was the start of writing and learning to write. I didn’t know the word “craft” applied to writing, but was prompted to educate myself by a girlfriend who read my first semi-autobiographical work, No Direction Home, a 600-page opus puked out while she was in the Netherlands. Her comment: “you have stories to tell, but now you have to learn how to write them.” My initial mentor, Roger Larsen, encouraged me to move on to the best known teacher in the Portland, Oregon area, Tom Spanbauer. I joined his Risky Writing class and brought seven pages of Don’t Mean Nuthin’ to read every week. One of my classmates was Chuck Palahniuk, who was then drafting Fight Club. After two years, Spanbauer kicked me out, saying I was “killing” him with all the gore and sending him to places he had no desire to go. Since then, I have been on my own and written another eight novels, including the most recent, A Fish Story, set in Saigon, like The Sixth Man.
On my 60th birthday in 2008, I died 19 times. Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this unless I had been revived by both CPR and 57 shocks with the paddle. I don’t remember much except hovering over the turmoil of a guy flopping around on the carpet, frantically being attended to by unrecognized men. As I nonchalantly watched, I drifted serenely toward a bright tunnel of light. Now, I know this is a relatively common response by those who have died and are re-born. Then, it was just another of life’s challenges. The experience has prompted me to compose a non-fiction book entitled I Died and So Can You.
Resentment was the source of the next book, Mystics, a Young Adult novel set in the harmonically converged fantasy land of Ashland, Oregon. It was written as a response to the success of Stephanie Meyer and the Twilight sagas, all sophomoric prose and teenage angst disguised by vampire nonsense that has made her a billion dollars. I thought maybe I could generate a very small percentage of her readership and buy an island in the Caribbean.
Self-publishing became a reality through the prodding of my wonderful significant other, Carol. She not only encouraged through her kind actions, but also put in cash. Additionally, my agent, Peter Riva, said going this route may lead to a real publisher. I did. So far, the results have been short of amazing, but gratifying nonetheless.
In 2018, I made a trip to Vietnam, a country I hadn’t visited in over twenty years. The primary reason was my fixation with this land of so many dichotomies, memories, and great food. Because of the crafting of The Sixth Man, and, later, A Fish Story, I wanted to make sure I captured the smells, sounds, chaos, and atmosphere of contemporary capitalist Saigon. What I did catch was a bad case of bacterial infection, causing me to soak all the handkerchiefs I brought in green slime and make children and adults flee from my rattling coughing fits. While in-country, I did several things I’d sworn off, like crawling down a tunnel in Cu Chi, where I confronted a scowling Viet Cong soldier in the blackness, shot an M60 Pig machine gun, and had a python wrapped around my neck. But I did gather lots of intel on modern Saigon where American men of my age were common, purging or visiting the ghosts of the past. Not long before the trip, Renditions, was sent to Skyhorse. The book is a sequel to Pashtun and features the same trio of protagonists traveling the world and delivering guests of the CIA to holiday adventures. So far, no one has knocked on my door to publish, but that will surely come just as we would never elect a narcissistic, orange pumpkin-headed, psychopath as President.
As I write this, I am diverting from the daily challenge of writing and emptying my glass of Ghost Owl whiskey, having moved on to more local brews, rather than following the latest trials of Captain Chyang Fang. I hope you have enjoyed my writing and are awaiting more. It’s coming!