There are many ways to sort humans. Some ways are natural; physicality, race, age, gender. Some are constructed; politics, religion, nationality, class. “Tall and tan and young and lovely the girl from Ipanema goes walking”; we sort each other constantly.
When I was very young, 3 or 4 perhaps, I became conscious of my Uncle, Salvatore. Sal was a character. He was a submariner in the US Navy and had just come through World War II and Korea. I remember sitting on his lap and listening to him tell me stories of his life at sea and his many adventures. At the time I had no idea that there were no real mermaids, no sea monsters or that it took more than my uncle to win the war. I do know that it was he, more than any other person in my life, who convinced me to look for the story in everything I do.
“Everyone is living a story, Johnny.” He would say. “Make yours fantastic.”
I couldn’t express it then, but from that time on I sorted the people I encountered into “Stuff” people and “Story” people. Stuff people believe that when you get to the end of the run, the one with the most stuff wins. “Story” people believe it will be those with the best stories that will win. I believe I am a “Story” person, but I no longer believe I have to wait to the end to win. My life has been rich, full, and, yes, Uncle, it remains fantastic.
I am calling my little collection “The Grasshopper Chronicles” after that famous character in Aesop’s fable. You remember the one about the Ant and the grasshopper. The Ant worked hard and stored away food for the winter. The Grasshopper sang and danced in the sunshine. When winter came the Ant was prepared and the Grasshopper was not. I am a Grasshopper. When the music plays, I dance.
These stories are true, mostly. I am getting old now and some of the details may be more memory than history. And some things I have adjusted purposely, to keep from embarrassing friends and family. If you have known me over the years you may find some of these events and people familiar. I like to think that even if you don’t know me, you may find yourself in the crowd of characters.