“You gotta dance with the one that brought you.” – Lyric and title to a Shania Twain song and a much older adage.
Everyone reading this has someone in their life that set them on their current path. Right now, it’s time for me to hit the dance floor.
When I was a kid and people asked me what I wanted to be, I usually gave one of two replies. I was either going to be a radio DJ (thanks to WKRP in Cincinnati) or a Playboy photographer. Mom was so proud. As I got older, my future plans grew fuzzier until my only goal was to make it to the next day, hopefully employed.
Did I want to ever be a writer? I think there was a three month period around the time I was 16 when it sounded like a pretty cool idea. After hammering out a couple of quasi-sci-fi stories, I opted to go cruising and hitting on girls instead.
So who brought me to the writing dance? I have one person to thank for that. His name is Norm Hendricks. I’ve mentioned him in some interviews in the past. It’s about time I gave him his full due.
You see, Norm and I meet when we got a job in customer service at the phone company. That job sucked so bad, I still have mental and spiritual scars as pink and fresh as the day they were made 20 years ago. It was a terrible place, run by dolts that would make Dilbert cringe. Norm was one of a handful of people who made going to work worthwhile. Plus, he was a fellow Mets fan, elevating him to the top of the good guy list. Better still, he made me laugh my ass off, daily. Case in point, in a department meeting with our new director, for shits and giggles, he introduced himself as Nemo Cranston. I nearly had an aneurysm holding in my laughter when the director replied, “It’s nice to meet you, Nemo.”
One day, I spied Norm working on a book and was intrigued. I thought writers all lived in cabins somewhere and lived full, rich lives that didn’t involve descending into the 7th circle of hell each day, hawking Friends & Family. Yet there Norm was, a guy with one of the funniest and most unique minds I’ve ever come across, working at his novel.
He took writing seriously, and I was blown away by his skill. With his encouragement, I started to dabble, terribly, but it became a wonderful escape from the banality of real life. Plus, it strengthened the bond between us. It was a win-win before that asinine phrase came into being.
Since that time, Norm has published three books: Forever Indian Summer, Monstrous and The Forgotten Sleeper, which I’m reading now and slack jawed with amazement at the concepts he’s woven within its pages. He hits on heavy topics with a poetry all his own, expressing ideas that I could only guess at in fever dreams. I read his work with a real sense of pride. And where others may only get to know him through his work, I’m one of the lucky ones to have watched him secretly throw Certs into people’s drinks at parties or performed with him on stage with a band of merry, musical misfits.
What inspires me more than anything is the fact that Norm writes because he loves to write. He doesn’t give a crap about what he could potentially get in return for his hard work. He is a true writer. He’s given more to me than he’ll ever know.
So yeah, my dance card will always have Norm’s name on it.
Who’s on yours? It’s never too late to dance.