Fun, Follies and Loss of Innocence in Novel Land

I get run off the ranch

Tumbleweed on a road

Devotion to writing can turn you into a tumbleweed, but with mind-reading power

If you read my first blog post, “How I Killed My Birthday Party,” you know how I busted up that birthday party by reading before I could read.

After that, like you, I went to school and learned to actually read words. From then on, I always had to have a book to read.

Surely with that background, I would be a writer someday, not just a reader.

But have you ever attempted to do something great

 . . . and it turns out . . .

Not So Great?

In fact, not even close to great.

Then you ask yourself . . .

 What kind of crap have I done?

(We’re talking figuratively here, not literally.)

You do know the feeling? Sucks, doesn’t it?

That’s because you spent: All that time. All that effort. All for nought.

So you sit there, gritting your teeth, going numb, until finally embracing finality and dumping your effort into life’s garbage disposal of great ideas that didn’t pan out.

At that moment, there is only one thing to do: Feel sorry for yourself.

But there is a bright side to the negative side

Feeling sorry for yourself can feel doggone good if you do a bang-up job of wallowing in your despond.

You might compare it to a dog happily rolling on his back in a pile of dried doo — which is a pseudo-philosophical revelation that I borrowed from my current in-progress novel.

Current novel? Implying there was an earlier one?

Yes, I admit it.

Does the dog-rolling imagery above hint that it was a crappy novel?

Yes, there was an unfinished manuscript that I happily rolled in until I realized what I had covered myself with.

How long ago?

Back, way back, in the hazy mist of time. But it’s not hazy in my memory.

You see, I got out of college, went into the military for a brief while and emerged with $1,800. With that much moola, why would you get a real job working in an office taking orders from bosses who act like your parents?

Yoo-hoo, wannabe writer, destiny is calling

Yes, a writer I would be.

A writer of books.

Of course, a young writer needs a cool place in which to be a writer. Ernest Hemingway had long ago claimed squatters’ rights on Paris, which ruined it for future literary expatriates, and Castro ruined Cuba for everybody.

As for myself, I came up with the prerequisites of a warm place, warm water and lots of bikinis. For inspiration, you might say.

That meant: Miami Beach.

However . . .

Did you ever get a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach that something is wrong but you can’t figure it out because your stomach won’t tell you?

That’s what I had driving down the American appendage called Florida.

That state has some big cities but also a lot of tiny towns with signs at the town limits touting Bingo at the American Legion hall.

So I’m driving and wondering, what the heck is this Florida fascination with Bingo?

Did I find out?

Oh, yes, I did.

Miami Beach postcard

Once I got to Miami, I took the causeway onto Miami Beach and found myself on Arthur Godfrey Road, named for an old guy who was on television back in the 1950’s.

Gimme that old, tired blood

One of his sponsors was a liquid for folks who had a rundown feeling because of “tired blood.”

Well, that tired feeling hit me when I drove along the streets of Miami Beach seeing nothing but really old, tired men sitting on the front porches of tiny, old hotels.

This was the geezer retirement capital of America for people who had worked all their lives in the freezing North so they could shuffle to Miami Beach with their last reserves of energy. Maybe that liquid for tired blood got them there.

Hey, I couldn’t believe they let me on the island without a Social Security card.

I know, I know . . . don’t make fun of old people because I’m no spring chicken anymore, but I’m giving you a young guy’s perspective of Miami Beach back in the day.

It was a time before developers cleared out those peewee hotels and their 80-year-old clients to make way for today’s hot clubs, rich homesteading singers from Latin America, and reality TV stars with no talent who “Take Miami.”

Ponce and I strike out in the Promised Land

Obviously, Miami Beach was not the promised land I had expected based on glitzy but shading-the-truth travel posters.

I don’t know if you would have stuck around, but I hightailed it up the road to Fort Lauderdale, known then as the wild Spring Break Capital of America.

However, it wasn’t spring break and it might as well have been renamed Varicose Veins Central. 

Oh, the humanity!

Juan Ponce de Leon went to Florida looking for the Fountain of Youth; but since I was already young, I had gone there looking for the Fountain of Pulchritude.

Both of us struck out.

Ponce de Leon would die from a poisoned arrow in the thigh. The thighs I saw killed my dream of nirvana, so I hightailed it to the blistering hot Southwest.

There I was given a free outbuilding on some relatives’ ranch to bunk in and take up my mission to be a writer. It was their idea. They insisted on it. Wouldn’t take no for an answer.

That lasted until . . .

I got run off the ranch like a cattle rustler

Cowboy awaits hanging

Relatives can start to see you as a pain in the ass until you go away . . . kind of like a hemorrhoid

It seems that familiarity — even of the familial kind — eventually will breed contempt just from seeing you around one too many times.

Forget about being a good guest.

It doesn’t matter that you scrubbed down their dirty, empty swimming pool with cleansing acid that ate holes in your clothes, or that you tried to help their elementary school child with the New Math homework (which no adult could understand), or that you kept your cool and didn’t cuss when the brainless pet goat hit you in the chest with its front hoofs and head-butted you in the face.

That head-butting gave me a new power: mind reading.

I could hear them thinking: “He’s still here. Hasn’t he finished that book yet? He should have had it published already and gotten on the best seller list. What’s taking so long? Maybe it’s time for him to leave.”

You know you’re right when the patriarch kicks one of your car tires and says, “Hoss, this writing thing isn’t working out. Maybe you need to move on down the trail. Like right now.”

It was time to make like a tumbleweed, and then find a new place to stop my blowing around.

NEXT: A Sharp Poke in the Eye

QUESTION: How did you flounder around after getting out on your own?


  1. Chuck Bartok

    Another great chapter. Looking forward to more

    • Phil Cobb

      Thanks, Chuck. More will be coming.

  2. Nancy Henderson

    This is Awesome! I love humor and I laughed until I cried. Please keep writing!
    I can’t wait to read more.

    • Phil Cobb

      Nancy, thanks for the awesome comment.

  3. Marjie Mare

    What a beautiful way to start my morning. I am grateful that I read your post, I will definitely come back to read more.

    • Phil Cobb

      What a beautiful comment. Thank you, Marjie.

  4. Patty Kyrlach

    Hilarious. The locations may be different, but the struggles you describe are common to all young writers.

    • Phil Cobb

      I suppose writing is a form of head-butting, even if it’s not done by a goat.

  5. Anita Ojeda

    Thanks for the smile and laughs! I didn’t flounder much—got married, started teaching and I’m still at it 30 years later…

    • Phil Cobb

      At least somebody knew what they were doing!

  6. Ye Chen

    I enjoyed every bit of it. It’s almost midnight here and this piece woke up my mind laughing and smiling. Such an enjoyable and hilarious read. Keep this up! Looking forward to your next one 🙂

    • Phil Cobb

      Now when I look back on what happened, I’m laughing, too.

  7. Annabel

    This was so interesting to read. I love your writing style and I have bookmarked your blog so I can visit often.

    • Phil Cobb

      Thanks, Annabel! I’m looking forward to you coming back.

  8. Jo Hawk

    A humorous story. Thanks for sharing. ❤

    • Phil Cobb

      My pleasure, Jo.

  9. Diane Stephenson

    Another great story. I love your humor and your easy style of writing. For me, college wasn’t on my agenda, though not because I wasn’t academically capable. I decided to go into nursing when I graduated from high school. But I only finished 2 out of the 3 years of the course. I won’t go into the sordid details, but I guess you could say I ran from someone’s words. I then took a 10 month course in commercial art and worked in that field for 15 years. After that, I floundered for more years than I care to think about. Writing was the furthest thing from my mind back then. But now I’m retired and can spend whatever time I choose to write. I don’t have the wherewithal to choose any other place than home, but that is quite all right with me.

    • Phil Cobb

      Thanks for commenting, Diane, and letting us know about your floundering. As for home, many a great story grows from there.

  10. Lissa Johnston

    I’m still floundering, Phil. Send help!

    • Phil Cobb

      It’s okay to flounder, Lissa, as long as you don’t founder.

  11. Lissa Johnston

    Another great post. I love the historical symmetry that here we are, 400+ years later, and so many senior citizens are still taking Ponce’s quest very seriously. Florida def falls into the category of ‘nice place to visit’ IMO.

    • Phil Cobb

      My time there was brief indeed, Lissa, but I did enjoy taking some sailing lessons since Miami had plenty of water for that. As for the quest for eternal youth, it seems a number of folks these days have fallen into the Fountain of Botox.

  12. Patty

    Your writing makes my day. Keep it coming. I mean, “Fountain of Pulchritude”? Just so snarky and creative!

    • Phil Cobb

      Patty, you’ve made my day. I love the word snarky!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2024 Phil Cobb, Author

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑