Tuesday, January 7, 2014

No Man Is An Island...

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
                     John Donne, Courtesy of Poem Hunter     

"There is no 'I' in team..."
                     Michael Jordan

On Christmas Eve, I volunteered to set up and light the luminarias around our church. The effect was breathtaking, as it is every year.

Do I deserve the credit?

No, because although I volunteered for the job, my mother and two sons helped. So, thanks guys.

But so did Andre Hughes, Adriana Calderon, and Kleber Salas. Church members? No. I don't even know these people. So how do they get to claim credit and get kudos with us?

They made the white paper bags that we poured the sand and set the candles into. Their names are proudly stamped on the bottom.

And then there are those people who made the candles, packaged the sand, transported the supplies, sold them, and church people who ordered them.

One simple job, so many people deserve credit and thanks and acknowledgment.

So too with Blonde OPS.

By now everyone knows that Nat & I wrote it together, but it was the brainchild of our editors Peter Joseph and Kat Brzozowski, and we were brought together by our agent Natalie Lakosil. They've all been acknowledged and thanked, along with family and friends.

But the creation of this book, like the luminaria display, involves so many more people. Copyeditors, packagers, artists, publicists, bloggers, readers, booksellers, truck drivers, shippers, postal workers, typesetters, and too many more to count. I wish I knew everyone who had a hand in making this book a reality just so I could personally say thank you and list them in the acknowledgments.

Some people need a deeper acknowledgment; they deserve the dedication. Here's mine and Nat's.

When I was in seventh grade, my father, who'd worked on lunar modules that orbited and eventually landed on the moon, was out of work. As he struggled to find a job, my mom waitressed. It was a tough few years, and sometimes my parents had to borrow money from family in order to feed us. There was nothing left for trendy fashions; I had hand-me-downs or what clothes my mother made. Enter the rich kids with their overpriced designer outfits and overblown egos.

I was bullied. It made me shy, afraid to talk to people, willing to do anything to fly under the radar. But there was Mr. Cavuto, my English teacher, always with a smile, quick joke, or praise. When Jimmy (and I'm glad I can't remember his name otherwise I'd send him a letter telling him what a lowlife he was) laughed and taunted me because although my clothes were clean and pressed, they still looked poor and out of date.

Mr. Cavuto told him to shut up. And I still remember the look on Jimmy's face. Someone didn't think his jibes were funny? They were telling him to be quiet?

Mr. Cavuto didn't make a big deal of it, but Jimmy never bothered me again, and all through the time I spent there until we moved several months later, Mr. Cavuto praised my work, encouraging me to write. He even had the whole class write farewell Haikus on my last day. It still chokes me up thinking of the kindness he showed.

He deserves the dedication because I may not have continued to write or learned how to deal with criticism if it weren't for him. Thank you, Professor George Cavuto.

And then there was Mr. Grattan, high school English teacher. A sensitive, intellectual man, often bullied by snotty, 'I'm so cool but I'm really a jerk' students, he taught all the literature that seems to be the bane of students (sometimes even English-loving kids like myself): Romeo and Juliet, Silas Marner, Great Expectations, A Streetcar Named Desire. No one loves all the assigned readings, but even with the ones that I could have lived happily without having read, discussed, and written about, Mr. Grattan forced open my narrow view of what literature should be. Great literature doesn't have to be iambic pentameter, or a play, or 18th century English prose.

Literature can be anything I want it to be.

Without having been exposed to the greats and maybe not-so-greats, I might not have let my mind expand to the point where now I can say, "yeah, there's a story in that."

So thank you, Mr. George Grattan, for enlarging my vista, and I'm sorry that I didn't say it sooner while you could hear it. I'm no less grateful.

I proudly, humbly, gratefully, and lovingly dedicate Blonde OPS to you.