Look at Me! (Or Don't)

The story I told myself was that apart from a few blogs and social media posts (aren’t blogs inherently ‘social media posts?’) there would be no heavy promotion of this creative non-fiction family memoir that stemmed from purposeful convo’s with my old man at the end of his life. Setting the bar realistically low, I envisioned three buckets of peeps who might conceivably have an interest: Friends, family and those in the addiction recovery community (giving and receiving).  

I said to myself, “Self, if something happens organically that moves beyond that modest plan, I’ll deal with it as it arises.”

It has arisen.  

One set of friends in Topeka and another group in Wichita are organizing separate book reading/signing events next month. (If you’d like an invite, lemme know). Christie Appelhanz, Topeka, says my job is “to stop saying thank you until after we pull off what will no doubt be a fabulous event.”

This entire notion of spiritually-based recovery from alcoholism is rooted in humility. Get out of yourself. Deep in my cups, I thought I was Ernest Goddamn Hemingway. Today, I seek the sweet spot that lies somewhere between sitting on my ass doing absolutely nothing and buttonholing complete strangers on the street.

“Hey you! I wrote a book! Wanna buy one?”

Reminds me of the wretched refuse of our teeming shore who tog up like the Statue of Liberty and stand on the street corner in their Liberty Tax Service sandwich sign waving their lamp at unsuspecting passersby.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning for a 1040-EZ...”

My job, apparently, is to show up and be pithy. Pithy and humble. Pithily humble. Humility laced with pith.   

Here’s how the world works. The Topeka event is being held in an art gallery owned by a dude (Gary Blitsch) I met in a recovery support group when I got sober in that city 25 years ago. Christie and Gary are working with Melissa Ness and Michelle Voth in Topeka. Shelly Prichard, Ken Evans, Amy Nichols and Courtney Bengston have a hand in the Doodah do.

More world working evidence: Coffee a couple years ago with a graphic designing friend who took the photos of my son’s wedding. Though interested in designing a book cover for me, she was preparing to give birth and therefore, prioritizing. She put me on to a friend and that’s how I met Brigitte Bruna, who creates works of art in a studio in her hometown of Washington, Kansas.

Brigitte designed the graphic Spifflicated script and the book cover. Another friend, Pat Hackenburg, lent his skill and colorized my 1938 photo of Ell, Victoria and Champ astride the motorcycle in Spokane. It was Brigitte’s idea to position the photo as if they were motorcycling at high speed right off the cover into heartache, dysfunction and woe.  

Vera Bothner and John Schlageck, like me, erstwhile western Kansans, born into the culture and raised on the mores. Larry Dreiling for sharing his knowledge of the High Plains and insights on Catholicism. Lisa Newman for her help in identifying toxic stress and resilience in children who have been abandoned. Susan Metzger for sharing her genealogical sleuthing gifts.

Jim Duran, a Boise State University archivist, fluent on the culture of Morrison-Knudsen. The good people at the Ellis County Historical Society. Mike Johnson for loaning me some vintage Boy Scout handbooks. Brandon McGuire and Corinne Bannon, newlyweds in love and parents of young children doing it the right way.

Sarah Caldwell Hancock, Anne Dewvall, David Schlosser, Lori Harlan and Heather Lansdowne, friends and writing pros. Steven Miller, Gary Cleveland and John Blair, who get it.

My parents, Champ/Jim Matson and Geri Ordway. My wife, Jackie McClaskey, for “artistic inspiration,” and my sister, Viki Matson, for support, advice and encouragement.

When I was deep in my cups, the circles got concentrically smaller, to the point where it was just me and a 12-pack of Coors Light every night. I need to remind myself of those depths, to fully appreciate today’s gifts of friendship and trust.

I am grateful beyond measure.