Tag Archives: Irving Texas

Randy Ford Author-on alienation and anti-Americanism

      Not feeling at home in Manila illustrates the difficulties I had feeling at home anywhere.   Moving about felt more comfortable to me.   As my grandfather did (Daddy Carder), I loved to travel.   The travel-bug bit me early and was imprinted, perhaps, in my DNA.   And there were the images, the images of returning to my hometown after college and not recognizing it (at one point in time Irving Texas was the fastest growing town in America).   Where did I belong then?   Texas, New Mexico, Maine, Arizona?   My son Toby was born in Roswell, famous now for aliens, which makes me wonder how he really feels about where he lives.

       In June of 1976, my wife Peg and I with our three-year-old son, in an attempt on my part to continue our nomadic existence, set out from North Anson Maine on bicycles with our sights on reaching a new home somewhere, perhaps Nowhere, in Arizona before winter.   That was a fur piece; it took us until November to reach Prescott because we zigzagged around.   We were still overloaded; we had not yet learned to travel light.   We started out with a piss-poor attitude about our country; but that soon changed.   Our story is about that change…having traveled around the world and lived in a number of places along the way, making friends with expatriates and nationalist in many different countries, we had acquired negative feelings about America.   What?   Yes, Americans drove cars that were too big, big enough to house whole families in some of the places we had been.   It had to have been nothing but the truth…the way our county was viewed overseas then, or whatever we heard as we traveled from country to country.

      To discover something totally different on our move across the country by bicycle was, to us, astonishing.   Because of the reception we received, and perhaps because I had my three-year-old son on the back of my bicycle, we had our preconceived notions shattered, all along the route, our perceptions changed, it came about when people we didn’t know opened their homes and hearts to us.   But we were strangers and they took us in.   A couple in Bloomington Indiana even left us by ourselves in their home for the evening, while they went to a prearranged engagement.   Had we had sticky fingers, we could’ve filled our pockets.   Since that move, we haven’t been anti-America.

Randy Ford

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Randy-author on moving beyond mental masturbation

      I have thought for some time, reliving incidents in my life, about a number of stories I’ve yet to write.   I’ve always intended to write them; and I’m not sure what direction they each should take: whether each story fits better in a larger work or can stand on its own.   I’ve taken short cuts, and written short stories.   These worked for me; most of the time, as I wrote them quickly, I didn’t have to dig into my psyche for material.

      The boy from Irving Texas grows into the man I am now.   The man, who rejected Irving Texas, as a writer, returns to his hometown.   The grown man, who has memories of places around the world, feels pulled to memories of earlier times; when he can now put the picture together.   The young high school student, the same guy as the grown man, who was humiliated by his classmates for “jacking off” in a restroom when he didn’t know what “jacking off” meant…in order that he might write something of lasting value…tries to move beyond mental masturbation.

      I think this is the only way I can move forward with my writing career, by looking again at my background, with “he don’t” and “git”, in a small urban town where kids didn’t have time to study.   It was also where somehow I turned out differently, or so it seems, than anyone else.   This is not totally true. Interestingly enough, my first girlfriend…Kay Jones, the love of my life in the second grade, who lived on the next street directly behind us…also became a playwright.   I jealously read a write-up about her in the Irving paper.   It was years after I left Irving that I saw that she had written a play about our high school and perhaps had outdistanced me.

     I need to move on.  Randy Ford

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Randy-from a distance the value of memories to a writer

      After all this time, old family traditions haven’t been forgotten.   I haven’t been back to Gage Oklahoma in many years; still I can recall the main streets and the Ford farm.   Very different from where I lived.   I lived in Irving Texas, grew up there, grew up with the town.   And then these places were no longer part of my life, and I’ve moved on.   Or have I?

      From a distance, I’ve revisited various times in my life.   My perspective has changed; in my mind the characters and places haven’t.   Perhaps there is a reason I haven’t let go of most of that.   There are stories there.   (See my short story GANDPA’S WAGER.)   Demons!   Life as a soap opera. AS THE WORLD TURNS; no, I’ve tried to move away from the hours I spent in front of a television set mesmerized by the twists and turns of high-pitched drama.

      I have moved far away from all of that, but I’ve found it very hard to escape where I started.   But though most of all of those people are dead now, three generations that I can count…my family, direct descendents and in-laws…they’re there for me to use.   My cousins, still scattered from northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas to San Antonio and the hill country, share my memories; some may want to write about them, but I doubt that they will because none of them are writers.   That brings up the questions: do you have to be a writer to write about something?   And what is a definition of a writer?

      In spite of our ability today to get around, to easily travel from place to place, we don’t have family reunions anymore.   We don’t get together for Thanksgiving or Christmas.   Or maybe we do; only the cast of characters has changed, as the makeup of our families changed.   It’s my turn to be grandpa, imagine that.   And my grandchildren are too young to have children.   We now have a different story line, as different as today is to yesterday.   I should wait and not dismiss the past or the present; still struggling, I shouldn’t be dissatisfied with what I have been given, the memories, the legacy, the good and the bad.   To everyone there is this gift.   The family I knew in Gage Oklahoma (my dad’s side with memories of Christmas) and Fruitvale Texas (my mother’s side with memories of Thanksgiving) have passed on or have scattered. All of us wanted to be on our own.

      Now, trying to move forward with my writing, I am looking for things that are truly my own.   I have my memories.   I know that’s a good place to start.   However I write fiction, never could stick to the truth.   I’m thankful my memories are there.   So I can fall back on them.   It makes finding something to write about less desperate, less nebulous, and more concrete, that is when I can actually see my grandfather’s farm and still slip and slide across his frozen crick.

      Good afternoon, Randy Ford

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Randy-writing about the past Yep, “Barrow Butt” and “Frog Tit”

      To pick up girls from the country, specifically from deep in the heart of Texas, was to experience something we could hardly believe.   It was our good fortune to run into three of the wildest girls we had ever met, and they said they needed a ride to school.   That suited us three boys just fine.

       They were “Barrow Butt,” “Frog Tit,” and… How in the world have I forgotten the name the third girl gave herself?   (But it would be too late to go back to that small town to look her up and find out, even assuming now she’s still alive and has grandchildren.)   The town was rural; the three of us were from the city (even then only bridges separated Irving from Dallas, so technically speaking we were city boys).   The two girls who piled into the back seat of my blue convertible (1953 Chevy) with my two best buddies were wilder than the girl I got stuck with in the front seat; she wouldn’t French-kiss me. Cursin’…derived from who knew where, smokin’…a cigar without coughin’…fed our unrealistic expectations.   (I don’t know who produced the cigar; I just know us boys didn’t.)   These girls were having a great time at their own expense.   Our imaginations weren’t needed with them; to be perfectly honest they were the ones who suggested we go skinn’-dippin’.   Sure male hormones in great quantities (stimulated by more than a suggestion or two.   If you call yourself “Frog Tit,” you can imagine) played a part in our jumping on the idea of getting naked with these tomatoes (remember this was way before the days of social correctness.)   And to go on our great adventure (if only a hundred miles or so) to see what we could see and find three nasty girls was a dream too good to be true.   And it was too good to be true.   The rest of the story involved a run-in with the local sheriff.

      It is from incidents like this one (from my youth and settings I can recall) that I can draw on for future plays and stories, bits and pieces, here and there.   I have tried to use Barrow Butt and Frog Tit several times, but so far, I haven’t been able to fit them in anywhere.   And maybe that’s a good thing. Or maybe they deserve their own story.   We’ll see.   Randy Ford

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Randy-more about a writer’s landscape

      In 1972, after spending five years oversees, my wife and I went back to Irving.  I didn’t recognize my hometown; it had grown so much that the old familiar landmarks had been overshadowed by the new.   (It didn’t help that my parents had moved.)   In just five years my childhood landscape had disappeared, except in my brain.

      Since then I have toured the old neighborhood, seen the house we lived in, but it didn’t look the same as I remembered.   Trees had matured the same as I had.   There were houses falling down by then.   As a child, my world had been smaller (because I could ride around it by bicycle) than when I bought my car and my girlfriend lived in Dallas (even that world was smaller than when I left for college, and my circumnavigating the globe dwarfed that).   Similarly, as my world expanded, my old neighborhood became smaller, or at least it seemed so to me.   And that really forced to me to think about where I came from and the people around me then.   What were their stories?   Where were they?   And what had happened to them?

      It wasn’t until much later than 1972 that I became interested into putting the pieces together.   And when I did I remembered bits and pieces of things that I had heard, often in passing, and had been hushed up.   That’s what I have written about.   I still don’t have any of the details of many of these things, things such as a possible murder and almost certainly incest.   And many other secrets. The first time I wrote about Bobby I didn’t tell anybody that the play was about him; but people who knew him and saw the play instantly knew what I had done.   In my most recent play called DADDY’S PARTY (about a family torn apart by physical and sexual abuse), as a side-story I used the drowning of Bobby’s sister, which one of my sisters said (she said) was a case of murder.   My sister pointed a finger at Bobby’s sister’s husband, a prominent criminal lawyer who reportedly said he knew how to get away with murder.   He therefore had become part of my landscape and fair game.   He’ll never know he’s in my play; I don’t know the guy, and I’m sure he doesn’t know about me.   My ignorance of the true story helped me out.   It gave me freedom to make most of it up.

  My childhood was rich, bright and dark, with incidents and people I can continue to write about. Your childhood is just as rich, bright and dark, which may seem very obvious, and it is.   But when I was looking for something to write about, I didn’t immediately go to Irving.   There are obvious reasons now why I didn’t want to.   Some things are still too hard to face and raw for that.   However, the further I move away, the braver I seem to get.   Who knows?   Maybe one day soon…

Randy Ford

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Randy-writing as part of a performance

On the Irving High School parking lot I would park my 1953 blue Chevy convertible every morning and pealed out every afternoon; I bought the car with five hundred dollars I earned at Safeway.   Not many kids my age owned their own car, even fewer paid for it themselves.   As I sped down the streets to work my radio blasted the new sounds of Rock and Roll.   The boy in the car knocked a hole in his muffler on purpose and replaced custom hubcaps with spinners, all to attract attention and girls.   For me this attention seeking was serious business; my buddies, to attract members of the opposite sex, had far less to work with.   And yet I don’t think I was ever satisfied: Larry was a football star; Cecile was smarter; and A.J. led the clique to belong to.   Feelings of inferiority often attracted ridicule in my case.   And when I wanted to be a member of the clique and the star of the football team and obviously couldn’t be either one, my self-image plummeted.   I was a junior; I felt excluded; but I had to become famous.

On Friday nights during football season, I always took off work to become a keeper of Big Irvi, the school’s mascot.   Big Irvi, the most beloved stuffed tiger in town needed someone like me.   Sure.   All I know is that standing on the sidelines during a football game in my orange overalls suited me more than sitting in the stands.   Actively participating in the event rather than watching it satisfied a basic need I had then.   The first grader, who as I remember played Santa without a suit in the Christmas play (see the YOU BETTER WATCH OUT blog) also had the same drive.   The drive was the same that led me to write my first snippets of dialogue; each time I had an audience.   Playing before an audience seems important to me, as does the theater.   For most of my life I have had a strong need to perform, and yet until recently I haven’t felt comfortable performing.

Self-consciousness, starving for attention and writing became intertwined in me.   From my earliest exaggeration to my most recent creative attempts, including my motivation for creating El Ojito Springs, I have sought the limelight…the limelight that so often corrupts and leads to compromise.   And my writing has been part of that.   And luckily as I’ve aged I’ve become less driven and more self-effacing, and more often than not, I have sought fame vicariously; this has led me to showcasing other people’s work before my own.

These past two years have been good to me.   I have helped many artists, musicians, and writers by providing them an outlet for their work.   Now, as this evolves, I’m very happy and satisfied with what I’ve done.

Good night, Randy Ford

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Randy-A writer’s landscape

      The house in Irving Texas I lived in as boy was at the top of a hill.   My dad built a two-car garage in back of the house and dug a well in the back yard.   For this he had skills that he didn’t pass on to me; that was a pattern.   But I could never match my father’s mechanical skills, his ability for fixing anything, and the pleasure he gained from working with his hands, in his workshop, with his coffee cans of bolts and screws, the hours he spent inventing parts when he didn’t have the right-something for fixing something.

      There was a mom-and-pop grocery store at the bottom of our hill.   The neighborhood, still etched in my brain, segregated in those days, just sprung up on what was the edge of town then; and I knew it better than most of my friends because from a very early age I had a paper route.   After I started earning my own money, I liked going into the mom-and-pop grocery store.   My mother liked to say money burnt a hole in my pocket.   I guess she was right, as she was right about many things. Along our street there were a few houses with huge lawns, and I could earn extra money mowing, if I were so incline.   In our family’s lore there is the story of my intentionally running over the cord of our mower so that I could get out of mowing.

      Behind our backyard we owned an L-shaped acre.   Behind that and obstructed by a barbwire fence,   Dead Man Canyon, with its steep bank of loose dirt, gave Bobby, Dennis, and me not only a fertile place for our imaginations (Arizona and old Tucson smack in the middle of North Texas) but also a haven away from our sisters.   And I could see myself riding a horse (until I fell off one) and chasing outlaws and injuns; seriously we prospected for gold and I thought about making a movie about it.   Later with my buddies Don and Ted, this ambition was realized, though the plot had nary an injun or outlaw in it.

      Here you have been given a glimpse of the landscape that as a writer consciously or unconsciously feeds my creativity.   It was where I went back to most often and where I felt most comfortable (and oddly enough it was what I rejected the most).   I was introduced to life here.   So the challenge for me in the future is to go back there and look under the covers to see what I can find. Perhaps I’ll write about what I find, perhaps not; perhaps it will take me some place else.   As writers, I think we all have our landscapes.

      See the October issue of AMERICAN THEATRE and an article by Alexis Greene called NO PLACE LIKE HOME for a good essay on this subject.   Discover Lanford Wilson’s landscape.

Good day, Randy Ford

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