HOW DID I GET HERE?
By Stephen A Duncan
Like you, I go online and read things that interest me. A few years back, and I don’t remember how far back, I noticed an article by a writer by the name of Tracey Jackson that caught my attention. Tracey Jackson I said to myself, who the hell is Tracey Jackson? Tracey was writing about things New York City and I kept coming back for more. Tracey is also an author, blogger, screenwriter, director and producer. Her second book (co-written with Paul Williams), Gratitude and Trust, is now available.
I looked for Tracey Jackson online to know more about her. I found out she is a credited screen writer
including the movies, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Lucky Ducks, Lucky Ducks Outtakes, The Guru and The Other End of The Line. She has written a book titled Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Plus, she has video conversations where she sets up a video camera and points it at someone famous and simply has a conversation. I found it on the web and she titled that project, 50 Videos of 50 People on Being 50.
Well, anyway, I started reading her blog. She talks New York City. She would run off at the mouth on subjects that I had absolutely no interest in, like women’s fashion or the latest purse craze or cosmetic tricks. I would look at the article and continue to plow through it for some reason. More than likely I stayed with the articles I didn’t have much interest in because there was always a little self-disclosure in each thing she wrote. My thoughts about this woman seemed to be… she is incredibly open about her life. She doesn’t have her guard up at all, how can she do this? She talked about her mother and the struggles that go with an aging parent. I have an aging parent, my Dad, so I would read her and for some reason kept reading her. She talked about her daughters and the struggles of being a parent, both the challenges and the blessings.
Yes, there were times when she would write something and I would think to myself, she’s wrong or that’s hog wash. But because she was so open about how she felt, I felt a little guilty I couldn’t be as comfortable in my own skin about my life as she was. I worry about offending someone or being politically correct too much of the time.
As time passed, I felt I knew Tracey. One day I drafted an e-mail and wanted to compliment her on something she had written. I’m sure I was worried about each word I wrote… after all I’m writing to a “writer.”
Much to my surprise she wrote back and thanked me for the e-mail. “Keep in touch,” she said. Keep in touch? What do I have to tell this woman? Me a man living in Indianapolis, and her living in New York City. Keep in touch, yeah right! I was flattered. First, that she wrote back and acknowledged my e-mail and the invitation to “keep in touch.” I discounted “keep in touch” as a woman’s way of being very nice to a reader.
As time continued, I hesitated to e-mail her as I didn’t want to appear as a “stalker or a hanger-on-er.” So, I would resist sending anything. Then out of the blue, she would write and say something like … “Hey, you still alive out there in Indianapolis?”
My personal focus changed at some point and I started thinking about moving from Indianapolis to someplace warm. Winter in Indiana was getting to be a real pain for me. I began looking at a 55 plus retirement community in central Florida. So, I shared a little more of my life with her thinking she really could care less, but like a kid, I continued to spill my guts.
I told her I toured a retirement community in central Florida called “The Villages.” I was excited about the idea of moving to “WARM.” Tracey wanted to know more about it. She asked great questions and gave me pause to think about moving from Indianapolis. But, I had been to The Villages and I liked the place a lot! It was manicured and spotless and everything you could want was only a golf cart ride away. One hundred thousand people all moving around in golf carts. No kids to worry about, just active adult living at its finest level.
At some point Tracey discovered I wrote to a blog and we talked about me starting a new blog. My old Blog was called “Livin Large on the BLVD.” Before that I had a blog about my Dad called “Friday Fish Tales.” As I continued to ooze over the idea of moving to The Villages, Tracey suggested I change the name of my Blog to “The Villages Social Diary.”
“You need to go online and see if the name is available. Do it now!” she said. I did and the name was available. So, I bought the rights to the name (The Villages Social Diary) for three years. I called my son, Scott, and asked if he could help me put together a professional looking blog site. Scott, being an IT kind of guy, said he would help.
The Villages Social Diary blog was born. I started writing to it and putting up information about things that interested me about The Villages. In order to move to Florida I had to convince George, my aging father to sell his home and move to Florida too. No nursing home for Dad if I can help it. Plus, TW and I had our homes to sell before we could buy a place in Florida.
It took just over a year and a half to sell three homes in Indianapolis in a down market. In the mean time I had discovered things about The Villages that gave me pause. First, the prices of the homes in The Villages were rising faster than the rest of the country. The Villages was, and I assume is still, closing about nine homes a day. People will simply pay whatever they have to pay in order to live The Villages life style. It was getting too salty for my budget to afford the size and type of home we wanted. Sink holes are a problem in Florida, but in some areas are more problematic than others. I Googled the following key words, “Insurance Claims Sink Hole Map for Florida.” I found The Villages had way more sinkhole dots on the map than other areas of Florida.
I noticed the map indicating South West Florida was almost sink hole insurance claims free. Why tempt being involved with sink holes? It was then I took a second look at South West Florida. Sink holes apparently are not as big a problem in South West Florida as they are in other areas of the state. South West Florida is much further south and will be warmer in the winter than the northern part of Florida where The Villages is located. South West Florida includes Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva. In other words, just a few minutes from water, unlike The Villages, which is in the middle of the state. Naples, Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte are just a few minutes apart, with Fort Myers and Cape Coral in the middle. The prices of homes in the Fort Myers area are much like prices back in Indianapolis. So, I was starting to get a clear picture. I needed to look more closely at Fort Myers.
Tracey was surprised at the turn around. “I thought you were moving to The Villages?” I told her I still think The Villages is a fantastic place to live, but I’m not paying 156 dollars a square foot for a stick built, 1200 square foot home in order to golf cart to the grocery. I can’t compete with the people willing to pay top money to live The Villages life style. As The Villages continues to grow, and it will, the golf cart oriented community will, more than likely, face afternoon traffic jams or, as one person phased it, The Villages golf cart paths look like marching ants running from one food source to the other.
So, it was decided, we look to Fort Myers. We purchased a home in the Magnolia Landing Golf Resort Community of North Fort Myers. So far, so good.
I changed the name of my Blog from ”The Villages Social Diary” to “ByDuncan.com” and linked “The Villages Social Diary” to “By Duncan.com.” I wrote about the move to Fort Myers on my new blog and Tracey noticed the post and she e-mailed me. “You sold all your homes and you have made the trip… Yes? Congratulations.”
She also told me that her book tour for Gratitude and Trust was more than half over and the tour was going to be in Coconut Grove, a superb of Miami. She and Paul would be speaking and signing books at a book store called Books & Books.
After reading her e-mail I had to see how far it would be from Fort Myers to Miami. Google maps indicated two hours and thirty nine minutes. I wrote her back and told her I was thinking about driving over to Books & Books to finally see her in person.
She insisted that I come early and share a coffee so we could talk a little before the evening event. I agreed. Monday I jumped in the yellow hot rod and left Fort Myers, motored across Alligator Alley and arrived in Miami Beach about three in the afternoon.
MIAMI BEACH – ABOUT 3 IN THE AFTERNOON
Tracey was staying at a hotel on Miami Beach and we adjourned to an outside open air area about the size of a small football field. The area had a reflecting pool with still water and islands of couches that dropped into, and next to, the water. Tracey ordered a cappuccino and I had a scotch. At her insistence of course.
I challenged Tracey about what was next on her schedule after the book tour. I listened to a pod cast over the internet of Cathy Lee Gifford interviewing her about her new book, Gratitude and Trust. When Kathy Lee asked her about her next project Tracey gave this. “I don’t have anything on the table right now, when a door opens, I’ll walk through it.”
I told Tracey I didn’t believe her and that I had to laugh when I listened to her tell Kathy Lee that story. For as we talked elderly parents, hers, mine and others became a common focus of our conversation. She almost shouted with abundant enthusiasm about how everyone has a deep and strong feeling about the child parent relationship, especially when the child becomes the parent. I smelled the smoke of a new idea, or maybe even a new project percolating in her head.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Glenn Horowitz walking around the corner of the building and as he got close I jumped up and introduced myself. He pulled up a chair and asked if he could join us? Tracey already told Glenn he could have a cigar buddy as long as I had a glass of scotch to go with it. With a little smile on his face Glenn offered a Davidoff Robusto.
CARE FOR A CIGAR MR DUNCAN – GLENN HOROWITZ
I examined the cigar giving my best impression that I knew what I was doing with an expensive cigar. Glenn offered a light. The waitress came and Glenn requested a ten year old Laphroaig. I never heard of Laphroaig scotch. With as much sauvé-wa-fair as I could muster I acknowledged to the waitress that a Laphroaig would be acceptable for me as well. Glenn somehow knew Laphroaig would be a new experience for me and reassured me that a Laphroaig may seem a little aloof at first, but make the effort and you’ll have a warm and genuine friend for life.
Glenn reassured me I could take it neat or with a splash of soft water. “Roll it around on your tongue,” he said. “Allow it to release the pungent, earthy aroma of the blue peat smoke, the sweet nuttiness of the barley and the delicate, heathery perfume of Islay’s streams.”
When the ten year old liquid touched my tongue it was as if I had never tasted scotch before. It had an almost overpowering strong experience at first. It dominated every taste bud in my mouth. There was nothing else going on in the world at that moment except this memorable taste experience. But as it lay in my mouth it became a different happenstance. I allowed the liquid to drift down my throat and it became comfortable and most congenial. “Wow,” I looked at Glenn. He could tell I was living large on the BLVD.
For those of you who might not know Glenn Horowitz he is a Manhattan rare-book dealer who, in recent years, has come to dominate the rarefied market in literary archives. Glenn specializes in nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first century manuscripts, correspondence, archival material and inscribed first editions.
Glenn has galleries in Manhattan and East Hampton. The archive book market has gone through the roof and Glenn, with his knowledge of wealthy clients, connections, contacts and a belief that books will gain increased status in the digital age, has helped bolster the market. Glenn has brokered the sale of Norman Mailer’s and Don DeLillo’s papers to the deep-pocketed Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas in Austin — where he also helped place the Watergate notebooks of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein for an astounding $5 million. The list of rare books and papers moving from one hand to others only increases in value when more than one institution or establishment wants them in their library.
It was time to leave the hotel and move to the Books and Books store in Coral Gables. I have never experienced a book reading or signing so I had no idea what to expect. This new book, “Gratitude and Trust”, has been collaboration between Tracey and Paul Williams.
PAUL WILLIAMS – TRACEY JACKSON
I’m sure you have heard of Paul Williams. He is an American composer, singer-songwriter, and actor. He is perhaps best known for popular songs performed by a number of acts in the 1970s including Three Dog Night’s rendition of “An Old Fashioned Love Song”, Helen Reddy’s “You and Me Against the World”, David Bowie’s “Fill Your Heart” and the Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Rainy Days and Mondays”. His contributions to films include the lyrics to the #1 chart-topping “Evergreen”, the love theme from A Star Is Born, starring Barbra Streisand for which he won a Grammy for Song of the Year and an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Other works include “Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie. He also composed the enormously popular opening theme for The Love Boat, originally performed by Jack Jones, and later, by Dionne Warwick.
GUEST – PAUL WILLIAMS – TRACY JACKSON
Williams also has a variety of high-profile acting roles such as Little Enos Burdette in the 1977 action-comedy Smokey and the Bandit, as well as the villainous Swan in Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise (which Williams also co-scored, receiving an Oscar nomination in the process), he has been involved in television theater and voice-over work for animation.
Williams struggled with alcohol and substance abuse during the 1970s-80s. Sober since 1990, Williams has been active in the field of addictions recovery and became a Certified Drug Rehabilitation Counselor completing his course work at UCLA.
PAUL WILLIAMS – TRACEY JACKSON
Can you pinch me? I’m in the same room with two very productive people in show business! Don’t you find it odd I had to move to South West Florida to meet New York celebrities? The bookstore (Books & Books) is one of the most successful book stores in the country. I guess there were about 50 people in the audience. The reading of passages from the book went well and there was time for questions.
The message of this labor of love (Gratitude & Trust) can be summed up by the following.
1. Something needs to change, and it’s probably me.
2. I don’t know how to do this but something inside me does.
3. I will learn from my mistakes and not defend them.
4. I will make right the wrongs I’ve done where ever possible.
5. I will continue to examine my behavior on a daily basis.
6. I will live my life in love and service, gratitude and trust.
Then, the book signing began. I photographed the event with the approval of Tracey and the following photographs are simply two people with a strong message about how to live a better life.
STEVE / BOOKS AND BOOKS – PAUL WILLIAMS – TRACEY JACKSON
PAUL WILLIAMS – TRACEY JACKSON
PAUL WILLIAMS – TRACEY JACKSON – STEVE