Everyone and everything has a story. That’s long been a strong belief of mine and after more than 20 years as a journalist/writer, I have been fortunate to travel to some fascinating places around the world, meet some wonderful people, and collect some memorable and interesting stories. There’s no secret to it really. It usually starts with an assignment and an editor who is already behind deadline. From there, you just have to do your research, possibly board a plane to who knows where, look around, ask the right questions, and – in my case at least – be blessed with an over-abundance of curiosity. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of transcribing the interview tapes, sorting all the facts and quotes in your head, sitting down to finally write the story, and delivering it in time to meet your editor’s deadline — which was yesterday.
As part of my New Year’s resolution to write more and more often, I’ve decided to embark on an experiment. The mission? I want to test a theory that you don’t have to travel to exotic and far-away places to find a good story – that in many cases, you can often find it — right under your nose. In my case, this would be my cold, unfinished, and rather ordinary basement. In reality, it’s a room that has a promising and finished future, but that currently serves as a giant, walk-in, over-stuffed storage closet, which holds a winding maze of memories, mementos, milestones… and, well, who am I kidding? There are scattered instances of plain ole’ crap down there, too. Metaphorically, the basement is also that place in a writer’s brain which is used for long-term storage and the collection of various bits of unrelated information that one tends to pick up here and there. Over time, even this space can gather dust and cobwebs.
What’s in there? Boxes. Lots of Boxes. Many of them are still unpacked and unopened – proof of life from 10 years overseas. The rest of it? Stuff galore – also in boxes – from a U.S. storage unit that was originally packed not long out of college, and then got “added to” as it sat untouched during my 10 years as an expat. Added to? Yeah, like when my parents sold my childhood home, packed up all the childhood treasures I had stored for safekeeping in my old room, drove said boxes to the storage unit, and found some way to cram them all in there.
If you’ve been paying attention and keeping score with me, you’ll realize that what I’m really doing is embarking on a journey that has more in common with an archeological expedition than a mere writing exercise. Artifacts from childhood, high school, college, and overseas? Yep, it’s the game of life with a dash of Indiana Jones. The only question is: which period will yield the most story-rich treasure – the Paleolithic, Neolithic…or Middle Ages.
Navigating my way through all of this will be a personal feat akin to climbing Mt. Everest without sherpas… okay, without the peril of losing one’s toes and fingers to frostbite. But every journey has to start somewhere. This one just happens to be the same place I do my laundry.