MY HEROES AND IDOLS, CHRONOLOGICALLY

  1. My Dad
    My earliest memories are of Dad. When I was little, he traveled a lot for work. But on Saturday mornings, I'd get up early & dad would be sitting at the kitchen table in boxers & white t-shirt, sipping coffee & reading the newspaper. He would take me on his lap & have me read news stories to him. When we came to words I didn’t know, he'd take out some paper and a pen and have me write the words down and he’d tell me what they meant. He was an electrical engineer and the smartest person I knew.
  2. Luke Skywalker
    Who didn’t want to be Luke Skywalker?? Or shoot womp-rats with him while cruising along in a T-16 skyhopper? Anyway, Luke started out wanting always to be anywhere other than where he was. And, in Appleton, Wisconsin, I felt that way, too. And goddammit, I still want to have The Force.
  3. Steve Cook
    My best friend in grade school. For a time, we were like brothers. Inseparable. All of my best childhood romps were with Steve…riding our bikes, building snow forts, exploring the sewers near our neighborhood looking for crayfish. His parents were married and happy and his home life (unlike mine) was warm, loving and normal. I would spend as much time at his place as I could. When I was there, I felt like part of the family. They took me in. Steve was fun, loyal & always up for adventure.
  4. Andy Horan
    Mr. Horan was my fourth grade teacher. And he was the right guy at the right time. My parents were divorced. My dad was absent. Mr. Horan was one of those, amazing, magical teachers. He got me into books. And art. He became a second dad to me. He’s an amazing oral storyteller. Hell, I wrote an adoring goddam essay about the guy. http://bit.ly/1GbLAhY I kept in touch with him over the years and am proud to call him (by his first name) a good friend.
  5. Harrison Ford
    To this day, he is one of my man crushes. As a kid, he was in every single movie I loved. As a character, he was handsome and roguish. I wanted to find out more about him, so I’d go to the Appleton Public Library and look up articles about him in the big, green Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. Remember those? I found out that Harrison was a skilled carpenter. And only sort of accidentally fell into acting. And he rejected fame and was reclusive and shunned publicity. I respected that.
  6. Chuck Hart
    Chuck was a senior when I was a sophomore in HS. He was the best writer I knew personally. Despite our age difference, we'd hang out together and talk about books & writing. He didn’t drink. So we would go to parties and be everyone’s designated driver. Later, after he left for college (and when I went to college, too), we would write letters to each other. He drowned one cold, winter night in a lake in Madison, WI. Chuck, I miss you so much. To this day, I still write poetry about you.
  7. Kyle Jenks
    Kyle and I went to high school together, too. I thought he was just this boneheaded karate enthusiast, but it turned out that he was a brilliant artist and painter. I have his painting hanging over my fireplace today. And one of his prints is in the bathroom. We would communicate over the years, and I always admired his dedication to his craft and to making a name for himself as an artist, being a part of the art scene, etc.
  8. Mr. Saindon
    High school creative writing teacher. Introduced me to great books & authors. He always seemed to me slightly out of place (like way too smart and worldly) in a public high school in rural-ish Wisconsin…his students mostly took creative writing as an “Easy A” class, but he still poured his heart into teaching and gave wonderful comments on my writings. He said I was the best writing student he’d had since Chuck Hart. Later in life, we ran a city-wide creative writing contest until he retired.
  9. J. D. Salinger
    Mr. Saindon handed me CITR & I fell in love with his writing. As I learned more about Salinger, I came to consider his exit from publishing with profound respect. JDS was an awful husband and father. & he had questionable taste in very young women. But he decided that he wanted to write for himself first and foremost. He put his craft above all else. And while this made him antisocial in some ways, there are few other people who have been so fully committed to creative excellence than Salinger.
  10. John Kennedy Toole
    When you read the intro to COD, you get the gist of Toole’s tragic life. He wrote only 2 books (that we know of) & they are both amazing for different reasons. I admire how long & hard Toole worked on Confederacy, trying to get published. For years. If we ever invent time travel, I will find him parked on a lonely stretch of road and pull the garden hose out of his exhaust pipe and save him from himself. And get him some medicine. And psychotherapy. It would be amazing to read his third novel.
  11. Al Gore
    Because it seemed like he cares very much about the world. And he’s super smart. And how, oh how, might the world be better/different/healthier if he had become president instead of ‘ole ‘Dubyah. Oh, Al. If only you had not sighed and said “Lockbox” so many times.
  12. Matthew Evan Wolkenstein (@evan)
    Oh, Matt. How many days did we spend in your room talking about girls we had crushes on that we were too shy to talk to, listening to the Beatles, laughing, being dorks together? How many hrs did it take us to record our own version of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” on your 4-track? Matt is smart, funny, compassionate. He can play every musical instrument (well). He’s a great teacher, writer, artist. When I’m in distress, I seek his counsel. I love you. I’m so glad you are a part of my life.
  13. My Dad
    It feels like Dad and I have almost nothing in common nowadays. He doesn’t read. He is a gun owner and tinkerer (he builds pipe organs for fun!). But when I got separated from my ex years ago, he'd call me several times a week to make sure I was ok. & give me dating advice. (He suggested I’d meet sexy ladies at the meat counter at the grocery store. Does that work?) Recently, he has gone thru treatment for Stage III lung cancer. All through it, he has been upbeat and forward-thinking.
  14. I hope you live to 120, dad. I love you buckets.