A Walk To John Carter of Mars

I’ve always thought the best plan for writing or making a film is to first decide where you’re trying to get to, then strike out for it in the most direct way. That’s the ticket to success. Of course, you need a hook to get people interested. A hook is kind of like an invitation…”Hey, want to come on a walk with me? I’m heading for John Carter of Mars and it’s going to be fun.” Don’t waste a lot of time on exposition and backstory (deciding what to bring and packing it nice and neat) but just get out there and see what happens along the way. It’s a beautiful morning and we’re together and what the heck!

(Careful readers may notice this is not actually the best plan for getting to your destination in the most direct way. Shouldn’t that pig have a GPS unit and compass and maybe a map?)

Truth is, I often don’t much care where we’re going. We’re just out for a walk. Maybe the beach. Maybe the top of the hill. Maybe John Carter of Mars. What I know about John Carter can fit into a thimble with plenty of room left over for extra trail mix in case we get hungry. I don’t see why that should detain us a minute. We’ll find out together as we go along, right? Unless we get sidetracked! (Put in scary music stab here)

So off we go. We’re having a good laugh about silly science fantasy figures of long ago when suddenly there’s a snake pit, and I fall into it!

“Help, Help! I fell in a snake pit! There’s squirmy things down here! I hate this! Yow! Get me out!” So then you have to run a find a ladder and get me out before I have a conniption fit.

Phew! That was close! Fortunately for me, they turned out to be garter snakes.

So we’re walking along again and I happen to mention the first time I ever heard of John Carter of Mars. I was about eleven years old and there was a new Dell comic book for sale at Wincott’s Fountain, the kids’ local hangout and supply center. Dell made the best comics so I bought it and it was this great story about a guy who gets teleported to…YOW! Suddenly we’re both not on Mars but on Balboa Street in 1953 San Francisco and here comes the ‘B’ line streetcar racketing and ricketing down the street outside Wincott’s Fountain and – hey, there’s my brother Gary getting off the streetcar in his blue Air Force uniform and he’s coming home on leave and – wow, he looks so cool, I want to be a soldier when I grow up and the air is as crisp and bright as it can only get at 45th and Balboa on a sunny afternoon in September when you’re a kid and I got a Rocky Road candy bar, chocolate with marshmellow and nuts inside its crinkly red metallic wrapper, and you got an Abba Zabba, dusty nougat with peanut butter inside in a wrapper that looks like a big yellowjacket and we’re going to go climb the ladder and sit on the platform of the big signboard in the vacant lot and eat candy and read comic books and talk about what happened on the Jackie Gleason Show last night and…you’re starting to think “Why did I ever go on a walk with this zany pig?”

Back on the path, we pass some interesting little trails going off into the brush. One says, “Edgar Rice Burroughs and Willa Cather – both nearly the same age. Both lived through the same times and both were passionate about writing – what would they have talked about?”

Then a little further here’s a path that leads to “Is it possible to write a serious modern novel, a work of literature, about a bold, brave hero who must save a beautiful maiden from a wicked villain?” That path looks pretty good. I bet there’s view out there. Then, even crazier, we both suddenly think “would it be possible for such a story to be lived out in reality in our time?”

When we finally get up to the hilltop, there’s that incredible view – our time, our century, our world, that little kid down in the village crying. And no matter how beautiful it is you keep hearing the sound of her crying. And it’s distracting so you start talkng about that. Why does that kid have to cry anyway? Isn’t there something we could do? What if she’s all alone and deserted and there’s tigers? Maybe we should go back down and see…”
And that’s the end of our walk because now we’re on the run. What if it’s too late? I hope not. Let’s go faster!


4 thoughts on “A Walk To John Carter of Mars

  1. Hey there. So glad I found your blog. You were 10 years ahead of me, but I too spent my misguided youth and quite a bit of my adulthood in San Francisco. I’ve always felt lucky to have it be that way. I lived at 10th and Howard back when it was wooden flats three abreast. Fortunately my father managed to save enough for a down payment on a house and moved us to the Sunset where I spent the rest of my youth. By the time we left the Mission I had burgled a service station and set fire to two apartment buildings amongst other adventures. I was 7 when we left! That was 1958. Anyway, I really must read the rest of your ramblings. Thank you very much for writing it all down.


    • Great to hear from you, Bobby. Sounds like you have a store of adventures to draw on when you get old. I like the Sunset District, I like how, no matter what happens to the rest of the City, it just keeps on being the Sunset.


  2. Laughing hard after reading the adventures of your early criminal history. Have you read CHABON? You must!! A short story I just read: “werewolfs in their youth” (more or less, I will double check the title of the story and the title of the book of short stories) has that flavor….. hilarious and so touching…. I had my early adventures in gangs also…. see: now you made me remember something I had completely buried: we would catch small lizards and would (OH the shame to remember my evil ways) seal their butts with sealing wax (very popular in our games of pirates and secret letters) and let the poor lizards go, while we always wondered if they would burst open after a few days, since they could not crap….. Oh shame,,,, shame…..


  3. sealing wax and lizards: of course that was in Spain. 1949. Franco’s “guardia civil” kept their eye on everyone except us little kids… we could get away with anything!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s