They Live! (in short stories first)

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I’m fascinated by the idea sometimes of writing a short story that gets made into a movie. Imagine working on something for a couple of weeks, a month max. You’re pretty happy with it. A magazine accepts it for publication. Then one thing leads to another and eventually you’re sitting in Mann’s Chinese Theater one day eating popcorn and watching your characters come alive on-screen. How mind-blowing would that be? How insanely jealous would the average screenwriter who’s been slaving away at spec screenplays for years with no response from anyone be?

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“Eight O’clock in the Morning,” written by Ray Nelson in 1963 http://www.whale.to/b/eight_o.html was only six pages long, but somehow John Carpenter beefed the story up enough make “They Live,” out of it in the ‘80s.  It starred Keith David and Rowdy Roddy Piper who, sadly, recently passed away, and it turned out to be a pretty amusing telling of the tale. It contains one of the longest fistfights in history—Keith David and Rowdy Roddy throwing each other around in an alleyway for at least a solid five minutes straight. But the underlying message involves great commentary on the “dream-like and hypnotized” state the general populace occupies in their daily lives.

 

A more famous movie was “Brokeback Mountain,” and this was based on Annie Proulx’s short story of the same name. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1997/10/13/brokeback-mountain

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I saw the movie first then discovered the short story a while later. I was immediately drawn in by her stark, bitter, vivid language. The beautiful and painful way she described the plight of these two cowboys. She became one of my favorite authors overnight. The topic of homosexual love between a couple of very masculine cowboys isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. But Annie Proulx’s writing is deeply feeling and revelatory, sometimes so brittle and sharp with awareness that one is left vulnerable and raw from the emotional poking and prodding.

 

I don’t know how many know about the movie “Secretary”, but I definitely don’t think anyone is aware that it was based on a short story of the same name by Mary Gaitskill from her collection “Bad Behavior.” http://phendog.livejournal.com/220420.html

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Ms. Gaitskill is one of my favorite short story writers ever, up there with T.C. Boyle. I once had a friend comment that I “used too many adjectives” in a short story I wrote. But, boy, if that’s true, then don’t ever pick up one of Mary’s books. Adjectives galore, separated by commas. The stories are long and involved psychological treatises on the human psyche and state of existence in general. “Secretary” is definitely one of the weirder ones involving a little S&M between a young woman and her demanding boss, and I was amazed when it was made into a movie with James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal, because it’s such a bizarre and taboo subject! Ms. Gaitskill felt the movie was a Disney version, but honestly, they had to lighten it up somehow, since the topic was already so dark.

 

I’m willing to bet everyone in the world has seen this movie and has no idea, as I did, that it was based on a short story. “The Greatest Gift” was written by Phillip Van Doren Stern in 1943. http://kbancroft.weebly.com/uploads/2/8/3/7/2837022/the_greatest_gift.pdf

Unable to find a publisher, Philip Van Doren Stern printed several hundred copies of the story and used them as Christmas cards. And the rest is history. Frank Capra said he had been looking for this story all his life, and A Wonderful Life was born.

This story is extremely short also, like Eight O’clock in the Morning, and written in a similar, simple style, even though they were written 20 years apart. It’s always heartening to hear rejection stories about authors who found another way to be heard; Van Doren Stern was just a 1940s version of someone on the internet today like the authors of “Wool” and “The Martian,” except that he used real paper to distribute his goods instead of electronic paper. Kudos!

 

Several more (and some may surprise you) include:

Daphne Du Maurier – “The Birds”

Truman Capote – “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (Note: Truman Capote stated that although Holly Golightly accepts meals, gifts, and money from men, she is not a prostitute but an American geisha).

Fitzgerald—“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” I don’t know about you, but I never would have thought this of Fitzgerald. To me Fitzgerald=The Great Gatsby and The Last Tycoon. Not a sci-fi/fantasy story about aging backwards. So weird!

Phillip K. Dick – We can Remember it for You Wholesale,” which became “Total Recall.”  He also wrote “The Minority Report.”

William Gibson—“Johnny Mnemonic.”

I haven’t read any of these last ones I listed.  I hope to get to them someday. But, you know…too many books. Not enough time….

 

 

 

36 thoughts on “They Live! (in short stories first)

  1. Pingback: THEY LIVE! (In Short Stories First) | Laughter Over Tears

  2. I met and spoke with Heath Ledger, a few months before he died in 2007, he was with another famous actor Jack Gyllenhaal, or Joaquin Phoenix, my memory its not what it used to be, but bottom line I did not recognized him until a girl who was sort f a pesky neighbor watching us talk for about a couple of hours, after they left I told her to close her mouth, and stop drooling, and tease her saying; “You really liked those guys, you were drooling all over them!”
    She incredible look at me with wide eyes, and she said: “You do not know who they are?
    I said: ” A couple of nice young men, that obviously you like them.”
    She reply: “Mr. B. that was Heath Ledger, the Joker in Batman!”
    I just say; “Hum, I am very bad to remember faces, famous, or not, it’s hard to recognize in him person, when as the Joker his face looks with all that heavy makeup on.” 🤷‍♂️😉

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  3. That’s amazing, B.H.! Where were you, at your place? You mention the neighbor who was watching you all. So what was Heath Ledger and the second actor doing at your place?! And very funny that you didn’t recognize him/them. Wow, he only had a few months left at that point, huh? I think his death was an accident. It was definitely a tragedy, where his talent was concerned.

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  4. It was at my work at an old antique shop mixed with a gentleman’s high end gift shop in Santa Monica, on Wilshire Ave when the owner at the ripe age of 104 died, the inheritors close the shop, two years later, and sold the property, the new owners tear up the building, so far they have not build anything there yet. According to Google maps.
    The place was very popular with rich people, and actors as patrons, before working there I use to come as a customer, and made friends with the people who run the shop, since 1990 or so, ten years later after my company moved to Birmingham Alabama, I did not want to move there, and leave LA, so next day I went to the shop, and when they found out I was out of work they hired me, on the spot.
    I met a lot of people, and many actors, who use to drop by, as customers, the girl just lived a house away on the residential side, on the cross street. and she was a common visitor, with nothing to do, she was a teenager at the time, and lived with her divorced mother.
    I am not good with faces, many times people would just tell me, things like: “That person you just took care is James Gandolfini from the Sopranos!”🤷‍♂️
    As an example of people I met, and did not recognize, and many others, some people are very obvious, like I met Ben Kingsley, and immediately knew was him, or David Carradine, who was drunk and slept on his car for hours, in our parking lot on a rainy day, Jeremy Irons, William Shatner, Sean Penn, ,Angela Lansbury, a frequent customer Donald Sutherland, even Robert Blake, and many others, but many, someone will tell me after.
    I guess I can write a juicy post from my experiences at that place, but mainly that kind of stuff, I consider more like gossiping chat.
    Sorry for my lateness, in answering you, a drunk driver near my house hit the light pole where an internet switch box was located, late on Saturday night, I was answering you when the accident happen, and my internet went death! 😟 I just got the service back an hour ago.
    They were miserable days without the Internet!😫

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  5. Oh, man, sorry to hear that, but I’m glad the driver hit a pole and not your house, and I also hope the driver was okay! Oof. That’s one thing I can say: I’ve never driven drunk. Once when I was in my 20s, I drove home on a marijuana high from my boyfriend’s house…. and THAT was so harrowing, I never did it again, or anything like it again, lol !!
    Thanks for clarifying where you met Heath Ledger and all these others. Now I understand. How interesting! I’m really bad with faces too, actually. I probably wouldn’t recognize many, many famous people if they were standing right in front of me. But that sounds like a fun and interesting job. It could make a fun post, though, on the light side, and even though it’s a little gossipy, I bet there’s something unifying and cohesive about all the personalities and experiences, you know?

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  6. I never saw the accident, it was several blocks away, it just learnt about it, when I called my Internet company, they informed about it. At least they were honest to tell me it will take until Wednesday to fix the problem.
    I never thought, or dream I will meet so many actors, and famous people, never care for collecting autographs, or be dazzled by actors or famous people, and I even met a British actress P.F. That when at my young age I thought she was a sweetheart, a friend of mine, and myself, we were in love at her looks, one day she walks into the shop, forty years later, and what a letdown that was!
    She turned out to be a cheap, and nasty customer, that I could not wait to get rid of her fast enough! I still have to tell my hometown friend about the experience. I saw her first on movies from the late 60’s early 70’s.
    But also met fine actors, and nice persons like Vincent Schiavelli, a regular customer until he died, he liked to spend hours there talking.
    Goldie Hawn, and Kurt Russell, Goldie will buy presents for Kurt there.
    Two children TV actors whose father will bring them there to talk to me, actors of the show: “The sweet life of Zack and Cody.” Dylan, and Cole Sprouse, for whatever reason, his father will bring them often to the shop and leave them there with me to talk, after they left for college to the East Coast, they will come to visit me, and bring me presents. I guess the father thought I was a good influence, on them.
    And many other actors, that scape my memory, at the moment, who were regulars and patronized my workplace. The Old owner had many black and white pictures signed from old actors, and was a personal drinking buddy to Errol Flynn, and others, Ava Gardner he chased her all over Europe, for a while.
    My only merit, was first to patronize the place, and later to work there, at the time.🤷‍♂️

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  7. That’s so interesting, though, B.H., all the interesting folks you met. I had to look up Vincent Schiavelli–recognized him immediately! It’s nice to know he was such a nice person and that so many of them were very nice. It’s always a little depressing when someone we admired from afar, usually a celebrity, turns out to be the opposite of what we “thought” they would be, like that British actress who came in and acted like a b-yotch, lol. Like I think Jon Voight is a great actor, but apparently he’s some crazy Trumpite. Oh, well.
    But how sweet that the father of those kids would leave them with you! He really trusted you, and then you remained in their memory long afterwards. We used to caption that show, actually! It was very innocent.
    That place sounds fascinating, like one of those old-timey places with so many stories and memories. It sounds like you created a lot of nice memories for many of them, too. 🙂

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  8. From all the many jobs I held through my life in five cities, two Nations, and three States, that was the longest in time, that I worked there, sixteen years and a few months, not the best payed, but the most nice, and relaxed, and sort of interesting, with a lot of anecdotes, as a result from our conversation, I called a friend who I met there when we were both patrons, of the place in the 90’s and we still keep in touch, he lives in Culver City, and worked for a studio for a while, in the publicity department, he become a good friend and we still keep in touch by phone since I left LA, I called him a couple of days ago, and he reminded me from many other things, it was hilarious our conversation, yes that place had a lot of memories. The old owner start it in 1928, when he was very young, originally he did it on his father old drugstore, also in Wilshire Blvd. Somewhere twelfth street, and later he moved to a second location, half a block from the now between third, and second street, near the promenade, then moved to the final place in Wilshire St, that used to be a hunting lodge, he kept the original building as the front of the store, but build an office behind, and a large warehouse behind, where the parking lot was as well. He died in 2014, two years later the inheritor sold the place, the new owner do not know who it is, but obviously he is a realtor, they demolished the place some two, or three years ago, and excavated the land, like if they are planning to build a high building there?
    Vincent used to make fun from his most famous scene:

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  9. Awww… ha ha ha. Thank you, B.H. Yeah, that was a really good scene. The havoc he created with his ghostly anger, lol !!
    That is SO typical of LA to just tear places down like that, place with history and atmosphere. So sad. And you’re right, they probably erected some sterile office building there or exorbitant condos or something. All of the gentle, touching memories I have of my childhood in the Valley have been erased and replaced with something soulless. Oh, well. What are ya gonna do? Right?

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  10. It’s the nature of life to change, even if some us do prefer the old, fortunately at my old town it’s forbidden by law to tear old structures, on my last post the second picture shows a a street of my town, that now people call (Historic downtown.) But better yet here look by yourself, hopefully by December I will go there and spend some weeks there, the video is in Spanish, but turn off the volume, and just look at the views:

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  11. Well, I think that’s a GREAT rule, being forbidden to tear down old structures. I guess for places that are REALLY historic we even have rules here…. but it feels like it doesn’t cover all that much when you get down to it. This video was fascinating. I love the colors and open feel of this downtown. And it’s SO clean. It reminds me a little of Santa Barbara, like their main drag, how pretty everything is, and SO clean, lol. Thanks for sharing that!

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  12. The city has grow well beyond the Historic center today, on my day it was a small town from maybe 70,000 people and today looks just like any other town, on it’s periphery with half a million people living there today, new neighborhoods grew up since, that I don’t even know today, but I was born, and grew up on the old part, there for 18 years, when I left, on the video he showed mainly the historic district, but there is also many long and sandy beaches, the downside, it’s pretty hot, and humid during most part of the year, except for late Fall, and Winter months., and the reason I only go there in Winter. I just like mainly my old neighborhood, sure the city grew up to the North along the coast, and there is many new neighborhoods behind the long coast. This video shows the Ocean along the Malecon, or the waterfront road, on my days there was the road, and empty beaches, but no Hotels, or neighborhoods, behind along the coast, as today, here:

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  13. Man, it’s SO beautiful! I can only imagine what it was like WITHOUT all the buildings and streets and traffic. Wow, I feel like going there right now, though. I wish I could step through the picture, lol. I know what you mean. My old neighborhood was so charming. The liquor store had a tree growing through the roof. Many of the homes were simple one-story houses, 30 years old. Fancy movie theaters with the curved marquee and tile floor leading inside to the swanky interior. Empty lots where the carnival would come every summer. All gone. Except for new apartment buildings and condos that don’t fit in the neighborhood at all and new ugly businesses. And, of course, bumper to bumper traffic. It’s really sad. But I guess it happens everywhere (where people suddenly want to be).

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  14. When you talk about old theaters you brought memories from my days as a child, and a young man on the old movie theaters from my town, they were five theaters, two really on the old word of theater, before cinematography, one still survive, as a child I went to the movies a lot, since really beside going to the beach, there was little else to do, but hang out with friends.
    The one who survived they have made a great restoration job, and look like it was on the old day, here:

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  15. Oh my God, B.H., no theater that I attended as a kid was even CLOSE to this one, lol !!! Omg. It’s amazing. It’s fantastic. I mean…the only one that could come close would be the Chinese Mann in Hollywood, but even that pales in comparison to this. They did a great job. I would be SO excited to go there and see a show. Thanks for sharing that. 🙂 The orchestration that accompanies this display is beautiful too, btw!

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    • When I was a child, the theater was working, mainly showing old movies, I went many times, and it was intact, but sort of run down, by age, and for lack of proper maintenance, plus Hurricanes that hit our town every few years, like in 58, 59, 65, 69 and 75 the last one I remember put the theater out of business, since it blew part of the roof, but in the late 80’s they did a great restoration job, and opened it in 1992, now very likely one of the few remaining old theaters in Mexico.
      It would be really a shame if they would have let it go, and demolish it, thanks to the preservation law for old buildings, beginning during 1970’s to a final restoration in 1990, the old theater got a second life.

      They start building it in 1868, and inaugurated February 5 1874, as Rubio theater, (The last name of the owner) but later changed to Angela Peralta, a deceased in Mazatlan famous Mexican Soprano, who at the time of her death in 1883 was visiting the city, to do a performance there, and died from yellow fever, at 38 years of age.
      Yes the theater it’s active they have a Facebook page, if you plan a trip there, you check what kind of event is taking place there:

      https://www.facebook.com/TeatroAngelaPeralta/

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  16. That is fantastic, B.H., how old that theater is. Thank God you guys have preservation laws! Very sad tale about the young opera singer who died from something easily taken care of today. Wow.
    Well, you’ve probably been to the Chinese Mann yourself. Definitely not as hold as the 1800s… but the last time I was there, it LOOKED like it was from the 1800s, lol !! Talk about run down! Maybe they’ve renovated since then. But it’s a far, far cry from the renovation done on your theater. Fascinating history. I love it.

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  17. Well, the theater in Mazatlan it’s a small theater relatively in size, no to compare with what we have in Los Angeles, like the Disney Center, the Orange performance Art Center, or the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, as examples, but is a very nice preserved example of a long past age, when my town possibly had no more than 10,000 people, or even less at the time.
    One of the things I like about my town, are not only the long sandy beaches, who are mainly the reason tourist go there, but to me at least it’s the small but Neoclassic style in bogue in the 1800’s from the old Historic Center, that thank you to economic stagnation, from a period from the middle of the Twenty Century, it was a blessing in disguise, when everywhere else in other cities in Mexico, they demolished the old houses, before they passed the conservation law, and build the ugly new contemporary style, that lacks soul, an it’s manly utilitarian, with not even high ceilings, ample rooms, and beautiful tile floors inner yards with big trees.
    I couldn’t find a video from the interior, in Maztlan but this house in Mexico city from the same style will give you an idea, how they look inside, when they are in good shape.

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  18. I love it. I can’t even imagine living somewhere like that! I especially love the room with the disheveled books and the kitchen. What beautiful gardens. My mother would have been ecstatic to live somewhere like that. After she passed away, my father tried to water all her plants and flowers in the backyard (which was very small) but little by little, they all died. I can’t imagine visiting him in a house like this and finding all those gardens dead and shriveled away, lol. Wow, beautiful. You can just “taste” the history; it’s still there, enmeshed in everything, visibly preserved in various ways. Thanks for all the great videos!

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  19. Well I guess I was privileged to grow up on that environment during my stay with my parents, we lived in three different houses on that style, plus my two widowed Grandmother’s houses on different towns, the great thing all were very different, and the space so large, and unique, not one was similar, not to talk from the houses of friends, and other relatives that I will visit frequently, or the Hacienda in Jalisco from my cousins, sons from my father’s eldest sister Josefina, the place is basically a big cattle ranch on the middle of nowhere, now my cousin Hugo made it into a sort of a special events type of place like for big wedding celebrations, and the likes.
    My last house we live with my parents now converted into a coffee shop. here some pictures. that was our living room. my room now a small bookstore.

    https://www.google.com/maps/uv?pb=!1s0x869f535e27e0276f%3A0x25026b1982ab6c17!3m1!7e131!4s!5sCAFFERIUM!15sCgIgAQ&hl=es-419&imagekey=!1e10!2sAF1QipMw3P5EN4PQf9TbxdpwYkiL7_CGBinng780I1KP

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  20. That’s CRAZY, B.H. ! I can’t even IMAGINE my childhood house converted into a coffee shop !!! How weird!! It looks really nice, though. Did they keep a lot of the original look…. or change it up? Maybe I’m too attached to the idea of my childhood memories and places and things, lol. A zen master would be VERY annoyed with me. Everything changes. But a house into a coffee shop….. that’s a new one for me!

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    • Because it’s forbid by law, to alter the style of the house all repairs need to be done to preserve, the old looks, the house looks the same what I find different, it’s our furniture was replaced by the coffee tables, and the barista bar at the end of the living room, and see the yard with the fountain also with tables, not to say a cherry tree inside my old bedroom!
      I had forgotten how shiny, and beautiful the tile floor used to look, too bad most of the pictures are for their menu, and not of the place.
      This Café its not too old, two families owned the place, after us.
      On my next trip, God willing, I will for sure patronize the place, and take some pictures, and will say to my surviving friends there: Let’s meet at my old house for coffee!🤣
      With two brothers, and my sister, the house was full of friends most of the time. Mother was of the idea, to keep us close to home rather than importuning neighbors, so at one time could be there a dozen of friends, plus us, so a lot of friend were familiar with our house, that they used to name by our last name, as the Anaya’s house, that in Basque means the brothers.😉

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  21. Yes, please do go there and take pictures. And that would be great saying “Let’s meet at my old house and have coffee,” LOL. Just hilarious and so apropos!

    Like

    • I was planing on going to visit a daughter of mine living in Queretaro, and maybe on my way back, stop at my town, to see friends, or the few they may be there at the end of July, but honestly the death of my sister left me in no mood to do so, I will wait until the hot season its over, and may go on late Autumn, when the heat its replaced by cooler days, God willing.

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  22. Completely understandable. The balm of time is greatly needed right now and will do you good on several levels, probably. 🙂 Hang in there, B.H. 🙂

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    • Well in all honesty I am somewhat shaken by remorse, and my dereliction from family bonds. I know I have procrastinated, too much on that regard, to the point I have not visited any of my close relatives since 2006!
      And I am only in touch with my eldest brother, giving him a call maybe once a month.
      To the point that now I have forgot even the names of two nieces, daughters, from my sister, and know almost nothing from their life, as a matter of fact, I will call my brother to ask him, how they are dealing with the death of her mother.
      On my behalf I already call my youngest brother, my sister twin, and talked to him, I got the number from my eldest brother, of course he is very grieved by her death.
      And I am ashamed from my disregard of family bonds.😔

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  23. It’s almost like you have precognition, too, because you put that post up many days ago about regret… and it’s as if some part of you “knew” something was coming. I completely understand your feelings and empathize with them. Although I saw my brother every few months (because he lived with my parents) and tried to connect with him and briefly tried to get him to move out and live on his own (he’s three years older than me) he still took his own life when he was about 51, a decade ago. He also made a last phone call to me, leaving a message that his number would be out of order soon, but “just call mom,” but I’d gotten so many weird messages from him before and things like this were always happening, that I thought nothing of it and didn’t call back. So that was the last time I heard his voice, on our message machine….so you can imagine some of the regret and frustration and guilt I felt for a long time…even though he was moving toward suicide since his 20s and seemed hellbent on ending up there. The pain is immense, and while at first I think it’s necessary, in the end it doesn’t help us to continue living our lives. I don’t know why you drifted away, probably just ordinary life, or lost contact little by little…but hopefully your natural feelings of remorse won’t press you down too far….and one positive for you is you have a chance, now, to renew bonds with everyone, to visit (when you can) or call… and possibly avoid something like this again in the future….? You can’t do it with your sister, whom I’m sure knew that you loved her, and I definitely can’t do it with my brother, but we have those who are left to love and cherish as much as we can……. 🙂

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  24. Well, looks like we all have regrets about our lives, I guess it’s the Human condition, “Live and see” The old Romans liked to say, as we age the more we see, on my last answer I mention to you about my character, it wears me out to be around people, and need solitude to be at peace within myself.
    Most people may think that as weird, it took me years to find out the reason for me to be different, my Mother used to say to me:
    “We took care of you, as well as your brothers, sent you to the same schools, and, treated you the same, and loved you as well, but you turned to be so different!”
    I guess she was the first to notice it, even before I did.
    Father last words to me, before he died were very full of praise for me, he said I was a genius, after watching a TV show about it. I saw him a few weeks before he died in 1994.
    I do not make too much of it, neither makes me a successful, or rich person, but I am at peace with myself, despite my mistakes in life, and it’s what it is.

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  25. Oh, man, that’s so coincidental. My mom used to say that about my brother and I too! Always pointing out how “different” my brother and I were from my parents…and how did that happen? Well, I was adopted, for one thing, so that’s how that happened with me, lol. And my brother was bipolar, so…kinda obvious? With you it’s much more dramatic, how different you “seemed” from your other siblings. It’s so nice that you received praise from your father like that. Yeah, the human condition. We’re in it. What else can we do?

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  26. Life take us wherever it wants, God’s will works in mysterious ways, and we are the product from our actions, good, or bad, and we pay a high price for our mistakes, even if we repent. Bottom line I left home for good, at eighteen, and seldom went there to visit.
    Now I am sorry, I was so far away from my original family, but its done, and now my sister gone for good as well.
    I explained to you I am an INFJ, and we do not fit too well, anywhere, and live lonely lives, for the most part.
    I even wonder how I had manage to have three exes, and six children, and now four grandchildren?
    Hard to explain, even to myself!
    Now, how do you explain that to others? 🤷‍♂️

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  27. Lol, that IS a lot for an INFJ personality, as you explained it: six children and four grandkids.
    Perhaps you’re somewhat of an evolved INFJ… 🙂 🙂

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    • Dear, as they said: “Life is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans”
      Confess that I have lived, and plenty more, even to regret my many mistakes. we live life, and we learn our lessons, or not! 😉🤷‍♂️

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