San Bernardino

News of the December 2 attack on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California has been particularly sad for me to watch. I grew up there and still have friends in the area. A childhood friend even received treatment at the Inland Regional Center. No one I knew seems to be among the dead or wounded, but San Bernardino has been a town going through tough times for a while and I suspect this is going to make things even tougher as people associate the city with the incident.

My family moved to San Bernardino when I was 4. My dad was a General Locomotive Foreman for one of the city’s major industries, Santa Fe Railroad. The other two big employers in the area were Kaiser Steel and Norton Air Force Base. All of those were closed by the early 1990s. We lived in three different houses while we were there, but the house that sticks in my memory as “my” house is one my parents bought in the 1950s just a block away from the site of the original McDonalds. When my parents left San Bernardino for a time in the late 60s and early 70s, my grandmother moved into the house. So, it was a house I visited regularly from my earliest days. They moved back into the house when my grandmother passed away in 1974.

McDonalds Museum

I have a lot of good memories from my years in San Bernardino. It was where I discovered both my love for writing and for astronomy. I made my first attempt at writing The Solar Sea when I was in high school. That draft long since has vanished in time, but the novel that exists probably wouldn’t have been written if not for my early daydreams of riding a solar sail to the outer planets.

Those daydreams were no doubt inspired by a love of astronomy. I started by attending meetings of the San Bernardino Valley Amateur Astronomers when I was a freshman in high school. By the time I was a senior, I took an astronomy class at Cal State San Bernardino from Dr. Paul Heckert and went on to observe variable stars with him for several years.

Of the three times I had a chance to meet with and speak to Ray Bradbury, two of them were in San Bernardino. The first time was at Pacific High School when he came to speak to the students. I actually attended San Bernardino High School across town, but Pacific’s principal invited me to share lunch with Mr. Bradbury. I saw him a gain a few years later at Cal State. Not only did I get to meet Ray Bradbury, but I also got to meet Jerome Bixby, author of the short story “It’s a Good Life” which became a Twilight Zone episode starring Billy Mumy. Bixby also wrote several of my favorite Star Trek episodes including Mirror, Mirror and “Day of the Dove.”

Arrowhead

One of the things I really love about San Bernardino are the mountains. Above is Mt. Arrowhead and the arrowhead feature is a natural rock formation. The Arrowhead is on private land, but I had the rare privilege of being able to climb the mountain one Saturday during my high school years. As it turns out, the springs at the base of the mountain are where Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water gets its name. The nearby San Gorgonio wilderness area and Big Bear Lake provide even more breathtaking sights and I spent time hiking and camping with my family and friends in those areas as well.

My time thinking of San Bernardino as “home” largely came to an end in 1989 when Santa Fe closed their shops, my brother moved with the railroad to Topeka, Kansas. My dad had passed away in 1980, so my mom decided to move to Seattle. I went back to the house I lived in through my high school years, packed up all my belongings and moved them to Socorro, New Mexico. San Bernardino is a town on tough times and those times are even tougher now that such a tragedy has struck. The people of San Bernardino are very much in my heart this holiday season.

A Little Help From My Friends

My previous work week at the observatory got off to a “wonderful” start when, after uploading a couple of anthologies to my Kindle e-reader, I unplugged the USB cable, fumbled the reader, and slam dunked it against a counter top. I discovered that’s a great way to damage the e-ink cells and it was pretty clear that my Kindle was dead. The Kindle was used when I got it and I received it in exchange for a signed copy of my novel The Solar Sea. I was heart-broken, more because of the sentimental value than for any physical value.

The Pirates of Sufiro

As it turns out, the fellow who gave me the original Kindle, stepped forward and offered me a new Kindle in exchange for some help at his small observatory in Benson, Arizona. I can’t say how special this is, because not only do I have a new device, it also comes with a new dose of sentimental value. Back at the beginning of my writing career, my benefactor, Jeff Lewis, helped out with the first audio production of The Pirates of Sufiro. He was the voice of the Legacy’s first mate, Carter Roberts. Jeff also provided some helpful digital editing advice in the days when few people had even heard of digital editing. Remember, you can download The Pirates of Sufiro absolutely free from Lachesis Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Perhaps befitting this gesture, this past week, I’ve taken a short break from my steampunk-novel-in-progress to work on a new short story which features Roberts along with his captain, Ellison Firebrandt, and their fellow crewmember, Suki Mori. I won’t say too much about the story at this point other than to say that it does address friendship and its benefits and challenges. It also features giant squid. I’ll be sure to keep you posted about when and where this story will be appearing. If nothing else, it serves to add another chapter to my somewhat back burner project of compiling a collection of stories about my space pirates before they were stranded on the planet Sufiro.

Cauldron-of-Love-200x300

Needless to say, I feel pretty blessed this week by the good things that have happened to me, but I’m also blessed by an opportunity to give back. I’ve just learned the cookbook Cauldron of Love published by Writers Unite to Fight Cancer in Arizona has just come available for pre-order. Contributors to the cookbook include Brenda Novak, Margaret Larsen Turley, Marina Martindale, and many others including myself. 100% of the proceeds from this cookbook will be donated to cancer research. This book features eighteen categories with international family favorites, remedies, delicious gluten free and dairy free cuisine, comfort food for patients battling cancer and other tantalizing morsels. Visit http://writersunitetofightcancer.org/cauldron-of-love/ to order or get more information.