Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!

Be Kind to Strangers

Posted August 21st, 2016 by Tom

“That’s Tom,” said my daughter from the kitchen, pointing toward me as I walked in.

A tall, thin, balding and bearded young man reached out his hand to mine. “Nice to meet you, Sir. I’m Parker.”

“He’s hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I invited him over.”

“Great!” I said. “Welcome.”

“Thank you for having me.”

IMG_8479b

(pics from the pct)

There’s a biblical verse from Hebrews I’ve always deeply appreciated. It goes something like, “Be kind to strangers; you may be entertaining angels unawares.”

IMG_8492Our daughter Jolie has always been exceedingly kind to strangers. She met Parker while volunteering for the Bend Brewfest. Parker told us how he began hiking the PCT in early June; starting near Lake Tahoe with a goal of arriving at Cascade Locks on the border between Oregon and Washington by the end of August. He shared lots of pictures on his phone. This past week he developed shin splints and needed to take a break to recover before hiking any further. He was camped at Odell Lake, about 65 miles southwest of Bend. On Friday he hitched a ride into Bend to check out our little slice of heaven and learned he could volunteer for the Brewfest on Saturday, which he did, where he met our daughter, which in turn led to her inviting into our home for the night. Read the rest of this entry »

Hangin’ out with Robin Williams at the Springsteen gig

Posted August 13th, 2014 by Tom

I’ve been thinking a lot about Robin Williams this week. Reading stories and blog posts and opinion pieces as people who were impacted by his art, his humor, and his life come to grips with his death. And an image keeps popping up in my head; a very pleasant image. That time Robin Williams and my wife Lindi and I attended a Bruce Springsteen concert together.

RobinWilliamsIt was late November 1995 when Bruce was on his solo acoustic Ghost of Tom Joad tour. The concert was at The Berkeley Community Theater in San Francisco, one of those opulent Art Deco theaters, the only theaters that ever really feel grand and alive enough to properly host a great show. Okay, so Lindi and I went to the Bruce show with Robin Williams in the same way we went with the other 3,500 people who were there. We were in the same building together. No big deal, right? Well, to you, maybe. But to me?

I was standing in line to buy a couple glasses of wine for my baby and me before the show began. I glanced to my left. Double-take. “That’s Robin Williams,” I say to myself. Anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy meeting the people who have impacted my life with their art. I was in the front row at a Dylan concert when I saw Ken Kesey across the aisle in the second row. Read the rest of this entry »

The Most Important Journey of Cheryl Strayed, Author of Wild

Posted March 17th, 2014 by Tom

IMG_4658bI had the pleasure of being in the audience to listen to Cheryl Strayed in Bend, Oregon last night. Her appearance was part of the Deschutes Public Library Foundation’s Author! Author! series. After having spent so much of my time since Gather at the Table was published in October 2012 speaking to audiences across the country at schools, churches, museums, and other venues, it was fun and inspiring to listen to another author – particularly one for whom I have such high respect.

I read Wild shortly after it was published. To be precise, I listened to it on audiobook. I loved it so much that I then bought it in hardcover. Her story of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is of particular interest to me. The summer after I graduated from high school, three friends and I backpacked through the John Muir Trail from the base of Mt. Whitney to Yosemite; some 221 miles of the PCT. I dreamed of someday hiking the entire PCT from the border of Mexico to Canada, but it never happened. So what a treat it was to re-imagine my dream hike through Ms. Strayed’s wonderful memoir.

When it was announced that portions of the movie Wild would be filmed near Bend, I wanted to be part of it. Though I was almost 20 years older than the age of extras they were looking for, I hadn’t cut my hair for awhile so I fit the “scruffy” description pretty well. I took a “selfie” with a pine tree in the background and submitted my application. They hired me to be a “hiker” out near Paulina Lake Lodge, which was “dressed” to double for Kennedy Meadows near Sonora, California. I spent a day hanging out with the other “extras” and crew and, yes, the star and producer of the film, Reese Witherspoon; a pleasant and down-to-earth woman who wanted everyone on the set to be comfortable around her. We were.

IMG_4651I was excited when I learned many months ago that Ms. Strayed would be speaking in our town. I bought my ticket early on, and good thing I did.  The auditorium was packed; the first sold-out performance in the Author! Author! series. I arrived early and found a seat in the front row.

Listening to her talk about the death of her mother at age 45, her resulting tailspin into unhealthy choices in the use of drugs and sex to cope, and her decision to hike the PCT though she’d never done more than day hikes before, was by turns funny, sad, and compelling. Cheryl pointed out the most important journey was not the hike itself but the inner journey she was on; that her goal as a memoirist was to explore what it means to be human in such a way that readers bring their own stories into her story. This is the goal of every writer… to connect with readers on a human, visceral level. Cheryl Strayed did so in Wild, and she did so in person last night. And what a dream tale it was about how Reese Witherspoon read the manuscript over a weekend several months before Wild was published it, called and spoke with Cheryl for more than an hour, and immediately optioned the book for a movie- with the pledge that the film would be true to the book.

I donated extra in order to be invited to the private reception with the author after the main event. It was at the reception that I met and spoke with Cheryl Strayed, gave her a gift of Gather at the Table as my way of thanking her for inspiring me so. And though on-set protocol did not allow for a “selfie” with Ms. Witherspoon last fall, Ms. Strayed was happy to pose with me last night.

IMG_4673As someone who travels the country speaking to audiences in the hope that they will want to read and be moved by my stories, Cheryl Strayed’s success in getting her books into the hands of millions of people is a big inspiration to someone like me whose books have so far been read by thousands. Whether or not I ever write a bestseller,  Cheryl Strayed inspires me to continue to explore what it means to be human and to connect with my readers as I have connected with Wild.

Thanks again, Cheryl.

 

Copyright 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf | Website: James DeW. Perry