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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saving Friends: a Fool's Errand?

Did you ever have a friend who left your neighborhood, never to be seen again? Or a friend who had to go away for a long time, and you didn't know if you would see him or her again?

This is what happens to my lead character Ruby in part two of the Beat Street Series. Her best friend Sophie disappears, along with Sophie's mom Annie, to avoid having to testify against friends in 1958 who might have been considered Communist.

The story I'm writing takes place during the infamous Hollywood Blacklist, when actors and writers were asked by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in Congress whether they or anyone they knew attended Communist meetings or gatherings or knew anyone who did. Many artists pleaded the Fifth, refusing to answer on the grounds that their answer would incriminate them.

Pleading the Fifth is perfectly legal, but if you did it, you were most likely put on the Blacklist, which meant you couldn't work in film or TV. That's what Sophie's mom was afraid of, and it's why Sophie and her mother had to leave New York.

Ruby spends much of the next few chapters looking for her friend and figuring out how to save her and her friend and her mother. While I haven't had Ruby's exact experience, I have spent a lot of time trying to save a friend (or two) - even when I know in my heart, like Ruby does, that it may be a "fool's errand" -- which in fact is the name of book two.

What is a fool's errand, exactly? It's really just a phrase that means what you are doing is something only a fool would do, and it's probably not going to work out. The legendary character of Don Quixote went on a lot of fool's errands, including battling windmills, but that never stopped him. And, I guess, I think there's still a lot to admire about Don Quixote.

That said, I've found it pretty impossible to save my friends. One even died while I was trying, and that was completely devastating. Still and all, I have no regrets about trying. None.

Because if you don't try to help your friends, what kind of friend would you be? I don't want to be that kind of person. So, neither does Ruby. I guess it's mainly a matter of how much we want to risk for our friends and/or how much they would risk for us. Soldiers often talk about how their experience revolves around helping or saving the guy next to them. 

I understand, even if it doesn't work, because you want to be able to tell yourself that at least, when all's said and done, you tried to do something. Which is why I guess I'm writing Fool's Errand.


Best friends photo: John D.