Two Homers, Three Helens and a Sailboat on Blue Water
It may be true that there is no hunting like the hunting of men. But that is a small thing compared to the hunting of one’s ghosts. Or the hunt for one’s self, which is harder still.
I first thought seriously about the hunting of men during the search for newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. I was very young and very green, and I covered the story for the CBS television station in San Francisco. We were all interested in the hunt for Patty and her kidnappers back then. At the time, it was called the story of the century, having surpassed the Lindbergh baby kidnapping of 1932 in the public mind. That is what happens when four decades pass between notorious events. The public mind shifts. Hardly anyone remembers the past. Fewer still learn from it.
It was not up to me to find the heiress or her abductors. My job was to wear nice clothes and wait in an RV parked outside the Hearst mansion in Hillsborough, California. Sooner or later, the people who were hunting for Patty—the FBI and the police—would find her, dead or alive, and make some kind of statement in front of the family home. All I had to do was appear on camera each night and say something—anything—to keep the story alive.
Except for the extra income and attention that came from an assignment like this, it was the occupational equivalent of a quarantine. One afternoon, in order to pass the time, I picked up a magazine and read a reprint of “On the Blue Water,” Ernest Hemingway’s Gulf Stream Letter of April, 1936. That’s where he talks about the hunting of men. And how once you get a taste for it, you never really care for anything else thereafter.
You have to admire the piece, whether you like this kind of talk or not, because this particular Gulf Stream Letter contains a nugget of something greater than itself, the anecdote that eventually became The Old Man and the Sea.
And if you are a young reporter writing piffle about a rich white girl when hundreds of black and brown girls get raped or go missing every day with nary a thought for their whereabouts or well-being, you realize reading Hemingway that you are wasting your time. And if you don’t do something to change your life, you may wind up with a fair amount of money some day—but no soul.
I like big books, and I cannot lie. My background includes talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy. I've won awards for my journalism and my fiction. One of my essays even made it into an anthology for college English courses. For real? Yes, for real.
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