The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED FIVE: Sometimes, They Are As You Hoped.
I have had a handful of heroes in my life. Some I have met, some I have not.
One of those is my father and the only one I have met in real life. One is a fictional character whom I look up to and put just below my dad on the list. You know? That fedora wearing, whip carrying, archaeologist fella I mention from time to time.
Then the rest is grouped together as one.
Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, Charlie Chaplin, Robert Fulghum, Bruce Lee and Robin Williams.
But…that’s not it. As Yoda said, “There… is another.”
Most things we like started when we were kids. And most of those things are influenced by others. Maybe it’s your parents or friends or siblings. Nothing is wrong with that.
Then there are those special things that you found you liked or loved on your own with no influence from other people. Something in your DNA made you say, “That’s AWESOME!!!” It called to you. It made you feel like you discovered it or them.
Pink Floyd was like that for me. I wasn’t influenced by anybody to like them. I just liked them. I liked science fiction because I just liked science fiction. And when I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, I just liked it.
And that goes for a few other things.
One of those was a TV show that I just happen to come across when I was a kid. I loved watching older movies, black and white films and shows. But this particular one sparked my interest like none had before. I can’t remember this first episode I saw but I do know it was introduced by a man with jet black hair and in a suit. He smoked cigarettes and talked in one of the best voice I had ever heard. His voice gave this show a soul.
The show was, of course, The Twilight Zone, and the guy that I would soon become a huge fan of and would learn to imitate was the great, Rod Serling.
I would watch The Twilight Zone any time I could find it on. On rare occasions, there would be a Twilight Zone marathon and you would find me propped up in front of the TV with my eyes glued to the screen. After a while, my young mind started to discover that these were more than just episodes with aliens or monsters or time travel, but they were opinions on social injustice, racism, and social equality. My brain finally understood the stories underneath the stories. It even made me make different choices and think different thoughts than some others that I knew. I started to see people as individuals and simply not groups. The show and Rod Serling made me understand the world we were living in and how it should be.
For years I watched the reruns and read a few of the books. But I never really knew the man as I should have. He had passed away in 1975 when I was just three or four years old. I didn’t discover him or the show until he had been gone for a few years.
I learned that he had another show called The Outer Limits. I watched those when I saw they were on (thanks to the TV Guide) to try and get more of what I got from the Twilight Zone, but I have to admit, they didn’t grip me the same way.
Then, a very sad thing happened. The Twilight Zone and Rod Serling fell by the wayside. Other things entered my life that I liked and loved and I didn’t seek out The Twilight Zone episodes as much. But I would flip channels and happen upon an episode and smile and remember it. Sometimes the thought of Rod Serling would enter my brain and I’d whip out my not-nearly-good-enough impression of him, sometimes for others, sometimes for myself.
He was still there inside.
Many years later and a short while ago (based on this writing), I was looking for books to read on my Kindle. I scanned Amazon wanted to dig into something good. Based on previous book hunts, one book kept coming up. It was written by Anne Serling. It was called As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling. I didn’t choose it. Not then, anyway. I just kept scanning. But that book didn’t leave my mind. For weeks I thought about it. Finally, after finishing a book (a real paperback book), I wanted something else. The first book I thought of was Anne Serling’s book.
Enough was enough. I might as well give it a try.
Have you ever met somebody that you looked up to and found out in your meeting with them, they’re a big, fat jerk? The saying goes, ‘Never meet your heroes’. Sometimes, that’s one hundred percent true. And I thought that maybe this book would make me think that way about Rod Serling. Even if I hadn’t thought a lot about him or The Twilight Zone very much in the past years, that didn’t mean I wanted to find out I wouldn’t have like the man if I had met him in real life.
I was nervous to read it. But read it, I did.
I worried for nothing. Yes, maybe a daughter writing about her father that she adored might have glossed over some of the bad things he might have done. But, she didn’t. He was a heavy smoker and wasn’t there for his kids as much as I’m sure they wanted him to be, but he was a great father. And a wonderful person.
It’s so rare to hear about a book where the child writes it about their parent and it isn’t anything other than how horrible they were. Look at Mommy Dearest. Yikes.
Not this book. I feel I heard what he was like completely.
And he was a man that I could have been friends with, a guy that I would have loved to have written for, a guy that would inspire me in what I write.
Funny thing is, after thinking about it as I was reading the book and after I was done, he did inspire me. He inspired me on how I think about writing and also how I think about life. He planted a seed (not some sort of Twilight Zone type seed where it might grow inside my head and causes my cranium to explode from the pressure), a seed that grew into how I see the world and the people in it.
He was a TV mentor. Of course, I didn’t know it as a kid.
But I know it now.
I won’t forget what I learned and he will be in my life a lot more now that I realized how much he inspired me. And I won’t forget that his daughter made me remember him and The Twilight Zone.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll be walking down a road and see a signpost up ahead and before I read it, a car will stop next to me and a certain black haired, cigarette smoking guy with an awesome TV voice will ask me if a need a ride, a ride into The Twilight Zone.
I’ll take it.
Thanks, Rod. And thanks, Anne.
-Loyd Elmore Jr
April 13th, 2018
Postscript: As some of you may know, I write most of these blog post months ahead of actual publication unless it says Special Edition or is a short story. And since I wrote this one, a few things have transpired. I have started writing my own type of Twilight Zone story I would hope Mr. Serling would be proud of. And Anne Serling has spoken to me via Facebook, given my a quote for last weeks Special Edition blog post, and even said happy birthday to my daughter. If her dad was anything like her in kindness, then, yes, he and I could have been friends like I hope I am with her.
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.