I remember when I met Rick Bragg two years ago at the Storyteller’s Summit Writer’s Workshop at the University of Florida. I explained to him that I was an aspiring filmmaker and also a great admirer of his work, which was true even though all I’d read was ‘Somebody Told Me’, an anthology of pieces he’d written for the St. Pete Times and New York Times back in the 90s.
‘The Prince of Frogtown’ is Bragg’s memoir about his father, a troubled and complicated man who often disappointed those closest to him, namely his wife and children. It’s the kind of book that’s got me appreciating the tiny details of life. For those of us who are so preoccupied with destiny and chasing the day, it’s a welcome reminder that what we may very well end up cherishing come sundown is our relationships with those we love. It will be in the details that escape us everyday.
I thought today about how much I used to love walking from my Gainesville apartment to campus. Actually, I don’t know how aware I was then of how much I enjoyed it, but I find myself somehow longing for those old memories. I went to an Einstein Bagels today because it reminded me of a time that will likely never come my way again. It was the smell of the place, the taste of that particular brew of coffee, that brought back a rush of memories that I used to never think twice about.
Bragg’s book reminded me of that this weekend. This weekend, this July weekend in which I did nothing but stay at my aunts’ house, talking with them about our short family history and about our family now. These moments, ones with those we love and love us right back are going to be among those that shine above the rest.
I wonder if Rick’s father knew that. If he thought about these things during all those times drinking. Neglecting his family and swallowing it all down in his solitude. We’re a complicated species and yet we’re all we have. Perhaps the greatest dream worth chasing is that of good company and enduring affection. The kind that is found at the dinner table. The unspoken truth that speaks to you from the eyes of your mother and father, sister, brother, aunts, uncles and distant cousins.
After reading the book I feel like I can call him Rick. Two years ago, when I told Rick about my plans to be a filmmaker. He replied ‘Ya know, it’s the same damn thing,’ as writing, still adding how he couldn’t imagine himself ever getting involved in motion pictures due to all the equipment and people needed for a successful outcome, and that he doesn’t know how they do it.
He’s a modest man in spite of his talent. I think in journalism, indeed for storytellers, it’s almost a requirement.