Truly great writers are born from truly epic experiences. Hemingway had Paris in the 1920s, the birthplace of modern art and literature. Jack London had the great wilds of Alaska, untouched by any but the bravest, most adventurous explorers.
I have the Grocery Palooza.
What the heck. It’s a start.
Howdy hi, little Hope!
When you grow up and start thinking about what you want to do with your life, the world might be very different from the one we have now. Personally, I’m still hoping we’ll have rocket packs and hover boots by the time I’m forty. I’m a little worried that I’ll be too old and boring by then to really enjoy them, but then I look at your grandparents (and great-great-grandmother) and figure I’ll be just fine.
I’ve been reading some of Wyatt’s notes from those required literary theory classes he keeps whining about (they won’t let him do comparative studies on Green Lantern and Wonder Woman). Gotta say, they’re a little hard to read with all the coffee stains and mid-hangover handwriting, but the bottom line is this: the heroic journey.
You’re off to a pretty good start with your backstory. I mean, it’s the classic conflict between good and evil, and having one parent who’s already achieved national fame isn’t too bad. Okay, the whole serial killer thing is a little worrying, but what’s the chances of having two serial killers in one family? Luke Skywalker turned out all right, even if he lost a hand and all of his fashion sense in the process.
Also: great name. Hope Chance. It’s like you’re in a James Joyce novel or something. Admittedly, I haven't actually read any Joyce. There was this one book of his at the library, but it was printed back to front or something, so I might be completely wrong about him, but look me up in twenty years when you read this, and maybe I'll have a better idea.
Honestly, I might not be such a great person to tell you what to do with your life. Okay, you don’t have a mom around to give you a female perspective on things, but there are probably better role models than someone whose work uniform is a bolo tie and/or a Santa hat.
It's not that I haven't thought about college. You pretty much have to, working at the Grocery Palooza. It's not even the dozen little old ladies every day who coo, "oh, what a sweet girl, and what are you studying?" It's the job trajectory. Working in a supermarket is pretty awesome as a teenager. Look at you: you're being productive and hardworking! In your twenties, it's not too bad. You could be going to college or writing the next Harry Potter, or painting the Mona Lisa in your parents' basement. But by your thirties, you're either headed for middle-management like Barney, or you're Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.
…I'm sort of guessing that you haven't seen The Wrestler yet. But ask your granddad. He totally knows what I'm talking about.
Honestly? I'm just not seeing the advantage in going to college unless I want to spend a few years getting really drunk and then going on welfare. I just read some article about all the janitors who have PhDs, and if that isn’t depressing, what is? It’s at times like this that I turn to my personal hero, Dick Grayson, who was a humble circus acrobat before achieving greatness as a paragon of truth, justice, and hot pants – and all without the benefit of a college education.
(Admittedly, his parents died horribly, and he had a billionaire benefactor who kept dressing up in a leather fetish outfit, but that’s not really the point here.)
The point is, this creative writing class I'm taking really emphasizes the idea of writing what you know, and you don't meet a broader cross-section of humanity than you do at the Grocery Palooza. Actually, I could probably just stick to the Grocery Palooza locker room and that would still be true. My boss, Barney, is a straight man who collects dolls, is terrified of drugs, and makes us all wear cowboy costumes. My bagger, Jimmy, seems pretty regular until he starts telling you about his adorable daughter whose mom was some kind of heinous murderer. There's a guy stacking shelves who used to pitch for a pro baseball team behind the Iron Curtain, and I’m pretty sure the butcher did time for something. Working here, you realize that no one is as simple as they seem. Either that, or this place just attracts the crazies.
When you're old enough to read this – the uncensored version, anyway – I hope that I'll be up on stage accepting my Oscar. I hope that I'll have a fulfilling life, and enough money that I don't have to worry about paying the rent – or buying chewing gum. I hope that I'll have a family, whatever that means: could be a guy, could be kids, could be some weird collection of people who mess up my bathroom and always finish the last of the milk. I don't know if I'll be with Wyatt. Don't know if I'll be working at Grocery Palooza. I might be fighting crime by night, or battling for survival in the zombie apocalypse.
I don't know where you'll be either. Maybe I'll see you every day because your dad's still my bagger and you're old enough to bring him lunch but not old enough to think we're boring and lame. Maybe your granddad will have finally won the lottery and you'll have grown up in a mansion somewhere, so you'll have a legion of tutors and you won't need any advice from me.
But here's the thing: be happy.
And here's the marketing pitch: in order to be happy, truly, blissfully happy, you have to work at Grocery Palooza.
I'm serious. I mean, it doesn't have to be the actual Grocery Palooza. But somewhere like it. All heroic journeys have to start out from lowly beginnings. Luke Skywalker worked at the Futuristic Desert Palooza. Indiana Jones worked at an Archaeology Palooza. James Bond worked at a Hot British Spy Palooza, but he was fired for smoking and hitting on everything that moved.
You'll get an education you'd never even get at Yale. You'll learn how to punch buttons and wear a fake smile and make an entire pyramid of pineapples. You'll meet people from everywhere, including, maybe a sweet guy who comes in one day to ask you really dumb questions about baby food (seriously, ask him about that some time). You'll earn a paycheck, and really earn it. You'll live a thousand years just waiting for your shift to be over, without even aging a day.
For this Grocery Palooza, young Padawan, a place of mystery and wonder and diabolical schemes, and you'll never feel as free and as happy as the day you leave.
Got that straight?
Okay, now get off your ass and give your Auntie Sabrina a call. Best bet? Future me really needs your help right now figuring out what she’s going to wear to the Golden Globes.