Who I'm Reading

                                            Barry Carver: Jack of All Trades

My maternal Grandmother often shared her sound wisdom with her grandchildren. I recall one of her points of wisdom. She said, “In order to truly understand a person, you must allow yourself to become in tune with them.” I didn’t understand back then, what she meant, but throughout the many years it has became crystal clear.

We all have a frequency in which we do most things, especially communicate. Having read a poem by N. Barry Carver, I realized I was not in tune with his pitch. During my short time on Bookrix, I have come to understand, somewhat, the frequency in which Mr. Carver’s uniqueness resonates. I’ve found him to be witty, astute, fascinating and most of all a man who’s fundamental nature is to enlighten, while having fun as he entertains. So, it wasn’t surprising to receive a brief history lesson after asking him about his avatar. He stated that it’s a mailbox face from the old republic of Venice. The mailbox was for anyone willing to snitch on those cheating the government and the people; they could do so anonymously to help clean up the wrong doers. Barry also told me he picked this picture because, “It seemed like such a nice idea, and it was better than just my face, but it’s subject to change on a whim.” That’s also a reflection of Barry’s nature. So, please stick around while I strike the tuning fork that will resound with the life of Barry Carver.

Barry was born in Detroit; Michigan during a time when “Made in the Motor City” meant quality. Barry’s father was an autoworker. Building transmissions for Ford meant that he’d retained a certain knowledge and dexterity from his years in military motor pools. His knowledge of transmissions, his sweat, blood and tears, helped to produce that worldwide quality that Detroit held so dear. But while Motown took pride in its reputation, Barry’s parents struggled in a two-bedroom bungalow, in the rundown close-in suburb of Inkster. He spent his first five years there, having started school before his parents decided to move the family a few suburbs further away to a city called Northville. ‘We packed up and moved, to the country.’ The family moving meant that Barry had to wait until the following year before he could return to school. He told me that Northville was a haven for the new clone-home subdivisions of the time, but his family lived in one of the remaining large, aging duplex in the city. Once they had expanded into the smaller side of the house, it worked well for the family of eight. Barry has three older brothers and two younger sisters. The family was doing well in Northville, even thriving, but just five years later the unthinkable happened.

Suddenly and without warning, Barry’s father had a massive heart-attack at the young age of 48. “I can’t believe this has not colored everything I’ve ever done and written. I’ll leave it to others whether I’ve made anything out of it, or simply wallowed in the sadness of a ten-year-old boy who could not understand how such a thing could happen, or why it had happened to him.”

Three years after his father’s sudden death, his mother moved the family to Rock Island, Illinois, where Barry finished his preliminary education and, after what he called, ‘a brief business interlude,’ returned to start college.

Attending a small liberal arts/religion based college, Barry watched as funding for that institution evaporated and his finances turned to overwhelming debt, due to the Regan era tax reforms, and the indulgences of the 1980’s. Though his old classmates still cannot parse it, his being from a military family gave him an option. His grandfather served in First World War, his father was in the Second and Korea war, and one of his three brothers is a genuine Vietnam War hero. ‘He has four purple hearts and a star (I can’t recall if it’s bronze or silver... and he doesn’t show it around). He’s a real John Wayne type.’ Faced with the inability to find gainful employment with less than half a degree, Barry decided to take his chances “in the family business”.

That decision proved to be a turning point in his life. The show M*A*S*H was popular then, and since his minor in college was Religion, Barry decided the best way to survive a stint in uniform would be with a collar. Yes, Barry had designs on becoming a Chaplain. He enlisted for the minimum two years and wound up serving just over twelve. During his basic training, at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he suffered an injury that lead to him eventually winding up in the totally disabled category. Then there was a clerical mistake that changed his specialty from Chaplain’s Assistant to Administrative Assistant. At the end of basic training, Barry found himself, with a foot in a cast, heading off to Administrative Assistant training instead of the Chaplain’s school. ‘That would be the closest I would ever get to being a Chaplain.’ After Administrative training, Barry’s first assignment was in Germany. While there, he was interrogated by the NSA, and inducted into the low-grade spy core.

The spy biz is not exactly like they show it in the movies.’

Barry worked twelve-hour days inside a locked vault that was actually the basement of an old Nazi headquarters, with a pre-internet sort of connection. He said that his job consisted of him making sure that the messages, about all sorts of humdrum, as well as a few top secret notes, got passed to and from the right people. “Julian Assange eat your heart out!” He was told how fantastically important this work was, but said nothing of the mind numbing grind of it all, that Barry simply enjoyed. He served there for two years, before subsequently serving smaller missions at the Pentagon, Fort Ben and Kumamoto, Japan. “It was a really tremendous highlight of my life, wrong wife and all.”

Barry’s years in the service netted him the least common GI-Bill variation for his educational pursuits. The money was to be used anyway he saw fit, as long as he was in some form of higher education. Barry did just that, enrolling in the University of Utah. After finishing the course work of his major, in the middle of the second year, Barry received his diploma in Film History, Production and Criticism. While in his third year, he received an invitation to become an alumnus. Having no reason to attend any of his remaining classes, Barry left college to enter the work force, with no student loans to pay back and a brand new car, he was ahead of the game.

Barry spent a decade as a newsman, doing everything from camera operator to senior producer. He was the senior producer for the NBC affiliate in Eugene, Oregon, on his way to the news director post, but decided instead, to move fifty-some markets up the ladder to Fresno, California. There he was a news producer for ABC/Disney owned affiliate (KFSN–TV), the job was very reasonable, but not quite as hands-on as he liked. So after a year of enduring the additional distraction or aggravation on top of a job that’s already filled with drama and tension, Barry left for the greener pastures in Los Angeles. He quickly found that the grass was not so green. A friend, he’d made from his time at NBC affiliate in Eugene, offered him a position writing for the network news for the west coast satellite feed. “It was the only door open to me at the moment, so I leapt.” The job, as it turned out was very part-time and proceeded to become an “on-call only” thing. He told me that looking back on it now, the job offer was a cross between a friend’s charity and work that is probably presently accomplished by telecommutes from anywhere else on the planet. The pay was top notch, but infrequent, so during his down time, Barry would indulge his long passion for acting.

Enter stage right.
Flashback to his late teen years: Barry’s high school was putting on a production of Neil Simon’s Star Spangled Girl, when the lead actor decided to drop out four days before the opening night. Barry was competing in public speaking at the time and his coach, who was also the play’s director, recruited him for lead role of Andy. “He gave me no choice.”

In those days, Barry tells me that he was still going by his first name Norman. One of the other actors in the play was his friend Phil, who was playing the part of Norman in the production. I couldn’t help but laugh when Barry told me. “I had a heck of time learning to call Phil by his ridiculous character’s name... mine!” It reminded me of the famous Abbot and Costello routine. Needless to say, Barry stopped using his first name, deciding instead to go by his middle name. Even with that mishap, Barry got the bug. He would skip out on every class he could to be in the little theater or to run lines with the pretty girl that had the lead female role. I could mentally see the smile on his face when he told me; it was her large wrestler boyfriend... who helped him, in very short order, to be able to turn his full concentration into learning the lines and entrances.

The audience loved me... well, Andy anyway, and I was hooked.”

Barry addiction to greasepaint continued while in college, he was fortunate enough to become a member of the Genius Guild. He informed me that it was a wonderful and supportive environment; where he learned to take on the classics, Greek and Shakespearean, bending them to his tongue. “I don’t believe I did them any great harm, but again, that is for audience to judge.”

Much later in L.A., to make ends meet, he did improv at The Comedy Connection and The Next Stage as well as appearing in local stage productions, voicing classics for a fledgling audio-book company and appeared in every film (student and professional) he could find. There were hundreds of them, he added, “The pay was either nothing, or nothing and a sandwich.” On a good week, he would get a couple roles and appearance as an extra in some TV or movie with a real budget. He was blessed enough to appear in a couple episodes of The West Wing, once as The Boston Globe reporter. There were lots of game shows, both pilots and running shows. And, if you guys really thought there is anything real in reality TV, come on. He also had a couple of live readings of scripts that were to be produced, someday. Barry considers himself fortunate because, even though there was almost never a line to speak, “I still got fifty to a hundred dollars a day... and a sandwich!”

Barry said honestly, that he likes himself as an actor, probably more than any audience, agent or rational person ever would, and so he thought that he might achieve some level of celebrity from that. He seldom misses a chance to climb on a stage and do just about anything asked of him. Even now he threatens to screw up his courage and drop everything else, if someone were silly enough to offer him Polonius in Hamlet or one of the Sunshine Boys. “It’s just the way I’m built I guess.”

I never wanted to be a writer. I think I really was best suited to being famous just for being famous. Unfortunately that’s a tough racket to break into without a sex tape.”

Barry’s high school English teacher thought he might make something out of writing but the strong willed Barry was dead set against it. After not being allowed, or not qualifying, for many of the positions he would rather have had in life, Barry realized that he had actually did best, both financially and in reliability, in jobs that required him to string sentences together in what he called, ‘ the wobbly peculiarly way,’ that he does.

As a news producer and reporter, Barry had to write volumes every day and only realized halfway through that career that he was concocting short stories all along. It was a simple jump from there to trying his hand at short fiction. He got others to read his work, even went so far as to read them to audiences to see if he could get a response. He admitted he  sometimes can’t make heads or tails of his works, and with failing eyesight, attention and deepening depressions, he reads very little of anything at all these days.

People are able to decode what I’m on about, no matter how twisty I’ve laid it down and to a very small few that is sometimes an enjoyable exercise. Bless them... “

Not being seen as the leading man he saw himself as, Barry took to trying to writing parts, both in theater and film that he could play, parts that would show his strengths. He wrote his first short plays as part of a competition and continued to do so in the hope that, as the author, he could negotiate being cast instead of being paid for the script. Unfortunately, he tells me, he was a bit short on strengths so, even in his own writings, he had to cast himself as a minor character or concentrate on comedy.

It’s simple self-centeredness. It hasn’t worked yet... but I can’t stop trying now. I’d look foolish.”

Barry got married at 22 while in the military to a beautiful dark-eyed, dark-haired woman name Susan. He also confesses that he spent eleven years in a marriage with the wrong woman. She eventually left, only to land under a legal investigation. This meant, having had a top secret clearance at the time, Barry had to answer some uncomfortable questions which eventually ended up clearing him, since the transgressions began after he’d left the picture. Undeterred with his first marriage’s failure, and after a few years, this handsome movie star looking man went looking for love in the usual places. Internet dating was in its infancy and the romantic ads in the weekly alternative paper resulted in him not finding his true love – or anything remotely close. Barry finally settled into just working and forgetting about romance. Like most things in life, once you stop looking, something finds you. It didn’t take long before his present, and he said, his final wife came onto the scene.

Barry met Ms. Fabiana Cesa, during an after hours meeting to discuss when a local arts facility would close its doors for good. She had confessed that she had tried to contact him on several occasions to ask for money to save the building, but they had played phone tag. It was love at first sight. The Argentinean beauty was a student at University of Utah who had left math to study film. Her scholarship was now gone and, although part time work allowed her to finish her degree in film... her passport and visa would soon expire and she’d be shipped back to Mexico City. “In the off-hand way I have of saying peculiar things that both excite and offend... I offered to marry her.” He told me that, she didn’t know at the time that he had offered to marry a Japanese film student earlier in the year to keep him from being deported. Fabiana is a film editor and has proven to be an absolute genius in any job of film production she cares to take on.

Barry has been married to Ms. Fabiana Cesa, for 17 years yesterday, and said he is too happy with the deal to even think of doing anything else. Fabiana on the other hand refuses to take his name, “perhaps wisely so, she’s probably not sure whether she really wants to be associated with me.”

They have two boys. The oldest, John Angelo was born with a minor but terrifically scary skull defect, and needed surgery just as soon as he could stand it. Doctors at UCLA sliced into his head, within millimeters of the most delicate portions of his brain, and partially corrected the problem. I can’t even imagine how nerve-racking this had to be for the new parents. The doctors wanted to do more to his tiny head, but after three long days in the infant intensive care, the parents were convinced. They’d rather die themselves before taking their baby through that ordeal again. JohnAngelo, of course, is perfectly healthy and, amongst other boy-stuff, will happily show the large rectangle of his skull from the surgery that he keeps in a jar in his closet. “I was going to say that he’s perfectly normal... but he is my son and that phrase just does not seem to cover it.”

The couple soon added another son, Thomas, to their ranks. Thomas, whose otherwise exceptional teachers are baffled as to how to motivate and stay a step ahead of his genius. Both of his sons are in the “gifted” status and attend a school system that knows what to do with kids that are pretty smart. The family now lives in Reston, Virginia.

I’m not sure that, the loss of my father wasn’t the defining turn in my life. I’ve found myself a fatalist ever since.”

I feel I need to say something here about Barry’s father. Ten is so young to lose one’s parent, especially for young boys needing to know how to become a man. Barry remembers his father, either freshly shaved, raring to go, or completely worn down and soaked with machine oil. But he also remembers his father had a miraculous gift for music.

His paternal grandmother told Barry that his father was a musician, even had a band in high school. The harmonica and guitar seemed to have been two of his favorites instruments, Barry told me then added. “I never saw him at a loss to make music out of whatever came to hand.”

Barry opened up to me, and I’m so honored that he trusted me. He told me that he has one misty memory of singing “Red Wing” with his father. Whenever he’s in the mood to recall his father’s memory, or share that moment with his grandchildren, he falls back to the version of that song his father taught him so many years ago. “I hope that everyone has something like my ‘Red Wing’ to fall back on when the memories of those they cherished begin to pale.”

****************************BONUS *******************************

As I've informed you earlier, Barry is an actor. But what I didn't tell you is that our Barry Carver appeared in the acclaimed film Crazy in Alabama and enjoyed the lovely direction given by Antonio Banderas. This was the one film he convinced his lovely wife Fabiana to work on as an extra. Mr. Banderas explained the action to his table in great detail for the scene he was about to shoot while he leaned on Barry’s strong shoulder. “Oddly I was thrilled to be “a support” for him during the film – no matter how temporary or unnoticed.” All of this was caught on film, as the cameraman had been rolling the whole time, but sadly the whole twelve minutes of him and Mr. Banderas on film together is on the cutting room floor somewhere. During the big musical number in the movie, if you look hard enough and fast enough, you can see Barry and Fabiana sitting at a table in the candlelight chatting. “I’m told that, though I've never caught it myself.”                                    
This Author had no choice and I had too many favorites.
So here is the result.

Romance is the thing of which we are made.
 It drives all our achievements, shortcomings, dreams and failures.
 We need it like we need air.

"AIR"... is not the "Perfect" book..... entertaining, no doubt.... up to the point... but not the best read.... lack of diplomacy..power.... (but it was not meant to be)... anything after "Kane and Abel" seemed inferior to me.... Mr. Carver, thanks for the reality check(and invite).... if you lacked anything( i am searching what).... your superb style compensated duly... exquisite execution...
it took a long time to realize I tripped the heels of a master storyteller... i am HONORED.

My favorite...story thus far by Barry. And that's saying something (for me anyway) as there are some brilliant pieces to compare with. His take on "bad romance" is unique in considering the pitfalls of romance vs reality while portraying the shades of gray between the two. I think Barry used all the colors on his palette with this piece and the finished painting is thought-provoking and inspiring even though the subject matter is quite sad.

The birth of a child is a wonderful, scary, life-boggling event.
 Here is the true story of my first... and my observations along the way.


I can tell that when you wrote this book there was a lot of love and honesty in your heart. It is a very touching story. And I loved the book. It was written very well and, out of all the books that I have read by you, so far this is my favorite.:)
Sunday's Messenger
There is a down-to-earth honesty in this little piece that moved me quite deeply. An admission and final purpose that heretofore I knew little, if nothing, of, my hat is off to you, Barry. Your humanity and devotion shined through in clear, concise, and powerful writing.

To learn more about Mr. N. Barry Carver’s life in Los Angeles, go to his website. There you will find some of his endeavors. You can  found his links in the Author's link on the right.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Don't be shy, you know what I want!