Ghost Books; Ghost Lives - Umberto Tosi
| Dino Moro Sanchez, c 2012 |
Like Schrödinger's cat, my erstwhile friend would exist both alive and dead until I dialed those numbers and, if I was lucky, discovered what had become of him.But nothing was certain, only probability curves. The numbers could turn out to be dead ends. I might not discover either possibility conclusively.
From what I could gather searching records and reports extensively over the past weeks, my friend no longer lives at his last known address- - a Hollywood Hills house he owned for decades. He could be alive, but institutionalized. A ten-year-old LAPD report listed him as missing and suffering from dementia, "possibly abducted." That missing person's report included a phone number - one of the two on my Post-It note. The other number is supposed to be his, similar to one I remember for him from the pre-mobile-phone days in which we memorized numbers to dial. Deja vu.
Dino Moro Sanchez and I became friends at Hollywood High School in the mid-1950s. He and I attended college together, he earning a masters degree in information sciences from UCLA, me, dropping out to became a writer and later editor at the L.A. Times, marry and raise kids had too early. He was godfather to two of my now grown daughters, Alicia Sammons and Kara Julia Towe. My eldest, Alicia, a school administrator in Mexico City, helped me comb records to track him down, as did my inamorata, artist Eleanor Spiess-Ferris. What information we found was scant.
| Alicia, Kara, c.1968|
Dino neither married nor had kids of his own, although he got close to the altar at least twice that I know of. His father, a brother and his mother, with whom he lived, have long passed away. He was the brightest, most erudite, seriously engaging and witty conversationalist I've ever known. We would spend hours talking about history, philosophy, science, culture and life, as I drifted through multiple marriages and publishing jobs. He made his living importing books from Mexico through his own dealership, He lived well, not lavishly, but comfortably. Mutual friends have all gone on to their rewards. Dino would be 85 now, only a year older than I, but lived a much more reclusive life, more and more so as the years went on.
Mostly he researched, thought and wrote -- and wrote, and wrote. He wrote scholarly articles and books, the principal one being a massive history of ideology. He drafted me as his editor on the latter. I read and discussed chapters and sections of it over a period of ten years in the 1980s and 90s, and as it reached what I thought was critical mass, I urged him and promised to help him seek a publisher for it -- commercial or a university press. But he always demurred, pleading that he had more work to do on it.
His theory of ideological metaphors preceded the pioneer findings of cognitive linguists George Lakoff (of UC Berkeley) and Mark Johnson (U of Kansas). Their book, Metaphors We Live By (1980) proposed in that human thoughts and actions are largely governed by the building-block metaphors of our languages.
He became more and more agoraphobic and paranoid about his work being plagiarized once shared. I reassured him that there are ways to protect one's copy, and that is a risk, albeit small, faced by all writers, but outweighed by the benefits and the imperative of sharing one's work with the world - at least trying.
"One day," he said. "In the meantime, if anything happens to me before I'm done with it I want you to take what there is and try to publish it best you can," he asked me to promise. I did so, but the process seemed endless.
We parted on difficult terms. I lived in San Francisco by then and had hit a rough patch, struggling to stay afloat financially and help raise my youngest daughter, a late-in-life product of my fourth marriage, then a wee five-year-old. I had become a publisher, and heir to truckloads of financial headache that came with a California state business magazine that I owned after engineering a leveraged buy-out of its considerable debts from a member of the Chicago Pritzker family, whose brother is now governor of Illinois. Printers, landlords, advertisers, sales people, even writers were all over me to collect debts as I begged for forbearance.
| George Lakoff|
Our relationship had become more and more strained over such issues, and this proved to be its last straw. I lamented that my friend was throwing away his work and talent as he became more and more suspicious and resentful - although he had always been the most considerate and rational of men. It never occurred to me until years later that perhaps he was having some sort of mental breakdown and reaching out for help. Late in our friendship, as we both aged, he did confess to having been gravely abused as a child. Sad to hear, but healthy in that he could talk about it to a friend at last. It explained a lot about his phobic behaviour, even though he was always admired by colleagues and other friends over those many years.
Fast forward to the present, heart failure, hospitalization and some life-saving coronary procedures have a way of focusing the mind, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, I was talking to my eldest daughter about archiving and tending to my written works -- published and unpublished - and she mentioned my old friend who wrote and wrote what I considered a masterpiece, but, far as I know, hid his light under a bushel all these years.
She suggested contacting him, and proposing to help him publish his work if he had not done so already. It is an assiduously researched original compendium on how -- due to linguistic hard wiring-- humans build meaning from metaphor, not just in legend and fiction, but in constructing our most cherished belief systems. These include, most emphatically, those social and cultural constructs in which movements rise and fall. Understanding their metaphoric basis, far from discounting them, leads to understanding systems lucidly. I can testify to this in that I've used the clear metaphoric model that he originated as a template to understand and predict current events for years now. it works!
I wonder how many significant written works have lain fallow in someone's archives or desk drawers -- how many "Ghost Books." I suspect many. My friend's book is probably one of them, being as I am unlikely to find his manuscript and/or computer files at this juncture and searches reveal no trace of it's being published, independently or otherwise. I can only offer an illustrated sample from memory here -- ideas, vivid and useful all the same, but without the assiduous, scholarly corroborations that the original work presented.
I finally sucked it up and phoned the two numbers. Neither offered conclusive evidence of his fate, although the evidence from all sources indicates that he is gone now, in one way or another. It would be a sin for my friend DMS' discoveries to fade away with him, even if he had met his end, as we all must. For start, I've provided a very simplified outline of the basic ideal system here, with hopes I can one day find that manuscript if he left it behind and do what I can, as promised to see that it is published in some fashion:
| Jungle mural promoting "Madagascar"|
| Particle array at CERN |
It's a "ghost book." Perhaps every piece of writing expands our consciousness, seen or unseen. Who knows? I am too old, and no scholar. The Metaphor Model awaits another to complete, in any case.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The Phantom Eye (a Frank Ritz Mystery) newly released in paperback and ebook by Light Fantastic Publishing.
writes with tremendous style and a pitch perfect ear for everything
that makes the classic noir detective story irresistible. Philip Marlowe
and Lew Archer, make room for Frank Ritz!" - Elizabeth McKenzie, best-selling author of The Portable Veblen.
"... reminds me of Chandler's The Little Sister, and The Big Sleep of course." - Actor playwright Gary Houston.
The relationship with and search for the old friend has all the ingredients of an involving mystery. It then outlines a unifying theme whose importance for each of these seemingly very different individuals is self-evident, before sketching the basic tenets of what is obviously a shared belief system which both wish to broadcast more widely. Good luck with the ongoing search for your ghost book.