Today we have a guest who is quite an interesting fellow. Michael Charton is a man of curiosity and imagination. If we lived next door, I am sure that none of us would get anything done, since Joe-the–Husband and I would have him in conversation all of the time.
I see Michael on Facebook and know some of his life with his wife, Elaine, their cat, Pandora, (who rules their roost), and of his interest and social actions. Today, we will learn more.
What took you from Brooklyn-to-New Jersey–to-Tucson? I took three trips to Arizona and would have loved to have been there more. Such an interesting place, or I should say, places, since it is so diverse. I opted not to move there when I got to Scottsdale in February and it hit over 90F, but that was when I was in my 20s. Now that we are retirement age, the snow is losing its charms.
You and Elaine must enjoy the heat! Your mother is still in Brooklyn, isn’t she? Do family members visit, (as I did when my aunt was living in AZ?). Do go back East?
I grew up in Brooklyn and lived there until the age of twenty-five. On August 13th, 1982, I moved to Boston. My oldest friend attended college in Boston & got me a job, in the trademark research firm, Thomson & Thomson he was working in. I met Elaine, who’s a native Bostonian on May 18, 1983 on a blind date. We got married on July 29th, 1984. I got a library degree from Simmons College, and in September 1986 we moved to Southampton County, Virginia, where I took a job in a public library, called the Walter Cecil Rawls Library & Museum. (It’s now called the Blackwater Regional Library). In October 1990 I got a job at the Parsippany Public Library. In the fall of 1999, through someone I knew, I took a chance and went to an AT&T Library. I was laid off, then something called September 11th, 2001 happened. I watched September 11th from a New Jersey cliffside. It had an effect. The New York area economy tanked. I had some contract jobs, then had to take a job in a Barnes and Noble that just opened, along with several executive friends from Professional Services Group at New Jersey Unemployment. Why Tucson? An old friend moved here with her husband, and my youngest sister’s best friend lived here. Elaine had the first of her falls in 1997 and her injuries made it harder in the cold winters and hot humidity of the Northeastern United States. We arrived in Tucson May 23rd, 2003 and haven’t looked back. As far as the heat, when it’s dry, it isn’t as oppressive as the humid regions. As for snow, it’s a short trip within the state to plenty of snow, if you want it. Just remember, as Elaine says, “You don’t have to shovel sunshine.” My mother is still in Brooklyn, and visits for the Tucson Festival of Books in March. The last time we were East of the Mississippi was for the Georgia Romance Writers conference Moonlight and Magnolias in October 2014.
I never got to see Old Tucson, except from the highway. I had been a huge fan of all the TV westerns in the 70s and really wanted to walk the streets I had seen so many times. I hope that you have been there; have you?
We visited Old Tucson once, when we first moved here.
Before anything else, tell everyone about The Tiny Terror of Tucson!
Pandora aka Triple T or the Tiny Terror of Tucson is now ten years old. With a younger cat named Maggie now, it makes life even more interesting. Pandora is one of a kind, and a good thing too. She’s very territorial. In our apartment complex, she better now sees another animal outside. When she was younger, she practically went through windows and doors. She’s beginning to mellow, but in her younger days, she would make me up to feed her by biting my toes. First time she did it, I was thought she was trying to eat me. She can be very affectionate. She likes people, we’ve never met anyone Pandora didn’t like. Pandora understands two works in English we know about. Hungry and nap.\
Will you tell our readers about your experiences with your friend, Anastase?
I’ve known Anastase for eleven years. We met in a job I was in for a long time. We first became friendly because we played on the company softball team and I have some knowledge of French. He’s now in the master’s program at the Northern Arizona University, taking online classes. I’ve been helping him with those. We’re still working on him memoirs, in between things in his busy life. Some of my experiences with him? There was the final softball game, against the supervisors. Being from Rwanda, Anastase grew up playing soccer and ran a soccer league. He took to softball quickly. The final game had a picnic afterwards. Like something out of a movie, Anastase hit the game winning grand slam, cleared the bases. This is fine, except he thought he had to dive into home. He landed on his wrist, and though nothing of it. His wrist was starting to swell. I had to feed him. He drove going to the event. I had to drive us back to his house, and I hadn’t met his family yet. We arrived, and his two oldest sons happily translated what his wife Daphrose, said to him in their native language, Kinyarwanda. “She said “Oh great strong brave athlete, now look what you’ve done.” She said this in her usual quiet voice, but I know the voice of God when I hear it. I’ve never heard Daphrose raise her voice. I never want to hear it. The following Wed. I was off, so I took him for his surgery. Speaking French helped, because his English was failing him, between exhaustion, pain he wouldn’t admit to, and later the anesthetic. The surgeon showed me the xray. His wrist was broken in twenty-four places. I’m tough, but I nearly passed out. Just to show you what Anastase is like, he thought the doctor would operate, and he would be back at work, the next day. This was October 1st. The doctor had me translate. He said, Anastase might be back at work November 1st with luck. When I translated, Anastase’s shock was palpable. Le premier Novembre?! He came to work after New Year’s. I put a welcome back note in French in his cubicle. He corrected the grammar. I knew he was healed.
On March 25th, 2011, we attended his United States citizenship ceremony. Every high school should be required to attend one. Of the fifty people being sworn in, Anastase was the most popular. I could speak and told the audience, I would be his campaign manager. It’s a running joke between us, because to him, politics destroyed his life in Rwanda. Just watch him in action. His church St. Cyril of Alexandria has an African service the third Sunday. He helps to coordinate things there, partly because he speaks English (his fourth lang.), and French. Also, in most African cultures, if you’re asked to do something, you don’t question it. At the moment, he’s mediating a troubled marriage, because he was asked to.
There has also been tragedy. Two years ago, one of his sons was killed by a driver stoned on Heroin. I was practically living at his house and helped the family through such a hard time. I was helping to bring food, went to court hearings with him.
One day, we are in the car. Anastase was driving, I was in the passenger seat, his youngest son Cadeaux, then thirteen was in the back seat. Cadeaux was trying to sell Anastase on buying him the newest I-Phone. Anastase told him to ask his mother. Cadeaux started crying, “Mom will say no!” I am now laughing hysterically. Of course, this makes the lad cry more. I told them, my dad would say the exact same thing to me, all those decades ago. I told them, one day, when I was fifteen, I asked my dad, “Dad, how come every time I ask you if I can do something, you say ask your mother?” Dad’s response? “Ask your mother!” Now Anastase and I are laughing like loons and all Cadeaux can do is cry. Later, Anastase blurted out of nowhere, “Black people shouldn’t have tattoos!” It was so out of left field, I just looked at him. Cadeaux rolled his eyes. The boy has that down pat.
Another time, I was at the house. Henry, (the young man, who was killed), was in trouble at school. His teacher called. Henry hadn’t turned in an assignment. Anastase nodded sagely, thanked her and hung up. He turned to me and said, “In Africa, I would beat that boy!” So, would most of the neighborhood, I thought.
I will never forget the day we heard about Henry’s car being rear ended. Elaine and I were at an editor get together. We were early, and they had snacks. We ate and were waiting for the event to begin. I happened to look at my phone. Anastase had called twice. I called him and heard the chilling words. “Henry is at University Hospital, in a coma. I went back in the room and said to Elaine, “Anastase called twice, Henry is in a coma, we need to leave NOW!” Elaine told the other people when they asked where we were going, “Family emergency.” Luckily, we were only ten minutes away. The hospital room was full of members of the church choir praying and singing. The priest was dabbing Henry’s head with holy water. I never want to get a phone call like that again.
As I said in my opening, you are a man of many interests! You use your enthusiasm and imagination to take characters and historical events, then expound on them. You wrote of James Joyce in Paris, (if I am related to him, it’s way up high in the family tree). What interested you in him?
The James Joyce I was writing about is a fictional character. My parents had a family vacation in Paris in July 2010. We had to stop in Boston first, for my Father in Law’s 80th birthday party. I got the idea for James Joyce, in Boston’s Logan Airport as we were waiting for our flight. Joyce is Elaine’s mother’s maiden name. The book was based on the entire trip. Elaine has a cousin named James Joyce. Looks nothing like the author.
The story of Otzi, the “Tyrolean Iceman”, intrigued you enough to write your vision of his life. I also found the man fascinating and wondered about him, but what drove you to wonder enough to conceptualize his life into a story?
I’m fascinated by humans and DNA as time went on, it was found Otzi was murdered. I made it into a 5300-year-old whodunit.
Your works are so diverse as to include a backstory and an inside look at Professor Moriarty, the search for Doctor Livingstone, and a series, Inspector Griffiths, which starts out with a mystery in space! How much time do you put into research for your works? Depends on the book. For the Doctor Livingstone book, it was many hours and I would bounce things off Anastase. Griffith was my Anglophile element, no research needed. There was some on Moriarty, about Irish people in London, and in 1850’s Boston.
What are your recent works?
I am working on one, that started as a silly blog post. A Warped History of Russia is the running title. A Russian friend, who has visited Tucson enjoyed it and coaxed me into a book. She and a friend will translate it into Russian.
Michael, you blog about History Made Fun. Tell us more.
Not a separate blog yet, just some posts on my main blog, Author Michael Charton. May make it a separate blog one day. One of my posts is turning into a book. A Warped Look at Russian History is the running title but that will change.
Is there a topic that I haven’t brought up which you’d like to talk about?
Not at the moment, but if you want to ask me further questions, either asking about my answers or new things, don’t hesitate to ask.
Thank you for taking time to visit with us, Michael Charton!
Tonette, it was an honor.