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What a long, strange trip it’s been

INSIDE/OUT

I’ve been writing this column more or less every week about 2 1/2

years now, and I’ve received a lot of feedback from readers. Most of

the responses have been positive, some of it less so. A handful of

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readers suggested laws be passed to keep me from ever touching

another keyboard, but they were by far the exception.

I did receive an e-mail about a year ago from a woman who -- I

swear it’s true -- informed me she worked in the mental-health field

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and urged me to contact her at my earliest convenience.

The question I get asked the most from readers is whether the

events I describe in my columns actually happened. Like most of the

men in my family, I have a strong streak of mischievousness, and so

each time I get asked this question I’m tempted to reply that no,

nothing I’ve written about really took place, that I’m an only child

and that my last name isn’t even Silva. But prudence always gets the

better of me, and I end up answering with the truth, which is that

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almost everything I write about in my columns did, indeed, happen. My

sister really did jump out a bathroom window to try to escape her

appointment at the altar. My ex-wife really did have an affair with

the maid of honor from our wedding. My brother-in-law really was

buried in a powder-blue blazer loaned to him by my mother. But there

have been some key departures between my columns and reality.

Perhaps the most significant of these involves dialogue. As much

as I try to accurately relate conversations that took place in my

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youth, it simply isn’t possible to recall them verbatim. So some of

the “back-and-forth” I describe are merely my impressions of what was

actually said.

Also, on more than a couple of occasions I’ve played around with

the timeframes in which events occurred in order to improve story

flow. Situations that took weeks to unfold were compressed into hours

or days.

In some cases, I left out details about an event simply because I

didn’t think anyone would believe it. For example, I once described

in a column how my sister Linda received two marriage proposals in

the same day. In fact, she received three in one day. I left out the

third suitor for space reasons and because I didn’t want to push the

reader’s credulity.

Another question I’m frequently asked is whether my family knows

I’m writing about them. Unfortunately they do, though I kept the

column a secret from them for months. My fear was that once they knew

what was going on and started reading my stuff, I would find myself

self-censoring so as not to offend anyone.

But as time wore on and the column started appearing in more

venues, I began to worry that some member of my extended family --

we’re talking any one of several thousand -- would stumble upon it

and show it to my mom. My mother would read it -- and as she did, her

fingers would start to tremble and her eyes would bulge.

I finally decided it would be best to break the news to the family

myself. So at a birthday picnic for my grand-nephew Esteban, I called

my mother and siblings together and told them in one nervous breath

that I’d been writing columns about some of our experiences.

My mother and sister Yvonne looked at each other.

“Well, it’s good that you’re keeping a diary,” my mother asked at

last. “But why are you telling us this?”

“No, I mean I’m writing columns that the paper is publishing.”

Again, my mother and Yvonne looked at each other.

“You’ve been writing about us?” my mother asked.

“Yeah.”

“And the paper’s publishing it?”

“Yeah.”

My mother just couldn’t get her mind around that. “And people are

reading it? You’re writing about us? Not someone else’s family?”

“Mom ... “

“Oh, Davey, can you think of anything more boring to write about?

Doesn’t anything happen in your town?”

I had expected to have to defend my right to write the column. I

didn’t expect to have to defend its readability.

“Hey Yvonne!” my mother shouted, laughing uproariously. “Watch how

many hot dogs you eat today! Davey’s gonna write about it!”

In hindsight, I guess I overestimated how seriously my family

would take my new writing endeavor.

Probably the toughest question I get asked by readers, at least in

terms of trying to answer them, is why I decided to write the column

in the first place. At first, I would tell people in the most

self-inflated tones that I wrote the column as a way to demystify the

family experience.

“What happens in our families affects us in ways it take most of

us the rest of our lives to figure out,” I would puff. “But we almost

never talk about what really goes on in a family. We’ll talk about

some of the good stuff, but never the bad stuff, never the real

stuff. I just want people to know that their family is probably no

different than anybody else’s.”

I suppose a few people out there might have bought it, but nobody

who really knew me. The truth is, I write this column because I love

writing and I love the feeling of making people laugh. People tell me

that they laughed at something in my column, and my day is made. I’ve

always been this way.

But if some people read about my family and find it helps them to

better understand their own, wonderful. I’ll take as much credit for

it as they’re willing to give me.

Overall, writing this column has been one of the most pleasurable

experiences of my life. I’ve had hundreds of good laughs with friends

and family members as we rehashed some crazy tale or another. I’ve

met some truly remarkable people who took the time to write me about

what a particular column meant to them. I’ve come to understand and

appreciate my family better, as I talk with them about the

experiences that shaped us. I’ve had the immense satisfaction of

watching the column appear in different papers, opening the door to

more feedback from a wider circle of readers.

I have only the tiniest idea of where this is all headed. Perhaps

one day I’ll run out of stories to relate, but I doubt it. My family

is enormous, our collective experiences seemingly endless. It’s as if

writing “Inside/Out” is taking me on a journey, the destination of

which is anybody’s guess.

I hope the end of that journey meets to everyone’s satisfaction.

In the meantime, thank you for coming along with me on the ride.

* DAVID SILVA, a Burbank resident

and former Leader city editor, is an

editor for Times Community News.

Reach him at (909) 484-7081, or by

e-mail at david.silva@latimes.com.


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