Wednesday, March 28, 2007
GERALD HASLAM at Sacramento City College
Gerald Haslam appeared at the Little Theatre Stage at Sacramento City College wearing a striped shirt and a gray fleece vest with a “volunteer” patch for the National Parks Service on it. It was kind of like Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie-Woogie meets a Cabela’s catalog.
True to form, Mr. Haslam’s salt-of-the-earth persona shown through in his reading. He perched his glasses on the top of his head while he provided the intros to his stories and peered at the audience. Then he scooted them down over his eyes to read, offering up a sly, knowing grin at the parts in the story where he was reeling his audience in. Bait cast, he kept reeling until most in the crowd were assured of his master fisherman status.
He started out reading the prologue from Grace Period, Haslam’s recent novel about a soured love affair which then leads to a second chance for the male character in the book. The prologue featured the story of two young souls finding each other in college and eventually tying the knot. However, over the course, of the prologue, the audience was given several hints of the not-so-rosy future-to-come for the couple.
Then he read another section from Grace Period where the main character goes to watch a Portuguese bullfight that takes place in the middle of the Valley at Eskalon.
The third section of the Grace Period that Haslam read took place after the main character was battling cancer as a senior and staying at the home of one of his grown-up children.
By far, though, the highlight of the reading was Haslam’s “Mal de Ojo” a wonderful character-driven romp through the old neighborhood in the eyes of young Gilbert Sullivan whose future appears bright to the crazy Armenian visiting from out of town.
Haslam then read a short piece with a self-imposed 500 word limit about the importance of public libraries entitled “What Horton Hatched.”
The final offering by Haslam was the story entitled “Homecoming,” which featured a Japanese-American soldier who had returned home to California after the Second World War and feels slighted by the prejudice he encounters.
Running slightly over the allotted time, Haslam, always a man of modesty and one who is thoroughly considerate, apologized for his excess. He also wanted to make sure that he knew that students might have to go before he finished and that that would be all right.
His version of California signed, sealed and delivered, Haslam exited the Little Theater ready to take up his position as another character in the great deadpan Valley, perhaps even as a track coach from many years ago for Albert Garcia’s wife, Terry.