JASON M. DOUGHERTY:
A Fictional Biographical Sketch
Jason Dougherty: Fernandina Beach native; skate punk; surfer; military officer; restauranteur; writer of Crane Island blogs. He was tempted to write this introduction in the third person, as though it is a bio written by an admirer and not an auto-bio. He thought it might enable him to slip in some embellishments, at which he could later wave a hand with feigned humility, with a towering backdrop of bookshelves, while wearing a black turtleneck sweater. His research suggests that self-effacing pretense is an acceptable tone. There is little to say, though much to tell.
DISCLAIMER: I write this about myself. It is inherently suspect. Trust me, I might be lying. The wrangle then is to filter incontrovertible and quantifiable fact from the murky images of perception and memory. Or is it? What do “facts” reveal about a person?
FACTS: My mother was a hippie and my father a sailor. I was born on a dark-blue, blustery morning in a Naval Hospital in Naples, Italy. I grew up in Fernandina Beach. I went to college in Utah, joined the military, served in two branches, went all over the world doing all kinds of military stuff, and now I work in a local restaurant – family style. If I live to be 100, I have not yet reached mid-life.
SUMMARY: Somebody once said that the un-examined life is not worth living. Accordingly, my favorite hobby is reflection, i.e. the holding up of my lifetime of foibles to intense personal ridicule. The reward for attentive observation is daily surprise and fascination. Life’s incongruities are its sharpest source of humor. At sunrise, I feel like I belong. At dusk, life’s deepest truths glow briefly in the ephemeral light of paradox. This all seems like a lot of personal information, but you and I still don’t really know each other much better. In fact, I don’t even know who you are, though I have a hunch. When we get to the end, the rain will wash away our footprints, but our shared stories remain. That is why I write.
BACKGROUND (Optional Reading): For a kid as apt to huck himself off a roof as to crack a book, all concerned were surprised when I learned to read pre-K and did so with the fervor of the famished. Writing soon followed, as a curiosity growing up and then as the focus of undergraduate and graduate studies. My first self-published series was a cartoon about a character named Marvin. I wrote and illustrated it. Marvin looked like a chicken dumpling with stick legs and arms. I was nine. My parents hailed the inaugural cartoon strip as a triumph, predicting continued greatness and assured notoriety. The word meteoric may have been used. My seven-year-old brother, our family critic, asked why Marvin did not wear clothes and why his facial expression never changed. After a year of laboring on the series, I tried out for the football team. Marvin left without saying goodbye. As a teenager, I surfaced as a peculiar dichotomy of sports-related thrill-seeking and bookwormishness, a word one rarely sees in print. Antique typewriters and fountain pens excite(d) me as much as new cleats and the latest skateboard. High school and undergrad college are fondly referred to as the “poetry years” (by nobody but me). I limited my scope to single moments and the way they made me feel. Later, I wrote plays, published short stories, and sloppily crafted 2-1/2 novels that I keep locked in a rusty filing cabinet to ensure that they’re never discovered. I’ve not so much been passionate about writing as compelled to do it. I did not decide to write, I discovered that I was doing it. Joseph Campbell said that the best things in life cannot be told. The second best are misunderstood. Then, what of those things that are told and retold, wherein hides some key to who we are. My fascination begins with the transcendent power of a timeless story, as we all are enraptured, but a borderline obsession finds its legs in finer and finer elements. Arcs of narratives and trajectories of escalating conflict break into parts. An economy of words hones a story to a single page, and then a paragraph boiled down to its broth. The shortest story ever written, a 1917 William Kane piece wrongly attributed to Hemingway, read, “For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” Such is the distillation of our lives. Seven decades captured in an epitaph. Complete paragraphs dissolve into the juxtaposition of words, the rhythms of assonance and alliteration, and then how a chain of consonants and vowels physically feel when read aloud. Rhythm is defined not by the beats of a drum, but by the silent spaces between beats. Words become shapes on pages and the shapes of a mouth uttering them. Each letter is an icon, hand drawn lines, points, and flourishes. The primal energy absorbed by an author crackles in her mind, moving her fingers in precise, tactile ways that transfer the energy into visceral symbols we somehow know. In thousands of scribbles arranged just so, or a handful of precise scribbles, a living thing is corralled. The written page captures a moment of time – the interlude between activity that is life – the collective emotions of a day, the peculiar instance of one human experience in a single clash, where it lives until drawn by a reader. Our letters, words, pages, and books are bridges of kinetic connections. We stand on the shores of telling that which cannot be told.
I have a personal connection to the vision of Crane Island. I believe in their commitment to environmental protection. I am encouraged by the way that they preserve architectural tradition, specifically southern tradition, in their approach to development, design, and building. As a writer, I derive deep satisfaction from joining the chorus of voices that tells Crane Island’s story. It is our story.
Thank you for reading,
Jason M. Dougherty June 2020 Fernandina Beach, FL