Call me Ishmael ... or Buddha ... or Billy. Yeah, let's go with Billy. Melville's protagonist had New Bedford street smarts. Whenever he felt a drizzly November in his soul or realized he was starting to bring up the rear of every funeral, he knew it was time to put to sea to rid his soul of melancholy. There was no rehab to check into and no Prozac, so I guess whaling was probably as good a way of exorcising his demons as any. And then there was Siddartha, aka the Buddha, who went inward to "om" his way through the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. He found an antidepressant sitting right inside his navel. How convenient! Happy, happy Buddha! His slight smile has always intrigued me--and he didn't have to eat apples to ward off scurvy. Ergo, you can sail the seven seas or assume the lotus position. Some of us, however, look to words in order to unravel the answers to life's persistent questions (as Guy Noir might say on Prairie Home Companion). That's what I did when I was seven. I read a Perry Mason novel--not sure why--and then wrote a single-spaced, three-page story and sent it to Mason's creator, Erle Stanley Gardner. He wrote back, telling me that if I kept at it, I might give him some competition in the bookstore one day. I took his advice and never looked back. So here I am, setting sail ... or maybe sitting quietly and closing my eyes. In the literary world, I'm a little fish in a big sea, but it has been a great ride thus far. Plus I felt like blogging. Welcome!