In my five-plus years of writing at my neighborhood Starbucks in the wee morning hours, the most consistent presence has been Ray.  Daily he will strut through around 6:30 a.m. with a large coffee and ice water, toss out a nonchalant greeting and witty comment, then off he goes.  Later in the day, due to his irregular schedule with auditions and bookings for his career as a character actor, he might be found on the porch with a stack of books and more coffee, reading or chatting with other patrons, workers or college students who enjoy his lively conversation and sage advice.

Over the years, we’ve had many a discussion about writing, God, the acting world and life in general as Ray, gesturing with his portable coffee, has recounted story after fascinating story of his colorful life, people he’s worked with and lessons learned the hard way.

I’ve never met Bono-of-U2-fame’s dad, but from stories I’ve read of Bono’s interractions with his father, I would imagine his hardworking, no nonsense, salty-talking, feisty dad with the heart of an operatic poet was much like Ray. 

The other day, when Ray came to my table, shook my hand in congratulations and insisted on buying a copy of THE FALL, he said, “Now I want ya to sign it.  Just take your time and write something nice.”

I did so, reminding him of the time he had called me outside during a writing session to point out a gorgeous hawk sitting atop a streetlight.  As I returned to the scene I was painstakingly editing/rewriting, Ray had tossed out, “Put something in there about birds!”  I had taken that advice and in his inscription told him, “Watch for the ‘birds scene.'” 

I also noted that–if ever Mel Gibson emerges from his current strife with sanity intact and he and Steven Speilberg bury grievances in order to make a movie of THE FALL–there’s a plum role that’s perfect for Ray. 

Later, I peeked out onto the Starbucks porch to see Ray had set aside his other books and was perusing mine.  It was an unexpected golden moment and I paused to drink it in.

This morning, Ray offered an even greater gift–a stellar review of what he has read so far.  He even slipped at one point and said, “When I watch it… ” then caught himself and said, “Well, it feels like I’m watching it because it’s so visual.” 

He even compared the writing to Tolkien (only my favorite author of all time) saying, “It reminds me of him, but it’s easier to get through.”

He also described the experience as, “collecting the words and the pictures just take shape in your mind.”  (Gotta love the command of words of an avid reader 🙂

But when he said he’d recommend it to his kids to read… that took things to a whole new level. 

Thanks Ray, my ol’ Starbucks pal.  Looking forward to the rest of that review.

Chana Keefer is the sister, daughter, and granddaughter of pastors.
Her fresh perspective stems from a background in journalism,
missions, acting, and writing for print and live theater. Her favorite
things are God, family, and the written word but she also brakes for
chocolate, old barns, and people who live passionately. She and her
family reside in southern California. Check out her first novel, THE FALL, available NOW at (top corner-this page 🙂


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