By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
PORT TOWNSEND — “I Can See Clearly Now,” the Jimmy Cliff song, came on the radio at three key times when Eli Hastings and his friend Serala were together.
Besides being his closest confidante, Serala was Hastings’ lover and protector when tragedy befell him.
During his early 20s, he learned from Serala about the stuff that matters.
Then he lost her.
Hastings has since become a facilitator in the Pongo Teen Writing project at the King County Juvenile Detention Center in Seattle — an advocate for writing as healing — and the author of Clearly Now, the Rain: A Memoir of Love and Other Trips.
It’s his and Serala’s story, and Hastings will give a short reading from the book at the Boiler Room, the nonprofit coffeehouse at 711 Water St., at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Admission is free to Hastings’ talk, which he’d much rather would be a conversation, not so much a reading.
Clearly Now — its title comes from Cliff’s song lyrics — is a love story-road trip-adventure.
If it was a movie, it would be rated R for drugs and sex. But most of all, Hastings said, he wanted it to paint a picture of what Serala taught him.
“You hear a lot of talk about how hard it is to ‘be there’” for a friend, he said.
Serala always said that loving someone, being there for him or her, is “the simplest [expletive deleted] thing in the world.”
When Hastings’ father died, Serala came to him “at the drop of a hat.
“I was dealing with hordes of people who were grieving,” he recalled. “She stood next to me like a bodyguard and warned people away” whenever he needed them to go away.
Hastings, now 36, spent about eight years writing Clearly Now.
That includes receiving about 70 publishers’ rejections and having the manuscript, once accepted by ECW Press, undergo numerous revisions.
Born in 12 days
The book was born back in 2005 in a period of 12 days. Hastings had been awarded a monthlong writing residency in Vermont, and on Day One, he sat down and wrote about Serala.
Twelve days later, he had 385 pages.
Hastings’ Boiler Room talk came about thanks to Michael Phillips, a former Port Townsend resident and “Boiler Room kid” who now has an artist-promotion firm in Portland, Ore.
When he came across Clearly Now and learned of Hastings’ work with the Pongo Teen Writing project, he sought to bring the author to his hometown.
Clearly Now “has a huge ‘wow’ factor,” Phillips said, adding that tonight’s Boiler Room talk will be a conversation with “an extraordinary and edgy writer.”
Hastings “has experienced a lot of hardship,” Phillips said.
He will speak about “his own experience using writing as a healing tool.”
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.