Same, same but different. I heard that a lot when I traveled in Asia.
I’ll give you a for instance:
I’d climb into the rickshaw in Danang and tell the driver, a former ARVEN who insisted I call him Doc, that I waned to go to a cozy restaurant I read about in The Lonely Planet where they promised the cities best river prawns. The Orchid was the name of the place. Doc pedaled us through busy streets and tight alleys until we stopped in front of his mother’s house. Where twenty-eight people lived, sixteen of whom were under the age of six.
“You eat here,” Doc said, “Same, same, but different.”
You see how that works?
Fiction writers are very closely related to Vietnam’s rickshaw drivers. We see the world through lenses a bit more fluid than others.
I’ll show you what I mean.
Here’s a picture of a one-time bar in Eureka. The Vista Delmar was the official name of the place. But since it was on the waterfront and frequented by fishermen and bikers and other glorious characters known to love a good time, it was known locally as VDs.
Here’s what that bar became in the novel, Bigfoot Blues:
This ratty bar with frame 352 of the Patterson tape centered over the sparkling bottles of booze, the deer, elk and bison heads hanging from the walls like visiting relatives, the mismatched metal chairs upholstered in gold glitter Naugahyde, the smell of beer and honest sweat—this is home.
And I added an upstairs bedroom.
The wind is battering the west-facing windows when I lock up and climb the steep stairs to my loft. Rain beats a familiar song on the metal roof above my head while I change into my sweats and pull the old cigar box from the top shelf of the closet. Sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed, I smile, for about the thousandth time, at Dad’s extravagance in putting over-sized windows on all three outside walls of this tiny room. As on so many other nights, the rain builds me a sanctuary of silvery light as it finds its way down the grooves of the roof and free-falls into the rich black dirt below.