Talk about far-fetched, Steve  Bassett, in getting from back there to here, meandered along a  circuitous path that hardly resembles your usual stodgy curriculum  vitae.  

There were hurdles, of course, everyone has them, that included  childhood escape from the mean streets of Newark’s notorious Third  Ward.  His mother died of misdiagnosed spinal meningitis when he was  seven.  Then followed five years of orphanage time at two Catholic  institutions.  After the good Sisters of St. Joseph provided a high  school college prep education, it was off to the Army for two years.  

 Peacetime Korea was an eye opener.  A posting with the 7th Infantry  Division along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) provided binocular assisted  eyeball-to-eyeball contact with the Commies and, of course, the North  Koreans were staring right back.  

     Memoirists like to point  to that bright flash of epiphany that can really muddle things up.   Preconceptions and rock solid certainties can take a beating.  The  eye-opener for Steve occurred in the most unlikely of places, Aberdeen,  South Dakota.  He was one of the Army veterans returning home aboard a  passenger converted C-46 cargo plane that almost crash landed during a  refueling stop.  The plane descended too early, bounced along the runway  threshold, and almost flipped before the pilot regained control and got  the ship airborne again.   

    While the plane circled to gain  altitude for a new approach, car headlights closed in on the small  airport from every direction.  When the old C-46 taxied to a stop at the  terminal, it was greeted by about fifty men, women and children, some  still in pajamas and from the looks on their faces, very disappointed.  A  young Puerto Rican GI shared Steve’s bewilderment after he scanned the  all white crowd and confided, “Jesus Christ, just look at them.  They  all came out here to see a crash, got out of bed for it and now they’re  going home disappointed.” 

    For the inner city escapee from New  Jersey, the incident was indelible.  The South Dakota voyeurs were  homogenous strangers, aliens to a guy who had shared the sidewalks of  Newark with blacks, Latinos, and every ethnic shade of white.  At that  moment the embryo of what was to be a 35 year journalism career began to  form.  It was shaped by the realization that he really didn’t know a  hell of a lot about the country and he wasn’t going to learn very much  as an obit writer or a third-string night police reporter on a big city  sheet.   

    A reporter had to get to the core values, found  along every Main Street and undoubtedly shared by the thwarted thrill  seekers in Aberdeen, before he could get a handle on anything.  Was it  an illusory quest?  Perhaps but it is still an enticing brass ring whose  promise for this reporter and author has always been worthy of  pursuit.   

    Another hurdle awaited Steve when he made the  transition from straight news and documentary film production to  author.  He was stricken with premature macular degeneration losing the  central vision of his left eye and a portion of his sight in his right  eye.  As was the case with his mother, his condition had been  misdiagnosed.  Doctors said he was too young, took a wait and see  attitude and then it was too late.  Steve had committed himself to  serious writing and this setback was turned into a strength.   

    During  three of the five years it took to complete “Golden Ghetto,” he was  legally blind.  This was also the case during the three years it took to  complete “Father Divine’s Bike,” the first of a proposed “The Passaic  River Trilogy.”  Ambitious?  Damn right it is, and hopefully an  inspiration to thousands of the sight impaired who dream of a life of  writing.  His enduring gratitude goes out to the dedicated therapists at  the Veterans Administration Tucson facility for sight impaired  veterans.  

Patience was the keynote.  New living skills had to be  learned and in Steve’s case, mastering of voice activated computer  programs without which none of this would have been possible.