As I write VULCAN, I have this habit – that I cannot seem to break – of going back to the beginning and reading the whole thing again. I know I’ve mentioned this before, and it’s boring to bring it up again, but this is my jumping off/obsessing point.
Of course I always find one thing to fix or two or three or TEN. I’m also quite discombobulated because of the intensity of life in Los Angeles, and I feel so pulled apart living in two different states calling both home, and I keep thinking if I just start all over it will make sense again.
What Vulcan? Alabama? California?
I used to think I could pull it off – living in two states. It’s easy to get lulled into the place you’re in at the moment by the daily beat of schedules and faces and connections and landmarks in each place. And when I’m in one the other recedes to a sweet but distant shore, so I can focus and be where I am. I also feel connected to both places – Alabama and California. But because I’m here with my husband, California is more home to me at the moment.
I also have two close friends who are sick here – and that’s hard. It’s hard to know they are sick and I can’t stay and do ordinary things take them some soup or pop over for a visit. I’ll be back in March and in the summer, probably, although our daughter, Norah, considers Alabama home and wants to spend the last summer before her senior year in Birmingham to be near her good friends.
But I understand.
And so I’m pulled in different directions.
But there are worse things.
Anyway, it’s been the most wonderful first month of my sabbatical. I have revised a whopping 94 pages of Vulcan, and I will finish a draft of this book, I have no doubt. I have spent so much time with Kiffen taking walks and going to movies and bingeing on Netflix when the mood strikes us. I’ve seen beloved friends, and I’ve had the most wonderful week with one of my best friends from England, Mike Tait, who is the most perfect houseguest. We met in Manchester, England in 1983 and we’ve been friends ever since, and he’s visited Knoxville, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Birmingham too. He shows up with a stack of must-see British film and television DVDs, and then he explores LA on his own, and we meet up in the evenings.
We also made a quick trip to San Diego to see my parents who adore Mike ever since he visited us in Atlanta when Dad was coaching for the Falcons, (pronounced “Folcons” in the British way.) We also got to see Sandra Tsing Loh’s play, THE MAD WOMAN IN THE VOLVO, at South Coast Repertory, which has nothing to do with THE LADY IN THE VAN. Sandra was fabulous and it was the perfect kind of Southern California theatrical experience to share with Mike.
And yesterday, we spent the day with Flannery exploring old Los Angeles with first Ellen Slezak as our tour guide and then Flannery took over, and we did everything from climbing to the top of City Hall to the 27th Floor to pretending to ride Angel’s Crest for a PBS shoot to Grand Central Market to lunch at Clifton’s to Flannery’s serenade in the ballroom at the Biltmore to peeking inside the entrance to the old subway on 6th Street (that’s about to be torn down) to The Last Bookstore to the Alexandria and back to Clifton’s and then onto Good Times At Davy Wayne’s – a bar completely done up in 70s’ decor – shag rugs, Olivia Newton John, and Godspell to dinner at the Park in Echo Park.
Along the way, Flannery pointed out the bank where Raymond Chandler used to work and the bathroom where Jean Harlow got sick and had to go to the hospital. We found Chaplin, Bogie, and Howard Hughes in old pictures along with Bette Davis and baby-faced Henry Fonda.
Here are some of the pictures and serenades, including several from the Biltmore inside the ballroom where the first Oscars were held. A bellhop named Angel let us inside and Flannery found the grand piano. Of course, we played “Black Star” in the car on the way to Hollywood.
Mike leaves for home in Dundee, Scotland today, and we’ll miss him. His visits and friendship have always jarred us out of our routines and made us look at where we are with fresh eyes.
And he leaves behind movies!!!
What better friend is there to make you love where you live and then leave you with stories of distant lands and people until the next time?
Safe travels dear Mike, our dear friend and brother.