This entry reminds me of a line from Annie Hall by Woody Allen – “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” The quote has also been attributed to Groucho Marx and it crystalizes some Freudian concepts (according to something I read on the internet). While the quote isn’t mine, the idea it expresses resonates.
The moment I got kicked off the Wilcox literary magazine, I wanted to get back in. Once reinstalled, I lost interest. Cathy was right when she questioned my commitment, although she should’ve done it to my face. Wanting what I’ve lost (or can’t have) wreaked havoc with my adolescent love life. Nice guys who genuinely liked me got taken for granted; I obsessed about jerks who couldn’t care less. I identified with sad songs of unrequited love, not joyful tunes about finding my soulmate.
Sad lyrics still move me more than happy ones, but today I make better choices. That said, sometimes I still treat the people closest to me worse than I treat virtual strangers, whose approval I crave. Fortunately, the people I love – who love me back – are forgiving and understanding. They deserve my best and one of these days, they’ll get it.
Alana was my first best friend in Santa Clara. She lived about five houses away from me on Del Monte Street. Her family moved to San Diego in 1960 and we lost touch – for nine years.
How on earth did we reconnect without the aid of FB or the internet? Probably the old-fashioned way – in person when her family passed through. As my diary details, she visited me at UCLA. In the mid-seventies, John and I had dinner with her and her husband. After that, we lost touch again. I don’t know when – I rarely realize it’s the last time I’ll see somebody until long after it’s happened.
I’d love to talk to Alana again. Maybe she’ll read this and reach out. If this post stirs thoughts of someone on the fringes of your own life – someone you haven’t seen or spoken to lately, even though you mean to – try to make time. I wish I had.
Looking back, I realize Chris was correct – I handed him a sheaf of shapeless unedited diary entries. Not only did they lack a story, they didn’t have a point. The only reason Joyce and I weren’t bored witless was we were in the cast of characters. This was neither the first nor the only time I resisted negative feedback only to recognize its wisdom later.
When readers fail to rhapsodize over my first draft – which has happened exactly never – my first reaction is, at best, defensive. Sometimes, I’m downright hostile. That’s one of the reasons friends like Chris are so valuable. They’re not afraid to tell me the truth because they know that after my ego settles down, we’ll still be speaking.
No writer enjoys criticism, but I’ve come to realize it’s a gift. Some people can’t accept it. If I recognize them, I tell them their first draft is perfect. Taking the time to analyze the strengths and weaknesses in someone else’s work is a sign of respect – even though it doesn’t feel like that when I’m on the receiving end.
I don’t need a personality test to tell me I’m a classic introvert. Reserved, reflective, check. Prefer observation to participation, check. Exhausted by too much social stimulation, check.
However, for a brief spell in my thirties, I passed as an extrovert. John and I threw outrageous parties and paid heavenly bills. Instead of waiting for invitations, I had to send them. I had to place calls (and risk having them not returned!) instead of waiting for people to call me. Hardest of all, I had to feign interest in other people’s lives instead of thinking about me, me, me all the time. It didn’t come naturally, that’s for sure.
Amazingly, 27 years ago, we made it to a birthday party in South Pasadena and a dinner party in Beverly Hills and had a fine time at both! Today, either one of those events would exhaust my reservoir of sociability for a week. I need my time alone to wonder what you think about me.
I suspect even extroverts socialize less as they age, despite theoretically having more time. A couple of F. Scott Fitzgerald quotes suggest depressing reasons why.
Beneath his party-boy facade, he must’ve been an introvert.
Moving back in with my parents at age 23 was not part of my master plan, but there I was – stuck in my old bedroom in San Diego. I’d blown my first shot at the dream – being a professional screenwriter. I didn’t have a plan B.
I needed a new launching pad. Academia had been kind to me. I applied to USC’s grad school. In those days, UCLA ran roughly $250 a quarter. I don’t have figures for USC, but it’s safe to surmise you can add a couple zeros to that even in ’74 dollars. The only way I could swing it was if I moved in with my parents and saved my pennies.
San Diego is a beautiful city. Everyone says so. Unfortunately, my parents relocated there during my first year at UCLA. My life-long friends lived in Santa Clara. What’s an introvert like me to do? Make new friends? I don’t think so.
I clung to an old friend, the one who never (willingly) left my side – Inga, the dog I brought home from the LA pound. Even when I didn’t deserve it, she gave me limitless love and devotion. If you need a friend who won’t let you down, someone steadfast and loyal who quivers with bliss at the gentle touch of your hand………..
Please do check out your local animal shelter, as I did and continue to do. I’ve never been sorry. Let me know your story.
It’s not easy to reach Miles Copeland’s castle in France, where the Rocaberti Writer’s Retreat is held. First, you have to fly to Paris. Upon landing, you race to the train station, and catch the one that stops at the Angouleme Station.
There, you board a private coach that winds up narrow mountain roads to an isolated 14th century castle. On a journey like this, fluent French is a plus. I speak English and pigeon-Swedish. Every mile of the way, I worried. What if the website pictures lied, and all that awaited me was s a cheesy tourist trap? The photos did not lie.
When we rounded the corner and the castle came into view, it took my breath away.
From there, it only got better. Every step I took, every inch of every alcove or hallway, was a feast for the eyes and soul. I could almost inhale history. It’s a once in a lifetime experience that I can’t wait to repeat.
The brilliant Claire Elizabeth Terry and Gillian Pollock combined their talents to bring this dream to life. In addition to managing logistics, Gillian gave a hilarious pitch for her own script. Claire previewed an early cut of her soon-to-be-award winning short film “Thirty Minutes.” Claire’s intuition paired me with Martin Olson (Phineas and Ferb) for a mentor. He was passionate, insightful, inspiring, and hilarious. (Make him tell you his Metallica story).
Rocaberti is an intimate, elegant dinner party as opposed to an extravagant banquet. Only 18 – 20 writers attend a retreat. Everybody who’ s there gets to know all the mentors. Diane Drake and Jen Grisanti wore great clothes (casual/classy) and exuded cool sophistication, They were both of those things, but authentic and warm as well. By the time dessert was served, I felt like we were lifelong friends. How often does that happen? Never – to me, anyway – not until Rocaberti.
It wasn’t perfect. The internet sucked, a relatively small price to pay to forge lifelong friendships and resurrect my love of writing. I returned for another retreat in October, this time with my sisters. It was every bit as wonderful.
I expected to be back at Roberti right now, this time to serve as a floating mentor. Sadly, Covid upended those plans. I look forward to rescheduling; I can’t wait to see it on my calendar again.
A lot changed between J’s surprise 30th birthday party and this one. When he turned thirty, we both smoked and drank (he quit smoking forever the following day; I didn’t wise up for a few years). By his 40th, neither of us smoked and we hadn’t had a drink for almost seven years.
I’m slightly older than J, so I had to face the formidable fortieth birthday first. Birthdays that usher in new decades feel so much more significant than regular birthdays. Gail Sheehy’s Passages, originally written in the 70s but since updated, offers a road map for the stages of adult life broken down by decades. My summary is an extreme simplification of her work.
The twenties are about finding your path in life – do you please your parents or please yourself? Typically, people feel the pressure of a deadline in their thirties. They redefine their priorities as well as their expectations. The early forties frequently bring a sense of stagnation – is that all there is? It sounds depressing, but opens the door to self-discovery – what Carl Jung would call “individuation.” We are who we are, and that’s okay.
Sheehy includes a quote from Willa Cather: “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”
As the photos suggest, Mary and Luke were fast friends. Both of them graduated from neighboring Catholic high schools and attended Catholic colleges in northern California before transferring to UCLA. In those days, I didn’t like to drink, but they did, so periodically they partied without me, which worked for all of us.
On more than one occasion, Mary told Luke that even if he and I broke up, she wanted to stay friends with him forever. He felt the same way but like so many well-intentioned promises, that didn’t happen.
Some friendships, love affairs and rock bands – like the Beatles – seem so solid, it’s easy to believe they’re destined to stay together. Mary and Luke never had a falling out. There was no acrimony, no broken promises. They simply drifted apart, like I’ve done in friendships that deserved better. Always, the dissolution was due to lack of nourishment, never lack of affection. By the time I notice how long it’s been since I talked to someone, they’ve moved or changed their number and I don’t know how to get back in contact.
At least, that’s how it used to be. Facebook has solved much of that problem, although a few people remain MIA. Vania Brown, where are you?
This entry’s self-conscious attempt at being “lyrical” suggests I wrote it for others to read, not to bare my soul. One of my failings as a writer (or strengths, depending on your point of view) is my conspicuous lack of place description. It bores me in other people’s fiction, so why torture my readers?
Elmore Leonard’s ninth and tenth rules of writing are:
Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
The parts I tend to skip are description – of place in particular, but pretty much everything else too. Some people love elaborate descriptions of food. I hate them. Unless it affects the plot – for example, if there’s arsenic in the quiche – it just doesn’t matter if the hero selects steak or salmon as his entrée.
One can argue what people eat defines aspects of their character. The guy who loves Popeye’s is rarely mistaken for the dude who dines at Nobu. That said, there’s no excuse for describing more than one meal per person per book. The reader doesn’t need to know and I don’t want to.
The morning after I met J, I told my best friend Gail “I met the man I’m going to marry.” I believed this but – as the above entry makes clear – J hadn’t reached the same conclusion. Because it was a done deal in my own mind, I needed J and Gail to get along.
It’s a problem when your best friend loathes your significant other. Usually, I’m the one who detests my friend’s beloved. The friendship suffers when my friend chooses the love of her life over me, her jealous, bitchy buddy. Go figure.
I didn’t want to choose. Choosing means giving up an option, possibly forever. I avoid it when I can. Luckily, J and Gail clicked. Despite many miles and years since that night, we remain close today.
For the record, I did not get more aggressive and gregarious around Law House although J did get more irritable (and irritating) as finals approached. It didn’t matter. My premonition was correct. I’d met the man I would marry.