My adventure began with a 20 minute walk to the bus stop — a first for me. The bus I mean, not the walk. I was braving public transportation in this swarming metropolis to get downtown to attend a reading by illuminaties from my favorite publication, The Sun Magazine, at The Last Bookstore. It was going to be an journey. I was going to meet a friend of my daughter’s, Hunter, who would drive me back at the end of the night, so I wouldn’t be foolish enough to trek the 2 hours in the dark of night from downtown to the ‘burbs. Hunter armed me with an app called “Moovit” that tracked local transit, giving a blow by blow of where you are in the maze as you travel. Useful.
I left in plenty to time to catch the bus, but I didn’t know what the fare would be. As I was waiting, an Hispanic day worker joined me, and I politely asked if he knew the fare and if I needed exact change. Breaking any subconscious stereotype I might harbor, he generously and unhesitatingly handed me 75 cents – and would not accept my dollar bill. When I boarded and checked with the driver, she said, “Oh honey, it’s only a quarter for seniors!” What was the give away? My silver hair?? I laughed and gave the nice man back his change.
My next realization was that though I thought I had followed Moovit’s suggestion, to catch the express, I had in fact taken the local, so 62 stops and 60 minutes later, I landed at my first exchange, at Universal City. I asked a stunning, tall brunette woman for directions and she promptly led me to the confusing station with the machines for creating a card that you wave magically in a mysterious direction to enter the turnstiles. *harry potter.. she sounded Brazilian maybe??
I did manage to get onto the train, and sketched happily for the next 30 minutes of my ride. I gawked at the sheer size of the enormous silver hoop earrings one plumb Black woman unselfconsciously sported… and the men in hats reminded me of the 40s when felt chapeaus were all the rage.
Arriving the surface from at the underground, I felt a distinctly foreign feel — I no longer felt I was in Los Angeles – but had been transported to Greenwich Village. A bit seedy, gritty and smelly, the streets were filled with characters. You could tell the locals from those of us from the literary crowd who had braved the trip to downtown to hear The Sun writers read — we were better dressed, many silver haired, and a bit wary of our surroundings. Making my way to The Last Bookstore, I was immediately intrigued, and felt well rewarded for my efforts.
It looked like a Harry Potter set, with counters, shelves and tunnels made of old books … the old bank building had been transformed, with vaults dedicated to horror, torture and other apt subjects. the grand room was surrounded by an upstairs balcony, replete with art studios and quaint tiny shops.
I trundled along the street seeking sustenance before the reading was to begin. I came upon a little alleyway filled with cafes, poetry readings, coffee, sausage stands and French pastry bars. The smell of handmade tortillas drew me in, and I found myself in line with a woman in town for a local literary convention, which is why The Sun was in town. The name escapes me of course, but it was for writing professors – those who teach writing in the universities, etc. We had a fascinating conversation – she was from Austin, professor at the University of Texas. We ate and wandered back to the bookstore, taking our seats as the crowd was assembling. My friend, Hunter, showed up and we commenced to have a good chat. I told him about the submission I had made to The Sun – my first – on the topic of Houses. My story was about the one that changed my life, where my siblings all gathered in this huge old farmhouse, and my father and sister in law became an item, resulting in 2 divorces, and the birth of 2 more children to my father and this young woman. Three women around me turned and said, “I want to come to YOUR reading!” And Hunter responded, “Yes you do! I’ve known her all my life, and she never ceases to amaze me.” (Hunter had grown up next door with my daughter, from ages 1 to 13…but that’s another story.)
The readings were well done and well received. There was Howlie Boy a story of white boy growing up in Hawaii, who wanted to be a local, and another by woman who read an intriguing account of her life. My favorite was Fran Lefkowitz that I have featured below. I bought her memoir about growing up poor in San Francisco. I felt such resonance – she was at 18th street – I lived at 17th and Delores after grad school. So her reference points were so familiar. I love her direct style and perceptions are humorous, touching, spiritually enlightening. Her search for meaning parallels my own as I search for new employment in my 60s. I highly recommend it as a good read from many levels.
Frances read the entire Epilogue from “To Have Not” a memoir. I have excerpted the first and last paragraph to give you a flavor.
Epilogue, page 279
Discover the Future of Your Past
“What do you need to sit fully into your seat?” the yoga teacher asks us in an earnest, probing voice. “To sit fully into your pose, into yourself, into your life?” she continues, as we sit on our mats and try to figure out what she’s talking about. Then she instructs us to bow and “dedicate the energy of your practice” to someone. I wonder: Is dedicating my practice to someone to same thing as praying for him? I wiggle my butt on the little round meditation pillow, trying to sit fully into it, and decide to dedicate my practice to my younger brother, who has just been “transitioned” out of his job.
Last paragraph … page 294
“Hey,” says my niece with the unsilent e, “the word eye is pronounced the same as the word I … but they don’t have any of the same letters.” She is delighted with her cleverness at having made this discovery, and with the cleverness of the English language, the way it doesn’t make sense but seems to make sense anyway. We are sitting at the kitchen table doing homework out of a purple folder. And though she is actually on her knees in the chair – her legs folded underneath her, the soles of her bare feet facing up, her bottom resting on her calves – she is sitting fully into her seat. Next to her, perched on the edge of my own chair, I try to figure out if my time has passed, if I have both absorbed and lost too much to ever get my body to unfurl like that again, or if I still might have a chance to settle into my own place in this world.