Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mom, Julie Harris, and me, a cautionary tale

My Julie Harris story.
When I was 9-3/4, my mother took me on her yearly weekend trip to Vermont to visit her old high school. We stayed at the Woodstock Inn for a night and visited the town, woods, and ski slopes where she'd perfected her "Christys," and drove by the turn-off to the Woodstock Country School as she extolled the delights of hiking and fresh air in her Brooklyn accent. Larry Hagman had also gone to that boarding school, a year or so ahead, but they weren't friends, especially since Mom wasn't a bit interested in dating boys.
On our way back from the pilgrimage to my mother's youth, we pulled into a restaurant in Connecticut to get a late lunch and help me recover from the car-sickness I felt from my mothers smoke filled-car and its rough rocking suspension.
"I'm sorry, we just closed."
"My girl really needs something to eat, could you please see if someone in the kitchen could help us with a bite?"
I was pale and swaying.
"All right," said the waitress returning from the chef, "but you can't sit in the dining room, we have a private party there, we can seat you in this side room."
As we followed her, Mom glanced through the dining room door as it swung shut and grabbed my arm and hoarsely whispered "Oh My God! Julie Harris. JULIE HARRIS!!! is sitting in there!"
Mom kept muttering Julie Harris to herself.
We sat down. I gulped my water and ate a breadstick. Mom stared at me. She tentatively tried to straighten my bangs (impossible), push the topiary of curls out of my face (hopeless), and reposition the cat-shaped tortoise shell eyeglasses that habitually slipped off-tilt down my nose.
"You're cute, all kids are cute," she began. I could see she was doing her best to believe this. The drool stains from when I'd managed to fall asleep sucking on a stick of licorice hardly showed on my shirt.
"Look, you're out of water, you walk in there with that empty glass and nicely ask the waitress for more water and then when Julie Harris looks at you tell her how much you loved her in The Member of the Wedding. She played a kid in that. Perfect. Go on." She wiped my mouth with a corner of her napkin. Squinted. Removed my glasses. Then wet her palms with water and squashed down my hair. "Go now. Better without the glasses, go on."
I was deeply myopic. I only bumped into a few chairs heading into the dining room peering about for the waitress… Julie and the man were absorbed in one of those tense weird adult conversations full of silences and conversational stabs. I tip-toed over. My heart hammered. Julie was skinny and not that much bigger than me.
"Could I please have some waaaa…." I began.
Julie and her companion startled and stared at me with the same expression one gives a newly produced hairball.
"I told you we wanted privacy, privacy, get out, get out!!" She shouted over my head.
The waitress ran in, a white aproned blur.
"Get out!"
I ran.
"We're never coming back here! Get me the check." was the last I heard.

I rejoined my mother, breathless and red-faced.
"How did it go, did you get her autograph?"
I shook my head.
"No…I don't think she likes kids."
"Mmmm, actresses, probably don't know what they're missing not having a girl like you."
I put my glasses back on and decided I'd earned French Toast with whipped cream for lunch.
"How could she not like you, you're so cute?"
"I dunno."
"Why didn't you get water?"
"Waitress wasn't there."
"That's where you went wrong! You should have waited to ask the waitress for water, you don't ask Julie Harris for water."
"I'll never do it again, Mom, promise."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Let the book get printed, embrace promotion!

I am almost ready to send Pocket Park to the printer! Print proofs look good, I did final adjustments to a half dozen photos... It is getting one last proofreading before it goes because, you know, I don't want any new typos creeping in and having you, dear public, gently point them out.

My friend Flash suggested I could lead a workshop on how to take a regular lunch hour hangout and turn it into a project of seeing, of being there, using more of your senses, in the course of a year. That would be fun!

As I let this project stop, no more changes, revisions, additions, or deletions, I am still aware of the more perfect book I wanted it to be. This ghostly betterness has once again slipped my ability and I'm left with doingness.  I created this book to the fullest, the most that I could and that feels right. I wish I had better mental and physical equipment (a small DSLR would be able to capture motion, which my pocket camera cannot) but hey, I can only be the me I am and as much as I'd like to borrow some O'Hara, Sylvia Plath or Donald Justice, Diane Arbus or Vivian Maier... I was stuck with me. No, revise that, I was me but I paid attention.

I will give readings and see if the Eventi Hotel wants to work with me on a way to celebrate the book. I can create a site. I'm agog.

My mind is turning to new books, in the perfect blur of possibility. Like falling in love. The work-in-progress is saying, Claudia, this time, this time you will get closer, and in the process surprise yourself. So here I come, goodbye done, hello beguiling.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My first article on making fantasy maps is published!!!

I just received my copies of The Portolan, journal of the Washington map society. In 2011 I gave a talk in the map room of the library of congress to the society. The editor of the journal, Tom Sander, asked me to turn it into an article, with some of the images that had been in my PowerPoint slideshow. Since I'd sort of gone off script in the talk, my nervousness just miraculously evaporated as I spoke, I recreated the jist and added more to explain what I've learned over the years of making literary invented worlds become visible. I also looked at how changes in technology shaped how I worked. Not to mention fitting a universe in a tiny poorly printed paperback page. I got a bit more personal than the journal was expecting, but hopefully, their readers will enjoy hearing, again, about the joys, and sometime failures, of this particular craft.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad