March 14th, 2011


Decade Meme

I don't do memes that often, but I've been so fascinated by everyone else's that I want to play, too.


In New York, the home of my heart, in a cozy, sprawling apartment that seems to purr and expand when people come and admire it, living with the woman I love, doing work I love, figuring out what kind of old lady I'm going to turn into.  I do more maintenance on myself than I used to:  regular visits to the gym and the chiropractor for my body, regular visits to the hairdresser to touch up my white roots.  But I am (thank God and my unknown parents) healthier than I was when I was 20.  Which is just as well, since I still have a backlog of travel and theatre to make up from my stay-at-home 30's.  I'm at a turning-point in my career, looking for new representation and a new publisher and maybe even a slightly new direction.  I've rediscovered some old joys:  teaching, knitting, cooking.  I've discarded some old hurts.  I believe I'm happier than I've ever been in my life.


I was living in Somerville, MA, in a cozy 1910 farmhouse.  Masako Katagiri, the mother of my heart, who brought me up and loved me unconditionally and kept me sane, died in Japan, necessitating the last of my 9 week-long trips to Chigasaki for her Buddhist funeral.  Following her wishes, we brought back her ashes to be buried with my mother in the crypt of St. Bartholomew's Church, with the internment planned for September 15.  In New York.  It finally happened on September 24 (I keep a diary) and we all retired to the Waldorf Coffeeshop afterwards (it's a tolerably fancy ladies-who-lunch place now), past the National Guard, to talk alternately about Masako and the Twin Towers and eat strawberry shortcake (her favorite) and drink wine and get teary.  It was a bad year for people I loved dying, too--a young woman I loved like a niece had died early that spring.   Ellen and I were writing The Fall of the Kings, and most of our traveling was either to public radio conferences or SF cons.


I was living in a 12-room Queen Anne Revival showcase house in Newton, MA, teaching Freshman Comp at Northeastern University, gardening a lot, and working on my second novel.  I had 5 short stories published and was beginning to believe I might be a Real Writer some day.  My partner was increasingly difficult.  She'd been being difficult for nearly 20 years, but it was  really beginning to dawn on me that things weren't ever going to get any better.  It had not yet dawned on me that I had any agency in the matter.  That didn't happen until 1992.


I finished my dissertation (the second one I started) and graduated from Brown University with a PhD in Renaissance Studies, and decided not to enter the job market.  There were 2 jobs in my field in the country, over 600 applicants, and I'd written a scholarly dissertation at a time when Theory was sexy.  I continued to teach Freshman Comp at Boston University, where I'd been teaching whatever they'd hire me for since 1977.  We were in the Queen Anne revival, but it wasn't fixed up yet, except for the kitchen.  We heated almost entirely with wood stoves, and I did a lot of cooking because my partner was both gregarious and agoraphobic.  I read fantasy and science fiction whenever I wasn't playing housewife or correcting papers, and beginning to think that I might, possibly, be able to consider trying my hand at a fantasy story some day.  When I had time.  If it didn't bother anybody.  Not expecting it to be any good or anything.  But it might be fun to try.


I was a junior at Vassar College, having applied successfully to go through the program in 3 years.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I accompanied my girlfriend (who wasn't agoraphobic yet) to demonstrations and sit-ins and discovered that large groups of shouting people, even when I agree with them, scare the living daylights out of me.  This has not changed.  My writing teacher had pronounced my stories trivial and pointless and my voice teacher had told me I sang like a nun about to take the veil, so I was going to be a Scholar.  I was being pretty good at it, too.  My parents had decided to move from New York back to the small town where my mother'd grow in up in central Texas, so I got a lot of experience negotiating the Dallas/Fort Worth airport and deflecting inquiries from interested young Southern ladies about my romantic status.  Some of them were already married.  Coming out did not occur to me.


I was in 5th grade at a private girl's school in New York, learning about the Ancient Greeks, reading Robert Graves's I Claudius because my mother had it by her bed, spending a lot of sick days at home because every time I got a cold I'd have an asthma attack, and if anybody had invented inhalers yet, either we didn't know about them or Mama didn't approve of them.  We lived in a large apartment on the Upper East Side, my father worked in the Chrysler Building, and my mother went to Board Meetings while Masako took care of the house and me.  Looking back, it was a childhood out of the beginning of the century rather than the middle, privileged and insulated.  Also isolated.  I read a lot.


I was born in the Tokyo Army Hospital to an unmarried nurse from the Midwest who gave me up for adoption.  A visiting general (Papa never said who) had arranged that my parents, who were too old to adopt through regular channels, should get the next available baby, who happened to be me.  My father was working for Pan American as a liason to the army, flying troops from Japan to Korea and back.  My mother was giving dinner parties and amassing an impressive collection of East Asian odds and ends, some of which I still have.  There was a baby nurse called Anne who Mama used to tell horrifying stories about.  Masako replaced her when I was 1, and moved with us when we came back to New York in 1954, where she stayed until 1995, when she insisted on going back to Japan.

Desperately Seeking 1950's Maine Guidebook!

I needs it, precious.

I can go to Maine.  I can find websites full of Maine dialect, idioms, flora, fauna, recipes, boats, and weather.  But I can't know where tourists went and where they stayed and what they did when they got there without a contemporary guidebook.  Which the internet is not turning up, no, not even on the 6th Google page.  Possibly my Googlefu is at fault, or perhaps even my search terms (although "Guidebook Maine 1950's" and "AAA Guidebook Maine 1950" seem pretty straightforward to me).  In any case, I (and my Wizard's Apprentice) need your help.  In any form.

The window-dressing is just going to have to go into the second draft, I guess.  In the meantime, I shall turn Nick back into a boy again by the end of the chapter (and the end of the day) or know the reason why.