#NightstandChronicle #Twenty #Writers as #HeroReaders


If you follow me in any other venue of social media, then you’ve learned by now, probably pretty extensively, that I am a huge fan of the Broadway sensation “Hamilton,” not to mention its Pulitzer-prize winning writer, Lin-Manuel Miranda.  Last night Miranda played Hamilton for the last time on Broadway, we presume, unless he fouls up his career royally in coming decades and has to create a theme park or something.  But that’s highly unlikely, and this morning Miranda is back where he was when he came up with the first Secretary of the Treasury as hip hop artist, which is the role of reader.

If I were lucky enough to ever speak to Miranda, I wouldn’t ask him to drop some knowledge.  I would ask him what he’s reading lately.  Not for nothing, mind you; I love a writer that can convince his wife to love musicals and produce a book about a libretto (see above) that’s almost better than the libretto.  We know he’s got the chops.  But asking him what he’s reading lately…that question feeds the writer as a reader, and feeds the asker as well as the answerer.

*****

When I first moved to California in 2004 I lived on the border of Sunnyvale and Mountain View, in the heart of Silicon Valley.  Of the two hamlets, I preferred Mountain View for some reason (still do; sorry, Sunnyvale), and I would sit in the coffee shops and walk in the bookstores there, feeling somewhat sane before hopping on Caltrain to head into the crazy City north of us.  One evening I had the opportunity to see one of my writing heroes at a Zen/meditation bookstore in Mountain View.  I had written with her books as inspiration for at least a decade at the time:  a writer named Natalie Goldberg, who is best known for Writing Down the Bones.  I’m not sure what book she was reading for at the time (I’m sure it can be researched by any publication she had right around 2004), but when they opened up the Q and A portion of the program I asked the question:

What have you been reading lately?

She came to a full stop in her breathing and her being for a moment, and then heartily thanked me for that question.  “That’s my favorite question,” she said, and then animatedly gave us some novel and memoir titles and talked about them with such enthusiasm you would think she had written those books herself.  Later, during autographs, she thanked me again.  

In every year since, I’ve asked writers that I’ve met at book-signings or Litquake events that question.  Every single one of them changes when they get that question, from idea-peddler to fellow reader.  Oh, they seem to say with their breath and the light in their eyes, you want to know THAT.  And then they start, tentatively, telling everyone within earshot about this novel or memoir or work of journalism until the tentatively wears off and we are all sucked into the joy of reading what someone else wrote.

I hope Miranda’s reading something wonderful.  I hope you are, too.

#NightStandChronicle #Nineteen #LaMer


So for a while last week I was nibbling around on the Seven Killings of Marlon James and messing around with a freaky horse scribble by Gaitskill and they were innovative and moving and…then I bought another book.  (The other two titles were library loans by the way…I’ll go back to them when I am done with their interruption.)  The book is mainstream and smacks of Tales of the City for Parisians and it’s not cutting edge but sometimes…sometimes you just need a bright and sweet French dessert.  The Little Paris Bookshop is just such a dessert.

It’s got sex and lots of love and lots of literary references and rich descriptions of rich food and magic and I needed this book about six months ago.  Sometimes the soul is stubborn.  I probably could have bought this book six months ago and been healed of all of this hassle.  But books show up when I most need them:  not before, not since.📚

So I’m spending my independent Independence Day reading it.  Then we’ll go back to Bob Marley and the crazy horse.

*****

I spent nearly the entire day writing today, which is something that I haven’t done since my San Francisco writing group used to hold Saturday and Sunday writing marathons at a cafe in Duboce Park.  Those sessions were surreal; I always had to go home and ice my hand after (I was the only long-hand operator), but I burned through to the point where I would walk out smiling at everyone.  I’d take the N back to my neighborhood and get a repasado margarita at Pacific Catch and watch a Giants game and feel my soul shining like an empty drum.

Today, though, there was no light rail anywhere after, just a diabetic cat that needed his evening insulin and a leftover pesto sausage in the fridge and some sweet cherries for desert.  I still felt empty but for the first time not quite so lonely as I have since leaving the Bay.  That’s not to say I’m endorsing SoCal, but I felt as though I traveling through and not trapped for the first time in months.  I had put the phone away today, and wrote about legends that pass, even if the legends are just in a corner of the world and not global.  I was inspired by a movie that I rented for 99 cents from iTunes, a lovely little indie and romcom called Tumbledown.  I saw it last night and the legends idea hit me and I wrote half the night and all of today.  I didn’t care of the idea was gonna get tossed later, I didn’t care if it had been done before, I just played with fiction all day, not in a sense of working on existing projects but in a sense like I used to in college or in writing group.  Just get some magic on the page.  Just write something that isn’t therapy.

When I first moved to California in 2004 and lived in Silicon Valley, my brother and I would go to the ocean on the weekends:  him to fish from the rocks, me to sit at picnic tables or in the Jeep and write.  I had a collection of gel writer pens in jelly-like colors and I would listen to the soundtrack from Practical Magic on my pink Nano and write about wonder and how to keep it.  Today all I could think about was one of those fishing trips to Sonoma, just north of Point Reyes, where the Jeep was at a dangerous slope and I knew that if I tripped the emergency break I wouldn’t ever be homesick for anything ever again.  I was homesick for Missouri then, for knowing where stuff was, just like I’m still homesick for the Bay now, but felt that I could overcome with a bright green Uniball and Nick Cage.

The only thing in common with both that day and today was no social media.  I checked a Snapchat from a friend a moment ago, but other than that I haven’t touched the phone all day.  Reading, writing.  If I stay off the FOMO trip I feel more connected to that person in Sonoma.  I find more wonder.  The sweet cherries are better, the cat is more loving.  I pick up one of the Stabilos pictured above and the legend continues.  I would hate to give up social media entirely (after all, that’s where this ends up, too), but I don’t know how to do it anymore.  Maybe I do it a whole lot less until I figure out how.

Happy Independence Day, from whatever you are breaking from.🎆