ellenkushner: (EK/DS wedding band)
You probably didn't know me when I was single.

After all, it's coming up on twenty years since the night my longtime friend (and secret crush) Delia Sherman finally kissed me in the driveway of her huge Victorian house in Newton, MA, as we sat in the car together after a glorious night out at the Lowell Folk Festival, dancing and listening to music under the stars.  The car trip out had begun with my telling her all about the novel I was trying to write, the one about Alec's niece from Swordspoint coming to the city, but it was all such an incohate mess . . . and it continued through a dinner of Cambodian and Burmese street food at a little joint off the main plaza. Then we followed a New Orleans jazz band fresh off the train, through the streets to the park for the concert.  Who was playing? Well, the stars came out above and we lay chastely on the grass side by side, watching them.  That I remember.

And on the way home, we got lost and had to turn around while I poured out my heart to her on the cloverleaf about the two elegant, dangerous guys I'd been chasing, one of whom was suddenly chasing me.  She was always so good to pour out my heart to.  She never told me anything about herself:  I knew nothing about her family, her history . . . We talked a lot about books and writing. And my angst.  (And when she visited me in my apartment, sometimes she would look at the dishes piled high in my sink and say, "Look, it'll only take me a minute..."!)

As we neared Newton, we talked about what a wonderful evening it had been, and how great it would be to do more things like that together. And then she told me she'd be spending the rest of the summer with her partner at their house on Cape Cod.

"Well," I said disconsolately; "that's that, then."

And then we were in the driveway.  She said, "Can I at least kiss you?" 

And the whole story suddenly changed.

We had an illegal wedding in 1996, and a legal one in 2004 - but  we've always celebrated our Real Anniversary as a Moveable Feast:  the Lowell Folk Festival - and tried to visit it every year.  Since moving to New York, I don't think we've made it once; but this year we're going!

This was not the post I'd meant to write.  But it did start with a folksong:  John Gorka's "The Gypsy Life" just came on the radio (Boston's WUMB streaming live into my kitchen Logitech radio) . . . and I flashed back to our early days together, when we were having our hot affair while she tried to detach herself carefully from her partner, the woman who loved fixing up beautiful Victorian houses with her, and serving quality wines at their elaborate Christmas parties, and buying art and antiques -  but didn't much like her writing or her friends, and didn't like to travel or to taste food she didn't already know . . . And I was always running off to Europe to cover Early Music festivals or to San Francisco or New Orleans to attend public radio and SFF cons and hear music, or visiting Terri in her artists' village in Devon, and running down hole-in-the-wall Indian or Mexican restaurants, in the old Buick my parents had finally passed on to me because they couldn't stand the fact that I'd never owned a car and still trash-picked bookcases on the streets of NY and then Cambridge, in my beatup black leather jacket bought on that memorable trip to France with my two best college friends the year we turned 30, and my Borderland T-shirt from the movie that had never gotten made, and my endless mix tapes of heartbreak and Richard Thompson . . . . 

And there it was on the radio, in 1992, as I was driving my Buick to work at WGBH:

I know the whole truth there is horrible
It's better if you take a little at a time
Too much and you are not portable
Not enough and you'll be making happy rhymes

     You might like the gypsy life
     You judge your progress by the phases of the moon
     Get your compass and your sharpest knife
    People love you when they know you're leaving soon


That was it, I thought. That's what I was offering her. 

And I thought she knew she'd like it.
 
Almost twenty years later, Delia has helped me to make homes that are a lot more permanent.  We buy our bookcases, now - and my socks are not always from the Irregular bin.  It turns out Delia grew up traveling all over the world with her mother - the wife of a Pan Am jr. exec (and WW2  pilot), Opal Sherman thought nothing of snatching her daughter out of school a few days early to go standby to Istanbul or Berlin - so when I started saying, "Let's go to Brussels (or Amsterdam, or Dijon, or Venice....), you'll love it!" her usual answer was, "Yeah, I've been there." - quickly followed by:  "But I was 14. With my mother.  Let's go!"

We go.

This week, Delia's off teaching Clarion at UCSD, and I'm here in our apartment in NYC by myself.  The Gorka song comes on as I do the dishes, keeping up so she doesn't come home to a sinkful of them, because I have my pride!  I'm alone for now, and I will be again.  I think about that, sometimes.  That song will probably make me cry again. Every time.

You probably didn't know me when I was single.  I was a different person then.  And so was she.



You can hear Gorka singing "The Gypsy Life" on YouTube here.  I do know that "gypsy" can be used as a slur to refer to the Roma people.  I also think Gorka is a wonderful singer/songwriter, and you should support his work by buying his albums. He also has a great pierogi recipe (Delia & I subsisted our first 6 months on Mrs. Whatsit's Pierogis - coincidence??) . Full lyrics to the song are here.
ellenkushner: (Default)
Time was, a Snow Day in NYC meant tromping out through the storm in our rubber boots to the little store on the corner of 110th/B'way where they sold nips to bums, beer to students, and big jugs of cheap Italian red to us, which we took home and mulled, dipping into the hot pot on the beaten up old gas stove all day . . . the only sound was the chains on the tires of the buses down 110th St, jingling like sleigh bells so if you lay on the livingroom floor (the ratty chaise longue being occupied, and the sofa nothing to speak of) you could imagine it was horses . . . .

You could take a day off from work in those days, because work was outside and annoying. But now that dreams have come true and work is staying home writing, well... At least there's no reason to go out. I will make a pot of my mother's Split Pea Soup. I will edit stories for Welcome to Borderland. I will do my revisions on our The Witches of Lublin script for Yale & Elizabeth (we read the whole thing through by phone Tues. night).

And we've got the wine, if we can fit it in.....
ellenkushner: (TEA)
I am filled with joy to have 18-yr-old Chiara, daughter of a college friend - Nick was a Theatre Grad student at Columbia - I was an undergrad studying with the same teacher [the great Bernard Beckerman, who taught me more about dramatic structure than I could ever have figured out on my own; I use it in every novel!] - I was volunteered as a warm body for his directing class - and he cast me as Medea! And so began a beautiful friendship that included a cross-country (Chicago>NYC) drive through snowstorm in which I was first introduced to the music of Richard Thompson on a grainy cassette tape (it was "Shoot Out the Lights" and I was writing Swordspoint, and I couldn't believe this guy had done a soundtrack for my unfinished novel! oops where was I? OK:) So I've known Chiara since she was about 1 - she seems to have gotten over the trauma of my letting her fall backwards (from a sitting position) and hit her head while I was babysitting her on her first visit (my having sent the anxious new parents off to Harvard Square for some light entertainment) . . . . . um, what? oh yes: to have Chiara spending a few days of her Gap Year with us right now. Example:

She comes into the livingroom first thing this morning to ask for our wireless password - adding very matter-of-factly, "And you're 'The Golux,' right?"

[To make that story work right, you need to know that NYC apts show a huge list of possible networks, from upstairs, downstairs, next door, across the courtyard . . . and, of course, The Thirteen Clocks.]
ellenkushner: (EK/DS wedding band)
Today is the 13th Anniversary of[livejournal.com profile] deliasherman's & my first ("illegal") wedding in Cambridge, MA. "Lace Anniversary." She's in a big house in a small town in Mexico on writer's retreat. I hope they have lace there. I'm going to dinner with a friend at our fave Chinatown noodle dive. Bliss.

Also bliss that this is the first night I am coming home without a serious deadline hanging over my head (except packing for WFC, I guess. But that doesn't involve getting words to line up and do tricks). I will Skype Delia, and maybe watch something stupid on TV.

It's hilarious that we seldom observe our anniversary anymore - after all, we have so many: the Legal Event (August 24, 2004, officiated by Rabbi Cherie Koller-Fox in our backyard after our annual clothing swap/barbecue); the First Kiss (after years of circling each other, being friends . . . this is a Moveable Feast, as it occurred on the first night of the Lowell Folk Festival. Yes, Cambodian street food, a Zydeco Marching Band and roots music under the stars can drive you to undreamed of feats of romantic daring as you sit in the driveway preparing to say good-night) . . . . The original wedding was a huge do, at Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, a former records room with a marble floor & carved archways & a balcony. We had nearly 300 guests from all corners of both our lives. It was a perfect blue clear New England autumn day - very much like today in NYC, actually! We handed out press-on tattoos with our wedding sigil (oak & ivy intertwined, like the ring in this UserPic, my wedding ring). There was a great deal of food and music and dancing - we called it a "Party with a Ceremonial Interruption" on the invitation. And so it was. I remember smiling so much and for long that my face actually hurt at the end of the day. I'm smiling now.
ellenkushner: (*Simon van Alphen by Nicolaes Maes)
[livejournal.com profile] deliasherman has blogged our latest theatrical outing - my comments (of a memoirish nature) are below her post, and I'm not going to copy them here!

How am I? you may be wondering; and howbout them deadlines? Aherm. Yes. Am running KlezNut revisions back-to-back with a Riverside story that a rather prestigious, high-profile, high-paying anthology has allowed as how they'll take a look at if I can get them a final draft in 2 wks. You do the math. We're bringing actors in for a reading of the revised script on Weds., so I'd better get as much story done as I can before then. 'Bye, now!

(Took yesterday off to hang out with beloved nephew AJ who drove down from college for a weekend in NYC - why he wanted to spend an entire day eating & walking in Central Park with ageing aunts is - well, it's nice, that's what.)
ellenkushner: (medal)
. . . and it was my idea, mine mine mine!

I remember it quite clearly: Neil & Charles & Karen were in town for the Blueberry Girl signing at Books of Wonder in March** - we had a lovely dinner all together (with Charles' old roommate Mike Kaluta, and my old college pal Mimi) at our place, brilliantly cooked by Delia with spectacular desserts by our houseguest (Neil said, "Next time I'm in town, if I can't get a hotel, could I sleep in your guest room?" "Only if Mim's not already in it," I said, to which he most gallantly replied, "For such a chocolate mousse, I would gladly sleep on the sofa!" oh, and his friend Kira joined us for dessert as well, and then we tried all of Delia's hats on her. Neil knows such lovely people! As do we).

The day after the signing Charles & Karen came over (with Mike, I think, as he lives nearby & they were staying with him) and we all hung out in the livingroom, a bit subdued as we'd heard the bad news about Neil's dad, I think, but happy to be together. Charles showed us pictures of his Titania fountain, which D&I had seen under construction last summer. Enchanted & enchanting. We were all blissing out about the instant success of Blueberry Girl, and Charles said, "My new probably-agent says we should do another one right away. But Neil doesn't really have time to write something new, oh dear, what shall I do.....?"

"Instructions!" I yelled, jumping up in my enthusiasm. "Neil's poem! It's perfect! It's in the bathroom! [Well, it is. Neil sent signed editions out to everyone one New Year's. We framed ours, and it looks gorgeous right next to Terri Windling's "Briar Rose"* It is a rather splendid bathroom] Everyone loves it." Charles looked dubious - or maybe he was just tired. "Think," I coaxed, "of all the great bits you'd get to illustrate. Besides, it is a great work of art and deserves it. Everyone loves it....."

But don't just take my word for it. Ask Charles Vess, who replies: "It's funny, but I really don't remember you saying that, but then, there were a bounty of lovely thoughts/ideas flying about your living room that night, so I have NO doubts that you did.

That being the case then, thank you so very much for suggesting the idea as I'm having such a ball painting these images."


Oh, really? Then who did? Charles says: I remember Neil calling or e-mailing to suggest that I adapt his poem. And my countering with the idea of an illustrated collection of ALL his poetry.

"Good idea," he said, "but first let's just do Instructions."


Hmph.

Um, OK. Ask Neil, who Tweeted: "brilliant. I think a lot of people had the same idea at the same time (steam engine time as Fort said)."


So even though Charles doesn't remember, and Neil says it was the hive mind, I just want everyone to know that I Said It First. I remember.

Here are Charles Vess's sketches for Neil Gaiman's poem, "Instructions"


**(And, yes, I think it's hilarious that I posted lots that weekend - but never mentioned the visits or the dinner.)

* It's not this piece of Terri's, but one somewhat like it.

Thackers

Aug. 3rd, 2009 08:31 pm
ellenkushner: (Bryn Mawr: Writing)
Is there anyone else out there who was obsessed with Alison Uttley's A Traveler in Time?

Delia & I are going to England for much of September: starting out in Devon at a wedding, then planning to drift around Wales & visit friends in Knighton, Bristol & Oxford before finishing up in London. I realized this is almost the first time I'll ever have been there with both a car and a little unscheduled time. At dinner out I'd been telling friends how passionate I was as a teen about wanting to go to the places I'd read about in books - but that now I've either lost the passion or been to them already! When I got home, I suddenly remembered Thackers, the Derbyshire manor where the Babington family lives in Traveller in Time. Was it a real place? In her introduction, Uttley tells us it is:
quote )

- but is that just part of the fantasy? Is there an old Babbington manor somewhere in Derbyshire? Could one visit it - or at least spy on it from behind a hedge? I had to know!

It's real. It's there. And it's a Bed & Breakfast.

The website says the room that looks out on the church is already taken for that week. But I have written to ask about the other one.

(And, yes, I hope to see many of you on our travels, especially in London. Would anyone like to help set up a signing in a cafe, and/or a party in a pub, so we can all meet up? Planning to be there +Oxford, Sept. 17-22. June Tabor concert 18th. Need a shul for Rosh Hashanah 19th.)

* * *

"I do find life difficult at times … and I behave childishly too, do foolish things, unworthy … I don't think one can have great imagination and great wisdom. Can one?" -- Alison Uttley, Diaries (published 2009!)
ellenkushner: (INTERFICTIONS)
I just made my (tax-deductible) contribution to Interfictions 2, the forthcoming original anthology from the IAF. They offered a space to make your donation "in honor of" or "in memory of," and I decided to make mine in honor of Terri Windling, for her great editorial & visionary contributions to interstitial fiction over the years - especially with her 16 years of co-editing THE YEAR'S BEST FANTASY IN HORROR. In those collections, she constantly made bold choices that were not standard genre fare. She opened us all up to a wide range of styles and visions, international & sometimes radical: Kelly Link, Pagan Kennedy, Osamu Dasai, Rosario Ferré . . . .. She took a flack for it in some quarters, too. "This stuff isn't fantasy!" critics objected. It sure wasn't commercial genre fantasy. But it was fantastical, and fantastic. And an entire generation of writers grew up reading it, and being told that it was all right to stretch the boundaries of genre until it became something new.

Read more... )

Donations of $200+ will be guaranteed a space on the printed Donors Page in the actual book, if we receive them by tomorrow. (Don't be thrown by the text on the donations form saying it has to be $375; that just needs updating!) Donations of any size, at any time from now through November, will be listed on our online Thank You page, along with a link to your preferred website.

You can make your own contribution here. Dedicate it to someone who's made a difference to you.
ellenkushner: (Latvian THOMAS)
(in addition to his being one of the great writers of our time, that is) Because he is wise, and erudite, and sometimes extremely silly. I enjoyed the chance to talk some - never enough - to Gene Wolfe & his wife Rosemary at Readercon. They drove there from Chicago in the company of young writer C.S.E. Cooney, who, at the con, made sure Rosemary wheelchair got where it needed to go. [livejournal.com profile] csecooney's description of their trip, in her July 7-12, 2009 LJ posts, is a joy to read - a running record of what they talked about in the car, and, well, cute things longtime couples say to each other.

I have known the Wolfes since I was a pup: I think I met them first when I was working for David Hartwell and we published The Shadow of the Torturer. I would hang around Gene at conventions, and talk to him about my aspirations as a writer. He gave me excellent advice. I remember one time telling him about trying to create Riverside, and he pointed out that seedy gamblers & their ilk always wore bits & bobs of misplaced finery (I'm not doing him justice, here). I hadn't thought of that. I put that in.

I met up with [livejournal.com profile] csecooney and the other Goblin Fruit lasses at their launch party. [livejournal.com profile] sevenravens brought her harp, and I was smitten. We sang. The next night, we sang some more. I blasted out a capella ballads, and taught them "Grey Funnel Line" - it was wonderful hearing the harmonies come in strong & true by the 4th verse. I'm afraid I had a little too much of [livejournal.com profile] movingfinger's single malt (which, for me, is not that much), and insisted on printing out the lyrics to "A Weekend in the Country" from A Little Night Music and making poor, gifted Miss Cooney do all the parts with me. (O, when did I lose the ability to hear every tune and harmony in my head, and render them perfectly each time? Like Gene & Rosemary, I may well say, "Thank god for the support of the young!")

P.S. And my two Readercon panels really were cracktastic. My favorite takeaway - from a panel I moderated, on readers confusing authors with their characters, featuring the combined brainpower of Peter Straub, Suzy McKee Charnas, Shariann Lewitt & Kit Reed, was the latter's summation:
"I am all my characters. But none of them are me."
ellenkushner: (Default)
After a rather frantic couple of weeks - Delia's birthday on June 22, launch of her book on June 25 w/2 NYC events, then pack up the luggage, la la la for a trip that included Boston, Readercon, Chicago's ALA (for her), Damariscotta, MA (for me), the IAF Maine Salon (Brunswick, ME, where we reunited as Laurie J. Marks kindly drove Delia up from Logan) . . . . we are finally at the Big House Overlooking the Water in a tiny town between Blue Hill & Deer Isle, again. I think I posted a picture last year in August. The house of heart's content, owned by generous friends who let us come up here by ourselves & write. No internet, so we have to drive to whatever town has a public library. Right now we're in Stonington, where the fog over the harbor has finally cleared enough to see the trees and the rocks and the little boats . . . .

Readercon was great! (I'm still shook up about Charlie Brown - on Friday I was sitting in the Green Room giving him the details on the new Bordertown book, as he took notes - to learn on Monday that he'd died on the trip home was a real shock. I will write up a reminiscence when I can.) The Interstitial Salon was great, too! (Met several young writers who said they loved my books but had always been too shy to approach me. My default is always that nobody knows me or my work - either the writing or the public radio show. That way, I'm always pleasantly surprised. Never be too shy to surprise me, people!) At both events, saw old friends & met lovely new ones. At R'con finally got to read the entire ms. of new short story, "Dulce Domum," aloud (I got about 3/4 through at Wiscon), and love the way it sounds. Hope it works as nicely on the page when it comes out in Jonathan Strahan's Eclipse Three (Night Shade Books, October 2009)!

But now I will be very quiet. I will look at the trees, and the water, and the fireflies at night. I will put words on paper, and make them dance. A jig? A gavotte? We'll see.....

Some day!

Jul. 8th, 2009 11:31 pm
ellenkushner: (Default)
In Boston now, staying at a warm little B&B near our old house. Delia's reading & signing at Porter Square Books ['EAT/SLEEP/READ'] went beautifully. If you couldn't get there but want a signed copy of her books, or any of mine for that matter (including trade paperback TPOTS), we left a nice big stack all duly autographed. They sell by mail, as well.

We nearly didn't make it, though. We planned to pick up the rental car & leave NYC at 1 pm. We were excited about getting to ride back with our good friend Sarah Smith, who'd been in town to meet with her editor about a new book(!!). At 5 past 1:00 the phone rang. I heard Delia saying, "Oh my god. Oh. Oh, no." She didn't sound panicked, just a bit shocked.

Sarah was lying on the sidewalk a block from our house, waiting for an ambulance. She'd tripped and fallen, and was pretty sure her arm was broken. The call was from a guy who'd stopped when he saw her, and called 911.

I ran out. She was being a tremendously brave little soldier, but her wrist was looking bad & swelling up. I gave her Advil (racing to the nearby bodega for bottled water), and started calling friends. Ambulance came, and suggested - just in time - we take off her rings before her fingers got too swollen. I greased her fingers with the last of my Ayr menthol ointment from winter! (I'd just changed bags for the trip, and wasn't toting my usual handcreme). I was relieved to see she kept her color when she stood up. In the ambulance, they took her ID info while I found a friend of hers to meet her at Mt Sinai. Then we called her husband, who said he'd drive down from Boston to get her. This relieved my mind mightily; I felt awful just leaving her there, but we had to get Delia to her gig. I took Sarah's pack & computer back to my house, and we left the keys with the doorman (how I love the doormen!) so she could crash there when she got out of hospital. Which is what she did. (And the guy who called 911? Even after I got there, he stood quietly on the sidewalk - with the 2 large dogs he was walking - and watched until we got into the ambulance; must've been there a good half hour. She asked for his name so she could thank him later, but he just said, "Don't worry about it.")

Delia, too, was a brave little soldier; she'd thought her gig was at 6, not 7, and that it took 4+ hours, not 3.5, to drive to Boston. So essentially she thought we'd be almost an hour late, but I had no idea she'd quietly swallowed that bitter pill til we'd been on the road almost an hour. Fortunately, we made good time on a pretty day with little traffic, and were even able to check into the guest house before heading to the bookstore. It was so good to see old Boston friends there - and new ones, as well!

Lunch tom'w with more old friends, a little gentle retail therapy in the old neighb (Delia's knitting baby hats for all and sundry - she finds it soothing, and they are adorable!), and then, off to READERCON! I'll post my schedule separately.
ellenkushner: (NYC: RSD)
Ellen: Do you have the address of the friend we're seeing tonight?
Delia: No, but I'm sure it's in our email somewhere.
Ellen: I just wondered if you'd pulled it up and printed it out in advance.
Delia: Yes, well, that alternate universe is not the one we're living in right now.
ellenkushner: (Simon van Alphen by Nicolaes Maes)
I used to be this person:

It afflicts normal-looking people who function well in other facets of their lives. The symptoms include failing to file tax returns for years on end and squirreling away unopened letters that carry the return address of the Internal Revenue Service. Take a taxpayer (using the word loosely) whom we’ll call Mr. V. . . . . (NYTimes, 4/12/09)

In fear of penalties, I would send a ridiculous check to the IRS every year, hoping to have heard the last of it. But those scary letters kept coming (and remaining unopened) . . . . Eventually, I put every piece of paper I had in a big box, and took it to a woman in Boston who did a lot of taxes for artists, especially members of the Boston Ballet. "You can't imagine," she said. "They tour, they stuff things in envelopes, they lose them.... You're not so bad."

I've been a reformed character ever since.

If you've gotten your taxes in already, Yay, you! If you're working on it til midnight tonight, good luck, good coffee, and don't forget the chocolate!

old friends

Apr. 2nd, 2009 10:49 am
ellenkushner: (EK:  Twelfth Night)
Old friends are The Best. Many hours spent last night with "Isabel, who listened & ironed" ([livejournal.com profile] isabelswift) when I was trying to write Swordspoint. (I'll never forget stomping through Central Park with her on a pretty day, worrying about how the novel should start, and she talked about the beginnings of operas: "'Carmen, Carmen, oh, that Carmen -- Why look, here she comes!'" It worked.) She fed me chicken on gorgeous Italian pottery plates. We made pomegranate syrup & Pellegrino fizz. We talked about her projects, and we talked about mine. We talked about the Washington Post's "Date Lab" column, and how to kindly say you won't quote on a novel unless you're really blown away by it, even if it's by a person you like a lot . . . I looked at her and said urgently, "Could you please go back 20 years and tell me that now I never go on another blind date, and instead have to worry about fighting off people wanting me to blurb their books?"

I'm once again stuck on a novel opening - the voice, this time - and also working on 2 stories & a script simultaneously. Out came the Boyfriend similes: "You can date them all, but in the end, figure out which one will really be there for you for the long run." Turns out she's never read [livejournal.com profile] libba_bray's divinely wonderful (and accurate) piece, Writing a Novel: a Love Story - so, as I was looking it up to send her, I've linked to it here, in case you haven't either.
ellenkushner: (TPOTS SmallBeerPress (Clouet))
Just to waste time, I googled "Theron" to see how many pages it would be before the entries stopped being about that actress, Charlize, and whether anything about The Fall of the Kings would turn up. On p. 15 (I skipped ahead) my first non-Charlize hit was Domaine du Theron, a French winery in the Lot valley, near Cahors.

The weird thing is, I've been there. In 2001 we celebrated Delia's birthday by renting a sprawling old farm called Cubertou*, and filling it with all our friends. Of course we explored the local wineries, and when we saw a sign for Domaine du Theron, we tore off in that direction. I think we had just recently finished Kings.

The wine was good. I still have the T-shirt.

* The Cubertou site tells me that the great guitarist John Renbourn (Pentangle et alia) is teaching guitar workshops there this summer with Remy Froissart!

Olde York

Feb. 9th, 2009 07:54 pm
ellenkushner: (Latvian THOMAS)
My current assistant, whose strength is as the strength of ten and whose will is iron, has decided that we must go through all my old Travel files, as they are taking up far more than their share of space in the drawers. This is because in them you will find such treasures as a 1995 brochure for the Winchester Mystery House, a 1982 Manhattan bus map, an undated plan of Ghirardelli Square, a Guide to Small Hotels of Herefordshire, a listing of country houses in Somerset, train schedules for Exeter, and ohhh, so much more that might be useful if the Internet did not exist (and time did not move on). Four folders in, and may I say that the Files have already grown much thinner? Not that I'm not keeping the Guide to Wells Cathedral with my notes on the back saying how I was going to spend my 2 days in Bath on the very first solo trip I took to England the summer I was 19 . . . a magical trip, as such trips are. I had a BritRail pass, and the desire to visit places I'd read about in books (as long as they were on the train line, or - in the case of Dartmoor - a bus). Each place I arrived, I went to the Tourist Office to see what Bed & Breakfast accomodations were available within walking distance. Friends of those days may remember stories of the Mad Vicar of Bovey Tracey, not to mention the Alms House of Moretonhampstead, where they dried my socks on the Aga in the fireplace, and my window, set in stone wall a good foot thick, looked out on the moor. And the people in the local hotel where I joined the Swiss couple for supper always saved me the last slice of wild blackberry pie, because I loved it so. The Alms House is, I think, no longer lived in by a family at all - it's become Historic - and certainly they're not renting out the tiny room at the top of the stairs. However, that folder also contained a crumpled card in fine script:

Mrs. H. Healey
The Georgian Guest House
35, Bootham, York.


Oh, York! It was so perfect. A slightly larger establishment, they came 'round at breakfast with a cart containing many different jams, and I tried them all, cutting my toast into tiny triangles so I could have one on each. They thought I was adorable - and I was, too. I was sure the Georgian was also long gone - but it's not! It's here! And still operating!! Shall I go back? No. Mrs. Healey is no longer there. I will send you, instead, to have your own adventures. The menu still offers "A selection of conserves & spreads".

While poking around Virtual York online, I also came across the delightful Past Images website, which offers - well, you know those photos at fairs here, where you dress up in Victorian polyester? Honey, it's York. The Past Images service is entirely bespoke and suited to the individual customer's needs. We can help you with what to wear, how to stand or where to look but we will also listen. There are also sample photos of their work. They are priceless, priceless, priceless. I think the Large Viking Family may be the best. Though the Fairies at the Bottom of my Garden ones are pretty great.
ellenkushner: (Default)
Omigod - the NYTimes has an article all about the apt. building I lived in after college, the one where I wrote Swordspoint (and lots of Bordertown stories)...!

In college, we used to walk past "the gargoyle building" on our way to V&T's Pizza around the corner, and I would always pause in front of it, look up, sigh, and say, "I want to live there some day."

Times were different then. Nobody well-heeled wanted to live on the Upper West Side, because it was full of sprawling old apartments that had not been kept up, and the streets were full of petty criminals. Musicians lived there, because the walls of the old buildings were thick, and it was near Lincoln Center. Academics lived there, because there was plenty of room for books, and near the university. Immigrants lived there, from big Puerto Rican families in tiny walkups, to widows of Viennese intellectuals who'd come in 1939, to Chinese fleeing Cuba who had restaurants where you could get big plates of spicy picadillo and squid-in-ink sauce and cafe con leche and flan. When I walked to the subway, young men leaning on the corners would hiss, "Hey, chica! Chica!" Some blocks were just not safe, and on the rest, you always kept your wits about you and an eye out for who was nearby. When I graduated from Barnard, I bunked in my Uncle Ron's livingroom for a few weeks, job- and apartment-hunting. Ron, recently divorced, had a 1-BR on W. 95th/Riverside, across the street from some SRO's (Single-Room Occupancy - essentially, flophouses with single rooms that rented by the week to the recently-released mental patients the city decided it didn't have room for, and various other down-and-outers - it was summer, and they spent evenings out on the building's stoops to cool down . . . it was summer, and we kept the windows open, and I'll never forget the night I was awakened around 3 a.m. by a huge booming voice shouting musically from the street: "I . . . am the Lord. . . Your. . . God! And I am very annnnngry with you, my children!" ) When I was in college, my uncle used to walk me back up to Barnard (114th) from there if I visited late. As we walked by the women in short skirts leaning against the drugstore on the corner of 107th he'd nudge me and murmur, "Hey, Ellen! What do you think she does for a living?" His old building has recently become a luxury co-op. And the drugstore now sells high-end sneakers or something. We all lived there because it was cheap.

A friend & I called the gargoyle building's agent, and were shown a 2-bedroom on the back, but the apt's only shower/bath could only be reached through one of the bedrooms, and after some agonizing, we declined and took a tiny walkup on W. 81st off Broadway, right down the street from the old Sesame Street studios, I'm told. At the other end of W. 81st was the Museum of Natural History, but I remember that the 2 blocks between were pretty dicey. What really did us in, though, was the noisy neighbors across the airshaft off her bedroom, and the noisier all-night salsa parties on the stoop of the apt across from mine. In August, in the spirit of "Why not?" we tried the gargoyle building again, and on Sept. 1 moved into a swooping 2-BR on the front courtyard, with an octagonal wood-paneled diningroom (with ceiling beams radiating out from a central carving) plus a little maid's room off the kitchen, where we promptly installed a 3rd roommate, a grad student, to share the $410 rent. (Oh, lordy, when I think of the 2-BR on West End with views of the Hudson that we decided we couldn't afford at $750....! But by then I was working as an editorial assistant at Ace Books, where the starting salary was just under $8,000/year. Loaves of sliced bread, though, sometimes went on sale at 4/$1.) We lived on the 5th floor, left: in the pictures, you can see my corner bedroom (1 window on street, 3-sided one on the courtyard) above the tree.

And there I stayed, with a revolving panoply of roommates (including a boa constrictor and [livejournal.com profile] t_windling, though not at the same time), until Gentrification hit even 110th Street, the building went condo, the last remaining roommate & I borrowed the money from our parents to buy at an insider price and then, both having left NYC 2 years later, sold at twice the price - funding my small house in Boston.

And now I'm back in NYC. I still love the pizza at V&T's. And, if you visit me, I'll probably make you go there, and walk my old neighborhood, and stop and look at "my building."

* * *
ADDED
Here are more great photos of the gargoyles, the building - and a sort-of credible "explanation" that they're telling the story of Chicken Soup!(?) [and you can see my old kitchen/diningroom/maid's room windows on the left half of the front...]

October 2014

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