Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bay Area and Beyond: a Four-Part Entry

Part One: San Francisco

I can't identify why I didn't love living in SF from 1993-5 (although I've wasted a lot of time trying to), but suffice to say, I LOVE visiting. On the first night, my dear friend Lisa came for a slumber party at my hotel and we went for dinner at a funky restaurant and then drinks at a speakeasy (where our password was "piker") capped by a final drink back at the hotel bar. The next day I took a trip to Alcatraz. In my years living in SF I never made it to the island and since the new novel has a crime at its core, I thought I should. I loved everything about this tour, from the boat ride over to the guided audio tour that had you believing you were a prisoner in 1945. I loved walking the grounds, too, seeing the gardens and all the varieties of birds. The final scene in the new book takes place on Baker Beach, a place I used to frequent when living there, so I drove over and took in the sights, sounds and smells on what was probably the most beautiful bay area day I ever remember. That night was Vietnamese food at the Slanted Door with friends Amelyn, Lewis, Richard and Tamira. The "Door", as Amelyn calls it, was once a tiny restaurant on Mission Street but now is in the Ferry Building. It's very large, very loud and still very good, but next time I promise a new, smaller, quieter get together! Friends Craig and Amelyn housed me that night.

Part Two: Petaluma

In 1993, Polly Klaas, a beautiful 12-year old girl, was kidnapped out of her bedroom while hosting a slumber party. I was living in SF at the time and the story was everywhere. It touched on everyone's fears, and personally spoke to my unexplainable childhood kidnapping fears. WIthout going into details, the premise of my new novel was 'inspired' by this story that occurred 17-years ago, and I went to Petaluma to do research on this case and get to know the town. I couldn't believe how sleepy and quaint the town is. I booked a sort of 'pension' that I found on the internet a little South of the downtown area. I was surprised that the property's parking lot was full so I found a place on the street and walked to the hotel. There was a park nearby, and I remembered reading that Polly Klaas had lived near a park. I wondered briefly if I was near her neighborhood. The next day at the amazing Polly Klaas Foundation I asked where she'd lived and they said the name of the neighborhood. I asked if that was near the Metro Hotel where I was staying and they said yes. While looking through the archives I found her address as well as a map and realized, with a chill down my spine, that I had parked in front of her house. Now, Petaluma is no Los Angeles, but what the heck are the chances that out of the entire town, I would park in front of her house? The next day on my way out of the town, I drove back to the parking spot and walked around for a few moments, acknowledging the pain that had occurred there many years ago, and appreciating the new, red coat of paint on the house, and the white, picket fence.

Part Three: Redwood City

Lisa and I met in graduate school in 1992 and have been friends ever since. Lisa is an amazing cook and runs this wonderful blog, which I've written about countless times before. In fact, Lisa met her husband Kory while visiting me in L.A. years ago and they now have two kids and two kittens. Lisa's house was the perfect next stop after Petaluma. She made a delicious tuna burger with lots of side dishes and we drank prosecco and frozen hot chocolate and watched the fluffy Bethanny Getting Married, the absolute antithesis of kidnapping and murder, and boy did I appreciate it.

Part Four: Esalen, Big Sur

I knew I'd be a little shaken after Petaluma so I booked a weekend retreat at Esalen. I wanted to take something quintessentially Esalen, so I signed up for "Hands-On Energy Medicine" assuming there would be a lot of vigorous hand rubbing, and laying said hands over eyes. It's that and so much more. I think writing about it will cheapen the profound experience I'm having. I've had work done on my spine, have learned how to clear blocked energy from my spleen (the spleen! who knew! It rules so much of our lives, energetically speaking). The teacher, Donna Eden, is so passionate and energetic that it's infectious. I couldn't believe when she said she was 67. She's got the energy of a teenager and seems actually ageless. I've met wonderful, quirky characters, as I always do at Esalen. I was a little worried about coming here alone, but this place is so warm and inviting that you meet people just by blinking. I can't wait to teach my workshop here in October.

Seven days, many friends and freeways...but I've kept this blog to four parts, which was very hard to do and in no way has captured it all.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Get Thee to the Bay Area

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Hamlet at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum. If you live in L.A. and haven't yet been there, I urge you to go. It's like the Hollywood Bowl of Topanga Canyon, only it's mostly plays and much, much smaller (but just as cold when the sun goes down). The last time I'd seen Hamlet was the Kenneth Branagh movie in 1996. The story is so dense, the themes so timeless. Once you're old enough (and I am) you realize that the play is roadmap of life lessons. There are so many famous quotes from this play alone, from the infamous "To Be or Not To Be..." to "Get thee to a nunnery!" to "Something's rotten in Denmark."

Speaking of "roadmap" and "Life lessons", I am heading to the Bay Area tomorrow on what's probably going to be the most intense research trip of my life. I'll write more from up there, depending on how I process the whole thing. Thankfully my trip ends in Esalen where I'll be taking a weekend workshop: "Hands-on Energy Medicine." I'm assuming there will be lots of touching and perhaps even some healing. I'm looking forward to seeing old friends in SF and of course sitting in the hot tubs of Esalen.

More entries and photos to come... and I'll end this by saying HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD! See you tonight at the surprise restaurant.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What are the Chances?

I am reading three books right now. The protagonist in one book is named Zoe, the other is named Floey and the third is named Chloe. What are the chances? I wanted to post this as a Facebook update but it seemed a little wordy, so the blog got it instead.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I was so touched by an email I received the other day from an old friend who said the Tom Tom Club kept popping up on his iPod playlist and it made him think of me. He asked if I remembered the concert we attended years ago. How could I forget? I rode on the back of his motorcycle to The Palace and we danced our butts off to Tina Weymouth, Chris Franz and the rest of the bongo-congo-tom-tom-loving band. I loved that he remembered and it got me thinking about who remembers what, and why.

Sometimes I'm embarrassed by my memory. Recently in Montreal my mom and I were shopping at a family-owned bead store and the clerk, the daughter, was telling us a story about the only time her father worked in the store, a time when she was in the hospital. "Oh yeah," I said, "For a blood clot in your leg." Both the clerk and my mom looked at me as though I was insane. "How did you know?" the clerk asked. I'd been to that bead store before, and I just happened to remember hearing that story. "I was seventeen when that happened," the clerk said. (she was now in her late 30's) As we exited the store my mom said, "How did you remember that?" Perhaps my strong memory compensates for my shitty eyesight? My sister has a crazy good memory, too, so perhaps it is genetic.

And yet, there are simple things I can't remember like a) watering my plants, b) taking my pills c) turning on the dishwasher, d) where I put my glasses, etc.

Then there are things I must remember, like publishing is HARD and it's not my fault my book has been rejected a double-digit amount of times so far, that my August 30th (also my birthday and first day of school this year) deadline for a draft of my new novel is not set in stone, that life is short and why not reach out to people when you think of them, and listen to their stories when they tell them to you. Here's a little Tom Tom Club to get your booty shaking, and a little more if that just wasn't enough. Remember to let loose every now and then, and by the way...quick question...has anyone seen my glasses?