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.


Lisa said...

It is *almost* as good to read about the trip as it was to have you here. I'm so glad to have been a rest stop in the middle of your exciting, inspiring work.

Tuckabold said...

Enjoyed reading about your visit to the Bay. Know this one?

Marisa King said...

Dear Melissa,

I tried to contact you through your website e-mail but it appears to be defunct. Please contact me at as we are holding monies for you for your work on "Braceface".

Thank you,
Marisa King
Manager of Operations
Canadian Screenwriters Collection Society