Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Time Capsules and Treasure Troves

In 1987 before I left Long Beach, CA, to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, I gave away most of my library, except for autographed books. I emptied out drawers, cupboards, and closets, destroyed old financial records, and stashed what I couldn't bear to part with in a filing cabinet and a few cardboard boxes, which I left with my son, Steve, thinking I'd retrieve it all when I returned home in a couple of years.

As it turned out, I didn't go home to Southern California, after all. Instead, I lived overseas for ten years, in Belize, Guatemala, Dominican Republic and Seychelles. When I came back to the States in 1998 I worked first in Little Rock, AR, and later in Washington DC. Finally I retired to the country near Colville, WA, in 2004.

Over the years I've visited Steve many times, and always remembered the stash in his garage. Finally, last October I located some of the things I'd wanted to keep, repacked three post office priority mail boxes full, and mailed them to myself. When they arrived, I stuffed them in a closet, promising myself I'd sort through them soon.

Soon doesn't always mean tomorrow. With obligations, deadlines, boards and commissions, three cats, two dogs and three and a half acres to look after, sometimes rummaging through boxes doesn't get to the top of my priority list.

It finally did today. I intend to write about my long love affair with London. Back in 1980 when I'd visited England for the first time, I wrote a piece, "Literary London and the English Countryside," that artist and Uncle Jam publisher Phillip Yeh beautifully illustrated. I thought I'd find it in those boxes in the closet. I didn't. Instead I found:
  • the October 1967 copy of Woman's Day, with my short piece "Rabbit Habit" in the Neighbors column...bylined Mrs. Robert L. was fashionable in those days.
  • a framed check for $25, payment for the above article, the first piece of writing I ever sold to a national publication.
  • an essay, "Fitzgerald and the Plight of the South," about F. Scott Fitzgerald's haunting short story, "The Last of the Belles," submitted on May 20, 1963, with a note from my Modern American Lit prof that says, "This is an excellent explication of the story, and rings quite true. If I were you I should certainlly send this out," with a list of possible literary quarterlies, now long out of business.
  • a dozen novels by Herbert Gold, with his autograph.
  • a copy of Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell, together in one volume, autographed to me by Laura Huxley and dated Nov. '79, "For Terri, from her admirer, affectionately, Laura." I'd written an article about Laura and her Project Caress earlier that year for Uncle Jam, after I'd visited her at her home just below the Hollywood sign, and spilled coffee on her white living room carpet.
  • several autographed books by authors I'd interviewed in 1980, including Julia Braun Kessler and Herbert Cohen.
  • poems and short stories and about fifty pages of a novel I'd written for a 1961 creative writing class...some I don't remember writing at all.
  • a newspaper clipping of an interview with me when I was teaching journalism at Jordan High School, 1964.
  • copies of newspapers and magazines that had published the articles I wrote while I lived in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic from 1990 t0 1994...Transitions Abroad, Mature Living, International Living and the Costa Rica Times.
I'll have to go through the boxes again. I really need to recover that London article. If I can't find it I probably can recapture much of it, since my memory of that first trip to Europe remains fresh in my mind.

But it's hard to just plow through these boxes without getting sidetracked. I spent a good fifteen minutes rereading a paper I'd titled, "Structure and Meaning in 'Cliff Klingenhagen'." It's not dated, but it must be circa 1962. It still strikes me as a perceptive analysis of a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson, from Tilbury Town, which I'd long forgotten.

And even though I'm nearly fifty years late, I still think that analysis of the Fitzgerald short story needs to be published. Dr. Hugh Smith noted that there were some irregularities in diction and construction that needed to be cleared up, and a couple of lines that needed rephrasing. That would be a daunting task to type a fresh copy on my old Smith Corona portable. On my Toshiba laptop it should be a snap.

I'm gonna do it...soon.

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