In the original manuscript of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill there was a chapter on the history of the unique little world of gardens and cottages where I was living (and live now) and the people who’d made it possible. (Judy and I own their house.) When I submitted the manuscript, my editor suggested that I delete it, and, being a first-time author, I didn’t argue. She even encouraged me to defend its inclusion. But I didn’t. A few days ago I decided to post it on my website. Here’s the link for anyone interested in reading it. It goes between the chapters “Dogen” and “Everything Changes.”
Archive for August, 2011
When I was around 18 years old I found myself increasingly at odds with my country—my countrymen and countrywomen actually. By the time I was 21, things got so bad that I dropped out. Fell out, really. This is a big part of what my new book is about. I stayed underground for nearly thirty years. I occasionally get flak for “being a bum” from a certain kind of person who is troubled by The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. I don’t think I ever say it explicitly, but I was living the way I did, not because I didn’t like to work, but because I couldn’t accept the American way of life. The book and the film yanked me back into the game. For the last few years I’ve been getting back in touch with the way things work here. At first, the change was somewhat exhilarating. I’ve gone from living on roof tops and in storerooms to being a home owner. Now I find myself, once again, deeply at odds with the society I live in. I’ve had trouble posting lately because I don’t feel right about complaining all the time. But I see very little that has any value these days, and I see much that is destructive. Sometimes I think that I should write about the world that I’d like to see. Maybe I will. I want to be positive, but there’s just so little to be positive about in this particular era. I think of it as the Reagan Era. I know I’m going to write something about the economy soon, which is going to be hyper-negative. Just a warning! Meanwhile, I’m hard at work, six days a week, on Street Song.
I’m back from my trip up north to Washington State. Judy and I spent four days in a primitive cabin (no electricity, no water) in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest that the Forest Service rents out. My family used to go to this area often, and I still love it. It’s in a thick forest—undeveloped wilderness.
Once again, I found that getting some distance from the book helped to clarify some important issues that were slowing me down. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. The path keeps leading me to the answers. I’m back at work on the outline now and hope to make rapid progress.
When I got back from the cabin, I learned of an amazing coincidence. While in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest I went to visit another old cabin that my grandmother once owned. I used to spend part of every summer there. The cabin is no longer in the family, and I had some questions of the new owners. I left a note on the door asking them, if they would be so kind, to get in touch. Shortly after I got home I received an email from a woman who told me she’d found the note on the door and thought my name sounded familiar. Later that day, she started reading a book she’d picked up at the library expressly for her stay at the cabin and realized that the author of the book and the author of the note had the same name. She didn’t think much about it until she came to a passage in the book about a cabin in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest that the author used to spend his summers in. The book was, of course, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Neat, huh?
I’m still working on the final outline, and things are going fine. Once I’ve finished I’ll be in position to start the final draft. But first, it’s time for another break. Judy and I are going up to near where I was born in Washington State and spending a few days in a cabin in a wilderness area. It’s a place I used to go when I was a kid and it plays a role in the book. So I’m going partly to relax, partly to gather material. In the meantime, my best to everybody who reads these posts.
If Jesus were alive today, saying what he said before, and if he had a following, the Republicans would be furiously agitating against him, raising violent passions against him, vilifying his “anti-American” philosophy, and seeing that he was placed in the same kind of danger that Martin Luther King found himself in. If he had no following, they would merely smirk and mock him.