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Nation's in Oakland.
July 28th, 1999

Thirty Years Back
A reader sent me this url in an email ( with its collection of (more modern) quotations. Very nice. Everything from Bart Simpson to Pulp Fiction to favorite lyrics to Oxymorons to insults ("I'd insult you, but you're not bright enough to notice."). I may eventually regret that $45 I spent on the Barlett's, although I enjoyed reading through it last night. I'd forgotten that "Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt" were "Four be the things I'd been better without:" or "Four be the things I am wiser to know: Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe." I like Dorothy Parker.

I lived just outside New York City from 1955 through 1961 and as a kid then in high school I read about Dorothy Parker Ann still in makeup and costume. and some of the other writers who made up the Roundtable at the Algonquin Hotel. I realize now that although I read a lot and paid attention to people like Dorothy Parker and Jack Kerouac, my friends, who were generally pretty smart, wanted little or nothing to do with the arts and were focused on getting into Harvard so they could make a lot of money as lawyers. Nothing wrong with that, Harvard lawyers generally do well, own nice houses and have two and a half kids, but without feedback I was on my own as to what to think about people who worked in the writing business and how they started out. If, in fact, that was something I wanted for myself.

I don't much regret the way my life bounced around, apparently without direction, it was the life I was supposed to live. I realize, though, that it might have been nice if I'd tried this writing thing back then along the lines I'm writing now: basically for the fun of it, no idea of making it fit into any of the molds I seemed to perceive in the wider writer world, the novels, the plays, the screenplays, the newspapers, the advertising (cough! cough!) business. Just write as I was able, write what I knew, even if that was very little, and not worry about where it was leading. The one thing to focus on was the enjoyment of the writing itself, word after word until it started to pick up a life of its own somewhere out around 750,000 to a million words.

But I didn't and the reason I didn't is because at the my core, the truth was it wasn't meant to be. I think that's true, otherwise I would have found a way to make this writing or photography or drawing develop into something more than a hobby. I've known my share of artists and they all seemed to start when they were young. I'm not sure that's true of the writers, many of whom did not become rich and famous before they were 25 or, dear god, 30. Raymond Chandler started in his 50's, but crime novels don't count and there's always one son of a bitch out there skewing the curve. (I am kidding here, by the way.)

I remember spending hours drawing with friends (This was well before high school and we were all fascinated with drawing gigantic air battles with thousands of airplanes shooting it out in pencil on big sheets of newsprint and reading Dr. Seuss.) and then moving to New York and meeting all these proto Harvard lawyers and Princeton stockbrokers who didn't know a number 2 pencil from a Rapidograph. If I'd been conscious or half intelligent I'd have been amazed and amused. The concept was from my poor perception extremely strange, although I've come to appreciate the luck of those who found international tax law to be their heart's bent. A similar appreciation for those who found themselves fascinated by investment banking and Brooks Brothers suits.

I have no complaints. With age has come a calming of the spirits and an interest in sitting here at the monitor to wrestle with sentences. I'm not sure what's coming up other than more grey hair and a decreasing ability to drink whiskey neat from the glass, but this isn't so bad and another ten or twenty years of it just might be a nice epitaph. I don't guarantee myself a journal life beyond this entry, of course, but then I think everybody in this journal business is in the same boat. For now it's fun, something it wasn't altogether thirty years back.

The banner photograph of Nation's on Broadway was taken in Oakland last fall. I've been very sloppy with the building front photos that I've taken over the last two years, but I think I'd like to spend more time on them and learn how to shoot them. This is not a particularly good example. The lady in the window is a PhotoShop whim. The second photograph was taken of my cousin John's wife Ann still in makeup after her performance in The Grand Duke.