I guess you could say I’ve been quiet over the past year. Life has been loud and crowded and there wasn’t much space to write. My daughter is quickly approaching her first birthday and I’m more in awe of her each day. She’s teaching me about patience and joy, among other lessons. I’m so proud of who she is already and will become.
In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new feud brewing in the Catholic Church. This is an attack against the nuns that’s being called an investigation. An investigation? Of nuns? This is a man willing to risk his entire life to support the nuns against the Church.
I could tell you about it, but think Father Doug does a much better job
at this link
I sent him this thank you e-mail:
I wanted to thank you for your support of the nuns. I’m a graduate of Saint Mary’s College in South Bend, IN where the majority of my favorite – and most challenging teachers were nuns. During my senior year, I lived in a dorm shared by some of the sisters. I recall reading their death notices in the elevator and thought how quietly and peacefully they lived and died among us.
We just returned from a fantastic visit to Dubois, Wyoming. It’s the kind of place where you have to really make an effort to get there, but well worth it. Our first flight took us from Atlanta to Salt Lake City, where I was surprised by the beauty of the Wasatch Mountains that encircle the airport. On the short flight from SLC to Jackson Hole, we plastered our faces to the window to peer at the unfamiliar terrain. The Jackson Hole airport is a western work of art. There are height restrictions, so you need air stairs to maneuver to/from the plane. Inside, local artwork lines the walls. There’s a glass enclosed fireplace. Even the TSA staff was low-key.
We stayed at a magical place called Brooks Lake Lodge. Brian from the lodge picked us up from the airport. The drive is about an hour and a half. We passed maybe five cars during that time. Aside from staring at the majestic Tetons, I marveled at the complete lack of billboards. There was nothing to interrupt the wide open skies. We drove by a couple of dude ranches and two gas stations. Near the Exxon station is a kennel filled with dogs bred for dog sledding.
Next, Brian drove us in a snow coach (fancy term for an Econoline van with tricked out snow tires) up the mountain. I could feel the altitude rising in my lungs as we climbed over the snow covered service road. Brooks lake Lodge has an elevation of 9,200 feet. As we learned over our vacation, sleeping is difficult to adjust to because you wake up breathing harder in the thin air.
My grandfather (Pops) was a dear, kind man. Today I’m remembering when I took him on Honor Flight to see the WW II Memorial in person. He loved the mechanics of flying. I only wish he had allowed himself to see more of the world, but he loved his place on the planet. It’s in the rolling hills of horse country in Kentucky.
I don’t think I ever really got to know him. He was a private man who only talked about his time in the Army as he got older. He was quiet, but had a loud laugh.
I didn’t write the obituary listed below, but thought I would include it here. It’s difficult to sum up a person’s life in a couple of paragraphs. I discovered that when I wrote and rewrote Nana’s obit in 2007. I miss you, Pops.
William Maurice Taylor, 88, of Winchester, widower of the love of his life, Elizabeth “Betty” McLendon Taylor, passed away peacefully on Thursday at the Clark Regional Medical Center after a short illness.
A native of Clark County, he was born May 28, 1923, to the late Claude Thurman Taylor and Jessie Tucker Hampton Taylor. He attended Bean Elementary School, St. Agatha Academy, and graduated from Winchester High School in 1942. He then attended Kentucky Wesleyan College in Winchester so he could be close to his future wife.
He was a Clark County farmer, member of the First United Methodist Church, former member of the Pioneer Amateur Radio Club, Winchester Rotary Club, and Kentucky Colonel. His hobbies included amateur radio, repairing antique radios, and family history.
He was enlisted in the military where he served as sergeant during World War II as part of the 9th Army Air Force based in England. He repaired and maintained airborne radar equipment, principally target-sighting and aircraft identification mechanisms. He was injured by a land mine at the base in Cotswold, England, while unloading a jeep and was honorably discharged after recovery at a hospital in England. He received a letter of accommodation for his service from President Harry Truman. He was awarded an American Service Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal with one bronze service star, World War II Victory Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.
Yesterday I met a man while sitting in traffic. His curly blond hair was tucked underneath a yellow and red cap, but most of it had managed to escape. He walked through the line of cars trying to cajole people to donate to a cause. I’m not sure what the cause was because I seem to never have any cash. When he passed me and tried to hand me a sheet of paper, I just said “no, thanks.”
“It’s good I can handle rejection,” he told me.
“I understand that. I’m a writer,” I commented.
“Really?” he asked, planting his arms into my window. “I am too. I wrote a book back in the 90′s called Demon Diablo.” He grinned.
“That’s great,” I replied.
“Yeah, and now here I am, fundraising. You know, my book was based on the song Hotel California. Ever heard of it?”
“Sure,” I answered.
“Now I should try to get it out there, you know? What should I do? Create a petition or a billboard?”
“Maybe check out one of the self publishing websites like Lulu.com,” I said.
“Lulu.com. Ok, great. How much does it cost? I’m getting about 17K soon.”
“Not that much,” I said, waving before driving away.
Instead of writing this morning, I decided to read the news. Well, not the 24-hour news cycle. Literary news. Along with my trusty sidekick Corabelle (who quickly fell fast asleep in her basket), I made a pot of Dunkin’ Donuts Peppermint Mocha coffee and sat down to read. This was a morning worth waking up at 3:30. Seriously. I discovered that Ann Patchett is opening a bookstore in her hometown of Nashville. She isn’t trying to make a profit. Instead, she’s trying to create a community center where people can go to read and discuss books. That made me wonder about the original credo of bookstores. When did the first bookstore open?
There’s a lot of information on the Internet. But if you type that question into Google, you have to scroll through pages of stuff like when Barnes & Noble first began and books first sold on Amazon. I read on. The first paperback bookstore was opened in San Francisco in 1953. There are many other firsts that I found, but not a conclusive answer to my query. Maybe I’ll save that question for the next morning of insomnia. Might hear back on this tomorrow.
As a former Borders employee, I can attest to the bond described in this Chicago Tribune article that develops between co-workers and odd customers. My co-workers all had their favorites. In the store where I led special events, there was a young homeless guy who would swoop through the cafe, demolishing sugar packets in his wake. He always wore the same clothing – even during the summer – a hoodie and oversized pair of pants with a gigantic hole in the back. He would park himself at the listening station for hours.
Then there was tuxedo man, a former dapper gentlemen who would stalk through the store in a faded tux while complaining about everything.
There was a woman missing several teeth who carried her crumpled bills in a sock. She always bought children’s dvds. I always wondered if she had a TV.
My favorite was an older man who seemed like a curmudgeon, yet was actually a sweet man with a wry sense of humor. He sought me out every time he was in the store. He told me about growing up in the city and how much it had changed. He went to a local high school where the stadium was being renovated. That made him sad, he said. When I asked why he told me that nothing was the same anymore.
I think about all of those people and wonder where they’ll go now. Borders wasn’t really their third place. It was a place that was more of a necessity for them than for many of us.
Today I looked up my great uncle Cole on Wikipedia. I had been thinking about him after reading this article about John Warner’s great uncle, the writer Allan Seager. It’s interesting how much influence a creative relative can have on your life, even if you didn’t know them well. In Warner’s case, Seager had died a couple of years before he was born. I was 12 when Cole committed suicide. I should say I was just about 13 because he jumped from his balcony the day before my birthday.
Cole and his partner lived next door to the Guggenheim Museum. They lived a lifestyle I wish I had been old enough to be part of instead of just hearing about from family. They had friends like Tennessee Williams and Edmund White. Cole found success as a writer. But it wasn’t enough. He always yearned for more. His writing is disturbed and lovely and haunting. I’ve tried reading several of his books and they are too dense for me. I have to take breaks between reading.
His Wikipedia posting doesn’t encapsulate who he was – just some of his accomplishments and the names of some friends. The last sentence says that he was gay. I wonder why that’s the last sentence. His partner was a major part of his life for decades. There is also some incorrect information. His father’s name is misspelled. Cole didn’t live overseas while in the service. I think one of his editors thought that would be intriguing on a back cover. Or maybe Cole wanted to add that in for himself. He was a master storyteller. I didn’t really know him.Yet I felt his loss keenly all those years ago. I remember wondering why he chose that day. As a pre-teen I didn’t realize it had absolutely nothing to do with me.
I want to add more to his Wikipedia entry. Right now his article says more documentation is needed. It also says there might be some errors. I remember a writer who contacted my grandmother years ago. He was writing about Cole and wanted more biographical information like what Cole was like as a kid. Nana told him that Cole was always creative. He was a born entertainer. And he had a good time while he was here.
The idea of bookstores closing is inherently sad to me. Since childhood I’ve found bookstores to be magical places. You never know what book you might find and where you might be transported. I figured my place was among the books and that’s turned out to be true. I’ve managed an independent bookstore in coastal Georgia and worked at a Borders in Atlanta leading special events. I’ve always preferred the indie stores with their eclectic selections as opposed to the mega chains with row after rows of the same books.
I’m thinking about those books now. What’s going to happen to all of the books that have already been printed? And what of the books that won’t be printed now since Borders is closing? Here’s an interesting article.
I met writer Jennifer Egan in 2002 at the Newberry Library in Chicago. She was part of a reading series but not very well known at the time. The crowd was relatively modest. She read from second her novel Look At Me. The book signing line was short. She took the time to talk with her readers. “Thank you for being here,” she said to me. She also encouraged me to write. She was young and earnest and probably had no idea where her writing would lead.
She wrote her inscriptions in bold, loopy handwriting. I looked at them recently after learning she won the 2011 Pulitzer for Fiction. Her website still hasn’t been updated to reflect that tremendous honor. How do you move from being a writer who has received acclaim to being a writer who has been awarded the top prize? I’m sure her website will be updated in time. But for now I hope she’s reveling in her success while also remaining that accessible woman I met years ago.