Seven a.m. on a Monday morning and my mother is the only one awake. She pads downstairs. In the kitchen, she raises the shades, letting in weak, gray daylight, then turns to find the coffee pot.
Twenty years ago I was famous. Not so famous that my torrid affairs with young starlets were covered by national magazines, and being thirteen at the time, that wasn’t really much of a problem. I was famous enough that strangers followed me around the Montgomery Mall when I went shopping.
I hate my job. As evening supervisor of a one-hundred bed nursing
home, I oversee the work of one other nurse and ten nurses’ aides.
Our wedding was in a graveyard in November darkness.
He was not the one disfigured in youth, the one who rose to fame, the one whose story has been told in books and film. He was not the celebrated architect, Louis I. Kahn. He was Lou’s brother, Oscar, a man whose unsung life was unexpectedly cut short, a man I never met but for whom I was named. He was my grandfather, and after all these silent, shadowy years, his faded image is starting to clear.
So you’ve poured your heart out on paper, and now you’re ready to get it published. Congratulations! But if you think spending months, or years, on a manuscript is hard, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Get ready for the really hard work. Publishing, and then SELLING your book.
You didn’t smoke or have a chronic disease. You waltzed around the kitchen table, tried Viagra, played cards, and nurtured your African violets. You began a publishing empire called the “Brown Envelopes” filled with jokes, war stories, and Reader’s Digest clips. You collected, copied and mailed the Brown Envelopes every month to 50 friends, acquaintances and Army buddies.
When I insisted that fixing my glasses with a welding torch was a bad idea, my grandfather asked if I’d ever read Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. The book, he said, was about an optometrist who’d made a fortune selling frames.
The spring I turn fourteen I notice Steve. He is tall with slanted eyes and long black hair. I love him instantly.
Summer dawns, humid and sweet. Steve invites me to get a little drunk under the trees. The two of us drink wine from red plastic tumblers. When we kiss he tastes like cinnamon gum.why does he taste like gum when he’s been drinking wine? I spend years chasing that moment.
On a warm Friday morning at the Philadelphia Art Museum, twelve men and women gather to hear a lecture on Mary Cassatt’s painting A Woman and Girl Driving. We’re art apostles, staked out on tiny, collapsible, green vinyl, aluminum stools. Some of the listeners are painters; others, like me, would be hard-pressed to sketch more than a stick figure.