The Childhood Home of a Southern Gothicist

Have you read any Flannery O’Connor? You need to. She writes some seriously fantastic stuff. Reilly and I went to her childhood home in Savannah, Georgia.

Does she know where you live?

Touring the author’s home was the last thing we did in Savannah, and I have to say it might have been better than touring Hemingway’s home in Key West. Some reasons are more substantial than others.

The tour was small. The touring hours neared an end when we decided to take the tour. An older couple were the only ones there with the docent. They seemed nice enough, but neither of them had ever read any Flannery O’Connor, but the woman said that a friend of theirs likes O’Connor’s writing, so I guess that piqued some curiosity. As the docent told us various stories in different rooms of the house, the woman in particular made comments about how creative O’Connor was. She commented constantly. Like, constantly. And the broadness of her comments confirmed that she hadn’t read any of the author’s work. She also showed that she wasn’t listening by asking questions about topics the docent already covered. It was annoying, but I also felt bad for being snobbish, because we and the docent discussed how O’Connor’s childhood stories had affected her writing that the other couple had read zero of. I guess I’m glad they were there so they could learn how cool this author was. Except that when we described Flannery O’Connor’s writing to them, the woman expressed that that type of writing didn’t interest her. So maybe I felt that the tour was an overall waste for her. And that makes me a little sad. This sadness is different than the sadness I felt learning that many of Hemingway’s relatives suffered from depression and committed suicide. In Savannah, the proximity of dumb tourists gave me quite a thrill, albeit a sad one.

"Not a very good book."
“Not a very good book.”

The docent was very knowledgeable. Reilly and I stayed after the other couple left and after tour hours ended to talk some more with the docent, Toby. He answered questions about the estate, about where O’Connors moved after leaving Savannah; we discussed Flannery’s personality and how her parents managed such a precocious child. We even talked about Toby’s own writing goals and his writing process. This tour felt very personal. The conversation was very stimulating and much needed after eating ourselves into a complete stupor at Paula Deen’s restaurant.

It wasn’t as hot. The entire time we spent in the South the weather was rather pleasant. In Key West the year before, Hemingway’s house was shaded, but the doors were kept open. It felt more humid and much warmer even though Savannah is right on the coast. Also, it seemed a legion of polydactyl cats roamed the property. Because Savannah seems so magical and haunted, the town protected and preserved Flannery O’Connor’s house. I felt more comfortable there.

The power went out. With Grimm’s Fairy Tales on the toilet, of course. It was only a short power outage, but it was a cool effect that added to the creepiness of Flannery’s stories.

Bathroom reading, obviously.

Jerry Bruckheimer. Flannery O’Connor’s estate does not permit any film or theater adaptations of her work, but Jerry Bruckheimer’s name has quite a presence in this house. He happens to like Flannery’s writing, and he made major contributions to have the house restored and turned into a museum. Which is pretty cool. I just get a little scared when I think of what kind of movie Bruckheimer would make if the estate decided to expand Flannery’s work to other media. The work by itself powerfully engages the imagination and provides wonderful dialogue. Explosions or other ridiculous effects and bad acting would definitely detract from that. The estate has acted wisely, but maybe a play would work well sometime in the future.

He's so cute!

I really enjoy touring authors’ homes with someone who loves to read. We have fun discussions, and we make each other smarter. It doesn’t seem possible, I know. Just take my word for it.

Into the Woods, It Wouldn’t Stop Raining

Even for Amy Adams and Glenn Close. OR Reilly’s birthday. But probably because it was a Sunday, and we had already ridden bikes down and up the Hudson River greenway and had lunch at Piper’s Kilt with my friend Adam. Which, Adam is close enough to Amy Adams, who is definitely a grand human talisman for good fortune. But at least we walked into the church after the bikeride, and we even had a good conversation with some friends in the foyer. The man I’ve known for four years now; his wife I met for the first time, which is different than the first time he met her, which was after he proposed to her. That’s a good story. Anyway, we should have known from the clouds it was going to rain. But it’s hard to know for sure what clouds mean anymore. I just knew the clouds kept our ride cool and shaded. No blinky brightness. Except that Reilly looks squinty in these pictures. Oh, well.

I mean, the air was humid that evening, and we were standing in line, waiting for the doors to open so that we could take our seats. It was already sprinkling once we sat down. I put a plastic bag over my head, and Reilly had his hat on. We eavesdropped on chatter about the forecast guessing that the rain would end by 8:30, which would only have delayed the show 30 minutes. We could wait that long. Plus, the nice people sitting behind us held their golf umbrella over us.

The stage lights shone on the set that looked like a giant tree house, but some of the set was on the ground and more spread out than Swiss Family Robinson, and still parts of it reached at least twenty feet into the air. The whole thing looked slippery. We talked about whether Amy Adams would risk slipping on an upper floor. We wondered about Glenn Close. We didn’t even know that she wasn’t really in the play, but her voice was featured as the Giant’s.

The stage lights shone through sloppy-yet-sleeting drops of rain, which wasn’t letting up. Sort of, but not. One of the ushers who said the time was 8:15 also said he would have already “called it.” This same usher saw a camera flash go off near and he bounded up the stairs to the source of the crime and asked the camera’s owner to delete any pictures that were taken because no photography whatsoever is not allowed in Delacorte Theater so he’ll have to check the camera to make sure the pictures were deleted, thanks kindly. Ushers wore ponchos. Some spectators wore ponchos, but some held umbrellas. We still hoped for a Sunday miracle, in that we weren’t at all prepared for rain, but it seemed we weren’t getting anything even close. Not even Glenn.

Finally at 8:30, they declared the show rained out. We walked westward in the 70s to Broadway and then south toward Columbus Circle. We thought about getting Reilly a McDonald’s ice cream cone or something similar for his birthday, but since Amy Adams the harbinger of good fortune did not appear, the McDonald’s ice cream machine was broken. Undeterred in our mission to find a dry place to have hot chocolate and some birthday dessert, we found a little cafe where we both had hot chocolate, I had a big chocolate chip cookie, and Reilly had a slice of of chocolate cake.

At least it was a summer rain, and by the time we left the cute little dessert place, it was only sprinkling, which we were grateful for. Mostly dry, and high on chocolate onReilly’s birthday, we walked the rest of the way to Columbus Circle.

We did get our tickets switched for Tuesday night, though. Which somehow meant clear skies and perfect weather. Even though the wolf/Cinderella’s prince is a total perv (as the original tale of Red Riding Hood suggests), Glenn Close meets her death as a vengeful giant and Amy Adams died leaving her baker husband alone, all the acting and singing was delightful, the props were clever and human, and that story actually sort of does end happily ever after.

And so does this one.

Australia Trip, Day 5: Find Your Own Chair to Sit In

It’s August 16, 2010. It doesn’t feel like a Monday, probably because it still feels like a Sunday night to me where I’m from, the rightside-up part of the world.

We’re going to the City today. Wee!

It’s a gorgeous day. We eat lots of good food. We walk around the city in a leisurely, touristy way. We pass through the Botanic Gardens and along the Harbour. The Opera House is incredible, and a school group is sitting on the steps. I sit with the kiddies while Becky takes a picture.

The water is such a magnificent blue.

Becky and I meet Karl and Analiese at a Lindt café for lunch, and it’s lovely.

Becky and I wander through some fun shops and mosey on over to the ANZAC Memorial where we encounter Utahns. I want to scatter them, this flock of Utahns, and I want to yell at them to get out of my vacation. Not appropriate for honoring war servicemen. I hold back, and the Utahns eventually go away. No harm done, just a little surprising for me is all.

We end the walking tour sitting on the lawn in front of a cathedral with symmetrical spires and buttresses and roseate stained glass. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but I’m using it anyway. We talk about serious things. I cry a little while Becky listens. It’s like old times.

When we get back to the apartment, we head out to pick up dinner from a nonfancy (the best kind, if you ask me) fish and chips place. I get to hold the bundle of butcher paper, our tasty swaddle. Becky teaches me to poke a hole in the package so the steam doesn’t make the chips soggy. That’s a great trick.

Click on the picture of the fish and chips to see the flickr set from today.

People Who Need People, and An Economy That Needs People

What I’ll miss: Talking to strangers
Subways, sidewalks, elevators. Elevators are probably my favorite. I like to see what choice people make when I try talking to them in a confined space and we have a moment or so to ourselves: Talk back, or not. Most of the time they talk back and it’s fun and people smile, except for the one time this happened:

Two friends and I, then a woman and her friend with her dog, and two guys were on the elevator to the ground floor. The woman and her friend with her dog got off somewhere between the 15th and 5th floors. The dog looked to be something of a Bichon Frise – white and fluffy. When the elevator door closed, one of the guys said to his friend, “My mom has a dog exactly like that. Except it’s fat. And it’s a pug.” His statement took me all the way back to high school, and how my friends and I would glower at the people who said something was exactly like  something else and then describe it to be drastically different. It happened all the time. So when the guy described his mom’s dog, and I couldn’t help but burst out, “That’s not even the same breed!” And then I laughed. And the guys got quiet; it seemed they didn’t understand what I thought was so funny. And then the elevator doors opened like floodgates, and awkwardness flowed out like runoff from a heavy, summer rain. Oh well.

There was also that one time when I asked about birthday cake a guy was holding and it was actually a piece of his brother’s wedding cake and then I asked if he was next. Then he said probably never and never looked happier to be getting out of an elevator. That was awesome.

What I won’t miss: Tourists
I suppose we’re all tourists sometimes, and I’m happy giving them directions, but people: our sidewalks are our throughways. Go with the flow of traffic, or realize you’re in my way and let me pass, and maybe stop with the fanny packs. Thanks.

Seems Much Longer than 71 Seconds

So I have this friend. She’s kind of a new friend; I’ve only known her about a month. Her name is Deena. She’s one of Becky’s roommates. She’s managed to find a nice little niche in our ever so exclusive clique. She couldn’t bribe us to join, so she convinced us she could be a backup dancer for Mechanical VIOLET. Anyway, Friday night we’re all hanging out at Becky’s and Becky had to work late, remotely from home with her Blackberry, holstered to the back of her jeans, but in order to keep from falling asleep in front of the television we decided to go for a short stroll around Herald Square. My former neighborhood. With my former neighbors, the tourists. I love the thrill, the freedom of doing silly things in public, and it doesn’t lose its magic in a place where it’s accepted as perfectly normal. But we might have gone a smidge too far when we decided to talk to some pedicab drivers, who then decided they wanted our phone numbers. I mean, they already knew our names because we told them, and they already copped feels on our calves. You know, to make sure we were in good enough shape to drive a pedicab. Because that’s always been a career option for me. So, we pretty much had no choice but to come back (escape) to Becky’s apartment and have one of the best dance parties I’ve ever attended. And Deena pretty much sealed her position as our backup dancer.

Deena tells the story much better

Also, be very impressed with Becky’s photo editing skills.

Don’t forget to watch the video. But I’m also giving you the choice to forget watching it.

An Interesting Distraction

Yesterday while I was at Starbucks, a girl sat next to me. We sat at one of the perimeter bars along a window. She pulled out one of those NYC tourist guides. I didn’t think too much of it, because anybody could buy those and not be a tourist. A few minutes later a friend of hers sat next to her. They talked in a foreign language, and I wasn’t paying enough attention to try recognizing what they spoke. They chatted quietly, minding their own business, clearly stopping in a chain coffee shop for a pick-me-up. Then, out of the blue a few seats down from me, a guy’s voice asked, “Would you ladies like some wine?” I automatically assumed he’s not talking to me, gripped my pen extra-tightly and concentrated enough to levitate my journal from the counter if I wanted to. (I didn’t want to bring any attention to myself.)

The girls looked at each other, like, wha? and asked, “You have wine?” Then the guy sneakily reached into his bag and partly pulled out a bottle. Then he held up his cup. This man was pretty far gone. He was young. Red hair, baseball cap. Fiddling around on his iBook.


The girls nodded. The guy asked, “WHERE ARE YOU FROM?”

The girls said, “Switzerland.”







“YOU DON’T SPEAK ROMANE? [Aren’t you SO impressed I even know about Romane?] DON’T YOU KNOW FRENCH?”

“We took it in school, so we know a little.”


“Just German.” They started toward the door. They had tickets for some show out and ready. They were ready to go, like 3 minutes ago, before Mr. Look-at-Me-Pretending-Not-to-Drink-Wine-and-Hit-on-Foreign-Women started chatting those girls up at a volume where everyone in the Starbucks felt included. I felt for them.


They left. He withdrew back into his iBook, like some bipolar gigolo turtle.

Then I took a few notes in my journal. Then I transcribed them here.