A long time ago, in another life, I was an eager, young journalist – delighted to take any assignment I was offered from my editor at the East Bay Express. I’d scoot around the streets of Berkeley writing stories about local artists, pieces on the new trend in juice bars, cute stories about what the local jewelers were doing for Valentines Day. No big shakes, but a terrific beginning for someone who wanted to write.
As much fun as it was to see my byline, what I noticed was that the stories I really wanted to write had nothing to do with what my editor found interesting, but instead the things that captured my own attention. For instance, I lived across the street from a transvestite and had a clear view from my apartment into his room. On weekends, like clockwork I’d watch him enter his home as a skinny, bean pole of a man in jeans and tennis shoes, and leave hours later as a sensibly dressed woman in her white patent leather shoes, matching white handbag and prim white skirt. His interpretation of what being a woman looked like intrigued me. He looked just like a secretary on her way to work.
From the vantage point of my third story apartment, not only could I watch him paint his toes, which he dried on the windowsill of his apartment, but I could see into the entire Lucky Supermarket parking lot below. One woman was a daily regular – shopping first, then leaning against her family wagon smoking cigarette after cigarette. The parking lot was her refuge – a place she could think and breath and smoke.
Real stories of real people came alive for me everywhere. My Father’s obsession with jazz music took me into jazz to help me understand him better. All those quirky rhythms – where was the melody and something standard and predicable that I could follow? When my grandmother drove her baby blue Jaguar into her swimming pool and drowned, I was fixated on understanding how a young Jewish woman from Salt Lake City could end up at the bottom of a swimming pool in Los Angeles 60 years later.
I stopped writing stories about local business and started writing stories that touched me, made me curious and called me in. I’m still writing these stories today.