It's June 30th, and when it's June 30th, I think of Richard Brautigan. He had a poetry book called June 30th, June 30th, so it's natural I think of him today. I also think of how his influence helped me in my life.
When I was a baby, my dad found two framed Richard Brautigan pieces and brought them home. Thanks to Richard Brautigan.net, here's the pieces:
I want your long blonde beauty
to be taught in high school,
so kids will learn that God
lives like music in the skin
and sounds like a sunshine harpsichord.
I want high school report cards
to look like this:
Playing with Gentle Glass Things
Writing Letters to Those You Love
Finding out about Fish
Marcia's Long Blonde Beauty
From The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, 1969
September 22 means that she is lying on the beach in a black bathing suit and she is very carefully taking her own temperature.
She is beautiful; long and white and obviously a secretary from Montgomery Street who went to San Jose State College for three years and this is not the first time that she has taken her own temperature in a black bathing suit at the beach.
She seems to be enjoying herself and I cannot take my eyes off her. Beyond the thermometer is a ship passing off San Francisco Bay, bound for cities on the other side of the world, those places.
Her hair is the same color as the ship. I can almost see the captain. He is saying something to the crew.
Now she takes the thermometer out of her mouth, looks at it, smiles, everything is all right, and puts it away in a little lilac carrying case.
The sailor does not understand what the captain said, so the captain has to repeat it.
From Revenge of the Lawn
I grew up reading these pieces in my house. They were two of the first things I read on my own.
When I was twelve, Richard Brautigan killed himself in his Bolinas house. I remember feeling sad, but also I just started sixth grade, which was not fun, and we were going through a terrible heat wave. I was sad, but not devastated.
Flash forward six years later. I'm eighteen, and I am wanting, wanting to write a novel. I want it so much I can taste it. I am frustrated with school and I have a year to go at my high school. I wear hippie clothes and consider myself a non-conformist. Let everyone else have their stonewashed jeans and high top sneakers. I'm through with those games.
Thank God for Jane Juska's writing class. Every morning we come in and write. The desks were shaped horseshoe style and her desk was in the middle. One day she told us to bring in pictures so we could write about them. One girl wrote about the falling of the Berlin wall. A wrestler found a picture of a homeless woman and wrote a poem that there must be some mistake; she should be dressed in jewels and the finest silk.
For me, I looked through a book called A Day In the Life of America. I found two pictures that struck me: One of a girl at a tea party with straight brown hair and wearing a pink dress, drinking tea. Another girl, the same age, her hair in braids, wearing overalls and smiling at the camera. Two girls, around the same age. Yet they could be sisters, couldn't they?
That's when I started my novel, the summer of 1990. I had a weird writing schedule. When Fernwood Tonight would come on Nick at Nite, I would start writing. I would write when the show was on. When the show was over, I was done with a chapter. In a month, I had a messy but thrilling first draft.
Now here's when Richard Brautigan comes in. In Vermont, a man named Todd Lockwood was inspired by Brautigan's book The Abortion where the narrator was a librarian at a library where people would come in and drop the books they just written. He wanted to do the same thing. He opened the Brautigan library, where people from all over could send their writing to the library so it could be bound and shelved with other books.
Now keep in mind that this was before the Internet. It was before blogging, before anything. People were just writing and writing and unless they were lucky to get published, their writing stayed on their Word Perfect files or was a pile of paper by their typewriter. Naturally, people started to send their writing in to the library. I knew I had to send my magnum opus Sister Taylor, Sister Starlight in as well.
First, though, I recruited my creative writing class to send something to the library. We sent in a collection of our writings, Women Who Love Men with Bad Haircuts to the library. We got a certificate saying that yes, the library got our book, and thanked us. We were published! We were stars!
After I graduated high school, I worked on Sister Taylor, Sister Starlight all the time. I was reading a lot of Brautigan so the short sentences and chapters were definitely Brautigan like. I worked hard on it and at the end of August 1992; I knew it was ready for the Brautigan library.
I sent it in with baited breath, a month later I received the certificate saying it was on the shelves. It was out there. I kept on looking at it, thinking someday I'll go to Burlington Vermont and see my book at the Brautigan library.
Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. The library closed in 1995 due to financial woes and people not being able to volunteer on a regular basis. The collection was moved to the Fletcher Free Library (also in Burlington) and stayed there for years, but put in storage in 2006. There were plans to move the collection to the Presidio Library in San Francisco, but it didn't turn out.
I still have hopes. I still want to believe that someday, be it San Francisco or Burlington Vermont I'll go in and see Sister Taylor, Sister Starlight. I will feel its heft and realize wow, I wrote that. Not bad for a twenty year old girl.
So Richard Brautigan, thanks man. I wish you could've lived to see the Internet, I think you would've loved it. I wish you could've seen your daughter Ianthe(also a Red Room Writer) become a talented writer in her own right, or your ex wife run for congress, or your granddaughter. Most of all, I wish you could've seen that for a brief time, your imagination of a unique library helped so many people realize a dream and get their words out there. Happy June 30th, wherever you are.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries