where the writers are
Seeing Old Friends You've Just Met
granny diaries.jpg


Tonight my friend Lilly Marie and I went to see Adair Lara, a former SF Chronicle columnist and Red Room writer.  I saw her arrive with her family, and the odd thing is I knew who each person was, even though none of us had met.

            Let me explain. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my mother would read Adair Lara's column. She would write about her two kids Morgan and Patrick, about her mother who raised seven children on her own and loved to read, her dad who left the family, but she ran into him one day at the old Main Library in San Francisco, Jim, her ex-husband who she was still friendly with, and Bill, her husband. She wrote about other things, of course: a friend getting laid off for no reason at all, a girl getting killed by a bomb, and a surprise phone call from an ex-husband.

            Her columns were always so friendly, so warm, as if she was at our kitchen table, saying: "Whoa! You wouldn't believe what happened now!" When she was available on-line, my mom and I would e-mail her columns, in the subject line: "You have to read this one by Adair!"

            And then one day in 2002, there was no Adair. Under new management, the Chronicle shook things up and her column was gone. She still wrote for the paper, but it wasn't like reading the columns every Tuesday and Thursday. A friend was absent from our kitchen table, and it showed.

            Two years later, I found myself at Mills College. I was looking at the schedule, deciding which classes to take. I saw under Creative-Non Fiction "Lara, A" And I thought oh my God, she's teaching here! Wow! I wanted to take her, but my supervisor said I was nuts, no way could I take two workshops (I was going to take Advanced Fiction, and since my concentration was going to be on fiction, I had to agree).

            Lilly-Marie kept in touch with Adair, and then asked me if I wanted to go with her to see Adair at her house. Now being asked to a writer's house is like asking Dolly Parton to go to a wig shop. I'm going to say yes.

            We went and she was very gracious, very kind. She always stressed that to get anything done, write everyday, have a writing partner, and don't be afraid if something you wrote is marked up, it will help your writing.

            So tonight, when I got to see her, I saw her daughter Morgan playing her Adair's granddaughters (who inspired Adair's new book, The Granny Diaries). I saw her husband Bill take pictures of Adair reading. I saw Jim in the back smiling at his granddaughters. I saw women like me going up to Adair and saying: "We miss you on the Chronicle."  I saw her son Patrick play with his nieces, talk about his own writing, and smile at people who asked how he was doing. In fact, I mentioned to Lilly-Marie that he took some licorice LM brought for Adair, and he turned around and said: "How did you know I was?"

            "I read your mother's column," I explained.

            "Oh yeah, that makes sense."

            He sounded like a true writer's son.