The Adolphus Hotel in downtown Dallas is a swell place, i.e., swell as in swanky because it is an old Grand Dame hotel, but so well maintained, it doesn't feel in the slightest dowdy, and seems, well -- up-to-date in a classy retro way. Yes, there's the old cushioned lobby sofas and armchairs with tea service and classical piano music at 4 PM in the lobby and maybe it could use a good blue back lit martini bar. But there's an on-premise BBQ restaurant and bar that will serve you any drink you want and brings the whole place down home. Adolphus is close to Fusion, UrbanMart, the original Nieman Marcus, the Museum district, New Ellum's stretch of bad boy blues and rock bars (recently so bad there's been street robberies that have driven business away - folks like their pseudo sin places to be safe, don't cha' know?), and the Dallas museum of the Kennedy assassination (brutal but usually full of tourists).
But my Junior Suite was over adequate in size and quiet and a nice day's sanctuary from travel for prepping for the weekend.
(C) 2008. William Poy Lee
Last time I was at the Adophus, a friend had the Penthouse suite. Talk about big and swanky and au courrant -- there were carved Buddhas and Buddha heads throughout the suite, too, undoubtedly from Cambodia.
Friday Night at the Writers Garret, housed upstairs in a bookstore called Paperbacks Plus in an eclectic and somewhat funky part of town. George Getschow of Mayborn Southwest Writers (July 11-13th) conference talks about the $15,000 in cash prizes they're giving away this year. Deadline for ms. in various categories is June 13th. Google them if interested - Mayborn, University of North Texas and open to writers nationally and internationally.
George looks more like a wiry Yankee lobsterman in his dark blue knit shirt (or was it a sweater), black jeans, slightly thinning hair, and grave visage than a literary man. What gives him away are his cowboy boots, his Texas drawl (but softspoken), and his obvious love of literature and of nurturing aspiring writers.
The passion of Thea Temple, ED for Writers Garret, for writing and supporting writers is equally striking and so I feel right at home here. These are folks who can be "making units," but are doing this instead.;
Susannah Charleson reads from her forthcoming memoir, On the Trail of a Scent, of her volunteer search and rescue work with her dog and inter-species companion, Puzzle.
At first, the audience is white, mostly older white women. Then during Susannah's reading, some fans and friends from my 2007 April appearance at Dallas International Book Festival start streaming in. Hmm, anything here about PC time? But tradition is that the out-of-towner is the last to read, as in headliner.
As with the Virginia Festival of the Book, I decided to read from the difficult as well as the pristine. And so I read from Mother's chapters about Toisan and because there are so many older women, many presumptively mothers, I read of the Chi's soups role in postpartum rejuvenation. Then, I go to the Grant Avenue Civil Rights march, my mother's Chinese New Year rebirthing following Richard's conviction, and then my girding myself for what became the pubic campaign for a new trial for him and the raising of issues of corruption in Chinatown.
I found myself forcing back tears as I read the latter sections. This still happens from time-to-time, even though the events are decades old and the writing completed years ago. The room was more alert and silent during this diffcult stretch and I finished to nice applause.
During the Q&A, someone asked whether I read a lot and whether any books had influenced my writing. Yes, and I reminded them the alternating chapters were modeled on The Color of Water and In My Mother's House. Also, that when I decided how to write the section of my reacquainting myself with a new and much more dangerous Chinatown, I modeled my investigation on Dash Hammett's Red Harvest, mentioning that when you reread Red Harvest, ten times as I have, that there is a musicality and rhythmn to the writing that may show up later in your own work. I also mentioned that when I pared down my life and redressed myself to become the warrior monk on behalf of a new and fair trial for Richard, that the rhythmn of this passage was based on the King James Bible verses having to do with putting on the breastplate of righteousness, etc.
I notice George writing down notes furiously on this comment. Hmmm, if not all their panels are filled up, I wouldn't mind being invited to returning to Dallas in mid-July. A later comer had taken my seat and the only open one was next to him. When I sat down, he patted my shoulder and said that was a good reading. I patted his shoulder back and thanked him. The guy is wiry like a lobsterman.
Cowboy tough and literary sensitive. Interesting fusion.
Sold fifteen books, most in a night, said Grace Kenney, a staffer and who graciously handled all my trip details, and then handed me wads of cash, four checks, and receipts.
Papadeaux's is a mainly African American patronized fun bar and food place -- good service, nice ambience, and v. tasty Creole food. It's crayfish season and so we started out with two very large bowls of (3 pounds I believe) nicely spiced but not too peppery red crayfish with corn on the cob and cut potatoes. Went well with my Heineken's (they didn't have Lone Star beer?) I enjoyed a nice Caesar and finished with a seafood and sausage gumbo.
Home too early, but there's a class to teach tomorrow. Next time more fun and later, they promise!
Great class and Sussanah and I worked well together without any real prep between us. With her M.A. in Narrative Structuture, we offered a complementary linear and intuitive approach to writing that first memoir. Then we provided our own very useful writing, agent search, and publisher tips and war stories.
One woman is writing about her Erin Brokovich battle (successful) against a toxic chemical plant that callously polluted her entire community. She was a housewife before she became a warrior, but got pissed when they sprayed her child and her one day, with nary a by-your-leave much less an apology or admission. Poor people don't count -- only she wasn't poor and had the money and the education plus fire to fight back.
Another is writing about the lingering dying of her father with Alzheimer who was so physically fit that he lived fifteen years before his placement in a hospice (that essentially legally killed him). He had left a living will that he did not want to be kept living in the event he lost his mental capacity. In the process, his wife lost their house over the expenses of caretaking him, passed way before his death, and then this writer stepped in. Simultaneously, her dog came down with a condition where it was humane to put the dog down. She didn't say so, but I think the central conflict in her memoir would be who or what says that euthanasia in this instance of a healthy body in an Alzheimer patient isn't humane?
So, with all these serious stories, I spent a bit of time on writing the difficult and how to survive it in great balance. And pointing out that those emotions will never die. You may cry time and again, or find yourself fighting back tears as I did the night before, when you read it for the public or for yourself.
And as Alice points out, let's put the "GRAND" back in Grand Parents. Although our society doesn't treasure the Elder as many societies do, memoir is about reflection over a life well-lived, and we offer wisdom. Memoir, whether published, blogged, or self-published, may be our way to inject that wisdom, and revitalized that honored role, back into the culture whether we're hot today or not (NOT!).
Return home to Berkeley only to find that the whole Olympic torch run thing is flaring up like a fire fight in a Sadr City near you. SF is the only US city with an O torch run. My good friend, Helen Zia, a longtime and honored human rights activist, is going to run the 2 blocks despite her personal fears of being tackled or hurt if someone should try to grab the torch from her. I offered to run with her and flank her as did her partner Lia(or as she puts it, as she power walks given her middle-age sedentary body), but it seems like she'll be flanked by policemen. So I will stand with Lia somewhere along her two block gauntlet.
Helen wrote an Op-Ed explaining why she is running despite all the protests (most of whose position she agrees with anyway), and it coincides with mine: that this is turning into China bashing and hating which even the Delai Lama is against; that not all sides of the issue are objectively explored; and finally, we both have witnessed a growing freedom of expression and dissent among the post-Cultural Revolution generation. We both believe that it is continued dialogue and engagement that will build the true fundamental cornerstones of freedom and representative government in a modern China.
Oh, well, international political fun in the SF Bay. For a reasoned take on all this, please read columnist C.W Nevius in today's SF Chronicle: www.SFGate.com.
Causes William Lee Supports
Kim Baptiste's Culture Clash Hip-Hop Clubs for Youth, SF Bay Area East Bay Meditation Center, availing Buddhist wisdom to inner cities Belladonna Sanctuary...