LITERARY LATTÉ 2020

Stained glass by Pat Munroe in Munroe Motors (motorcycles) on Valencia St. S.F.

Poster by Gregg Gordon / GIGART

 

Shops from the Daze remain on Haight Street:

Still there. J.Macon King remembers this Escher-esque mural from his first S.F. visit in 1972.

 

 

Now, from this...

to this....

Love on Haight botique is an Artist Collective supporting over 150 artists, over half of them are tiedye artists from around the world. 1400 Haight at Masonic. Photos: owner loveonhaightsf.com

 

 

"Our (Journal's) distribution problem was finally solved via the Haight Ashbury Soup Kitchen. John Meehan was holding poetry readings there Fridays after lunch. Poets such as Bob Kaufman, Gene Ruggles, Jack Michelene and others were eating there." Joanne Hotchkiss

 

 

"Claudia got stoned with the typesetter the night they were supposed to do the proofreading with the layout. ... there were many mistakes in the second issue."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LITERARY LATTÉ 2019

Marin Poetry Center was founded in 1981 by a dedicated group of Northern California poets as a non-profit organization designed to nurture an environment for the enjoyment of poetry and the spoken word.

Based at Mill Valley Library, we welcome new poets, established writers, as well as anyone interested in the art of the spoken word. marinpoetrycenter.org

LATTÉS, Lunch, Books and mags here! View the Book Passage writer events on their website

51 Tamal Vista Blvd. Corte Madera, CA
415-927-0960
 7 days 9 to 9 PM  

 

142 Throckmorton Theatre

Stage Shows, Music & Comedy

"Uniting our Community through the Power of the Arts"

You can buy tickets or at our box office. Call (415) 383-9600 or stop by 142 Throckmorton Ave Mill Valley, Hours: 2pm-6pm, Mon-Sat

 

"The Depot..."

...sadly has been closed for "remodeling" for a year. Mill Valley Depot Bookstore & Cafe - the historic one- time train/bus depot and long-time literary hot spot. Jack Kerouac sat here! 87 Throckmorton Ave
Mill Valley, CA

Left Coast Writers supports new and established writers in the production and promotion of their work in a stimulating atmosphere of creativity and community. The group meets monthly at Book Passage Corte Madera. Readings at B.P. Corte Madera & San Francisco Ferry Bldg. See leftcoastwriters.com or sign up through Book Passage.

California Writers Club "writers helping writers" has almost 20 chapters. The SF North Bay branch is Redwood Writers Club est 1975.

LITQUAKE-SF's annual Literary Festival www.litquake.org

Hundreds of literary events including Porchlight storytelling series with "advice"-themed tales from writers and personalities.

Open Daily 10-6. 11315 State Route 1
Point Reyes Station CA 94956
415.663.1542 "Working hard to make Point Reyes Books destination for book-lovers the world over to experience this beautiful corner of California where the forest, the sea, writers, readers, and books come together in a truly special place."

 

 

See Sands Hall at Books Inc in Berkeley  on 11/19 (in conversation with Jane Ciabattari), and at Sausalito Books By the Bay on 1/23, 2020. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MillValleyLit

HOME| THE LITERARY LATTÉ - Stories, Memoirs | ON MY NIGHTSTAND - Books Reviewed |POETRY REVIEW | THE SCENE - Lit Events | JEB & ARTWORK | SALON - Interviews, Submissions, About

LITERARY LATTÉ Spring 2020

Love on Haight botique with "High"-fashion tie-dye.

Haight Ashbury Literary Journal
Historical Essay by Joanne Hotchkiss  

The Haight Ashbury Literary Journal was conceived in the fall of 1979 by Clifford McIntire, a poet-writer, ex-convict, ex-junkie combat veteran of Korea. Cliff and I (also a poet) were living, at the time, on the top floor of a renovated Victorian at the corner of Shrader and Oak St. in San Francisco. The building had been vacant for nine years after hippies cut holes in walls for doors, made fires in the middle of rooms for heat and painted the cockroaches with dayglo paint so that they could watch them in the dark. When we moved in, the renovated building had wall to wall carpets, draperies and dishwashers.

We had a huge living room, with dormer windows, a witch's hat cupola and a wonderful ocean breeze and Cliff decided to use the space to feed the poets of San Francisco.

He began a series of Poetry Reading dinners as he loved to cook and once a month, poets gathered for quiche, pizza or spaghetti and to read their work. One night with 35 poets sitting around our living room, mostly on the floor, Cliff held up a blank stock certificate he'd gotten from the financial district that morning.

"We are going to have the Haight Ashbury Literary Quarterly," he announced and whoever buys a $25 share will get 250 copies of the new Journal at 10¢ a piece. The price will be 75¢ so that you can make 65¢ a copy.

"Who wants to buy a share?" Hands went up all around the room. I was amazed and grabbed a notebook and began writing down the names and numbers of shares people wanted and quickly realized that the cost of printing the first issue of the new magazine was covered that very first night.

John Meehan who had begun to organize the Haight Ashbury Soup Kitchen, was Cliff's best friend and also a poet, ex-convict, ex-junkie who had successfully turned his life around with the help of the Rebound Program for prisoners returning to school. John was a director of the Rebound Program at San Francisco State at the time. He had also been helping us run a Poetry Reading Series at the Grand Piano Cafe on Haight Street. It was from that reading series and the poetry dinners that we collected the first submission to the new Haight Ashbury Literary Quarterly.

John was a natural entrepreneur and while organizing and staring the Haight Ashbury Soup Kitchen which he still runs, be helped us launch the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal as a contributor, an editor and as a fund raiser. He organized publicity events including a reading at San Francisco State University which included Angela Davis and several people involved in teaching poetry in the prisons.

Cliff arranged a meeting with Haight Ashbury newspaper for support and advice and a young woman named Claudia Chase working with the newspaper asked to join our editorial staff. She was the only editor among us who had any experience in publishing.

When Cliff originally announced the Journal that first night at his poetry dinner, he asked if anyone wanted to help. Only Noni Howard responded, a woman prominent in the world of gay and lesbian activism. Later I asked Laura Beausoleil, a talented writer and poet who lived in the Haight if she would be our prose editor and she agreed. So we were six editors, two Virgos, two Libras, and two Capricorns an astrologically excellent combination for an editorial staff. We were also an extremely diverse group, with two ex-convicts and myself who had formerly been a policewoman and a young Republican while married and living in Seattle. Laura was raised in Hawaii and Noni was Canadian lesbian and Claudia was very young Jewish New Yorker.

At our first editorial meeting we sat in a circle on the floor of our living room with a great pile of submissions in the middle. If we liked a poem we were to give it an x, if we didn't a O. As we began reading and marking and passing the poems around the circle, I was shocked by the types of poems John and Cliff were Xing. I would never publish such poems, I thought but it was my first lesson in widening my views of what other people call good poetry.

Our meetings were tumultuous. There were endless arguments over the choices of poems and so much push and pull that only the very best poems survived the process. I realized later that our diversity and differences in themselves were creating a tight manuscript.

The Haight Ashbury district was an ideal neighborhood in the late 70's and early 80's. Rents were still affordable. There was an abundance of cheap, good cafes and restaurants. Musicians, painters, writers and poets abounded and there were many events involving neighborhood artists.

Also the neighborhood merchants were very supportive of the arts. When Claudia insisted we use a professional typesetter, she suggested I try selling ads on Haight Street to pay for it, so I did and was amazed to discover that of the first 6 places I tried, I got two checks in hand, three promises and only one refusal.

I had originally been a very reluctant participant in this new venture of Cliff's, because he had a serious drinking problem and usually what he thought up for us to do, I did. But once I saw our work in hand, our months of argument and decisions, collecting money mailing back manuscripts etc. transformed into a neat arrangement of printed poetry, it pleased me immensely.

Naively, we had printed 8,00 copies of the first issue. John Meehan, who bought 4 shares or 1,000 copies planned to make his fortune, I think. The first day he went to a cafe on 24th St. got up on a table and began reading poetry and was promptly kicked out. I don't think he ever did sell a copy.

Distribution was our next problem. I had had the idea we could sell the H.A.L.J. on the street as the Berkeley Barb had been. I had been charmed one rainy, winter day by a young man selling the Barb in the Financial District. "Come spring," he had said, "You too can sell the Berkeley Barb." A friend of mine sold 50 copies of our new Journal a day for ten days and refused to ever sell again after that. However I was thrilled that 500 copies of our new Journal had been distributed in ten days. Also two young men from New York who wanted to help us out sold 120 copies at various BART Stations in a couple of days downtown, but selling poetry on the street is a hard sell. I have found from my own experience, that the only times I would sell was when I was flat broke and really wanted a glass of wine and bowl of soup.

Four months after the first issue came out, when we had neither enough money nor enough good poems to do the next issue, Claudia suggested we just wait until we had what we needed, so from that point we were no longer the Haight Ashbury Literary Quarterly, but the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal.

Our second issue came out in November of 1980 and by then there were many problems. Cliff's drinking from the moment the first issue came out went downhill very quickly. I really think success was too upsetting for him.

Claudia got stoned with the typesetter the night they were supposed to do the proofreading with the layout. I did my best to correct what I could, but our appointment with the printer was that morning so there were many mistakes in the second issue. Nevertheless, Eugene Ruggles, an excellent poet was on the cover. We had hired a graphic artist to design a good format and logo and we had 24 pages instead of 16. Naively, we still published 4,000 copies. That issue did very well at City Lights bookstore. We managed to get most of the bookstores on Haight Street to carry it and found a few others as well.

Distribution however was still a problem. The small press distributors did not want to carry a newspaper formatted publication. Then in early 1981, Cliff's drinking was finally too much for me and I moved to Tam Valley, but very quickly involved myself in an even worse relationship, and by fall was living in a van in Woodacre calling typesetters, printers and managing the H.A.L.J. business from pay phones and the back of the van.

I had hoped the other editors would take over in my absence, but I finally realized if I didn't do it, it wouldn't happen and I felt obligated to go ahead with the third issue no matter what, as a good friend and excellent poet, Lorna D. Cervantes, had agreed to be on the cover and had given us poems of many of her friends.

We had only $300 for our third issue and since our cost had been $1,000 for printing the second issue, I felt defeated, but a man came to our meeting who offered to do the typesetting free, and gave us the name of a printer who would print the issue for $300.

It seemed a minor miracle to me at the time. He also offered to pay for an extra 1,000 copies as he was buying up all the old newspaper boxes used by Lovelights (a poetry journal which used a pornographic cover to sell itself in newspaper boxes all over the city until the Women's movement in the early seventies put it out of business).

Haight Ashbury Literary Journal anthology, 1995

So I thought we had solved our distribution problems. However, the man who offered so much help, as soon as the third issue was printed started his own magazine and took three of our editors with him: Claudia, Laura and Noni. They were sure the H.A.L.J. could not survive Cliff's severe drinking.

What everyone did not seem to realize, including myself, was that I was really the one in charge. John Meehan had his Soup Kitchen operating by then and no longer had time for the H.A.L.J., and even Cliff handed me a formal letter of resignation because we had lost our last opportunity for distribution.

I was left alone with the H.A.L.J. But after the third issue came out in the fall of 1981, I liked it too much not to continue. Cliff however arranged a series of readings in the public libraries in the summer of 1982. Six readings in branch libraries and four at the main branch downtown. We received $25 a reading, giving us $250 toward our fourth issue.

Meanwhile, I had moved back to Oak street a few blocks down from Cliff. I tried to find new editors, and invited a few people to a meeting, but they just sat around Xing each others' poems, and their only real interest seemed to be in seeing themselves published.

I did the fourth issue on my own with a little help here and there in 1983, and then Cliff died. This was a shock I was completely unprepared for. I loved him deeply and did not understand the depth of my feeling and connection to him until it was too late. Conyus, a poet and former editor of Black Scholar magazine, who lived in the Haight, introduced me to a young woman from NY, Ann Koshel, who wanted nothing more in life at that time than to edit a poetry journal. She carried me through that fall, supporting me, mailing out fliers to her fellow students from Naropa from the summer before for manuscripts and located a graphic artist friend.

She insisted we have the fifth issue complete by Valentine's Day 1984. Otherwise she was in danger of losing her boyfriend. And we did it. She had a garage sale of Cliff's old stuff (and he was a pack rat) to raise money for his issue. He had wanted to be featured on the cover—and was, sadly, after his death.

There was an ordinance against garage sales without permits at that time, and at the end of our sale, the police turned up and we all grabbed up what we could and went running off down the street. It seemed somehow an appropriate end to Cliff's money-raising garage sale for his issue of the Journal.

By then we had attracted a black man named Darrell Gauff as an editor. Laura Beausoleil had joined us again, and Alice Rogoff, who is still an editor, started working with me. Also Gwen Carman, a black woman, suggested we feature women of color on our next issue. Conyus told me of a reading Opal Palmer and Devorah Major were giving at the Western Addition Library. So Laura and I went with Sue Kubley. We liked the poetry very much, and Sue photographed Opal and Devorah for our next cover.

At that point we had three black editors at once. Darrell would go around to all the poetry readings in the city and bring back manuscripts and he insisted I open my ears and my mind to third world lingo and voice.

All the back issues were in a rather large bathroom where I lived on Oak Street, but had not room for the upcoming issue featuring Opal and Devorah. So I went to the Rainbow Gathering in Northern California with a friend. I arrived on the last day of the Gathering and got a ride up a long mountain road in a truck just as people were leaving, going home to Texas and Minneapolis and New Hampshire. I gave away about a thousand copies of back issues and everyone seemed happy to receive copies of the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal free. I felt it was an excellent nationwide distribution.

Noni Howard and Laura Beausoleil were going to do the 7th issue themselves and chose Meryl Woo as the cover poet, until Laura became involved with a guy I was involved with and the emotional upheaval for me made it impossible to be with her. So I took the issue back and Alice, Darrell, Gwen and myself completed that issue. I am indebted to Noni however for choosing Meryl as the cover poet. Her poetry set a tone that became almost a chorus of poems of ancestry and lives of the great ethnic diversity that makes this country sing. It was a rich issue and one of my favorites.

Our distribution problem was finally solved via the Haight Ashbury Soup Kitchen. John Meehan was holding poetry readings there Fridays after lunch. Poets such as Bob Kaufman, Gene Ruggles, Jack Michelene and others were eating there. When a new issue of the Journal came out, John would announce me and I would read some poems and then sit at a card table by the door and sign up anyone who wanted to sell the Journal on the street. I did my best to give the sellers a good deal. A few people were good at selling and came back for more. One couple would take fifty copies of a new issue out to S.F. State and sell out each time.

Then William Birdwood or Bird turned up, who is himself a poet, lived in his van and was talented selling and interested enough to give impromptu readings on the street.

"I'm going to sell you out girl!" he'd say to me and in fact, he did. He sold out nearly all of our back issues and to this day sells the Inaugural issue for $5.00, so that I am finally grateful we were naive enough to publish 8,000 copies. After years of practice he has become so adept, he now sells 1,000 copies a month, which is a living or close to it, since he keeps $1.50 of the $2.00 price and gets bonus copies for every ten he sells.

For him we have reprinted two back issues and plan to do more and for him we have to publish at least 3,000 copies, sometimes 4,000 of a new issue. Three years ago he went to Washington DC. during the election campaign to sell the Journal and then on to NY. and Boston, where he sells in Harvard Square.

After our 8th issue featuring the prison poet, Pancho Aguilla, I moved out of the city. A new editor joined us at that time, Lena Diethelm. We did a woman's issue and followed it with a love and erotic issue, at Lena's insistence. She also insisted that we all have an equal say in all decisions. I had taken the liberty while I was floundering around with various editors, of adding or taking out poems, usually according to how they fit in with the other poems. But Lena objected to this. We were to be a collective and since that was the way we had started, I agreed.

That fall as the issue was nearing publication, I was suffering from asthma so badly I could not make it to the city for meetings. Will Walker had joined us by then and I had to let Will, Alice and Lena take over. I wondered if they would. After my experience with the third issue when I hoped the others would take over and they didn't I was afraid this might be the end of the H.A.L.J., but there was nothing I could do about it. However they did do it and very well too. That issue, the Bill Shields issue of the Vietnam veteran sold 100 copies at City Lights Bookstore and was the first issue we later reprinted. It was one of our best .

From that point Alice Rogoff took on more and more of the editorial responsibilities. She enjoyed writing letters to the poets, something I never did, and her letter writing developed a continuity of poets continuing to send us their work and from that we eventually featured two of the poets. Edgar Silex, a Native American and Linwood Ross, a gifted, musical voice from the ghettoes of New York. Alice was also gifted in grant writing, and won three Zellerbach Grants for us, the last of which was for an anthology we published in January 1996, This Far Together.

Will Walker is our liaison with Bird, who is presently back selling $40 to $60 dollars worth of journals a day on Haight Street. He is a miracle of distribution, and because tourists come regularly to Haight Street, the Journal is carried off all over the country and all over the world as well. Bird is pictured on the cover of our anthology.

Alice also has managed to find many more bookstores to carry the Journal and Will has managed to help us clean up our punctuation and spelling (weak points of mine), and gives us a steadying balance. Just the three of us have been editors for the past five years, and until we tried to do an anthology of 18 issues this year, we had gotten the Journal on a very smooth course.

But the H.A.L.J. from the beginning to this day has always been a happening supported by a crazy, bohemian neighborhood with a bizarre history of its own. In the mid sixties before I met Cliff, when flower children were everywhere in the Haight, I was walking down Haight Street one evening.

"Want to buy a poem?" a voice called from a dark doorstep and I stopped. Three young hippies sat on the steps holding up poems they had written on pieces of paper. So I bought some.

I thought of Li Po writing poems and throwing them into a stream. The endless flow of poems that come in the mail year after year is another ongoing stream. Often I've wondered how it would ever stop, but I could never figure that out, and have just gone along with the constant flow.

Because we have never had deadlines, we have never felt pushed, and perhaps that has helped allow us to continue. We are about to publish our twentieth issue, and perhaps we will just keep going on.

 

End

The Haight Ashbury Literary Journal is still in operation and may be purchased at City Lights, Bird and Beckett and Bound Together bookstore,s or through 558 Joost Avenue, San Francisco, Ca. 94127.  The memoirist of this piece, Joanne (Indigo) Hotchkiss, has a book of poetry titled Susquehanna which is available at the Joost Avenue address.This re-publication courtesy of author, and Alice E. Rogoff, editor of the Journal since 1984.

 

Credits:

Poster Signed & Numbered by Gregg Gordon / GIGART. Dead & Company Shoreline Poster Dead And Co Grateful Dead Gigposter Terrapin Turtle Golden Gate Bridge Hippie Van Summer GIGART Print $80.00 18X24 in. 8 color silk screen. www.etsy.com

Haight Street photos by J.Macon King except where noted.

HOME| THE LITERARY LATTÉ - Stories, Memoirs | ON MY NIGHTSTAND - Books Reviewed |POETRY REVIEW | THE SCENE - Lit Events | JEB & ARTWORK | SALON - Interviews, Submissions, About

 

LITERARY LATTÉ 2019

Get comfy and let the LITERARY LATTÉ stimulate your intellect and emotions:

I Slept at Shakespeare & Company

by Sands Hall

In June of 1974, having finished my first year in the American Conservatory Theatre’s Advanced Training Program, and waiting to hear whether I’d be accepted into the second (when they chopped the class size from 50 to 25), I flew to Paris on a redeye. I lugged with me a tome, huge and heavy even in paperback, Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, which I’d heard was an important book that everyone in their early twenties (as I then was) should read. I found myself seated next to a man my age who was heading to Spain; he aspired to be a sports writer. Even though I was currently studying to be a theater artist, and had majored in drama, not English, I had a powerful (and ignorant) sense that sports writing was not really writing; this must have shown in my face. The young man, clearly stung, told me, “You do know that sportswriters use metaphor better than just about any other writers out there! Our job is to be vivid, to make people who can’t be there see and hear and feel!” Even though it would be over a decade before I began to take my own writing seriously, what he said rang with not only conviction, but truth. As the plane began its descent into Orly, I found a way to apologize, making it clear to him that, even just scribbling in a journal, I utterly agreed.

It was early evening by the time I made my way across Paris to a hotel I’d booked—hard to recall how all that was done, in the centuries before Internet; telegram? letters?—and went to bed. I slept soundly and awoke at 6:30, thinking about a woman who'd performed pantomime in the aisle of the plane, who'd told me about a bookstore on the Left Bank called Shakespeare and Company. I knew the name, and that the store had been founded by a bold woman named Sylvia Beach, who also published works of literature others wouldn’t touch, including Joyce’s Ulysses. The mime had explained that while Ms. Beach’s bookstore had closed, an American named George had opened another, at a different address, with same name, and that he—this was the important information—sometimes let people sleep in the bookstore in exchange for work. I pushed back my blankets and headed out to see if that rumor might be true.

As I started in the direction of the Left Bank, I passed cafes where people appeared to be eating things like chicken and pomme frites — seemed odd, first thing in the morning; and, curiously, not many were drinking cups of coffee. In fact, quite a number seemed to be having glasses of wine! Those French, I thought.

As I hustled along, it got darker and darker, and I realized with delight that I’d landed in Paris on the day of an eclipse! An inveterate searcher for signs and symbols, I was thrilled by how appropriate this was, the exceptionality of it—perfect! When a man loomed out of an alley and said Voulez-vous coucher avec moi? (it was cruder than that), I realized that my sound but jet-lagged sleep had lasted not twelve hours, but twelve minutes. I scuttled back to the hotel.

The next day I located Shakespeare and Company, a medieval-looking building on the Seine. I asked for George, and was directed through thousands of used books, across sagging floors, up and then down and then back up stone stairs whose middles were worn deep—all of it imbued with dankness and mildew and a thrilling sense of history and romance. George, when I finally found him, was wrestling, deeply irritated, with an old metal ice tray. He was very thin, with a hunched back, and a terrible cough that hacked up sometimes bloody phlegm. I introduced myself and asked if it was indeed true one could sleep in the store in exchange for work.

He gazed at me with fierce blue eyes. “Are you from Vassar?”

Startled, I shook my head, wishing desperately that I had attended Vassar. He made a disappointed grimace. “Well, you look orderly.”

“Oh, I’m very orderly,” I said, wondering if that might be true.

“All right then. See you tonight. Lamb stew.”

I slept first on a padded shelf under Cookbooks, and then, when the young man who’d nabbed the narrow cot under Poetry departed, moved over to sleep beneath the shelves, high and wide, that contained hundreds of those slim volumes. I sometimes pulled one down—they were usually hardback—and leafed through what seemed to me to be old-fashioned language and length and form, struck, as I still am, by all the efforts over millennia to put into writing what we humans feel. A few years before, I’d learned Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII by heart, and I loved the idea behind its final couplet, the writer casting forward to his future readers: “So long as men can breathe and eyes can see/So long lives this, and this give life to thee.” In the dim nighttime light of the store, I’d look around at the sagging shelves, loaded with books, most of them written decades before, and shiver: at the yearning represented there, the ambition, the dreams, the art, the successes, the failures, the lives

Recreation of Sands' "Awfully Cool Adventure."

Early mornings, I ran off to visit museums and cathedrals and churches and parks; I was back between noon and three (we staggered the hours) to help sweep and open and run the cash box and return books to shelves and whatever else might be needed. Almost every evening there were events and readings; I remember a poet thrashing a drum as he chanted his lines, and an artist—I really do think it was Rothko—talking about his paintings. It was heady and astonishing and one of those times when one knows one is in the middle of an Awfully Cool Adventure.

By this time in my life, I was enthralled by Shakespeare; courses in college and certainly at the theatre conservatory had created a deep intrigue about the man, his history, and above all his verse—what one could discover about a character’s emotions and intentions from the clues to be found in Shakespeare’s language. To actually sleep surrounded by books, in a store named for that great writer and the “company” that had come—and continues to come—after him, seemed both utterly fitting and entirely magical.

However, George’s awful cough did haunt me and the sleeping and feeding arrangements were sometimes fraught. So, when a woman who’d broken her back in a horseback-riding accident called the store, looking for a live-in au pair for her two-year-old, Benji, I headed off to a fine apartment in the Seventh Arrondissement with a view of the Eiffel Tower, and lived for a while with an elegant Parisienne and her boorish American husband. (They’d married in lust, in spite or perhaps because of the language barrier, and it was clear Etienne was regretting it; Bob’s fingers were fat and his nose and cheeks a red that even then I knew meant too much alcohol; when he asked the maid/cook for his jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise so he could put a spoonful on the ratatouille, the face of the lovely Etienne twisted like a gargoyle). Eventually, and not only because he tried to grope me, I crossed the Channel, leaving naughty little Benji with a permanently American-accented NO!

On the bus to London, I met a couple who regaled me with details of a spiritual path they’d found; they were living in this really cool place, they told me, a huge old manor, with people who shared this wonderful reality, I should come with them, give it a try—really, you should! You’d love it! I was sorely tempted, and when they swung off the bus without me, I wondered if I’d just turned down the equivalent of an invitation into a closet that led to Narnia.

In London, between taking in the Tower and Hyde Park and the British Museum, I learned to swing dance to one endlessly re-played LP while staying with the friend of a friend of a friend. A week later, I took a train to York and set out with a small backpack and a map and a compass that I had no idea how to use and trekked for a week across the North York Moors. (It was about this time that I “lost” Hero with a Thousand Faces, on a bench in a bus station; it was not only heavy, but cumbersome.) As I was contemplating a road trip around Scotland—invited by acquaintances who were taking their brother, dying of cancer, on a final journey—word came the conservatory that I had made the cut. I flew back to San Francisco just in time to step into my second year with ACT’s training program.

Sometimes it seems to me that the journey that included that stint at Shakespeare and Company served as both resting point and catalyst: all the interests and directions of my life seemed to coalesce that summer—and then spawn outward in an almost psychedelic way. Those years studying acting, between which I took that amazing break, led to an even deeper love of Shakespeare, and the opportunity for seasons and roles with many fine theatres. I have since put together that the couple on that bus to London, who so entranced me with their spiritual talk, were probably studying Scientology, and the manor they described with such delight was Britain’s famous “org,” Saint Hill; years later, for reasons it’s taken me decades to dicipher, I did walk of my own accord into that weird closet and landed in that cockeyed Narnia. As my chosen spiritual path took up a lot of time and energy, my acting career took a beating, but by then I’d begun to turn my attention to writing. Whenever I saw a headline such as, “Bears maul Orioles!” I thought of that young sportswriter’s comment about metaphor, and his heated protest to my youthful arrogance: Our job is to be vivid, to make people who can’t be there see and hear and feel! In my late thirties, my urge to write served as a way to finally pull myself out of the clutches of Scientology—I headed to Iowa and earned an MFA in fiction from the Workshop. With the publication of my first novel, those words from Shakespeare’s sonnet offered solemn pleasure: so long as men can breathe and eyes can see, so long loves this

And recently, I had particular frisson of delight when I shared an evening with Amy Tan, talking about our respective memoirs, at the Shakespeare & Co. on the Upper West Side in New York City. Even that ancient interest in mythology, represented by that (abandoned) volume, Hero with a Thousand Faces, turned up in courses I developed for Franklin & Marshall College, from which I recently retired as a professor. Much of the wise information Campbell offers in that and others of his books were a good part of what allowed me to reclaim the years that for so long I felt I’d lost to Scientology. Especially all that hero’s journey stuff first encountered in that tome that talks about a thousand of them, including the concept of an “underworld,” and what it means to traverse one, and how what one learns there can enrich the rest of your life. Prepping class, I often paused at a paragraph in which Campbell cites an essay by Schopenhauer and, paraphrasing him, writes, “…when you reach an advanced age, as I have, and look back over your life, it can seem to have had a plot, as though composed by a novelist. Events that seemed entirely accidental or incidental turn out to have been central in the composition.”

That summer exploring Paris and England did seem incidental at the time. As did that conversation on the plane with that young sportswriter, yet, here I am, struggling to make things vivid for those “who can’t be there.” Similarly, that early affection for Shakespeare led not only to acting, but, almost inexplicably, to directing and playwriting. Even the trek into and out of the underworld that comprise the years I devoted to Scientology, which for so long seemed like nothing but one huge and terrible error, has come to have meaning. From this particular 60-odd year-old vantage point it can indeed seem as if, central to my life’s composition, were those weeks spent in a narrow cot on the Left Bank of the Seine under the poetry books at Shakespeare and Company.

 

SANDS HALLIn addition to her memoir, Reclaiming My Decade Lost in Scientology, SANDS HALL is the author of the novel Catching Heaven, and of a book of writing essays and exercises, Tools of the Writer’s Craft. Her stories and essays have been published in such journals as the Iowa Review, New England Review, and Los Angeles Review of Books. She is also a playwright, director, and actor and, as a singer/songwriter, performs widely. She teaches annually for conferences such as the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and the Community of Writers, Squaw Valley. Please visit sandshall.com

In Reclaiming My Decade Lost in Scientology, from Counterpoint Press, Sands Hall chronicles her slow yet willing absorption into the Church of Scientology. Her time in the Church, the 1980s, includes the secretive illness and death of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and the ascension of David Miscavige. Hall compellingly reveals what drew her into the religion—what she found intriguing and useful—and how she came to confront its darker sides. (Originally published as Flunk. Start.) Acclaim for her book: “…as gripping as any thriller.” (Library Journal) “generous and penetrating, a rather profound act of psychological inquiry” (Northern California Book Awards— Finalist in Creative Nonfiction). Named a best book in Religion and Spirituality by Publisher’s Weekly.

 

Books arranged not by title nor subject, but by Color! Apurna's home, Gerstle Park, San Rafael, CA

          

Mobile books at Pt. Reyes Books by Steven Sparks.

 

Where were you in '72? Cruisin'! J. Macon King and Kevin ? freshly back from rolling upside down in this Porche-engined bug while off-roading near the Alcan Highway, Northwest Territory. Photo at Sudbury, MA.

 

Baltimore Canyon redwood Larkspur, CA by Scott of the World. https://www.scottoftheworld.com/   

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