Back in gray New York after a whirlwind week in LA. What is there to say about that city? The sun is always shining, the traffic is polite, beautiful people racewalk along the sidewalks with their handweights and hands-free phones and have blonde children and drive hybrids and do so many beautiful things. I’m starting to like it actually. My nieces live there and each afternoon they make announcements about the myriad things (family, strawberry yogurt, swim goggles, Zac Efron, Uncle Albert) that they love.
Had meetings about making The Unheard into a movie (which, following form, would probably be called The Unseen). The meetings were enjoyable so hopefully something will happen.
Friday at a party for the LA Book Festival, I ran into Scott Simon of NPR, with whom I had my first and best interview
. He was quite affectionate.
Sunday was a spot on a panel at the Festival, with, among others, a woman who started a Beauty School in Kabul and another who drove a cab in Beijing and two other women, with two other stories as heartfelt and magical as any -- crossing mountains, reconciling histories, returning flags of war.
All across the sprawling UCLA campus books and their lovers lay about. Old, young, in strollers and wheelchairs, beneath a sauna room sky, they reached out for each other. I’d never seen so many readers before. They rushed happily from panel to booth to lecture. One even gave me a toy dinosaur.
“I’d like to go out with you, but I’m shy,” she said. “Here’s a dinosaur.”
Earlier, I waited in the green room with a hundred other writers:
“This is not a pretty sight,” I texted Zev.
“Are they all drunk?” he asked.
“No.” It wasn’t yet noon. “But you should see them hit the free buffet.”
So: well-fed writers and generous festivalgoers -- maybe, there’s hope yet for the literary arts. Yes, I know, Grand Theft Auto IV came out this week and the odds that a young-un is reading a novel instead of racedriving over pimps and hos and capping fo-fos are not good. And, on the idiot box: commercials for a movie in which the wrongly-accused hero creates a suit of armor and blows shit up and then walks away. That’s it: he blows the shit up and then he. just. walks. away. It’s going to be a big hit, I’m sure.
Monday I spoke at the Echo Horizon School, where’d I met the students back in March, this time to an audience of concerned and curious parents.
Beforehand, I had a drink with Zev at a nearby bar.
“I have to give a speech soon,” I told the bartender. “Should I have a few beers or get a coffee?”
“We don’t have coffee,” she said.
The sixty parents, almost all with deaf children, waited in the school auditorium. What could I tell them? I knew their fears. We all have such fears! You want your child to have a smooth road, you want him to have every potential opportunity, you want his life to be one easy playground slide to happiness – but bang, right off the bat, the doctor is telling you of a broken part. And there’s no way to exchange. Their heartache! My child – I could never love anything so much as you and it’s my fault, mine!
The technological options are many now, as are the competing philosophies for using them. But, I told the parents, there is no move more important than embracing the situation, inviting it inside, seating it at the dining room table and pouring it tea. The Buddha taught that you should invite the things that scare you to stay a while. Through that gentleness, their miasma of lies and threats breaks down.
Your children will survive. Their wounds will be their teachers. They’ll drive you crazy. They’ll blow off important events to chase cute girls. They’ll drive your cars off the side of country roads and come home giggling. They’ll fall in love with people who hurt them and rage against your kindnesses. All of that is ok.
“How was that?” I asked Zev, after the talk.
“Next time,” he said. “Drink coffee.”