I was honored to be asked to read my flash fiction short story, “Change of Lanes” at the launch party earlier this month in Mendocino for this year’s edition of the Noyo River Review, the journal in which it was being published. So, I decided to make a weekend out of it: I took the train up the coast, met my old friend from my New York days, Diane Stark, and we shared a charming cottage right in the heart of town and caught up on old times. Diane is the “Tuesday Lunch” filmmaker I’ve mentioned before, and she’s in the final stages of working on the movie about her mother and her mother’s friends, who’ve met for lunch every Tuesday for the past 50 years.
Diane and Ann – Our Weirdly Parallel Histories
Diane and I met through our then-husbands-to-be and have stayed friends ever since. On top of the rather bizarre parallels in our husbands – they both exhibited nearly identical narcissistic behavior over the course of our marriages – we’ve turned out to have many more parallels; we each had two daughters – not such an odd coincidence – but there’s more: Despite our advanced degrees, both of us have stepped and turned through various careers in our lives. Both of us are pursuing creative projects now. We have the same tastes, it seems, in just about everything. When I discovered six years ago that Diane now lives in San Francisco, I went to visit her, and I walked into her kitchen to see the very same retro-styled blender, toaster, milkshake maker, and mixer on her counter that I have; each a different brand, mind you, and each individually purchased. Then I went into her bedroom and saw a big sleigh bed identical to mine. Her older daughter’s room was decorated in all manner of stars, suns, and moons, as was my older daughter’s; she even had the same flannel bedsheets in indigo blue covered with tiny golden stars and moons that my daughter had. Most bizarre of all; in Diane’s living room was a giant old upright grand piano – a gorgeous, hulking Kranich and Bach at least 100 years old. It was a dead ringer for the same piano that sits in my living room, except for the lighter color. How amazing is that.
At the end of the weekend as we sat at the bar of the Mendocino Hotel having identical bowls of delicious house-specialty French onion soup and glasses of wine, I discovered another bizarre coincidence; Diane was an oarswoman during college, as was I! She shared her stories of having to use the men’s equipment at American University, outsized and rigged for the men, just as we had had to do at UCLA. The only difference between us was that I, being older than Diane, started the Women’s Crew Team at UCLA in 1972, the very year that Title IX was enacted to prohibit discrimination against girls and women in federally funded education, including athletics. Our crew program was homemade and slapped together and conducted over the supreme resistance of the men’s crew coach and basically the entire UCLA Department of Athletics. We had a volunteer coach – one of the coxswains on Men’s Crew, a saint – and for meets we could put up only a four and we pretty much sucked. Diane, coming on the scene three or four years later, walked into an established, albeit fledgling program, with a paid coach – and they had enough members on their team to enter two eights plus a four in competitions. I rowed stroke; Diane rowed bow. We both rowed port. Go figure.
Mendocino – Past Times and Old Ways
It was a great weekend – a long train ride up the coast, precious time with an old friend, the quirky beauty and friendliness of Mendocino, the rugged coastal shoreline, the food, seeing Noyo River Review editor Susan Bono and the other authors at the event, the camaraderie at the Gallery Bookshop. Several of the pieces that the authors read that afternoon were excerpts from their developing novels, and they really amazed me; I was like a groupie afterward at the reception, asking the writers to add me to their mailing lists. I’m sure their books will be published and it’ll be exciting to read them and remember hearing the author read from the manuscript before it was published in full. It all seemed so much about past times and old ways that, if you were sitting in my living room right now, I’d be tempted to pull out the projector and show you a slideshow, and then give you a personal reading of my short story. Well, here’s an online version of the same. Enjoy if you’d like.