Then we walked down the pathway where Tom eventually greeted us at a side entrance. He gave us the grand tour of his amazing Frank Lloyd Wright house (which was the partial inspiration of The Women, a fact he pointed to us as we were talking around, taking in the pouring sunlight inside his house). I knelt on the floor and looked through Tom's glass bookshelves, filled in neat, long rows of his books translated into 12 different languages. Man, I thought, this dude is the straight dope. He's the real thing.
After introducing us to his 17-year old cat, who seemed shocked that I'd interrupt her during her catnap to pet her, we met Tom's wife (Karen) + then walked into the backyard and to an adjacent yard where Tom's daughter lives (I guess). Then we drank red wine with Tom, Karen, one of Tom's gregarious millionaire neighbors whose teeth were eerily perfect + his Siberian wife, Tom + Karen's daughter's boyfriend, Spence, + this dude who looked vaguely familiar, who was housesitting for Tom's daughter + I believe was also in the process of making Anne-Marie's book trailer for Two Dollar Radio Press. But I dunno, maybe I totally fucked up that whole who's who. LB + I politely passed on the stinky French cheese (because we're both vegan), but did nibble on potato chips. And man, some of the things we talked about were absolutely strange. A few highlights:
1. Speaking in French with The Man with Perfect Teeth (ah, combien tu me manques, la langue française!)
2. Getting in a long, heated, but largely one-sided argument with Tom's wife about what a total fascist Steve Jobs was + how much better Bill Gates was. The truth is, I love me some Apple products, but I abhor Apple labor practices in China in much the same way I abhor the manufacturing of virtually all tech stuff in Asia. I also love/admire the hundreds of millions of dollars that Bill Gates has donated to charities, as well as his immunization project since his retirement from Microsoft. But, as I pointed out, Bill Gates was as much of a fascist when he was Microsoft's CEO as Steve Jobs was with Apple (both of them stealing shit from the little guy), so it's a wash. This is where I thought we were gonna come to a compromise, but then Karen started ranting about the way Steve Jobs disowned his own daughter. This is when Tom came to my rescue + said that the topic we were talking passionately about was one of his wife's little obsessions.
--It's not an obsession, she snapped.
I laughed, sipped my wine, and realized I kinda liked Karen's spunk. She's got chutzpah, man
3. Getting in a prolonged conversation with Tom + the neighbor with the perfect teeth about--of all things--brown bears, moose and mountain lions. Tom said he's seen several mountain lions during his strolls around his neighborhood + had almost run into several bears too. I was thinking: Man, I have absolutely nothing to contribute to this conversation
4. Talking with Spence about living in Argentina for a year + learning the art of voseo + rioplaténse Spanish
5. Hearing Tom call my wife LB (which is my nickname for her that I claim is her actual name whenever I introduce her to people. Actually, it stands for "little bug," but Tom said he liked LB, in part, because it's like "TC")
6. Getting in a nice, long conversation with Tom about The Ninjas of My Greater Self, which he's probably going to read this summer since he's my thesis director. I told him that after not hearing from Sandra Dijkstra for a year, I'd sent her office a new query letter for NINJAS + got a gracious response soon after explaining that they never got my first query letter (which I totally believe) but that they'd love to read NINJAS. Tom seemed pleased about this. You have to remember: He ran into Sandra Dijkstra a year ago, who'd asked him if he had any writers to recommend + he told her about me + she'd shown interest in reading my work, so Tom had written a personal letter on my behalf right in front of me in his office. Then, I'd sent the agency a query letter for BLANK + nothing. Now, we know why. Obviously, this new development is much promising for me. FYI, I'm revising NINJAS for like the 100th time + I'm planning on sending Sandra Dijkstra my novel sometime in the next week. I also learned through talking to Tom with my stained, red lips + tannin in my teeth, that Sandra Dijkstra represents another one of Tom's former students, Chris Abani, author of Graceland, among other novels, so maybe, just maybe there's even a little precedent on my side. Either way, it's still an opportunity I didn't have before I was one of his students, so I'm extremely honored to have this chance.
7. Right before LB + I left, I told Tom about my vision: I want to become a spokesperson for a cultural revolution that embraces technological innovation (like my fucking dope new ipad I use to read the Huffington Post + Le Monde) but also consciously embraces old skool media, like record players + most importantly for me, hardcover books! He liked it. T
8. I confessed to Tom that I'm a writer because it's the only thing I'm actually great at. Sure, I can play piano + write electronic music pretty well. I'm proficient with foreign languages. I love understanding people + relationships, I'm intuitive + a passionate lover. I'm also a pretty good cook + my sense of style is respectable. But, writing is the thing I'm really fucking good at, the one thing where I feel I can make an important + unique contribution to this world. I may not be able to figure out a viable two-state solution in Israel/Palestine, but I can write the fuck out of a novel.
9. Tom told me I'm like him because my writing has a lot of energy + I love giving readings, I love the performative, interactive element of being an author as much as I love the writing itself, which is important. That's when I realized that I'm just a little bit like Tom (or an early version of him), which is probably one of the reasons I applied to SC in the first place, to work with such a literary legend.