In a room full of writers, I found myself at the right table by complete accident.
I asked the person who had welcomed me to the monthly meeting of the California Writers’ Club, Mt. Diablo branch, if it mattered where I sat. I have a passing ability to augment my poor hearing with sight-reading so I wanted a clear view of the Beat-generation poet who would be speaking. She sat me at Table 1.
Oh my, what a delight! The guest speaker and his agent did not do much for me, but three irreverent ladies surrounding me tested my ability to control my obnoxious and inherited uncontrollable giggle. One, a librarian and poet, played WordsWithFriends under the table while shouting answers to rhetorical questions to the mild dismay of the guest speaker. She wasn’t senile; she was just a seventy-year-old Board member with a wickedly detailed knowledge of all the names that dropped from the podium.
On my right, another Board member sketched everybody at the table, with her left hand. A heavy diamond flashed with each stroke of the pen. I watched the caricatures emerge, stunningly accurate. I whispered, You’re quite good, and she lifted one elegantly casual shoulder in a shrug. Beyond her, another woman drew circles on the program around the speaker’s announced topic, from which he strayed in the first five minutes and to which he never returned.
I dashed away at the end, intent on meeting Kimberley and her lovely daughter Sarah in Walnut Creek for tea. But what a time it was! I heard stories of writers whose poetry I’ve read and whose lives set the tone for the sixties, along with first-hand accounts of readings at Berkeley and U-Chicago. All the while, women ten years older and light-years more confident than I am kept my funny bone tickled with their sotto voce commentary.
When I got back to Angel’s Haven, someone had planted two pink flamingos on my doorstep with an unsigned note indicating that I should keep them for a few days, then surprise someone else by secretly installing them at a neighbor’s stoop. What fun, I thought, feeling thankful, once again, that I’d taken my gloomy old self to Northern California, an attitude which persisted notwithstanding the pile of problems which awaited me in the morning light.
It’s the eleventh day of the fiftieth month of My Year Without Complaining. I’m still here. Life continues.