Tuesday, March 24, 2009

SECRET PLACE

I used to have a diary. I started it with Dear Bobby...(Bobby Fine was a relative, about 18 when I was 11, handsome, tall, and he paid attention to me, acted like I was important which was important to me). I kept writing in it daily for many many months. I was determined to be a dancer and wanted to go to New York City and study ballet at the School of American Ballet which had pictures of it and some of its students, in "Life Magazine."

When I went to New York that summer, to live with Aunt Minna in Queens and study at Boris Novikoff's Ballet School at the Metropolitan Opera House, I stopped writing. I was in it, fulfilling my dream, and struggling with unexpected nightmares. Aunt Minna and her husband were saying nasty things about my parents. A scary thing happened on the subway traveling to my ballet classes -- at rush hour, a man tried to touch me under my dress. Then I moved from Aunt Minna's to Mrs. Merriam's boarding house, which was closer to the school, but extremely lonely, and I was always hungry. Though my parents gave me an allowance, I had only twenty cents a day for a midday snack at the automat -- a corn muffin. And my Achilles tendon in my right foot had started to ache from doing "point work," and a serious problem was developing that was going to endanger my future as a "great dancer."

All the details of that dream, the tendon, Mrs. Merriam's, loneliness ... the next things that happened on my way are burned in my mind.

I don't write daily diaries, or logs anymore. I wrote a daily something on my computer when I got my first computer in the seventies. It was an Exxon. (Hardly anyone had a computer back then). I used my daily log on the Exxon, to express/list/ assemble what was on my mind, worrying me, depressing me. It became a complaint list. And gradually I realized that the writing in my "wklog" (that's what I called it) was interfering with my real writing which was working on a book. It was "The Woman" back then, supposedly a story about Claire Booth Luce whom I was turning into me.

Turning into me ... me turning into her. So the hundred thousand Emily stories, events, inner snapshots, all those memories of dancing, booking tours, traveling, hoping, waiting for phone calls, writing letters, meeting people, performances, living ... just living ... are in a place I don't want to visit except when I'm writing a book, using myself. Using me dressed in the clothes, the dreams, the thoughts of a character I evolved in order to tell/write/make a story ... that's My Secret Place. No. I don't want to go to my secret place and write about me. That's for my new novel about Leah, the DANCER I'm working on ....

1 comment:

JD Cullum said...

I remember the Exxon computer; the first one was called something like the "Quyx" and it like a turbocharged typewriter that could store an entire paragraph of text! Then came the "Vydec" which was literally a console that you sat in; it used 5.25 inch floppy disks which could store about 40 pages on them. It was actually a beautiful machine, with a big green screen and a "daisy wheel" printer. It cost about as much as a small car. Now, I have an iPhone that is over 100,000 times more powerful. Crazy world...

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