This photo was taken in the back room, it had been a storage room, of a red shingled small bungalow, on a noisy street, in the town of Coronado, California, in 1984. It shows my upgraded typewriter: from a small, black, Royal, vintage 1950, to this modern business gray Royal, vintage 1975. Two years after this photo was taken, I bought my first computer – an IBM that filled all the space on the work table, and ironically, stopped doing original writing with a keyboard and began using exclusively pen on paper. I could create original work on this, and other, typewriters, but never could with the computer. I theorize it has something to do with the feeling that I am actually watching TV when staring at a monitor.
The book shelves were constructed the way I had always constructed them, up to the point where I could afford actual store-bought bookcases – one by six pine planks, supported and separated by cinderblocks painted black, which reminded me of lava rock. The book shelves in this small room (it wasn’t two meters wide) rose to the ceiling, filled two walls – one long one and one short one – and held more than a thousand books. I notice the certificates in frames atop one of the shelves. The only one I recognize is second from the left; it is my Coast Guard Captain’s license. The others are probably my various university diplomas. I seem to have misplaced them all, which means I have no idea where they might be. Probably lost.
The work table consisted of a small door lain across a wood frame I had nailed to the wall. The box beneath that is filled with paper holds abandoned manuscript pages. A problem of retyping edited pages. The paper bag holds trashed pages. The round black object left of the typewriter is a full ashtray. In those days, I could not work unless I was smoking, so more or less during the time I worked, I chain smoked. (Once I made a list of the absolute most stupid things I have done in my life – forcing myself to keep it to the top ten, even though I’m sure a hundred would be in reach – and starting smoking and smoking for 25 years came in at number three. No, I won’t say what one and two are.)
As long as we’re on the subject of working vices, yes, I notice the bottle of Sauza tequila and the two bottles of beer, Mexican beer, but I’ve forgotten that label: maybe Dos Equis or Modelo. I never did drink while working, but had no problem getting started as soon as the work was finished for the day. I no longer do as much of that.
This photo was taken many years after we lived there. We didn’t have a flag, nor a satellite dish. The left window is the dining room, the right window is the living room. The work room above was located at the rear, sharing a wall with the one bedroom. There is a large kitchen, with bright yellow walls, behind the dining room.
Here is a photo of the dining room with writer Ken Kuhlken and me, drinking Glenfiddich, which we were often to do in those days; although Ken did not visit all that frequently — he lived on the mainland on the east side of San Diego — because he had a phobia about driving over the high Bay Bridge to reach Coronado. Ken has lately become something of a Christian, and there is no accounting for things like that.
These photos expand when clicked on.
Below is a photo of the living and dining rooms, and one of what I looked like (whisky in hand, as usual) in those days.
It was noisy there, although not as wildly noisy as it is here, living in the center of a city with ten million people. The street in front carried most of the traffic one way between the huge navy air station (North Island) that dominated the head of the peninsula that forms San Diego Bay. 3rd St. was one way into the base from the bridge, 4th St., where we lived, one way outbound to the bridge.
The temperatures are moderate all year in Coronado because it has the Pacific Ocean breezes coming in from one side, and San Diego Bay on the other. We didn’t have air-conditioning and the only source of heat was that gas heater you can see in the non-working fireplace behind me. Most of the time it was enough. But summers could get hot sometimes, and opening all our windows made it feel like we were in the middle of a freeway. We opened them anyway.
As did the couple next door. He was some sort of real estate person and could drink me under the table; she was a Bohemian German immigrant who had been featured in Playboy some years earlier. She was sweet, naive, and not shy about her body. She showered with the window open and from that window over my shoulder in the photo above, I could see her clearly in the shower. She was better, more real, than the usual Playboy offering. One hot summer night, they had gone to bed with both their front and back doors wide open to catch the breeze. In the middle of the night, I heard this scream – “You bastard!” – and thought maybe they were having a fight; they were volatile, especially when drinking … but then, they were always drinking. The following day, she, her name was Monika, told me that she had felt someone stroking her and fingering her and at first thought it was her partner, Robert, but woke to see a young man standing by the bed with his finger inside her. Monika slept nude, she did many things that way, and after the you bastard cry, took off chasing the guy down 4th Street – nude.
Those were the days. We could leave our doors open. We didn’t know what the Internet was.
But we also drank far too much and smoked way far too much — taking note that Christopher Hitchens now has esophageal cancer, the malady I have always expected as punishment for my licentious goings-on.
I have a life here. It is another life, but always better than no life. It is peaceful and purposeful. Often lonely, but I just notice that more now because my wife has been in the States for the past two weeks. I am working, although not a day passes that I don’t believe I am only working for the hell of it, that the purposeful part of it is pretty much over. Only Love has reached 300 pages and not many remaining, I think. I might finish it within a month. Then what? I don’t know. I will probably wait for summer, find a place to park, and watch the girls pass by in their summer dresses.