Whenever I return to the apartment building in New York where I lived for twenty years – from 1976 to ‘96 – the people at the front desk, who were young then but are heavier and graying now, greet me with the welcome words, “Welcome home, Bonnie!” as I drag my suitcase through the lobby.
Old friends in the building (we’re all older than ever now) who’ve never moved away greet me the same way. According to the title of his 1934 novel, Thomas Wolfe claimed You Can’t Go Home Again. I disagree.
New York City gets a bad rap, and you might be tempted to believe it, until you’ve lived here for a while and adapted to the culture: your neighborhood becomes a village, and the villagers are nice. They welcome you back, with smiles and hugs, regardless of how long you’ve been away.
I’m here now, briefly, on the first leg of my new book’s book tour. I’m staying with my former next-door neighbor Marty (see my WOW post about her, “Martha Cooper: Rock Star in the Realm of Street Art,” posted April 16, 2018). Her sweet little cat, Malia, is curled up, fast asleep, beside me as I type this. It’s early Sunday morning, and everyone in this village (‘hood) also seems to be sound asleep.
Tomorrow night I’ll give my first reading from Jamie’s Muse. Today I must plan, prepare, and rehearse for it. I must look into my crystal ball (pretending I own one) to divine what people in the audience want to/need to hear. Some in the audience will be old friends willing to listen to whatever. Others, on the other hand, will require more persuasion.
This is the challenge for authors doing readings, I believe: how to encapsulate a book that took years and years to write into a short presentation. How to make the brief event worth the listeners’ while. I tell myself, You can do this! You didn’t spend ten years standing in front of a class of antsy college students for nothing.
When I lived in this building on the Upper West Side, in a studio apartment not much bigger than a shoe box, which (nevertheless) had a glorious, more-than-compensating western view of Riverside Park, the Hudson River, and frequent dazzling sunsets, I used to travel out to New Jersey from time to time to visit my mom when she was still alive.
She and I would sit across from each other at the small kitchen table in the home where I grew up, and she’d listen to whatever I had to tell her, as if there was nothing in the world more important to her than what I had to say.
That’s when I first learned that Tom Wolfe was mistaken.
If you happen to be in the City tomorrow night, please come to my reading. It’s at 7 pm at 310 Riverside Drive (on 103rd) and should only last about an hour. If you can’t make it, please wish me well.
~ ~ ~