(Photo: Here I am orating behind the podium at Anarchist Forum in Hyde Park, London. And, yes, I’m wearing lederhosen. See, you’d be ranting too if you had to wear suede shorts with suspenders, didn’t have a TV or any junk food. My dad wrote on this slide, “Michele mouthing off.” My mom said I drew a small crowd.)
Look I’ve been working on my book, “Craving Normal,” for so long I have posts on my dusty old blog about it… from – gulp! – ten years ago. As a lover of words, writing and books, every year I attend the LA Times Festival of Books. Here’s one such visit I blogged about on my now defunct (or is it de-funked, as in lost its funk?) blog, “Aprilbaby’s California Life” –
I walked by the NPR booth and heard author Susan Straight being interviewed. I stopped because I heard her mention her eldest child was at the Coachella music festival. The interviewer asked, “Oh, so do you think she’ll tune in to hear you on the radio?”
I knew I could relate to Susan when she said, “Uh, no. She doesn’t listen to me at home. Why would she want to hear me on the radio?” Spoken as a true parent to a teenager.
Susan Straight is an author from the Inland Empire. I only learned that after stumbling upon the book, “Inlandia,” and saw that the forward was written by the very same Susan Straight. Intrigued, I bought the book and attended a panel discussion with Susan and other writers from “Inlandia,” an anthology of writers from the Inland Empire.
My only time spent in the Inland part of California is whenever I have to pass through it heading for the San Bernardino Mountains to go skiing or the one time I cruised down part of Route 66. As the writers of “Inlandia” tell it, their home has been disparaged as nothing more than where the Hell’s Angels, neo-Nazis and smog dwell. Until then, I knew so little about the Inland Empire, I didn’t even realize that much about the area.
During the panel, the writers spoke of a place they grew up where orange groves and date tree forests were so vast they’d get lost in them; where the Santa Ana winds and the sand would blast the paint off of cars; where the air smelled of Eucalyptus and orange blossoms. It was where they arrived, grew and stayed.
As a resident of the San Fernando Valley, another maligned Southern California area, I could relate. While I’ve only read a few chapters of “Inlandia,” I’m really enjoying getting lost in the stories of their misunderstood land.
As I bought “Inlandia” from the Heyday Publishing Founder, Malcolm Margolin, he asked me what I do. I told him I’m writing “Craving Normal,” my stories of growing up in California and traveling the world as the kid of hippies. Malcolm, the bearded Allen Ginsberg look-a-like, threw back his head and laughed. “Did your parents feed you lentil loaf when all you really wanted was junk food?”
I slapped him on the shoulder. “Yeah, how’d ya guess?”
He told me his kids could relate as children of hippies.
“Yep, I just wanted a Twinkie,” I told him.
He nodded in sympathy, as if he’d heard it a million times from his own now-adult kids.
Yet I’ve got a craving to be heard, so I persevere, closer than ever to having my book, “Craving Normal,” published. In all these years a lot has happened – raised my daughter who went off to college; started a successful business, Tree Audio; dealt with life and death – but always I go back to my stories, crafting them, shaping them, editing them. My craving is a constant obsession, as you see.