(First off, today’s the first day of Left Coast Crime right here in my town of Los Angeles, California. If you’re attending, make sure you stay hi when you see me!)
Today I thought I’d share a story about living the writer’s life. Hope you enjoy it.
I grew up in a community of about 25,000. It’s actually two communities that basically operate as one. China Lake is a military base, and Ridgecrest is the town that surrounds it.
To get anywhere of comparable size you had to drive over an hour though empty desert. And if you wanted to go to the big city – in our case Los Angeles – it was at least 2 1/2 hours, and usually more if you hit traffic.
Did I say empty desert? I guess that really depends on how you look at it. There were times in my life I noticed all the mountain peaks and dry river washes and odd rock formations, and there times when I thought it was just one big, endless expanse of brown.
I moved away a good twenty-five years ago, and my parents moved less than five years after that. Which meant I no longer had family there, so return visits became fewer and farther between, until it became an every five of six years kind of thing.
But even with my infrequent visits, and even though I’ve been a big city guy for the last quarter century, Ridgecrest has always been with me because it’s my hometown.
Why am I bringing this up now? Two reasons: 1) my next book NO RETURN is set entirely in the Ridgecrest/China Lake area, and 2) [the thing most forefront in my mind at the moment] last week I returned there because I’d been Invited to talk to the local branch of the California Writers Club.
The invitation came early last December, and I immediately accepted. I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to returning. I’ve been hoping to go back to speak at an event for a long time. So it was with more than just a little bit of excitement that I drove up last week.
I got in town about three hours before I was to meet with the group’s leaders for dinner prior to the meeting. I spent two of those hours just driving around and taking in the old and the new. It’s a small town, so that meant I made several circuits before I finally stopped at Starbucks and read a book for an hour. So much was the same, and so much was different. It was, as I think I posted on Facebook at the time, surreal.
Dinner was very nice. One of the leaders of the group was actually the mother of an old friend I’d gone to school with since at least junior high, if not before. I remember actually going to her house for a birthday sleepover party for her son. It was nice talking to all of them and hearing about life there, which really wasn’t that different from when I lived there.
As I drove from the restaurant to the place where the talk was to take place, I started to get nervous, which was odd. I don’t get nervous before speaking to crowds. Ten people, a hundred, a thousand, more…it doesn’t matter. (THANK YOU high school drama club!) But this time I did get nervous. See, there’d been a feature article the local paper about me speaking…think “hometown boy makes good.” I knew there might be a lot of people there I knew from my past, so I guess I was worried about screw up in front of them…and, I think, also a little concerned no one I knew would show up.
Turns out I didn’t have to worry about anything. There were old high school friends, parents of old high school friends (including the father of the girl I dated junior year at high school), and even friends of my parents. And as soon as I started greeting them before the talk began, I realized it didn’t matter if I screwed up or not, we were all just happy to see each other.
There ended up being between 40 and 50 people there. I was told it was one of the larger meetings the writers group has had…they even had to bring in a lot of extra chairs from elsewhere in the building.
It felt so good being there, and talking to my hometown friends. I even did something I’ve never done at a talk before. I read from one of my books…actually from the book that will be out next year, the one set in Ridgecrest.
And after the meeting, I was able to go out for a drink with a friend I’d probably first met in third grade. It was great catching up with him. He’s had an eventful life to say the least, but still has a smile on his face and a positive attitude about life.
The next morning, after being interview on the local FM station, I headed back home to Los Angeles, thinking how much I enjoyed the visit, and looking forward to the next time. And there will be a next time.
Alright, Murderati…many of you have probably moved away from the hometown you grew up in. Love to hear what it’s like for you when you return to your old stomping grounds.
Please excuse the lack of responses today from me as I’ll be at the conference trying (not to hard) to avoid the allure of the bar.
Perhaps I should be drinking this: (via i09.com) Scientists Have Discovered Booze That Won’t Give You A Hangover!