Thursday, May 6, 2010

Was it "really" that good? memories.

One of my literary heroes is Laura Lippman.

The first Laura Lippman book I read was totally by accident.

How many of you have discovered some of your favorite writers this way?  Not by reading about their books, or hearing about them from a fellow book loving friend, but by simply browsing through a book store and happening upon a book that leads you to discover a writer you fall in love with.  All of us have done that, right?

It just so happens that two of my favorite writers were discovered in an airport bookstore.

Laura Lippman and Linda Fairstein.

I was in the Baltimore airport waiting for a plane to fly back home.  Our new home in Boone, NC.  Brand new.  I didn't really know a lot about  Boone yet except that it was where my husband was, and had been for months.  It was where I had not been because I had stayed in Atlanta to sell the house.  Who knew it was going to take so long?  And during this time I got so homesick for the home of my heart I could hardly bear it.  Looking back now, I think I was homesick for the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where I grew up, because I was between homes and feeling untethered.  Not a good thing for a nester like me.  I need my "stuff" around me - including my husband.  We had, at this point, been married for 10 years and had never spent a night apart.  All of a sudden we were spending lots of nights apart and came to the realization that it took the two of us to equal one fairly responsible adult.  Separate we just weren't functioning all that well.

Sharing our day over the phone didn't hold a candle to sharing our day face to face.  And having an argument over the phone is the pits.   And celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary apart was harder than I can ever say.

Anyway - the house finally sold, we were finally together in that little mountain house we had dreamed of.  But I needed to get back to my roots.  I needed to cross bridges over huge expanses of water.  When I mentioned this need for water to Donald he pointed out that we had a creek, and we had a pond - a pond chuck full of rainbow trout, by golly.  True enough.  And quite lovely.  But.  Not big enough for need of a bridge, and certainly not big enough that I'd ever see sailboats out there.   I needed to smell marshy smells and eat crabs that had very recently been innocently swimming along minding their own business.   I needed to spend a little time with friends who had known me since we were kids.  People I could just be myself with; even in a state of upheaval - excited about our new life; scared to death about whether we were doing the right thing; and acting a bit manic about it all.  So home to Cambridge I scooted where Pam & R.T., and Debby & Gordon opened their arms and their hearts once again and gave me back my sense of home.  (I love these dear to my heart people, and I hope they're reading this 'cause I don't tell them so near often enough). After a too short visit, they pushed me back out of the nest and into the Baltimore Airport - whatever its name is - - Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, I think.  It used to be named Friendship Airport.  Don't you love that?  Can you imagine having an airport with that name these days?!  

I got to cross my bridges over huge sweeps of water.  The Bay Bridge makes my heart swell and I love it.  The bridge crossing the Choptank River into Cambridge, however, makes me cry buckets.  Either way.  Going or coming.  Doesn't matter.  I am going to cry buckets.  Better that I'm not the one doing the driving.  And after boo hooing and trying really hard to make sure Pam & R.T. didn't see it happening, next thing I knew I was in the airport.

Where's the first place you head when you're in an airport?

For me, it's coffee first, then the bookstore.

And there right inside the bookstore door was a display for a local writer named Laura Lippman who was a reporter for The Baltimore Sun.  There were two books; BALTIMORE BLUES and CHARM CITY, and I grabbed them both.  


I love Baltimore.  Cambridge is a small town and trips into "The City" were always a treat.  Catching a Baltimore Orioles game with my Mom and Dad was always something to look forward to for weeks ahead of time and then talk about for weeks following.  We loved those Orioles.  I never got to a Colts game, but my Dad did.  He always got home later than he said he would, and he had always had a tad too much to drink, and he always brought my mom a little souvenir thinking it might make her less angry at him for being later than he said, and having had a tad too much to drink.  Bless his heart - he just never really got it.  And bless my Mom's heart for never really being as mad as he thought she was.   And for actually keeping those tacky things he brought home.  I mean - truly.  WHERE are you going to shop in the middle of the night on the road between Baltimore and Cambridge other than a truck stop, and are they known as great spots to shop?  Well, maybe it just depends on what you're shopping for.


Along with these two books, I grabbed another one 'cause I just thought it sounded interesting.  FINAL JEOPARDY by Linda Fairstein.

Turns out, it was one of my lucky days.  I loved all three of those books and Ms. Lippman and Ms. Fairstein are both, 13 years later, still on my "auto-buy" list.

In addition to reading Laura Lippman's books, I also read her Memory Project.  Are y'all familiar with it?  Most of you are, I know.  But if you're not, do scoot over there.  It's wonderful.  Here's an excerpt from her webpage explaining it - "The point of the Memory Project is two-fold. First, it functions as a memory and writing exercise for me. I start with something I do remember -- the cost of a candy bar in my childhood, for example -- and see how many more memories it can summon back. 
But the Memory Project is also meant to be the interactive piece of this web site, a place where my frequent correspondents, or not-so-frequent correspondents, can play the same game with their own pasts."

Read the whole piece about Memory Project here.

The reason I'm bringing it up now is because the piece she most recently wrote has bounced around in my head for the past couple of weeks.  It's about pizza.  Donald and I are always searching for good pizza.  It's a constant quest.  I don't think we've ever taken a trip that we don't search out the local pizza place, usually supplemented by suggestions by as many  local people as we can work up the nerve to ask.  It's a fun thing and we have lots of memories surrounding our restaurant experiences.  We may not always remember everything about a trip, but we can always recall what we ate.  Because of all this, the piece Ms. Lippman wrote, and the comments following it, have been particularly fun for me to  read.  I think you'll also enjoy it, and I'm going to be especially interested in hearing how you react to it.

She starts with this -

"The best slice of pizza I ever had was . . ."

she then tells where and it in turn sparks a memory, which she writes about in her own inimitable style, and you can read it here.

and I ask each of you - was that special meal you remember so vividly REALLY that good, or was it that elusive "something else" that made it so.

What do you think?


Jill said...

Nice post Kaye!

Vicki Lane said...

Wonderful post, Kaye! Taste and smell are a big part of memory for me -- a wonderful food related memory was breakfast at my great aunt's house in Alabama -- there was freshly fried chicken for breakfast which was a lot like heaven. I think were were also fresh sliced tomatoes with yellow homemade mayo to put on them -- mayo almost as sweet and tart as lemonade.

And this aunt had chickens and a barn with hay and a cow and a big garden and I strongly suspect that visit played a role in my ending up where I am!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Thanks, Jill!!!

And thank YOU, Vicki for sharing this story! Sounds like heaven to me too. You did end up at a place like your Alabama auntie's, didn't you?! and heaven it is. She would love your wonderful words and pictures that you share with us about it too, I'll bet.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Well, I put the crab salad sandwiches from Boston's on the Beach (Delray Beach, Florida) in each of my Sylvia and Willie books...but I don't think it would taste nearly as good if I wasn't sitting on the porch across the street from the ocean.