Quiet Memory

Today has not gone as planned.  Instead of various things, including a relaxing morning and taking the PCSF Second Saturday master class on adapting a stage play to screen, I instead had to rush out of the house, had my car rammed into by a giant SUV, and otherwise experienced things that thwarted me.

In a bit of a turnabout and at the end of what would be a tediously boring story, I headed to the Castro.  I’m burnt out on and can’t really afford to keep going to a cafe or bars to write and therefore decided I’d try the library.

Here I am for the first time in nearly 20 years at this place that I loved as a kid.  I spent so much time here writing, reading, and otherwise being someplace quiet and surrounded by books.  I had glamorous ideas of my future writer’s life and for whatever reason, I imagined hours spent in libraries – when I wasn’t in the custom-made writer’s den/cabin I’d of course have somewhere, with a giant weeping willow outside and nearby brook.  I’m a little surprised to remember now that I had that image of writing in libraries, since in my adult writing life I don’t think it’s even occurred to me to go to a library to write.  I hunt out coffee shops and bars in a fruitless effort to find the perfect – but not wallet busting – environment.  As I’m sitting here in the quiet environment surrounded by books, with ample access to a power outlet, everyone keeping to themselves, no inane chatter, and no clinking of glasses and espresso machines, I am seriously considering making it my go-to destination for writing sessions in the future.  Ten year old me would certainly be disappointed in how long it took me to understand her soul-certain vision for us.

The Castro branch of the SF Public Library has changed since I was growing up here, but not by a lot.  The tables with power outlets in them, some of the fixtures and features, the fact that they have WiFi, but otherwise it’s as I remember it.  Small, unassuming, comfortable.

I’m visited by a particular memory from when I was ten.  Hand Ghost Theatre – my urban family’s absurdist puppet theatre company – was in search of a story to adapt, specifically something from mythology.  I remember I excitedly set off to the library where I combed the shelves looking for inspiration.  I came across a Native American (I’m very sad to say I don’t know which tribe or tradition now) story about the waxing and waning of the moon.   In which, the moon has a problem with a series of increasingly large turtles sleeping in his cave when he’s out walking the sky and his flaky sister water can’t be trusted to watch the cave for him.  I thought it was lovely and brought it back to Dad.  Sometime later I was the only live-action person in the puppet show Lunation. I played Water and though I had no actual lines, I loved performing behind the mask and doing my choreographed portion of the piece.  I was fiercely proud that I’d found this little gem of a story.  I was talking to my step-father about it recently and we’re not certain that dad gave me any credit for the find, but I don’t remember feeling that I’d been slighted.  My perception at the time was that it was a group collaboration.

But I remember on that day in the library asking the librarian for assistance in finding their section on myths and legends.  I remember that sense of discovery and newness found in the pages of ancient stories.  It was the beginning of a long-standing love I’ve had for all culture’s stories of lore.  I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to them at home now and it’s one of my more prized possessions.

As I remember LUNATION today, I’m struck by how much I’ve taken for granted my first experience in independent theatre.  I was involved in the costume making, sound effects recording, was there for rehearsals, and obviously performed in front of audiences.  I have almost no memory of the audience, just some vague glimpses through the mask of those hard to make out silhouettes that can be seen in the glare of the stage lights.

Handghost mask making.

We were performing at Studio Eremos*.  If you’re ever at Z Space’s  Z Below in the Artaud Project at 16th and Mariposa, just imagine 10 year old me on that stage “flowing” and doing my best to be mercurial and water-like, behind a fantastic angular mask, wearing blue danceskin leotard and little blue and silver fringe.

The current Z Below, formerly Traveling Jewish Theatre, previously Studio Eremos at 16th & Mariposa in San Francisco

Here’s to my ten year old self and the odd pleasure of recognizing an old, small dream come true.  Pssst memory Laylah, we’re writers, and I’m at the library.

SF Public Library – Castro Branch
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