Thursday, March 25, 2010

barn razing

Once upon a time, a friend and I wrote a book. We had lost touch, and it was a way of reconnecting. This was back in the mid-90s when email was relatively new and, at least for us, an untried medium. Rose was new to it and I lured her in over our heads by suggesting, "Hey, let's write a book! No outline, no deadline. We'll take turns writing the chapters. It'll be cool; we'll have to write it to find out what happens next." She sent back this wry reply, "You go first."

Two days later, I emailed four pages back to her. I know it was four because neither of us trusted computers, so we both printed out every word of what would turn out to be something more than (we lost count) 300 pages. Two piles; one in Mill Valley and one in Boulder. Finally, to see if our imaginations had been equally sick, we each made a comparative map. They became the front and back covers. We then cut the book loose after almost two years and fifty chapters. Though I pity the once-and-future editor, the book turned out to be wickedly funny, phantasmagorical and full of completely unforgettable characters.

If either one of us didn't like the way the story was heading, she could take a new direction with her chapter. Rose loved monkey wrenches and would abruptly strike oil or kill off a character. For example, I had written a too-long chapter about building a gorgeous barn which turned out to be a treatise on timber framing and decorative roofing. The next chapter was Rose's coup-d'etat; she burned the barn to the ground. I was so upset, she snailmailed me a card. On the front was the famous haiku written in 1688 by the samurai, Masahide. "Barn's burnt down, now I can see the moon."

From the beginning, we called the book, "Serendipity". We had so much fun writing it we could've gone on forever, but life turned out to be shorter than that. Rose died of cancer two years later. Let that be a lesson.

Epilogue: That card with the haiku is in my studio; I look at it every day. A couple of days ago, I was prompted to do this pastel. She likes it. So do I.


Jala Pfaff said...

Wonderful. And your post as straight-shootin' as I always know you to be.

Anonymous said...

Great lessons. You never know when it's going to be the last chapter.
Moral: throw monkey wrenches, make art, treasure friends.
Poignant post.

Tina Steele Lindsey said...

This makes me want to cry. It is beautiful. I tried that with a friend, not as successfully. I am so happy you had this with your friend. Thanks for sharing. I love bonnielura's comment.

Janelle Goodwin said...

This also made me want to cry. What a beautiful friendship you had with Rose. Thanks for telling us this touching story.

SamArtDog said...

Don't be sad. If and when I write the rest of the Sam N Rose Story, you'll see that it's much more remarkable and hilarious than sad. And if and when, Bonnie will write the forward. K?

Anonymous said...

Take out the " If " in that sentence and get a move on.....sounds like it needs to happen.
Jala can do the afterword.

Melinda said...

I see some brilliant collaboration beginning. I think your friend would be so proud...and delighted.

Excellent post.

SamArtDog said...

You call it collaboration; I call it cahoots. Careful what you wish for. To clarify:
1) The "Rose N Sam" story would be the sequel to "Serendipity". It's the true story of our lives. Together or apart, we had more fun than was believable, let alone advisable.
2) When I mentioned the "once-and-future editor", I meant "Serendipity" has never been edited. I'm not sure it's possible. About both stories, I should say that some things make better memories than written words. Call it witness-protection.