As long as
remember, and been able to write, I have been scribbling thoughts down on
paper. There is a lifetime of memories written in about 22 journals, and
notebooks of every sort, size, and color. But of all my experiences in life
none had such a profound impact on my being an author as my moment of time with Ray Bradbury.
I was 14 and in Junior
High on LA’s Westside. I had started to socialize and date girls; it was new
and at times a haphazard activity full of all sorts of “old school”
strangeness, and anticipation. Especially interesting was the fact I was openly
“Out” at 13…but that’s another story.
Suzie Bradbury, a cute
little blond was in a number of my classes and we had formed a warm friendship.
Suzie was one of only two friends that I shared my passion for writing. By that
time I had already written stories on radical politics and I kept an extensive
journal about people in my life. Poetry flowed from me at this time, might I
add, bad poetry.
Suzie and I were
talking one day at school about her dad being “The” writer of Martian
Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and Illustrated Man, all of which I had read. I was
almost delirious in the heady atmosphere of possibilities. “You should come on
over Saturday and we’ll hang out at my house,” Suzie said while standing in the
lunch line at school. “I’ll be there,” I responded, and she gave me her address
in Cheviot Hills.
40 + years later I still
remember walking up to the Bradbury home, sort of a 1960’s LA architectural
piece of Cape Cod meets traditional modern. The house is still owned by the
Suzie met me at the
door and took me to the back yard. No one but Suzie was home, or so I thought.
She gave me a CokeŽ and said she would be back and that she had something quick
to do. I saw a big basket chair hanging from a tree and decided that was for
I was daydreaming when
the basket shook and then turned fast, I was spinning. All I could see was some
mans legs as I spun. He was now laughing as I came to an abrupt stop. His hands
were on both sides of the front of the basket chair. I leaned foreword and
looked up, a blondish graying man was staring and smiling at me. “You must be Don, Suzie’s
friend” he continued to smile. “Yeah”, I responded. "I hear you are quite the
writer, and on politics too.” Then it dawned on me, "this is the great Ray
Bradbury a hero of mine, standing talking to me." I was so mentally startled at
the idea I jumped up and out of the basket at Ray. I found myself head butting
Ray’s midsection. He caught me in his arms and started to laugh again. Ray was warm and friendly.
Finally I was able to
compose a sentence, “I just read Martian Chronicles and really liked it.” He
put his arm on my shoulder and said, “Do you want to see where I wrote it?”
“Oh my God he’s going to show me, me, where he wrote the book, my God!”
“Yes sir” I said. He smiled and said, “Follow me.”
We walked through the
backyard garden and went toward what looked like a basement door. We walked
down four stairs to a half basement affair. There was a long table with house
beams above. All sorts of wires, cables, and a lawn mower were in the large
room. A beat-up girl’s bike hung from one of the beams. My eye caught the sole
item on the long table, a manual Olympic typewriter, light green in color.
Ray’s hand was on my arm, he turned, tugged, and said, see there on the table,
I nodded at him, “that’s where I wrote it, right there”. I remember being
shocked. I thought it was going to be a cool place, inspiring, but it was only
a poorly lit room with a tacky green typewriter, my hero wrote the book in a
nasty basement. I must have looked perplexed because he said to me, “you okay
Don.” I slowly shook my head and we walked out of the basement.
We sat down together
on a garden wall, “Don if you are going to be a writer you need to have the motivation
inside you. You have to see your story in your head, to experience it.
Writing is about taking a long journey inside you.” I asked for paper and pen
to write down what he said. When he returned he was with Suzie. He gave me the
paper and pen and said, “Never stop writing, never, to the day you die.” He
winked at me turned and while walking towards the house he boomed out, “Go
write something important,” and walked into the house.
Ray’s words never left
me and I was to quote him first in the Class Newspaper the Las Palmas in an
article for graduating students.
I never saw Ray again
and never saw Suzie after 10th grade. She went to another school; we just lost
I’ve always shared Ray’s
words with other writers. The challenges of being an author and
writer are many and in my life I have taken many turns and detours to reach
Ray has not died in
my heart. Rest in Peace.