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Thursday, July 27, 2017

(1) THE EAVESDROPPER IN MY KITCHEN

Reply to Newton High School classmate Aura Kruger
June 22, 2010
Dear Aura,
      No, I didn’t really keep a diary, except for our boat’s Log, in which I recorded adventures as they happened.  Some of them wound up as articles in Yachting and Motor Boating.  Letters, first to my mother, then to grown-up Kathie, were the basis of articles about our flying hobby, published in flying magazines.  They also appeared, greatly condensed, in my memoir, Take My Ex-Husband, Please—But Not Too Far, published by Little, Brown in 1991.  Without the blessing of your photographic memory, I relied on letters to keep track of events in my life.  Always kept a rough draft or a carbon copy in the early days.  Now a computer makes a journalist’s hobby a lot simpler.

       Your daughter Jo kindly told me how to contact Michael Mitchell, your dramaturgist.  Kathie and I wrote a play called The Tempestuous Triangle, which received a couple of encouraging responses from play publishers.*  The lover (Michael corrected me for referring to him as my sweetheart, saying I should call a lover a lover) whom I met at Parents Without Partners during the throes of separation and divorce, was named Rob in the play.  The first few weeks after we started dating, I jotted down his droll remarks, recalling them as best I could.  I remarked to Kathie that it was too bad I didn’t have a far-away family member I could write to about this funny man.  She said she had a spare tape-recorder, and from then on, the machine was an eavesdropper in my kitchen
Excerpt from synopsis of play:
      Not only were their billings and cooings and constant laughter audible on the tapes, but also their arguments about sex, the double standard, feminism, homosexuality, transvestistm, the new morality, and politics.  Rob was a hawk, she was a dove.  Her biases were Darwin yes, God maybe, Nixon no.  His were the opposite.  He was adamant about one thing:  he wanted to keep seeing Julie no matter how misguided her thinking.
      I spent two years in my early 80s transcribing the 84 tapes, then reducing the thousand pages to 400.  Kathie condensed the 400 to around 150 pages of dialogue, still too long for a play.  I received a complimentary rejection from the editor of a play publisher,* who gave me the names of four other publishers, but to no avail. This is where dramaturgist Michael comes in.  He has already made some excellent suggestions, which I will start incorporating as soon as I finish this letter.  (We just had a power outage that lasted for two hours.  Fortunately I had saved the first half of my response to you.   This is one way that writing on paper has an advantage over e-mails—you don’t lose the letter when there’s a blackout)
      Your bi-weekly outing to participate in a book discussion group sounds like the one I belonged to when I took an Oriental Brush course.  We students and our teacher used to get together for lunch and gift-giving whenever one of us had a birthday.  Nowadays my outings are for duplicate bridge.  My partner and I came in first yesterday, ahead of a bridge teacher and his expert partner.  Activities like this are good exercise for aging brains, Aura, and you outdo me in that department. 
      Your letter came in an envelope so fortified with invisible tape that I spent a very long time trying to get at the contents, turning it over and over, searching for a vulnerable spot.  Finally found a tiny opening and pried my way into Kruger’s Fort Knox.  It was well worth the effort, dear friend, but next time, please make the envelope a little easier to open.  Which reminds me: one of my children used to call Milk of Magnesia "Milk’ll Make It Easier."  With much love. . . . 
February 11, 2011
Dear Aura,
       I carry the manuscript of your book around with me in my car.  If I get stuck in traffic, I can turn to any page and find something agreeably readable.  And of course I always bring a book to doctors’ appointments.  I can imagine how great it makes you feel to hear that professionals like your  MD's are interested in your writings.
       Right now I’m reading a biography of P. G. Wodehouse, called Simply Wodehouse.  I’ve read every other biographer’s take on one of my favorite authors and have read all of Pelham Grenville’s (Wodehouse's real name) books at least twice over the years.  The prologue to Rescuing the Old Buzzard features Jeeves, Jr., my subliminal assistant, inherited from Mother’s Jeeves.
       In short, life is good at almost 90.  You have often reminded me that you’re a year younger than I, despite our being in the same class at Newton High.  Now I’ll remind you that I’m the first to become a nonagenarian.  Never thought I’d enjoy it so much. . . .                     
*
                                       

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