Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Remembering Ray Bradbury

“You’ll find out it’s little savors and little things that count more than big ones. A walk on a spring morning is better than an eighty-mile ride in a hopped-up car, you know why? Because it’s full of flavors, full of a lot of things growing. You’ve time to seek and find. I know, you’re after the broad effect now, I suppose that’s fit and proper. But you got to look at grapes as well as watermelons. You greatly admire skeletons and I like fingerprints; well, and good. Right now such things are bothersome to you, and I wonder if it isn’t because you never learned to use them. If you had your way you’d pass a law to abolish all the little jobs, the little things. But then you’d leave yourselves nothing to do between the big jobs and you’d have a devil of a time thinking up things? Cutting grass and pulling weeds can be a way of life.”  - Dandelion Wine

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.

It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutte
r might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime." - Fahrenheit 451

In 2009, Ray Bradbury visited the college where I teach. (See smiley photo above. This post is adapted from one I wrote then.)  Just about everyone in my department has their own Ray Bradbury story.  This is probably true for every department of English. One IVC professor went on her first date with hubby-to-be at a Ray Bradbury reading in San Diego. They reprised that first date when Bradbury visited.

I fell hard for Bradbury when I was young. The Martian Chronicles. Something Wicked this Way Comes. Dandelion Wine. The Illustrated Man. Fahrenheit 451. And the stories! "The Kilamanjaro Device." "The Garbage Collector."  "The Sound of Summer Running."  Those $1.49 paperbacks.  Those sentences.

Bradbury was one of the ones who made me love words and imagination, one who taught me how they could transform the world. My world then was in dire need of transformation.

Then, it must have been 1978 or '79, I won an award for high school writers and finally got the meet the man himself. It was at a gathering sponsored by the Southwest Manuscripters, the local writers group of the South Bay of Los Angeles who had read my stories and given me prize money, money that would pay for rent, food, textbooks for El Camino College.

Bradbury talked about writing but he also spoke about how he rode the bus, how he used to feed coins into the rental typewriters at the downtown Los Angeles Library in order to compose his first stories. He talked, in other words, about being without.

It was a story he told often through the years. Anyone who has heard Bradbury talk has heard some of these details.  (And boy could he talk! It seemed he said yes to every group who asked. He was everywhere, all the time, even putting in a cameo appearance in the early '70s at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley where I spend my summers. There's a black and white picture of him, smiling, at a party, holding, as someone else in the photo always attested, a joint.) But Bradbury's story is a good story, one that needs telling and hearing, one about hope and persistence, liberation.

I don't have the photograph of the famous writer and the high student that was taken that evening. The photo was lost like so much in those days. I lacked the kind of mother or family that provided that service - you know, putting things in scrapbooks or photo albums or special boxes. And I didn't know how to save things for myself.

But I did learn how to write, I think now. That's one way to save things and to retrieve what is lost. So, no photograph - but the memory and these words - enough.



Anonymous said...

Oh, how these passages--his words-- carry more meaning as the years go by.

A beautiful tribute.

the other L

Peter Gerrard said...

I am floating in between the waves of actually getting a few writing jobs, one swell has passed and I went over it, the next one is looming, bigger, more volume, riskier, and I see a movie to help me wrap my head around what I'm supposed to write about and on the way there I hear, R.I.P Ray Bradbury. The film is about youth, hubris and being brave and naive enough to thumb your nose at gravity, flip it off. Afterward, working, I look for some help, and I find it:

"Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things."

Rebel Girl said...

thanks for reading~~~~~

Site Meter