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Speaking

Chat with dad.

My father told me about his career. A few nights back I called him and nearly broke down crying, needing to talk. That conversation drifted off into silence--I clammed up. But the next night he called me back and said that he'd pay the first quarter fee for the Writer's Center at Astor Place if I wanted to go. It's a quiet place to write, a cubby-hole open 24 hours a day, coffee and tea and a coat room, $195 every 3 months.

Then he described his success in the 1970's. I didn't know how real it had all been. He had plays--truly experimental stuff, Jesus in a Hawaiian shirt and non-linear dialogue--at theaters I know, places I pass going to work. He had plays produced in Minneapolis, Pennsylvania. Joseph Papp kept one of his plays in hand for a year, and Papp's wife called many times to say, we're looking for a way to put it on, until the plan collapsed. Grove Press published him. At the beginning of his career, he had Somerset Maugham's agent.

I think it will come back, he said. There'll be some recognition for my older self, just as there was success when I was young, and then when I was in my 30's and 40's.

I never knew any of this. Knowing it changes things, makes them less temporal, gives me a way to understand him, to witness a section of my own past.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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