Before I could take off from LAX, we had to de-plane because of an electrical malfunction. As I stood in the departure gate gripping a fresh Starbucks and a pouch of almonds, I met a filmmaker named Denny Tedesco who told me about his film, The Wrecking Crew, a documentary about the session musicians who played on some of the biggest and most memorable albums of the 50's and 60's (his father was one of them). I told Denny about the equipment I'd be borrowing in Radnor from a fellow high school graduate, and described what it was I was aiming to shoot. He looked at me with the wise eyes of a man who had just spent the past 20 years of his life molding and shaping footage into an award-winning passion project (it was hard not to notice the full page of laurels from just about every film festival out there). Denny said: "Shoot everything, and always be shooting."
Mrs. Taylor (aka Maria) picked me up at the Philadelphia airport and we rode back to Greenville, back to the house on Walnut Ridge Road -- deep in the deciduous folds of Delaware County just across the Pennsylvania state line. It was dark when we pulled up, but Mr. Taylor (aka John) came out to greet us under the carport, wearing his robe and reading glasses, his eyes squinting into a smile at the sight of us: "G!" John said with his unmistakeable wheeze from years smoking Winstons (he's long since quit). "What the hell are you standing there for, aren't you gonna come inside?!"
We sat in their kitchen as I oohed and ahhhed over their recent remodel (which wasn't all that recent -- I just hadn't been there in a while). Limestone countertops, new cabinets, an extended breakfast room with a wine bar, leading to a slate patio where my sister Anne had her engagement party. Maria made me dinner as John poured us IPA's while the flicker of a black and white movie flashed across the flat-screen above their fireplace. Ahhh, the Taylors' kitchen. Ever since I can remember, I've gathered with my family and our mutual friends in the Taylors' kitchen. First in the house on Woodlawn Avenue in Wilmington, DE just blocks from the hospital where I was born. That kitchen contained a restaurant stove which miraculously produced homemade donuts with white powdered sugar, as well as a rotary phone with a cord that stretched for miles. And now this house, their "new" house (new as of 20 years ago, ie: I'm in my mid-30s), tucked into the woods like some forgotten Frank Lloyd Wright sketch, with windows on all sides, folk art and afghans at every turn, and kitchen stools meant for sitting -- moored under the island. Always a hunk of bread or cheese on the cutting board with endless savory delights sitting beneath saran wrap in the fridge. An array of newspapers strewn about the table and John's most recent editorial from The News Journal. Plants hanging from the ceiling, bird feeders hanging from the trees.
I lived with the Taylors the summer after my first year in college, working as a waitress at a restaurant called Buckley's Tavern on Route 52 in Centreville. It was the summer I turned 20, when the world and the possibilities that lay before me seemed endless, infinite. I had returned over holidays throughout college and my first few years in New York, but couldn't put my finger on the last time I'd walked through their front door. It was Beth's idea to stay with John and Maria, to come and go from their place. "It'll ground you," she said, San Francisco to LA, one city artist and lifelong friend to another. It was also Beth who told me that Buckley's had recently closed -- via a link she shared over Facebook. As I crawled into bed that night, in the room that used to be mine, I realized Beth was right. There's nothing like returning to a place of solace to make your feet feel planted on the ground.
The next morning (Thursday), I went for a run down Pyles Ford Road and hit the cemetary that runs parallel to Route 52. It's the kind of place that seems like a painting -- part Norman Rockwell, part Andrew Wyeth, with a succession of rolling fields that most likely belong to the Dupont family. As I passed the headstones, I played a game with myself, imagining that each word or family name was in fact a signifier about what this trip would have in store for me, an array of images flashing through my mind in time with my ipod shuffle. After a shower and coffee with Maria, we mapped out the best way for me to make a stop at my grandparents' old house on Merrybell Lane. Soon I was passing the wooden pasture fence and taking the left towards their drive, ambling up a recently re-paved black asphalt road and veering up and to the right. A flock of geese waddled about on my left as I began to recognize the row of dogwood trees that stretched towards the end of the cul-de-sac. As I neared the red brick house obscured by branches and leaves, I couldn't believe how much smaller it looked. It was overgrown, and unkept -- with a car parked in the driveway that must have been idle for months or even years. I rolled down my window just as a deer appeared at the side of the house near the rusty basketball hoop. I'm pretty sure it was a Doe, Doe a Deer, a Female deer...with big brown eyes and a startled expression on her face. It made me happy -- seeing her there, thinking about all the molecules of memories being played out somewhere, somehow...behind those walls.
And so started my pilgrimage back to Radnor, back to my hometown, to film Junko and Yoshiko. I stayed with Margaret and Ty, saw Mitty and both Brians, and even had the chance to show Junko and Yoshiko my old house on Cambria Court. It was a whirlwind visit, only 48 hours in total, as we traipsed through the streets they remembered from 1962 and that I remembered from the late 80's and early 90's. I filled four HI-8 tapes (that need converting...oh the days of video transfer at 20th Century Fox), and was cruising back to Greenville by Saturday night to return the Taylors' car. I missed the turn off Route 52 because I kept looking for the Buckley's sign -- forgetting that it was also a thing of the past. It was dark and rainy so by the time I got back to Walnut Ridge, I was craving what lay waiting -- a glass of red wine and a late dinner with John and Maria again. They bundled me up and drove me to the train station in Wilmington, where I rode all night to Boston and Mark. Then we drove to Maine for 3 days -- before coming back to LA.
Which is where I am now, dear reader, if you are out there reading. Back in Los Angeles -- the city of Angels. It's summertime again, and I've fired up the coals on the Barbie of my Blog. It wasn't that hard to stoke them, as I've spent the fall, winter and spring writing my book. That's right -- I said it -- My Book! Thanks to a dedicated reader in New York who enjoys my voice and pitches books to publishers for a living, and a coterie of close friends who have continued to read and give notes, I have versions and versions of a document on my desktop that I can now legitimately call 'my book.' It's about an exchange student in Japan who lives through the 1995 Kobe earthquake, and grows up to be a woman who goes back to Tokyo 16 years later, just in time for the next big earthquake of 2011 (unlikely, but true!). It's about the mystery of coincidence and the threads we weave that tie our past to our present. It's a work of narrative non-fiction. And it's called SEISMIC PROPORTIONS.
Since I'm no longer in Tokyo, I figure it's time my blog had a new name. Does anyone have any ideas? I was thinking about calling it THINGS THAT SLOW ME DOWN. Because in general, these days, I seem to have a running list of items that do slow me down. My bridesmaid's dress that went missing, the defrost button on the microwave at Lucile, my printer that won't scan my traffic violation ticket (that I got for driving with my headlights OFF at night and now must appear at traffic court on South Hill Street for my ARRAIGNMENT)...maybe I should just call it SOUTH HILL STREET BLUES.
Or maybe simply: The Travels of R. Taufen (if I make it, will you follow?)