Archive for June, 2012
I had driven my orange volkswagon bus from Michigan to Los Angeles the autumn of 1975. I wanted to finally visit the offices of Plane & Pilot magazine that I had been writing for. I was just a kid, but had already been writing for six years about my youthful flying experiences.
I had spent a few days in LA, had written a few articles for the magazine while I was there, on the typewriter I had brought with me. I had even interviewed for a flight instructor job at Santa Monica airport, and taught for a couple days. But the rattletrap Cessna 150 and the airport surrounded by endless city and the Pacific Ocean to the west, just didn’t feel right to my midwestern upbringing. I got paid on the spot for the articles I wrote instead of on publication. Checks in hand was a great feeling, and I knew somehow I was a writer.
I had been staying at various magazine staff homes, sleeping on couches or in spare rooms. That afternoon, at the little house over in the valley, in Reseda, my host was an editor at the magazine. There was a family dinner coming, and then, to my surprise there was the evening meeting of a writer’s group the lady belonged to. With joy, I heard that Ray Bradbury was one of the writers in the group. I had been reading Bradbury for many years. He, along with Ernest Gann, St. Exupery, and others, had been previously suggested to me, by my Iowa friends Richard Bach and Bette Bach.
I ran up the street to a used bookstore and bought copies of The Illustrated Man, and Twice 22, so I would have them on hand in case I could ask Mr. Bradbury to autograph them.
The four or five writers began to appear. Before long, Ray Bradbury, arrived by taxi, since he never drove. With introductions, also meeting the author of Flower Drum Song, I sat in the circle while these writers read from their latest work.
Mr. Bradbury read a short story about a steam locomotive pulling a train across the sahara desert. Only as Bradbury could write it, the train chugged thru the hot night….soon running low on fuel that kept the boiler going. The engineers sent men to raid tombs, and put the wrapped mummies in the fire to make steam, and went on their way through the night. Soon, they had to stop again on the tracks, repeating their search for the eerie fuel. I remember one short scene, described in his own voice, of the spirits of the long dead, curling up into the desert night out of the locomotive’s smoke stack.
When the meeting was over, and the taxi called, Bradbury signed my books kindly. He encouraged me to keep writing. As he was leaving he came to me with arms out-stretched, and I was taken aback. To be hugged by another man…I was an Iowa boy in the big city of LA? He said, “It’s ok!”, and gave me a hug goodbye.
Later, when I looked at the autographs in the two books, I found his self-portrait in The Illustrated Man, and more encouragements for my writing in Twice 22.
We never met again, but I read all his books, and only recently had looked him up on the internet, happy to see that he was still alive.
Today, I woke to find that Ray Bradbury had died June 5. I was instantly saddened. After reading the news about his life, I pulled down the two books from the shelf. I read the prologue to The Illustrated Man, then read The Veldt. A smile was back on my face. His writing will always be with me.
I suddenly felt that the slow June 5 transit of Venus across the face of the sun, was a tribute to the writer of The Golden Apples of the Sun, and many other books. Or maybe, with a feeling of sweet wonder, I imagined Venus cradling the traveling spirit of the man himself.
copyright © Ken Smith 2012 all rights reserved.
In the mail yesterday I received copies of a book smelling of printed paper, new ink. Thank you to Briar Cliff Review for including my photograph titled, Reeds and Reflection, in its pages. The Review is an 11″ x 8-1/2″ glossy 124-page compilation of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, book reviews, and artwork. The Review has been printed for 24 years, this being Volume 24, 2012. There is a real satisfaction in getting off the computer and sitting down with a well-designed book.
In addition, the Sioux City Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa will be exhibiting my Reeds and Reflection piece, and other art work published in the Briar Cliff Review, from May 9 thru July 1. Sioux City Art Center
I am represented by Olson-Larsen Gallery in West Des Moines, Iowa and they prepared and shipped my work to the Art Center for the exhibit. Olson-Larsen Gallery