Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Birthing my last memoir

Well I have finally finished the last memoir of my career. I think this picture above where I am 21 and hitchhiking across Canada  will be the cover and the  title will be COMING ASHORE.  That is, of course, if I have anything to say about it. The publisher may want to use another picture and another title. Honestly, I have had it with Falls titles. The first volume of my memoir is called TOO CLOSE TO THE FALLS, the second is AFTER THE FALLS.  What could the third be? UNDER THE FALLS? MAID OF THE MIST? WHIRLPOOL? Enough already.

This memoir covers my life from the age of 21 to 25.  A lot happened. If someone asked my what has happened in the last three years of my life, I'd be hard pressed to come up a sentence, let alone an entire volume; but that's another story.  This volume is a combination of  memoir and travelogue.   It begins when I go to Oxford in England.  Of course there is my signature ill fated romance . This time it is with a British  aristocrat whose  relatives donated the chapel pews at Trinity College, Oxford.  ( Need I say more?)

It was a great time to be in England. It was the swinging 60's on Carnaby Street where we used to go to a basement pub to hear Jimi Hendrix live.  I make fun of England on every page, but honestly, if it weren't  for the class system  that categorized each and every person when he  said 'hello',  I would have stayed. It was a marvel to me to be at a college where one professor cares about you, has a tutorial with only you and actually listens to your stupid sophomoric ideas and then brings in books related to all of your jejune ramblings.  I doubt Oxford is like that now.  Probably those in England who read this volume that reflects Oxford almost 50 years ago, will think I am from the time of Oliver Cromwell. (One college girl who read my novel SEDUCTION, commented on a picture of Anna Freud standing next to her father in a floor length Dirndl  on the cover.  Believe it or not she said me, "Wow, that was a great picture of you and your dad."

The second part of the book takes place in Cleveland, Ohio where I was a student teacher. Since I have the patience of a gnat, you might ask -- Why did I teach? The reason was simple. My father, who was raised in the depression, wouldn't pay for university if I wasn't a teacher or a nurse. I look bad in white so I chose teaching-- but never taught.  This trait must run in my family because my mother  was a math teacher but only taught for one  day. When I asked her why she said  she had no idea she'd have to teach children.

It was an interesting time to be alive in America.   There was the  Kent State Massacre,  Martin Luther King had been assassinated  and  there were riots in the cities   The Hough area of Cleveland was burning and I taught in that ghetto. We had to be escorted by police into the High School every morning. My roommate in Cleveland married our police escort. She said she liked his boots.  There were  security men in  grey suits in the hallways to keep order with Stun Guns. They were called the mice.  The kids were wonderful to teach and I learned a lot from them.  I guess I never understood why, since I was having such a good time,  I almost got kicked out of the school. Who ever heard of a teacher who has to go not only to the principal's office  but to the Superintendent of schools'?

As the 70's dawned, I skipped out to Cleveland to go to graduate school in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I was now living in my third country in Five years. The first person I ran into in the hippie enclave called Yorkville was a guy I knew from High school in Buffalo  named Rick James.  He said he played in a band  with some guys called the Mynah Birds. They dressed as yellow birds with yellow feather shoes.  I later found out it was Steppenwolf and Neil Young and Rick went on to Superfreak fame.

My mother was thrilled that I was moving to Canada since she said that nothing bad ever happened in Canada. We had lived  in Lewiston, New York and spent the summers on the Canadian side of Lake Erie.   She said "Fabulous, even you  couldn't  cause a fuss there." She said  Canadians actually celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday and have a store called Dominion. When I was a kid Roy, the black delivery car driver, and I delivered medicine to Niagara Falls on both sides of the American-Canadain border.  I once  asked him why we never delivered any valium in Canada and his simple answer was "Canadian's don't need it."

I have always been good at proving my mother wrong. I moved into a rooming house on Huron Street in the fall of 1970 in Toronto where an enclave  of French Canadians lived. Within a month everyone in the house was arrested. Unbeknownst to me, they were members of the FLQ, a quebecois terrorist group  that were making headlines killing government ministers. The War Measures act was declared by Pierre Trudeau and we were all rounded in the night  as terrorists. I knew I had some rights, but I had no idea what they were. I told the RCMP that I would not be interrogated without a meal. ( I forgot it was a lawyer.) I must be the only person ever to be interrogated by the Police at Fran's restaurant.  If you don't confess, do you have to  eat the  Salisbury steak? Once the police realized their mistake, I was set free.  The landlord wound't  take me back, so I had to move three doors north in the middle of the night  to Rochdale College, the biggest drug den in Canada.  I was a pharmacist's daughter. How did I know the pills in the fridge were acid?

Anyway, now that I've told you most of the book, you won't have to buy it which seems to be publishing trend.  Unfortunately this is my last memoir. I say unfortunately  because I have loved compulsively chronicling my life. My family consisting of a husband and three sons  frowns upon me giving any interpretations of their lives.  I told my husband, who I met at a John Ford German Expressionist film festival  in 1970, that  he doesn't have to worry since  nothing happens after marriage anyway.


  1. I loved your first 2 books. We read them for my book club. I can't wait to read this book. Sounds good already!

  2. Cathy, thanks so much for this. I can't wait to read Coming Ashore. You're one of my most favourite writers.

  3. Love it! I'm Jennifer Weller's friend from SF. Which, of course, means that you're already one of my favorite unknown friends. I always love when you pop up in my google reader. If you're ever in Denver, let me know!

    1. Would love to come to Denver on my next book tour. Are you in a book club?

  4. Thanks for the heads up, Cathy. I'm looking forward to reading it.