So, I had dinner last night in Manhattan with Garry Trudeau, and he says I need to start writing again.
I was in the City, as we denizens of Brooklyn call it, for a round table discussion at the 92nd St YMHA, hosted by Roger Rosenblatt, from Time magazine. The topic was David Levinthalls book, “I.E.D.”, which came out last year. Levinthall does these cool pictures of soldiers and tanks and HMWVVs; very realistic and evocative, and all the more so because they are toys. The toys and their dioramas are juxtaposed in the book with writings from real Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that’s where I came in. A couple of snippets of my writing made it into the book, courtesy of David Stanford, the editor at Garry’s website, the Sandbox. I wrote for the Sandbox while I was in Baghdad a few years ago.
The last time I had seen the two Davids, Levinthall and Stanford, was at the book opening in DUMBO, underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, a year ago. The last time I had seen Garry was two years ago, in Washington D.C., when his book, “The Sandbox” came out. I was fortunate enough to have seven of my stories in that one, and we had done a short publicity tour for it, along with Troy Steward from bouhammer.com, my nurse friend ‘Clara Hart’, and ArmyGrrl, another Soldier. All of them had multiple stories in the book.
Garry was exactly the same as when I had seen him last–absolutely unassuming, very personable, and just exuding this calm sense of bemusement around him. David Stanford was equally unchanged; a funny white haired animated garden troll of a man; and as always, an absolute pleasure to be around. David Levinthall was unusually quiet this time; a bit reserved for some reason, but at the top of his game. His photos from the book are currently on display at the Stellan Holm Gallery on West 24th Street, and book sales are moving along nicely.
I showed up at the Y not really knowing what to expect. I wore my ACUs, my grey camouflage work uniform, even though I knew it would stand out in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. I wanted to be a reminder to the people attending that, while the photographs were fake, the writing and the Soldiers behind the words were very much real, and trapped in a reality that the toys could only hint at.
The best part of the roundtable was the questions from the audience, and I was surprised that most of them seemed to be directed at me. I think it was quite possibly the first time that most of the audience members had ever encountered a Soldier in the flesh, let alone one in full camouflage. After the presentation, I found myself in the foyer, surrounded by a largely female crowd of a certain age, and that feeling was heightened. Lots of fur, expensive face lifts, and earnest questions–but friendly and sympathetic. I even got asked for a couple of autographs!
Afterwards, we all went to dinner at a very chic Italian restaurant, nearby, and it was here, over liquorice risotto, that David and Garry exorted me to start writing again. So, here I am. I’m going to try to write every night for an hour or so on my blog, and see if I can get the old literary muscles working again.The blog should repost automatically onto my Facebook, so feel free to send me feedback, both good and bad. One of the best parts of writing for Doonesbury.com was the almost instant feedback from the audience, and I definitely miss it. Lord only knows what I’ll write about, so be prepared for a wide gamut of topics, which I’m sure New York City should be able to produce on a regular basis!
See you here!