Here And Now
In the summer of 1990 I worked at Conrad’s Family Restaurant in Glendale, CA. The crew was an interesting Southern California blend of college students, Mexican immigrants, aspiring actresses, and restaurant lifers. Sometimes when I was bored, I’d drift to the front desk and talk to Lonnie, a petite hostess many decades older than I. She wore a lot of makeup, smoked Virginia Slims, and liked telling stories.
She’d been an actress one upon a time, I soon learned. I was impressed that even though she had once graced the silver screen and now asked Amway salesmen how many were in their party, she showed no signs of being disappointed with her life. I asked her if she had liked the movies, and if she had met any interesting people.
“Lots,” she said. “Hollywood’s filled with interesting people. But I’ll never forget meeting F. Scott Fitzgerald.”
I leaned over the front desk to make sure I was hearing correctly. “You met F. Scott Fitzgerald?”
“The writer? The guy who wrote The Great Gatsby?”
“Yes. I’ll never forget him.”
Of course you wouldn’t forget, I was thinking. He’s Fitzgerald!
“I’ll never forget,” she repeated. “So handsome. The most handsome man I’ve ever met.”
A party of four came in just then and Lonnie showed them to their table. I had more questions for her about Fitzgerald, but I didn’t know how to phrase them. Had she really met him? How can you meet one of America’s great novelist and only remember how handsome he was? I considered testing her, asking about Zelda or some such, but I concluded this would be obnoxious.
I would later learn that Fitzgerald’s time in Hollywood, which came toward the end of his life, was not his easiest, and that the year he died Gatsby sold a total of seven copies, five of which he’d purchased to give as gifts. He considered that novel his best work, but had been unhappy that it wasn’t a commercial success. It haunted me a little the way it ended for him, as if writing Gatsby could have inoculated him against any disappointment. Maybe, I wondered, if someone could have given him a crystal ball with which to show the near future where Gatsby would be studied in English and Creative Writing throughout the land he’d have been satisfied.
I doubt it though. Lonnie, I recalled, had a motherly relationship with Janet, Conrad’s thirty-something manager. I joined Lonnie at the front desk after she’d finished a particularly long conversation with Janet. “That girl,” she said shaking her head, “needs to spend more time in the here and now.”
So do we all, I thought. So do we all.
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Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com