my facebook (and real life friend) jeff barnes sent me this picture of best friends harry o. fischer and my grandfather fritz leiber. the two met in college and remained friends for life. and this was before facebook! the inspiration for fritz’ s series of novels set in the land of newhon came out of a board game the two created. in february while others are fretting over what to do on the fourteenth, i’m going to be thinking about the fromances of my life.
we jump right into winter here in chicago, sometimes without regard to the calendar. today was that day and i went to the beach where a few short summers ago my father justin (f2fb friend #30) shared a bottle of champagne and dumped fritz’s ashes into lake michigan. fritz died in 1992 and i’m not sure where justin had been storing the ashes. justin recited a poem, i mumbled a hail mary, and then i held my breath because as fritz was slipping out of the zip-lock sandwich bag there was a light breeze coming in off the lake. i sure hope we didn’t violate any state or federal laws regarding the disposal of human remains.
i’ve seen a lot of friends this year and this morning, i was to meet f2fb friends #266 and 267 karen tuchmann gray and joe yolles. but it isn’t the first time we’ve seen each other this year. i’ve run into karen and joe at block parties, jam sessions for joe’s band (the yolles brothers band), at lakeside foods, at football parties.
we met at the northfield grill and you might be surprised that i have gained weight this year, at one point a full eight pounds. but i lost four pounds on the "go around the world in seventeen days" diet, which consisted almost exclusively of airplane food and beer. should i write a diet book?
karen is a dance instructor and has written a short book on fairies. joe is a math teacher and a gifted drummer. they declined to make fun of me when i explained the recent problem i encountered when i confused vancouver, washington and vancouver, british columbia and booked all sorts of train tickets and hotel rooms based on not knowing the existence of the former and believing myself to be on my way to the latter. they are an adorable couple and i hope the coming year allows for more meetings of the breakfast club. should we ask for a bigger booth so you can be a part of this?
the two adorables! there is, however, a wind and severe weather advisory in chicago so i hightailed it out of the grill and aimed for home. duraflame logs in the fireplace and no obligations except. . . .
i got here! i made it! it’s a small country, the little tiny renegade province that held its ground against the communists. they are proud of their resistance and they should be. even though america and many other countries have sort of abandoned them in their haste to curry favor with the larger, wealthier people’s republic of china. i appreciated that they had more flags up than a fourth of july, memorial day, and a joint republican-democratic national convention combined!
got lost but saw beautiful things
chestnuts roasting over an open fire seems more bing cosby than tai pei!
then i got even more lost and ended up in a dilapidated courtyard that boasted the finest sculpture–
everybody walked right by this thing as if it weren't remarkable. i wonder if i do that at home a lot!
so then i went to a wonderful little restaurant where f2fb friend #242 warner sills gave me a wonderful dinner of dumplings and noodles and ginger tea. he gave me a tour of the city and then went on to classes. i am so proud of someone so brave to strike out on his own for a new country–then it was to bed because our flight to manila was at seven thirty.
i logged on that night to an unsettling post. using the facebook account of my friend mark del rosario, his wife told me he was going to have to cancel, he was ill. i wondered “is he going to be all right?” “what the hell am i doing going into manila for a day?” and lastly “is this another example of facebook not being what it appears to be?” i looked at how i would hopskotch off to mumbai without hitting manila. impossible. so onward we went, although my son joseph decided iwas a complete idiot. he had been told by his friend’s friend who once visited manila that all the flights into the city are turbulent and the crime rate is so excessive that it was a fifty-fifty proposition on even one of us getting out alive. i was definitely feeling under pressure from this disaster i hadn’t anticipated.
f2fb friend #110 jeff barnes was conceived in a manner quite unusual: his family’s next door neighbor had a laughing buddha statue on the front lawn.
“rub the buddha’s tummy and make a wish,” the neighbor told jeff’s sister.
“i wish. . . for a younger brother,” jeff’s sister said.
and that’s how jeff barnes came to be.
we met for the very first time in person at the chili’s in morgantown, west virginia. he was a fan of my grandfather fritz leiber. he showed me an autographed book by fritz as well as a brief note written to him by fritz in 1982. i nearly cried when i saw fritz’s handwriting. i was put up for adoption when i was three, although i was sent to live with fritz and my grandmother jonquil from when i was a year old until a year and a half. but i didn’t meet fritz again until 1985. i realized that jeff had more meetings with fritz than i did altogether before fritz’s death.
jeff brought with him his girlfriend gita. and they brought me a present of a hedgehog who will travel with me as does my fiance mr. william clark (f2fb #60).
speaking of fiances, jeff was accompanied by his girlfriend gita who pulled from her bag a quilt she had made. just about the size of an ipad screen. look at the detail on this:
out of the quilt, she pulled two korean hujoo dolls–their names are nyssa and kip. kip is a vampire. nyssa is named for the female sidekick to dr. who.
nyssa used to have a facebook account. i don’t think that a doll having a facebook account is all that unusual. i have a cat who is a facebook friend (nipper — f2fb #95). i have a couple of friends who have double accounts (for instance, mc kato and winston chang –f2fb #49 and #4 respectively). and i have a fiance who has been dead for more than a hundred and fifty years (mr. clark, f2fb #60). but facebook had it in for nyssa.
nyssa and friends
i think because of jeff’s unusual conception he is able to fathom having a stepdaughter named nyssa and a son named kip. the fact that the two dolls travel in gita’s bag, spooning each other in a quilt, seems a bit incestuous. but who am i to judge another’s lifestyle? especially dolls?
and it is a measure of jeff’s charm that i started to think it wthe most normal thing in the world to eat dinner with hujoo dolls and a hedgehog. i have extended an invitation to gita and jeff to join me in chicago when next they travel. i know southwest airlines says your bags travel free, i sure hope the same thing is true with kip and nyssa!
tomorrow: i end up meeting the future miss america and i have a facebook problem that threatens to derail the whole project! i need help!
and home is where they have to take you when you have no place else to go. i don’t think i’m unusual in sometimes getting myself locked out of home or that just like dodgeball in gym class, i’m not going to get picked until the teacher says somebody’s gotta take me.
1. biological mother aleta misel leiber clayton. put me up for adoption when i was three years old. i found her when i was twenty five. she was a part-time public defender in d.c. she hated me because i didn’t give her enough money. i have no idea where she is or whether she’s alive.
2. adoptive mother jewell houchen patrick. probably schizophrenic. decided i was a partner with satan in the destruction of the world. she had a hysterectomy when she was seventeen. i think that affected her. here she is in what was probably the early fifties. i have no idea where she is but since she’d be ninety five years old, i would suspect the odds of any sort of reconciliation are remote.
3. foster moms. well, several of them. but most notably irene patton. more about her later.
4. vivian eastman who was never an actual mom, but might as well have been. when i was twenty, she found out i had spent christmas alone, as was my custom. she said never do that again. and until the deaths of both her and her husband, i have spent my christmases with them.
1. biological father justin leiber, f2fb friend #30, married at one time to aleta. put me up for adoption when i was three years old. divorced aleta a year or two later. had at least one wife before barbara foorman his present wife. he has said he is considering moving up from florida state university to live with me for a while. i’m not sure how i feel about this.
2. adoptive father donald patrick worked for the post office. he died when he was seventy and i was twenty five.
3. lots of different foster fathers, one of whom–paul patton–has died but haunts me.
1. sandra patrick, my adoptive sister, eight years older than me and gorgeous. glamorous. in ony the way that an older sister is regarded. i have no idea where she is.
2. casey leiber (f2fb #31) whom i met when i was twenty five and she was eighteen months. i believe she has been raised to regard me as a sort of acquaintance of justin’s and we had very little contact during her childhood. she is an actress in new york.
3. lots of foster sisters. some of whom didn’t make it. some of whom we pledged eternal sisterhood and then got into different placements and lost touch. then there’s gavin patton who became gwen patton. i’ll see her later in the month. she has every reason to want to tell me to fuck off.
4. clare eastman who isn’t a facebook friend. julie eastman who is on facebook–i’ll write about her and her husband tomorrow. susan eastman who is f2fb friend #96.
1. eastman leiber presser, yes, named for the eastman and leiber families, f2fb #1
2. joseph leiber presser, f2fb #61
3. elisabeth presser andrews, f2fb #13. she’s officially an ex-stepdaughter. an interesting feature of facebook is that you can request to list anybody as a family member but sometimes it’s difficult to use that feature and so we’re not connected as family members on facebook. that’s okay.
4. david presser, officially an ex-stepson. i don’t think he’s on facebook.
two biological grandparents i got to meet. alyce blum who is in a nursing home in seaford, delaware. i met her about eight years ago. she has three daughters, aleta included, and has no contact with any of them. her heart breaks. and then fritz leiber the science fiction writer, whom i met when i was twenty five and believed i was being welcomed back into the eden of family.
but i am fifty now and i have learned that when adam and eve had their eden foreclosed on, they just needed to build elsewhere.
a lot of my facebook friends have entered my life because of my grandfather fritz leiber who was a great science fiction writer. he was the guy who had a story in every sci fi magazine, who put out a series of fafhrd and gray mouser as well as a lot of wonderful horror and fantasy books. federico cenci, who is getting his doctorate in literature about fritz, can tell you more. fede is my facebook friend from italy. he’s going to make me dinner one night.
because i was put up for adoption when i was three years old, i didn’t meet my natural family until i was twenty five. i met fritz at thanksgiving dinner in houston where my father justin lived in 1985.
i think fritz enjoyed having great-grandchildren. he fell ill in chicago on his way back to his home in san francisco from a science fiction convention in canada. i remember fritz holding eastman as if this baby was a treasure of untold value while my husband and i considered what to do in the hotel room fritz had booked himself into. margo, his new bride, wouldn’t fly in a plane. two fans were in attendance and they were flat broke. the hotel concierge was concerned. we sent margo, his wife, home to san francisco. i gave the fans two hundred bucks and said “watch over her”. i called justin, my father, from houston and stephen helped me put fritz in northwestern hospital in chicago. justin escorted fritz home in a plane to san francisco where fritz would later die.
and while we supposed adults–my husband, me, margo, two sci fi fans–worked it all out in the hotel room, joseph, four years old, explained to fritz how eastman worked: his sleep cycle, the things he liked to eat, his ear infection, how you could get eastman to smile. . . . fritz was mesmerized. i was supposed to be sort of in charge of the moment but i was the one who was not paying attention to the most beautiful part of things–fritz was.
a lot of my friends on facebook are from knowing fritz and then knowing me. i’m grateful.