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That time I wanted to pass myself off as Joyce Carol Oates #TBT

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I submitted my first piece of writing when I was seventeen, a story about my first job, working at the employee cafeteria at General Telephone where my mother was a dispatcher. Rolling the 20# white bond backed by a sheet of thin blue carbon paper into my Smith Corona, I typed it out slowly, carefully, on a piece of erasable paper—and mailed it off to Cosmopolitan along with a cover letter. Not just to any editor at Cosmo, by the way, I sent it directly to Helen Gurley Brown. 

The piece itself, meant to be comical, was full of clumsy attempts at self-effacing humor.  I strived for a similar tone in the cover letter I addressed to Brown, completely clueless that the high powered editor in chief wasn’t the one reading unsolicited manuscripts. After I signed off I added the following PS. I could have said I was Joyce Carol Oates. What I thought that would accomplish I can’t imagine. That an unsatisfactory submission would get published because of a lame joke? 

No surprise, in the SASE I’d …

Above Ground on the London Underground: Day 5—Trapped on the Thames



On the street where I was born


This is Day 5 of my virtual walking tour, Above Ground on the London Underground, following the Piccadilly line, and I should be getting on with my 10,000 steps a day goal, but I find myself sitting on the deck of this pub, a very nice pub, on the banks of the River Thames, frozen in place. 

I was planning on going to Syon this week but just across the river lies Richmond, and in Richmond, the street, the very house, where I was born. I have gotten stupidly emotional about that fact quite a few times in the last few days, as I attempt to move on in my journey. 

But how can I go to Syon when my birthplace, #11 Salisbury Road, lies just beyond the river bend? How can I go to my birthplace when google maps won’t allow me to get any closer than number 8? How can I go to my birthplace when I’m not really going? Luckily, I’m not writing this post on paper, you’d see the teardrops blurring the ink right now. The husband tries to console me, tells me we can take a trip to England, see the street in real time. I haven’t been to England since 1989. I sniff up the sobs; I so want that to be true. For now I’m immobilized, stuck in place, my walking tour stalled out. 

I was born at home in a scene straight out of Call the Midwife because thats how they did it in Britain in the 50s, a midwife sent my father downstairs to the neighbors to boil water and to get him out of my mothers hair. That was in the late spring of 1953, just a few days before Queen Elizabeth IIs coronation. I came a few days early so my parents lost out on the years worth of free nappies but I still gained the queenly Elizabeth as my middle name. 

Not so regal was the fact that I was born over a fish and chips shop. While I love the smell of fish and chips, I can't quite imagine being pregnant and loving that smell day in and day out.

At least thats what I remember my mother telling me when I was growing up. You know how when youre a kid youre always asking how did you and daddy meet and tell me about the time I was born? Looking back at it now, Ive got to wonder how there could be both a fish and chip shop and the neighbors flat downstairs? Did the neighbors live in the back of the shop? Next door to it? Were my parents friendly enough with the owners of the fish and chip shop that they kept them supplied in cod? Does that account for my love of H.Salt Esquire? 

Speaking of fish, something is fishy! Ive been googling to get a handle on my birthplace and its weirdly elusive. While my birth certificate clearly states #11 Salisbury Road, Richmond, I cant get any closer to it on map quest or google than the image above. Is #11 still there or has it been bulldozed into smithereens? Looking down the road, there’s not a fish and chips shop in sight. Was it ever there? Is it another family story I’ve misremembered? Wishing I was there, really there, to see for myself.



•••••••••••••••
Go back to Day Four: Isleworth

Head to Day Six: Richmond
Linking to British Isles Friday at Joy’s Book Blog

Comments

  1. Sounds like you've got some research to do! On the ground research is definitely best. It sounds like your virtual tour is going to really motivate a real trip!

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