Monday, June 20, 2016

Thurber House: Day One

Today was my first full day as Children's Writer-in-Residence at Thurber House!

I got in around 5pm yesterday, where I was met at the airport by the very nice Meg Brown, Director of Children's Education. Meg took me to drop my bags off at the house before heading out to do the necessary grocery shopping in preparation for my living on my own for a month.

Now, let's pause here in the Adventures of Lou for a bit on the house itself,  a three-story historic building which served as the home of author, humorist, and New Yorker cartoonist James Thurber and his family from 1913 until 1917. Since 1984, (the year, not the book or the album by Van Halen), the house has served as a non-profit literary center and museum of Thurber materials. The first floor of the house has a bookstore, which currently has a very nice display of Frostborn and Nightborn titles, while the second floor is home to the Thurber Museum (the lights of which flickered when I came in, though not ominously). The third floor is more modern and has been converted into a small apartment for the writer-in-residence, in this case me. So...

After dropping off bags, we went to Kroger, where I was delighted to find I could get New Holland Brewing's Dragon's Milk, a bourbon-barrel aged stout that I love and cannot get in Alabama, as well as essentials like cereal, yogurt, jalapeƱos, pop tarts, stuffed mushrooms, the ingredients to make a killer ham sandwich, tea bags (iced and green), coffee, and a variety of microwavable frozen foods. Unfortunately, somewhere in that smorgasbord of easy to make necessities, I forgot toothpaste!

Then it was back to the house, where Meg gave me a quick tour, handed me the keys, and taught me the alarm code. Then I was alone in the house for the first time. Which is very alone, in a dark, old house with very little happening on the street outside. At this point it should be noted that Thurber House is very creaky. Every footstep I took last night didn't just cause the floorboards to squeak, but started a cascade of echoing creaks that rippled down through the house, so that it sounded like every step was followed by an answering step. Truthfully, it was a bit unnerving, but I found a solution: planting my butt in one spot and largely not moving! Also playing lots of David Bowie. And the aforementioned Dragon's Milk.

Still, I spent the evening working on an outline for the new project and dining on some sushi that I was somewhat strong-armed into buying at Kroger by a very persuasive and persistent chef (but it was very good). I ended up working quite productively until 2am, though I got hit once by a wave of intense missing-of-the-family. Then I woke up this morning, mastered the art of pouring milk over cereal, and met Meg downstairs for a visit to the Homeless Families Foundation's Dowd Education Center, where I gave my talk on understanding story construction using Hollywood blockbusters. The kids there were great, very enthusiastic, very cinema-knowledgable, and very smart. (I'll return tomorrow to take them through some writing exercises based on today's concepts.)

I returned to Thurber House where I met Erin Deel, General House Administrator and Barbie Tootle, Interim Executive Director, both very nice. Then lunch (pot pie), after which the aforementioned lack of toothpaste was just too much. Erin kindly took me back to Kroger, where I picked up everything I forgot to make yesterday. I walked around the house some more, reading the placards for the self-guided tour and looking at all the historical items. At five, everyone working at the house left, so I shut myself upstairs and continued working. Which is where I am now. Though I think I'm about to pause and begin the good work of catching up on Game of Thrones.

More tomorrow! Meanwhile, here is a picture of what I believe to be an ancient iPod:

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