Mill Valley

Fear is like a swimming pool – if you don’t jump in you’ll never learn how to swim. Sounds wise, doesn’t it? Remember, you heard it here first. You also didn’t hear it from Donald Trump. Although you’ve got to hand it to the guy, he knows a lot about swimming pools. Where was I?

I was driving north on a particularly hot, globally-warmed San Francisco day. I was visiting Gabriella, mishpoke extraordinaire. At 93, she was also driving – that’s right, behind the wheel of a car – to meet me for lunch. It’s not that far to Mill Valley. But here’s where friends like Bob Ploss come in handy. Distance is hardly the issue. Being a partial quadriplegic is. Not to mention the ups and downs of several San Francisco hills, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and, not to minimize this either, descending the Waldo Grade into Marin.

Nothing like having an optical migraine as one sets out on the great adventure. I drove as far as St. Francis Circle. Then, conscious of far too much light on my eyeballs, I pulled over. And parked in the shade, of course. I phoned Gabriella, feigned  traffic woes, and waited things out. What sort of ”things?” Well, like should I turn around and head for home. An entirely legitimate possibility. But there’s this thing about the swimming pool metaphor. So jump in, I did.

No doubt about it. This is the meteorological end of the world. No way Mill Valley should be in the 90s in mid October. Good thing Gabriella and I ate our Thai curries in air-conditioned unreality. She’s an amazing woman. Worrying about dealing with her editor and her publisher in the course of yet another book. She writes around the periphery of the Holocaust experience – and I couldn’t help but test my own theory on her. Does writing about these memories leave her fearful?

Absolutely, she told me. So what if 70 years have gone by? Being chased across Europe by Nazis who are after your blood isn’t easily forgotten. Particularly if you decide to write about it. And that’s the thing. I currently get up each morning and write about the years of recovery after my shooting. Then hop in the car and head for Mill Valley. Or something. So what’s the big deal? After all, this particular opus isn’t about my actual injury or even the time immediately after it. Still, I do wonder how I ever got through that time. Very basic things, like making a living, were utterly up for grabs. No visible means of support, and no future. I don’t recall being anxious all the time. I am recalling it now, that’s the point. Fear on hold. And like any corporate helpline, while on hold, there was all sorts of silly music to distract. Not now. And having been illuminated by Gabriella, I turned on the van’s air conditioning and comfortably drove home.


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