A US flavour for the 4th of July!
I am very much an all or nothing kind of person — I mean if I love it I don’t just love it — I’m obsessed with it! And there are many US things in that list — beginning of course with Mr Manilow! (There she goes again!)
I first visited California at the tender age of 9. Having grown up hugely influenced by US TV shows and films and a dad who worked for Disney, also a film buff who’d travelled around the states extensively, I very much followed in his footsteps — literally! As you’ll see later.
I remember that amazing trip to California in 1978 and I recall how hard it was to adjust after I came home. This whole other exciting place was happening the other side of the world and I wanted to be a part of it. It took me ages to change my watch back to UK time 😦 It’s true of course on holiday we see a different side, there’s money to burn, you eat out, visit theme parks (and they can do them better than us for sure) so it’s not hard to see why I felt that way.
It was however little over a decade before I went back and that time it was to see Barry Manilow — a 2 week trip with the fan club and before you laugh — just remember this is one of the best memories I have — truly. You wouldn’t want to tread on that now, would you? What a trip and I remember wondering why I’d left it so long to go back. We hired a super stretch limo twice, both times driving to Bel Air where Mr Manilow then presided — and I recall opening a bottle of champers out of the sun roof when Barry’s neighbour, Ringo Starr saluted our decadence and spoke to us! I guess I was being teased by a celebrity life style and one I have to say I don’t actually crave — I love my simple little life — but it was fun never the less. Maybe the 20-year-old me craved it — a little!
Because I have some great friends in the US — friends my dad met all those years ago when he worked for Disney and travelled around, I went back often after that and stayed with my lovely friend Jan. In fact I am planning a trip to see her next March when I will have a book launch out there too!
While I don’t dream of a house in LA so much now, there is still part of me that does hold onto that dream (now it’s a second home I crave not a forever home) and it’s now connected with seeing my novel made into a movie — why not? It’s good to dream once in a while.
When I said how I followed in my dad’s footsteps (literally) I meant it because a few years ago, after a break-up and seeking direction in my life, I spent a few months out there. I was based in the San Fernando Valley in Sherman Oaks with Jan but travelled all over the county on the Greyhound bus. This is something my dad did in the 70s and I almost followed the same route. In fact he helped me plan it and since they still did the 5-day Ameripass like Dad had bought all those years before — I hopped on and off and travelled all over. I read a book before I went about a woman’s experience on the Greyhound and I recall how she said (paraphrased) if you’ve ever woken up on a bus, hours spent crammed into a small space, legs and everything hurt and then you look out of the window and watch the sun rise over the Nevada desert — you discover there is a fine line between heaven and hell. And I felt that exactly. What a trip!
The states is a HUGE place and there is so much variation between states — so much beauty! It really is America the Beautiful for its mountain ranges, forests, lakes, truly breathtaking landscapes as well as the cities and the US we see depicted on film. And yes there are great riches and great poverty side by side but then again, it’s like that most places. It has so much to offer and that trip took me from New York to Buffalo and Niagara Falls, Chicago, St Louis, Texas, Memphis … in fact too many places to list here to possibly to justice to the magnitude of that trip and the wonderful people I met along the way. I have been bowled over the generosity and kindness of just about everyone I met. I get rather angry when people who’ve never been or have been to one part, say derogatory things — plain narrow-mindedness I guess.
After that trip I was happy to come home but needless to say I missed the place and tried to go back every year after that. In fact after Lee died Jan insisted she pay for me to go to be close to her. I think it’s the only time I went when I didn’t have the usual excitement and I remember crying behind Lee’s sunglasses (his favourite designer ones I later lost on the trip!) on the plane because I always hoped the next time I went he’d have been with me. He was crazy about films and had the best home cinema and knew every director and everything in fact there was to know about films. I promised him a trip to Hollywood. I guess he was there with me — in fact I’m sure while I was sleeping it was him who took back his sunglasses — somewhere in the clouds.
Anyhow that was a trip that was just about hanging out — a change of scenery after 10 weeks at a bedside and 6 weeks grieving at Lee’s parents’ house. I didn’t know if I wanted to go — but I am so glad I did. So I guess the US has seen me at my best and at my saddest. And thanks to Jan I feel I have another family over there. Can’t wait to go back.
So why am I telling you all of this — apart from it being Independence Day — well because the US has also had a great influence on my writing and my reading. While many of my short stories have been based here in the UK, certainly all my novels (and I have written 5!) have been set in the US. I don’t really know why, it just feels like home.
So I am thrilled that While No One Was Watching, my début, has such a US flavour — you can’t get a whole lot more USA than John F Kennedy. I have been following various Twitter sites as you may know that are recounting on this day 50 years ago as we edge closer to the 50th anniversary of the assassination and the release of my novel. I wasn’t born when Kennedy was assassinated but it is still a moment that silenced the world then and leaves its echoes still. Why it touched me I don’t quite know but I like to think a part of me is American. When I was regressed for a past life (research for a future novel) I was probably many things but I was (although it sounds like a cliché) a native American. Real or not, cliché or not,I like to think it’s true.
It explains a lot. Including my obsession with Barry Manilow and Jon Bon Jovi and why there’s a stars and stripes bandanna in my sock drawer!
I think will leave it there — suffice it to say HAPPY 4th of JULY to my US friends (that includes my followers!) and everyone else … enjoy the fireworks wherever you are!
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