365 Days

Kage Baker and I spent a lot of time last year talking about where I would live after she was dead. It wasn’t morbid, or at least didn’t feel so at the time – we’d been discussing old age a lot in recent years, and it seemed practical to make some plans for what was suddenly going to be a solo gig for me.

We’d been living in Pismo Beach for some 16 years, and seriously considering staying there for the rest of our lives. Kage cherished a hope to someday retire to Catalina Island, though, or Monterey – I believe her love of pirates figured largely in both choices – and I wouldn’t have minded. But I thought it more likely we’d stay planted on the stretch of coast we’d already conquered, and vacation in the others as we’d always done.

It was all a subject for speculation, though. We knew, even as our 50’s slipped away, that retiring anywhere wasn’t going to happen soon; we’d very likely end up right where we were and be working ladies to an advanced age. But Kage’s illness put paid to speculation pretty firmly. Although she may have feared my wistful desire to take up life in an RV and just wander the highways with a parrot and a million books was serious: she got quite firm about making me promise to find a permanent base.

I had many, many choices. It is a testament to the generosity and courage of our friends that so many of them offered me a home last year.  No matter how many children, dogs, cats, and existing elderly relatives my dear friends already possessed, most of them didn’t hesitate to extend me house-room. It makes me worry about their sanity, though, as taking me and Harry on is no light matter; let alone the insane amount of luggage I dragged with me when I left. Maybe these good folks shouldn’t be wandering around without keepers themselves …

Kage knew all of them would offer, too. She told me sternly not to take advantage of anyone, being aware how many of them would take me in without a second’s thought. She also warned me to leave Pismo Beach, or at least our apartment. “If you stay here,” she told me, “you’ll go crazy in a month. If the stairs don’t make your heart explode first. Get out of here and go somewhere flat.”

I came to the conclusion she was right by the middle of February last year – it took me a month to clear the apartment (with copious help) and I was pretty much raving by the end. But by the last weekend of that awful month, I was able to drive away with my worldly goods. Someday I’ll be able to go back to Pismo with a glad heart; but I have never been so glad to leave anywhere in my life as I was to leave Pismo Beach that day. Harry, too – in his travel cage beside me on the truck seat, he was singing by the time we hit Santa Maria.

I’d been living for a month in what was increasingly a giant packing box filled with smaller boxes – I wanted desperately to go home. Fortune being kind, I had a home to go to. I went back to Los Angeles, that vast basin of improbable and unlikely where we’d grown up, and my younger sister Kimberly took me in. Not many people flee for shelter to Los Angeles: but even so vast and weird a city as LA has its homing pigeons, in whose brains are little grains of magnetic iron focused on Sunset Boulevard and the Hollywood sign.

I have been here a year today. I have been gladder every day of my choice. It’s been a horribly cruel and difficult year, but it was much easier to bear here, where the light and the sky and the trees are familiar. Amazingly, the weather has improved over the last 20 years, and it’s a lovely place to be … Kage, in her dystopia mood,  would say that that’s because the place was such a mess when we left, just after the Rodney King riots. But no, it’s more than just contrast with the fact that the dear old place is not currently on  fire.

The air has gotten clearer, cleaner. The summers are hotter, the winters are colder: there is more presence to the weather now. The fountains at Griffith Park and the Hollywood Bowl are both working! There’s a subway system that almost functions! There are cormorants and 8 kinds of fish living in the L.A. River!

I can write here. It’s the first place I did write, when we were children. It’s the last place I wrote seriously, before I laid aside my own writing to assist Kage over the Mountains of Madness into the life of a full-time author. I know these streets – I’ve seen them reflected in Kage’s eyes.

Good place to have spent my mourning year. Good place to be writing now.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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5 Responses to 365 Days

  1. Chris says:

    And once again, welcome home.

  2. Katie says:

    Kathleen, home is home. Whether we love it or hate it, this is always home no matter how far we may run. And when the shit hits the fan, and ugly houses fall on sisters who are white witches who didn’t deserve a smashing, there’s no place like home to help glue the sequins back on your slippers after furiously kicking them together in a panic hoping that everything will stay ok right where it is. We’re only ever right where we are, and all we can ask is that there is someone who loves us there at that time. You’re loved. You still have your sequins. The arms on the clock simply moved, and it our time to move with it isn’t now. For Aunt Kate, it was then. And she’s ok. She’s quite ok. I want you to be ok, or at least close to it. E-mail me. I have new number and time off.

  3. athene says:

    And I, for one, am glad to have you here.


  4. It is an odd “Home Town”. I’m proud of it.
    I remember coming into LAX when I came back from Viet Nam. I really knew I was really Home rolling over its endless edges and watching the late afternoon sunlight angle off the swimming pools, glinting through the yellow haze, and I wept for it.

  5. Kate says:

    Yep, it’s a weird place. But I’m a native and proud of it. I’ve seen a lot more of the USA in these my twilight years, and have yet to see somewhere else I’d want to live.

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