October 16, 2014
I often wonder if the badminton birdie is still in the rain gutter?
Ray Bradbury loved to tell the story: When he was a young father, his children often gathered on the small rectangle of Bermuda grass in the backyard. It was soft and loamy and, in the late afternoon, the house and the yard and the roses and all the bougainvilleas in the flower garden were bathed in the glow of late-afternoon Los Angeles sun. The Bradbury family played badminton at dusk. And one of the daughters launched the shuttlecock up, up into the evening air, and it arced back down, landing softly in the rain gutter along the side of the Bradbury house. They carried on, the game continued, a new birdie was put into play.
Years later, with the girls now grown, Dad was up on a ladder cleaning the downspouts and he found the small birdie. He held it in his hand. He smiled and remembered that twilight of so long ago. He squeezed the birdie and then placed it back in the rain gutter—back in its nest of time and memory.
I wonder now if it’s still there? Ray is now gone, of course. The girls have all grown and aged and moved away. And the house, once so alive with young laughter and brilliant ideas and energy, now sits empty and dark on that West Los Angeles street. It was put on the market this past summer and sold rather quickly. While I worked with Ray Bradbury over the course of 12 years, I saw other classic homes in his neighborhood go on the market, sell, and then razed to make room for oversized, lot-line-to-lot-line domiciles of wealth. I hope the dandelion-yellow house at 10265 Cheviot isn’t razed. It deserves better than that. This is where Ray Bradbury wrote. This is where he created many short stories, plays, essays, screenplays and novels, including a portion of Something Wicked This Way Comes, which was written in the basement office. And what an office that was! I’ll never forget the first time I ventured down, coming to the realization that this was a laboratory of imagination. The space was dusty and disorderly, filled with papers and books and old magazines and boxes and boxes of letters and files. A row of metal file cabinets stood marked, “Novels in Progress,” “Short Stories in Progress…” The first time I set my eyes on these old cabinets, I wondered, Just how much unpublished Bradbury was there?
Quite a bit, as it turned out.
His father’s old Stetson hat hung from a heavy timber overhead. Fan-made artwork was everywhere. And atop the old office desk was his IBM Selectric, long dormant since his stroke in 1999, but somehow yearning to come to life to tell yet another story. I wonder where that typewriter is now? And if it was turned on and left in alone in a dark room, perhaps, perhaps, the mechanized sound might be heard yet again? Maybe the old machine had another great story to magically produce.
I spent hours and hours and days and nights in that house. I cared for Ray. I laughed with Ray. I laughed with his wife Maggie. We carved pumpkins one Halloween, and answered the door to trick-or-treaters. We talked for hundreds of hours and drank wine and dined. I pored through his closets and files. When Ray couldn’t find something, he’d laugh and say, “Oh, it must be Somewhere.” “Somewhere” became the name of his basement from that point forward, the catch-all of his life and memories.
I love that house. I have always had an intense connection to places. Locations are where memories occur. And that house has a whole lot of memories. It makes me sad to think that one day soon, that old beautiful home so full of memories may no longer stand. And this got me to thinking. In tribute to the grand old house on Cheviot Drive, I should run a series of blog posts—an ongoing photo essay—showing the home and its various rooms and objects and mementos. In the coming days, I will do just that. I will post photos from my private files, along with other pictures of the dandelion-yellow home that I’ve been given or have discovered. The house may not stand forever, but the memories, and the photographs presented here, certainly will.