We arrived at a sweet cottage. It was our new place, with two enormous trees in the back yard, one avocado, one fig tree. I didn't fully appreciate what that meant for us back then. Fresh avocados and figs didn't tempt me, I wanted to eat all of the pecan pie Riley made, I desired the sweet chewable vitamins (weren't they Flintstone themed?) that were kept in a high cabinet. "Only one a day," Jan said, doling out Betty Rubble. "Why?" I asked, chomping on Betty, already wishin
Below is a single page from Riley's journal with only two things written on it. The scribbled circle and arrows are mine, trying to remember where his office was, and if this was the first office he had (ending in eviction) or the second office, probably also not ending well. Randomly, Riley writes details about the death of F. Scott Fitzgerald on this page. When I was a little girl, I had a powerful dream that my father came home, only it wasn't him, it was someone pretendin
Riley made reservations at The Brown Derby, a restaurant where he hung out in the bar with famous people like Gene Autry, and where cartoon likenesses of Lucille Ball and other celebrities were framed on the walls. The headwaiter there was expected to know who everyone in the music business was, and relied on my father to tell him who just walked in the door— seating could be decided depending on status. Riley spent a lot of time there, buying people drinks. People who could
Below, my mother, Jan as a teenager. My parents first met in Reading, Pennsylvania at a get together with mutual friends when she was twenty-two and he was two decades older. Even when I was in grade school, Jan looked like a teenager, with a petite frame, adult acne, and long hair. She’d graduated from art school, and was unemployed when they met. Riley was married with two kids, but there was something about him that attracted her right away. Everyone wanted to know what Ri
I grew up in a cloud of my father’s cigar smoke, listening to the tapping sounds from his Corona typewriter, the loud zipping from the return carriage. He smoked cigars constantly, except when he slept, or studied at the public library. He kept extra cigars, the fat kind, overflowing in his shirt pocket with his lighter and several pens. He could go days without regular sleep, with no apparent impact on his health, occasionally staying up nights in a row, smoking and typing.