Hard not to think it’s all a game

Pablo Picasso, Woman in a Blue Hat

I’m here in a very beautiful place in the mountains, the days like all the days in Paradise: grand blue skies and lofty clouds sweeping serenely by, and vast forests of ancient trees, and great colorful birds soaring on the wind, and a sun that can dazzle the gloomiest mind.

The mountains are most splendidly arrayed in the evening when they wear the sweet rose of sunset. And the sky at night! Filled with stars beating in a crystalline silence of the purest kind! It’s the Hotel Paradiso: a rambling building, not quite French, not quite Italian, not quite Moorish…


What the shrink said

Biplab Biswas, True Love

If I were writing my autobiography (which I’m not), I’d begin with the very first thing I remember: a long dark corridor ending at an open door and a white light that hurt your eyes when you looked at it.

It was the corridor outside my bedroom, and the light came from the upstairs john — the scariest room in the house, with its almost-animal fixtures, jungle wallpaper, and an ancient medicine-cabinet mirror that my best friend Miranda Finch told me, if you looked into it late at night, could reveal when you were all alone, and your parents were…


Because believing it makes it real

Jana Brike, Center of the Universe

Billy Strange smiled awkwardly, and his hand shook as he rubbed the back of it against my cheek. Rain thrashed against a window, making the only sound in this anonymous hotel room somewhere in Inglewood, near LAX — the roar of jets coming in and taking off, coming in and taking off.

“Took us a while to get here,” he said.

Yes, it had.

“I always played it safe,” he said. “Let opportunities slip away. Always afraid to open myself to new experiences.”

“You tried. We can’t afford to bear our mistakes like crosses. …


Taking that last step

Mario Sanchez-Nevado, Deliberation

This megalopolis of high achievers with a Third World underbelly. This monument to conspicuous consumption, which had taken one of the most beautiful pieces of real estate on the planet and trashed it with slums and freeways and smog. This glittering Oz, which thought of itself as the one sure place where dreams could come true, but which instead had become home to the vast throng of those who had failed, or hadn’t yet realized they had failed, to achieve their dreams.

I’d always thought the best view of the city was from Mulholland Drive at night — everything reduced…


Sometimes you just go too far

Burton Gray, Me

Men. What can I say?

I’d tried many and had even taken a few seriously. I’d even come close to marrying one. I’d known fraudulent love and true love and several of the varieties in between. I’d given myself selflessly and selfishly, but none of those men had ever worked out. Happiness and fulfillment were always snatched out of my grasp. Maybe that was to be the pattern of my life. No matter what I did, that pattern was my prison. The author of my destiny seemed determined to keep it that way. And now I was forty.

A new…


Not a different life, but a parallel one

Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory

“When I came home from the birthday party, I put my Minnie Mouse balloon in the hall closet, where it shot up to the ceiling. A week later when I came back for it, I found it on the floor, shriveled to a clump of plastic. I burst into tears.”Marilyn Monroe

It happens to everyone. One day, no different from any other day, you suddenly arrive at the realization that the intoxicating buzz of youthful innocence you’ve always taken for granted is rapidly fading. Other than that, I really had nothing to complain about. We all grow up…


We’ve had our eye on you

Mark Sheeky, The Love Affair

Out of the blue I got a personal invitation to a Halloween party at the Playboy Mansion. Apparently, I was not only someone known, but someone to know. And why not? My last show had been a hit, and my book of photographs documenting my famous climb of Mt. Ellis (“Movie Mogul Dies in Tragic Fall” — Variety) was a hit.

I went disguised as Betty Boop — the cartoon vamp of the thirties. Because my babysitter cancelled at the last minute, and it required an hour of frantic calls to find a substitute, I arrived quite late. Valets took…


Nothing is always something

Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights (detail)

I first met Billy Strange when he was ten. Dark hair, brown myopic eyes (he wore horn-rimmed glasses), pale skin, long thin fingers, he was the shy and sensitive type. Exceptionally smart with a keen sense of irony. And for all that, sweet-natured, too. He was my own age but ahead of me in school because he had skipped two grades. He liked to talk about the books he had recently read, the math puzzles he had solved, and most of all his fascination with zero.

“If you divide something by nothing, then why don’t you just have the original…


Not an end but another beginning

Zhang Xiaogang, Amnesia and Memory

By the time I was thirty, the days of struggling, debt and doubt seemed to be over.

I was successful in the work I wanted to do. I was making a name for myself. I was making a pretty decent living. The pictures I had taken and then assembled for a book called Pirates!, based on my har­rowing Pacific cruise, was picked up by a noted publisher and went on to become a modest bestseller. One reviewer said I had put together a book that was “as compelling as a first-rate novel.” My one-woman show called L.A. Story was a…


Dark seas made for love

My father’s advice seemed at first fairly useless. “In situations like this, I find the best thing to do is follow the example of the Trobriand Islanders: carefully make a list of all your options, fold it a couple of times, take it outside, and then set it on fire. You could also just tear it up, but there’s something momentous about a fire ceremony.”

“Dad, that’s not funny.”

“Was I trying to be funny?”

Maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was saying I needed to wipe the slate clean, get rid of the past. No restrictions: the freedom to do…

Katheryn Clegg

Katheryn Clegg lives and writes in San Francisco. Her new novel is “RiverRun.” She loves clear prose and foggy weather. Folllow her on www.katherynclegg.com

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