Lindy is the name my mom gave me because she read it in a 99¢ name book in the checkout line at the grocery store when she was ten years old and never let it go. Parker is a name I share with my dad and my siblings, a poet at the Algonquin Round Table, a saxophonist called Bird, and a Depression-era bank robber who loved a boy named Clyde. Vega is the name I share with my husband - a name that means we are partners who look to the same star to find true North.
Up to this moment, I have, when asked, always provided a fraudulent bio stolen from Todd Ashley (star of long defunct MTV reality series, Fast Inc.) who described himself this way: “I’m a finder of cars. A purveyor of dreams.” However. This description has almost no relevance to me or my work except as evidence that I love brief, vaguely mythic epithets.
I grew up in the high desert outside of Los Angeles. I spent time in Brooklyn, earning a Master’s degree from NYU, writing tv reviews and pop culture commentary for Nerve.com, and working in the movie-loving embrace of The Weinstein Company's New York office. I have an MFA from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and I now live and write in a surf town on the central coast of Mexico called Sayulita.
Here’s the most important thing: I love books more than I have ever loved anything in my life.*
I used to keep my fingers threaded between the pages of my books so that as soon as I had a moment – sitting on the floor in a department store, waiting in line at school – I wouldn’t have to waste time trying to find my place. I stayed behind in the car at the grocery store (abandoning my previous practice of wandering the cereal aisle rearranging the boxes into a rainbow) to get a little bit further, even a few more pages, into the book. Voices and music and city sounds pushed around me, but I stayed locked on the words.
Looking back on it, this phenomenon of being wholly caught up in a story sometimes felt overwhelming. What do you do to mark the moment when you first fall in love like that? It's an experience, like hunger, that demands action. So. I started writing letters to authors whose books I carried through my days and whose pages I used as pillows while I slept. Most of my letters went unanswered. Some got replies.** I decided that writing down my gratitude and sending it off in the mail would be my flag in the sand to mark the moment when I turned the last page. Thank you, I would write. Thank you for your book. I didn't know at the time that I what I should have said was, Thank you for introducing me to myself.
In New York, I spent years working restaurant jobs - bartending and waiting tables. On my breaks, I sat on curbs, loading docks in alleys, and beer crates behind the bar, reading a book from my bag. The words on the pages quieted the crush of plates and blasts of steam and sharp, short commands from the kitchen. This is who you really are. I'd think the words like a mantra as I pressed the pages between my hands. This is where you really live.
Over time, my relationship with books, like all great loves, has stopped feeling so overwhelming. Instead, it feels structural, necessary, and intimate in its familiarity. My reading life still inspires hunger, demands action, but now it's a part of the larger, more defining machine of my writing life. It's the current that connects me and my work to a wider, global community of writers and their books, a community in which my own stories can find their place – stories about characters that defy first impressions and easy definitions. Characters who are funny and smart and unsure. Characters who have the audacity to want things. Characters who push on walls that need to come down.
*Well. Anything that is not a person. Or chocolate peanut butter Häagen-Dazs.
**One time, I mailed a long, detailed letter to Shel Silverstein. My brother saw it as I pushed it through the slot on the mailbox. "Hey," he said, with the weight of knowledge and certainty. "Shel Silverstein is dead." I spent two months mourning this loss, only to receive a reply from the deceased, who was very much alive. He included a bookmark with a drawing of a lion in his letter. If nine-year-old me had been aware of the phrase, "How do you like me now?" I would've used it then.