Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Monday, June 13, 2016
Today I have Mark Berry on the blog. Mark is an airline captain with 30 years in cockpits. His debut novel was survivor’s guilt story: Pushing Leaves Towards the Sun. He followed that up with a memoir about TWA Flight 800 while earning an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University. 13,760Feet—My Personal Hole in the Sky chronicles the loss of his fiancée Susanne on one of our nation’s worst airline disasters. Mark is a contributing editor for Airways magazine where more than two dozen of his aviation articles have been published. He’s also a former managing editor for Mason's Road literary journal. His essays and short stories have appeared in over a dozen publications. His second novel Street Justice is expected to be released later this year.
DW: Who was the person that died?
MB: In 1996 my fiancée Susanne boarded TWA flight 800 at JFK Int’l in New York. While climbing through 13,760 Feet on it’s way to Paris, France, her red and white Boeing 747 blew up and then rained down in 876 pieces. All 230 passengers and crew either died during the explosion, or fell three miles to their final fate.
DW: How old were you at the time?
MB: Susanne had just turned 31, and I was a few months behind her. She wasn’t bothered about turning 30 the year before. It was 30-Something that haunted her; probably because of the TV show by that name that was popular back then. At 31 she suddenly felt she was getting old.
DW: Did you and Susanne talk about death?
MB: Ironically, Susanne and I had just gone on a long bike ride the weekend before, and she showed me where her step-father was buried—the family plot where neither of us could imagine she’d soon end up. That Wednesday night, when she died on TWA Flight 800, I was working on my will with computer software because we were engaged, and I had what the program called a “life event” on the horizon. We were also nine days from closing on a house together and all the major subjects were part of our daily conversations. We talked about making children, when, and how many—if she’d continue to work, etc. We compared how she’d lost her stepfather to a long, protracted illness, versus the way I’d lost my mom to a sudden asthma attack. Was it harder to watch the deterioration and suffering, or harder not being able to say goodbye? We hadn’t reached a firm conclusion. We thought we could face the challenges of losing more loved ones in the years to come, as long as we had each other. Losing her was the one crisis I couldn’t imagine and wasn’t prepared for.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
First she'll want to do the reading. Reluctantly.
This past weekend, I had my first real, brick-and-mortar bookstore reading/event at Books Inc. at the Opera Plaza in San Francisco. At 6:30, no one had arrived and I was beginning to think this whole thing was a bust and I would go home with a case of wine and my tail between my legs. To kill the time till 7, I chatted up a woman who couldn't make the reading but wanted to buy the book. She told me about the death of her beloved dog. He died two weeks ago and her eyes filled with tears as she told me about rescuing him and what he meant to her. I listened, instead of excusing myself to the bathroom and hiding, which I might have done a few years ago.
A little before the start time, people began to show up and take their seats. My heart began to pound in my chest and I could feel that familiar fight or flight response take over. I rode it out. By the end of the read, I felt pretty okay. And then people approached me and wanted me to sign their books, which made me feel like a total rock star, which I think is important now and again for people who like to sit alone and pour their little vulnerable hearts out onto the page.
|Here I am reading in front of real, live people and I'm not dying. My mouth got really dry and my pits were working overtime, but I lived to write this blog post!|
Then she'll want to go celebrate Independent Bookstore Day and see one of her favorite writers at Pegasus Books.
|Here I am meeting Mary Roach. I felt like I was meeting Mick Jagger, I was so nervous.|
We ate at "The Dead Fish," Despite the odd name, the view was spectacular and the food and company were too! Hi Darrell. I don't hate you. I just have resting bitch face and I'm a little reserved when I first meet someone.
|At the end of our meal, a couple of raccoons trekked up that leafy cliff towards our table and were rewarded with scraps of sourdough bread.|
The next day, she'll probably want to go somewhere else because she's in the Bay Area. She's got time to kill and she really likes pretending that she knows something about wine, but in all reality her unsophisticated palate likes varieties in the under $10 range. There was none to be found at these two wineries.
|Domaine Carneros. The champagne was terrific. Actually, it's not really champagne as it's not from France. It's sparkling wine.|
|We had to go here. I have an embarrassing Hess story. It involves my dad and a Broadway play and vomiting in a crowded theater.|
I had no idea this place existed and it is magnificent. I am sure it is super pricey, but it was wonderful.
|Look at that ceiling!|
"What makes this place special is that people come here and they're comfortable. After services here, they don't run away. They take time, look around the building, enjoy it. There's a difference here from a regular cemetery--this is death disguised. The style, the colors...I'm in here all the time and I forget that death is all around me."
I love that. I love this place, but I still want my cremains in a Ritz Carlton ashtray. If someone wants to take a picture of one with the stamp, send it my way!
So, I realize it's hard as Hell to comment on blogger posts, so if you liked this post, just click that you were here and we'll call it good. If you want to share on Twitter or Facebook that would be cool too. But if you really want to help a writer out, you'll listen and share this awesome podcast with me and Dan Higgins. Do it. I triple dog dare you.
Here is the podcast.
Next stop New Orleans!