04 September 2005

Visiting the world of my novel

I was very glad to be able to visit the world of my novel protagonist Sarah this morning. To mark the occasion, I dressed like Ally McBeal - Sarah's biggest idol in her teen years. (In fact, I just can't bring myself to take off the suit even this late in the evening.)

My first stop was San Francisco International Airport, where a small aviation museum operates. Since Sarah was a flight attendant for five years, I took a natural interest in the museum's flight attendant display, which showed a dozen or so historical uniforms from some of San Francisco's most important airlines as well as how the job description evolved over the years, since Boeing Air Transport (one of the four companies that merged into United Airlines) hired the very first flight attendant in 1930. Compared to the days when being a "air stewardess" meant having to be a young, single, attractive, well-mannered, and presumably genetic, woman, Sarah had it so well, working for United from 1999 to 2004, as a super-tall transgender woman. On the way to and from the terminal, I was able to observe some United jumbo jets at the international gates - the very ones Sarah would have worked. Sure, they were familiar sights - in fact, I piled up tons of frequent flier miles aboard those planes - but seeing them now, as the settings for Perfect Girl, made them feel much more special.

Later in the morning, I traveled farther into Sarah's past, by going to Oceana High School, in a remote corner of the city of Pacifica. It was a run-down campus, with no bleachers for the tracks and the baseball field. Landscaping was virtually nonexistent. Only one set of steep stairs led to the classrooms, though there were wheelchair ramps to the rest of the campus. It almost looked like an abandoned campus, though the tennis courts looked good. Sarah - who would've been a boy named Sanford then - would NOT have felt at home here. I walked around most of the campus, took some snapshots, and when I came across the only sign of life on campus - a world map painted on concrete - I walked around the map, tracing Sarah's trips both in childhood and as a flight attendant. I particularly stood on the British Isles for a while, as Perfect Girl is going to start AND end in London. As I drove away, heading north toward the Golden Gate Bridge, I was able to see some very generic suburban homes on the hillsides, and I presume that Sarah and her parents would've lived in one of them.

I look forward to visiting Berkeley tomorrow, to discover Sarah's world even more - and Kirsten's as well. In fact, since Kirsten is really me, my presence in Berkeley will bring her into existence, I'd say. In addition, before heading back to Los Angeles, my last stop will be in Oakland at a neighborhood cafe, where I am going to meet with a classmate from my novel class. This will be the first time anybody in the writing world gets to see me as Rachel in person, so it will be a very special occasion for me.

Pictures will be uploaded once I return home and transfer the photos to my home computer. I do not have a USB cable with me, so I can't do it from my laptop...