A Room of One’s Own With a View
A writing studio! What an extravagance. On a decommissioned army base, no less. I wrote the selection committee an impassioned letter about my love of former military installations, quoted the obvious Virginia Woolf. Now I have one, a cold attic in an unheated warehouse. But not so cold–it’s only coastal California. Here, by the sea, it gets chilly but not cold. And since I hauled in the space heater it’s quite cozy. I shove it under the desk and clench it between my knees. When I need to move it I use the sleeves of my sweater like potholders.
Around sunset I go for walks on the cliffs. The views are spectacular–the Golden Gate and all of San Francisco one way, and the Pacific Ocean the other way, and all these craggy hills disappearing dramatically into the mist. It seems a crime not to finish an essay here, or a whole book. And the cliffs, so convenient to throw oneself from in despair if one can’t finish the essay, or the whole book. I’ve never had so much regular access to cliffs! They really help me to self-motivate. Not going in the drink today? May as well press on.
Today I walked further up the road than I’d been before, past Battery Mendell. I misread the sign, thought for a second it said “Barry Mendell.” I imagined a Jewish guy, a lawyer. Barry Mendell, Attorney-At-Law. Somewhere in the crumbling concrete rooms of the Battery could be a fully-appointed law office, with those gold-leafed books and files, files, files, and Barry Mendell, billable-time machine, plugging away, chewing his cigar, snapping his suspenders, dropping slaw from his sandwich. I could temp for him, get the money to go with the room of my own.
There are all these little placards telling you about the history everywhere; it’s a national park, a landmark. They’re called “Interps,” I’ve learned, from my Forest Service friends. I read them all. They explain in great detail all the missile systems they built here and never used. The Nike missile could take down a plane. The Hercules system could take out an entire formation, and destroy everything in a 20-mile radius. They never killed anyone, though, except 6 soldiers and 4 civilians in an accidental explosion at a Nike site in New Jersey. Now the Nike missile site just outside my window is a museum. On weekends, the bay doors open, the missile comes up, tourists get on, disappear underground, re-emerge. There is a dummy in the gatehouse at the site’s entrance, and he scares me on my solitary nighttime walks. An artist doing a residency here crocheted a giant cozy for the missile.
I go up to a high point, duck under the wires. The sign says, “Hazardous Cliffs and Rocks,” but it does not say, “No Trespassing.” There is a searchlight station out on the point. The little path goes by a few steep drops. The promontory is narrow. I imagine I am a goat. The searchlight station is free of debris and colorfully graffiti-ed. It frames the various views. The lighthouse. The waves. I realize that these are all the titles of Virginia Woolf books. So far I’ve only read the big ones, A Room of One’s Own and Mrs. Dalloway. She drowned herself in the river, weighted her pockets with stones.
These cliffs make me think of those books about the moors, Wuthering Heights and whatnot. But I always hated them, could never get through them. All that Bronte stuff, all those cliffs and candelabras, fog and wind. It would be ludicrous to wear skirts up here.