My Next Villain

This past week I got a letter saying that the city of Philadelphia will be pleased to forgive my debt relating to an old parking ticket which I received while I was living in Qatar. When I first received notice of the ticket eighteen year ago, I furnished the traffic department official documents offering proof that I was living outside the country when I received the alleged ticket. They didn’t buy. They continued to harass; I continued to protest. I re-sent the original documents and added others: a letter from my director, copies of passport pages recording my entry into Qatar, my work visa, all of them proof that I couldn’t possibly have been in Philadelphia on said day. Still, they persisted.

I gave up. Let them come and get me, I thought. Crazy thing is, according to the letter I received last week, I now owe for two parking tickets, both issued when I was living outside the country and no longer had my car. Yes, TWO! They don’t document what car I was supposed to be driving. I suppose it must have been a phantom car.

But you can’t fight the city of Philadelphia. Obviously! So, I’m going to take my sneaky self back to Pennsylvania, scope out the traffic department, and find out who’s in charge. That person — lock, stock, and barrel, and all the way down to his underwear— is going to appear in my next novel as the villain! Watch out, whoever you are; you’re about to become as villainous as Darth Vader and as unlovable as Uriah Heep.

 

City Lights Bookstore

I was in San Francisco recently and visited City Lights Bookstore, the first all paperback bookstore in the country, founded by the poet, Ferlinghetti. The bookstore is mentioned in one of my favorite scenes in The Lady.  My young heroine, Quincy Bruce, is in English class, and on this particular day, the students have to announce which American writer they will be doing a research paper on. Quincy’s nemesis, Mary Watson, reveals she’ll do hers on Ferlinghetti. No one else in the class, including Quincy, knows who Ferlinghetti is. Quincy, afraid she’ll be outdone by Mary, offers up a quick prayer that the schoolroom floor open up and swallow Miss Know-it-all. Quincy’s prayer does get answered, although not by the floor opening up and swallowing Mary Watson. I won’t give you the details here in case you read the book later, but it was a fun chapter to write.

City Lights Bookstore iss one of those wonderful old bookstores that sells nothing but books. I felt my literary IQ notch up a few numbers just by breathing in the air as I stood amid the overloaded bookshelves.