Sunday, October 30, 2011

Virginia City, Nevada

A few days ago, you were placing yourself on an analogous plateau with the nameless heroine of Daphne DuMaurier’s splendid novel, Rebecca. She’d dreamed—dreamt, she said, using the British verb tense—she’d returned to Manderley again, in a sense reliving a frightful adventure that had enormous effect on her life.  Your own returns in dreams are often to Los Angeles, where so much happened to you, even after you stopped living there and remained only a commuter.

The next likely place for your dreamtime return is in the west central portion of Nevada, the more or less unspoken or invisible side of a triangle articulated by Reno and Carson City.  Your place of return is Virginia City.

You have not been back in actuality for some years, perhaps as many as thirty, a growing tide of nostalgia arguing with you, trying to talk you into and out of a last visit, a visit from this side of your life experiences, a visit as a survivor.

The biggest argument against going is the sense that the Virginia City now in existence is no more the Virginia City you knew than the Virginia City you knew was the Virginia City Mark Twain knew and he, of course, was your reason for going there in the first place.

You have spent much of the day in Virginia City today; all of it while you were quite energetic in your waking state.  You spent it with Gail Payette, nee Hinton, yet another survivor.

Gail is the stepdaughter of Pat Hart, a fiery, animated dark Irishman with a shovel-shaped face, mischievous eyes, and a chiseled brow ridge.  You have in common with him thick, aggressive brows that behave as steroidal caterpillars.

You were in your late twenties when you first visited Virginia City, just coming into reliable streams of income from your writing.  As you drove away from Virginia City after spending your second visit, you came away a contributor to The Territorial-Enterprise, the newspaper Mark Twain used as a launching pad for his unique career as America’s populist voice.

Gail Hinton was about fifteen years your junior and, as you quickly discovered, a schoolmate of she who caused your heart to perform acrobatics and whom you were beginning to suspect was your destiny.  In later years, perhaps even in these years now, she is a part of your destiny.  

As such things go, it was not the destiny you’d imagined.  But for a time back then and there, she, the stunning young woman to be, took Gail Hinton as her friend, sharing dreams and the wild fantasies of bright, emerging intelligences.

Gail’s stepfather owned the Brass Rail Saloon on lower C Street, your saloon of preference and comfort, much as the CafĂ© Luna in Summerland has become your venue, your landscape of preference and comfort.  It is true that you drank a good deal when you were in attendance at the Brass Rail, but the weather, the ambience, and the persons you came in contact with were all mitigation against the drinking lapsing into tipsiness, much less being drunk.

Your favorite ritual was a leisurely New Year’s Eve supper at The Sharon House, a gathering of friends from Los Angeles and San Francisco in the main suite of The Silver Dollar Hotel, followed by the gradual drifting to The Brass Rail where, frequently, Gail would be there to alert you to a phone call coming your way from she of your destiny.  Often, after the phone call, you would secure from Pat Hart a cognac balloon, generously filled with Martell’s VSOP, then wend your way to the place holding the most attraction for you, Piper’s Opera House, where the famous came to perform, where surely Twain lounged in the lobby, taking in the passing parade, and where, in later years, Twain returned in triumph to share his observations on the human condition.

The weather was in the high teens or low twenties, the streets coated in a fine granulation of snow.  The cognac was just the necessary factor to keep you comfortable as you tuned into the sounds and vibrations of the past.  From time to time a local would pass, wish you a happy year forthcoming.  Or one of your two or three great friends would stop by to clink glasses, or Pat Hart would stand in the middle of C Street to fire off a round or two from his .38, welcoming in the new year.

You and Gail went through some of the history you had shared, in the process supplying background and the nostalgia of what things meant to us then.  Through your conversation, numerous cups of coffee, your history of that time went through an enhancement where your own visions of what happened were given interpretations you had not considered then.  Today you were given a validation of what was once you and then the layer of significance that goes with nostalgia.  You had not realized how much effect you and your friends had on Gail, nor her and her family on you.  And if course it was all happening interior but as well in that place you weren’t sure you’d ever visit again.

They are all of them back in orbit within you now, luring you into conversations based on their eccentricities and yours, their needs and dreams and yours.

You had not been back for many years.  It was not as though your memories or dreams were wearing thin.  They are every bit as splendid to revisit as a favored novel or short story or poem.  Today, you got another picture of yourself there, and you recalled conversations and protestations of connection with individuals who were there then and whom you now see, having survived not only the mere chronology, but the intensity and personality of a place that drew so many quirky, eccentric sorts and a sense that you were forging a survivor’s home of nostalgia.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

visiting some older places of my own, yesterday, the pleasant surprise was finding the pleasure of those days intact; the vitality, the music, the fact of reaching out and taking chances.

thanks for the trip to Virginia City, Shelly.