RIP Ray Bradbury, My Friend Since I Was 15
[This originally appeared on Daily Kos here.]
Ray Douglas Bradbury was my friend since I was fifteen. He was my unofficial (except between us) adopted grandfather, mentor, inspiration, and more.
When I was in 9th grade, one of my friends was a classmate who was a big science fiction fan and had worked for a radio station in LA, the sister station of Berkeley station KPFA, producing a show on science fiction. She had a roster of phone numbers because of it, and when she found out I was a major Ray Bradbury fan, offered me his phone number. I would have been nuts not to accept, and so one day, I went across the street from school to a oay ohone, inserted my dimes and quarters, and placed a call from Berkeley to LA. Just out of the blue called him up. What my friend had given me was his office number. We had a great conversation. He wanted to jnow how I had gotten his phone number and I wouldn't tell him. He never knew. He asked where I went to school and I told him, whereupn he blew me away by replying, "That means you can't go eat at [such and such restaurant across the street from the school]." I was astounded. This restaurant, an obscure Berkeley establishment, had a sign on the door stating that no West Campus students were permitted, but for him to know and then remember an obscure detail like that was just amazing to me. After a call of about half an hour, where I kept feeding quarters into the pay phone, he said i shouldn't spend my money on calling him, but write him instead, and gave me his address. An amazing, astounding gift indeed to a fifteen year old starry-eyed dreamer of a fan, and one I cherished.
I both called him, often from the same pay phone, since I wasn't permitted to make long distance calls from home, and wrote him that year. He always had time for me, and he always wrote back, always writing by hand. I kept everything over the years. That phone call started a friendship that has lasted nearly four decades.
I met him in person several months later. He was warm and kind. He gave me something that is among my treasures, stored wrapped up in a bubble wrap bag on one of our bookshelves, next to my signed copy of the Astounding issue containing "The Fireman": my signed first edition paperback of Fahrenheit 451. I remember one time some years later when he sent me a signed sticker to stick onto the flyleaf of his latest book, which I wanted to send him to sign.
I remember taking my ex-husband, Christine, to meet Mr. Bradbury when we were on our honeymoon, a moment and memory she says was one of the greatest in her life. I remember introducing my second husband, my late husband Bob, to him backstage at a venue in Cupertino whete he was speaking. I remember going down to LA when I was 22 in my BMW to see him speak, taking my then-boyfriend Howard with me, and heading out after the lecture and after all the backstage meet-and-greet and other necessary business had been taken care of, late in the evening, taking my car with the 6'7" Howard of necessity sitting in the front and Mr. Bradbury in the back seat, driving around in the roller-coaster hills of Hollywood to find a place to get a milkshake. We managed, unintentionally, to grab air at the bottom of some of those U-sloped streets, and Mr. Bradbury thought it was a fine time. When, shortly after midnight, we found an open local establishment that would and did have milkshakes, Howard decuded to order not only a miljshake but a full breakfast to go along with it, which caused me to gently poke fun - whereupon Ray Bradbury, in a show of solidarity, ordered the same thing.
Today is a day I will spend in introspection until we go play D&D this evening, something of which I feel sure Mr. Bradbury would approve. Tonight we will hold a ritual for his walking on, respecting his beliefs as well as our own different ones. Ray Bradbury was a significant part of my life, and in many ways, I owe who I am today to him.
R.I.P., Ray Douglas Bradbury. May Mr. Electrico's admonishment hold true; may you indeed live forever.