Wednesday, October 23, 2013

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Reading, August 9, 2013
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Tennessee Williams was a quirky man. We all knew that. Just how quirky he was and what he was like to live and work with is the subject of this hilarious though at times painfully sad memoir of observing the physical, emotional and psychological deterioration of a genius.

Scott Kenan shows a lot of class and grace in his memories. Though let go under dubious circumstances he remains a loyal employee and friend to one of the 20th Century's towering artistic figures.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 10's SLOW SLIDE DOWN, May 22, 2013
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if you love the plays and idea of Tennessee Williams achieving the greatness he deserved this account of his later days when he kept trying, accompanied by desperation omnipotent to write brilliantly, again, WALKING ON GLASS is a chronicle of both sadness and forced hope. The people Williams chose to surround him at the end greased the inevitable slide, and Scott Kenan was a companion, certainly not evil, but not exactly the needed angel of help. Some may find this memoir too full of its author to fully satisfy, but it is a chronicle that must be read if you loved Williams.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I bought this book based on the first 2 pages., December 7, 2012
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Being a life-long admirer of the work of Tennessee Williams, I thought this book may bring a particularly different insight into a man whose life was mainly shrouded in secrecy. To my delight, the author was able to take me back in time and put me in the "room" with Tennessee Williams. This book is extraordinarily well written and allows the reader to "see" or be a "fly on the wall" during the final years of Mr. Williams life. It is remarkably candid and appears to be an unbias telling of the real story of the great and often eccentric and manic author/playwright. And even though I now know some of the secrets Mr. Williams tried so hard to keep, the writer does not damage the character of the author but leaves you with a broader understanding of just who penned some of the most remarkable stories of the generation and gives you the hunger to read everything ever written by Tennessee Williams.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful trip!, December 2, 2012
B. Preece (Florida, USA) - See all my reviews
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After I finished reading this book, Walking on Glass: A Memoir of the Later Days of Tennessee Williams, I am very happy to say that the author, Scott Kenan took me on quite a wonderful trip back through Key West and my days there. I lived there from the beginning of the 80's thru the 90's. If you have been to Key West you know of its rich history and of Tennessee Williams. While reading this book you may just feel the sun's warmth while riding a bicycle or smell the sweet blossoms that bloom year round in this wonderful paradise. The author recreates the best and possibly the worst of Key West and getting to know Mr. Williams will be a great treat for anyone. If you like to read about the life of a great personality, some old Hollywood and some wonderful name dropping of celebrities, grab this book and escape. It was a brilliant time in Key West and on Broadway and stage. Mr. Kenan's writing rekindles the 1980's with ease. Thanks for the great trip back, I wanted to stay.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting memoir, October 30, 2012
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This book will not add a lot to Tennessee scholarship but it does confirm a picture of the man we have read about in other biographies. Strictly for the Williams fan.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it!!, August 21, 2011
This book is a vivid glimpse into a genious that few people had the chance to know on such a personal and daily basis. Kenan took me inside some of the last days of Tennessee Williams' life. Williams, an extremely talented, yet emotionally vulnerable playwright, struggled with both the good and bad aspects of his fame, his talent and his homosexuality. I almost feel like I knew him, too, after reading this short but fascinating first hand account of Williams' last days. I am very sorry that I could not purchase this as a hard cover book. I'd love to have it on my bookself to lend or just pick up and read again as I am a fan of 'real' books more than ebooks.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Walking on Glass: A Memoir of the later days of Tennessee Williams, August 8, 2011
John Bolinger (Hammond, IN United States) - See all my reviews
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WALKING ON GLASS is a masterpiece of the biographer's art, partly because it is rigorously researched, but also because it is exquisitely written by someone who was able to appreciate TW's genius while understanding the artist's weaknesses compassionately with a distance of well over twenty years to buffer any hero worship that may otherwise have occurred. The book glitters with recollections of meetings with the many celebrities who populated TW's life, but the writing is always tempered by a keen intelligence that is able to see things as they actually are without any gushing glorification, which would in any case be affected and certainly unnecessary in conveying the artistic genius and personal life of America's greatest playwright. I have read the book more than once, but its luster never ceases to engage my mind and heart.
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PROFESSIONAL REVIEWS of My Memoir of Working for Playwright Tennessee Williams


John Lahr, The New Yorker, and author of  Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh:

"I wasn't intending to read every word of your memoir; but it says something about how well you wrote it, that I did . . . you've found a very crisp and compelling style. And you come through vividly in it."

 Thomas Keith, Editor of Tennessee Williams's books for New Directions Publishing:

"Scott has done a beautiful job with his memoir. What makes it stand out from previous memoirs about Williams is its integrity, and the depth to which Scott reveals his own situation, mental health problems, fears, and hopes.

"Because of that integrity, the day-to-day descriptions of life with Williams and Scott's take on the tangle of problems Williams faced near the end of his life are that much more insightful. I also happen to like Scott's ability to describe a person or set a scene--even his thread of commentary on weather, light, and seasons informs us about the sensitivities of the man telling this story."

Dr. Kenneth Holditch, Williams scholar and Professor Emeritus at the University of New Orleans:

"Having finished your manuscript, I am confirmed in my initial judgment that this is a very fine work indeed. Tennessee really comes alive in your narrative, as do other personages, a few of whom I knew.

"Let me be truthful and say that I put off reading your work because I have read so many–both published and in manuscript–that were handed to me and been much too often disappointed in what I read. That was not the case with your book. I found it spell-binding and raced on through it at the expense of my chores."

Dr. Larry Myers: Playwright/Associate Professor, St John's University/Williams Friend & Scholar:

"Your book much seems channeled from some astral plane or higher consciousness. When I read it, HE IS HERE!"



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Book Description

May 27, 2011
In the fall of 1981, when Tennessee Williams found his household in an uproar after a visiting ex-lover ran his housekeeper off with a gun, he turned to Scott Kenan for help. Recently laid off from a restaurant management job and standing an inch short of seven feet tall, Kenan was available and appeared capable of handling any situation. He agreed to move into Williams' house to manage it, run errands, and accompany the playwright nearly everywhere.

WALKING ON GLASS: A MEMOIR OF THE LATER DAYS OF TENNESSEE WILLIAMS takes the reader on a journey through the world of Tennessee Williams – a world where teetering on the razor's edge of their never-quite-defined relationship, Kenan mollified the playwright's volatile moods while through a revolving door, a cast of characters Williams might have created came and went, competing for his favor.

Employing rich detail of time and place, Scott Kenan re-creates a lost world in which the Reagan Revolution was just beginning, disco still reigned in dance clubs, and AIDS had felled a few in distant cities, but had not yet crashed the sexual revolution–or even found its proper name.

Never before has anyone chronicled the experience of living and working continuously at the playwright's side. With compassion and humor, WALKING ON GLASS unflinchingly portrays life and relationships within Tennessee Williams' world – the rich realm from which his inspiration sprang. Many iconic people, including Meryl Streep, Jackie Onassis, Truman Capote, Audrey Hepburn, and Ronald Reagan, crossed their path – sometimes in shocking ways – as Kenan accompanied Williams to The White House, the Kennedy Center Honors, and, finally, to the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, for the staging of A HOUSE NOT MEANT TO STAND, Williams' last new play produced during his lifetime.

The story climaxes with the emotional roller coaster of the play's production, after which the two part company when the playwright chooses to travel with his newfound love, a poetry-spouting youth. Ten months later, Williams was dead. Kenan's chronicle concludes with a twist that casts the entire book in a new light when an executor of Williams' estate reveals what was found on the playwright's desk.

Tennessee Williams and me at the Kennedy Center Honors, 1981.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CONSUMING BROKEN GLASS (Walking on Glass): A Memoir of the Later Days of Tennessee Williams -- NEW INTRO!!!

CONSUMING BROKEN GLASS: A Memoir of the Later Days of Tennessee Williams -- NEW INTRO!!!


Notice the derivative use of the image Mark Beard has given me permission to use -- and I don't know if Mark would APPROVE of this kind of use, but this is only a TENTATIVE IDEA and I'm sure I will hear from Mark if he has a problem with using it here. So you see the ORIGINAL IMAGE, I include it here:
Tennessee Williams with his ghost.

The manuscript I have to work with is NOT the very final version which WAS SCRUBBED of one important and a few minor lies that Thomas Keith added, when Alyson Books and Don Weise PAID HIM to edit it.

I will eventually find and remove these lies -- and post notice here after I have done that. Otherwise, I will add comments in red, mostly to the front and back material.

Scott David Kenan
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
22 October, 2013

Original Cover by Michael Fusco, who NEVER GOT PAID by Don Weise or Alyson Books!!!
And then Saper Law, LLC, Chicago in partnership with Jamie Lee Sutherland, SVP of Wells Fargo Advisors/Bank, Chicago, sued IN ABSENTIA without legally serving me!!! -- and won "copyright to this book" -- but NO JUDGE ever signed it . . .


Title, Contents, Author's Note

 For my Allean Hale,
Williams scholar, extraordinaire!

All good art is an indiscretion.
Tennessee Williams

Table of Contents

Author’s Note
1. Meeting Tennessee
2. Employment
3. To New York
4. A Birthday Party
5. Old Friends
6. Cape May
7. Dinner at Seven-Thirty
8. The Gauntlet and the Honors
9. At Home
10. An Inspiration
11. Meeting Texas Kate
12. Persistence and Pluck
13. Cold Canyons
14. For Comfort
15. Sprucing Up
 16. Christmas and the Real World
17. Edmund Blows In
18. Clearing the Air
19. A New Order
20. Two Movies and a Haircut
21. Au Naturel
22. In the Pursuit of Youth
23. An Uptown Soiree
24. A Public Reading
25. New Orleans
26. The Goodman Stands Firm
27. A Scare, a Dare, and the Preview
28. A House Not Meant to Stand

Author's Note

While writing Walking on Glass, I relied on notes I had written or taped during and immediately after the time I worked for Mr. Williams, saved memorabilia, and, of course, my memory. Although I read several Williams biographies and memoirs years ago, at the time they were published, I did not want them to color my memory. While writing this book, I did not read or consult any biographies, except to verify a few dates and spellings.
Much of the dialogue in the book is verbatim, especially when I quote Tennessee’s opinions on matters of art, politics, and known people. That said, I should make clear that his opinions changed constantly—often radically—and I do not mean to imply that those expressed here were his final or even predominant opinions. Whether he said things to me in truth or frustration, these are simply the opinions he expressed to me.
            I am not a scholar, and my purpose was not to write a book for scholars. In the hope of giving insight into the later days of Tennessee Williams, the characters he attracted into his life, and the atmosphere of that time, I sought to recreate my experience without varnishing the story. Memory is my primary source, so necessarily my book is highly subjective.
            The names and identities of a few people have been changed.



Since leaving his employ, hardly a day went by that I did not think of Tennessee Williams. Ten months had passed. Before leaving Key West, I ran into him upstairs at The Monster. He sat with the same sycophants I had tried to keep at bay. He looked tired and worn down—unlike in my dream. In my dream, he was robust.
He must be doing well.
            In my dream, I sit in a grotto, surrounded by the black Formica tables of Café Sud. They have been dressed for dinner—white napkin fleurs-de-lis and silver settings. The green glow of the dessert case reflects across the tops of the tables; tiny lights twinkle on snow-flocked branches sprouting from the ceiling.
            I sit alone.
On my plate, mussels steam in a pool of cream and Pernod, and rising behind the blackness of the shells, a champagne flute brimmed with small silver balls is washed in the pale colors of my grandmother’s Christmases.
I look up to see Tennessee in his white Cuban shirt and his oversized glasses, and as I meet his eyes, the restaurant dissolves. We are alone in the void beyond time and space. We consider each other wordlessly. A resonance wells up within me, the knowledge that whatever had once separated us or caused misunderstanding has been redeemed. 
When I awoke, the February morning was nearly spent. Sunlight glared bright at the edges of the blinds, but the dream still reverberated within me. I closed my eyes, trying to deny the day. The dream was more real than my new life or the still-blank walls of my apartment, but there was no way to go back. I had to let it go.

          I had arrived in Atlanta just three weeks before, transferred by The Magic Pan, the restaurant chain I had found a job with after moving north from Key West. During the six months I lived in Philadelphia, I frequented the ethnic neighborhoods and the funky shops and restaurants along South Street. Of those, Café Sud had been my favorite. In Atlanta, everything was as new as my apartment—sheetrocked and standard fitting, not burdened by character or eccentricities lingering from the past.

           I could not afford to be late. I got out of bed and, falling into the rut of my waking routine, started the coffeemaker. In the sting of the shower, my head cleared. Getting out, I toweled off quickly. Fridays were always busy, and I needed to be at work before the lunch rush. I turned on the television to catch the news as I dressed and gulped my coffee.
“This just in to CNN. This morning, playwright Tennessee Williams was found dead in his Manhattan hotel room. . . .”  


Chapter 1: Meeting Tennessee

Chapter 1
Meeting Tennessee

 Gary Tucker stared at my Asian sauté. It had expanded into two skillets, and was still growing. He stroked his giant mustache.
Over dinner, we planned to discuss the bar we had found—and hoped to buy—a rundown beer-and-wine joint in the tourist section of Key West. We would buy it with what remained of the cash I had from selling a business in Cape May, New Jersey in 1978. Three years had passed since then; it was now October, 1981.
Gary had no money. He had enthusiasm and designer friends who would transform the space. He would be our deejay.
            “Why don’t we call Skye?” he said.  
Schuyler Wyatt, Gary’s boyfriend, was in his mid-twenties, several years younger than Gary or I. His golden hair and toned body turned heads on the street. His sensitivity was disarming, and he had the agreeable eagerness of a puppy. He adored Gary.     
“Sure,” I said, and then motioned toward the phone in the next room. Three bottles sat on the counter. “No need to bring wine.”
I had met Gary six months before, when I managed Tux, the Manhattan-Deco restaurant next to Fast Buck Freddie's on Duval Street. I hired him as a waiter, and he proved to be responsible and bright. However, in early October, after struggling through months of the slow season, the owner cut the restaurant’s hours. Two weeks had passed since she laid us off.
Gary still worked his other job at The Sands, a semi-private beach club that anyone with the five-dollar cover could enter. Afternoons, from his booth on the pier, Gary mixed the music that kept the cocktails flowing and the sun-worshippers circulating between the beach and the soft blue waters. He knew everyone on the island, and had skills that I did not. During slow hours at Tux, he had entertained me with stories. He claimed he had worked for Phil Spector, and after that, had orchestrated Little Richard’s first comeback. He had worked for Tennessee Williams too, directing the play Tiger Tail in Atlanta, after convincing Tennessee to adapt his screenplay, Baby Doll, for the stage.
 “I told Skye to invite Helen Chuba,” he called from the dining room as he hung up the phone. “Have you all met?”
I bit my lip as I stirred the food. It seemed that everything in Key West ended up being a party.
“She’s watching Tennessee’s house this week. Short and fat—eats like a pig . . . and she tells great stories.”
            “OK,” I said. “Great.”
            Fifteen minutes later, Helen Chuba let herself into my apartment. With Skye in tow, she charged back into the kitchen, and, after halting just short of my 6' 11" height, looked up beaming and sang out a long “Hi!” as she offered her hand.
            She proved to be all that Gary had promised. Although fifty-or-so years old, her energy was boundless. Conversation—mostly Helen's swashbuckling stories of flirting with youths or of her noble service to Tennessee—ran late, beyond the last drop of wine.
At the end of the evening, I walked her to her car.
            “I’ll call you,” she said. “We’ll have dinner this week.”
            She phoned the next afternoon, and invited me to dinner at The Sands. Over the next two weeks, we met for dinner three more times. Then one day, she called, breathless and excited.
            “I’m going to take you to my favorite restaurant. They have specials . . . early. What we save, we’ll spend on cocktails, huh?”
“You’ll see—my treat. I’ve got some news!” 

“Isn’t this great?” Helen called through the open window of the Escort wagon.
I banged my head trying to squeeze into the car. I was irritated and paying scant attention. Rather than coming to the door, she had remained in the car, tooting the horn. I bowed my head lower and compressed my body into the passenger space. At 210 pounds, I was very thin for my height and could manage small spaces surprisingly well.
            “Trick knee,” she said. “Can barely get in or out.” Her brow and upper lip glistened with sweat.

            Gravel popped as she hit the gas, and she apologized with a laugh. Minutes later, we parked under a battered Poinciana tree at the edge of an unpaved lot. A sign on the wharf said Captain Gene’s. Derelict boats lined the pier that ran out over the water. One of Key West's lingering hippies walked past us carrying provisions in a box.
“See . . . ain’t I a great detective?”
            Helen led the way up the pier and then down the gangway. Inside the creaking boat, couples sat at two of the tables; a lone man sat at the bar. An old photo hung on the wall showing the Amaryllis on a Belgian canal, proud crew members standing atop her load of freight. We sat at a table, and then Helen flagged the waiter and ordered vodka tonics.
            “He’s coming home!” she said. “Tennessee called. He’ll be home in three days. We’ll have to have you over to meet him—huhhh?” She smiled, sat back satisfied, and dropped the subject.
            The idea of meeting Tennessee intrigued me, but we had not discussed it before. I wondered what I would say to him.
            As we ate our grouper, Helen gossiped in a fluty voice about Gary and Skye’s antics to curry favor with Tennessee. She tried to paint a light picture, but it was clear she felt threatened.
After dinner, we ordered coffee.
            “Oh, you must try Chambord!” She gripped the edge of the table. “It’s my best discovery yet! Raspberry. If I finish the bottle, Johnny’ll let me have it.” Her eyes grew even bigger. “Fantasy Fest!”
            She sat up, sucking in what she could. "Baby Jesus, huh?" She barked a laugh and then held out an upward-cupped hand as if she were holding the orb-shaped Chambord bottle. “Infant of Prague—it’s me!” She laughed. “Or a dominatrix—I can’t decide.”
            She turned and waved a fleshy arm. “Oh, Johnny! Two…and make ‘em doubles—we’re in a conspiracy here.”
She turned back to me.
            “Now what do you think of this?” she said, and then lowered her voice. “I ordered HBO for Tenn, huhhh? You’ll have to come over!”
            I missed the connection.
            “No one in that crowd can change a cable box—hell, they can barely make toast. See . . . I’ll mention I know a guy who’s practical. Next thing you know—you’re in. Wednesday at twelve-thirty,” she said. “That’s right before lunch—you’ll be invited!" 

I pulled the scrap of paper from my pocket and checked the number again. I had expected a more auspicious house. The bungalow at 1341 Duncan Street was a white, clapboard, metal-roofed Conch house, much like any other in the older neighborhoods of Key West. I had toured Hemingway’s house—it was grand. This was not.
My apartment was only six blocks away. Five minutes—ten at the most. I could double back and check the address. I made a U-turn at Florida Street and drove past the white picket fence again. I had said I would arrive at twelve-thirty, and I was never late.
I pulled to the curb, got out of the car, and walked back past the gazebo. To the right of it, tattered grass spread out across the front of the property. A board fence hid the backyard from view. Behind it, birds screeched high in the trees. The house appeared to be one story, but on the end, shutters angled out below the peak of the roof and shaded attic windows. The roof sloped to the front, sheltered the porch, and came to rest atop four square columns. Red-shuttered windows flanked the door, and re-enforcing the screen door, a length of wrought iron suggested a treble clef.
            I opened the gate, walked to the door, and knocked.
            “Hi!” Helen called, as she opened it. “Welcome to Casa Williams! They’re all on the patio.” She glanced over her shoulder, and then dropped to a stage whisper, although we appeared to be alone. “Lunch will be served soon.”
            The room seemed as big as the house, which is to say not large. Navy drapes covered the single windows at the front and side, and despite the laboring air conditioner, the room felt stuffy. Beyond the entrance hall, rattan furniture with faded cushions faced a coffee table. In back, light flooded the dining area through a sliding glass door on the left. A bookcase holding mementos, all dulled from age and lack of attention, spanned the back wall, and in front of it, a glass dining table was strewn with papers.
            My eyes were drawn to an oil portrait hanging on the wall to the right. I recognized the long, equine face of Frank Merlo, Tennessee’s longtime lover who had died many years before.
           The painting divided the room front and back, and beneath it, a rotary phone sat on a rattan desk. Only the console TV in the front corner was new. Helen pointed to the two cable boxes that sat atop it.
            “Come out back when you’re finished—through the kitchen. I’ll introduce you.” She walked to the back and disappeared through the doorway to the kitchen.
            I installed and tested the new box, taking only a few minutes. Afterward, I walked back into the kitchen—a fading avocado dream from the '60s. Through the side door, I saw Helen’s beckoning wave. I slid the glass open and stepped down to the covered patio.
            “Oh, that was quick!”
I immediately recognized the speaker, Tennessee. He sat slouched in a chair, wearing a stained Cuban shirt and tan shorts. His fingers held the stem of a wine glass, although it sat on the table. Three others sat at the table with him.
“You must be quite handy,” he said. There was a touch of awkwardness in his chuckle.
“No problem,” I said, and then cleared my throat.
“Will you stay . . . have lunch with us?”
“Glad to help out.”
“You know Helen, of course.” He turned toward her. “She found you.”
I nodded to Helen.
He looked back at me, and shielding his eyes with his hand, took in my full height.
“My. . . . Well, we will no longer be deprived of modern entertainment!”
“HBO—that’s great,” I said.
            He took a sip of his wine, and then gestured toward the two others at the table.
            “You know Gary, I believe, and this is Roy. He helps out here. Roy has prepared chicken salad sandwiches and potato salad.” He gestured to an empty chair. “Sit.”
I sat down nervously, and reminded myself not to eat or drink too quickly.
            “Here,” he said, pushing the carafe toward me, “Have some wine.”
            “Oh! Hold on . . .” Helen jumped up and hurried to the kitchen. When she returned with a glass, Tennessee filled it.
During lunch, conversation revolved around Tennessee’s projects: a recent play production, the suitability of Liz Taylor’s starring in a revival of one of his plays, and a lot of gossip about people I did not know, although I recognized some of their names.
I felt excluded, out of place, but the wine gradually warmed and relaxed me. Listening, I felt I was on the edge of something important—and I was drawn toward it.
“Now, I must take a nap,” Tennessee said, and then turned to me.
“Scott, could you possibly . . . rub my shoulder for a minute?” He began massaging his left shoulder. “I don’t know what I did. It’s gotten stiff on me.”
What did he want? I had never been attracted to older men—not sexually. At seventy, Tennessee was forty years older than I was. Unimaginable. What had Helen set me up for?
When I looked, he had already opened his shirt and pulled it off his shoulder. With what grace I could muster, I worked Tennessee's shoulder gently in my large hands as he made theatrical moans of pleasure.
“Oh, that was nice.” He tottered as he got to his feet. “Thank you—a big help.” He excused himself, and with his shirt still twisted about him, made his way toward the house. At the door, he stopped and turned back.
“Perhaps you can join us again—soon,” he said, and then he disappeared into the house.
Although I did not understand fully, I sensed the dynamics within that group had changed. I felt the sweep of Gary’s radar and his heightened alertness, knowing he was focusing them on me. Now that Tennessee had gone, he would hound me, pressing me with questions I could not answer—especially after three glasses of wine on a warm afternoon.
Hoping for a quick exit, I excused myself, but Helen followed me into the house.
“See? He likes you, huh?” She was beaming. “I have to go into town—I’ll call you tonight. Everything went just great!”
With that, I made my way to my car.
On the way home, wondering what had been set in motion, I was struck by a long-forgotten thought. Years before, while reading Tennessee’s Memoirs, I had suddenly known that I would meet him one day. At the time, I dismissed the idea as preposterous, but the certainty of the feeling had haunted me. Eventually, the notion disappeared under the sediments of time and experience. Its sudden return jolted me, shaking my idea of reality. 
I wanted another drink—and some time alone.