We spent a good part of last summer on the road. The Scags at 7 Video Project got off to a good start. But where we were, in the Southwest, isn’t where Scags at 30 is set. Lying in our tent listening to the leaves fall on it or the rain, same sound, didn’t inspire me to think about Scags’ life but rather about what it means to be in nature–a very important part of life but not what this novel is about.
The good thing about writing the Scags Series is that I have had to know what the end game is–where this journey will take Scags and why it is necessary to write these four volumes, all told in different first person forms.
In Scags at 30, we read Scags’ letters to the lover she’s left behind in Vermont so she can take a job in NYC–her dream job. The epistolary form allows her to tell someone she knows very well and who knows her well too what her life is like working for a think tank that examines the media’s role in society–pre-Internet days. Her work awakens her to the role appearances play, how they shape opinion and behavior.
The winter I’ve set this story in was exciting and frightening. I felt like the city then was rotting and being reborn simultaneously. It’s the winter Reagan was sworn in as president and then within weeks was almost killed.
Scags lived on Bleecker Street in a tenement because like everyone moving to the city, that was all she could afford.
But in 1981, bookstores, record stores, galleries, and myriad street vendors livened things up. As Scags walked the city learning about the neighborhoods, snow fell, temperatures dropped. She walked up the five flights of stairs to her apartment that had either too much or no heat. Her bathtub sat in her kitchen. She had no closets.
Graffitti covered everything she saw–subway cars, walls, fences–potholes never got filled, the homeless slept on the subway grates and AIDS creeped into the city, attacking the gay community and no one knew what it was. It’s here in NYC that Scags finally finds her calling, one she didn’t expect and that will take us into the final portion of her story (Scags at 45).
I have so much work to do to make her story come alive in that winter of 1981. But telling her story as well as the city’s is an exciting challenge. I hope you’ll stay tuned to this blog for updates about this section of Scags’ life story.