It's the summer of 1990 and I'm canvassing, knocking on doors and asking for money to stop the arms race, crying curbside when I don't reach my quota. My boss has taken pity on me and given me a good route, up in the hills. I walk down a long asphalt driveway, lumped with pine needles, and I hope, despite myself, that no one answers the door.
It swings open and I start my schpiel. The man is white-haired and shirtless, and has the most beautiful blue eyes I've ever seen. He interrupts me, says he'll give me some money, but I have to come in. He's got asparagus on the stove.
He's listening to NPR and he turns off the asparagus. I think that he must be 70, even though he doesn't seem 70. I go on with the schpiel but I'm distracted by the house. We're standing on the edge of a galley kitchen and beyond it is a great room with a few doors on the opposite wall. I'm transfixed by one wall of the great room that's all windows; beneath the windows is a long reflecting pool. It seems to flow along the very lip of the yard on the hillside. And just beyond it, the next thing you see, is Silver Lake, although there are a few hills between us and it's far below. It's framed as if it was placed there for this house alone. I think Frank Lloyd Wright, but I'm sure I'm wrong.
I drop the schpiel. I don't know how exactly, but we start talking about books. Is this what happens? I think it is that he asks what I have been reading and I say Henry Miller (I'm a punk rock college dropout, of course I'm reading Henry Miller). I think this is when he asks if I know Anais Nin, and I do but I haven't read her writing. I should, he says. He'll give me one of her books, he tells me, then he pauses.
It's pretty racy, he says.
Oh, I can handle racy, I say back.
He goes around a corner and downstairs, I think, and comes back up with Henry and June. He inscribes it to me.
Finally the real story
the missing Anais
the passionate woman
- Rupert Pole
He is kind, not just for giving me the book (I thank him over and over), but for giving me enough money so I will make my quota and we can sit there and talk. He tells me about expurgated vs. nonexpurgated. He tells me that a movie of the book is on the way, and that more unexpurgated Anais Nin books are on the way, too. I am amazed by his beautiful secret house, by his bare-chested 70-year-old man making asparagus and listening to NPR, by his blue eyes, by his apparent happiness, by the sanctuary of it all.
For years, after I moved to Silverlake, I tried to find that driveway as I cruised to parties in the hills. Each time I thought I'd pinpointed it, I'd balk at walking down to see. What if it was the wrong house? What if he didn't remember me (why would he) and didn't want an intrusion this time? What if, worst of all, he was long dead, replaced by affluent hipsters?
This morning NPR did an obituary on Rupert Pole, who died at age 87 two weeks ago. He was 20 years Anais Nin's junior. They were married, but she'd never gotten unmarried from her first husband, so the marriage was murky. Rupert was, tho, her final caretaker -- both physically and of her literary legacy, especially putting the racy back in her diaries. He died of a stroke in his Silverlake home (which was designed by his half-brother Eric Lloyd Wright, Frank's grandson).
When I met him, Rupert Pole was 71. We should all be so cool at 71, daring young punks to keep up with our raciness.