Friday, June 08, 2012

My Ray story

It started at the Toonfest some 6 or 7 years ago. As a part of the art exhibit, I brought some new, older pieces from my portfolio including two large airbrushed pieces from my work-in-progress, MARTIANS — THE SEARCH FOR INTELLIGENT LIFE. One of the two featured one of the Martians sitting at the breakfast table, sporting a stripped bathrobe, a pair of pink fuzzy slippers, reading the morning edition of MARTIAN CHRONICLE and a steaming hot cup of radioactive coffee near by. Between events, I was standing outside the Masonic Hall watching the quiet. As I recall, everybody was at the Uptown for the cartoonists presentations. You remember those. :-) This fellow walked up looking a bit lost. He was maybe a year or two older than me, wearing one of those caps that you'd picture a middle aged gentleman wearing while tooling around in his 50s MG-TD. I said, "Hi," and he reciprocated. He asked if I was one of the cartoonists. "Yes, I am," I replied. "Have I seen your work?" he asked. "Probably not as most of my work is freelance and rarely gets into newsprint," I said. "But I can show you some of my works, if you like." We walked into the Hall and I pointed to my work. He was, and still is as far as I know, John Tibbetts, professor of English at KU or KSU. He walked around the exhibits, stopping at the MARTIAN CHRONICLE piece. He said, "I like this." "Thanks," I said. "Has Ray seen it?" he asked. Looking quizzically I asked, "Ray?" "Bradbury." "I seriously doubt it as it hasn't been published and I don't know Mr. Bradbury," I responded. Still gazing at the piece, he said, "I think he'd like it." "Well, I hope so, but as I say, I don't know him so I couldn't say for certain." He replied with a sense of authority, "Well I do and I think he would." "You know him?" I asked with only a mild touch of celebrity worship. "Yes. Would you like his address?" "Ah YES!" I responded like a dumb-founded teenager. He promptly gave me Ray Bradbury's home address and phone number. Once I got home I wrote Mr. Bradbury a letter, explaining the chance meeting with Professor Tibbetts and enclosing a copy of the MARTIAN CHRONICLE piece. Within 10 days he wrote back, thanking me for the note and the copy of the artwork. In my letter, I asked if we might meet the next time I was in LA. He said he would love to and encouraged me to get in touch with him upon arrival. Soon thereafter, I was in LA, staying at a friend's in Valencia (just up the I-5 from the City of Angels). I called Ray only to find that he was asleep and wouldn't be up until after 11:00 a.m. and I should try back. We missed each other. When I got home, I wrote him again a time or two. His last letter to me arrived in the mail on the day of my dad's memorial service. I had arranged the service, his friends gathered to send him off. I spoke from the heart about my dad and how he valued his friends and what they meant to him. It's been said that entertainers can lose as much as 10-15 pounds during a performance. You know, singers, dancers, musicians, actors, etc. I felt as though I was now among their ranks. Before going inside to crash, I got the mail and amid the bills, junk mail, and such was a letter from Ray. It was exactly what I needed on that day. It was fairly long and just a very nice read. I truly wish we had met at his home. That would have been a memory never to be forgotten. I've loved his writings since I was in jr. high and took a class in science fiction writing. The piece we started with and eventually was the focus of the entire class was THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. At my first Comic-Con, I did sit in on the conversation between Ray and his life-long best friend, Ray Harryhausen. That was incredible! But it was in Room H at the San Diego Convention Center; a room designed to comfortably house roughly 8,000 people. Hardly an intimate setting. It was a packed house! That's my Ray Bradbury story...

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