Farewell Summer: Death of A Peerless Storyteller

Ray Bradbury, one of the true masters of science fiction (or fiction period) has died. He was 91. He passed away here in Los Angeles, after what is described by his family as “a lengthy illness”.

Many years ago when I worked at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, each morning before reporting for duty I would stop at a delicatessen called Dave’s Table on the corner of N. Beverly Drive and Wilshire (it’s not there anymore-the deli, that is). Often Ray Bradbury would come in around the same time and get a cup of coffee and maybe a croissant or a bagel to go. I think he had an office in the building next door. No matter what the weather, he always wore the same thing: a pull-over sweater and white tennis shorts. He had these pasty pink and white legs that never tanned. Frankly, if I had been him, I would have thought about wearing pants, but that was his business. I never spoke to him, but I always wanted to (not about the shorts, of course).

In a 2010 CNN interview, Bradbury described himself as a “delicatessen religionist.” I guess he was really into delicatessens. He told the interviewer that he was inspired by both Eastern and Western religions. But he added,

I’m a Zen Buddhist if I would describe myself. I don’t think about what I do. I do it. That’s Buddhism. I jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down.”

I rather doubt he was a practicing Zen Buddhist. By that I mean someone who engages in regular meditation. But you never know. He did write a book called Zen in the Art of Writing, but it was more about the latter than the former.

As much as Ray Bradbury’s mind soared to other worlds, he had feet firmly planted in the town that he loved, Los Angeles. He’d lived here since the 1930’s and in his interviews it was always great to hear him talk about “old” L.A. and describe things that aren’t around anymore.

Ray Bradbury was an immensely influential writer in the science fiction field. His novels included, The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. You can read about his life and work at Wikipedia.

There was a time, when I was a kid, summer meant three months of no school. I would spent most of that time reading. For some reason, those warm, carefree months seemed just right for science fiction, and I remember that for several summers in a row I read nothing but Robert Heinlein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and of course, Ray Bradbury.

There are those days which seem a taking in of breath which, held, suspends the whole earth in its waiting. Some summers refuse to end.

– Bradbury in Farewell Summer

Thanks for those endless summers, Ray.

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