Thursday, October 28, 2010

Breakfast with a Nobel Laureate on the Balcony of a Billionaire's Guest House

When you think of the Hamptons, when you picture those wide-angle arial shots of gargantuan beach-front estates, you're thinking of Meadow Lane. It's the road that runs parallel to the beach in Southampton, and it is the road I drive along to get to the guest house. As an author's assistant at the Southampton Writers Conference, I am responsible for picking up Derek Walcott every other morning and driving him to his workshop. He's staying at the estate of a local billionaire, and as I drive up the winding path to the guest house, I can see the ocean.

I park my car and tentatively knock on the front door. I've never been to the guest house before, only to the pool house, once. Never the main house. There is no answer, so I let myself in. I climb the wooden steps to the living room, and across the room I see the sliding glass doors that lead to the balcony. Everyone is outside at the table, eating breakfast. I slide open a door and stick my head out. "Good morning," I say.

"Sally Jane!" Billy Collins says. "Come, sit. Do you want something to eat?"

"Sure." Apparently it's his turn to cook this morning. I sit down at the table and Billy brings me a plate of eggs and bacon and a glass of orange juice. Derek is listening to Frank McCourt talk about his Irish childhood, and Matthew Klam is laughing and drinking his coffee.

I look around me and am astonished that this is actually happening. I'm having breakfast with a Nobel Laureate, a Pulitzer Prize winner, a 2-time U.S. Poet Laureate, and a Guggenheim Fellow. But it is real. It is really happening.

Getting my MFA made this possible. If I hadn't gone to grad school, I never would have had the opportunity to surround myself with such accomplished and generous artists. I would never have found myself in such amazing circumstances. I wouldn't be the person I am today. So as you're slogging through the admissions process, or staring your thesis deadline in the face, fear not: it is worth it. Good things will happen. Maybe even great ones. Maybe even breakfast with Nobel Laureates.

4 comments:

Claire Dawn said...

Wow! I'm from the Caribbean so Derek Walcott blew my mind. Some day...

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheila Lamb said...

Billy Collins AND Frank McCourt...awesome! What a great experience...I'm only 99% jealous :-)

etrangette said...

Thank you, this was awesome. I needed it. Note to self: it is worth it, apply even though you don't think you will get in, you can apply again next year, and the year after that, and after that. And then maybe, one day, you will be having breakfast with a nobel laureate, on the balcony of a billionaire's guest house . . .