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Editor's Note: Recently, The New York Times ran an article on Ray Bradbury and his lifelong enthusiasm for "halls of books." We thought that peg enough of a reason to reprise an article by a departed and enthusiastic supporter of seniorwomen.com, Jean Pond.

Lunch with a Legend

by Jean Pond

Recently I had lunch with Ray Bradbury whose 85 year old imagination has all the freshness of a child. He rides in a wheelchair now but no signs of aging affect his always positive attitude.

I sat beside him at a dinner 45 years ago and I was most anxious to meet him again. The last time we met was the annual dinner meeting of the Long Beach Chapter of the American Association of University Women. Ray was being honored as Senior of the Year and I was Senior of the Year for 2001.  At our original meeting part of the evening’s business was amending the bylaws. Ray was fascinated. I was sure that anybody who was that interested in bylaw amendment would be interested in everything. He was and still is.

I told him that I felt that one of his greatest accomplishments was marrying the right lady. He agreed enthusiastically.

Ray and Maggie were married  for 56 years until her death in 2003, raising four daughters who have provided eight grandchildren. He met his wife in Fowler’s Book Store in Los Angeles. There was an instant attraction. Ray said, “She finally took a vow of poverty and married me.” 

He was making about thirty dollars a week writing for pulp magazines and only had eight dollars in his account the day they were married.  He gave the minister five dollars for performing the ceremony. The minister said, “You’re a writer, aren’t you? You’ll need this,” and gave the money back.  Ray took it. Maggie worked and enabled Ray to write until their fortunes improved.

Before the birth of his first daughter he went to New York in 1949 hoping to interest book publishers in his work.  They were looking for books, not short stories, but one of his contacts at Doubleday’s suggested he gather up some of his science fiction short stories and combine them in book form.  That became The Martian Chronicles.  He also sold them on his idea for The Illustrated Man.  He received $700 each for the two outlines and turned in his Greyhound bus ticket for a train ticket back to Los Angeles.

Up until this moment he has published more than 500 works including short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, television scripts and mysteries. He's far from finished. He told me that after he finishes a piece of work he doesn’t look at it again for a month or two months. He likes to read it as the reader would and said unashamedly that sometimes he was surprised at how good a work it was.

It was a heady feeling passing rolls and making small talk with a man who has had a crater in the moon named by the astronauts Dandelion after his story Dandelion Wine. So what if he’s never driven a car or operated a computer. He has five typewriters and the one remaining cat out of the former 22. He is a talented and happy man.

©2006 Jean Pond for SeniorWomenWeb

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