Exciting Past

San-Francisco-fog

STEPHANIE LEHMANN was born in foggy San Francisco and didn’t take her sweater off until she moved away to college. She spent most of her childhood watching television. Almost every night she fell asleep to the sound of Johnny Carson on a small General Electric black and white TV in her bedroom. This was when he still broadcast from New York City.

She listened to him talk about multiple locks on the doors and muggers on the streets and dirty subways. She thought anyone who chose to live in NYC had to be crazy or just dumb. She spent Saturday nights watching The Brady Bunch before they were in reruns, dressed like Marcia but was more like Jan. Her very favorite TV show was That Girl with Marlo Thomas, who was the first true “ambitious single woman living in New York City” sitcom heroine. Stephanie’s fantasy to live that life competed for years with her fear of moving to such a decrepit, mean and ugly place.

olympia-typewriter-from-the-70s
Stephanie can remember deciding to become a writer in a fit of existential angst when she was twelve. She desperately wanted to be published in American Girl magazine. She talked her parents into buying her a typewriter, and wrote some very bad short stories. She received the first of many rejection letters.

In high school, after a few unpleasant (no boyfriend, mediocre grades) years that were redeemed only by hanging out in the theater department and working backstage (too afraid to act), she went to U. C. Berkeley and missed the best years of Saturday Night Live. She had, for once, a social life, but no television.

She bought an IBM Selectric but was unable to believe she could actually have a “career” as a writer. So she didn’t even buy the kind of IBM Selectric that had self-correcting tape, and had to use the backspace key, then insert one of those little white plastic sheets and retype the incorrect letter to cover it over. (I bet some people have no idea what I’m talking about.) IBM Selectric II typewriterShe got a B.A. in psychology thinking she might become a therapist because she liked to listen, and she loved the idea of hearing peoples’ secrets. But after taking a writing class with Leonard Michaels (The Men’s Club) and taking his praise way too seriously, she kissed a regular income good-bye and dreamed once again of being a writer.

After graduating from Berkeley and spending a year hanging out, working in a cafe, getting depressed and feeling like she didn’t know what to do with her life, Stephanie Lehmann decided to move to New York so she could do the same thing in a more crowded location. She was still drawn by the lure of New York City but was still intimidated by it too, so she arrived as a student in the NYU Graduate Program in Creative Writing. She was lucky enough to get the lease to a small, dark, roach-infested apartment of her very own in the East Village of Manhattan. East-Sixth-Street-East-Village-New-YorkShe set up her IBM Selectric on a desk she bought at the Salvation Army, slept on a futon, still had no TV, and was afraid to walk in her own neighborhood.

She started dating a guy from Long Island who was in her writing workshop at NYU. He had a nice apartment on a high floor in a modern building in midtown and a really nice RCA 27-inch color TV. The fact that he used to be a television repairman clinched the deal. She moved in with him and they watched Night Court and Cagney and Lacey — shows that seemed good at the time, but what was I thinking?Manhattan-plaza-New-York

In any case, Stephanie Lehmann felt much better about her life and more in touch with America now that she was watching TV again. During this period she wrote two novels on her IBM Selectric. Neither one got published, but she did get lots of temp jobs based on her excellent typing skills.

Kaypro-computer

A few years later she bought one of the first computers sold for home use (gee, this is making me sound old), a Kaypro with a seven-inch black screen and green letters that she still has in storage next to her IBM Selectric. She also got married to the ex-television repairman and had a couple babies. Among many other shows, she enjoyed watching Love Connection hosted by Chuck Woolery, which may have laid the ground work for her current fascination with The Bachelorette, Top Chef, Project Runway, Amazing Race, The Housewives of New York City and other assorted reality shows but let’s not get started on that.

She felt privileged to reach the point in her life where she fought with her very own family over who got the remote. Now that her kids are grown up and being educated elsewhere she enjoys getting to watch whatever she wants. She still lives in New York and owns a down coat, a wool coat, many sweaters, hats and gloves. She prefers the summer, except when it gets disgustingly humid. The weather doesn’t matter as much anymore, though, since she now has a laptop, iPhone and iPad and hardly ever needs to go outside.

Oh, and by the way, Stephanie Lehmann is no longer afraid to live in New York City.

Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York City
Image via Wikipedia

 

8 Comments

  1. Jul 18, 2013

    I don’t know why you missed SNL at college: that’s where I started watching it. And I was living in the same house as you at the time.

    • Jul 27, 2013

      Hey John! Great to hear from you. To answer your question… either I couldn’t see the screen in Barrington’s TV room through the haze of smoke or I didn’t want to wake up Pink Cloud.

  2. Aug 20, 2013

    Loved loved Astor Place Vintage will you write a follow up? Need to find out what happed to Olive from 1911 to present and if her grandson moves back to New York.

    My mother in law recently passed and she lived in the Stewart Building at 70 E 10th Apt 6W I felt she was reaching out to me.

    I plan on recommending the book to my book club.

    Thanks

    Suzanne

    • Nov 21, 2013

      Hi Suzanne,

      Thanks for writing. I’m not planning on writing a follow up, so I’m afraid we’ll never know what happens to Olive or her descendents. But I do feel in my heart that Amanda and Rob get together.

      When I walk by the Stewart Building, I can’t help but feel that Jane Kelly is sitting up in one of those apartments being cranky.

      All Best,
      Stephanie

  3. Dec 22, 2013

    I loved your book, “Astor Place Vintage”. I finished it in 24 hours. Also, I loved your exciting hilarious Bio. I am a big fan now and will search for all your novels. Well done you!!!

    • Dec 31, 2013

      Thanks Ravine. Glad you enjoyed it so quickly — even if it did take me all those years to write it! 🙂

  4. Jun 9, 2014

    I’ve been flying through Astor Place Vintage (3/4 way through started last night, have to take a break to work, so no spoilers!). Love the characters, the back and forth and the touch of the mystical. Will certainly recommend to others and look for your other books. Now how about a book on that Hadley bartender character, her story could be great 😉 Thanks for the great escape! Congratulations.

    • Jul 1, 2014

      Is your name Hadley? I love that name! Are you a bartender? Writing that character could give me a good excuse to hang out in bars. And even in to in bars. Hmmm…

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