La Conchita as a Story’s Character

La Conchita, California

Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate has as one of its characters La Conchita, a small

La Conchita Landslide

A large part of the mountain collapsed, burying 14 houses.

town on the Southern California coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara. In March of 1995, La Conchita was devastated by a massive landslide that took a chunk out of Rincon Mountain and hurled it down the slope, burying fourteen houses in its path. The naked slope and the debris pile at its foot were so dramatic that I included the town in my story as a metaphor for the cataclysm that threatened to overwhelm the Stone family.

Mark Salzman, writer and cellist, is quoted in the October 2, 2000 New Yorker
(stick with me—there’s a relevant point here) in which he describes attending a concert by Yo Yo Ma. Salzman was a student of the instrument then. Here’s what he said about the performance:

“His playing was so beautiful, so original, so intelligent, so effortless that by the end of the first movement I knew my cello career was over. I kid you not. People talk about Yo-Yo Ma’s superhuman technique. Let me tell you: superhuman technique is only the tip of the Yo-Yo iceberg. What really sank my ship was how much he was obviously enjoying himself: he was lost in the music, freed by it, speaking through it, in love with it. He was enjoying himself as much playing as most of the rest of us do when we’re listening, and as I myself never did when playing, not to speak of practicing. When I heard Yo-Yo play, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t just inadequate—I wasn’t even making music. I was training to be a showoff, that’s all.”*

The connection between what Mark Salzman felt and my novel is this: when I was writing about La Conchita, I came upon a short story called, aptly enough, “La Conchita,” by T. C. Boyle, one of my favorite contemporary writers. The story is so intricate and compelling, so impressively skillful that when I read it I wondered why I thought I had anything to add and almost dropped La Conchita from my novel. I didn’t, though, and I’m glad. If you want to read Boyle’s wonderful story, it’s included in his collection, Wild Child and Other Stories.

If you’d like to see how the catastrophe of the La Conchita slide becomes a metaphor for the Stone family’s anxiety and mania in Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, buy my book by clicking the link at the top left of this page. And while you’re at, please (1) write at least a one-sentence review; (2) “Like” this page and my Facebook author’s page and (3) Follow me on Twitter. Whew!

*There’s more to this story. Yo-Yo Ma invited Mark Salzman to perform with him at Lincoln Center, so I guess Salzman didn’t give up on the cello after all.



About Alexis

Alexis Rankin Popik, author of Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, is an award-winning short story writer whose work has appeared in The Berkshire Review and Potpourri Magazine. She has penned numerous articles about local history that have been published in Connecticut Explored and the University of Connecticut School of Law and The Hartford Seminary publications. A former union organizer, Popik traveled the country educating shipyard workers about health and safety and founded a labor-management health plan before turning to writing fiction full-time. She lives with her husband in New England.
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