I figured I’d go far after getting my master’s degree from Northwestern, and so I did — all the way from Evanston to Chicago. From 1971 to 1975, I shared a three-bedroom apartment in Uptown with an ever-changing cast of roomies. I say “three bedroom,” but for our purposes there were five, once we put a bed in the dining room and another on the back porch. The rent was $150 a month, after all. There was no way a bunch of guys just out of college could afford that without cramming.
I did two years of alternative service after college, working as a VISTA volunteer assigned to the Cook County Legal Assistance Foundation, which provided legal aid to the poor of suburban Cook County, Illinois. Since my degrees were in journalism, not law, CCLAF gave me a card that read, “Director of Communications and Education,” and had me edit their newsletter and write their press releases. Here’s the Director of Communications and Education sitting on his desk at CCLAF’s central office in the Loop.
E. John & Dolly
Roommates passed through that Margate Terrace apartment so frequently you would have thought the place had a revolving door, but there were three constants during the years I lived there — me, E. John, and Dolly. Dolly taught pre-school, and E. John was an arranger and composer. There were always musicians turning up for parties. “What instrument do you play?” they would ask me. “The typewriter,” I’d reply.
In Love With Lisa
I first met Lisa Tuttle at a con in Dallas in the spring of 1973. I was living in Chicago and working for VISTA, and she was a college student in Syracuse, New York. The attraction was immediate and, I think, mutual, though both of us were involved with other people at the time, so nothing came of it immediately.
By the time we met for a second time, at the 1973 worldcon in Toronto, both of our existing relationships were ending, and things between us started to heat up. After the con we began to correspond. Lisa wrote a great letter (this was in the dark ages before email, remember), and the more I got to know her, the more I liked her.
During the next half year, she visited me in Chicago and I visited her in Los Angeles, where she had moved after graduating Syracuse. We became collaborators and we became lovers, and to tell the truth I don’t remember which came first. Though we still lived thousands of miles apart, I felt as though I had known her all my life, and was soon madly in love. It wasn’t until the spring of 1974 that Lisa fell in love… with someone else.
I won’t say that wasn’t hard, but we continued to correspond and collaborate, despite my broken heart and her bad taste in men. Today Lisa lives in Scotland with her husband (her taste in men got better) and daughter, and I live in New Mexico, so we are further apart than ever, but our friendship has only grown deeper and stronger over the decades.
Don’s Grill was a greasy spoon on Argyle Street, half a block from my apartment on Margate Terrace. I ate breakfast there three or four times a week. For $1.31 (with tax), you’d get two scrambled eggs, bacon, buttered toast, and coffee. They’d even throw some onions into the eggs, no extra charge. The waitresses were named Flo and Vi, and it was the only restaurant I’ve ever eaten at where I could go in and order “the usual.” No more, alas. The last time I visited Argyle, it had all gone Asian. Don’s is still a greasy spoon, but now it’s a Vietnamese greasy spoon, and I doubt you could get breakfast for $1.31.
On Margate Terrace, cats dropped by almost as often as the musicians, and like the musicians they were always looking to be fed. We started out with one cat, and ended up with five. Most of them really belonged to E. John and Dolly, but there a couple who attached themselves to me. This is one: Dax, an imperious and indolent black longhair. And yes, this is the cat who inspired Haviland Tuf’s Dax. The original was not telepathic, but he was dangerous. He sent me to the hospital once.
I first met Gale Burnick at a Philcon, I believe, but it was at the 1974 worldcon in Washington, D.C. that we got together romantically. She was living in Philadelphia at the time, but she soon moved out to Chicago and in with me. This is us at the Nebula Banquet in NYC the following year.
Gale moved in with me a few weeks after Discon, but she did not like sharing the Margate apartment with all my roommates and cats, so after a couple of months we started looking for our own place. We found one a block north on Argyle Street. The new place was so close to the old that we didn’t hire movers or rent a truck. We did it all ourselves. Down three flights of creaky back steps, through the alleyways, across the street (dodging traffic, since we weren’t about to detour to the corner to cross), and then up two flights to our second floor apartment. Worst move I ever had, even though I was in much better shape then and did not own near as many books. I finally had my own office, instead of just a desk in my bedroom. It was there I wrote my first novel, Dying of the Light.
After living together for a little more than a year, Gale and I were married in November, 1975. (She remained Gale Burnick, however, a point on which she was most adamant). Her mother flew in for the wedding, as did my own family, and of course all of my Chicago friends were on hand — fans and writers, chess buddies, old roomies. It was a great, fun wedding, one of the best. The marriage, not so much. Our wedding song was “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” Maybe we should have taken that as a clue.
All photographs (c) George R. R. Martin and/or their respective photographers. May not be used without written permission.