The earliest drafts of “Birding,” dating back to late 2001, were written by my colleague here at Not Two, who prefers to be known simply as “JP.” As many of you know or might guess after reading it, both narrators, Joseph and Pedro, are based on JP, but Pedro is the main vehicle for the semi-autobiographical aspect of the novel. Likewise, the character of Nadia Czonka is a depiction of his first wife, Aubray Tomkinson.
They were “exuberantly wed” (inside joke) in October 1999 in their temporarily adopted hometown of Bisbee, Arizona –disguised in the novel as the fictional Caches Notch, New Hampshire. JP did not have a camera of his own for the vast period of time between high school and the emergence of smartphones (Aubray did, though they seemed to use it sporadically), so snapshots of them from this time period are limited. But there are enough to help you put a couple faces with the names.
(Clockwise from top L) The day after the wedding in the hills outside Bisbee; from the honeymoon in San Carlos, Mexico; probably taken in 2001 at Aubray’s sister’s place in Sacramento; a couple rare peaceful moments before the wedding in BIsbee; an early photo, around October 1998, taken by Aubray’s mother at her home in Pennsylvania.
Aubray and Eloise, who came to them from a pug rescue program on the Central Coast. She ended up being re-rescued by another group in Massachusetts in 2002 when life got too chaotic in the post 9/11 aftermath and wound up with a wonderful home. This is the actual bungalow apartment at 432A Old Creek Road in Cayucos, and the front door mentioned prominently in the novel. The “postage stamp-sized swatch of Pacific Ocean” they could see from the road, and their poor beat up Honda Civic.
Here are a couple views of the avocado farm in the foothills east of Cambria that lured them away from Bisbee in 2000. In writing this as a cross-country move from New Hampshire, I combined elements of the previous move that brought them to Arizona from the Northeast with the actual trip from Bisbee to the Central Coast. The avocado farm as depicted in the novel might have seemed too crazy to be part of their true story, but I can assure you it was.
The cliffs at Pismo Beach, scene of pivotal conversation in Act V