Neal was born in Martinsville, Virginia in 1948, near his father’s relatives, then moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1950, near his mother’s. Then all three moved again and found themselves at the southern crescent end of the Santa Monica Bay in Redondo Beach, California by the fall of 1953; here he stayed until 1979.

Tuggle Gap

The cooking that was truly sacramental for father was southern fare, the food of his grandmothers, his mother and the ladies who had cooked for them over the years. His father’s mother had run a stage stop and inn, while his maternal grandmother was a judge’s wife who kept a grand, crow-stepped manse in the…

Two Languages

This Virginia language was one of apparent sweetness, humor, courtliness, and loving repetition – yes sir being the characteristic all-purpose note that signaled the small welcome surprise at the world’s fleeting manifold, as in yes sir, daddy’s Packard, or yes sir, Gene Tierney – a way of briefly holding something pleasing up to the light.…

Places, Histories

Father was from Virginia, Mother, Nebraska. These places, their histories, myths and landscapes, made my two earliest languages. Each was secretive, inflected, and tonal, drifting from picture to word and back again, a dream of memory in two streams. (from Chapter 3, “The Old Language”)