Rebecca Brown meets Alice B Toklas at the Sorrento in Seattle

by eatonhamilton


Jane Eaton Hamilton quick sketch 2015

Rebecca Brown, the skilled Seattle author of “Gifts of the Body” among other titles (with whom I’ve dined and read), has written about Alice B Toklas’s stint in Seattle as a teenager at the current site of the Sorrento Hotel, where Alice may or may not be resident as a ghost. I’ve always been a bit of a groupie to Alice and Gertrude, and it’s Brown’s tender grappling with the after-effects of her mother’s death that shines particular light here.

When I visited 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris, I wanted so badly to lie down on the sidewalk with my eyes closed for an intrepid thinking session, imagining Alice or Gertrude fastening the big front door, or Natalie Barney, or Picasso, coming or going, their fingers itching with paint. Or Hemingway or the others, fingers itching with ink. I went to Père Lachaise cemetery and near Oscar Wilde’s then unprotected, red-kissed tomb found Gertrude’s big slab and the skinny afterthought that was Alice.

I wrote a poem about an affair I think Gertrude had with Etta Cone that Alice, I think, broke up. Learning and viewing the Cone sisters’ Baltimore art collection gave me a new inroad to see Gertrude and Alice. As does this fond article by Brown.

Alice B Toklas Lived in Seattle Before She Met Gertrude Stein