At 78 years old in 2010, Ruby A. Maverick is still hip.
The stretch of years have made their impressions, but she is still tall and proud and knows the scene. She has made a point of surrounding herself with intelligent, self-aware, low-shuck people. She was too old for that nonsense during the Summer of Love, and she sure as shit too old now.
After the Summer of Love, she hung around the Haight Ashbury for a while, unsure of where to go, and happy to keep on taking the tourists’ money. It was of course, never the same, but she had her space and her shop, and she was beholden to no one but herself. And that was how she liked it.
She eventually closed the shop and moved on, trying on Seattle like a pair of gloves. The people were lovely, as was the landscape, but it was everything she hated of San Francisco’s chilly damp, magnified. She still visits her friends, but only in the spring when it’s warm and bright and Mount Rainier looms in the distance.
From there, she tried Santa Fe, but it got too cold in the winter, and the people never knew what to make of her. Sure, that was true of most places she went, but it seemed more pointed, more malicious there.
In the late 70s, she tried San Francisco again, and she found some of the old joy up in the Castro. When AIDS hit, she found herself caught in a maelstrom of fear, burying a shocking number of loved ones at a devastating clip. It was then that she knew San Francisco could only be a place for her to visit, never live. She was too damn tired of saying goodbye.
Finally, she found her way to Austin, where it was warm and weird, and enough of the community still gave a damn about being a community. She could have all the vistas, sky, drum circles, Burners, hippies, geeks, techies, hackers, and artists she could stomach. Yeah, Austin worked.
Ruby slid into a nice routine, bouncing easily from the artists to the musicians to the witches and back again. She opened another shop, finding easy staffing to be found from the university. Ruby learned the fundamental rule of college towns: If it’s a service college kids will want, they will pay for it. Frequently. And well.
One of the other things Ruby really dug about Austin was what the marketers were calling “continuing education opportunities.” Years of running her own shops led her to pursue a business degree, and Ruby used that to keep an eye (and her bank accounts) on the burgeoning tech markets. She doesn’t pretend to know the first thing about programming computers, but she sure as shit knows their value. No one who’d seen what she’d seen could pretend otherwise. Too many people she knew looked at computers with fear and confusion, but to Ruby, that was like her grandparents fearing television. Ruby knew that the future was coming, and it’s better to know what’s coming at you.
Investing early and wisely was a lucky skill she’d cultivated, and she found herself worth far more than she ever dreamed. Ruby made sure to reinvest that, as well as donating frequently to charity.
Take that, Gorgon, she thought, every time she signed her name on a check bound for anywhere. No one in the world could tell her she hadn’t created her world in her own image, that her capitalism meant nothing. It was the height of the 80s, and while Ruby knew she had more than most who weren’t bankers, her stomach constantly turned from the conspicuous consumption she saw all around her. It blew her mind the way he’d given her grief for her rented house and her shop. If only he could see the Gordon Geckos and Michael Milkens! They were who deserved his shuck, not her! But they didn’t exist in the Summer of Love.
Years went on, and Ruby met a fine man named Brian, and they found a sweet little house on the lake. The life they built was peaceful and simple and not anything she would have guessed in a million years, even after That Summer.
Also after That Summer, Ruby kept an eye on commercially available technology, not just the developmental stuff she put her money in. If anything else, she needed to know when it was safe to use her calculator in public. Brian found it after they’d been living together for a year. It was...tense.
“What the hell is this?” He said, brandishing the tiny piece of plastic.
“It’s a piece of plastic, Brian, what do you think?”
“The light hit it when I was holding it, and it started blinking zero. What the hell!”
Ruby tried to deflect his questions, but finally, after many qualifications and several repeats of “I swear, you won’t ever believe me in five hundred years,” she told the story of Chiron Cat’s Eye In Draco and Susan Stein freeloading in her San Francisco pad.
Brian wasn’t about to get distracted from the issue at hand.
“What do you mean it’s a calculator?”
“It’s a calculator! Look!” And just as Chiron had done so long ago, Ruby tapped out some simple arithmetic. The magic wasn’t in the calculation, but in the size and the display. Brian’s granddaughter had come to visit, a new GameBoy in tow (and don’t get Grandma Ruby started on that name!). The handheld device seemed an unimpressive brick in comparison.
“So wait,” Brian said, “whatyportation?”
Twenty years later, Ruby remains sure that the only reason their relationship lasted the night was because they were both on the mortgage.
At 78, Ruby doesn’t have to call anyone to ask how to change the ink in her printers. And that’s a far cry better than most people she knows.
Ruby had been morbidly fascinated by Facebook, but she’d graduated from Mills College so many years ago, there was no way to sign up until they opened the gates to everyone. She signed up, but often wondered why, since most of the people from her past were dead.
One day, her heart just about stopped.
Susan Stein-Robbins Would Like To Be Your Friend On Facebook!
Message: “There can probably only be one Ruby A. Maverick in the whole world. Love, Starbright.”