…is a single screen movie theatre, called the Jean Cocteau. The cinema had been closed for some time, well before I even moved to Santa Fe, and while I was working at the bookstore across the street the theatre reopened, under new ownership. I was curious about it, as was my way, but also because I was working directly across the street. Shortly after the Jean Cocteau’s grand opening, when it seemed quiet and between showings, I tiptoed up to the ticket window and asked if I could take a look around, “Of course,” a man that I would later learn was the manager replied, excitedly, and then standing even from his chair to direct me through the hall.
I Walked inside into a small open space stacked with books and memorabilia on shelves against the wall, and in the back of which was a winding tiled, mosaic hallway that inclined, and opened up into a common area where the classic movie theatre concessions were located, there was also a decent cafésque menu: espresso, sandwiches, bakery items, and the like. Surprisingly, in the back left corner of the lounge, there was a full bar and the lounge itself was neat, tidy with black baroque pub tables, and there were a couple of black leather couches. The lounge whispered, with the exception of course of the sounds of concessions and the smell of buttered popcorn in the front corner, whispered to me "speakeasy." The Jean Cocteau was far more than a movie theatre, and over the next few weeks I would start spending a lot of time there, sitting on a stool under one of the tall black baroque pub tables with a cup of coffee, or sometimes with something a bit…warmer and responsive (depending on the time of day), with my computer, writing.
I heard that George R. R. Martin bought, renovated, and reopened the Jean Cocteau in his image, and that, along with proximity to the bookstore, are what piqued my interest in the Jean Cocteau. I never expected that GRRM would be there, let alone all of the time, especially since he would still be finishing his epic, A Song of Ice & Fire.
Over the next weeks and months, I would attend a number of the events that Martin hosted; the Jean Cocteau under the ownership of GRRM was, by no means, a simple cinema there are a variety of events, including, but not limited to, author readings and Q&A’s, sketch comedy shows, red carpet events and releases, and so forth. I think, as much time as I spent there, I only saw one movie at the theatre. Jonathan Nolan (Christopher Nolan’s brother and Co-Writer for many of his movies) was invited for a showing and a Q&A of the Prestige, which I did absolutely attend. Afterward I sat with Jonathan Nolan, George Martin, and a small handful of people in a circle on the couches talking, I mostly listened.
As much time as I started spending at the Jean Cocteau and as often as GRRM was there he did eventually take notice of me, and we started talking on a regular basis. George R. R. Martin is, as many of you may imagine, a very interesting man and a very observant man—although he kept the latter to himself—GRRM would see me emerge from the winding hallway, and he would walk behind the bar and fix us both a drink, usually he would only be topping his off, and the two of us would sit and we would talk. One of the most intriguing things, except when he would ask me questions, was when he would start talking in the middle of a conversation, one that didn’t belong to me or the two of us, perhaps he simply started where he left off in conversation with someone else, or maybe a conversation with a character he was having in his mind, in either case it often felt more as if I was listening to him tell stories with no apparent beginning or end. I always felt strange about bringing up my writing with him, as if I were using him as a crutch, and that would never have been my intention, just knowing the man was remarkable.
My life changed shortly thereafter and then Santa Fe, New Mexico became a fork in the road for me. I had to stop going to the Jean Cocteau, the indirect demands of a new relationship, and with the exception of a very brief stint that GRRM spent on Facebook, six days, I think it was—when he added me on Facebook—we lost touch, unfortunately. Still, I value the time we spent together, the conversations that we had, and the stories that he shared.