Monday, August 11, 2008

What I Jotted

I have a brief break in my long trip - just enough time to get down to the grim business of "blogging." I feel guilty, being away from you for so long! So while I was gone I jotted a few humble musings with my humble jotter. Here are the full, chronological transcriptions for your delectation: 1) It is not unusual to see someone driving with his or her arm out the window. On the way to the Memphis airport, however, Theresa and I witnessed a gentleman driving with his arm AND his leg out his window! There was something yogic about it. He was wearing a tube sock on the foot that he had strenuously managed to stick out of his window while driving. It made us think of when we saw that woman smoking a cigarette and eating a strawberry ice cream cone at the same time. 2) On the flight from Memphis to Phoenix, reading DIE A LITTLE by Megan Abbott (pictured) I came across this nice phrase: "rain pail eyes." The same hungry character steals from a candy store where she works: "a waxy cream, a brittle honeyed toffee, a dissolving coconut spume." 3) In a bar in Phoenix, listening to some locals complain about the heat. I'm GLAD! I didn't want to be the whiny tourist. I was relieved to find through eavesdropping that the locals were as distraught as I was. I took a short walk and got a SUNBURN! At some point in the walk I called Theresa on the cell phone to - only half in jest - put my affairs in order. I genuinely felt that I was going to swoon or do some other manly thing. When I got back to the room, the TV was reporting that the current temperature was 107. I'm no geographer and I hate generalizations about various regions but I am going to go ahead and state for the record that there is NO SHADE IN ARIZONA, which makes matters worse. On a non-heat-related note, I heard one of the customers at the bar say, "I have to move 5,000 pounds of rubber today." I don't know precisely what he meant but I was sitting there thinking, "That sounds like a hard job!" The bartender, with whom I had a friendly conversation, had lived in Oxford, Alabama, at one time, so I was able to converse knowledgeably with her on the pristine restrooms at that particular interstate exit. "Do you find it a different kind of heat here?" someone asked me later. "Yes," I replied. "A hotter kind." We shared a chuckle, you may be sure! 4) In Abbott (on the flight to San Francisco) we find an orange with a "glaring rind." 5) MY WORST FEARS WERE CONFIRMED. I met a bookstore events coordinator who, in his introductory notes, referred to me as a "YA writer," having been misled by a certain poorly vetted review. In the bookstore's newsletter, a jaunty red balloon appeared beside my picture, along with a notation that my event was a "Special for Young Adults!" (Exclamation point theirs.) Luckily, no young adults showed up. But my audience was nice. Their names were Pamela and Frances. Hi, Pamela and Frances! 6) California really is "cold and damp." Before, I had always pooh-poohed those particular Rodgers & Hart lyrics. California always seemed nice and warm to me. I thought, "What are y'all talking about, Rodgers & Hart?" But yes, I got up one morning to general coldness and dampness. 7) Looking for a new part of the book to use for a public reading, I glanced at the "hay information" chapter with which "The Farmer" had so graciously helped me. I was mortified to discover that the hay information is in Chapter 23, whereas in my elaborate and affectionate inscription in the Farmer's personal copy of the book, I had mistakenly thanked him for inspiring Chapter 25. That chapter is about foot odor. 8) I ate a large burrito in the presence of Eli Horowitz, whom I had not met before. I dropped many parts of the burrito on my shirt over the moments we spent together, confirming, I feared, his assumptions (as I supposed) about persons of my particular age, regional origin, and body type. Of course, Eli is nicer than that and appeared to bear the revolting spectacle with gracious good humor. 9) I met a San Franciscan who has seen a UFO in San Francisco "from fifteen feet away"! 10) Went to a wonderful party at which a magnificent accordionist was perhaps insufficiently appreciated (though not by me; I DID appreciate him sufficiently, which is to say, a bunch) because there was a lot of other stuff going on. Here's the "web" site of the magnificent accordionist, Rob Reich. 11) A satisfying conversation with a cab driver. He said the thing that made him decide to drive a cab was a Bob Denver (pictured) movie called THE SWEET RIDE. It changed his life, he said. It's unavailable on video, he said. In the cab with me was an editor (not my editor, but a nice one indeed) from MacAdam/Cage, my publisher. This editor hails from Bakersfield. I tried to explain to her how awesome Buck Owens (also from Bakersfield) is. She wasn't buying it, entirely. She kept saying, "The Buckaroos? The BUCKAROOS?" as if naming his band the Buckaroos made him a bad person. The cab driver expressed some profane opinions about Bakersfield. Then he explained that THE SWEET RIDE was about men with "low" or no jobs who managed to effortlessly "get" beautiful women. 12) Never thought I'd hear my editor sing "Tiny Dancer" at a karaoke bar. But I did. 13) Make that two consecutive mornings confirming the accuracy of Rodgers & Hart. 14) At a great little bookstore called Dog Eared Books I picked up a first edition of Bob Hope's first stab at an autobiography, 1941's THEY GOT ME COVERED (not to be confused with the Hope film of the same name). It's a weird little book, paperback, very plainly put together... a blank back cover with no promotional copy or anything. Lots of pictures inside and an intro by Bing, but still weighing in at a skimpy 95 pages. Like my first edition of THE TOTAL FILMMAKER by Jerry Lewis, it set me back just six bucks. Naturally, I had to call McNeil and brag about my find. McNeil almost immediately found a first edition of THEY GOT ME COVERED on the "internet" for 99 cents. But with shipping and handling it'll be $4.98, so I don't feel too bad. And mine's in perfect condition, looks brand new. 15) In a coffee shop, still reading Megan Abbott. Here is the kind of sentence I love. It's like the sentence by Jesse James, Jr., but artful and purposeful, which is what makes it special: the art of no (apparent) artifice. It's my favorite kind of sentence in the world: "The music is so beautiful I think I'll never hear such beautiful music again." 16) Bad news: the erroneous "YA" designation (see above) goes up as my book's official description on the unnamed behemoth and arbiter of all received opinion. Good news: PW agrees to fix it by taking out the two offending letters "YA." The rest of the reviewer's obviously close reading remains untouched. 17) Jason Headley's wife, it turns out, resembles "blog" fave Paula Prentiss. 18) Trouble on the flight to L.A.: When the time comes for electronic devices to be turned off, one passenger refuses, loudly and angrily explaining that an iPod can never be turned off. "You have to wait an hour, then it goes to sleep," he says. Five or six passengers and crew gather to help him turn off his iPod. "It's not really off," he says. 19) Oh, I forgot to mention: I had an early flight to L.A. so I was up before dawn in San Francisco, looking for coffee. On the street, it was just me and the "Space Age Jesus" (as he introduced himself). He said, "Don't be afraid. I bring the light to the darkness." 20) Just a few blocks from my Los Angeles hotel, a theater was showing "blog" fave THE APARTMENT on the big screen. So I got to see that. I was reminded how early the big secret is revealed (to us, not to Jack Lemmon), and how the power of the story derives from that tactic. 21) Ran into an old acquaintance in LAX. I believe the odds are remarkable. In any case, it has never happened to me before. This very nice man, Mike by name, is a rock drummer of no small repute. I believe it is not too bold or personal for me to assert that he was once linked on the gossip pages with "Blog" Buddy Kelly Hogan. The last time I saw Mike was in 2005, in Chicago, during my first ever book tour, where we went to his apartment, ate enormous, locally grown pickled mushrooms from a big Mason jar, ordered authentic Chicago pizza, listened to music, and watched a FRASIER rerun with Kelly. Three years later, that is, yesterday, it turned out that we had both "performed" on the same weekend and in the same vicinity, missing one another entirely until our paths crossed at the airport. On parting, I received a hug! I did not anticipate it! It was unexpected yet not unwelcome. Mike is big and bearish and therefore prone to hugging.