Thursday, June 28, 2007

Once More, With Randomness

You know what? I don't particularly like how these travel entries are going. I'm not quite capturing what the coolest part of the whole thing was (meeting everyone, not only those pictured) or even the second coolest thing (the food! the drink! the private time with the baby daddy!).

So let's try it this way: Thanks for coming out and letting me meet you. I remember living in the Shenandoah Valley when Caleb was a new baby and feeling so desperately that My People had to be out there somewhere, but they weren't in my birthing class or even necessarily in the town where we lived. Stephanie was almost literally the only other new mother I knew, and she lived an hour away. There is such a thing as a limit on how many phone calls you can place to one person in a day. I was so giddy to find a community in Brain, Child, and I still am. Like I said before, next time, I want this thing to be a party.

So. Some pictures, and then we'll be back to the random anecdotes that are my milieu.

In Pasadena, I read with Brett Paesel--she read a piece from the book she's currently working on, and I cannot WAIT to read it.

Brandon and I were in Seattle for several days where we gorged ourselves on oysters and dim sum. I read with Theo Pauline Nestor at Third Place Books; she read something from her book that will out next March. Can I tell you that the people are going to eat it right up?

Next stop was Evanston, right outside of Chicago. I got to have lunch with Katy Read, then, after the reading, drinks with Katy, Joanne Brundage (the founder of Mothers & More), and Ellen Pinkham. I also met Carolyn Alessio and Sara Levine. I had no idea so much talent was packed in the Chicago area. (The picture is Joanne, Katy, me, Sara, Ellen.)

Weirdly, in Philadelphia, I dutifully carried around my camera, but didn't take any pictures, although I went to a great event at the local Mothers & More chapter (Lauren, the hostess with the mostest, is one of the founders, and blogger Lilian was there!) At the Border's in Springfield, I met Ellen Davies, whose essay was in BC's second issue.

My mom and I went to North Adams, MA, where I played the role of Nervous, Stammering Palate Cleanser between Catherine Newman and Jennifer Mattern. Here I play the role of photographer; pictured are my mom, Tina, The Mater, Jenn, Catherine, and Ali. Oh my Lordy, that was a fun night!

Random anecdotes to come.

The San Francisco Treat

The day after Rockville, Brandon and I set off on the part of the tour that we thought of as our anniversary treat: the West Coast Swang.

Did you know that San Francisco is really cold? Like really, really fucking cold especially when you've packed a suitcase full of sleeveless dresses? I went to Macy's and bought what looked like the warmest thing they had, a blue corduroy blazer with pre-frayed edges. I've never owned one before and I felt like an executive who fancied herself down. Listen, I'm an executive, but I'm business casual. Don't confuse me with The Man, 'kay?

SF was just beautiful. I'd read in our guide book that there's something awe-inspiring about taking the trolley (just like in the Rice-a-Roni commercials!) to the top of the hill and seeing the Bay and Alcatraz off in the distance. So true, guide book. So true.

Brandon and I did all the things you're supposed to do: riding the trolley, looking at the sea lions in the harbor, checking out Union Square. (When we were there once, there was what looked like an impromptu swing dance lesson going on.)

Our last evening in San Francisco, we went to Book Passage, a gorgeous bookstore that looks out right onto the Bay. This is Ron Jin, the wonderful event host.
(An aside: I was looking for something to read on the plane and Ron recommended Bento Box in the Heartland, a memoir about growing up Japanese in Indiana. A solid recommendation, that also had the effect of sparking in me a desire--nay, a need--for Japanese food.)

The evening was lovely. Would you like some gossip? I thought so. I met Caroline Grant, an editor at Literary Mama and also the editor (with Elrena Evans) of a forthcoming anthology about being a mother in academia. Well, Caroline's sister is Libby Gruner, of Midlife Mama and many other places.

I also met Eileen Bordy, whose work has appeared in Brain, Child several times. One of her essays was about what happens when your drinking buddy joins AA. "I was jealous," I told her, "that you had a friend to push you around in a grocery cart." She laughed, and we wound up going out for drinks and dinner with a couple of other women, one of whom may kill me for putting her picture on the blog (but email me if you want it down, B., okay?).

After that, Brandon and I went out to a karaoke bar. It was our first foray into public karaoke. Let's just say that it's one thing to sing songs you've practiced in front of your friends and family, but it's an entirely different thing to pick up a microphone to the tune of "You Ought To Know" and scream, "IS SHE PERVERTED LIKE ME?"

I'm betting the older Indian gentleman running the karaoke machine won't soon forget us.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Photographic Evidence: Rockville, MD

So where was I?

On June 5, I was at the Border's at White Flint Mall. Let me say: I spent my pre-teen and teen years in the Virginia D.C. suburbs, and I know malls. And Tyson's? Fair Oaks? I'm not casting any aspersions here, but they say the neon lights are bright in Rockville.

My mom, Brandon, and I about died when we saw that, so after we parked, Brandon jogged back out to the entrance and took 500 pictures of it.

The rest of the picture-taking was, alas, a bit spotty. But got to meet Elizabeth Roca in real life. She's been writing for Brain, Child since practically the get-go and is now BC's excellent staff editor, but we'd never met before. Is it creepy to say insta-friend? Anyway, there. I said it.

Here's a picture of Stacey Evers (also an insta-friend), waiting for me to finish signing stock copies. Stacey was BC's staff writer--I miss our weekly phone calls and it was so fabulous to hang out again.

Brain, Child's staff artist (and one of my oldest pals) Beth Hannon/Fuller was also there, plus another old friend Andrea. Andrea brought a picture of us, thirteen and acting extraordinarily goofy. Actually, come to think of it, she looks perfectly fine but I'm acting extraordinarily goofy, which may be why I grew up to devote a certain percentage of my time writing about karaoke and she grew up to be the chief of Dulles Airport's fire department.

I also met Devra Renner (I have a picture but I look insane in it and she looks like the next words about to come out of her mouth are "Oh, snap!"), writer Judith Marr, writer Lois Baron, and a lot of other cool people whose names I'm not certain I'm allowed to publish. A really good time had by at least one.

I get really ramped up after these events, so afterwards we went to a restaurant next door; I had a mojito and wished that this was more of a slumber party. This was to become a pattern.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hello Philadelphia and Western Massachusetts!

Good golly, I can't wait to write about the travelling. The people! The sights! The exploration of local beers! There were highlights, like shooting a TV segment for KOMO's "Northwest Afternoon" in Seattle and getting to experience a Green Room. ("It's actually green!" I exclaimed, in a fit of originality and cleverness.) There were lowlights, like walking with Brandon down a highway in Pasadena past a razor-wired long-term hotel and having recently purchased two six packs at the nearby liquor store. Soon, I'll be posting all the name-dropping and pictures of myself to which you've become accustomed.

But, given that I arrived home last night wearing a tee-shirt with a tiny bit of another day's dinner on it and pants that I'd worn as pajamas for the past three nights, there are some matters I have to attend to first.

Like a huge thank-you to everyone who attended the readings. Next time, this thing should be a party.

And like invitations. This week, I'll be in Philadelphia and North Adams, Massachusetts. The fabulous Lauren Whose Last Name I Don't Think I'm Supposed to Reveal has set up an event through the Delaware County Mothers & More chapter. It's on June 20, 7:30 p.m. at Makin' Music in Media, Pennsylvania.

Can't get a sitter? The next night, June 21, I'll be at the Borders in Springfield, PA, at 7 p.m. I had a wonderful time at the Border's in Rockville, and you know what they say about history repeating...

Then on Saturday, June 23, I'm reading with Jennifer Mattern and Catherine Newman at 7 p.m. at the North Adams Public Library; it's an Inkberry event, which sounds like the coolest writing center ever. Also, Jenn's and Catherine's work is so terrific, I'd come to this even if I weren't in the lineup.

I met Jenn through Brain, Child. She sent us one essay and we accepted it; she sent us another and we accepted it for the very same issue. (That has never happened in the history of Brain, Child, and to my mind, this is a Very Big Deal.) Jenn is also a playwright; I believe you call people of her vast talent "double threats," except her writing isn't threatening, but the sort that makes me laugh and think and get all inspired.

Catherine, I'm not sure how I met, but I love her work, including her book Waiting for Birdy. More recently, I read this column and laughed the giddy laugh of the deeply stoned or the extraordinarily appreciative. Oh, how I wait for her to put new things on her blog.

Clearly, these are the sort of things I must wear dinner-free shirts to, so I'm off to tackle some laundry.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Ain't No Place to Start a Family

I'm nearly packed. I need to hit the ATM today and also do something about Caleb's pajama situation (poor child, with his unitards and crop tops), but I'm pretty much set.

Before I left for the New York trip, there were about twenty minutes left and I called to Caleb, who was playing outside with one of his friends. "Want to come hang out with me?" I asked. "I'm going to leave soon."

"No," he said, maybe a bit guiltily. "But I'll hug you really hard before you leave." So there I was, both with my feelings hurt and shivering in fear of the bone crushing to come.
I'll be in Rockville, San Francisco, Pasadena, Seattle, and Chicago. (Details are here.) Two of the events are two-fers.

In Pasadena, I'll be reading with Brett Paesel. I met her through Brain, Child when we ran her essay "Can I Get a Witness?" about fertility. We also both had essays in the anthology Toddler--Brett's essay got the book banned in a town in Oregon. (What, they can't take a little mention of cock?) I'm a huge fan of her book Mommies Who Drink; her writing is this wonderful mix of funniness and earnestness. On top of it all, she's not only a fab writer but an actress--I mention this so you know that at least one of us will be reading in a way that does not remind you of yourself reading a bedtime story.

In Seattle, I'll be reading with Theo Pauline Nestor; the very first short story Brain, Child published was hers and we've run many of her essays over the years. Sometimes, when we're figuring out the balance of essays in a given issue, Stephanie and I will say to each other, "Do you know what we could use? A Theo Nestor." Meaning, something that's thoughtful, funny, and complicated, which is harder to pull off than you might think. Theo's essay "The Chicken's in the Oven and My Husband's Out the Door" is in the New York Times anthology Modern Love, and her book How to Sleep Alone in a King Size Bed will be out next January, from what I understand. Girlfriend is good.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to get online, but when I return, there will be pictures. Hope to see you!
One more thing, and I'm putting this here because I don't know how to set up the auto-response on my email. (I also don't know how I got to adulthood, what with the technoduncery.) If there's some book-related thing you need to get in touch with me about, you can email my terrific publicist at Putnam, Yamil Anglada (yamil dot anglada at us dot penguingroup dot com).
Oh, hell, yet one more thing, since I'm already knee-deep in the unseemly self-promotion. This is the excerpt of Practically Perfect that we're running in Brain, Child's summer issue. I'll be reading different parts of the book, so reading the link won't spoil a thing (unless you're like me and reading anything of length online, particularly without your reading glasses, makes your eyes go spazzy.)