Saturday, December 22, 2007

Back Home, November in Review

It’s been a while. Naturally, I blame my prolonged absence on the book tour, which come to think of it, doesn’t explain the month of December, which got consumed by the end-of-the-semester business, rest, sleep shoveling snow, doing dishes, paying bills… You get the idea.

But now I’m back and I fully intend to post regularly, about twice a week. Let’s call it my new New Year’s resolution.

My last post was about Pittsburgh and Syracuse. What came next? you might wonder. Or maybe not, but I’ll tell you anyway.

Next came Chicago and a reading at the lovely Myopic Books in Wicker Park. Then Milwaukee, not as happening as Wicker Park, but then again, I was staying in a very stylish hotel in the downtown area (thank you, Norton!), and all downtowns tend to get desolate at night. Then 2.5 days in Houston – the enormous spread-out Houston with its famous traffic jams that can happen at any time, its gorgeous (if not very sturdy) houses, its endless shopping plazas. (A friend was telling me about his family’s experience during a post-Katrina hurricane, and I was starting to see how easy it would be to get trapped in that place.) Finally back to Midwest. Hello and good bye, St. Paul/Minneapolis. I would’ve loved to see more, but by the time I got there, it was already getting dark, and the next morning I flew back to Connecticut.

The following week, Movie Dictator and I flew to LA to do the final – West Coast – leg of the tour. I’ll try to summarize the trip into easily digestible bullet points:

- Flying with a smoker (i.e. Movie Dictator) has its challenges, and we came close to missing our flight from Hartford.

- US Airways sucks. And the food they sell sucks even more.

- Driving in LA, at first, wasn’t as bad as we’ve been told. Armed with our mighty GPS device and secure in our rental car, we did just fine on the first night.

- Then it got worse. I kept missing exits and turns because they would pop up so abruptly. And changing lanes during rush hour… forget it!

- Did you know that LA was terribly polluted? Oh, you did…
(See if you can spot the HOLLYWOOD sign in the distance.)

- LA was one of the places Movie Dictator was ready to fall in love with -- the home of movie geeks and weirdos like himself. What we saw instead was a desperate place, spread out, congested, and compared to New York, kind of empty.

- On the other hand, Santa Monica was rather nice.

- Malibu was endless and ultimately not very interesting.

- Once it gets dark, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re driving on Rt. 1 or 101. You won’t see much either way.

- Avoid Motel 6 at all costs. Even if… no, especially if the lobby looks like a Starbucks with a flat-screen TV.

- Driving on the Golden Gate Bridge is great – unless there’s a fog, in which case you won’t see a thing.

- After San Francisco, switch to Rt. 1 and you’ll eventually arrive at the setting of Hitchcock’s The Birds.

- The coast is very pretty. But you might eventually get motion sick from the very steep serpentine turns. Also, you can’t go very fast.

- Vineyards. So many vineyards.

- And then…redwood forests! Fantastic, surreal, enormous, not to be missed. They make it all worthwhile.

- Redwood forests in the dark. In the mist. On a two-lane road. Fun for the passenger, terrifying for the driver.

- Welcome to Oregon. The coast is even more amazing than in California, harsher, more untamed. People, too, look more ragged. Also, it’s gotten colder.

- More Oregon. Oregon. Oregon. Then Washington. It takes a long time to get to Seattle.

- Even longer if where you’re going not to Seattle proper, but toward Redmond area.

- Even longer if your GPS gets confused.

- Even longer if it starts raining.

- When you finally arrive you might temporarily become hysterical.

- You’d like to sleep for 2 days straight. But you can’t, because next morning you have 2 interviews and then in the evening, a reading. You will briefly fall asleep at the cafĂ© in Barnes & Noble.

There’s a lot more, of course: Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco. But to tell the truth, just writing about the 3-day drive from LA to Seattle made me tired. Would I do it again? I don’t know. Am I glad that we did? You bet. I now understand people who take over two weeks to do this trip – so many possible detours, so many cool places to stop at. I especially wish we had more time for those wonderful redwood forests.

All right, back in a few days with something more up-to-date and relevant.

It’s good to be back.