Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Maine Things In Life

Blessed, cool, wonderfully green Maine. Of all the places I’ve been to now on this trip, finally the one that eases my traveling heart. This feels familiar, secure and relaxed. Maybe it’s the illusion of being closer to home, or maybe it was the immediate feeling of familiarity with Steve and Nancy, or maybe it even is a mentality thing with the East Coasters being so more European than other Americans. Whatever it is, I love being here. I love my hosts, witty, graceful, and living in a home full of books where the conversation ever returns to writing and authors.

AND LOOK AT THIS: I HAZ A PORCH! And it is not too hot to sit out on it and enjoy the slider and the view!

I flew out of Roanoke, VA, on this cute little machine. It was a very fun thing to do, but I have yet to get on a flight in the US that leaves on time.

Also, I have yet to get on a plane where I do not feel like part of a herd of cattle being forced into a too-small barn.

One fantastic thing happened on the flight from Charlotte to Portland though.

There were these two ladies sitting next to me, and we started talking, and after a while they asked where I was from and what I was doing. So I dug out my pre-launch booklets and my business cards (thank you, Buddha's!) and handed them over to them, and for the rest of the two-hour flight they read my book! And they were SO engrossed in it they nearly missed the service and went without their coffee. That was a pretty awesome moment. It was also a very AWKWARD moment, watching them read my novel, squeezed into the window seat with not a chance to escape, totally at their mercy.

BUT THEY LOVED IT! And I now have an invitation to come and visit in Memphis and do a reading there, too. Oh well.


Would I ever dare to defy an order from Leslie? Nuh-huh. Thankfully, I could convince Nancy and Steve to take me there, and this is the result:


A lesson in lobster-eating. Nancy said having a whole lobster for lunch was totally decadent, but do I care? I’m an author now, and I have the grand excuse of doing weird things for the sake of research. There you go. As Nancy would also say.

Yesterday, I had a visitor. Cute and lively Alicia aka A. Minor (better known to twitter friends as @BrightMoments ) came up to Freeport all the way from Vermont to meet me.

I have this vision of getting her and Suzie together. That would be a spectacular event. Two tornadoes clashing. A tsunami meeting a hurricane. The Moon hitting the Earth. The Milky Way swallowing the Andromeda Nebula. You get my drift.


Oh, and since we are talking about Suzie: Hey, Sue, remember the Coach outlet in Burlington? Remember the patchwork purse I liked and did not buy? Well guess what Alicia MADE ME DO yesterday. She is the world’s WORST enabler, even worse than you, my dear.

Also, Alicia, she felt like I had known her all my life. As if we were picking up a conversation that had been going on for a very long time, as if we had been sisters or friends in a former life. Sometimes, with some people, that happens. I have met a number of them on this trip, but this was still special.

Honey, we will meet again. And I was sad to let you go last night.

Tonight I have my book reading here at the Freeport Library. I have to admit I was apprehensive, but then Steve and Nancy took me to meet the people there. The librarian recognized me when I walked in! And they were all so nice and pleased to meet me, my fear blew away. Now I’m looking forward to going there tonight, and I hope  someone will show up. Anyway, Steve is making dinner for them, so whoever does NOT come misses out on that, and there you go.

Maine is treating me very well. I’d love it even more if there there wasn’t the worst staircase in the world in this house, and the bathroom downstairs while I sleep upstairs. It’s not even me I’m worried about (yes I am; I’m terrified.) but Nancy and Steve, having to live here. I’ll be gone by Sunday, and every day I don’t fall down and break my neck my risk of doing so grows smaller.

Oh well. I’ll take those stairs any day to have the privilege of being a guest here.

Today Nancy and I will go on a drive along the coast to some place where she wants to get blueberries. The air is fresh and cool, the sun is shining, there is a slight breeze, and Steve promised is steak for later. I know. Life is good in Maine.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Out Of The Loop

Hi, folks, here are the tweets I WOULD HAVE sent if there was wifi here. Probably many more, in reply to what you would say to me, but this is the gist, I figure. Miss you all a lot.



- Had the the best of times with @crookedstamper. She is SO sweet”! Thank you, Leslie, for being my friend. I’m very honored indeed. :)

- Luray Caverns, or the cold, sweaty dungeons of hell. Made it through, but barely. But I WALKED ALL THE WAY! No cane, no wheelchair, nothing! (Don’t ask what I did right after getting out again, though.)

- Going southward in a little @understandblue-blue truck.

- Made it to Topsail Island, took the wrong turn only twice. Landed in the dingiest part of some town in the middle of the night, got out again.

- Not sure we are on an island. There was a bridge, but we saw no water. Might have been because of the darkness though.

- The Bunneh and her BF insist on me taking the bedroom with the big bed while they sleep in the bunk beds. SO sweet of them!

- No internet. Damn all. But nice view of the beach, and a full moon reflecting on the surface of the ocean.

- There are drinks. I think I’m having Dr. Pepper’s with vodka or something. Not that I care. 2am in the morning.

- Oh yes and it’s my birthday. Happy Birthday, me. xxx

- These people get up way too early. IT’S ONLY 7am FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! GET SOME SLEEP!

- Walk on the beach with the Bunneh. We found some seashells and driftwood. The water is nice!

- Topsail Island: 5 gazillion houses, three roads, twenty gift shops and not much else.

- Kid next door - or rather next balcony - is screaming like a banshee. Big brother, maybe 12, is emptying Coke cans down into the yard. Think I’ll go inside.

- Hehehe - I brought the cool weather with me from home. “Normally it’s WAY hotter!” Oh, really? Lol

- When everything else fails, my writing is a place I can always go to. Happy Birthday!

- Bought myself a silver shark teeth ring for my birthday!

- Can’t wait to meet @buddhapuss. Will I THEN feel like an author, I wonder?

- Lonely. Tired. Wish my hubby was here.

- The most unsavory place on Earth. It should not even carry the name “diner” or “grill”. It should be burned to the ground. #Notsocoolforabirthdaydinner

- Insight: even if you use it all by yourself a toothpaste tube will be empty in three weeks.

- Slept in today. So there. Hello Sunday.

- So, @RalphGraves, what makes you think Topsail Island is “undiscovered”? There isn’t an inch of empty land here, except for the protected dunes. House after house after house.

- Heartily sick of fried food.

- Sorting old family photos with @holyxuxa. Some pretty creepy stuff there. Lots of pics of people in their coffins.

- Nothing open for lunch on Topsail Island but the seedier spots. So cherries and strawberries it is, and a table booked for dinner.

- Not to self: don’t forget the sunblock next time.

- Tweeting without twitter is like driving without gas.

-Topsail Island food, redeemed: excellent dinner at “Bistro at Justbaked”. Wow, that was the best chicken in my life. Move over, @Georgia_browns.

- The Bunneh has gone down to the beach. Injection aftermath for me, I’m on the couch now.

- The tide here is pitiful. 20 meters, you call that a TIDE?

- I’m in a country full of Americans…

- Good morning, Monday!

- 7am, and already it’s muggy and hot outside. The Bunneh has gone for a stroll on the beach. Today we’ll try to find a place with wifi. And visit some antique stores.

- Read the first two chapters of my new novel to @holyxuxa last night. She loved it. But then she loves everything I write. :)

- vVVROOOooming down the highway to Wilmington, top of the car down, hair blowing in the wind!

- In Wilmington, searching for some coffee shop with wifi.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Week At The Spa

I'm having a spa week.

Air-conditioned rooms, French Vanilla coffee, a huge bed, a rocking chair, pedicure, manicure,  massage, great food and VATS of homemade Margaritas.

I get to be driven around Washington DC at night, when all the monuments are illuminated, and I get to see the Library of Congress, where MY book will be soon, too.

On Sunday, I was introduced to kettle corn, bought along the road from these guys who surely have the hottest job in the world, and not in a good way.

It was hot walking to that tent, but it was WAY hotter where they were working. Hot in a really bad way. Make me think of Biggs. A tiny, roadside version of it. But the popcorn was really great!

The DC area still has me geographically confused with all its suburbs, waterways, shores and bays and the mess of highways that always seem to lead AROUND the city but never into it. I can't even figure out why they call the Eastern Shore the "Eastern" Shore when it actually faces West.

Driving across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was a real adventure. There's a story here. Ever since I was a teenager I've dreamed of seeing the Chesapeake Bay. One of my  English teachers, a lady a adored very much for her fun lessons, had a sister living here, and she used to tell us about her visits. It sounded just like the place I would want to see.

Leslie took me to St. Michaels on afore-mentioned Eastern Shore (It's on the WESTERN shore of that peninsula, guys!) for crab cakes and a meeting with Patti. Patti is the sweetest little thing in the world, and her paintings are quirky and cute. She loves to portrait flying pigs and fluffy owls, there's a hint of Chagall in her images. Leslie has a number of them. The flying pigs watch me when I'm brushing my teeth in the morning... oh well.

The crab cakes though... not so much. Sorry, friends. I tried, and I was WILLING to like them, really. But... no. The raw clams though, those were awesome.

Leslie had a good time. She got to eat two crab cakes instead of one, and I left the place sort of hungry. NOT anybody's fault, I might have gotten something else, right?

So driving back, we went down to the beach. I was afraid of the beach. In Vancouver, I nearly did not make it back to the car, the walking on the sand was so hard on my back. Sue had to help me, and I was ready to cry by the time we got back on safe ground. But here, in the heat of a Washington day, and barefoot on sand so hot it would make glass melt, I did just fine. We dipped our feet into the Chesapeake Bay!

And yes, I walked all that and back again! On my own!

Also in St. Michaels, I found a perfect setting for my new book. It's almost as perfect as Floro was, and that's saying something. I made Leslie (who is really very patient with me) drive me up to this pretty little hotel and walk around and through it, and I'm very happy we did that. This will surely be a part of my story!

On the way back home we stopped in Annapolis. That's a really pretty old town. Lots of tourists, though, and, sadly, lots of tourist stuff. I wanted to go to the Naval Academy and get a t-shirt for my son, and so we did. It was HOT. Walking along those sidewalks and across the parking lot was hot hot hot.

The visitors' center, on the other hand, was as cold as a fridge. They really know how to do A/C.

Today we are going to meet Marianne. We will visit her at her home, and there will be FIVE dogs. I wonder why so many of my friends own dogs? I don't even like dogs, and at Jane's house, in Ellensburg, they lay down beside me on the couch. And they are cute, I have to admit, albeit grudgingly. I think Sue's spaniel, Cara, felt that I'm not overly fond of canines. I was polite to her, and she was polite to me, but that was it. Jane's papillons though, they adored me. Well, not me. They adored the tomatoes I was eating. And wanted their share. So today, five big dogs. Oh well.

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's A New Day

Can I just blog this? I mean, it's a day you get only once in your life as a writer. It's the day  when you turn from a writer into an author.

There. The proof I've made it. From my couch onto Amazon, published, ready to pre-order. Looks good to me.

Please, give me these five seconds of being pleased at what I've achieved. I swear, I'm not bragging. But very, very pleased.


The Devil's Armpit

So the plan was to go to Biggs Junction on the Oregon border.

Sue and I drove down from Vancouver to Seattle to meet Jane's sister-in-law in this little red hot thing, all along the Chuckanut Drive along the coast.

There was, of course, another border crossing involved, only this time, with the green paper slip in my passport, they were totally not interested in me. It was kind of a let-down, after I was all geared up with another run-in with Chinese border guy. Oh well. the drive to Seattle was pretty and pretty uneventful, except for Sue going into shopping-mode at the outlet stores and NEARLY pulling me in. It did not work though. I only got involved two dresses deep. That's not much, is it? I know I saved about a  thousand bucks buying them, and shut up about saving even more if I had not bought them at all.

We had breakfast here.

There was a whole lovely yard hidden away in the back, and they served a great breakfast indeed! The Bloody Mary rocked.  They were not too stingy on the booze.

From Seattle, up into the desert we went, east east east of the coast and up the mountains into the dry and hot interior of Washington State to Jane's little house on the prairie in Ellensburg. We were there just in time for champagne, ribs and potato salad, and the 4th of July fireworks. And even in Ellensburg WA they play Neil Diamond's "America" for that.

Ellensburg knows how to do style! And Jane knows how to do a 4th of July dinner! Just look at these ribs!

Out on the porch, looking out towards the hills... until the mosquitos come out and chew the flesh off your ankles. There's always wind in Ellensburg. It's a hot, dry wind, and it comes howling down from the mountains.

Jane makes the most amazing ribbon artwork. She has the tiniest hands in the world and crafts the tiniest flowers with them, sitting at her large dining table while the wind stirs the curtains and her dogs lie sleeping on the dark hardwood floor or her old house. That house is a wonder all onto itself, filled with lovely antique things and art.

Now Biggs Junction. If you want to know why I wanted to go there so badly, read this. The COMMENTS are the funny part. Don't they just make you die to see that place? I had to talk my friends into going, and I bribed them by finding a really neat restaurant for lunch. More about that later.

First, Biggs Junction.

That's it, down there.

I like to call it the Devil's Armpit. There is nothing there. I mean, really nothing. A McDonalds, a Pilot, a gas station, I think a Burger King, and a motel that has seen better days. It a truck stop in the middle of nowhere, stuck on the Columbia River, right on the border between Washington State and Oregon. Being down there was like being in a kettle corn copper kettle. Hot, sticky, dingy, and nothing but a dirty old pot without the corn popping in it. Seen from the other side of the river, high up in the park of the Maryhill Museum, it is totally different.

The others parked me on a bench right on the edge of the gorge while they strolled around and looked at the art, and I was all alone up there with the Monarch butterflies and the bees. The bench stood in the shade of some trees so I was not too warm, bees danced among the sagebrush at my feet. It was a very quiet moment.


From down below by the river came the constant drone of the highway running along it, and the other one crossing it to go up into the hills of Oregon on the other side. Heat made the air over the water and the arid land waver. It almost seemed as if the gorge was filled with a vicious, roiling, translucent gas that would sear your throat with every breath. And that place, Biggs, called to me. I swear, it called. Spitefully, in a mean little voice, it said, "Come on, jump. Jump into the river and make an end. Quit fighting it, you're welcome to join the other desperate, lost souls. I dare you, jump." It felt just like that, as if, out of pure envy at everyone who could walk away and leave it behind, it tried to lure me into staying. Oh well. I told it we were going to get the hell out of there and not returning, ever, and we drove away without looking back.

Oh, one more thing? I had a lovely chat with the general manager of the Pilot in Biggs. She said living there felt like being in a life penitentiary. The sweet lady, someone should rescue here. She was so nice.

One of my pre-launch booklets is now in Biggs Junction too, signed and all. I hope she will like it.

We drove to Goldendale for lunch. Trust me. If you EVER are in that region, this is where you want to eat. The Glass Onion. A gourmet restaurant lost in the middle of nowhere. A place of style, grace and excellent cuisine, very cool jazz music and great atmosphere – in GOLDENDALE? That place is so small, there can't be more than twenty people living there, and they have a restaurant like that?

Now I'm in Washington DC.

Last night my friend Leslie took me on a drive to see all the illuminated monuments. The White House, even seen only from the distance, is still something to see, and it looks a lot larger in real life than it does on TV. I've also had the first green collards of my life, and I liked them! I would gladly have passed on the fried chicken to get another serving of that!

Tomorrow we will go to the Chesapeake Bay for crab cakes.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Things To Do In Vancouver

Vancouver could be pretty nice if it wasn't this cold. The way things are though, I'm afraid I brought the wrong kind of clothing. Right now, I'm hanging on to the only pair of wool socks I brought along, and without them I would be lost. Just this morning, while I was shivering away in my thick socks and with Sue's sofa spread wrapped around me, her husband came up from watching the news in his "man cave" in the basement, announced he would go out to the driving range and hit some balls. Then he stepped outside on the patio ( VERY cold air coming in through the open door), returned and announced he would change into his shorts. Seriously.

I'm telling you, there is some truth to the myth that Canadians live in igloos.  I have yet to see a really warm day here.

So today is Canada Day. It's the day when all Canadians wear something with their flag (that's the red and white one with the maple leaf) or at least something red. Sue took me to have a pedicure the other day, and here's the result. Oh, and btw.? When the pedicure lady asked me on which foot I wanted which flag, I said I wanted the US on the left to show my political sympathy with the Democrats.  There you go. This is as political as I'll ever get on this blog. It's ok to be a Democrat, even in the US.

Somewhere deep in the side of my cheek, like, right next to my only left-over wisdom tooth, there's this story sitting about how they turned us away when we tried to cross the border the first time. I'll not tell it, nuh-huh. I know I will want to visit my peeps down there again, maybe as soon as next year. And it was NOT the country's fault, or even the law's, but... ok shutting up now. So here are the toenails, painted to honor Canada Day and Independence Day and everything.

The pedicure lady made us stand as close together as we could, until Sue said, "This is it, the boobs are getting squished." And no, we did not have a drink. We can be like that, just like that.

That same night, Sue's husband made dinner for us. Drool.  Salmon in Canada. Need I see more? There was some salad, VERY nice salad, but really, who cares about salad when there's THIS?

Two nights ago I had my first-ever book reading.

Yes, I was nervous. And yes, I wanted to get out of it before it happened. Sue kept talking about it all day long, even when we went across the border for Thai lunch. She would be such a good manager,  she eased me through the entire day, and when we got home from that trans-border trip she made me a double espresso, sent me to sit on the porch and practice my reading. "Read out loud to the neighborhood. If you can do that, you'll be fine tonight." And she was right. While I read my novel to the street, she got the buffet for the guests going.

There were only five ladies at the reading, but I'll tell you something: five is perfect. Five means sitting together on the couches, getting really comfortable, and chatting about the book and its writing like chatting over a knitting pattern or a new recipe. It's intimate, you can't avoid their questions, and your listeners go home with the feeling of really having "met" an author. They took away my pre-launch booklet to give to their friends and their book clubs, and I have a feeling their good impression will take me a long way.

Of course, it helps a lot to have a friend like Sue by your side on a night like this. It helps a LOT.

See? Me, signing my booklets. Does that look good or what? It sure FEELS good, I can tell you.

So today is Canada Day. It's a national holiday, I've been told. Something like the 4th of July for the Americans. And yet people go to work and stores are open. That seems quite uncivilized and cruel to me. In Germany, on a holiday, the only thing open are hospitals, gas stations and theaters. Oh well, and restaurants. Stores? Not. Offices? Totally not. Just like on Sundays. Everything is closed. You better don't forget your toothpaste when you go shopping on Saturday. Or, Heaven forbid, the toilet paper. Need I explain? No, I thought not. And I have to say I like it that even, despite the occasional toothpaste emergency ( now don't get ahead of me on the toilet paper. That was  totally made up.).

Well, anyway. The sun is shining now. We still won't be going down to the beach to celebrate for several reasons, one of which is a deep secret and to be blogged about at a later time.

Oh, and as an afterthought: This here was my first US meal. Thai. Go figure.