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October 19, 2007

The one where I make up for not writing for a week.... you might want to get coffee.

It's Friday and I'm back home and my cats are attached to my leg right now like I am made of catnip and tuna fancy feast rolled into pajama pants. I missed them and would have brought them gifts of apology but I am so tired I have even lost the will to shop, and you know that is some t-i-r-e-d.

But before I go to bed in the middle of the afternoon (decadent!!! I am defying the laws of sleep gravity!!) I wanted to tell you all that people in the Northwest are very goodlooking and you should go there immediately. No one was rushed and pissed off, at least not by Los Angeleno standards. People are so nice! And laid-back and did I mention goodlooking? Why don't I live there? I wanted to stay in both Portland and Seattle for weeks longer, I didn't get nearly enough. I'm on this insane press schedule that looks something like this: "Wake up at 5 a.m. and try not to make an ass of yourself with many different reporters for a whole day then go read and not barf and also, your Spanx are showing." One of the things I am learning as I go along is that this whole touring thing is not what I expected (in so many ways.) Back when this was all first mentioned to me, I just assumed you flew to a city and waited around all day until your event, then you did your event and went back to the hotel. But instead you actually work all day, going from interview to interview, getting hauled all over town by a complete stranger who has to listen to you say things such as "There is no barfing in publishing. Right?" and also, "Do you ever have clients who talk about cat poop?"

And I got to see rain! And have actual Seattle coffee and mucho vino in Portland which I believe was obvious in my post late last night. I was celebrating making it through thirteen hours of talking to strangers. And apparently I have lived in Los Angeles for so long that I forgot what "cold" meant because I forgot to bring a coat and it was, you know, kind of chilly. But I had my Patons SWS hat and GOT TO WEAR IT FOR REAL (not just pretending in L.A. when it's 68 degrees in a cold snap) and that is all that matters.

So I'm just going to yammer on here, to better prepare you for when YOU go on your first book tour, because me personally? I was the definition of clueless! Like when you do these appearances in cities where Drew and Your Family do not live, you have an actual escort whose job it is to get you to places on time and help you not barf (Oh, sorry! I know that is not part of your job but thank you all the same!)

Did ya'll even know that there was a job called "author escort"? I had no idea! I asked Team Publicity if I could get a male escort (heh) named George Clooney but they said no. I guess they reserve him for special guests. But my escorts Sandra (in Seattle) and Elizabeth (in Portland) were awesome and should have gotten combat pay for all the nuttiness I bring in my wake. And since I can't really take too many pictures while I am reading I wheedled both my escorts to take my camera and snap away. Apparently, not only am I a picture-taking fool, but after some coaxing and promises of wine, I am turning my escorts into picture-taking fools, too! This Flickr thing is the best, I am right now uploading everything there so you can see the awesomeness of the Northwest. (Also, I am so exhausted right now I can't name them all, but I'll go back soon and add titles to the pictures, promise.) (Also, my connection is slow, so Portland pics are uploading one-by-one as we speak.)

Seattle was my first stop and it was AWESOME, that city is beyond beautiful. The plane came into town just as the sun was setting and the whole city was lit up and gorgeous and even though I have flown into some beautiful places in my life, it was Seattle that made me gasp. Also, it was bumpy and there was gasping. Planes are not my thing. I got into the hotel and ate dinner and went straight to bed, because at 4:45 a.m. I had to be awake and curling my hair (rain, why do you not love my hot rolleredness?) and ready to go on scary live TV.

Yes, LIVE TV. I called my publicist in a panic when I found out about the live part. "Are you sure?" I asked. "Have you MET me? Any old thing could fly out of my mouth!" And she said, "I've met you but they haven't, so HAH HAH." But it went well and Joyce Taylor was so friendly she made me feel less like a stressball than usual.

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Joyce Taylor and me and we are apparently a hallucination

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This is the cutest woman in morning TV: intern Dina Molina who walked me back into the studio and had to assure me over and over I wouldn't barf on camera. Dina, you need to be a therapist because you ROCKED!

Then right after that we were off to another TV station to film Northwest Afternoon, and I think my segment will air on Monday. I do not believe the male half of the interviewing team was loving the Drunk Cat Lady Book but I did the best I could. Also, they were not loving that I wanted to take a picture of the live studio audience:

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I can't help it! I have never met a live studio audience before!

Before going out there, though, I was in the green room (which was actually green) with one of the other guests, Beth Holloway. Later after we were out of the green room and actually taping the interviews, I forced her to pose with me backstage after her segment because she about broke my heart in two while she was out there speaking. Whatever you may think of all the news coverage of Natalee's disappearance, her mother is one classy, amazing lady and she has a new book out, and she is lovely and strong and kind in person:

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She is an amazing woman. It was an honor to meet her.

After all the Tvness, I got to stop by this amazing yarn shop called Tricoter. Had I known the ladies there were famous knitting book writers, I would have been more shy and tried not to go, but I'm so glad I did because they were fun and fed me apple slices and let me fondle the most gorgeous yarn.

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L-R: Gorgeous Beryl Hiatt, cat lady, lovely Linden Ward

Also by this time I have yammered on enough about knitting that my adorable escort Sandra is getting into the idea:
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That is cute Julie from Tricoter on the left and my awesome escort Sandra!

And I signed some books there and then Sandra took me off to Elliot Bay bookstore... apparently if you write a book you're supposed to stop in when you can and sign them and then the store puts a sticker on the book saying it's signed, etc. I was nervous, because I had never done it before and Sandra was with me so I asked her what is apparently the dumbest question ever asked by an author, which is, "How do they know it's you? Do they ask for ID?" And ya'll. They do NOT ask for ID! So I was like, "Hey, Sandra, can we say I'm Anne Rice?" and she said, "Well, she's a little too recognizable."

"How about Alice Munro? Can we say I'm Alice Munro?"
"Too Canadian. Your accent will give you away..."
"Anne Rivers Siddons?"
"Honey, just sign your books."

But it was fun, and I so plan on walking into some bookstore in the Valley and telling them I am Anne Rice. Hand me some books to sign!

And while we were at Elliot Bay Bookstore, guess who was speaking!!!

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That Is Carl Bernstein! He was promoting his new book on Hillary Clinton. It was like stumbling on a treasure! We stopped to listen for a few minutes, then I had to get to my own reading at the Barnes & Noble on Pine Street.

This is Erin, possibly the cutest, most efficient and professional and fun person I have met so far:

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She was AMAZING. I hope someone at Barnes & Noble Corporate knows what a gem they have in Seattle, Erin is one of the most in-charge, totally professional and personable people I have ever met, hands-down.

And Seattle was so much fun, I couldn't believe ya'll came out in force!

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I love the Q&A because it's more like a conversation, like just sitting around with the family and telling stories, and in Seattle I talked everyone's ears off because did I mention I was up at 4:45 and also Seattle has GREAT coffee?

Right after the event I left the store and headed for the airport, which was no longer serving food of any kind, but luckily Erin had gifted me a bag of Cheetos and I found myself sitting in the Seattle airport actually being my own stereotype:

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Dinner of champions.

I arrived in Portland at midnight and also, Dear Portland Airport: Why do you close all the bathrooms for cleaning at the SAME TIME? I had to practically beg my way into a ladies room, it was so sad.

The next morning I was off to the cutest yarn shop ever, Twisted in Portland. There I got to meet the Portland Oregonian's EXPERT Knitting reporters, Peggy and Mims:

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For the rest of the day I went from one end of the city to another for interviews and got to meet some great folks and sweat a lot and not eat a damn thing (so sad) and finally at 6:10 the NPR reporter, Kerri, packed up and I brushed my teeth and headed out for Powell's in ... YES...yes, yes, BEAVERTON.

I had been a teensy bit (read: incredibly very) worried about Portland because every time I mentioned that event one person would comment and say, "I am so happy to meet you in Portland!" and then eleventy-nine people would carryon and moan and complain about it being in the Beaverton Powell's store, and it went on to such a degree that between me and Jen and Kim, Publicists For The Crazy, it became an issue which we began to call "The Beaver Factor."

Because while I myself am a pathological people pleaser and would gladly pack up and move the show to Powell's Whereverland just to make ya'll happy, as it turns out I have NO CONTROL WHATSOEVER over this schedule. And by "no control" I mean "control: so not in my hands" and also "control: merely a Janet Jackson album."

I am not fooling with you. It's not like I am telling Team Publicity to avoid your house because I don't like you. If I were in control do ya'll think I would be running around so much there isn't even time to pee? I'm just lucky to find an airport with a bar serving wine at midnight at this point.

Therefore it pains me each time someone says, "Why aren't you coming to my hometown/house/tailgate party/cat's birthday celebration?" because I myself would happily come to your houses and get you liquored up and read excerpts from the book but in Planet Publishing this is apparently not a cost-effective way to sell books. It is sad because I think we could get your cat hopped up on catnip, too, and call that a day.

And for a control enthusiast such as myself, having no control is frustrating enough without hearing what appears to be every single reader in the state of Oregon complain that to make the arduous journey to The Beaver they would have to find Laura Ingalls' covered wagon, hire a local guide, fortify for winter, cross the treacherous river valley for the New Territory and possibly fall into the same fate as the Donner Party if they couldn't find a fur trading station along the way to shelter them from the coming winter. But isn't Pa hunky all the same? And why is Nellie such a brat? And why are the Ingalls' family suddenly in Oregon?

It started depressing me, thinking no one would show up and get to hear my Beaver jokes. But then I just went self-helpy on my ownself and decided that if only me and my escort Elizabeth showed up for the event, it was part of God's master plan to get me back to the hotel expediently because that is where the wine is. Amen.

Of course I worried and gave myself Beaver Wrinkles (heh) for nothing, though, because Portland ROCKED:

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Excuse me, correction. Not Portland. THE BEAVER rocked. I cannot thank you enough for driving out and braving the weather (weather! It was very exciting, and wet) and I LOVED Portland, too, even the Beaver. Powell's is a fabulous bookstore, and people in the Northwest -- at least all the folks I met and saw -- are warm and friendly and polite and just have a good vibe about them, more laid-back, reserved and yet incredibly welcoming at the same time. I loved loved loved this trip. Meeting people seemed so scary but ya'll have been so warm, I'm not sure I can ever tell you how much it has meant to me to finally put faces to names (pdxWoman! Aarwen! Rabbitch!) and to poor Christina in Seattle, I apologize for mauling you with hugs, I was just so damn happy to meet you.

OK, pardon the next part. I haven't slept in eight days, so you know. Emotions: running high!

But all of this stuff I have been doing is like it's happening to some other version of me, maybe Laurie 2.0. I spent a fair amount of time wondering if I would actually be able to do all the things they had scheduled for me, interviews and TV and speaking in front of people and I won't lie to you, I was kind of suspecting that by now I'd be checking into the Betty. But you know what? I did it. I actually showed up.

Part of doing this for me is not thinking it through ... just thinking about the next two minutes of time, not the next two hours or weeks or months. I know in my heart that other people are really good at all this and enjoy it and would stab me with a fork to switch places, and I am not being ungrateful, I have just been plain old scared. My real life is quite small and controlled, I speak to MAYBE three people a day and do my little job and eat my same breakfast every day and love my little new quiet life. So doing all these new things is ... well, NEW. And a little scary and exhilirating all rolled into one. I just try to breathe and think, what do I need to do in the next 120 seconds of my life? And my job is to show up and do the best I can and I hope it's good enough. So I just show up. Do the best I can. Sometimes I have done well enough that even I am pleased, and I am my harshest critic. Sometimes I goof up and could have done better but I'm learning not to hold on to the flaws too much. Sometimes you have to let it go, release the critique, know that just showing up is a good start.

I'm sure if I had it to do all over again I would have been more articulate or worn something cuter or whatever, a hundred times over, but I can't believe I am doing this, and actually enjoying it (OK, not the midnight flying but the rest is great) and it kind of has me in shock.

Right now I am sitting here on the floor of my living room in Encino-Adjacent, with Bob shedding on my foot, I'm home. And I'm wondering ... what else in my life can I show up for that I never dreamed I could do?

If I can do this, what else can I do?

I know it sounds dumb, but I always wanted to try a Pilates class, but I was too embarrassed of my weight, I thought you needed to be skinny to do something like that. Not coincidentally, I thought you needed to be skinny to do a book tour. And I felt really disappointed in myself just a few weeks ago, I knew I could have dieted myself down to a smaller size but I had made a sworn, solemn promise to myself last year that I was never going on another diet as long as I lived. I promised I would treat myself with dignity, and learn about nutrition, and eat healthy foods and do some walking, but I refused to diet ever again. I was tired of dieting. I had to keep that promise.

When I made the decision to renounce dieting, I was the biggest I had ever been, 22 on an elastic-waist day. I can tell you the exact day many months later when I knew my Not-A-Diet was My Real Life, it was a Saturday and I had gone to the mall to try to find something for a date (you know how you always feel prettier on a date if you're in a new outfit?) and I wandered all around the Bloomingdale's and collected a wide assortment of black pants in 16s and 18s, and I went into the dressing room and nothing fit. In a good way. I had been not-dieting for eight months at that point, just plodding along with my nutritious snacks and boring snail's pace of weight loss. I knew it was the best plan for me from a sanity perspective, but I never thought I would see 14 again, not without a diet. Could it be...? Really?

And I just looked at myself in the mirror on that Saturday in Bloomingdale's. I was scared to go back out there and find some 14s to try on. What if it was a lie?

Now I have friends who would fling their tiny, skinny little bodies off the highest building if they ever thought they would one day be as fat as a size 14. I know that. I knew it even then, but for me it was the exact opposite, a thrill, a pants-sized high. I would have done a cheer right there in the Juicy Couture section if I could fit a 14.

I tried on seven pairs of pants and one skirt before I finally finally accepted I was indeed a size fourteen again. Then I sat on the bench inside the dressing room at Bloomies and cried. That unexpected happiness cry, where you shake your head and laugh at your dumbass self for sniffling over something so weird. I knew I was still just a sandwich away from being back in the Women's section, but for that moment I was finally the Average American Size. When you are five-foot-three and as wide as you are tall, being just average sounds pretty effing great. And I had gotten there so slowly, and with baked potatoes all along the way. I kept my personal promise. I had undieted, finally.

Then the tour happened. Because touring authors is expensive and logistically nightmarish, I never really thought HCI would send me off to the airport and want me to stand in front of folks. They saw what happened in New York (recap: Public speaking so bad they're showing a video of it at Toastmasters as a cautionary tale.) But there it was, a phone call from Kim, bookings from Jen, and me staring at myself in the mirror suddenly hating size 14, hating that I refused to go on Slim-Fast for a month, hating that this was what I worried about most. Why of all things was I so worried about the size of me? Why was this the part? Why is it always the one bad thing?

Fat is not a feeling. It is not an emotion. You can be sad about a situation, but you cannot be fat about it. Yet I do think "fat" can be a mental judgement call on our self-worth that we carry around with us, voluntarily encasing ourselves in a self-conscious prison cell, saying "I'll do that when I've lost a little weight..." or "I'll wear that when I'm smaller" ... or my ultimate downfall: "When I am thinner, I will have more confidence to do all those things but right now I will stay home and watch TV and one day, one day, one day I will live my life."

And even though I thought I was too fat, too old, too country, too scared... I showed up. I am showing up. I can't believe this is me. What else is hiding in there, what else am I capable of doing? I used to think I had to be perfect, look perfect, have the perfect marriage, work for the perfect goals, perfect job, perfect demeanor. I gave up on perfect somewhere around the time I started knitting and realized I loved it even though I wasn't immediately good at it. I gave up perfect tension, perfect stripes that had no holes at the join, perfect cables with no holes at the twist. I liked my scarfy imperfections, they reminded me of where I was that day, and I love them, I love being able to like a flaw. I am doing this and I am imperfect, I am a fourteen (and also, I am a fourteen!)

I finally fit in an airplane seat:
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This is hard to believe. Also, hard to actually see but I do fit.

I did that. I don't know how. I don't know whose hand is at my back holding me even when I am most scared but I thank that hand everyday, say a little prayer of thanks to whomever, however I am doing all the things I thought I would do later, someday, off in my future life.

Thank you.

And especially thank you to the poor souls who had to go to The Beaver. You know you loved it. BEAVER LOVERS. All of you!

Posted by laurie at October 19, 2007 1:45 PM