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October 22, 2009

Like a star sighting, only better

Brush with fame

A few months ago I wrote about my favorite childhood books, one of which is The Grounding of Group 6 by Julian F. Thompson. Yesterday I was thrilled to get an email from the author himself -- his wife had seen my list and he sent me the nicest note. It was very exciting to get an email from an author that I've loved since I was a kid! Turns out he has a website (his wife made it for him!) and he also has a new book out, Getting In: How one ingenious applicant induced a letter of acceptance from America's most selective university

That's my brush of fame for the day. Exciting! Even better than the time I saw Ralph Macchio in the produce aisle at Gelson's. (He was so short. Why are all actors four feet tall? Is it because they have to fit inside the TV?)

It was exciting to get Mr. Thompson's email because it makes him REAL. I've read The Grounding of Group 6 a hundred times since I was a kid and I love his characters and his style, and I thought it was magic the way he could get me to read and re-read the story even though I knew what happened, had it memorized. That's what great writers do, they tell a story so well you want to read it over and over. But I forget that authors are real people -- people who read websites (or their wives do) and sometimes they even send a note. I forget this even though technically I am an author myself. Which brings me to:

Brush with insane

I love the mundane, the kitchen reality of making dinner or going to IKEA and I have a small, normal life. I like it that way very much. Most of the action takes place in my head, in words, on paper. But yes, of course, some things have changed now. I'd like to say the main change is that now I have a houseboy named Raimundo but we all know that hasn't happened... yet. Anyway, I was going to try to explain the inner shift that happened but that seems vaguely moronic and boring so instead I will tell you a real-life conversation I had with a fellow commuter on our fine L.A. freeway system. It's illustrative.

It was a Tuesday some time ago. It was hot and I had the windows zipped off the Jeep and I'd stripped down to my camisole because sweat was running down my spine. My CD player had suddenly stopped working and every FM station was on commercial break. Traffic was a nightmare and the whole four-level interchange downtown was clogged and people were tense, murderous, ready to honk.

I had to merge onto the 101 and the guy in the primer-grey Honda right next to me kept edging me out. I am not a timid driver, I'm not one of those people who needs an Act of Congress to merge into another lane. I'm efficient, I'm on top of things. But this guy was determined not to let me in. I would sense a small opening in the traffic and before I could even turn my steering wheel he would accelerate and block me out. Finally, I put my blinker on and merged right into his lane and I figured that if he didn't stop we'd have an accident and during the investigation, one of us would be ticketed for having no insurance and it would not be me. I merged.

His windows were down and we were six inches from each other.

"You effing b**ch! You drive like sh**! Eff you!!!" he yelled at me.

With no windows in the Jeep it was like we were sitting right next to each other, hollering.

"Oh yeah? Yeah? You want to go there?" I yelled back. "You think I'm an Effing B**ch? I'm a PUBLISHED AUTHOR. You can find my book in fine bookstores near you! SUCK ON IT!"

It was both my greatest road rage accomplishment and the most publicity I've done voluntarily. And he did shut up, I assume he was stunned by my expansive vocabulary. I knew that even though I may have stooped to his level and hollered at him on a freeway, I had one up on him: I was a published author. I felt the confidence of my own dream come true. I flipped him off and merged onto the 101.

Posted by laurie at October 22, 2009 9:21 AM