Yesterday, I went to work. In Austin, Texas. I got up at 6a.m., fed the dog and the cat, drank coffee, and packed: a little make-up, and some books to read on the 8:30 a.m. flight. One of the books was Jill McCorkle's SUPERB short story collection called Going Away Shoes, and if you've not read it, I beg you to. These stories are so smart, so true, so affecting, so lively, so satisfying. And if you ever get the chance, go and listen to Jill read in her deadpan style, with her wonderful Southern accent that makes you wish with all your heart that you were Southern, too. The other book was The Good Thief, a novel by Hannah Tinti, which I also beg you to read. Whole other ball of wax, but the story immediately draws you in and has you just racing through the pages. The book reminds you of a Dickens novel, in a way, and some have compared it with Robert Louis Stevenson, but you can tell a woman wrote this book. Oh, I had such a good time reading on the plane, I didn't even mind sitting in a seat the size of a laptop computer. I used to love flying but now it has become like riding Greyhound bus without the possibility of weird but wondrous adventures. One good thing that happened on the airplane is that on the first leg on the trip home, I got to sit in front of a bunch of boys who were on an Indianapolis high school's swim and diving team. There were boys and girls on the team, there were a whole bunch of them all dressed up in their red-and-white team sweats, and I noticed that the boys and the girls were NOT MIXING AT ALL. I thought, how can that be? How can there be a group of adolescent boys and girls who are not flirting like crazy, if not stealing off to shadowy corners for some serious making out? I decided it was their coach, who, in advance of them traveling together, had said LISTEN. THE SPORT COMES FIRST. JUST FORGET THAT YOU HAVE HORMONES. IF YOU REMEMBER THAT YOU HAVE HORMONES--AND I THINK YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN--IF YOU REMEMBER THAT YOU HAVE HORMONES AND YOU ACT ACCORDINGLY, I WILL TRACK YOU DOWN AND HURT YOU BAD. I AM SERIOUS. YOU THINK I'M JUST BEING COACHY, BUT I'M BEING SERIOUS. These kids were also amazingly polite. We all had to change planes in Dallas/Ft. Worth, which is a HUGE airport, and we stood together waiting for the train--the "Skylink," don't you love that name, you just feel like you're in Disneyland --to take us to another terminal. Just before the train arrived, this auto-voice (a female auto-voice, one of those sterilized voices stripped of all personality whatsoever, when, if they want people to listen, they should use someone like Louis Armstrong or Tom Waits or Sarah Vowell) came on, suggesting that passengers waiting for the train not get in the way of those disembarking. Well. The train arrived, the doors opened, and one of the Indianapolis swim team girls immediately started to get in the train. And one of the Indianapolis swim team boys said, "Jesssica! Are you serious???" "What?" said Jessica, and she stopped in her tracks, all embarrassed. "Did you not hear the announcement?" said the boy. Oh, it was so sweet and rare and that is why this aftenoon I'm going to move to Indianapolis, land of incredibly well-behaved and, gosh, really good- looking kids. I thought of turning around and telling the boys who sat behind me on the airplane-- all of whom were sort of ridiculously handsome-- that when I was their age I was afraid of boys, especially cute ones, and never knew how to behave around them and what do boys want, anyway? It seeems to me that Freud was a dope. It's easy to understand what women want from men. Strength and vulnerablility, duh. But what do boys want from girls? Besides the obvious. Or IS it only the obvious? So I gathered my courage and turned around but then all I asked is, "Did you guys compete in Austin?" Yeah, they said. "How'd you do?" I asked. And they started nodding their heads and they said, Good, we did good. And I smiled and said, "Good for you." Then I eavesdropped on them all the way home. Here is what they talked about: how big dogs are better than little dogs, and how Golden Retrievers are especially awesome. College, in general and also in particular because they were worried about the choice a friend of theirs was making. A YouTube thing on the snugly (sp?) which this parody had renamed the "What the f#$% blanket." (I watched it today. It wasn't nearly as funny as advertised.) How far sports stadiums are from city centers, how that distance varies, city to city. When the flight attendant came around with the drink cart, they said both "please" and "thank you." Kudos to their parents. And their gorilla-like coach.
But ANYWAY. I went to Austin to participate in the Austin Book Festival, and it was swell for lots of reasons. I met Amanda Eyre Ward, whose work I really like. I was on a panel with her and I thought the discussion was really interesting. I got to meet Sarah Bird, who's a terrific writer. I got to see some men wearing cowboy hats. I get to eat some TexMex, even if it was only at the airport. I got to hear some good music, Texas is rich with good music, as you know. After I finished with signing books, I had to go back to the airport. I got home around ten o'clock, and I kept thinking, That was so weird to go to Texas and come home on the same day. And I have to admit that I was grateful for the disease incubators, aka airplanes, that let me do that. Because if there's one thing I like, it's sleeping in my own bed. I have bamboo sheets and the exact right combination of pillows, which it took me years to figure out.
You know, as as girl, I used to wonder about writers sometimes. I thought they were mostly men with English accents who wore corduroy and wandered around being very smart and sensitive and intensely interested in lots of things that they would use in their lofty novels which were torture for them to write, but pleasant and artful torture. I NEVER thought writers would go from Chicago to Austin to work for a day at a book festival where they would be given a recipe book gift-wrapped in chocloate brown paper and tied up with a red ribbon and a YELLOW ROSE, which is what a self-described "big fan" gave me. I have now had a chance to read those recipes and I owe you even more thanks than I gave you.
Despite the fun I had yesterday, I woke up today feeling fragile and sad. Feeling awful, really. But I drank coffee, which helped. I changed all the clocks, which made me feel like I was master of my little universe. I repaired a quilt I'd made for my friend Judy, which helped some. (Judy, if you mess up this quilt again, you are on your own. My eyes are too bad for this anymore. Do you hear me? You must be careful with this quilt, it is not a Linus blanket.) I took a walk around town with Homer the awesome Golden Retriever and saw a little boy on his father's shoulders holding a gold/yellow autumn leaf the size of his head and his cheeks were pinkened by the cool air and his eyes were clear and happy and not casting cynical glances here and there. Naturally, this helped a LOT. Then I came home and started yaking to you and now I'm fine. Plus tonight I'm going with Bill and another couple to Tom's Steak house, which is an old fashioned steak house where they offer their famous Carousel of Salad Dressings and where you feel compelled to get old fashioned drinks like, well, like Old Fashioneds. Which I am going to do, unless that voice comes into my head saying, NO NO GET A MARTINI, YOU KNOW YOU'RE ALWAYS SORRY IF YOU DONT GET A MARTINI. In which case, I'll get a martini with an Old Fashioned on the side. Or maybe a martini with a Sidecar on the side. Wouldn't that be fun to order?
I got a letter from a reader who told me it's very dangerous to let cats play with rubber bands, so I took away Grace's favorite toy. Thank you! (That's not what Gracie says, though.)
This connects to Sarah Vowells ‘Shooting Dad” essay because her dad believes “shooting crows is a national pastime, like baseball and apple pie”; guns are a huge part of his life and he would no doubt be against stricter gun laws.
Shooting Dad Sarah Vowell by Loredel Faye R Areieta on Prezi