I love reading through my spamblocker. Here are my favorite random spam mails as of this writing:
Your Missing Info Was Found 23th December (hmmm, did my missing info include the letters “rd” which usually follow the date “23”? Just wondering.)
Psychic Advice, New Low Price! (Yes, because if there’s anything I trust more than an internet psychic, it’s a deeply discounted internet psychic…)
Important News About When You Die (I’m all ears…)
Nobody Love With Fat Friend Climate Jimmy (I don’t even know who Jimmy is, or why he’s a fat friend or has his own climate, but I feel sorry for his loss of love.)
I Wanna See You Today Sandwich. (This just made me giggle and think of my friend Cecil, who would say such a thing.)
Happy New Year to one and all. I’m enjoying some rare time off–well, if painting my hallway and cleaning my closets can be called time off–after the big, bad revision period. I turned that bad boy in to my editor two days before Christmas. It is freakin’ HUGE!!!! I can see the advertising campaign now: “It’s not just a novel; it’s a total upper body workout!” I had no manuscript box to carry it in. My friend Suse jokingly suggested that I carry it to Random House in her rolling suitcase she’d let me borrow for the YM magazine tour. I almost had to. Instead, as it was the holiday season, I gift-wrapped that puppy and tied it up with string, stuck a bow on it and left it for my poor, poor editor, who now has to read through all 669 pages of the sucker. It was at 666 pages, but I felt like Mark of the Beast was a bit of a bad omen, no pun intended. But no worries. By the time I was finished, it was a doorstopper.
Speaking of YM, I have not had a moment to post about my wild and woolly adventures on the Midol Book Club Tour, sponsored by the now-defunct YM magazine. (I had nothing to do with the mag going under, I swear.) And yes, you heard right: Midol was the sponsor. I am the proud owner of lots of baby blue-and-pink bookmarks that read, in small print: Go to http://www.greatandterriblebeauty.com for more about the book and Libba Bray! And in XXL print: ARE CRAMPS, BLOATING AND FATIGUE SLOWING YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS DOWN? ONLY MIDOL HAS SPECIAL INGREDIENTS TO PROVIDE COMPLETE RELIEF OF ALL YOUR MENSTRUAL SYMPTOMS.
It’s what every author dreams of.
The absurd hilarity of that aside, I really loved the tour and meeting with all five of the winners: Sidney Best of Goldsboro, NC; Ashley Subolefsky of Elkton, MD; Elise Brown of Flossmoor, ILL; Morgan Bolah of Hacienda Heights, CA, and Nicole Roger of Tiburon, CA.Having dinner with these smart, funny, insightful, opinionated young women and their equally interesting friends was truly a remarkable, wonderful experience, and I’m the richer for it. A million thanks, ladies.
The tour itself was rife with funny moments. Okay, first of all, you have to picture me, the Texas-Brooklyn-overgrown punk girl, in her New Yawk jeans and blazer and boots, and my traveling companion from YM, the hysterical and fun Amy, she of Kennebunkport. Of $400 Coach bags and big pearls and leather skirt and chic-chic-CHIC magazine style. You’re with me, right? Now, plunk us down in Pikeville, NC, at the Motorlodge with our driver, Linda. Linda is decked out in full chauffeur’s regalia and she’s got a big ole tank of an SUV, which, we discover, is a good thing, because Linda’s driving is a mission in rediscovering prayer. So we’re cruising down the road and we start chatting Linda up about her kids and grandkids and she says, “You wanna see their pictures? I’ve got them on my phone?” Sure, we say, foolishly. Well, Linda starts scrolling through her bank of phone photos which means SHE. TAKES. HER. EYES. OFF. THE. ROAD. She’s got one hand idling on the steering wheel and her focus on the phone and the dialogue goes something like this:
Linda: (preoccupied.) Now this here is a picture of my oldest daughter.
Amy: Oh, uh-huh. Why’s she in a hospital with a collar on her neck?
Linda: Well, that was after her fourth car accident. Now she don’t even tell me about them anymore ’cause she’s afraid I’ll take another picture. She hates this one; I don’t know why. Oh! Here’s my grandbaby….
The words “fourth car accident” and “family tendency?” are circling my brain like vultures when we start weaving–Linda is somehow oblivious to the fact that there that double line in the road is less a state suggestion and more of a hard-and-fast rule–and there’s an 18-wheeler coming our way. Amy and I are doing lots of “ums” and hand gestures but of course, Linda’s concentrating on that phone so we grab it and start looking through photos for ourselves. Mercifully, we avoid the truck, but about twenty minutes later, Linda starts jumping and screaming and batting at the dashboard. I’m thinking, psychotic episode? Weaning off the meds? New car dance, free of charge? But no, there’s a grasshopper on the dashboard and Linda, it turns out, is bug-phobic. Big time. Outside of a labor room, I have not heard a woman scream like this. We are seriously weaving down the road like Brian Boitano going for the men’s figure skating gold so I tell her to hold on, and I pitch myself, a** over teakettle, half into the front seat, roll down the window, and usher the grasshopper outside, nearly killing the thing in the process but it was him or me at that point, and I had no intention of dying until I’d at least had me some BBQ.
Which brings me to the BBQ episode. Now, as a native Texan, I’m all about the consumption of BBQ except for that two-year period after I saw “Babe” when I could not look at a piece of bacon without blubbering. If they make an adorable talking chicken and cow movie, I’m a full-on vegan. Anyway, I still eat BBQ occasionally, though I feel guilty about it. But I ask Linda if she knows of a good place and she says hell yes, she does. We drive the back roads for a while till we come up on a shack in the middle of nowhere. I know this is the place and it’s going to be goooood. But Amy is sitting in the back in her Jackie O glasses, the Coach bag perched uncertainly on her arm, and she’s craning her neck to see if maybe, just maybe, there’s like an NC branch of Club Med behind that shack where she might be able to get a Cosmo and some bruschetta. “Is this the place?” she asks, sounding a little alarmed.
I pat her leg and say, “Sure is. And you’re gonna fit right in, honey.”
Linda, in her uniform, rushes to open the door, and we pile out, and it is, I swear, like Paris and Nicole do BBQ. A guy in a VFW hat is selling peanuts for the VFW. He’s fascinated by the fact that we are there from NYC and wants to know if we own our own apts. and what we pay in rent/mortgage. We answer his questions, buy some peanuts (I love peanuts in the shell) and he gives us an inspirational poem in return. People sitting outside at picnic tables eating chicken off the bone (which I also love) look at us like we are aliens, which we sort of are. I have to explain the finer parts of BBQ ordering to Miss Amy (BBQ is pork…the sauce here is vinegar based as opposed to a sweet or spicy sauce like you’d find in Kansas City or Texas, etc.) But we finally get our plates and sit down with Linda for our meal, which goes something like this:
Linda: You know, I’m 49, but you can’t tell ’cause I take natural herbs.
(Linda does, indeed, look quite a bit younger than 49, so we’re very interested in her routine. Then this:)
Linda: I had a tumor on my neck like this (indicates with her hands a tennis ball). A doctor wanted to operate? I started taking my herbs and it disappeared in three days.
Me: (eating but starting to feel a might bit squeamish) Oh. Uh-huh.
Linda: Now, you have to take something with it to make you go regular. You know? To have regular bowel movements? ‘Cause all that poision from the tumor goes down into your intestines and you’ve got to get it out. So you have to take stuff to make you have the regular bowel movements to get that poison out of your body. I could feel that stuff going down into my colon. I couldn’t wait to get it out.
Me: Right. You know, no dessert for me.
Linda: Now, my sister had a tumor….
Linda continues to regale us with tales of medical anomalies straight out of an episode of Creepshow while I delicately cover what’s left of my BBQ with a paper napkin and look around the joint. And that’s when I notice the decor: lots and lots of pictures of pigs. Happy, frolicking, loving pigs. Pigs nuzzling each other in flower beds. Mama pigs with their piglets posing for the porcine equivalent of the Sears family portrait. Pigs, looking down at me with compassionate smiles as if to say, I forgive you; you know not what you eat. And I’m thinking, what kind of sadistic joint is this? YOU MAKE. THE PIGS. WATCH??? Between the tumor report and the shattered innocence of Wilbur, I was a little lightheaded. And I’m so off the pork products. I keep seeing Buddha Pig in my head every time I pass the bacon in C-Town.
But wait–there’s more. Last Linda story, I swear. We have a lovely dinner that evening with Sidney and her friends, and Linda comes to get us afterwards. We’re driving along, and we find out that Linda is originally from Brooklyn,. which is cool, so we talk about Brooklyn things. Somehow, I end up mentioning that the night before, I’d gotten up for some water in the middle of the night, and as the hotel room was pitch black and I was disoriented and it had started to rain, I mistook the scratchy sound of the rain against my window as the sounds of a rat, which totally freaked me out. I stood there, frozen, until I finally got the bright idea to just…leap for the bed. In the dark. Without my glasses. Yeah, well, I grazed the bed and promptly fell on the floor taking half the bedsheets and spread with me and nearly hitting my head on the nightstand. (more on head hitting later in our tale…) Amy laughs but Linda gets dead serious.
Linda: I hate rats and mice. My ex-husband had two big snakes, and I didn’t mind the snakes, but I couldn’t stand the mice he fed ’em.
Me: You weren’t afraid of the snakes but you were afraid of a mouse?
Linda: Oh yes, oh yes. I was nineteen and in my own apartment before I’d ever seen a real mouse. My mother used to put steel wool in the pipes to keep ’em out. I didn’t know they were real! I’d seen Mickey Mouse on TV, but that was all, and then I saw this thing with a long tail running behind my refrigerator. I called my mama and said, what is that, and she said, that’s a rat. Well, I thought I would die. And that night I had a dream. I dreamed I was lying there in my bed and this rat came and…(lowering her voice) and he crawled up my stuff.
Okay, that’s it for me. Game over. I am on the freaking floor I am laughing so hard. Crawled up my stuff? But Amy’s a few beats behind. She doesn’t quite get that “my stuff” is a euphemism for a certain part of the female anatomy.
Amy: Well, Linda, maybe that really happened.
Linda: Oh no it did not! Um-um, no ma’am, it did not!
Later, Amy said, “I just didn’t think she could be going there.” Oh yes, my friend. She went there. She went there. I was sad to say goodbye to Linda. She was a hoot, and if I’m ever trapped in an elevator, I hope she’s there because she will have the good stories to pass the time. As long as there are no bugs or mice around.
So then we were on to Los Angeles where our plane landed at 1:30 a.m. Our hotel was in West Hollywood, but our driver, whose ear was surgically attached to a cell phone, decided to drive us there via Venice Beach, which is sort of like driving from NYC to Boston via Florida. We pass Hollywood (I’ve been to L.A. many times to visit one of my best friends) and we’re driving out past Century City toward Santa Monica and I say, um, excuse me, but aren’t we headed away from West Hollywood? The guy says no, so I clam up and try to keep my eyes open in the back seat. L.A. at 2:30 in the morning is a ghost town, which always surprises me, since New York never seems to shut down ever. It gets to be about 3:00 a.m. when the guy finally pulls over and calls in and discovers that, yes, indeed, he is lost. And we stay lost for another hour. About the time that Amy and I are so over it we’re on the verge of staging a coup. It’s all we can do not to throw him in the trunk and grab the wheel, wehn he finally finds our hotel, the ultra-groovy Sunset Marquis.
As I discover the next morning (after three hours of sleep and my body still on East Coast time), the Sunset Marquis is home to rock stars and young, idie film types, and everybody is far cooler than I could ever hope to be even in my fantasies where I am a cross between Gwen Stefani and Charlie Kaufmann and own approximately 100 vintage t-shirts and lots of long, skinny scarves.But this is not my fantasy. This is reality, and I look like some bad road in Old Navy cords, Nikes, and, well, okay, a vintage t-shirt that is only vintage because I actually went to the actual concert a million years ago. Amy looks fabulous, of course. We have mucho fun sitting around the pool (hey, it’s November back home…) watching people take meetings and concoct record deals and sell their souls or buy souls or barter souls or whatever it is they do at poolside meetings where a fruit plate consisting of three pieces of pineapple, a thimble of berries and a slice of canteloupe costs around $17.00. It’s on YM’s dime so we order TWO fruit plates as well as half the menu (no one eats carbs there so the muffins flow freely into my mouth, baby…) I want to go visit my friend Laurie who is preggers and feeling too icky to navigate the L.A. traffic. “So order a car on YM,” Amy says.
The nice lady at the car service company informs me that they can get a car to me in about 45 minutes but all they have is a stretch limo. Will that be okay? Before I can ask if that’s a trick question, I tell her that will be just fine while dancing around my hotel suite like a woman in need of Flintstones Ritalin Chewables for Adults. Okay, you’re with me, right? I wait in the lobby while people mill about. They look like they are here to shoot a music video. Tres, tres groovy. Unshaven and hip with the air of ironic detachment one usually has to search magazine ads for. In my mind I must mock them to defend against my feelings of uncool unworthiness. I mean, I wear glasses, and they are filthy. And those carbs have added ten pounds to my butt on just this trip alone. And part of the yogurt from the fruit plate has landed unceremoniously on my shirt.
And then I see this HUGE black stretch limo drive up. It’s probably got more square footage than my Brooklyn apartment. And I think, as I strut out, doing my best blase strut, that’s right people–the limo is here for me. Yeah, baby, thought I was a misplaced, slightly urban soccer mom, didn’t ya? But oh no. No, I am SOMEBODY. Yessssss. The limo, she is for me. Uh-huh, that’s right. How do you like me now, huh? Bet you wonder just who I am? Well, wonder away, ’cause I’m not telling!
But I keep this all inside.
The driver steps out and opens the door and says, “Here you go, Miss Bray.”
Here you go, Miss Bray. Were more beautiful words ever spoken?
And I turn to him to say, “Why thank you,” but I don’t get there. Because unfortunately, my head is still on its trajectory toward the car even as my face has turned to the driver, leaving my blind side unprotected. Somehow, my brain has not been able to multi-task smugness, movement, and speech at the same time. The resulting WHAM, as my head makes contact with the top of the limo, is, no doubt, still echoing through the Hollywood Hills today. I nealy give myself a concussion. My head whips back like an image from the Zapruder film, and then I fall, sprawled, onto the floor of the limo, which is so huge it will take me some highly unglamorous crawling to get to the back seat. The limo driver AND the valet are both concerned, so they lean in and say, “Miss Bray, are you all right?” while the grit-erati hover in the background, their suspicions about my uncoolness confirmed. I smile gamely through the pain and say, “Yeah. Great. Hey! Let’s go!” Please. God. Now.
Fortunately, they have cold cans of Diet Coke in there. I apply one to my head, then drink it, and it is most tasty and does a nice job of masking the flavor of bitter humiliation lingering on my tongue. But it was all worth it to drive up to Laurie’s house, whereupon she screamed with laughter and delight, and dammit, neither of us had a camera or we would have taken some cheesy pics of us blinged out in the back seat.
All righty, enough with the marathon post. I must actually do some work or at least some laundry.