Hello, Austin & Heath Ledger, RIP

Hello from San Francisco where I have been up since 3:30 a.m. PST. (That would be 6:30 a.m. NYC time.)
I rolled over, saw the clock, and went, “Oh bloody hell.”
So I closed my eyes and started counting sheep. But the sheep began a musical number in my head–lots of Bob Mackie-inspired, sequined clothing, big fans, then the Damon Runyon-esque sheep in fedoras started singing about “Life on the Lamb.” Yeah. Wasn’t working for me. So I had to get up and try out the Pilates channel on my TV. Can you really do Pilates if you can’t stop laughing? I’m sorry, but when the New Age Robo-narrator lady began to coo, “Make a bracelet with your body!” and what’s left of my stomach muscles answered back, “Your body will not make itself into jewelry of any kind–have a muffin!” well…I just had to pack it in and take a bath. Around 7:00 pm this evening, I will be a gibbering, drooling, giggling mess of a sleep-deprived idiot. (I’m usually an idiot, but being sleep deprived turns it up to 11.) If you live in SF, you can come on down to Kepler’s in Menlo Park and watch for yourself. Bring caffeine.

Saturday, I flew from NYC to Austin, TX. Now, Austin is one of my favoritist places on earth. (Yes, favoritist is a word. Or it is now. I’m TM-ing it.) I went to school at UT (Hook ’em, Horns! Go, Bevo!) and every time I touch down in that town, I am reminded of the fact that it is just a beautiful place to be. Saturday afternoon, my friend Jan and I hung out and went to Maudie’s for Tex-Mex. (Fajitas was my first choice. I intended to gorge myself on Tex-Mex all weekend and I wanted to pace myself.) When I was in college, I worked as a nanny for Jan, having the pleasure of hanging out with her two sons, Mark and Adam, assorted dogs and kitties. Other than the job I have now, it was the best job I ever had. Hey, when your duties include perfecting your lay-up, going swimming, playing Risk, making up goofy dances, and just generally being a kid, it’s a good day.

Saturday night, I had an event at BookPeople, which occupies a special place in my heart because it’s my hometown independent bookstore. (Keep Austin Weird!) First, I had the chance to talk with some teen girls and their moms upstairs. We hung out and ate Girl Scout cookies–not a bad way to start an event–and talked about writing and books and the loveliness of Girl Scout cookies. There was a mighty fine crowd of book-lovin’ peeps downstairs, and I had the best time talking with everyone, seeing many old friends and meeting new ones. I have to admit, I was a bit overcome with emotion. I can remember sitting in Les Amis Cafe near campus, smoking clove cigarettes (which tasted like I was lighting up my spice cabinet and which turned my lungs into old Brillo pads–may I just suggest here and now that you never take up smoking…), writing in my spiral notebook and dreaming of maybe one day having a play of mine produced on Broadway. Okay, so my plays never made it to Broadway (Off-Off Broadway was as close as I got), but walking into BookPeople and seeing my name over the door for a signing, well, my friends, it was…awww, crap. I don’t have the words and I fear devolving into further sentiment. Suffice to say that I had an ear-to-ear grin the entire weekend, and when I have an icky day or somebody calls me a big pile of literary poo, I can replay Saturday night in my head.

The gang at BookPeople (Mandy, Megan, Madeline, Topher) were terrific, and the questions asked were insightful and often hilarious. There was much laughter and hugging and eating of Swedish Fish. Actually, I kind of wish I’d taken stock in Swedish Fish before this tour. Afterward, the fantabulous Cynthia Letitch-Smith and her hubby Greg took me to a cool librarian party where there was much joking about weird pinatas. (BTW, if you haven’t read Cyn’s TANTALIZE, do yourself a favor and read it asap! Vampires, hot werewolves, wacky Austin humor, and a cool heroine…I’m just sayin’.) It’s always a good time when Cyn and Greg are on the scene, and this was no exception. I just wish I hadn’t been falling over with exhaustion or we could have gone out to hear music or watch the bats on South Congress or something. Next time.

On Sunday, I had breakfast with two of my former college roomies, Annie and Vivi, and another college bud, Mary. Vivi and I had not seen each other in 15 years, and when she saw I was coming to Austin, she found me online and we reconnected. My buddy Mary has been living in D.C. but she was home for a week and saw the ad and came out to the signing and then to breakfast. Mary is in the Foreign Service and will be stationed in Venezuela starting next week. Annie is a writer and businesswoman and we used to share a black lace dress that was like the pants in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I’m telling you–that black lace dress was MAGIC! It must have been sewn together with thread made from unicorn hair and the tears of elves or something. Anyway, there was much laughing and blushing about how crazy we used to be in our twenties. In the afternoon, I saw my friend, the fabu Louisa, and hung out with her family and her FOUR dogs. I was in dog heaven. Louisa and I used to be in the UT Drama Dept. together, where she was a costumer extraordinaire and I was a hopeful playwright. Good times. And in the evening, I saw my buddy Doug and his wife Jena, and I felt all snuggly and good in their company. They took me for more amazing Tex-Mex (because I couldn’t leave without eating tamales) and then we stopped at Amy’s ice cream. Oooh, Amy’s.

Now, I am in San Francisco with the fabulous Miss Shannon Hale! Hooray! It’s already shaping up to be weird and wonderful, as Shannon is possibly one of the funniest (and most fun) people I’ve ever met. Really, you have to wear a Depends around her. She is that funny. Like, organ failure funny. We’ve already started making up gang signs for writers; we’ve played chopsticks, and busted out a pretty wild version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” complete with dance moves. People, the tour is ON! THROW DOWN! I will blog about our first day together tomorrow. We also have the privilege of touring with Deb Shapiro, #1 publicist at Bloomsbury. Deb is a sweetheart, and so I’m going to feel a little guilty when I steal her incredible red leather Sacco boots and stash them in my suitcase. But I’m sure I’ll get over it.

Tonight, we will be at KEPLER’S in Menlo Park at 7pm. Be there if you can. Of course, if you live in Virginia or Idaho, might be tough.

On a final note, I just heard word that Heath Ledger died. OMG. I can’t believe it. Just last night in the car, we were discussing hot men of Hollywood (we writers discuss such erudite things), and I was talking about Rufus Sewell (swoon) and “A Knight’s Tale” (which I love) and Heath (swoon again). Today he’s dead, having presumably overdosed. So, so sad. Like River Phoenix all over again. I remember watching “Brokeback Mountain,” and at one point I had to remind myself that the character on screen was just a character being played by an actor named Heath Ledger. He was just that good. When he lived in Brooklyn, friends of mine once saw him at a diner with his baby girl and he was very nice, they said. He left behind a baby girl. I find it all terribly depressing. “A Knight’s Tale” and “10 Things I Hate About You” will be forever sad for me now.

Jesus, what a waste.

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