Saturday, March 9, 2013

In Tucson at last!

What a whirlwind--of people and cousins and snow and airports!

An amazing night at Stellina's restaurant in Watertown, MA, with a packed house and so many old friends and FOCGs (Friends of Cousin Gina) as well as new faces, we settled in for a fantastic dinner. Warm tomato salad on grilled bread, lobster aroncini, and for me steak (still fighting that anemia!) and spinach and blue cheese mac and cheese, all with lots of wine selected by Cousin Gina.

From there, Cousin GJ and I went with Cousin Gina to her houseboat on Lewis Wharf in Boston. I was like: I'm selling my house moving onto one of these! About a dozen line the wharf there. Cousin Gina's is a one bedroom with a little back porch and a loft for extra sleeping. More wine as we stared out at the lights of Boston, then settled in for a cozy sleep. there is nothing like Cousin time, and the houseboat was the perfect setting. In the morning we just lolled about in our pjs, drinking coffee and laughing a lot. Then I set out for AWP...

This is not my favorite writer related event. Too many people! I can get stimulus overload, and this is the place where I usually do.It was raining and snowing so I was all kind of damp by the time I got there for my panel, which was to celebrate five years of the terrific literary journal The Normal School. Right away I got all turned around and overloaded and zombie feeling. But loved being on the panel and reading the short story I had in the journal last year, and sharing the stage with my buddies Beth Ann Fennelly and Adam Braver, and seeing Normal School people.

I was happy to find my way to another panel based around my pal Meg Wolitzer's excellent essay that appeared in the NYT Book Review last year called "Second Shelf", on  how women's writing is treated in publishing. I almost passed out with joy that Bobbie Ann Mason was also on the panel. I am such a fan of hers, and to hear her talk was a real thrill.

From there I went to hear my dear friends Tom Perrotta and Alice Hoffman read. My buddy, the fabulous, Chris Castellani, moderated and led a conversation afterward. (Note: Chris and I are reading together at the Strand in NYC on March 19) I wanted to linger and give everyone big smooches, but had to make a way out into the ever increasing storm to find The Island Oyster Bar in Kenmore Square, where Stewart and Trudy O'Nan, Dennis Lehane, David You, and the aforementioned Beth Ann Fennelly and I chowed down on...well...oysters and also Nantucket bay scallop ceviche and monkfish and more. I had the yummiest cocktail called a whiskey mash. Or maybe whiskey smash? I have vowed to track down the recipe so if anyone reading this knows it, send it to me!

Back to the houseboat, but three tired cousins kind of fell into bed. Is there anything better than sleeping on a boat? Getting rocked to sleep by water? There is not. But as the night went on, the gentle rocking turned into some rock and rolling, and when that 5AM alarm went off and I cracked open my eyes to look out the window, all I saw was snow. Lots of it. The cousins set out in the blizzard, lugging suitcases as we trudged through unplowed streets to get, in order, venti lattes at Starbucks (thank you for opening so early!) and then a taxi for me.

I kept checking my wonderful Flight Stats app, and all around my flight read: CANCELLED. But mine remained: ON TIME. The weather I was making my way through belied that possibility, but I kept moving onward, putting my trust in my IPhone and United Airlines (why am I such a trusting soul? Sometimes it pays off, but often it leads to disappointment...)

Even as the snow fell harder, they moved me along. Upgrading my seat, pointing me to my gate, where other doubtful passengers waited. An hour late (ON TIME!) we finally boarded, and then sat for almost two more hours as we got de iced, and de iced, and de iced again. By this time, connections in Houston became a lost cause, and along with my fellow weary travelers we began to give up hope. But in Houston I was told that my flight was waiting for me!

Even though I was in a far flung terminal, and had to take a monorail, I clung to hope. I waved down a golf cart thing, which whisked me to the monorail, the clock ticking away. The monorail was maybe the slowest thing I've ever had the bad luck to ride. And then Terminal B was a hell hole of confusion. My gate had an M after it, but the gates were numbered. I waved my boarding pass around and shouted for direction, which were given by bored United gate agents. To my surprise, the plane was there, seemingly waiting for me and three other Boston refugees.

"Sorry," we were told. "We've closed the flight."

"No, you were holding it for us," we all begged.

Bored, rude United gate agents simply handed us boarding passes for the next flight to Tucson--three hours later.

Ok. Being an optimist, at least I got to charge my tired phone, and eat Texas BBQ.

But. I missed my dinner inTucson, arriving at my hotel just in time to have two of maybe the most delicious margaritas ever before collapsing in bed and sleeping the sleep of the exhausted traveler.

This morning: lots of coffee, lots of Advil, one complaint letter to United Airlines.

Then onward to the Book festival, and panels with Bill Roorbach, Laura Moriarty, and more.

I'm now going to find some breakfast, hopefully involving southwestern type yummies...