Checking in from ORANGE County

So we leave tonight. It’s been a whirlwind trip but when my friend asked me what I had planned for when I got home, I said ‘What, you mean after I take to my bed for a week, depressed?’ I know that I couldn’t do what he does – flying all the time. It’s relentless and tiring, and I’ve been in the comforts of BC while he’s been running around Economy, looking after the masses.

I’m just about to head out to South Coast Plaza for one last hurrah shopping-wise. I’ve bought a shitload of stuff, ranging from sports clothes (baseball, basketball caps and tops), handbags galore, cosmetics, and just now a pair of DKNY jeans in a fabulous grey, un-tried on and they FIT PERFECTLY, ARE COMFORTABLE AND COST FIFTEEN DOLLARS. I got a Calvin Klein puffy jacket in a bright, fluro ORANGE which is kind of hideous but I love it. It cost about $30 I think. Oh my.

I’ve bought some books: Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout; a bunch of David Foster Wallace collections; Caitlyn Moran’s How to be a Woman which is magnificent. I knew I was a feminist, I didn’t know I was a STRIDENT FEMINIST. If it be so, it be so. Apparently large underpants are one of the key elements; pants that don’t get eaten by your body. I’ve bought some shoes including a wonderfully comfy pair of brown kind of quilted broguey slip-on numbers that may well be slippers but I’m either pretending I don’t realise that or don’t care. The good sign is that they were for sale with the normal shoes, not in the slipper section. They are divinely comfortable. The one blight of the trip has been my feet and a blister that I got when I wore high heels out of Melbourne. Long story, but the heels were necessary. The ones I put on at home, in a panic (long story) are tight and don’t fit properly anyway. So I’ve bought new comfy low heels that are a bit spesh and also these ‘slippers’ for those in between times, trying to engender some healing. (Ha, get it?) I bought some special bandaid things, just for blisters, and they stick on really well, kind of mould to the skin, and even end up looking like skin. So across America I’ve been leaving these little shreds of skin-like substance in hotel rubbish bins. This amuses me.

New York was fantastic. Tuesday night, I met my agent and we drank some red wine and chatted at the bar of a funky Brooklyn place called Henry Street Ale House. Virginia is  warm and easy; she has a wonderful poise too, and I felt like a shambolic shag on a rock, up there on the bar stool next to her.  I feel though that we have a lot in common, and it seems we like to read similar things. We chatted about writing processes, writer groups, workshops and favourite authors. This is important, that we were able to connect on this level. It was important to me to know that my agent is on the same level, not just about the writing stuff but that she gets it when I say I would love a publisher who loves my book, who gets, and who really wants to put it out there. One publisher is showing interest  and we are waiting to hear this week and Virginia said that another publisher has keenly taken it to read and will respond pretty rapidly. Coming to the pointy end of this first stage – a first stage that has been in action now for I think 7 weeks or so. Patience is so important and it’s good that I’m good at it.

I’ve packed so much in during my 6 days away – bearing in mind that two days are lost coming back and we lost most of Tuesday flying LA – NYC. We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday morning, and to the start of the High Line. Walked the whole length of the High Line: what a fabulous, fabulous jewel in Manhattan’s crown. Then we took the subway to a retro poster shop (almost got a flashmob started at Penn Station, or that’s what we like to think), then got back to the hotel ready for 4.30 departure. But then the news came through: flight delayed two hours. The poor crew, but for me it was a gift from the Universe, and we headed out again even though my legs were so tired and sore. We walked down to the East River through Brooklyn Heights, and then along a bit and back.

LA was good – had an afternoon walking around Downtown, checking the buildings. There are quite a few gorgeous old signinficant and iconic places, Deco gorgeousness with one stretch of pavement outside an old building pristine terrazzo with brass trim, and then either side grotty normal footpath. That night, after dinner, we drove to Hollywood and cruised. Really. Traffic was light and we were able to pull over here and there to jump out and take pics of the stars.

The most interesting thing about this trip – and the unexpected thing – is that travelling with the crew this way has triggered a fascination with their lifestyle, work process and culture. At first I was just asking lots of questions, with no ulterior motive, but then a couple of days ago, I started writing stuff down, at night in my room – notes about this or that. What the female pilot said, what the male cabin attendant said. What I overheard as they were all milling around in the hotel lobby upon check-in at 2am. What they were talking about on the bus. How they move through the airports, through customs and immigration. How the pilots thank the crew, and the cabin manager thanks them too. How they are all polite and courteous back. And how they have looked after me so well, on the plane. Putting up with my tagging along. Serving me French champers and Angus beef and cheese plates. Offering me muscatel. Taking snaps of my on my phone as I sat on the flight deck, in the captain’s ‘chair’ wearing his hat. This has all now become unexpected material and I’m wondering what to do with it. Exciting.

Next time I log in, I’ll be home. I know I’m lucky to have had this opportunity. Things like this, experiences like these, enrich a person’s writing in ways that can’t be measured.

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