Back at home. I spent the past four days in New York and Hartford. What follows is a raggedy, in-no-order list of observations and occurrences. But first, if you haven’t seen me arm wrestle Stephen King, check it out.
- Flying is getting worse for my Tourette’s, not better. I mostly had decent seatmates, but also had to explain a lot and had a couple of idiotic stare-downs. Had a really hard time figuring out anything that worked this time. Two 4.5 hour flights. Blah. While exiting the first plane, my head broke one of the tube lights overhead. That was stupid.
- New York was way too hot. I got to have dinner in Sleepy Hollow country, though, which was fantastic. Also, fireflies. Lots of them.
- The drive to Hartford was beautiful. However, at one point I passed the signs for Newton and Sandy Hook and immediately had tears in my eyes. Still unbearable.
- Hartford was even hotter than New York. By the end of the first hour I had noticed that the official sound of Hartford is the terrible “uhhhhh…..” everyone exhales every time they step outside.
- I stayed at the Ramada Plaza, which isn’t noteworthy except that I could not believe how good looking all of the desk folks were. Male and female, it was like a calendar. It’s always crazy to see people in real life who are so pretty they look like they’ve been airbrushed.
- Oh, but first I went to the Mark Twain House. This was the first thing I saw inside:
My first thought was…just kidding, I couldn’t think at all. I was just about as giddy as I get, which means I almost had a facial expression.
I met Jacques Lamarre, marketing director. He’s the one who invited me to talk. Jacques is fantastically gay, and I was quickly welcomed into his “inner circle of queenie friends.” He started trying to marry me as soon as I showed up, but he’s already married, so I made him pipe down fast. He was my tour guide. Oh, and we had an intense Chris Isaac singalong. And I also coined the phrase “It’s a two sausage Wednesday, don’t fight it. It’s just science.”
This is Jacques and I in Mark Twain’s drawing room:
Jacques seriously might be the funniest person I’ve ever met. He’s certainly the sassiest.
- The outside of the house looks like this:
- And this is the desk in the man cave where Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn.
- Look what they gave me!
This is a replica of the busts that were passed out to guests at Mark Twain’s 70th birthday party. It’s heavy, it would make a greater murder weapon in CLUE.
- We went to the radio station for an NPR show. Seriously, you don’t need to listen to the hour-long interview, but please listen to the intro. Tucker Ives wrote it. I was laughing so hard that I had to ask them not to ask me any questions for a minute. Tucker wrote it base on things he had heard me say or seen me write about various authors. I will never get over the line about Joyce Carol Oates.
- The producer was the hilarious Chion Wolf IV. This is happening more often, but everywhere I go, people want to be picked up. Happy to help.
- My event at the Hartford library was great. Here’s a pic. Jacques interviewed me and he actually blushed when I slapped his butt on stage, bless his heart. But the best part of the event was Catherine. She was 88 years old and said, “I dragged my daughter here. I wouldn’t have missed meeting you for anything.” I don’t know if I’ve ever been so touched. And if you wanted a close-up of my shoes, here you go. Catherine, you were the best part of the trip.
- Then a few of us went out to dinner. This devolved into me arguing with one of the Mark Twain house employees about Skyfall, Lincoln, an iPhone case of Abraham Lincoln, and I was only able to de-escalate the situation by reciting a Rilke poem directly into her ear while holding her against a wall. (Hi Mallory). The poem was Lament.
- Next day, lunch with Stephen King. It was Jacques, Stephen, me, and three other people. He signed about 400 books that would be passed out to people who had paid for the private reception that night. He was impossibly nice. At one point–we were in a private room that was kind of cold–Alyza the intern was shivering. Stephen stood up and said “I’m going to go buy you a sweatshirt in the gift shop.” He didn’t find one, but he did return with a suit coat from one of the wait staff. Alyza tried to protest but everyone screamed her down. “You do not get to not have a story about Stephen King getting you a jacket.”
- Oh, we arm wrestled. Have I mentioned that? I have. In fact, I’ve spent most of the last three days hanging out with that picture.
- Lunch was so fun. He was so kind, and so down to earth, and so not interested in only talking about himself.
- I came back an hour later and watched him get interviewed for a podcast. Then I got to ride alone in the car with him over to the reception. En route, we talked about how women dress in the summer, 50 Shades of Gray, mentholated cough drops, how easy it is to make people happy by signing a book, my book, his next three projects, and how to stay sane and healthy on tour. I kept forgetting that he’s 66. He was already pretty tired at this point, but was incredibly gracious with everyone.
- I just have to type it again so I can look at the words–I got to ride in the car alone with King and talk about all this stuff. Oh, and he asked me to sign one of my books for him.
- I got to work security at his reception. There were about 250 people to get through the line. I had to check bags and boxes to make sure nobody was sneaking severed heads in. And I had to fold my arms and try to look severe, which wasn’t hard, knowing how tired he was, and how respectful of his time I hoped people would be. Tours have really changed. He didn’t sign, but now that everyone has a phone, everyone can get a picture. He was so kind to everyone. Stephen doesn’t do many events anymore, so people were there from Canada, Utah, St. Louis, and on and on and on.
- My tics were so horrible afterward that I told him I was going to skip the event and head back to try and calm down. He hugged me and we had a brief conversation in the green room that I will never forget. He made a very gracious offer that I will be accepting, that’s what I can say now. And I was able to say, “I don’t really care who you are. I’m not a star struck type and I like everyone. What I love is that you’re this kind to everyone.”
That’s pretty much the write-up. Glad to be home. I didn’t get paid for these events, but I would have paid 10 times what I did for the experience I got.