Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Ring-Around-the-Rosy Rag...

By Cornelia

Okay, so I have to say that I figured when I went on the road, I would be staying in damp dark little rooms with coin-op “Magic Fingers” beds at some Motel 6 across from the bus station, if not at some Motel Four-and-a-Half. Because, really, who the hell am I to expect luxury? And besides I am kind of inured to road trips that involve lots of KOA Kampgrounds during freakish thunderstorms outside Des Moines at three a.m. in 1972 when you’re driving across the country in an ancient $150 station wagon with no brakes and stuff, with maybe a couple of dented cans of Dinty Moore beef slop heated over the Kampfire for dinner on a good day, after which everybody splits the last sliver of Pecan-Maple Log Roll from that Stuckey’s near the Grand Canyon, and Glad to Get it, even though the thing’s all kind of melty and warped from having been in the glove compartment for days--it being July and everything.

SO, imagine my surprise when I am not only Met At The Airport by the lovely articulate kind funny Janine, (who brings me my very own dayglo-green plastic beach bucket, for those times when I feel it necessary to barf before signings, with an email from Joshilyn Jackson tucked inside), but she drives me and the amazing Rae to the Alexis Hotel in Seattle.

The Alexis is subtitled “A Work of Art” on its sidewalk awnings, and they are NOT kidding. Like, they have brioche French toast with caramel sauce on it for breakfast, and the rooms look like something out of one of those schmancy “five-figure Egyptian thread count” bed linen catalogs.

So me and Janine and the amazing Rae are sitting in the high-ceilinged butter-yellow salle de threadcount, and suddenly there’s this discreet knock on the door. I of course figure it’s someone who’s been dispatched to tell me to get my butt down the block to Motel Four-and-a-Half, but NO, it’s a staffer with an ice-‘n’-wine bucket and a book…. MY book, which the lovely note from the manager explains was purchased by the hotel and would I please sign it at checkout so they can cherish it in their “Author Suite,” for posterity.

And I’m all like, “CHA! Dude, gotta pen?” But of course totally thinking to myself, “I am REALLY going to miss these hallucinations when they comes to their sad-but-inevitable close…”

Next day was the actual signing at the actual Seattle Mystery Bookshop with the actual Mr. Child. I got to have breakfast first with my splendid and far wittier twin, Andi Shechter, which is why I know the Alexis’s French toast comes with caramel sauce--even though I had the bagel. Andi and I hit the signing together, which was an awesome experience. Janine, Fran, and Tammy at the store are a total riot together, and they all admired my little green bucket, of course (and I'm wondering if Andi has figured out her "tequila preference" yet?).

Janine, Rae, Lee and I then got to go see the Mariners play Kansas City at Safeco Park—GREAT seats, and very very fine beer and hot dogs, but as Lee commented afterwards, “if there’d been a bit of talent and artistry tonight, it would have looked a LOT more like baseball.”

Yankees fans, they’re a little full of themselves, eh?

We then returned to the Alexis’s blistering splendor to hang out in my room drinking champagne and eating local Dilettante Chocolates--which totally rule--until around one in the morning (I ate the “Madame X,” which was white with a dark chocolate X on it, because, hey, I totally adore John Singer Sargent’s painting of the same name—see below).

This was to celebrate Lee’s having come out as #3 on the New York Times Bestseller list with his latest book, The Hard Way. GO LEE!!!!!

It was off to LA for me and my bucket the following morning, picked up at LAX by splendid media escort Lisa Becker, who rocks EVEN MORE than Dilettante Chocolates, which is saying something. We did a killer round of drop-in signings while Lisa told me great LA industry stories, and then went to The (magnificent!) Mystery Bookstore on Broxton Ave. in LA, to meet charming and gracious hosts Bobby and Linda. WHAT A STORE!!!!

So so so cool, and I got to sign their ancient prisoner register from the Sacramento Jail, which was TOTALLY intimidating because of all the groovy authors who’d signed before me and were infinitely funnier. I relied on Arlo Guthrie to see me through, giving “Officer Obie” as my arresting agency, saying I’d been accused of “littering… and creating a nuisance,” and talking about the Group W bench along with the whole, “Kid, have you rehabilitated yourself?” thing, in four-part harmony, WITH FEELING.

The beauty part was discovering that the inimitably charming and talented Stephen Blackmoore was stoked to recite that whole riff about the “twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us…” along with me, which was when I knew fer shur that I was hangin’ with the Cool Kids.

Not that I wasn’t pretty much fully aware of that ALREADY, because, I mean, to be in such a great store and get to hug the ever-stunningly babe-alicious Patty Smiley AND her debonairly swashbuckling husband, AND the suave and rakish Aldo Calcagno, PLUS Stephen Blackmoore AND the fabulous Brett Battles, along with, most especially, Brett’s trio of stalwart, good lookin’, and *astonishingly* well-behaved pint-sized crime-fighting sidekicks… well, you don’t get hugging partners like THAT every day, tell you WHUT. PLUS I got to hang with fellow Dobbs chick Sue Seide AND the newly doctor-ified Kathleen Donegan (gentlewoman and scholar) AND her husband David “Doovie” Goldsmith, the guy who first introduced me to Jim Thompson.

The next day was another whirlwind of drop-in signings with Frau Lisa, and then a welcome sit-down stint of same at Book Carnival in Fashionable Orange with Gayle Lynds and Barry Eisler. Now I gotta tell you that Gayle Lynds is not only one of the world’s most gracious women, she is also the chick whose picture you find accompanying Webster’s definition of “willowy.” And then of course Barry’s glorious mane is the stuff of legend, so I was struggling with feelings of stupid-haired frumpy lumpen/zaftig-ness there while they signed truckloads of their outrageously better-written-than-mine books… BUT, despite my neophyte-ness and NON-willowy/NON-Barry-haired lumpy-zaft-ness, store owners Pat and Ed Thomas were indeed so wonderful to me that I agree with Dean Koontz’s observation about how they cannot possibly have originated on this planet, even if they have the same first names as my in-laws.

Which (OhMyGod FINALLY, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself), brings us to Monday, the day I’d been dreading because it was to be A) the very last joint appearance with my hero, Lee Child, and B) the gig at which my Dad was maybe going to show up. Ahem.

And as a result of course I woke up at five a.m. in my schmancy crib in West Hollywood, fretting myself into a total frenzy of family angst and stuff and trying to breathe and write thank-you notes while waiting for eight a.m. to roll around so I could do a radio interview by phone for Elizabeth Foxwell’s It’s a Mystery radio program, out of Virginia… LIVE.

So I’m doing the whole, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Cornelia, Begging You To Help Me Not Inadvertently Swear Or Puke Or Otherwise Sound Like Some Total Doof on the Radio, pretty please, and I will be your best friend 4ever (not that you need friends because you’re, like, GOD and stuff already, so I would never suggest you are in NEED of more best friends, O Most Gnarly Divine Deity Dude)” nine yards. Amen. Ramen…

Whereupon Ms. Foxwell asked whether I’d like to read an excerpt from FIELD—reminding me I couldn’t do one with obscenities, which we both agreed might be A LEETLE hard to find, considering—but she said it would be okay to say “hell” so I just read the first page, but otherwise I have NO RECOLLECTION of anything we said the entire time, except that she was great.

So I walk out of the lobby in a blur sometime later to meet the fabulous Ken Wilson, media-escort-par-excellence-du-jour,--with whom I completely agree that it's kind of sick to use Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" to advertise a family cruise ship thing...

...unless it's for a vacation on the S.S. I Wanna Be Your Smack-Shooting Dog or whatever--and we do some more blurry stuff and then it’s the moment of truth out in Thousand Oaks at Mysteries to Die For. And Lee is there, and Maggie Griffin his amazing publicist/wrangler is there, and Paul Levine who will be Lee's defense counsel at the upcoming Thrillerfest, and Hillary Huber who’s the brilliant audio-book voice of FIELD is there, and kindly Sky from, too, but no Dad. Which kind of seems like a relief, plus it means I can tell my usual Dad stories during the talk with impunity and everything.

Twenty minutes into our schtick, Dad slips into the store and stands just inside the front door, because the place is already jammed with Lee fans. I had the pleasure of thinking to myself, “Self, if you gotta do the first-meeting-after-long-estrangement thing with your eccentric muttonchop-sideburned hippie father, it DOESN’T SUCK to have it occur when you’re the sidekick of Mr. Lankypants-Charming-#3-on-the-NYT- Bestseller-List Dude, especially when the SRO roomful of said Mr. Lankypants’s extremely kind and enthusiastic fans are actually laughing at your jokes and stuff.”

And you know what? It turned out okay. Really. And I didn’t even need to avail myself of Janine’s little green plastic bucket ONCE.

So thank you for that, O Most Gnarly Divine Deity Dude, and I totally meant it about the BFF thing, too—even though you’ll have to take second place to Mr. Lankypants (and Arlo).


  1. The bad news is, blogger was having fits today. But the good news is that you didn't have as many comments to read so you got more work done... right? That's what I keep telling myself.

    So sorry I missed you in Seattle. But it sounds like you've been treated well and a green beach bucket - how cool is that?! You rock, girl. I'm sure you did awesome.

  2. I had a GREAT time, all around, though I'm still doing the oatmeal-brain thing, some days after getting home...


    Alas, it's going to take a whole lot of studying UP before I can effectively voice a tequila preference. So far I know I would like it made out of the blue agave plant. Oh, well yeah, ok, it's supposed to be make out of that. See? I'm like pretty basic here. Does it work well in a margarita? Good.

    Then again, a margarita at 5 when you haven't eaten ANYTHING since the severely decadent brioche French toast WITH the walnuts AND the banana slices AND the caramel sauce at 10. Wheeee. Damn I am an easy drunk (not cheap, thank you Mr Lankypants, assuming as I do that my tequila preference-free drink was on you. That is you paid for it not that I spilled it.)

    Tequila Mockingbird

  4. Blame "Lankypants" on Joshilyn Jackson. I could NOT make that up!! And thank you so much for hanging with me at the hairdresser... still can't believe I made you do that, and you are awesome to indulge me, dear Andi!!!!

  5. Had I But Known it was to take THAT long, I wouldnta hung out but would have swanned off. But after the first couple of hours, ya seemed silly to leave.
    Next time, my little nonpareil, we shall leave them all behind, proclaim "fie on obligation, I did that all LAST time" and flounce off to eat chocolate and giggle. Or something.

  6. C-
    I'm so glad you can chronicle this amazing tour so we can go on the ride with you. Keep it up, girl!

  7. Cornelia, the miniture crime fighting sidekicks and I had a great time meeting you. Sorry we couldn't stay for the discussion, but if we had you would have been hard press to call them "well behaved."

    Glad things went well in Thousand Oaks. Really.

  8. Dude, did you even stop to breathe while writing this post? Damn, I feel lightheaded! Sounds like the last week has been awesome - and glad the Big Thingie in the Sky (aka God) was looking out for you re. fam. reunion. And no puking!!! I'd call that an unqualified, kick ass success for King Cornelia! Muchos felicidades!

    And try to remember to breathe, please. It helps with the not passing out from lack of oxygen thing.

  9. Cornelia,

    I'm SO enjoying your booksigning tour!! You're such a riot. And, though I don't know the story behind you and your dad, I'm glad it all turned out well. at #3...and he was worried he'd barely hit # 6. ;-)


  10. "inimitably charming and talented"

    Awwww. Shucks. I'm all aflutter.

  11. yeah man, I've been meaning to read this for days but Blogger screwed up on me too.

    So glad you have been having so much fun on tour. I really wish I could have been there with you and not here in suck city.

    Did Joshilyn send you that bucket? That's so like her....

    Iggy rocks. xx

  12. Joshilyn sent the note, which rocked... Janine put it in the green bucket.

    Iggy DOES rock, but the cruise ship thing is a little much. My favorite songs of his are the two versions of "Louie, Louie"--first the obscene one with the Stooges, and then the great "topical" one he did solo on AMERICAN CAESAR ("A fine little girl, a-waitin' for me, but I'm as bent as Dostoevsky..." etc.)

    SO SORRY you're in Suck City--wish you were here!!!

  13. Wow, Cornelia! How many breaths did you take while writing this blog post? One or two?

    Glad you had fun. And saw Dad while you were surrounded by admirers (remember some of them were there for you)!

  14. Once again, I did not read the comments before posting mine and, thus, stuck my too-skinny foot in my rather wide mouth by repeating, almost verbatim what Terri said.

  15. What Angie said. Damn. I need to learn to read properly.