While I love to travel, I suck at it. I get tired and cranky and usually constipated. About a year ago, for our first time, Girlfriend and I made the trip to P-town for Women’s Week, but it was hard to get there and get around once we got there. On the Ferry, going across from Boston, the water was choppy and I decided to get up and walk around (all right, I’m from the Midwest!). The floor seemed to rise up and then disappear. I fell on my back and hit my head so hard it rattled my teeth. I didn’t notice until later how hard I’d hit my tail bone. So while we were in P-town, I limped around with my cane. Then we learned about nor’easters. The wind blew and blew and the temperature dropped. I bought a purple wool scarf (that I love) just to put over my head and ears. All I’d brought with me was a denim jacket and all Girlfriend had was a sweater. Despite it all, we had a great time. I met Rad and other BSB writers. Everyone was nice and my reading went well.
The real adventure was the trip home. Again we took the ferry across a choppy bay. Being from the Midwest, I thought a Bay was only a couple of miles and a ferry was something that cars drove on. Not that kind of bay. Not that kind of ferry. It was a long bumpy ride. We’d learned about something called a “Water Taxi” and decided that was the quickest way to get to the airport. We were standing waiting to get off the ferry and talking to another BSB writer, and I mentioned that the “Water Taxi” was quicker than any other transportation. Later, Girlfriend fussed at me about my big mouth—this happens a lot. Not the fussing, but the big mouth part. As we got off, I saw this little boat, and it turned out that was the “Water Taxi,” and I’d just gotten the guy about 20 more passengers. With our luggage, we were sitting dangerously low in the water, and I was stressed because I can’t swim. But D Jackson Leigh sat next to me and told me she liked my reading, and then we got to talking about our mutual editor and then the ride was over.
In May, about the time Retirement Plan came out, I went to New Orleans for the “Saints and Sinners” writers’ conference. It was a good long weekend, but it wasn’t without its drama. I started my trip at the local airport. Except that when I read the flight schedule, I read the time that the plane would land instead of the time the plane would leave. But for some reason the plane didn’t take off on time. Good, right? Not really. Girlfriend took me to the airport in her new car, which has a keyless lock and a push button ignition. Girlfriend has a little ‘key fob’ that she carries in her purse. All she has to do is get near the car and it unlocks. So we pulled up to the airport and got out. We walked around to the back of the car to get my suitcase from the hatch back and found it locked. I said, “Where’s your purse?” And she said, “In the seat.” Sure enough the key fob will let you lock yourself out of the car if you leave the fob in the car and the motor running. I missed the plane.
In July I was invited, by another BSB writer, to do a reading at Outword Books, a G&L bookstore in Milwaukee. I’d met C P Rowlands when my book was first announced. I got several welcomes from other BSB writers. One author said she’d read all my books. I’d never heard of anyone who’d read them all, so I contacted her, and we emailed now and then after that.
Girlfriend and I live in Central Illinois and drove to Milwaukee in about five hours. Once there, were met by Rowlands and other writers, plus partners, who took us out to dinner and sightseeing. The next day everyone gathered at our motel in Racine. We planned on carpooling to the bookstore, which was about an hour away in
(L to R) Me, CP Rowlings, Chris Paynter, Anne Laughlin
downtown Milwaukee. We stood out front and visited for a few minutes and then prepared to get in the car, a ten year old (when they still used keys) Ford Explorer. But we were locked out. The car owner said, “This has never happened before.” I eyed Girlfriend and we both wondered if we’d brought some kind of curse with us. Anyway the three of us who were reading took another car and left our partners behind to deal with a locksmith. It seems that something called Summerfest was going on in downtown Milwaukee, so we had to take a route our hostess was less familiar with—yeah, we got lost. We were ½ hour late for our own reading. While stressful, it somehow turned out all right. By getting lost, we arrived only ten minutes before our locked out partners. But our readers were waiting.
My favorite traveling writer story happened years ago on the way to Key West Literary Conference. We were on the Florida Turnpike and I had been sleeping. When I woke, I saw a tractor tire in the road ahead of us. I looked at Girlfriend—who was driving. She didn’t seem to see it. I panicked and grabbed the steering wheel to avoid it and suddenly there were screeching tires all around us. I guess I must have dreamed the tractor tire because the only problem on that road was us suddenly cutting across three lanes of traffic.