Book Humor Stories Travel


I have misread the schedule in Detroit.  There is no down time before events and I have not arrived in my “media outfit.”  I have not even showered as I had thought we were going to the hotel. The girlfriend-like media escort appears excited to see me.  The book business in Detroit has slowed with the economy and the automotive downturn. We stop for coffee at a gas station and I make my ghetto latte, lots of micro-waved milk and then coffee.  Looking at me piteously,   she offers to take me to her house to shower.  I accept.

At the local ABC affiliate, WXYZ-TV , I am greeted warmly.  But this is shaping up to be a cataclysmic, newsworthy day for the automotive industry, not the best time to promote a book of essays.  This is the day that Obama’s deadline is up for Chrysler.  They have to fill or kill in the corporate world.

As I sit in the TV station’s green room, my chances for getting on the air are moving rapidly into “snowballs chance in hell” territory.  Obama is heading out to the rose garden to go live.  It’s only a 30 minute news show at noon and they also have to cover sports, weather and commercials.  I figure the viewing audience at this time of day is made up of mostly housebound elderly Detroiters and nursing home residents.  These viewers are not book buyers.  They drink percolator coffee and clip coupons and worry about the rising cost of medications.  A hardback book is not on their list of “must have” items.

The media escort looks grim.  “Pigs and cars,” she mumbles.

“What?” I say. I tear myself away from my blackberry and the messages about play dates and baby gifts for the third grade teacher and texts from my older children asking me to pick them up from school, as if they haven’t noticed I have been gone for three days.

“Pigs and cars,” she says again.  “Your book tour is going to be brought down by pigs and cars.”   I look at her blankly for a moment .

“You know, the swine flu and the meltdown of the whole damned automotive industry.”  I see her point.

As a frequent traveler, I have become familiar with all the places a hotel can stash an iron and ironing board. This is because my single carry on is packed tighter than the organs inside of a body; socks balled like spleens, shoes pushed into corners like kidneys and pants rolled like long intestines.  Someone has told me once that rolling rather than folding clothes prevents them from creasing. They lied.

It’s high time I just give in and go to Chicos and purchase entire ensembles made from 100% polyester that can drip dry over a hotel shower rod.  Instead, the first week of the book tour I make the mistake of bringing things that need constant pressing; linen and cotton.  By the end of each day I look like someone who has been held hostage in a bank for 12 hours.

For the next two weeks on the road I will not get home over the weekend and so I choose my next set of outfits very carefully. I seem to have picked each piece as a variation on a navy theme.  The jacket is too big, remniscent of Linda Evans shoulder pads in Dynasty—but I’ve managed to create four different looks.  Once I actually wear these ensembles, I end up at book readings looking like I’m headed to an IBM interview.

When I get home two weeks later, the way I feel about everything in my suitcase is a lot like I felt about my hand-me down maternity clothes after the second pregnancy.  I wanted to take them out in the back yard, throw gasoline all over them and toss in a match.

I don’t do this of course, because I am way too practical and way too cheap.  But I contemplate it.  Instead, I will throw them in the dry cleaning bag, which is the next best thing to making them disappear.  Let someone else deal with them and when they come back, obscured by plastic, they will stay that way in my closet for months until I view them in a new light.

One of the positives of a book tour, if you aren’t out boozing it up each night, is the time alone in a hotel room.  For me it’s a great chance to check out the things that everyone else seems to watch on TV.  I’m not a reality show watcher, so I’m pretty ignorant about some of the new programs like “Real Housewives of New Jersey”  and “Deadliest Warrior” where people practice stabbing at giant sides of beef meat with oversized ginzu knives.

I flip through stations with relay-team competitions, obese people on obstacle courses, rolling off suspended logs into the water or those iron Chef shows where fast-chopping, overwrought apprentices are reduced to tears over a failed sauce or salad dressing.

Eating is always an issue on a book tour. I set out expecting to eat healthy, and maybe even lose a pound or two.  You tell yourself you can make smart choices because there will be so many healthy options on the road, as opposed to the limited selection in the home fridge. You read a few monster fitness reviews to get inspired by what others are doing, but the reality is that because you are so often at airports for meals, you find yourself eating pizza, popcorn, fries and bagels as part of a square meal.  You wake up too early in the morning to work out and by night time there is no energy to contemplate the hotel “Fitness Room.”

In the hotel room, anticipating a jam-packed day ahead I  approach room service breakfast with the attitude of someone from the ill-fated Donnor party.

“You never know where the next meal is going to come from so I might as well eat hearty,” I tell myself.  I order an egg white omelet with veggies, an English muffin, fruit plate and then I wreck it.  I throw in some bacon for good measure, some “stick to your ribs” food as my mother would say.  By the end of the three weeks it has stuck to my ribs all right.  And to my hips and then it goes on to build a set of customized saddlebags. My penchant for eating bacon on the road is a little like drinking a Tab and then ordering an ice cream sundae.   The navy blue form fitting skirt I have chosen is now straining a bit at the waistband.


  1. Cindy

    April 22, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Hi – just gave you a 7 second hug at your book table at the VA Research luncheon. I wanted to refer you and your book to a library colleague here who sponsors book forums at the VA – and was looking for your book site to send her. I found this blog, and I must say, what a great writer you are!!! As good as your speaking was today. I can’t wait to read your books, and will send prayers to you and your whole family for continued humor and peace:) – and blessings! I was so pleased and encouraged when I saw on the news that Bob was recovering.
    I am with the Library Network Office here at the VA, helping the 150 some libraries full of staff at the VA Medical Centers across the country. It’s a bit like herding cats sometimes, because of the differences in local VA administrative support for their local libraries. There is no mandate for a VA facility to have a library or even a librarian. The most stressful situation our librarians face is trying to find resources for the patient and caregiver with the small budgets that most are allocated. Some medical centers do not even provide a patient library, just one for staff.
    If you ever visit the VA’s in Tampa, or Chillicothe, OH, or even Northport, NY, you will see what library resources and services, and space, can do for the patient and caregiver. We are working on a surge to get more funding allocated for resources for staff (and Research has been one of our top supporters), as well as library space for the patient and caregiver at all VA hospitals.
    You and Wanda this morning were so moving, and as a caregiver myself, I know the importance of love and support – and understanding. I hope our office’s struggles for patient and caregiver education will be given the attention that you so eloquently lobbied for today. If you ever do visit a VA library – give them a thumb’s up. They are all different, but I would gamble that 99% are hardworking and 100% are dedicated to the Veteran:)
    Keep sharing that love and humor – you are a spectacular angel for showing us all what the spirit of God can look like here on earth 🙂
    Hugs and kisses – and appreciation,

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