What Not to Do When in New YorkJuly 5, 2011
Last week while this blog was so quiet, I was in New York on business, and while house sitting my agent’s apartment, I managed to set it on fire.
Yes. On fire.
For ten or fifteen minutes, I ran back and forth from the room filled with firefighters and a still-smoking air conditioner, to the front door, frantic that neither cat escape as the men tromped in and out, because honestly, the only thing worse than dealing with a fire in your agent’s house would be losing her cat.
While wearing no pants. (It was muggy! I wanted air conditioning! I was thinking ahead!) Fortunately I thought to pull some on just before the fire department arrived.
The air conditioning unit had snapped, sparked and smoked shortly after I turned it on, but the firefighters said it put itself out, with no extension into the walls. They handled it with severity, taking absolutely no interest in me when I told them that I worked for the fire department back home. They tromped out, back toward their dinners I’d made them leave on their tables, their axes on their shoulders, and I was left shaking in the living room.
I called Susanna and, using my calm dispatcher voice, told her what had happened. Then I had a very short indulgent cry and the tiniest dram of Laphroig, which Susanna’s husband considerately kept in their liquor stash for probably just such occasions.
I was hungry, but I didn’t dare leave the apartment, sure that if I did, some other plugged-in appliance would leap into flame. Fortunately, it was New York, so I poked around their kitchen drawers until I found the compulsory menu package. Thirty minutes later, I ate sushi that had been delivered to the door (oh, sweet, sweet delivery). I had a glass of wine. I read my book.
Then I went to bed and, unable to drop off, stared up at the ceiling in the muggy heat, my shirt pulled up, a cool wet washcloth on my stomach.
It hit me then: I was in New York. On business. I was a writer. A real one. It was my third trip to the city on business in as many years, and I felt so freakin' lucky. Beyond lucky. Completely, gobsmacked amazed.
The Best Part
I think my absolute favorite moment was the HarperCollins party, which was at the boathouse in Central Park. (I know.) When I walked in, I had such a moment. I walked past the string ensemble to the dock overlooking the boaters. How many movies had I seen set in that location? Innumberable. The air was warm but not too heavy, and turtles bobbed in the water below.
Writing is mostly sitting alone, staring at a screen, concerned the words will never come, or when they do, they'll be wrong. And writers, when they dare to dream, dream of being published. I never got past that dream. That was as big as I dared. But if I'd dreamed bigger, I would have dreamed of being feted in an iconic New York locale, a glass of champagne in my hand. I never thought it would happen. I babbled something like this to one of the editors who gave me a funny look. I said, "I'm sorry. I sound crazy. But this is the dream." She said, no, she loved hearing it and that I should tell her more.
It felt like magic. I was starry-eyed. (I also felt rather like a rube--most of the other people seemed to take it all in stride. But I didn't. Anyway, it's more fun to be amazed, isn't it?)
Also, there were cardboard books to pose with:
That is, indeed, Eloisa James posing inside her own book. Heh. And here I am:
Also on my trip:
Knitting with knitters! Wonderful afternoon at Jenn Jarvis's house with some of my favorite people. Seeing a fun ska-hula-billy band at Ottos' Shrunken Head in the East Village with friends. Having my phone die on Thursday (it's Tuesday now, still don't have the new one yet) and being in a strange city with no internet or phone. Old skool! I used maps! Wrote phone numbers down! It shook me up more than I thought it should. Also, I missed Twitter unreasonably. It was a little embarrassing.
They Say It's My Birthday!
Overall, I think it's a good way to start a new year. It's my birthday today! And tomorrow I start a new job (same 911 fire/medical gig, new agency), and everything feels bright and fresh and a little scary. I'm thirty-nine, and this is my last hurrah before the big 4-0 next year. (I counted on my fingers this morning to be sure. This is not like 33, which I missed entirely.) Everyone (meaning Lala) has me freaked out over the 40 thing, so I'm going to do this year right.
I think I'm going to go for balance.
I know, what? Balance? I don't do balance. I run marathons or I sit on the couch. I write novels because it's a challenge. I pick (a lot of the time, sadly) work over family and friends, staying at my computer crazy-long hours. Maybe I could change this. So I'm thinking about this a lot.
What comes to mind when you think of balance? Where do you want balance in your life? I'm making a list.
And while I'm going on and ON, let me tell you about a book I read this week that I LOVED. Lovely reader Linda told me about it: My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir by Noelle Hancock. I was completely impressed and inspired by it--the story of a woman taking stock of her life and working on fear. She weaves Eleanor Roosevelt's story in with her own in a charming, smart way, and I highly recommend it.
* <psa> Thank god Susanna had a land line on which to call 911, since I had no phone and all. Eek! Keep your land line! (In California, it doesn't even need to have service to call 911. I have no land line service, but I keep the phone plugged in to use it when I have to.) </psa>