Greetings from the air above Cleveland!
I gotta say, it was with a heavy heart that I landed in Cleveland the other night, and not just because there was an electrical storm that was so bad it looked to be daylight at ten in the evening. (I actually saw that thing from Twilight Zone sitting on the wing. It looked scared. Very scared) My heart was heavy because I found out that Snowy, the bunny who won my “take a picture of your pet reading one of my books” contest, passed away after a brief illness. Rock on, little Snowy. This one’s for you.
I don’t wanna be mean, but, on first sight, the Crown Plaza Cleveland was not that spectacular. I was exhausted from a full day of stuff, and when I opened the door to my room, a smell not unlike that of a dead gardenia greeted me. Making matters worse, the air conditioner was thumping like my grandma’s foot used to do when we were late for dinner. So, I trudged back downstairs and told them I needed a new room. They said they didn’t have any more rooms. I cried. They upgraded me to a penthouse suite. Note to self: cry more.
The room was big and lovely. The mini bar…oh, dear Lord. TWO cans of Pringles. Two of everything. Is this really how the other half lives? IT WAS A BOUNTY.
My wake-up call came at 7:30, then another call came in at 7:40, this one for the Lanigan and Malone Radio Morning Show. I have done this show a few times before and it was very nice and easy, until they asked me what I was doing that night and I sort of panicked because I was still in bed and my schedule was over on the desk way across the room (did I mention I was in the penthouse suite?). I said, “I’m going to be at the library!” And Lanigan (or was it Malone?) said, “That’s right, at the Cuyahoga County library tonight at seven.” Phew. Then we talked a little about how great the library is and how we all need to help libraries, and they told folks to come out and see me that night.
Minutes later, there was a knock on the door for room service. (What, you think I’m going to get out of my pajamas and go down to the breakfast bar like an animal?) I had an omelet with mushrooms and tomatoes and some coffee and fruit. I had asked them not to include the potatoes, which they didn’t. And I pretended that I hadn’t noticed the “toast” section on the breakfast menu card, and I was all, like, “Oh, no, they gave me toast and it’s dripping with butter and I can’t eat this, but it would be wrong to waste food and nom-nom-nom….”
Breakfast finished, I had to ask myself that age-old question every touring author is faced with: to bathe, or not to bathe? (That really is the question, for ’tis far more nobler, or at least pleasing, to get some extra sleep.) An hour and fifteen minutes later, my second wake-up call came, and I headed down to the lobby, where I met Miss T, my Cleveland escort. Miss T was very nice and an incredibly safe and cautious driver, which‚ as a perpetual passenger‚ is something I appreciate. I asked her what the building was at the end of the street because I could see it from my Penthouse Suite (Chez Slaughter), and I noticed that there was a rainbow flag flying just below the American flag and I asked her if it was a patriotic gay bar or what. She told me it was Cleveland City Hall, and she had no idea why there was a gay flag there unless the mayor had just given up on the next election.
My next interview was with Jim McIntyre at WDOK radio’s Cleveland Connection. I was a little nervous pulling into the studio parking lot because this place is locked down like Fort Knox. Gates and security and all kinds of stuff. Jim was very nice, though, and he had thoughtful questions and had obviously read the book, which is more rare than you’d expect. I talked about Save the Libraries, and we shared some library love stories.
I said that as a little girl growing up in a small town, it was a revelation to see the women at the library, and these women were so well-educated, so well-read, and so independent. When I was growing up, there weren’t many women role models outside of mother and teacher. Not that those aren’t great role models, but the librarians RAN the library. They were the bosses of the library. They were the CEOs of Reading. I also pitched my “help locally” idea, urging folks to help their local branch and do what they can to support literacy in their community. I think Jim was pleased with the interview. I know I was because he was a very nice and obviously well-read guy. As always, it went really fast. We talked a bit afterward, and he said he’s normally a nonfiction guy, so I recommended the new Erik Larson with “beasts” in the title (I never can remember the whole title) and told him a little about it. Great book. I wasn’t a Devil in the White City fan except for the serial killer bits (duh), but the Beast Book was fantastic. I’m sure it’s already squarely planted on the nonfiction bestseller list, which is separate from the fiction list, so well worth buying this week.
Next, Miss T drove me back to my hotel. I had some down time and phone calls. My publisher called me to say that Fallen is doing well, which is very nice to hear. I took another nap, then headed down for lunch (grilled chicken sandwich with root chips and an iced tea). I asked the waitress about the gay flag, and she said she didn’t know why it was there. I said, “Maybe the queen is visiting?” and she said that they don’t usually get visitors of that stature in Cleveland.
Next, I went back to my room, took a shower, and read some of the new Janet Evanovich book, which is a fun read but if you want it, you really should check it out at the library. DON’T BUY IT. At least not for the next two weeks. Seriously. There are other books out there. Thrillers, for instance.
Miss T picked me up in the lobby promptly at 4:15 to take me to dinner. We had a nice talk on the drive to the restaurant, where I was meeting some of the Cuyahoga librarians. She was very interested about what I had to say in my interview with Jim and we talked a bit about Jesus Christ and she told me that she doesn’t think women should be in charge of big things like countries, or run for president, because they are too emotional and can’t make difficult decisions.
We pulled into the parking lot of a motel, and I am going to be honest: I got a little nervous. It looked like the kind of place for an assignation of the one-hour variety. We even saw a working lady walking across the parking lot. Miss T had undershot the restaurant, which was on the other side of the hotel, so we did a big circle and parked in front of El Loco Mono. I was immediately reminded of that scene in Bridesmaids where they went to the Brazilian steak house and there was a dog running through the parking lot, but thought I should give the place the benefit of the doubt. Good Mexican restaurants aren’t usually at shopping malls or upscale places. They’re down there in the trenches where no one reports the occasional grease fire. Right?
I was met by two of the Cuyahoga librarians, and as I was a little early, we had a nice time to chat. More librarians came as we got closer to the appointed hour of five o’clock (which, for those of you who live in New York City, is a normal time for regular people to eat dinner). I had a very tasty chicken quesadilla, but I couldn’t eat all of it because I was worried I would end up falling asleep if I did. Plus, I don’t know if y’all know this, but when you check your bag on an airplane and it goes into the nonpressurized part of the cabin, your pants will shrink. So, I have to be very careful about what I eat because physics is working against me. Anyway, I had a really swell time talking to this fantastic group of ladies. They were all so funny and interesting, and I think any one of them could make a tough decision without becoming too emotional.
After our satisfying meal, we all trundled ourselves off to the library. Holy cow, what a beautiful building. Just amazing. The staff was warm and welcoming, and the head librarian (who was at the dinner) was obviously running a tight ship. The children’s play area was amazing (except for the children), and the stacks were all neat and sparkly. And the staff was neat and sparkly, and‚ if I may be so bold ‚ smooth and silky, which could probably be attributed to the Zim’s Crack Creme I found in the staff bathroom. They also had a scale in the bathroom, which, what is up with that? I am surprised no one has called OSHA on them.
I was mic’d up for the event and felt a bit like a robot, but that’s okay because it would be kind of cool to be a robot (but only for a few days). There was a very nice crowd of people there. The library makes folks sign up for events, and I think that we had around 160 in attendance. They were all well-versed in my books and had lots of interesting questions. All in all, it was a very good and engaged crowd, which is always pleasant because if they are just there because their husbands are retired and they can’t stand being at home, or because they thought tonight was the wine and cheese tasting event, then it’s not fun for any of us. Especially because, once you get wine and cheese into your head, you’re not happy until you have wine and cheese.
One of the librarians drove me back to the hotel. She was also a very safe driver. I think we both regretted that she’d put her leftovers from the Mexican restaurant in her car because it was hot outside and I’m pretty sure there was some kind of science experiment going on in that styrofoam container. My friend Eileen had driven in from Kent to meet me for a drink. It was very nice to see my old pal, and I enjoyed a crisp club soda with lemon (two, actually! I was feeling a little daring!) and I asked her about the gay flag and she told me that it was probably to celebrate the gay olympics coming to Cleveland, which I thought was very nice. I am sure Miss T will be glued to her TV.
After my drinks, I went back to my room and read a little bit of my Janet Evanovich book, WHICH YOU SHOULD NOT BUY. My throat was a little scratchy (which happened on my last tour in Europe, which made me panic a little because I was in France and thought I’d caught some kind of filthy French disease and so I went on WebMD and figured out what it was and emailed my doctor back home in a panic, only to have her write back (in quite a snippy tone, I felt), “You do not have sickle cell anemia” as if her “medical” school trumps my webinosis), so I opened up the pack of Jolly Ranchers from the mini bar (six candies for only 12 dollars! Thanks, Random House) sucked on a few while I read some more of my book, and went to bed.
I take it from the sudden drop in altitude that we are about to land. Thus ends my Cleveland report. Snowy, I hope you are munching on that big carrot in the sky.
Your intrepid author,