This is not a post, not in the usual way of my posts here on Naked Authors - but I am here in the Virgin America Clubhouse at Heathrow Airport, waiting for my flight back to the USA. Been here a couple of weeks to see my Mum, and return to a crazy couple of months because I have a serious deadline looming. I managed to hit just about everything on my to-do list - there's always a to-do list - and really, I wish I were going on vacation RIGHT NOW! I cannot remember when I last had a vacation.
So, before you think I have won the lottery, being in the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse and all that, let me just say that some years ago I decided I would not use my accrued Virgin miles to get a free flight, because I could never get the date I wanted from the airport I wanted, so instead, it's easy - I use those miles to upgrade. Can't always do it, but if I book far enough in advance, it works just fine - and believe me, on a 11-hour flight from Heathrow to San Francisco, that cushy seat in Upper Class makes me feel less like Quasimodo running from the bells when I get off the darn 'plane, jet-lagged and less than gruntled. I just hate that term, "Upper Class" though, because, really, I hate elitism. But what can you do? I think I'll just have another glass of bubbly while I work that one out.
Whatever anyone thinks of London - I usually spend a few days in the nation's capital on these trips home, though most of my time is spent in rural Sussex - London is by far and away the country's economic powerhouse, with investment coming in from across the globe. And it shows. Culturally, it's hopping, more than anything I ever experienced even twenty years ago. Walk down the street and you hear every language under the sun spoken, and the restaurants are amazing (I know - London has finally moved away from the stigma of food overcooked in lots of water to make the best of wartime rationing). And here's the interesting thing - there's money about. People - ordinary people, not skillionaires, although I am sure there are a goodly number of them on the street - are dropping a lot on eating out, on clothing, cars, and, well, the things people with disposable income buy. Perhaps it's all on credit, who knows?
A friend I had dinner with last Sunday - he works as a consultant to large corporations on developing customer service strategies - told me that Britain is basically being kept afloat by two things; London's golden economy and Scottish oil. Two ends of a country keeping up the middle. Perhaps that's true anywhere you go in the world - I'll have to think about it, and not being an economist, I can't comment. But I do know this. Walk around London and you are always aware of its history. On Tuesday morning I meandered alongside the Thames as it swept past Chelsea, and there it was, a working waterway since before the Middle Ages. There were the water taxis, the lighters tied to a pontoon in the center. The tide was out, and as I looked down at the mud and scanned for treasure, I imagined the mudlarks of Victorian times - another booming age - who would search high and low for anything of value fallen from a ship coming into the docks, or from the pockets of sailors having had too much to drink. My mind skipped a century, and I could imagine the searchlights at night, as bombers came during Hitler's Blitzkrieg to hammer those same dock - and along with it the lives of so many east-enders. And I looked at former warehouses, now upscale apartment buildings. London, like New York, like Boston, Paris, Berlin, Shanghai or Madrid - is an old city with its ancient bones showing. But there's something these cities know that the younger inhabitants don't know yet, those star-struck whizz kids, and I guess many of us have been there. It's that every dog has its day. What goes up, must come down. And every booming economy floats on an underbelly, which, in my humble experience of life, is most raw when the gold on top is shining brightest.
(I have an original of that poster, by the way)
So, that's it from me. My flight will be called soon, and I might just have that glass of champagne now. While I can. The air miles are running out!!!
What are you up to this weekend?
Turns out I wrote a post after all ....
1. This excellent news from The New York Times, because, as my sister says, "There are two kinds of food in the world: food that's good, and food that needs more salt."
2. My new house, and having all my books under one roof for the first time in five years... also, Pierre Deux armchairs for SUPER CRAZY CHEAP off craigslist:
(Note: these are only three of the shelves. There are ten shelves so far. I think I have to buy more from IKEA. I love IKEA.)
3. The view from my new room (TREES!)
4. Having my own lilacs to smell for the first time since I lived in Boulder (Which was, like, ten bazillion years ago or something.)
Also, they might be boarding some horses in the barn, soon. Which would be awesome. Because I think horseshit actually smells good. And also I will not have to feed them, or muck out the stalls. Because even though I'm rather fond of the smell of horseshit, I haven't missed mucking out stalls in the thirty-odd years since I last did it. And I was never really great at it. So I hope this writing thing works out. (I also hugely suck at waitressing.)
5. The paint colors my landlord let me pick out. Especially since I didn't actually have to do any of the painting.
I may have posted this already. BUT I REALLY LIKE THE COLORS.
6. Did I mention salt? I love salt. Like, SO MUCH. More than those colors.
7. My firstborn, even though she's shaved half her head:
8. Still getting to hang out in the city, even though all my books are in the country. Especially when I get to go to groovy restaurants on someone else's expense account. Or just really cheap Chinese-Cuban diners if dinner's on me:
View of Chrysler building from restaurant terrace Sunday night... and here's view of Central Park from last night:
9. Getting to go to the Fox upfronts yesterday:
10. Flavored salts from Williams-Sonoma:
11. (BONUS!) Having my co-conspirator like the first two chapters I wrote of our thriller novel. Which starts in Moscow and in which I got to mention the Gulag prison-gang guys who found a frozen wooly mammoth and ate it. Raw. Because that's the kind of trivia I love to collect. (Does woolly have two L's? I can't remember.)
12. (DOUBLE BONUS!) What my firstborn wrote on Facebook on Mother's day:
"so my mom is awesome, infinitely beautiful, and brought me up by teaching me that debutantes can be foul-mouthed feminists who read encyclopedias of serial homicide for fun, which is probably the best lesson a woman could learn. i love you bunches, Cornelia Read, thanks for being so fucking cool."
What's making you happy, dearest Fellow Nakeds?
From the messy desk of Paul Levine
JOHN BOEHNER: RASTAFARIAN-IN-LAW
Cool! House Speaker John Boehner is dead set against legalizing marijuana, even for medical purposes. His daughter, Lindsay, just married Dominque Lakhan (pictured), a Jamaican-born construction worker with waist-long dreadlocks once arrested for marijuana possession in Florida. As Bob Marley said, "herb is the healing of a nation. Alcohol is the destruction." Have a drink, John.
ISLAND SCAM FRAMES AMERICAN TOURISTS
More from the islands. Americans, BEWARE the Turks and Caicos. On consecutive days two weeks ago, a single bullet was planted in the luggage of each of two American tourists, a retired 80 year old retired neurosurgeon from Sarasota and a 60 year old business woman from Texas. Both were criminally charged. The surgeon was held three stinking nights in a local jail before bail was granted. Full Disclosure: Both Americans are represented by my gal, the Miami legal susperstar Marcia Silvers.
For those who have asked, yes, I've finished the 10th novel in the Jake Lassiter series. It's "State vs. Lassiter," where our hero goes on trial for first degree murder. More info later this summer. It's the first full length Jake tale since "Lassiter" in 2011 with the novella "Last Chance Lassiter" published last year.
For now, there are the nine Lassiter novels in the BACKLIST
to choose from plus the "Solomon vs. Lord"
series and four stand-alone thrillers.
AUTHORS ON THE AIR...INCLUDING ME
Help me name my new podcast that will be broadcast on Authors on the Air
starting next month. I'll be interviewing authors, of course. But also Hollywood screenwriters, lawyers, sportswriters, and maybe my favorite bartender. Working title: "Pulp Friction." Like it? Hate it? Any suggestions?
I recently stumbled across a guest-post I wrote for another blog after my fourth book was published. I'm reposting it because yesterday was Mother's Day.
My fourth book just came out, and my mother has “read” all of them. I use quotation marks because my mother is what we euphemistically call “getting up in years,” and now lives in an assisted living apartment. Her mind is sharp but her body is frail from the ravages of age, the worst of which is the loss of sight from macular degeneration. Because she can no longer see to read, she has listened to the audio version of all of my novels except the latest. Cool Cache is dedicated to my parents. When I gave my mother her copy of the book, I guided her finger to the spot on the page where her name was printed.
“Is it there?” she asked.
“Daddy’s name, too?”
“He would have been so proud!”
“Read me the first chapter.”
With the first words, my mother pushed the button on her blue recliner and drifted into peaceful reverie. When I finished, I glanced up and saw her staring trance-like into space as if she was the proverbial deer caught in the headlights.
No response. My mother’s hearing is perfect. There was no way she couldn’t hear me. On closer inspection, she seemed unusually still. Her facial muscles were rigid and her eyes glassy. All I could think of was OMIGOD! I’ve killed her!
She blinked with a start. “Why are you shouting?”
“I thought you were…well, never mind.”
“I was just caught up in the story. Is that the end of the chapter?”
“It was very exciting. What comes next?”
“So? What are you waiting for?”
I stopped reading after the second chapter because I had to leave for an appointment. A couple of days later I was talking to her on the telephone. She told me the suspense was killing her (bad choice of words, if you ask me), so she asked her caregiver to pick up the slack. In no time, they were on chapter nine.
“Lita keeps laughing,” she said.
“Maybe she’s tired. Exhaustion can make you hysterical.” I could say this with authority, because deadlines have made me an expert on hysteria.
“No, she’s laughing at your writing. Today she was giggling at lunch about something you said, and she didn’t even have the book with her.”
A little bit of family history here. My mother doesn’t have a sense of humor. If life is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel, my mother is a big-time feeler. As a result, I live to make her laugh, sometimes by shocking her reserved sensibilities. Example, during a recent discussion on global warming, I asked if she knew that excessive farting by sheep in Australia and New Zealand was destroying the ozone. She laughed, which was a miracle because when I was growing up, the word “fart” was never spoken in our home. In fact, all references to flatulence were verboten. My sister and I were told that those strange sounds coming from my father’s direction were, in fact, barking spiders. I had a serious case of arachnophobia until I entered first grade and sniffed out the truth. I digress. So, it was not surprising that my mother wasn’t laughing. I just hoped Lita was laughing with me and not at me.
“Lita and I think you’re talented,” she continued.
Thinking a daughter is talented is the primary job of mothers and those who work for them. Truth be told, my mother isn’t a reliable arbiter of my talent, because she thinks everything I do is brilliant: navigating L.A. freeways, clearing my throat, folding laundry (If she could see those naughty little Victoria’s Secret thongs in my laundry basket, she would definitely drop laundry-folding from the list.) That night, I told my husband the story.
“I think you should redirect your marketing strategy,” he said. “It’s clear that seniors are a material audience.”
“You’re basing your hypothesis on one person, and she’s my mother.”
“Okay. Ignore the empirical evidence, and do so at your own peril.”
Despite the fact that I live with a man who uses “empirical” and “peril” in the same sentence, his words caused me to ponder. My books are very popular among my mother’s friends, but I’d always assumed that was because she carries a publicity poster in the basket of her wheely-walker and makes Lita slip my bookmarks under everybody’s daily dish of breakfast prunes.
Frankly, it’s difficult for me to narrowly define any specific audience. Still, on those days when I find myself alone at a book signing or stung by a critic’s tart words, it’s comforting to know there is someone sitting in a blue recliner, hanging on every word I write. Lita’s laughter is just frosting on the cake. I know you can’t read this Mother, but thanks for being in my corner.
My mother was my biggest fan. She died in August 2010. After that, I stopped writing for a very long time.
My mother in her early 20s. So fresh-faced and full of promise.
The two of us on one of my book tours to rainy Seattle.
Even though she was wheel-chair bound, she wanted to go with me.
The trip was a challenge for both of us but also a cherished memory.
Do any of you have past or current memories of your mothers to share?
A belated happy Mother's Day and Happy Monday!
I’ve been flying a lot lately. One month of book tour means quite a few flights, and then last weekend I came over here to England, which is where I am now, in windy – really WINDY, Sussex. But this is about one of those flights they call, “The flight from hell,” but it wasn’t really hell, just really uncomfortable (and for me, every flight is pretty uncomfortable), and I might add, one that flouted a few safely rules. Here’s what happened – and I might not have chosen to write this if United had bothered to email me back. But you’ll see why I’m glad I did.
I finished my book tour a couple of weeks ago with an event at the lovely Broadway Books in Portland. Because I had knee surgery a few weeks before the book tour began, I needed to sit in aircraft seats with more leg room pretty much throughout the tour, so on this particular flight I paid extra for Economy Plus. Here’s what happened.
While waiting for my flight I noticed a blind man – I guess he was in his late 60’s, something like that, he might have been older, not sure – he was in the departures area with his really big service dog who was dozing away by his feet. I thought about how brave it was, to make a journey through airports and onto a plane, not only with a dog, but with the challenge of not being able to see. I can see and I have enough trouble.
The flight was called and the man was among the first to board, and because I had paid a bit extra for this Economy Plus seat, I wasn’t far behind him. It was when I saw the plane that I thought, “Uh-oh ….” It was one of those really small aircraft, and I just knew that I had been sold an Economy Plus seat when there was no extra legroom in 1D. Then I discovered the man and his dog had been allocated seat 1C.
I like to be accommodating, so I made it sound simple when I had to climb over the man and his dog to get to my seat – the Labrador was 124 lb and took up all the leg room in front of his owner’s seat and my seat – well, actually, just in front of my seat, because that’s where his behind was and he wouldn’t lay down for the entire flight, so at least the man was able to pat his dog’s head and tuck his feet somewhere behind the dog’s paws. The dog, with his bum right in front of me, also had a bad case of flatulence.
Because there was nowhere to place my feet, I had to elevate my legs and rest them against the bulkhead about three feet up, which, after a while began to really hurt my back. My knee wasn’t feeling great either. They were still boarding passengers at this point. There were no spare seats. The flight attendant apologized profusely – but what could she do? I just hoped there would be no need to assume the emergency position, because I would be toast!
After take-off, about the time the flight attendant came through the cabin with drinks and the quite delightful man next to me began knocking back his whisky and sodas, I was imagining being in traction for the rest of my life, though the Labrador’s digestive issues seemed to be improving. I felt like turning around to the passengers behind me and saying, “It wasn't me!!!”
Finally, I could take it no more – about 20 minutes before landing I had to move, so I staggered over the dog, who was drooling all over the floor by now. I had to walk up and down the aisle several times before I could feel my left leg from the knee to the ankle. Then I went to use the bathroom, and when I came out the concertina doors snapped shut and caught the back of my jacket tight. This was of course nothing to do with United Airlines, and everything to do with me and Fate on this particular flight. Everyone around me thought it was really funny, me being stuck in the door, and I laughed too – but not one soul came to help me and even looked quite sorry when I elbowed the door open and the in-flight entertainment ended. I made my way back to my seat.
The delightful young man sitting in 1B stood up as I returned (I was gearing up to clamber over the 124lb Labrador) and he offered to take my seat to give me a bit of a break. I pointed out that his legs were far longer than mine, but he said not to worry, he was happy to sit doubled up for the remainder of the flight. Actually, he just said, “Not to worry,” and I know, I just know, he almost followed it with, “My bones are younger than yours.” Oh well.
Right now I could go on about how I think United Airlines really failed in their care of the man and his dog. I discovered from the blind man that all service dogs travel free on most forms of public transport – and I think that’s great. But the genius who booked the seat for a man who needed help, plus his very large dog should, I think, have realized that no one should have been allocated the neighboring seat. That would be the seat erroneously labeled “Economy Plus” when it should have been rated “Steerage.” I could go on about that for a long time, plus the fact that the FAA might have grounded the aircraft if an inspector had been on board, because I was one passenger in an unsafe situation. But I will leave it there, you get the picture. Maybe United Airlines will one day decide to reply to my email, and I might get a $29 refund for the extra leg room I didn't enjoy. $29 is $29 after all.
Instead I will tell you this. The blind man was a chatty guy, full of his week's adventure in Portland and happy to talk about all the countries he’d visited over the years. He’d been blind almost his entire life and his dog (who shall remain nameless to protect his identity – no one needs to know more, now that you know he has really bad gas) was one in a long line of dogs the man had loved and who had served him well until they were retired. When the young man sat next to him, he wanted to know everything about him. The lad – mid-twenties, I would say – was pretty clean cut, the sort you wouldn’t mind your daughter dating.
“Got a girl, son?” asked the man, in a really loud voice.
The young man blushed. He nodded and said, yes, he had a girlfriend.
“You find yourself a good girl, and you marry her when you find her. Don’t let her go.”
More blushes from the young man. Rows 2 and 3 were all ears now.
“I married my girl. She’s gone now - lost her a few years ago.” He sipped his whiskey and soda and ran his fingers across the dog’s big head, and the dog leaned against his charge. “She was eight feet tall, my wife – four feet eleven in her bare feet, but eight feet tall to me. And you should have seen her – she was beautiful.”
OK, so United Airlines, you really messed up. But somehow, I wouldn’t have missed that flight for the world. I just wish we’d all been in first class on a bigger ‘plane. That would have been a good flight.
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