Mon 30

Travel Diary: Days 5-6 (Seattle, Portland)

Writing You wake up at LAX. You wake up at SFO. You wake up at Portland International Airport. (Yeah, little Chuck Palahniuk reference for you there. I’m heading to his home town; it seemed appropriate.)

How late do I sleep? 10am, baby! Damn, that’s nice. I haven’t slept in like this since Fin was born.

I don’t have anything scheduled today besides my Seattle reading, but my voice is a little scratchy so I decide not to test it against the icy winds and torrential rain. Instead I spend the day catching up on email and browsing the web. I also get some laundry done via the hotel’s service, but then I forget about tipping the guy who delivers it. Dammit! Now I feel guilty.

My reading tonight is at Elliot Bay Books, and I’m excited because when I was here in 2004, my media escort told me that Elliot Bay was the #1 bookstore in Seattle, the place where all the important authors read. Then she drove me to a different store, to do my reading. Now, however, I have clearly entered the big league.

The bookstore has a great room set up with plenty of seating. Then dozens of people arrive and fill these, so they need to unpack more chairs. This is terrific: I was told to expect lower numbers since it’s a weekend reading, but we have 60 people! I chat to a few of them before the event kicks off, and every single person points out that I was wrong to say in my blog that Seattle broke the record for consecutive rainy days: in fact it only got close. Clearly you don’t want to mess with Seattle residents when it comes to what’s what with rain.

The reading itself is awesome; in fact, the Q&A session is probably the best of the tour so far, with great questions and a really fun feel. At one point a guy starts a question with, “If anyone here hasn’t read the book, you should probably block your ears, but…” and I threaten to brain him with a water pitcher if he continues.

I sign books until the store closes at 10pm, during which I get to meet a guy who’s taken the trouble to stick a barcode under his eye, Jennifer Government-style, and a couple who have driven all the way from Vancouver, Canada. One of them, Milla, took a few snaps during the reading, so you can check me out in action.

On the way back to the hotel, Tina, my media escort, is ecstatic over how well the event went. She fusses over me like a proud mother. If I had any hair, I am sure she would be ruffling it.

I call home and speak to Jen, who is particularly pleased with the nice things I wrote about her in a previous blog. Whenever Jen watches an award ceremony on TV where the winner tearfully thanks his wife, Jen gets all mushy. Then she snuggles close to me and says, “When you win something, you should thank me like that.”

I order a late dinner via room service, and, still feeling bad for forgetting to tip the laundry guy earlier that day, massively overtip. There’s already a 20% gratuity added to the price plus a $2 delivery charge, but I give the guy who brings it to my room three bucks as well. I think this means I end up tipping more than the actual cost of the food. I definitely need more practice at this.

On Sunday morning I don’t get up until 11. Wow, it feels good even to type that. Let me do that again. I don’t get up until 11. Ohhhhh yeah.

Today is very relaxed: I have nothing to do but travel. Outside it’s bucketing down rain (*gasp*), but I brave this to wander up to the new Seattle Central Library. (Warning: picture appears to have had blue sky Photoshopped in.) This miracle of architecture looks like they built a tall office tower, then someone sat on it. I like it a lot, especially the sloping floors. I keep hoping that somebody will drop a pen and I’ll get to watch them chase it from one side of the building to the other.

Before I leave for the airport I carefully go through my bag, because at the last airport I got stung $25 for excess baggage. My problem is books: I am now carrying eight of them, mostly gifts from (a) the generous or (b) other writers who want me to comment on their manuscripts. I am tempted to ditch a couple, but know I will be haunted by their eager, innocent faces. So I start cramming stuff into my carry-on.

I’m flying Alaska Airlines to Portland and am alarmed to see that the airplane has propellers. Propellers! Not only that, but when I squeeze on board, I find myself positioned in the exact spot that they would intersect should they both decide to detach from the wing and go spinning into the fuselage. Although I guess if that happened, my precise location probably wouldn’t matter much. I guess I’d be screwed no matter where I was sitting. This is seat 1D, right at the front of the plane, and from here I can also see our captain, a woman who for some reason I decide looks like a Tammy. I watch Tammy carefully, looking for signs of tiredness or suicidal depression, until my staring causes the hairs on the back of her neck to rise and she closes the cabin door.

The seats are tiny and, judging from the smell, the man beside me has a dead cat concealed on his person. Fortunately it only takes about eight seconds to fly from Seattle to Portland. I’m first off the plane, but I have no idea where I’m going. I take a wrong turn after entering the terminal, and when I turn around to backtrack I see a line of passengers blindly following me. Ha! I want to laugh in their confused faces. Okay, not really. I feel a little embarrassed.

I tip so much between the airport and my hotel room that I run out of dollar bills. This may be developing into a psychological condition.