Monday, June 23, 2008

The PD tour diary

[Originally posted on The Dizzies]


My hotel room in Seattle...


Oh wait—not really!

Nice PD/Elliott Bay reading mention in The Stranger today—which I looked at while in the famous Pike Place Market, the place where they throw the fish at each other! "Nabokov writing The Office," something like that, heyyyy, I'll take it!

Tomorrow, Mon. 6/16—Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 South Main Street, 7:30! I will be reading!

Packing on Saturday, I e-mailed Jenny D, my life coach, regarding what books to bring. I was up to four or five—clearly too many:
Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives (which I thought was a shoo-in)
Rivka Galchen, Atmospheric Disturbances (halfway done, so maybe not much bang for buck, space-in-suitcase-wise)
Paul Park, Princes of Roumania (hadn't opened)
George Gissing, New Grub Street (just started, one chapter in)
Cyril Connolly, Enemies of Promise (just started, two chapters in)
Charles Stross, Saturn's Children (just started, five pages in)
She talked me down to Park and Gissing, and allowed me to bring Rivka's book, which I finished on the flight to Seattle. Verdict: Go read it!! It's a good sign when one keeps reaching for a pen to scribble down excellent little lines. (One I liked: "Everybody with their dogs," said in a sort of exhausted tone.) I think the comparisons (in reviews etc.) to Pynchon might be slightly misleading—the style really isn't anything like Pynchon's; there's paranoia, but it seems more in line with Borges, say. (And that makes sense, actually—some of the action takes place in Argentina.) The book is written in a slippery, funny, complex first person, with huge gusts of sudden sadness roaring through...One of those books that makes you want to write!

After Atmospheric Disturbances, I read Rachael Ray's Lake George–area recommendations in the in-flight magazine, then saw her yammering cheerfully about great meal bargains in the mid-Atlantic and Pacific Northwest states on Food Network. What would my life be without Rachael Ray? (A: Quieter.)

Then I read a few chapters of Paul Park—very good!

But since disembarking, it's been all about the Gissing. GREAT!

Seattle has approximately five trillion independent bookstores!

(Off to find this taco place that Rachael Ray recommended! Elliott Bay TONITE!)

Elliott Bay was great! A large yet cozy book-lined bunker, perfect for escaping the beautiful weather. So nice to see everyone!

Yesterday I made my way to the taco place, Agua Verde, that Rachael Ray recommended. I took a bus that started in a tunnel. The inscription on the structure above it said GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE. I felt like I'd wandered into a city of the future. Remembrance of what? I didn't know. I took the bus out to the depopulated university and asked someone to point me to Boat Street. I had a salmon taco, which sounded like a good idea (Seattle = salmon town!) but maybe doesn't make that much sense, and a horchata. I read some more of New Grub Street.

Verdict: Agua Verde was OK! I'm glad I took the little trip. On the bus ride home two young dudes were talking music: "C major 7th is just A minor ninth minus the A."

* * *

And now for some PhotoBooth magic: The two things on my desk yesterday!

* * *

Tonight! Portland! Powell's at 7:30!

(Here is me blogging away there last month.)

—Broke my shoelace this morning—trying to dress with vigor in order to catch a car to the airport. Instead of being annoyed (well, instead of being totally annoyed), this made me happy: It was the exact thing—an allusion in the physical world—that triggers the "action" in Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine, the great office novel of the '80s!

—Later that night: People are talking about an SF event at a place called The Mezzanine.

—Disorienting hair care experience: In Portland, washed my hair with shampoo but then wasn't sure. Had I used conditioner instead of shampoo? Those bottles are all the same shape. So I shampooed, either for the first time or again, and conditioned, either again or for the first time. My hair was distressingly floaty all day.

—My iPod wheel jammed about a year ago, and I can only play one playlist at a time (long story), so I've been listening to whatever's on it: Richard and Linda Thompson, Pour Down Like Silver; assorted Destroyer; San Serac, Ice Age; Psychic Envelopes.

—Sent out an e-mail to Bay Area friends and acquaintances late last night, or was it early this morning, in which I messed up the day of the S.F. reading. Had to send another one afterward saying, essentially, oops. Fits in with epigraph of PD—another part of the New Order lyric: "I don't know what day it is..." Another real-life allusion!

—At Google, read section about Googling ("Instant Folklore").

—In Portland, watched Discovery program in which a baby hippo gets eaten by a crocodile. The scene was shot from every angle. Shouldn't the camerapeople do something?

—Over drinks last night was told about this YouTube video: Water buffalo vs. lions vs. crocodiles briefly vs. stampede of water buffalo:

—I think there is a scene like this in The Great Romance, that 19th-century New Zealand space exploration/time travel novel I reviewed...was it last month? A sudden battle royale between jungle beasts...except we're on Venus.

[Cue: Pixies, "Where is My Mind?"]

[Photo taken June 19 by my computer]


—Idea for a character: "I'm an intellectual property lawyer specializing in Sudoku cases."

—Every airport line a labyrinth of Tens-a-Barriers.

—Least romantic sign, LAX: PRE-SECURITY DINING

—In Seattle: Had morning coffee outside Grand Central Bakery; saw a homeless guy mummified in old clothes, face invisible. Later that afternoon, visiting E., we stop by an outsider-artist neighbor's house. He makes whimsical/strange tiled sculptures. In the backyard is one of a life-sized mummy, arms outstretched.

—I love how there is never any security when it comes to baggage claim.

—Media escort in Portland tells me that Oregon was founded as an all-white state.

—Why am I saying "No worries" again? "Sorry, Mr. Park, the room will be ready in 15 minutes." "No worries!"

—Happened twice: Upon dropping me off, cabbie says, "Have a good flight." Automatic response: "You too." Nipped it in the bud for the last one.

—Printed matter acquired: six volumes.

—In Portland, D. wears a shirt with DRAMA in a circle, crossed out.

—In San Francisco, lunched with A. and B. at WEIRD FISH. B.'s beard has a soothing effect.

—Many quaint and curious stores along Valencia. Borderlands, science fiction store, has Ouroboric signage:

—Anagram: Oregon: O NEGRO (!!??)

—Economics. In San Francisco, I mean Seattle, got an iced latte at Pike's Place (Pike Place?); clearly ordered and got the smallest size, but was apparently charged for the medium size, unless Washington has a 30% sales tax. Wanted to say something but didn't. Next day, take bus out to acclaimed waterfront taquería; I don't have change, nor any bill smaller than a twenty; the driver gives me a free ride. It all works out.


—Los Angeles:

—In San Francisco I can't figure out how to get from the elevator to my room, how to get from my room to the elevator. Each time I wind up going the wrong way round, passing something called THE GALLERY.

—Must I record every semi-interesting sign I see, every vaguely amusing phrase or chuckleworthy name? Yes? What for? To inflict it, later, on an unsuspecting readership? To remind myself, I am alive?

—Couldn't get this in the other day's Jumble: TAPECK

—Am I gaining weight or losing weight?

—Least aerodynamic airplane logo: Alaska Airlines' eskimo, peering out through ancient eyes.

—In Seattle, in San Francisco, rooms have jogging maps, which I study with interest. Who am I fooling? I don't even jog in New York.

—Did not buy at Powell's a book I mildly coveted upon spying it by chance last summer: SHHH!, by G.[?] Sheppard. How long will it stay on the shelf, this 1000-plus-page novel set in Montreal? Scenario in which I return to Portland every year and check up on its saleability.

—Eccentric millionaire hires person (me) to do this.

—Best matchbook ever?

"The reading public should pay me for telling them what they oughtn't to read. I must think it over."
"Carlyle has anticipated you," threw in Alfred.
"Yes, but in an antiquated way. I would base my polemic on the newest philosophy."
He developed the idea facetiously, whilst John regarded him as he might have watched a performing monkey." —Gissing, New Grub Street

—In Seattle, R. tells me about Underground Seattle, the old city built below sea level and abandoned, and the abandoned novel he was writing about it.


—Idea for story: Eccentric millionaire who hires his own private Jumble and Sudoku craftsmen, the way you would hire a chef.

—At Google, I try to summarize my blog for my hosts. "I write about my obsessions...the snake with its tail in its mouth? And the number 26?"

"FREMONT TROLL—This beloved public artwork depicts a large, fearsome troll devouring an actual Volkswagen underneath the Aurora Bridge." —Where Seattle, 6/08

Hey , some a**hole tore out the map in this Seattle visitor's guide—oops, wait—I did that, yesterday.


—I like the airport name SEA-TAC.

—On Mercer Island, M.'s daughter, B., 5, tells me she's writing a book. She isn't finished yet but I think it will be pretty good.

—Stewardess: Young eyes, old man's hands.

—Thriller plot point idea: Someone with multiple piercings gets through security, is able to remove earrings etc. and form them into a weapon.

—In L.A., go to Barney Greengrass (which in New York is just down the street) at Barneys (which in New York is cross town), like an anagram from home.

—On plane from S.F. to L.A., two kids giddily dance in their seats, thin arms raised, as if swaying to San Serac's "What Price Revenge?," which has commenced piping into my ears at the correct moment.

—On plane home, watch Blast of Silence (1961) on DVD. Great fat-guy actor, room full of caged rats, keeps money in a lamp. The actress reminds me of someone. I think the main hit man actor is understated to perfection, wonder who it is, learn later it's the director. The narration is amazing but I imagine a different version—no narration, gaping silences.

Spiderwick Chronicle is on at the front of the cabin. Tune in for about seven minutes of Penelope but I don't understand it. (Is Reese Witherspoon in the movie?) Watch a pretty funny episode of How I Met Your Mother.

—Note to self: Weed out dead metaphors. (Is that a dead metaphor itself?)


And it's one more night in Hollywood: EP at Book Soup, Los Angeles, 6/20/08
[Photo by Pinky.]

No comments: