I'm standing by a table at the Starbucks waiting for two mochas, one soy, one regular. I had to remember to say "tall" instead of "small" and to say "no whip" even for Stephen's soy. Nine years ago today - let me repeat that with incredulous all caps, NINE years ago - Stephen and I met in person for the first time in a Starbucks after our nine month long mostly e-mail friendship/courtship. As I entered the place and, nervous, nearly ran down the ramp to meet him, he stood, looking shell-shocked. Horrified by my hair.
I have it on authority that this was his first impression of me that day. My first impression of him: wow, he has kind of a big head.
Ladies and gentlemen, we endured. And even though today is a workday for both of us, it's only fitting that we celebrate that crazy afternoon with a couple of Starbucks mochas. And that I badly need a haircut.
Lunch is over, and I've just punched back in at the time clock and am heading to the double doors with the little windows you look through to make sure you don't whack the head of someone on the other side. Through the glass is the dark hair of a guy looking down in that way that says he's staring at a cell phone. Our nonstop texting world. I pull the door wide and wait. Still looking down, his thumbs fast on the keypad, he steps all the way through the open door. Then looks up. Smiles.
"Thanks," he says. "I was in the middle of an argument."
His head goes back down to the cell phone and his thumbs get going again and he's off.
As I head the other way, the thing that strikes me about the tiny encounter is not that the guy was nonstop texting down the hall, and not the argument, but the way there's a little happy left in me from the one moment in the middle where two people looked at each other and smiled.
I'm down the aisles in the kids' section of the bookstore, my arms loaded with oversized posters of book covers on foam core for the windows. From behind me comes a mother and her young girl. The mother has that "Can I ask you where" look on her face.
Actually she looks harried. More than harried. Something almost wild in her eyes. "Do you have any children's books?" she says.
The little girl - she must be five or six - is big, happy eyes all around, looking at all the books.
"Do you have any books," the mother says, "about feelings... or manners?"
I remember there's a section for books like that but I can't recall the age range. I say, "Well, let's see," and the mother jumps in over me, urgent.
"About feelings or manners, that she could read?"
I smile down at the little girl.
Her voice is quiet. "I want pony book."
Stacking my posters up against the end of an aisle, I take the two to the information desk where the mother goes through it again to the guy behind the counter, with some edge in her voice that says she's trying to keep it together and not have to scream at us.
"I need. A book. About feelings or manners. That she can read."
As the info guy takes the two off across the store, I go back to my foam core posters, wondering what the story was. I can still hear them, though they're a number of aisles away, now. Actually, it's the little girl I can hear. "I want pony book."
Her voice isn't quiet anymore.
"I want pony book." Then louder: "I want pony book!"
Over and over, pony book, pony book, and now I get it, taking up the last of my posters and heading out of the kids' room as the little girl's voice shrills down the aisles behind me. "I waaant poooooooony book!"
I think I'll put the rest of these posters up in the gardening section.
The folks at Wordstock recently asked me to put together my dream itinerary for the big Portland lit event. Today as I get ready to head down and catch whatever I can catch, I'm sure I won't be able to get to half of it, but here's what I'd get to if I could make every second of both weekend days count...
My dream itinerary would run from opening to closing, be
packed full of readings and panels and somehow still give me a chance to eat
and browse along the booths. I’m going to pretend I have the magical powers to
fit all of it in. Big loves are Pacific Northwest
writers, small press writers, smart, voicy writers and good storytelling.
9:00—Lady in the House: Female Character Creation, with
Rosebud Ben-Oni and Holly Berdorff of HERKIND
10:00—Poetry Book Publishers, including Joseph Bednarik,
Cecelia Hagen, Sid Miller and Zachary Schomburg
12:00—A Songwriter, A Novelist and Some Poets Walk into a
Bar, moderated by Cheryl Strayed and featuring Nicholson Baker, Dara Weir, Nick
Jayna and Buddy Wakefield
1:00—Stevan Allred and Eliot Treichel—and if I could be in
two places at once, also Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler
2:00—BH James and Don Waters
3:00—Power of Print on Demand panel, moderated by Kevin
Sampsell and featuring Jeremy Robert Johnson, Jarret Middleton, Cameron Pierce
and Laura Stanfill
4:00—Stacy Bolt and Lauren Kessler
5:00—Bringing the Past to Life: Recreating a Place and Time panel,
featuring Jamie Ford, Jerome Gold, Barbara Corrado Pope and Karen Shephard
6:30—The 9th Live Wire!
Radio Wordstock Extravaganza, featuring T.C. Boyle, Kevin Barry, M.K. Asante,
A.M. Homes, Ian Doescher and musical guests Tanya Donnelly and Michael Hearst
9:00—How to Write Stunning Sentences workshop with Nina
10:00—Poetry Chapbooks: Hows and Whys, with Judith
Barrington, Lisa Ciccarello, Susan Denning, Trevino Brings Plenty and Ryan
11:00—The Short Story Vs. the Novel, featuring Tom Barbash,
Alissa Nutting, Benjamin Percy and Leni Zumas
12:00—This one’s a tie. Between Karen Karbo’s Writing Bad
and Chris and Kyle Bolton and Barry Deutch. (But remember, I have magical
1:00—Did I just mention the magical powers? I’m going to
have to use them again so I can do three at once: Dangerous Memoirs (moderated
by Adam O'Connor Rodriguez and featuring Ariel Gore, Scott Nadelson and Jay R
Ponteri), Writing Guides: Help and on Your Journey (featuring Sage Cohen,
Christi Krug and Laura Stanfill) and Monica Drake and Beth Lisick
2:00—In Your Own Backyard: The Northwest Novel, moderated by
Penelope Bass and including Peter Donahue, James Bernard Frost, Michael H.
Strelow and Tom Spanbauer
4:00—Exploring the Personal, with Stacy Bolt, Chasity Glass,
Nicole Hardy and Scott M. Terry and moderated by Evan P. Schneider
5:00—Winners of the Sledgehammer Writing Contest, moderated
by Monica Drake
OK, now, what the heck have I forgotten?
If you're doing your last minute planning, there's more info here.