Monday, August 04, 2008

Deplaning, decompressing, and destuffing my brain

(Or, “I Left my Fart in San Francisco.” And Wisconsin deserves it’s own popular song on the radio.)

Okay, I’m finally back home. And let me tell you—San Francisco may have at least three songs written about it (as popularized by Tony Bennett, Journey, and Scott McKenzie), but when I deplaned in Milwaukee and was hit by the smell of fried cheese wafting from the bar & grill near my gate at General Mitchell International Airport, I almost sunk to my knees and wept. And when I walked onto the tarmac to hop the teeny plane for the final flight from Milwaukee to Appleton, I actually said out loud, “Oh my God, it’s MUGGY out! And WARM! I’ve MISSED THAT!!!”

On my flight home I sat next to a very sweet and lovely woman who lives in the same city as my next book club visits; since I’m in her city two nights in a row for back-to-back meetings, she kindly invited me to stay overnight at her house so I wouldn't have to do so much driving.

And I was swept by a wave of homesickness, because only in Wisconsin will you find people who JUST MET YOU ON THE PLANE and are generous enough to invite you to actually spend the night at their home, with their family, three nights later.

(Disagree? Your state is simply lousy with generous, thoughtful residents as well? Want to give Wisconsin a run for its money? Prove me wrong, people! Share your stories of the kindness of strangers in the comments.)

Impressions from last week:

San Francisco? COLD! And dry. And redolent of auto exhaust. Also, loud. At one point, we became convinced that the fire trucks were just racing around, sirens blaring, simply to deafen the tourists. I did enjoy the snapping electrical sounds the cable cars made, though.

Fisherman’s Wharf? Skip it. I saw the same things in Wisconsin Dells: the Ducks (!!), a Ripley’s Believe it or Not ‘museum,’ endless shops full of cheesy T-shirts, irritating families in fanny packs, nacho stands, etcetera ad nauseum.

Also? San Francisco is expensive! As I sipped a martini that cost $14, it hit me: I used to routinely receive WEEKLY PAYCHECKS FROM KB TOYS in that amount. Also, I have a hard time bringing myself to spend that much on an ENTIRE BOTTLE OF WINE back home.

Posing in the downtown San Fran Borders. Joining the fantastic crowd on the autographed copy shelf...

Turning the corner to nearly step on a pigeon pecking away at a pile of orange vomit is…one of the grossest things I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

I know all kinds of juicy tidbits about some of our favorite authors’ sex lives. Get me drunk and I might share.

If you win an award, please don’t thank Jesus in your acceptance speech. Because that implies that not only did Jesus have something to do with your selection, but he gave a middle finger salute to the other contenders for that award. (And everyone dying in Darfur, rape victims, children with cancer, etc.). Also, you never see the losers blaming Jesus in the post-event interviews. For the sake of consistency, I think that should be a new rule.

Nothing is more humbling than hundreds of writers and readers approaching you at your signing table with a look that clearly says: “And, you are ….??”

Oh, maybe this is more humbling: after being approached by one pensive woman who reads the back of your book, after you enthusiastically (and probably somewhat desperately) tell her, “It’s a raunchy woman’s road trip story! It’s Thelma and Louise with a happy ending! Funny and heartwarming!”, she gives you a skeptical hairy eyeball and slowly says, “MAY-be…” and then walks away.

I’m in love with Kate Veitch’s debut novel, Without a Backwards Glance. She and Danielle Younge-Ullman (fellow Deb & author of Falling Under) read from their novels last week at Books, Inc., and I can’t recommend both books highly enough. Excellent stories, bravely and deftly written, and…uh, some pretty hot scenes, if you catch my drift. I'll be blogging about Danielle's fantastic debut at the Debs this Friday.

Look! There’s Danielle! Isn’t she beautiful?

Also, I’m thrilled to share a few more reviews of Driving Sideways...From The Internet Review of Books: "Riley deftly weaves a story about such potentially depressing topics within the framework of a funny book without being insensitive—no easy task."

And from Books and Cooks: "DRIVING SIDEWAYS is the most entertaining book I’ve read all year. I loved it! If you’re like me and you love sarcastic humor, you’d enjoy this book too. There were times that I’d laugh until I had tears in my eyes."

All I can say to that is...."Yaay!"


  1. Wow, people are nice and hospitable where you live.

    In Montana people are nice too, but in a "welcome to the Manson family" kind of way...

  2. Wow, that is something else, having someone invite you over like that. That stuff would never fly in the south. People are friendly, but they're not INSANE friendly. ;)

  3. I'm from Connecticut, outside NYC, and a definite New England state. One midwestern friend told me years ago, it is so hard to break into a circle of friends out here (she was living in MA at time), but once you do, you know you have a friend for life. She summed it up perfectly. Slow to trust, but once we do, we give you the shirt off our backs.

  4. Anonymous9:09 AM

    How are you feeling at this point? Do you think that signings are helpful, or not very good use of your promotion time?

  5. I've felt exactly the same way, when people thank Jesus for whatever. What about the people who got the finger, huh? Sigh.

    Sorry about the pigeon and the barf. Sounds like you were Union Square-ish, which is a beautiful mess at the best of times, and a crowded nightmare at the worst of times. But where else can you stumble upon a 'movie under the stars' event that's showing Annie Hall? ;)

    Oh, yeah, Fisherman's Wharf? No one who lives in SF would ever go there, unless bribed by visiting relatives. The Ferry Building, however, or Chrissy Field, are different stories.

    I have no nice stories to tell you about people here, except that they're friendlier here than in Philly. That's it. If you meet up with someone really friendly here, your heart starts to warm up and you forget to be cynical for a minute, and then they try to co-opt you into their pyramid scheme. Sigh.

  6. I love the non-touristy parts of San Fran. Finding a hole in the wall Indian restaurant, walking along a street filled with vegetable stands, Going to an asian grocery store... THAT's what I love about San Francisco.

    Oh yeah, and your neighbors here in Iowa are the same type of 'invite you over just after we've met' kind of people. We just have more corn than cheese.

  7. Anonymous11:01 AM

    Welcome home! And congrats on the great reviews!

  8. Anonymous11:07 AM

    I knew exactly who you were, and it was great meeting you at the literacy signing! (I was the one with Caryn.) You were just as witty and friendly in person as I knew you would be - someone I'd love to have as my neighbor. ;) So if you're ever in Southern Cal, let me know and you've got a place to stay.

  9. Anonymous12:49 PM

    Oh man! I missed you! I should have come to your SF signing and approached your table with a look that clearly states "I know exactly who you are and you're going to regret that fact in precisely 2 minutes, or as long as it takes me to start making unfortunate conversation." On second thought, maybe it's good I didn't.

  10. "MAY-be..."

    That's terrible! But funny.

    Welcome home!

  11. I must be seriously dense that I didn't catch on you lived here too! I'm in Greendale. So, you REALLY need to do a book signing down in Milwaukee or Brookfield besides the one you did in Cedarburg.

  12. Agg- I saw that bird too and tried to ignore it.

    You can stay at my plce at any time. It was great to see you.

  13. If Manic Mommy were in San Fran with you, she would have made you take a photo of that bird pecking away at the orange vomit and she would have then posted it on her blog!!! WHERE IS THE PICTURE OF THE BIRD EATING VOMIT!!

    And Danielle is BEAUTIFUL! Like I knew she would be!

    AND, I am going to order WIthout a Backward Glance PRONTO!

    AND, Kudos for the awesome reviews on DS!

    And, why is DS at the BOTTOM of the shelf in that photo!

    And, you look gorgeous too!


  14. Anonymous12:12 AM

    I loved your book. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. I laughed so much and could really identify with the road trips and the female friendships. Thanks for the smile. Good luck!

  15. Anonymous3:30 PM

    Jess--it was wonderful to meet you and spend some time chatting. And I agree about the sirens, though I thought they were just circling the hotel for effect!

  16. Anonymous12:57 PM

    I loved San Francisco but, like you, I missed home, too. That's one of the unexpected side effects of traveling: it makes you appreciate where you live. As for thanking Jesus, thank you for pointing that out! I've thought that a time or two myself. So, so true. Although I noticed that one woman who won in the inspirational category *didn't* thank God or Jesus, which I found interesting. I mean, aren't they a main plot line in the book? Or is that like thanking your other main characters when your book wins an award? "And I'd like to thank my protagonist Mary, and Bill, the man she fell in love with in the story. And then there's..."