In September I went to St. Louis, Missouri to participate in a panel discussion at the Bookfest St. Louis. It was a lot of fun and I saw some new things.
Discovery: I thought people in the South were nice. They are! But it turns out what they say about over-the-top Midwestern kindness was true for me. Everyone I met was extra-sweet. I splurged and got a pedicure and the pedicurist and I ended up exchanging numbers. I went to a restaurant where I sat at the bar and ate the best burger and fries of my life, and the bartender and I are now friends on Instagram. She makes pillows!
My airport Uber driver and I ended up having a deep discussion on merits of cars built in the early 2000s -- a favorite topic of mine-- and we had a special tangential exploration of the Dodge Charger transmission. Do I have boundary problems? Maybe. I don't think so, though. The people I met were just so friendly. I missed the arch entirely, but I got to learn about so many new people.
Bookfest St. Louis is a book fair with a lot of promise. It was in its second year in the Central West End area of St. Louis, hosted by Left Bank Books. I hope to watch the book fair grow in popularity and size every year and I am grateful they included me in their program.
I was on a panel discussion called "Memoirists with Mettle" with Tessa Fontaine, author of The Electric Woman. We discovered we share the same literary agent. The discussion went well. The audience asked wonderful questions. Tessa is a basass. I called her that in front of everyone and it wasn't wrong to do so. Please buy her book. That's me on the right, barely fitting into the regular people chair.
The Central West End was a cool place. It's probably being picked on as "problematic" for gentrification issues, but I don't care. It's created business opportunities and a nice place for people to go and spend their money. It felt old-fashioned, and when I could block out the scores of zombies walking while looking at their phones, I got and idea of what it must have been like to live in the center of a small town where you could walk most places, you know, "back in the day."
I visited the public library, which I always do when I go to a new city. They had my book on display, which was a little surreal, I'm not gonna lie.
And here's me in front of Left Bank Books, where I had a similarly surreal feeling when seeing my book on display in a window as I was walking past.
On my last day there, I ate brunch at the Kingside Diner (marginally dandy avocado toast on gluten-free flatbread), served by a super smiley waitress.
The Kingside Diner is the kind of place where tables are placed very close together. It's also the kind of place where, if you leave your bank card there while traveling and call them in a panic, they won't call you back, even when you call every day for three days, but no matter. I eventually got them on the phone and they said they would cut up my card. Note: leaving bank card/keys/glasses/wallet in unsafe and also unremembered places is a specialty of mine. In fact, it's my signature move.
I sat so close to a father and his high-school-aged daughter at the next table that I could have eaten off their plates without moving anything other than my arm. It was impossible to NOT listen to what they were saying, though out of politeness (and the question of my potential boundary issues that had begun to simmer) I averted my eyes and pretended to read. Over a traditional American breakfast they talked about war atrocities created in the name of various superpowers. Fascinating, especially since it included some words about The Irish Famine as an act of genocide by the British -- a special interest of mine. This turned into a deep discussion of serial killers and their mothers. Impossible to ignore. The dad wore a Cubs baseball cap and the daughter wore a Girl Scout camp t-shirt, and they ate blueberry pancakes and drank orange juice while they talked about Ed Gemper. My kind of folks.
When they got up to go, they made uneasy eye contact with me. I said, "Please don't leave. This was the most fascinating thing I have heard in a long time outside of Sword and Scale," and they said, "Phew. We thought you were going to think we were nuts. We're glad you don't think badly of us." I would never. St. Louis, you have a bit of the weird in you and I'm glad to see it.
After spending time in St. Louis, I decided that I could live in St. Louis. It was a good few days talking books and nonfiction and writing. This was my view out the window shortly after take-off, and note to anyone who cares, I'm down to 1/2 of a .25 Xanax when flying. This from a girl who used to not sleep for three days before a flight, and before that, a girl who didn't fly for 22 years.
Isn't that magnificent? It looks like you could walk on these clouds. Every time I fly I remind myself that the view from the top of the clouds is special. It's like looking at the underside of a bird's wing from close up. Ain't life grand?
And this silly thing waiting for me when I got home makes everything right:
Life is always weird, but good. Stay tuned for the story of how I found myself talking about politics on a political radio show and got spanked by Alan Dershowitz.