Friday, March 15, 2013

AWP. A recovery.

A friend of mine has abandoned AWP until it gets its head together and starts hosting a winter conference in a non-wintry place--like Hawaii. AWP claims (claimed? Once? I overheard through gossip) that hotel rates and conference space is cheaper in the winter in wintry places. Boston hotels, at $200/night, are twice as much as the not-too-divey hotel we stayed at in Phoenix in February. There's a reason Phoenix exists. For golfers and conferences.

Boston is like Siberia it is so far away from Flagstaff. Traveling from one cold place to another isn't usually so bad but since I always must fly by way of Phoenix, in March, I hesitate to get on the connecting flight. Why not stay in Phoenix. Phoenix is a sin but if you're already there...

Hundreds of flights in Chicago had been canceled the day before. I would learn later that hundreds of flights would be canceled in Boston on Thursday. But on Wednesday, the flying was fine. I arrived in Boston once again grateful that by flying anxiety managed to keep the plane from crashing into the deep blue sea (or, Lake Michigan, in this case).

I took the subway from the airport because I was already spending too much money on this trip. The subway always seems like a good idea until a shuttle and a transfer and a lack of escalators become involved. One time, at a similarly cold and east-coast conference, I dragged my suitcase and my 45 lb carry-on back and forth between Embassy Suites, trying to find the right hotel. I tore ligaments in my 45lb-bag-carrying-shoulder. This wasn't that bad. I could carry my suitcase up a flight of stairs. The prospect of a fine hotel room spurred me on.

The hotel room was only OK though. No bathtub! I like to take a bath in cities surrounded by water. I don't feel as guilty for wasting water as I do in Flagstaff (I still take baths in Flagstaff, I just feel guilty doing so). Plus, plastic cups? Plastic mini-blinds? Oh hotel of $200. Not so luxurious.

Skip ahead a bunch because no one needs a novel of anyone's AWP. I met students for drinks. Yay. I was in bed by 10 which was 8 in Flagstaff which made it seem like this would be one of the more restrained conferences. But that was Wednesday.

Thursday was the best day. Met with David Shields, Michael Martone and Robin Hemley--my nonfiction power mentors. Made a mental map of presses I had business with. Found Zone 3 booth--no books had arrived yet. The quick pre-release, pre-launch digital copies had come off the press (or out of the printer) all skewampus. New books were on their way. Good. Bending Genre books--looking good at the Bloomsbury table. Checked on Thin Air table. Students seemed organized and willing to spread the NAU MFA word. I found Dr. Write. We made laps around the bookfair.

On my way to meet Peter for lunch, I found Steve Tuttle and Jeff Chapman and Robin. As usual, Jeff persuaded me to walk with them to their lunch. How does he do that? I kept walking with them even though Peter was meeting me in two minutes. I sat down with them at Pho. Pho came fast. I didn't order. I left to walk through the wind-driven snow to find Peter at the Salty Pig--The one destination meal I had in mind (thanks to Ali Stine). I had run past it in the morning on my first run in nor'easter type driven snow. I surely could find it again. I walked left. I walked right. I walked backwards. Eventually, I made it back to my hotel from where I forged ahead again. The Salty Pig, it turns out, was two blocks from my hotel. I made it. Peter made it. His cab driver had gotten lost too. I felt vindicated in my ability to get lost and then get unlost. We ordered the chacuterie platter--porchetta thinly last, pate champagne, homemade mozzarella (straccialettea?), pickles and olives and salad for $13! Boston was going to be a bargain! Also, Peter brought me Donald's new book and bought lunch. I owe Peter.

Then, I found Margot. We got ready for our panel. We did our panel. The room was packed. I was happy. Then, drinks with the Bending Genre crowd and finally saw Lisa B. She, Dr. Write and Margot and I had plans for dinner. Dave McGlynn and Jeff came along to Toro--a Tapas place. No seats! Very Spanish! We drank some wine and ordered some tapas. I, too, (see Dr. Write's blog), thought the bone marrow overrated. But the bones. They were big.

The next day, meetings and readings and some more good food with Dr. Write and Lisa B at Legal Seafood. I ate a lobster. It was good. Next year, the trip will be planned more in concert with these two for they know that going to the art museum and to the fine restaurants makes up for the too-long to a place-to-cold travel.
I was late for my readings. I regret that.

I missed dinner at the farm to table restaurant with Lisa B. and Dr. Write. I regret that too.

The Quench books that had arrived at the Zone 3 table sold out. The Bending Genre books sold out. Happy news there.

Saturday--a run across the Charles River in the sun. More meetings. Matt Batt! Atlantic Fish company for Dover Sole. Good meeting after that. Then. Hotel to collect luggage. Hotel bar for a glass of wine. Hotel bar very crowded for 3 o'clock on a Saturday. Boston all over was very crowded now that the sun had come out. But goodbye Boston. I saw you not so much. Some in the running. Some in the sun. Mostly in the subway. Back to the airport. Legal seafood again! At the airport. Salad with Crab. Most delicious.

The flight back was bumpy and my mental powers to keep the plane afloat seemed to falter a bit. I read books that Graywolf and Milkweed gave me. I watched Walking Dead over the shoulder of the guy in the aisle seat across and in front of me because I could see nothing else. I can't watch the Walking Dead! It's too scary. I have dreams about zombies. But, apparently, with the sound off, it's not so bad. I kept hoping he had one more episode. He only had 6. We still had an hour and a half of the flight to go.

My flight from Phoenix summer to Flagstaff winter was canceled. My student Chase kindly gave me a ride up the mountain. In fog. I have never seen fog in Arizona. I guess that compensates for the driving up to Flagstaff at 12:00 a.m. We got to my car at the airport at 2:30. Chase and I tried to sweep the snow off the car. It was frozen to the windshield. I think we both got frostbite. I drove home peering through the 6 inch hole we managed to scrape. A reason to park a car, similar to the reason to have the AWP Conference,  in Phoenix.

It was a very long trip. When I got back, I taught like a puppet. I meetinged like a lizard. I am recovering right now and wondering what to do on a Friday with not a 100 meetings scheduleed. Perhaps the trip was too short.

Edited to add: Wait wait wait! Other high point. Seeing Stephen Burt. Kissing Stephen Burt's cheek. Talking to Stephen Burt about how hard it is to leave kids. He said, "you have to leave them so they know you come back." I was not cool at all when I met Stephen Burt. I gave Stephen Burt a t-shirt. I love Stephen Burt.