Monday 27 April
- Awake early, grab muffins from hotel for breakfast and hit the road to Idaho.
- Check-in at Springhill Marriot Suites in Boise with only about 40 minutes before my host collects me. Note with gratitude that they have booked me in for two nights. I could do with a rest.
- Shave, shower, dress.
- Greg meets me in the lobby and drives me to the church.
- I meet the Rev and compose myself in the office. I feel pretty tired after that drive.
- More people keep coming.
- This looks like a surprisingly big crowd!
- The Rev says that at least 50% are not from the congregation.
- I deliver my talk with all my energy -- I give it my very best.
- It goes very well.
- A queue forms for the book signing. I hear a voice somewhere declare with disappointment: 'You've sold out?' Hey, don't forget Amazon, sir. This is a wonderful experience. Could I have imagined this when I was getting those rejection slips from literary agents back in 2005?
- Mike takes me back to the hotel. It's 10 pm.
- I drive around looking for a restaurant that's open, give up, go to the nearby Burger King drive-through, take my meal back to the suite, lie on the sofa watching 'The Daily Show' and 'The Colbert Report' and then sleep on the sofa until the early hours.
- Wake up and go to bed.
Tuesday 28 April
- Wake up in time for breakfast, which ends at 9 am. Freshly made waffles, scrambled eggs, brown toast, whole meal bagels, English muffins, fruit -- it's all good.
- I was going to spend three days driving to my next event, in Iowa (1400 miles away), but I think I'll rest in Boise today and do it over two days. I need a rest.
- Go back to bed and sleep until early afternoon.
- Shower ...
- There is no bath mat and the soap is very slippery ...
- My left foot slips and acquires a very high velocity, the big toe slamming into that stupid elevated metal ring thing they have invented to replace rubber bath plugs....
- KE equals half MV squared .....
- Pressure equals force over surface area ....
- Ow, that really hurts.
- There's blood everywhere, gushing from under my big toe nail. It's washing down the drainhole. It reminds me of the shower scene in Psycho.
- I wash the toe thoroughly in hot water, dry it with a clean towel, wrap it in tissues and put on an ankle sock (which I brought in case I did any exercise, huh!). Blood soaks through the tissues to the sock, but the bleeding does appear to stop.
This being America, I'm going to sue:
- The Marriott hotel for not having a warning sign about such a possibility.
- The designer and manufacturer of the bath fittings (to be determined).
- The manufacturer of the soap, for making it so slippery (tbd).
- The Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, for booking me into this hotel.
- Hertz car rental, for not warning me about this possibility when they rented me the car which brought me to Idaho.
- Toyota, for not warning me about this possibility when they built the car which brought me to Idaho.
- The oil companies, for not warning me about this possibility when they sold me the gas which brought me to Idaho. Have to check all my receipts, but the list definitely includes: BP, Shell, Conoco.
- McDonalds, for not warning me about this when they provided me with wireless internet access on my way to Idaho, and because they make their coffee too hot, and anyway don't they always settle?
- Do my laundry.
- Work on this damn blog.
- Do a job application for when this is all over and I have to return to normal life.
- Spend all day in hotel, apart from driving to Burger King and getting another takeaway. Stop it -- this is not a movie called 'Super Size Me'.
Wednesday 29 April
- Awake early, breakfast and hit the road to Iowa.
- Drive through Utah and Wyoming.
- I am determined to do 900 miles today, leaving only 500 miles tomorrow.
- Stop for an early dinner in a Chinese buffet restaurant. These are much better than the KFC buffets, I have discovered.
- Drive through the evening into Nebraska.
- Finally, after midnight, when the GPS says I'm 460 miles from my destination, pull into a Super 8 motel and sleep a few hours.
Thursday 30 April
- Awake, have breakfast of toasted bagels and depart for Iowa.
- I don't have a lot to say about this 1400 mile drive, except that I listened to the audiobook of Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen. It's very good.
- Check into the Super 8 in Des Moines, shave, shower and dress in a hurry. I think I'm having déjà vu.
- Drive to the church. Posters up all around and they have my books.
- A good crowd. I have to be up on stage, which I don't much like -- I prefer to be closer to the audience.
- Suddenly, I feel exhausted, but I keep going, like a car running on just fumes.
- There are three men in the audience who never seem to smile, no matter how much everyone else laughs. Why is it that my eyes are always drawn to the ones who won't laugh or smile?
- Questions, and now two of those men perk up.
- "When are the Pakistanis going to stop killing each other?" When they re-humanize each other, especially the Sunnis and Shias. Didn't I just talk about lazy tribalism and re-humanization?
- "So, are you saying we now need to re-humanize Bin Laden?" No, but you could re-humanize people that you associate with Bin Laden, who have nothing to do with him.
- This was the first time I ever experienced anything resembling cynicism or hostility from the audience!
- The signing queue is long and the people who have bought books are very friendly.
- Someone tells me that the hostile men were part of a group which recently had organized a speaking event for an Arab woman who had converted to Christianity, and they had advised the local police that she was in danger from terrorists. The police laid on a visible presence at her talk, with many officers and flashing lights on patrol cars -- but this was pure theatrics, to create some excitement. The possibility of Islamic terrorists coming to Iowa to kill this woman was rather remote. (I personally have chatted with Salman Rushdie in a public place where his presence was advertised months in advance; he wheeled his own suitcase; there was not a hint of police or security in sight.) It seems that some people are desperate to keep us all in a polarized state.
- I know this is ridiculous, I can't be bothered with a restaurant -- I get a carry-out from a Long John Silver's drive-through and eat it in my armchair, feet up, watching 'The Daily Show' and 'The Colbert Report'.
Friday 1 May
- Awake and breakfast briefly.
- The Prius needs another oil change. I noticed a Firestone dealer nearby. I drive there, call Hertz and it's done while I wait.
- Depart for Minneapolis/St Paul -- only 250 miles. I used to live there!
- Nothing to report.
- Drive around Eden Prairie, which I lived in during the period 1996 - 2000, but I barely recognize it. I see that the new owner of my house has whitewashed the deck.
- Head for St Paul -- I don't want to be late.
- The two Ministers have a delightful house on the campus of the University of St Thomas -- what a lovely place to live.
- Rob is very welcoming. I get changed quickly and he takes me to a family eight-year-old birthday party. Everyone is very nice. I only meet nice people on this trip.
- Then to the church.
- I'm checking e-mail in the Rev's office, and I keep hearing people outside the door, in the lobby, saying they are here for the talk. They are directed upstairs.
- It's time to go up. The place is practically full!
- My old boss from Minneapolis is in the front row. Now here's the funny thing -- I'm in a room full of strangers, and he's the only one who makes me feel nervous, as if it's going to affect my performance review.
- The talk goes well and I stay for a while signing books and chatting to people.
- Yet again, a woman says that she will have her book club read Unimagined, and I offer to attend the discussion session by video-Skype.
- Back at the two Ministers' house, stay up late discussing the nature of Life, the Universe and Everything. I'm glad we got that sorted.
- Retire to bed.
Saturday 2 May
- By the time I'm up, one Minister has already left for the Farmers' Market and the other has done nearly two hours of Tai Chi, Yoga, meditation and writing. He then makes me breakfast.
- Talk a little while, then I head off.
- When I lived in Minnesota, there was a delightful woman called Ann in Mastercuts in Eden Prairie Mall, who always cut my hair. In fact, she had cut my hair prior to the author photo in the book jacket. I drive to Eden Prairie Mall to seek her out and give her an inscribed copy of my book. She is there! But she says it's her day off -- she only came in because someone called in sick! This is a wonderful synchronicity. I'm so glad I did this.
- Call my old friend Virgil and drive out to Belle Plaine to see him and his wife Lubna. He has bought a parcel of natural woodland by a river, which he uses just to hang out. He takes me there to show me. It is extraordinarily beautiful and peaceful. He'd build a cabin here, but it's only five miles from his house.
- Lubna gives me a delicious lunch and then reluctantly I depart for Madison.
- Only 259 miles to drive, to the home of my old friend Bill Wellman -- featured in the book, he was an Exchange student from Illinois to Stirling University (Goldman in the hardback, changed to Wellman with his permission in the paperback). I hadn't seen him since he left the university in 1984, his address book was stolen at Glasgow Airport, and we lost touch (I tried unsuccessfully to find him when they invented the Internet), until he found me through the book!
- I have a delightful evening with his family in their century-old house.
Sunday 3 May
- It's a sunny and pleasant day.
- We go to First Unitarian Madison for the 11 am service, followed by my talk. The audience is appreciative.
- This building is architected by Frank Lloyd Wright. Bill and I ask an Australian woman, who is taking photos of the building, to take our photo, and I also sell her a signed copy of Unimagined for twenty Australian dollars (hey, I'm going back there this August, for the Byron Bay Writers' Festival).
I am thinking: 'She's a definite sale.'
I am thinking: 'She's a definite sale.'
- A visit to Whole Foods (I buy more of that chocolate covered ginger), lunch, and a pleasant evening spent at home.
- Sigh, it's nearly all over.