Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Yesterday on Today

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Yesterday I was on the Today Show with Hoda and Kathie Lee. Turned out to be fun. That's how I judge every appearance on TV. Did I have fun? Because if I did then it was worth it. But I'm never really sure until I see it because I'm vain enough to want it to look good, too. (Will I outgrow this concern and become less superficial? Are you kidding?)

We're still on the Vineyard so our day went something like this:

MVY Airport -- Arrive at 8:30 (after staying up way too late the night before to watch the Dem Convention on TV. More about the convention in another blog -- but wasn't Michelle warm and lovely? And how about Caroline Kennedy introducing her Uncle Teddy? George and I went through a box of Kleenex between Caroline, Teddy and Michelle)

Arrive NY 11am -- Starving. Not used to skipping breakfast.

Sarabeth's -- taxi from La Guardia directly to Sarabeth's (my favorite place for breakfast, brunch, or lunch in NY and Key West). Fill up on a delicious veggie frittata.

Vicky, Christine, Barcelona -- George has to see this movie, Woody Allen's latest, as it's about to open at the Tropic Cinema in Key West and he has to write a column about it asap. He checks his iPhone and it's playing at Lincoln Plaza Cinema, a short walk from Sarabeth's. Do you know how long it's been since I went to a movie at that time of day? Neither do I. Maybe junior high when I'd meet my girlfriends for lunch at the Martine Shop in Elizabeth, New Jersey, then catch an afternoon movie. Never mind that I swore I had to shop for a jacket to wear on TV the next morning. George wants to know what's wrong with the jacket I'm wearing. Okay -- point taken -- we go to the movies. We both love it.

Robert Stuart Salon -- have to hustle up to Amsterdam and 84th St. where we have back-to-back haircuts with Robert starting at 3pm. No way am I going on TV without a haircut. I barely look in the mirror on the Vineyard (this is true!) but there are some things that are necessary and a good haircut is one of them.

Feline -- two hours to spare before meeting friends for an early dinner. The local day spa can fit me in for a pedicure. I race over to 75th St just off Broadway. I don't know/trust anyone on the Vineyard to do a pedicure. I once got an infection from a bad job so would rather cut and polish my own toenails than risk that again. Don't realize how ragged my fingernails are until the nail technician asks if I wouldn't also like a manicure. Wow -- I'm almost a Big City Girl again.

Dovetail -- George and I meet up outside this restaurant, one that opened while we were away. Even though the poached chicken is described by our wait-person as tasting "kind of like raw chicken" our friend orders it and pronounces it delicious. My meal is too fancy/foodie for me but then I like a simple piece of grilled fish with fresh veggies.

Convention-mania -- get back to our apartment, turn on the TV and wait for Hillary. What color is that pantsuit? Or is it our TV? But she does a good job and I know my publisher is going to love that reference to the sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits. They publish Ann Brashares. Hope Ann also got a kick out of it. Hope, too, that Hillary's sisterhood will now support Obama.

Wake-Up Call -- literally. 7am. Into the shower and out. My hair is too soft. Maybe the difference in water? Maybe a product used yesterday when Robert did my hair? It doesn't want to curl. Falls flat. I scrunch and fluff, hoping for humidity. Eat a piece of dry toast. Too nervous to eat more than that. Try on four jackets hanging in my closet, all with my standby black pants. Settle on the blue. I knew I would. Then have to decide between my trusty western boots, or summer sandals. Instead, go for the one pair of real shoes in my closet. Wore them to a wedding last fall or was it the fall before -- yes, it was the fall before. Hated them then. Love them now. Ta dah! I'm ready.

Cupcakes -- Beverly (my editor/publisher) and Noreen (publicity) accompany me to the NBC studio at Rockefeller Center. On her way to meet me, Beverly stopped at a Whole Foods to get me cupcakes. A very sweet gesture. But cupcakes first thing in the morning? Even I have my standards.

Makeup -- I remind the makeup artist to go easy. Natural, I say. Then I remind her that I'm very old. I wait for her to say something reassuring. She doesn't, but she smiles. The hair person works magic with a hair dryer wearing a sock (at least it looks like a sock). My curls return. I'm escorted to the set. Grab a couple of tissues in case my nose runs on set. (It doesn't.)

6 Minutes or Less -- it feels a lot longer when you're doing it.

Relief -- it's over. We stop by the apartment so I can change back into jeans and sandals for the trip back to the Vineyard. I gobble up both of the cupcakes. Pretty good.

Vineyard -- we get back in time to see the delegates cast their votes at the convention.

Jenny -- 6:45 -- get to the restaurant in time for dinner with Jenny Allen who has just performed the latest version of her one woman play in progress. She's fabulous and so is her play. I'm still sporting the eye makeup from the show though I sponged off the rest of my face. George thinks the eye makeup is sexy. Maybe I should learn how to apply it myself.

Designated Driver -- that would be me. I don't drink and George had several glasses of wine with dinner.

Joe Biden -- made it home in time to catch his speech as the Dem candidate for Vice Prez. George and I go through another box of Kleenex. Favorite moment, aside from Biden's strong speech -- a shot of Michelle O, hands over her face, moved to tears by the story of Joe Biden's life. (Missed Bill Clinton's speech but have it ready to watch later.)

Tonight -- is the Big One. I'm already feeling nervous for Obama. I'll bet he doesn't try on every suit in his closet before an appearance. I'll bet he knows what he says is way more important than how he looks. You know I'll be rooting for him. He's my candidate.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dog Days

On the Vineyard I've been reading and staying up way too late at night to finish the most unforgettable novel I've read in a long time -- The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by first time novelist David Wroblewski.

It's a big, compelling, beautifully written, yet totally accessable book. I'm glad I didn't read too much about it before I picked it up. I knew that dogs were an important part of the story and I wondered if I'd relate. I've never had my own dog. Mookie, Larry's dog, was the first dog I ever loved.

She was also the first dog I ever knew well. I called her my grand-dog. George and I took care of her when Larry had to be away. She stayed with us in New York and one November afternoon George took her with him when he went running in Riverside Park. He was gone a very long time. I later learned he was afraid that he'd lost Mookie . He thought she was right there with him and then, she wasn't. He searched everywhere, asked everyone if they'd seen a small white and brown dog. By then it was late afternoon and growing dark. I don't know what George must have been thinking as he crossed Riverside Drive, a busy street, and entered our apartment building. Surely he knew I not to go there.

But when he entered our lobby ready to face the music, there was Mookie! She'd crossed Riverside Drive on her own and come home. Amazing - since she didn't even live there. I don't know what we'd have done or how we'd have gone on if we'd been responsible for her disappearance.

Another time, Mookie was in our care on the Vineyard. It was around Labor Day weekend and I was watching the US OpenTennis finals on TV when I realized I hadn't seen Mookie in a while. She wasn't anywhere in the house. We searched outside, down by the water, out in the woods - but no Mookie. Again, it was late afternoon and growing foggier by the minute. We live a mile down a dirt road, with other dirt roads going off in different directions.

We got on bikes and covered the area, calling to her. Nothing. We knew that when Larry left town Mookie always tried to find him. It was Larry's idea to take her with us to the airport. She would know that Larry was getting on a plane and since she didn't like to fly, she'd accept his absence. But I was sure she had followed his scent all the way to the airport. I convinced George that we had to drive there right away. So we did. (What was I thinking...Lassie Come Home?)

When we pulled up I saw a policeman who recognized the panic in my voice. He hadn't seen a small white and brown dog but suggested I call the police and report her missing. Of course! Why didn't we think of that first?

We learned the police (or was it animal control?) had indeed picked up a small white and brown dog on Lambert's Cove Road -- this is a busy road at the beginning of the mile long dirt road leading to our house. My instinct was right -- she was trying to find Larry. I hesitated before asking -- was she okay?

Yes, he said, but she was a very bad dog. She'd brought traffic to a stop on Lambert's Cove Road on a Sunday afternoon. The police were called by someone in a car who couldn't get to where he was going because Mookie kept zig-zagging across the road. When they arrived they couldn't catch her. Mookie could be scary if you didn't know her. She was an alpha dog. She growled. She snapped. They had to catch her with a net. Even then, she wouldn't let them get close enough to read her tag or her tatooed ID. She was taken to doggie jail but at least she was safe.

I said I would get her right away. I was told I'd have to wait until the next day. That doesn't make any sense, I said. So George and I drove there. Mookie was in the last kennel. A runaway curled up with a stuffed teddy bear she'd been given.

She was chagrined when she saw us, tail between her legs. I told her I'd get her out if it took all night. And it almost did. I called everyone I could think of -- I said things I couldn't believe I was saying -- I threatened: If you don't let me have her tonight I'm going to sleep outside her kennel and write about this for the local paper! One call led to another. I talked to a lot of animal lovers that night and I've never forgotten their understanding of my situation and their kindness. Finally, someone knew someone who knew someone with a key. Arrangements were made to meet him.

At last Mookie was rescued. By then it was quite late. We kept her in our bedroom all night.

We didn't let her out of our sight until Larry returned home and when he did and I told him the story he said, You should have let her spend the night in jail. Maybe she'd have learned a lesson.
Gee, thanks Larry!

And those were only two of Mookie's many adventures. There were so many more. She once rolled out of Larry's car onto a highway.

She once jumped into the water and tried to catch Larry, who was sailing into Vineyard Sound.

He and George had to drop the sails, scoop Mookie out of the water, bring her back to me in a dinghy, then continue their sail.

I wrapped her in a blanket and held her for an hour until she stopped shaking.

Mookie lived to be sixteen. I can't see a Jack Russell without thinking of her -- without missing her, the humor she brought into our lives, the unconditional love she had for Larry.

Did reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle remind me of Mookie? It reminded me of her loyalty and her intelligence. But the Sawtelle dogs are something else. All I can say is it's a good thing I'm not trying to write a novel this summer. There's no way I can even read another book right now, let alone write one. I'll savor this story and the characters, both human and canine, for a long time. Thank you, David Wroblewski, for writing this book. Read it and let me know what you think.

Happy Reading!
And Happy Dog Days of Summer,

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Going, Going, Gone!

Today is pub date for Going, Going, Gone! the third book in the Pain & The Great One series. I'm always excited on pub date. Even though I already have a small box of copies sitting in my writing cabin (and I've already sniffed the book, something I do right away, even before I read it) the idea of the books being in stores and libraries gets me going. It means soon young readers will be sharing these stories and letting me know what they think.

But it's a bittersweet day, too, because I was scheduled to sign the book at Bunch of Grapes bookstore next week. Sadly, on July 4th, because of smoke and water damage due to a fire next door this great independent bookstore is closed for the season. I'll miss meeting the kids, both locals and visitors. I signed Soupy Saturdays there last summer, but wasn't on the island in May, to sign Cool Zone. I hope the bookstore is up and running next summer when Friend or Fiend? the 4th and final book (for now, anyway) in the series is published. It doesn't feel right to be here and not be able to hang out at Bunch of Grapes, browsing, buying, and signing books.
(You can read more on my July 9th post -- Happy July 4)

The Pain & Great One series is being published in the UK, too. So I've been doing interviews with British newspapers and radio, and last week, Irish Radio. The presenter on that show wanted to talk only about the books she read when she was growing up (Margaret, Deenie, Forever). I love talking about my early books but in this case I was so frustrated I just started yakking about the Pain & the Great One, telling anecdotes until she pulled the plug. I probably won't be invited back on that show. But that's another story.

The first three books are also available on CD's from Listening Library. Friend or Fiend? will be recorded in September. I get to read the part of Fluzzy the Cat in all four books. Fun!

If you've been reading my blog you know I've already finished writing Friend or Fiend? and Jim Stevenson has done wonderfully funny cover art. Now we're waiting to see his illustrations for the inside of the book -- always a treat. Both the US cover and the UK cover feature the Great One smushing an ice cream cone against the Pain's forehead. The UK editor has asked if the ice cream could be bright yellow or pink instead of chocolate. Since the story is about how the Pain eats only white food, and that means only the white kind of vanilla ice cream and the Great One likes chocolate best, I don't see how that's going to work. Here's a peek at the first round of cover art.

I'll tell you about the real sister who smushed an ice cream cone against her brother's forehead in a post I'll write soon.

For now,