June 28, 2015
There’s a new rule at the retirement community where my dad lives: only one cookie with your fruit cup for dessert.
You’ve got to understand that this is epic for my almost 98-year-old father. Blind and mostly deaf, he makes his own breakfast and lunch, but eats his evening meal every night in the dining hall. The food is decent and the staff is pleasant and accommodating. My dad has lived there for ten years, and the wait staff all know his standing dessert order: a fruit cup and two oatmeal raisin cookies.
Until last week.
On Thursday when Robby and I show up to join him for dinner, I ask my usual question. “What’s new, Dad?”
His usual answer is, “Nothing much.”
On Thursday, he says, “Well, you won’t believe what they’ve done,” and proceeds to tell us about the new regulation. “Can you believe that?” he asks, full of indignation.
Honestly, I agree with him. My dad came of age during the Depression and never wastes food. He often requests a half-order of an item he doesn’t think he can finish. He never leaves food on his plate. But, like many residents at this establishment, he sometimes brings a bit of food back with him to his room. In case he gets hungry later.
“So,” he asks, leaning forward conspiratorially. “Maybe you and Robby can order cookies, and give them to me? That’s what my friends did last night.”
Of course. We never have dessert and would be happy to join his plan. “You know, Dad. That’s kind of civil disobedience,” I say.
As we were finishing our main course, the waitress came over to take dessert orders. “The usual, Jack?” she asks.
“Yes,” he says. “A fruit cup and two oatmeal raisin cookies.”
She smiles. “I can only bring you one. New rule.”
“I’ll have oatmeal raisin cookies for dessert please,” I say.
“Me, too,” Robby adds.
The waitress nods and walks away, just as the two gentlemen my father eats with when he’s not with us, walk up to the table. One of them, let’s call him Arnie, looks around to make sure no one is watching, then hands me a plastic carryout box, covered with a cloth dinner napkin. In the box are three oatmeal raisin cookies.
“We take good care of your father,” Arnie says. “Plus, we still like to break the rules.”
I love that. You’re never too old to resist.
June 9, 2015
I figure I’m about halfway through the book tour for ON HURRICANE ISLAND, the active, travel-heavy promotion journey. It started with the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute in Asheville a month before the novel’s publication; I expect it to begin winding down in the late autumn. Of course, that’s one of the pleasures of a small press like Red Hen, which considers a book “new” for 18 months or so. Actively traveling and promoting a book for such a long time also has its challenges, and this weekend (two days “off” to visit with old friends in the Bay Area), I’ve been reflecting on the experience.
So far, I’ve done more than 30 book events, ranging from readings in indie bookstores and public libraries to book festivals and conferences and house parties and author fairs and book groups. They’ve been organized by Red Hen Press, or by my wonderful publicist Mary Bisbee Beek, or by me, following up with friends, contacts from my first novel, and suggestions from other authors. The range of venues has been wide, from the amazing Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica to a wine bar in Boston’s Back Bay to a friend’s living room. From San Antonio and Lynchburg and Albany to Oakland and Manhattan and Cambridge and Washington, D.C. Attendance has varied widely too; two people in a bookstore in a city where I knew one person (she brought a friend) to crowded auditoriums at literary festivals and colleges.
What do they all have in common? My gratitude that readers still come to hear authors read, and talk with them, and ask questions, and offer opinions. The connection I feel to readers and writers and booksellers and conference volunteers. The pleasure of meeting people who love story as much as I do, and who get it when I talk about my characters as real people. The inspiration to go home and write the next book.