Let me tell you all about my recent trip to Tampa, Florida, by way of Los Angeles, California-it was not as stimulating as it sounds, trust me. In fact, my husband accompanied me on this trip and he'd begun calling it 'the trip from hell'. A silver lining: he knows, first hand now, these jaunts to Tampa, which are always planned on a shoe-string (I mean, life is art but art doesn't often make a living), are not pleasure vacations for my family members and me. It is true I have siblings and nieces who live nearby my neurosurgeon's practice, in Tampa. But, 'nearby', in this instance, is an hour and fifteen-minute ride up Hwy 19, and across the "Gulf to Bay" bridge-that's not exactly convenient. Besides offering me a rent-free visit, most the time my family absolutely refuses to let me pick up a tab (success in this arena requires a whole plan-in-advance collusion with the waiter thing). On top of that, they usually make themselves or their cars available to me during my stay-again, these are working family people. No, my stays are never fun for me and never really convenient for them (I always leave owing them, big). Let's just say as vacations go,
It could have been better...
Our trip began with the customary dropping off of the dogs at the kennel for their 10-day stay, when I noticed Sadie had a lump on the back of one leg. My husband assured me she would be fine until we got back, and I asked the kennel folks to keep an eye on it/her. She's fine, but of course this was going to worry me throughout the trip. We headed home to finish packing and maybe get some sleep before our red-eye flight to Los Angeles. But we did not sleep. Our daughter phoned to report her dog of 12 years, who has fought cancer for the last two of those years, had begun having violent seizures. Our daughter is a part-time working college student with no money for a sizeable veterinarian bill, so on our way out of town we made financial arrangements for the cost of our dear friend Riley's end-of-life care. I was broken-hearted, had a headache that was gaining, and we had not even reached the airport, a mere 2-1/2 hour ride from our little seaside burg. To finish off the remainder of the first leg of our journey, there was no wheelchair for me at the terminal, though we requested one in advance (did I mention I was going to Tampa for back surgery?) We boarded, I gritted my teeth for 5 hours, and finally we landed for a plane-change, which entailed an airline and terminal change, and a long early-morning layover in Houston, where I enjoyed the breakfast of champions, draft beer. They're not called "red-eyes" for nothin'. Oh, and there was no wheelchair waiting for me there, either. So, as far as first-legs go,
It could have been better.
We planned to see family in Palm Springs, so we reserved a car at EZ Rentals (ha-ha-ha!) After waiting an hour and a half for our "reserved" car, we found it had been in an accident and neither the headlight nor turn signal on the driver's side worked. The contract said if we got a ticket for equipment issues, we would be responsible for the ticket plus administrative fees. Uh, no. We demanded a replacement and got one... after waiting another hour. Instead of a different Camry, we got a little nut-cruncher 2-door Toyota Yaris, a name my husband played with, phonetically, to unfortunate results.
By this time, I needed an ice pack in a bad way. Off we went, now in rush hour traffic in downtown L.A., to find a pharmacy. I wore a new dress ($60) and a new cardigan ($80), an ensemble my daughter talked me into buying. This is important because they were the first nice clothes I have purchased for myself in... oh, right, she swore me to secrecy about that. We bought the sort of ice bag you twist the lid off and feed in ice cubes, and the clerk was kind enough to fetch some ice for us. That went up my shirt in back the very moment I returned to my tiny car seat. Ahhh, sweet relief! Glad I had that ice to numb me when we hit the washboard they called the 10 Freeway. But all that jiggling of ice cubes against my back resulted in a tearing of the plastic liner and a leak in the bag-but I didn't know, I was numb. When I stepped out of the car at our destination, everyone else could see I was covered down my backside with black, ground-in dirt of some sort that had been all over my (black) car seat. Apparently, the grimy seat was made dirtier by wetness from the leaky ice pack.
It could have been better.
On to the Literary Classics International Book Awards book signing and awards ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center-a pretty big deal, right? I wanted to look right, so I referred to the fact sheet I was sent. It was suggested I go office-classic for my signing, to office-dressy for the awards ceremony (which directly followed my book signing time block). Then we were to walk a couple blocks over for a party downtown, which was being thrown in our honor at a swanky historic restaurant, and for which they proposed cocktail attire. My husband and I no longer had a hotel room to use for wardrobe changes; what's more, we were on another red-eye flight, this time heading for Tampa, immediately following the party-and I was not flying all the way to Florida in a sexy cocktail dress and spanx. My solution was to wear "office-dressy" all day. When I needed to change for the party, it was a swap of a tunic blouse for a dress in the women's room, and then I would just slip off my black pencil-trousers. Everything would go into my carry-on for switching back later. Easy, right? I strategically left my never-before-worn designer cocktail dress in beige lace with silver tatting, hanging in the car. Know what I didn't plan for? I did not foresee my Nordstrom "sale" nude heels, which I wore all day, giving me blisters so bad my feet were screaming by the time the party rolled around. I wasn't walking anywhere in those puppies! I ended up wearing my same award ceremony clothes I'd worn all day with ballet flats. I think I may never get to wear that cocktail dress (sigh).
I had hoped I could post photos for you of my book signing, which was hosted by Literary Classics International Book Awards at the AWP Convention in Los Angeles. But every photo my budding photographer hubby snapped of me caught a wild hair sticking out to one side of my head, and deep under eye circles that could have benefited from massive quantities of concealer and a spackling knife. Oh, what the hell?
It could have been better.
We had a couple of beers, had some fabulous appetizers at the Palm Restaurant, and waited a few hours for our next flight. When we went to return the car we realized their address was nowhere on the paperwork they provided. We were not positive we remembered where the place was and nobody answered the phone. We found the place, finally. But it was only after some choice and colorful words from my husband, the driver. Anyway, we got to Tampa just fine. I had an appointment for diagnostics that very day. I took two steps into the lobby of Laser Spine and everything went dark. The transformer for the hospital blew up (I was beginning to develop a complex... ). Many patients, including myself, were sent home after waiting eight hours or longer for diagnostics performed via generator, and asked to return the next day-where we again waited eight hours or longer. Every time they sent me home to return the next day, it meant another hour-plus of driving in rush hour traffic, each way. That darned transformer caused delays every single day, up to and including my day of surgery. My follow-up appointment on the next day, wherein one of the doctors looked at the incision and gave me the go-ahead to return home, was pleasantly quick. I did return home later that night on a-you guessed it, red-eye flight. Maybe the husband was right. Maybe this was the trip from hell, what with more delayed flights, layovers, changes of planes, airlines and even terminals, and only providing the needed wheelchair half the time. Finally! We retrieved our car and headed for home, but, yeah,
It could have been better.
Wouldn't you know? The two and a half hour trek was made thirty minutes longer when an accident rerouted us through Forest Grove. I passed the time by combing through the business cards of authors I had met at the conference. I smiled when I remembered talking over psychic readings with best selling children's author and spiritual psychologist Ayn Cates Sullivan and her friend and illustrator Belle Crow DuCray; truly lovely women (who I asked if they were psychics before I even asked their names, because the feeling was so strong). Then I saw the bookmark I got from Patricia Reding, author of YA award winning book, Oathtaker. I was honored to trade books with Patricia, which means I get to read quality literature in my genre, a practice that is bound to make me a better writer. Next was a card from Gary Grossman, YA thriller writer/CLC gold medalist author who has written, Executive Command, Executive Treason and Executive Actions. My husband and I had a great time talking about writing stuff with Gary over draft beers, in the bar that was downstairs from the party-he got the round, too, so I totally owe him a beer or two when he comes to Oregon. The last card I could find at my disposal made me laugh out loud. It was darling just like the author, herself, Amalie Jahn. I am giving Amalie fair warning here, that I am totally ripping off her "disclaimer"-but I will put it on my review request sheets and not my card, so we will not be exactly the same-that would not be cool. (What can I say, Amalie? I am told that imitation is the highest form of flattery.)
So, it was with a smile on my face that I received an email from Expedia, begging me to tell them all about my trip-they said they wanted me to share every little detail. Oh, I don't believe they really meant it... but they asked for it. I typed out,
It could not have been better