After the excitement of the first four days, there really isn't a whole lot to say. For the past two days, I've kind of settled into a routine. Still there are a few highlights:
1. The Long Beach Used Book Store: Woah. That is not the name of it, but I can't remember the actual name. But wowza. What a store. I was there for at least two hours, possibly longer, and I still didn't make it through every shelf. Every book in the store costs $1, and I swear the store was the size of a grocery store, and every nook and cranny is filled in a moderately organized fashion. It was beautiful. The stack of books in my hand grew steadily larger and larger, but I had to thin it out again before I left, because there was no way to get all those books back to Maine. In the end I bought six books...and two of them we already own. (Oops.)
2. Public transportation: It took a little bit of time for me to work up the courage to use the free bus system. But it turned out to be fun. I met several people, including one elderly woman who was bundled up in a coat, gloves and hat, who told me about how there used to be a real roller coaster that went across the street in the spot where the bridge that looks like a roller coaster is now, and how her sister used to use it, though they took it out before this woman was a teenager.
Public transportation opened up my life. I mentioned in my last post that I had hurt my hip. It isn't terrible, but the muscles do seize up after a mile or two of walking, and most of the places I want to go are a ways away. So now, I can take the bus part way or all the way one way-- I still end up walking six or seven miles a day, but I am getting so much more accomplished, and I'm not limping (quite so much) during my evening walks with Roger.
3. The ASDWA convention always tries to have a dinner somewhere cool, and this year, they had dinner at the Aquarium of the Pacific. We were able to tour the whole building after hours, and then had a lovely dinner. It was nice, though the conversation at my table was too filled with words like "parts per billion" and "capacity" for my taste.
4. Yesterday, for example, I finally found the beach. It's a weird thing. No one mentioned it. When I would ask people where the nearest beach was, they would all give me directions to Huntington Beach, or Seal Beach. I was beginning to think that Long Beach, California had no beach. Maybe they named this city Long Beach because they Longed for a beach? But it was right there, about half a mile from the Aquarium, past the marina, and completely unlabeled. I spent the afternoon there yesterday. It is in a deep harbor, plus there is a breakwater, and so the waves were very small. While I was walking through the water, I had one of those rare moments when I feel like the two extremes of my personality meet in the middle and I feel utterly relaxed. The world seems so clear and simple in those moments, and every thought I have seems so profound. Why don't those moments last? Perhaps it takes an ocean.
5. Last night we went back to that Spanish restaurant, this time with most of the people who are here from New England. There was no flamenco dancing this time, which is just as well, because our whole group was utterly focused on the baseball game on the television screen. It was the last game of the world series, and I had a ball. There were no mentions of the EPA or new regulations or parts per billion last night. It was all about the Red Sox, and the final game in the World Series. (We won!)
The man who sat across from me regaled me with stories of growing up in the Bronx and knowing the Yankees players. His sister learned to ride her bike in the halls of a hotel they would stay in, and once she even got to babysit for one of them--an important one, one whose name I even knew, but I can't think of him now. After his stories, I was half a Yankees fan myself. (Shhhh. Don't tell.) Luckily her wasn't the kind of fan who rooted for the Yankees and anyone playing the Red Sox. We were all on the same page with cheering. We weren't in a sports bar, so the restaurant was very patient with our cheering. I think they were bemused by the whole event.
6. Roger mentioned to the woman next to me that I had just published a book, and she promised to buy it, and then she told me about her boss's new book. As she spoke, I realized it was the very same book whose advertisement had caught my attention on my kindle this week. It is the winner of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel General Fiction contest. She said he wrote it on the commuter train into Boston on the way too and from work, and that no one even knew he was a writer until he won this contest. What a small, small world this is. (BTW, the book is called It Happened In Wisconsin. I plan to buy it when I get home.)
7. Finally, I am missing my children, and I won't be sad to get home tomorrow. When I used to go with Roger to an occasional conference, the break seemed absolutely necessary for my health and sanity. But I'm out of that intense parenting phase, and although I'm having a good time, being here doesn't feel critical, and being with my kids does. But I'm glad I came, for two main reasons. First--I got to meet Sabrina, which was so incredible. Second--too often my relationship with my husband is the last thing on our priority list. Although he's been gone a lot, we've still had a lot of time together too. So it is absolutely worth it. (I am still so sad about missing Halloween though).