It’s been over a week since last I posted, and it’s interesting to look back and what’s happened during that time. For example, my son is still reading me a book about manatees, only this time he’s 8 instead of 7. The only constant is change.
The reason you’ve heard so little from me since the last post, both here on the blog and in venues like Twitter and Facebook, is twofold. First, after leaving Portland and driving to San Francisco–this being over a week into the tour–I was brain dead and ready to be done. I had several hours in my hotel in which I planned to do so many great and wonderful things, like maybe write some short stories and write a big blog post and do some revision on PARTIALS, but I just couldn’t do anything. I ended up staring at the walls–not even watching TV, literally staring at the walls. I walked the block to SF’s Chinatown and got some awesome food, then came back and collapsed into exhaustion. Alas. I managed to have plenty of energy for the signing at Borderlands, which went great, so that’s awesome. I love Borderlands, they’re one of my favorite stores; I was further gratified to see that their business is booming. Huzzah for the indie bookseller!
With a day and a half to recover in SF, I caught my second wind and headed to LA, where my ability to do work took its second enormous hit: my family showed up. The week I was scheduled to be in Southern California turned out to also be the week my children had Spring Break–and the week of my son’s birthday–so they drove down and met me and we spent the week in San Diego. Here’s a quick breakdown of the week:
Monday: Wake up in LA, hop in the car, make a quick stop at Vroman’s, drive to San Diego, have lunch in Old Town (the pozole at Barra Barra was amazing, but the chile colorado left something to be desired). We checked into our hotel, let the kids swim, and ate take out on the floor while watching rerun after rerun of Good Luck Charlie. I have since become convinced that Good Luck Charlie is the only show ever broadcast on the Disney channel, all day every day. I’m also beginning to understand why my wife hates the Disney channel so much.
Tuesday: We spent the morning at the Midway Museum–a decommissioned aircraft carrier crammed stem to stern with awesomeness. I thought my son would love this, but he walked through the halls pointing at ever picture and exhibit saying “dumb, dumb, dumb.” Finally we got to the part where there’s a bunch of cockpits you get to sit in, and a simulator where you can pretend to fly a jet, and he loved it. The afternoon and evening were spent at SeaWorld, which is way cooler than when I was a kid. We saw all the shows, got soaked to the bone by both whales and dolphins, and rode the roller coaster twice since the crowds were so thin you could walk right on without waiting. My daughter’s opinion: “The SeaWorld roller coaster is kind of like Splash Mountain, except instead of cute furry animals there’s a weird voice telling you to save the ocean.”
Wednesday: We walked approximately nine thousand miles in and around the San Diego Zoo. The lowlight were the tigers, who insisted on hiding every time we passed. The highlight were the rhinos, who were up and active and chasing each other and wrestling and frankly I’ve never seen any animal perform so entertainingly in a zoo, let alone a pair of animals as big and awesome as rhinos. My son still hated it, because he was determined to hate everything, but I could tell that secretly he enjoyed it against his will.
Thursday: This day was for the Safari Park, which I had never been to or even knew existed. It might be my favorite part of the trip. I was just so dang impressed with everything they were doing to help some incredibly endangered animals, by the end of the day I wanted to just throw money at every zookeeper I saw. There are only 7 Northern White Rhinos left in the entire world–only two males–and I got to see two of them. That means I saw about 30% of the Northern White Rhino population in the entire world. That’s amazing and humbling and terrifying all at once. That night I signed at the Borders in Mission Valley, a wonderful store with such a consistent, active, well-read staff they always feel like more of an indie than a chain, if I can say that without sounding insulting. As an author traveling and signing, I can always feel a distinct difference between the indies and the chains–at an indie store I show up, the staff knows me and says hi, we chat and have fun, and they invite me back. At most chains (not all) I’ll walk in, meander for a while trying to find a bookseller, introduce myself to a new hire I’ve never seen before, sign books while they hunt for the “autographed” stickers, and then smile and leave. The Mission Valley Borders is like walking into an indie, and I love that.
Friday: Back to Sea World, this time for the Sesame Street 4D show (chosen for the benefit of my two youngest, who refused to watch it anyway, but that’s okay because it was dumb) and for the Penguin and arctic exhibits. Don’t bother with the motion-simulator ride at the Wild Arctic exhibit, but definitely go check out the animals. The polar bear was asleep (though my wife was there at exactly the right time to watch him stand up, poop, and go back to sleep), but the walrus was awake and active and amazing. First of all he’s huge, just gargantuan–easily as big as some of the elephants we saw the day before–and then he came right up to the window to eat, his whiskers pressed up against the glass just a couple of inches from our faces. I could have watched him for hours, but I had to get to one of my other favorite bookstores, Mysterious Galaxy. Where so many other stores are failing, chain and indie alike, Mysterious Galaxy is expanding to a second location (Redondo Beach), and with good reason. They know their genre backward and forward, they’re extremely nice and friendly and talkative, and people simply love to go there. After the signing a big group of us went out to a Japanese place (Ichiro’s) and talked for several hours. It was great.
Saturday: The weather was great, so we took the kids to Balboa Park, listened to them whine about how they couldn’t walk another step, then took them to the beach where they ran around like maniacs for five or six hours. My two eldest children told me they’d put sunscreen on, then proceeded to burn to a crisp, which is how they learned the valuable lesson of Not Lying to Dad. We played in some tide pools, hung out with some cousins we love but rarely see, and I skinned a large chunk of my knee clean off learning to skimboard. I never did get the hang of it. Dinner was a 14 person party (8 of whom were children) at a big restaurant that obviously had very little experience with parties of that size and composition. Say what you will about Utah, you show up at a restaurant with 8 kids and they doggone know what to do with you.
Now I’m spending today and tomorrow trying to catch up on as much work as I can before heading back out: I’ll be in Baltimore on Wednesday, Atlanta on Thursday, and Minneapolis on Saturday. The “big group hangs around after the signing and goes to eat somewhere” plan has worked really well so far, so we’ll continue it at all of these events–if you want to say hi, ask about writing, tell me how much you love/hate my books, yak about roleplaying, or anything else, come on by.