I suppose I should finish telling the story about leaving the conference, by the way. I think I’ll just keep it limited to highlights. I attended four meetings in the LA vicinity and met a lot of friendly, hospitable folks. No celebrities, however. One of the meetings was in a room in the back of a Denny’s. Weird. . . but I didn’t have to get up for coffee! I called in the middle of the week to reschedule my flight so I could return on time for the workshop at PubServ. It cost $110 to make the arrangments over the phone. My last concern would be finding a place to stay for Sunday night, because the earliest flight they could give me was on Monday. When I attended the local meetings, I put the word out that I was looking for a spot to crash. A few different people expressed a willingness to put me up, if I couldn’t find anything else.
In the middle of the week, we ate lunch at Calamigos Ranch and enjoyed some lovely mountain scenery. On Saturday, we attended a closing luncheon with a very nice meal. Later in the evening, there was a speaker meeting featuring speakers from Japan, Uruguay, Quebec, France, and the US. I went for dinner with a guy from Utah, and we wanted to find a good steak. We found a steak place attached ot the mall across the street and decided to give it a shot. It was much, much nicer than any restaurant I’ve ever seen connected to a mall. And the prices were much higher than any steak place I’ve ever been to. The meal and tip totalled $60. None of the entrees were served with any sides; we had to order a la carte. I ordered Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and they were good, and plentiful. The waitress had told us that the sides were enough to serve 2-3 people, but who ever really believes that? And the steak—I worried it would leave me wanting more, even at the incredible price. But it arrived at the table and I saw that I would have nothing to worry about. It must have been 14-16 ounces. and it tasted great! Maybe I won’t spend that much on a steak again, but if I ever do it had better taste that good.
On Sunday morning, when most of the folks from the conference had already made their way to the airport, I headed out into the city. I was able to hook up with one of the guys who said he could put me up for the night, so I told him he was the lucky winner. After we ate at the “In and Out Burger,” he and his friend from Las Vegas (who’d lived in LA before moving to Vegas) took me to Hollywood and Sunset so we could walk around and see the crazies. There were quite a few people out for a Sunday afternoon. We went to a meeting later and then to a Starbucks where we discussed, among other things, the possibilities of using one’s asshole as a makeshift suitcase. I was quite surprised to hear how much shit (haha) some of my companions had been able to stuff into their … um … containers when situations called for it. We finished the night by visiting a hole in the wall—literally, we ordered from a barred window in a building we couldn’t enter—Mexican joint where I had beef tongue and/or head meat. It was interesting. We ate the food in a park on top of Signal Hill. It would have been a great place to get a picture, but we were asked politely by the police to leave promptly at 11, when the park closed. I snapped a couple of quick shots, but I think the camera was on some weird setting or something. Maybe next time. We made our way back to my host’s apartment in Long Beach.
In the morning, we walked down to the street and got some espresso before walking to the ocean, about twelve blocks away. Soon, my ride came and we all went to eat. They took me to the airport and I hugged them good-bye before approaching the ticket counter.
After fooling around with a computerized check-in desk for a while, I was told to head down to the first-class desk because I would never get on my plane if I waited at the regular desk. The woman at the first-class desk asked me about my situation and I explained that I had called to change the ticket and was told that my card would be charged to make the change. She didn’t have any record of a charge in the system, and I couldn’t quite remember seeing a charge on my bank account when I’d last checked online. She told me I would have to wait in the long line to get things worked out, so I began walking away. By the time I would make it through the line, the plane would probably be in the air. And who knows how much it would cost to change my ticket now? Then I heard the woman behind me, walking after me to tell me to come back. I wanted to be on the flight to Chicago? It leaves in half an hour, you have to go board right now if you want to make it. She pulled my information up on the computer and told me to put my back on the scale, just after telling Chris Kattan that he would have to wait until she finished with me. My bag was overweight, so she told me that I would have to pay an extra $25 or pull fifteen pounds of stuff out. I’ll pay the fee. She swiped my card but never told me how much I would be paying. I took it on faith and made my way through security to the boarding gate.
When I reached the boarding gate I saw that we would not be leaving for another hour. Perfect. I relaxed, picked up some coffee, and prepared to board the plane. Once again I wasn’t able to sit by the window. What a shame. I finally reached Chicago around ten-thirty, about an hour later than originally scheduled.
I shouldn’t have told my brother and sister that the flight was delayed, because they might have been on time to pick me up if they’d expected me an hour earlier. Nevertheless, they arrived at the airport shortly after eleven, and we made our way to the interstate to head home. My brother stayed in the driver’s seat because they hadn’t even parked to pick me up, I just ran from the curb and threw my shit in the trunk and hopped in the car, all in time to keep up with the stop-and-go traffic of the arrival terminals. He’d just made the trip home from the airport about a week and a half before, so I wouldn’t have to worry about navigation. I mean, just go back the way you just came, right? Not so simple, apparently. Perhaps because we got caught in some bumper-to-bumper traffic in a construction area, we either missed an exit or took a wrong one. The nice thing about going the wrong way in construction is that you can go forty-five minutes in the wrong direction and only be three or five miles off track. We managed to get turned around when we realized we were heading into Indiana (Please note: if you ever find yourself heading into Indiana, turn around as quickly as possible and don’t slow down until you’ve made it out). We stopped off at a gas station for some grub and to make sure our directions were right, and we got back on the road.
I was home by three in the morning, and in bed by four, hoping to wake up by seven-thirty to go to the workshop at PubServ, a requirement for anyone who wants to do freelance copyediting. I didn’t wake up on time, of course, and had to email them as soon as I did wake and let them know that I would need to wait for the next one. They responded and let me know that I was on the list, and they would be able to schedule another one whenever four people or more were signed up to attend. Essentially, I will be able to attend their workshop once I have three additional people with whom to compete forw ork. The good news is that the woman at the airport didn’t charge me for changing my ticket. I spent the time following my return from LA stressing about Russian and trying to finish my paper on Nabokov’s Pale Fire, and now that I’ve graduated I might finally be able to do some more work on Never Enough, the novel-in-progress that I worked on with my instructor for the Creative Writing Tutorial this semester.
To keep you all updated: I got a B in Russian. I’m astounded, and I suspect that they might grade things differently in Russia. But this means that I am, without a doubt, actually graduating! I will officially be a bachelor! I also finished my Pale Fire paper, which could’ve been better if not for the fact that I’ve never really been able to summon much enthusiasm for critical responses to novels. This is why I wasn’t a very good English major. I’ll post that on JavaJunkee soon for you all to judge harshly.
Now I wait to hear about real jobs. Perhaps I can simply keep working at Espresso and try to do as much writing as possible in my free time. I did submit a resume and some sample writing to the World Service Office, but I haven’t heard back from them yet.
I also had my car towed this week, for parking tickets at the U of I. I would need to pay those, anyway, in order to get my diploma. But getting towed meant another $80. What a racket.
I really hope to do more work on JavaJunkee in coming months, including revising as many of the essays as I can, and posting more stuff that hasn’t yet made it up. I think I might also try to make all of the essays and short stories available in .pdf for easy printing. And maybe I’ll get some new stories up soon, too. And a teaser for Never Enough, like the first chapter in its revised form, to generate enough interest that folks will make donations to help me finish the project!