February 21, 2010


I've sat down several times this week, hoping to gather my thoughts on this past week's New York trip. Things did not begin auspiciously. Despite getting up at 5:45 AM on Tuesday, the combination of black ice, clunky snow boots, and an unannounced Metro delay caused me to run to the plaza at 10th and H Streets just in time...to see the Bolt Bus pull away. I had no choice but to hop right back onto the metro, wheezing and teary, and head to Union Station to catch the 8:10 Vermonter train instead. That was $106 I couldn't afford, but I had a 12:30 lunch date with my editor at Crown--a new editor--and I was not going to make a first impression of flaking out. 

Meeting an editor who has "inherited" your book (following the departure of a previous editor) is a terrifying proposition, but Sydny put my mind at ease. She's an industry vet, savvy to the latest marketing trends as well as the traditions of good editing; she worked for many years at Simon & Schuster, where she handled a series of successful books for food lovers. Most importantly, when they brought a humongous swirl of house-made blue cotton candy out with the bill, she helped me devour it. That's my kind of lady. 

The good news: the first 101 pages of the nonfiction book are in good shape. The bad news: that means I have no further excuse to put off the other 100 pages of the book. It's going to be a crazy spring.

Most of the rest of my trip was grabbing an hour here and an hour there with writer-friends in the city. We celebrated my sister's 20th birthday (!) with dinner at Hangawi, a midtown vegetarian/Korean place which won my heart with its tranquil atmosphere and its focus on mushroom rather than tofu-anchored meals. Their homemade kimchee (the real stuff--fermented as well as pickled) is amazing, as is their array of delicately flavored mountain roots.

Just be sure to wear presentable socks, lest you get caught off guard by the tatami seating. I had remembered this, all the way back in DC, and accordingly packed my Valentine's Day socks (red hearts) rather than my Christmas ones (candy cane-wielding reindeer). The only socks I own--because I wear them only on the occasions of snow and bowling--are novelty ones received at the holidays. That's right: my mom still buys my socks.

We opted for dessert at Veselka  after the movie (Fantastic Mr. Fox). It's one of my sister's favorite neighborhood places, and she says that every time she brings a friends they notice some minor celebrity--usually of the Gossip Girl variety. Sure enough, I think we were sitting next to Bryan Greenberg. At first I thought "no, that can't be him, he's too short," but we left at the same time as he and his date and he unfolded some astonishingly long legs from under that little cafe table. 

I'd like to claim I recognized him from How to Make it In America, which is the heavily hyped new HBO series. Nah. If it was him (the lanky build matched, as did the eyebrows and the prominent ears; the chin scruff did not), I recognized him from the sap-fest that was October Road. I'm a sucker for shows with a writer-as-protagonist. 

All of this goofiness aside, I did have one more important thing to do before leaving New York: filming an interview for Poets & Writers 40th Anniversary. I owe them such a huge thank-you for the doors opened for me through the Maureen Egen Exchange Award. When they asked if I'd be interested in sharing a few anecdotes for their birthday video, I was thrilled. 

Let's just admit this was not a good travel-trip for me. I dashed from another birthday celebration--this time at Angelica Kitchen (all the special women in my life are vegetarians, apparently)--down to the Broad Street office for my 1:30 PM call time...only to learn I was supposed to be at Writer's House, 26 blocks north. I got right back on the subway and proceeded to break every rule of etiquette: brushing my furiously windblown hair, powdering my sweaty forehead, checking my teeth. I was that person. I'm sorry, New York. 

Luckily the interview itself went fine, and I'll post a link if they do a longer version for the website. My interviewer was Elliot Figman, who is now the executive director but has been at Poets & Writers forever--he started out as a volunteer in 1977, and there are some great black and white photos to prove it. He sat just off-camera, asking leading questions (nothing quite like racking your brain while the film rolls, thinking OK, what story is it that I told him, that he clearly wants to hear again?). It's a good thing Elliot is such a sweet guy, because otherwise it would have felt like a scene from A Chorus Line. 

Talk about true celebrity spotting: I met Roxana Robinson on my way out, and later in the day Jonathan Franzen was coming in. How on earth did I get here?


Maggie May said...

Jonathan Franzen === SWOOOOOONNNNNN
(in a literary swooning, not sexual)

Jessie Carty said...

this is what my husband coined "fun punctuated by frustration" when we were traveling in france once :)