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Whining, Eavesdropping, Eating 

Family night went well last night. We added a new provision. The child who whines least on the way to dinner gets to pick the restaurant. Both kids whined so much as we walked uptown that I ended up choosing. We went to a steak house and everyone had fun. Unfortunately, it came out in the conversation that Sam was an accident. He was hurt and upset about it. I tried to reframe his arrival as a "happy surprise" but he's not buying it. I guess that's the risk you run when you engage in regular family conversation.

I decided to actively eavesdrop on conversations around me so I can get some good material for my second book. I worked really hard at it in the subway tonight. One couple talked about Bobby Short's death and how seeing Bobby Short perform at the Carlyle made the woman feel like she was living in the 40's. Another couple talked about getting their Mazda fixed. A pretty young girl in a sweatshirt spoke in the strangest sounding voice - like Minnie Mouse with a heavy Texas accent. I couldn't figure out if it was real or if she was just trying to get attention. Then, this blind man who sings for change walked through the car. Maybe you know him - skinny, black, about 45, usually sings Motown. I could swear he could see when he left the car and thought no one was looking. His eyes went from this glazed stare to clear focus on the door as he exited. I've given him money in the past, but I probably won't from now on. I hate when that happens. There was another couple who told this terrible sob story about the husband having AIDS, their children in foster care, etc. The man looked so sick that I gave them a few dollars. I saw the same couple a few days later and this time, they claimed it was the wife who had AIDS. I felt so used.

Today I had lunch with an old colleague from American Express who has since made it big at Citicorp. We ate in their executive dining room which was very cool. There were about six tables in the room with about two waiters for every guest. The service was impeccable. The food was outstanding. And you didn't even get a check at the end. It must be nice to eat in the executive dining room any time you want to. On the other hand, you have to be an executive at a big corporation to have that privilege, so I think I'll pass. I'd rather work at home with my cat in my lap.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Family Night 

Both of my children think it's uncool to hang with their parents now. It used to just be Schuyler, but now it's Sam, too. He hit puberty last month. One stray hair and his parents are pariahs. He explained to me that no kid in puberty can (willingly) be seen with his parents. In the event that they are, the pubescent kid must repeatedly roll his eyes at said parents. Honestly, we can't get our children to go to the movies with us, play ball, take a walk, shop. Correction, Schuyler WILL shop with me if I'll buy her something.

Anyway, last week Mark and I decided to declare Sunday night "family night." From now on, every Sunday, we will all go out to eat together as a family. The kids whined and complained at the news, so we added a proviso. Not only would we go out to eat on Sundays, but we'd dispense allowance at dinner. No dinner, no money. My son thinks it's pathetic that we have to bribe them to spend time with us and he's right. But so what, I say.

We went to America (the restaurant) last Sunday. It turned out to be their last week in business - they closed on Tuesday. Mark tried to buy the Statue of Liberty they have in the bar, but the manager said "no." I don't know where we would have put it anyway. To everyone's surprise, it was fun. For the first time in weeks, all four of us were together laughing and enjoying each other's company. For two lovely hours, the children forgot that they were supposed to shun us. I'm looking forward to this week's Family night. My son is asking where we'll go, like he's really looking forward to it. That's progress.

On an unrelated subject, Schuyler decided that she loves the smell of men's deodorant so she now sprays her room with Brut. The whole house smells like Mark's underarms. I don't know what to do about it.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

My Big Fat Book Tour 

When friends heard that my book was being published, they almost always asked the same question. "Will you be going on a book tour?" My answer of "yes" was invariably followed by trills of excitement and envy over the red carpet adventure in which I would soon partake. I acted like it would be no big deal - riding in limos, flying first class, staying in suites, running from the paparazzi - who cares? Not I. Secretly, however, I went to the dentist and got my teeth professionally bleached.

New York was the first stop. Since I live here and I'm a very grounded person, I took the subway to both of my readings. Better to save the limos for out of town. The Manhattan readings were absolute joys. The rooms were packed. Friends I hadn't seen in years showed up. Former American Express colleagues who had been fired before and after me came. My old secretary and direct reports. Friends, relatives and one or two strangers even. Mr. Sharma, the taxi driver I wrote about in the book was there. My children. My husband. My agent. my editor. My babysitter. Anyone who mattered to me was present and accounted for. In the excitement of signing book upon book after the readings, I found myself blanking on some of my closest confidant's names. Luckily, someone from the bookstore would ask people to write their name on a post-it-note before they reached me. A few refused. Them: "I'm her best friend; this isn't necessary." When the unidentified person would hand me her book, I tried to be sly. Me: "Who should I sign the book to?" Them: "Me." Me: "And remind me how you spell your name?" Them: "P-A-T." This happened more times than I care to admit.

Flying to Boston for my first stop, I found out that I would be travelling coach, staying in a regular hotel room, and driven around by someone in a Ford Taurus. Even worse, there was no paparrazi anywhere to capture my now-dazzling smile. It snowed the night of my reading. When we arrived at the bookstore, four people were there. The store manager assured me that this was the smallest turnout they'd ever had, EVER. BAR NONE. I told him I preferred to speak in intimate settings. As I presented, one more person arrived and joined us. She was a bag lady, at least I think. She carried lots of bags. And soon, she nodded off, sawing logs with great gusto. I continued my talk through her snores. We sold one book that night. But I bonded with the store manager. He gave me a free book as a parting gift.

When got to Chicago, I had a great interview with Debra Pickett from the Sun Times. We lunched at Marshall Fields, an elegant department store, the kind that doesn't exist anymore. Crystal chandaliers, stained glass ceilings, it was a throwback to an gentler era. I had their signature chicken pot pie. Debra was fun to talk to and we dished for about three hours. After, my escort took me around town to sign books. Lots and lots of books. Had it not been pouring, and had my escort offered me an umbrella, I would have had more fun and stayed more dry. That night, two people came to my reading in Winetka. My mothers best friend and a woman who wanted me to write a blurb for her soon-to-be-published manuscript. So, the reading itself was a semi-bust. But I did get to see the house where they filmed "Home Alone."

I fared better at my San Francisco reading. We had a nice sized audience and my sister-in-law's ex-husband came. He laughed really loud at all my jokes, which cued the rest of the audience to do the same. Judging by the enthusiastic laughter, everyone had a good time. Many books were sold and the store manager gave me beautiful engraved note cards as a gift. In L.A., it took almost three hours to get to the store ( which was in Pasadena) because of the downpours. You know, the ones in February that made swimming pools slide down hills. I didn't think anyone would show due to weather, and yet they did. Including cousins of mine that I hadn't seen in twenty years. An old friend drove all night and all day from Canada to surprise me. Unfortunately she arrived just as we were leaving, so she missed the whole thing. Friends and friends of friends were there. One of my friends came and I suspect she had had extensive plastic surgery. But I didn't say anything. It was an excellent readings. I also did The Connie Martinson show, which is a half-hour cable show about books. I'd never seen it before, but of course now I'll try to catch it if I can figure out when it's on.

After jetting back (coach) from the coast, I had to make reservations for brunch with a reporter who was coming to interview me for the London Daily Telegraph. I called Odeon, a hip restaurant that has been around forever and is just around the corner from my house.

Them: "And who's name should I put on the reservation."
Me: "Karen Quinn"
Them: "Karen Quinn? You're not the Karen Quinn who..."
Me (thrilled to be recognized): "Why yes, yes that's me!"
Them: "So YOU'RE the Karen Quinn who has been making reservations and then not showing up!"
Me: "Oh, no, that's not me."
Them: "Then which Karen Quinn are you? Should I know you?"
Me: "No, never mind."

Dallas and Denver were next. In Dallas, I signed lots of books and did interviews. I was on a national UPN show called "The Daily Buzz." I was also interviewed for a public library show in Irving, Texas. I doubt if I'll see that one because it's only shown on streaming video and I don't know how to work that on my computer. Good thing I didn't know it was bound for streaming video when I did the shoot. I might not have been quite so fascinating. Denver was the best tour city of all. First, I got tons of pre-visit publicity in the society columns. Why? Because I have socially prominent friends, of course. They weren't socialites when I moved away from Denver twenty years ago, but they are now. On the day after I arrived, I was featured on a popular local morning talk show. But dammit, President Bush pre-empted my segment by holding a press conference to talk about Putin. PUTIN? Answer me this. Who is home at 10:00 a.m. that cares a lick about Putin? Could they not have held off filming my segment until later in the show? The piece on Champion insulated windows (I KNOW! WHO CARES?) is the only thing that got on that day. Oh wait, I forgot, there was also a piece on foam mattresses that mold to you body. Trust me, my interview was way more fun.

That night, my friends Kathleen, Matt, Danna and Holly held a party for me at the lovely restaurant above the Tattered Cover, where I was to read. There were about 175 people at the party and the same number at the reading (not all the same people!). We sold lots and lots of books. After, I did many other events and book clubs. I tried to come home on Monday, only my flight was cancelled due to snow. That's okay. I never mind spending five hours at an airport. On Tuesday, I made it home by dinnertime.

I went to sleep on Tuesday night, setting my alarm for 1:30 a.m. Waking up, I showered, had breakfast, and then took a car to a studio near Times Square. At 3:30 a.m., I appeared live on a London morning show (much like the Today show). Their Katie Couric was a Scottish lassie who spoke very quickly and was hard to understand. She was friendly and perky, though, just like Katie. I can barely remember what we talked about because I was so exhausted. But I'm glad I did it. I learned how to do an interview where you talk into the camera and get the questions through an ear piece.

So now you know what it's like to be on a book tour. Extremely tiring and exciting at the same time. Despite the lack of limos and hotel suites, it was an experience I'll never forget. I'm now home, trying to recover. And now it's time to get back to writing my second book.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

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