Ah, lovely, literary Los Angeles. This morning, I went with four students and a colleague to UCLA for the festival of books. Since there were six of us, I drove one of the cars and even though I do not have air conditioning, and even though it was 98 degrees out, and even though I had warned the students that I'm a bad driver, one brave soul chose (willingly) to ride with two teachers. (This, unfortunately, becomes a relevant detail.)
UCLA is a beautiful campus. While I didn't see the ocean, I sensed its nearness, and I loved the eucalyptus trees towering beside the parking lot. The festival itself was crazy. There were panels and tents and events and, this being LA, even film stars. Julie Andrews was there to promote her memoir. (Apparently her childhood was filled with darker themes than dog bites and bee stings.) I mostly wandered around the exhibit tents and bought books, including Screaming Monkeys an anthology my teacher at Iowa State University had been working on at the time. It was fun to see it in print
So there I am, armful of books, moving from small tent to small tent when I see a novel titled: Skunk, A Love Story. Because I am a bad person, I hold the book up to my colleague and said, "hey, you should get this." I'm a little serious because she loves animals, but I'm mostly joking because--Skunk, A Love Story?
The man on the other side of the desk says, "Oh, are you interested?"
I noncommittally mumble something.
"Well, if you are, I could sign it for you."
We chat for a bit about skunk research. Apparently, he made some stuff up (that you can get high on skunk musk, for instance). In the end, I didn't buy the book. But it is getting good reviews on Amazon.
After eating a frozen sandwich, I attended a memoir panel. It was the first panel I've ever attended. (really!) Five years of creative writing classes and somehow, I never attended a literary panel. Now I have and the world is slowly righting itself. This panel was about place (natch) and self. There was even a debate about Truth and Accuracy. So all the memoir-y lions were taken out and dusted. Nevertheless, the panel was engaging. I didn't have time to buy books afterward, but I must, must, must get The Unheard by Joshua Swiller. The author was funny and smart and spoke unsentimentally about living in Zambia. I know, I'm so sentimental, but I'm beginning to realize that it's a disservice. You could tell he loved Zambia, but he just wasn't going to paint his experience with rose petaled sunsets.
On the drive back, I first pull in front of an on coming car. (long, angry honk) Then as I'm changing lanes and then changing lanes again, I nearly side swipe two different vehicles in my blind spot. This all happens in 5 flustered minutes. For the next hour, every time I change lanes, I notice the student in the back seat is also anxiously checking the next lane. When I dropped him off at his dorm, and he nearly hurls his body out of the car, I say, "well, you'll have some driving stories to tell."
His response: "Indeed. I sure will."
"Less of the indeed part," I say, ever the schoolmarm.
"Ha ha," he says. "You drove fine."
As he walks in front of the car, I assume my vehicle is in reverse and I almost hit him.