Thursday, February 11, 2010

I'm Alive

I'm back home, a day late and a certified survivor of Snowmageddon 2010.

My adventure began a few hours before I left California late Monday, when Alison (who works for my publisher Abrams, invited me out to speak to the Bookbinders' Guild, and made the travel arrangements) e-mailed that the airline had cancelled my flight. Curiously, the airline's website seemed to think everything was fine and on schedule. Two different customer service reps gave Alison and me two different answers. I left for the airport figuring I had a 50/50 chance of a plane being there for me. One was. We later realized that the airline had sent Alison an e-mail cancelling my return flight on Wednesday. Their original e-mail never specified which flight they meant, and we assumed it was the earliest. So I left San Francisco at midnight Monday suspecting I was on a one-way trip.

The red-eye arrived at JFK airport at 8 a.m. ET Tuesday, so I was totally fresh and energized when I reached the Manhattan apartment of Editor Charlie and his wife, the Lovely Rachel. Charlie went to work while I cleaned up and then met him at Abrams.

Tuesday lunch with Charlie (who took the picture), Jim Killen, the graphic novel buyer for Barnes & Noble, and Elisa Garcia, Abrams's national accounts manager for children's books. Poor Elisa, having to put up with three grown men talking about their passion for comics. It was a real pleasure.

After spending the afternoon meeting people at Abrams, reconnecting with some I'd already met, and talking a little business, Charlie and I reported to the stately Random House tower for the Bookbinders' Guild panel, which we thought went well and seemed to get a good response. About 30 people showed up for wine, hors d'oeuvres, and us. The topic was "Which Came First: The Book or the Blog?" and the first speaker was literary agent Kate Lee, who carved out a career finding and bringing web content to print when few people had thought to do such an outrageous thing. Her presentation was very interesting, a good complement to ours I thought. Then Charlie and I did our Abbott & Costello routine--focusing mostly on Mom's Cancer but also comparing and contrasting with WHTTWOT. We took some good questions, I signed some books, then we went to dinner.

Ms. Lee, me and Charlie at Random House. At the lectern is Alison Gervais, who arranged everything. It's not a good picture of her, sorry.

Dinner after, Charlie behind the lens again. I'm with Rachel and eminent designer-editor-author Chip Kidd, a friend of Charlie's who works at Random House and came to watch/taunt us. Chip drew a doodle on a paper chopstick sleeve that I rescued for my original art collection and can never show on a PG-rated blog. There's probably a name for the style of food we ate here but I don't know it. Like a Japanese type of dim sum or tapas: you order an assortment of bite-sized meat and vegetable morsels (some pretty exotic), which are skewered and grilled on a long hibachi on the other side of the bar. Fun and tasty.

Wednesday morning I slept in. Don't know why I was so beat. I later met Charlie and Assistant Editor Sofia for lunch, where we really dove into what I hope will be my next book that I hope will be published by Abrams. They had a lot of good questions, new and challenging ideas, and I came away a little daunted by the work I have to do but genuinely energized about doing it. This was the first professional-grade feedback I've gotten on my idea and it was constructive and useful. When the book comes out and I mention in the acknowledgements how it wouldn't have been possible without them, it's this lunch I'll have in mind.
Poor Alison worked frantically to find me a way home, and eventually got me the last seat on a plane taking off today (Thursday) at 8 a.m. The rest of Wednesday afternoon I wandered Manhattan in a blizzard. It wasn't particularly cold. The biggest challenge was navigating the lakes of mush that pooled at each crosswalk--every Boy Scout knows that in a wilderness survival situation, keeping your feet dry is paramount. I decided there were many worse places to be stuck.
I took this photo because I liked the bicycle and the black-on-white metal and branches. This was early Wednesday, several more inches fell during the day.
I nearly passed right by the Empire State Building without realizing it. Beer saved me. See, I have a brother-in-law who collects t-shirts from brewpubs, the more obscure and exotic the better. So as I walked along enjoying gotham's transformation into a magical crystalline wonderland, my thoughts went exactly like this:
1. Hey! That looks like a brewpub! Maybe they have a shirt I could get Marc!
2. Hey! This looks a lot like the place Karen and I got a shirt for Marc the last time we were in New York!
3. Hey! That place was on the first floor of the Empire State Building!
4. Look up.
5. Oh.
Publicist Amy had talked to two of the best comic book stores in the world, Jim Hanley's Universe and Midtown Comics, about me coming in and signing books for them. I did. Both seemed happy to have me, particularly considering the weather, and said they'd been happy with sales of WHTTWOT. Hanley's also had a box of Mom's Cancer books in stock for me to sign, which I appreciated. Nice people running great shops, go spend money at them.
David (left) at Midtown Comics bags the books after I signed them, with a "signed by creator" sticker on the front.

On Charlie and Rachel's suggestion, I went to the Museum of Modern Art to see an exhibition on the work of director-cartoonist-animator Tim Burton, which I thought was terrific. I may have enough thoughts on that to support an entire other blog post. For now, I'll say that if you have any interest in seeing a prolific creative mind at work and play, in a wide variety of media including animation, drawings, sculpture and film, it's worth a visit.
Snow even makes garbage look good. Or at least better.
I only slipped and landed flat on my back on the sidewalk once, which was pretty good in those conditions. Two tourists quickly and compassionately helped me to my feet. I could tell they were tourists because they quickly and compassionately helped me to my feet. Nothing damaged but dignity.
I happened to walk past David Letterman's show at the Ed Sullivan Theater just as they were ushering in the audience for Wednesday's program. Thinking maybe some ticketholders hadn't made it due to snow, I asked the staffer at the door if they needed one more hand in the balcony. Alas, they had all the applauders and laughers they required. I walked around the corner and heard Paul Shaffer's band playing through the theater's side doors.
Back to Charlie and Rachel's for an unplanned second night, about which they heroically hid their anger and disappointment. Another great dinner at another unique restaurant, an early-morning rise, a long flight home, and my Daring Blizzard Adventure was done.
A street at dusk.
Honestly, the storm didn't impress me much. For all the talk of schools, businesses and airports closing in near panic, I spent six or seven hours comfortably walking streets that were always navigable. Maybe Manhattan has superior snow-removal procedures, maybe the storm hit other places harder than the little slice of city I saw. I certainly didn't see any good reason to cancel every airplane flight on the East Coast two days ahead of time.
But I'm not too sorry that they were.


Alison said...

Glad to hear that you made it home safely and thank you again for the fantastic presentation to the Bookbinders' Guild!


ronnie said...

Great photos, great blog post, and a great travel story. I continue to be envious. You have a great team backing you!

Anonymous said...

I really liked seeing your heavy snow dandruff & the steam coming out of your mouth when you were trying to convince us, "It's not that bad". Glad you had a chance to play in the East Coast snow!
Nurse Sis

Sherwood Harrington said...

What ronnie said.

... and your Empire State Building story took me back 40+ years to a similar experience. I glanced in a storefront window and thought something like, "Oh, it's a souvenir shop with Empire State Building knicknacks!" And then I looked up.