Monday, June 27, 2005

96 Hours

I have had a really lovely last 96 hours, from Friday, when I went to the free Cassandra Wilson concert at SummerStage in Central Park, to now, when I'm home from Chicago and typing up this report in my apartment. Odd as it sounds, I love waiting in line in Central Park, at least in summer: I always take my grass mat, pillows, manuscripts, and a small picnic, so I'm never without comfort and entertainment, and I treasure the beauty of the park, and the shimmering anticipation of the event, and the wonderful ephemeral communities formed in line with my fellow fascinating New Yorkers, so the waiting never seems as long as it actually is. The concert started at 7; I arrived at 3:30 and was third in line; and when they let us in at 6, I secured seats in the center of the fourth row for me and Ben (who kindly brought falafel for dinner). It was 75 degrees, a light wind sparkling the leaves of the sycamores around the playfield, an orange-tinged moon rising overhead -- a perfect night.

If you too saw the end of "Before Sunset" and mourned that you would never have the chance to hear Nina Simone live, go see Cassandra Wilson. She sang "Lay Lady Lay," and "Time after Time," and "Brown Sugar," and every bit of her performance was funny and sexy and full of life -- she absolutely undulated across the stage as she sang, and delivered the songs with that extraordinary mahogany-timbred voice and exquisite sense of timing. Her backing band was equally fantastic, and as Ben observed later, she worked so intimately with each one in turn that it was as if they were making musical love onstage. It was the best two musical hours of my year so far, and I repeat, if she comes to your town -- go.

The next morning I flew to Chicago, where we were staying at the W. If the Holiday Inn is meant for Midwesterners seeking the wood paneling of home, and the Ritz for Park Avenue matrons with a taste for gilt and mirrors, then the W is meant for people who love west elm and really, really nice bedsheets. It was far too cool for me, but I liked pretending. I got to spend time with Lisa and present her with the first bound copy of her novel Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, and she gave a terrific reading at our literary brunch and had the longest signing lines afterward. I talked to a few librarians about my beloved Legend of the Wandering King (which got a starred review in Kirkus last week, hurrah!) and Absolutely Positively Not (by fellow former Northfield, Minn., resident David LaRochelle -- though he went to the other school). We had a Harry Potter prepublication party that included cake and (butter)beer. I met John Green, author of Looking for Alaska, on whom I have a total literary crush, and who is just as cute in real life as in his book-jacket photo -- but I immediately did the oh-my-lord-it's-a-hot-guy-I'm-going-to-blush-and-stammer thing, and anyway he also is far too cool for me (and engaged as well). The Newbery/Caldecott dinner was enjoyable, if long, and we got to ride in Ford Excursion limousines going there and back. And in general it was a just a fun weekend of hanging out with lots of great children's book people. Yay Lisa! Yay Scholastic!

(P.S. And to complete my felicity, two great movies from my youth were on cable: "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" and "Annie." So here is the wisdom for the day: Party on, dudes. The sun will come out tomorrow. )


  1. David Rochelle went to the school on the hill so that he could be closer to God? Did he um-ya-ya-yay?

  2. No doubt David has um-ya-ya'd in his time, but then, haven't we all? :-)

    (For the record, j. is referring to the Carleton version of the St. Olaf school song, "Um-Ya-Ya" (pronounced "oom-ya-ya"):

    We come from St. Olaf
    We wear cashmere sweaters
    We live on the hill to be closer to God
    We don't smoke, we don't drink
    (At least that's what they think)
    And between the sheets we go um-ya-ya-ya!

    Um-ya-ya, um-ya-ya,
    Um-ya-ya, um-ya-ya,
    Um-ya-ya, um-ya-ya,

    Repeat chorus as desired. The tune is ridiculously perky, so this never fails to be hilarious to Carleton folk, especially when sung with a Norwegian accent.)

  3. While "be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes," is a great tagline, the great philosphy of the Bill and Ted flicks is from the end of Bogus Journey, methinks - "there is no better place, than here, there is no better time, than now."
    This film, it should be noted, was not released during the W administration.