New York—In preparation for tonight’s event at Marymount College, I spend all day working on my slide show, “My Life as a Writer”, trying to get it just right for a mixed age audience -- connecting anecdotes about Summer Sisters to the appropriate slides. I’m told there will be 90 younger readers from one school and 200 or more adults. Not content to leave well enough alone I phone the school to check on the exact ages of the kids and am told they’ll be mostly third and fourth graders. “Oh, really young,” I tell the school librarian. I try to fi nd out which books of mine they’ve read because the slide show only works with kids who are already familiar with the books I discuss, especially Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself. I can tell I’m making the librarian uncomfortable with my questions. Oh well, I tell myself, I’ll just have to make it work one way or another.
Grab a peanut butter sandwich to sustain me at 4:30, then dress, and leave for Marymount with George (my electronic guru as well as everything else) at 5:30.
When we get there we check out the theater - lights, sound, make sure the slides are in the right order and that my dazzling laser pointer doesn’t need new batteries.
Escorted to a reception in the president’s office where I meet a young man who introduces himself as the grown son (a practicing lawyer) of my college roommate. For a minute I can’t think who he means...and then he says her name...Ellen Gordon. My God! I can’t believe this. He’s the son of Zelda Gendell. She and I were good friends from 7th grade through college. After we married we lost track of one another. But I know that she died of breast cancer three years ago. Her son looks like her. I get all emotional about this connection.
We get down to the theater just before I’m scheduled to begin. There are three full rows reserved for the expected children. I’m looking at ninety empty seats right in the center. Where are the kids? Did I frighten the librarian into not bringing them? I’d been told there was a waiting list of several hundred for tonight’s event. This is maddening! We wait for the children. And wait. But only a handful show up. We ask for those in the tops rows to come down and fill up the best seats in the house. People are reluctant to move. But hey, it’s a lot better than Miami.
Have to finish packing for the up-coming two-and-a-half week road trip because I have a print interview at home from 11 to noon and Vicki is picking me up at 1 pm. We’ll do an MSNBC interview live from the studio in Secaucus on our way to Newark Airport.
11-noon: Time Out New York - The reporter is young, adorable, enthusiastic. Actually, she’s the Dance Editor so we talk ballet and tap. I show her a photo of me at nine, in toe slippers. We laugh a lot. She asks me if I’ve ever considered writing about an anorexic ballerina. I tell her I probably won’t. She accepts that. After, I wonder if we talked about Summer Sisters at all.
A phone call from Vicki: MSNBC interview postponed. They’re covering Frank’s funeral live from LA. We’ll do it by satellite from Chicago tomorrow. That gives me an extra hour. Means I have time for a quick lunch before I finish packing. We get to Newark Airport and learn our 4:15 flight will be delayed for an hour and fifteen minutes. We ask if there are any earlier flights, then race to the Continental terminal, arriving just minutes before their 4:15 departure. We’re really pleased with ourselves. We’ll take off before the predicted thunderstorms and make it to Chicago in time for dinner.
Two hours later we’re still sitting on the runway. I’m next to a woman from England, traveling with but not seated next to, her husband. I offer to switch seats but she says they prefer it this way. She’s in the mood to talk. She tells me she’ll be back to the states in August to attend the Everly Brothers Reunion Weekend in Kentucky. (I think it’s Kentucky.) She asks me if I know who they are and I sing to her: “Down in Bermuda...paradise for two.” She looks at me as if I’m nuts.
When we finally land in Chicago we take a taxi to the hotel. By then it’s late for dinner but we’re starved and decide to go our rooms and order from room service. When I try, I’m told there’s an hour’s wait, even for soup. I know I’ll never manage to stay up that long so I go down to the hotel restaurant which is empty and order a bowl of pasta and vegetables. My comfort food. It’s delicious. Then I sleep.