I got up at 3:25 this morning — five minutes before my alarm was set to go off. After a shower and breakfast, I was on the road to Charlotte at 5, arriving at 7 for my 9:15 flight. I don’t know how many people take the instruction to arrive two hours before boarding seriously, but I do; it’s part of my neurotic promptness. I show up early for dentist’s appointments as well.
Security Theater was its usual awkward self, or more to the point, I was my usual awkward self. Other people seem to pass smoothly through the scanners and what have you, but invariably I feel like I’ve just been asked to open Fibber McGee’s closet. Things will be dropped. I’ll be asked to unpack various things, remove my belt, and submit to a patdown. And I’m always really self-conscious about holding up the line of people behind me, which makes me more nervous, which makes me more awkward, which further slows everything down. But as usual, I was able to convince the TSA agents of my bona fides, and eventually headed to my gate.
The flight was full, which is always a drag for me. I’m a big guy, and it’s a much more comfortable ride for me if there’s an empty seat next to me. But even worse is that I feel uncomfortable for whoever the person is next to me — I don’t want to crowd them, but it happens. Fortunately the flight was only about an hour and twenty minutes, and we all survived.
After picking up my suitcase, I caught public transit and made it from JFK to the station nearest my hotel for just $7.75. I made it most of the way from the station to the hotel, but then I got turned around, and one of the wheels on my suitcase gave up the ghost, so I wound up paying an extra ten bucks for what turned out to be a three-block cab ride.
I set up base camp here at the hotel, and headed back to the subway station to make my way to this evening’s event at the Whitney Museum, home of a substantial collection of Hopper paintings. Again, I got turned around a bit, and had to ask a few folks for directions, but I eventually reached my destination. . . an hour early. I really need to relax a bit.
The museum closed at six, and although I told the security guard I was there for an event, I was rousted anyway and stood outside for a few minutes until he came back and said, “So you’re one of the authors for tonight’s thing?”
“Yeah. I’m Warren Moore.” I pointed my name out on the book’s cover.
“OK. See that guy over there?” I nodded. “He’s here for this too. Go sit with him.” So I walked to a corner of the lobby where a tall blonde guy — nearly as tall as I am — was sitting. I asked him if he was an author or an attendee.
And that’s how I met Lee Child. After a few minutes, we were joined by Megan Abbott, Jonathan Santlofer, Nicholas Christopher, Gail Levin, and the Blocks — Lawrence and his daughter Jill, along with Larry’s lovely wife, Lynne. (Jill’s sister Amy was there as well, but I didn’t know that for a while.)
After some chat, we were encouraged to come to the museum’s shop, where the event took place. We were seated at a long table in alphabetical order, as we appear in the anthology as well. After an introduction, LB talked a little about the idea behind the anthology, and about Hopper’s appeal for writers. We then moved down the row, each writer talking for a few minutes about the painting that inspired his or her story, and about any connections we felt to Hopper’s work.
In my case, I talked about my parents. I mentioned that Mom and Dad had been art students when they met, and that I had grown up around art — both theirs and that of other more famous artists. My dad introduced me to Hopper’s work, and I mentioned that I had always been fond of Office at Night, the painting that inspired my contribution. From there, I mentioned that a character in my story had been inspired by my mother, and that in some ways, I saw the story as being a bit of a hat tip to both my parents.
After we all had said our pieces, we took a few questions from the audience, and then it was signing time. I picked up the pen that had been placed at my seat, and…
Nothing. It was null and void. So I borrowed someone else’s pen, and…
Nothing. And as it turned out, several of my copanelists’ pens were equally uncooperative. Meanwhile, the line of folks seeking autographs was building. Finally, I was handed a Sharpie — one of the ones with a fat tip. Now, my handwriting is a challenge even with a traditional ball point pen, but with a heavy marker? Yeesh. Nonetheless, I soldiered on, and now several dozen people have copies of a lovely book, with the elegant signatures of a number of writers… and my heavily inked scrawl, reminiscent of that of a fourth grader who has just received a concussion. I guess I need a better signature, too.
Afterwards, we adjourned to a restaurant around the corner from the Whitney, where Larry graciously treated us to dinner as we sat around and shot the breeze.Finally, though, the length of my day caught up with me, and I took a taxi back to the hotel, where in a few minutes I’ll call it a night.
This city may never sleep, but I’ve got to. Still, it was a really cool evening with some really talented people, and I’m pleased to have had the chance to hang around with them. And the fact that I get to do it again tomorrow night is just that much cooler. I’m grateful for the chance to do this — from Larry, from Pegasus, and from Newberry College, which is funding the trip. As I said, it’s cool.