Tuesday, July 09, 2002

People often want to know what I would be doing if I wasn't doing a show about Amazon. While the truth is simply "a show about something else", in my fantasy life I would be putting my soul in hock so I could work with this guy who is researching beanstalk technologies for NASA. I've always been enamored of the idea, and it's really the most economical and sensible way to get yourself up into orbit--I'm glad to see some energy being invested in this arena. Give the article a read if your are new to the idea of space elevators--it sounds crazy, but it's so tantalizingly plausible that I think we'll see one within 100 years.

Ah, London--it would appear the weather will not be changing from steady drizzle during this brief visit. It's been a great hiatus for me from the humidity and heat of summer in NYC, so I'm actually loving it, even if every last Englishman I meet apologizes at length for their country's impoliteness.

The reading went well last night, despite my almost missing it--for reasons that are deeply unclear, my hotel has no clocks. You know, clocks--things that tell time? None. I left my cell in the States, which is how I normally have the time, thinking my hotel would have this quaint 18th century technology available. Bzzzzz. Sorry--that would be too bourgeois for a hotel right next to Hyde Park on Queen's Gate.

So I took a nap yesterday and left a wake-up call at the desk, which they executed. I showered quickly, came downstairs and after some confused messages from my publisher discovered that the hotel woke me 45 minutes after they had said they would--they called at the wrong time. With no other clocks it was hard to know it had happened for a while, and much hilarity ensued. When I confronted the staff they kept saying, "Oh, sorry," in a curious manner that somehow implied they were both not sorry and that I was at fault to some degree for not knowing a hotel of their caliber wakes people whenever they are good and ready. My bad!

I did make it to the reading in time, which was at the Pan Bookshop--a really lovely store near the hotel, and the staff was outstanding. In a classic European civilized touch there was free wine at the reading--THIS IS SUCH A GOOD IDEA, I CAN NOT ADEQUATELY EXPRESS ITS BRILLIANCE. Wow. Just outstanding--with the free wine, which I'm certain wasn't all that expensive, suddenly a dry book reading is a wet (or at least damp) party, with folks happy to be there and more relaxed about why they came--after all, they get to have drinks! I'm thankful next week's WORK AND WORKING reading at Galapagos will feature drinking, because it really helps take the event up a notch.

I met James Wallis, a friend of John Tynes whose work I'd known about and respected for years, and Erich McElroy, an old friend from Seattle who has expatriated to London was there too, along with a posse he had thoughtfully collected. It was the most casual of readings, owing to the drinking and the setup at the bookstore--we sort of hunkered down, Oprah-style, around a big table and I talked. People interrupted me freely, which is so cool--first because it means they are engaged, and second because these were the kind of interruptions that work, from people who have ideas and opinions and are engaged. Really a lot of good fun.

Afterward I was taken to a steakhouse, where I ate a huge amount of British beef--as a man who lives dangerously, sometimes it is necessary to exist at the edge of danger and possible brain damage from free prion-laced meat. I was struck by a number of short and pithy observations about London and its inhabitants as I sat at the table--they aren't earthshattering, and in fact may seem common sense, but these are the ones that come to mind.

***Everyone smokes, and your forget how many people don't smoke in America now until you see people doing it without guilt or shame.

***Brits are not believers in the idea of INTENSITY in their food flavors, but they do love TEXTURE. Brit food has great textures.

***People really do less like models here than in LA or NYC, but for me it makes the average person look more attractive--I feel like I'm on a level playing field.

***The streets are crowded, but American street sense is utterly unhelpful--totally different kind of traffic. People walk slower than New York, avoid eye contact and are more apt to get out of your way.

***The popular radio in restaurants and stores is still playing hits from the 80's, and it isn't retro--I think they are still playing them from back then. Phil Collins still has a home in his homeland.

***It is still a great joy to wander here down the streets in the dead of night, under the watchful gaze of the city's windows and doors, the streets well-lit and polished. This is my favorite walking city, bar none.

I have five interviews today, some meetings, scads of stock signings and then a plane back to Brooklyn. As whirlwind trips go, it rocked.