Real Mistakes, Real Laughs:

Air bases were built on captured islands of Tinian, Saipan, and Guam but they were barley within the range of the long-range bombers.

(hope the bombadiers weren't on gluten-free diets)

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Monday, June 23, 2008

L.A. (Horror) Story

Remember the 60s' sitcom That Girl where aspiring actress Ann Marie, American flag in hand, gazes in awe at the New York city skyline? Well, the Big Apple was once just as intimidating to this modestly-successful suburban author. In town some years ago for my first BEA, I wore my awestruck status as bluntly as That Girl. If the wimpily raised hand trying to hail a cab didn’t betray me, my cell phone sure did, with the antiquated StarTac's single-note ring glaringly shouting "Old Person!" and "Tech Dummy!" to all the Blackberries out there, ringing concertos. But I came to enjoy BEA’s organized chaos and NYC’s energy. Soon my taxi hand shot up onfidently and I regarded my StarTac as retro and very hip. I had lain down tracks on the well-worn but enduring carpet that is New York.

The rug was pulled out from under me this year, though, with BEA in Los Angeles. L.A. isn't just a different city but a different culture, intimidating in its own right. But if I conquered NY, I could certainly handle LA. After all, authors are authors, whether they’re celebrities or civilians (work with me here; I was trying to think positive).

At BEA I had an autograph session scheduled just before actor/author George Hamilton’s. Wouldn’t a podium hand-off photo look great on my website, and more importantly, maybe even fool people that I am an author of sufficient status to hobnob with movie stars on a regular basis?

Instead of the innocuous little snapshot I envisioned, I found myself running to keep up with a stressed and fast-paced staffer who wanted to "get this done now." We burst into the authors' green room and smack into an interview taping with Hamilton. "He’s with people right now!" I wailed, mortified at this unprofessional behavior that immediately renounced any delusions of grandeur about my Almost-Famous Author status. I babbled an apology to Hamilton’s publicist, I had only wanted a quick photo with him at autograph shift-change. I haven't developed the photo yet (this should come as no surprise; a Star-Tac user in the age of iPhones naturally uses a film camera), but I'm sure my red face was the only reason I didn’t look ghostly wan next to the Tanned One.

I'd been invited to a private party that night at one of those boutique hotels, the kind where Lindsay Lohan parties with Paris Hilton. Who knows what kind of networking miracles may result? Everyone in the dim interior seemed under 35 and very well read, making me feel instantly old and illiterate. I busied myself with the open bar and butlered desserts, trying to look contentedly aloof, mojito in hand, as I bit into a mini cream puff. Custard spurted out the other end in a perfect arc, landing on the floor with a splat. Not exactly the kind of ice-breaker I was thinking of. Fortunately, no one witnessed the custard geyser, I wondered what to do next. An aloof, well-read L.A. publishing professional would probably just shrug it off and let the hotel staff deal with it. With my luck, someone would slip on the custard blob and demand to know who was responsible for such a perilous mess. I wiped it up and called a cab.

I took stock of my first day in Los Angeles: first I acted like a groupie with a celebrity, wreaked havoc with finger food at a party where I’d hoped to make some connections but ended up connecting with no one other than the bartender, and spent $60 in cab fare to an event where I spent less time than it took to get there.

When it comes to conquering foreign lands, I’ll stick to New York.

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