NZ AUTHOR LINDA OLSSON
20 and 21 March 2009
Denver and Tulsa
I really should write these notes straight away as I get back to my hotel at night: I am now in Tulsa, and Denver is already beginning to slip away. But I’ll try and retrieve some impressions from the murky depths of my memory.
Flying into Denver you can’t help noticing the backdrop of snow clad mountains. I immediately text my friend Ellen who now lives here and always says she is miserable. ‘It’s beautiful! Why do you complain?’ As I leave the following day, however, I text her again: ‘Well… I sort of understand. It’s grey. Unremarkable in every way.’
My hotel is nice, as usual. I have time for a short walk and end up in a book store where I have lunch. I realise it’s the same chain as the one where my evening event is scheduled, Tattered Covers, but another store. A wonderful place to spend an afternoon. There is a café inside and an odd assembly of old tables and chairs are spread around the spacious store, so you can sit and eat surrounded by books. I reluctantly tear myself away and make my way back to my hotel to change and get ready for my events.
My escort is VERY professional, reed thin and heavily bejewelled. The events go well. There is an afternoon book club event followed by an early dinner at the home of a Swedish member. Then a speech and book signing at ‘Tattered Covers’. It surprises me to see so many turn up, perhaps 50 people. Some young, and some men, too! Yay! Great response and lots of questions. At least one I haven’t had before. A young guy asks me what is the most surprising result of my publishing success. I don’t know why, but before I have a moment to think I blurt out: ‘That I am not happy. I thought that would follow as a natural result. And it hasn’t.’
I have time for breakfast before my flight to Tulsa, but airport breakfasts are not to be recommended.
I don’t think I will return to Denver.
As I walk into the terminal and the baggage claim at Tulsa airport I have to pass through sliding doors with a sign stating: ‘From this point, no return.’ It feels slightly ominous. But just outside there is my escort, Jeff Martin. It’s the first time my escort has taken the trouble to pick me up before the baggage claim and help me pick up my suitcase (which I am again very happy to see appear on the belt). Jeff takes me to my hotel, this time a typical conference hotel on the grey plains outside the city and overlooking the highway.
That goes for the city as whole, this Saturday afternoon. We drive through other parts of the city that hold grand old mansions, clearly demonstrating the opulence created by the oil. Jeff points out several art deco buildings of note, one the Boston Avenue Methodist Church which is quite spectacular. Also, he shows me the Bank of Oklahoma Tower at the end of Boston Street. It looks startlingly like a lone, shrunken World Trade Center tower—which is what it is. It was designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the Twin Towers’ architect, for the Williams Center, an urban renewal project planned in imitation of the World Trade Center and completed three years after it, in 1976.
The overall impression is slightly sad, though. The streets are empty, the buildings look silent and closed. There are very few shops and they look closed, too. Jeff says it seldom rains here, and when it does people stay indoors.
The event is in a typical Barnes & Noble store. Plastic chairs set up in the midst of a sea of book shelves. It’s three o’clock and a reasonable number of customers are browsing the aisles. Few are interested in sitting down, though, and I end up talking to a handful of listeners. One of them turns out a very interested one, though, with lots of questions, and it turns more or less into a discussion about writing rather than a speech. And at the end of the session a dozen books get sold. And I sign about thirty copies for the store. ‘A book signed, is a book sold.’
Jeff drops me off at my hotel and we agree to stay in touch.
There is no mini bar in my room, so I have a glass of water and fall into bed. It’s been a long day.