Detroit, Milwaukee and Dayton
26 - 29 March 2009
Finally, a smooth departure, and a smooth arrival in Detroit. For the first time in my life my luggage beats me to the arrival hall (and this without immigration and customs!).
Ann Arbor, where my evening event takes place is a university town, though, and still vibrant and full of activity. My hotel, The Bell Tower Hotel, sits near the midst of the vast university campus area. And just a few blocks’ walk away from the flag ship Borders shop that’s the venue for my 7pm event.
It is interesting to note the difference between the events at independent stores and chain stores. Here, nothing seems to be prepared. The friendly young staff members scramble to get me a microphone and a glass of water while guests are already seated. Nobody in particular seems to be in charge and nobody knows who I am. At the independent stores I feel that I am being hand-sold, just as my books are.
But as the hour passes two of the young male staff sit down and listen and afterwards they are full of questions. Couldn’t someone have given them a brief beforehand?
In the morning, my departure is an hour later than the day before (it’s getting better by the day – except for tomorrow, I notice when I check the itinerary) and there are no problems at the check in.
A few days after my visit to Seattle there was another article in The New York Times (what a treat to have a decent daily paper!) that caught my eye. Just a day or so before my arrival one the two daily papers in Seattle folded to become just an internet presence and the article discussed the effects of our increased reliance on the internet for our news.
Milwaukee. Mary was my escort during my first tour, too. Unlike me, she looks exactly the same when I spot her at the baggage claim. We go straight to a radio interview. It’s a local station and the twice a day show is called ‘The Lake Effect’. The interviewer, Mitch Teich, is a published author, too. In spite of looking to be about thirty he is remarkably well read and well travelled. Also, his father’s family is Polish Jewish and he seems genuinely moved by my book. Which I somehow feel he knows more about than I do. His questions are wonderful, but hard. We keep talking long after the fifteen minute recording is over.
The evening event is very moving. Originally planned to be at the same independent store as last time, Harry Schwartz’, it’s been shifted to the Milwaukee Public Library.
This might be the largest audience of this tour, possibly with the exception of the first event in Los Angeles. It’s a very special evening.
I am staying at the Pfitzer Hotel, one of those places that exude an atmosphere of former glory. A grand entrance lobby with high ceilings with dusty crystal chandeliers, wide corridors with soft carpets and ornate gilded doors. And bad plumbing. As I come back from the event I sit down in the piano bar and have a late meal and a glass of wine. There is just a handful of people there, which is a shame as the pianist, Dr Jeffrey Hollander, is exceptional. He even plays Chopin’s Berceuse on request. Few pianists would venture to do that. It transpires that he is a professor of music with a long an interesting career. His music is wonderful.
Another early morning. Up at 5.15am to catch my flight to Dayton, Ohio. I have never been to Ohio, and I have a feeling I will not know much more about the state after this brief visit. No problems at the airport. Another airport breakfast, not too bad this time. Spring is more advanced in Dayton, with green lawns a touch of pale green around the bare branches of the trees. I am put up at the Merriot, a standard conference hotel packed with noisy university students on some weekend project.
My event is at Books & Co., a large independent bookstore in town. It’s Saturday, 2pm and it rains a little. The audience is small, but high quality. A group of three people have travelled from Columbus to be here. Great questions and lots of interest. Sometimes, these small events feel more worthwhile than the bigger ones - I get to talk to all guests.
My escort drops me off at my hotel after stock signings at two Barnes & Nobles stores. I spend the evening catching up on personal hygiene and watching a movie. The last few days I have felt as if I am carrying a latent cold and an early night feels just right.
My flight to Newark the following morning is at the decent hour of 10.50am.
New York. Rain. And a free afternoon. A friend takes me to dinner with other friends of hers in Brooklyn. It’s nice to have a genuine social evening. And a good night’s sleep.
In the morning I’m invited to breakfast at the residence of the Swedish Consul General together with my publisher at Penguin US, Kathryn Court and her marketing team. The residence at 600 Park Avenue is spectacular and the Consul General, Ulf Hjertonson and his wife Karin genuinely interested in the arts and very supportive. It feels as if I am becoming more and more Swedish as this tour progresses…
I catch a cab afterward and take myself to the Jewish Museum in 92nd street. I have about two hours – totally inadequate time – and try and cover as much as I can. Before I leave I give a copy of my book to the staff in the gift store.
Back to Penguin to meet Maureen, Shannon, Gabrielle and Alexis from the marketing team and walk over to the New Public Library in Jersey Street. The audience includes other familiar faces: my agent Kathleen Anderson and her assistant Adriann Ranta, whom I haven’t met before in spite of having had extensive dealings with on e-mail and phone. Funny how you sometimes make up a very clear and very specific image of a person that proves to be totally wrong. This is such a one, and I am pleased to now have the correct face to the name.
Both my brain and my throat feel as if they are drying up by now and I deliver a slightly shorter version of my speech. As always, the audience seems genuinely moved by the reading and the playing of the adagio from the Sonata for Miriam by Alexander Ekroth-Baginski. I wish it was commercially available.
Dinner with Penguin concludes a VERY long day. And I realise I have taken NO pictures in New York. Too much happening, I think.
When I get back to my hotel I check my e-mail and discover that Sonata for Miriam goes on sale in Denmark next morning. A first review is glowing and my publisher, Forlaget Aronsen, also forward a few blogs that rave about the book. Their website front page features Sonata for Miriam: http://www.forlagetaronsen.dk/. Sometimes miracles happen in the most unexpected places…
Oh, and I found this article in Tulsa World: http://www.tulsaworld.com/lifestyle/article.aspx?subjectid=67&articleid=20090315_67_G5_LindaO918655
Boston tomorrow. I go to bed hoping for a good night’s sleep and renewed energy to take me through the last two days of the tour.