Tag Archives: My sympathetic agent

Agent K!

Congratulations to Agent J and his wife, Cameron, on the birth of their son, Roan Michael Lyons, on Tuesday, November 4! Quite an election day for them, I’m sure.

Monday Odds and Ends

Is it really the last week of September? Really?

Sorry to step away last week — deadlines and Life Away From The Internets were both calling. But lots of interesting little things going on.

First, the geothermal system is up and running. We turned it on last week, it fired up immediately, and with the quirky weather we’ve been having — cold and windy one day, warm and rainy the next — we’ve had a chance to try out both the heating and the air conditioning. For what I am guessing is the first time in the life of the house, there’s a constant temperature, and low humidity, in every room, and we’re listening for creaks and groans as the floors and walls finally adjust to the change in temperature. We’re in the process now of getting the house back in order, moving everything back into the attic and basement storage spaces that we had to clear out to make way for retro-fitting the duct work. Slow going, but we’re getting there. I’m hoping to have my new basement office up and running by . . . well, maybe the end of October, if I’m lucky.
Over on the blog of Agent Jonathan Lyons, Agent J is hosting his first ever trivia contest on October 1. Go play. And if you’re one of the three lucky winners, you can choose from one of three prizes: a query critique and evaluation of your first five pages, an evaluation of your first thirty pages, or a free book from one of his clients. Like me. Or Jaye. Or David. Or Edward. Well, you get the idea. Have fun.
So, didja see this story last week? About the Bernalillo County (New Mexico) Republican Chairman putting his foot in it and declaring that “Hispanics consider themselves above blacks” and won’t vote for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama? Here’s the story from the Albuquerque Journal, “GOP Official’s Comments Ignite Calls for His Removal”.

I bring this to your attention because that’s my Mom (who I blogged about back here), checking in on the matter:

Elaine Miller, a vice chairwoman of the Bernalillo County Republican Party, said C de Baca is scheduled to meet this morning with members of the county party’s executive board.

Stepping down “would be in his best interest, so we could get it behind us. So it doesn’t affect the election,” said Miller, who under party rules would become county chairwoman if C de Baca leaves.

Well, the chairman did step down, but my Mom — rather than move up as chairwoman, as the rules provide — agreed, in the name of party unity, to unanimously support the appointment of a new chairman. It was a generous, decidedly unselfish move, and I’m really proud of my mom.
Over on her blog, Josephine Damian is talking about Internet addiction with her usual candor and aplomb. Are the Internets a blessing or a distraction? Opinions differ — but go see what she has to say, and let her know what you think. She’s right here.
Finally, I meant to announce this earlier, but I’ve been asked by the Goshen Historical Preservation Society to speak about Washington Irving at their meeting on October 16. The meeting is at 7:30 at the Church of Nazarene in Goshen. If you’re in the area, come on by. I’m pretty sure it’s free — but I’ll put up more information when I get it.

Waiting for the Cool

Had a nice breakfast with Jonathan over the weekend, complete with great conversation covering everything from baby names and vampire novels, to publisher habits and works in progress. Always a pleasure. (And yes, I had eggs benedict. With crab cakes.)

Two things I’m anxiously looking forward to:

First, there’s this:

And then, of course, there’s this:

Don’t get between me and a movie theater on July 18. Because I will knock you down. Really.

Saturday Benedict

Happy 7-11! Have a Slurpee.

Looking forward to tomorrow, as we’re having breakfast in DC with Agent J*. Jonathan is in town mainly for pleasure, but is willing (and foolish enough) to let Barb and me join him for breakfast at Luna Grille in Dupont Circle, where everything on the menu has the word “benedict” after it. And we love anything with benedict in it. Except Benedict Arnold, of course.

Have a great weekend!

* Bonus points to anyone who can name that reference. My brother is not eligible. Yes, I am talking to you . . . Mr. Cutter.

NYC Trip Report, Part 4 (Final Issue!)

After enjoying a brief moment of Zen with Washington Irving’s library card, I walked with Mark back down the curving staircase to the second floor. Here I met with Jonathan and Casey at the top of the marble stairs just outside the Member’s Room (you’re peeking through the door, just as I saw things, in the photo to the right), and chatted with several of the librarians and a number of patrons who had shown up early — including yet another charming member of the Irving family, who proudly showed me a fleur-de-lis ring of Washington Irving’s that she was wearing on her pinky. Meanwhile, staff whizzed in and out, setting the room up for their National Library Week reception (cake and lemonade, appropriately Spring-like fare).

It was a bit warm, and I have to embarassingly admit I’m something of a sweater — it didn’t help that I was wearing a suit (my Senate Uniform, I call it), but changing temperature from a Spring day outside to a temperature-regulated building usually turns my head shiny with perspiration, regardless. Fortunately, Jonathan and Casey went above and beyond and took good care of me — Jonathan pressed a cool glass of lemonade into my hand while Casey handed me a wad of paper napkins and dabbed a bit below my left eye — and like that, I was fine. I must say, having a posse with you is really cool.

A little after 2:00, Mark led me into the now-packed Member’s Room — a really great venue that allows some lucky audience members the luxury of sitting on couches and overstuffed chairs. Casey and Jonathan took seats discretely off to one side, and as I sat in a classy wingback, Mark stood at the central podium and gave me a very nice introduction.

I gave what I call my E! True Hollywood Story talk — it gives me a good opportunity to hit several of the high points of Irving’s life, with enough famous names and events to keep things really interesting (Look! Mary Shelley! And here’s Edgar Allan Poe! And now Martin Van Buren!). And to my delight, just as it had in Newport, the speech went over terrifically. (Want another look? Jonathan very kindly blogged about it himself over on his own website.)

And if you’d like, you can even hear audio of the entire thing right here. The NYSL has only just recently started putting its talks and presentations up on their website, and I’m very proud to be among their first three featured speakers.

As always, I had a wonderful time signing and talking with people afterwards. Interestingly, a number of folks were curious about my time in the U.S. Senate; I’m guessing that life in DC is as enigmatic to New Yorkers as life in New York is to us DC-ites — an iconic place that we can picture in our heads or see in the movies, but can’t imagine what it’s like to actually live or work there. I was having so much fun talking with everyone, in fact, that I completely missed having a piece of the cake they’d brought in for their National Library Week celebration.

It was 4:00 by the time we wrapped everything up, and I had a 5:05 train to catch at Penn Station. Jonathan graciously carried my suitcase (see what additional duties an agent shoulders?) as we headed down 79th Street in search of a cab. We finally managed to snag one on the corner at Fifth Avenue, pointed toward Central Park. I threw my bags in the back seat, then hugged (yes, hugged — I can’t help it, I’m a Westerner) Jonathan and Casey goodbye.

I made it back to Baltimore about two hours later than anticipated, thanks to a medical emergency on the Amtrak train directly in front of mine that had stopped on the tracks and required us to pull up next to it and load all of its passengers onto ours. Topping things off, I was then forced to detour about ten miles out of my way on my drive home when an accident — within spitting distance of my house — closed the road and turned me back around. At that point, I couldn’t get home fast enough.

I won’t leave you hanging. I made it home in one piece. And while New York was an unforgettable experience . . . man, was it nice to be back home. My wife took my things and sat me down at the bistro table in the kitchen and put a warm bowl of pasta fazoli in front of me. “Tell me all about!” she said.

I took a spoonful and smiled. Delicious. “Well,” I said, dabbing my mouth with the corner of a napkin, “I arrived at Penn Station in New York City on Friday afternoon, about an hour later than the 11:57 a.m. my train ticket had promised….”

NYC Trip Report, Part 3 (Collect them all!)

I awoke on Saturday morning at 9:45 a.m. or so. I was due to meet Casey (my editor) and Jonathan (my agent) for brunch at Cafe d’Alsace at 11:45, so I had plenty of time to shower, dress, pack and check out of the hotel before heading out to hail a cab. Given that it was Saturday morning instead of the Friday rush hour, I assumed I would have no trouble finding a cab.

I was wrong.

I came out the revolving door of the Omni, dragging my suitcase behind me, and saw that the entire length of 52nd street was lined with barricades, separating the sidewalk from the street. Pedestrians could move along the sidewalk, and traffic — what little there was of it — could move along the street, but no one could cross. I backtracked toward Fifth Avenue and ran into the same thing: the entire street was effectively blocked off.

I had completely forgotten the Pope was coming. New York City — or at least a good portion of it — was shut down.

I called Casey’s cellphone and left her a grumbly message, telling her the situation and letting her know I would do my best to get to the restaurant on time. Then I headed back down 52nd and crossed over to Park Avenue, planning to start a hike up the island toward 88th. Here I found things were moving just fine — apparently the police barricade didn’t extend this far. The roads and sidewalks were open, and cabbies were freely plying their trade up and down the streets. I hailed one easily, and stepped out of the cab only 10 minutes later on the corner of 88th Street and 2nd Avenue (did you see that? I just gave you an intersection rather than a street address. Drinks all around!)

Jonathan was standing outside waiting for me. While he may have been jetlagged — he had just come back from the London Book Fair the night before — he looked super cool and relaxed, with his sunglasses and a suit that struck just the right balance between business and casual (it was a “casual business” look, rather than the more stilted “business casual”…) We shook hands warmly — I hadn’t seen him in person in more than two years, either — and headed inside to grab a table while we waited for Casey, who came gliding in a few moments later.

We had a terrific conversation over omelettes, salmon benedict, and strawberry Belgian waffles (“But hold the strawberries,” Casey specified) and believe it or not, I actually did more listening than talking. No, really. It was fascinating to hear Casey explain how a project gets pitched in editorial meetings, to learn just how many queries Jonathan works his way through in a week, and to hear their mutually strong opinions on New Yorker magazine (the consensus: every New Yorker reads the magazine, and nearly every one of them yells back at it. Sort of like we in DC do to The McLaughlin Group).

It was only a little after 1:00 when we finished, so we decided to walk the twelve blocks over to the New York Society Library, where I was scheduled to speak at 2:15. The weather was beautiful, the Pope Barriers had been removed, and New Yorkers were bustling up and down the streets to find somewhere to enjoy their first real weekend of Spring sunshine. In no time, we were under the blue and white awning in front of the New York Society Library — a dignified but otherwise unassuming white brick building just east of Central Park. Head Librarian Mark Bartlett greeted us warmly and escorted us up to the newly-renovated Member’s Room where I’d be speaking.

Mark generously offered to store my suitcase and briefcase in his office, so I followed him up an elevator to one of the upper floors where we stowed my bags. But then, instead of taking me back to the elevator, Mark opened one of the low doors to the stacks and asked me to follow him.

Well, sure. I’m a sucker for stacks. When I was a Senate staffer, one of the real perks of my U.S. Senate badge was that (at that time, at least) I could get into the stacks of the Library of Congress — a dark, cool, bibliophile’s paradise. And now Mark was leading me back among the Society Library’s collection of old books. There was that great Old Book smell that I wish they could somehow bottle so I could spray it in my own house. Heck, I’d even wear it as cologne.

“I thought you might want to see this,” Mark said, steering me toward an enormous old leather-bound ledger lying open on a low table. “We just found it this morning.”

At the top of the ledger’s right-hand page, written in perfect cursive script, was the name WASHINGTON IRVING. Just below it, in pencil, was the date 1836. Running in neat rows down the page were the titles of books Irving had checked out, along with the dates he had checked them out and returned them. This was, in effect, Washington Irving’s library card.

I swallowed hard. “Can I touch it?” I asked, and Mark nodded, smiling.

I’ve thumbed through Irving’s own letters, held an 1819 original of The Sketch Book in my hands, and, thanks to friends at Historic Hudson Valley, even walked through his private rooms. Compared with those, the document before me was nothing special — it was merely Irving doing one of those mundane, day-to-day activities we all do: going to the library and checking out a book. Yet, for that very reason, it was one of those remarkable moments where your subject comes suddenly to life.

I took a deep breath, inhaling that wonderful leathery old smell. Then I rested my hand gently on the 170-year-old page.

To be concluded.

NYC Trip Report, Part 1

I arrived at Penn Station in New York City on Friday afternoon, about an hour later than the 11:57 a.m. my train ticket had promised. The weather was beautiful — the Pope was scheduled to arrive that weekend, and his advance team had obviously used his considerable connections to chase away the rain and cold and bring in temperatures in the 70s — so rather than hail a cab, I decided to walk the mile from Penn Station to my hotel, over on 52nd Street and Madison Avenue.

I was staying at the Omni Berkshire — a hotel that would normally be so far beyond my means that it would be all I could do to press my nose against the glass and look so forlorn that perhaps some symapthetic millionaire would take mercy on me — but I had lucked into an astonishingly reasonable rate, and strode into the place and checked in like I had never stayed anywhere else. I even authoritatively grabbed an apple from a nearby bowl as I walked to the elevator, then looked around to see if anyone was going to say anything about it. To my disappointment, no one had even noticed me owning the place with such decisiveness. Darn it.

I spent most of the afternoon just watching and wandering, and even lounged around in the room for a while (I figure if I’ve paid for it, I’m using it). I read for a while, then stood at my eighth floor window watching the people coming and going down on 52nd street (with Billy Joel providing a soundtrack for them in my head) — and all the while I was casually watching the bedside clock until it was time for me to start getting ready to change for my event. I was planning to start changing for my 6:00 p.m. talk at 4:30 or so, then catching a cab in front of the hotel at around 5:00. As I closed the blinds on my window, I just happened to glance at my watch and realized the clock in the room was thirty minutes slow. It wasn’t 4:30; it was already slightly after 5:00 p.m.

Now, understand that when it comes to arriving some place on time, I am the world’s biggest pain in the ass. If I have to be somewhere by 6:00 p.m., chances are good that I’d like to leave at 4:00 p.m., just in case weather, accident, or Godzilla attack impede my normal progress toward my destination. In most cases, it means I arrive an hour before I really need to be there; at other times, it’s paid off in spades, as I’ve hit a major traffic snarl on the DC beltway, and still made a train or airplane with room to spare. Right now, however, I was in a panic. I hadn’t changed — forget showering at this point — and it was Friday rush hour in New York City.

I dressed quickly, grabbed my briefcase containing my speech and my well-thumbed book, then sprinted out the front door of the hotel to hail a cab. Unfortunately, no cab traffic was moving on 52nd Street. The bellman regarded me with a shrug — “Rush hour, man,” he told me. “Maybe you’ll have better luck over on Fifth Avenue.”

I hustled over to Fifth, but things weren’t much better. Every cab that passed me was already occupied by passengers who seemed to look at me smugly as they went by. I briefly considered making a break for it on foot, but my destination was still 40 blocks away. Still, some progress was better than none, so I just started walking down Fifth Avenue, doing that crab-like walk where you’re looking sidelong for a cab while still moving in generally the direction you ultimately need to go.

Finally, one of those bike cabbies pulled up next to me and asked me in a thick voice where I was heading. “Forty-seven Fifth Avenue,” I told him — which, as I discovered later, was my first New York Rookie Error of the night.

“Hop in,” he told me, gesturing to the open back seat.

“How much?” I asked.

“Twenty bucks, flat rate,” he said. I now made my second rookie error of the night, and climbed into his cab seat. (“You’re the only person I know who’s actually ever taken one of those cabs,” my agent told me later, trying hard to ooze sympathy rather than sarcasm.)

Only minutes later, as we passed through Fifth Avenue and 48th Street, my cab driver asked me on which side of the street I wanted him to drop me off. As I looked at him stupidly, he pulled up on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 47th Street. “Here we are!” he beamed.

As I learned later, one does not provide cab drivers with actual street addresses. My request to be taken to 47 Fifth Avenue had been translated by his cabbie brain as “47th and Fifth Avenue” — a destination only about five blocks from where I’d started. While I might have my fits of laziness, even I can walk five blocks.

“No, no, no!” I told the driver, “I need 47 Fifth Avenue. Four-seven. On Fifth. Not 47th and Fifth.”

“Oh,” came the response. That was it.

“How much, then?” I asked, knowing full well what was coming.

“Twenty bucks, flat rate.”

“Yes, but you didn’t take me to my destination,” I said with a slight edge in my voice that I hoped said Don’t f**k with me.

It didn’t. “It’s 20 just to get in,” he told me blankly. Useless.

“This is a bill of goods,” I said, and angrily handed him my money. He offered to hail a cab for me “to make up for it.” I told him I didn’t want him to miss any other scandalous opportunities and to be on his way. “Whatever,” he shrugged, and off he went, standing in his pedals as he chugged away, in search of new victims.

With a visible black cloud over me, I began the crab-walk again, and finally spotted a minivan cab dropping a family off in front of a hotel. I ran over just as he was flicking on his “Out of Service” light and stuck my head in his window. “Any chance I can get a ride straight down Fifth Avenue?” I asked.

“Where you going?” he asked, lifting his cap slightly and rubbing the top of his head, the universal sign for You’re Really Putting Me Out.

“Salmagundi Club, 47 Fifth Avenue,” I said, clearly articulating each word.

“Forty-seventh and Fifth?” he said, then jerked a thumb over his shoulder toward the intersection behind us. “That’s right there.”

My hands slowly curled into fists.

To be continued…