The other day, my editor asked me if I wanted to go on a road trip and do some book signings up north. He thought we could drive up the 101, stop in a few bookstores, and I could blog about it. I thought it was a great idea until he said he wanted to take his Volvo. That gave me pause. The trouble is I have a bad back and I’m used to my car, to the seat settings and the way the leather hugs my L4 and L5 vertebrae. I was worried that his seats would only have three or four positions. Mine has 32 and I can adjust it at will until I’m within a millimeter of perfection. I explained all this to him and about the plywood board I would need to firm up the lousy motel beds. But I assured him it wouldn’t be a problem, because I had my own rope to tie it up on the car. He paused briefly, and then called the whole thing off.
At first I was hurt. I’m very close to him. He more than an editor, he’s a good friend. We have the same sense of humor and I’m forever running down the battery on my cordless whenever we talk. I would do anything for him. I’ve battled traffic to go to one of his author’s book signings. I’ve worked through the night doing a final proof on my manuscript on the off chance he might need it. I even ate over a thousand calories at lunch once, because he likes Italian food. So, at first I was put off when he declined to go with me. But then after thinking about it, I realized he was right.
The truth is I don’t travel well. I don’t like leaving my husband, my dogs and my comfortable bed. Last summer I went to France to do some research on a book. My first stop was Montreal to pick up an old friend whom I talked into going because I like her and because she’s a whiz with maps. I had some trepidation about the plane ride to Canada. Not for the usual reasons, a fiery crash or air sickness, but because I would be sitting next to a stranger and it would be embarrassing to floss. I always floss after every meal. Actually, I floss after eating anything. In fact I’m flossing right now as I’m writing this. My dental hygienist is so proud of my teeth and gums that once she called in the other hygienist just to admire them.
My friend Berry lives in a charming house on an inlet of Lake Champlain. She’s a famous artist, who makes large environmental pieces using fire, clay and water. Her pieces have been shown in galleries and museums and in magazines all over the world. She is smart and wildly creative, but a lousy housekeeper. I know this because I’m a good one. Her fridge hasn’t been cleaned in years, and her stove is just as bad. She doesn’t believe in killing anything, so her lovely cottage is overrun with mice and daddy long legs. Among the wonderful art and period curios left to her by her mother, among the rubber snakes in the bathtub and the Mexican colored lights in the kitchen are mouse droppings, spider webs and dust bunnies the size of eggplants.
You might think this is going to be about an anal writer and a sloppy artist fighting all the way through France, but actually, we got along quite well. She didn’t mind waiting for me every morning while I spent 45 minutes stretching on the yoga mat that I had stuffed into my suitcase. She’s laid back; that’s the way of slobs. She didn’t mind being seen with me on the fashionable Parisian streets dressed like a beekeeper in my sun protective hat, long sleeves and gloves, walking with the aid of my alpine hiking sticks because I had pulled my Achilles tendon trekking in the Sierras. She put up with the laughter and the taunts from the passersby that only she could understand because her French is better than mine. Every night she’d patiently explain to some annoyed waiter how I wanted my sauce on the side along with my salad dressing, and ice and a slice of lemon with my sparkling water. She didn’t even mind driving while I sat in the backseat because the seats of our rented Jetta had only three positions. And, of course she had to navigate, because if it were left up to me, we’d still be there.
I could go on, but I think it’s clear that Berry was a saint. I was grateful for her company and I assumed she felt the same way. She never complained. So it came as quite a surprise when I called her the other day to invite her on another trip to Paris and she declined without hesitation, without even a nanosecond of thought. I suppose I was hurt at first, but then thinking it over, I realized it was probably for the best. After we hung up, I finished the last of my toast and tea, leaned back against my ultra firm lumbar support cushion, and flossed.