First off let me say a big thank you to Larry Colton, Greg Netzer, and all the folks at the Wordstock Festival and the New Zealand Book Council for getting me over to Portland last week. I had a fabulous time, was treated like royalty and recommend Wordstock to everyone, whether writers or readers, both or neither.
It was very frustrating for me to find that in the few short years since I last went travelling (to Europe in 2006), internet cafes - those ones with rows and rows of computers so you can check your emails and update your blogs - seem to have disappeared. Instead, WiFi is available everywhere, which is great, but not so great if you didn't bring a laptop. Also, I bought my Apple iBook just before everything seemed to make a great technological leap forward, so it has no wireless capability and doesn't even have a DVD drive. Sigh. Guess it's time for an upgrade if I'm going to do more roving.
So apologies for my silence. I had hoped to give a daily update of festival festivities, and of course once I got home the task seemed a little overwhelming, cue more silence. So instead I will be presenting an abridged version, in bite size pieces.
When I took off from Sydney to LAX, CNN was announcing that the American presidential candidates had just cast their votes. The announcement came somewhere over the Pacific from the pilot that Obama had won and I expected more of an uproar than there was - I looked around and saw a couple high-five each other, but other than that, people seemed keen to get back to their movies. Maybe they were all Aussies. I also expected when we touched down that America would feel different somehow, but other than a surprisingly short wait at immigration, people just seeemed to be going about their business as usual. What did I want? Maybe I wanted dancing in the streets. I'm sure there was dancing in the streets, somewhere, just not in the transit lounge at the airport.
Still, it felt like a pretty special time to be there. Everyone I spoke to in Portland was very pleased with the election outcome. They were dancing on the inside.
I was picked up from the airport by the lovely Jan, who drove me into the city. Portland was perfectly autumnal, with rust coloured leaves and heavy grey skies, colours which didn't change for the five days I was there. Even the buildings seeemed to be painted to suit the season and the effect was very harmonious, even in the more industrial parts of town. Jan dropped me off at the very flash historic Benson hotel. I was exhausted, but I took myself off for a walk and found some very funky shops and cafes just around the corner. Powell's bookstore ("City of Books") was a little overwhelming for my jetlagged brain, but I was pleased to see that they had a stack of my book in the Debut Fiction wall and another on the general fiction shelf. It was the first sighting of my lovely new paperback cover and it was gorgeous to behold. It was also great to see an independent bookstore so dominant.
Predictably, I wilted, went back to the hotel, ordered room service dinner and crashed out...
...only to be woken just after midnight by someone trying to get in to my room. Luckily I had locked it from the inside, or the couple with the key card would have walked in on me asleep in their bed: I had been given the wrong room apparently. After I had sent the couple away, two burly hotel staff knocked on the door, waking me again, to ask me who I was. All a bit disconcerting, but they apologised profusely the next day and explained that I had been allocated the wrong room by the clerk and so my details had been filed under another room number. I hate to think what hilarity would have ensued if I hadn't locked the door from the inside. The couple would have walked in to find Goldilocks asleep in their bed and I would have got a hell of a fright in my disoriented state. But being interrogated about who I was and what I was doing after midnight and after a 28 hour journey from New Zealand was bad enough!
Still, it was all cleared up and I did sleep in the luxurious bed for another 9 hours solid after that.