Some financial guru type — I think it was that blonde woman, Suzy Something — listed her priorities: “First people, then money, then things.” It rolls nicely off the tongue.
So in the spirit of this — and since the kids would be with E that night — I made the last-minute decision to hop on a plane to SF. I’d been invited to a small New Year’s Eve gathering and wanted to connect with people I hadn’t seen in a year.
I got a seat on American Airlines.
The flight was delayed for almost four hours.
We sat in the plane as it waited on the tarmac.
So I had a few moments to remember traveling with my ex-husband: town car picks us up, drives us to small private airport, up to private jet, where personal flight attendant greets us at the door and someone else deals with the luggage. All I had to do was request a glass of champagne, which was then magically deposited into my hand.
Stranded in economy, listening to the couple next to me bitch about one thing after another, seemed a long fall indeed*. And an opportunity to practice my Zen.
My Zen can last so long. I got on my Blackberry (– and can I just say that the Blackberry Bold ROCKS. plus it’s purty! and so nice to hold!) –and texted my SF friend Olivier (pseudonym). He was preparing for the party in some odd electrical manner involving sconces. I ordered him to converse with and amuse me. While my neighbors bitched about the in-flight magazine, and the restaurant they went to last week, and how the employees of American Airlines are a bunch of evil liars, my friend and I checked in with each other:
You *must* be in the air by now.
Oh, you overly optimistic one. They just told us another hour and a half.
What the hell?
Later: So where are you now?
….We are living on an island. Just like in Lost.
Are there polar bears?
I was not expecting a reference to polar bears.
Sooooooo many penguins, I told him. Tons and tons of penguins.
* Don’t cry for me Argentina, I was only there because first class was full.
Alix (pseudonym), who co-hosted the party with Olivier, is a statuesque, olive-skinned, drop-dead gorgeous lawyer. The sign above the desk in her study/guest room — HAVE YOU HUGGED YOUR LAWYER TODAY? — and the button by her computer — HIT ME, I’M A LAWYER — sum up her feelings about the profession.
“I never wanted my job to be my identity,” she told me. “It’s what I do. It’s not who I am.”
I said something about how I am a writer — it goes right through my bones, to the core. I’ve learned and relearned this, and to appreciate how my writing can lead me back to myself. It reflects me in a way that has nothing to do with my car or my hair color. It never distorts me (exaggerating this thing, minimizing this other thing) to serve someone else’s agenda.
Alix, who has been divorced herself, taught me the term ‘wasband’ for ‘husband’ (as in ‘was husband’, get i– never mind, it was funnier when she said it’). Which blurred into talk about relationships, which blurred into my books, all three of which Alix has read (“Are you going to go back to the world of Uninvited, revisit those characters?” “I still think about Archie and Jasper. I would write about them again”).
Alix did something I can never get enough of: talked about my characters as if they’re real people. “When I read Bloodangel, I loved Kai, I just loved him.” Her face actually went a bit soft.
I talked about reader response, how Lucas and Ramsey get the most attention. “And Del,” I added.
“Del is so much fun! I never know what he’s going to do, his motivation is so — he doesn’t want to be bored. He just wants to keep it interesting. I love that.”
She made an interesting comment about Jess, my protagonist: “I find it kind of difficult to get a handle on her, what really drives her. She’s so caught up in these extraordinary circumstances, fighting to deal with them. I don’t know her as well as the others.”
I thought that might be something to address in the book I’m writing now.
Alix’s husband, Olivier, is tall, dark and handsome. He is also half French. I note this because, at one point during the party, a woman explained to Olivier that he couldn’t possibly understand her insecurities “because you’re French!”
For a reason unbeknownst even to me, I found this hilarious.
When Olivier complained about how he “kept walking into the middle of these ridiculous conversations,” I promptly chirped, “Because you’re French!”
This made no sense whatsoever and cracked me up anyway.
“You stole my line,” noted the line’s source of origin.
“And I’ll steal it again.”
Throughout the night, Olivier discovered all the things he could or could not do because he’s French. He likes me enough not to whack me on the head. Or maybe he’s just too well-mannered.
“You, with your beret and your baguette and your assorted little cheeses,” I said. “Because you’re French!”
“And you, you Canuck, with your igloos and your dog sleds! Hockey pucks whizzing through the air!”
Someone observed that Olivier, who moves between America and France, doesn’t have much of an accent.
“Often when he talks to American girls,” said Alix, “his accent mysteriously gets thicker.”
Olivier looked innocent.
“But what I don’t understand,” Alix said to him, “is why you do such a bad French accent…” Off his expression, she said sweetly, “I’m sorry, honey, but when you fake it like that, you sound like you’re Transylvanian or something.”
“But he’s French,” I pointed out.
“We know that, Justine.”