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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Planes, Trains & Really Expensive Cabs

It started with my wrap. I had gotten my hair done and because I didn't want it to lose its bounce once I slept on the curls, I asked the Dominican stylist to swirl and pin it up into a "doobie" cone on my head. When I got to LaGuardia I knew the pins would set the metal detectors off, but I was prepared to deal with the expected light frisk to keep my hair intact. All I can say is "Wasn't worth it."

After shrugging sheepishly at the security guard, pointing to my head, and explaining, "It's the pins," I was asked to stand in some glass case-looking contraption, then moved to a seated area just off to the side of the X-Ray machine where I was given a full patdown and wanded over with that light saber looking detector. Okay, whatever. A few passengers shot me nervous glances, but once I moved to the boarding gate, my little roll-on carry-on suitcase in tow, it was cool and my precious wrap was still in tact.

Anyway, you know how tickets have designations like "Zone 1" and "Zone 2" etc? Well, make sure yours says "Zone 1", if you can. Mine said "Zone 5" which means I was among the last batch of passengers to board the flight. Usually I don't care when I get on the plane, and actually prefer to board after people have, for the most part, settled themselves and stowed their overhead luggage, but this time, because this plane was such a little clipper, by the time I got to the plane door, an airline rep stopped us to tell us there was no more room in the overhead compartments. We would have to check our things.

I had a bad feeling. I NEVER check my things because I hate waiting for my stuff at Baggage Claim -- I like my travel experience to end as quickly as possible when I get off the aircraft/vehicle. But I forced the negative premonitions of lost luggage away and took my window seat. So when I saw that empty baggage carousel conveyor-belting in circles I was pissed. At the airline lady who'd insisted my carry-on would be checked all the way to Maryland's BWI airport, and at myself for not insisting that I could tuck my bag under the seat (which I prolly could've).

Anyhoo, the baggage complaint lady at the airport was really assuring as I described my situation. She was so cool I almost asked if I could borrow the comb on the counter next to her. Because YES. Along with my emergency copies of Powder Necklace (in case there was a mix-up at the festival and my books didn't show), my Powder Necklace banner which I hoped to hang at the reading I was doing later that night, and my heels and dress for the event, the COMB I had planned to use to unravel my doobie into a bouncing shiny shawl of hair was in the missing bag. GRRRR!

I couldn't fix my mouth to ask for the comb so instead I asked for the cab stand as my panel was in an hour and I was officially cutting it close on time. Another "Wasn't worth it" moment. LOL. That cab from BWI to the Largo, MD Borders where the Capital Book Festival was in full, glorious swing, was $100!

Whatever, I made it to the festival and it was great. Outside the Borders Bookstore, book tables were set up and a good-sized crowd of people were milling between the tables and the events taking place inside the Borders. Even though I felt I looked crazy with my finger-combed hair, and was shorter than I like without my heels on, I went to say hi to the familiar faces I'd met in Harrisburg, greet festival founder Kwame Alexander, and get ready for my panel.

Once I saw that the bookstore had several copies of Powder Necklace on hand, I relaxed a little and wandered over to soap opera actress and activist Victoria Rowell's panel at the front of the store. She was fantastic and inspiring. Promoting her book Secrets of a Soap Opera Diva, she spoke passionately about the racism she experienced working on The Young and the Restless. I couldn't believe some of the things she said my favorite characters had done! Wow.

I sat on a panel with three other authors -- Kea Taylor, Tracye McQuirter, and Kevin Wayne Johnson -- moderated by Miss Ella Curry. Our panel was on "The Writing Life: Stories on Getting Published and Selling Books" and it was a lively and informative discussion for me as well as the attendees I think. We had all published different genres of books so I think we all had something useful to share. Kea's book is called I Still Do: A Celebration of African American Weddings and its a beautiful coffee table book of photographs. Tracye wrote a book called By Any Greens Necessary sharing recipes and other useful tips to transitioning to a healthier plant-based diet. Kevin was the veteran among us. His book Give God the Glory is part of a nine-book series that's been translated into a gazillion languages.

After the reading, and post-reading signing, I did my usual: stalk the shelves and make my sales pitch to customers. I was selling books, and checking my cell furiously for word from the airline about my bag. I was anxious about the the time and cab to DC too! I had a 6PM reading in Georgetown and if the cab from Maryland Point A to Maryland Point B was so expensive, I was freaking out about how much the cab to DC would cost. Anyway, so I was selling books, and around 4:30 I got the good news that my luggage had been delivered. I left Largo shortly after guided by a WONDERFUL angel of a woman who put me on the train from Largo to DC and then got off stops earlier than she needed to, to put me in a cab. The cab was normal-priced (thank God!), but it was like five minutes to 6 when I got to my hotel.

I checked in, changed in lightning speed, and raced to Presse Bookstore for the reading which was thankfully three blocks from my hotel. Turnout was low, but the energy was high. Some great friends I hadn't seen in AGES were sitting patiently waiting for my late ass to show. (It was so good to see them.) The good thing about the intimate setting was I could take a load off and engage on a deeper level. We spoke about everything from the process of getting Powder Necklace published to my second book. One attendee, a Ghanaian textile historian, then gave us an impromptu history lesson on the origin of the kente cloth. It was fascinating!

Anyway, after a long day, we all went out for dinner and yakked it up into the night. The next morning, I got on the plane headed back to LaGuardia and don't you know they made me check my bag again. The good news is my carry-on made it, as did I.