Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Room of One's Own...

...at the Petaluma Sheraton.

That's what I had this weekend, and it was blissful.  Since Ethan was about 6 months old or so, I've been taking advantage of the fact that I am married to basically the most wonderful man alive and every 6-8 months or so, I take a night or a weekend "off" and head out of town on my own.

When Ethan was a nursing infant and we lived in Arlington, VA, I was literally 3 miles away from home, at the Crystal City Ramada Inn, the blackout shades drawn tight against the sunrise and the sleep number bed at its softest setting, where I slept for 12 straight hours and woke up to the most painfully engorged breasts in the history of breastfeeding. One should never have to experience jolting awake simply because one rolled onto one's stomach and felt lightning bolts of pain shooting through their boobs.  But still--that sleep?  Blissful.

After we'd moved to LA, when Ethan was three, I made a last minute decision to fly out to BlogHer'09 in Chicago to hang out with Sarah, Becca & Amy and on top of the superb grown-up interaction, I got to sit on a plane, in silence, with a glass of wine (or three...) and a book, for four hours.  Both ways.  And have adult conversation for THREE days straight without a diaper to change or a tantrum to diffuse even once.

These days, with Ethan in school full-time, I find I need these escapes less frequently to remind myself that I am a whole person all on my own, but when the opportunity arises, I take it.  In December, I came across an advertisement for a writing workshop that featured Anne Lamott.  In all honesty, I didn't even peruse the details about the workshop, like who else would be presenting, what the sessions would be about or any of those other little facts that might go into one's decision about attending.  It was under 3 hours away, and the keynote speaker was Anne Lamott.  Done.

As the date of the conference approached, I looked into what the conference was actually about.  Memoir.  Oh.  Essays. Oh.  Solo performance.  Oh?  None of them really my niche (except that what do you know? Blogging is memoir in its own little way, so I guess I wasn't there under entirely thoughtless pretenses.  Also?  Guess I picked a good time to start blogging again.)   Okay.  Not my exact cup of tea, but STILL.  Anne Lamott.  Bird by Bird'ing and all of that.

So on Friday morning,  I dropped Ethan off at school and was on my way.  And as much as I'm so beyond thrilled that he was excited to spend the next 36 hours with Husband while I was away, a few small expressions of sadness at my departure would have been nice.  But I made do with a "yeah, bye!!" in response to my "love you, buddy.  I'm going to miss you!" as the safety-orange garbed curb police opened Ethan's door for him.  Ah well.  That's kind of a 7-year old boy's expression of deep and abiding love, right?  Hm.

I spent a part of my day wandering through Golden Gate Park, where the trees seem to wander aimlessly, too.

Go home, Tree, you're drunk...

I went to the DeYoung Museum of Fine Art and was at once thrilled and colossally irritated by the hordes of people there on a Friday morning.  Fortunately most of the arty types were there for an exhibit by an artist I'd never heard of before (because I am a Boston Museum of the Fine Arts purist and I like my paintings by John Singer Sargeant, Renoir and the occasional Hopper), so I got the vast majority of the museum to myself once I found my way out of the mosh pit of a lobby.

I love that red umbrella. I'm going to start reading in a garden, in the sun, with a red umbrella. 

I do not get giant safety pin garden art.  ::hanging head in shame::  It just makes me think that there's a giant baby out there missing a diaper. 

Coolest thing about the museum?  There's a whole room of art that is accompanied by poetry written by local school children:

Sara Romeyn:  "Oh, me?  I wrote some poetry in 7th grade that's hanging in the museum of Fine Arts in SF.  No big whoop.  What have you done?"  Um.  ::hanging head in shame:: 

Views of SF from the observation tower at the museum.  That's some mighty find looking smog we've got there, huh?

After my leisurely stroll through the museum and park, I drove around for 45 minutes looking for a place to park so I could eat lunch before heading up to Petaluma.  Unfortunately, ALL the cars were in the city that day and had eaten up every last parking space everywhere.  So I took my growling stomach on the road with me (such a very bad idea) and headed north.

It was ever so much fun to be stuck in traffic behind the double decker sightseeing bus, as I'm sure you can imagine.  Because nothing makes city driving more delightful than a completely empty stomach and a bus full of tourists being carted around in a two-story behemoth by someone who doesn't really have any place else to be.

But I finally got here, and was a menace to society for 3 seconds by snapping this picture in moving traffic.  Like every other driver on the bridge.

In Petaluma, I took myself to the movies.  I saw Inside Llewyn Davis at a faux-old-timey theater with twenty senior citizens. I had joked with Husband that I was only really going to see the movie because of the cat I'd seen the main character carting around in all the trailers.  Turns out, the cat really is the best part of the movie.  Not that the movie is bad because its not--its slow and infuriating and Llewyn is really such an anti-hero that its hard to like him most of the time, even though on some level you love him right away.  But that cat.  The cat's the point of the whole movie.  I didn't really *get* it until I was half-way through my dinner at the hotel restaurant, but when I did, I was really annoyed I was alone and didn't have anyone to say, "OMG, the CAT!" to.

The conference was interesting, albeit not really what I had originally had in mind.  I did no writing, but got some hints of inspiration and ideas, and met a couple of interesting people.  The other speakers were entertaining and engaging and I felt like I got a lot out of their talks.  Then I got to listen to Anne Lamott speak for TWO hours, plus another 45 minute one-on-one interview she did with the conference organizer before she took the podium.  I hadn't yet read her newest book, Stitches, so I didn't realize she was basically telling us the book as she spoke; she was so natural and effortless and funny and touching.  She's teeny tiny and unassuming, you wouldn't think she could command the room like she did, but it was almost as though no one breathed for those two hours, except to laugh.  I'm reading the book now, so its like getting to relive those two hours in a little bit more depth (and without the giant Sheraton podium).

 It was really fabulous, although I have to say from here on in I think I will eschew book signings, because I never manage to do anything except sound like a thoroughly dumb bonehead when standing in front of an author I admire.  Thank god John Irving had injured his hand last February and was not signing books when I went back to NH to see him speak in Portsmouth; I can only imagine what inane drivel would have come from my brain to my lips in his presence.  Thankfully I had a witty friend with me when I went to see David Sedaris and she was able to cover the banter as he signed our books--I stood next to her and smiled like a circus freak.   As it was, I dreamily told Anne Lamott I could have listened to her all day and had to think for a minute when she asked me where I was from---did she mean originally?  or where had I come from specifically in regards to traveling to this event?  OMG, what if I give the wrong answer???!!!  Seriously.  No more book signings for me.


cicadalady said...

LOL at your tree and safety pin comments. I love Anne Lamott. How awesome you got to hear her speak!

Unknown said...

Loving the post. The safety pin observation reminded me of the "clothespin" sculpture in Philadelphia which I never got either.
Thanks for blogging again.

Corinne Cunningham said...

I am TERRIBLE at book signings! The worst. My face turns red, I babble, it's uncomfortable at best ;)
Loved your reading your recap of the weekend! What a gift to have some space to just be you for a bit!