Where else would I start but the beginning? My blog series about ThrillerFest can only begin with my traveling there and end with my plane ride home. Also, if I want to get this blog up when I promised I would, I must write about my travel. I acquired an immense amount of books and wound up shipping all of my books, notes, business cards, and bookmarks to avoid a heavy baggage fee. So now I’m without my notes to write about the actual conference for a few days.
Traveling to New York for ThrillerFest wasn’t too bad. I had a morning flight out of KCI. My bag was overweight, but since I’d already paid for my baggage online, she said it would just charge me another $25. She was wrong, but whatever. Now I’ve learned my lesson that it is way cheaper to take two checked bags than it is to have one heavy bag. I paid an additional $100 for my bag that was ten pounds overweight. Delta at least owes me a refund for the $25 I paid online, though I doubt I’ll ever see it. They also took my rolling carry-on at the gate and gave me a pink ticket. There wasn’t room, they said, and I’d get my bag after the flight. No one told me I’d have to wait for it at the gate.
My morning flight was on time and fully booked. Funny…since I’d also booked a seat for my niece, but my brother wound up driving her to New York instead. I guess they must have overbooked that flight and her missing from it saved someone else from getting kicked off. Good job, Delta. Kind of a dick move to pull when everyone does show up for their flight, though.
We got to New York on time, I walked off the plane, pink ticket in hand, and asked where the baggage claim was. The woman from Delta smiled, pointed me on my way, and said to follow the signs. I made it downstairs to baggage claim and the belt wasn’t moving yet. An airport employee saw the pink ticket in my hand and told me that I should have waited next to the gate for my carry on. “Oh. No one told me that before.” This super nice old guy pointed down to a windowed office at the end of the way and said they could help me get my bag back. I paced down the long tiled hall, past all of the still and quiet baggage carousels, and into the glass-enclosed room.
The people inside the office were also super nice and helpful. The lady behind the desk told me she loved my blue hair and my matching lipstick before she called up to the gate. She found out they were still unloading the plane, took my pink claim ticket, and told me to wait for her at the bottom of the escalators. I couldn’t go back up there, but she could. She came back a short time later with my purple bag in tow and I thanked her profusely. By this point, the regular baggage had also come down, and I needed to go back down to the far end to claim my checked bag. I didn’t mind though. I wanted to get my steps in for the day.
I made my way outside and found the familiar green bus that said “NY Airporter” on the side. Another super nice guy. He put my bags in the back and let me on without a ticket. Said we could worry about it later. I’m all like—what? At this point, it’s around noon and I literally did not sleep at all the night before. I’d been up for about 30 hours or something trying to get my last minute shit together for my trip. I started to nod off while the bus made more stops and picked up more people.
At the last stop, another shuttle company dude got on and yelled out, asking if anyone else needed a ticket. This woke me right up. I looked up at him, willing my eyes to focus, and with hardly time for a breath between, he yelled out again. “I said does anyone else need a ticket?” I raised my hand. “I do.” “Why didn’t you answer me the first time? You trying to sneak by? You little thief?” he yelled at me. “Dude, I was sleeping. You woke me up. It took me a second to process what you said.” I held my card up for him to swipe on his ticket printer and he snatched it away from me. “Whatever. Lair.” He dropped my card on the seat next to me, ripped off my ticket, tore it in half, and threw my half of the receipt at me. Whatever. Fuck you, asshole. I guess I was liable to encounter a rude New Yorker eventually.
Getting to the Grand Hyatt and checking in gave me no more problems. Even though I was there several hours before check-in time, my room was already waiting for me, and I went right up. My books had also arrived earlier, which was freaking fantastic since I thought my publisher had said they wouldn’t arrive until Wednesday and I’d flown in on Monday. The mailroom brought up my books, and I got to hold a physical copy of my brand new novel in my hands for the first time. I was elated.
I got unpacked, ironed my clothes, and curled up on the couch with a copy of “Personal” by Lee Child. I’d promised a book review of it on my blog Saturday morning, but I hadn’t had a chance to finish reading it yet, let alone write the review. I suppose my exhaustion overwhelmed me because I wound up taking a nap for a few hours. I woke up, saw it was early evening, and decided to venture outside. I was feeling a bit peckish and I still needed to get my steps in for the day.
Happy to be back in the noise of the city, I made my way across the street to Duane Reade and bought some things I’d need like water, juice, and a few snacks. They didn’t have any ready food that I wanted for dinner, so I stopped at one of the many food carts and got myself a gyro. Back in the hotel room, I enjoyed my dinner, watched some TV, and crashed early after reading a few more chapters of “Personal.” I didn’t get all of my steps in for the day, though. I only wound up walking about four miles.
I woke up late Tuesday morning. My brother was already in the city, making his way through traffic to bring me his daughter. They’d driven up earlier to stay up in Brewster for a couple nights and drive over to Hartford to see Neil Gaiman. But now he needed to drop her off so that he could begin the 21-hour drive back home. I rushed to get ready and I went down to the lobby to wait. After a hilarious phone call of him yelling to be heard and me being deafened by the noise of the surrounding traffic echoing off of the towering buildings all around me, I eventually found my way to his truck parked against the curb.
I took charge of his daughter. She’s 18, so technically an adult, but it was her first trip without a responsible adult accompanying her. And no, I don’t delude myself to believe that anyone considers me a responsible adult. Any time she’d traveled in the past, she’d been with one or both of her parents, or a teacher if it was a school trip. But now…well, now it’s up to me to keep her safe. *Spoiler—nothing happened to her, despite a bit of sleepwalking. We’re both fine. But I’m sure it was terrifying for her parents.*
We said our goodbyes to her dad and her brother, went up to the room, and got her unpacked. Neither of us had eaten lunch, so I decided to show her the dining concourse at Grand Central Station. It was actually Taste of the Terminal day, but we didn’t have several hours to stand in line, waiting to sample a bite of free food from each restaurant that lay beneath our feet. We had to be back upstairs in a bit over an hour to help set up the bookstore. We popped into Shake Shack, grabbed a bite, and ventured back up to the hotel.
Mystery Mike was our new bookseller this year. He was great. Really nice guy, organized, and helpful. I was super excited to help for a number of reasons. For one, I’m always looking forward to a chance for physical activity. I knew it’d be a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of walking. But I also knew I’d get a chance to unload some of the boxes and I’d get to see the books that were for sale this year before the rest of the conference attendees. Woot woot! After we were done setting up, I mentally tagged a few armloads of books that I wanted to read.
As a quick little side story, Andrew Gross posted a funny story a couple weeks ago about accidentally Facetiming someone from Facebook. He couldn’t get his phone to stop the call or hang up so he had to turn the phone off completely. Turns out, this lady's a big fan of his and was in the middle of reading his new book, “The One Man.” He told of his interaction in a funny way that made it memorable to me. So when I saw “The One Man” as one of the titles that I was unloading, I remembered seeing it before. I snapped a picture, tagged him in a post about it on Facebook, and when I bought the book, he remembered my post and I got a cool personalized inscription.
My niece and I wandered out into the city and made our way toward the Gray Line office to buy our tourist passes. The GPS on my new phone couldn’t really find me in the city. This came as no surprise; I’d experienced it with my old phone as well as my husband’s phone the year before. But I’d been there before, so we wound up finding our way regardless of our GPS-less state.
The building was air conditioned. It hadn’t been when I was there the year before. We bought our flex-passes, got our tickets for the Statue of Liberty, and I got a couple of smashed pennies. Silly, yeah? That’s okay. I’m an odd duck. But I’ve been collecting them for about thirty years, so I get them whenever I’m on a trip and I see one of those machines.
Did we eat dinner? We may have. We may have not. I don’t have much of an appetite when I’m traveling. While most people gain weight on vacation, I tend to lose it. About twelve pounds on this trip, actually.
What we definitely did, though, was go to the Empire State Building. It was wicked awesome. She’d never been, and I’d never been during daylight hours. When I’d gone at night with my husband the year before, we’d learned that we could have gone once during the day, then revisited again that same night for free. Turns out, they don’t do that anymore. But that’s okay. We could see really far during the day. I swear I could see mountains rising way off in the distance. It was fucking spectacular.
After we’d had our fill of the skyline and selfies, we meandered through the gift shop, perpetually searching for something premade with our unusual names on them. Of course, there was nothing in any of the gift shops on the whole trip that was made for us. We strolled down Fifth Avenue, taking in the sights and sounds of the city as we worked our way back toward Grand Central. There was a line of stalls next to the library, so we took some time to peruse them and buy some gelato. It was delightful to sit in the shadow of the legendary New York Public Library to eat our frozen treats. Before the light could wane too much, we took the opportunity to snap some photos of the façade. We even traded phones to take pics of each other with the lion statues that guard the steps.
The sun was setting and we knew we were in for an early day in the morning. We strolled back to the hotel and got ready for bed. We’d managed to avoid taking the subway all day and by the end of it all, we’d walked over seven miles. It felt damn good to get some sleep.
Bright and early the next morning, I was craving coffee bad, so I had to forgo the opening meeting for CraftFest on Wednesday morning in lieu of a trip to Starbucks.
For details on the conference itself, check back on Wednesday for the next blog in this series—What I Learned at CraftFest.