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Feb 12, 2007
Catchin' up

Oh, mercy—I am so far behind here!  It’s been such a whirlwind I can’t even remember what or when I wrote last!  Had to look at the calendar to even remember WHERE I’ve been!

PENSACOLA—Barnes & Noble—starving upon arrival.  We like to park the Big Ass Bus in front of the bookstores, to serve as a big billboard before the signings, so we just had to walk to someplace semi-close by to eat.  It was a chain.  It was Not Pretty.  First of all, nearly every single woman in the place (except for me, of course) was either pregnant or toting a tiny infant—or BOTH.  This was not the “not pretty” part—but it was pretty danged unsettling.  Kyle told me not to drink the water, just to be safe. 

The “not pretty” part was, sadly, the FOOD, which we did have to somehow gag down in order to stave off pure-dee starvation.  Very sad since we know that there are some majorly fine places to eat in P’cola!  Oh well.  Another REALLY “not pretty” part was these two creatures that I am ashamed to have to report were of the Female Persuasion.  I would feel much more comfortable—and indeed, superior—if I could chalk this stuff up to “icky guys” but alas, they were, in fact, “icky girls.”

One of them was talking—very loudly and with a mouth completely FULL of whatever Bad Food she’d ordered—into a radio phone held out a foot from her head.  There was apparently ANOTHER icky girl on the other end of the connection doing exactly the same thing—so the talking and the SMACKING seemed to be in horrifying stereo.

How is it that people get beyond the age of 4 without ever having learned to CHEW WITH THEIR MOUTHS CLOSED???  They cannot ALL have been raised by wild dogs—and even IF they WERE—how is it that once they split off from the pack and started associating with HUMANS, they STILL have NOT even NOTICED that the OTHER HUMANS are NOT making hideous slurping and smacking sounds when they eat???

If you are uncertain whether or not this applies to you, might I suggest that, in the privacy of your own home, you set up a small tape recorder and turn it on at the dinner table whilst you are consuming foods.  The play-back might astound and gag you (as it does the rest of the Human Population) and therefore, hopefully, TEACH you to CHEW WITH YOUR MOUTH CLOSED henceforth and forevermore!

Ok, I’m done now.

Accept that the OTHER icky girl at that SAME TABLE (what are the odds?) was eating chicken fried steak—and although she did appear to have TWO (2) fully-functioning hands AND a full set of cutlery at her disposal—she had simply SPEARED this giant hunk of crispy beef with her FORK and was holding it in front of her with her grubby fist, nibbling and gnawing at the entire mass.

I must pause to offer my abject apologies to wild dogs and their mothers everywhere—I am quite certain their manners are vastly superior to these two girls’.

Finally, the meal was over and we schlepped back to the Big Ass Bus to recover and prepare for the evening’s event—and what a Large Time we did have that night!  The Forbidden Fruits of Jay (Florida) Queens were there—Out of Pocket—as it were…!  How darlin’ were they?  Pretty danged darlin’!  They even hung around and helped me sign about 400 cases of books—but they left before we got to take their pictures by the Big Ass Bus—where did y’all go???

The Show was effectively Stolen by little Baby Lucy—Future Music City Queen—7 weeks old and off-the-chart precious in her little tiara.  Kyle must have taken about a thousand photos of her—when he wasn’t holding her, that is! 

Met a wonderful but teary Queen who said her doctor had just told her she only had a couple years left—brain tumor.  I told her she looked GREAT to ME and to not put too much stock in that doctor’s opinion. Buy a 5-year calendar and start filling it up!  My friend Sylvia (who KNOWS about this stuff all too well) said the best way to live FOREVER is to get a chronic illness and take real good care of it.  And I told her about another friend of mine who had a brain tumor only by the time the doctors finally FOUND it, it was going away on its own.  Told her to come on to the Parade and to just live every single day until she dies—THAT’S ALL ANY OF US CAN DO, by the way!  God is STILL in charge of it ALL.  We might all get hit by a bus in the morning—but until that happens—carry on with LIFE.  I’ve got her in the very top of the prayer box and I’m counting on seeing her in Jackson!

JACKSONVILLE—Books-A-Million—Another all-night drive for the Cutest Boy in the World—and yet another colossal screw up with the GPS.  Those things are miraculous wonders when they WORK—and fairly maddening when they DON’T—which never happens at a GOOD time.  This time, it did one of those things where it sent him down an unmarked dead-end road—not where you want to be in a 43-foot Big Ass Bus!  He said it was plain he wasn’t the first one sent down that wrong road—there were deep tire ruts in the ground on either side of the road and many signs pushed over by the rigs of furious truck drivers.  Muddin’, once again!

Met a precious newlywed couple.  Well, they’d been married for a few months—but the stars still shown in their eyes whenever they looked at each other—which they did—a lot.  She said she had given the BOOK OF LOVE to all 12 of her BridesBabes—but then she ended up adding 6 more to the roster and they had to buy their own books as part of their sucking up process and to show gratitude for being allowed to BE one of her BridesBabes.  So she had 18 attendants and he had 3.  Sounds fair.

Got to see Kyle’s cousin June who has a couple of innerestin’ occupations.  She and her husband own two companies—one makes fancy swimsuits and the other one makes choir robes.  I am gonna get them to make me a combo of the two for my latest beach attire—and I KNOW y’all are gonna want one, too!  This could be the answer to just so many of life’s dilemmas.

CHARLESTON—Barnes & Noble—Had a Big Time met many new Queens PLUS got to play with Saracita, Queen Mindy (thanks for the beeyoutiful chicken cooker!), Queen Sissa (love my new bonnet!), Queen Jan and her Spud Stud Ed but alas, the Cutest Boy in the World was Indisposed and could not document the event with photos.  He was SUPPOSED to be sleeping because we were going to have to drive literally all night long to get from there to Richmond, Virginia—on account of USAToday had decided they wanted to do a feature on the Big Ass Bus Tour and we were to meet up with their very precious, darlin’ Craig Wilson in Richmond and ride into DeeCee.  Suffice it to say—if USAToday wants you to drive all night someplace for them to write about you in their very fine paper—you just drive all night to wherever they say and are happy about it!

HOWEVER, Kyle was NOT in the Big Ass Bus sleeping as he should have been.  He was in the Big Ass Bus being sick as a Big Ass DAWG with the Backdoor Trots, as it were.  NOT A GOOD DEVELOPMENT in soooo many ways.  JUST when we (foolishly) thought that we had exhausted the supply of Roadside Disasters—WRONG again! 

I’m telling you, the Boy was SICK.  Ok, have you ever in your LIFE taken THREE Immodiums??  Can you even IMAGINE such a thing?  And these were the extra-strength kind, too.  I’da thought you could stem the very TIDES with 3 of them thangs.  Bless his heart and his nether regions, too.

Somehow, he got me to Richmond on time.  We’re talking IRON will, here for sure.  When I was talking with my publicists at Simon & Schuster—Elizabeth, Julia and Nicole—I told them I thought we were going to have the most unusual expense report they’d ever come across and they assured me they’d seen “everything.”  I said, oh REALLY?  Pay for a lot of DEPENDS, do you?  There was this pregnant silence before the guffaws commenced. 

The only thing Worse that we could imagine happening was if I got it the next day with Craig Wilson joining us on the Big Ass Bus—what a lovely human interest story THAT would make for the big national newspaper!  Thank HEAVEN, I was spared—although I WAS the one who had to go in the drug store and BUY the quarts of Pepto-Bismol and the gallons of Gatorade and the big giant pack of Depends—that counts for SOMETHING in the courts of Abject Humiliation, I’m sure!  (All with the painful knowledge that—should I, too, be struck down—those Depends were gonna be TOO SMALL FOR ME—we were gonna have to buy some BIG ASS ones—oh, woe!)

But(t) we DID make it to Richmond on time and we scooped up our new buddy Craig and off we went—jiggedy-jig—down the road to Dee Cee—but by and by, I began to be hungry.  Ok, I was hungry right off the bat—and in the course of conversation, it was determined that Craig HAD NEVER BEEN TO A CRACKER BARREL IN HIS WHOLE EN-TIRE LIFE!  Having lived in the teeming metropolis for the last umpteen years and having shared that life with an Epidemiologist who would fall over in a FAINT if something fried was set before him to consume—well, it the opportunity had just eluded him…until NOW.

Craig was, as we like to say (and be), UNSUPERVISED and he could eat whatever he wanted—on account of WE sure weren’t fixing to criticize his choices!  We had our own orders in mind.

Lemme tell you what, if you find yourself driving up and down interstate highways for a couple months at a stretch and there is absolutely NO TIME to venture off into anything like a town in search of sustenance and there’s a corresponding lack of time for cooking anything for yourownselfs to eat—then I can assure you, if you weren’t before, you will soon become a HUGE FAN OF CRACKER BARRELS!

It ain’t fancy food but it also ain’t been sittin’ on a steam table for the last month.  You can get breakfast ANYTIME and somebody will go cook your aigs right that second, special for YOU.  That can come to mean a Lot to a person, lemme tell you.  And lemme further tell you if you have been looking for a surefire way to make your Fortune in the world—then head on out to WEST KANSAS and open you up a couple of CRACKER BARRELS—on account of I am tellin’ you—THERE AIN’T ONE FOR 1,000 MILES OUT THERE AND WE LIKED TO HAVE DIED.  If you build it, they will sure as hell come—and they will come STARVIN’ SLAP TO DEATH, too.  Word.

So, anyway, we scooped up Craig and hid out for the CB and got us a whole big bunch of sweet, salty, fried and au gratin stuff and we were prêt-ty happy about it all, too.  No leftovers a-tall on any plates at that table.  I predict Craig will be sneaking out of town on all manner of pretexts—to get him some more sweet, salties, frieds and au gratins on the sly!  Shhhh…just pretend you don’t see him—let him die happy like the rest of us.

WASHINGTON, DC—Politics & Prose—one of my ABSOLUTE all-time favorite bookstores!  I just LOVE it that they have ME in for signings.  This is what is known worldwide as a Very Serious Bookstore—they really only ever have Real Writers who were pretty much born humor-free and if they weren’t born that way, they managed to kill it off a long, long time ago.  And Very Serious Readers come out to buy the Very Serious Books and they give their rapt and Very Serious attention to the Real (and Humorless) Writers and all is generally pretty Seriously Quiet around there most of the time.

UNTIL I SHOW UP—and then Jon is positively giddy and Harry comes to make margaritas (IN the Very Serious Bookstore) and hand them out to the customers, which makes THEM pretty happy, too.  And then the Maryland Crab Queens come in—always in full regalia, God love ‘em—along with Queen of DeNile with  RangerBill and KimmyDarling and her sweet Brian and Professor Larry L. King with his bride, the Beautiful Lawyer Blaine—and everybody who’s NOT THEM is so jealous and wishes they WERE them or at least FRIENDS with them.  Many Very Serious customers get Healed whenever we show up!  Hallelujah!  There is hope for our nation’s capital, after all.

Kyle was happy because he got to park the Big Ass Bus ON THE SIDEWALK in Washington, DC—no doubt a felony.  I was momentarily aghast and awash with grief because—for the very first time out of all the times I’ve been to Politics & Prose—NOBODY BROUGHT ME PIG CANDY!  None, and no Beagle Dicks neither—and I thought I would be prostrated by my anguish until I looked out over the sea of Queenly faces and beheld two that I’d never beheld before and my eyes traveled downward to the VERY LARGE SACK they were holding betwixt them and I thought—AHA!  Something Tasty This Way Comes—and I was RIGHT!

It was Queen Becky and QUEEN CAROLINE herveryownself of CAROLINE’S CAKES!  (See the link on the FRIENDS page) and they had brung to me for myveryownhappyself  TWO of their Big Ass Cakes that are THE most fabulous things ever to come out of any oven anywhere.  I’m talking SEVEN-LAYER CARAMEL cake—which has eggzackly the right ratio of cake to icing (meaning mostly icing) AND their brand-new invention—the SEVEN-LAYER CARROT CAKE—with alternating layers of CREAM CHEESE ICING and CARAMEL ICING—they are the Baking Angels is all they are.

Trust me on this—you can go to www.carolinescakes.com and order these and other Wonders and they will ship ‘em out to you and your’n, frozen in perfection.  All you have to do is thaw and chaw.  Best Cake Ever in the History of the EN-tire World, Living or Dead.

THEN we had to drive way the hell out to Dulles airport and we were fairly nervous about it on account of about every 3 feet on the interstate they had snowplows sitting there with the engines running—as if waiting for the Blizzard of ’07 to strike at any moment.  And as a matter of fact, the very second we pulled up and parked our Big Ass Selves in the farthest-flung parking lot at Dulles, it was like the trapdoor to the heavens fell open and dumped big wads of snow on us—it was coming down so hard and fast, I really thought there was no way in the world I would be flying outta there to Sarasota, Flordia, the next morning. (My Daddy woulda said it was “snowin’ like a Mad Bastard” and he’da been right.)

But, when the alarm went off at 6 a.m. and I rolled outta bed and peeked out—I could see that while tons of snow had fallen—the falling had ceased and the roadways were somehow clear so I flung on some clothes and prepared to fly.  Kyle dropped me off at the USAir curb and I put myself in the hands of the curbside check-in dude—who could not find my flight in his computer.  He very kindly dragged me and my bag inside to the desk and made an actual person talk to me when the kiosk thang also could not find my flight.

The Actual Person informed us that, although the flight had been booked through USAir, it was, in fact, a UNITED flight and I would need to go see them—at the other end of the building—about checking in.  The wonderful curbside check-in dude then dragged me and my bag to the other end of the building to the United kiosk—which ALSO could not find my flight and he made yet ANOTHER Actual Person talk to me who told me there was NO SUCH FLIGHT.  Hmmmmm.

Of course it is WAAAAYY too early for anybody to be at work in New York from whence this reservation had actually come—so I called up the Traveler’s Emergency Number with American Express and got an Actual Person on the PHONE—what are the odds, I ask you?  And HE told me, yes, Virginia (he didn’t really call me that—it’s a joke although admittedly not a really great one), there IS such a flight—only it goes out of REAGAN NATIONAL—NOT DULLES, which is where I happened to BE (and it had not been particularly easy or pleasant GETTING there, either so it was at least doubly exciting to find out that it was also WRONG).

The curbside check-in dude had checked out on me by this time—there being nothing more he could do to help—so I dragged me and my bag BACK to the other end of the building to the USAir desk and myself forced an Actual Person to talk to me.  She was more than happy to help me get to Sarasota on account of when I walked up, I told her right off the bat that I DIDN’T CARE ONE BIT IF I EVER GOT OUT OF HER AIRPORT—if she could find a flight or flights that would get me eventually to Sarasota, Florida—that would be nice—but really, I didn’t care at ALL—I could just call the Cutest Boy in the World to come back from Where Ever he was in our Big Ass Bus and snag me and we’d just go park somewhere and snuggle until the Spring Thaw and that was just FINE by me.

Naturally, since I wasn’t in a total WAD and in absolute despair to get out of there (in which case I’m certain there would have been Nothing Anyone Could Do and all manner of Computer Issues and Matters of National Security that would have prevented them from putting me on ANY flight anywhere ever)—she was quickly able to find an assortment of suitable flights for me to hop on.  One was even a direct flight—but it was on United—which, as we’ve already learned—was at the other end of the building—which is to say WORLD—so I said nah, just put me on anything you’ve got that does NOT require ME to do ANYTHING other than hand YOU my suitcase and walk to my gate (after the customary strip-search in Security, of course) and she obliged.

And so, it came to pass, that after many false starts and much false hope, I did come to eventually land in TAMPA—which then required a couple-hour car ride to actually get to my destination, which was, as we know—SARASOTA.   Between the Ritz-Carlton and Andrew, the darlin’ new owner of Sarasota News and Books, I was totally happy to be there!   A late—and therefore VERY NOTICEABLE—arrival was made by the very cute Barbie’s—proving once again that Them What Dresses Up Has the Mostest Fun.  I was truly in the bosom of my fambly with Miss Kitty and her cohorts.  Since I flew there by myownself, I don’t have photos in the gallery of me receiving the amazing blanket hand-made by Miss Kitty.  Lemme just tell you about it—it is, of course, pank and green and soft and beautiful—BUT—somehow worked into the very stitches of the blanket—you have to hold it up and stand back from it to see it—it miraculously SAYS on the blanket “HRH JILL CONNER BROWNE THE SWEET POTATO QUEEN!”  I put it right up there with Mary’s Face on a Tortilla for sure.  (Miss Kitty also made for me a couple of other things that are brown and one of them jingles but I can’t talk about them without unleashing a storm of similar kind on myownself.) 

And who brung me them ho-made PRALINES that I ate every last one of that very night?  Your name was not on the pank and green plate, which I came very close to eating as well.  YUM is all I can say—FINE pralines, hunny!

By plane to MIAMI and the Four Seasons—which is totally fabulous except that everything in downtown Miami goes STRAIGHT UP for about a mile and I was on the 28th floor, admittedly with a completely fabulous view of the water and all—but TWENTY-EIGHT FLOORS UP.  I just had to totally suspend disbelief that I was up that high and my worst-case scenario plan was:  if the building caught on fire, I would fill up the bathtub, gather all the crap and liquor from the mini-bar and consume it in the bathtub and then slash my wrists.  Fortunately, the only part that actually happened was the tub/mini-bar stuff.  Whew!

No Kyle; so, again, no photos—sorry—but would have loved to have some photos of the faces of all them SNOWBIRDS who were packed into the outdoor restaurant there at the Shops at Bal Harbour—as I sashayed through in my pank sequined jacket and foot-long earbobs, toting that Big Ass Crown.  Them was some Confused Individuals right there.

Books and Books is another of my favorite bookstores of all time and this was a new location of theirs for me.  Thank God, Bailey wasn’t with me—the shops we had to pass to get to the bookstore—well, not only will I never MAKE enough money to cover it, they may never PRINT enough money to cover it! 

There were some died-in-the-wool Queens there for sure—drove over a hundred miles to be there and THEN went to the wrong location first and had to plow through rush-hour traffic IN MIAMI, if you please, to get to the right one!  Met two Queens-who-didn’t-know-it-yet from Germany—can’t wait to hear back from them after they read the books!  And of course, the BWC’s—a beautiful bevy of Bitter Women (who were anything but) CATERER’S—who claimed they had made all manner of Delectables for Me—described them all in great detail—but unfortunately, they had EATEN them all theirownselves before they got to the store!  I completely understood but that did not fill my tummy, did it?

Queen TammyPippa woulda loved them—they had with them the sweetest little dog that they had just the day before rescued from the middle of a busy street in the pouring rain and named her “Happy” which she purely was.

Speaking of QueenTammyPippa—I missed her birthday while I’ve been on the road—although I am certain that PippaFest will be continuing until long after I’ve returned so all will ultimately be well.  Also missed my Precious Darlin’ George’s birthday in the early weeks of the Big Ass Bus Tour—so we will have much celebrating to catch up on—if and when I ever get home!

We’re on the last leg of this Big-Ass Bus Tour: I’m doing a lunchtime fundraising event at THE GRAND HOTEL in Point Clear, Alabama, for Mercy Medical on Worldwide Revirgination Day and a Big Ass Booksigning that night at Page & Palette—my fav-o-right independent book seller—in FAIRHOPE. Then we head to Turn Row Books in downtown GREENWOOD, Mississippi, on Thursday. On Friday at noon, we’ll be at Gum Tree in TUPLEO, Mississippi, my birthplace. We’ll be back in BIRMINGHAM, Alabama, at Jake Reese’s Alabama Booksmith on Saturday. Monday, at Rock Point Books in CHATTANOOGA, TN. Finally, the last event is Borders (Brentwood) in NASHVILLE. Then to The Blue Bird to hear Jesse Winchester and see our precious Queen Ellyn before we come home to our precious darlin’ slave driver GEORGE who is already working on the FLOAT!

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