The theme of walking uphill - or an incredibly long Saturday

5:49 PM 1 Comments A+ a-

I woke up at 4 am, 5 am, and 6 am but managed to relax in the bed (which was so soft and clean – although anything with eight down pillows is a good thing. It stays dark in Seattle this time of year until 8 am and then gets dark again around 5 pm, so it was close to pitch black in my room which made it easier to get back to sleep, although it felt so strange with my body telling me I had slept in although the clock begged to differ. I finally got up at 8 am and just watched the seagulls swooping outside my fourteenth floor window above the public library roof in the growing light. It was so pretty and peaceful. I just worked on my blog sitting in my pretty window seat and just enjoyed the scenery while waiting for my breakfast.

I had ordered my breakfast off of one of those little cards they leave on your pillow and decided to order the Grand Marnier French Toast since I love French toast in any permutation. What came exceeded my wildest dream. It was luscious, Brioche-style French toast with huge delicious blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries sprinkled all around and on top of it with real maple syrup in those little glass jars (the kind the individual jellies come in) on the side. A nice selection of Tazo teas with soymilk and a fresh apple (it is Washington, I guess) rounded out the breakfast. I was in seventh heaven – I had the warm feeling in my tummy when I eat something really super.

I let the genius of the French toast wash over me while I got dressed (such a nice bathroom and closet!). I knew I wanted to go officially to say I had arrived and get my conference information so I headed for the Washington Convention Center. The shuttle buses were so comfortable and the drivers friendly and helpful – it turns out that you wouldn’t have to wait more than 5 or 10 minutes for a shuttle. The Washington Convention Center (WCC) is stunning. It is filled with local artwork and the quilt exhibition is absolutely stunning. I even saw some Chilhuly glass which was even more incredible in person than in any documentary or book I’ve seen.

After getting my badge I figured out if I entered the exhibit hall in the far entrance, I would be near the aisles where all the major publishers are that I needed to talk with. I first hit Little Brown to see about a Stephanie Meyer sequel to Twilight and New Moon. The representatives there said that there would be no ARC for Eclipse since they didn’t think that they would need to promote the book since there was such a huge following. I could understand that, but the thing I was most thrilled to hear was that Stephanie Meyer had decided to make the series four books, not three as originally planned. Go Stephanie!

HarperCollins wasn’t far away and I did get a Meg Cabot ARC – not a Princess series but an unrelated character meant for the YA audience. I scuttled over to the Hyperion booth (collecting ARCs all the way – I had easily 12 books overflowing my arms) and immediately spotted Masquerade, the Blue Bloods sequel!!!! I begged for three and my pitiful demeanor must have softened them since they not only let me have three copies but they also gave me two big bags to carry the books in.

On the way out, I saw a great booth with nice t-shirts (not the custey-poo kind librarians suffer with – the “I’m a real bookworm” variety with some snakey-looking thing wearing a pair of Sally Jessie Raphael glasses) and what caught my eye was this great picture of a golden retriever wearing one of the shirts and the words “service manager” under him. Knowing a kindred spirit when I see one, I showed her my cell phone picture of Bugsy and told her all about how he’s our library dog. I got a free t-shirt. The power of goldens. I got a few t-shirts for prizes and they are awesome!

But here’s where I encountered a slight problem. There are a lot of books. Books are heavy. I am wearing a winter coat. Coats are hot. I do not know where the shipping booth is. I walk about of the side of the exhibit hall and find an information booth (my arms are aching at this point) to inquire as to a shipper. They direct me to a booth on the opposite side of the exhibits where the US Postal Service is shipping items. The opposite side. Did I mention the exhibit hall length is approximately the length of several football fields? It is. I gird myself and just plan on getting there by sheer willpower. Building up a head of steam, I zoom into the main doors (where I glimpse a complementary coat check as the rivulets of sweat are streaming down my hairline, but I can’t stop now or I’ll never get there) and just push to the postal service booth. I truly believe that my arms are about an inch longer now, but without an original measurement, that’s hard to prove.

I shipped the box book rate, which is so much cheaper than UPS so my physical pain was really worth it. Still in post-schvitz mode, I dragged myself back to the shuttle bus and hopped the one to the Westin. I had a lovely talk with a librarian also on her way to the AASL All-Committee meeting. She had been volunteering for AASL for years and had even been on the NSLMPY committee! Wow! We found the ballroom for the all-committee meeting easily and since I was about 30 minutes early, I decided to just grab a couple glasses of water (to replenish what I just sweated out in the exhibit hall) and settle into the ISS table since they usual meet promptly in the beginning. The All-Committee meeting is a unique thing when you are on more than one committee. It usually results in table-hopping (hence everyone meeting in the same room, since many members are on more than one committee) and having you crane your head to look at your other table to see when the membership reached critical mass so you could zoom over there and give your report or listen to issues, and then go back to other table you started at.

This is basically what I did, although I have to say that ISS absolutely has the best committee since everyone is so fun and there’s a lot more laughter coming from our table than any other! Patt Moser, our chair, had a super agenda and kept us all on track (nothing short of miraculous). I hopped to the NBPTS Committee (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards) and gave my report on the results of my survey of ISS librarians and their knowledge of the NBCT process. The fact that my report included action items was well-received and I was able to excuse myself quickly. On the way back to ISS, I was stopped by fellow NBPTS Committee member, Nancy Everhart, who asked me if I would be interested in being on the National Advisory Board for Project LEAD, an initiative based out of the College of Information at Florida State University. You attend meetings at ALA conferences and do online advisory work and get an honororium for their work. I’ve really liked everything Nancy has spoken of the last few years regarding her work and would love to represent the independent school librarian perspective with her work. I have her an enthusiastic “yes”!

The ISS committee has a few more points to discuss when I got back to that table and the timing worked out perfectly, with the committee basically finishing up at 3:30 pm which is when I had to leave to catch two buses to get to the Hilton. A nice local independent school librarian, Nancy, had sat in our meeting (her school was a mere 6 blocks away) and was offering local advice about eateries and shopping. When she heard I had to get to the Hilton for my Baker & Taylor Award Committee meeting, she offered to walk me over there, mentioning that it was just a few blocks away. This was so sweet of her, as she wasn’t going my way at all, so I thought I’d take her up on her offer.

As if I needed any highlighting with how out of shape I was, this walk definitely proved it. Nancy was breezing along conversing with me and I followed her, wheezing and gasping as we trucked 6 blocks uphill to the Hilton. I made it in plenty of time thanks to Nancy, and I managed to gasp out a thank you. Heading into the hotel was interesting – the entry level was just elevators and a hotel store (where I bought a Snapple ice tea and a Nutrigrain bar to fortify myself). Everyone has to go up and down via the elevators and its horribly crowded and inconvenient (and I can’t imagine very safe). The lobby itself (when you finally manage to get there) is lovely – roaring fireplace, comfy chairs, etc. and I found the Taku Room easily. I was the first one there, quickly followed by Texan chair Patsy Weeks and Carol Marlowe a fellow member. Our two other members, Wanda Jones and Nancy Fredericks arrived right on time and we managed to get down to business quickly thanks to Patsy’s excellent agenda. We picked two wonderful and deserving librarians and actually got to call them to let them know that they won, and we all were laughing and chuckling over their delight and excitement. After writing the press release, we adjourned right at 6 pm with a list of things to do to prepare for our final meeting in Washington, D.C.

With directions in hand, I walked three blocks (uphill again) back to the Convention Center where I spotted my restaurant, Bambuza, across the street from the main entrance. This wonderful and hip Vietnamese eatery was chosen by Seattle Nancy and was a great choice for the ISS informal dinner. About 15 people were there and it was great to sit and chat over some really excellent food. Really excellent.

I figured I had it made in the shade in terms of getting back to the W Hotel since I was right across the street from where the shuttles pick up. Sure enough, crossing the street, I could see three nice comfy buses just waiting there with the drivers chatting together. But as I got closer, I saw that rather than the bus number indicating which hotels they were traveling to, there was the sign “Space Needle, Thompson Scientific”. I must have looked a little confused since a nice driver asked if he could help me. I asked when the #4 shuttle would arrive and he gently told me that the shuttles stop running at 6 pm (and it was 7:45). I must have had my lost Catholic girl look that I know I get when I’m perplexed and tired, and another driver immediately stepped in and said, “Well, now, why don’t you get on the bus? We can drop you off two blocks from your hotel so you’re not confused where to go.” Wasn’t that nice? So I was the only one on the bus and the nice driver did in fact drop me off on the corner of 4th street and just pointed in the direction of the hotel, which was clearly visible. Two blocks (uphill again) and I was home.

And was I tired! But I had to video chat Ethan and I had gotten an Ethernet cable at the front desk for this purpose, so I signed on and paid for 3 hours of internet time and called my sweetie. We both hopped right on and it was great to see him and the kitties and Bugsy in real time while telling him about my very long day. The added bonus of being signed on was that I got to chat up a couple of my girls (who were up very late on a Saturday night!!!!) and find out how they were doing.

I posted my Friday blog and fell into an exhausted heap in my bed, after setting two alarms for 5:30 am so I could get to the Project LEAD advisory board meeting at the Sheraton at 7:30 am the following morning.

The Hotel…who, if it had a personal song, it would be “I’m too sexy for this guest, too sexy for this guest…”

1:00 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

Walking into the W Hotel’s lobby was a revelation. Dim lighting, throbbing club music (coming from the cool bar), and lit votive candles all along the reception desk made me feel like someone should have stamped the back of my hand with Chinese symbol for “Oh my God, this is awesome” in ink only seen under a black light. Speaking of black light, the elevator (club music piped in) and halls are all also dimly light and the hallway light is very black light which made the swirly modern carpet look funkadelic. Unfortunately, one of the prissy librarians from the shuttle also booked a room here and she looked like seeing a Afghani cave with Osama Bin Laden as her concierge would have been preferable. She really needs to loosen up.

My room is very spacious and oh-so-modern and gorgeous. The window seat – which is really a seven-foot couch with silk and corduroy bolsters is my favorite place to hang out. I have a DVD/CD player, a huge desk, an amazing closet and the bathroom of my dreams. The mini-bar is well-stocked with the nicest amenities and there’s even a refrigerator with more alcohol than I think anyone could consume, but I was pleased to see that there were nice fruit juices (Nantucket Nectars) and even some Schwepps Ginger Ale in case I need a $5 bottle of my favorite drink. The water, though, is astounding. It’s called “Voss” and I have never seen a more cool bottle of water anywhere. I will be made cooler by simply drinking it. Yes. I’m serious. You will not recognize the cool me. “Artesian Water from Norway”. Think of it!

I ordered room service because it was late (9:45 Seattle time and my body was working on it being after midnight) and I wasn’t about to head to the uber-cool restaurant since I would so look like I was trying to pick up someone. It was SO good. A three cheese grilled cheese – Monterey jack, cheddar, and chevre on homemade sourdough bread with gourmet fries (“frites”) and a molten chocolate cake for dessert. It was delivered by a man who looked suspiciously like an Italian playboy. Black turtleneck, black pants, expensive haircut and pensive goatee. I bet he spends a lot of time at a chic coffeehouse somewhere writing his blog. Wait a minute. Anyway. I’m exhausted. Friday has been a long day – and so, to my beautiful bed with 8 down pillows. Sigh.

On the way to Seattle

12:36 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

In keeping with little Damien’s prediction, indeed I was in the last row of seats before the back two bathrooms, which now would have to service all 150 people on this 4+ hour flight. Super. I was on the aisle seat of a grouping of three with two guys in my lane. The window seat was a rugged, older guy with a ballcap who slept leaning up against the wall most of the flight. The middle seat was a younger guy, about college age, who looked hungover and spent most of the flight watching DVDs on his G4 iBook (Jon Stewart’s America DVD alternating with a surfing documentary) and rubbing his hands vociferously through his hair, which I found unhygienic. Both were simply quiet and nice seatmates, although political surfer guy had a tendency to sprawl and press his chic denim clad leg against mine while taking over the armrest. Not appreciated.

But what was less appreciated was everyone’s ass. Yes, that’s right, of the 150 people on the plane, plus the flight attendants and the pilots, I think I managed to see literally everyone’s behind. Why would I be so acquainted with people’s posterior, you ask? Probably because of the restroom shortage, people queued up for the bathroom in front of my seat (butt shot #1 since their rear ends were roughly the height of my head). Then, as if the first wasn’t enough, people who had finished using the bathroom had to get back to their seats, resulting in the waiting people (who were sometimes 5 deep) leaning their posteriors literally in front of my face. Let me just assert that panty lines are an unrealized epidemic in America that deserves serious attention, perhaps by the CDC.

I ran out my shuffle’s battery so I had to move to finishing off my Oprah magazine and also the Evanovich book (both excellent) and still had plenty of time to kill. My Bose headphones absolutely SAVED me (I was upset that the airplane plug adapter didn’t fit and I wasn’t about to buy cheap Delta headphones to listen the movie, but it was The Queen, which I wanted to see). The plane was so loud with the constant drone of the engine (which seemed louder in my area of the back of the aircraft) and the sound cancellation totally cut out the sound of the screaming children (yes, both purple girl and prescient boy were both shrieking throughout the flight) so I looked a lot happier than most people on the plane. Why can’t you drug children? Is it really that unethical? I think the kids would have been happier sleeping, too. You do it with cats. Anyway.

The flight was turbulent, but not more than I’d expect for any flight crossing the continental divide, which always has issues. There were times I couldn’t read because the book was jostling so much. I absolutely knew that there would be no real food and I was right. More crackers and little munchies, but nothing more. And staggering out crackers does not add up to a meal. No one can convince me of this. One person who was not eating was the unfortunate gentlemen at the window seat across the aisle who had been quite affected by the turbulence and was throwing up into a Delta bag. A nice big bag. Poor guy. Poor seatmate.

The flight was finally over. I found the baggage claim easily and my bag came quickly. The ground shuttle counter was very close by, so I thought I was going to whisk out of there, but I was incorrect. The line to get your ticket (and hello, I had bought mine on line so why do I have to pick up anything? Why can’t my printed out information be my ticket – SO inefficient) was no fewer than 20 librarians deep and cold molasses would have moved faster. There was a bitter, ponytailed young woman who had stayed past quitting time while waiting for her replacement who arrived late from a doctor’s appointment and didn’t seem happy. I tried to be understanding (could it have been unexpected pregnancy? A horrible disease?), but there were two wicked prissy-looking librarians ahead of me who you could have slapped cat’s eye dresses onto and they would have effectively illustrated the librarian stereotype. Yikes. Once I got my ticket, the bus was immediately there and we got to hear the loquacious bus driver highlight the inefficiencies of his company’s system (no one was arguing). We quickly made it downtown to THE HOTEL.

Wolfgang Puck… in Cincinnati?

12:30 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

The Cincinnati airport is nice enough. The plane ride is only a little over an hour (it was a little bumpy due to a significant headwind), you eat nice crackers (this time cheese crackers to chase the peanut butter ones I ate in Avoca). Of course, I had a brief moment of elation thinking that I would be in the middle of the plane and not my usual seat by the toilet because my ticket said 12C. How many aisles on the plane? Twelve and half – the half is 13 and looks right into the potty. So I had my non-reclining seatback up against the toilet. Sigh.

You land in Cincinnati and get off on the tarmac because the plane is so small and everyone is very friendly. My only complaint is their whole “concourse” arrangement where you have to take shuttles that drive you across the airport asphalt to what looks to all intents and purposes as another airport. It’s like three little airports linked by buses, and I just don’t get it.

But once you’re inside, there are nice shops and eateries and things are very logically laid out so you find your gate without incident. I made it to my gate with about 25 minutes before boarding time, so I went 100 feet away and decided to grab a bite at a Wolfgang Puck cafĂ©. I knew that the ride to Seattle was LONG and I had no confidence in what Delta was going to serve (let’s face it, all airlines work on the cheap now), so I ordered a wonderful bowl of butternut squash soup and (on the waitress’ enthusiastic recommendation) a slice of the Bailey’s Irish Cheesecake. Both were amazing (you didn’t taste any alcohol overtones on the cheesecake which was my worry, since I don’t like that) and I grabbed a huge bottle of water and the latest Evanovich book (a “between the numbers” which is basically a Stephanie Plum mini-novel). They hadn’t yet boarded the plane and it turns out the reason was that the plane was overbooked and they were looking for volunteers to give up there seats – my experience is that this always takes a while, particularly when many of the people on the plane are headed to a conference (and are going to be taking shuttle buses that stop running at a certain time). There was also the dismaying announcement that the forward lavatory was broken and mentioning that people were encouraged to use the bathrooms before boarding. Knowing how close toilets and I are on planes, I knew this would be an announcement that would impact me greatly. Did I mention the children? There were two toddlers, I’d guess around 18 months old, running around. The little girl was happy, dressed in purple with a pageboy haircut, totally thrilled to be getting on the plane (I knew this would change very soon). The other was an adorable little blond boy, with a pacifier and a highly suspicious look, as if he knew quite well that he was about to be hoodwinked for the next five hours into a miniature hell of his mother’s creation. He displayed this foreknowledge by running around the gate screaming what I first thought was “Kill meeeeeeeeeeee!!!!! Killllllllllll meeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!” but what later was revealed to be “Noooooooooooooo Wwaaaaaaayyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!”. Pacifiers really do cut down on proper annunciation.

An A+ from the Transportation Security Administration

12:29 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

I might have gone to a college without grades, but I worry I still live for other people's approval. I was worried last night about my trip to Seattle because I had heard all sorts of scary things regarding bringing liquids and gels on your carry on luggage (you can tell most of these people are men - what woman could face airline travel without moisturizer?). So, being a librarian (duh), I went to the TSA website and studied the excellent materials they have about what you need to do. The pdf pictures of the quart size ziplock bag of items less than 3 oz. was super helpful and I managed to get everything absolutely vital in my ziplock. (Note: Lipstick or lip gloss can always do double duty as blush in a pinch!) It's harrowing to think about what you would do if your luggage was lost or "rerouted" as the airline likes to say, but I think I thought of everything. I think. I have a travel list of items as a Word document, and I actually highlight the items in different colors according to where they go (yellow=purse, pink=computer bag, blue=checked suitcase). I'm sure an anal retention siren just went off somewhere, but it works for me. "It's not causative," as Dr. Schoetz said.

Anyhoo, I got my ticket at the Delta counter in Avoca and what a nice group of people work there!!! So helpful and we had a lovely conversation (no one was around) about teenagers and how great they are. The counter and baggage person both asked if I was always this chipper. Why do people always ask me that? Am I really significantly more cheerful than other people traveling? I was glad I wasn't headed to Atlanta as I gather there was a delay, but Cincinnati is due in on time, so I should be okay. Unfortunately, this airport is so small (and so cute and clean) that there are no kiosks inside the gate area to buy water or magazines, so I had to have some peanut butter crackers and ice tea before going through security, but I got an Oprah magazine and was pretty happy.

Hydrated and fed, I was ready to go through security and I excitedly told the nice woman at the xray machine how I had studied the website. She seemed to think I was very funny and said she'd let me put everything in bins and see if I studied well. Out comes the boarding pass and ID, off goes my jacket/blazer and boots, out goes the computer, and out comes my awesome little "caught on a desert island" ziplock. She laughed and said I got an A+. Woo-hoo! Of course, it seems to take 3 minutes to reassemble everything, but it's the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airport so there's no such thing as a line behind you, so no one was breathing down my neck.

I found my gate easily, got a great picture on my cell from the wonderful Ms. Kier, former assistant librarian at Kirby Library, in which her adorable daughter, Phaedra, is wearing one of the hats I knit her. Such a cutie pie! That really made my day. I thought I'd check out my iTunes in case I wanted to update my shuffle and the airport has wireless!!!! Well, welcome to the 21st century, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Airport - you are awesome!!! So here's my first blog entry. I don't remember if Cincinnati has wireless or know if I'll have time to write since my planes are close together, but we'll see. I also am using my wicked new Bose headphones and all I can saw is - WOW. They are so comfortable and are doing an amazing job at completely shutting out the unfortunate Kenny Loggins-esque "jazz" playing over the speakers here. I will not board the plane mental.