A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Be My Guest

Since I work from home most of the time, I can become a little squirrely. A few weeks of doing phone interviews in pajamas, getting up from my desk in midmorning to bake a lemon pie, or tussling with my dog when I should be cataloging books, and I've plumb forgotten the way most of the work world operates. At my age and with my education, if I had chosen to go the corporate route, by now I should be in possession of a corner office, a closetful of good business suits, and an expense account. Along the way, I'd have acquired the disciplined work habits and the six figures that go along with that lifestyle choice.

I much prefer my loft to that corner office, and who in his right mind would opt for suits over pjs? But every once in a while, it's nice to hit the road on somebody else's dime. And that's what I was doing yesterday and today.

I rode down to New Jersey in Joanne's plushy new Cadillac sedan, stopping for a very civilized lunch in Connecticut to meet with my illustrator. Checked into the Woodcliff Lake Hilton, and then drove over to the publisher's house right nearby. He cooked us dinner--orecchiette marinara with braciole, spicy Italian sausage and his secret-recipe meatballs, a salad, homemade brownies, Häagen-Dazs, and coffee laced with Sambuca. The evening was relaxing and fun, but all the same we covered a lot of ground.

We got back to the Hilton and I dove into the middle of my queen-sized bed, which was covered with a down comforter and half a dozen down-and-feather pillows. I had monographs and/or a silly English novel to read, but my stomach was too full of Italian food and my head too full of ideas and directives to concentrate. Joanne and I both decided to call it a night.

Unfortunately, the bed was too soft, and my arms immediately started to fall asleep. I'd discovered a dozen years ago that a very firm mattress and sensible straight-backed chairs were all that stood between me and disc surgery, and made the appropriate lifestyle changes. I wasn't looking for a recurrence of my past nightmares. So I grabbed a pillow, dragged the comforter off the bed, and camped out on the floor.

8 a.m. was a working breakfast in the Hilton dining room. $9 will get you a bowl of oatmeal there (coffee is extra). Mango spiced oatmeal with berries sounded like it might be worth the price, but was in fact as bland in taste as in appearance: beige mush with slices of what looked and tasted like boiled potatoes mixed in--and no berries in sight. The waitress made good on the berries when prompted, and the chef insisted that the "potatoes" in fact were mangoes. Greyish-beigey mangoes? Whatever.

I don't even want to know how much Big Rich Company paid for that featheriffic room or that exotic-sounding breakfast. It doesn't matter; they can afford it, and we got a lot accomplished. But if Conrad wants me to "be his guest" when I'm shelling out my own money, he'll have to raise his standards a bit. The beds and the breakfast at the Emory House are ever so much better.