Northern fever

Thursday night I felt the beginnings of a head cold coming on, which is just what you want when you’re about to spend three days traveling and talking to people. Then on Friday, having arrived at the Bellingham Amtrak station, I decided to push my luck by boyishly sticking to my plan to walk to the hotel, even though it was clearly farther than I’d thought. The rain caught me about halfway there.

Not the best start, but after a nap and a dinner of pork dumplings, miso soup, and pseudoephedrine, I was feeling better. The audience for my reading at Village Books was very welcoming, and if I rambled a bit more than usual, they didn’t seem to mind. Among the attendees was my friend Alma Alexander and her husband Deck (unless they were a fever-induced hallucination, in which case the waitress at the cafe we went to afterwards must still be talking about that weird guy).

The Chrysalis Inn where I was staying is right on the water, which is to say, it’s right by the railroad tracks, so my dreams that night were punctuated by locomotive whistles. But by morning my fever had broken and that “head cold” was looking more like one of those 24-hour bugs that just comes and goes.

I caught the morning train up to Canada, breezed through customs, and spent the afternoon wandering around, reminding myself how much I love Vancouver (it’s got a lot of the same elements that I love about Seattle, but configured in a way that feels very different). At 5:30 I got on the subway to go to the reading, and as I came back up above ground the clouds above the North Shore parted to reveal a giant snow-covered mountain range looming over the city. Unfortunately I didn’t have the camera with me, but trust me when I say, Well played, Vancouver, well played.

The reading at Pulpfiction Books was great. A very enthusiastic crowd, and afterwards store owner Chris Brayshaw took me, the staff, and a few lucky audience members out for a feast at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant. Chris’s sweetheart Lisa was also there, and it turns out that (a) just like me, Chris likes to cook strange things and (b) his Lisa, just like my Lisa, prefers not to be in the house for culinary experiments involving organ meats. So between that, anecdotes about their Maine Coon cat, and Lisa’s war stories about her job as a defense attorney, we had quite the entertaining dinner conversation.

Coming home on the bus yesterday I had one more adventure. About twenty miles out from Seattle there was a bang that everybody assumed was a tire blowing and the bus heeled over to the right. The bus driver pulled off the highway, checked it out, and announced that the tires were fine, it was actually part of the bus’s suspension system that had given way. “It’s OK,” he said, “we’ll just toodle on into the station.” Then he got on the radio with his dispatcher and had a conversation, which we could all hear, about whether it was safe to toodle into the station with a damaged suspension, or whether, ha ha, we might still blow a tire and end up rolling over. The upshot was that it was probably safe, and in any event the bus driver was now indemnified because he’d reported the problem, so we continued on, and after some tense maneuvering on the hill into downtown made it to the station without incident. I stepped right from the bus into a waiting cab, and before I knew it I was home.

So that was my weekend. Today I’m resting up. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be on the local NPR station, KUOW 94.9, from 12:40 to 1:00 PM. Tomorrow night I’ll be giving my last Seattle-area reading at Queen Anne Books starting at 6 PM. If you haven’t got your signed copy of The Mirage yet, come on down.