Furlough Tour: Day Four

It's hard to remember that I woke up this morning in Pittsburgh.

Crashing hard last night, I woke up and didn't want to move. I'm not a morning person at best, and this constant motion is beginning to take its toll. Whoever called this a vacation didn't look at the itinerary. Note to self: Next time we do this, I'm in my hotel room by 10 p.m. each night.

I scrambled to Crazy Mocha in Squirrel Hill, which is a nifty ethnic neighborhood outside Pittsburgh. It was a pleasant enough event, sold a little and chatted some more. But then I was on the road again, because miles to go and all that.

First: Proof of life.

My pachyderm friend guards the toll plaza that leads to the Flight 93 Memorial off the Pennslyvania Turnpike. I briefly considered a side trip, but it's closed due to the government shutdown.

Along the way, I was treated to the beauty of rural Pennsylvania in the fall. Poor Jimmy was on the phone with me for a while, and must have gotten tired of hearing, "Wow," all the time. The pictures don't come close to doing it justice. A panoramic lens with some serious color might help. But in between the awesome weirdness of driving through mountain tunnels, I saw vistas of autumn color just starting to spread, like a giant quilt covering the mountains. I tried to capture them, but my skills just aren't up to it.

And onward to Harrisburg, home of reader-friends who have supported my work for nearly a decade now. It's funny, but when you know someone that long, share each other's triumphs and tribulations online, and finally meet them? It's like old times, but with someone you just "met." Such is the weirdness of modern life. We had a wonderful time, and my sister was able to join us - Melanie and I see each other so rarely that it is a fine treat for us to simply breathe the same air.

Unfortunately I couldn't stay: I still had three hours of driving to go. Make that four, because the New Jersey Turnpike has redefined my image of "clusterfuck." But I navigated it successfully and found the Bronx.

Time for a confession, folks: I've always been a little nervous about New York City. It's not that it's whoa-the-big-city or that I think there will be evil muggers out to get my money. I have the tollbooths for that purpose - $43 in tolls so far. Holy Kickstarter, Batman. My original budget was SO far off.

No, I think I'm intimidated by the mythology of the place. New York is in every movie, every book, every TV show. New York has the history and the flavor of America. It's too big to be real, its images too iconic (and its roads too confusing). As I approached Manhattan, I found myself scanning the cityscape and sort of recognizing it and being intimidated by it at the same time.

Yes, I'm 38 years old and never been to New York City before. Somehow in all the places we lived, this one experience eluded me. And that's part of why I wanted to come here: because I never have. And because I'm thinking about destroying it in a couple of years, and if I'm gonna write about a place, I'd like to see it.

So I'm signing off early tonight, folks. (If by "early" I mean 2 a.m.) My lovely hosts are taking me on a whirlwind tour of Manhattan, starting with the Empire State Building. We're going to see Central Park and ride a subway and all that New Yawk stuff. I'm charging the camera, so brace yourself for ridiculous numbers of photos and probably a proof-of-life to top them all.

And then we have to hustle out of there, because I have a signing at Singularity & Co. in Brooklyn at 7 p.m. and it seems Brooklyn is on the other side from the Bronx.

Tomorrow's a big day. I suppose sleep is in order. If I can make it here...

Note: We have an addition to the schedule! The dashing John Hartness and I will be signing together at The Last Word in Charlotte, N.C. 7-10 p.m. Friday evening. John has a new book out as well, so come see us!

Missed Opportunity of the Day: Due to the government shutdown, I could not stop at the Flight 93 Memorial. Time would have been short anyway, but I would have liked to have seen it. I also apparently passed very near the home of my dear friend Dr. Carrie Arnett, and missed seeing her.
Thanks: To my sister, who drove up from York to deliver a box of books that needed to catch up with me; and to the Smiths and Mary Spila for a lovely evening.


  1. I'm 50(something) and have never been to New York either... but then, it's not really something I want to do. I'm not much for big cities and crowds. St. Louis is too big for me!

  2. It is intimidating! And I don't have a problem with crowds, but we will see if I can still say that after the New York subway!


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