“Your Alma Mater is Proud of You!”

A.D., Travel

That was the subject line of the email I got from Erik Inglis, Oberlin professor of medieval art and a fellow Oberlin art history grad from the class of ’89. He had seen the August New York Times piece on A.D., and dropped me a congratulatory email. One thing quickly led to another and soon enough I had been officially invited back to Oberlin to present A.D. to the school. The fact that Kwame, one of A.D.’s characters, is also a student at Oberlin, and was willing to take part in the presentation, added to the allure.

We settled on this past weekend, November 6–8, Parents’ Weekend 2009. Since Sari is an Oberlin grad too, it seemed appropriate for us to go as a family — Phoebe too! So last Friday we all jumped on a commuter flight to Cleveland for a fun-filled three days back in the corn fields of Ohio.

The “official” part of the trip went really well. Erik kindly picked us up at the airport and drove us into town and to our room at the Oberlin Inn. He had to leave to teach a class — likely excuse! — but we sauntered over to the new (to me) crunchy Black River Café to meet Danielle Young, the Alumni Association executive director, and her protégé Liz Weinstein. We had a pleasant lunch, and were encouraged to reminisce about old times for a recorded interview. Danielle & Liz also presented us with an official Oberlin alumni mug and some other assorted goodies.

With all the Parents Weekend events going on, I was a bit nervous about how well-attended Saturday’s 3pm presentation would go, but I was elated by the turnout. At least 75 people — parents, students, and even some faculty — turned out for the event, in the Hallock Auditorium of the new(ish) Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies. (A little shout-out to my buddy Mark “Stinky” Rusitzky, who worked as an architect on the building and served as the liaison during its construction. Mark, a Connecticut College graduate, has spent more time in Oberlin than I have in the last decade!)

After my slideshow, I sat down with Kwame and African-American Studies chair Caroline Jackson-Smith to talk about the project, Kwame’s involvement, and to take questions from the audience. The crowd seemed really engaged, and there were some great questions and comments. Professor Jackson-Smith was terrific, with a real respect for the comics form even though it was one of her first experiences with it. And Kwame was amazing, closing the event with a wonderful, eloquent summation of where New Orleans is now, and how he plans to fit in there once he finishes his academic career. I was so proud of him, and also in awe of his poise and strength of character. Once again, I was reminded what an amazing group of human beings I’ve been lucky enough to get to know though this project.

After the event, Kwame & I sat down in the lobby to sign copies of A.D., which people had quickly bought up all the copies provided for by Infinite Monkey (the new comics retailer in town). It was an odd experience sitting there signing copies for Oberlin students and parents, feeling somehow caught in between those two realities. I know one end of that experience — maybe someday I’ll know the other. I must admit I felt a certain pride, sitting there as a returning alumni, actually invited back by the institutional powers-that-be.

That evening Erik had us over to his E. College house for delicious home-made pizza by his wife Heather. Also there was Anne Trubek, another Oberlin alum of our era (who makes a great apple crumble!) And Phoebe got to marvel at the antics of the three boys (two 10-year-olds and one six-year-old) running rampant in the house. A good time was had by all, and Erik and I refrained from too much teary-eyed reminiscences of those two years we shared at Dascomb.I loved what Erik said about why he loves studying medieval art: “There’s so much we just don’t know! I would hate to teach modern art — we know what Manet had for breakfast every day of his adult life! On the other hand, I would hate to teach ancient art. We don’t know anything! Medieval art is just the right balance of what we know and what we have to use our imagination for.”

Sunday was a free day before our 5 pm flight, and Sari, Phoebe & I mostly spent it strolling around the Oberlin campus, visiting the museum, and admiring and kicking the fall leaves. It was comforting to hear the chants of protesters ringing through trees of Tappan Square, though we didn’t get there in time to find out what the protest was actually about before they had moved on. We also got a giant chuckle from the sight of a bedraggled group of Obie kids attempting to stage an earthbound game of Muggle Quidditch on Wilder Bowl, with broomsticks and everything. Ah, Oberlin!

Next time: Oberlin then and now

SPX '09 Report

A.D., Travel

road to SPXMy first SPX in three years — but by my count, my tenth overall — got off to a great start with the ride down. The four musketeers of JahFurry, Heidi MacDonald, Brian Heater, and Ben McCool added my fifth wheel since Ben was jetting off to England for a fortnight, so Jeff, Heidi, Brian and myself made the rest of the trip after dropping Ben off at Newark. Good times — with lots of cutting people off — were had, including a stop in Baltimore at Atomic Books for the Nerdlinger Awards.

The Awards set a Rip van Winkle tone for me, as I barely knew a soul — or their comic — there, and that carried through for SPX itself. I saw a few familiar faces, of course, like SPX regulars Chris Staros, Jim Dougan, Rob Clough, Mike Rhode, Calvin Reid, Ed Piskor, Rob Ullman, and the Fantagraphics twins; and of course SPX programmers like Karon Flage, Warren Bernard, and Greg Bennett; and even some sporadic returners like myself: R. Sikoryak, Peter Kuper, James Kochalka, John Porcellino, Mike Fiffe, and Kat Roberts, to name a few.

But there were so many ol’ pals missing: Dean Haspiel, Nick Bertozzi, Alex Robinson, Tony Consiglio, David Lasky, Mike Dawson, Chris Radtke, Joan Reilly, Jason Little, Gabrielle Bell, Jon Lewis, and Karen Sneider, just off the top of my head. I guess what with book deals, kids, and of course the continuing allure of MoCCA, the drive down to D.C. is losing its appeal for those folks. (I have to confess I stayed away from SPX the last few years because I didn’t have anything new to hawk until this year.)

However, despite my sadness at missing so many folks, I have to admit that SPX is alive and well! The great funky/DIY/artsy tradition is still very much in evidence, and the comix tribe is rejuvenated with lots of new blood. That included my tablemates this year, fresh-faced 2009 Xeric winners J.T. Yost and Sophia Wiedeman. I was under strict luggage (and economic) constraints, so I only picked up a few things, but everywhere I looked there were young cartoonists offering tempting delights. I couldn’t resist some purchases, of course, and came away with Yost’s Old Man Winter, Wiederman’s The Deformity, Jeffrey Brown‘s Funny Misshapen Body, Liz Baillie‘s My Brain Hurts, Picture Box’s crazy oversize Real Deal #1, and a decrepit Robin T-shirt by fellow SPX returning veteran Tom Galambos.

As for my end of the show, A.D. sold respectably, with about 30 copies finding new owners. (I also signed a fair amount of previously purchased books.) I had some great conversations with people connected to the NOLA scene, including a high muckety-muck of the Louisiana Redevelopment Authority. And Gina Gagliano was kind enough to moderate my spotlight panel, where I presented my A.D. slideshow and answered questions about the project.

The only major negative for the show this year was the frigid temperatures inside the room on Sunday. I tend to run hot (body temperature-wise) but even I was shivering. I was pleasantly surprised that my nose didn’t fall off due to frostbite, but all the same I think I’m coming down with something: I’ve been achy and off my game ever since Sunday.

The ride back with Jah, Heidi, and Brian was as fun-filled as the trip down, with the added excitement of seeing how far the car could go with an empty tank of gas and the "Change Oil Soon" light flashing. And did we really almost run down Philip Seymour Hoffman on his bike as we tore through the West Village? Brian swore it was him. Home again, home again, jiggity-jig. *Cough*

A.D. hits the Windy City

A.D., Publicity, Travel

[Continuing my run-down of the A.D. book tour…]

My next stop after the NYC book launch was Chicago, Illinois. There was something fitting about coming back to Chicago, as that was where my comics "career" (such as it is) started: it’s where I lived when I got my first breaks: The Big Book of Urban LegendsDuplex Planet Illustrated, and American Splendor.

Arriving in Chicago Friday, August 28 (earlier than I would’ve liked), I was picked up by my literary escort, who was assigned to get me to the WGN-TV studios for a mid-day news segment. The escort was nothing like what I expected: instead of an effete, rumpled, mustachioed man, Bill was a tall, burly, classic Midwesterner who liked nothing better than talking baseball (specifically the White Sox). He drove me over to the studios where I taped a quick segment on the book. Things went well, but it’s hard for me to watch the tape; they say the camera adds ten pounds, but the way I was slumped back in my chair added at least another ten. Ugh.

Book Cellar Q&AThe event that night was at the Book Cellar, in Lincoln Park. I’d heard a lot of great things about the place, particularly from Larry Smith and Rachel Fershelisher, who landed there during their Six-Word Memoirs book tour. The Book Cellar serves wine (as well as the usual tea & coffee) while you peruse your favorite books. The event itself went really well, with about 40 people in attendance, including my old Chicago pals Amy & Lee, and Zoe & Mark, as well as some old co-workers from the late, lamented Ligature. A couple of old Chicago area-comics pals showed up as well: Steve Darnall of Empty Love Stories and Uncle Sam, and Mike Fragassi, a comics critic from the baby days of the Internet. And last but not least, noted Chicago cartoonist Jeffrey Brown made the scene as well (and even stayed around to chat afterward, which was a nice treat). The crowd was really receptive to the book and ran me through the best Q&A session to date. After a drink and a bratwurst with Zoe, Mark, my Ligature buddy Angela, and some others at the next-door beerhall, I headed back to Amy & Lee’s, my hosts for the weekend.

The next day was August 29, the actual fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. My only event was an "author coffee" at Amy Davis’s writing workspace, where I walked 11 people through the origins of A.D. Everyone there was a writer of some kind, with a range of interests in self-publishing, web-to-print projects, and comics, and we spent a lively couple of hours chewing the fat.

I spent the rest of the afternoon hoofing around the old ‘hood, down in Wicker Park, which has changed a lot since the mid-1990s. But my favorite neighborhood Chinese place, Mon Lung, is still in business, and I lunched on the best mongolian beef I’ve found in these United States. I also visited Quimby’s, where I signed a couple of books and where the manager, Liz, snapped my photo. The day ended with an awesome dinner over at Mark & Zoe’s house, along with Amy & Lee.

Sunday was a day off, and I got to hit Wrigley and take in a Cubs game — oddly enough, versus my own hometown Mets — and then later that evening augmented the decadence with an actual movie. District 9 was a bit of a letdown from a great premise, but still eminently entertaining. A mid-day flight Monday from O’Hare brought me back to NYC, and I even made it home in time to pick up Phoebe from daycare.

The weekend in the Windy City was a great balance of flogging A.D. and enjoying some much-needed down-time.

Ninth Ward Sunday

A.D., Travel

[Wherein I continue my rundown of the A.D. book tour, picking up in New Orleans on August 23, 2009]

My last full day in NOLA was mostly a day off. Sari & I started with a room service breakfast (one perk of the book tour) and then headed over to Beth’s Books, a small store located in the Marigny/Upper Ninth Ward area. Leo came along again as well, but I was most glad to see A.D. character Denise, who drove down from Baton Rouge (where she often stays on the weekends to spend time with her grand-nephews) for the day. It was great to finally introduce her to Sari and to see her in person again after more than a year. She was looking great, and is doing really good work as a Ford Foundation fellow. The crowd at Beth’s Books was similar in spirit to that of Maple Street Books the day before, and by the end of the event we had sold out all their copies.

From there, Sari and I drove a little bit around the Lower Ninth Ward, where some of the worst flooding occurred. That was an eye-opener. I had known that large parts of the area were still empty and abandoned, but I wasn’t prepared for the desolate, overgrown reality. Block after block of wild grasses, overgrown bushes, and trees, with one or two occupied houses dotting the wilderness. Intersections that were so overgrown you couldn’t see the street signs or stop signs. Occasionally a mowed plot of land with just the empty concrete slab where the house used to be. It was all quite shocking, and left us wondering how this once vibrant community of long-time residents could ever be brought back. (After all, four years down the line, many former residents have re-settled — whether by choice or circumstance — in other cities.)

We also happened by the Ninth Ward headquarters of Common Ground Relief, an organization I’ve been raising money for by having fundraisers and selling A.D. prints. Even though it was a Sunday afternoon, Director Thom Pepper was there, keeping shop, as well as an assortment of dedicated volunteers. Thom showed us around a little and told us in detail some of Common Ground’s projects: gutting and rebuilding houses, and working on wetland restoration, hoping to revitalize the natural surrounding flood barriers. Common Ground is good people.

Some shots of our tour of the Ninth Ward:

The Doctor Lets the Good Times Roll

A.D., Publicity, Travel

After reuniting Saturday evening with Sari back at our French Quarter hotel, we headed over to Doctor Lutz’s (A.D. character “The Doctor”) home for a cocktail party. He had gone all-out in preparation for the shindig, hiring an event planner and ordering 50 copies of A.D. to give out to guests (in addition to the 25 donated by Pantheon). The event planner had images of the Doctor from the book printed onto the hors d’oeuvre serving trays!

The party was everything I would have thought it would be given the host and location — a savory gumbo of New Orleans upper crust society, libertines, and eccentrics — with a politician thrown in the mix. (Edwin Murray, a 2010 candidate for mayor, was there, and Dr. Lutz had me sign his book “To the next mayor of New Orleans.”) In addition to the Doctor and his dogs Kip and Rose (both of whom also appear in A.D.), also present were A.D. characters Leo & Michelle, as well as the Doctor’s partner Ken Combs, and Ken Colditch and Edwin Curry, who all make brief appearances at the Doctor’s house during his “hurricane party”. And of course SMITH editor Larry Smith, who made a very gracious toast to the Doctor. There was copious food and drink, and a barefoot “gypsy band” playing fiddles and a washboard, that Dr. Lutz had pulled off the streets in Jackson Square. People lingered late into the night, spread out around the pool, at the back yard tables, and in the Doctor’s sitting room.

About halfway through the festivities, I was again sat down at a table to sign books. Again it was a long string of great encounters with amazingly gracious and grateful people. I was thanked again and again for telling the story of Katrina and keeping it in the public eye. (It only occurs to me now, four years after the storm, that much of the rest of the country really has “moved on” from Katrina and doesn’t spend some portion of every day thinking about the hurricane and its effect on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.) Nonetheless, in the midst of that crowd, I did feel a little bit like some kind of curious creature on display for the evening — “Come see the funny Brooklyn cartoonist!” — but I soaked it up regardless.

By evening’s end, the Doctor was slumped against his couch with assorted hangers-on, at least “three or four sheets to the wind,” as Leo so eloquently put it. After my long day, I was beat, and Sari & I called it a night.

I found out the next day that the band went skinny-dipping in the Doctor’s pool; when I mentioned it to him later he drawled, “That’s fine, because they needed a bath.”

Dr. Lutz, yours truly, and Leo
The Doctor, yours truly, and Leo

“To Marta, my Life Raft”

A.D., Travel

[Wherein I continue my rundown of the A.D. book tour, picking up in New Orleans on August 22, 2009]
Saturday in New Orleans was a breathless chain of events, where I met what seemed like the full gamut of my New Orleanian readers. All in all, it was an amazing, profound experience.

The day started with picking up Sari at the airport, as she finally made it to town after being waylaid by Hurricane Bill. We drove straight from the airport to the Garden District, where I signed some stock (appropriately enough) at the Garden District Book Shop. From there we drove over to Maple Street Book Shop (also in the Garden District), a wonderful, winding bookstore situated in a former residence. The folks at Maple Street were very welcoming and appreciative of my coming there.

A.D. character Leo McGovern met us at Maple Street and signed copies as well. We signed for a couple of hours as a steady stream of readers came by, including my New York friend (and long-time, dedicated A.D. supporter) Anne Heausler, who hails from NOLA and was in town for the weekend. (Later, she and Sari and Anne’s friend Barbara, who lost EVERYTHING in the storm, went off together for lunch.) All in all, it was a pleasant time, and I was happy with the way things were going. After my initial fear that the book might be greeted by indifference or derision by the residents of New Orleans — it is a comic book, after all, about the devastation of Hurricane Katrina — I felt reassured. People were welcoming and even grateful to have their story being told. The Maple Street signing was a nice opportunity to meet my “readers” and hear their own stories of flooding, evacuation, and rebuilding.

Leo headed off to a conference, so I drove solo over to Octavia Books for the last signing of the day. I arrived at the store a little early and walked in, ready to introduce myself to the manager and get myself settled for another sedate session. To my extreme surprise, there were over twenty people waiting on line for me! I was hustled over to a table and set down to sign books. From that point on it was a continuous sequence of autographing copies of A.D. I tried my best to exchange at least a couple of words with each person as they appeared in front of me, but the line was so long that I had difficulty doing even that. One of those on line I did get a chance to meet and (give my thanks to) was Susan Larson, the Times-Picayune’s book editor, who had written a very complimentary piece about the book in the paper earlier in the week.

There were two encounters I had at Octavia that particularly stuck in my mind. One was with a heavyset man in his 40s who gave me his book to sign with tears in his eyes. He asked me to sign it to “Marta, my life raft.” I could see from his expression that he was this close to completely losing his composure. A bit flustered, I tried to fix a look of quiet compassion on my face, and did as he asked. He shook my hand, still very much on the verge of tears, thanked me, and walked stiffly away. Whew!

The other encounter I’ll never forget was with the A.D. character Denise’s uncle John and one of her nieces. They introduced themselves and also thanked me for doing the book. We talked for a while, about Denise and how things were going, and as they walked away he said, “We will always treasure this book.” Suffice it to say that I never had any responses like that to my backpacking book!

At long last, the line of readers finally came to an end — only because Octavia had sold out their entire stock of books, over 60 copies of A.D.! Near the end of the event, they had actually sent some customers back to my previous venue at Maple Street, to buy signed stock I had left there. Some of those readers made the trip over and back just to have me personalize their copies. By the time I finally got out of there, I was overwhelmed from the experience — and I still had the Doctor’s cocktail party to look forward to…

Houston–NOLA, 8/21

A.D., Publicity, Travel

The drive from Houston to New Orleans, on I-10, took longer than I thought, over five hours — partly due to rush hour traffic outside of Baton Rouge. Thought it’s not the most scenic drive — except when passing over the Atchafalaya Swamp — it was important to me to drive the route so many New Orleanians — including Leo & Michelle — took as they evacuated the city in advance of Hurricane Katrina, It was easy to imagine — especially in the Baton Rouge traffic — the agonizingly slow advance of cars leaving the city for the storm.

I was sweating a bit getting into New Orleans because I was due at the A.D. book party and was behind schedule. In the end, I skipped checking in at my hotel and headed straight over to Republic, in the CBD, for the party. I didn’t have time to change out of my driving outfit of shorts and a T-shirt, but fortunately it was a casual affair so I offended no one.

The party was put together by A.D. character Leo, in conjunction with Crescent City Comics, a store that closed due to the flooding but is finally set to re-open. There was free beer and a nice atmosphere, with a steady crowd. It was a great introduction to the New Orleans response to A.D., as people were very gracious and excited to have me sign their books. I had some great exchanges with people anxious to tell me their Katrina experiences. I also had a selection of oversize giclée prints for sale, to benefit Common Ground Relief. Later, SMITH editor Larry Smith and A.D. characters The Doctor and Michelle also made appearances.

Sari was due to fly in that evening for the party, but perhaps fittingly her flight out of New York was cancelled due to Hurricane Bill. She ended up catching another flight, via Dallas, but missed her connection, and had to stay the night in the Dallas area.

By party’s end, Crescent City had sold over 30 copies of A.D., I had sold four prints, and all the beer had been drunk. Leo and Crescent City owner Les took me out to Juan’s Flying Burrito for some delicious pork and coleslaw tacos, and then I dragged myself over to the hotel to check in and sack out.

Michelle, Larry Smith, Leo, some dude with a strange haircut, and The Doctor

Houston: Domy, BookTV, Jacuzzis, and Chilaquiles

A.D., Publicity, Travel

I pulled into Houston a little later than planned, with just enough time to change clothes and drive over to Domy Books. I was blown away by the magnificence of my hotel, however, the ICON, located in the heart of downtown. I don’t know I know what a five-star hotel is, but this seemed to be it. A beautiful lobby with a three-story atrium, old-fashioned cast iron elevators, and my room…. Let me put it this way: they left me a plate of chocolate-dipped strawberries. A jacuzzi bathtub with sliding doors opening onto a view of the TV. A glass-walled shower stall with the best water pressure I’ve ever experienced. Not to mention the turned-back king-size bed with the proverbial mint on the pillow. Now this is the life of an author on book tour! Never in a million years did I think I would "merit" this kind of service. The only drawback to it all was that Sari wasn’t there to share it with me… and that I didn’t have time to enjoy it, as I had to run off to my signing/presentation.

The Domy event itself was good, though not nearly as well-attended as the Austin Book People event the night before. Kinda surprising when you think about what a strong connection there is between those who evacuated from New Orleans to Houston… but then Houston isn’t nearly the book town that Austin is. Domy is a cool store, reminding me a bit of Chicago’s famous Quimby’s, with a nice collection of art comix, zines, and assorted detritus of underground culture. And the store employees were really sweet: they were all over the book’s production design, admiring the colors, the jacket design, and all the other crap I spent months agonizing over (as well as bringing in whiz-bang designer Charlie Orr to tie it all together for me.)

The presentation took part in a beautiful backyard patio where cicadas chirped and people sipped drinks. What made it all remarkable, however, was that C-SPAN’s BookTV was there filming the whole thing! A crew of five, a director, the whole nine yards. It was really cool; I just wish there had been a crowd more like Book People’s. Though the presentation itself went off without a hitch, there was no life to the Q&A session. Thank Rao for my ol’ comix pal Scott Gilbert, the only person to actually ask me a question. I tried to draw the answer out as long as possible, but I cut it short after that as it was clear no one else was motivated.

Besides Scott, other folks I knew at the signing were Toby Craig, a friend of A.D. characters Leo & Michelle who himself makes an appearance himself in the book; and my ol’ pal Chris Oarr, former CBLDF executive director, and before that co-founder of SPX. It was great seeing Chris after too many years, and we promised to catch up the next morning, when Chris promised to treat me to "a real Texas breakfast!"

After signing the rest of Domy’s stock I was totally beat and drove directly back to the ICON. What with the late arrival into Houston and rushing straight over to Domy, I hadn’t had a chance to have dinner. Unfortunately, however, I arrived back at the ICON just after room service had ended for the night. I was forced to make a meal of the afore-mentioned strawberries and a cranberry juice and some roasted nuts from the room’s minibar. Before completely collapsing, I soaked a bit in the jacuzzi and caught up on the day’s baseball scores via ESPN.

First thing Friday morning was a phone interview for Bob Abdelman’s Mr. Media podcast (which I suppose will be up soon). Then I checked out and drove over to meet Chris at La Mexicana, his favorite Tex-Mex joint. I did indeed have a great breakfast of chilaquiles, tortillas, and refried beans, enough to last me all the way to New Orleans — a five-plus-hour drive…

Post-NOLA Lull

A.D., Publicity, Travel

After an amazing, nutty weekend, things have calmed down momentarily. I’m still in NOLA but will be flying out back to NYC this afternoon, and I have a sec to catch y’all up on the A.D. book tour so far. I’ll start with the first event, last Wednesday evening at Book People in Austin, Texas. First I did a quick hit on the university radio station/NPR affiliate KUT, where a reporter interviewed me about the book. The interview ran during "All Things Considered," and it was a great plug for the Book People event.

When I drove up to Book People, I was stunned to see my name in a marquee outside, which was a great welcome to Austin. Up front when you walked in, they had a wonderful display of books, with a custom sign designed by Brandi, one of the store employees. And even though I arrived about 45 minutes early for my visual presentation, there were already folks waiting, books in hand. (Book People, by the way, is a great store, two full floors, really well-lit, with lots and lots of books, and lots and lots of room for browsing. A great staff, too, and the owner, it turns out, is a distant relative of mine!)

Despite a slight glitch with my Mac (it’s an old model iBook), my presentation went really well. I had only finalized it that day on the phone, but I was happy with how it came out. (Basically, it takes the viewer through my background as a nonfiction cartoonist, then gets into Hurricane Katrina, my Red Cross volunteering, hooking up with SMITH to tell the story online, how I found the characters, and a little bit about each of them and their storylines. And I end the "show" with a silent run-through of the "god’s-eye view" prologue, with the storm building and then striking New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.)

The presentation was very well-attended, and we had a nice question-and-answer session afterward. A large line formed and I signed books for about a half-hour. Many people had connections with New Orleans and Louisiana, and I also ran into some acquaintances and old friends. My great friend Tori, and her boyfriend Neil and their adorable baby daughter Zia, put me up in town overnight, and mid-day Thursday I set off on my way to Houston for the next event.



Since I decided to drive the portion of my book tour from Austin to Houston to New Orleans, Pantheon was kind enough to set me up with a rental car — equipped with a GPS navigation system. Having a nice car with a gps tracker was nice, since I was able to know the best route wherever I go, and also if something happens, someone will be able to find wherever I am. I am digging it. It enabled me to get to my friends Tori & Neil’s house, where I’m staying; then to the KUT radio station for an interview; then for a visit with the Austin crew of Domy Books (where I’ll be signing in Houston); then to Book People, where I gave a presentation and did a signing; and then back to Tori & Neil’s — all without having any idea where I actually was. I never consulted a map or made any sense of the windy Austin roads; I just followed the directions of my handy GPS guide. It reminds me of what it’s like when you’re a kid and you just ride around in the back seat of your parents’ car. You know where you live, and some basic landmarks, but you would have no idea how or where to go on your own. Power without responsibility.