Thursday, February 12, 2009

New York Book Tour Diary 5: Colorful Stockings and the Wages of Sin

Thanks to all of you who managed to read all the way to the end of my day 4 diary for my New York Book Tour for Amorous Woman. Of course, it makes sense that it was a lengthy piece because the day was actually about eight hours longer than usual. This entry will be shorter, because the first part of Friday October 17 was dedicated to paying off my debt to sweet sleep after a dissipated night on the town.

I first woke up at 10:30 am, stiff and chilly from my impromptu collapse on the sofa. At my sister’s suggestion I moved upstairs to her very comfortable bed to catch a few more winks. I had a lunch date with Emerald over at Grano Trattoria, the same neighborhood Italian place where I’d eaten with my sister on Monday, so I set my alarm to allow time for a shower and sank back into a much-needed beauty rest.

The alarm went off, and I stumbled over to the shower, which really did help clear my cotton-stuffed head. I was getting dressed when my cell phone rang. It was Emerald who had also slept in. We agreed to meet for a later lunch and I fell back into bed, hoping I could get cash in enough of those wages of sin to be bright-eyed and cheery for my reading at Bluestockings bookstore that evening.
Again I was blessed in that my appointments were all but a few minutes walk away. Grano was fairly quiet at 1:30 in the afternoon and the charming maitre d’, Francesco, seated us at a corner table—although an elderly couple was lunching within earshot. Emerald ordered pasta with scallops (right, Emerald?) and I decided on the vegetable omelet since it was breakfast after all.

I’m not the kind to chat and tell, but again I was amazed that in spite of the fact we’d only met once the night before, Emerald and I were able to connect so intimately in person. You read plenty of accounts of internet friendships—okay, so this is mostly dating which is different, but still—where you meet in person and the chemistry just isn’t right. Such was not the case with my erotica writer friends. Within moments, Emerald and I were sharing our visions for the ways erotica can heal our society’s sad sex-o-phobia. I know, it sounds kind of grandiose to want to change the world with dirty stories, but I sensed in Emerald the same sincere passion for conveying the truth of our own personal journeys and exploding myths and stereotypes of female sexuality.

In many social situations, I’m the quiet one, the observer, but with like-minded friends, you can’t shut me up and I hope I didn’t talk Emerald’s ear off. The couple next to us kept glancing over, although I didn’t bother checking to see if their expressions showed supportive curiosity or alarm!

The lunch-special omelet was just the thing for a queasy stomach—full of spinach and peppers and stomach-soothing cheese. Francesco brought out another plate of the house-made biscotti, which were again fresh and tender and the perfect conclusion to the meal. I didn’t want the afternoon to end, but Emerald had an appointment uptown, so we walked together to hail her a cab. By now it was getting close to 4 pm and plenty of empty cabs were sailing past us. Emerald put up her hand and a cabbie pulled over and rolled down his window. After a quick conference, Emerald came back to tell me he refused to take her the thirty blocks to her hotel. We were confused. A few occupied cabs rolled by, then another with the “available” sign lit up (or so we thought). But the interaction was the same: I can’t take you where you want to go. I happened to notice the same sort of consultations going on one block down the street—why were taxi drivers suddenly so picky? We were contemplating the subway when finally a cabbie agreed to the trip. Emerald and I said quick goodbyes and I saw her off, feeling very much NOT like a New Yorker.

Well, for us out-of-towners, my sister explained that between 3:30 and 5 when the cab shifts are changing, some drivers are willing to do short runs while they’re on their way back to the garage, but they have to be particular. So what you do is hold up your hand to hail them in the shape of a “C” for “close.” Then you lean forward, not touching the cab so they don’t really have to come to a full stop and shout out your destination. If it’s out of the way, they drive on, if not, they stop and take you. Also the “unoccupied” lights are different, just the side parts are illuminated. So now I know, although in the future I’d probably just take the subway or walk to avoid the hassle.

For most of my trip I usually walked whenever I could. This was for exercise, to work off all of those cupcakes and chocolate desserts, but it was also to reconnect with the city in a way you can’t do by car. In LA I was always at the mercy of vehicles, always watching the scenery slide by through the window like a film. In New York, I was independent, in control of where I was going, right there with the sounds and smells of the place, a part of the city, experiencing my past and my present all layered together. This was definitely one of the pleasures of the trip.

It was already time to get ready for my next appointment, a meeting with a friend of a friend who made a documentary film about a geisha who’d moved to New York. We met at a Japanese restaurant near Bluestockings in the Lower East Side on Allen Street, where I would be reading at 7 pm. It was actually pretty close to The Happy Ending Lounge and made me wonder if the Lower East Side was a more open-minded area of Manhattan (it probably is).

Again I was pleasantly surprised that shy little me could have such a fruitful and exciting chat with a complete stranger. Over Japanese small plates like eggplant with miso and sushi, the filmmaker and I talked about our mutual love of Japan and the challenges of creating art and she bought one of my books, although she wasn’t able to make the reading.

Before long it was time for me to head over to the book store where I would reading with another internet friend I’ve known since 2001, Robin Slick, who is the author of the very sexy novel, Three Days in New York City and the newly-released Daddy Left Me Alone with God, which gives you a glimpse into the rock world from a woman who knows it very intimately. (Check out her unforgettable memoir “Uncle Sammy,” which I’ve never forgotten!)

Here’s the promotional blurb for our event:

Amorous Women in the Big Apple: The Erotica Revolution Comes of Age

Spend a delicious, wasabi-spiced evening with award-winning erotica writers Donna George Storey and Robin Slick who will read from their new novels, starring spirited heroines who embark on life-changing sexual odysseys in Japan and Manhattan. An equally spirited discussion will follow on stereotypes of sexually honest art, the exotic East, the erotic power of women over thirty, and the potential of erotica to make our lives better—much better, indeed!

How can you pass up a chance like that?
Okay, so I’ll be the first to admit that in the course of my book promotion efforts, dealing with independent bookstores has been one of my biggest challenges. But the folks at Bluestockings Radical Books were a radically class act from the start. They were enthusiastically welcoming of our proposal and delightfully supportive and friendly in person. A big row of Amorous Women greeted me at the register as I walked in the door, and I was happy to see a fantastic collection of books of all kinds in their permanent erotica section.

The audience was pretty sizeable under the circumstances. Some were there at my invitation: my sister and her husband, Jeremy Edwards, EllaRegina and the gracious Anne Elliot from Zoetrope. But there were actually some people I didn’t know at all—any of you book promotion veterans will understand what a coup this is!

Robin read first, from the utterly seductive opening scene of Three Days in New York City. I followed with the manga porn section from Amorous Woman (see me looking thoughtful below) and afterwards we took questions, which led to a lively discussion about the politics of book publishing. Chocolate and naughty fortune cookies were passed around and a few books signed. I would definitely read at Bluestockings again and send them big kisses of gratitude for being everything an independent book store should be!
Afterwards Robin, EllaRegina and I decided to go out for some dinner, and although I felt like I’d been eating constantly for the few short hours I’d been awake, my body was interested in the extra fuel. As the evening was just pleasantly chilly, we decided to walk towards the neighborhood of Japanese restaurants on East 9th Street. Again I so enjoyed experiencing New York by foot, especially with the neon lights setting the streets aglow with night's magic. We passed many appealing eateries, all bustling with the Friday night crowds, but we resisted temptation until we reached “Japan Town” and chose a serene-looking downstairs place called Hasaki that had a line of people gathered in the entry way.

Assured by the patient fellow diners that it was worth the wait, we chatted about Robin’s new novel based on her real-life experiences as the muse of famous rock stars and mother of two talented touring musicians. We also talked about the anthology she edited, 39 and Still Holding…Him that includes my story “The First Time.” Soon enough we were seated at our table and I ordered the vegetarian soba noodles, which were light and nourishing. And yes, the restaurant was definitely worth the wait.

Two events down--and they'd gone down smoothly--and one to go at Kinokuniya Book Store on Sunday, but I knew I’d have the next day to relax with no “official” commitments. I would be attending an erotica writer’s gathering at D.L. King’s in Brooklyn and I was looking forward to relaxing with my fellow dirty-story divas. Contrary to the popular image of pornographers, I expected it would be an utterly proper gathering, with nary a whiff of the edgy or shocking.

Dear reader, in that assumption, I was very, very wrong.

Coming next—Does it count as attending a sex party if the action happens in another room?


Jeremy Edwards said...

I was really impressed with Bluestockings, too! (I bought Jolie du Pre's anthology Iridescence while I was there—a book that had been on my "to buy" list for quite a while.)

I still feel bad about having to leave while you were reading, Donna, because of a prev. eng. You were rocking that sizable, enthusiastic crowd, and I wish I could have been there for the glorious climax of your performance! (As I left, I asked EllaRegina, who was sitting next to me, to have an extra climax on my behalf. What are friends for, right?)

Donna said...

Yes, Jeremy, multiple climaxes are a lot to ask, but EllaRegina is always there for a friend in need!

I SO appreciate your being there for me, and btw Jolie was the one who suggested Bluestockings to me. I'm sorry I missed her event. Maybe Swing! will swing through town this spring?

EllaRegina said...

Again, fantastic reportage!

Craig Sorensen said...

Maybe I've said this before, but I so enjoy these posts about the New York tour. I was down that I couldn't make it, but these tales have brought the adventure to life for me.

Thanks for the insight into "cabbie protocol" too!

Verification word = prehoe

I'll leave that one to you your imagination.

Anonymous said...

"I’m not the kind to chat and tell, but again I was amazed that in spite of the fact we’d only met once the night before, Emerald and I were able to connect so intimately in person."

I felt exactly the same way, but I will admit that I had felt such a connection with you online that I did not find myself surprised that I experienced it seamlessly in person with you as well. :)

Ah, I am sorry again I missed your reading the next night. We would have loved to come had we not already made plans. It sounds like you had a lovely time! Yay! :)

Anonymous said...

I love Bluestockings and I'm very sorry I missed that reading.

Coming next—Does it count as attending a sex party if the action happens in another room?

Oh, Man! Now everyone's going to want to come to my writer's salons; I'll have to beat 'em off with a stick. Oh, well, I guess that can always be arranged...

Donna said...

Yes, well, I've seen your toy closet, D.L., so I know you'll be able to handle quite a crowd of clamoring salon-crashers!

EllaRegina said...

D. L. King said...

I'll have to beat 'em off with a stick.

I'll vouch for that stick!

Erobintica said...

Donna, I just love reading your accounts. Walking is my preferred way of getting around, there's so much to see (I even find the garbage interesting). Subway is second. The few cab rides I've taken (at my companion's insistence) have been terrifying - I'd rather walk in pouring rain, hahaha.

Looking forward to the next installment.