A long, long time ago, my buddy, the author and illustrator Dave Biedrzycki (pronounced "Smith"), sent me a top secret email that contained email addresses for some of his favorite author visit contacts. As instructed, I read the list, committed it to memory, and ate it - which was more difficult than you might think and resulted in me having to buy a brand new computer, thank you very much, Dave.
After I got the new computer up and running, I sent out emails to those people on the list, detailing the many wonderful reasons they should have me come to their school and talk to their students about how to be an author. Just a few days later, I got an email from Donita Hughes at Grace Lutheran School in Sandy, Utah asking me to come visit.
Donita told me about their annual Author Festival and said that they'd fly me out there to talk to the students at the school.
I thought, "How cool is that? I can get one of those full body searches from the TSA that everyone seems so keen on these days. And probably some peanuts on the plane! I'm IN!"
I made my arrangements, packed my bags, and headed off to the airport. Then I remembered that I still had several months to go before the visit so I went home again.
Last Sunday, all my months of eager waiting were finally over. I headed off to the airport all atwitter with anticipation. And a small measure of dread. I haven't flown in a LONG time and I'll admit that I was a bit concerned by all the horror stories I'd heard about TSA screening. I didn't want to go through the full body scanner (Public Service Announcement: The scanners are OPTIONAL. Anyone can opt out. You don't need extra radiation in your body, people.) and I had heard that the TSA folks made the opt-out process unpleasant. I'm happy to report that all I did was ask to opt out, they took me around, gave me a quick, polite pat down and sent me on my way. No problem.
Once in the airport, I was free to wander around aimlessly until my flight was ready for boarding. My quick flight to Detroit was made even more delightful by two packets of complimentary "Lightly Salted Peanuts - Warning: Contains Nuts".
Detroit Airport, for those who have never had the pleasure, is a garden of earthly delights for the weary traveler. I began my adventure by traveling through the eerily green, throbbing Tunnel of Love.
|Many fellow travelers did not appreciate the disco party I tried to organize.|
But I had a duty to uphold and a school to visit, so I forged onward to the next terminal so I could find my gate. Rising from the tunnel, I beheld...
With several hours until my flight, guess who spent quite some time riding back and forth on the train?
Oh yeah, baby. Reaching a dizzying top speed of maybe 9 miles per hour, I felt like a superhero racing to and fro in the airport, searching for bad guys.
I didn't find any, however. Probably because the TSA guys were busy patting them all down.
Delta also has a help center that graciously provides temporary housing for people who have missed connecting flights.
|I napped here for a few minutes.|
In my wanderings, I also discovered that Detroit is nothing if not generous with its water supply.
After a half hour or so of flushing, I tired of standing around in the stall and wandered off to my gate where I was whisked away to Utah on another flight featuring even more lightly salted peanuts.
Utah–for those of you, like me, who have only been over or around it before–is really, stunningly lovely.
Here's the sunrise view out my hotel room window.
No, but seriously. Look.
My delightful hostess, Donita picked me up and took me to Grace Lutheran School where I was greeted by even more amazing views.
|Has your school got a view like this from the parking lot? If so, hire me so I can come to your school to verify your claim.|
And here I am with Donita. Please note that she is much more photogenic than I.
|A brilliant picture of up my nose and the lovely Donita.|
It was hilarious, but I had to disqualify them because the winning tattoos cannot actually peel off. I'm a stickler like that.
Donita said that she suspected there might be some upset parents if they tattooed all the kids without permission.
I say you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.
We have agreed to disagree on the matter.
They had also created a wonderful bulletin board.
|I seem to have hit a nerve with my dislike of Wal-Mart and cell phones. Sorry, guys. I'm not sure why they object to my barnyard pets, however. Probably because I didn't buy them at Wal-Mart and supply them with cell phones.|
|I particularly enjoyed this child, stranded in this locker in his undies.|
|And this brilliant rendering of a scene from Fame, Fortune, and the Bran Muffins of Doom.|
My new friend Lilly also had me sign her cast.
|Maybe someday she can hock this on eBay.|
The day wound to a close and I staggered back to the hotel (and by "staggered" I mean that Donita drove me) and I suffered through a few grueling minutes in the hot tub. Nobody said that being an author is easy.
Donita picked me up for dinner and reported that I had managed to displease at least one student because I had yet to post anything on my blog about their school. It had, after all, been nearly an hour.
But now it's written. Here it is. So, you happy now, kid? Huh? Huh?
I dragged Donita, possibly against her better judgement, to a great Indian restaurant where we enjoyed a toe-curlingly delicious meal. She then gave me a brief tour of Salt Lake City where I saw, along with the mind-bogglingly huge headquarters of the LDS church, the most amazing spectacle I have witnessed in my entire life:
A single street corner with 3 separate taco carts on it. THREE!!!
I could be wrong, but it appears that Salt Lake City may be the new taco headquarters of the universe.
There was also a Himalayan Restaurant that I'm dragging Donita to if I ever go back to Utah. At least, I'll go there if lightly salted peanuts go well with yak milk.
I saved some from the flight home. Just in case.