Tuesday, June 9, 2015

I can really taste the nutmeg

 I met Judy Blume.

I stood within two feet of her and HAD A CONVERSATION WITH HER.

Oh yes.
I am her friend now. (She said she considers all her readers to be her friends, and I'm one of her readers, so I'm her friend. Shut up.)
It was amazing.
She was as kind and friendly and gentle and funny and sweet as you would expect her to be.

Meg Wollitzer, who is another author I adore, interviewed Judy for this program, and also signed books afterward.
As she signed my copy of The Interestings, she commented about my name being that of the county in Ireland.
She's my friend, too.

And so is Sheri Moore Weppel, who is a lovely example of how online friendships can be rewarding, fulfilling and very real.
You can see how Sheri would be fun to hang out with.

Gary Rith suggested that we become friends, as we both love beagles, books and yoga in all sorts of variations.

We met in real life, so they say, last summer, when I also got to meet the amazing Miss Olivia (and Jason, Sheri's husband and Olivia's daddy).

And then Sheri found out Judy Blume was speaking nearby and invited me to come join her.

It was amazing.

For one thing, it was my first rental car experience. Not my first time in a rental car; I'm not that much of a rube. My first time renting and driving one myself. It was fun. I was worried I would be overly anxious about having the responsibility, but it was fun to drive a little car that was new to me, with a port for my ipod right in the dash, and best of all, return it when I was done.

I saw fun things, like this puppy bar outside a gas station in New Milford, PA.

And not so fun things, like the Lehigh Tunnel, which was under construction and therefore squeezed two-way traffic into one tunnel. I started getting a little queasy going through it the first time, mostly because I wasn't prepared
for it, I think. It wasn't as bad coming back through on the way home. But still, not anything I'd like to do on a daily basis.

When I got to Sheri's, we had fantastic sushi and talked about yoga, then went to a couple wineries and did some tastings. I bought a bottle of Chambourcin, a variety we don't have up here in the Finger Lakes that I enjoyed very much. I told her about when I worked for Dr. Frank's winery one summer and how occasionally we'd just make stuff up during tastings to test how far the power of suggestion would go. The tastings staff would watch for signs that the people in the group weren't terribly experienced with wines, then just completely fabricate, saying things like, "In this one, you're going to get just a hint of black pepper, with subtle spices in the finish. Do you taste the nutmeg?" And inevitably, the tastees (?) would nod vigorously and say, "Oh, yes, I can really taste the nutmeg."

Then we went off to see Judy, with plenty of time to get seats as close to up front as we could. It was in a middle school auditorium, because, really, where better to hear Judy Blume talk? (They probably couldn't fit us all in the school library.) It was so cool to look around and see who came out to worship at the altar of Blume. There were women there with their FIRST EDITION copies of Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret. And others with books whose covers I remember from my school library growing up. There were mothers and daughters there together, girlfriends young and old, even a few dudes. (Sheri and I came to the conclusion that Superfudge seems to be the boys' Margaret.)

And then there was Judy.

She was amazing.

And bless her heart, she stayed to sign every person's book who wanted one signed. EVERY LAST PERSON. There were over 500 people attending the event. Judy stayed for over 2 hours after the program finished to sign books. Sheri and I were among the last dozen people in line (we were smart-
we just stayed in our seats and waited for the end of the line to reach us). Judy was still, after all that, so sweet and genuine and friendly. I thanked her for staying to do this, it really meant so much to her fans. She smiled and said, "Of course I would! I love my readers- I owe them everything!" I said I hoped she wasn't too tired. She said she was either so tired that she would sleep like a log, or so tired that she just cried. I told Judy Blume I hoped she didn't cry.
Her husband George was there, helping out, taking pictures, chatting with the crowd. He looked like a sea captain.

Then, as if anything could be better than TALKING TO JUDY BLUME IN PERSON, we went to a speakeasy called the Bookstore.

It was one of the coolest establishments I've ever been in. There are no signs, just a door that says "Bookstore" down a couple stairs on a side street. Inside, it was dark, with candles flickering in hurricane lamps, glass-doored barrister bookcases filled with old books everywhere, slightly sinister-looking portrait paintings hanging in giant gilt frames in odd places (facing the bathroom doors). The bartender was dressed in a pinstriped shirt and suspenders, and even though the kitchen had closed, he very nicely rounded up some snacks for us- sweet potato chips, fig toasts with goat cheese, a cheese platter. The menus for both food and drinks are pasted into the pages of a real antique book.

So are the rules for the establishment, which in a nutshell, are that you can't stand anywhere- you must be seated (how they get around having all those candles in hurricane glasses), anyone seen playing on their phone while ignoring the party they are there with will be asked to leave, and ordering a Coors Lite is grounds for immediate expulsion from the premises.

I had a William Henry Pratt. It smelled- and tasted- heavenly. Sheri went for the custom cocktail- you pick two words from the menu page for custom cocktails and the bartender concocts a drink for you based on those terms. She picked "berry" and "bubbly" and the result was so good, it could kill you.

The next day we got up bright and early and went off to aerial barre class, which was knee-shakingly hard, but we did some really cool poses in the hammock. Breakfast was, of course, required after such exertions.

I bought Minchy, Frances & Ozzie some souvenir treats at Olivia's favorite pet bakery, The Dining Dog. Then I was off in my little rental car and on my way.

While it was good to be home (although the dogs totally ignored me once they got their mitts on the pork roses I brought them from the Dining Dog) I had so much fun on my adventure and even better, it
Yeah, she's Judy's friend, too.
was wonderful to spend time with a friend "in real life" that you had found through cyberspace. Maybe next time we'll bring our new BFFs, Judy and Meg, along for the ride.


  1. Omg I'm famous now too! I adore you and agree it was one of the best days ever. So glad Gary introduced us and we are friends "in real life". Someday we shall have creamy potato soup and Spanish rice. And I assure you we will taste the nutmeg.

  2. I wuv you both and your dogs even more :) I remember hearing about Judy Blume books when I was a kid, but it did not occur to this boy to read them...but I DID read with great interest her adult (VERY adult) book WIFEY that was on my mom's bookshelf...read that one quite a few times, actually.....