Of course I knew the house would be huge. It was on the same street as the Governor's mansion. I assumed, that given it would be a large party, I would be one of the first few guests, even arriving 15 minutes late.

The street is already lined with cars and I silently berate myself for not arriving earlier and missing prime real estate near the driveway. Of course, it's too dark to tell which house I'll be visiting, so I just take the first available spot near a likely cluster of houses.

Exiting the car is treacherous. I'm parked just under a telephone poll and next to a gutter, both of which are being slowly consumed by a jungle of kudzu. I keep thinking this is perfect fodder for a horror movie. As soon as I leave the car, I'll find there is no house, no party. It's all a hallucination induced by pheromones an alien species of plant-like creatures releases to lure their human prey into the forest. I pull my gigantic flashlight (for emergencies) out of my backseat, take a deep breath, and open the car door.

Its not easy walking in heels for a quarter of a mile. I hadn't realised how far I was. My feet begin to blister, my only solace being a couple I spy ahead of me walking toward a house. 

I try to catch up with them, nearly tripping over myself. Then I look up. I have to cross a bridge over a small creek and walk about another 1000 ft. There, in the misty distance, illuminated dramatically by spotlights is The House. White. Greco Roman Revival. Portico bigger than a space shuttle docking bay. Four Mercedes parked neatly in a row in the driveway. I suddenly wonder if I'll start laughing hysterically when a butler opens the door.

I've been to my fair share of fancy events. For some reason, my brain has never developed an immunity to them. Southern affectations I never had before emerge from my subconscious. I start slouching. I forget how to walk without bumping in to things or my Diet Coke keeps threatening to spill as I'm jostled back and forth between elbows and handbags.

There is china; hundreds and hundreds of orange, blue, and gold pieces all over the house. There are worn tapestries and paintings in the classical style whose signatures are curiously hidden. I am greeted by a woman in dashing gray silk and a gold torc around her neck. The hostess. She is very friendly, encourages me to eat, get another drink. 

I found acquintances, chatted around the usual topics. I tiptoed across the glorious Persian carpets (the family was Persian so of course they had exquisite pieces), afraid my heels would do irreperable damage, though nobody else seemed to care. I stood up while eating my three-course, buffet style meal. There weren't any seats anyway, other than the two Louis XIV gilded reproductions in the foyer. It seems to take a lot of energy out of me to be in places like these, that never have dust bunnies or dead batteries in the remote controls. I like a little dirt under my fingernails, a few moldy oranges in the back of the fridge (well, that's a little gross come to think of it).

Its an awful lot of pressure to live up to these impeccable surroundings. To be as delicate and pristine as the marble patterned floors. It seems wasteful to have such amazing possessions hoarded for the enjoyment of so few. I remember feeling this way when I visited an antiquities dealer on Lexington Avenue in New York a few years ago. He had ancient Greek helmets, Egyptian statuary, Byzantine mosaics for sale, for a price. I took home a brochure that could have mirrored for a coffee table book on ancient artifacts. I poured over it at my uncle's apartment, imagining what might exist for sale behind closed doors. What might I be missing of relics of the ancient world, of the marvelous that are kept in people's country homes and city apartments.

Back at the party, I hadn't had any of the Johnny Walker on offering, nor any of the other alcohol offered copiously by the catering staff, but I was drunk on wealth and like any good drunk, felt a morbid longing. I craved my pajamas, a good book, and a nice cup of tea. 

So, I excused myself to my hostess and my friends and pulled my flashlight out of my bag. The walk back to my car was uneventful aside from a few times my heels got stuck on the lawn. The kudzu remained innocuous as I fished my keys out of my purse. I revved the engine, pulled out of my spot and turned the Saturday night Techno show up full blast. I'd been dropped back into my own world where you had to listen to commercials on the radio, and stop for gas, and honk at bad drivers. I pulled into my driveway, expertly stepped over my tower of shoes near the door, and dropped my purse on the floor. My clumsiness was gone, my accent was gone, and I sighed the sigh of a weary traveler come home.  



I have a tradition with YiQi that goes back about 12 years from our earnest days as high schoolers desperate to be different and just a little bit eccentric. Through thick and thin, rain and shine, we have gone together to bookstores to wander and read book descriptions to our hearts content.

I've mentioned before that I have a rather guilty pleasure when it comes to cheesy books. As a writer, I should hate them. Screw Danielle Steel and her third grade grammar and large fortune in bestsellers. So what if I haven't even written a book before? I've written loads and loads of other things, and I'm sure I could do better than her if only someone would give me a chance. I mean I think a lot of people would want to read a book about my quirky thoughts and feelings. Right? Of course. Thank you.

But back to Barnes & Noble where YiQi and I entertained ourselves earlier this evening. (You'd think that becuase they pipe in classical guitar music that we'd subconsciously choose to behave in a dignified manner and discuss intellectual subjects like avant-garde cinema or sushi-making. Obviously, we're too sly for that little ploy.)

I was practicing my "Scot-ish broooogue" on a Highlander romance novel and YiQi was finding highly excellent typos in sentences. Somebody actually hyphenated "seldom-seen."

I was morally compelled to buy a book that mentions "nostrils flaring" twice in one sentence (the first reference was direct; the second was sort of implied). I decided I needed something to balance my stupid brain cells with my smart ones, so we went over to the sci-fi/fantasy section.

I had in my mind the kind of book I wanted to read, but was overwhelmed by the selection and frustrated by the necessity of looking at each book's binding to see if the title/binding art was appealing enough to get me to pick it up and look at the back descriptions. This was all YiQi's fault anyway. She forgot to bring me Coraline, which I had planned to read this weekend. :)

I want to make it quite clear that I do have principles as regards fantasy/sci fi, just as I do for romance novels: I don't read Robert Jordan, and I don't read any book whose cover portrays scantily clad women riding dragons.

Maybe I shouldn't lump the two together. Robert Jordan (may he R.I.P.) wasn't so very bad. His adventures just exhausted me. First, they found this one thing or person, I can't even remember. Then they had to spend 200 pages finding some other thing or person. They go to some inn and eat good food and listen to stories. Another 600 pages later and they're still traveling somewhere for no reason. At least Bilbo Baggins was trying to destroy the One Ring the whole time.

Another rule I have for reading sci-fi/fanasy, although less important, is to be sure that I don't have to sound-out more than one word per sentence. Dune broke this rule on multiple occassions, but I already was too invested in the outcome by then to care. I also despise writers who just replace perfectly reasonable nouns with random, madeup ones to sound smart.

E.g.: "in the middle of Kuth fastness of Habrigure" (Seriously. "Fastness" was a noun used on the backcover of a book we read today. However, it could have been a typo for "vastness." It was the same book that hyphenated "seldom-seen.")

Since I'm not a prolific sci-fi/fantasy reader, I had little knowledge of authors or series. Too many of the books I picked up had that awful cop-out of getting an author's friends to provide quotes about how great the book is. I hate this. Who the hell is Joe Thomas, author of "The Valiserlaifhg of Kathugurh" anyway?

And why should I take his word for a book's value? After all, if the author can't even get a Publisher's Weekly review for the back, then it can't possibly be worth $8. Yet, this evaluation is complicated by the fact that "Girls With Swords and Magic Powers" book may be the first in a series of 15. Isn't this economic evidence of people liking it? Perhaps, it wouldn't be so bad?

I balk at buying books without knowing whether I'll like them. I also grow very attached to every book I own, whether I like it or not. (I've only thrown away Tender is the Night, and in my opinion, that was an unusually terrible book. For the record, I did not throw out The Old Man and the Sea, even though I could barely finish it for being bored off my bum. Other books I don't need I turn in for credit at a used book store or donate to charity or the library.)

Most of the time, I rely on the library to help me save my bookshelves from further crap infestation. Yet, you can't get good cheesy fiction in the library. Libraries' paperback sections are usually relegated to true crime paperbacks and stories about teenagers with cancer (and of course, my donations).

But, eventually, I found two cheesy books and one semi-smart book, so I suppose I'll be ok. I had to whittle these choices down from five books and I kept finding more along the way. I really am greedy in bookstores. I've decided that when I retire, all I'm going to do all day is hang out at the bookstore and read whatever I want. ::sigh:: It's a lovely dream.