About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

For the first time in a long time, much longer than I can remember and this is probably not a good thing, I took four days off where I did not once check e-mail and tried to minimize the amount of time I even spent thinking about the job. I did have around 100 e-mails waiting when I got back, but the world and JABberwocky seem to have survived.

This was to Connecticut to visit with my family. My parents came up for a few days, and the entire family (less one niece in Israel) got together Saturday afternoon for a seven-week preemie celebration of my mother's 80th birthday. I got her the 40th birthday card I neglected to obtain for her the first time around; that's the kind of guy I am.

My mode of transport to CT is usually Metro-North Commuter Railroad to New Haven then Amtrak to Hartford. I could take Amtrak from Penn Station in NY, but Penn Station is such a pit of existence while the New Haven train station is so nice that I'd rather have time to kill in New Haven if need be. If I have lots and lots of time to kill in New Haven and my luggage isn't too heavy to walk with, I can walk a mile over to the downtown/Yale area. It adds a little time to the trip, but not necessarily a godawful amount, especially since it's slightly quicker for me to get to Grand Central to catch Metro North. And sometimes it's quicker as when on the way back Sunday night the connecting train from Boston to New York was running very very late.

I visited my 73rd and 74th Whole Foods Markets. #73 is in Glastonbury, CT and I was visiting just shy of its 4-month anniversary. It's a "just right" location, big enough for the prepared foods to have some specialness but not so big (like the one in Columbus OH I visited with Tobias Buckell) you wonder where all the customers are supposed to come from. This store has its own in-house bake-house, and while I was there they were taking a big huge disk of dough that looked like some monster from a science fiction movie and turning it into cranberry pecan (I think) rolls. I sampled a four-cheese sourdough bread that was really yummy, and if I thought my younger brother and his family were more the types to enjoy artisanal bread maybe I would have gotten some. The store also makes a sublimely delicious white chocolate brownie that is so good it almost makes me want to move to Glastonbury so I can fatten myself up. The 74th I count with reluctance since it's an old Wild Oats location that was one of the first to be rebranded as a Whole Foods post-merger. Apparently the merger is still a work in progress; I was told by the Prepared Foods Team Member who dished up my small dish of Pete's Ravioli that there's talk of a renovation but who knows when, and that since the store looks the exact same as it did only the contents of the shelves are different that people don't really know if it's a Wild Oats or a Whole Foods or a what. It was very quiet on a summer Sunday while the "real" Whole Foods two miles away in West Hartford center was bustling when I shopped there an hour or two later. Part of me says I shouldn't count the Wild Oats as a Whole Foods, but the sign says Whole Foods and the food on the shelf is Whole Foods, and as I visit other parts of the country (like Denver for WorldCon) I'm not going to know which are conversions and which are real and as they do more renovating the gaps will close. So I'll count them.

Trivia note that Bishop's Corner had one of the earliest B&N superstores before they built them quite as super. It's now closed. There's a new store in West Hartford Center in the Blue Back Square development, and one right across the street from the Borders in Farmington that is always very very quiet compared to the Borders. The staff roster for that B&N on Sunday had only 4 bookseller/cash wrap people on it, so they weren't expecting a throng.

I dump a lot on Borders in this blog, but here to dump on B&N a bit: can anyone explain why the Glastonbury and West Hartford locations of B&N do not have a model on and are not carrying Brandon Sanderson's MISTBORN? This is inexcusable. The publisher will tell me how B&N loves Brandon and sells tons and blah blah blah, and I don't want to hear it. The time they spend trying to justify this for B&N, I'd wish they would spend getting on B&N's case, that, like, in case they haven't noticed, Brandon is one of the top-selling fantasy writers in the country these days, in fact THE WELL OF ASCENSION was Tor's top selling fantasy mass market two weeks ago according to Nielsen Bookscan, and I shouldn't have this overhanging my vacation. Sad to say, this isn't something unique to Tor. There's a form of regulatory capture that takes place in the dynamic between the sales reps at the major publishing houses and the buyers at the major chains just like between the airlines and the FAA. So don't get me started. Today it's B&N, Tor and Brandon, a couple years ago Penguin, Borders and Charlaine Harris, somebody else tomorrow, and some people who've spent time with me know that I can go on about these stupidities at very great length.

The Pizzeria Uno at the WestFarms Mall has closed. This was one of the earliest of the Unos I visited, a fixture on visits to the CT area for me for many many years. PF Chang's is taking over the spot and I'm sure will make the Mall feel much happier with itself, but I will miss the Unos. Happily there is still one by the Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester on the other side of Hartford. There is a general feeling of ennui toward Friendly's amongst my family. Smaller scoops of ice cream, inferior food, not like we remember it. But is it them or our memories that are faulty?

I attempted to play things on a Play Station and did not do very well. Too many buttons. I'm not fast-fingered enough on the quiz game. The karaoke game doesn't do it for me. I did better at Wordigo, which is a word game I would recommend. It's a kind of multi-player solitaire word game.

The blueberry picking wasn't up to snuff. Most years I've been up closer to the 4th of July when the blueberry patch is just opening and there are clusters and clusters that are ready to fall into the bucket. A little harder to find those two weeks in to the season. Lots of fun, still, and it's not like the berries were bad, but it's definitely worth keeping in mnd for next year that earlier in the season is better.

Bradley Airport in Hartford is looking rather shabby. There are some transit systems that use letters for buses and some that use numbers and some that use both, so why does CT Transit think their Hartford bus system will be much the wiser for their expense of converting from letters to numbers?

So them's a few musings inspired by my vacation.


Lisa Iriarte said...

Your summer vacation entry brought back a lot of fond memories from when I lived in the Northeast. Just a couple of suggestions for you, if you are interested.

If you are a blueberry fan and haven't tried the Renault Winery's blueberry champagne, you should give it a go. The winery is located in Egg Harbor City, N.J., believe it or not, and it is the only place I've ever found that makes blueberry champagne. It's delicious, and wonderful for festive occasions, because, well, it's blue!

As for Playstation karaoke, the American Idol version is far superior to the other games they offer of a similar nature. I don't know which one you tried, but singing is one of my hobbies and I think I have most of those games.

Lastly, I have known for some time now that you will be attending WorldCon. My husband and I are attending for the first time this year. Are there pitch sessions at this event, or is this just a mix and mingle type thing? We have read articles and suspect the latter.

Lisa Iriarte

Maria said...

Blueberries are funny--some years they are early to ripen and some later. I try to call ahead to any farm I visit (or check websites) to get a feel for what the crop is doing (any crop really--here in Austin we do more self-pick strawberries than anything.)

Fruits get ready when they darn well please.

I can't believe anyone can go 4 days without checking email...


The Brillig Blogger said...

I couldn't believe it was possible to go 4 days without checking e-mail, but there was a time when I took days off routinely without checking.

No pitch sessions that I know of at WorldCon, though I am supposed to be on a couple panels in their Rising Stars track geared toward new and aspiring writers.