In which I give Lathea a heartattack

I grew up with very bad dad jokes, and they have definitely rubbed off on me. So yesterday I told what I thought was an innocent but bad one to Lathea. It turned out slightly better than anticipated, or worse, depending on who of us you ask.

This is the background: my tour ends on May 24th in Denver. That is the last event. Then I am staying a night at the hotel in Denver, booked by my publisher, and on Saturday 28th my publisher have booked my last flight to Portland, Oregon, where I will stay on for a bit to do some reasearch. That leaves three nights in Denver. My plan was to just find an hotel, read, rest, so that when I get to Oregon I’m in good shape for some work. As for hotel-bookings, I always book them at the last possibly minute. It limits the available options, hence making decisions easier.

However, I had forgotten that in my publisher’s system, and Lathea’s schedule, there suddenly appeared three un-booked, mysterously empty nights in Denver, when they didn’t know where their confused Swedish author would be.

“Have you booked an hotel yet?” asked Lathea, some days ago, possibly a full two weeks before they would be needed.
“Duh, no”, said I. Two weeks! Really.
Then I realized that this was not only about me. “This is making you nervous, isn’t it?” I asked her sympathetically.
“A little bit, yes”, Lathea lied, while freaking out internally.
“I’ll book the hotel. Don’t worry. I’ll get right to it. And if nothing else I can always sleep at the train station.”
“Not funny, Katarina”, said Lathea, which should have kept me from making my next joke, but didn’t.

So I booked the hotel. I like Lathea. She’s taking a rare week off next week, and I didn’t want it to be ruined by worry over her Swedish author sleeping on train stations.

“So I booked an hotel”, I told her yesterday. “I sent you an email about it, but didn’t forward the actual confirmation.”
She looked at me. “Then how will I know you’ve actually booked an hotel?”
That’s her level of organizastion, and how much she trust me. I just couldn’t resist.
“Relax”, I said. “I’ve booked it. The nights were between the 21st and 26th, right?”

See. A typical dad joke. Bad. Obvious. Warranting only the weakest of laughter.

Except Lathea wasn’t laughing. This in itself is not surprising when it comes to dad jokes, but Lathea is polite and professional. She always laughs at my jokes. She’s might be paid extra to do it. So I glanced at her just in time to see a series of horrified emotions flitting across her face. I could see her thoughts as she had them, all mixed up, each worse than the previous. They went something like this:

– I’m a professional. I can think of a diplomatic way to tell my author that she’s an idiot
– Oh my God, I can’t believe she can’t even make a hotel reservation
– Oh wait. Yes, I can
– It’s more than a week from now, we can change the reservation
– It’s probably easier if I just do it myself. I’ll print her a new damn schedule, and just do all the bookings…
– Oh good God, before I leave for my vacation. But that’s all right, I don’t have to sleep
– She’ll still call me in the middle of the night during my vacation from the bench of a trainstation, won’t she?
– She’s an idiot
- Lathea, you’re a professional, you can’t say that

By this time I was of course stroking her arm, telling her: “there, there, it was only a joke. I’m sorry, I’m sorry” so the thought process gave way for a laughter that was part hysterical and part relief.
“You got me there”, she said, five minutes afterwards, still laughing shakily.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry”, I said.

I guess my bad dad joke hit slightly closer to the truth than I had imagined. I forgot that: a, she’s worked with authors for a long time and b, by this time she knows me.

“I’m suffering from PLASD”, she said. “Post Lost Author Stress Syndrome.”
“There, there”, I said. “There’s always therapy.”

I enclose this photo from the good old days, when we were still friends and she still liked me.

A Swedish Day in Excelsior, Minnesota

It’s interesting that I had to travel all the way to Excelsior, Minnesota to meet fellow-Swedish author Fredrik Backman, but so it was. We participated in a Swedish event, and it was the first time I ever heard him speak. He was of course hilarious; anyone who’s read his books or his blog knows this.

Among other things he joked about the possibility that he would one day write a book with aliens in it, and I couldn’t help but ask: will the aliens be actively aggressive like Ove, or passively aggressive like Britt-Marie? Both, he answered.

So now I can’t stop thinking about it. Just imagine what an alien-filled novel by Fredrik Backman would be like! I hope he writes it one day, although I have promised myself not to email him constantly asking him whether or not he’s started on it yet.

There were Swedish cookies, of course. And a dog! The event was led by Pamela, a wonderful woman who somehow managed to keep both of us in check, gently moving the conversation along. Before she asked us how to pronounce our names (a common question, Bivald not being an easy one to say) and added: “I’m probably the only one at the event who doesn’t have Swedish ancestors.”

Possibly the only one in the state, I thought. An interesting side-note: there used to be a lot of people with German ancestors in Minneapolis and Minnesota, but most of them disappeared or turned Scandinavian during the first or second World War. It’s a strangely sad story,

Anyway. It was also very interesting to meet a Swedish writer abroad. I came with Lathea, my keeper, and he came with his entourage, that is, his agent and his publicity-person, and it was very much like to dogs on a leash greeting each other.

“How’s your tour going?” he asked. “How long will you be here for?”
“Oh, about three weeks”, I answered. “How about you, when are you leaving?”

And then Fredriks publicity person said: “Fredrik! They’re waiting for you!” and then Lathea came up to me and said, “Katarina, time to work” and then naturally we both did what they said.

And I got a signed copy of My grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry, the book Backman said meant the most to him.

Fredrik Backman!

“We could have gone to Vegas, but no, she wanted to come here”

I am writing this at Hampton Inn just outside Alb.. oh, hell, you know where I am. I was just outside for a coffee break, where I ran into this marvelous woman who was apparantely traveling with what I now assume is her sisters or cousins or relatives.

“We could have gone to Vegas, you know, but no, she wanted to come here. She wanted to go to bingo. ‘Cause there’s no bingo in Vegas, right? But she wanted calm, I guess, and Vegas is not that. It’s her birthday, so we all came here. One of us is from California, and another from Arkansas, and well, all over the place.”
“Do you always travel together for birthdays, then?”
“Since our mother passed away. We have very few deaths in our family. People live to their eighties or nineties. Our mother was eighty when she passed, but it still came as a surprise. So we decided we needed to start celibrating birthdays. But there’s a whole lot of them coming up in the next month. Can’t travel on all of them. But people just choose a month, and we go there. When it’s my turn, we’re going to Canada, and they’ll have to come, because I came here.”
“Where in Canada?”
“Niagara Falls. But it has to be the Canadian side. My birthday is in October, but you can’t go there then. But the minute the snow disappears, we’re off. And I’m gonna give them lots of advance warning and time to plan. At least six months.”
“That’s nice of y…”
“Give them no excuses. They can bring their husbands if they like.”

After that she talked for a while about insurance and Obama care, and then my cigarette was finished, and she said: “well off you go. Have a nice one” barely without interrupting her monologue. She might have continued without me, I don’t know.

Nobody’s perfect

It’s good to be reminded of this simple fact in life, that none of us is perfect. Not even Lathea, as I was reminded forcefully yesterday.

Lathea, the organizational wonder who’s put together my beautiful Schedule and then makes sure I get to the right place at the right time and ends up at the right gate on O’Hare. It’s difficult to believe that even she is human, but there you have it. She is.

I was telling her about the great coffee place I found in Decorah, but I never got very far. I had barely began it, telling her about the difficult decision between Americano and just regular, drip coffee.

“Drip coffee?” said Lathea.
Naturally, I assumed I’d used the wrong word. “Filter coffee? Regular coffee? What do you call it?”
“I have no idea”, said Lathea. “I don’t drink coffee. The day I have to make coffee for a meeting is the day I get in serious trouble.”

Not only you, I thought. Also the people at the meeting.

But I forgave her, of course, since it’s what friends do, and besides, perfect people are very boring.

A moving and touching reunion

On Friday I met up with Lathea to go from BEA to New Mexico, to visit beautiful bookshop The Bookworks in Albuquerque (it took me three attempts to spell that, and fiften to learn how to pronounce it).

Lathea had not been to the BEA this year, so it was some three days since we last saw each other. Naturally, it was a very moving and touching reunion.

“Katarina! Katarina!” cried that familiar voice, somewhere behind me at the O’hare airport. “You’re going the wrong way!”