May 2, 2011
I had a really fun time at the Festival of Books, even if I only got to spend a few hours there. The place — it was total book and reader nirvana. Imagine hundreds and hundreds of booths spread over the USC campus, all of them filled with publishers, authors, booksellers, comic book publishers, dealers of every kind. And a half dozen stages, hosting everything from poetry readings, panels of YA authors, and Barbara Eden talking about her new memoir. I missed Barbara Eden because my signing was at the same time, but I did catch Rick Springfield, who was awesome. (During the Q&A, some kid asked, “Did you ever get to date Jesse’s girl?” Rick looked at him, smirked, and said, “There’s one in every crowd, isn’t there?”) My favorite gift-book publisher was having a 30% off sale, and I’m afraid I committed some shopping. Not so much that I couldn’t carry it all back on the plane with me, thank goodness.
Speaking of which, the trip home got a little surreal. As soon the plane landed in Denver and people switched on their phones, the murmuring started. Variations of “They got him.” and “Bin Laden.” All the people with smart phones were getting texts, tweets, e-blasts from CNN, what have you. I’ve never been out and about in a public space when a big news story hit — I’ve always been at home, and gotten a phone call or a knock on the bedroom door to let me know that something was happening. This was a strange explosion of consciousness — everyone on the plane suddenly knew immediately that something had happened. In the airport, I called my mom to let her know I’d landed, and she said, “Did you hear?” Well, I’d heard something. No details. As I said, surreal — I was plugged into this cloud of common knowledge, but only part way. She filled me in. BBC World Service on the radio did the rest on my drive home.
I have to get this off my chest: I’m a little appalled at the celebrations as shown on the news. This isn’t a hockey game. Satisfaction at getting the job done is one thing. But a party? I don’t get it. This is war, and this strike — by all accounts textbook and professional and highly successful — had a high cumulative cost, in nearly a decade of battles waged (literal and figurative) and lives lost. And it isn’t over yet. Of course this is a significant event. Of course it needed to be done. But I don’t feel like throwing a party. Mostly, what I’m feeling is a huge amount of respect for US Special Forces. Those guys are pros, and if I celebrate anything, it’s them, in recognition of all the training and hardship they go through so they can do jobs like this. Thanks, guys.