Next Thursday (September19th) my husband Julian and I will be driving to Albany for a four day stay. This may not sound like a big deal to most people, but for us it’s the equivalent of embarking on a trip toEurope,Asia orAfrica in a hot air balloon. Since moving to Maine (nine years ago), getting Julian to budge beyond a ten mile radius of home has been like prying teeth from a tiger – the one exception being going to Malice Domestic most years. His love for this state is touching; he’s not only managed to convince himself that he was born and bred here but that his forebears were early settlers, thus a vacation in Rome which he had previously expressed an enthusiastic desire to visit would now be viewed as an unfortunate detour necessary to getting back home. What if the return were delayed and (heaven forbid!) he let his bridge chums down by not showing on a Wednesday? Or couldn’t show up for his two-day a week job as a night clerk at a local motel… or his cat went into a depression leading to years of expensive psychotherapy?
The reason we nearly always go Malice Domestic is because Julian is as much a book person, to the point of nuttiness, as I am. Being around people who also love to read is happiness. Through the years we’ve met wonderfully interesting and people, some of whom have become good friends. Margaret Maron and I started really getting to know each other while sharing a breakfast table at an early Malice. Neither of us can remember when her husband Joe started coming with her to that and other writers’ conferences. At that time (approximately twenty years ago) there were not many male attendees at Malice, so it was natural they would gravitate towards each other. What delights Margaret and me is that the bond they formed out of necessity developed into a great friendship. She and I were sitting together in the hotel bar (where the conferees tend to gather between panels) when the husbands wandered up to announce that they were going off somewhere. Margaret looked fond at their retreating backs and called after them: “Remember boys – play nicely and hold hands when you cross the street.”
That memory could not be matched by one of seeing the EiffelToweror a guided tour of Versailles. This brings me back to next Thursday’s drive to Albany. I haven’t been to Bouchercon for several years because the timing always seemed to collide with something else. This year there was no conflict on the calendar. When I told Julian I would go, the obvious question followed. “Will Joe be there?”
When I answered in the affirmative, he didn’t declare that he’d always had an unquenchable longing to go to Albany, but his face had a glow to it and I detected a spring in his step as he set up a new file marked – Bouchercon 2013. It was one of those moments for taking stock, so I followed him into his office to make one of my concession speeches.
“You’re right, when you live in Maine, it’s people over places when it comes to vacations.”
He didn’t answer because he was already checking out hotels.
Margaret and I will be on a panel together and I hope concern for our boys will not cause one of us to dry up while discussing why some of the best mystery writers had a dismissive attitude towards their work because their preference was to write something else. It’s the big world out there on the streets of Albany; but sometimes wives just have to let go and keep fingers crossed. It’s a very real fear with me that one day Julian will succumb to peer pressure and experiment with Bingo … or bowling. But surely Joe can be relied upon to steer him into a museum; he is the taller of the two which should make him the more responsible one, or so I shall tell Margaret.