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AWP16 – Night 1

I call it night because there’s a dirty orange now lingering on the mountain line that I can see outside my hotel room window. I’m not sure if LA doesn’t sleep the way New York doesn’t sleep, or if the lights I can see are just suggestions of activity. The point is I’m here. I’m sitting on my hotel bed, on clean white sheets, waiting for my dinner to get here, is disbelief that today is still Wednesday.

See, when I was booking plane tickets I was really torn on when to show up. On one hand, I could get up early (which I did) and make it to the west coast by noon. It would give me time to explore, or whatever it is I’m supposed to do in a city where I know no one and that I feel no attachment to other than because it’s the setting of White Oleander. Or, I could’ve showed up at night, well rested, but terrified of a shuttle driver taking me to somewhere I’ve never seen in the daylight before. So there I was, at my hotel by 1, in my amazing room with a view of the Hollywood sign, antsy to get the smell of airplane travel off of me.

In case you didn’t know, a six hour plane ride will make the best dressed/groomed person feel utterly disgusting.

So I showered and then…

I had absolutely nothing to do.

So I went to the conference center, checked in, and got everything I needed for tomorrow, including a 250 page book outlining all of the 550 panels, readings, and other events scheduled throughout the next three days. Naturally this took about two minutes, and then I was back to not knowing what to do. The problem was I was in a city I didn’t want to get to know intimately. It was too sprawling, too claustrophobic for me to take a liking to the way I have Seattle. I’m sure there are lovely parts of Los Angeles and if I wasn’t under the stress of new experiences I could’ve enjoyed time in the city. Gone to the beach. Did something with my day other than sit at a restaurant alone, drinking a great beer, eating some amazing (and reasonably priced) food while I leafed through the overwhelming number of events going on.

To give you an idea of how overwhelming the number of panels are, I didn’t even know Roxanne Gay was speaking until literally today when my amazing roommate found her in the Big Book of AWP.

Taking this time to relax, though, is really going to help me out in the end. I’m an anxious person as it is, and with my TBI (traumatic brain injury), these long days ahead are going to exhaust me even more than usual. I don’t need to be downstairs in the lobby trying to network already. I don’t need to be wandering around aimlessly trying to figure out this foreign city. Tonight is for me: to get caught up on e-mails, on me. To enjoy the gentle hum of the freeway traffic and to mentally prepare to navigate the thousands of booths, thousands of writers, and the thousands of words that will be spoken by people smarter than me.

Come back for a re-cap of Day #2!

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