Saturday, September 17, 2011

On the road again: Bouchercon, St. Louis, day 3

Let's look at a few pictures.

On the way to lunch yesterday, we passed a building that was boarded up and awaiting renovation. On the boards covering some of the ground-floor windows, someone had painted architectural highlights, like this one.

And this one.

And this one.

The women in these shots are not people I know. I was trying to get the shots, they were walking, and they ended up providing scale. I hope they don't mind.

Where we were hoping to eat lunch was this place, whose name made it irresistible.

Alas, it closed three minutes before we hit it--we were heading to lunch quite late, due to work demands--so I never got to experience the Chili Mac's diner.

Walking late yesterday, just to explore downtown a bit, we encountered the bowling alley at which Bouchercon held its bowling tournament. Yes, a con with a bowling tournament.

You have to admit, though, if you were running a con and for some strange reason had to involve bowling, you'd be pretty darn happy to put it at the Flamingo.

Lunch today was at Mosaic, a fusion place with a more ambitious menu than I would have expected from this area. While most of the dishes we sampled were tasty, and I applaud the chef's fusion goals, I have to be clear on one point: no matter what you put on your menu, these are not frites.

Even with the addition of grated Parmesan and specks of white truffles, you may not call these truffled frites. Truffled housemade chips, sure, but not frites.

I'm glad we've settled that.

Exiting the restaurant, we spotted this rooster sitting outside a second-story window, the fabled St. Louis guard rooster, standing watch over the mean streets of downtown.

Or something.

I'm going with something.

Dinner took us to Stefano's, a little Italian place around the corner from the hotel's outlying ballroom building (this hotel sprawls over three buildings). The pizza was surprisingly good, one of the best I've had in a long time, with all fresh ingredients and a tangy tomato sauce that was simply excellent.

For dessert we tried two variants of a dish that is apparently a local, if not Midwestern, classic: the gooey butter cake. When Jeni's ice creams started selling an ice cream with that name, I thought they had just made it up, but apparently not.

The classic was sweet and definitely gooey.

The chocolate was, if anything, even sweeter and also quite gooey.

Stefano's claims to have won an award for the best gooey butter cake in the area, so I now feel well-schooled in this odd tradition.

Before and after dinner, the con offered live music from writer Max Allan Collins and his band, Cruzin'. They played mostly covers, but the music was fun, the crowd was into it, and I quite enjoyed it. A lovely end to the evening.

Friday, September 16, 2011

On the road again: Bouchercon, St. Louis, day 2

Most of today went to work, so there's not much of note there. Move along.

Lunch was a completely serviceable meal at a local deli, The Edible Difference.

The walk to and from the place gave me time to check out a bit of the downtown. A great many buildings appear to be unoccupied or barely occupied, as if a wind from the depression had blown through here and taken many of the businesses with it. Other streets showed the effects of real estate developers smelling opportunity, with loft-style condos for sale in building after building. The economy has clearly not been gentle with St. Louis.

I was able to catch the Robert Crais interview, and he was quite entertaining. When the questions turned to his work, he was as neurotic as any other writer I know; it seems endemic to the job.

After some more work, we hit the charity auction. People at this con really spend at each Bouchercon's auction, and this year's was no exception: it raised $17K for a local library.

Dinner was a very good meal at a local Peruvian place, Mango. I had not expected to find Peruvian food here, but I was very pleasantly surprised when we spotted this place. If you live near here, definitely check it out.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On the road again: IDF, San Francisco, day 5
Bouchercon, St. Louis, day 1

My day began at 4:30 a.m. after less than two hours of sleep. I'm good at living on very little sleep, but less than two hours is hard even for me. I felt sub-optimal all day, though I managed to do all my work, not miss any connections, and so on.

On the first flight, I was lucky enough to snag an upgrade. Unfortunately, the guy next to me was a surgeon heading to a conference at which he was giving a presentation on some refinements to open-heart surgery techniques. To prepare for his presentation, he watched a real open-heart surgery video over and over and over, frequently pausing it to make notes, on his laptop. So, I had over 90 minutes of bloody surgery video running right next to me, unavoidable if I glanced to the aisle to answer a question from the flight attendant or even just to stretch my neck. Lovely. Not the best treat for a stomach running on no sleep.

In DFW, I managed almost an hour of work in the Admiral's Club and then got a Red Mango parfait for the trip to St. Louis, which was blissfully uneventful.

I haven't been here in many years, but it definitely has that older Midwestern town feel. The "Grand" in the hotel's name must apply only to the common areas, because it certainly has nothing to do with the room. The whole place has the worn, tawdry feel of an aging hooker in dresses way past their best days.

I'm also fed up with bandwidth in upscale hotels. The places charge you a ton, and then the bandwidth sucks. That's been my experience in both hotels this trip. If they're going to touch you for $14.99 a day, as this one and the last did, you should at least get a great connection. Cheaper hotel/motel chains provide better bandwidth for free. Very frustrating.

I'm now registered for Bouchercon and hope to be able to attend some of it tomorrow, though right now I have three calls scheduled at times spread out enough that they will control the day. So it goes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On the road again: IDF, San Francisco, day 4

You saw it here first.

I did say it was awesome. Did I lie?

BTW, click on it to see a larger image, and then zoom into the eyes.

I'm psyched by this cover.

Of course, I still have to write the book. There is that little detail.

Dinner, the only part of the day I can discuss, was an absolutely scrumptious meal at Quince, whose chef, Michael Tusk, just won the Beard for Best Chef - Pacific.

I have to get up in less than three hours, so that's it for today.

How about that cover, eh?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On the road again: IDF, San Francisco, day 3

You can read about this conference online, and I can't talk about any of our clients, which means most of the tech industry, so I have nothing to share about IDF's content. I will say that the show's organizers have their logistics down pat this year, with everything from the bandwidth to the lunches to the crowd control flowing smoothly.

Almost all of the day went to work, so this will be short. The lone exception was a lovely dinner at Spruce, where we ate too much but had a good time. (The cab line at the hotel, on the other hand, was far from lovely.)

Oh, yeah: I can't show it to you yet, but I have now seen John Picacio's final artwork and Jennie Faries' final design for the cover for No Going Back, and it is...what's that word...oh, yeah:

I hope to be able to post it here soon.

Monday, September 12, 2011

On the road again: IDF, San Francisco, day 2

My appointments for today canceled, so given how my stomach felt during the night, I stayed in my room working and resting until late afternoon. After registering for the conference and talking a while with Cameron, who's on this part of the trip with me, I did as always: worked some more.

By dinnertime my stomach felt close to normal, so we headed off for our now-traditional pre-show dinner at Max's. The patty melt was as greasy and good as always. I'm paying a bit for it now, but only a bit, so it was worth it.

Tomorrow, the show starts. By not doing much today, I seem to be back almost to normal, so with luck, the day will pass largely without stomach pain.

Because I have so little to report, I will share with you this song, which Sarah turned me on to. She's once again led me to another group I look forward to enjoying. I hope you like it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On the road again: IDF, San Francisco, day 1

After a completely inadequate three hours of sleep, I headed out to fly on 9/11. Memorials were on every screen throughout the airports, on every news site--everywhere. It was disturbing and moving and brought back my own memories of the day. The air hang heavy with grief and remembrance. Some folks suggested that I should not fly today, but to me avoiding air travel on this day would have been a form of giving in, and that would be wrong. I was pleasantly surprised to see full flights and life going on as usual.

I awoke with either a stomach virus or, my guess, mild food poisoning, which led to urgent bathroom needs throughout the day. Plane flights and those needs do not go well together, I can most definitively tell you.

Aside from that problem, the flights went well, with an exit row aisle seat on one leg and an upgrade on the other. I always hope for a Red Mango break in DFW, but my connection today was too short to permit that.

Aside from a short trip out to buy some soda and water for my room, I spent the evening in the hotel, eating room service, working, and staying close to the bathroom.

I hope to feel normal, or at least much better, tomorrow morning.


Blog Archive