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Posts Tagged ‘anecdote’

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.  –  Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

Maggie speaking at LOTR LA 6-5-14Long-time readers know I’m a creature of habit; I tend to keep a pretty regular schedule of eating, sleeping, bathing, working and everything else, even down to which days of the week I usually work on which features of my blog.  So the announcement of such a long tour must’ve taken many of you by surprise; some of you probably wondered whether I’d be able to complete the ambitious itinerary I set for myself.  For over three months (with the exception of a single week at home around the 4th of July) I totally discarded most of my normal habits to drive from coast to coast, living in hotels or guest rooms and eating restaurant food.  The trip was a litany of firsts:  the first time I had ever spoken to people who specifically came out to see me,  the first time I had tried a number of foods, the first time I was ever in many of these cities (or even states), the first time I had ever traveled so far or so long alone, the first time I ever undertook such a major project without any clear idea of how I was going to pay for it.

And yet, despite there being a number of extremely good reasons why it should never have worked, it did.  I embarked on the tour because it was something I felt had to be done; not only did I want to talk about my book, I also wanted to meet people and talk face-to-face with them about why the War on Whores is a spectacularly awful idea, and why they should care about it.  And so I took a leap of faith; like Blanche Dubois I depended on the kindness of strangers, though I achieved much better results than she did.  From practically the moment I left my home people I did not know helped me to plan my trip, arrange my events, pay for my expenses and get where I needed to be when I needed to be there.  People sent me money, invited me into their homes, fed me, gathered audiences for me, listened to what I had to say, bought my book, encouraged me and went out of their way to assist me when I was sick or lost.  Everywhere I went I was made to feel welcome and important, and I was often treated like a celebrity.  It’s an overused phrase, but the experience really did renew my faith in humanity.

The journey took me from west to east and north to south, through hot weather and cold, across wildernesses to the largest population centers in the country; altogether, I logged almost 13,000 miles.  There were days when I was so busy I barely had time to think, and others in which I had nothing to do but catch up on my blogging.  I had experiences that frightened me or made me very nervous or uncomfortable, and others that were among the best of my whole life; I got sick a few times and made a number of new friends.  I spoke to enthusiastic crowds in packed rooms, and enjoyed quiet one-on-one conversations with individuals.  One of these days I’ll write about the whole thing at length for my memoirs, but for right now I just want to let y’all know what an amazing gift y’all gave me by making the whole thing possible; it was literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’ll be thinking about it and drawing on it for my writing for many years to come.

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Grace’s Chili

Next to jazz music, there is nothing that lifts the spirit and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili.  –  Harry James

One of the things I really missed on the road was my own cooking.  I don’t mean that in a vain sense, as though my cooking was better than everyone else’s; what I mean is that I am, as I reminded y’all on Tuesday, a creature of habit, and it feels weird to go that long without cooking.  It’s part of the rhythm of my life, something that shapes my days, and my husband and Grace will both attest to the fact that no matter how tired I am or how busy my day, I insist on preparing a proper evening meal for my family unless I’m either too ill to stand up or we’ve already planned to do something else.  In fact, when I arrived home a week ago today I insisted on fixing dinner, despite having just driven for more than eight hours; it was part of the process of re-orienting myself to my normal life.  That’s not to say that Grace couldn’t have done it; she’s a competent cook herself, and though her repertoire is very limited she does what she does very well.  Today I’d like to share her recipe for chili; though I’m the one who cooks it for us nowadays, she developed it all by herself over 20 years ago and in my opinion it’s the best chili ever.

3# (1.4 kg) ground beef
2 (8 oz/225 g) cans tomato sauce
2 (6 oz/170 g) cans tomato paste
2 sauce cans water
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Ro-tel tomatoes)
1 medium onion, minced
¼ cup butter (½ stick)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) chili powder
2 tablespoons (30 ml) brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons (10 ml) paprika
½ tablespoon (7.5 ml) black pepper
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) granulated garlic*
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) prepared brown mustard
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) sage
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) mace
Tabasco sauce to taste

*If you don’t have granulated garlic, use half as much garlic powder or twice as much finely-minced garlic or garlic flakes.

Brown ground meat thoroughly in a large, deep skillet, then add onions and saute until tender.  Transfer to a large pot and add all other ingredients, stirring well after each addition.  Simmer over low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally.  Serve with crackers.

You will notice that the recipe contains no beans; that’s because we prefer beanless chili.  If you like beans, there is an additional step which must be performed first:  in a large pot cover one pound of pinto beans with water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for an hour.  Then drain the beans completely and add two liters of fresh water; bring water to boiling, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 90 minutes.  At the end of this precooking process, drain the beans again and add them to the chili with all the other ingredients; increase the chili’s cooking time to 90 minutes or until the beans reach the desired degree of tenderness (it won’t hurt the chili to cook longer).

One thing that’s really good about this chili is that when prepared as directed it’s spicy, but not blisteringly hot; however, it’s really easy to turn up the heat if so desired.  You could use the hot Ro-tel tomatoes instead of the original ones, use a hotter type of chili powder (or increase it to three tablespoons), use hot Hungarian paprika instead of the mild Spanish variety, substitute red pepper for the black, substitute horseradish for the brown mustard or increase the amount of Tabasco…or if you really like to live dangerously, all of the above.  The recipe makes enough for six people (nine if you make it with beans), but it also freezes well so don’t hesitate to try it even if there are only two of you.

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Change Is

…changes aren’t permanent, but change is.  –  Pye Dubois and Neil Peart, “Tom Sawyer”

hamster on wheelThough I’m a creature of habit and tend to keep doing things the same way for long stretches of time, that doesn’t mean I never change; if you look back at my columns for 2010 and 2011 you’ll see that my procedures have shifted substantially since then.  Originally, days of the week had no significance, though holidays and months did; over time some features became fixed, and at the beginning of 2012 I started my first weekly feature, “That Was the Week That Was”.  After July I added the “Links” feature on Sundays, then in 2013 I fixed Q&A columns on Wednesdays and reprints of my Sunday Cliterati essays on Fridays.  Harlotographies now appear every fifth Thursday, and guest columns on the second Monday of every month (though this month was an exception due to tour-related scheduling difficulties); as of this May I started featuring my tour diaries every Tuesday.  You might think all this self-imposed structure would create more work for me, but you’d be wrong; it actually makes the Herculean task of keeping up a daily blog all by myself (even the guest columns take editing) easier because it eliminates the need for figuring out what sort of thing I’m going to write for most days.

Needless to say, this summer’s tour made it far more difficult to keep up my usual pace; though I prepublished everything but Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday columns for all of June and July (and a part of August) before I left, that still meant a lot of time sitting in hotel rooms between speaking gigs and driving.  And though I did manage it, there were a few times I didn’t hit “schedule” until just a few hours before publication time (and once when a column actually posted in an unfinished state).  Given that my travel and speaking schedule is only likely to get busier, this shows me a need to once again adjust my procedures to give myself more breathing space.  Fortunately, there’s an easy way to do it:  I discovered a couple of tricks to make writing the “TW3″ and “Links” columns quicker and more efficient, and I also found that the tour diaries were really easy and fast to write.  Given that I will be doing more outside projects, travelling, speaking and the like, I think y’all would welcome a regular Tuesday feature discussing what I’ve done and what I’m about to do, including videos, links to podcasts and all that sort of thing.  It will not only save me writing time, but will also save trouble fitting such events and features into the TW3 column; to me, that’s a win all around.  So for now, that will be the new schedule…until things change again, and I have to change with them.

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New Orleans at NightAnd so we finally come to the end of my first – and almost certainly longest – national tour.  After leaving Kelly’s house on August 30th I spent the night in Tallahassee so as to break up the long drive, and the next day I arrived at Denise’s house in New Orleans.  On Monday night I visited Frank and Olivia; on Tuesday I bought myself three new dresses at the flea market, then went to dinner with journalist Jillian Keenan (who had hosted an event for me in New York); and on Wednesday I visited my old friend Charlie and my cousin Alan, then had a lovely dinner with Krulac.  I managed to leave fairly early on Thursday, and resumed my normal schedule as soon as I got home.

Well, that last isn’t quite true; while I did cook dinner, put the animals in and all that stuff, it’s going to be several weeks before I’m actually back to normal.  For one thing, though I doubled the size of my “buffer” before leaving, it’s entirely gone and will take weeks to build back up to its normal one-month size.  For another thing, very few of the columns published after the first week of July were indexed, so I need to catch that back up.  Then there are bills to pay, a huge backlog of correspondence to answer, the next book to compile, and my November mini-tour to Seattle and Portland to plan; all in all, enough to keep me busy for the rest of the year.  About the mini-tour:  though I did manage to make it work, it was extremely difficult (and sometimes frustrating) to have to plan events as I went along, and I’d rather not have to do that again.  So, I’m going to start working on my plans for the Pacific Northwest immediately; I hope to have my basic dates locked in by the end of the month, so if you’d like me to speak or read someplace please email me next week with the details.  Though relaxation is not in my nature, if I can get the schedule worked out before I leave I at least won’t be quite so stressed.

Given all that, I think it would be a good idea to continue this feature for a while longer; not only will that keep y’all up to date with what’s going on, it’ll also help me to catch up since these diary posts are quick and easy to write.  On the 18th I’ll discuss the tour in general, and on the 30th I hope to have the firm-but-not-set-in-stone dates for Seattle & Portland.  And in the weeks after that, I can keep y’all appraised of the progress on the new book, the mini-tour and any other activities of mine that y’all might find interesting.

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Well, to be sure, what’s one man’s meat is another man’s poison, and the same is altogether as true of women.  –  Henry Fielding, Tom Jones (VII, vii)

Most people understand that everyone is different, and that things which are vitally important to one person may be of no consequence to another.  In fact, some people might invest a great deal of energy in avoiding that which others invest equal energy in seeking.  There are morning people and night people, city mice and country mice, carnivores and vegans, introverts and extroverts.  But it seems as though economics often favors one set of priorities over another, so that the things which are prized by the majority are more expensive – often much more expensive – than those prized by the minority.  That’s usually a boon for those of us with minority preferences, but trying to explain that to those with majority preferences can result in strange looks and expressions of incredulity.

penthouse viewTake real estate, for example; needless to say, property in a city is more expensive than property farther away from one (and the farther out, the cheaper).  I discovered this the very first time I bought real estate: the things I felt were important in a property (such as its size, relative isolation and lack of laws, rules and covenants restricting its use) nearly always reduced its price rather than raising it.  Similarly, my aversion to annoying bells and whistles that make machines far more likely to break results in a preference for less expensive models with fewer options.  Even most of the food I like best tends to be on the cheap side; I find that with a few notable exceptions, expensive restaurants are not usually better restaurants, and that larger numbers in the price column rarely translate into better taste, larger portions, more interesting selections, better service or anything else I value in a dining experience.

During my book and speaking tour this summer (which, BTB, ends today; I’m leaving New Orleans this morning and should be home by dark) I discovered another way in which my priorities are almost upside-down from most people’s:  what I consider the important and desirable qualities of a hotel.  To be sure, I value some things just as much as everyone else; I want my room to be clean and well-kept, with attractive furnishings and a comfortable bed.  I want it to be conveniently situated in a safe neighborhood and to have helpful staff that are available when I need them, and it’s nice if there are restaurants nearby.  But beyond those basics, it seems as though the more expensive hotels are less likely to have amenities I want, and more likely to have qualities I find annoying, unpleasant or even infuriating.

First and foremost, I like to know exactly what I’m paying for a room when I check in.  Obviously, if I were staying in a five-star hotel on someone else’s tab this really wouldn’t matter because I’d still know exactly what I was paying, namely zero.  But that generally isn’t the case, and there’s no better way to irritate me than to subject me to a constant barrage of nickel-and-dime charges for parking, internet, telephone (back in pre-cell days), coffee, things “helpfully” left in the room and other “incidentals”.  Next, I like my privacy; one would think most people do, yet the more expensive hotels are the ones more likely to pry into guests’ business, spy on their comings and goings, and rat them out to the thugs should they decide something is amiss.  Oddly enough, expensive hotels are also busier and noisier than mid-range ones; in my escorting days I discovered that the noise level and number of obnoxious drunks per capita was often almost as high in the four-star places as one would expert in a scary no-star dive.  And since the fancy hotels are often downtown, that means a lost guest is much more likely to find himself on skid row than he would if he were staying in the suburbs.

Hilton breakfastAll in all, I find that I tend to enjoy the two-and-a-half or three-star business-class hotels best.  The rooms are just as clean as in the ritzy places, and the staff friendlier; most of the guests are businesspeople rather than tourists or locals going “out on the town”, and that means they’re quieter and much too busy minding their own business to be minding mine (the staff tends to be the same way).  Many of them have refrigerators and/or microwave ovens in the rooms, and many have free breakfast (which in the case of Hilton properties is really excellent, with lots of delicious choices).  These hotels generally don’t require complicated rigmarole (or entrusting my car to a stranger) to park, and since they regularly deal with accounting departments they know better than to provide amenities a la carte.  And since they are used to dealing with businesspeople, the staff at such places are much more accustomed to dealing with practical issues like “can you print this for me?” and “where’s the nearest post office?” than the staff at the snobbier places…and they don’t have their hands out afterward.

I’m beginning to get a lot more requests for speaking engagements these days, and will thus be staying in a lot more hotels (rather than just visiting for an hour or so) than in the past.  So if you find yourself in charge of making my arrangements, please keep this column in mind; a Hilton Garden or something of that type will make me much happier than a “better” hotel which would cost  you much more.  And I’m a sucker for those delicious fresh cookies they put out for guests in the evening.

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20140829_204721In Atlanta, I felt my first twinge of homesickness; I reckon it’s because I was back in the Deep South, in a city I’ve visited many times, and saw many familiar business names and the like that I hadn’t seen in a long time.  Mancrack (who as you may recall provided the art for my Lammas column) was my hostess, and I got to meet a number of readers both at my Liberty On the Rocks event last Monday, and in private on the night before.  Another interesting thing about Atlanta was that three of the attendees at my event were running for office; perhaps that indicates a strong Libertarian Party in Georgia, but one way or another I think it’s very important that politicians (of any political party) hear about sex worker rights, so I’m really pleased and I’m hopeful for similar attention to future events.

While you were reading last Tuesday’s Tour Diary, I was en route to Tampa Bay, where I stayed with my friend Kelly Michaels.  Since I hadn’t heard anything from any of the people I had contacted in the area, I was expecting just a quiet week of visiting; however, while I was in Atlanta I was emailed by Tampa-area reader Hotlix, who absolutely would not hear of this, and beat the bushes to attract more attention to my visit.  Kelly hosted a potluck supper and discussion group at her house Friday, and Buttons Berry advertised it on SWOP Tampa Bay’s Facebook page; in all eight people in addition to Kelly and I showed up, and it was absolutely one of the best events of the whole tour.  Besides the quality of the participation, everyone really made me feel like a rock star; so much so, in fact, that I was a little embarrassed by it.  I’m really happy to be reaching so many people that they come out of their way to see me; three of them made a two-hour (one way) drive from Orlando in Friday afternoon traffic!  As you read this I’m in New Orleans, but everything I’m doing here is private; the Tampa Bay event was therefore the last public one of the tour, and I couldn’t have wished for a better sendoff.

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purple laptopIf you read Saturday’s TW3 column you already know that within minutes of arriving in Raleigh on the 17th, I was chatting with Rachel Mills on her spreecast, LiberTea.  Rachel and I were introduced by veteran libertarian activist Angela Keaton, and liked each other immediately; she generously offered me her guest room, which made the interview a lot easier since I was already at the studio!  She later mentioned that she was learning photography, and asked if I’d model for her; I of course said yes, and I’ll be sharing some of the other results soon.  FYI, I don’t use glasses to read; I’m nearsighted, not farsighted.  However, I believe in artistic license.

On Monday, my book reading at The Internationalist was rained out; the downpour was, in fact, so heavy that water started coming into the store, but luckily I was wearing sandals so I was able to help out with a mop without risking falling on my arse on a slippery floor.  They were very apologetic, but as I told them nobody can help the weather; besides, as I’ve written before it’s the odd experiences that make a trip memorable, not the ones that go exactly as predicted.  Still, it was nice to get a good book reading in at Flyleaf the next day, and I got to meet two more regular readers.  Eros Guide is currently based in the Raleigh area, so another highlight of my visit was meeting with several members of the staff to discuss not only the work I’ve been doing for them the past few months, but also the future in the current climate of hysteria.  And on a more mundane note:  I’m now back in the South, so I can get sweet tea at restaurants again!

Generally, I haven’t been doing public events on the day I arrive, but that was not so in the Carolinas; I left for Charleston on Thursday morning, knowing I had an event there at 7 PM.  Everything went well, though; I arrived in Charleston exactly on schedule and was delighted to discover that my Priceline-booked hotel was not only on the same street as the restaurant where my Liberty On the Rocks appearance was to be held, but also directly on the route I’d take to Atlanta.  It took me only a few minutes to reach the place, and the group was small but very engaged and highly enthusiastic; it was also one of the quieter venues.  In fact, “quiet” is a good word for my stay in Charleston; on Friday I was able to spend the day catching up from comparatively-hectic Washington and Raleigh-Durham, and getting myself ready for the last two stops before the home stretch.

The tour’s nearly over, but you can still catch me in Tampa or New Orleans; if your city is within a few hours’ drive of those (or between them), you can still send an email asking me to visit, though obviously it’s pretty tight now.  Your request will be more likely to be doable if you can make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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