This is what 48 hours in Chicago looks like:

1.  You meet Lyra, whom you’ve never met, (but who cares) for lunch.  Falafels.  The best pickles you’ve ever had.  This is all you’ll remember about eating.  The pickles.  You adore her.  Lyra.  Lunch hour feels like lunch minute.

2.  You spend all day Saturday — even though you’re meeting your daughter for lunch and going to a wedding — reading Joan Didion’s latest book.  You start and finish BLUE NIGHTS and are not quite sure what you think of it.  Even though you can not, not once, put it down until you’ve read the every last sentence.

3.  On the way out to the wedding, you’re coming out of the elevator in your hotel as Jonathan Franzen —- Jonathan fucking Franzen —- is coming in.  Your husband says, “Did you see ….?” and you try hard (dressed in your fanciest dress, spike heels, dots on your pantyhose, feeling like a sausage squeezed into it’s polyester casing) not to scream, “Yes I see Jonathan FRANZEN!  I’m not fucking blind!!!!!!”  (okay, you might actually say this out loud)

4.  Next thing you know, Mr. Franzen comes back out and hails a cab.  He’s tall, you think.  Handsome.  It occurs to you that you don’t have a purse, no paper no pen.  Goddamn it!!  You stare down Mr. Franzen, he looks at you, you look away.  You focus in on the stiff white cuff of your dress sleeve.  You touch it.  He could sign this, you think.  He could!  Would he do it?  Would you?

5.  At the wedding reception, the bride and her groom (a 25 yr old Marine) are announced:  Mr and Mrs.  They glide, kissing, under a canopy of other Marines’ swords.  You recall the Didion book, which opens on her daughter’s wedding anniversary.  Joan’s daughter, with her long blonde braid, is years dead.  “Seven years ago today we took the leis from the florist’s boxes and shook the water in which they were packed onto the grass outside the Cathedral of St. John the divine on Amsterdam Avenue.”

6.  At today’s wedding your Marine groom, in his dress uniform with medals, will be going to Afghanistan.  Back to Afghanistan.  For his 2nd tour.  The bride and groom dance their first dance to “Moon River.”  You cry.  You cry like a fucking baby and you can’t stop no matter how you try.  People say “awwww,” with concern, and ask how you know the bride.  You stuff it down.  “Moon River” was your mother’s favorite song.  The groom is going back to war.  His bride, on the dance floor, has a long, blonde braid.  Your mother, gone.

7.  You text message a friend that you’ve just seen Jonathan Franzen.  She texts back:  Did you tell him you hated his book?

8.  You recall Joan Didion’s author photo on the back flap.  So frail, so pretty.  It doesn’t matter if her book is good, does it?  She’s Joan Didion.  You’ve read most of her books.  You’ve read THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING a few times.  (okay, maybe 5 or 6)  (okay, maybe 10)  You will read this new book, BLUE NIGHTS, again and you know it.  “Good” does not matter in the equation.  The style gets to you.  Joan gets to you.

9.  At the wedding reception, you tell the young gal sitting next to you about Mr. Franzen, that he’s staying at your hotel.  This is how you stop the whole crying thing.  The distraction.  I don’t know him, she says with a thick southern drawl, and leans over to her in-charge husband, yelling over the band, DO YOU KNOW A WRITER CALLED BOB FRANZEN?!  The husband, in his tux and bow tie, yells to you, NOOOOO.  What does he write?  You ask where they live.  The drummer in the band bangs his cymbals!  You ask how they know the bride.  You ask how they met.  You ask what they do, how many kids they have.  The answer is 3.  Three kids under 10.  You’re all dried up.

10.  You spend Sunday with your writing group, at a book store called “The Book Cellar.”  The day goes by so damned fast you don’t know how it gets to be 5 pm.  You recall inhaling a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.  A mocha latte, no whipped cream.

11.  Roger Ebert is there, at the book store, signing his latest memoir.  You’re afraid to interrupt, to bother him, but you ask if he’ll take a photo with the 4 of you.  He nods, grins.  His wife, Chaz, says, “Yes, yes!  He wants to personally sign your books.”  When you tell them you’re a writing group, from other cities, and that you’ve never met, in person, before, Roger smiles huge and gives his Thumbs Up.  Chaz says slowly, Wow, that is so great.  She is so lovely, so sincere.  The camera flashes twice.  (photographic evidence here)

12.  AmyG and Sherry need to get on the road for the long drive home.  It’s almost dark.  Your writers’ day is over.  Hugs all around.  Where did the day go?

13.  You and Lyra can’t go home yet.  You look for a place to have a beer.  You’re convinced the first bar is too quiet — the smell of stale smoke and beer, the low stench of old men, a row of slow pedofiles lined up on barstools.  The bar is called “Ricochet.”

14.  Down the street, the 2 of you settle on a screaming sports bar full of New York Giants fans.  You can’t hear each other.  The girlfriend at the hightop next to you seems to have it in for Lyra from the minute you sit down.  The evil eye.  You hold your ground, drink your beers.  The game goes down to the final 10 seconds …

41 thoughts on “Ricochet

  1. amyg


    roger ebert.

    (just in case, i’m going to spell this one out: four writers—who have yet, but will make it as novelists—show up from four different states and the best known critic of storytelling is there to give them a thumbs up.)

  2. Catherine

    Great post! I really liked the beat and the way you transfer emotion to the reader so effortlessly. Also sounds like you had a powerful weekend! Ciao cat

  3. macdougalstreetbaby

    This is some great stuff, Teri. One of your best posts yet.

    That scene of you crying at the table and then trying to strike up a conversation with the woman next to you about Jonathen Franzen is so perfect. You got me crying and laughing, too.

    I heard Joan Didion on NPR the other day. She said that it’s impossible to work through things unless you write them down. I’m totally with her on that front.

    1. Teri Post author

      I was standing outside the hotel, with no pen or paper!, remembering that Joan’s husband used to say you’re not a writer if you don’t carry a pen and note cards.

      Hey, I was lame, but it occurs to me now that maybe my friend Bob Franzen would have had a PEN!

  4. Sarah W

    I’m going to the next meet-up if I have to call in dead and walk.

    What a wonderful weekend! Lyra, Joan Didion, Jon Franzen, a bittersweet wedding, two free characters for a future story, amyg, Sherry, Roger Ebert, and more Lyra . . .

    Thanks for sharing!

      1. Averil Dean

        Even if I have to sell a small child. (Blond, male, could put a high price tag on his little ear. . . .)

        How lucky we are to be writers, and not, like, hairdressers or something. The stories you girls have written are almost as good as being there.

        But next time, I want in.

  5. Jennifer Sanford

    Very well written, Teri! I love Chicago and Joan Didion and you. (secret: I have never read JF :0 )

    1. Teri Post author

      1. I thought about you because I know you love Chicago!

      2. I think you would like JF, aka “Bob Franzen.” My texting friend was right — I didn’t care for either of his books. But I do think he’s brilliant …. The conundrum.

  6. Lyra

    Oh, my dear, the love.
    Thinking on it now, you really should have had Bob Franzen sign the cuff. It would have gotten you out of so much awkwardness as people questioned what you had on your sleeve, and Mr. Teri could pat your arm and mouth to the dazed and confused, “Bless her heart. She’s not well…”

    Moon River is my dad’s favorite song. Chances are?

    That Giants fan loved me! Hehehe.

    I have a fantastic picture of you and Mr. Teri. Will send.

    I miss you already.

  7. Downith

    You had me at falafels.

    Wow, just Wow – the whole post, the meetup, the wedding scene.

    And I love this bit “You spend Sunday with your writing group” . . . like it’s just one of those things you do.

  8. lizisilver

    Love it- the writing group, the whole weekend, the Mr. Teri, I could go on but I’ll just be repeating your story back to you because I love it ALL. I was thinking of you guys all weekend.

    And I have an excruciating confession to make… the emails we sent back and forth re Franzen? Well, I was so giddy about FTF that throughout the whole exchange, when I used an inordinate amount of exclamation points to proclaim my love for Franzen, I was actually writing about Jonathan Safran Foer. To be clear: “I am in love” with Jonathan Safran Foer, not Franzen. Foer is the sundae who doesn’t even need a cherry, not Franzen. Ahem, sorry about that. How embarrassing, gushing over the wrong man…

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  10. Princess Sisi

    So, I’m such a tard that I’m just now finding all your blogs and really having fun. Christmas! Loved the account of the enchanted weekend. Remind me to tell you about my Franzen encounter some time…

    1. Teri Post author

      And I’m thinking you’ve never ever been a tard of any kind.

      Over a glass of wine (or 3) at AWP, the Franzen talk.

  11. Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

    I agree with MSB–one of your best posts ever, Teri. I loved reading not only about our afternoon together but about your whole weekend–from the close encounters to the tearful ones.

    My only regret about Sunday is having to cancel my hotel stay. Next time, I’m sticking around to drink some beer…

  12. erikamarks

    Okay, so I just reread THIS POST like 5 or 6 times because I was having so much fun. I laughed out loud easily three times that amount.

    I have to wonder if Mr. Franzen would have been half as well-mannered as Mr. Ebert in the moment of a graceful request…

    And of course, getting to come home to JoJo…

    1. Teri Post author

      Erika, I kinda like that I don’t know. I’ve heard some awful stories lately about writers and I want to put my head down and pretend I don’t know….

  13. Laura

    This post was amazing! Seriously. I laughed and smiled and almost felt like I was there with you guys. (I also always have been a sucker for second person handled artfully.)

    The saddest part was, of course, your interaction at the wedding. Which reminds me: I recently told a few acquaintances about my collection coming out, and I threw in a few self-deprecating comments about how it’s no big deal because hardly anyone reads short story collections anyway (I know, I know, I was being a Negative Nancy). Then this happened:

    Acquaintance: “You’ll be fine! People totally read short stories. You’ll be just like that guy who struck it big with his collection of short stories….let’s see, he wrote about his father….and their interactions…his dad says the funniest things, what’s it called….”

    Me, sputtering in disbelief: “You mean SHIT MY DAD SAYS?”*

    Acquaintance: “THAT’S IT! See, people still read short stories!”

    I drank the rest of my beer in three seconds flat.

    *I have nothing against the Shit My Dad Says stuff — I think it’s funny. It’s just not, you know, what I do. At all.

    1. Teri Post author

      What!? WHAT!?!?!?

      Your book is not like Shit My Dad Says! I’m canceling my pre-order….

      Really people. Really? I’m so sorry, Laura. Idiots.

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