Saturday, September 17, 2005

Great cheers resound around the shed, crowds pressing in around men in orange plastic aprons, as they throw giant fish across the crushed ice. This is the traditional throwing of the fish at the Pike Street Fish Market in Seattle.

We are back again today to buy some cajun smoked salmon to take to Sacramento. Our impression that this city on the extremities of the Pacific north-west is like our home town of Glasgow is increased by the rain which has been falling overnight. The sky is heavy and grey, and spitting its threat of further rain into the gloomy morning.

We walk back down the hill to the Seattle Mystery Bookshop on Cherry Street, two minutes' walk from our hotel in Pioneer Square. The staff there are great - friendly and welcoming. This is not so much an event as a drop-by signing. Some people come in and buy books and I pose for some photographs, and sit at a table groaning with "Firemakers" to sign them.

Then off to the airport. A collector bus picks us up at the hotel and drops us off on a street corner to wait for the shuttle. There is an older couple waiting there. She is agitated because she has to make a bus connection at the airport at 3pm and it is already after two, and the bus is late.

We get talking - about where we've been and where we're going. The couple are amazed when we tell them. Why are we ping-ponging around the country like this? I explain about the book tour and the man becomes interested. He is a great reader, he says. He loves mysteries. I tell him that "The Firemaker" is a mystery, and La Patronne gives him one of our trifold leaflets. "I'm going to buy this book," says the man. "I really love mysteries." The woman with him - his girlfriend, it turns out - sees my picture on the leaflet and her eyes open wide. "That's you!" she says to me stabbing the photograph with an excited finger.

I agree that it does look like me.

The man introduces himself. "Howard Noah," he says. 'I'm heading for San Diego." But his accent sounds east coast. I tell him we'll be in San Diego in just over a week. Maybe he'd like to come to the book event at "The Mysterious Galaxy" bookstore there. But he says he is leaving on the 24th to go home, and asks if we've ever been to Boston. I tell him our last event of the tour is there. He gets excited. "I come from Boston," he says. "Whereabouts are you going?' Cambridge, I tell him. His eyes open wide. "I live in Cambridge!" He is really excited now. He knows Kate's Mystery Books, which is where I will be speaking. "I'm gonna be there," he says and shakes my hand.

It's a small world. Even in a country as vast as the US.

We get, finally, to the airport, to be greeted by even greater chaos than usual. We are flying Air Alaska, who are just turning over their entire operation to e-tickets. Unfortunately we have paper tickets and have to queue up for over an hour to get boarding passes (they are training staff and are unbelievably slow) - and even then we have to drag our cases off to another queue to check them in. Everyone in line is getting severely agitated.

Worst of all is a girl with a huge pet carrier on a trolley, a dog lying sedated inside it. She has arrived in good time for her flight, but having to wait so long to check in they now tell her that she is too late to board the plane. She is in tears. Everyone in line wants to smack these Air Alaska people in the face. They are rude and unsympathetic. I don't know if the girl ever got her flight. She was still at the desk when we left.

But I do know we will never fly Air Alaska again.

We take off into the dying day. A line of deep red traces the western horizon. A full moon rises in the east, casting its silver light over an ocean of cloud above which rises the peak of a snow-covered mountain - an island in the clouds. It is magical.

Even more magical, is Susie's smile as she greets us at baggage claim in Sacramento. We fall into her arms and feel like we have come home.

I am eighteen days into this thirty-eight day trip. But really only the first third of it is over. Now comes California, with multiple stops down the coast, And then the final third - the drive up the eastern seaboard from Washington DC.

I am so tired, and after several glasses of wine, La Patronne and I sleep like we haven't done in days.

The next phase begins.

A fish thrower in Seattle

With staff at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Quel plaisir de suivre le feuilleton au jour le jour!!! Suzie semble être une hôtesse fantastique et les photos donnent très envie de venir vous rejoindre.
On a hâte de vous revoir tous parmi nous et d'avoir la belle équipe réunie dans le Lot...
Laurène et Roger