For a period of time, my husband attended real estate seminars. The slideshow would begin with copies of checks shown, and the preliminary talk of riches without concrete methods cited, coupled with the boisterous rah-rah’s was such a turn-off; I’d leave the room. As a result I spent a lot of time standing, pacing or seated in the hotel lobby. We traveled to Mississippi, Massachusetts, California, Florida and Texas. Up until then my only time in the Lone Star state had been in Houston 20 years prior. Dallas with so many big-shots garbed in their suits and cowboy boots, was so different from the rest, that it left the biggest impression. At that time I was working on a novel, which didn’t sell, but from which I took the character, which went into a short story that I did sell. I felt my main character would have a high- moral background and be a force in the fight for human rights and racial equality. And so while my husband and his buddies listened to real estate tycoons, I read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, which was very long, but interesting. I can safely say I was the only person at the seminar, reading material not related to real estate, but people were friendly and, when they came up to me, seeing the length of the book, they would say, WAR AND PEACE? That always struck me funny. As though there was only one long book in this world.
These seminars took place before the recession. I would watch the attendees (the majority were men) as they spoke of a strong economy and the great country we were living in, of guns and hunting, and I knew I was around Republicans. Although my liberal sensibilities were ruffled, I felt they were worthwhile conversations. Some of them were also idealistic and poetic. The luxurious hotels smelled strongly of marble, wood and leather and one of the men looked at me once and said, “Money smells better than candy.”
I was thinking what a gift it was to be forced out of my comfort zone. My natural habitat consists of my office, my meditation corner, my classroom, libraries, book stores, zumba class, doggie parks, hiking trails, art galleries, museums, theaters, concert halls, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Anthropologie, and Trader Joe’s. I love those places. But for a period of time, it was seminars at upscale hotels, and I think I’m a better writer for it. How about you? Have you ever wound up anywhere unexpected and truly enjoyed it?