Left Coast was a fanboy's dream

Got home last night from New Mexico, where Kel and I attended Left Coast Crime, the annual mystery conference that this year filled La Fonda in Santa Fe.

Thanks again to the organizers for asking me to be Toastmaster for the event. I still feel bad that TSA confiscated those toasters I packed, and I was unable to supply any toast. But we seemed to make do with booze.

As Toastmaster, I was allowed to get up on stage before 400-plus people and make a complete ass of myself (as usual), and the conference paid my travel and lodging expenses, including a beautiful suite with a balcony and a fruit basket. Also, people kept buying me drinks. I had a very, very good time.

Some highlights:

--At the banquet, I sat with Martin Cruz Smith, one of my favorite authors. We talked about books and mutual friends and his wife was charming and I'm sure I was a drooling idiot the whole time. When I recognized him on stage for his Lifetime Achievement Award, I publicly professed my love for the man. A first for me.

--I shook hands with Brian Garfield, another favorite, and told him that his novel "Hopscotch" was one of the few I kept when we recently gave our personal library to charity and moved to the beach. He liked that.

--Laurie R. King lives here in Santa Cruz County, so I gave her a "howdy neighbor" at a terrific party we attended the first night. Katharine Neville (author of "The Eight") hosted a whole herd of us, including guest of honor Margaret Coel and Watson award winner Craig Johnson. Our pal Joe Badal drove us to the party, which allowed me to pour down all the wine I liked without endangering the general public. Thanks, Joe.

--I interviewed New Mexico author Steven Havill, another GOH, in front of a few hundred people, and we had a good time. Steven is a born storyteller who didn't need much prompting.

--Kel and I dined with one of our favorite people in the world, the ever-hilarious Bill Fitzhugh, who brought along his elegant 84-year-old mother and his wonderful sister (who lives in Albuquerque). Our dinner lasted hours, and I couldn't eat for laughing and telling stories. Fitzhugh did not shoot any spitwads at anyone this time because his mother made him behave.

--I was chatting in the lobby with Gar Anthony Haywood when film director Spike Lee happened by. (This sort of thing happens at La Fonda.) Gar had met Spike before, so he chatted with him briefly while I kept a stupid grin on my face. (I'm not saying Spike is a tiny man, but I'm glad Gar and I were sitting down.)

--Our after-hours poker games at these conferences are the funniest places on Earth, thanks to wisecrackers like Fitzhugh, Parnell Hall, Chris Goff and John Billheimer. I can't disclose specifics, but if any of those people ever again make a noise like a buzzing housefly, I will immediately wet my pants.

Feel free to share your own Left Coast highlights in the "comments" section.

1 comment:

Doug Levin said...

Sounds like fun, Steve. Wish I could've been there, but I would've felt bad taking all the money from the poker table (armed, of course, not by poker-playing skill).