What I Learned On The Road

After spending most of 2006 crossing the country promoting a book, I have some deep insights on hotels and airports and painting your bedroom. For example, I knew the San Francisco hotel we stayed in was a good one because there were two separate bottles for shampoo and conditioner. Any hotel that cheaps out by trying to tell you that shampoo/conditioner in one bottle is a viable option is not a Good Hotel. I have many tips like this, which I hope will never be useful to me again.

Because all that is behind me now. I’m so glad to be home that, two months later, I’m still kissing the floor. When I can find it. I was making headway on getting back to normal, unpacking, doing laundry, walking from the office to the kitchen without an American Express card, and then I decided that after a year of somebody chanting, “Living the Dream!” in my ear, I needed to Zen out, which meant my bedroom had to become a retreat. It had been painted in a blue called “Cloudscape,” and decorated in violet and gold, lots of beads and tassels, flowers, candles, mirrors, which had made it pretty much your basic Ohio seraglio, definitely not serene. So I dragged everything out and bought new paint, soothing greens this time, for my bedstead, the walls and the ceiling. Om. Because the best thing to do after a stressful year on the road is to move everything in your bedroom out into the hall and open a lot of paint cans.

Paint colors. I don’t want to get on an airplane again any time soon, but I miss the shopping in airports, especially here in Cincy because Cincy has Toto and I love Toto. Coming home the last time, I saw this serene gray-green angel figure and bought her. I should mention, I’m not an angel person. I routinely spit on sparkly unicorns. If I see a tiny pink fairy winking at me on the path, I kick her into the underbrush. But this angel looked so calm, and I’d been so not, so I bought her and she’s what I based the gray-greens for the bedroom on. I saw her in a catalog the other day. She looked serene there, too. It was only when I got her home that she turned on me with the colors.
I wanted an elegant iron bedstead, but money was an object, so I started with an old blond wood bed I had in the attic that was so eighties that every time I looked at it I heard “99 Luftballoons.” I picked out this fabulous earthy metallic dark green, gorgeous paint chip, which I chose to coordinate with the wall and ceiling color that matched the airport angel, just a Zen symphony, HGTV would be proud. Well, maybe not a symphony, a string quartet. Or one hand playing, I don’t know, I’m still getting the hang of the Zen thing.

The great thing about painting is, it gives you time to think. And I began to get really philosophical about all that time on the road. Well, it was over, so I could. And truthfully, there were many, many good things about it. Like the people in airports. A woman sat down beside me at LaGuardia talking on her cell phone. “I want to be closer,” she whined to whoever was on the other end, “but she’s just not a warm, loving person.” I thought, Boy, do I know you, lady, and sent all my sympathy to the non-warm-loving-person who was probably holding this wench off with a cattle prod. You can do a lot of character research in airports if you listen.

And of course I was traveling with my writing partner. He used to find the free newspaper for that community and read the personals to me. I remember one he read in Madison, the guy was looking for a woman. That was it. “Open-minded,” Bob said. “Good.” He has this theory that in any city’s personal column you’ll find some guy looking for some woman to do something strange, detailed and perverse, and at the end of the ad it will say, “No smokers.” Bob says, “Somewhere in that town is a woman who will do those things. But she smokes.” Yes, these are the highlights, folks.
What with all the remembering and some additional thinking–I was trying to figure out how to finish a book I’d started awhile ago–the first coat went on pretty smartly, and then I stood back and looked at it from a distance and realized I’d painted my bed Army green. That was not the serenity on the paint chip, so I went back to the can to see what the hell color it was. “Rough Terrain,” it said. I’d painted my Zen bed “Rough Terrain.” You know, I’m sure somewhere in Montana, there’s a survivalist who’s saying, “Hey, Fred, here’s the perfect color for the rec room, ‘Rough Terrain,’ now all we need is a nice area rug and a lifetime supply of MREs,” but aside from him, exactly who were the paint-color-namers hoping to attract with “Rough Terrain?” Morons. I put three coats of a silver glaze called “Sparkling Stone” over it and now it’s . . . interesting. Yes, fine, go over there in the corner and snicker about how my Zen bed is painted in Rough Terrain. I don’t care. I am at One with the Universe. Damn it.

So I quit for awhile and watched a DVD to return myself to a meditative state. Here’s what I learned about movies on the road: Stick to animation. Animation rarely makes you want to kill yourself. I am helplessly in love with the bunnies in the BunVac6000 in Curse of the Were-Rabbit. If you get the DVD, stick around for the end credits because they have floating bunnies. Floating bunnies are Zen to the max. I kept referring to Curse all the way through The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes, and they kept telling me I had to explain the allusions. “You mean everybody doesn’t know about the Anti-Pesto logo? Well, they should.” Yes, I know if I were an intellectual it would have been Von Trier or at least Wes Anderson, but Nick Park does it for me. Best quote: “The bounce has gone out of his bungee.”

After some Bun Vac therapy and some sleep in my Zen Bed which was now sitting alone in the middle of my echoing bedroom, I opened the paint for the walls and checked the color in the sunlight. Gorgeous. Nothing military about it. Very peaceable. So I rolled it on the walls while I went back to thinking about the book I was working on, and just as I finished the first coat, I looked around and realized it was hideous. Zen it might have been in the can, but on the wall, it was avocado green, if the avocado had been with us for a while. I tried to give myself a pep talk—“No, really it’s lovely, very calming”–but it looked like a refrigerator my mother had had during my more unfortunate years. So I checked the can to see what color I’d bought this time. “Withered Moss.” No, honest to God, “Withered Moss,” just the color every fifty-seven-old woman wants in her bedroom. Or as my sophisticated New York agent put it when I told her, “Old lady’s hoo-ha.” (For those of you who are saying, “She’s making this up,” I swear to you, it’s a Lowe’s Signature Color.)

And I started to think about the morons who name these colors and I could imagine them, probably the same jerks I went to art school with in the seventies, sitting around some cubicle, blowing the same dope they had back then, going, “Oh, crap, another green, what’re we gonna name this one?” “I don’t know, how about ‘Old Lady’s Hoo-ha?” (Snort. Snort.) “Nah, we’ll never get away with that. How about, hey, I know, ‘Withered Moss!’” (Snort. Snort. SNORT.) “GOOD one!” (Phone rings. Picks up.) “Dave’s not here!” (Hangs up. Snort. Snort. Snort. Snort. SNORT. Hyperventilation followed by death.)

No, I’m not bitter. Why do you ask?

At that point, I quit to clean off my laptop, and I found a folder with about a dozen e-mails in it marked “Blog.” I thought, “Oh, good, I’ve salvaged something insightful from last year.” Turns out Bob had e-mailed me to tell me that Disneyland was fifty years old and I’d e-mailed back, “I’m older than Disneyland? Jeez.” He e-mailed, “Well the Parthenon is older.” I told him it was really better when he didn’t try to help. So he wrote back, “Then there’s the Coliseum.” Followed by another e-mail that said, “The statues on Easter Island. The Sphinx. The Great Pyramid,” and then another that said, “The Great Wall of China, Vlad the Impaler.” I wrote back, “Vlad is dead,” and he answered, “The Rolling Stones are older than you.” That was the last one. I guess when you get to “Vlad the Impaler and the Rolling Stones are older than you,” the conversation is over. Why I saved these e-mails, I’m not sure, but they’re a testament to what a tragedy it is that I lost the rest of them from last year. Clearly, deep thinking was happening, 24/7.

Then I went back and looked at the bedroom again. The Old Lady’s Hoo-Ha was definitely clashing with the Rough Terrain, so I painted the walls again, this time with many coats of Sparkling Stone, all by hand because it turns out you can’t roll that stuff on evenly, but the good news is that silver glaze will fix about anything. So I moved on to the ceiling. Cautiously. I opened the can. Beautiful, pale, creamy green. I checked the name of the color: Fennel Splash. Not Zen, but not Withered Terrain, either. I poured it out into the pan. Still beautiful. I rolled it onto the ceiling above the angel, where it looked like the dirty cloud that gathered over the penthouse in Ghostbusters, right before Sigourny Weaver says to Rick Moranis, “Are you the Keymaster?” It’s lovely pale green in the pan, Cloud of the Keymaster on the ceiling.

At this point, I gave up. I could not face putting six coats of Sparkling Stone on the ceiling by hand. Into each life, some Fennel must Splash, and mine was hovering over my Zen bedroom. My bungee completely bounceless, I went to take a bath with peanut butter cups. Hey, you find Zen your way, I’ll find it my way.

One thing traveling did do was convince me of the need for a Great Bathroom. Hotels in general are wising up to this. Well, I’m finding that a lot of hotels are wising up in general. Like the Hampton Inn next to the convention center in Columbia, South Carolina. Great beds, Jacuzzi tubs, hot chocolate chip cookies in the lobby which you can then take INTO the Jacuzzi tub with you, and the nicest staff you could want to meet (NOT into the Jacuzzi tub). Only drawback: the weird wallpaper in the bathroom that looks like it has giant beetles on it if you squint. Not a place to be drunk in. Not that I was, it was chocolate chip cookies all the way. But the front door had “Hello” etched on it, so much friendlier than “Welcome,” although why, I do not know, and the rug inside said, “We’re glad you’re here.” I forgive them for the wallpaper. Also they had separate shampoo and conditioner and we all know what that means.

But the best hotel was the Hotel Metro in Milwaukee (which Bob says is an old Indian word for “Land without Road Signs” but he was just bitter because there were no road signs). It’s an old art deco hotel that’s been restored and it’s absolutely stunning and comfortable and the room service was amazing and there were separate bottles of shampoo and conditioner in a bathroom that was ohmygod gorgeous. You’d think after weeks on the road, any hotel with clean sheets, a comfortable mattress, and a lock on the door would be fine, but you get so tired of hotels that when one turns out to be a work of art, you pretty much roll in it. The Hotel Metro. I might get on a plane again some day if I can stay there.

Where was I? Right in the tub with my peanut butter cups in my Great Bathroom, which I put myself in debt forever to remodel because I was seduced by hotel bathrooms. Except I haven’t quite got the hang of bubble bath and air tubs yet, so I put too much bubble stuff in the air tub and the bubbles foamed up over the edge and buried me and the peanut butter cup I had sitting there. But I think that’s pretty much the definition of “high class problem” and also, while it was frustrating, it was also pretty damn funny, so I took a picture of it and sent it to my friend Krissie who was looking for a laugh about then. Always a Sparkling Stone lining, that’s what I say.
I ate the peanut butter cup anyway, but I was still feeling put upon. My Zen angel had steered me wrong and now even my bubble bath turned on me. And then I remembered. I wasn’t on the road any more. I was home. Cheered me right up.

Which is when I also remembered that I’m one of the luckiest women in the universe, and that if I didn’t stop bitching about the little stuff, Karma was going to kick my ass, and if the worst that ever happened to me was a Withered Hooha and a Roughly Paved bed, I could count my blessings in my bubbles. And then the next day I found curtains in Sparkling Stone with gold dots the size of silver dollars, and when the furniture was back in and the quilt was on the bed and the lamps were in, the bedroom looked . . . well, I’ve still got Cloud of the Keymaster on the ceiling, but I don’t look up that much, except, you know, when I’m in bed, and the walls gleam quietly with Sparkling Stone, and best of all, I’m home where the shampoo and conditioner are always in two different bottles.

It’s very Zen.

34 thoughts on “What I Learned On The Road

  1. Jenny, looking beyond the bubbles your bathroom looks pretty.

    can’t see the post for the bedroom so please post again because, well, i found your story hysterical. it’s ok, i’ve been helping my mom repaint the rooms in our house, i’m allowed. my brother wanted a base color and then three colors sponged, which can look very nice but he should have thought about what it meant to mix those colors first. oh boy. it’s been going on for years now.

    actually, do you have a picture of “before” for your bedroom too? because that sounded very nice.

    and good luck with the Zen movement. it’s a tough place to get at.

  2. I know you’ll want to hit me for saying this, but those colors just sound like you’re missing Bob. And we won’t even go to the Freudian aspects of that, because we know it’s just not like that.

    I, too, want to see that picture that isn’t showing up, because the description is hilarious. I’d just blame it on the angel and God’s sense of humor.

  3. God, you’re funny. But you know that. I died at “old blond wood bed I had in the attic that was so eighties that every time I looked at it I heard “99 Luftballoons.”

    I have two nice Hispanic ladies drudging like mad to clean the kitchen. One just came in and brightly told me that it was going to take four hours instead of three, and that there definitely wouldn’t be time to do the kids’ bathroom, too.

    Imagine my cringing horror and shame.

  4. You’re Cloud of the Keymaster ceiling doesn’t look that bad in the picture, but I know sometimes pictures don’t do justice. I do however, absolutely LOVE your bathroom. The wall color and those light fixtures on the wall are awesome. I can’t wait till we move so I can paint, it’s so soothing.

  5. Yeah, all that military green does sound like you spent too much time with Bob last year. But I have to say that the final product on the wall looks great. Very soothing, very Zen. Do we get a pic of the bedstead too? No? Asking too much? Um, yeah, probably. Never mind.

    But OMB your bathroom is fabulous, even with all the bubbles. I want to live in your bathroom. I might even clean out the bubbles for you.

    Best thing about hotels is that they are wising up and giving guests really plush surroundings. I read somewhere that people are actually buying linens and such to create a ‘hotel room’ in their own home. The idea being that you can feel like you are getting away without making a reservations. And the tubs usually have these nice ledge areas where you can keep your wine glass and peanut butter cups.

  6. As a resident of the Greater Columbia, SC, area, I was tickled that you found one of our hotels to be one of the nicest on your tour. I haven’t been to the Hampton Inn, but maybe I’ll pop in there in February when I’m at the Convention Center for the Book Festival this year. I got to meet you at that event in 2006, and I am glad. You were so generous and so funny and you didn’t even give me a hard time about the fact that I asked you to sign a very obviously well-worn copy of “Faking It” instead of a shiny-new copy of “Anyone But You.” (DLD was not yet out.) Thank you.

    I hope 2007 is more gentle with you than 2007 was.

  7. Have I got this right ? Withered Moss walls surrounding a Rough Terrain bed under a Fennel Splash ceiling. Covered up by Sparkling Stone . Is the bedspread cammo ?
    This from the woman who painted the furniture and walls in Faking It ?

  8. I’ve done enough painting to know what you went through.
    That bathroom is very Zen…..love the bubbles.

  9. Soooooo jealous of the bathroom! When we built our house 16 years ago we were young and stupid. We went for the big walk in closet, the extra bedroom, incase we had more than one kid, instead of the large master bath. We did have 3 kids, so the 4th bedroom has come in handy, but I have no tub in my bath. If I want to take a bath, I have to use my kids bathroom, and nope, not doing that. Some day I’ll I have a zen bathroom.

    Our bedroom is green. I painted it myself. It took me about a month since I did some funky kind of rag roll with plastic wrap. It looks cool, but it’s darker than I would have wanted it.

    Enjoy being at home. I’m not “living the dream” but I spend at least two weekends a month in hotel rooms with travel hockey. I supose that is living the kids dream. Next weekend it’s Canada, then Philly, then back to long Island. Yikes.

    Oh, and I love the hotels that not only give two little bottles, but then do the lotion! Love the lotion.

  10. I loved your description of painting. We are moving in three weeks into a two apartment house with our daughter. The walls in our apartment are currently painted with “Spiderweb”. I kid you not. It is a white with blue hints. We agreed that it is not so bad, despite the name, so we are painting the whole apartment with that. I know, no taste. Not only is money an object but since my daughter and her friends are doing it for us it just makes it easier on them. We have things we many colours to them so it is better to have a wall that won’t clash.

  11. I forgot to mention. The bubbles in a whirlpool tub ? Been there. Been smothered. This also applies to putting liquid soap in a dishwasher. Not so pretty.

  12. I just want to know what my sister was doing in La Guardia talking about me on a cell phone. I thought she lived in Upstate. And who knew she had a cell phone?

  13. I so understand the color in the can not being the color on the walls. It is almost impossible to visualize a whole wall from a little paint chip. Maybe some glow-in-the-dark stars and such will help the ceiling. No? It was a thought.

    Love the bathroom. And the bubbles. Reminds me of a dishwasher episode I once had. I have a feeling I will be visiting your bathroom picture a lot in the future just for the giggle.

    2006 was a rough one, but we all appreciated you taking us along for the ride. Nothing but good times ahead. Really. Enjoy your home now that you can stay in it for more than a week at a time.

  14. well, the green room definitely isn’t as bad as i was imagining it, but not “pretty”.

    just keep blaming Bob for that.

  15. Thank you for sharing your vision of the guys who dream up paint names. I’ve always wanted to know who these mysterious people are that come up with such bizarre names. Of course, I should have guessed illicit drugs played a role. We’ve got McCarthur cream on our walls (yes, not very exciting I know) but what the? It just looks cream to me.

  16. Another Nick Parks fan! Do you also like Miyazaki?

    The bathroom is definitely wonderful, and I suspect the finished bedroom is lovely too.

  17. Testing my firefox browser on this site … and the colors are great, you can’t help what some foolish person names them. Have you ever looked at nailpolish color names? My fav: I’m not really a waitress! Wow, it’s really really red and a beautiful color but completely slams those hardworking folks who deliver our food to the table. I don’t get it.

  18. I dreamed of being the person who named cosmetic or paint colors for a while in high school. It just sounded fun. You make me glad I’m not doing that for a living!

    Your bathroom, bubble and all, is to die for.

  19. Your bathroom is gorgeous! I admire anyone who can paint. I can’t paint a room or a canvass. Thanks to a Jenny collaging class I can now cut and paste without totally embarrassing myself but I still can’t paint. I chose colors for my bedroom that I thought was “autumn gold”. Discovered later the color was “sulfur yellow”. I swear it smells.

  20. Oh joy; I’m not alone. Another human female with paint chip colour blindness.

    Jenny, if you love binnies and you love animation and you love wanting to chill out (or do we still add the “out”?) try this. http://www.angryalien.com/ My fave: Casablanca. No, Titanic. No wait, It’s A Wonderful Life.

  21. Just how do you clean up that much bubble bath? I’ve just shown this to my mom and we are jealous of the bathroom but you can keep the bubbles;)

  22. ajay: heck, i still want to. and really, as soon as i get a drug habit going i can probably do it. *snort*

  23. Oh Jenny! I can sympathize! The can said something like Sage Whisper and the paint chip looked as you said, Zen!

    Zen is not some calming state to try to aim for but a clever marketing ploy from those ad/demons who work in those ant farms in tall buildings!

    It wan’nt Sage anything it was teal!!! I didn’t mean to paint it teal, the paint on the chip did not look teal. But now that it’s dry it’s teal, Dark teal.

    I hate teal! The color makes me want to do violent things like purchase wallpaper borders with a pink cabage rose theme!

  24. Love your bathroom, Jenny. What color are those walls painted? I like it a lot.

    I just came back from a gorgeous hotel on the Oregon coast and I walked in the bathroom and they had the combo shampoo/conditioner. I remember saying, “What the hell?” I forgave them, though, because the room had a fireplace.

  25. Oh, Jenny. What a fabulous lure to bring us to your new Argh Ink site!

    And soo quoteable: “I routinely spit on sparkly unicorns. If I see a tiny pink fairy winking at me on the path, I kick her into the underbrush.”

    I’ll even forgive you for making my dog think I’d well and truly lost my mind (I saw the bubbles and completely lost it). He’s now wondering if losing my mind means I’ll forget how to dispense treats.

    Too funny! Thank you!!!!

  26. Jenny – I had to laugh when I read your post! Yes, it was funny in a oh-you-have-my-sympathies way (although I kinda like your bedroom colors and as others said, your bathroom is fabulous). Also because earlier in the day I had listened to the Not My Job segment on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”. Color names were apparently the topic of the weekend! If you’re interested, have a listen.


  27. Loved the comments. Still laughing.
    I was going to paint my bedroom “Dusty Rose” but all I could imagine was an old bordello set somewhere south of the border. It looked a nice soft color in the can, I got one of those mini samples, shocking I tell ya’. No chance any guy would ever venture down the hall. For the time being it remains white. I know, boring as hell. Your bathroom looks divine.

  28. I am so impressed by your industry! My sister paints walls, but the last time I tried, the chair I was standing on broke and I fell into the bathtub. Nah, it wasn’t that traumatic, I’m just lazy.

    The aforementioned sister has Fennel in her dressingroom – I don’t know if it’s Splashy or not. But after she carefully went through her house eliminating dusty rose and country blue paint and paper, I tell her that the Fennel looks like Peach. Which she indignantly refutes.

    Hilarious commentary, and thanks for the photos!

  29. The expression “Laugh till you cry” has hit, the cats came running in to see if I was ok, or I imagine, if they could steal the buttered popcorn since I stopped scarfing it, and my attention was diverted.

    We got a fixer upper, but if you hear the words “I don’t mind doing a little painting” the word that is KEY in that is don’t. It had a purple livingroom. deep blue bedrooms. The baby’s room was lite blue but the ceiling never did get finished, and it looks like puffy clouds in lite blue in a darker sky. Brothers don’t paint either. We were taking it room by room, slowly.

    Bathroom was redone 2 years ago as a had to. Bathtub jon picked was a surprise, has JETS all over the place, only fits one, I wanted to kill a closet in the hall he said you could not have an L shape bathtub the wall couldn’t be pushed back. Neither of us is little, he is 6’4″ I’m 5’8″ both are not thin (ok, we fat) he is 59, i’m 57 so flexable isn’t realistic either but you can make do, and for air jets, we do. Painting, can wait.

    (actually,joint shower with a foot air jet with out bubbles cause he won’t do bubbles) isn’t too shabby. The audience of a 120lb rhodesian ridgeback, 1 border terrier, 2 siamese kinda cats.

  30. Well, having been around the paintchip block a time or two (in CA, the only house law-abiding citizens can afford is a fixer-upper) I can so relate to the search for the perfect green.

    However, any green, ANY GREEN, was better than the chalky, light-killing, hope-smothering gray-tinged BEIGE that covered the whole place to start with!

    This time we bought a house that was perfect to start with.

    At least, that’s how we felt the first few weeks.

    I just realized the names in red are links!! Yes. Excellent.

    And that is a great bathroom.

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