Tour Diary: All the Rest of Everything

More images from the Let's Panic Some-of-the-World Tour '11.

The above photo was taken at the Bijou Café in Portland, but it could stand in for any morning we didn't have to wake up early to catch a plane or pretend to be parenting experts on local TV. This is one thing I learned about appearing on radio and TV: a quick glance at Let's Panic often leads producers to decide that we are either (a) parenting experts with lots of cute tips up our sleeves, or (b) stand-up comedians ready to improv with the Morning Zoo Crew. It took a couple of incredibly awkward interviews for me to realize that I can be neither of those things without a whole lot of advance preparation, and maybe not even then.

The day after our reading in Chicago we had a lot of time to kill until our plane left for Minneapolis, so what did we do? Go to the Art Institute and marvel at miniature rooms? Decorate Mimi Smartypants's house with Charmin? No. We drank too much coffee and went to Macy's. The Chicago Macy's fills an entire city block, and as a Small City Person I would like to remind all you Big City People to cherish your shoe departments. We have nothing like that within 100 miles of here, and yes, I have heard of Zappos. That is different.

Next we went to Minneapolis.

Forgive me if this sounds narcissistic, but recently I realized that I needed to figure out how to smile for photos. In the past I've often been shocked to find that what I thought I was presenting as a pleasant expression for your wedding reception turned out to be me looking insane. I'd open my eyes REALLY WIDE or, if I was feeling left out of the fun, I'd emanate so much posed melancholy that I'm surprised no one tried to slap it right off my face. So some time in February I figured out that maybe if I just squinched up my face like my mom used to do, I'd blend in somehow. Mom always looked cute in photos. If only I could emulate her aura of saintliness.

The crowd at our reading at the Har Mar Barnes & Noble in Minneapolis had some of the best laughers of anywhere on our tour and it was extremely gratifying to read for them. It's hard to get an audience warmed up in the short amount of time you're generally allotted for these events, so the next time we go out we'll travel with a warm-up act. Maybe we could get Gallagher to destroy a breast pump. Bring a poncho!

Sally, the lovely and funny style blogger, was kind enough to take a day off from work and show us around Minneapolis's north side. Sally took us to some extraordinarily creative and affordable stores but I wasn't able to find anything I wanted until she took us to an Oscar Wilde-themed café, which it turned out was exactly what I wanted: a comfortable place to chat, read, and (if you're me) stare into space and wonder what day of the week it was. (It was Wednesday! I realize that now.)

We had planned this leg of the tour to end with the Mom 2.0 conference in New Orleans, and thank God for that. And yet you'd think with all the beautiful women around me I'd have taken more pictures of them and less of my food.

Alice had been talking to me about the Paleo Diet (meat, eggs, vegetables, some fruit, not much dairy, no grains) so I gave it a try while we were traveling and I have to say, I liked it. I never got any weird blood-sugar drops, I always had lots of energy, and according to the scale in our Minneapolis hotel, I also lost five pounds. However, when I got to the Green Goddess restaurant in New Orleans a passion seized me and I ordered the (grains! sugar!) french toast. It gave me a headache all morning, but look at it. LOOK AT IT.

Here, Jenny prepares to photograph her boudin, sweet potato biscuits, and grits. New Orleans, you may be full of boozy frat boys, antiques, and statues of Louis Armstrong, but we came to eat.

Our waitress reminded us that 10:00 in the morning was a fine time for a watermelon margarita with black salt around the rim. She called it "Truth." There was no point in arguing.

Truth is $10.00. Now you know.

The next day, Alice and I presented a panel called "Let's Panic About Writing," where we talked about techniques to overcome writer's block and silence your inner critic so you can get some writing (or pole-dancing, or small-business-building--whatever your heart's endeavor is) done. Then, after some extensive napping on my part, we went back to the Green Goddess to see what was on the dinner menu. Sadly, I have no photos of my chilled fruit soup with lumps of crabmeat, or of my "Under the Volcano."

Bartender (baggy eyes, stained apron, weary expression): "Have you ever read Under the Volcano?" Me (red dress, no makeup, weary expression): "No." Bartender: (holds drink just out of my reach) Me: "I saw the movie! The Albert Finney version! And the Bill Murray version too, come to think of it." Bartender: "Okay, but you have to read the book. You must. (sighs) It's exquisite." Me: "Do I have to read it before you serve me the drink?"

I tried to go to bed early that night because I had to get up at 5:00 a.m. to catch my flight back home, but I guess I was so jazzed up from reading at The Eiffel Society that I couldn't sleep. I guess everything happens for a reason because I was still awake at 1:45 a.m. when Jackson called in tears. My baby! He'd missed me a lot over the two weeks I was gone (this was on top of the two weeks I'd already been away in March) and the feeling was mutual. There may also have been some fear of zombies, yes. I talked him down.

Me: "I love you with all my heart but now it's 2:00 a.m. and I have to get up in three hours to go to the airport." Jackson (suddenly 35 years old): "Okay, mom, I'll let you go."