It's been a while.
Certainly the last few times I did, it wasn't to do anything fun. Not to gossip all night, eating chips and salsa around a big table, giggling my tail off like I was in college all over again. Only when I was in college, I wasn't even doing that.
When my friend Eileen invited a bunch of us from my MFA program down to stay with her for the LA Times Festival of Books, my gut reaction was what it always is when someone asks me to go somewhere: yeah, that sounds like fun but I know I'll never go because I never do stuff like that. But this time I actually went. Huh.
The Festival of Books happens at USC and it's a crazy-good time of author panels and celebrities and music and booths and signings cooking demonstrations and food trucks. I had a blast.
Not for nothing, this was also the first time I hung out with my UCR peeps away from residency. Or, I should say, the first time in real life. They all live in my phone and I can talk to them whenever I want, but that's not quite like having homies. It was lovely to feel like I am a part of something that exists beyond the walls (yes, there are walls) of the Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage.
When I started the program, I kept hearing these would be lifetime friends I would make, and I kept thinking yeah right, I'm going to prove you wrong by being the one weirdsmobile who makes it through my MFA without human interaction. So it's nice to be not right about that. And honestly, it's nice to talk to people about books and writing and poetry and crap like that for a whole weekend and not have them look at you like they want you to shut up.
And this: I didn't know if I'd go to LATFOB and enjoy it as a spectator and feel like I was just watching it all happen. I didn't know what to expect, really. But I left feeling like this was a thing that I was very much in. It was a thing I went to see, but also it was a thing that I felt like I was a part of because of the lovely program I am a part of. That's kind of a wonderful thing. I feel like I had choice about where I ended up for grad school, but I also feel like I've been surprised and lucky in many, many ways by what my particular program has to offer.
The festival also made me so thankful for the luxury of my residencies. The panels were wonderful, and they were just about like what we have in December in June, only on a larger scale. It just made me feel really grateful that these same people who were gathering for this huge festival are also gracious enough to drive out to the desert to speak to us.
And in the category of things that don't suck, Eileen's house on the beach is gorgeous. And the company was wonderful. The entire thing was just great.
Still feeling very Pollyanna about the whole experience, but who cares. It was a good time.
And now I'm happy to be back home with my monkeys (who were thankful for the UCRPD and USC pencils I brought them to add to the collection.)