I’m not sure where to begin, but to put it quite simply, this is the story of “Camp Chaos.”

It’s been a fun, whirlwind of a book tour so far, lots of plane rides and new faces, and public speaking, and sweaty palms, and good parties. And lots of book signing.

I don’t have writers cramp yet. I’ve decided that I never will.

But somewhere between the dewy air of Seattle, the arid air of San Francisco, and the cotton fields of Arkansas, it all finally took its toll and I lost my voice. I uttered my last words at Omnivore books and then it simply picked up and left.

During all of this, my relatives flew into New York from Texas for the Sparkill book party and at the same time my father had to go to the emergency room… he had a heart attack.

My mom finally called to tell me the afternoon before I got on a plane to New York. And all I could do was listen with my eyes brimming. And try to push out some hoarse words. It all felt like a dream… an impossible dream. My beekeeper dad, who never ever bothered with doctors was surrounded by them now.

So I climbed onto a plane Saturday morning and didn’t talk.

And I got off the plane, climbed into the truck with my lovely little bro and drove to the hospital.

I gave my dad a hug and a kiss, and a few books to read, and whispered out some more hoarse words. And he acted not worried, but was happy to see me. He said the one thing he wondered is what shoes I’d be wearing when I stopped in. I always have wild shoes on.

And then we got back into the truck, my little bro and I, and went to Tulipwood where the Texas relatives were helping my mom keep it all going.

You see… between shuttling between two hospitals now to see my dad and my grandma P., and running around after the chickens and guinea hens to get them in the pen for the night, and searching for Lorenzo the one eyed rooster who can’t always find his way home, and getting the food together for the book party… things were “busy.”

That’s when cousin Bill changed the name of this place from “Tulipwood” to “Camp Chaos.”

I love Texas.

And then the party started.

This is the entrance to the Mouquin estate. I have fond memories of it from my childhood… it’s on the same road as my house and we used to get lost in its spiring towers.

This is the wide staircase going up to the wrap around porch. I love a good porch. I think they should be a requirement in all new homes.

That’s the artistic touch of the party planning committee, Mom and Doris from Texas.

The house has been here and in the same family since the 1800’s.

These are some interior shots.  I think it’s important to know what we’re dealing with here.

Isn’t it glamorous?

They always have the best parties… whether it be afternoon tea, or Halloween.

This was the room where I signed books. It looks like the Oval office if you ask me. People kept saying I was looking presidential. That was the look I was going for. And luckily I started to get my voice back… so I was even sounding a little “Bill Clinton” at that point.

That’s PJ! The lady of the house.

They put some olives on the White House desk as a snack for people waiting and because, well… they matched the cover of the book.

Isn’t that some serious coordination on the part of Mom and Doris?

God is in the details people!

This was the food table. Enough to feed an army. And at the end was my lifelong friend Julia.

Lovely Julia is a medical student. She happens to be doing a rotation right now in the cardiac unit of a hospital… the same one my dad is in. So she knew before I did about everything. It must have been hard for her to find out who the patient was when she arrived one morning and not be able to tell me. What a strange sequence of events that she ended up in the room of the hospital to find out it was my dad… but also kind of serendipitous and nice.

On a lighter note, I like a good fruit centerpiece. I think it will make any table. Consider that my Martha Stewart tip of the day.

And a pretty bunch bowl of lemonade will also do the trick.

And great flowers. I’m blessed to have grown up in a place with great flowers.

And also great friends and neighbors. PJ and many other friends and neighbors on the block have been very supportive.

They bought all kinds of books.  Except it was just the one kind… but you know what I mean.

And took pictures.

And then look who arrived! Marion the forager, Chapter 3.  It was so delightful to have her here. People got her to sign as well. And she shared her knowledge well as she always does. It’s an infectious kind of knowledge.

That’s mom. She was finally having a glass of wine.

And the mother of a childhood friend of mine! That was very cool to see her after so long.

And my favorite guest. A chunky 8 year (oops), month old with the best facial expressions. I wanted to keep taking pictures.

These are more friends, Michael Shapiro is the spectacular piano player I’ve told you about before.

And the obligatory White House family portrait.  Minus my dad.

And then we did a little sit down, reading, talk thingy.

I was pretty hoarse…

But I read about Marion and Rhoda, Chapters 3 and 13, and talked to them about how it all started on this road…

And mom and Doris listened…

And Julia and Doris became fast friends…

And Julia, in true caretaker, doctor form, brought me tea after tea to keep me talking. I really love her.

And then Marion’s husband Marty arrived! Aren’t they cute? People even came up to Marion with pictures of mushrooms on their cell phones and asked her the names. She told them and even gave them the Latin name. To have that skill is such a gift…

And this is Kenny, from Books and Greetings bookstore. He sold a lot of books for me, thanks Kenny!

And these are my Michael Jackson shoes. My dad is right, I always do have some strange shoes… I have some that I like so much I wear them even though they have holes. It keeps life more interesting.

And this is mom and Doris after a long day of hard work, finally sitting down. They did a bang up job, and for that I am grateful to them and to everyone else who came out to join the fun and who were so supportive.

That’s all from Camp Chaos.


These photos were skillfully taken by Gordon Pellegrini.