S. Y. Agnon Reading at Tmol Shilshom

A couple of hours after I first arrived in Jerusalem I was in the Shuk, and thirty minutes after I'd entered the Shuk it was pouring rain and a lovely Italian reporter I'd just met was ushering me into a cab. We were headed to the bookstore-café Tmol Shilshom, where the host of Israel Story was performing a reading of the satirist S. Y. Agnon's work.

Oh, did I happen to mention that the parents of one of my best friends and favorite people in Boston were there as well?

"I had no idea you'd be at this event!" I exclaimed to her stepmother, flying into her arms.

"Be at this event? I am this event," she responded. True story. To the left of Mishy, up front, is professor Sidra Ezrahi.

A Reading in Los Angeles

Final stop on the travel agenda: downtown Los Angeles, for a reading on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel (which we were this close to being late for, after getting wholly distracted/enchanted at The Museum of Jurassic Technology that afternoon). The weather, obviously, was perfect; the rooftop nearly pitch black except for the glow from a fireplace and a desk lamp someone set up so the readers could see their books. The whole evening had a secret treehouse meeting feel to it.

Los Angeles-04 Sampson Starkweather

Los Angeles-08 Paige Taggart

Los Angeles-07 Paige Taggart

Los Angeles-10 Janaka Stucky

Los Angeles-13 Janaka signs

Los Angeles-06 Chet Weise

Los Angeles-12 Amelia Gray

AFterwards, despite the late hour and a jet lag we just couldn't shake, we hopped into a car with a college friend of Janaka's who is also the talented writer of The Final Girls — a hilarious and unexpectedly moving parody of the teen camp slasher genre. "Was that awkward?" he asked afterwards, "sitting next to me? Like all high pressure and weird?" "Could've been!" we responded, "if it hadn't been so funny and great!" True story. Go see this movie.

Los Angeles-14 Cab Arrives, The Final Girls

Litquake in San Francisco

For better or often worse, I consider myself a connessieur of the souvenir, and feel compelled to memoralize even the smallest day trips with the perfect treasures (especially diner mugs — perhaps an impractical collection choice for someone who doesn't drink coffee). But on this 3 city 10 day trip we nearly managed every day without acquiring a pile of strange trinkets. Except: San Francisco. In San Francisco we made the mistake of daytime martinis.

San Francisco Two Didion books and a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses may be my finest souvenir victory yet

We stayed with an old friend of mine with a beautiful porch view overlooking Dolores Heights — who, now that I think of it, has saved me from sleeping in terrible hotels/vagabond-style on the streets twice now, and whose home always feels especially homey. Thanks Jourdan!

San Francisco-02 Janaka at City Lights

The next evening was a Litquake/Third Man Records event at City Lights Bookstore, where Janaka and three other amazing poets read to a packed second floor room.

San Francisco-08 Sampson Starkweather, Paige Taggart, Janaka Stucky

I would normally move around quite a bit more to get different angles and show the crowd, but in this case it was actually impossible. I clambered over two audience members before realizing the next steps would involve either crowd surfing or smoke bombs. So the readers are almost entirely shot from one little stepping stool next to the merch table.

San Francisco-04 Paige Taggart

San Francisco-05 Janaka Stucky

San Francisco-09 Sampson Starkweather

San Francisco-07 Jenny Stanford, reading from a new collection of Frank Stanford's work

San Francisco-10 Record player, merch table

San Francisco-06 Chet Weise and Jenny Stanford

San Francisco-03 Sampson, Jenny, and Janaka

I'd visted San Francisco several times before over the years and it just never really stuck; I can't even remember what I didn't like about it. The stomach-drop of winding roads on steep hills maybe, or the water color houses, all flushed peach and sea glass and lemon curd, everything too dreamy and soft. Cities, I might have thought, should take themselves more seriously, show some hard edges. But this was a trip that made me think I have always loved San Francisco.