“The ramblings and grumblings of author Ad Hudler”

A great weekend
Sunday, February 28, 2010

Each year the Hoover Public Library in suburban Birmingham, known as one of the best libraries in the country (seriously, only Queens beat them in a recent national comparison), invites a handful of authors to their Southern Voices Conference. This year, I was asked, and I was in fine, fine company:

Billy Collins, a poet laureate of the United States. A very funny, very smart man (I think my wife, who accompanied me, has a crush on him.)

Marc Fitten, who recently published his first novel "Valeria's Last Stand." Right now he's in the middle of a 100-bookstore tour in which he's driving around the country, visiting indie booksellers. Just a super nice guy.

Masha Hamilton, author of, most recently, "31 Hours" and "The Camel Bookmobile." A former world-affairs journalist, she's also organized book drives for the Third World and writing projects for Afghan women. She reminds me of what Eleanor Roosevelt would have been like had she been a novelist/journalist. A woman with a mission and big heart who is great with words.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson, who presented with me on stage. Rheta is a syndicated columnist (Yes, 'tis the same Rheta on your newspaper's op-ed page), who talked about her memoir "Poor Man's Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana," which I am reading right now.

Todd Johnson. Todd and I share the same agent, the beautiful Wendy Sherman. He is one fascinating dude. He sings and records jingles for a living, and he was a producer of the traveling show of "The Color Purple." His first novel is "The Sweet By and By." Truly, one of the funniest speakers I have ever heard.

Ridley Pearson: The best-selling crime writer, who has a charming wife, gave us insights about the CSI-like research he conducts for his books, and he told us some secrets about Dave Barry, whom he has worked with in co-writing a series of children's books.

River Jordan. I have grown to know River more in the past year because she went to Girlfriends' Weekend, and she is very active in the Nashville writer's community (where I am now living, part-time). She has her own radio show in Nash, called River Jordan Radio, on WRFN.

Diane McWhorter. Okay, so while my wife has a crush on Billy Collins I have one on Diane. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her book, "Carry me Home," a personal documentary of the cataclysmic civil rights events that took place in Birmingham in the sixties. Diane and I sat next to each other at the Ruthie Foster concert Saturday night. Both of us had trouble keeping in our chairs. Ruthie ROCKS, y'all.

SHOUTOUT: None of this could have happened without the incredible staff at the Hoover Public Library. Linda Andrews, Head Cheese, has put together an excellent festival team, headed by Amanda Bonner and Carrie Steinmehl. Their staff made us feel at home. Thanks, everyone.

Dear Readers: Put all these writers in your queue. They are talented and deserve your time.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Yeah, that's me. I was reluctant to start facebook, and even more reluctant to start twittering. But after several readers have badgered me about it, I finally signed up for twitter. My twitter name, appropriately, is AdHudler.

I like how twitter only gives you 140 characters to say what you need to say: verbal discipline. Maybe it'll make all of us poets in the end, huh?

I'm off to Macon, Georgia tomorrow where I give the Friday keynote address at the Crossroads Writers Conference. I'm going to read my essay "Tree Bitch," which is forthcoming in the Oxford American. Should be fun because I am staying across the street from the guy you adhudler.com readers will know as papazook. He is a frequent comment contributor to my blog, and, oh gosh, did I fail to mention that HE MAKES THE BEST MARTINI IN THE WORLD!

I'm comin', Papazook! Get those martini glasses in the freezer!

Cell phones: Maybe not the anti-Christ after all
Monday, February 22, 2010

Readers of this blog are well aware of my feelings about people who talk on cell phones while driving: THEY DESERVE CAT VOMIT FOR DINNER.

But I have to say I saw a good, practical use of cell phones the other day. Two guys got into a fender bender in the Publix parking lot near my house. And instead of calling the cops -- damages were slight -- they used their cell phones to take photos of the damage as well as photos of the license plates!

Will this bring me bad karma?
Thursday, February 18, 2010

I found the perfect place to put my hat when I'm at our downtown condo in Nashville:

We are calling him Bubba Buddha. And standing beside him? Why that's Miss Kitty, of course!

Weird newspaper names
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Since I hail from a four-generation newspaper family, I'm a newspaper junkie, and I love quirky newspaper names. Some of my favorites:

The Macon Telegraph, where my wife got her first publisher job. It's just a solid, old-sounding name, isn't it?

The Tulsa World. Cute. Like a little boy wearing his dad's suit, trying to be something he isn't. (And if you've seen a copy of the Tulsa World, you'd know what I mean.)

The Times-Picayune New Orleans' historically awful newspaper. You've got to wonder what the hell a Picayune is, don't you?

Polk Progress from Polk, Nebraska. Underneath the name it says "Slower is better" with an illustration of a cute little snail.

But my favorite, which I discovered during my recent author junket to Girlfriends Weekend, is the newspaper in Jefferson, Texas. It's called ...

The Jimplecute

I kid you not: The Jimplecute. And then, when you look closer, in little words beneath the title it says this: Join industry, manufacturing, planting, labor, energy, capital (in) unity together everlasting.

Take the first letter of each word, and you have Jimplecute.

There are some times you can't use reality in fiction because it's so odd that no one would believe it, and fiction, to be effective, must be believable. I believe Jimplecute falls into this category, don't you?

Secrets to maintaining an awesome body like mine
Friday, February 12, 2010

When I'm traveling, book-touring or visiting friends, I am always bothered at how hard it is to eat healthy on the road. I am one of those people who never goes a day without my minimum of five fruits and veggies.
Some of my secrets:

1. Hop off the freeway and stop by a supermarket: Buy almonds, peanuts, carrots, apples, grapes and keep them in a cooler.

2. At Chili's, the tilapia cooked on a cedar plank with veggies is good.

3. Nowadays, just about every town of any size has one of those huge Chinese buffets. Not healthy, you say? It is if you're picky. They all have fresh, sauteed green beans and broccoli with chicken. Because it's a buffet, you can pick out all the veggies you want: carrots, baby corn, etc. Trust me, most of the people at these buffets are NOT interested in the veggies. Oh, and though the food at these buffets tends to be bland, be sure to ask them for a bottle of Sriacha ... that hot sauce with the green lid and the rooster on the label. I call it Vietnamese ketchup.

The smells of Childhood: Chapter 2
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

After my last post I felt compelled to share this one, too ... another heartfelt letter, this one from Gena in Georgia:

"Thank you for sending the letter about the Old Spice. Yeah, that brings back memories.

My special scented memory is of "Evening in Paris" in the little oval cobalt blue bottle.

I was 10 years old--a long, long time ago. I bought the gift set for my beloved grandmother. It contained the parfum (not perfume) bottle, larger cobalt bottle of talc (whatever that is), and a round plastic bowl of scented powder with a pink puff - less than $5.00. It was a very long time ago.

Yet, the same/different everlasting scent.

Grandma didn't wear too much perfume, although she loved the powder.
I still have the cobalt bottles of parfum and talc.

I plan to dig them out of the keepsake drawer soon. Just a whiff and I’m there again.

Old Spice is Nice
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A few years ago my dad gave me a bottle of his Old Spice after-shave lotion as a gesture of kindness. It's been sitting beneath my sink, unused. I generally don't like to add smells to anything. I don't care for air fresheners or fabric softener sheets in the dryer. Usually, I think natural smells are the way to go.

But I recently splashed some on after I shaved, and boy oh boy did it send me back to memories of childhood. I posted my thoughts in my facebook status, asking people if they had memories of certain smells associated with their dads, and I got this poignant, beautiful comment from a childhood friend named Julie.

"I lost my husband 10 years ago to Lymphoma, and my dad 8 years ago. They both wore Old Spice and I loved it. After Craig died I kept his half used bottle and stored it away. It's moved with me 2 times. I'm listing my house once again, and packed it just the other day. Even after 10 years, it smells wonderful and comforts me. I take it out from time to time, to smell, remember and be held by two of the most wonderful men who have ever touched my life."

Showdown at the supermarket
Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ad: Excuse me, ma'am, but you are way over the limit of groceries for the express lane.

Petulant woman: I am not.

Ad: I count ... twenty-something items there. Maybe thirty.

Petulant woman: I'm in a big hurry.

Ad: We're all in a big hurry. You're supposed to reserve this lane for times when you just need to run in and run out and get a few items.

Petulant woman: You're a man. You wouldn't understand.

Ad: On the contrary. I'm a stat-at-home dad and trophy husband. I multi-task just like you to survive the day. I understand completely.


So, I ask you, dear readers: How much is too much in the supermarket express lane? Should I be allowed to use the express lane if I have 11 items? 20? 16?

Imposter on Coconut Drive
Friday, February 5, 2010

So I leave town for three weeks, and this is what happens:

Yes, my best friends and neighbors -- we'll call them Betty and Barney because they're very private people -- were so accustomed to me living at their house during happy hour that they made a prop of me, complete with my requisite kerchief, t-shirt, boots and, of course, the Tervis tumbler containing a gin and tonic.

For the record, however, they did get something wrong: I DO wear underwear.

Secret #756TM3
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I was a quasi gigolo for old ladies in Nebraska at one time.

EXPLANATION: I went to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where my Great Aunt Flo lived. Occasionally, she would invite me over for dinners with her "lady friends," as she called them. Incidentally, it was Aunt Flo who taught me how to use a corkscrew.

Well, I always had a blast with these ladies ... and they proceeded to ask me to be their escorts at black-tie functions. I really liked them, so I always said yes.

RETROACTIVE GUILT: Two of them would buy me gift certificates to Ben Simon's, my favorite men's clothing store. And I would accept the gifts. (Mom, did I ever tell you about this?)

I don't THINK this makes me a whore. I mean, I didn't do the nasty with them ... just drove them to and from the events and escorted them around their cocktail parties. It was a hoot.

Years later someone told me this: "They all thought you were gay. Gay guys do this sort of thing all the time."


Sad ending: My final act of senior-escorting was with Aunt Flo herself; I was a pall bearer at her funeral my junior year.

Cheers to Aunt Flo.

What I'm reading
Monday, February 1, 2010

Just finished a funny memoir by Jenny Gardiner titled, Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me. Very funny but also a parable in human tolerance and patience. I read an advance copy; the title publishes in March.

-An advance copy of Kristy Kiernan's newest offering, Between Friends, which hits bookstores in April. Though she's one of the funniest people I know, Kristy writes books that seriously explore family relationships better, in my opinion, than even Anita Shreeve can do. This girl is a rising star. Watch her.

My favorite magazines these days: The Week, The Economist, Entertainment Weekly. I've given up on The New Yorker: yaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnnn

Website I enjoy: TheDailyBeast.com ... the brainchild of Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair and, for awhile, The New Yorker.