Mar 8, 2006

My publisher began screeching for the Rome Adventure Guide manuscript – not unreasonably (I've spun through all his goodwill and extensions now). Seven clients vie for itinerary-time in Europe this spring. Deadlines stack like jets circling a closed runway.

The last few weeks have been a Gordian knot of trip-planning, 15-hour workdays, and trying to decipher the Inappropriate Beau's infrequent and increasingly distant emails.

Something's rotten in the state of New Zealand. But what?

"You're just exhausted," friends cluck and soothe. "Don't confront him, silly. You'll be fine once you're together."

But my skin crawls. I'm lackluster about our European jaunt. Each evening, I jog to Shilshole Bay and gaze at pewter Puget Sound. The anxiety doesn't ride into the sunset.

Frommer's suggests I stretch my six-week trip to ten, covering Romania and perhaps Slovenia for a new guidebook. I.B. – who plans to noodle around Europe for four months – begs off the extra time together: he's visiting hostel-buddies in Holland and Germany in May.

Germany being the home of his traveling companion. Female traveling companion.


Oh dear.

Not promising.


A college friend supplies distraction: a game-launch at the Science Fiction Museum. I've partied with Mardi Gras royalty and media luvvies of late; why not infiltrate the Experience Music Project, that bastard brainchild of Architect Frank Gehry and Microsoft Cofounder Paul Allen?

The complex litters the base of Seattle's Space Needle. Said to resemble Jimi Hendrix's smashed guitar, the structure looks more "like something that crawled out of the sea, rolled over and died," according to Herbert Muschamp, architecture critic for The New York Times.

Inside, gamers and programmers mingle. The food is plentiful, the bar open, the music rocks (AC/DShe).

"So this German backpacker has me worried," I begin over strawberries, cheese and Chardonnay.

"Excuse me, are you Jason Ocampo?" A man steams into our conversation. "I watch you on Gamespot all the time. Wow! What an honor. I'm a huge fan!"

Surprised, I turn to my friend: "Jase, have you got groupies now?"

"Well ... They have us on-camera a lot now. I get recognized sometimes."

"But you're a writer!"

The interloper chips in, unhelpfully: "Oh, I never read the news. Too much work. But I love to watch it."

Great. My beau and job prospects are waning in tandem. Despite a handful of modeling and acting stints, I've resisted the siren lure of broadcast journalism. Wordsmithing drew me to this career; I can't imagine suffering its slings and arrows for anything less.

Perhaps I am too curmudgeonly, though. Why struggle in a garret? I could bleach my teeth, infill my Kirk-Douglassy chin dimple and become a podcast princess ...

No ... that's just the stress talking.

Everything will be just fine, I'm sure.

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