On Thursday, I’ll be flying off to Denver for Denver Comic Con
The first time I went to Denver, Colorado was in September of 1969. I was seventeen years old, and I was off to college.
I’d been awarded a four year scholarship to Denver University. The truth is, Denver University had not bee on my radar at all. I’d applied to Northwestern, and a couple of other colleges. The guidance counselor at my school had taken it upon himself to apply for the scholarship on my behalf. I was called out of a class to the office, and told about it. Full ride, four years. And in that instant, I made the decision. I’d go to DU. All I had to do was get there.
Like many or perhaps most kids of that age, my plans didn’t go beyond that. By September, I had a suitcase and clothes were packed, and a small amount of cash and a plane ticket. My parents took me to the airport. I was flying student standby, but the first flight had room for me, and I got on board. The gentleman in the next seat was already drunk. As we sat on the runway, waiting to take off, he explained to me that the lights outside the window meant we would be landing soon. I tried to ignore him for the rest of the trip. He kept nudging me and ignoring my silences until he fell asleep. I was grateful.
At the airport, I got a cab. I was a day early for the dorms to open, since I’d been expecting to fly standby and maybe have to wait a day. So I naively asked the cab driver to take me to an inexpensive hotel near the campus. He took me to one that shocked me with its rates. I think he meant well, taking me to a decent hotel instead of a cheap one. But by the time I realized what it would cost, I was inside with my suitcase and I took the room they had available. It took half the cash I had with me.
The next morning, I took a cab to the campus. I was in Centennial Towers, but by mistake the cab dropped me at Centennial Hall. Both dorms were brand new. They were swarming with freshmen, and there were parents and grandparents and siblings seeing students settled. They were carrying in stereos and toaster ovens and typewriters and all manner of gear. I had only a suitcase and a small carry on. I was dismayed when I found out I was at the wrong dormitory, but there was a whole cadre of fraternity fellows who were helping people unload cars and get stuff up to their rooms. One kindly young man gave me a lift to my correct dormitory and stood by while I checked in and then insisted on helping me carry my suitcase to the door of my room. He bid me farewell and good luck. I hung up my clothes in the closet. Toiletries on a shelf. There was nothing else for me to put away.
My roommate had been there. I could see her things put away on her shelves. She burst back into the room. ‘Hi, I’m Terry Sutton, glad to meet you. I can’t stay, I’m Jewish and this is Rosh Hashanah, so I’m going to spend the weekend with my grandparents, see you Sunday night.”
And she was gone.
And I went out to explore the dormitory and the campus.
I look back at that person I was, how blindly I stepped off cliffs, confident that I could manage everything and that all would go well. I think back to the kindness of strangers and my willingness to believe that the world would help me get along. Who was I? When did I become this cautious, careful planner,” I must know every step in advance” person that I’ve become? I suppose that some of the harder knocks I’ve taken in life have left me Once Burned, Twice Shy.
So, next Thursday, I will fly to Denver. I have my e-ticket, I have my Known Traveler Number to speed me along, and I know what hotel I will stay at. I have a preliminary schedule of panels. I have stocked my signing kit with bookplates and fresh pens and a selection of markers and business cards. I know that the Del Rey/ Random House booth is #150 and I know that Tattered Cover will be the book vendor there. I know that some of my writer friends will be there, and I’m looking forward to meeting lots of reader friends.
Returning to the scene of my first big solo adventure, 48 years later.
I hope I don’t have to sit next to a drunk on the plane.