Douglas Coupland,

Girlfriend in a Coma

Tour 1998
Day 11
Boston-Raleigh, N.C.

     An eventless flight into Raleigh. Good.      Raleigh is one of those asteroid cities with no particular core. It’s an enormous, rather pretty, paved Moebius of malls, gravel pits, cemeteries, pine forests, discount golf outlets, and cherry trees. Hi-tech research has moved in recently. There are huge IBM and Rhone-Poulenc facilities. And cigarettes, of course. I really wanted to see an ammonia tanker drive into the Marlboro factory.      I checked into the Asteroid Marriott with a room overlooking the parking lot, feeling as though I were in Kurt Vonnegut’s Midland City. I asked the desk clerk if there was a Museum of Smoking, and he said he thought there was. And the big surprise is that there were nonsmoking rooms.      I had 90 minutes all to myself to make personal phone calls, and it felt so luxurious. I ordered macaroni from room service, because I just can’t look at another club sandwich or burger, and all the other food on the menu was steak, steak, steak, or steak. Ugh. And the Americans are now wrecking french fries by batter frying. It’s the one truly perfected food in the country, and now they’re wrecking even this. What is going through their heads? Why are they doing this?      Oh–all this road food is making my stomach go Michelin, so it’s The Zone for me as of next week. I feel like I’m made of pirogi held together with toothpicks.      Late in the afternoon there was this amazing rainstorm–rain unlike anything I’ve ever seen–and I grew up in Vancouver and I’ve lived in Hawaii. It was more like a huge wave lapping over the hotel. And then it turns out there were tornadoes all over the city and that the rain was a freak occurrence. The radio was telling everybody to stay indoors and go hide in the basement, and when I arrived at the bookstore, it was utterly empty and I felt like such a loser. And then a crowd showed up at the last moment–literally at the last moment–like the citizens of Whoville at the end of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. And the reading was really magical.      Cruel punch line: club sandwiches for dinner. And then at 4 a.m. everything I’d eaten all day turned to battery acid in my stomach and I woke up sneezing vomit and it was so frightening. So I’m going to eat hippie food for the next week whenever possible.      What else …      Oh, nobody in Raleigh-Durham knows how to pronounce the city’s name correctly. It’s so odd. I asked everybody in the signing lineup after the reading. I heard about a dozen variations:

       Rully–Dur Um