09 January 2009

Plum befuddled

Had a small errand to run yesterday. Here's how it all went down on my end:

My wife, as many of you know, has become a devout fan of author Janet Evanovich. She was to be in Charleston - or, to be anal, Mount Pleasant - at Barnes & Noble for a signing promoting her newest book, Plum Spooky, on Thursday the 8th ("Yesterday" if you're reading the blog on this day. Otherwise, never mind.), and Seraphim really wanted to go up there and meet her, and buy her latest book.

She was a little disappointed when she realized the date conflicted with her weekly Wilton cake classes. I hated it for her, but then a small idea began to sprout: I was 'teleworking' on Thursday, and as my wife pointed out on her blog, I typically do the majority of my editing and post-production agenda Wednesday night, often going to bed as late as 3 or 4 AM. I then just "sleep in" on Thursday.

Thursday presented itself in that way, plus with Sera teaching her class and not getting home until 10 or so, I realized I could swing up to Charleston (a two hour and change drive) and get her that book, nice and autographed by Miz Janet. And, maybe, get home first. The idea of surprising her kinda appealed to me. I honestly think this was the last thing she would've expected.

And, hey, since this is Charleston, South By Damn Carolina we're talking about here, perhaps I could partake of some Bessinger's BBQ (operated by Maurice Bessinger's less-flamboyant brother Thomas). Mustard 'cue, I've said in this space, is God's blessing. I discovered Palmetto-style sauce and my world was forever altered. So, yeah, I could 'reward' myself with a couple of pulled-pork sammiches after I did my deed.

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Okay, so I was completely new and virgin to the whole rigamarole of book signings. Never taken part in one in my life. Books are the passion of others, like my wife, Kate/Susan, et al; my passion lays in recorded works. This does not mean I don't like books. Indeed, I love reading. Only that fiction, I have to say, doesn't do a whole lot for me. I prefer reading biographies, true-life stories, and books relating to my areas of interest.

I have time for only so much passion ... I deeply respect books and have quite a few to my name, but I prefer to immerse myself in music, if that makes any sense.

I went in there figuring that I'd be the only male in that line (at least WW prepared me for that!) And I wasn't far off the mark, either; I didn't see more than a dozen - if that many - Y chromosomes in the whole queue. No matter, I'm doing this for my wife. She loves this author, and if she cannot meet her, then I'll be her 'proxy.'

Kudos must be given to how organized and well-thought-out things were at that B&N store. I walked in, and was promptly asked if I was there for the book-signing. The lady gave me a colored slip with a number on it. It was purple (strangely enough!) and on it was handwritten the number 359. They called for people in line in groups of 100 - each with their own distinctive colored slips. (such an original idea!)

Maybe this is how it's done at most book-signings. I don't know. Just that I counted dozens of ways this could have been a nightmare, and this B&N did it right. I've had my fill lately of incompetence and slipshod, piss-poor planning and execution ... so this was a refreshing experience.

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Anyway, holding #359, and with group #101-200 yet to be called, I had a little time to kill.

I'm almost as happy in a bookstore as I am in a record store, so I started browsing. I could've gone to get my yellow pork payload, but I thought the wiser and stuck around just in case things went quicker than anticipated. I got there right at 6:00 (fool me, I should've taken I-526 around instead of 17 skirting the 'historical district' -- oh well, at least I got to cross the new Cooper River Bridge, my first time on that span), and as it turned out, our group wasn't called until 7:55.

The good news is, the line started moving quickly. I got to the signing table exactly one hour later, 8:55.

They were giving out balloons to the folks in line. I declined, trying to keep my carry-on baggage as minimal as possible. Bag with book inside, plus digital camera. I could snag a balloon on my way out.

The line snaked through several aisles, however I'd already found my reading material for the wait (more on that at a later time).

They gave out cheesecake and chocolate something-or-other cake samples to those of us in line. Not surpringly, I declined. Now when they were offering cups of water ... well, I happily took 'em up on those.

As I was maybe 2/3 of the way to the table, I struck a conversation with two ladies behind me. Both were teachers in the area, and they didn't bring a camera with 'em. I offered them a few bytes on the memory card, and took their e-mail addresses so I could send them. Very nice women, one of them has family in Bainbridge, Ga., where my FIL's family hails. Dyed-in-the-studded-collar UGA fan, too (her purse was a dead giveaway).

Just as we rounded the last curve into the homestretch, a lady came to all of us, asking one simple question: "Ranger or Morelli?" Evidently, she was giving out "I ♥ (RANGER)(MORELLI)" stickers. I had no Earthly idea just what the hell that meant. You might as well have asked Seraphim, Kate/Susan or Melissa "RCA plugs or XLR?" or even "Phthalocyanine or Cyanine?" (I much prefer the latter myself).

I started turning to my new 'friends', "A little help, please?" (I then realized my pick would probably not have been correct, and the wrong choice among Evanovichphiles would be akin to giving Nettiemac a Clemson sweatshirt, ya know?). I didn't have to. She said, "Ohhh, here's a Man Sticker for you.", as she put a generic "Plum Spooky" decal into my hands. Ha ha. The ladies both got a good laugh ... but none more than me. It struck me as just, uhhh, plum funny. "Man sticker." Gotta remember that line.....

I hadn't planned on having my picture taken with Ms. Evanovich -- my wife is the devotee, after all; I hadn't so much as heard of her prior to Sera starting her books -- but my "queue pals" pushed me to do so. "C'mon, your wife will love it!" Yeeeeah, okay.

Once there, whom I assume was JE's manager took the camera and had me pose with her as she signed the book. I told her the circumstances of my being there, and she smiled really big. Not much else was said, as I didn't want to hold up the line (there were at least another 100 folks behind me).

I sensed nothing but good vibes coming from Janet Evanovich. No arrogance. No ego. And no "Why am I doing this for you little people?" star trip. She was plain nice. Amazing, considering I don't envy the task of signing hundreds upon hundreds of books and posing for pictures (with all the flashes going off all evening, it's a damn wonder Miz Janet was able to friggin' SEE where she was writing!!). What's more, I overheard someone ahead of me in line remarking to the effect that JE has a mean case of carpal-tunnel syndrome. Yeesh.

My "queue pals" then had their photo-ops, and I took their e-mail addresses. They should already have their suitable-for-framing JPEG in their respective computers.

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And there you have it. I left the store, then realized I didn't have a balloon to give my wife. I doubled back inside, only to see none available. I went back out, and saw an entire bouquet attached to the portable sign promoting the book-signing. I peeled away the layers of packing tape and liberated the whole batch.

Walking to my car, I understood how Nena must've felt. There had to have been at least 99 of 'em, or so it seemed.

Then, at the crazy hour of 9:10 p.m. I was back on the road. I-526 this time, pal. There was no getting home before Seraphim. I was looking at an 11:30-ish arrival back in Rincon. I pondered just how to frame this, because my wife would no doubt wonder where in hades her husband had gone.

I was pulling into a Circle K on the west side of Charleston when Sera called. She asked me where I was, and I told her "At the Circle K." :-) (I was hoping she wouldn't ask which one!)

At this late hour, and being in a hurry, the barbecue didn't happen. I had to settle for Subway on the way home. Maybe next time.

So there you are. My little traipse into The Literary Dark Side.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "More on that in my book" Gleck

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