By 9:33 (three minutes in) I was already glancing at my wristwatch, realizing this was going to be a dues-paying experience. I was slotted for a 90-minute “book-signing,” but failed to deface a single copy with my autograph. The event was completely unadvertised, and the gracious coffee-ninja running the place had no idea I was coming. I could only chuckle as I staked claim to the only table available, which, being by the window, was conveniently the one table I would have chosen if the place had been empty.
9:43, 9:52, 10:06, 10:16…. The wheel of time seemed to have ground to a halt.
For better or worse, my “job” these days is apparently that of meeting people and appreciating them. Selling books is not my vocation. After years of a solitary existence spent working as a telecommuter in my basement for a large corporation, eventually being jettisoned as useless space garbage, meeting a wide range of people has had the effect of opening the windows on the first spring day. Ah, sweet-smelling fresh air with a bit of earthiness to it….
Set up your wares and display, however, and you immediately become “one of them.” In the minds of passersby I was simply someone trying to sell something they didn’t need, attempting to make a buck. Really, I just desired human contact. 50 minutes in, a feller by the name of Wobby stopped. Yup, it sounds like Bobby, but with a dubya. Boring, conformist, conventional, and “normal,” are not words that apply to this restorer of stringed instruments. He was on his way out, but I look forward to chatting with him further some day and inquiring about the unusual red tattoo emblazoned on his right calf. I thanked him profusely for stopping by and causing my “event” to be a success.
I currently have a virtual inability to talk about myself. In these instances I crave knowledge of the other guy’s experience of life. His or her observations of the world and the fascinating people within it are what interest me. I’m not interested in my own “news.” Perhaps this explains why my recent interview on the telly was such a struggle, or why job interviews have historically been so difficult. Yesterday, in fact, I was taken off-guard when my neighbor asked what I did this weekend. Completely unprepared for the question, I looked off into the distance for a spell, and simply answered, “I don’t rightly know.” I was more interested in his experience with the kids at the cabin. Sigh….this is something I’ll have to get better at if I hope to eke out a living as a writer.
Wobby left to open up his downtown shop, but said we’d get together to discuss the book at some point. I passed the next 45 minutes nursing a fantastic cup of coffee, the beans of which were roasted just the day before in the barrel-shaped item you can see in the above picture. The friendly guy on duty, possessing the fascinating name of Leander, brewed it up special for me. The day before I had wandered into the place, Duluth Coffee Company, and observed a small batch of beans being roasted. The exhaust from these enveloped me in wholesome goodness whilst I stood on the street corner a short spell later, the smell of which clung to the wool fibers of my flannel shirt and followed me home. I wanted to drink this particular coffee, a blend from Papua New Guinea, and the barista was happy to oblige.
I shifted from coffee, water, and to my Moleskin notebook used for cataloging observations. I have no smartphone to distract me from boredom. This is just as well, because creativity often springs from boredom. People run from it, while stifling any possibility of creative expression or thought.
I came to realize why carnival hucksters are such aggressive attention-getters. A gentle person calmly sitting behind a stack of books is way too easy to ignore. If only I could have communicated that human interaction was craved more than money. It was interesting to observe tourists wandering in, eager to spend money on stuff while pouring over a display of merchandise, just walk straight out (carefully averting eye contact) without stopping to talk to the author. I’m not complaining. It’s just an interesting observation. Too intimidating? Awkward? Remember this next time you see some pour soul sitting beside a display that even remotely interests you.
Finally, with three minutes to go, a beautiful young family (tourists on their way up the shore) sat down at a distance of perhaps 42 inches away. The woman was drawn to the cover of the book, displayed prominently on the sign beside me. As I mustered the courage to ask if she wanted to see give it a look-see, for she had no reading material with her, she discreetly began nursing her baby! How could I approach her now???? Finally, I mustered the courage to do so after she switched the baby from the right side to the left. I lingered a good twenty minutes past the end of my event while she examined my work with interest. Eventually we struck up a conversation, and it was the highlight of the morning. Pure, unvarnished humanity. Connection. Sharing. Grateful for the opportunity to meet Caleb and Abby, I asked to borrow their phone in order to take the photograph before I even knew their names.
On the way home I was privileged to get the book placed into my first “radical bookstore.” This was awesome, and had a further redemptive effect on the day (later I curled into the fetal position for a spell, but this comes with the territory). The Jefferson People’s House, staffed entirely by volunteers, describes itself as follows:
A worker-owned, cooperatively-run cafe, progressive bookstore, and community incubator.
What a privilege. I just adore being a part of the conversation in our community, among diverse people who are completely different from me! We have so much to learn from each other.
At home, our young 20-day-old chickens and ducks spent the afternoon in the chicken tractor for the first time. It’s fascinating to observe that though the ducks are nearly twice the size of the chicks, their wings are under-developed. They remind me of the T-Rex from Toy Story, “My arms are too short,” as they follow my kids around the yard. As drawn to water as they are, I swear they’re part mermaid. The chickens, on the other hand, have already taken to flight. Leaping from the perch they can clear a good three feet at this point….