So I'm sitting with Ted over late breakfast at Tom's Coney Cafe on Dort Highway, dreading New York. I'm eating a turkey and swiss croissant and drinking a decent cup of coffee and reading, ironically, the New York Times -- one of our daily treats from (she lowers voice to a whisper) the corner Starbucks. There's an article about how Lou Dobbs doesn't tell the truth -- particularly when it comes to leprosy in the U.S. Apparently he said there were 7,000 cases in the last three years -- mostly perpetrated by those pesky immigrants -- when really, it was 7,000 cases over the last THIRTY years. Confronted with his statistical creativity by David Leonhardt of the Times, along with suggestions Dobbs has been offering broadcast exposure to white supremacists, Dobbs replied, "You've raised this to a level that frankly I find offensive." Funny how raising the level of something can be offensive.
A big glamorous black woman comes in and Ted says, "Is that LaKisha?" We're on the lookout since she rolled into Bishop Airport Sunday night. Don't know if she favors these Dort Highway dives, but we're at home here. A roly-poly guy in the booth next to us orders a "Jy-Roe" and the waitress impatiently corrects, "HEE-Row." I can almost hear her say, "HEE-row, dumbell." "Okay, HEE-row," he tolerantly repeats, "Whatever, gimme one." I like a place like that. Two guys in Harley teeshirts amble in and order platters of two coneys each, even though it's barely past breakfast. I think the slim young woman in a nearby booth, chain smoking and rather wearily done up in a wide metal belt, short skirt and tight top, might have come off the circuit further down the road. We're all in this together.
So anyway, even though I'm enjoying my New York Times amid the comforting dishevelment of my Flint brothers and sisters, I'm dreading the actual city of New York. Friday morning Ted and I are jumping a jet to Newark airport, plopping down in our overpriced room at the Roosevelt Hotel, and enduring three days at Book Expo America.
I'll be one of 30,000 authors, publishers, agents, booksellers, scam artists and hangers-on competing for space in the aisles of the Jacob Javits Convention Center. The number of booths are in the thousands. Among other rules, they say bookbags on wheels are forbidden, for some reason.
It's a trade show, the business end of the deal -- and I've decided it is time I abandon my fantasy life of grassy, nurturing artist colonies and rambling ruminations on line breaks and symbolic intent for the bottom line.
My book will be displayed a couple of places, a single dandelion in an overpopulation of weeds (weeds are wildflowers by another name, right?) and I'm supposed to find out if I win, show or place in the ForeWord Magazine Literary Novel of the Year Award (for the record, there are something like 40 rubrics and 650 finalists...only ten, however, in my category). I don't think I'll win: a fancy-schmancy Solzhinetsyn collected and a reissue of a novel with a new foreward by Wole Soyinka are the front-runners, I predict. ForeWord has found a brilliant way to cater to all us independently published authors desperate for exposure; yes, I bought the gold-embossed "Finalist" sticker for my book. Fifty-five dollars, if you must know.
Then I'm recording a podcast at the iUniverse booth: five minutes, five questions. Then Ted and I are going to try to snag autographs from the likes of Wilbur Smith and Alan Alda. I'm going to fight for a front-row seat at an interview with Christopher Hitchens and have breakfast on Sunday with Ian McEwen and a couple of hundred of his other best friends.
It's just that I'll feel so...small.
Just one little Flintoid with half a foot in LA, treading into Gotham City with all the rest of those rabid writer/aspirants. Oh, the horror.