Tag Archives: tony kushner

Lame Adventure 378: Real Life Revenge of the Nerds

It is not a secret that I am a tepid book reader.

Ah, let's read about Wine for Dummies while quaffing beer.

Reading the cover of Wine for Dummies while quaffing beer.

This is not because I have an aversion to reading books. I simply have little time to devote to reading books. At the risk of sounding like the kindred spirit of a hack that seldom listens to music but composes a symphony on spoons, I recently finished writing my first book of 25 short humor essays, Lame Adventures: Unglamorous Tales From Manhattan. Currently my essentially invisible tome is in freefall. It’s # 712,595 with a boulder on Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank. This sinkhole ranking gives the impression that I have written my masterpiece on spoons. I have agonized over this situation and concluded that my tome’s problem is that only tens of about thirty people are aware of it, and they’ve all purchased it. Today I learned that my pal, Fellini, contacted The Bloggess about it. Yes, real deal humorist Jenny Lawson has given my book a welcome shout out. Maybe her endorsement will generate more e-book sales.

In an effort to lift my book’s dismal ranking a hundred thousand notches or maybe a realistic eight, I attended every librarian’s wet dream, BookExpo America.

Wally Lamb! (whoever that is)

Wally Lamb! Whoever that is.

Tie-in for film based on book that is not on my radar.

Tie-in for film based on book that is not on my radar.

Malcolm Gladwell — heard of him as well as David & Goliath.

Malcolm Gladwell — heard of him as well as David & Goliath.

Duct tape raffle! (didn't enter)

BEA duct tape raffle! Didn’t enter.

Larger than life Lego sculptures. (respected the rules — only photographed; didn't touch)

Larger than life Lego sculptures. Respected the rules — only photographed; didn’t touch fearing decapitation.

Dummies guy was in the house!

Dummies guy was in the house!

BEA is a massive publishing event that was held at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. Javits is a cavernous six-block long conference hall that could double as a town with central air conditioning. For published authors the entry fee was a seizure-inducing $199, but on the bright side, I was not smacked with a penalty fee for being semi-illiterate.

Prior to going I researched the more than 1000 exhibitors to see if any might be open to my brand of wit. I focused on nine publishers and three literary agencies. Once at Javits, I saw a crowd waiting in the lobby for the show to open at 9 A.M. Someone assumed that I was press, which struck me as odd, but I was wearing this Roz Chast cartoon tee shirt that must have given the false impression that I have a career.

No, I am not CEO of Low Key Press.

No, I am not CEO of Low-Key Press.

After registering, I set out to find the agents who were in the International Rights Center located a floor above the show proper. On my way there, I found the beer.

9 A.M. suds. Locked.

9 A.M. suds. Locked. They knew I was coming.

And I narrowly missed getting run over by a Coke machine.

Almost the death of me or at least some disfigurement.

Almost the death of me or at least some disfigurement.

The third event in this leg of my journey was encountering a guard who stopped me and asked if I had an appointment. No appointment. No admittance. Even though she didn’t bare her teeth, I sensed that she was no nonsense.

Me: How do I go about getting an appointment?

Guard: Make phone calls.

She gestured toward a catalogue with names and numbers. I did not want to get bit in the shin so I took her advice. I spilled my guts to an assistant at one agency who was responsive. She arranged for me to leave my book with reception. A few of the publishers on my list that I visited on the exhibition floor were also receptive.

Exhibition hall before it got REALLY crowded.

Exhibition hall before it got really crowded.

Time will tell if anything will come from any of these encounters or if the copies of my book that I handed out are destined to be mulch. In the exhibition area, I was deluged with exhibitors offering advance complimentary copies of all kinds of books. The vast majority I declined because I did not want to lug around 900 pounds of backbreaking clutter. Many attendees grab a copy of everything at this all you can read buffet.

Stacks of Raccoon Rampage for the taking.

Stacks of Raccoon Rampage for the taking.

Authors are also present to sign autographs.

Mat Phelan signing his graphic novel I regret not taking.

Matt Phelan signing advance copies of his graphic novel, Bluffton, that I highly regret not taking.

Bluffton by Matt Phelan, a graphic novel I later learned that's about my favorite silent film comedian Buster Keaton.

Bluffton a graphic novel featuring my favorite silent film comedian Buster Keaton as a boy.

I had little interest in collecting any autographs until I saw that my favorite living playwright, Tony Kushner, was signing copies of his screenplay, Lincoln.

So-so picture of great American writer Tony Kushner.

So-so picture of great American writer Tony Kushner.

He could sign a gum wrapper with William Wrigley’s initials and I’d wait in a line an hour for that. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his theatrical masterwork Angels in America and has twice been nominated for the Academy Award. He is such a brilliant writer the grocery list in his back pocket would likely sing to me.  

Okay, maybe I did lower myself and get Helen Fielding's autograph, too, and a copy of it for my sister as well.

Maybe I did get Bridget Jones’s Diary author Helen Fielding’s autograph for my sister … and me. Helen’s delightful.

It’s common at BEA for attendees to ask fellow attendees standing on epic lines whom they’re waiting for. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred it was for an author I had never heard of, but I quickly perfected the habit of nodding my white noise-filled head like I was familiar. When I encountered time one hundred, I learned that the line was for Jim Carrey. Yes, this guy.

Grandpa Jim smiing and signing.

Grandpa Jim smiling and signing.

He was signing autographs to drum up buzz for his children’s book How Roland Rolls. He wrote it with kids and his own grandson in mind. Even though it seemed like I stood in his line for the better part of a week, I met a fellow self-published author named Rainey who lives in Arizona and bonded with her. Bonding with people makes the long line waiting almost enjoyable. The people in front of us were very friendly, too. There was such a commotion when Jim Carrey arrived; I thought that maybe it was for another famous guy with the initials “JC”.  I’m not thinking Jimmy Carter.

Rainy indulging in her 1.8 seconds with Jim.

Rainy indulging in her 1.8 seconds with Jim.

Real Happiness at Work a.k.a. an oxymoron.

Real Happiness at Work a.k.a. a myth.

On my way to finding where an author was talking about her book, Real Happiness at Work, which from my own day job experience must be in the fantasy genre, I noticed a queue that stretched to infinity. Attendees were not waiting for a free book or an autograph from God. This horde was eager to have their picture taken with the Internet sensation Grumpy Cat. I had never heard of this cat until that moment at BEA. Grumpy Cat was born with feline dwarfism, a condition that leaves a permanent frown on her face, much like my fellow subway riders at rush hour. But no one would stand in a line crossing the border to meet them. My fellow line waiters there were terrific, too, especially Ellen the Wonderful, who is familiar with this blog. What a woman!

Ellen and Grumpy Cat.

Ellen and Grumpy Cat.

Me smiling like an idiot with Grumpy Cat who indeed looked very grumpy, if not sedated.

Smiling behind Grumpy Cat who indeed looked very grumpy, if not sedated.

Around four o’clock the exhibitors unlocked the beer. Quaffing an icy cold one while socializing with pistol librarians like Jeanette from Newington, Connecticut and Debbie from Easton, Pennsylvania also makes the line-waiting pass much quicker.

Before leaving at the end of the long day, I visited the bathroom, but resisted the temptation to shill my book to the attendant there. The loo was plastered with Mad Libs stickers. Pictured below is the one that was inside my stall’s door.

Mad Libs written by my predecessors. Photo hot shot from a sitting position.

Mad Libs written by my predecessors. Photo not shot from a sitting position.

Lame Adventure 189: Waiting for the World to End

As with most anyone with a degree of lucidity, I was very aware that Harold Camping, who my dear friend, Martini Max, refers to as “that mummified modern day Boris Karloff without Karloff’s charm,” predicted that the world was scheduled to come to an end this past Saturday at 6 pm EST.  This was one hour before Milton and I were going to the Public Theater to see the latest play written by Tony Kushner with the catchy title that’s almost as easy to recall as page 37 of BeowulfThe Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures.  Milton and I had been eagerly awaiting this play for at least two years.  We had purchased our fourth row dead center $20 tickets (Public Theater membership; an excellent deal) the second they went on sale last January 6.  Therefore, the timing of Judgment Day was incredibly inconvenient for us.  My sidekick, Greg, noted that the world’s end would start with a big rolling earthquake.

Greg (reasoning):  Even if it does happen, you might still be able to get your play in.

Greg raised a valid point considering the integrity of New York’s many dedicated thespians and this production was featuring some of the best, Michael Cristofer, Stephen Spinella and Steven Pasquale.  Anyone acting in a Tony Kushner play must be someone supremely devoted to the stage.  Kushner is one of the greatest living playwrights of his (coincidentally, Milton’s and my) generation.  If the world was destined to come to a grinding hellfire and brimstone halt at 6 pm, where should we be?  Milton emailed me:

Milton’s email: If the world is gonna end at six, that’s not when you’d want to be on the subway.

Excellent point.  Milton and I decided to meet at 5:30 at B Bar over on East 4th Street.  B Bar is also a short walk from the Public Theater, and an establishment that grants Public Theater members like us a 15% discount.  Even though the world could be checking out, why pay more?

Appropriately, this was the last ad I saw on my last subway ride – an N train, when I exited at 8th Street.

Reminder to heathens like me.

Here is the second to last ad I saw.

Head's up to sushi eaters like me.

I photographed it because I thought the goldfish’s implied use of a scatological term was inappropriate if I had a seven-year-old child.  Then, I recalled that I have never spawned and the only child in my life, my niece, Sweet Pea, is pushing seventeen.  If she doesn’t utter “shit” by now, that would worry me, and make me think we do not share blood.

Saturday was also a very humid day.  As I was waiting for Milton outside B Bar my hair was doing Full Bozo.  When he arrived he said:

Milton:  Your hair’s so wide today, from behind I thought you were a different person.

It’s capacity to expand that Saturday was actually more terrifying than the world ending.  Although I had originally intended to have my tresses colored and pruned that day, I never made the appointment, not due to the pending possibility of it being doomsday, but I want to look a little less lousy when my sister, Dovima, visits me in June.  My body may never be 30 again, but my hair can still pull off 20 after my colorist and stylist work their magic.

Once inside B Bar we were given a booth across from the toy trucks.

B Bar's wall of toy trucks.

This prompted Milton to reminisce about his long lost boyhood:

Milton:  Do those trucks bring back memories!  I got so many of them when all I wanted was Barbie.

Usually, I order a glass of wine with a meal, but with the planet on the verge of collapse, I decided to live large and order a Mojito.  Milton decided he’d have a Pear Mojito.  I grabbed the drink menu out of his paws and yammered enthusiastically:

Me:  What’s that?

I saw Milton’s Pear Mojito on the menu and added:

Me:  That sounds good.  I’ll have one, too.

Milton ordered our beverages.  A short while later, our waiter returned with what looked like Mimosas to us.

Mystery cocktails with Milton praying patiently in the background.

Milton:  What’s this we’re drinking?  It seems like a Mimosa.

Me:  I hope it doesn’t have any orange juice in it.  You know my gastroenterologist has forbidden me from drinking o.j. … But I suppose if the world’s about to end, what does it matter?

Milton:  I’d still like to know what the hell we’re drinking.

Me:  Let me handle this.

Milton:  Don’t ask the waiter.  He’ll think we’re idiots.  Hey you, “We don’t know what we’re drinking!”

Our waiter returned.

Me:  We’re not complaining about our drinks.  They’re fine, wonderful, we’re pleased.  We’d just like to see the drink menu again.

Waiter:  Certainly.

Our waiter hands me a drink menu.  I read it.

Me:  I’ll be damned!

Milton:  What does it say?

I hand the drink menu to Milton.

Me:  We’re drinking Pear Mimosas!

No Pear Mojitos here!

Milton:  What made you think we were ordering Pear Mojitos?

Me:  The power of your suggestion?

Then, my sister, Dovima, who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, calls me on my cell phone.

Dovima:  It’s already tomorrow in parts of the world.  The rapture’s not happening today.  Enjoy your play.

And we did just that.