New York City. Like Chicago, I’m having a blast, but unfortunately like Chicago I and my little book can’t entice anyone to attend these readings. My agent, Paul Bresnick, was there, as was Walter Vatter, my publicist at Ivan R. Dee. And two other guys and a lady who I think was just using the back row to rest and read the stack of books she was carrying. Afterwards, she seemed to poke disdainfully at the table of my books in the back. Ah well.
The night began on a confused note: when Paul and I called the Barnes and Noble (on Court Street, in Brooklyn), we were told the show started at 7:00 pm. But the website said 7:30, as did Time Out New York. The manager (I think), a helpful fellow, said that none of their events started on the half hour; they all began precisely at 7:00. So things were a bit baffling.
His introductory speech left a bit to be desired as well. First, he called Satchel Paige, “Saiticho” or some such Japanese sounding name, and then, inexplicably, had Paul Bresnick–my agent–listed as the guy who wrote the Kirkus review. Um…
Then he pulled up an old quote from Jonathan Eig, the one that praised a book called Invincible Summer, the original title. Most alarmingly, I told him, by way of a joke, to mention that if you’re in attendance you were obligated to buy a book. He laughed. Then, during his introduction, he proceeded to say this in a way that made my joke sound entirely serious. He repeated the demand at the end, which made us all sound desperate. Oy vey.
Oddly enough, I sold a book before the show. I was talking to a young man, a security guard there, who sounded excited about The End of Baseball. Then another guy, a New Yorker through and through, thick accent, a hat advertising a plumbing concern, pack a smokes in his pocket, the works, overheard and joined the conversation. He asked what the book was about and just about freaked. “Well, that sounds like a story all right–that’s for me,” he said.
This gent was one of those non-SABR fans who nonetheless remembers the name of every man who ever gripped a baseball and stepped onto a major league diamond. Christ, he made me feel like an idiot. Every name I mentioned in association with my book, he would ask, “Oh, yeah, isn’t dat de guy who hit one off so-n-so in ’62 to drop the Phils to fourth place n’ out a da race?”
Or something like that, and I couldn’t give him an answer to his many queries. “You’ve got a memory like a steel trap,” I said, with admiration in my voice. “Ah, it’s as much a curse, I’ll tell ya,” he said. Then he apologized profusely for having to miss the reading–hadda get a pal at LaGuardia–but he bought a copy and had me sign it. Which I did. Gladly.
Afterwards, Paul and I enjoyed drinks down the street, him telling me great stories about Robin Williams’ agent, about the best game ever at Shea Stadium, and about childhood days waiting in the gas station parking lot beside Ebbets Field for Duke Snyder home runs to come flying by. He lives near my hosts and we took the subway together, talking about books and movies, and who might star in the film version of The End of Baseball and whether or not Spike Lee would direct.
If there’s one thing I’ve been struck by on this trip it’s the abundance of kindness that has come my way. These are blessings, truly. Friends know me as not very religious–if at all–but I don’t like to attribute the kindness I’ve received from people like Ivan, Jonathan, Paul, my hosts (Ned and Anne Darnall here in the Apple), and everyone else, including those holy strangers: the old man who peppered me with questions in Chicago, the young fellow who just happened to be in the store and bought two books–including one for his mentor–in Okemos, and the guy who gabbed my ear off in Brooklyn and bought a copy because it was “a story all right–that’s for me.”
It doesn’t work to say that I’m lucky. Luck is a parking meter with twenty minutes left on it. This is something else, something much more profound. I don’t quite know how to put it without relying on the vernacular of the church, but there you have it. Blessings. That’s what they are, and I’m thankful.