10-12-2011, 09:31 AM
PART ONE: Ducklings, last night Gay Panda was in a social situation where refusing carbohydrate-laden foods would have been beyond gauche. So I limited the damage as best I could (a tiny amount of bread, part of a bacon tartlet, three fingerling potatoes, a few bites of dessert) but I am afraid that today I have swollen up in reaction to the size of Panada. And so, not amused and not wanting to talk about food or primal or water retention or stubborn panda flab, I am going to tell you a story.
Mr. Magazine Time was a piece of work, Roger was a masterpiece, and Almost Santa was a new author’s worst nightmare. We travel back to the magical year of 2007, in which a 2,100-year-old melon was discovered in Japan, Marion Jones surrendered her Olympic gold medals, important people you have never heard of talked about climate change, and an unimportant person that you have heard of named Paris Hilton bounced in and out of jail for violating probation.
My book was also released that year, an event that did not make Wikipedia’s entry for important news events of 2007. It was only available briefly because the economy was beginning to flounder and my publisher went down with it, but while it was out, I did a Very Brief Book Tour and talked to reporters for magazine articles and gave speeches to classes of students.
Speaking publicly gives me panic attacks. I would almost rather get a rectal exam performed by a drunken Doctor Edward Scissorhands than have to do it. New authors can sabotage themselves by being unwilling to do self-publicity; as writers are frequently shy people not inclined to plug their own work, it creates a Cycle of Fail that leads to the downfall of the book. I did not want to do this, so I would have my panic attack in the restroom of bookstores or schools or in my house waiting for the reporter to call, and then I would grit my teeth and get through it.
That day I was speaking to 30 seventh and eighth graders in the half hour before school let out. It was an informal setting with me in the teacher’s rocking chair and the kids sprawled on the floor, and we talked about my book and history and Where Ideas Come From until the bell rang. I signed some books and helped a boy find his math folder, relieved that it had ended with me only saying one stupid thing in thirty minutes. The kids began to bang out the door while I cleaned up my belongings, and then a shadow fell.
A giant of a man was standing very closely to me. He had a massive gut under a stained and straining T-shirt and on his arm was a baby dripping from nearly every orifice. I nodded politely even though he was in my personal space and continued to pack until I realized that he wanted my attention. Straightening, I looked at this man who was two decades too young to play Santa, but was blossoming into the hallmarks of his physique. His nose had a reddened tip and his cheeks were blown-out; the belly was already adequately prominent and his forehead was beaded with sweat from the exertion of walking from his car to the classroom. The baby he held continued to ooze.
Last edited by Gay Panda; 01-04-2012 at 11:26 AM.
10-12-2011, 09:34 AM
PART TWO: Before I could say hello, he spoke in an explosion. “YOU’RE A WRITER?”
“Yes,” I said in some alarm, hearing a lot of accusation in his tone.
There was a pause, which ended in another explosion. “I’M A WRITER.”
Did that put us over the maximum capacity of writers in the room? Why was he angry with me?
Sometimes I am good at reading people, and thankfully, this was one of those times. It hit me what the problem was: gigantic Almost Santa felt small. He didn’t know that my publisher was sinking; that the first print run of my book was modest; that I wasn’t gushing with royalties. I was dressed nicely and had just been the center of attention in a small crowd for my writing, and this gave him the illusion of great success and had made him feel tiny and invisible. It ticked him off.
I smiled and said enthusiastically, “That’s great! I love meeting other writers!”
He exploded again. “I WRITE COUNTRY WESTERN LYRICS FOR BIG SINGERS LIKE BORIS BLAH-TON AND BLAH-LA BLADDER. HAVE YOU HEARD OF THEM?”
Obviously, those are not the real names. The real names went in one ear and out the other, because Gay Panda does not listen to country western. The teacher had stepped out and Almost Santa had blocked me into a corner; I realized frantically that to placate this towering, angry man, I could not say that I hadn’t heard of them. But if he called me on it, I would be caught.
“Who hasn’t heard of them?” I said, and hoped for the best. Silently, the baby leaked on, a moist yellow crust on its cheeks leading back to its ears.
“I DECIDED TO GET SOME SONGS PUBLISHED AND HAD TO SING THEM A CAPPELLA TO AN AUDIENCE. YEAH?”
“Yeah,” I echoed. “Wow.”
“THE FIRST SONG, SEE, THAT WAS WRITTEN WHEN I MET MY WIFE. THE NEXT SONG, NOW SEE, THAT WAS WRITTEN WHEN SHE BECAME MY EX-WIFE!” He barked in humorless laughter. “IMAGINE THAT!”
I smiled and he exploded yet again. “DO YOU WANT TO HEAR THEM?”
“I . . . uh . . . sure?”
One of the few students left in the room exclaimed, “Aw, Dad, no!”
Please, please don’t hand me that baby, I thought in desperation. A bulb of bright yellowish-green snot emerged from an already slick nostril. The man put the baby down on the carpet to liquefy and I exhaled in relief just as the man inhaled and burst into song.
10-12-2011, 09:37 AM
I'm really hoping part 3 does not end with you covered in baby ooze...
10-12-2011, 09:39 AM
PART THREE: “WHEN YOU WANT TO BE WITH THE ONE YOU LOVE, BUT SHE’S GONE AND THE DOG IS SAD . . .” he brayed in my face. I stood there, trapped in the corner, not knowing whether I should look at him or the wall or close my eyes and beg Valhalla to save me. He was still in my personal space and I hoped that he wasn’t imagining me in my underwear to give him the courage to master his stage fright. He sang and sang, and the gooey baby with a perilously sagging diaper began to dance the funky chicken at our feet.
The older sister and two friends came over and started dancing the funky chicken with the baby. The baby crowed and continued to discharge, spittle flying from its mouth in sticky loops. Some retracted back to its chin and hung there like shoelaces. The diaper sagged lower, obviously loaded, and though Gay Panda is not a religious panda, I began to pray. Through no divine intervention but that of time, the song at last ended. Almost Santa grinned and his eyes brightened keenly on me.
“AND HERE’S THE OTHER SONG! YOU CAN REALLY SEE HOW MY STYLE DIFFERS IN THIS ONE.” Readers of Primal With A Side Of FABULOUS, he burst into song again. “SHE CAME INTO THE BAR ON THOSE MILE-LONG STEMS, GUYS FIXING ON HER BABY BLUES . . .”
The baby fell over to stain the carpet. Almost Santa sang his heart out while I pledged my soul to any divinity that could rescue me. Just as he was winding down, the spirit of AT&T answered. My phone rang and Almost Santa stopped a few measures shy of the ending. I said, “That was really impressive! You’re right, there was such a difference in style! Pardon, I have to get that.”
“GOODBYE! NICE TALKING TO YOU,” he exploded as he retrieved the baby.
Gay Panda has never run to the Prius so fast. Children, that is the glamor of being an author.
10-12-2011, 10:12 AM
I was genuinely terrified that he would offer his drooling, snotty, infected baby to me, and I would have no choice but to take it. UGH.
Originally Posted by canio6
10-12-2011, 10:15 AM
Yes, that would have been terrifying. I avoid holding babies by saying, "I'm clumsy and tend to drop things; are you sure you want me to hold him/her/it?"
Originally Posted by Gay Panda
Thank you for the story. It is nice to see into the fast-paced, exciting, and glitzy life of prius driving authors
10-12-2011, 11:48 AM
That cracked me up. Oh, what a glitzy life it is! Almost Santa had a serious contender in Dragon Lady, a bushy-haired woman in her fifties who appeared at a signing accompanied by a backpack bursting with stuffed dragons. She picked up my book, held it to her ear, said that it did not speak to her, and put it down. Then she gave me a gummy grin and said, "Everyone says that I'm great at back-scratching!" and lunged for me.
Originally Posted by canio6
I wonder if I am wearing some kind of target that attracts these people.
10-12-2011, 04:16 PM
I am so glad you didn't feel like talking about food or primal or water retention or stubborn panda flab.
10-12-2011, 05:44 PM
Sometimes it helps when my body is being annoying to write on a completely different topic for a post!
Originally Posted by Yvonne PHX
10-12-2011, 06:18 PM
When reading your blog I always wonder what your name for ME might be on here.
I imagine it will be something heroic like "Fights Evildoers" but in reality it would probably be "Fried Twinkie" or "Ostrich Butt Head".
Thanks for all you do.