I have disappointing news for anyone planning on attending my 7 p.m. book signing tomorrow at the Mt. Lebanon Public Library. My 80-year-old mother will be attending and you all know what that means.
No profanity. No nudity.
Of course, I can’t speak for Mom. She’s always been a bit of a free spirit.
Giving a presentation or something that aims at being humorous in front of your parents is a real challenge.
And humor, indeed, is my aim.
I can’t do drama or profound revelation. No one’s going to show up to watch me try and solve even a basic math equation, something that would only be funny to the mean-spirited and just plain pathetic to everyone else.
These are called book signings, but that seems awfully presumptuous to me.
First off, that assumes anyone else is going to show up. It might just wind up being me and Mom with her going through her hamper-sized purse and every four minutes asking me if I’d like a stick of gum.
Second, calling it a book signing hints that books will be sold. There’s no guarantee of that, either.
Maybe no one will be in a buying mood. Or maybe I’ll be so charmed by the welcome I’ll spontaneously decide to give my entire stock away. The gesture would in equal measures delight my Mom while infuriating my wife.
Either way I try and keep expectations down in the basement, which is coincidentally where I’m scheduled to speak so soaring eloquence tomorrow might not make a difference.
One of these days I’m going to start off by walking directly to the podium and going straight into a reading. No howdies. No introductory gab.
None of the great rock band comes out and and spends about four of five minutes giving some idle chat about who they are and what they’ve been up to. No, they blast right into a real rocker to seize on the throng’s enthusiasm.
This might be difficult for me to do. I’m likely to be engaged in idle chat with everyone that walks through the door. I’m guessing I’ll already be friendly with many of the people so pulling off the enigmatic and reclusive author bit will be a toughie
But it would be cool if I just burst through the doors, stomped to the podium and just launched into one of my stories. It would be even more cool if some flash pots ignited as the crowd went into a frenzy. But it’s hard to whip a crowd of probably about 15 or so into any kind of a frenzy and, guaranteed, the librarians would be furious if I set off about 50-pounds of pyro in Meeting Room A.
One of my best openings ever -- and I hope to do it again one day -- was from when I taught creative non-fiction at Point Park University. The 13-week classes were each three hours long.
First, I’d be deliberately 10 minutes late. The grad students were all furious, wondering if I was either incompetent or just rude.
I’d finally storm into the room, throw my black duster trench coat in the corner and take out one page of notes.
Then I’d begin to read, if that’s what you could call it. I stared at the paper and paused for about three seconds between each introductory word. I was trying to channel the nervous tension of Don Knotts making the speech from “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.”
“When . . . I . . . heard . . . I’d . . . be . . . required . . . to . . . speak . . . for . . . three . . . full . . . hours . . . I . . . figured . . . the . . . only . . . way . . . I . . . could . . . fulfill . . . the . . . duty . . . is . . . if . . . I . . . put . . . really . . . really . . . really . . . long . . . pauses . . . between . . . each . . . of . . . the . . . words.”
By the time I got to the second “really,” they’d all gotten the joke. They knew this was going to be fun. I’d so lowered expectations at the very first impression that classes were a breeze.
Of course, I couldn’t never pull that off with Mom in the audience.
She’d start to heckle, “You’re talking too slow! Speak up! Get to the point!”
I’d have to stop the whole silly production to tell her to pipe down and just keep her pants on.
And I’ll mean it.
I’m serious about that “no nudity” pledge.
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