My close friends know that I’m actually a very nervous person, especially around public events. I mean, even more than most people. I would go far as to say I’m deeply neurotic about it. I can talk to strangers over the cheese counter all day, but speaking in public makes me lose sleep for weeks ahead of time. I honestly thought my body might just spontaneously explode a number of times in the days leading up to last Thursday. I might have created medical history if Laurie hadn’t been there to constantly talk me down. I don’t know what I would have done without her.
When I was writing the book, I never really thought about promoting the book. Sure, in some abstract sense I envisioned being in a bookstore, and the book being there, and somehow it selling and everyone would be happy, but I didn’t really think about reading from my own writing – in public – over and over again. There’s an odd contrast to my writing style: sitting alone in my dirty, cramped “office” for two years avoiding friends, and the everybody-come! nature of public event promotion.
Last Thursday was my first reading ever, for anything. I attended a local Open Mic for years and watched my friends perform without ever feeling the need to do it myself but you know, if you put out a book, you have to support it.
The reading was at 7 PM and, of course Laurie and I got there way early. At around 6:30 we walked into Books Inc. Berkeley. There was no one there I recognized. Actually, that’s not right. That implies that there were people there… There were four Books Inc. workers and possibly two browsers* in the historical autobiography section. I was absolutely convinced in that moment that this would be the worst night of my life.
There is something freeing about that. I actually started to get less nervous. I think it’s worse to be the organizer than the “performer” at an event that no one shows up to. I once put on a punk show at Epicenter for one of my favorite SF bands, one that played the very first real punk show I went to. I thought their reunion show would organize itself and people would be super excited to see them. Unfortunately I forgot that much of the SF punk scene at that time were people who grew up outside the Bay Area – or too young to have heard of them — and no one cared. The night of the show I was calling all my friends – even if they hated punk — begging them to come because I was so embarrassed. The band wasn’t happy, but they were nice. “We’ll just treat it like a practice,” and they did, playing an awesome set of early ‘80s punk to the four of us.
I thought, ok… payback time. I had no idea that Frightwig had such karmic pull.
At about 6:45 though, people started to arrive. Then more people came. Then more… People from all over my life (kinda like the book itself): my brother, high school friends, late ‘80s punk friends, cheese distributors, co-workers, zine friends, even my 8th grade creative writing teacher!** More people than I ever imagined showed up and I am deeply grateful. The reading went well (so people told me) and there was cheese (Thanks Sheana!)
It was such a relief to get this out of the way. Only about another 15 events to go… Time to start getting nervous again.
*Browser is a funny word. Here of course it means bookstore lurker. For most people its that thing that gets them to their websites. For dairy people it means grazing mammal. Just thought I’d throw that out there.
**He was an awesome teacher and facebook just reconnected us. I actually use him as an example when I try to talk about Prop 13 to people. An awesome writing teacher, he also was my pre-algebra teacher because after Prop 13, the public schools had to do mass firings of teachers and press other teachers into classes they were not trained for. He valiantly tried to stay a day ahead of us in the text book, but math really wasn’t his thing. He’d often come in and start the day by saying, “Ok, I taught you something wrong yesterday…” and re-do the lesson.
*** I believe we will be giving out The Cooperative 7” records with every purchase here. We are also working on a contest with prizes, but no promises