_ The ever-informative Passive Guy published a provocative article this morning, “Publishers Constantly Mistreat Their Suppliers” that made me recall my time querying agents. All in all, I only queried for a period of two years (2009-2010), longer than some, but not nearly as long as many other writers. Totally, my count was 74 agents queried; 10 who asked for full or partial manuscripts; and ultimately 0 that thought my works were worthy of their time (I never even received the dignity of a reply from 19 of them and one took 16 months to reply – my reaction, “Get over your friggin’ self!”).
Looking back on the entire process now, it leaves me shaking my head in utter amusement. What an insane situation … a writer writes a manuscript and then, in order to try and get it published, has to contact an agent to give themselves the best chance at getting a legacy publisher to even look at it. The big question I asked myself back then, even as I was preparing and sending out queries was: If an agent, by the very name, is the person who is supposed to represent me, then why is he/she acting as the gatekeeper to the publishing houses? Can anyone say ‘conflict of interest'?
You can tell that things needed to be changed by how inane the requirements of some of the agents were becoming, with respect to querying them. A small library of books was written on the subject (I own a few of them) – the form of the query … how to address it … how long it should be … what should and should NOT be included in them, etc., ad nauseum. Then there were the specific, individual guidelines of each prospective agent. Now that’s where the fun really started!
I won’t use agent names but I’m sure writers reading this will smile … some of my favorite requirements and guidelines from agents, with respect to querying:
+ “Write ‘QUERY’ in the subject line or I will DELETE your email!!" The exclamation points still make me feel like I was being scolded.
+ “I take between 12-20 weeks to respond to queries on average and sometimes longer …” Okay, by their own guidelines, queries are only short summaries. I’m personally on a pace to respond to over 27,000 emails this year alone (I reply to everyone that’s nice enough to write to me or invite me to link to them via social networking) and usually reply to everyone in under 72 hours, with most of my replies averaging within 24 hours. Since the usual response of an agent to a query is (by their own admission) >95% to just reject via a short scripted reply and for the rest, simply to request a full or partial manuscript … why exactly would it take anyone 20+ weeks?? Just sayin …
+ (I call this one “The Double Whammy) “I only accept exclusive queries, so if you query anyone else, don’t query me! + “I take between 12-20 weeks to reply to queries!” Riiiiiight, so, in other words, I have to query this agent first and then put my manuscript on ice for the next three to five MONTHS … only to possibly get a scripted rejection … maybe.
+ (And my favorite) “I DON’T ACCEPT UNSOLICITED QUERIES!” Wha … huh??? You have a friggin’ website DEDICATED to telling aspiring authors (read: paying clients) all about you, your agency, who you represent, the genres in which you’re interested, the books you’ve represented … WHY??? My point: If you only accept ‘SOLICITED’ queries … THEN WHAT’S WITH YOUR FRIGGIN’ WEBSITE WITH THE 20 PAGES THAT YOU MADE ME READ ONLY TO TELL ME YOU DON’T ACCEPT UNSOLICITED QUERIES?!
One particular agent only wrote that she didn’t accept unsolicited queries at the very last page of her website, AFTER specifying on the home page that writers are to “read ALL of the instructions and information in the order presented!” I wasted an hour …why I oughta!
Back then, I was also told by not a few agents that even though they were rejecting my manuscript, self-publishing it would be like my pinning the scarlet letter to my lapel. So, basically they were telling me, #1 – I’m your only shot at getting published … #2 – I’m not interested, better luck next time AND #3 oh yeah, and if you even try to publish the manuscript that I turned down, your career is effectively over.
To all those agents all I have to say is “… I don’t accept unsolicited advice!” c”,)
Some writers continue to wonder whether things are better now … I don’t. This past July, my debut novel (the one that received 54 rejections) _The Watchman of Ephraim_ became a #1 Amazon-Bestselling Geopolitical Thriller and remained #1 for 26 days. All praise to Him!
My continual and infinite thanks to the following authors that showed me the light of self-publishing:
Laura Resnick ... Dean Wesley Smith ... K.K. Rusch ... and my man, Joe Konrath!
_ (This is written as humor … it’s okay to laugh, even if you’re Joe Konrath) c”,)
5am – Alarm rings – Sitting down in front of my laptop in my underwear, trying to focus my eyes on my screen as I don my reading glasses.
Opening Outlook …189 emails and three RSS feed-updates – Passive Guy, Dean Wesley Smith, and my man, Joe Konrath … normal morning.
Let’s see … ah, my fan mail, AKA my spam folder …
“Dear GERALD, I am felicitous to engage with you on LinkedIn, as we are now connected telephonically and spiritually. Please except my condolences on your book/song/product/service, as I have not had the consequence to use it as lubrication—“
That’s enough of that one! Moving on …
“Do you need a job?” Well, uh, I have a-
“ Do you need money?” Duh …
“Would you like to work from home?” Well, I am writing from--
“If you would like to make $60 … $600 … $6,000 … $6 gazillion sitting at home, in your underwear, eating cheese, with absolutely no education, training or experience, then all you need to do is click the button below (and be sure to have your credit card handy) …”
Next … I admit, they had me right up to the ‘eating cheese’ part. Let’s check my RSS feeds, ahh The Passive Voice … even the name soothes me. Checking his headlines, just from the past hour …
"Nook Tablet released early, available for in-store pickup today" - "It was a nice walk if you liked grunting" - "Writer’s Knowledge Base" – "A Great Resource for Authors" - "Self-Publishing and the 9.99 Boycott" - "A Sale on Ebook Covers" …
Wow, how does PG do it?? He publishes more blogs in an hour than I do in a year! Wait, there are MORE of them coming through?!
"Amazon lending library and the future of digital publishing" - "Penguin Launches a Self-Publishing Service" - "Three Good Things About Writing Part-Time" …
Okay, I’ll set aside from lunchtime today until midnight to read them. Now, moving on …. Wait … there are more coming through!
"Contracts on Fire: Amazon’s Lending Library Mess" - "From thirty feet away she looked like a lot of class - Amazon vs the Book Trade?" …
Please PG, have mercy … I’m just a man, alone, sitting in my underwear! I haven’t even had my cup of coffee yet—WAIT, there are MORE!!
"British author sues Amazon over user review" - "In short, I can’t afford to take a publishing deal - Demand For The iPad Is Fading" - "What NOT to Blog About" …
STOP IT!! PLEASE, PG … just stop … it! I already feel inadequate, under-informed, confused and it’s not 6am yet!!
<More Passive Guy articles relentlessly continue to populate my Outlook>
<Sigh> I’m not looking at them … I’M NOT LOOKING AT THEM! I’m moving on. Ahh, my mentor, Dean Wesley Smith is sharing some thoughts. Let’s see what he has to say …
“This week, I lost 35 pounds, wrote 16 short stories and three full-length novels, while publishing a blog, handling an estate settlement and playing in a world poker championship – which means I’m BEHIND in my objectives for the month …”
… And I’m still sitting here in my underwear … my inadequacy is growing! You know what I need, a good dose of Joe Konrath. I just wrote him an email thanking him for motivating me and telling him that I’ve started to advertise his eBooks inside my eBooks. He didn’t reply to my email but maybe he’ll mention me in his blog. AHH, there’s his new blog now …
“Hey, Joe here … first off, let me just tell all you sycophant losers out there that send me those stupid, meaningless, worthless emails telling me that I’ve “motivated’ you blah-blah-blah. How ‘bout this … BUY MY BOOKS!!!”
<Tears of shame in my eyes> But … but … I did--
“Bottom line, if you sent me one of those pissy-eyed, ‘Thank you Joe’ worthless, meaningless, ass-kissing messages, let me just tell you what I do with them. First, I don’t open them – then, I delete them – then, I nuke the memory areas of my hard drive where they may have soiled it – then, I replace my hard drive – then--
<eyebrows raised, bottom lip quivering, in shock> YIKES! I think Joe hates me … for thanking him for motivating me?
“Okay, moving on, today, I’m publishing the third installment of my conversation with Barry Eisler. Barry and I didn’t actually talk by phone … or by email … or by instant messaging. We’re far too busy and quite frankly, too successful to spend any time with those ‘legacy’ methods of communication. Instead, we’re both trying out this cool new ‘telepathy’ technique, so now we can speak to each other, inside each other’s minds! The only crappy thing is … I still have to type out our “ThoughtChat® (Barry owns the rights to that) to you 2,000-late morons. Anyway, here’s just a small piece of our 28-hour ThoughtChat®:
Joe: Hey Barry, can you hear me. I’m in your mind using your ThoughtChat®?
Barry: Joe, is that you?
Barry: Whew, okay, thought I was dreaming about you.
Joe: So, Barry, the imbeciles out there want to know more about how we both became successful and scored publishing deals with Amazon.
Joe: I tell them, it was all luck … we have it, they don’t.
Joe: I agree.
Barry: Me too.
<Closing my RSS feeds> Yeah … alrighty then. Let’s check my InBox. Ahh, Lightning Source … hopefully they’ll approve my latest, revised layout for my new novel … before I go completely broke from their incessant $40 charges!!!
“Dear Gerard, We have received your cover and interior files but unfortunately, they do not meet our criteria spelled out in our easy-to-understand-if you’re-a-friggin’ graphic designer-genius “How to publish your garbage on Lightning Source.” You need to fix the following items and then re-upload the modified files (each will cost an additional $40 … each … for each … each):
- The black on your cover is too black. Please do not use more than 240% CMYK.
- You have transparencies on your cover design. Please remove them.
But I don’t see them … probably because … they’re TRANSPARENT. Stupid question here: If they ARE transparent, then what’s the big deal with them remaining there?
Here are the charges associated with this issue:
Charge for sending LS improper files = $40; Charge for our opening the improper files = $40; Charge for our reading the improper files = $40; Charge for our making up silly items (see above), in order to reject your files = $40 (each … for each, each); Charge for sending you this email = $40
<Closing my Outlook>
OKAY … NOW I’m ready to write my next bestseller! c”,)
+ None of this was meant with malice.
+ All of this was meant in humor.
+ My continuing gratitude goes out to PG, Dean, Joe, Barry, and the rest of the writing community that motivate me every day!
(The 10 ways I’ll know I’ve made into the BIG time as an author)
[Blogger’s Note: My latest novel, SIGNS OF WAR is in her final stages of editing – which means I’m basically sitting here waiting to finalize the graphic design/ISBN/Library of Congress/formatting/publishing so I can release her into the world. In my youth, I would turn to the bottle to pass the time and calm my nerves … nowadays I blog, venting my frustrations with mindless banter without the hangover the next day] By the way … the following is humor … so it’s okay to laugh!
I’ll know I made it as an author when …
#10 – I don’t mix up my royalty payment from Amazon with a returned payment for a broken Transformers toy I bought for my son.
#9 – I stop reading spam mail like its fan mail.
#8 – Joe Konrath replies to one of my comments on his blogs.
#7 – I stop reading Joe Konrath’s blogs because I’m too busy being a successful author. Joe recently intimated that only loser writers (like me) read his blogs because once a writer is successful, he/she doesn’t waste his/her time reading blogs. They’re too busy being John Malkovich.
#6 – Joe Konrath asks me to write a guest blog for him … one that I won’t read because I’m too busy being John Malkovich.
#5 – Cris De Niro appears in Brad Thor’s newest offering: Athena Project II: Cris & the Chicks
#4 – I write my next novel at a cabin in between fishing for muskie (like Joe Konrath)
#3 – I write my first non-fiction piece, How I Pre-Sold 1 Million eBooks
#2 – I lay out the pennies for a Kindle of my very own instead of stealing my wife’s like I’m a degenerate raiding her panty drawer.
#1 – My wife changes my name in her OUTLOOK from “Friggin’ Author” to “Sugar Daddy”
I hope I publish this book soon … is all I’m saying …
p.s. Apologies to Joe Konrath … though, I’m sure he’s too successful to ever read this blog. c”,)
You know how I know that my book is getting popular … from the amount of advice I'm getting from everyone! (grin) For those who don't know, back in January, I published my debut novel, _The Watchman of Ephraim_ (click the title and it'll take you to Amazon.com, where you can purchase it – thanks in advance! 9-))
Hey, I'm LUVIN' IT, so keep it comin' y'all! But I have to say, I'm really impressed with just how many people … have SO MANY ideas for my next novel!
So, I'm at one of my son's little league games last week – minding my own business … actually, yelling at my boy to 'ONLY SWING AT GOOD PITCHES!' … but I digress … and an acquaintance walks up to me …
Acquaintance: "Hey g! I just bought your book bro! Yo … it's GREAT! I love that guy Robert De Niro!
Me: "That's great bro, thank you so much! Yeah, I'm so happy that so many people like CRIS De Niro—"
Acquaintance: "Yeah man, he's my favorite actor! I loved him in The Godfather!"
(Before I could reply, a friend of mine walked over)
Friend: "Yo g … what up?! Your book is great man! I can't believe it!"
Me: "Can't believe what?"
Acquaintance: "You know what, I didn't know he lost his wife in the Trade Center, that sucks!"
Friend: "I mean, who would have thought YOU would write a book that good …"
Acquaintance: "Robert De Niro … yo g, how do you know him anyway? Do you know him from when you grew up in New York?"
Me: "Know, ROBERT De Niro? … Bro, I don't know ROBERT De Niro. You mean CRIS—"
Friend: "g, you know Robert De Niro? From where?!"
Acquaintance: (Unsure I'm telling him the truth) "You don't … then how did you know his wife died in the Tower? I mean, NO ONE that I know, knew that!"
Friend: "Wait, g, you know Robert De Niro and his wife died in the Tower? So THAT'S who CRIS De Niro is … I thought he was you and it was YOUR wife that died in the tower!"
(Just then, as if on cue, my wife strolls over … a rare occurrence, since we split up and go to different little league games of our four sons. As usual with her, she adds to the confusion)
My Wife: "Hey … you talkin' about me? Yeah, g killed me off in the first chapter!"
Me: "Actually, it was the second chapter … but it wasn't—"
Acquaintance: (Unaware that my wife is … my wife, checking her out and now twice as confused) "Wo wo wo wo … g … dude, I'm SO SORRY … you lost YOUR wife in the trade center too?! Is that how you know about Robert De Niro's wife?"
Friend: "You know Robert De Niro's wife, g?"
(Another friend walks over and high-fives me … I wasn't sure if he did so because my son did something good on the field or not … since …I'm no longer watching the game!)
Friend #2: "g, GREAT BOOK BRO! I can't wait for the new one to come out!"
Me: (proud but still very confused) "Thanks man, the sequel is called _Signs of War_ it'll be out in September—"
Friend #2: "g, I told my wife this and she agreed. You know what YOU HAVE TO put into the sequel—"
Acquaintance: (to my wife, I'm straining to hear) "So, you come here often?"
My wife: (now as confused as I am) "Well, I'm usually at our other son's game but it ended early—"
Acquaintance: (smiling at my wife) "Cool, so you have kids … wow!"
My wife: (now confused and concerned – her South Philly wit comes alive) "Uh … yeah, why else would I be at a little league game?"
Friend #2: (Stepping in front of me to get my full attention) "DOGS!"
Me: (Confused and distracted) "Dogs … right … what about … dogs?"
Friend: "I told my wife about an idea I had for your next book … either that or I may write a book!"
Friend #2: (Smiling ear to ear, obviously proud of his idea) "DOGS! De Niro needs a dog, bro! Everyone loves dogs!"
Acquaintance: (breaking his lustful gaze on my wife momentarily) "I love dogs!" (Turning back to my wife, using a Latino version of a Cary Grant impression) "Do you like dogs, senorita?"
Friend: "I hate dogs … my wife had a dog when we first met. I hated that dog! No … g … here's the next book … either you write it or I write it! It's about a man who loses his job with the city because the city has a bunch of morons working for it who gave the guy WAAAAAYYY too much work to do … AND THEN expected the guy to work on a Sunday once. So when I … I mean … when THE GUY didn't show up for work on that Sunday, the morons that work for the city decide to call the guy into their office and tell me … I mean … the GUY … they tell us … that either we work the FOLLOWING SUNDAY or … get this—"
Me: "You lost your job with the city?"
(I hear out of one ear, my wife saying, "I'm married!" to which the acquaintance replies, "So am I chica!")
Friend: (Surprised, he whispers into my ear) "How did you know? No one's supposed to know!"
Friend #2: "A pit bull or a dobey … my wife wants De Niro to have a poodle or a pug but no way De Niro has one of those 'girlie' dogs! I'm thinking a ROTTY!"
Me: (Doing my best to 'save' my wife, I step over to her and the acquaintance)
Acquaintance: (Seizing even that opportunity) "Senorita, let me introduce you to a VERY GOOD friend of mine, the famous author … g … what's your name, anyway?"
Friend: (Follows me over to my wife, still whispering in my ear – like a bee buzzing around my head … or my conscience speaking to me) "Do me a favor, g … don't tell anyone, okay?"
Me: (Confused, distracted, and slightly … .insulted that my acquaintance/fan doesn't even know my name) "Tell anyone what, your book idea?"
Friend #2: (Stepping in front of me again) "I was thinking … 'Diablo' for his name. That's my rotty's name. Whattya think?"
Friend: (STILL whispering in my ear, his lips are touching my ear, making me feel very … uncomfortable) "NO dummy, that I lost my job!"
Me: (at the breaking point and forgetting my friend's request) "YOU LOST YOUR JOB?!"
Friend #2: "YOU LOST YOUR JOB?!"
My wife: "YOU LOST YOUR JOB?!"
Half of the people sitting in the bleachers behind us: "HE LOST HIS JOB?!"
Acquaintance: (to my wife) "Give me your number?"
Friend: "Thanks g …" (Shaking his head in utter disgust and walking away)
Friend #2: "Think about it g … that's all I ask!" (Walking away, he turns back to me and yells in everyone's earshot) "DIABLO … ROBERT DE NIRO"S DOG'S NAME IS …DIABLO!"
The other half of the people sitting in the bleachers behind us: "Robert De Niro's dog's name is Diablo?!"
My wife: (Takes her turn whispering into my ear … it makes me feel … less uncomfortable) "SAVE ME!"
Me: (to Acquaintance): "Uh ... let me introduce you to MY WIFE …"
Acquaintance: (Not believing entirely that my wife is … my wife, but the thought embarrasses him just enough to start to walk away) "Well, whoever she is … she's beautiful! (After winking at my wife and walking away, he turns back and yells out to me) "YO G … I HOPE YOUR NEXT BOOK HAS ROBERT DE NIRO IN IT TOO!"
Everyone sitting in the stands behind me: "YOU'RE WRITING A BOOK ABOUT ROBERT DE NIRO?!"
My son: "Daddy, did you see that hit I got?!"
… so how was your day? (grin)
Anybody who knows me knows I'm a bit deaf. Too many years standing in front of too many speakers punching out too many decibels = Deaf g.
But that doesn't explain why I can't seem to understand anyone anymore!
Like the lady that works at the local Baja Fresh. For those of you who don't know what Baja Fresh is, it's a fast food franchise that specializes in Mexican food – especially the BORE_EAT_TOES (as my youngest son Noah calls them).
Here's the thing … I won't go there anymore. Why, you ask? 'Cause the last time I went there, the little (and I mean little, as in a Mexican Oompa Loompa) lady humiliated and shamed me into total defeat. With just one unintelligible question, a question I'm still utterly unable to answer. Here's how it went:
<The line was long both ahead of me and behind me. When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter confidently.>
Me: "Hi, I'd like one Ultimate beef burrito please."
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <staring up at me devoid of any emotion> "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Me: <Not expecting …whatever she just said> "No, I want one ultimate beef burrito, please."
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <Now seeming to peer into my soul with her ink-black evil eyes> "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Me: <speaking ver-ry slow-ly and loud-er> "No! I WANT ONE UL-TI-MATE BO-REE-TOE … please!"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <not blinking, not laughing, not amused … but now vexing my SOUL> "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: "Blacbince o pintobince?"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: "Blacbince o pintobince?"
<My eyes now bloodshot, sweat pouring down my forehead>
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <Blinks. I thought I had her just where I wanted her! But then she pursed her hateful brownish lips and regained her mojo> "… Blacbince o pintobince?"
Me: <I looked behind me for help – all I saw was a growing line of impatient people, looking back at me with no emotion, uninvolved, uncaring wretches! I asked myself, Could they be in league with Senora Mini-Witch?>
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <more aggressive> "Blacbince o pintobince?!"
Me: <Helpless, emotionally-naked, stripped of my dignity> No reply.
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <now doubling up - goin' for my jugular> "Blacbince o pintobince?!" "Blacbince o pintobince?!"
Me: <tears forming in my eyes> "I want to speak … to the manager!"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <cold … relentless … heartless … just noticeably grinning like a female, south-of-the-border, pygmy Hannibal Lecter > "Blacbince o pintobince?!"
Me: <lower lip quivering, manhood stripped away, in a last ditch effort I reached for my cell phone like it was some kind of medieval shield. I punched the speed dial button for my wife. I didn't even say hello to her, I just yelled into it, "WHAT … IS … SHE … SAYING??!!" then pointed it at the Mexican Oompa Loompa lady like it was a crucifix and she was a vampire>
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <silent>
Me: "SAY IT!!! SAYYY IT!!!! For all that is Holy SAY … it …"
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <silent>
ME: <half-threatening, half-pleading, through my clenched teeth> SAY … IT … please, PLEASE … just SAYit sayit sayit sayit …!
Mexican Oompa Loompa lady: <silent>
Baja Fresh Manager: "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
The crowd behind me parted like they were the Red Sea as I turned on my heels, trying to regain some shred of my dignity and began to exit the establishment, in shame. As I got to the door, I turned and looked back at my short, mustachioed, chubbita nemesis. With my last iota of manliness, I thrust my chin up at her.
The Mexican Oompa Loompa lady finally showed some hint of human emotion … but it wasn't charity … it wasn't consideration or empathy … it was Mexican Oompa Loompa lady superiority!
She smiled broadly enough for me to see her gold tooth sparkling in the late afternoon sun as she silently mouthed "Blacbince o pintobince …"
I'm a friggin' author (my wife's complimentary way of putting it – as in, "So NOW, you're a—") which means I have to frequent my local post office to mail the signed copies that good folks are kind enough to order from my website. If you didn't know already, you can order signed copies of _The Watchman of Ephraim_ directly from my website at: www.GerarddeMarigny.com. The entire transaction is handled by PayPal, so it's secure and I even personalize your signed copy … but I digress …
Okay, I'm a fiction writer so yes, I do see story-lines in my everyday life – but my trip to the post office today would be more of something that Stephen King would write, like a chilling horror tale!
The post office itself is quaint – Henderson, NV is basically like a small town (at least to someone raised in NYC). Desert landscape surrounds the architecturally-pleasing building and you can even easily find a parking spot. That's where the tale of Mayberry RFD ends though!
Upon entering, my old-neighborhood upbringing kicks in so I immediately case the joint. I won't exaggerate (too much) so I'll admit – most days it's all quiet on the western front – but today, my worst fears were realized!
The line was unusually long – in Henderson, that means three people were there with me – but it wasn't the amount of people that terrified me, it was who the three people were!
Starting at the front desk:
College student/Unabomber type: I can't help listening to everyone's yapping. So first I focused my bionic hearing on the college kid at the front desk (actually I'm mostly deaf from a decade of being in a heavy metal band, so who knows what really was said).
Long straggly dreadlocks on a Caucasian, hmmm … baggy shorts (we live in the desert) … baggy t-shirt and sneakers that Richard Reid would be proud of (The Shoe Bomber, remember him?) But it was the way he was acting that started me vexing. Here's how it went:
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "May I help you?"
College Student/Unabomber-type: <wiping his finger under his nose and looking around> No answer
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "Sir, may I help you?"
College Student/Unabomber-type: <sniff> Now staring at the Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') – no reply.
Now I'm worried.
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "Sir, do you want to mail that package?"
Obviously, a rhetoric question I thought since we were … in … a post office.
College Student/Unabomber-type: <Places the crumpled box on the counter> "No."
Okay, now I'm really worried.
The Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') silently processes the package for shipment while never taking his eyes off of the College Student/Unabomber-type who proceeds to pay for the shipment then heads for the exit.
Me: <Whew! … But wait>
An older man with longish blonde hair, mustache and beard (only in Las Vegas) walked in just as the College Student/Unabomber-type exited. The old gentleman carried a briefcase and was wearing a slightly crumpled blonde suit with blonde cowboy boots (only in Las Vegas). He proceeds to get on the line directly behind me and announce to the entire post office in a voice that was identical to Howard Hesseman's in WKRP Cincinnati.
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: "Excuse me! I need to speak to the Postmaster General!"
I'm worried again.
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "I'm sorry sir, but the postmaster general doesn't work here."
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <impatient> "OKAAY, then let me speak to the Postal Superintendent!"
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): "Sir, we have no postal superintendent in this post office."
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <Agitated> "Then let me speak to your manager, you DO have a manager, don't you?"
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air'): <Yells into the back while keeping his eyes glued to the Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots> "HEY DARLENE, WHO'S THE MANAGER TODAY?"
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <Very agitated>
Me: <Very worried>
Just then, the old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents turns to me and says: "Disculpe señor, pero ¿sabe usted si puede procesar papeles de inmigración en esta línea?"
Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') to Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: "I'm sorry sir, but our manager isn't here today" (grin)
Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents now puts his hand on my shoulder and repeats: "Disculpe señor, pero ¿sabe usted si puede procesar papeles de inmigración en esta línea?!"
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <Really !@#$ agitated> "You don't UNDERSTAND, I'm here to report a CRIME … a FEDERAL CRIME!"
Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents: <Agitated at me> "Disculpe señor, pero ¿sabe usted si puede procesar papeles de inmigración en esta línea?!!"
Me: <I'm sweatin; bullets and I have to pee now> humina humina humina humina …
Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots: <opens his briefcase>
I grabbed the Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a stack of documents and HIT THE FLOOR, PLACED MY HANDS BEHIND MY HEAD AND INTERLOCKED MY FINGERS (an old habit from the old neighborhood, I don't want to talk about it)
The Blonde man in blonde suite and blonde cowboy boots proceeded to produce … his business card … and handed it to the Postal Employee (who looked like Nicholas Cage in 'Con Air') – both of them looking at me and the Old wrinkled Mexican gentleman wearing a cowboy hat – no longer holding a stack of documents, both of us now laying prone on the floor.
… 'cause I inadvertently knocked the stack of documents – apparently his immigration documents that he was asking me if he was on the right line to process – out of his hands.
I simply helped the old man pick up his papers, paid to mail the signed copy of my book and left.
How was your day? (grin)
I just wrote this to another 'storyteller' (author). After I finished it, I thought it would put a smile on everyone's face and after all ... that's all I'm really interested in! It's also an insight into the way I really look at things and since this blog is 'The world according to yours truly,' I guess it's okay. So keep reading and smile!
(I'm already opining where this starts ...)
Re: importance of story/voice and what we (fiction writers) should call ourselves – I’m creating my own science here but hey, it’s my world – I think of storytellers, songwriters, artists, sculptors, engineers, etc. – all of the genus: Creators. This is my Judeo-Christian faith speaking now but I consider all who create beauty (the definition of beauty is in the eye of … well you know who) to be doing something our Creator does (hence calling Him Creator) and that is very powerful!
My point and what I’ve learned from a few decades of creating music, machinery and stories is that the very best creators never focus on the tools … and to a creator EVERYTHING becomes a tool that they may use to create their works.
I learned this as a journeyman mechanical engineer from one of the greatest inventors of our time (his name is Venerio J. Rigolini, an Iwo Jima Marine who holds 22 patents in everything from cameras to plastics). What I found fascinating was how he utilized everything around him as a potential tool, in order to create/invent.
At first, his cavalier attitude towards the way he treated his tools really upset me. For instance, he would be staring at something on a machine he was inventing and without even looking up, he’d grab basically anything resembling the tool he needed. So in order to pry a gear loose, he may grab a brand-new shiny phillips-head screwdriver (that he just had me clean) and proceed to bend it by using it as a crowbar. The bottom line … he fixed the jam, the machine started working and that’s where the beauty (and profits) came from.
In other words and something I learned … the bent screwdriver didn’t matter (I still battle with that). My point: to storytellers, words are merely tools, just like the programs, machines or pens we use, the paper we use, the reference materials, etc. So there is NO misusing of words (grammar, punc., blah blah blah) IF their misuse produces beauty.
As old William S. would say, … the story’s the thing!
Words for storytellers, musical notes for songwriters, clay for sculptors, paint and brushes for artists – all just tools of our creativity.
I shall now return to the top of the mountain upon which I was sitting and meditate some more (grin).
On another note, I really do struggle when someone asks me what I do for a few reasons. First, I’m not even sure what they mean by ‘do.’ Do they mean, ‘do to pay my mortgage?’ or ‘do to pass the time?’ or ‘do when I’m not watching Star Trek reruns?’
Then I stumble over my answer. I tried ‘I’m an author,’ but my wife, in her South Philly bravado and wit added, “So, now your a friggin’ author?” <sigh> I confess, I don’t feel worthy to say I’m an author, since people like Tom Clancy and WEB Griffin can call themselves that.
Then I tried ‘I’m a writer,’ but every time I said that, this mental picture of my wearing a fedora with a press pass sticking out of the band and rushing towards a phone booth with a little note pad and pencil in my hand made it feel … wrong.
So I’ll try your idea Kris (Kris Rusch is the author to whom I wrote this), the next time I’m asked, “What do you do?” my reply will be “I’m a storyteller!”
Then I’ll ask them if they wouldn’t mind dropping a nickel into my tin cup. (grin)
Okay, so I made a mule of myself in one deli by having a conversation with someone that wasn’t talking to me (see the last blog, if you missed it) – that didn’t stop me from embarrassing myself in the deli across the street – Avenue N Deli!
It was Super Bowl Sunday and I was throwing a party at our apartment. I thought I had everything planned perfectly – the 6-foot heroes, salads, chips and beer, but as the writer Robert Burns once wrote, “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley!” Alas, my friends showed up with some of their friends and soon I found myself running low on “green gorillas” Heineken …that just wouldn’t do!
The game was heating up though, so I came up with the bright idea of trying to run to the deli (2 blocks away) and get back with two more cases – all in the time of one commercial break.
Well… I did it alright and was proud of myself too until my wife asked me where I got the money to pay for the beer, since my wallet and money appeared to still be in our bedroom. That caused me to actually turn my brain on and try and remember just what I did – this is what I did:
- I ran out of my apartment the nanosecond a commercial came on
- I ran like a bat out of hell the two blocks to the deli, the whole time only focusing my feeble brain power on the best way to carry the two cases on the way back home, so I could run with them. Did it enter my walnut-sized brain that I hadn’t grabbed any money… no!
- I ran huffing and puffing into the deli – there were a few customers in there – I gave big “hello’s” to everyone working there, since it’s my local deli, I’m in there all of the time.
- As I’m saying Hi to everyone, I quickly make my way to the beer fridges running down one side of the deli. I grabbed two ice-cold cases of gorillas, balanced them carefully in my hands – asked one of the customers to hold the door to the deli open for me and…
- RAN OUT WITHOUT PAYING FOR THEM!
Like a thief…
Like a low-life petty criminal…
Even worse, like some sort of maniac, because I did it right in front of everyone working behind the counter and even asked a customer in a loud voice to hold the door for me …so I could STEAL two cases of Heineken.
Of course, I returned and told them some cockamamie story about how I had to get back fast and was always intending on coming back to pay. You know something – I did it so boldly that everyone in the store said they didn’t even notice …but my wife noticed <sigh> she still won’t let me live that down!
(Next time – one more embarrassing deli story …another one my wife won’t let me forget)
I always wanted to be Cary Grant when I grew up. You know, suave, debonair… but somehow the plan didn’t work out. Who knows maybe Cary did as many embarrassing things as I have (that’s what I tell myself), but at least I’m man enough to share them with others. Why? Because every time I think of them, I laugh at myself to tears – so I figure, why not bring joy to all my friends out there that read my rants. Here’s one that came to mind - Go ahead, laugh it up, I can take it…
Had an entire conversation with someone who wasn’t talking to me
I had just gotten married and was feeling really good about myself – my cancer was in remission and my appetite was starting to come back so I went to my favorite deli in Brooklyn – a place called “LANDY’S” on Avenue N, up the block from where our apartment was located.
Landy’s would pack out on Saturday’s and so I walked in and took a number and patiently waited for my turn. I knew the owner, his son and some of the people that worked there, but not all of them, as they would put on temporary helpers on Saturday’s to keep up with the crowds. A few people already had come over to me and said hello – some had found out I had cancer and everyone was being so nice… “Yo g, it’s good to see you buddy!” …that kind of thing.
The line moved pretty fast and soon enough I found myself at the front of the line. The counters in Landy’s were pretty high because they had a big, beautiful showcase of prepared foods built into it (I can still picture those stuffed peppers and eggplant rolatini…mmm). Anyway, I start scanning all that fantastic prepared food in the showcase and I hear this man behind the counter say, “Hey buddy, how are you man!”
I smiled to myself - it felt so good being so popular in the neighborhood deli, so I started shaking my head like Ralph Kramden from the Honeymooner’s and without looking up from the showcase I replied, “I’m great, I’m feeling better every day!”
“How’s your wife?” the guy asks me.
I smile again and this time I’m really impressed. His voice didn’t sound familiar to me and not many people knew I had gotten married in the neighborhood. So I reply, “She’s the best. Her only flaw is her taste in men.”
This is where it got weird. He asks me in front of the entire store raising his voice a bit, “Did she make any babies yet?”
WOW! Talk about being friendly …and familiar! I mean, I know everyone in Brooklyn are friendly people, I grew up there, but WOW! Plus, I had only gotten back from my honeymoon the week before. I don’t blush easily but my face turned a little red and I almost didn’t know what to answer him, especially in front of a whole deli full of people. Nevertheless while I started pointing at the stuffed peppers, I thought quick and replied, in just as loud a voice as he was using, “BABIES… ask me that next year!”
Here’s where it got really weird. The guy replies to me, now loud enough for the whole store to hear, “I’ll come over and help you, it’ll go quicker with the two of us working on it!”
WOO WOO WOO! Now that was not cool! What in the world?!
I finally look up from the showcase to give this guy the evil eye when my jaw hit the ground. The guy that I thought was talking to me from behind the counter was talking on the PHONE to his friend named BUDDY!
Now, I’m standing there in shock (before the humiliation kicked in) staring at this guy and he’s looking back at me with this quizzical look that I will never forget. He gets off the phone and says to the guy next to him, “That was Buddy, he just bought a pit bull for breeding.”
The guy next to him replied, “Is he coming tonight?”
To which this guy replied, “He wasn’t gonna ‘cause he’s doing some work on his car, but I’m off in an hour so I’ll go over there and help him.”
Apparently the guy never even saw me (my being height challenged) behind the counter.
The humiliation still didn’t fully set in until after the guy took my order and I turned to walk out. This little old Jewish lady who was next in line smiled at me, winked and said to me,
“Good luck with making the babies!”
(There are more, I might as well make this a series…)
When I think about my childhood growing up in Ridgewood, the differences between how I grew up and how my children are growing up become so apparent. The fact is that people of my generation (born in the late 50’s or early 60’s) have more in common with our parents’ generation than we do with our kids’ generations – and that is especially true if you come from an old neighborhood like Ridgewood. I thought about my normal day and my family’s lifestyle in general. For starters I grew up in an apartment – a total of 5 rooms (not counting one small bathroom and a room we called the “little room” because it was …little!). From the time I could sleep in a bed until I was 10, I slept in a bunk bed with my older brother Peter. From 10 until 16 we switched to a “couch-bed” which meant that I slept in the same bed as my brother for seven years! I remember thinking that when I grew up and had kids, I would make enough money so that they could each have their own beds. The irony is that my wife and I bought a nice-sized house with six bedrooms, just so our four boys could have their own bedrooms… but they all end up sleeping together in one bed! …go figure!
When I grew up in Ridgewood, our area code was still “212” and our zip code was 11237 – both of those changed. I can still remember our phone number, “Evergreen” 6-0978. How did we manage life with only one phone, NO cell phones; NO computers or email or internet for that matter; NO faxes… a world with no texting, no blogging, no tweeting! For a boy, if I wanted to see one of my friends, I had to do it the old fashioned way – I had to get off my keester and walk to their house and ring their bell – imagine that!
As I’m typing this, my 6y/o and my 8y/o are upstairs playing “HALO 3” on our Xbox 360 with their cousins in NEW YORK! What was I doing when I was their age at 3:15 in the afternoon - I was outside playing …something… stoop ball, box ball, ace-king-queen, off-the-wall, handball, etc. I just purposely named five games that a kid like me could play with just a 25-cent “spaldeen.” I could ride my bike (a circa 1950’s President, no speeds, weighed about 60lbs.), roller skate (with my skate key hanging from a shoelace around my neck), throw a football, play basketball (in my backyard or the parks), street hockey, street tops… there seemed to be no end to the sporting activities that a kid could do in Ridgewood and all for free. I point that out because it seems that nowadays every sport our kids play is organized into a league complete with uniforms that a pro could wear, gear, a bag for the gear (not a laundry bag like I used), fields that look like they should have press boxes …snacks (for after the game) …trophies (if a kid breaths, he/she gets a trophy nowadays) – and all that is charged back to the parents! I’m gonna tell you something – maybe it’s because I live out west now, but I can’t believe how today’s kids seem to have a hard time setting up “pick-up” games – you know ones where you just pick a few kids and play. They seemed confused and usually don’t even know how to set the rules and guidelines. In the old neighborhood, it was like the rules were inbred in us, handed down from our old siblings and parents and their parents, etc. “3-sewer stickball” and “we play from the “NO PARKING sign to the end of Mr. Datolo’s car 2-hand touch” were common rules on Stockholm St.
My brother is four years older than I am, so he had his own crew and I had mine. He grew up with guys like Bernard Rebecchi, Tommy De Luca, Steven Caputo, Detlev Vanderberg, Victor Martini (the list goes on) and those were just the kids he played with, not counting his friends from drum corps (an entirely different topic that I will cover in another series). My friends were predominantly Dominic Roggio, Anthony Moschitta, and Frank Barbarino (although he was 2 years older than we were and I really think he just suffered us when there was no one else to hang out with).
It’s funny what you remember people for – like Frank, I will always remember “Carnation Instant Breakfast,” an All-Star baseball game that he owned, that had these round cards and one of those pointers that you spun with your finger, and this underwater mask that he got in Sicily. It was the clearest, nicest mask any of us ever saw, so he had to constantly put up with us asking to borrow it. By the way, the Carnation Instant Breakfast stood out to me because I thought it was some kind of breakfast, like powdered eggs, instead he let me try it and it was like chocolate milk – I was pleasantly surprised! Tony Moschitta was the strongest kid my age that I knew. One time when we were kids we had a fight and in about three seconds he had picked me up and was spinning me over his head! I remember him saying to me as he held me aloft, “Say uncle and I’ll put you down!” I learned a whole lot from that incident about trying to negotiate from a weaker position and also how to say “uncle” while being suspended in mid-air!
I remember Tony used to tell us that his dad had $50,000 in the bank… and that was at a time when 50-large was …large! My dad was earning $13,000 a year at that time, so it got me to thinking – about what the word “successful” meant. Tony said that his dad was successful and I wondered if my dad was successful too. I also wondered if I would ever be successful. To me successful was a specific amount of money. I used to be a confused kid that way, when it came to things like that. So I went to my dad and asked him, “Hey Pop, how much money does a person need to make to be successful?” My dad smiled and like he often did, gave me an answer that frustrated me at the time, but later on I found to be profound. He replied, “Enough money to make you happy son. For your brother it’ll be one amount and for you it will be a different amount.”
A wise man my dad was…
In the next installment, I want to see how many of the neighborhood “characters” I can remember. I want to thank Jimmy Wellinghoff for reminding me of a few that I’ll mention in my next blog – but hey, if any of you remember any, leave a comment and tell me them – I’ll include them too! Peace, g
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Dean Wesley Smith