Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Most people have two types of goals, or tasks they want to achieve. There are your primary goals, like "I want to find a boyfriend" or "I want a job where I'm not forced to wear a paper hat." And there are your secondary, transient goals, like "I want to finish this soup without staining my shirt" or "I want to get all the way through this doctor's exam without getting a hard-on."

I've had all four of those goals recently, but my main one has been to answer this question: Why am I the only guy in the universe who doesn't have a book deal?

In actively trying to answer this question, I go to as many book readings as I can. I stare at the authors as though through a microscope, noting and dissecting every iota of information that I can glean, trying to come up with the reason why they're published and I'm not.

Sometimes the answer is obvious. He's a better writer than I am; he's gorgeous; he's charismatic. And sometimes I just put it down to nepotism, like that "self-made" dude whose dad writes Op Ed for the New York Times.

Everyone's buzzing about Swish, the latest book by Joel Derfner, so when I read on Joe.My.God that Joel is giving a reading I can't pass it up. I call Raoul and ask if he wants to meet me there, maybe have coffee afterwards, and he says sure. At seven o'clock -- half an hour before the reading starts -- I find a couple seats in the audience at Barnes and Noble and I put my sweater on one for Raoul.

I skim Swish as empty seats slowly become scarce. "Is this seat taken?" a newcomer asks, pointing at the one under my sweater, and absent-mindedly I say yes. I glance up from the book as he retreats and I think, hmm -- he looks familiar. And then it hits me:

It's David from Someone In A Tree.

David and his hunky friend eventually scrounge up seats in the front row, while I realize I've done a very stupid thing. I could have had two hot, smart guys next to me. I could have been networking! Instead I'm waiting for a guy who probably won't turn up because he spotted something sparkly in a store window.

One by one the last remaining chairs fill up, and then the aisles start to jam. The newcomers are alternating between looking at my sweater and shooting angry glares at me. I've got to do something: if David turns around, he'll see me with the empty chair and think either (1) I'm some pitiful dude who's been stood up by his date, or (2) I'm an asshole with an imaginary friend. Worse, I'm going to meet him this weekend at the Gay Blog Convention, and just judging from the look of the guy I'm guessing he has a functional short-term memory.

I pull my sweater off the chair and four standees dive for it. The winner, unfortunately, is a man who smells like he hasn't heard about the invention of soap. He's wearing a suit jacket that has more holes than a Monk episode, and through some of those holes I see (1) he's not wearing a shirt underneath, and (2) his skin is caked with road-dirt.

The man isn't here to see Joel, in short. He just got tired of sleeping under a bridge and decided to find a seat indoors.

I start to consider the logistics of the situation when David's head turns. It's like he can hear my brain crackling, or sense my desperation. He realizes there's a scene unfolding behind him that he really shouldn't miss. If his head turns just two more degrees, in fact, he'll see my homeless neighbor take a swig from a bottle inside a brown paper bag, and then offer it to me.

Which is why, at 7:31, I'm sitting on a bench in a park by the Hudson River. No Joel. No David. No Raoul. Sure, maybe I'm looking at New Jersey instead of listening to the thoughts of a talented writer, but there's no reason I can't still ponder my goal.

I take a swig from Walter's bottle before passing it back. "It sounds like you're lousy at networking," he says, and I think, you know, you're probably right.


David said...

Roman! You should have said hello, even after the fact. Plus my friend James would have been delighted (and embarrassed) to know he was described as hunky.

Please do join us some time this weekend and introduce yourself.

1904 said...

Dear Roman, thank you for this informative work of research. There is in fact a very high correlation between the failure to obtain a book deal and saving a seat for a friend because you're a nice guy. I'm surprised no one has pointed it out before now. It's as obvious really as the connection between throwing a baseball like a girl when you're a kid and alcoholism when you grow up. And tell Walter I said 'hey.'