I went to a book signing yesterday.
A bit out of the norm for me. There are very few things that can entice me enough to schlep down into the city, fight crowds of rude strangers,and waste hours standing in line doing nothing but waiting. I won’t do it for a Black Friday deal. I won’t do it for a movie premiere. I wouldn’t do it to meet Sting.
I will do it for Daniel Silva and his master Israeli spy/assassin/art restorer, Gabriel Allon.
I went early in the morning with the intention of getting some writing done. I did, though not as much as I would have liked. You see, I have a problem. I am an addicted people-watcher, so writing in public often proves distracting. Yesterday was no different.
While I sat in the café, sipping a venti unsweetened iced green tea, my writing flow was continuously interrupted. First, there was the two women who wanted to know if my name was Kristin. No, not me. Then there was the older woman in a burnt orange blouse, lime green Crocs, holding a moderately sized postal box. Her fidgeting was what initially caught my eye. She didn’t order a drink, couldn’t sit still, and at times, paced. At first, I thought maybe I should be worried about the contents of her box. I mean, if I were writing this scene, there would be something like wires, a brick of C4, and a cell phone detonator in that box. After ten minutes or so, I realized she must be waiting for someone. I imagined it was a date with a man she’d met on a matchmaking website. I wondered if she shouldn’t have maybe picked a different shirt to go with those shoes. She definitely was not dressed for husband nabbing. Turns out she did not have a bomb, and she wasn’t on a blind date. She was a calligrapher. Inside the box were beautifully addressed wedding invitations. The bride-to-be was late, paid by check, and didn’t seem to notice the older woman’s lack of fashion sense. I was disappointed.
Around eleven, a flash of movement in my peripheral drew my attention away from Anna and her troubles. It took a second or two for my brain to register what my eyes were seeing. Jerry Garcia, wearing a brightly hued Hawaiian-style bowler shirt over faded blue jeans and Birkenstocks, was unwrapping a straw for his blended frappuccino – caramel macchiato with no whip, if I were a betting gal. As he walked away slurping, I texted my husband. His reply: “You know he’s dead, right?” Killjoy.
At noon, I moved my party upstairs. I wanted to get my choice of seats. I did. Row one, seat 4. Right in front of the podium and signing table. A half an hour later, an older gentleman sat down one seat over from me. He quietly read his book – not a Silva novel. Tsk tsk. A few minutes later, a bulldog of a man with a shiny bald head sat between us. They were friends, but their meeting here was by chance. They chatted like catty women. First, bemoaning the pros and cons of employment. The bald man has a job in the surgical department of a local trauma center, the other was an IT technician who failed to keep up with changing technology. He blames his troubles on his age – 68. As happens, they soon began to compare their various health issues. These conversations always make me smile. It’s like a competition. Who has had the most surgeries? The most chronic diseases? As it turns out, both men have had prostate cancer – with troubling complications. I could describe for you in grave detail the extent of their complications, but it would likely scar you for life. I know I will never be the same.
Thirty minutes out from the main event, the venti iced green tea I drank earlier came back to haunt me. I needed to use the restroom, but I didn’t want to give up my prime seat. I asked the elderly woman to my right if she would hold my spot while I ran downstairs. She smiled, patted my arm, and pulled a menacing cane from underneath her seat. She said: “Go right ahead, honey. I got my cane. I’ll whack ‘em if they get too close.” Yikes.
At 2, Daniel Silva arrived with little fanfare. He was much as I expected. Handsome in that scholarly way, with an unassuming air and an intelligent wit. He spoke of his characters with the love of a proud father. I found it endearing. I also thought he exhibited a great deal of patience with the group gathered, especially during the question and answer segment. Some asked interesting questions; some did not. A few even bordered on offensively stupid. He handled it smoothly, though there were two occasions when I swear I saw his right eye twitch.
Or maybe not.
I had two books signed, took several photos for the little old lady with the cane and her friend, and left before the SRO crowd swooped in for the kill.