I’m still shaking my head over the events of Sunday afternoon, mostly because it was so not me.
The local library booked Wally for a reading, and anticipating a large turnout, moved it to a community center. Which, as it turned out, was not big enough. I know, because, my copy of the novel in hand, I went to have the book signed.
I’d never been to a reading before. And I never ask for autographs.
If I had to estimate, and I guess I do, I’d say there were between 400 and 500 people in the room. I got there on time, but not in time to find a chair. So I stood in a corner for an hour while Wally read some autobiographical material, read from the novel, and took questions. He was, by the way, fabulous.
Before he sat for the signing, he acknowledged two people in the room, and then, for whatever reason, acknowledged me. I thought I had been as inconspicuous as I possibly could have been.
“Gerry Brooks from Channel 30 is here. Gerry is mentioned in the book. Gerry, what page was that?”
“That would be page 353, Wally.”
We then queued up for the signing. It was a very long line, small talk was being made, and then the damndest thing happened. A woman asked me to sign page 353 of her copy. And then another. And another. Embarrassment gave way to amusement. Nobody really likes to stand in line, so I was a not unpleasant diversion. A sideshow of sorts, warming up the crowd for a moment with the headliner. I was asked to speak to someone’s mother on a cell phone, then to someone’s husband. Which, of course, I did. Another person took a picture with me to put it out on Twitter. Hey, no problem.
It took an hour, but we finally made it to Wally’s signing table. By then, I’d had several nice conversations and more than a few laughs.
Wally is a warm, talented man, who remembered my appearance at his class at Norwich Free Academy when both of us had full heads of hair. He signed the title page, “To the hero of page 353.”
Not really. But I’d be happy to be his warmup act any day.