My co-worker Keri was explaining the finer points of Brooklyn to me… - A Day in the Life
Jul. 13th, 2006
My co-worker Keri was explaining the finer points of Brooklyn to me as we hid between two tall bookshelves in the kids department of the store on Saturday morning when this 30-something guy in a black t-shirt and stylishly unkempt hair wandered past us, obviously lost. I said hey to him in a way that was supposed to let him know, "I'm friendly, but I've got my eye on you, Potential Child Molester." He said, "Hey!" and kept walking, but he made his way back to us a minute later and said, "I'm an author, and I'd like to sign a couple copies of my book." I said, "Oh, yeah? What's your name?", and he said, "Frank Portman." And that's when Saturday became the best day of my bookstore career.
Better than the day I met Carson from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy". Better than when I watched Colin Farrell discover that the bathroom was locked for cleaning. Better than when I helped one of the Olsen twins. Better, even, than when Michael Stipe looked at me over a table of photography books.
"I am so glad to meet you," I said, and led him over to the teen new release table where we had a stack of his book. It just so happened that I read King Dork a couple of weeks ago after grown men and women kept coming in and being surprised that this book that the Times gave such a great review wasn't written for adults at all. It turned out to be this totally clever, totally well-written story about a geek high school kid who sits around thinking up names for his nonexistent band and fixating on touching boobs. Just like me.
As I grabbed the stack for him, I said, "I want you to rewrite this book and leave out the plot." He asked, "You didn't like my plot?", and I said, "No, I loved the plot, but it totally didn't need one. Your characters were so great that they didn't need to be doing anything for me to like them." He said that there was actually a lot of talk about that at his publishing house. He also told me that I'm the first bookstore employee he's talked to who's actually read the book, which was of course completely awesome for me.
I told him, "I'm just so happy that you wrote a teen book that's smart enough for adults," and he said that his publisher wanted him to dumb it down, but he couldn't do it. I told him that I'm constantly making up band names despite the fact that I can't play a single chord, and he said, "I think that's the shared American youth experience."
I wanted to mention his band, The Mr. T Experience, but the truth is that I just don't listen to punk music, so I didn't bother trying to fake it. At the end of our conversation, he shook my hand and said, "Thanks for talking about this with me, Katie." He looked down at the nametag hanging from a lanyard on my neck and asked, "Katie, right?" I turned my nametag to the other side where I'd pasted the word docile cut out from the word-a-day calendar on our information desk, and he said, "You look like a Docile."
And that is why I live in New York.