Little Known Horrors of the DIY Book Signing

(You can read a “companion” to this essay, a humor piece about book signings from 1/16/17.)

I was at a Barnes & Noble recently, and I saw that there were folding chairs set up for an author reading and signing that evening. It was an author I had never heard of, nor had I heard of her book. Nor did anything about the signage promoting the event make me want to hang around.

Then I felt bad. Who was I to judge? Then I had a flashback to book signings of my own, and felt a mixture of pity for the author, mixed with a bit of nostalgia, and maybe even a little envy. This author had birthed a book! And she was putting herself out here in the cold, uncaring world of the mall bookstore. Continue reading

Searching for the Elusive Beanie Baby

(This was originally published in the Chicago Tribune on 4/18/97. See also my 11/19/16 essay about trying to find Wembley Fraggle for my son for Christmas one year.)

I hate to admit this, but I will risk the exposure and ridicule. I recently stood in line for twenty minutes at a McDonald’s just so I could get a Teenie Beanie Baby (I got Patti, the purple platypus).

It was dinnertime and my kids did need to eat, so theoretically I had an excuse to be there.
I ignored the drive-through window because there were at least ten cars backed out into the street. And for some reason the parking lot was really full too.

When I got inside I realized why. There were scores of us – moms and dads of all races, ages, and walks of life – there on a mission. One thing united us, you could call it a kinship of sorts. People talked to each other in line, people joked from one line to the next about why they were there, all the while glancing nervously toward the counter. What if they run out? Continue reading

Do As I Say, Not As I Advertise

(One of my Beach Reporter columns from June 6, 1991. Still current today, except for the part about the Lakers…)

We don’t normally watch much television at our house, but with the Lakers in the playoffs, we’ve been watching more than usual. Watching sports is great family entertainment. That is, if you can’t read the lips of the players and coaches when they are upset, and you don’t watch the commercials.

Unfortunately, during the average basketball game there are approximately 1,700,000 commercials, mostly advertising beer.

Obviously the networks who air the games and sell advertising space think that basketball and beer ads go together. So do baseball and beer ads, and likewise hockey and football and beer ads.
There is nothing inherently wrong with beer ads. I’ve been known to quaff a few brewskies in my time. But the network executives must realize that there are huge numbers of children watching these sports events, and seeing these beer ads. Continue reading

The Crazy Grandpa With the Alligator Shorts

(For Father’s Day… This essay appeared in The Beach Reporter on 6/13/91. )

Shortly before my parents’ last visit here from Washington, I told my children that Grandma and Grandpa would be coming down for a week or so. They asked, “Is that the crazy grandpa or the regular one?”

I had to pause for a moment. After all, this was my own father they were talking about. “Why do you call him crazy?” I was curious as to what they would say, although I knew there could be many answers.

“Because he wears alligator shorts and he watches the Weather Channel and he plays funny games with us,” was the matter-of-fact reply of my children.

True, true. He does wear alligator shorts, only not the Izod kind. His alligator shorts are bright green and they have little dancing alligators with sunglasses on them. It’s just one of his ways of making a fashion statement.

He also loves to watch the Weather Channel, which to me is about as fascinating as watching your fingernails grow. But if you have a daughter who is a flight attendant, like my father does, you need to know the weather all over the world because you can fly for free. You never know when you might get the itch to fly to Cabo or Vegas and you would need to know if you should bring your alligator shorts. Continue reading