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

Cake Baking and Other Luxuries of Summer

(Originally published on July 4, 1991 in The Beach Reporter.)

Yesterday morning we baked a chocolate cake. Nothing unusual in that, you might say. Except for the fact that it made me stop and think that most of us don’t have many mornings when we can just bake a chocolate cake if we want to.

Normal mornings are spent in a frenzy of getting kids to school on time, the breakfast dishes done, the beds made, the laundry started, the pets fed, and getting myself either to my computer, the grocery store, or the gym. On normal mornings I barely have time to buy a chocolate cake, let alone make one from scratch.

Actually, we used a cake mix, but that’s close enough. Any time you get to break eggs into a bowl, lick the beaters, and use an oven, I count that as making from scratch. We did make the frosting ourselves though. I would never buy frosting in a can. Continue reading