Monday, February 07, 2005

Uncle Eddie and Me at the Library

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At the Library: Thanks and apologies

("Undercurrents" column from The News Herald, Sunday, January 30, 2005)

Friends of the Library had me out last week to celebrate my book, Dazed and Raving in the Undercurrents, which meant I had to dress appropriately, speak coherently and explain myself — or at least the origins of the book.

Anticipation of a public spectacle made me feel like a monkey at the zoo — a little stupid, a little trapped. That’s no one’s fault but my own: Public speaking’s not my strength, as I’ve said before. It’s even in the book. (See page 3, 8 and 52.)

But library director George Vickery gave a gracious introduction, as did library “friend” Norma Hubbard. They provided refreshments and a table for signing, and the chairs slowly filled with amiable folks, all of which combined for an atmosphere of comfort.

I read a “School Daze” column about my son exploring CD-ROMs in the children’s room of the library; a “Catch a Rave” piece about seeking “redemption” in a beach arcade; a column about the ephemera used to mark our places in books, thus marking the eras of our lives; and a “Quest for the Holy Grind” in which I assumed the persona of a caffeine-addled Poe.

The big thrill of the evening, for all the goodwill the audience bestowed, actually came upon entering the library: My dad, uncle and aunt had driven from Escambia County to surprise me. I had no idea they’d be there for my first official book-related “event.”

My uncle promised not to tell embarrassing stories about my childhood. Then, just before the reading, a man came by and asked if it was true I am from Century, Fla. He said he had left Century 35 years ago, never to return. He said an “Eddie” Simmons had coached him in football and wondered if I was related.

“Eddie Simmons is sitting on the back row,” I said, and pointed out my uncle.

As the evening progressed, the group laughed in the right places, asked good questions, and both my dad and uncle restrained their storytelling inclinations.

However, Uncle Eddie did share with the fellow Centurion a tale about me tossing pebbles at a monkey in a Pensacola-area zoo when I was 3 or 4; I have heard the story, but have no memory of the act. As he has no cause to fabricate such a fable and there was no apparent moral to the story, I assume it must be true.

If so, let me offer late apologies to the monkey, and to my uncle — and the monkey’s uncle, if that isn’t being redundant.


Books Alive coming up

Just a reminder to those who can make it that Books Alive is Saturday, Feb. 12. Everything you need to know about it is at the link, and most of the author listings have neato-keen links to their own sites or books. I'll be a moderator for Jeff Klinkenberg, a writer for the St. Pete Times, whose "Real Florida" columns and features have been collected as a book. You can see his work here. Other than that, I'm not directly involved. (If you saw Friday's "Entertainer" cover, then you know that I'm the correct answer to the question "Which of these does not belong?" as all the other photos are featured authors who will be making presentations. Yes, I alone among the local hacks got special treatment.) I'll be in the main room hoping to sell some books and see some friends, and probably spending money. Come see me. As an added incentive, my family will be there too. Come see them.