October 30, 2014

The Glitter Coast

A friend of mine, a vet, whom I have no reason to doubt, swears he knows people down here who keep two sets of pets-one for when they're in Florida, and one for when they're not.

"They get ready to head back to Chicago or wherever and they bring little Fifi in and board her for months at a time," he says. "Then they get to wherever they're going and they spring their up-North dog from the kennel."

"No way," I say.

"It's true," he says. "Two sets of pets. Like two sets of cars. One for down here, and one for up there."

Why I should have a hard time believing this? Knowing what I know and seeing what I've seen about the high life along this part of the Gulfshore, it fits the turf.

Another anecdote from the same curious front: My sister-in-law was getting her hair done at some chic place when a woman drove up in a black Hummer, came inside and proceeded to start a cycle of washing and cutting and coloring that would last at least the next two hours. When my sister-in-law left, she noticed the Hummer was idling in its parking place. She went back inside and told the woman that she'd left the motor running.

"Well, of course, I did," said the woman. "I have flowers inside and they need to stay cool."

Which brings me to my own story. I recently published my first novel. It's called Bahamarama. And it's the first in a series of mysteries, each of which takes place on a different Caribbean island.

My publisher hired an artist to create the cover and it couldn't have turned out better. A Roy Lichtensteinish, pop-art kind of take on palm trees. It makes Bahamarama jump right off the shelf. It's a cover that says: Welcome to the tropics!

Anyway, I go on a two-week long book tour and it eventually brings me to the Barnes & Noble in Naples. They give me a little desk and put me by the front door, and people walk in and look at me and look at my book, and some of them buy it, and some of them don't. Let's just say there are few more humbling experiences than being a first-time novelist on a book tour.

This guy walks in the store. Late 50s. Black silk shirt, linen pants and maybe just a tad too much jewelry. He walks by my little table and eyeballs Bahamarama. He keeps his distance, apprising from afar. Then he moves in, picks up a copy of the book. He looks at it front and back. He holds it at arm's length.

"I'm gonna buy this book!" he announces.

"Great," I say.

"Yeah, I'm gonna buy it," he says, "but I'm not going to read it."

"Ooo-kay," I say. Not much else a first-time author can say. But I am, after all, there to sign books. I have my $8 Pilot Precise Grip Rollerball Pen with the bold point all ready to go. "Can I sign it for you?"

"Yeah, sign it," he says and tells me his first name. "But I'm telling you-I'm not going to read it."

I uncap my pen. I turn to the title page.

"You want to know why I'm not going to read your book?" the guy says.

"Sure, tell me."

"My condo, it's a beachfront, I have it all decorated in Tommy Bahama. Palm tree motif. Very tropical. Your book fits it perfect. I'm just gonna put it on a table and let it sit there."

I signed the book. I handed it to the guy with a smile. And this is just to inform you that should you be visiting a beachfront condo all decorated in Tommy Bahama and you find a book with a palm-tree cover on a table and open it and read, "For Paul-Read the damn book," that was me. 

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