Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Rockford Files

My Rockford adventure got off to a lousy start. I drove out there early to get out of Chicago before rush hour. Along the way, I recalled that this signing was very near the site of one of my biggest failures on a bike -- the day I aborted my five-day Grand Illinois Trail tour after only two days. Great, now I had demons to get rid of.

Dinner certainly didn't help. Both the food and service were disappointing. One of these days I'll learn my lesson and swear off Steak n Shake forever. I was too annoyed to order a shake for dessert although that was my primary reason for choosing that restaurant in the first place. Since I still had more than an hour to kill, I tried to console myself with a Snickers Blizzard at Dairy Queen instead. I ate half and then lost interest -- I don't think that's ever happened before. I was reading Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, which was funny but not in a way that raised my spirits. I recognized that I was in a funk. As I drove to Borders I hoped I could shake it, or else it would be a very long night.

My first impression was not encouraging. My signing was at 7 PM, but at 6:30 there was only a table covered with a black cloth. Without books or a chair, it looked funereal. I perused the shelves and generally lurked around the information desk; I'm never sure exactly what time I'm supposed to introduce myself. I noticed the obligatory display rack of hometown heroes Cheap Trick (their latest album is even called Rockford). When I overheard two customers asking about me, I figured it was time. This was a very good sign -- people actually arrived early in anticipation of the event!

Once I announced myself, a clerk brought out some books, a chair, and a bottle of water for me. Perhaps they have a lot of no-shows and didn't want to over-prepare? Actually, my biggest fear hasn't come true yet -- I am always afraid that the bookstore might not be expecting me at all. Or worse, that they were expecting me yesterday. Anyway, I was already signing books by 7:00. Once I shifted into author mode, my bad attitude disappeared. I lost count of how many books I signed during the first 15 minutes, but I'm pretty sure the total for the night was about ten. Several of the clerks were impressed. "A lot of authors don't do that well signing here," one said. She proceeded to introduce herself, and I got the sense that she was flirting with me. I should have become an author when I was single. Chicks dig it.

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