You Don't See Surreal Coming Every Day



SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK


            Sometimes my life seems a little … surreal.

            Like something out of a TV show surreal. One of those TV shows where characters are always doing double takes, and saying things like “that’s new”, or “I did not see that coming”.

            For instance, I meet a woman on a writing website, marry her, and then discover she has all the skills needed to design a book package at the exact moment when I happen to delve into the sometimes difficult world of self-publishing. Didn’t see that coming.

            Naturally that leads into the already told story of my book signing for said book, and speaking of surreal: It’s been over two years since I did my first book signing, and it’s still weird. Does Stephen King ever look at himself in the mirror and think, “How did all this happen? Wasn’t I just a nobody teaching school, yesterday? Now cartoon versions of me are doing cameos on Fox TV shows.”

            Then, being Stephen King, he’d go off and write a story about a writer’s cartoon mirror image doing horrifying things in an isolated Maine cabin.

            The morning of this particular signing I had to work until 11 a.m., and it started at noon. I didn’t worry about that, because it was at an entire fire department’s 125th birthday, and there was lots of stuff besides me going on there. I was a sideshow.

            So I arrived, and found someone had already bought a book, and someone else was standing there waiting for me. I put my tote full of book signing stuff down, and signed three books before my wife set stuff up – before I even got a chance to sit down and catch my breath. I signed books for retired fire chiefs, for people from fire departments dozens of miles away, for people I hadn’t seen for years, and for perfect strangers. I signed one for Indiana State Senator Sue Glick, who had no way of knowing if I voted for her.
 
State Senator Sue Glick might not know it, but she just bought my vote for $9.95.
We sold 65 books, many more than I’d ever handed out at a signing.

           Meanwhile I kept seeing people wandering around all this cool stuff, and remembered that thirty years ago I got curious about how old the Albion Fire Department was.

           Not that I saw any of this coming at the time. I was just curious.

            Not that I was a major mover, either. I’m no good at seeing something, and saying “gee, maybe someday this will be a big deal”. I specifically remember thinking, “Nobody’s going to care about any of this historical stuff I’m digging up, but I think it’s neat. I wonder if I could get anyone to read it, someday? Probably not.”

            I’m an idea man. This is another way of saying I have little practical use in real life. Other people put together our Centennial celebration after I produced the date of the AFD’s founding, and other people carried the load for the 125th. Since I had to work, I’m not even the one who set up the signing table – I didn’t even bring the books. Other firefighters did that.

            Phil Jacob was the moving force behind the 125th. I suspect Phil was thinking he wouldn’t be around for the 150th, although more likely I’ll be dead and gone and he’ll still be showing up to calls and wrestling the fire nozzle away from the rookies.

            Phil raised the money, contacted donors, sketched out plans … he had help from a committee that I’m pretty darned proud to have been a part of, even though mostly I provided sometimes-good ideas and snide remarks. His son Sean dove in, as did firefighter Chris Cavanaugh and former Chief Bob Beckley, who set up an extrication demo for the event.

            The final member, Bob Brownell, is the one most responsible for all the books we sold that day. It’s because of him that I got a radio interview. He distributed posters to places I didn’t know even put up posters. I’d walk into a store three towns away and stop short, startled to see my book cover (Okay, Emily’s) as part of the anniversary advertisement. It was …

            Surreal.

            Bob understands that you have to cast a wide net. He sent invitations for the event to everyone – including the White House. Nobody showed from Washington, but I’m sure they were watching.

            Didn’t see that coming.

            I suppose Freud would have something to say about the fact that I still don’t quite get the book signing thing. “Oh, you want me to sign the book for you? Okay … are you sure? It could affect its garage sale value.”

            A lot of people probably thought I was kidding.

            But it was that kind of a day. And it continued to be that kind of a day after the dedication, when I walked over to get Emily a drink and passed Santa Claus.

            That’s new. Exactly how far did Brownell send invitations?

            It was hot that day, so I asked someone, to make sure I didn’t have heat stroke. “Did I just pass Santa Claus?”

            “Yep. There are a lot of Santa Clauses here. Can you sign my book?”

            The Hoosier Santas Club had shown up, something I didn’t see coming. I ended up taking pictures of them by our fire truck, and collected their various business cards while we all stood there, sweating. One of them looked so much like Richard Attenborough that I kept looking behind me for dinosaurs in case he said, “Welcome to Jurassic Park”.

            It was … well, you know.

            But sometimes surreal can be a lot of fun.

The first rule of Santa club is: You DO NOT talk about Santa club.

11 comments:

  1. Way too cool. Congrats and what fun pics. In your case I think surreal turned out to be real great.

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    1. Much better than the usual, when the surreal so often involved breakdowns and injuries!

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  2. Congratulations Mark on 65 at a time. Wow. Life is good. You need one of those tee shirts.

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    1. It was helpful that I had a whole group of firefighters helping with the publicity!

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  3. Sounds like a lot of effort paid off. Congratulations, Mark!

    Your vote goes for $9.95, huh?

    And yes, the Santa club looks the part...

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    1. Of course, the Santa's looked a lot friendlier in the photo I posted earlier!

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  4. Well done. Sometimes surreal is just a reward for doing something good, and well.

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  5. Thanks for sharing I've been looking for something just like this.
    Estetik

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