I did my first readings for futureproof‘s Harper Perennial release on subsequent Tuesdays, February 10 and 17. The first reading was in Atlanta at the Highland Inn Ballroom. It was hosted by my home bookstore, Atlanta’s own a cappella books. No, I dont technically live in ATL anymore, but a cappella has always had a place close to my heart. They were founded in 1989 by Frank Reiss in Little 5 Points and I remember going into the store frequently fucked up out of my mind on any combination of intoxicants, longing for the financial ability to buy out the whole store. While I still dont have the financial or spacial ability to own all of the books a cappella stocks and sells to the more discriminating of the reading public, I have since found in them what I consider to be the true greatness of independent book stores. The back of their t-shirt says it best:
I had done a reading once before with a capella last spring when i was out promoting the anthology I co-edited, Santi: Lives of Modern Saints. At the time I was in a very, very dark place, and was pretty much a walking disaster. The night before the reading I had drunkenly tripped over the leg of a chair in my apartment and went flying head-first into the carpet. But the funny part was that I didnt just fall—I tripped, fell, and apparently went sliding face-first across the entire length of the living room, literally giving myself a wondrous case of rug-burn straight down my forehead and nose. Trivia: the author pic of me on the back cover of futureproof was actually taken later the next day. The photographer, Rachel Bradley, was also the illustrator for Santi, and was in town for the readings. I had to submit the author pic into Harper and was already late doing it and so after Rachel snapped the shots she then had to photoshop the hell out of the resulting picture so that I didnt look like i was suffering from leprosy.
Anyway, at the reading that night last April, I drank almost an entire fifth of bourbon, the effects of which did not fully hit me until after I’d finished reading. But I wasnt in the clear as far as narrowly avoiding making a complete ass of myself. We went to a bar down the street from the book store and I climbed up on a two foot high wall before just as quickly falling on my face yet again for the second time in two days. It was just fucking marvelous.
This time would be different though. I had a much better overall view of life this go-round and therefore kept my pre-reading alcohol intake to a bare minimum of five jack and cokes. That might sound like a lot to some of you but I’ve found that that amount is just right in taking the edge off, and (mostly) killing stage fright. My brother and sister-in-law/long-suffering publicist Nicole drove me downtown for the reading. We jammed to some massive Daft Punk beats and then descended the stairs to the ballroom. Music was blasting, courtesy of improv art-rockers Schwarzcommando. There were what looked to me to be an assload of people there, a few of them friends from high school who I hadnt seen in years. But the coolest thing was that sitting on couches around the joint were clusters of people immersed in the din of the band jamming on the stage—and, with drink in one hand—were all reading copies of my book. I would give fucking anything to have a picture of that sight. It was an incredible feeling for me. Plus how often can you go to a club and have a band blasting the doors off the place while people sit around reading?
I was introduced by Frank from a cappella, then walked onto the blue-lit stage, my own drink in hand, and read from Transmission 12 (Tripping In A Field Full of Daisies). Then I answered questions. About the life of an addict (sucks); about going from self-published to ‘traditionally’ published (exciting); about what the opposite of ‘futureproof’ is (I believe the answer settled upon was ‘future-full’). People lined up to have their books signed. Can’t express here what that felt like, seeing that. Talking to people excited to read my writing. A dream.
Next was Nashville. Nashville was a strange little possibility in that I technically live there, yet the press response there was far lower than it had been in Atlanta, where I have done four different interviews for newspaper and radio.
In Nashville I hadnt done one. But I knew Davis-Kidd book store was behind me. They had a massive poster of futureproof right by the front door. They had smaller cardboard stands around the tables trumpeting the reading. But in all honesty I was more excited about the four days I was going to be spending with my kids, who I hadnt seen since November due to my moving all around the fucking country trying to stay out of the cold. My kids and I had a great time together. Wrestling and jumping on hotel beds. Walking. Talking. Its incredible how the most seemingly mundane things can have such importance and significance once you havent had them in a long while. I take nothing for granted anymore. NOTHING.
And when I saw my wife the night of the reading for the first time in months, I was immediately overwhelmed with emotion. I didnt know how to talk or what to say. I just loved her. She held my hand. I tried not to cry. She told me the fingerholds were still there, that the grooves were still mine. I just wanted to stay in those moments and for the most part I did.
I dont know what happens next.