Part II of my Seattle story
Little Miss Smarty Pants, aka The Professor’s Daughter
First sale? My heart leaps. She is one of those child-women with barely a hip or a breast to display in her storefront window. But proud, imperial. Erect carriage, shoulders held back.
“My father is a college professor,” she declared, locking eyes with mine. And when she drew her voice from its scabbard I saw that it was a stiletto: thin and sharp and deadly.
A wasp, then — complete with stinger.
“Cool,” I said. “So you’re probably a reader.”
“Only certain things,” she informed me.
Look Lady. I get it. You don’t read trash from fools. Neither do I.
“Well good for you,” I reply. “I’m rather discriminate myself when it comes to my reading choices.
I didn’t tell her that I teach English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha or that libraries are cathedrals I’ve worshipped in all my life; that I can’t breathe without reading; that I’ve read more books than anyone she knows or ever will know.
No, I stay minimalist around people like her.
Who cares? No one.
What’s the point? There isn’t one.
I hand her a copy of Ganja Tales, saying: “You’re bound to like some of these stories, then.”
But she won’t take the book. She puts her arm out to stop it: the palm of her hand up. Can you believe it? Years of work and She doesn’t want to touch my baby.
And then the ultimatum. “If you can show me one word in your book I do not understand,” she says, “I’ll buy it.”
Man, why you got to be like that? I want to tell her that I was a working journalist for 13 years before I went back to school for an English M.A. and began teaching college writing courses for over a decade; that the nine stories in the Ganja Tales volume can’t surely be all that bad; that I just maybe had some idea of what I was doing. (Who cares? No one.)
I tell her about the value of keeping sentences and words short in fiction, that it’s always been this way, that most great writers keep comprehension around the fifth-grade level because they want to sell books, not impress people with big words.
I told her I was no exception, that if she wanted big words she should read a few academic treatises on, say, quantum physics; or perhaps tackle a passel of research papers from Ph.D. candidates in molecular biology. But big words in a collection of cannabis short stories? Please.
Anyway, Little Miss Smarty Pants, aka the Professor’s Daughter, glares at me for a microsecond, sticks her pretty little nose even higher in the air and walks away with an irritable “Humph!”
Crestfallen, I glance across the sidewalk just in time to see the Green Goddess move, startling yet another group of fascinated people who gasp in amazement and gently place money in the bowl at her feet; but slowly, so as not to startle the aloof majesty of this green idol.
Look man, like I said: I wrote a book. That’s it, that’s all I got — a book. I can’t jump into a bikini and paint myself green to appear naked. Well, I could, but neither you nor I would like that. It’s so not me. Besides, it would only make me feel cheaper and dirtier than I already do.
Three books. That’s what we sold that day. Can you imagine the ride home my wife and I had? We didn’t want to load all those boxes back in the Blazer and return to Omaha with them. We wanted to return to Omaha with a pocketful of money for another press run!
You know, my dramatic cannabis screenplay, Ganja Tales, has Seattle as journey’s end for Tony and his epileptic sister. I have no idea why I wrote Seattle in. That town broke my heart – and my bank account! We went bankrupt shortly thereafter. Come to think of it, that’s how the Blazer got repo’d. What can I say?
And no, my wife didn’t leave me for being a loser. She’s still here, still doing all she can to help make my writing dreams come true. After all these years. As Confederate President Jefferson Davis says to the crowd in my cannabis comedy, Southern Bud, while lauding Miss Juicy Fruit for rescuing the Ganja Tales books from the Yankees: “Now there’s a woman!”
Anyway, there’s one guy who bought a book that day in Seattle, and he actually reconnected with me just last year – 16 years later. He’s Jake Wiest, from Portland, although he’s been living in Germany the past year, as I did once. Please look him up. Do anything you can for him. He’s most deserving. He bought a Ganja Tales book from me in Seattle 17 years ago and reconnected years later. Now there’s a guy I’m proud to call a friend!
But mark these words of woe, Dear Friends, and remember: It’s true some repo men in Omaha will take your car; but they got some 420 cats at the Seattle hempfest who will carve the heart clean out of your chest.
To you who still go to the magnificent Seattle Hempfest — one of the finest in the world, they say – with its VIP tents, elite smoking booths and all the right players in the 420 world to gawk at; to you who half-step the narrow paths at Myrtle Edwards Park, please: If you happen to see an old, bruised heart on the ground, pick it up and mail it back to me, would you?
Just address it to: “The Depressive Insomniac Who Lives in Omaha.”
A Poem for Seattle
I went to skip a pretty rock across a Seattle pond
To watch it hopscotch: bing! bing! bing! in glorious flight.
But it sank instead, and I watched the ripples
With dread. Those ever-widening rings of depression
Lapping toward me. I turned to run but couldn’t.
My feet were rooted to the ground. Numbness was rising.
Legs, thighs, waist and chest. Then the heart.
Ever-widening rings of depression: killing my spirit
Numbing my soul, strangling laughter. Murdering mirth.