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February 11, 2009

Signs of the Times

Last Sunday afternoon was given to a trek to the St. Augustine branch of Barnes & Noble, where I’d been invited by the management to sign copies of The Ace, my new novel.

And a trek it was.

The store, one of B&N’s larger and most elegant, stands no more than three miles from my place in the city’s historical preservation district and it has a an acre or two of parking space. Which, on the face of it, would seem to make the word “trek” appear to be somewhat overkillish.

But hark a mo’.

My place, sitting on a mid-town plat that has been fought over, raided, burnt down, rebuilt only to be burnt down again and rebuilt again since the 1690s, when pirates, privateers, French, English, and Spanish armies, along with assorted native Indian tribes insisted on owning and using it — all at the same time — has parking space that will accommodate no more than three roller skates. And to access that, one is confronted by the problem of pulling in from an east-west one-way street, which itself is barely wide enough to allow passage of two golf carts abreast. Add to this mix a legion or two of tourists who stand in the street at my entrance and gawk and slurp sodas and ask to use my bathroom, and it becomes obvious that quick, easy trips to and from my place to anywhere are considerably less than quick and easy.

So on Sunday, my handlers (that great and loyal fewsome that stows me and my faithless legs into cars when I must go someplace) packed me and my little tricycle walker into Jonni’s Toyota (allowing an hour for the three-mile trek) and trundled me off to the store. The session went wonderfully well, thanks to all those cordial souls who had gathered, and, lo, much to everybody’s astonishment, we had sold out of books in little more than an hour. The agreement was that I’d be there to do autographs for three hours — and there were still a passel of folks waiting with the intent to buy.

Yikes, what to do?

Since it was Sunday, and since my own distributor is in Indianapolis, and since B&N itself was confronted with its own internal Sunday-no-availability problem, and since the closest stash of copies was a half-carton I’d acquired for my own use and hidden in an under-the-stairway closet at home, the only solution was for my dear daughter, Jill, to hop into her car and make the six-mile roundtrip through a town packed with weekenders. And she did it. She had 20-some copies on the signing table in less than a half hour. A minor miracle of traffic-dodging and a determination to help Ole Dad.

But then these were sold and signed in the next 15 minutes. So B&N now has a backordered signed copy list and we’re all waiting for Indianapolis to come through with the needed copies. And I am anticipating another “quick, easy trip” from my place to the store next Sunday, where the backorders will be awaiting signature.

So, okay, I hear your question — the question I’ve asked myself in great exasperation over the past few years: “Why, for cripe sake, don’t you sell out and move someplace with a little more wiggle room?”

Answer: I would, but I can’t afford the crane helicopter required to get my stuff out of the place and into some moving vans.

Jack

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