Sometimes we all find our memories blending with books or movies or television shows that we've internalized over the years. In my case, I have an experience from over four years ago that I would greatly prefer had happened to Kramer instead of myself.
I have read many books by P.J. O'Rourke in the last ten years and have always been a big fan. About five years ago, though, I was more of a fervent follower. Not only did I find him absolutely hilarious, but I loved his blunt political argument and analysis.
What truly fascinated me, though, was the life he led. I could think of nothing greater than writing for a living, publishing a book every year or two and enjoying a consistent gig with Rolling Stone. Then, I learned that he was married to a lovely young lady and lived in what was then conservative nirvana, New Hampshire. Live free or die indeed!
So, when I found out that P.J. was in town for a book signing to promote his latest book, I decided then and there that I would attend. I would step out of the shadows and out myself as a proud P.J. fan and, like so many C-SPAN Book TV literary geeks before me, stand in line for multiple hours for the privilege of having the author scribble illegible text within a copy of his book. For one evening, I would stoop to the level of writer groupie.
Now, those who know me know that I have a consistent desire to be different, even just a little bit, from the prevailing group that I find myself within. Well, in this case, I wanted to make sure that P.J. knew that I wasn't just another Read your last book, man, it was awesome! fan-of-the-month groupie. No, I was practically family. I was full of insider knowledge, had read books of his that these posers had never heard of, and, really, was just a nod away from being his full-time researcher. So, when it was at last my turn, I stepped up to the desk, handed him my book, looked him straight in the eye and with a knowing grin, said,
So, do you and your wife still have the farm in New Hampshire?
And that's when he stopped signing. He stopped in the middle of his generic signature, looked up at me with a small amount of confusion and a significant amount of annoyance, and said with dry bitterness,
Well, the farm's still there, but the wife is gone.
As it turned out, I wasn't quite the in-the-know, plugged-in, P.J. O'Rourke Rocks! Fan Club President that I thought I was. Unfortunately for P.J., and myself at this particular moment, he and his wife had divorced months earlier.
He finished signing my book and I somehow had the temerity to ask him to sign one of his earlier works as well; again, mostly to prove where I stood in the pecking order. I haven't been to a book signing since, but each time one comes along, I try to imagine what the single most inappropriate question would be for that person, and then compare it to my moment of glory.
How does this relate to Seinfeld? After my book signing experience, I began to imagine an entire Seinfeld episode in which Elaine (during her career as a publisher) organizes a book signing for a reclusive author who is trying to reclaim past glory with a new novel. Kramer insists on attending and asks the single question everyone else was determined to avoid, infuriating the author, who immediately leaves the signing and promises to never speak in public again. Elaine's job is then in jeopardy as hundreds of people who had waited in lines for hours are forced to leave empty handed.
But that Seinfeld episode never actually happened. How unfortunate.