And, as if a tasty lunch and wonderful day getting lost in Holderness weren't enough, I had yet another opportunity to get lost driving to Portsmouth Tuesday night to see Chuck Palahniuk.
I'm happy to report that, due to excellent directions provided by Stephanie Finnegan at the school, I did not fall victim to the pervasive idea among the staff there that there is actually no way to get from Holderness to Portsmouth.
There is a way.
It just takes a really, really long time to do it.
But I made it, thank you very much.
I met my friends Katie and Steve (yes, I only hang out with people who have their own web sites) at The Friendly Toast, a delightful restaurant full of tacky souvenirs from days gone by and waiters and waitresses who have more ink tattooed on each of their arms, legs, and necks than I have used in a lifetime of professional illustration.
They serve excellent onion rings, too. Much better than those served at their sister restaurant, The Unfriendly Toast.
As an odd sort of coincidence, we all ordered falafel wraps and deep-fried something-or-other.
We gagged down our food and raced over to the South Church where the great Chuck was to address the thronging masses.
I feel a need to explain at this point that I am going to refer to him as Chuck, not because we are old pals or anything. Simply because it's much easier to type than Palahniuk.
This particular book event–and it was an event–was organized by the River Run Bookstore, an excellent independent bookstore in Portsmouth that, for some reason, didn't ask me to come sign copies of my most recent book, but maybe will have me come in the future, as I am posting this delightful praise of their excellent, superlative, really swell store.
I'll keep you posted on how that turns out...
So the bookstore held this Chuckstravaganza at the South Church because they figured that all the people who would want to see Chuck wouldn't fit in the store. With a ticket priced at $25 (but including a signed hardcover copy of his latest book, priced at $24.95) there were still over 400 people who came. These people know a bargain when they see it!
A five cent ticket?
A brief introduction, in case you are unaware of the greatness which is Chuck. He is the author of Fight Club, Choke, Invisible Monsters, Haunted and many other books so profoundly disturbing and amazing and funny and horrifying that I can't actually think of good way to end this sentence.
Haunted, for one example, is a novel of short stories including the infamous story, Guts, a tale so unimaginably horrifying in its excruciating detail, that it is reported that nearly 50 people have fainted while listening to Chuck do readings of it.
So, needless to say, I was very excited for the opportunity to listen to him speak, and possibly to pass out and sustain some sort of traumatic head injury as I toppled to the floor.
Katie, Steve, and I, due in large part to Katie's burning need to arrive several hours before the event was scheduled to start, were hanging around in the rockin' front row seats we had scored. The owner of River Run Books announced that there were signed copies of some of Chuck's previous books for sale at the back of the church.
I strolled back and purchased one book. I eyeballed another, but didn't purchase it. Back at my seat, I decided that I did, in fact, want that other book, but when I went back to get it, they had sold out. It was a bleak, black moment for me.
I wandered downstairs to go to the bathroom, an activity I find comforting in those bleak, black moments. When I was headed back upstairs to rejoin Steve and Katie and wallow in my misery at having missed a chance to get a signed copy of Haunted, I saw a large table, liberally spread with copies of Chuck's books. Among them, Haunted, with it's super cool glow-in-the-dark cover.
I sauntered over to see if I might purchase one. A friendly lady from the bookstore said that Sure, I could buy one, but Chuck couldn't personalize it because I didn't have one of the magical tickets that allowed me an opportunity to meet Chuck before the event and get my book personalized.
It was only then that I noticed Chuck himself standing there signing books.
No problem. I purchased my book and was prepared to merely bask in his reflected glory from a respectful distance when Chuck looked at me and held out his hand. "Hey. Let me personalize that for you," he said.
I may possibly have squealed a very manly little squeal of joy and I most certainly did a very manly little tippy-toe dance of elation.
And let me add that it's a good thing I had just used the bathroom, too.
I shook his hand and when someone there laughed about my "Life Is Adequate" shirt, I explained that I am a children's author and the shirt was a joke from one of my books. I told Chuck that I hoped people that read my books would grow up to read his.
He replied that he hoped the people who read his books would grow up at all.
I skipped upstairs to gloat and brag about my personalized book and the fact that Chuck had shaken my hand. Katie tried to touch my hand, no doubt in an effort to swipe some of the precious Chucklocules still clinging to it. She did not succeed.
After that, the rest of the night could have consisted of Chuck clipping his toenails in front of us and I would have been satisfied. He did not clip his toenails, however. He came out on stage and spoke for awhile, noting to us, as an aside, that he had used some particularly foul language in a church and was planning on using much, much more. He read us a brand-new, not-yet-published story. He had contests where people raced to blow up giant, inflatable Academy Awards in a desperate effort to win–of all things–giant inflatable turkeys. And he answered questions from the audience.
If you were lucky enough to get your question answered, you also got an inflatable turkey.
It was lots of fun and, to be honest, I was jealous. I love the book events that I have done, but I have never had a chance to make people get brain hemorrhages racing to inflate things in an effort to win more things to inflate.
Maybe after my next book.