May 4, 2007

The End of the Dam Story

SO. Before I tell you the end of the dam story, I want to show you a pic Tammy over at Seattle Mystery Bookshop sent me of their front window display of Between, Georgia. Lord, that’s SO nice. THANK YOU GUYS.


I don’t want to complain or seem ungracious or anything---I hope the Seattle folks don’t take it that way--- but I just wish Between could have been a staff pick…. *grin*

ANYWAY, Karen and I did the book event, and then we rejoined the Dam guys for the RIGHT BRAINERS ABBREVIATED TOUR; we drove AROUND the dam for about ten minutes. It was pretty dern cool, actually. I’m not saying I wanted to spend two solid hours crawling around sniffing at the foundation and fingering the steel bits like the guys did, but I am very glad I went to see it. It is very huge but OPEN still as they are building 80 more feet upwards, so you can see into its guts.

I asked a few questions, but Chuck is SPOOKY smart and he is all LEFT brain, so sometimes he says things about engineering that have so many mysterious components he might as well speak Swahili. And he has what Karen calls “Engineer humor.” For example, one day they drove down this road with a soft shoulder of crumbly looking dirt and Chuck cast a baleful eye over it and said, “Nice soil erosion sediment control…NOT.”

Yeah. I don’t get it either. (But don’t you think it would be COOL to have a T Shirt that said that? With the NOT on the back?)

So I would ask questions and Chuck would say back a long string of words that meant exactly nothing to me. Like, at one point I asked what some type of special concrete was ---it had a long three part name and Chuck said something like “It’s a something something concrete with a high something so it is malleable, so when the lifts are somethinged you can something it.” Karen and I peeped a baffled peep sideways at each other and mouthed “What?” Scott followed it.

I started to feel pretty stupid but, you know, neither one of those guys can REALLY extend a metaphor. Just saying.

Now the sad part--- after that, everywhere we went, people wanted to spit in our wheaties. It was so WEIRD. We went to this usually very rowdy pool hall first to play air hockey and pin ball and pool. A bunch of people were in the front room watching the NFL draft and drinking, but the game room was empty. We were chattering and laughing, and this woman at the bar turned around and stared at us with murderer’s eyes: blank, baleful, cool, gelid.

SOOoooo we sort of shut up and walked away into the game room and played pool and air hockey---KAREN CHEATS!!!! ---and were having fun AWAY out of her eye and earshot as she seemed so offended by us, but after a little she came into the room and sat down alone at a table near the front to watch the four of us play with such cold, implacable, drunken hatred that I began to worry she was gearing up to make us stand against the back wall and shoot us in the head. So we left.

We had reservations at VICKERY’S, this cute Cuban/southern/something fusion place. Vickery’s, I remembered, serves their martinis in very small glasses with a brandy snifter full of ice and a carafe with the rest of your martini kept icy beside it.

I used to go there ALL THE TIME back in the day, when I was in school at Georgia State, but I hadn’t been in maybe 17 years? So after we were seated, I told Karen about how they used to serve the martinis with the carafe and whatnot, and we went up to the bar to see what they had.

Me: Oh man! No martini board, There used to be a blackboard RIGHT THERE *point* and it had a list of all kinds of martinis on it, and they would have specials and suchlike. It was darling. But it is gone---see what happens when you leave a restaurant alone for 15 or 20 years…”

We were kinda laughing about how DUMB I was for expecting it all to be just the very same, and for NO reason AT ALL this guy sitting right in front of us at the bar---a young guy, kind of dewy cheeked and big eyed, a sweet-faced bush baby looking sort (and *I* would have carded him had I been the bartender) swung around on his stool.

Bush Baby Boy: Hey, can I ask you something?
Karen: Sure.
BBB: How big a disappointment do you think you’ve been to your family, your friends, and your loved ones so far? No, Really.

We both kind BOGGLED at him---I guess he meant that close to two decades later here I was in the same bar looking for the martini board? Or something? I don’t know, but it was such a hateful thing to turn and ask total strangers --- very---pointed?

But he was aiming at the wrong girls---I mean, that’s SO not my soft spot. My family is consistently proud of me to the point that it’s embarrassing, you know? In that good I-scrub-my-toe-in-the-dirt way. Like, not just the writing stuff, but they are proud that I try hard to be a good mom and to be kind and do the right thing. They are proud that I try to be a good person, even though I often fail.

If you want to do a drive-by wounding in a bar, you have to be MUCH better at finding the soft underbelly at a glance---he missed us both by a country mile. He should have asked how the martini board was going to help me lose 7 more pounds in time for BEA if he wanted to get me in my marrows. This was OFF, and so, after a second of boggling, we both started giggling.

Me: Um, we haven’t disappointed them at all. We’re both happily married, healthy, and. I’m a best selling novelist. Her first book is about to come out from Random House. Our families are so proud they could BURST something.

BB: Oh.

Then I had this sudden WORRY that maybe he WASN’T being a butthead. Maybe he was sitting in this bar drinking on a fake I.D. because HE felt he had disappointed HIS family and loved ones, and he wasn’t asking to try and be MEAN but because he was just, you know, IN DESPAIR.

So I kinda stepped toward him and said, soft, so no one else in the bar could hear, “You look so young---Why do you ask? Do think you’ve been a disappointment to someone?”

But no. I was right the first time; he had been trying to be a butthead. He sneered at me and said, “Nah, I was just trying to head f*** you. I haven’t disappointed anyone.”

I was at a loss then---what do you say to someone who boldly admits, “I was trying to ruin your good time.”

Luckily Karen knew. She stepped up beside me and said, “That’s okay. You ARE young; you have YEARS left to disappoint your family.”

Then we went back to the guys and had a VERY nice dinner----I had shrimp, oysters and crawdaddies over grits. Yum. And they served my dirty martini just the way I remembered, little carafe and all, so it stayed cold all through.

But anyway – that was two places in a row where some sour little person really wanted all joy to cease, and I don’t understand it. Do you understand it? We had a great time, and we didn’t get shot, either literally by the bar glarer or metaphorically by the Bush Baby, but MAN I keep thinking about them – I want to get in those heads, especially HIS, because it’s so foreign to me.

I think a version of Bush Baby might one day show up in a novel, as soon as I can figure out what’s wrong with him. I keep trying out backstories for him when I am bored in the car. I make up different versions of the day that brought him to that bar, mouth loaded with blanks, trying to lash out with his soft hands. He was like a declawed cat trying to take a chunk out of a passing leg, only to find his blow velvetted and useless, and he realizes he has only wiped the feathers of his feet against skin. Then what would he do?

That’s how a book starts for me. If I think about him on and off for a long time – maybe just a few years if he is a minor character, butlonger if he is important. The event that started Between happened 20 years before I started that book. So. Maybe, if he is going to end up a main character, I’ll be thinking about him for the next decade at least.

Weird, huh.

Posted by joshilyn at May 4, 2007 7:50 AM

Sounds like Tim Gautreaux hearing this cousin of Bush Baby on talk radio and then thinking "What would it be like to be related to someone like that?" and writing the story "Little Frogs in a Ditch" from the point of view of the jerk's grandfather.

Posted by: rams at May 4, 2007 8:16 AM

went to the midnight showing of spidey 3 last night--met my friend at a bookstore before hand, dragged her straight to the fiction to goggle at the new cover of between. "Look! There it is! And I saw it on her blog first? HOW NOT COOL AM I???"
Also, I work at a call center, and the other day I talked to a woman whose password (mmn) was set up as Crabtree--boy, when I was done with her she was going straight out to get the book AND the audio version...
can't WAIT until TGWSS comes out, pantPantPANT.

Posted by: Elena at May 4, 2007 8:20 AM

I hope BB DOES end up in a book eventually, and maybe as more than just a minor character. I really want to see what your brain comes up with for how and why someone would end up like that, because I find those sorts of people so utterly baffling that they might as well be from a different galaxy.

Also, my husband would have been totally into the whole dam concrete discussion. He's baffling too, but in a much nicer way. :-)

Posted by: DebR at May 4, 2007 9:18 AM

Glad Vickery's is still good. I prolly haven't been there in 15 years either.

I went to Ga. State for a while too--night school to finish my English degree so I could teach ninth graders to write in complete sentences. NOT.

Haters are the worst, aren't they? I haven't gotten any in person recently, but I get them on my bloggie every once in a while. I also get these random hater e-mails about articles I write for the local newspaper. Last week some woman berated me for quoting the American Academy of Peditricians' recommendation that kids only spend two hours or less watching TV each day. She seemed to think I was personally criticizing her for letting her kids vid out all day. I declined to respond, although some choice comebacks have been running through my head all week!

Glad Karen put the rude boy in his place.

Posted by: Edgy Mama at May 4, 2007 9:47 AM

I'll bet poor BB was lying to you when he said he was just messing with your mind. I think he was secretly trying to share his pain with you. What a very sad story.

Posted by: The Brother at May 4, 2007 9:55 AM

See, I love that! Not that he was a butthead, ofo course, because seriously... BUT I do love getting a peep at how other people's creative processes work. Thanks for sharing that.

Posted by: Aimee at May 4, 2007 10:19 AM

Mean people suck. Deep, right?

My 7 year old daughter plays softball and I am the team parent. One of the girls on the team taught the rest the girls a cheer that I thought was a little mean spirited, and so I told them they weren't allowed to say it in the dugout during the game. And, more to the point, that they could cheer for themselves without tearing anyone else down. The same little girl said "It doesn't matter if you hurt their feelings. They're the *other* team." Where does that seperateness come from? That inability to feel someone else's pain?

On the bright side, wouldn't BBB be pained to know that someday he may inspire you to write something that will make you even more fabulously successful and make all the many people who love and admire you even more proud?

Posted by: Laura at May 4, 2007 10:32 AM

Jealousy. That's all it is, Tulip. They see your gorgeous vivacious successful self and they just go all pea green. Try not to waste time hating them...they're taking care of that themselves.
And BB? If you're reading? Try AA.

Posted by: Amy-Go at May 4, 2007 11:01 AM

Wow, I can't imagine anyone glaring at me IN A BAR just because the NFL Draft is on TV. WTF?

But Bush Baby? wow they shouldn't feed Martinis to anyone under the age of 18. I do hope he ends up in your book. And because we can't kill him and plant him under the tomatoes I think you should do something really mundane to him so he can be disappointing even in death. Like maybe he died on the toilet, with his pants down around his ankles, from a ruptured aortic aneurism after having been accepted to Harvard Law. The excitement at the thought of succeeding was just too much for him.

Just sayin'

I think I need more coffee, I'm developing a mean streak.

Posted by: Cele at May 4, 2007 11:29 AM

Drunks can be like that... 8-/

How many alcoholics does it take to change a lightbulb?

Just one - he holds the lightbulb and the whole world revolves around him.


They'll get better, or they won't. Either way, it's not your problem.

Congrats on the lovely window display!! :D

Posted by: Martha O'Connor at May 4, 2007 12:45 PM

Oh, I liked Karen's comeback. I don't know, those sorts of interactions are not all that uncommon 'round here, which I am absolutely certain is a north/south thing. When I visited the south for the first time I was literally taken aback by how friendly everyone was, including complete strangers, especially complete strangers! Which is not to say everyone up here is rude, not at all, but that I probably wouldn't be dwelling on it as much--it wouldn't seem so baffling. Which is sad in its own way, isn't it?

But I try to get into other people's heads, too. It's actually something I try to do with and in front of my kids after we've crossed paths with a rude clerk or whatnot, because I hope they get into the habit of not lashing back.

Posted by: amy at May 4, 2007 1:55 PM

I beat your butt fair and square.

Posted by: Karen Abbott at May 4, 2007 3:34 PM

That Karen sounds like a smart girl! Whats the name of her book and when does it come out?

As for the declawed cat trying to take a chunk out of your leg? Mine is declawed and he has literally walked right up to me and bit me for no reason.

Abd I really like Cele's idea for what to do with BB in a book!

Posted by: Terri at May 4, 2007 5:42 PM

Speaking of Between, Georgia, I just wanted to tell you that we were in the bookstore today and, duh, me, I kept trying to think, "Who was that author that Joshilyn said she liked the other day on her blog?" and I went to go look it up the computer and halfway to the computer I stopped short, tripping my poor fiance, and shouted, "OHMYGOD! JOSHILYN'S BOOK IS OUT *RIGHT NOW*!!!"

No, really. Shouted. So, you know, if God and everybody in Maryland did't know your book is out in paperback, they do now. I ran (as fast as one can in flip-flops) and grabbed mine before the media that I summarily alerted could beat me to it.

Posted by: Casey at May 4, 2007 11:03 PM

Ah Peach, okay. We'll go put Staff Pick stickers on all the copies of your books. No wait, we already did! Well, we'll think of something to let folks know we kinda liked the book. And gods too.

I can be just as mean and snarky as the next person - I'm pretty darned good at it, actually, but I just don't understand the need to spread meanness to other people, especially folks you don't know. I think the new Volkswagen ad campaign is right - "Misery has enough company. Dare to be happy." But I suspect those two unhappy folks (and BB was unhappy, make no mistake) either wanted some of your happiness to spill over onto them, or they simply were vampires, trying suck it all out of you.

My two cents, anyway.

Posted by: Fran at May 4, 2007 11:06 PM

That is RUDE. I cannot believe how rude Bush Baby was. Little people alway try make other people little too.

Posted by: Heather Cook at May 4, 2007 11:53 PM

Sadly, trolls are not just on the internet and make up a frightening percentage of the population, in my experience.

Posted by: Brigitte at May 5, 2007 6:26 AM

See, this kind of stuff makes me very sad. I start to wonder where we, as a society, are going. And then, I stop in Starbuck's and the guy behind the counter gives me my tea for free, because he saw me open the door for an elderly lady and then didn't crowd her in the coffee line. And that makes me happy.

But then I start to think that behavior shouldn't be so remarkable as to merit a free cup of tea. It should be the rule. Right? And then I get depressed again. It's a vicious circle, I tell ya!

Posted by: jenn2 at May 5, 2007 11:38 AM

I got a laugh 'cause I haven't heard "spit in our Wheaties" in a long time. . .that was good one.

Posted by: Roxanne at May 5, 2007 12:52 PM

KAREN ROCKS! OMG what I would do to be able to give witty comebacks to snarkers. I think of them, hours later :P

And I just can't fathom anyone being mean to you. Anyone who has me in a dither, counting down the months until your next book comes out, deserves to be treated decently. ;)

Posted by: Angel at May 5, 2007 3:24 PM

Bush Baby girlfriend left him last week. She didn't SAY it was due to the impotence, but they both knew that was it. And that night, he'd heard she was out with a friend of a friend whom he'd always suspected had a thing for her.

Two gorgeous, stacked women walked up to the bar he was drowning his sorrows at and not only were they full of life and happy memories, they didn't even notice him. Like he was invisible. Well. Better a little negative attention than being invisible, right?

Posted by: Mir at May 5, 2007 9:04 PM

Oh, I can't wait to read about BB. Wacko jerks make the best characters, you know, those obnoxious people who you'd never want to be related to? Yeah, those, they make the best supporting characters and steel the show every time. That's why even our good guys need to be flawed to make them interesting. Seriously f*%&ed up flawed guys (aka BB) are uber interesting. Because why would anyone ask that???

But the Draft watchers should hold their moments of silence in their homes like I do, where everyone knows what day it is and is understanding when I yell "Pick!" Or, just shut up and watch the ticker at the bottom. It runs along the bottom all day, for crying out loud you bunch of morons. Don't expect silence in a public place. Morons. Glad they didn't ruin your day!

Posted by: Michelle at May 6, 2007 8:45 AM

Oooh, oooh! Second Awesome Joshilyn moment of the week happened today (which has nothing whatever to do with this blog, but I despartely wanted to share).

I live in West Virginia. A while back a friend of mine living in Texas posted an open blog on her journal saying, "Anybody know any good books?" and I offered up gods in Alabama. Apparently, one of HER friends from California saw the recommendation and went out and read the book Right Then and loved it SO MUCH the e-mailed me to thank me for the recommendation (although he admitted to now having a mild fear of all Southern women).

So I have now spread the good word coast-to-coast and it worked and Amen.

Posted by: Casey at May 6, 2007 10:04 PM

I'm new to your blog via Estella's Revenge and I already have you bookmarked!

p.s. That guy in the bar sounds like a jerk.

Posted by: aka Nik at May 7, 2007 9:08 AM

Nah, I think the guy in the bar was trying to pick you up. And when you shot him down, ever so nicely and sweet ala Southern Girl Style, he didn't like the rejection. So he came back at you in a mean way. I love Karen's retort. It was perfect.

I loved MIR's take on what was going on in Bush Baby's head and life. And the little jab about the impotence - well it was a good one. I have a book running around in my head, too. I've been trying to develop the characters for about five years. I've started it three times but don't like what I've written. So I quit and ponder some more. And these characters are based on my real relatives. I've just never met them. That's cause they died a looooong time ago.

Hey Joshilyn, give us a short writing assignment. Like - tell in 100 words or less about a cashier at the walmart, or the waitress that brought your martini, or the guy wearing the sombrero hat, driving a cadillac suv with a floor lamp (!)strapped to the top and listening to Nora Jones on the radio, who is pumping gas at the pump next to you.

Posted by: Rhonda at May 7, 2007 4:30 PM

If you are ever in the mood for a whole day of Hateful Bush Baby Glare, visit Westlake Village, California. It is a rich rich (did I say rich?) town full of people who think that their nouveau richeness gives them the right to act hateful to anyone and everyone...frinstance...

My friend Chris's wife was 8.75 months pregnant and waddling across a parking lot. A car zoomed up to her, screeched its brakes to stop and then honked***HONKED*** at this poor little tired woman struggling across the hot pavement. Shut my mouth!! But it was like that every single day, which is why I moved away and try to look back as little as possible.

Posted by: Suebob at May 8, 2007 12:53 PM