That's Something You Don't See Every Day, Chauncey

Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!

CLASSIC: Baby make your move, step across the line.

Posted by kozemp on August 25, 2009

This is a repost of something I wrote two websites ago; the infamous story of the Brad Meltzer book signing and its aftermath. It’s sort of like the X-Men Classic of the interwebs: taking old material, slapping a new Art Adams cover on it, and charging full price. Even though I don’t charge, and Art Adams got that restraining order. I may do this more often, since a lot of people (read: almost everyone) didn’t even know the old site existed, as I go through the archives and find stuff that is still decent.



The Brad Meltzer thing was tonight. There was, as I predicted, ridiculousness. It started before I left, even, and with my ever-growing penchant for seeing signs and omens in just about everything I should have realized just how awful things the things that were going to happen would be.

After a grueling day of playing poker, reading the Shepard script, and looking at headshots on the internet I got myself gussied up for the signing (i.e. I showered and put on a golf shirt). I had figured, “okay, it starts at 7, it’s in West Chester, so I want to leave about 6.”

At 5:59 I am bathed, dressed, and ready to roll.

Some of you have noticed my preflight countdown, one of the stranger manifestations of my particularly annoying brand of obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s something I do before I leave my house (or the theatre, or someone else’s house, or the bar, or wherever) to make sure I have everything. For years now I have said the same thing, while patting various portions of my anatomy:

“Wallet, phone, car keys, Winona.”

To elaborate, I check to make sure my wallet is in my back right pocket, phone in front left pocket, keys are in front right pocket, and that Winona (my leatherman) is on my right hip. Since my stint at the Death Star ended “iPod” has been added to the end of the list (in my front left pocket with the phone), since it’s oh-so-wonderful for long car rides.

I realize as I get to the end of the preflight, that I do not, in fact, have my iPod.

This begins a frantic scouring of all possible locations for my wayward music player. End tables in the living room, no dice. Desk, no dice. In the car, no dice. I even check the REALLY bad hotspots like the floor just under my bed (where books and DVDs go to die) and the refrigerator (a favorite hiding place of my car keys).

No iPod.

It is now 6:03, and I am perilously close to being late for the Meltzer thing.

I am perilously close to being LATE.

As we all know, in my mind being late is a Thing Which Must Not Happen, Lest The Universe Come To A Screeching Halt. So I sprint out the front door and just hop in my car and go, iPod-less.

This will later turn out to be a remarkably bad decision.

It is worth mentioning at this point that the radio in my car has been acting up a bit lately. Buttons and knobs sometimes choose not to function, or to work in ways not as they are meant to. On the way down, however, I just had it on NPR to listen to the late news and get traffic updates.

I left my house at 6:04. I made awesomely amazing time the whole way there arrived at the Chester County Book and Record Store at 6:59. When I say I’m never late, goddammit, I fucking mean it.

Of course, there was a mixup somewhere along the line, which is totally in no way Brad Meltzer’s fault, which is to say it was entirely Brad’s fault, and the signing didn’t actually start until 7:30. As I sit down and pull out my script to make notes while I wait, I think to myself that I could have spent a couple more minutes looking for the iPod, and that I didn’t have to drive quite so dangerously down 202 to get there (I actually went almost SEVEN MILES over the speed limit).

When the thing actually started, it went as these things go, generally – Brad got up, said some stuff, read from the book, answered questions, then sat and signed books for hours and hours. I was one of the last people in line. I handed my books to the bookstore lady to get opened and whatnot, all the time engrossed in an Andrew Vachss book I discovered there that I had, inexplicably, not read.

“John?” Brad says, reading the sticky note inside the first book.

“Uh, yeah,” I say, still reading my book. At that point it strikes me that it is incredibly rude to be reading a book while standing in front of his table, much less a book written by someone else.

“Oh, right,” I say as I put the book away. “I’m, uh, Johnny Bravo.”

He hovers the pen over the title page of The Book of Fate and looks up at me sharply. “You’re Johnny Bravo?”

“That’s me.”

“Oh, hell, I’ve been e-mailing you for years! How you doing, man?” he says, sticking his hand out to shake. “I sent you one last week, did you read it?”

The author of the #1 book on the New York Times Bestseller List is asking me if I got his e-mail. My mind will be consumed by how cool that is until slightly later in the night when I’m sitting in my car wishing I was dead.

“Yeah, I read it, thanks.”

“Good. It’s great to finally meet you.” He writes as much over his signature in one of the books I have handed him. “Thanks so much for coming out.”

Brad Meltzer is a good man.

Further pleasantries are exchanged, some small talk is made, and I go on my way. I try not to linger at these things; there are other people to get their stuff signed and have their moment with The Man. I pile into the car and I roll.

My plan at this point is to meet Mark at the Vegas Lounge and talk about how we’re going to find two forty-something actors in time to avoid a cattle call, which we hate. On 202, as I approach the merge with 76, two things happen:

1) I switch the radio in the car from NPR to the CD player, which holds Junior Jack’s “Trust It” album.

2) I see a sign which says “construction on I-76 approaching I-476. Expect delays.”

I think to myself, “well, they can’t possibly be doing construction at 10 o’clock on a Thursday night, and even if they are there can’t be that much of a problem.”

From 202 to the Blue Route on 76 is 5 miles. It took me more than forty minutes to drive it.

As I reach the very beginning of the traffic jam, the song on the radio goes from the end of track 3 (“Stupidisco”) to…

The beginning of track 3.

I fiddle with some buttons and nothing happens. Track forward, nothing. Track backward, nothing. Volume, nothing. Switch to radio from CD player, nothing. I figure that’s fine, I’ll just let the CD play.

As Stupidisco ends, it goes to…

The beginning of Stupidisco.

The radio will only play one track, and I am stuck in a monstrous traffic jam.

Oh, God.

After maybe ten minutes of inching forward at 0.34 miles an hour and listening to the same song at eardrum-shattering volume over and over again I just pop the face off the radio and sit there in silence. I also realize that I only have something like 3 cigarettes left, which does not bode well for an extended stay on the Schuylkill Expressway. .

That plan backfires when sitting in silence starts to drive me batshit crazy. The face of the radio goes back on. Junior Jack blares out the speakers at me. My car moves 4 feet.

Now I’m starting to take a decided interest in the dials on my dashboard. The speedometer certainly isn’t doing anything interesting – it isn’t doing anything, actually – but the engine temperature and gas gauges are becoming alarming.

As the temperature gauge inches up and the gas gauge inches down, I idly wonder what will happen if they intersect. Maybe it’ll be like crossing the streams. I consider every molecule in my body exploding at the speed of light and come to the conclusion that with traffic not moving and me subjected to the same song over and over again until the entropic heat death of the universe it might be an improvement. Even if you like it, there’s only so much Brazilian house music one guy can take.

It occurs to me that if the car catches fire or runs out of gas I will at least be able to stop listening to Stupidisco.

When I pass the exit for Gulph Mills I briefly consider getting off the highway, getting gas, letting my car cool down and waiting out the traffic. This idea is discarded as catastrophically idiotic because a) I getting off the highway when you don’t really know where you are is an exceptionally bad idea, b) doing so at night when you can’t see where you’re going is an even worse idea, and c) for fuck’s sake, if they’re actually doing construction now it’s not like I can wait it out.

So I sit there and slowly crawl forward. The left lane, at this point, is completely empty, the handy traffic signs having told everyone miles back that it’s a no-no. The gauges move toward total protonic reversal. Stupidisco assaults my ears. I realize that I forgot to set the DVR. The battery on my cell phone is dead.

I am officially in hell. After I die, this is what I will do for all eternity as penance for daring to ever have hope about anything. And, yeah, for killing a baby on stage, but mostly the hope thing.

I say out loud, “there aren’t enough cigarettes in the goddamned world for this,” although over Stupidisco even I don’t hear it.

When I finally get to the Blue Route there is no construction.

No construction whatsoever.

The left lane was apparently closed for the hell of it.

When I get home, I discover the iPod is sitting on my desk, under another copy of the Shepard script, and I begin to softly weep.



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