Reached a Yuletide peace in Seattle. The book is out there and doing whatever it’ll do. The flights have all been on time. The hotels have offered solitude and quiet and high threadcounts. The morning TV anchors at Seattle’s Q13 were perky and interested for exactly four minutes, which in their world is lavish attention. The public radio station hosts are always so deft with their questions. The December sky is beautiful; the temps dropped below 30. I queued up my Czars playlist on the drive down to Seattle from Bellingham on Sunday afternoon. Discovered that Seattle does a nice Christmas vibe, with lots of street bustle, lights, pedestrian-shopping. The very thing exurbanites crave this time of year, so long as it doesn’t get too … edgy. Anyhow, enjoy some Czars, and keep reading:
My friend Dan Savage – the syndicated and world-renowned sex-advice columnist, book author, and Xacto-sharp cultural pundit – had me over to dinner (lovely salmon, buttered carrots, delish cookie bars with ice cream) at his house Sunday night, with Terry and The Kid. They’d just put up their tall, aromatic Christmas tree, which Dan trimmed into perfect symmetry, and which Terry very intricately swathed in a multitude of clear mini lights; furthermore Terry insists the tree be adorned with only top-quality glass ornaments. Tammie Parnell would give him a grade of “absolutely phenomenal.” (I showed up with junky ornaments from Bellingham’s Xmas store — absolutely unphenomenal.) It’s interesting to watch what I call “PhD-level homosexuals” in their natural habitat of householdedness: longtime partnered, with an actual child that they raise, living in well-appointed, still-in-progress property refurbishment; add a tiny deaf dog with one eye and chenille-soft fur, and give the whole scene clarity and a sense of absurd purpose. And yet they are still utterly hip and plugged into the world at large. The Kid is a tween now and uses a steely glare to leaven the household snark, such as when both Dads excitedly explain their idea for a rather gay iPhone app; The Kid also hates it when the grownup talk goes down to a whisper. Boy oh boy, do I ever hope he writes a memoir someday! Don’t you?
From his Grand Poobah day job at The Stranger, Dan wrote a nice blog item about me on Monday, trying to get people to come to my reading. He referred back to some of the essays I’d dashed off for The Stranger’s annual, counter-programmed gay pride issues in the last decade or so. I’d forgotten how much fun I had writing those.
Alas, the low temperatures combined with a Monday night ennui combined with my chronic failure to become famous and beloved all o’er the land meant Monday night’s reading remained low-key, but pleasant:
About 15-20 people were there, and they turned out to be a perfect audience. I’ve reached a zazen point with these things. I’m thrilled when anybody shows up and I make it work and I don’t fret about it one bit — no, really I don’t. At this reading, I tried doing the Cookie the Elf scene from Chapter 12, and might do it again in St. Louis, if the situation calls for it. There were lots of good questions afterward.
The fate of the Elliott Bay Book Company is in flux, or so I’ve read, and I wish them well. Frankly, Mr. Shankly, it wouldn’t hurt the store to get out of that neighborhood – historical though it may be, among pretty 19th-century buildings, old-fashioned streets and all. That neighborhood gets slummier and crackier (heroin-ier?) every time I visit Seattle. And that basement off the café, where Elliott Bay stages their readings, a sacred literary space that they are so proud of? Yeah, not so much for me. The upstairs is so much nicer. The bookstore in Bellingham does the same thing – welcome to tonight’s author reading/signing … in the dreary basement! And Powell’s puts you up on the top floor, awash in fluorescence and gray concrete and safely away from, you know, the customers.
So far, I give ambience awards to the brand new Legacy Books, the indie store in Plano; with a close runner-up being Full Circle Books in OKC.
**UPDATE, 12/9: Breaking news: Elliott Bay is moving to Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Kim Voynar, a film writer whom I knew in 5th grade and 9th grade (it’s complicated; she transferred schools a lot), came to the reading and we went out to dinner. Twenty-five years is just about the maximum amount of time that can pass before a person simply has too much tell you to bring you up to speed; it’s on the precipice of being strangers. So in a way, Kim, it’s nice to finally meet you! She’s having some pretty scary surgery on Wednesday; I’ll be thinking of her.
I think we’re pretty much caught up on Tinsel press, and arn’cha relieved? Hold on, hold on:
• There’s an excerpt in Wednesday’s Washington Post – nice front display from my Style peeps: Thanks, Lynn Medford — and HJ and Cavna and Padget.
• And there was a delightful 20 minutes spent on New Hampshire public radio’s “Word of Mouth” on Monday afternoon, if you want to have a lis’sen.
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MEANWHILE, THERE’S a whole world going on out there that has nothing to do with me. Imagine.
I have been so bad about keeping up with my news diet, but did anyone read this riveting, cannot-put-it-down dreck in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday? Who’d wanna be married to either of the people in this story? Show of hands.
I have seen this marriage – not this specific one, but I’ve seen its many analogues. Two self-reflective quasi-hipsters meet and marry. The husband comes standard-bundled with some all-consuming passion that must be treated as lifestyle, not mere hobby, and preoccupy the entire household. (In this article it’s gourmet cooking, but it could be anything: building a “sanctuary” shed out back, from scratch with reclaimed wood. Carpentry. Rebuilding vintage autmobiles. Growing all your own food. Brewing your own beer. Playing lead guitar in a band. Starting a record label. And the worst: getting a book contract.) The wife plays along until the baby (babies) are born and then she goes understandably batshit on his stunted ass. The grandbaby-obsessed in-laws (her parents, usually) encroach. The blog posts and freelance articles become increasingly personal. Suddenly all this crap ain’t so funny anymore and before you know you it, you are building an entire NYT Magazine cover story around the clever idea of getting your husband to go into all sorts of marital therapy with you. Oh, those straight-n-married white people problems: the NYT will never tire of them, will they? Let’s hope not. Two dollars a word! (Right? More? Less? How would I know.)
Gays, besides the $2-a-word-to-write-about-our-emotional-travails (which the NYT doesn’t buy so much), are we sure this is what we want? Or should we be paying more attention to George Michael, who said this week that he smokes seven joints a day and that he gets casual, outside-of-his-relationship sex twice a week?
I just wanted to let you know that the ONLY thing I want for Christmas this year is Tinsel!!! (Well, maybe not the only thing, but it is def up there on the list!) I have fought off the temptation to buy it for myself, it hasn’t been easy but I never ask for specifics for any occasion so my hub(as you would say) really wants to get it for me! Anyways, I just wanna say that you should come to Mississippi, I know, I know, but the Gulf Coast is (kinda) coming up in the world! I know you are booked through Christmas and you are oh-so-ready for you vacay, but a girl can ask… Keep up the blogs(I have NEVER read blogs, but check yours every day), and keep having fun, I know living out of a suitcase is no fun, but it will be over soon-enjoy it!!!BTW, is there anywhere I can find any excerpts of either Tinsel or Off Ramp? Well I am very much looking forward to reading your book & future blogs! Happy Holidays! Oh-that brings up a much debated question in the retail world…Is it appropriate to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to customers? I am curious what you think…Oh, one other final note, I managed a national chain jewelry store for 10 years so I relate to you ‘living’ in malls and eating regularly in the food court. I miss it, most of it, not the holiday hours, but most of it! Okay I have rambled long enough…Merry Christmas!!!
Hank, your blog is almost as much fun reading as your book! Yours is the only one I follow…
I think it’s just a matter of time before the world realizes what a brilliant writer you are and what a wonderful book Tinsel is…I’m hoping for a Kindle for Christmas and will be downloading a
copy of the book for it, although I’ve already read it in hardback.
Keep plugging away…your faithful fans are pulling for you!
One of the Post commenters says “I can’t believe this article was written by a male.”
I know exactly what she (and I’m sure it’s a she) means.
The first time I ever notice Hank’s byline in the Post was an article about “Jake Ryan,” the dreamy high school hunk from the movie “Sixteen Candles.” Until that day, I thought I was the only one out there hiding a little crush on the actor, Michael Schoeffling. The only one who had Googled his name to find out what other pictures he was in. The only one who felt a bit let down when I discovered he had quit Hollywood to be a carpenter in Ohio, or Pennsylvania. Somewhere.
When I finished reading it, I’m pretty sure I said to myself “I cant believe this article was written by a male.”