Swapped a “Best Ride” to a poet at the café for a copy of his new collection. Heard from a semi-“cousin” in NYC he was ordering a “Cheesesteak” from Amazon. And a woman looked at all four books I had on display and walked away with nothing.
She said she used to work in publishing. She had shoulder-length brown hair, a flower-patterned skirt, a black “Los Angeles” sweatshirt.
“Those two are novels,” I said. “That’s a true-crime story. That’s a memoir about growing up in Philadelphia. Five-to-fifteen dollars.”
“Oh,” she said, “I’m broke.”
I guess, I thought, that’s what a career in publishing will get you.
The swap, I would note, which had begun with a feeling of unifying camaraderie and esprit de corps, quickly tumbled into a humbling reminder of my place in the literary firmament when, later that same day, the poet announced on FB that he had given his book away in a café – but it was another café, and the recipient was another writer, whom he named with pride, while cloaking our transaction in silence. Sure, the other guy once won a Pulitzer, but he didn’t even give him a signed napkin.
In other news, it turns out the owner of the café knows of our reading series. In fact, he has been so pleased by our effect on business he is considering adding a karaoke night. It is the poster announcing the readings which must be kept from him. It must throw off the feng shui or something.