Of course, I forgot my razor. It’s always something. I cannot travel more than fifty feet from my house (and sometimes not even that far ) without forgetting something important. And my razor was important, for reasons which will become clear later.
My wife and I had driven down to the Bay area the night before to get ready for my first ever book signing at Borderlands books. I will do anything to avoid driving in downtown San Francisco traffic, even on a Sunday, so when she casually suggested we stay in Pleasanton and take BART over to the city, I immediately seized upon this idea as if it were the last nilla wafer at an Atkins sleep-away camp. I was going to be nervous enough. I did not need to also be frazzled from trying to navigate my electric blue PT Cruiser through the mission district (this could be dangerous for many, many reasons). So, I mapped out our route, found out there was a station a few blocks from the bookstore, and made firm plans (the making of firm, back-up plans also being something I really, really suck at).
I decided not to care about the razor. Yes, I felt I needed to shave, even though the hair on my face is pretty unnoticeable until I have a three day growth going, thanks to my Scandinavian/English heritage. I probably should have just skipped it, but the hotel offered free razors at the desk, so I picked one up when we went downstairs for coffee.
Fear the free razor. Especially if you’re me, because I am man enough to admit I have sensitive skin on my face, and if you look at it funny, it gets these awful, bumpy red welts which sometimes go really well with the coffee stains I invariably make on my white shirts (and for some reason, only on my white shirts). I also have this weird place on my jaw where the bone is actually sharp and sticks out a little, making it hard to keep from cutting myself on a good day, unless I’m really, really careful.
I should have asked if they had shaving cream as well, but I know a good razor does ok with water in a pinch.
So, I get this cheap little razor and I try to shave with nothing but water and it is the most painful shave I have every given myself in my life. When I’m done, the bumps aren’t too bad, but the real problem is the ¼ inch gash I’ve given myself on my jaw, which is deeper than any I have ever given myself before. Seriously, I could have found oil under there. So I have a trickle of red going own my face and my neck and I’m thinking, “great. I’m going to have toilet paper stuck to my face and it’ss probably open up when I’m signing and I’m going to be bleeding all over the books of whoever shows up to this thing. Worse. Signing. Ever.
My wife did nothing to make me feel better when I walked out of the bathroom with toilet paper on my face. She just grimaced and made one of those urrgggghh noises that always inspire confidence. At least I had time for it to heal a little.
Don’t ask me why I didn’t go downstairs and ask for a band-aid. It just never occurred to either of us. This is typical.
I decided just to hope for the best, so we went and had an early lunch ad Fuddruckers and then went to the Pleasanton Bart station. And I have to say, even though we’re both very unfamiliar with public transportation, we did fine, ending up at the right station to disembark, at least.
My directions to the Bookstore said to walk a block down 24th street. The problem: when we left the train station, neither of the streets we could see were marked. I have no idea why. Fortunately, I picked the right direction to walk down and search, because I saw the sign for Valencia, which was the next street we needed.
The neighborhood we were walking through was a little more, how should I say, lived-in than some other areas of town. Lots of graffiti and some closed storefronts. Some colorful homeless people sporting the white-boy dreads. But there were a lot of neat little shops and restaurants too. We were looking for Ritual Roasters, where the four of us writers had decided to meet 45 minutes before the signing. As usual, I’d messed up the details and had the name of the place wrong, but for some reason the address correct. We found it by the line that went out onto the sidewalk.
The plan was we would all meet at 1:15. none of us had ever met any of the others before, and because I had forgotten the piece of paper I had written the information down on, I’d forgotten even most of the names. The one writer whose name I remembered, Jasmine, is the other writer who was in the same anthology I am in. I had my copy of Barren Worlds clutched, yellow-rose like, to my chest, which made me feel like I was a twelve-year-old geek again (yes, I know, only the age has changed), and I was scanning the line and the people I could see inside the building for anyone else holding a similar book.
An observation: The Mission District has a lot of people who look like they could possibly be science fiction writers. It’s a hard look to describe, but it is definitely a look. I like to think it’s a good one.
Eventually, the young lady in front of us turned to me and asked “Excuse me? Are you Chad?”
I had never been more relieved to meet someone in my life. This was Jasmine Hammer, writer of the excellent, post-apocalyptic short story “Cleveland.” And who I think has one of the coolest names for a writer I have ever seen. She introduced herself, and her boyfriend, and explained she’d seen the book I was holding and yadda yadda … we ended up getting a table near the entrance to wait for the other writers.
Next to arrive was Rob Rosen, who was also holding the book, so I guess I wasn’t the only dork in the coffee shop. Rob introduced us to his partner, Ken, and we waited for the last of us whose name was either Jude or Kelly. (We weren’t quite sure as various names were used in emails).
As we waited for her, we discussed the fact that none of us were quite sure of the requirements of the event we had signed up to attend. Specifically, Jasmine had assumed that we would be reading our stories (or at least part of them) as well as signing, and when she asked Rob about this, his response (“God, I hope not!”) more closely mirrored mine. No one had said anything about reading. It could be standard, who knew?
Though it shouldn’t have, the thought of that twisted in my gut. I have never read anything I have written out loud to any type of audience except my cat. I was completely unprepared for this.
Next: will I have to read? Shouldn’t I want to? Will my facial wound re-open? And why was that homeless guy spending so much time piling eucalyptus leaves at the base of that tree?