Almost four months to move my book from the Italian printer, across the Atlantic to New Jersey to Vermont. It was more than a slow boat. The printer had to reprint the edition because of a singular mistake (their mistake and they made good on it). I missed signings, lost sales, came close to losing the shallow grip I have on this world.
Here is the tale of one of our escapades. We are on a mission to pick up 15 boxes of my new book A Lifetime of Vermont People that docked in Bayonne, the town known, at one time, as a good place to dump wrecked cars and dead bodies. We need them for a talk in 8 hours in Manchester, VT.
The books were transported to a a warehouse in Jersey City where we were lost at midnight amidst cars unloaded from boats, regiments of tractor trailers, warehouses and neighborhoods crumbly and empty, the type where muggers would be if there was anyone to mug. The air at midnight is a suffocating, the heat close to 85. Not a place to go for a vacation.
My assistant Kyle backed out of the hotel room on the 7th floor of the Ramada Inn at the Newark Airport. It was 1:00 AM, 12 July and we had just checked in for a twin bed room.
“There’s someone asleep in our room,” he whispered. “A black dude!”
“Jeezum Crow we could have been shot! Or worse.” I whispered back as we rushed to the elevator and dropped back to the lobby.”
“There’s someone in our room, “ I said to the man at the front desk.
“No problem,” he said, like it happens every night and he assigned us a twin bed room on the 10th floor. Kyle is unhappy. He does not like heights in hotels. Shades of Die Hard.
We carefully check our room. No one is hiding under the bed or in the shower.
We head back to the bar. We need a drink.
Some big men in khaki shorts and shirts sit in the lobby working computers on their laps. Patches are all over their shirts. They are Boy Scout leaders chaperoning their young charges out of Jersey City, we hope as fast as possible.
We enter the bar. There’s a ham fisted but friendly Puerto Rican bartender—Roberto is his name—who shakes our wimpy hands. We get shots of Maker’s Mark. Down the hatch. Roberto pours another. “On me.” He says. It’s not the last one he pours.
Next to us is an elderly couple from Ireland, caught between flights. To his left is a couple of Maineackers, as we say in Vermont, whose flight is delayed. In the corner is a cute black woman who is with a Hispanic. Kyle asks him what he does for work. “Numbers” he says.
“And for fun? “ He signals with his thumb his lady friend. Hooker or mistress, she is cute, just 22 years Roberto says because he checked her ID. He gives us all a shot of something I don’t know what it is. Finally, about 2:30 AM he closes the bar and we stumble to the elevator.
Hung over, we again drive to Jersey City and call the warehouse. The GPS works but the warehouse has been surrounded by new buildings and the entrance is hidden. Tony is the dispatcher and I call him and he talks us in.
Well, he said, after we found his office that is furnished with beat up desks and cubby holes and old photos and painting of ships gone to graveyards, a movie set from a noir film shot in the 1950’s. The customs has not released our books.
The broker visited customs and because of good relations in the past, our 15 boxes were released—150 books. 2,000 plus will follow in a tractor trailer. We need the books now because we have that lecture and slide show and book signing to do in Manchester in the evening.
The IPAD has a great GPS for leading us out of Jersey City to the Garden State Parkway and the New York Thruway north. The device did not tell us about the monsoon downpour that caught us 20 miles south of Albany and followed us to Manchester and obliterated our vision and I assume buried downtown Troy just as we left it plus socking me with a smashing headache from driving blind.
We had an hour in Manchester before our show and changed to decent clothes and just hoped nobody picked up our Jersey City body perfume.
I talked for an hour and can’t remember what I said. There were no real objections although I became a little testy when a woman asked why I had more men than women in my books. So I explained and talked about men and women and gays and said my books were about Vermonters not their sex.
We sold ten books and did not quite pay our way to Jersey City but the audience was pleased, we had books to sign, we fulfilled our obligations and drove back to Colbyville dead tired. Next week we unloaded 230 boxes from a tractor trailer, moved them into my studio.
I started to write the book January 8, 2012 and most of the year worked seven days a week to research, write, edit, scan, proof and everything else a book takes. We received the books July 15 2013. That’s a year and a half and a handful of days. It’s the writing that took the time — that and the stress of not knowing when the books would arrive.
It all ends with a pig roast at my home in Colbyville on July 27th.