Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Monkey Business and the Filthiest Jacket Ever

The past weekend found me in a place that inspires terror and loathing in the pit of my stomach:

No, not the mind of Jerry Falwell.

I'm talking about THE MALL.

I wasn’t prepared for this. I left the house thinking we were only shopping for landscaping pavers. As such, I was wearing my pajama top under my sweater. Over this I wore my filthy, bell-shaped, too-large, green nylon men’s jacket that I bought at The Gap in 1993 because it was on sale. I don’t recall putting on makeup or even brushing my hair much. But when the landscape place wasn’t open, J suddenly remembered he needed new pants. Because who doesn’t associate bottomwear with concrete bricks?

So it was off to the mall.

First I got pissed off because we didn’t park in our usual place near JCPenney. Then, I was annoyed because I had to listen to an obnoxious family bicker about a sport coat while J tried on slacks. But once we paid for our purchase and were sucked into the herd of dazed shoppers, I fell into an almost-comfortable trance. The trance went something like this: “Buy nothing. You are piss-broke. Buy nothing. But I do need some jeans. And a new jacket. This one is a filthy man’s jacket, and it’s shaped like a bell. But it does hide my muffintop. Who cares. You look terrible in it. Buy nothing.

I wish I’d taken a shower.

Buy nothing.”

We passed a Waldenbooks, and whom did I spy sitting at a lonely table in the front of the store? A fellow author! Staring into space…Being completely ignored by the soulless mob of shoppers beating a path to the Cold Stone Creamery…Looking bereft and pitiful with her stack of untouched hardcover books: Monkey Business, with a supporting cast of real bananas for a whimsical touch. My first instinct was to keep walking, too. It was sort of a Darwinian reaction, I think. I could almost see myself sitting alone in that same chair next year, and I wanted nothing to do with a situation that gave that mortifying vision any credence.

Plus, when you talk to the author sitting in front of that stack of books, you have to buy one. It’s only polite. You can’t just pick up a book, examine it, put it down again, and say, “Wow. I just don’t think I’d enjoy this story. The sample pages I perused contained some really tedious and mediocre language. I can tell the characters are stock, and the plot seems a subpar recycling job. Still, best of luck to you. Well, off to Orange Julius!”

So there she was, with her books and bananas. Alone. Maybe if she’d named her book “Junkie Business” and handed out samples of heroin, she’d have a few takers.

Alas, she had not.

So I drove J crazy with my hemming and hawing, but just before we hit Macy’s, I pulled him into a U-Turn. “I’m going to talk to her. I’m going to support a fellow author and buy her book.” She’s a member of the tribe! Besides, I thought I’d almost heard of her book. Monkey Business…wasn’t it a quirky mystery in the vein of Carl Hiaasen? I could read that!

As we approached, I saw her packing up, engaged in conversation with two of the Waldens clerks. I made a beeline over and scoped out the cover of her book. Well whaddayaknow: it’s a business management book. Not a novel, but something I may receive at my next agency inservice in fall, free of charge. And later, I could shelve it next to my copies of Who Moved my Cheese? and Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service. (Also gifts from my employer.)

I didn’t buy it, in the end. I just didn’t want to read about “Leader Monkey” and his “entrepreneurial exploits.”

But if it had been a novel, I would have bought it. Solidarity and all.

Update on the green bell-shaped jacket: since Sunday, I have spilled a cup of coffee on one sleeve, and I’m still wearing it. Suck it, Stacy and Clinton.


  1. Hah!

    Well, off to Orange Julius!

    And again:

    Suck it, Stacy and Clinton.

    I wish. I wish I could stop hanging on every word they say. Not that my wardrobe has changed one bit since I started worshipping them, but at least now I know how pathetic my clothes are.

  2. The mall sucks.

    'Nuff said.

  3. We must be communicating via some sort of mysterious airwaves. I just wrote a post today about venturing out in my pajamas, hidden beneath a jacket no less.

    Slacker moms unite!

  4. I go out in my pj top often (under my coat, of course!) You can't pull that shit in the summer.

    Well, at least not without looking insane. ;)

  5. Is it olive green with a hood, a pseudo-windbreaker that couldn't break wind if it tried?

    I have the same damn jacket. Stacy and Clinton who? Something I should be watching?

  6. Tsk, tsk.

    Stacy and Clinton would tell you that if you chose a jacket that "hits" you at juuuuuust the right spot, you wouldn't have to worry about your muffintops. Yeah, they suck.

    Not that I watch that show or anything.

  7. Well, when your book comes out, come to Raleigh, with or without your jacket and jammies, and I will make sure you don't end up a lonely author sitting with...hmmm, a stack of organ donor cards next to your stack of books.

    Except that won't happen to you anyway because I bet the book's as funny as this post!!!

    Now I have to think about what I could give away at MY signings...the very title (Souvenir) sort of demands it, don't you think?

  8. I wear an absolutely horrific men's barn coat when it gets below freezing. It's awful and shapeless and comfy.

    It's the comfy that keeps me coming back to it.

    therese - I'll come to the raleigh book signing - just tell me where and I'll motor over from RTP!

  9. Oh god, I had to read "who moved my cheese" for a job once. That book made me want to play lotto.

  10. You kill me. Really.

    And who knows, a few years from now you could have your own pity fable/management allegory, complete with book and speaking tour. You could call it "Growing" Business and equate the whole thing to fostering seedlings during winter, etc, etc. It'll be a huge hit.

  11. Many times while I'm driving down the road without make-up, and sporting cowlicks on my crown, I am thinking, "I'm only dashing in and out of the store, God, I hope no one sees me." Running and hiding behind racks of clothes adds to the sight!

    You crack me up. The bottomwear and concrete bricks made me scream.

  12. Tiff--cool, thanks! Late January or early Feb, probably at Quail Ridge Books first... Updates will be on my blog (and website if it ever gets launched!).

  13. LOL. You are just so freaking funny. and I can so relate.

  14. Hysterical - long live your bell-shaped jacket (perhaps you should wear it at author appearances, to give you that distinct look...)

    The author table in bookstore is SUCH a dilemma! I long to support my fellow authors (and am rather horrified by how many people will come to a reading, chat up the author for fifteen minutes about their own WIP, and then leave without buying anything.) That said, the last three books I've purchased out of author solidarity haven't exactly been my cup of tea, and it feels so wrong dropping something off at the used book store that's inscribed "To Trish..."

  15. I stumbled on an old high-school pal one time at an art fair who was selling his book. I tried to walk away but was eventually overcome by guilt and had to buy one on the way out. That was 5 years ago and I still haven't read it - although I'm assuming it has to be better than Who Moved my Cheese?

  16. Sounds like an exhausting day...
    I avoid malls...
    They suck the life force right out of me...
    Just as do business books..

  17. Stacy and Clinton! Ha! The mall wears me out now, I swear. I look at all the 13-year-old girls and I feel ancient.

  18. Hello, I am blog hopping. I am glad that I found your blog. Your ramblings are hysterical. He,he...gifts from your employer. Did you also receive the book about fish? No, wonder American business is in trouble; we take our cues from animals.

    I look forward to your novel.

  19. Nothing wears me out more than the damn mall....sigh.

  20. Your jacket...I love clothes like that!

  21. You are good people Jess. I'd have done the same...and also not bought a marketing busiiness whatever lameo book. Still I feel bad for them all alone. Even Kathy Griffin had no one go to her book signing. And she's on tv!

  22. A bell-shaped jacket!?
    You are hilarious!!

    Glad to see you turned around to go support "one of your tribe". We authors do have to stick together, don't we? :)

  23. You're not really slacking until you wear your pajama shirt out (because you think you're only going through a drive-thru and don't need to get out of the car until Pookie (or, you know, *your* husband) calls to say you need to pick up milk on the way home), and you don't have a jacket on and you try to act like you always wear little pink tops with lambs and clouds on them.

    I just count myself lucky if I have a bra on.

  24. Dear Jess,

    Thank you for explaining why people either march right up with a confident smile and push a book toward me to sign, or give me a berth as if I had a placard reading, "Catch Diptheria Here!" on my table. I had wondered. Doing two signings in two days this weekend, and now it is all clear.

  25. You so do not have a muffintop. hahahaha