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The Book Launch Party is Set!
I walked out of the bookstore on a warm Friday afternoon and received a hailing from across the street. It was Jaime and Jacob from the Old Crow Book Club hanging out at the usual sidewalk. I waved and dashed over to meet them. As I've written countless times before, no one greets me with such authentic enthusiasm as the homeless people in my neighborhood. It truly feels good.
Jacob was drinking a can of malt liquor and Jaime was eating something from a carton, which she set down.
A bespectacled man of indeterminate age with a wispy white beard stood near them. He was introduced to me as Doc and I learned that he was an Army veteran of Iraq, on disability, and the VA had just got him into housing across town. He had returned to the neighborhood because prior to housing he had lived in the wetlands in and around the Oaks Bottom Wildlife for a couple of years.
So here was someone who had helped utterly destroy the wetlands with a malicious residence, a subject I had written about multiple times with considerable vitriol. I wanted to talk to him about that subject but this didn't seem to be the right occasion.
The recent partial sweep of the encampment had apparently prompted Doc to seek out housing. And now he was housed in a one-bedroom apartment that he had yet to furnish even though the VA provided him a thousand-dollar allowance to do so. I asked what he needed and he said, everything. Jaime offered to help him shop and decorate. He liked that idea.
Jaime told Doc I had written The Old Crow Book Club. I told everyone to wait. I dashed across the street and retrieved a book for Doc and two tins of fine pipe tobacco for Jaime and Jacob. Upon my return and presentation, hosannas went up.
It was time. I knew it was now or never for the book launch party even though I hadn't seen Mark for a couple of weeks. I asked Jacob and Jaime if Sunday at one in the park by the creek would work. I'd bring everything. Could Jacob and Jaime round up everyone? Could we pull this off? This was it!
They agreed with profane enthusiasm. I invited Doc and then we discussed the types of pizza to order. Jaime promised to bring her flute. I made a mental note to bring paper towels and a table cloth. I wanted this gig done right and that meant decent local beer and not corporate malt liquor swill.
We were getting pretty giddy with all the party planning. Then Jaime said, “Matt, thanks for all this and your charisma.”
“My charisma?” I said, laughing. It was such a weird word for the moment.
Jaime explained: “I mean, if I was in a grocery store and we were standing next to each other in the meat department, I would listen to you forever.”
It was easily the strangest and greatest and unique compliment I had ever received! Meat department! And I don't eat meat!
It was time to go.
In roughly 48 hours the launch party for The Old Crow Book Club would take place or not. It was either going to be a total bust or rank as something unprecedented in the annals of American literary history.