This is the concluding part of “My Art in San Francisco,” but it’s not the end of the story. My art will go on. (I’m only punning. I’m not trying to evoke the image of Celine Dion singing the Titanic theme in a French accent.)
Like the unnamed protagonist of “Some Sunny Day,” the story I read at Milpitas Library on June 17, my former classmates and I lost track of time while catching up when we met for a girls’ night out last Friday. In fact, we didn’t even go out of Geeta’s house until it was (well past) time to drop Neeraja back. Next morning, grateful that I didn’t have an early flight to New York or Vegas like my friends, I drove to Oakland, where I was spending the weekend. En route I visited the main branch of San Francisco Public Library, which has two copies of my book.
I call myself a writer, but words cannot describe my disappointment to find both copies sitting on the shelf. I thank SFPL for ordering my book, of course, but the copies don’t belong on the shelf. They belong in the hands of readers! I removed duplicate copies of Pioneer Boulevard and every book near it (to make it fair), and took a photo.
To get my books from where they were to where they belong, I considered making an announcement over the PA offering an autographed business card to anyone who’d be willing to borrow my book, but I quickly decided against it. With my luck, everyone would step forward, only to tell me to be quiet.
I returned the duplicate copies to the shelf and began strolling through the E–F aisle in search of a better idea. I tried to make it appear as though I was searching for a book, not a book promo idea. The aisle was deserted so it’s not like anyone was watching me, but I sometimes get this feeling when I’m in a deserted aisle (which would never happen on a deserted isle) that I’m being watched by a hidden camera. I have no kleptomanic tendencies, and the feeling only comes upon me in a library or bookstore, so I must have a subliminal desire to acquire books. Actually, anyone who has helped me move will tell you it’s not subliminal. And now that I’ve given my psychoanalytical reader something to think about (which I try to do in every post), let me finish my story (which, believe it or not, I also try to do in every post).
Before I could reach the G–H aisle, this inspired thought reached me: Why not ask someone to read my book? It would be more personal (and less humiliating) than a PA announcement. I’d attempt to tempt them with a smile and if that didn’t work, I’d use the business card trick.
I had only three or four minutes to do the deed because the parking meter was dangerously close to running out, and much as I wanted a reader, I didn’t want a ticket. The parking was steep enough on its own. But everyone in the neighborhood of the fiction aisles was hunched over a newspaper or staring at a computer or snoozing in a comfy chair. No potential reader there. I was about to give up when I saw him standing there. He had headphones on and was browsing through a thick book. The headphones were a bad sign, but the thick book was a very good sign. It meant he was a reader. And it seemed that Dame Luck was smiling at me, because he looked like the kind of guy who’d be tempted by a smile.
Maybe it was the smile. Maybe I convinced him that his life was incomplete without my book. Maybe he felt sorry for me. Either way, when I asked if he’d be willing to check out my book (no pun intended), he said yes, so I led him to the deserted E–F aisle. He was kind enough to pose for a photo while taking a copy off the shelf and also give me permission to post it. And he graciously accepted the autographed business card.
His name is Matt. Thanks to him, the shelf had only one copy of my book when I deserted the E–F aisle. And hopefully that’s in another reader’s hands by now.
As I was leaving the library, it occurred to me that my GPS might to not know how to get me out of the downtown maze (it gets lost even in DTLA), so I asked someone for directions. He walked me to my car as he explained the lefts and rights (three times), and since I didn’t have a parking ticket, I asked him to take a photo on my phone. He got down on his knees (because he was as tall as an SF Giant, not because he wanted to give me a ring), and said “Smile big.”
I smiled big. My art was in a San Francisco reader’s hands, and I was on the verge of leaving my heart behind.