Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Double Whammy

Sweet Lou was out back workin the leaf blower this morning, gettin his patio cleaned up for Easter. First time I've seen him in a coupla weeks, I guess he's been down at the shore. Cripes, that thing makes a racket -- whatever happened to rakes and brooms? At least he wears earplugs, unlike the guys on Danny's landscape crew. I guess those boys don't care if they go deaf. He had no idea I was standin there. After he shut off the machine, Lou took the tarp off his wrought iron table, wiped down the matching chairs and got the seat cushions out of the shed. Maybe he's got the family comin over Sunday. Today's the first day it's warm enough to sit outside but it's sposed to get cool again and rain.

He finally saw me, waved, and cut across the raised beds between our properties, through the pergola. When he reached my deck, he flashed a big white smile. Dentist must've made him a fresh set of chompers. "Morning, John. Everything okay with you? I'm still catchin my breath goin up stairs, but the sawbones gave me a clean bill of health last week."

"That's terrific news. You look great, Lou. Me, I'm okay, still workin off the remnants of a late winter bug, tryin not to overdo it. I just filed my income tax -- it's always a pain, but at least this year I don't owe Uncle Sam a nickel. Instead I gotta pay it all to the township. Can you believe the increase they put through?"

"Those bastards are just gonna line their own pockets. I haven't sent 'em a check for two quarters -- let 'em send the sheriff out here. I figger as long as these protests are goin on, nobody should have to pay. And I bet they rescind the surcharge. Hey, how's the book business doin, you find a job yet? With your experience it's a cinch some outfit'll be glad to snag you." This is his way of cheerin me up.

I thought to myself, the book business is like every other business tryin to dig itself out of a hole these days. It's lookin at the double whammy -- the mess it created for itself on top of the bigger mess everybody's facin. Retailers are scared, sales are down, credit lines are tight. People may be flockin to the movies, but they ain't buyin books, except for teen vampires and paranormal romances. Company like Anderson News goes down the toilet, the big New York publishers soil their shorts and bring in new accountants. You'd think they'd've learned after the AMS slugfest, especially with Borders out there wobblin around like Punchy Palooka. They lay off any more people in Ann Arbor the books are gonna have to replenish themselves.

But I couldn't say these things to my neighbor, cause he wouldn't know what the hell I was talkin about. So I cleared my throat and forced myself to sound serious, "Well, it's a mixed bag, some publishers are doin okay, others not so much. Generally speakin, it's too many books chasin too few customers, so it's gonna be survival of the fittest. I haven't found the right position yet, or the right company. You want to go with someone that's got a future and you want to make an impact. But I'm optimistic, you gotta be in this business."

He gaped at me with his hair stickin straight up and for a split second I thought he'd had a seizure. Then his jaw relaxed and he started noddin like he agreed with me. "As long as you're out there lookin, and keepin to a routine, the right thing will come along. Don't forget the routine, John. That's the key." I thanked him for his support, wished him a happy holiday, and we both headed back to our chores. How come I keep tellin people I'm optimistic but when I start describin the way things are, it sounds so bleak? You think I'm givin myself the business, poot? Or is it just all those years I spent in sales and marketing?

1 comment:

  1. Half the time I read your arid fish tank I'm smilin' and the other half turning it upside down. I look at my numbers (now bad times two) and weep, and yet my son's headed up to Chi-town to interview about a book job reppin' my ol' territory. Am I an eternal optimist or what?