Monday, February 1, 2016

The Admiring Bog

I was famous for a two block radius.  Lasted about a month.

Some time back around Thanksgiving, I was asked again by the folks from our promotions department at the bookstore where I work to pose for a another photograph.  "Why, sure."  Always happy to mug like a zoo-born baboon for the camera.  The rising generation is widely believed to record their every new skin in "selfies" which are then posted immediately to social media.  The middle-aged tend to more reservations when it comes to the (photographic) presentation of self in everyday life.  I think it fair to say that booksellers, as a category of person, tend to the shy.  As someone who does daily posts for the bookstore's various sallies at an online presence, I have some experience with reluctant models and shy coworkers. Obviously I'm not, in a good cause or no, so I think I've become something of a default when it comes to the bookstore's Holiday campaigns and the like.  Nothing to do with my good looks, you understand.  Like a toddler in her first tutu, I've only to be asked to dance.

Happily, one of my favorite fellow-workers in the vineyard, the beautiful and funny Ms. Letty was also tapped that day to pose.  They may have told us what we were posing for, but neither of us remembered if they had.  We just showed up when and where we were told to be, collected a few favorite books when asked to, and then smile, smile, smile, together and individually for roughly an hour.  It was fun.  Done and done.

I don't remember exactly when the billboard was mentioned, or mentioned again -- nor does Letty.   We came to awareness, after some time and in some fashion eventually, and we were both of us flattered and perhaps a little horrified.  Who wouldn't wonder what one's puss might look like when reproduced many times life-size, "warts and all"?  Nothing to be done about it of course, at least not by us, after the fact, as it were, but we did make some nervous jokes about Photoshop and modern miracles of digital photography.

Time passes, and as is usual with me, on I "swept through life on a steady amnesiac flow,”As Edith Wharton so happily phrased it somewhere.  turns out the thing went up two or three days before anyone thought to mention it to me.

 "You're famous now," said someone I knew not at all.  Thanks? 

The mystery deepened throughout the day as various strangers said similarly mystifying things to me about my new notoriety.

"Saw your face on 45th Street!"

"Lookin' good up there!"

"I was staring at you the whole time I was at the dentist this morning!"

Turns out that by the time anyone actually used the world "billboard" to explain my new popularity, I'd been driving right past the damned thing for three days. 

Naturally I walked down to have a look.  There it was, above the donut shop, next to a gas station, two blocks from the bookstore.  Looked pretty good, I thought -- the sign, I mean.  Nice design, good slogan.  Letty of course looked lovely as well.  I confess to thinking that I looked more like someone who'd worked out how to sleep in a window-seat on a small airplane than a man who was trying to sell books.  Still, nice.

A day or so later a very nice young women in a ḥijāb made eye-contact with me on the sales-floor.  She smiled with what I took to be the shock of recognition.  I blush to say I assumed she'd seen the billboard.

"I'm sorry to stare," she said when I smiled back, "but you look just like my grandfather!"

"How dreary to be somebody," says the line from a poem by Emily Dickinson.

I shall miss it?

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