I went to New York earlier this month for Book Expo America. Well, maybe I neglected to go to the actual conference itself. But that was not for not wanting to go. You see, the price of admission is tiered according to your occupation: a librarian is $20 or maybe pocket lint if you are cute, a bookseller is $100, while a ticket for an author is $800. My figures might be off, but it was something like that. So, unless you are promoting something, the people who figure these things out clearly don’t want our kind of scum in there. But I did go to as many lunches, dinners, and parties as I could wrangle. I met so many people, I lost my voice by the end of the first evening. From then on, I’m guessing many people were left with the impression that I had recently undergone a tracheostomy.
But I met a lot of fine editors (including two of my own each of whom I had never set eyes upon), executives, agents, publicists, bloggers, and even some authors. Heck, I met Neil Gaiman, who I learned shares the same editor as me. “Books are like buses,” Neil said. “They all tend to come at once.” I wanted to explain how, in my experience, buses usually just swoop in and hit me in the head with their side mirrors, but this was Neil Gaiman talking to me, so I just replied “Pff yeah. And then some!” or something like that. I made a joke about us both being ‘Rosemary’s puppies’ but then later kicked myself for not saying ‘Rosemary’s babies’ which would have impressed Neil infinitely more, I should think.
That was at the HarperCollins cocktail party, where I was appearing for the very first time as my alter-ego, Paul Blackwell. You know, it is fun to be two people, so long as you are only taxed as one. But something pretty amazing occurred just before that I thought I should relay. You see, I wanted to look sharp and have been enjoying the bow tie lately, so I brought one along to put on once in New York. Now, as everyone should know, pre-tied bow ties are about as cool as securing your shoes through the power of Velcro. So all this meant I had to get to a mirror and go through the often finicky operation of making a nice one. Working in the washroom of a restaurant, I wasn’t having much luck, and worse, was starting to sweat like a workhorse. Someone then began pounding on the door so I had to go with what I had.
Outside the party venue, my agent was running late, and had given me strict instructions not to enter without him (he knows the damage I can do unattended). So while waiting under the High Line, I tried fixing the tie in the reflection of a car windshield. But matters were only made worse. Unable to see, I tried the window of what I thought was a juice bar. Still no luck, and now people were watching me. So I went inside and asked to use the mirror in their washroom.
Unfortunately, it was a gym masquerading as a juice bar, and the washrooms were inside the workout area, I then learned. I said thanks anyway, and went to leave. I would just have to go to this really important party looking like a stooge.
But then I noticed someone standing at the counter beside me. Having just worked out, he was nevertheless a particularly well groomed looking individual. With a look of pain, he turned and said: “Um, I work for …” He paused, hardly able to admit it. “… Gentleman’s Quarterly. Do you want me to do your tie?”
“YES PLEASE!” I shouted. And then I stood there like an eight-year-old as the procedure was quickly performed.
“It shouldn’t be too neat, or it looks like a pre-tied,” he said. This, however, I already knew, perhaps even from reading it in GQ, but I pass it on for your edification. Finished, we both laughed and he went to leave.
“Wait!” I called after him. “So what do you at GQ anyway?”
“I am the fashion editor.”
I was saved; my tie was now superior to everyone’s in the entire city. I thought: Only in New York City could the most qualified person in the world randomly come to your rescue in the moment of greatest need. Here is a picture only moments after, of the most cunningly sloppy but perfect knot I have ever seen rendered. I had to take the picture myself, so it is from a rather unflattering low angle, but hey, it is the tie you should be looking at, not my fat face.